REPEAT, and repeat…

Patterns. There’s something very reassuring about them. Whether a consistently repeating sequence of shapes, a loose gathering of similar elements or something in between, a pattern gets our attention. Patterns resonate deeply, maybe because their structure echoes the repeating sequences our brains depend on to configure perceptions and memories.

From well before birth we’re bathed in the regularity of our mother’s heartbeat, priming the pump for countless patterns we will perceive during our lives. As random as the world seems at times, patterns are woven throughout our experience, and like other beings on this planet, we depend on our ability to recognize them. Where would we be without pattern recognition, without rhythm and music and mathematical sequences, without that knack for making sense out of repetition?

Today, I’m interested in visual patterns, and there are thousands of them in my files. Here’s a smattering.


































The Photos:

  1. The skylight at the Museum of Northwest Art, a small museum in a small northwestern town a little over an hour north of Seattle. The formerly commercial space was re-purposed by a local architecture firm in the 90’s, and features cedar and hemlock paneling, a spiral staircase, and the skylight, which allows extra light into the gallery space.
  2. There’s something satisfying about window blinds – is it just the pattern? I don’t think so, I think it has to do with our relationship to windows themselves. For this photo I used an in-camera effect to heighten the contrast.
  3. At Seattle’s Japanese Garden the landscapers take pains to do things the Japanese way, lashing bamboo for fences in the traditional style. This one was done recently; it needs time to weather and blend with the landscape.
  4. Seattle’s King Street Station clock tower reminds us that patterns aren’t only found in repeating motifs like the columns on the facade, but are also recognizable gestalts, like the clock. Built in the early 1900’s, this was once the main train station for Seattle but, like train travel, the building has gone through changes over the years. A renovation was completed in 2013 – I should go insde and take a look.
  5. Deception Pass Bridge, which connects Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, is about an hour and a half north of Seattle. Built high above the turbulent waters of Deception Pass in the 1930’s, the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s about 180 feet above the water, and trails allow you to walk directly underneath, where this photo was taken.
  6. Patterns in carpets are an old tradition. This is a wool kilim-style rug from somewhere in the Middle east. Originally, most of the patterns woven into these rugs had particular meanings but now, I suspect the primary meaning is, “I hope the tourists like this one.”
  7. Seen in a Seattle alley, a pattern of bricks contrasts with random markings on a wall.
  8. The sandstone’s pattern evolved from millions of years of shifting sand dunes, at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.
  9. This perfectly posed (poised, too!) lizard lives at a delightful roadside zoo. His wonderful skin is all pattern, in both texture and coloration. The Reptile Zoo is found along U.S. Rt. 2, as you head up into the Cascade Mountains from Seattle.
  10. Veins of fallen leaves and the mushrooms’ striate caps repeat their patterns with slight variations, giving us important clues. What would we do without these tools? How would we know what we were looking at if there were no repeating patterns?
  11. Cascade Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa) displays a rhythmic repetition reminiscent of Bach’s music, maybe a Cello Suite. Here’s an article about experiencing repetition in music.
  12. Picking up shells on the beach elicits a pattern if one kind of shell is favored. This little collection is from the U.S. east coast. I placed them (in a pattern!) on a page in a blank book, and photographed it: an instant book of shells. Often called jingle shells, or mermaids’ toenails, these shells can be found from Canada to Brazil, or so I read. In fact, there are many different species of jingle shells and apparently they’re found in Europe, China and New Zealand, but not on America’s west coast. Next week I’ll be on the coast of Oregon; maybe I’ll find other goodies there.
  13. Frank Gehry’s architectural riff on a smashed Stratocaster guitar takes your breath away the first time you see it. Seattle’s renamed Museum of Pop Culture (it used to be called the Experience Music Project) contains oodles of memorabilia about native son Jimi Hendrix. The free-form sheet metal style Gehry favors builds on repeating shapes, though they aren’t as obvious as the rectangles we’re used to. On a sunny day, the undulating, shiny curved walls reflect off each other, multiplying color and shape in a photographer’s dream.
  14. Skunk cabbage is in bloom now in many wet spots across the U.S. The eastern and western species are different, but they share an unpleasant odor and basic form. I think the spadix (the central spike carrying the tiny flowers) may be arranged in a Fibonacci Sequence, like pine cones, but I’m not sure.
  15. At a botanical garden, netting is used to protect plants from hungry rabbits and deer. When it rains, what a pretty sight!




  1. Geez, this is getting harder, but I pick 10.11 and 13 as my favorite. Frank Gehry’s architecture is so photogenic, not to mention fun to shoot.
    I have a question (s) about photo 2. You mention that you used an in-camera effect for this shot. I’ve never done that. My questions are: do you shoot with the in-camera effects often and, if so, why?

    • Thanks Ken. I was leary of using those for a long time. Someone picked up my camera and played with them and got some great photos. So now I do it a little more often ( still less than 5% of the time maybe). The one I used there, called Dramatic Effect I think, is useful when light is really flat. A shortcut to things you might want to do in processing anyway. The camera spits out a ” regular” image too, which is nice. It’s the Olympus OM D1.

  2. An outstanding collection of repeat patterns, one that I can only envy. By the way April 15, today’s date, is an annual repeating pattern that annoys and scares most people, even when they get a refund.

  3. You really have mastered the art of seeing, Lynn. Marvelous collection of patterns. Love them all- the bamboo, the netting with droplets, the seashells arranged (never knew they were called Mermaid Toenails!) the bridge… wonderful images.
    Terrific work and great theme!

    • I never knew about that name either, just saw it mentioned when I was researching where they can be found. A fun sideline of the blog is what I learn when I do research. Than you so much, Jane!

    • So glad you like that, Alison. I have more. ….
      And I have to go back, it’s been a long time since I was there, even though it’s right in Seattle. Gehry has a terrific building near the High Line in NYC, too.

  4. Patterns always fascinate me, especially when they are so beautifully set like in your photographs. I like the blinds you took with the tack sharp lines and the small window stripe unshowing nature off focus.

  5. Definitely a fan of the bridge in #5, but I’ve always had a thing for bridges! And #6: sad, but true 🙂 I’m surprised you don’t have
    any floors here, or is that too cliche when it comes to patterns?

  6. Aside from the repeating patterns, the depth, shadow and texture really got me. The bamboo against the texture of the lashing is great, as were the blinds.

    The shells reminded me of a video I saw about food photography and lighting using black and white boards. It also made me wish I’d taken a picture of the cookies I made this past weekend while the dough was sitting on parchment paper.

  7. Ha! Quite hungry this morning, I saw the jingle shells and thought they were dollops of some kind of dough on a baking sheet!
    “I hope the tourists like this one” – nice title, and this tourist does indeed like that one!

    What a chunky well-fed lizard! The zoo gets a high score on taking good care of its residents!

  8. You’re displaying a definite pattern of excellent photos. It’s neat how an iron bridge from the 1930’s can look so cool and “modern” like an extension of a space station.
    I love the stylized flame effect in #13 and the mushroom striate caps in #10 are so crisp and exact. they might be bevel gears, fallen off some sort of woodland machinery.
    I had a leopard gecko when I was a kid, so I love the lizard getting the Hollywood treatment. And my favorite is the last one, seeing something absolutely beautiful
    in a piece of wet nylon deer netting, that’s so great! “)

  9. Beautiful images, my friend >>> but I have to say that 10 knocks me absolutely flat, it is outstanding and stunning – for its overall composition, and its shapes, textures, colours and tones – it is a piece of art. I also think highly of 5, and (like Paula) 7. A 🙂

  10. I love the way you’re pulling together themes of recurring patterns in your images. You have me intrigued to perhaps look through some of my stuff for patterns. It could be an interesting exercise if nothing else.
    Hard to pick favorites (as usual), but I think 10 did it for me this time. Then again there seemed to be some confusion with a repeating #5… I think I liked the carpet better than the steel structure. (no surprise?)

  11. LOVE the theme and photos here! I am drawn to patterns too and included so in my artist statement, written years ago. When I did illustration patterns were part of my style. And now I look for patterns to use as backgrounds for stock photography. I think it appeals to the desire for order. Your last B&W image with the water drops in the netting is my very favorite in this set. That would be a fun one to print and frame … or maybe see how it looks on metal!

  12. I have to confess it: my first thought was of Pete and Repeat, the 1931 comedy directed by Fatty Arbuckle. The film turned into this common joke that I remember learning from my father: “Pete and Repeat went fishing. Peat fell out of the boat. Who was left?” Of course the answer is Repeat, and the point was to repeat the question and answer until everyone dissolved into giggles.

    I’m wondering if you knew Pete and Repeat, and titled your post as you did — REPEAT and Repeat — as a sly reference. In any event, this wonderful series of unrepeated patterns is pure joy.

  13. I marvel at your perception of the intricate and small details around us in life ~ and your ability to capture the patterns and art in such details. Excellent photos, my favorite is “Deception Pass Bridge” ~ I could sit for hours at what you’ve captured…and without your capture, I’d probably just walk past such a scene/photo.

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