A Spare Beauty




















































Visit   https://lynn-wohlers.pixels.com/   to purchase framed or unframed prints on paper. Also available on wood, metal or acrylic.  If you don’t see the photograph you want on the site, let me know and I will make it available.  Free shipping is available on 11/27/17.


Just six months ago I was reveling in Spring flowers and the lengthening days of May. The air was charged with promise, and each time I went outdoors I knew I would find even more beauty. November’s pleasures are not as obvious, but they can get under your skin. There are days I have to force myself to go out into the wet chill – not only is it unpleasantly dark and wet, but I don’t expect the abundance of visual treats that I find in Spring.

I look harder these days to find the beauty, much harder. In this darkening time of year the rewards can be dramatic – mysterious dark woodlands, raging rivers, the ruined grace of a last leaf clinging to a branch tip.

Our native Vine maples (Acer circinatum) are some of the last trees to drop their leaves.  The species is variable; some trees show off in shades of green, yellow, orange and rose all at once, while others present a restrained palette of yellows and golds.  The play of light on a Vine maple’s golden leaves creates a delicately romantic scene even on an overcast day. The trees throw a warm wash of light onto a dim woodland where dark, hulking evergreens suck out the light (#1, #9).

Like certain Japanese maples, the Vine maple’s leaves are rounded but also lobed (#6 & #7). In fact, this tree is the only representative of its group outside Asia; it’s closest relatives are Japanese and Korean maples. A smaller under-story tree with an open habit and delicate branches, it can be easy to overlook, especially among the massive cedars, firs and hemlocks.

The leaves in #2 and #3, are obviously maple leaves but they have more deeply cut lobes than the Vine maple. They’re from our native Big Leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), a large deciduous tree with huge leaves that have mostly fallen to the ground by this time of year. The leaves make a rich mulch on the forest floor, and on the fallen cedars and Douglas firs that interrupt the forest (#17).  Ferns, shrubs and more trees will take root on top of these logs, thanks to all the decaying biomass and our wet climate.

Three photos (#4, #9, #10) show scenes at Moss Lake Natural Area, a county wetland preserve. Many trees around Moss Lake are covered with deep layers of moss, lichens and ferns, like the tall Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla; #9).  As tree stumps slowly rot they too play host to deep layers of moss (#10), providing perfect spots for seedlings to get started. The preserve’s shallow, boggy lake (#15) is a calm setting for a clump of rushes (Juncus sp.).

Four of these photos (#5, #12, #13, #14) were taken in the rain on a day trip into the mountains.  Index, a small town about an hour northeast of Seattle, has a reputation for the best rock-climbing in the state, on rock like the granite face seen in #14. You can bet no one was climbing on the cold, rainy day we were there, as the North Fork Skykomish River raged past the town under low clouds ( #12, #13) and Red alders receded into the fog (#5).

Deception Falls (#4) is about 75 miles from Seattle and about ten minutes this side of a pass over the North Cascade Range. Deception Creek tumbles steeply over rocks as it meets the Tye River here, and an old growth forest dripping with mosses and ferns makes it a magical spot, even in the rain. When we left the house the sun was peeking out, but as so often happens this time of year, by the time we hit the foothills and began climbing the road into the Cascades, we were under rain clouds. I huddled under a tree to change lenses as carefully as I could, but sure enough, I let a raindrop fall on the sensor so most of the photos have a big smudge on them. Oh well, it’s fine now and we’ll go back another day!

#16 was taken at Marymoor Park, at the head of Lake Sammamish. The round leaves are the Fragrant waterlily, an import from eastern North America that’s an invasive weed here, pretty as it is.

Magnificent trees, serene lakes, fern-covered forest floors – they wouldn’t be the same without our wet climate, and they really are beautiful any time of year. You just have to go out and look.










A random group of images from a trip to New York comes together under the rubric “Contained,” then inspires a poem.







































Containing, contained:

  1. What’s left of a perfect espresso macchiato and eggplant pastry at La Colombe, 601 W. 27th St., NY, NY.
  2. A freestanding window frame contains the view at Queens Botanical Gardens, 43-50 Main Street in Flushing, NY.
  3. Packing crates for sculpture on the second floor of the Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33rd Rd., Queens, NY.
  4. Basket made by Pomo Indians (?) in what is now California, photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, NY.
  5. Looking up into a sculpture by Ruth Asawa at the David Zwirner Gallery, 525 W. 19th St., NY, NY.  Asawa (1926 – 2013) learned to draw while interred in camps in California & Arkansas during WW II.  Later, she studied with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College.
  6. Stacked trash cans at Fort Totten Park, Totten Ave. & 15 Rd., Bayside, NY.
  7. Moving sculpture (probably the work of Deborah Butterfield)  on West 22th St. in Chelsea, NY, NY.
  8. An old wooden toolbox, washed up at Little Bay, East River, near the Throgs Neck Bridge, Whitestone, NY.
  9. A portion of “Lorrkon (Hollow Log)” by John Mawurndjul, a leading Australian contemporary indigenous artist. This sculpture relates to the ceremonial use of painted hollow logs to inter people’s bones after death. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, NY.
  10. A sculpture by Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner Gallery,  525 W. 19th St., NY, NY.
  11. A locked door to a now empty ammunition magazine at Fort Totten Park, Totten Ave. & 15 Rd., Bayside, NY.
  12. A broom and trash cans by the ammunition magazine, Fort Totten Park, Totten Ave. & 15 Rd., Bayside, NY.




Feet ache. An afternoon treat of espresso and pastry revives me, and

I relax and look out at the city streets, as fresh now

after coffee, as a green garden framed

by a floating

window, the window’s square geometry signaling the reassuring

order of framed and enclosed spaces, spaces

that hold us as safely as a crated sculpture, the crate’s stamped symbols

advising “This side up” and so

the contents are safe, unbroken, captivating and precious,

like the basket with feathers on its rim, the basket

that could fly, and it did, it flew

like Ruth’s hands when she wove her round forms

(“We always saw her making art, it was part of her everyday existence”),

the empty/full shapes weightless, almost insubstantial, yet

anchored in craft and material,

the looped metal wires and round contours as familiar as a trash container – but

uncommonly beautiful. And even a trash can might

transcend its surroundings, by way of

aquamarine paint –

as the horse transcends the city street even when

wrapped and tied. Waiting patiently, blue-clad movers watch the street for

signs of trouble, and daydream about fishing a strip of

derelict shore where a toolbox sits,

also patient, also transcending its setting by wearing

ragged, green seaweed vestments,

its wooden surface bearing the creamy, painted evidence of usefulness,

which the hollow ceremonial log

sitting quietly in the museum vitrine,

is denied. Covered with tiny cross-hatchings in outback earth colors

(“I put the experience in my head and went to paint the same thing”),

the somber container

sits empty,

longing for the bones it should but will not contain.

Sixty blocks south, another receptacle hangs tenuously

from the ceiling of an art gallery

throwing cross-hatched shadows, whose

curves dance until

the door is shut

and nothing remains

but a sign indicating “No” and

a worn broom.
















Brilliant or Subdued

I’ve been getting outdoors among the trees and taking photographs – what a change from New York!  November’s somber mood is settling in here, but October’s brilliant hues are still in the grasp of recent memory. Bright color continues to accent the landscape, fading to neutral day by day.

Photographing outdoors means responding quickly to the weather and light, and the varying moods they create together. Sun breaks, rain showers, a surprise snowfall – the changes are hard to keep up with. Just as I was getting comfortable with the brilliant foliage last month, I had to jettison my expectations of working with abundant, intense color. Shifting gears, I began to think about exploring the gathering dark and ways to express the quiet beauty of a threadbare landscape.

Here is a selection of images reflecting the season’s changes, from intense color to a restrained palette of lights and darks.












































































These photographs were taken in and around Seattle, Washington, in the last month, using a variety of lenses and techniques.  For example, the blurred leaves (#2, #10, #24) were moving because it was windy, so I went with the flow and added camera movement too, using rhythmic, horizontal pans and a slower shutter speed. Then I processed the photos to enhance the abstract feeling.

I used a phone for two photographs – #17 and #18.  All processing was done in Lightroom or a combination of Color Effex or Silver Efex and Lightroom.

Seven photographs (#4, 5, 17, 23, 24, 25, 27) were taken with a vintage lens, an Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 prime lens (what a mouthful!).  I bought it online several years ago, and got an adapter to fit it onto my mirrorless camera.  Made in the 1960’s, the lens has a slight golden tint (which you can remove but I chose not to) due to a Thorium coating, which makes it a wee bit radioactive, nothing to freak out about though. It has bright optics and an almost mystically smooth rendering of colors and tones. It will flare (as in #25) more than a modern lens but that can add to the artistry, so sometimes I shoot into the sun with it for that reason.  It’s difficult to focus accurately (remember, the camera’s electronics aren’t connected to the lens, it’s manual focus) so there’s considerable guesswork involved, but the results can be worth having less control. Not knowing what the outcome’s going to be is part of the magic.  This video demonstrates the lens.


Bellevue Botanical Garden, Bellevue, WA: #1, 6 (leaves with raindrops), 8, 15 (leaves with raindrops), 18.

Juanita Beach Park, Kirkland WA:  #2, 9, 10, 22, 26.

Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Isalnd, WA: #3.

Juanita Bay Park, Kirkland WA:  #4, 5, 23, 24, 25, 27.

Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA: #6 (Camelia flower, Crab spider), 15 (Bluestem willow branches), 16, 17.

Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA: #6 (Mushroom, probably Amanita muscaria), 21.

At home on my deck, Kirkland, WA: #7, 14, 15 (snowy woods).

Moss Lake Natural Area, King County, WA: #11, 12, 13, 15 (Maple leaf), 20.

Kirkland, WA: #18.

Wright Park, Tacoma, WA: #19.






Curves and Straight Edges: Meditations on Architectural Shapes in New York



A curve of glass – arched

eyebrow? Sheltering

arm? It holds us

in place,

smooths the edges,

invites rest, perhaps.




A soaring stone curve leads the eye to

a place we were looking for,

anchors us to what

we might forget.








Thick blocks of stone. The fortress

is protection

I don’t want. Inky darkness. I turn away, then

decide to venture deeper. A circle

of light floats down

illuminating an empty chair.




Doors close.

Everything’s in place. There is



Will the old brick and stone buildings with neatly

closed doors

soon stand alone among

glittering glass giants

with perfect edges?










Then again, the glass towers have

their own edgy beauty, an orderly flow of pattern in a

city teetering on chaos, chaos even on

the best of days, days when we

thought we could forget the

planes, the van, the












Curves and edges duke it out. As I walk the sidewalks downtown

architectural transitions are split-second, from

order to confusion.

Turn a corner, it’s quiet,

turn again,

and gulp down

the sensory flood.












Edges and curves,


and edges.



The photographs:

  1. The clean lines of Brookfield Place, a few blocks from One World Trade Center.
  2. Brookfield Place is a six building office complex built in the 80’s (it used to be called the World Financial Center). After extensive damage on 9/11, buildings underwent renovation and restoration. The arched roofed glass building houses the Winter Garden, an airy atrium with tall palm trees, a welcome respite on winter days. The complex has abundant outdoor space for sitting and enjoying close-up views of a marina on the busy Hudson River. You can walk underground though a new passageway to the Oculus (below), the transport hub of the World Trade Center.
  3. A limestone arch and dome inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With two million square feet of gallery space packed with two million works of art from all over the world, it is New York’s high church of culture. The building dates from 1879 and is the largest museum in the US. This view of ceiling details in the Great Hall is from a balcony on the second floor. HERE, you can peruse a well-thought out presentation of 100 works from the museum.
  4. Fort Totten, in Queens. Construction of the coastal defense fort began in 1862 and halted after the Civil War because this type of masonry became obsolete. It was used by the Army for various purposes, including developing underwater minefields, electric powered torpedo experiments and Army administrative offices through the 1970’s, then it was transferred to the Army Reserve. Rumor had it that a mob boss who ratted was hidden here for a time. Much of the sixty acres is now a park.
  5. Inside the Fort Totten battery. There is a small museum on the property and a long, dark underground tunnel leading to the battery, which on a sunny October weekday was almost deserted. There are beautiful views of the East River converging with Long Island Sound under the Throgs Neck Bridge.
  6. The battery.
  7. Deep inside the ammunition magazine, which is now empty, someone carefully placed a metal folding chair under a circle of light formed by a skylight. Was this a clever reference to the ghost of La Cosa Nostra’s “Cargo Joe” Valachi, rumored to be hidden here by authorities in 1970? After all, his testimony about the Mafia brought the inner workings of the criminal organization into the light.
  8. The exterior of the magazine is overgrown with Porcelain berry vines. New York City has a surprising number of romantically overgrown, seemingly (but not really) abandoned spots like this.
  9. This stalwart pre-war brick apartment building on West 27th Street in Chelsea is literally a stone’s throw from the High Line. Art galleries and the popular High Line park have transformed this area from a rough and tumble, Wild West-like wholesale meat market to a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of wealthy New Yorkers. The land this building sits on is worth a lot; it may not last.
  10. A nice late 1860’s example of New York’s cast iron architecture seen through a window at ABC Home, a large home goods store on Broadway. The Arnold Constable Building was also a retail enterprise. I like the way the window arches curve more sharply as your eyes move skywards. Manufacturing went on upstairs and retail and wholesale below. It was one of New York’s most important stores, catering to the carriage trade in the 19th and 20th centuries. Later, the store moved uptown, closing in 1975.  The building is now protected as part of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, which includes the famous Flatiron Building.
  11. A lower Manhattan scene contrasts old and new. On the left, a sliver of the Beaux-Arts style Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, now housing the National Museum of the American Indian. The “new” building is 1 Whitehall Street, in the heart of the financial district, built for offices in 1962.
  12. Another look at architectural contrasts in the city, with One World Trade Center on the left. The older Art Deco building towards the middle is 21 West Street, an office tower built around 1930 and converted to residence rentals in 1997. Currently, a tiny 5th floor studio can be had for $2975/month.  The glass tower with rounded corners is 50 West Street, a brand new 64 story residential building for Manhattan’s elite. As I write this, a 1000 sf one bed, one bath apartment on the 21st floor was rented at $5,700/mo.  For three bedrooms you’re looking at over $15,000/mo.  Or you can purchase a 3 BR penthouse (Fantastic Views!) for $24,540,000. Ah, life in the city…
  13. Looking west on Ann Street, One World Trade is in the center. St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church, built in 1766, is on the left. This beautiful little church was the location of a ninth-month long, round-the-clock ministry to workers at Ground Zero after 9/11. Upcoming events include a Conversation on Achieving Racial Equity and a presentation of the Rachmaninoff Vespers, an a capella choral composition.
  14. One World Trade soars above office buildings at Brookfield Place, a six building office complex built in the 80’s (formerly called the World Financial Center). Some buildings suffered extensive damage on 9/11. These days, the complex has abundant outdoor space for sitting and enjoying close-up views of the North Cove marina and the busy Hudson River. You can walk underground though a new passageway to the Oculus, the transport hub of the World Trade Center.
  15. One World Trade reflected in the glass skin of Four World Trade Center, a 1.76 billion dollar project completed in 2013. Osamu Sassa of the architectural firm that designed the building said, “We like the idea of the building dematerializing.” It is essentially a parallelogram topped by a trapezoid with an especially thick glass facade making for a smooth, flat appearance, in deference to the Memorial.
  16. A favorite view from Zucotti Park, a tiny park in lower Manhattan. This is where Occupy Wall Street was encamped back in 2011. The park was replanted after 9/11, so its Honeylocust trees are relatively young; their delicate branches are a nice foil to the glass and concrete masses surrounding the park. Here’s a photo I took during Occupy days, after work one evening.
  17. Frank Gehry’s IAC Building in Chelsea is now ten years old. Made of reinforced concrete and glass, the building has only two vertical columns – all the others are off vertical, by as much as 25 degrees. The glass “curtain” walls, which were cold-warped (bent on site!), have two laminated panes, an airspace, and a tempered pane. Small white ceramic particles are embedded in the glass, increasing energy efficiency and reducing glare. Perhaps my favorite building in New York.
  18. The IAC Building again. Here is a photo I took in 2012 of it in the evening through a fence covered with morning glory vines gone to seed.
  19. The World Trade Center’s Oculus, a transportation hub designed by Santiago Calatrava. Cost overruns were “insane” and of course, the building’s facade is controversial. I doubt there was ever much controversy about the quietly dignified office building behind it, 90 Church Street. I used to work there. We had a fascinating bird’s eye view of the excavation and construction at Ground Zero. When Obama came to lay a wreath in 2011, we watched as snipers methodically unwrapped their gear on the overhang below our windows. We had to stay in the building while he was on site – it was lunch at the desk, or eat late.
  20. The Oculus inside.
  21. The ammunition magazine at Fort Totten in Queens.
  22. Broadway and John Street, downtown Manhattan. The red building is the Corbin Building, an 1889 Romanesque Revival style office building. It was restored by the Metropolitan Transit Authority as part of the huge Fulton Transit Center next door; you can enter the subway through the John Street entrance.  While hand-digging the foundation for the transit center renovation, an old well and artifacts such as a clay pipe and ledger books from the 1880’s were found under the building, now a city landmark.
  23. Looking west on Dey Street, Friday afternoon crowds move quickly down narrow sidewalks. On the right is 195 Broadway, the old AT&T/Western Union building, built in the early 1900’s with oversized columns designed by the architect who designed Rockefeller’s country home, Kykuit. Harper Collins has offices there now. Just to the left of the American flag is the 9/11 Memorial Museum.