May in the Garden

An explosion of beauty invites closer looks…


Worries fall away. Self-referential thoughts and chattering preoccupation fade as the graceful curve of a petal, the intoxicating scent of fruity roses and the crunch of footsteps on gravel light up forgotten territories of the mind.






















These photos were taken at Bellevue Botanical Garden (near Seattle), all on May 21st. I used a 45mm f1.8 prime lens for all except the black and white paired peonies, the peony from behind and the tree from underneath – those three were made with a 60mm f2.8 macro lens. The camera is a micro 4/3rds (Olympus OM-D EM-1) so the lens focal length equivalents on a “normal” camera are about 90mm and 120mm, respectively. I used apertures from f1.8 to f20, for a soft background on some images and a sharp scene across the frame for others, and I often used spot metering.

The processing was done in Lightroom, but I also used Color Efex Pro on about four of these for additional enhancing, to get the image looking more the way I sensed it. The three black and whites were done in Silver Efex Pro, with a few additional tweaks in Lightroom. I’m one of those photographers who really enjoys the processing, so I don’t mind spending time modifying images after I’ve downloaded them. That might be because I was involved in drawing long before I took up photography seriously; I take the same pleasure in manipulating light, form, texture, and color on the computer that I did working with them on paper.



  1. A lovely series.
    I especially liked the peonies as I’ve only ever seen them in florist shops, not actually growing in a garden.
    Are they Hostas I see in the colour (and then the B & W)? They are beautifully processed and a piece of fine art in themselves πŸ™‚

    • That’s just unfair deprivation, not getting to be with peonies in person. πŸ™‚ They are extraordinarily lush, they smell lovely, and they offer themselves up to ants in a delightful way. We had a few when I was a child, planted by whoever had the house before we did, so I grew to love them. And yes, absolutely, they’re hostas. Hostas are great subjects! Glad you enjoyed, Vicki, thanks!

  2. I’m an unabashed flower and leaf shooter. I can’t think of subject matter that is more universally understood and admired and offers such a fantastic creative outlet. These are all excellent but I’m picking #8 (from the top) as my favorite.

    • I know you are, Ken, so I’m very interested to hear what you have to say – you do exceptional work with plants. #8 turned out just the way I wanted it to – those elegant allium buds up front and the fuzzy peonies adding color behind them. I’m glad you like it, thanks!!

  3. Love the pairing of the bamboo leaves with the iris. . . and the pairing of the chives (wild onions? garlic?) with the soft orbs of peonies (roses?). . . and the fence grid with the allium. And I smiled when I got to the bee. The maple seeds are enchanted. Hostas have never looked this beautiful! And there’s another great pairing of shapes and colors: oxalis (?) with cypress (?). Your visits to gardens are always bounteous with photographs, but I think you outdid yourself this time, Lynn.

    • Yes, some allium family plant, I don’t know which, but I was happy with the way that turned out. Peonies behind them. Glad you appreciate the gridded flowers. πŸ™‚ The light cooperated in the maple seed shots, as long as I look up and point the lens into it, and keep the aperture wide open. The hostas were at their peak, not having been damaged by insects and whatnot – they are such great subjects. That’s a native type of oxalis, Wood sorrel (O. oregana), which grows as gorgeous ground cover in our forests, planted at the garden under a huge, mature red cedar tree. It’s a classic pacific northwest thing, that pairing. The garden outdid itself that day! Thank you, your input is valued!

  4. just WOW WOW β˜€οΈπŸŒΈ pure beauty…what a garden…I have lots of dirt…and just planted some seeds…will be a while before I see such flowers…amazing flowers you have Lynn β˜ΊοΈπŸ’«β˜€οΈ

    • As you’d guess there’s a big crew of volunteers and there’s quite a nice budget….not to mention the advantage of a few years. I’m moving soon and I’ll miss having this garden nearby, there’s nothing like it where I’m going. But there will be other beauties.

      • Oh I hope the move is a fun part and yes flowers are always possible to find…these are magical…botanists are also amazing πŸ€“ I love your compositions Lynn ❀️

    • Well that kind of sums it up, doesn’t it? Color and light and texture…and nothing like spring to provide many opportunities to play with them. Thanks for commenting, Pat!

  5. Everything has a wonderful glow and β€œpainterly” feeling in this album. The allium buds on their stalks look like cool little minarets. I used to walk by hostas without giving them a 2nd look, but am appreciating them more, and your shot with the green leaves is just such a great composition! Enjoyed every picture.

    • Some of that glow may come from the processing, but it WAS a beautiful day in the garden. Allium buds as minarets – I love that. I know what you mean about hostas – back in the 80’s there were some at a house I lived in and I hardly noticed them. Later, I was gardening for a living for a while, and I became very aware of them – the variety is astounding, and they’re great companions in the garden. Thank you Robert, I’m glad you enjoyed this – have a good weekend!

  6. Your manipulated light, form, texture, and color certainly bring out the best of all of these plants. What fun to carry your talent for drawing into the digital end of the spectrum.
    #4 was a favorite for that flash of red amidst all the green. What a sweet surprise to catch the eye.
    The bark and the oxalis is indeed classic pacific northwest at its very best. Done with perfection.
    And the sunny backlit leaves that follow are another treasure to be enjoyed.
    You do it all so very well.

    • You’re right, it’s fun….it’s nice to hear you like the oxalis & redwood, because I bet you’ve seen that a thousand times…I’ve photographed it before, too, as you’d imagine…this time it worked a little better…glad you liked the tree leaves too – I don’t know what that is but it sure is a nice tree. Thank you for the compliments!

  7. Hahaha! >>> I LOVE your pictures, Lynn, you have a real eye >>> but you’ve taken away the numbering here so its harder to refer to individual pics!!! But I do love the iris at the top, at least I think its an iris; and picture 5, of the group of blossoms is wonderful >>> but suffice it to say that, in addition to these, there are quite a few other “strikers” too. And its very good to read about your camera gear and techniques – I’m like you, I enjoy post-capture too >>> but I don’t use CEP4 as much as I ought to!!! A πŸ™‚

    • Sorry about not doing numbers! I don’t want you to get complacent, got to make you work a little! Yes, the first one’s an iris, such a pretty one it was. The flowers in the 5th photo are peonies, very lush flowers. I used a higher-than-usual (for me) fstop ion that one. IO’m trying to train myself to go for those smaller apertures. It’s so dark here in the winter, and I love bokeh so much, that I get used to always using wide apertures. CEP has some terrific effects that, used judiciously, can bring out a quality in an image that might not be strong enough otherwise. Thank you Adrian!

      • Apertures – 2 things to mention. One I think was in my post. The smaller the digital sensor, the larger the depth of field at any aperture number. Thus on my full frame cameras, I’m often at f8 on my 70-300 telezoom. But on my APS-C, which is a smaller sensor, f5.6 gives the same dof’s as full frame f8. Hence find out what’s what for your Olympus camera. But 2 there’s nothing at all wrong with using lenses wide open – as you say, lovely bokeh. And I don’t want you to think I know nothing about plants, I’m very familiar with some .. I mean, well, there’s cabbages, potatoes and carrots for a start … πŸ˜€ ….

  8. I’ve been trying to figure out why the combination of the flowers and the fencing appeals so strongly, but it does. Pairing that photo with the one that follows, with the bee, made me laugh. If you didn’t intend a sly comment, I’d say you made it anyway: nature will find a way!

    It should have been obvious to me sooner, but I figured out at last that different starting points make for quite different photos, too. A botanical garden isn’t a ditch or a prairie: it’s often possible to find those perfect specimens or congenial arrangements in a planned garden that simply don’t occur in nature. Of course, the ditch has its charms, and your considerabie abilities both in photographing and processing make a huge difference, but it’s interesting to ponder what difference the starting point makes. As it happens, I’m going to be in the vicinity of a garden this week, and I’m glad to have seen this post before going there.

    • I’m glad you like the fenced photo – I think it’s deer fencing – and honestly, I put the photo following it there because I thought it made sense and looked good – didn’t think of the idea of bees finding a way. πŸ™‚ I agree that wildflower environments have their charms too, but it’s quite a different situation than what you have in a botanical garden. We’re going to be moving soon, and I’m going to miss this garden! I hope you enjoy(ed) your garden visit.

    • I appreciate your being here, and yes – mostly floral, since I always find leaves that are wonderful to photograph, too. It’s fun to change things up and find different ways to photograph a subject that you’re really familiar with. Thanks Kerry.

    • Hi Cathy! You’re right, those are peonies behind the buds – I’m pretty sure those are Allium (ornamental onion) buds. Glad you enjoyed….have a good weekend!

      • Thanks for letting me know, Lynn. I love that photo, so it’s nice to know about the Allium too. I’ve been spending so much time trying to identify these pretty fragrant flowers from Red Rocks in Denver and I’ve already spent so much time and am still coming up empty!

  9. I’ve oddly never connected the dots between post-processing and drawing until you mentioned it here, but it makes perfect sense now that you have! Lovely images, Lynn. I’m a big fan of the peonies series in particular.

    • Not odd at all, and I appreciate that you read the text. πŸ˜‰ Enough to actually think about it. πŸ˜‰ Aren’t peonies wonderful? Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the images!

  10. A beautiful and glorious gallery of images, Lynn. Inspiring work. Could I pick a favourite? With difficulty, but the colour shot of Hosta leaves is my choice. Partly because we have a huge cluster of Hosta leaves in our garden and I find them so attractive. Your comments on time spent processing reminds me of a quote by Ansel Adams: ‘The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways’. Although it relates to his B&W work in the film era, it’s equally relevant in the digital era. Processing is always an opportunity to extract the best interpretation of the original RAW file.

    • It sounds like you’re used to looking closely at hostas, and admiring them. I remember when I became aware of them – they are amazing! And that day, they were all in great shape, as opposed to later in the year, when they develop holes and tears and various spots. That can be a good subject too, but it was really nice to see the leaves so pristine. Thanks for your thoughtful reminder about Adams – processing really is an opportunity.

  11. This is a beautiful collection.I especially loved the blue in the first as it is a rather unusual and vivid shade and is my favorite color as well.Wow,I just don’t know how you do it.I am just a point and shoot person.
    Thanks for all your work in posting them.Katherine

    • Thank you very much for your thoughts – blue is my favorite color too, if I have to pick one, and I do love irises. You know, the more you do it, the better you get. It’s been a gradual process, with a fair amount of reading and looking at what other people do along the way. And – I will admit it – upgrades in camera and lens help too. And you’re right, it’s a fair amount of work, processing and posting, but I enjoy it, especially when I know it gives other people pleasure. So thank YOU!

      • My main interest is poetry but I have a friend who is a photographer called Mike Flemming and he lets me use his photos on my blog.Yours are something amazing though.My sister will like them.

  12. I love spring and I love the mixture of your pictures. The mixture of beauty, the mixture of colours and forms!! I feel like Linda above: the bamboo with the iris is wonderful as well as the onionlike plants and the maples – magic. Thank you for taking us with you πŸ™‚

  13. This is what I love so much about spring – a riot of colours from where there was nothing the day before. It’s such a joy to see everything come alive again! I really ought to make more photos in the spring.

  14. Such beauty in the details, Lynn. Love the intense colors and that you chose to do some monochromes, which I love. Didn’t know that drawing preceded photography for you– no wonder you see details so beautifully!

    • Thank you Jane – monochromes can be terrific for some of these subjects, as you know. I’m glad you enjoyed…and yes, it’s probably had more of an effect than I know, having come to photography after doing other kinds of art. The love of detail preceded drawing too, since I remember looking very closely as a young child, but I think looking at drawings, paintings and sculpture way more than at photographs, and making art in other media, has had an influence.

  15. Your love for nature shows through on this one!!!! Seeing these lovely images reminds me of one of the things I miss about life in the usa – those amazing flowers! Almost always I would halt to do studies of the various iris in bloom, from the lanky Louisiana Iris to the delicate and graceful Dutch, etc etc… Thank you for giving me a guilt-free (climate change) trip to view the peak of the bloom!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s