GLASS HOUSE GLEANINGS

A New Year’s Day visit to Seattle’s Volunteer Park Conservatory was a pleasant diversion on a cold, damp first day of the year. The century-old glass house shelters a good variety of meticulously tended plants nestled happily in a palm house, a cactus and succulent house, a fern house, a bromeliad house, AND a seasonal house. Plenty to keep me occupied.

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Conservatories are wonderful places to renew your senses but they’re challenging places to photograph, with the riot of shapes, colors and textures all layered on top of one another.

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I look for simpler scenes and abstractions. Zeroing in on a plant detail is one way to make visual sense of the rich experience – so the cactus house is a natural starting point.

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Spanish moss (Tilandsia) drapes around an iron support in the Bromeliad house.

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The palm house boasts an elegant orchid display, but the flowers resist being photographed, at least by me. The angle is wrong, someone is in the way, the background is too busy, too many flowers are crowded together. Looking up soothes my frustration.

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Another place I look for images is windows, when they fog up from humidity or dirt.  You can get very painterly abstracts, looking through the clouded windows – from outside (first and fourth) or from inside (second and third). The resulting images aren’t for everyone but they’re some of my favorites.

 

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EXTRA:

At the end of the year the conservatory sets up an elaborate old Lionel train in the seasonal house, complete with old figurines waiting at the station. The whistle blows and sometimes smokes – it’s charming.

 

And the flowers! I didn’t ignore them altogether. Though I concentrated on leaves and on  finding abstract images, a few flowers cooperated too:

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I needed those sweet splashes of color!  We stayed until closing – 3:00 pm on this holiday – and saw many disappointed people peering in as we left.

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In a week I’m off to a desolate spot in the Arizona desert where I expect to be fascinated by the landscape and plants. I hope to see new birds and deeply moving night skies – there are very few towns where we’re going. Most of all I expect to be surprised – can’t wait for that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


35 comments

  1. You do the most amazing things in a very challenging space. I’d love to try out your suggestions with the window shots, but can’t think of anyplace within driving or visiting range here. Have fun on your desert escape. Eric has been itching to return to the prickly places, but the house down south has kept him busy.

    • Those window shots can come up unexpectedly – I have a series of them shot through “clear” plastic tarps at Pike Place Market, where the flower sellers hang tarps in the back of their booths. You can go out to the street and look from there, and it’s amazing how the flowers look when they’re pushed up against the tarps. So maybe you’ll find a foggy window in a random place. The prickly places – I love it – yes, keep him busy and get it done, then take a big vacation! 😉

  2. Marvelous photos, Lynn – you took such great advantage of the architectural quality of the plants. And who needs a grunge filter in post processing when you shoot through a dirty window! You’ve inspired me, I usually go to Phipps conservatory during the winter for a dose of color but I haven’t been there yet. Have a great desert trip!

  3. Oh Lynn, your photos are always so inspiring. This makes me want to go visit one of the local conservatories and take some photos. I love them all. The ones through the glass look like paintings. And I love your detail shots. By the way, which version of the Olympus Camera do you have? Mine is the EPL-1 and it has seen better days. I got a Canon lately, and I’m not at all happy with it! Thanks for sharing, as always. 🙂

    • Thank you! You have plenty of resources where you live. I have the OM D-1 and most of these were shot with Olympus’s 60 mm macro lens – it’s fantastic. I bet you’d enjoy this camera because it takes great photos without much playing around but is very versatile if you want to do more, and it’s pretty compact – though not as light as some out there. I think you’d have fun with it. (They just came out with a newer version with extra bells and whistles but I don’t think you’d need it, and the new one coming out makes the older one a bargain).

  4. A superb selection as ever Lynn. I particularly like the abstract and patterning in some of the early images. I think that in a previous existence you were probably a plant!!

  5. Such beautiful images you have captured. I agree with Louis, the more abstract photos are the more intriguing. I will have to visit Seattle’s Volunteer Park Conservatory one of these days. Thanks for the tip.

    • It’s an easy place to visit – you can usually find parking, and then a snack afterwards at the Volunteer Park Cafe, a few blocks away, would be excellent. Just try to avoid the weekend if you can. It’s a small conservatory compared to some I know, but they really keep it up beautifully.

  6. Too bad you can’t send the two people in the last photo a link to these images as a beautiful and equally satisfying alternative to what they missed.

  7. It took three reads before I “got” the title. Gleanings, not cleanings. On the other hand, I think “cleanings” would have worked, too, because your photography certainly does wipe away some of the expectations that keep us from seeing the world as it is. It’s impossible to pick a favorite here, although the abstracts as a group are right up there. You always make me want to pick up my camera and start roaming. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found the way to achieve both decent writing and decent photography, given my time constraints. That’s on the list of this year’s considerations, too.

    If I did have to pick, I think I would choose the upward-looking ferny one. It’s beautiful.

    • Wow, your word play segues right into a fabulous compliment, thank you. I’m glad I spark the urge to roam with camera in hand – something I like to watch you do (well, the results anyway). And please, you certainly achieve more than decent writing and photography – way more. But one always wants to do better, and that keeps us going. That photo you like was played with in Color Efex pro, a program I’m enjoying. Enjoy your weekend!

  8. Hi,…. I think I must learn from you many things. All of the above pictures are amazing, gorgeous. I can see that you have brilliant eyesight which is very keenly to make them look more artistic. I love them all especially the leaves. I also love to take photo of the leaves.

    • We’re kindred spirits in the way we react to flowers and leaves, and plants in general. I do work on the artistic angle – it has to be more than a record. It’s nice to see you back, and thank you very much for the kind words.

      • You are most welcome my friend. Frankly I am learning how to see the subject like flowers and leaves more deeper into artistic appearance. Please don’t hesitate to comment on my next post about Flowers photos. Thank you.

  9. Beautiful images, my friend – I especially like the startling green vibrance of the one below your words “Looking up soothes my frustration”, and the one 3 below that, the view through the steamy widows, to be strangely haunting, I like it a lot. Enjoy the desert, I envy you that! A long time ago, I spent time, with many overnights, in the deserts of Oman, I was a geologist then tho really a birdwatcher in my heart, and I was struck by the desert’s beauty – and at night the vastness of the Milky Way and, despite being in Arabia, the cold at night. Fascinating birds too. I wish you both a very good trip! A 🙂

    • Thank you! And thanks for letting me know which are your favorites. If ever you’re looking for some extra startling green vibrancy, see if you can swing a trip to the Pacific Northwest, where Seattle is know as the Emerald City for it’s year-round green. I find myself toning it down in post-processing sometimes! 😉

      • I shall never get to The States – but I do have some old friends, from my days in Kenya and with minds just like our’s (naturalists, photography, crafts, hiking), living in Bellingham, which is not far from you I think. They’re lovely people. Adrian 🙂

  10. I’m counting the lady slipper as number 1. So about number 2: It reads smoothly from left to right yet shows the conservatory’s profusion of plants; good job. I can never see (or take) enough photographs like number 3. Love that color and those designs. I think number 4 may be my favorite. Love those cactus hairs and the relatively high key. Number 6 is exciting—dynamic—and I like the way it fades off into white. Oh, number 11! A beautiful pattern, and your point of view is perfect. Most people would not even see the potential of number 12, let along photograph it. That weaving in and out seems sensual to me. Numbers 13, 14, and 15: Yum. Love the subtle coloring. That begonia (number 18?) is so sweet. The next one: (Giggle.) Yours is in better focus than mine. The next one: Those colors are wonderful juxtaposed. And the last photo completes your narrative beautifully.

  11. I actually looked at this post the day you posted it but had such a miserable cold I knew I wanted to come back and savor it with a clearer head. I’m so glad I did. Your patterns are so gorgeous! I love the shots of the cactus. There are green houses at the Chicago Botanic Garden too…I haven’t visited them in such a long time. You’ve inspired me to go again.


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