I think about my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents

and those who went before –

all of them gone to the cool earth – yet

I feel their support. The subtle threads of connection reach

the other way too, shimmering in the blood of my son, his infant twins,

maybe beyond.

When I was a little girl I watched my mother and her mother intently,

as children do. They discussed ordinary tasks: the making of gravy,

the way to set the dinner table. I sensed a deep bond

between us: three generations of women connected by

genes and blood, place and time. They taught me what beauty is –

a perfect white camelia, a tender biscuit,

a sparkling emerald, a warm smile.

The lessons buoyed me in dark times

long after their deaths

sweet tokens

of the past.


I visited my son and his new family: twin boys,

my grandchildren. I watched as they were

held and fed,

bounced and tickled. I gazed as intensely as

I did those long years ago when I watched my mother and grandmother.

I am still learning

where beauty is

in this hard world.


The boys fell asleep and we talked about the value of art,

about being a new therapist and being new to therapy. We talked about Ukraine,

where the twins’ mother was born. She had offered to help old friends from her

school days but they spurned the idea, wanting only

money for the troops.

Revenge over comfort.

The talk turned lighter then, to family resemblances. I said I could see

my grandfather in the twins’ faces, their high foreheads, their curious, solemn eyes.

My son carries his name, a tribute to his forge-ahead energy,

endearing quirks, his confident way of moving

through life. A stubborn, self-made man, he framed out

a secure place in life for himself and his family. Now my son,

easily a foot taller than his great-grandfather and inhabiting

a different world,

dreams the same dreams,

makes them real again.


The day after the visit I waded through a box of old photos

and papers looking for pictures of “The Colonel”

(as my grandfather was called) to send to J. She was curious

about my grandfather, wanted to know more about the

mythical man whose blood runs in her children’s veins. Head bent,

I rummaged through the box and pulled out a sixty-year-old letter

typed on onionskin and dictated by my grandfather

in reply to a researcher inquiring about his background.

He said he didn’t know

what his own grandfather did for a living. Maybe

they were too preoccupied with survival in the coal mine hollows

of West Virginia to remember their forebears’ lives. But

the Colonel got out.

He did well.


In the box, a scrawled list of Paris restaurants proves it.

Penciled on hotel stationery by my grandmother

in her energetic, round script, the list tells

who you can call if you can’t find good Scotch

(their favorite drink) and which restaurant has a good view

of l’Arc de Triumph. Halfway into the box I pulled out

a glossy, black-and-white, 8×10 of the two of them

enjoying drinks with friends at a crowded Manhattan restaurant.

Smiles all around.

Leafing through the fragile papers and photographs

I sensed a subtle vapor-like energy,

an ethereal column of mist wafting through my core

ribbon-like, down to the past generations and on

to my child and grandchildren. Warm feelings

washed over me –

like the oxytocin rush I get when I hold the babies, a

visceral connection to my

peopled past

and future.


And in the box there was a cherished missive from the past, a poem

my mother transcribed before she died. I’d wondered

where I put it,

worried that I’d lost it but there it was, folded in thirds just like

the first time I found it, weeks after she died.

Fifteen months of fitful struggles with pancreatic cancer

finally over.

I had taken time off from work and flown down to her house

to wade through the contents, exhausting work

in the best of circumstances made harder

by the sheer number of objects. Room to room, I sorted, never expecting

to find a carefully penned poem on yellow legal paper,

folded and tucked into a dresser drawer with

my mother’s socks and stockings.

I stopped to read (she knew that would happen).

I was glad to be alone as I listened to her voice

reciting the words, threading through time,

pulling the bond tight.

A heartstab of love

from the cool, rich earth

of the grave.


To Those I Love

If I should ever leave you whom I love
To go along the silent way,
Grieve not,
Nor speak of me with tears,
But laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you there.

(I’d come – I’d come, could I but find a way!
But would not tears and grief be barriers?)
And when you hear a song
Or see a bird I loved,
Please do not let the thought of me be sad
For I am loving you just as I always have
You were so good to me!

There are so many things I wanted still to do

So many things to say to you
Remember that I did not fear
It was just leaving you that was so hard to face
We cannot see beyond

But this I know;
I love you so
‘twas heaven here with you!

Isla Paschal Richardson



About the photographs:

All except the rock (#3) and the photo below were made using intentional camera movement (ICM). Most are one-second exposures at f22. Sometimes I moved my whole body, not just the camera, mimicking the waves coming ashore or the arcing outline of a rock. It was the day after I went through the box of papers, a day of rain and strong tides. I didn’t intend to do anything other than get outdoors between rain showers but I always have a camera with me and I wanted to do something different with it. Camera movement sprang to mind. The images seem to reflect the mood I was in – why wouldn’t they?




The other day I saw an ad in The New York Review of Books for a book called Theory of the Earth by philosopher Thomas Nail. The title caught my eye, and, as so often happens in the age of the internet, that led me to more books, articles and interviews. Nail writes about human migration, borders, and the philosophy of movement. As someone who has moved house many times and generally enjoys being on the move, I think about movement from time to time, so Nail’s project to reconfigure philosophy from the point of view of movement intrigued me.

If I understand correctly, Nail sees phenomena as matter in motion and time as a process or effect of matter in motion. We live in a universe of change. Our world is not a closed set of discrete things and dates, but rather one of open processes. Humans are not external to life, observing it from afar. Space and time are not “things” as many of us were taught to construe them. Nail claims that not only is matter always in motion, but there is no separate force enacting this continuous flux. Rather, reality simply IS motion: it’s all patterns of interactions.

I’ll admit that a deep dive into Nail’s writing can leave me gasping and confused. Yet, I find inspiration there. In my view, philosophy can touch on every part of our existence, including our enjoyment of images. Thinking philosophically stretches the mind and encourages us to think critically, a practice that promotes creativity, curiosity, and clarity.

Looking at a painting isn’t the passive activity you might suppose. Even the heat emanating from your body transforms the painting, which vibrates waves of photons as it decays in a constant feedback loop with the environment. There is a “vast iceberg of material consequences” to everything we do, including the seemingly passive activity of aesthetic appreciation.

We may call photographs still pictures, but in fact, they are motion itself: the motion of a body acting in space, gathering impressions, and operating a camera; the motion of the camera, the subject being photographed, and a brain thinking, sensing, feeling. A digital photograph involves the motion of a computer as images are modified and light bounces around the screen – and the room! Photographs are light moving through the air, through the camera, on the screen, inside our eyes. Far from being separate, stable objects or mere copies of phenomena, photographs involve fluidity and complexity – more than we imagine.

Doesn’t a photograph also involve the motion of your brain, your breath, your heart? Yes. Mine too.

There is a group of photographs below. They’re here because I chose to bring them together and you are choosing to look. It’s an interactive process. There’s nothing static about it.


Pure motion and transformation,

there is nothing still

about still photography. It is material,

real, and

constantly becoming:

Such a delight, this very world

in motion.


1. Bullwhip kelp afloat on an incoming tide.
2. Rotating the polarizing filter, I shifted the view. Motion = transformation.

3. Shadows and reflections. Far more than a static representation or an artifact of time, the image is in your brain and you are interacting with it.
4. It can be hard to free oneself from the idea that an image is a fixed thing.
6. The patterns in this rock appear to shimmer but the rock doesn’t have to shimmer to be in motion. There is probably mechanical, chemical and thermal movement even in the seemingly solid rock. And there’s motion in the photograph.
7. Moving the camera as I press the shutter may make it easier to think of a photograph as pure motion.

10. Intentional camera movement again, expressing something poignant in the dynamics of the flower-filled swamp.




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.






Off to the Woods!



























The Pacific Northwest has been feeling the heat lately, as a very persistent block of high pressure is parked over the West Coast. At the same time, over the border to our north, British Columbia is experiencing its worst wildfire season in 60 years. Thousands of people have evacuated their homes and the province is under a state of emergency that now looks like it will stretch to a month. Almost 900 wildfires have been reported since April 1st, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that smoke drifted down here early last week. Our air quality has been worse than Beijing’s! A swirl of cleaner air came through on Saturday, but overall we’re smothering in hot, stagnant, unhealthy air.

To add to the extremes, we are about to surpass the record for the most consecutive days without measurable rain.  At 51 dry days and counting, there is no precipitation in the forecast. My admittedly cynical prediction is that the clouds will come rolling back just in time to obscure the solar eclipse, two weeks hence. (I should say that summers are always dry and sunny here, and due to a very wet Spring, we aren’t in bad shape as far as moisture goes.)

Yesterday we tried a quick trip to the woods for some relief, but little comfort was to be had. Smoke lay heavy to the horizon and the sun was relentless.  To top it off, road work made traffic a trial.


So I was happy to discover that I had some decent photographs after all that. I had begun taking photographs before we arrived at our destination, shooting from the passenger seat as we slowly worked our way up a dusty, gravel forest service road. Spada Lake is a reservoir in the central Cascades foothills with day use recreation areas scattered around its perimeter. A pretty place to picnic, the lake is surrounded by thick, still-green forest. Sunlight sparkled on the alder leaves and little waterfalls still carried trickles of water, but views across the lake were very hazy.

For the in-motion shots I used a 45mm fixed lens and tried to focus on a tree (using auto focus) while panning the camera, with the window rolled down. The shutter speed that worked best was 1/6th; apertures ranged from f11 – f22.  It’s a hit or miss technique – you have to check to be sure you’re not getting just a white blur, and even as you adjust settings to find the best shutter speed and aperture, you’re still leaving much to chance, hoping for something useful. You don’t really know what you’re getting until you see the images on a bigger screen.  Processing often requires a significant amount of sliding up and down the contrast, clarity and other scales. It may sound like a lot of uncertainly and effort, but when it works you get very interesting results.

“Smokezilla” is easing today – we’ve slithered out of the unhealthy category and are back in the moderate zone. The air cooled overnight, and maybe I really cannot complain. The local botanical garden is ripe with the fruits of the gardeners’ work, I understand plenty of wildflowers are in bloom up on Mount Rainier, and closer to home, the beginning of fall’s photogenic decline can be seen. I am not lacking for subjects!

A Glass House

“Photography is as much a gateway to the inner world of the photographer/viewer as it is to the beauty displayed in the outer world.  A garden is a setting for having this kind of experience on multiple levels – simultaneously sensual, aesthetic and spiritual.”

Allan Mandell, Photographer

Last week I read about a Victorian style conservatory in a park about an hour south of Seattle. Glass houses, where plants thrive in close proximity and perfume the air with possibility, are among my favorite places to explore with a camera. I love the way they transform the immediate environment – it’s like taking a quick trip to a tropical paradise.


Years ago a friend’s son got me a temporary job at the New York Botanical Garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – a dream position. I didn’t care about the grunt work hauling cuttings with a wheelbarrow through the houses, or the times my backside was riddled with cactus spines from weeding in the cactus beds. I was happy to be part of maintaining one of the grandest conservatories in the world. But I digress….

I drove down to Tacoma to check out the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory. It is quite small, but lovingly cared for.  With a central dome and just two wings, the space is packed with plants. There are tall trees hung with vines, Spanish moss and other epiphytes, flower displays, and the usual suspects  –  orchids, bamboo, tree ferns, agaves, etc.  A water feature is tucked into a corner where a tinkling stream tumbles over fern-framed rocks into a dark pool.  The swirling water flashes orange and white with koi. One elegant cream-colored fish, an ogon butterfly koi, steals the show. Its sail-like fins and tail curl and eddy the water like a magician flicking his wrists.


I decided to photograph the koi with a long shutter speed to convey the mesmerizing blur of forms and colors churning the water.








There’s something about conservatories that always inspires me. They keep me focused on something I love – the astonishing, delightful multiplicity of plant forms.





Bamboo provided an opportunity to experiment with intentional blur. I moved the camera in various ways, while keeping the shutter open for about a half a second.








Leaves of the ground cover below created a tapestry pattern. I converted the photo to black and white later. Spanish moss inspired me to use an in camera filter called Key Lines – that image is pretty much straight out of the camera. Another in camera filter plus processing in LR, was used for the black and white fern photo.





Some plants warrant a more straightforward approach.





Spanish moss (not a moss at all, but an epiphyte member of the Bromeliaceae) is so plentiful in the conservatory that one clump was wrapped around a metal bracket to get it out of the way.  The shop has strands of it for sale!  Spanish moss still reminds me of childhood Easter vacations with my grandparents on an island off the coast of Georgia, where it grows profusely on huge old live oaks. The plant has no roots, absorbing nutrients and moisture through tiny scales on the surface of the strands. I came to love it, and brought a clump home to my apartment the last year I went to the island. I knew enough to keep it near the shower where it could have a humid environment but still, it didn’t last more than a few months. Technically, it doesn’t depend on oak trees (or telephone wires!) for anything but support and closer proximity to the light, but I think something was missing chez moi. Maybe having other plants nearby would have helped maintain more consistent humidity and temperature.  In a similar way, I think conservatory plants benefit from growing together.


Speaking of growing, I am working on growing my camera skills and focusing my aesthetic. To that end, I’m relying on and paying more attention to the community of other photographers online, and balancing that with time alone. Also, I’m focusing on a few projects – one is a series of photos looking through windows, especially fogged up greenhouse windows.

I walked around the conservatory outside to see if there were any fogged up windows with plants close behind them (pressing against them is best).  Yes! I found a place around back where the jungle of plants pushed up against the windows.

That will be for another post, but here’s one look at the inside, from the outside.


Bamboo Variations


leaves stems rustle and

whir, elegant in












Some of these images use intentional camera movement, either moving the whole camera or zooming the lens with the shutter open. One (the 7th, with bluish leaves) records leaf movement by using a slow shutter speed and narrow aperture (1/60, f22) with a (more or less) steady, hand-held camera. One was taken on a still day with a macro lens, and only after seeing it on the monitor did I notice the spider webs.

The first three photos and the 6th one all derive from the same shot: 1 second at f8, zooming the lens a little bit while the shutter was open. The 3rd of that series is very close to the original shot; the others were processed using Color Efex Pro for a variety of looks; the 7th one (with bluish leaves) shows a solarization effect.

The 4th and 5th images were processed just in LR. I reduced the contrast and saturation, added haze and made subtle selective adjustments (e.g. to the largest and middle stalks in the 4th) for a more painterly look.

That begs the question, why use a camera when you’re moving towards the look of a drawing? Good question. Is there any more reason to make a photograph look like a drawing than it would be to make a drawing or painting look like a photograph? Each exercise is probably of limited value. And must a photograph clearly be a photograph, taken with a camera?

Sometimes it’s interesting to explore the edge where a picture created with one tool begins to look like it was created with another. I’m not interested in gimmicks though, and I respect the the integrity of the tool, so I hesitate.

Still, it was a pleasure to explore the subject by making big changes in processing and using unorthodox techniques like camera and lens movement – and I like the results, so I may do more.


We find satisfaction – inspiration, even –










Ten minutes from home,


yet new, rose hips


The wind has its

way, but –

I can work with it.







Loving this earth we inhabit.


It’s simple.