A Pleasure Garden

That’s our earth. I never tire of it, especially at this time of year, when life is burgeoning with bright energy. Well, if I’m honest I do tire of my surroundings in winter but not for long, and any lingering weariness evaporates come spring.

What is this activity of going outside and making photographs all about? Part compulsion, part joyful play, part intellectually demanding work, it’s what I center my life around. I doubt all the motivating factors are the same for those of us who go out and make pictures, but that zing of energy we feel when the black box is cradled in our hands and our eyes are engaging with the landscape – that must be a fundamental feeling we have in common.

Two other parts of the process are vital to me: the act of reviewing, then processing images and the act of sharing the results. These three activities – exploring the world with a camera, nudging the photos one way or another to my liking, and placing them where others can see them, keep me going. I’m guessing I’m not alone.

In the spirit of earth as pleasure garden, here is a slew of recent images, or maybe it’s a stew – yes, a delectable, earthy stew of greens and oranges and tasty morsels and deep, dark delicious things.

(The photographs below were made within 10 minutes of home, except the first two and one other, which are from a forest park about an hour’s drive away, closer to the mountains).

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Each of us possesses five fundamental, enthralling maps to the natural world: sight, touch, taste, hearing, smell. As we unravel the threads that bind us to nature, as denizens of data and artifice, amid crowds and clutter, we become miserly with these loyal and exquisite guides, we numb our sensory intelligence. This failure of attention will make orphans of us all.”

Ellen Meloy; The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky, 2003. As seen in Brain Pickings weekly newsletter.

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The possibility of numbering each photo strangely disappeared when I was putting this post together. Here’s a list.

1) Rockport State Park, with the Skagit River in the background. This photo and #2 were made with an iPhone.

2) Stately Douglas fir trees.

3) A bark study of an old Madrone tree (Arbutus menziesii).

4) Overlapping and interweaving Bracken fern fronds (Pteridium aquilinum).

5) A somber look at low tide on an April evening. Bowman Bay, Deception Pass State Park.

6) Afternoon sunbeams light up a tiny, exquisite Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa). IT was absolutely worth sitting in the forest duff for.

7) A young Coralroot flower stalk (Corallorhiza maculatum). These flowers are parasitic orchids that lack chlorophyll and get their nourishment from decaying matter and soil fungi. This species of Coralroot normally has spots on the labellum (lower lip of the flower) but these had no spots. (Trust me – the photo shows only a sliver of the flower’s inside). This flower is probably a rare variant called Ozette coralroot.

8) Looking toward the San Juan Islands from Goose Rock, Deception Pass State Park. A winter wind storm toppled several Douglas firs here. They will continue to support plenty of life on the ground. iPhone photo.

9) A tangle of Chickweed (Cerastium arvense) and Sea blush (Plectritis congesta) framed by grasses. Most of the pretty spring flowers on Fidalgo Island are small. They tend to grow up through tangles of fallen branches, dry grass, fir cones and other wind-blown detritus. It can make flowers challenging to photograph but the effect can be artful, too.

10) Grasses on a breezy June day at Sugarloaf, Fidalgo’s second-highest summit.

11) A pair of Mallard ducks swims away from the shoreline of Little Cranberry Lake. Sorry!

12) Bowman Bay beach detritus includes a dead Purple shore crab (Hemigrapsus nudus) and various seaweeds.

13) A comically unfurling Sword fern (Polystichum munitum).

14) Another Sword fern fiddlehead, this one still tightly coiled.

15) A different kind of fern unfurling; probably Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). The photo was taken using a vintage 50mm f 1.4 Super Takumar lens.

16) The graceful bud of a Chocolate or Checker lily (Fritillaria affinis) a western North America native plant whose bulbs were harvested by indigenous tribes. The photo was made with an Olympus 60mm F 2.8 macro lens and processed in Lightroom with a split tone preset and additional tweaks.

17) Madrona bark always delights me.

18) New leaves on a Vine maple (Acer circinatum). Circinatum means round, as in the rounded shape of the leaf, in spite of the many pointed lobes. Common west of the Cascades, for some reason these beautiful, small trees do not grow wild here or on the San Juan Islands. The photo was taken at Rockport State Park, about an hour from Fidalgo Island.

19) A tiny hummingbird, probably Anna’s (Calypte anna) surveys its territory from the tip of a Douglas fir on Goose Rock.

20) A three-year-old, female elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) named Ellie Mae lounges on a Fidalgo Island beach. Almost extinct from hunting by the late 1800’s, Northern elephant seals are now protected and doing well. They’re deep divers so most of them live off the North American coast. Recently a small number of these large seals began spending several months each year on Whidbey Island, just to our south. A female gave birth there a few years ago and returned twice to give birth again. Ellie Mae (named by members of a marine mammal organization) is one of her progeny. For some reason she has come ashore at Fidalgo instead of Whidbey Island for the last two years.

Every year, elephant seals endure what’s called a “catastrophic molt.’ It takes about a month. As new skin and hair replace the old coat, the seals stay on land and don’t feed. Ellie Mae finished her molt at a marina on Fidalgo around the time I was in New York – but I knew nothing about this. It was a big surprise when I went for a walk at Bowman Bay a few days after I got home and saw her enjoying the warm afternoon sun on the beach. Apparently, she decided to swim over to Bowman Bay the night before. Someone must have seen her and contacted the marine mammal rescue network. She didn’t need rescuing but the volunteers are very good at keeping visitors at a safe distance while answering lots of questions.

She looked so comfortable! Though I didn’t have a very long lens with me, I was grateful for the rare opportunity to observe and photograph one of these seals. She opened her eyes and snorted like a dog, then she rolled over a few times. After a while I think the “handlers” wanted to go home. It was 4pm. They didn’t want to leave her alone on a public beach. Seals move faster than you think and these heavyweights can do real damage if they feel threatened. So they gently shooed her back into the water. She was reluctant, but into the water she went, with what I couldn’t help feeling was an accusatory backward look at the volunteers. Ahh, her sunny day on the beach had been good!

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24 comments

  1. Love your opening, Lynn, and can completely relate- that probably doesn’t surprise you. And your end excerpt is perfect. Attention must be paid. (of course that’s a different source altogether). Your images sure define “attention” and shot with a tender respect for those beautiful nature moments. Your monochromes really sing for me (the ferns, the maple) and I love the color close-up of the bark- how unusual. I almost missed your hummingbird silhouette- glad you had the descriptions, but where are the numbers? Just kidding. 🙂 Excellent post, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a pleasure to attend to your comments, too. 😉 It’s good to hear that you enjoyed the monochromes. I’m using a different camera, one that has a monochrome setting (with several choices of style – high/low contrast, etc). If I use the monochrome setting for a while and I keep seeing the world that way through the viewfinder, it helps me see in black and white. It also encourages me to do more black and white. That hummingbird photo is cropped – think it’s hard to see now? 😉
      Ah, the numbers, the numbers. Yeesh.
      Thank you for everything, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are definitely not alone with that ‘zing of energy’ that a camera gives us and helps us to see our world in a wonder full way. It’s great that we have that fundamental feeling in common. Kindred spirits so to speak.

    Awww…. it seems you’ve quit numbering the images. Perhaps you’ll know when I tell you I love that closeup of the bark. And ferns… they all give us such captivating patterns to play with… if we’re paying attention.
    And that first orchid (#6 -I eventually caught the numbers at the end) is amazing… so shy, so beautiful, so exquisite.Ducks and crab and more ferns… I simply LOVE the way you see your world and show it to us.
    I remember trying to find “The Anthropology of Turquoise” quite some time ago, but must have given up. I’ll need to look for it again!

    Enough. They’re all beautiful (as always). I think perhaps Ellie May stole the show this time because she looks so sweet and docile… having seen the adults get into their tussles, I would not want to have her feeling threatened. Isn’t it great that folks work at protecting those needing such attention?
    It’s good you mentioned the hummingbird. I might have missed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t stop numbering the images – WP would not let me. I had a very frustrating couple of days trying to put this together and that was only one problem. Grrr. Hopefully next time it’ll work.
      Your enthusiasm is well appreciated…wish you could see those Calypso orchids. Maybe next year you’ll happen to be in the right place at the right time.
      I confess I have not read that book. I saw the quote on another website and it resonated. Another confession: I often order through (evil) Amazon. That book is on my long wish list and I’ll get it one of these days.
      Of course, Ellie Mae stole the show! This small group of elephant seals has scientists puzzled because they seem to be spending almost all their time way back here, far from the ocean. Even their breeding cycle is different from other elephant seals. It may be that a new, local population of elephant seals is establishing itself here, possibly related to climate change – but no one knows yet.
      Thanks, Gunta, I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week.

      Like

  3. The fifth photo really grabs me. My eye jumps from the dark rocks on the sand to the large light patch in the dark forest. I love that! It’s really interesting that the sky showing in the upper left corner is vital to the overall composition. Usually I would crop that out, but this photo needs the breathing space up there. There is a lot more to love in this photo, but this comment would be too long if I enumerated it all. I like how you have embraced the imperfection of the fallen tree in the eighth photo. But of course it’s an interesting photo all around, with the darks and the lights expertly managed. The ninth and tenth photos are two more with high contrast beautifully done. The tenth just may be my favorite. The detail is exquisite. And what light! Didn’t those ripples at the top of the 11th photo take on shadows just right for the composition. Backlight, bokeh, and black and white—they come together beautifully in the 18th photo. The composition in the 19th is unusual and absolutely lovely. May WordPress behave itself for you for your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the idea with that dark 5th photo, I’m glad you pointed that out. It wasn’t actually that dark but I think it works well that way. I decided to keep the bit of sky in the picture to balance the image and help orient the viewer. The fallen tree, yes, they’re often very intriguing. Give credit to apple for managing the darks and lights – the iPhone seems to be very good at not blowing out skies and dealing with a range of tones. It’s nice to be alone up there with that big view.
      Good, the grasses, which I was afraid would vanish among the other photos, got to you. That was recent – a beautiful early June day. The monochrome setting on my camera is helping me see better in black and white. The vine maple leaves pleased me, too, thank you. Those trees are a lot like Japanese maples: small, graceful, delicate. Thank you for taking the time to think about the photos – I know it’s a lot! Also thanks for the WP “blessing.” 🙂

      Like

  4. Yes, I’m with Jane, some wonderful photos but so hard to talk about without numbers – the 3rd one down is the easiest – wonderful! And “I’m guessing I’m not alone.” is absolutely right. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful, wonderful!! This is such a nice set of photographs, Lynn. I really like the monochromes…the sepia fern is excellent. Also the hummingbird on the branch against the sky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your enthusiasm brightens my day, Mic, it really does. The camera I’m using now, an Olympus Pen-F, has a monochrome button with 3 options (more or less contrast, etc.) so I’ve been looking through the viewfinder in black and white more lately. It helps! The hummingbird photo was cropped so just imagine how hard it would have been to see it if I hadn’t cropped it. My go-to lens tends to be a 60mm macro (120mm equivalent) so that’s often all the reach I have. Thanks so much, enjoy your weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I admit that I had to read the caption to recognize it as a hummingbird. Your camera and lens comments are interesting. I can relate. I am usually hesitant to crop but sometimes it’s the only way, especially when using a prime lens. I hope you have an enjoyable weekend too.

        Like


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