Tag Archives: flowers

Collecting Gardens

My first and favorite subject for photography was flowers. Early on, I struggled with composition, what to include in a wide-angle shot and what to exclude, and how to do this. Flowers were simple subjects; I knew immediately what I wanted my image to look like. This love of flowers has drawn me to many botanical gardens over the years, even as I learned to see more than just the individual flowers. So today, I rooted through my photos and found 10 favorite images from gardens in eight states. Maybe later this summer, I’ll share my own garden!

1. Marie Selby Garden in Sarasota, Florida

Marie Selby specializes in tropical epiphytes, or plants that grow on other plants. Orchids are epiphytes, and the greenhouse is stuffed with them. With no tripods allowed, the lighting conditions are a challenge, but I love seeing the insane variety of orchids.

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Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, specializing in orchids

2. Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO

The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the oldest in the country, and still a center for research. This is the garden that I wandered through as a child.

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The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

3. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA

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The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond.

4. The Denver Botanical Garden

High elevation gardening, but with more water than my New Mexico. The Denver Botanical Garden highlights water efficient plants, but it was still mind-blowingly green compared to the high desert.

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5. The Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

Humid and covered in moss, Portland’s Japanese Garden feels authentic. It’s beautiful and detailed.

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The Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon.

6. The Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.

A combined zoo/botanical garden next to Saguaro National Park, the Sonoran Desert Museum is a great place to check out bizarre succulents.

Saguaro trees in the desert

The Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.

7. The Albuquerque Biopark

My local botanical garden. Living in a desert, you learn to treasure the green spaces. More often than not, I go just to stroll, not to photograph. For me, that’s very rare. I also really enjoy the Japanese Garden, which is definitely not as authentic as Portland’s (we are just not going to grow moss here), but shows how style can be interpreted with a local flavor.

The shrine at the Japanese Garden

8. Chile’s Peach Orchard in Crozet, VA

This view isn’t open to the public, but seeing an orchard in bloom is a beautiful thing.

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Chile’s Peach Orchard in Crozet, Virginia.

9. The Organic Tulip Festival in Madison County, VA

Another garden that you can’t visit anymore. They only sell their bulbs now.

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The Organic Tulip Festival in Madison County, Virginia.

10. Phipp’s Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA

I’ve been to Pittsburgh about 5 times in the last decade, always in late March or early April. Apparently, it’s not a great time, weatherwise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sun there. So I can see how an indoor conservatory like Phipp’s is essential. It’s gorgeous, and right next door to Carnegie Mellon University.

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Phipp’s Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Springtime!

Western springtime is different. In the east, March is “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” In New Mexico, it’s been warm and lovely since the start of the month, but soon, our spring winds will begin. Like many Americans, I think of spring as a damp, green, thawing time of year. Here, it  is dry and abrasive. Here, it was 8% humidity yesterday.

The grass is growing, my herbs are returning, and I have been itching to garden, itching to have a few square feet of lush, green eastern spring. Over the years, I have chased the spring blossoms, from lenten roses and crocuses to irises and peonies. In Virginia, I wandered Thomas Jefferson’s garden each day, seeing the new blooms and progress. This year, I’m working on my own garden. That means that, at this point, I don’t have many new images to share. I don’t know how to make mulching and pulled weeds look very beautiful. But in the spirit of what I hope to grow, here are some of my favorite spring images from years past.

 

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Macro photography methods: early spring blooms

Here in Virginia, spring is just beginning, and most of the signs of it are small and close to the ground. This spring, I decided to zoom in on that small world. Macro photography can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. For my photos, I used a 100 mm macro lens, some extension tubes to cut the minimum focal distance, and a kick light for illumination. If you don’t have a macro lens, you can also get great macro images using any lens with reverse lens macro. I used reverse lens macro to capture the image below.

Resistors with reverse macro

While I waited for a warm day, I practiced indoors. Below is an image of a civil war token lit with a kick light. Kick lights are great– they are small and bright, and you can couple them to your smart phone to control the color of the light. I chose blue here, thinking it might complement the copper tones of the coin.

Token the size of a penny. Lit using a kick light set to blue light.

Token the size of a penny. Lit using a kick light set to blue light.

In another exercise, I went to the kitchen and took pictures next to the window. This way I could think about natural light without dealing with the more trying aspects of nature like wind and the lack of convenient countertops.

A bottle cap in macro.

A bottle cap in macro.

Finally I got a nice day. My first subject was a lenten rose. Viewed from above, these early bloomers look more like shrubs than flowers. Only from below do you see what pretty flowers they are. Which means getting underneath a shrub-height flower.

I used a kick light to pull up the deep shadows in the middle of the flower. A gorilla pod (a simple $10 mini-tripod/flexible grip sort of thing) let me get the kick light where I needed it. After some trial and error (and some laying in the dirt and cursing the glare on my view screen while simultaneously really appreciating the view screen since my older camera doesn’t have one), I got this image below. With the aperture set to f11, the depth of field is good. A few of the stamen are out of focus, and I wonder if another stop or two would have captured them. I didn’t notice them while I was taking the image. Still, pretty pleased with this image.

A lenten rose in macro, lit from beneath with a kick light.

A lenten rose in macro, lit from beneath with a kick light.

Next I found some scilla. These flowers are electrically blue, but they are dinky. Each flower below is about the size of a penny. They were growing in deep shadow, so again I used the kick light, this time more to achieve the contrast and the white balance I wanted.

Scilla flowers in macro.

Scilla flowers in macro.

Later, I found some moss growing on a brick. For this image, I used my extension tubes. They cut the light, but they allow great and affordable zoom. This was in full sun, so I didn’t need the kick light. I find this image slightly creepy, like those tendrils are going to grow into the pine cone and consume it. Here the aperture is f4– this was for effect rather than for exposure.

Moss and pine cone on a brick in macro.

Moss and pine cone on a brick in macro.

And finally, my favorite image of the day, a lovely purple crocus. This shot was just a matter of playing with angles and trying to stay in focus. Happy spring, everyone!

Crocus in macro.

Crocus in macro.

May Flowers and the Richmond Botanical Garden

 

 

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One of the great pleasures of spring is enjoying all the plants that welcome spring too. I recently had the pleasure of traveling to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, to enjoy the simultaneous blooming of azaleas, irises, and peonies. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was recently voted the second best botanical garden in the country; it’s definitely worth a visit.

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More writing progress and uh… yellow flowers

I’ve been slogging away still at the novel draft. Today I crossed 40,000 words, which is definitely the farthest I’ve ever gotten in any attempt. So, big milestone.

But because news of word counts is decidedly dull, I’ll also append some photos of yellow flowers from over the years. It’s only appropriate because my office where I write is make-your-eyes-bleed bright yellow. I have even more yellow flower pics over in my flickr set (as always, fair-use). Have a bright day!

Some images of spring

Because I am still very sore and cranky from my polo tournament (played every minute but those I was kicked out for), here are some pictures of spring. Soon enough the colors will be all around us! My brain will come around by Wednesday for some more thoughtful content. Tulips and dogwoods!

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