FORAYS

Spring unfolds slowly in the Pacific Northwest. I’m as impatient for it as the next person, but I want to savor every bit of this season, so the measured advance suits me. This week cherry trees paint a delicate pink froth along the roadsides, the first Salmonberry flowers punctuate the woods, and birds riff and prance like it’s never been done before.

Skies are often wet and gray but between showers I make quick local forays: a few hours at the Arboretum in Seattle, a run to photograph the cherry trees that edge a parking lot near home, a late afternoon wander down an unused railroad track.

The resulting images are all over the map, metaphorically if not literally.

Here you go:

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This unusual mix of images reflects what I’m seeing these days. Here are the details:

  1. Parking lot Cherry tree blossoms. Shot with an Olympus M. Zuiko 60mm macro lens at f 4.5, processed in Color Efex Pro (CEP) and Lightroom (LR).
  2. At the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, a bamboo fence protects the Camellia tree in #4 and #10. I used the macro lens again at f 6.3 and processed the image in LR with a preset and tweaking. I could probably get a nice result in Silver Efex, too, but I thought I’d try the LR presets.
  3. Parking lot cherry trees, towards sunset. Taken with a vintage lens (using an adapter). The Asahi Pentax Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4 is a well-built but heavy prime lens; mine was made between 1966 and 1971. It’s supposedly slightly radioactive due to a  coating on one or more of the elements. It produces lovely color and bokeh but it’s very difficult to focus. Of course, there’s no automatic focusing – we’re talking old school here. You’ve got to be able to squint and look hard to see if you’re in focus. I mostly miss, but it’s fun to take the lens out and see what happens. I need to do that more! Processed in LR & CEP.
  4. The Camellia trees are dropping their blossoms at Washington Park Arboretum. Taken with the 60mm macro lens. Processed in CEP a bit, then LR where I reduced the saturation of the greens, which can be overpowering this time of year, and added vignetting.
  5. Interesting things happen on the ground in gardens, especially when blossoms fall. I think this is a rhododendron flower. Olympus 14 – 150mm zoom lens, f 8, 67mm. Only a tiny bit of processing was done in LR. It’s satisfying when you don’t need to do anything to your photo but I really enjoy processing.  I don’t make perfection out of the camera a goal – if you do, I admire you!
  6. This old wagon falls apart more each year, too bad. It sits by the side of the road near a small town called Duvall. Duvall sits in an agricultural valley about 45 minutes east of Seattle. When I first photographed the wagon five years ago, it stood on all four wheels. Tempus fugit!  Shot with a Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5 prime lens at f 4.5. I could have used a smaller aperture for more detail but it was very cloudy. I needed extra light and wanted the background to blur out a bit. Processed in Silver Efex Pro.
  7. On the same day, I visited this old structure on Cherry Valley Road in Duvall. I love this building for the simple, almost Shaker-like lines and the soft patina of its peeling paint. There are “No Trespassing” signs around but the building is unused. Shot with an Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm, f 1.8 prime lens, at f 9. This is a new lens for me and it’s going to take a while before I’m comfortable with it but I’m sure it’s going to be very useful. Processed in CEP, where I applied a blur vignette. I also increased the luminosity of the yellows in LR, just a little.I find the luminosity sliders for individual colors to be invaluable.
  8. A window on the side of building, same lens, f 6.3, processed in LR.
  9. Forsythia at the Arboretum with an orange haze of Red twig dogwood behind it. This is in the Winter Garden, which is nicely planted with contrasting colors, textures (in peeling bark, for example) and patterns. Shot with a 14 – 150mm Olympus M. Zuiko zoom lens at f 5.5. Processed mostly in LR, where I softened it a little more by slightly decreasing the contrast and reducing clarity towards the edges.
  10. A pretty Camellia at the Arboretum. They have a collection of Camellias and this is my favorite, for the color, grace of form, and the way the flower is set off by the glossy, dark leaves. Shot with the 60mm macro (which works well for plenty besides macro) at f 6.3. Very little processing.
  11. Every year, insects feast on the Arboretum’s Magnolia tree leaves. I think it mostly happens after the leaves fall to the ground. What’s left after the bugs depart are thousands of intact leaves with no “flesh” and just a fine tracery of veins. Here a tree flower is seen behind a skeletonized Magnolia leaf. I held the leaf in front of the lens (14 – 150mm zoom lens at f 5.5) and focused on the leaf veins rather than the flower behind. I may go back and experiment more with this.
  12. The same leaves are seen here layered on the ground with other leaves, making an endless array of patterns. Shot with the 60mm macro lens at f 5, processed in CEP and LR.
  13. A similar shot to the one above, this one was taken with my phone, an older Samsung, and cropped and processed in LR.
  14. More parking lot cherry blossoms at sunset. 60mm macro lens at f 5, lightly processed in LR.
  15. The diminutive Cyclamen coum, native to Bulgaria and Turkey but happy across the globe, at the arboretum. Thanks to the camera’s flip screen, I didn’t have to lie on the ground to get this – just placed the camera there! 60mm macro lens at f 6.3, processed in LR with a bit more softening, and blur added to the edges done in CEP.

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BTW – An inspirational TEDx talk can be found here, where Danielle Hark talks about the Broken Light Collective, an inspiring photography collective where people with mental illness show their work and often discuss how photography helps them cope with the everyday challenges of living with mental illness. Broken Light is also a WordPress blog.

 

A selection of my photographs is available for purchase at lynn-wohlers.pixels.com.

 

Seasonal Blend

The blend is uneven, barely mixed

as winter cedes to spring in

fits and starts:

trumpeting geese over barren

fields

dangling buds

of red-flowered currant,

willow’s thin yellow curtains, last year’s

dry curls of dead grass among

discarded leaves.

Fits and starts of lime-green

moss inviting

touch

on a fresh morning, chill rain

slicking the boardwalk,

fallen

camellias and collapsed cattails,

their tough green shoots stabbing

at the sodden air. It is an uneven blend

of dark

mixing with light moving

slowly, the

doe settling into wood’s edge for its

evening chew.

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Spring is moving slowly here, with colder and wetter weather than normal. I dart out between rainfalls – it’s often just hours before the drizzle begins again.  I took these photos on forays to a local botanical garden, a park, and at the side of the road. They are a mix of wild and cultivated – the camellia tree was planted, the red-flowered currant, and many of the grasses and trees were not. Wild Cackling geese (relatives of Canada geese) fly high above power lines and the doe forages at the botanical garden. It all draws my eye, whether wild or not.

It’s between seasons and I’m feeling in-between myself, unsure where to go next, literally and figuratively. Patience.

Patience too, during this just-before-Spring time. Gardens and fields are still mostly under last year’s detritus but cherry blossoms are about to pop, narcissus and forsythia are out, birds are singing and the grass is greening up. My favorite season is a breath away…

Bamboo Variations

Bamboo:

leaves stems rustle and

whir, elegant in

motion.

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Some of these images use intentional camera movement, either moving the whole camera or zooming the lens with the shutter open. One (the 7th, with bluish leaves) records leaf movement by using a slow shutter speed and narrow aperture (1/60, f22) with a (more or less) steady, hand-held camera. One was taken on a still day with a macro lens, and only after seeing it on the monitor did I notice the spider webs.

The first three photos and the 6th one all derive from the same shot: 1 second at f8, zooming the lens a little bit while the shutter was open. The 3rd of that series is very close to the original shot; the others were processed using Color Efex Pro for a variety of looks; the 7th one (with bluish leaves) shows a solarization effect.

The 4th and 5th images were processed just in LR. I reduced the contrast and saturation, added haze and made subtle selective adjustments (e.g. to the largest and middle stalks in the 4th) for a more painterly look.

That begs the question, why use a camera when you’re moving towards the look of a drawing? Good question. Is there any more reason to make a photograph look like a drawing than it would be to make a drawing or painting look like a photograph? Each exercise is probably of limited value. And must a photograph clearly be a photograph, taken with a camera?

Sometimes it’s interesting to explore the edge where a picture created with one tool begins to look like it was created with another. I’m not interested in gimmicks though, and I respect the the integrity of the tool, so I hesitate.

Still, it was a pleasure to explore the subject by making big changes in processing and using unorthodox techniques like camera and lens movement – and I like the results, so I may do more.

Flowers emerge, snow falls…

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…flowers emerge,

and we may not be done with the snow! I understand that Meteorological Spring* began a few days ago, but judging by the looks of things where I live, we’re still betwixt and between, alternately charmed by early flowers and frustrated by cold, wet days.

A few weeks ago fragrant Witch-hazel bloomed at the botanical garden, then just Monday morning a generous helping of wet snow graced the woodlands. The bright, lime-green Osoberry buds that are tiny beacons in late winter woodlands here sported snow caps for a few hours on Monday – but no worries, they survived. March may swing our hopes abruptly back and forth but we know that underneath the daily changes, light is moving back in. And we are grateful.

*Meteorological Spring, a date meteorologists and climatologists use for easier record keeping, begins March 1st.

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It’s an unsteady time of year. It seems there are more dark and dreary days than promising ones, but there is still much to see, much to gape and wonder at.

  1.  Witch hazel (Hamamelis X intermedia ‘Jelena’) at the Bellevue Botanical Garden, shot at f 3.5 with a 60mm prime macro lens.
  2.  A snow-bedecked Douglas fir and Big-leaf Maples behind my home, shot at f 8 with a 20mm prime lens.
  3.  Witch-hazel again; this one still gripping last year’s thickly-veined leaves. Shot at f 6.3 with a 60mm prime macro lens.
  4.  More Douglas firs, shot at f 8 with a 20mm prime lens.
  5.  The ground beneath the fir trees. The Doug firs are like fussy ladies during storms, flicking their wrists and tossing branchlets down to the earth, far below.
  6. Witch hazel (Hamamelis X intermedia ‘Pallida‘) with a well thought out backdrop of Bloodtwig Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’) at the Bellevue Botanical Garden, shot at f 10 with a 60mm prime macro lens.
  7.  New leaf spears of the native understory shrub, Osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis) shot at f 2.8 with a 20mm prime lens.  Osoberry, aka Indian plum, grows along the Pacific coast (and inland to the mountains) from British Columbia to California. The unsweet but edible fruit was mixed with other fruit and eaten by indigenous people; bees rely on the very early flowers.
  8.  These trees are covered with invasive ivy, a common sight in suburban woodlands in the Seattle area. It does make a handsome image! Shot at f 8 with a 20mm prime lens.
  9.  Another Witch hazel, Hamamelis japonica, at the Bellevue Botanical Garden, shot at f 7.1 with a 60mm  prime macro lens.

America has four native Witch-hazels but the winter-blooming species are native to China and Japan. The hybrids above (Hamamelis x intermedia) derive from Asian species. They’re a pleasure to see each year when little else is blooming, and when the fragrance is full they can draw you in like a magnet.

I find that photographing heavily fragrant plants often intoxicates me into forgetting to pay attention to what I’m doing. In the midst of the overwhelming sensory experience, as I click the shutter over and over, I think I am capturing the whole of it. The same thing happens at waterfalls, with their powerful noise and negative ions. When I get home the images disappoint, because they don’t – they can’t possibly –  approach that feeling of being carried away.

It’s more to be grateful for though, and gives me another challenge: remember to come back down to earth a few times in the midst of those experiences. Pay attention to the camera a little bit, too.