ORDER AND CHAOS

Gardeners may create order briefly out of chaos, but nature always gets the last word, and what it says is usually untidy by human standards. But I find all states of nature beautiful, and because I want to delight in my garden, not rule it, I just accept my yen to tame the chaos on one day and let the Japanese beetles run riot on the next.       Diane Ackerman

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An early Spring spell of very warm weather followed by weeks of cool, overcast skies and misty rains has encouraged riotous growth here. I’ve never seen so many wildflowers, and gardens brim over with joyful color.

The vine-covered old willow above graces a public park nearby that is really more nature reserve than park. Bald eagles, herons, hummingbirds, rabbits, turtles and many others find homes within its bounds. This year’s weather resulted in extra lush growth of ferns, vines, and all manner of greenery.

For years volunteers have been at work slowly eradicating the non-natives here, bringing the land closer to what it might have been before white people imposed their own chaos. I wonder if they’re working overtime?

Taming the overgrowth is best left for the iron-willed and long-suffering among us. I used to spend hours taming my garden – on warm summer evenings I would plop down and painstakingly pull bits of grass out of a huge moss garden I had. It was great after-work therapy. I’d be out there pulling weeds now if I had a garden, but these days I’m limited to a little deck. That does allow a certain freedom to marvel and gawk in wonder at this lush, bountiful season.

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Drive back up in the Cascades and it’s the same thing – layer upon layer of green among the old forest giants.

Spring was good to the flower growers out in the valley, too. These photos were taken during our long string of overcast days in May. Rows and rows of delphiniums, ready for the picking, stretch comfortably back towards misty hills.

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When you stop and look closely, there is pleasing structure amidst the growing chaos.

The Large-leaved lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), is a Pacific northwest native. Lupines are very familiar to gardeners – this species, taken to England almost two hundred years ago, formed the foundation of the hybrid garden lupines you see today, in multiple shades of purples, blues and pinks.

What happens when a flower becomes popular with gardeners and is grown all over the world? It escapes. Now this lupine is considered invasive in countries as far apart as New Zealand and Finland. But not here.

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Here’s another northwest native (Tolmiea menziesii, or Piggyback plant) sometimes sold as a house plant for its foliage. The tiny flowers warrant bending down for a close look:

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Another bonus of prime growing conditions is watching all the wildlife, which can also be rewarding close up. A Goldenrod Crab spider is stashing the catch of the day in the flower cluster of an Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) shrub, another native plant sold in nurseries.

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A Tiger Swallowtail works the mud for minerals at a Seattle wetland. The need must have been keen because it let me inch the camera quite close. I was happy I could hold the camera with one hand with the LCD screen tilted up so I could see what I was doing (sort of). Not perfect, but getting down at the butterfly’s level provides a feeling of immediacy that’s lacking in shots from above.

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Below, a lovely Spring azure – those are the sweet little blue butterflies that flit among the grasses at your feet, whether you live in the east or west (or Britain and elsewhere, I believe).

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In a public garden a sea of irises floats across a low-lying wetland.

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Not only are there abundant subjects to choose from these days, but there are many choices that can be made for processing.  Color, sepia, black and white? Vintage maybe?

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Back to the first photo – the overgrown willow at the park. I like it in color, I like in black and white.

Abundance. Order. Chaos. I’ll take them all.

 

 

UNRAVELED

Solstice time –

unravel your gray self

yes,

hang it

out

in the sun.

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These were taken Saturday, 6/19/16 at the Center for Urban Horticulture’s Soest Garden in Seattle. The lovely white flowers are tall (over my head) Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri). They’re being blown about in the sun after last night’s downpours.

Three years ago I saw these beauties for the first time, and photographed fresher specimens, here.

The ground was littered with petals today.

The grass is a tall ornamental whose name I don’t know. It sparkles and twinkles with every passing breeze.

Olympus OM D-1 with Oly Zuiko 60mm macro lens. The grass photos are mostly f 3.5, 1/2500s. The flowers are mostly f3.5 – f.5, 1/500 –  1/2500s. Some are processed in Lightroom, some with Color Efex or Silver Efex.

HAPPY SOLSTICE TO YOU!

TAKE TWO: NY/LA

A miscellany of things that caught my eye in New York and LA.

 

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Ah, New York pizza, how we missed it!  And the streets.

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At the Whitney, an employee replaces wicks in a huge wax sculpture, telling the onlookers, “You know, this is not a performance.” Right, just a gal doin’ her job…

The 8 foot sculpture of Julian Schnabel is by Urs Fischer, who often works with materials that decay and change with time. I wonder how much of the cast wax sculpture has melted since I was there a month ago.

Fischer says, “You could see an artwork as an offering. If you are ready to take something out of it, or if you reject it, it’s up to you. It’s there anyway. That’s what I like about art.” 

 

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Puzzling it out inside a Serra sculpture at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea. The exhibit is up until July 29th. Go see it, and maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to have your assumptions about space and physicality skewed, or at least, enriched.

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From the notebooks of June Leaf, at an exhibition titled “Thought is Infinite” at the Whitney through July 17th.

Born in 1929, Leaf has worked and shown in New York for many decades. If it wasn’t for this exhibition of her work at the Whitney I’d still be ignorant of her. She said in an interview: “You can make something and you see it. But then you have to spend your life to get the world to see it.”

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A table top -sized sculpture by Leaf, above, and part of another sculpture, below.

When asked if she thinks of herself as a painter or sculptor, Leaf said she thinks she’s an inventor.

When asked when she knows a piece is finished: “The image has to hit you back, for all of your gesticulating and fighting and stabbing and jabbing, being courageous or weak, or soft or hard. Something tells you when you’ve told the truth. It is a little like falling in love, not that it is equal to that. But, it is a similar moment, where you can’t argue with it; you can’t fake being in love. “

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A companion show at Thorp Gallery in Chelsea closed a few days ago, but Thorp regularly shows her work. Highly recommended.

Another show I enjoyed was Sigmar Polke at David Zwirner in Chelsea. Here is one painting from it, poorly shot with my phone:

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Coffee break under the Highline.

On the other coast, my eye was caught by this palm growing next to a fence. The dizzying angle was surely a reflection of my state of mind.

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At LACMA – the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  An installation of antique lamp posts by Chris Burden contrasts new and old and repeats the verticality of a nearby high rise and the ever present palms.

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Detail from the kitchen of a private home in Hollywood Hills.

Below, an extraordinary tree at the Huntington Botanical Garden in LA. The silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa), called palo borracho (drunken stick) in Spanish, grows in South American tropics and sub-tropics. Covered with sharp little spears to keep animals away, its pods produce fluff used like kapok, which it’s related to. Who could resist that figure?

 

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Beside a bonsai exhibit at the Huntington Botanical Garden, a guard began to quietly balance rocks on sculpture pedestals. He had an intense presence. He was heavyset with long, dark hair, and he wore Southwest Native American jewelry. Three young women watched him work, fascinated. It seemed to be something he would just do from time to time. One of women talked briefly and quietly to the guard. He was a man of few words. We heard snatches of the conversation: she was struggling with grief over a family member’s cancer, he offered to help her balance rocks; it would help her heal.

He showed her how, with almost no words – just 100 % concentration. After balancing a heavy rock on its narrow end herself, the woman broke into a smile and tears of joy.

It was one of those serendipitous moments that leave you breathless and without words.

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Framed in LA, above; frames in LA, below.

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More from the Melrose Flea market, a favorite LA Sunday shopping destination.

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Parting LA shot: a spindly cactus reaches for a better view at LACMA.

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Back home, the ubiquitous Doug firs, shot this time through a small pane of blue glass in a frame, balanced on a window. Sometimes the view from home is enough. Sometimes you need to fly somewhere, switch it up.  I’m thankful that I have both options.

 

 

 

 

 

CROSS POLLINATION

Cross pollination – that seems like an appropriately seasonal term for what happened when I met Patti Kuche, a fellow blogger, in New York last month.

I’ve always loved Patti’s blog, and I had a hunch that meeting with her would be fortuitous. With basically no planning, we got in touch and agreed to meet up at the Rubin Museum cafe, a good place to relax, talk, and get a bite to eat without feeling pressured to move on. (Was our meeting subtly influenced by the Himalayan Buddhist art only steps away? Maybe).

I liked Patti instantly – there was none of that dissonance that sometimes happens when you “know” someone in the digital world and then meet them in person. We had a terrific time talking…and talking. But what was special that day was that I came away inspired. Really inspired. When she picked up my camera, turned it over in her hands, flipped a switch and started shooting, it was like some bubble burst and grew inside me – it’s hard to describe, but something about her approach and ease with the camera revealed the potential for other ways into my relationship with that tricky black box.

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Patti was curious about the Art filters in the camera, so she dialed around through a few of them and shot what we saw from our table. The shots above and below haven’t been processed at all.

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We covered cameras, processing, blogging, tumblr, flickr and the rest. It’s too bad we couldn’t spend more time together – I would love to roam the streets with her. But no reason to complain. It was good just as it was (yes, the Rubin Buddhism influence is seeping in).

I started using the art filters again. I had tried them out when I first got the camera, but then reverted back to aperture priority.

It was one of those days when the light was all wrong and few interesting scenes presented themselves. I walked with an off-center kind of feeling, questioning of my own approach. Here and there, I found a few opportunities.  The green tables ready to be set up for an event under the green foliage of Union Square, and the snaking fence with its yellow caution tape were nice. Three stools in a coffee shop begged to be shot with the Dramatic Tone filter, and Sycamore tree shadows reaching around the corner of a building seemed right for the sepia filter.

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Sometimes you get lucky! In the subway I pressed the shutter just as the train left the 14th Street station, resulting in a layered double exposure look that I couldn’t have planned.

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If you like speeding trains, take a look at Patti’s latest shot of one – it’s fantastic.

***
After I got back home, we emailed. I sent Patti the photos she took and asked her which were her favorites.
“Great fun playing with your camera.  My preferences are 555 and 556 as whole shots – the setting seems to suit the filters and while I like the 558 & 559 filters I want to move the chair from the bottom R corner. Plus they have hands in funny places.
One question, are you able to change filters in-camera post shooting?”
You can’t change filters once you’ve taken the shot, but no need! I like what she did.

 

Here’s another one:

 

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There’s that intrusive chair!

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Let’s do something about it:

 

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Not quite successful, but it’s all about experimenting, and learning.

And learn I did.

In the cafe, Patti shot what she saw – people. It’s something I rarely do because it makes me uncomfortable. Patti has a knack for disarming people. She can walk up to people and get the most wonderful expressions.  She has a way of seeing – and revealing – the humanity in any given moment.

We all have our strengths as artists and we want to develop them, which includes trying out new things, however uncomfortable. But taking photos of strangers? That’s tough for me.

Yesterday we drove up into the mountains to a tiny town called Index. It’s a center for whitewater rafting and rock climbing. The Outdoor Adventure Center there operates a cafe where they serve up bratwurst hot off the grill alongside a slew of local beers. We stopped for a bite. As we sat down, I noticed two tired-looking men at a table with taped-up hands. The dirty, worn tape across their knuckles spoke volumes. Before they could start cutting it off, I bravely walked over and asked if I could photograph their hands.

I thought of Patti. (“Patti would have no trouble with this. Just do it!”).

They obliged.

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So here’s to meeting new friends and being inspired. Many of you have gotten together with other bloggers when traveling. It’s just one aspect of the cross pollination that is happening all the time. Cheers to that!