Interlude

A summer interlude in an unexpected place…

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There’s nothing like wandering through a summer meadow filled with wildflowers, but where I live now, most open meadows are cultivated for crops. There are places nearby that still support an abundance of flowers though: abandoned railroad tracks. A short walk down a local railroad track can be delightful, and lately I’ve been taking a little time off from packing to wander down the tracks, picking wildflowers as I go. Some are old friends, others are new, and that makes it even better.

All of these images are of flowers I found along railway tracks. I photographed them indoors in combined natural and incandescent light, or just outside my apartment on a small deck, three stories up. I used two lenses – a 60mm macro and a 45mm prime (120mm & 90mm equivalent), with wide open apertures.  The photos were processed in Lightroom and sometimes added effects, like increasing the blur on the edges, were done in Color Efex Pro. You may notice differences in the color because of the indoor lighting in some images. I chose not to make any big changes to the colors, so the pink pea flower in #12 (shot outdoors) is more true to nature than in #5 and #6 (shot indoors).

Six images (#1, #5, #6, #9, #10, #12)  show a flower in the pea family, Everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius), which is native to Europe. There are several lush colonies of this vigorous perennial vine sprawling across the wild grasses and blackberries alongside a railroad bed not far from home; the hot pink blossoms are beautiful against cool summer greens. Not being native to the area, this plant is probably displacing native plants, so it is being monitored by Washington’s noxious weed control board.

The crown-shaped flower in the second photo is Bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), another pea family plant that has expanded well beyond its original range. It is valued for forage in parts of Europe and Britain, or so I read. Here in North America it can be invasive, but I enjoy seeing the sunshine yellow flowers decorating our roadsides.  Is Bird’s-foot trefoil causing equally beautiful or important native plants to disappear? I honestly don’t know, but I at least feel no guilt when I pick them!

The buds in the third photo are from a Common centaury (Centaurium erythraea), yet another non-native wildflower. In one of my field guides non-native wildflowers are called “aliens.”  That’s something to think about, these days.  Alien species are abundant along railroad tracks, where seeds scattered by wildlife or the wind are less likely to be disturbed by human interference.  It’s not only wildlife and the wind that scatter seeds – trains and other vehicles are important players in the dispersal of non-native plant seeds. Oh, those clever stowaways that we inadvertently strew across the landscape! And just think how far “aliens” can go on a long railroad track!

The cheerful California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), California’s state flower, is well suited to a warm, dry climate. Here in the wet Pacific northwest, little groups of the cheerful posies grow with no help from gardeners, thanks to our bone-dry summers. Photos #4, #7, #8, #13 and #14 show the California poppy at various stages of growth. I picked a few from a cluster that thrives along the edges of yet another abandoned railroad, a place that’s physically close to the town’s center of commerce but seems far removed from it. Walk down the old track and as the street noise recedes you become aware of rabbits hopping about, bees buzzing from flower to flower, sparrows singing, tall grasses swaying in the breeze… and sure enough, your shoulders drop, that furrow between your eyes smooths out, and your breathing eases into a slower rhythm.

The last photo was taken at yet another deserted railroad track that I wander down from time to time. This one passes through a town that has become a winery destination. One of the tasting rooms has placed a table and two chairs in back, right by the tracks. I don’t think anyone uses it, but perhaps a waiter or a dishwasher takes a cigarette break there after the customers have left. Deer wander freely along the tracks – I’ve seen them a number of times. I can picture their dark eyes taking it all in: tasty young leaves, rabbits nosing through the grass, a hawk crying overhead, the scent of human food in the air, muffled traffic noise in the distance, and over there, a man sitting at a table. Hardly moving.


81 comments

  1. Just delightful. Your photos always seem like mental images to me, everything floating so gracefully. The petals in 4 and 8 almost look like porcelain. And your narration is a treat, too, especially the last part with the café by the tracks. Looks like my kind of a joint – I’ll just have a glass or two, until the next train comes by. Since the line is abandoned, that should work out very nicely.

    • Music to my ears, Robert, thank you! Yes, you’re guaranteed no trains and a good likelihood of seeing a few deer….and no poison ivy, and few if any mosquitoes. I hope all is well with you.

  2. Your selective focus wins again, Lynn. I especially like its effect in #5. Close seconds are #1 and #2. Oh shoot, no sooner do I write that than I look at #7 again, making all my ranking meaningless, so I’ll stop. It’s, as usual, a great collection. I like that you have chosen to make the photo with chairs and table a black and white image. And I like how you’ve processed that image with the lower left darkened and the railroad bed light. The image feels nostalgic to me, the feeling probably enhanced by the sepia tone. Rather than tasting-room workers grabbing a hurried break, I like to think of people—perhaps those very workers—sitting in the chairs with nothing better to do than wait for a train and watch it go by, trading made-up stories about where the train is going.

    • Thank you Linda! I was having fun trying to get those slightly more complex compositions with various stems and leaves and colors all going out of focus. Funny you mentioned those specifics about the railroad track photo, because I played with that a little longer to get the highlights on the track right – not too bright – and the darks in the corners were darkened. And the clarity was reduced for the background to emphasize the nostalgic effect, but as you know I’m loathe to take it TOO far. 🙂 The workers are going to have a long wait….the trains haven’t run here for a very long time. It’s being turned into a trail but the ties haven’t been removed yet. They did, however, kill all the pretty Butterfly bushes that used to punctuate the tracks. Oh well.

  3. Beautiful pictures! I love this softness and tenderness about the fotos. The peaflowers are so nice and the California poppy always is so cheerful. At the moment I am looking for plants like that, if the dry weather continues. I am so happy you walk along the trails 🙂 – And the Birds trefoil is invasive? A problem all over the world. Here I am glad about it when I see it, because it is very good for bees.

    • Tenderness is a wonderful word, thank you! I hope to learn more about which flowers the bees are visiting the most but I’m a very long way from being an expert, like you! 😉 I was so surprised when I first moved here to the famously wet Pacific northwest, and I saw all these signs about “water-wise” gardens, and advice about conserving water. I coudln’t understand it until I lived through a few summers here, and saw how truly dry it gets, just for a few months. Lavender is happy here! Crazy! 🙂

      • Strange these contrasts! So wet and then so dry. But the nature in the Northwest is getting along as it seems 🙂 I wonder what plants and trees are growing in your area (besides of Lavender ;-)? – Here it is getting worse and everyone is hoping for rain. More fires take place and they say the harvest will have a lost of up to 50% in some regions in the northeast. We had many dry periods the last 15-20 years, but the weather changed often after 8 weeks. Now we are getting into the 9th or 10th week and some leaves of the trees and bushes start to get yellow. Well maybe there will be rain next week. Lets hope so!!

    • There must still be some good ones in your area. I don’t think it’s great birding habitat though, since there is often not much water. I’m glad you enjoyed it, thank you!

      • In the Edwin B Forsythe refuge where I have taken many of my bird photos, part of Wildlife Drive was built from an abandoned railroad track to Atlantic City. The tracks are no longer visible, but the road is unusually straight in that area.

    • Speaking of dreamy, I know your garden is dreamy these days and you just posted photos – I will get there soon! We’re busy packing…moving van comes Thursday….then we’ll be 1 1/2 hrs. north of here, more in the midst of the water and mountain scenery (close to the San Juan Islands). I can’t wait. Thanks Lynn, and happy weekend to you.

  4. What an interesting series. After moving through those soft, pleasing images of the flowers (we have the bird’s foot trefoil, too, and I love it) the last photo showing the table and chairs by the tracks evoked an interesting response: “That’s what a world without flowers would look like.” It also reminded me of my time in Matfield Green in Kansas. I stayed in a renovated railroad bunkhouse just about as far from the tracks as that table and chairs are, and I so enjoyed sitting at my own table and waving to the engineers as the trains rolled by.

  5. Absolutely stunning photo’s! I love the softness of the colours. That table and chairs, finish off the picture brilliantly! Such a beautiful blog as usual, thanks!

    • Thank you! Flowers can be a trite subject, but they have been such an important piece of my life, and it gives me pleasure to work with them, which is of course multiplied when other people enjoy the images.

  6. I love your shallow focus and pastels in this selection, Lynn. My first thought was that you may have used the Lensbaby for these (I still have that on my wishlist). If I had to pick a favorite, I would say #8, because I like the limited focus on the flower and I’m also attracted to the color yellow but I could have easily picked any other image, they’re all that good,

    • That’s funny about the lensbaby….the two lenses I used are good ones for this kind of work, if you have a micro 4/3 camera…I can’t remember what you use. A secret about #8 – I reduced the clarity further towards the bottom of the flower with the graduated filter in LR, which may have made the sharper parts look even clearer. The color of those poppies is joyous. Thanks Ken!

      • I think clarity adjustment is LR is one of the most flexible (and underutilized) of the Presence tools. After sharpening, it’s the first major adjustment I turn to in virtually all of my processing. It contributes enormously to “the look” of an image.

  7. So beautiful…so intimate. And I do love that table and chairs out by the tracks. I wouldn’t be having a cigarette there, but I can imagine a nice cup of coffee and a book for company…with the hopes of one of those deer coming by for a visit, as well. What a place….

  8. Macro and flowers – a marriage made in heaven. The softness adds to the mood, and proves everything doesn’t have to be “tack sharp”. Nicely done.

  9. Wonderful images, my friend, and – as always – interesting to hear about the technicalities. The softness, shapes and colours do it for me, and 3 and 5 are excellent examples. 8 is very different and I like that a lot. In 12, the foreground green stem adds to things. And I really like 15, both for its softness, but also because it almost lacks colour. LOL! you almost gave me a heart attack this morning talking about initial culling of images – please do be careful!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Gee, what did I say? My brain’s so befuddled with this move I can’t keep much straight. But no worries – I save my SD cards. I delete things from them I’m sure I won’t need, then keep them after they’re full, just in case everything else is lost. Interesting what you said about #12 because the stem in the foreground irritates me. Not enough to leave the photo out, obviously! 😉 But I didn’t think of it as a positive thing. Thanks for your thoughts, Adrian, I appreciate it!

    • Well, these were done in the “old” place, but I’m sure you’re right….it looks like there’s more available light, and the region is beautiful – even though it’s only 1 1/2 hrs from Seattle, it has a different look. Islands, nicely lumpy hills, wide fields, mountains on the horizon. I hope Springfield is treating you well!

  10. The wild sweet peas are taking over the dunes at Meyers Beach. They seem to be doing especially well this year or this time of year. Easy to see them as being invasive here, but I have to agree that they do add a lovely touch of color. Then again your presentation of them is so gentle and sweet. I can never seem to get enough of the poppies though. I like that you managed to include the different stages it goes through. You have such a delicate touch with all of your images. Love the moment of possibility in #13.

    • You have exactly the same plants…they’re beautiful aren’t they? I hope they’re not causing too much damage to native plant life. I’m with you on the poppies, too, that snap of color – orange isn’t a color you see that often, either. And I love that little disc on the bottom of the seed pod after the petals fall off, it has that 1950’s outer space look. I appreciate that you like #13, and the way you describe it is so interesting. Those super complex images are harder to make than the more straightforward ones, but I like the atmosphere they show. Thanks for being here, Gunta, right now it’s keeping me from going off the deep end…just about 36 hours to go….

  11. Hi Lynn, I’ve scrolled through these numerous times enjoying your choices of compositions, angles and processing. Love the poppies, especially the dangling bud waiting to unfurl, the delicacy of the peas shoots and the mix of vibrant colors and pastels. I can imagine you walking the rails, hunting. 😉📷 Gorgeous, thoughtful work.

    • Thank you Jane….I’ve been busy with the move and it’s taking time to catch up….for you to say you like the poppy photos is kind of funny, given the number of them you must see, and must have photographed over the years. So that’s good! 🙂 I appreciate the word “thoughtful” in there as well. Please let me know if you’re coming up this way – it would be great to get together sometime.

  12. I’m late commenting this post. But it is outstanding! I’m curious how you achieve this creamy and light color rendering. Beside the excellent composted images with your certain play of focus and blur. You are involving me as a viewer into the flower world.

    • You think YOU’RE late! 🙂 So sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier – I’ve been busy moving. It’s hard to say exactly how that creamy effect happens, but I do think the lenses play a big role – Olympus 45mm prime & 60mm macro prime were used here. Shooting into the light, which works really well with the 45 mm, is one technique that brings about this effect. Of course I used a wide open aperture…and sometimes I will hunt with the camera up to my eye instead of the normal process of looking for a composition, then putting the camera to the eye. If I hunt with the camera at my eye when doing close-ups, different things appear that I wouldn’t have seen with my eyes. You have to get lost in that tiny world, right? Color Efex pro has a nice blur vignette that you can control well, to soften the edges a little more later.

      • According to your last blogpost your new home must be beautiful. Only a few steps and you are surrounded by nature. A dream! Full of plentiful subjects to point your lens at. – Btw lenses. You really are patient to take such close ups with this macro primes. It needs a study hand. I can literally see how you moving around, your camera at your eye 😉 The results are stunning. Not only technically. It needs a lot of empathy and foresight to catch this kind of impressions. Picture #14 for example is so well balanced and opens it’s own charm by using a narrow focus area. I really do like it. Regards – Karl

    • Hey Lisa, only four boxes left to unpack! And still a considerable amount of reorganizing to do – I really want to get my “stuff” better organized, get rid of what I don’t need, etc. An ongoing project, alongside exploring the area. We started coming up here literally only days after we moved west, 6 1/2 years ago, and we always thought it would be nice to live in this area. Now that we’ve been here all of one week, we’re seeing there’s much more than we imagined – more parks, more places to see, etc.

  13. Althogh your photos always evoke a sense of being at that moment, I feel these are much more special. I might feel this because of macro photography of flowers. I see flower as a synonym of beauty. And I must appreciate the processing skills too. Beautiful work bluebrighty.


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