Browsing on Flickr over the weekend, I saw scans mixed in with photos on a member’s page. It reminded me that scanning is a great way to experiment with making images.  Back in the 80’s I worked at a copy shop near Columbia University for a year.  It was a busy store, but once in a while there was down time. Spending all day copying print, from flyers to graduate theses, I was drawn to experiment with the big Kodak machines. (Those copiers were temperamental and our repairman would fly in on a cocaine high and whip them into shape in no time, but that’s another story). Like many people, I first tried putting my hand on the glass, marveling at the detail. Quickly I moved on to other objects, including colorful patterned socks from the 50’s, and tiny shells that appeared as a galaxy of stars when I raised the lid up, making the background black.

Here are a few quick home grown experiments. My scanner/copier isn’t nearly as good as those old Kodaks. It doesn’t focus as well. But with processing in Lightroom and On1, I can add textures, change colors, drop borders in, and play to my heart’s content. And I never have to worry that the store owner will show up while I’m in the midst of it.


Many of you will recognize the ginkgo leaves. I pick them up now and then. They evoke my earliest days in New York, where many a city block is planted with the sturdy, pollution-resistant trees, and associations with Buddhism, because the species has been grown in Chinese temple gardens for almost a thousand years.  Long-lived as individual trees (scroll down to one that’s 2000 years old), ginkgoes may be the oldest living seed plants. They shared space with dinosaurs millions of years ago. The attractive leaf shape with its many variations on the fan theme, and the strong yellow fall color are appealing. I love this tree!

(One more fact about Ginkgoes – when I first learned about them, I read that they did not exist in the wild, and hadn’t been known to grow wild in historical times. But three years ago wild Ginkgo forests were “discovered” in southwestern China!  Scientists were able to determine, with DNA testing and other methods, that the trees weren’t put there by humans. Indigenous peoples’ taboos against planting or logging them apparently helped preserve a wild pocket or two of the trees.

The net-veined leaves are from a Magnolia tree at Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. Insects eat the fleshier parts, skeletonizing the leaves. And who knew – you can buy them on the internet, and learn how to make your own.

The flower and leaf collections are from trips to Arizona. Old, water-stained paper that I saved is in the background.  I made the marbled paper in the last scan by floating and swirling oil paints on water in a roasting pan. I hope I threw that pan out…


This week’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge  is Pattern.  It’s everywhere.

Ponder this:

Does the key to the ubiquity of patterns in our world lie within our perceiving brain, or outside of us? Both? Is there any way to know?

And this:

“How is it that a man made, artificial, technological system is behaving like a natural system?  The more efficient it becomes, the more it looks like nature…”  From a video by Jason Silva called, TO UNDERSTAND IS TO PERCEIVE PATTERNS.

Watch it – it’s only 105 seconds long, and it will set your brain spinning.

Read about Jason Silva, who’s been called and “Idea DJ” whose short videos are “shots of philosophical espresso.”  Hey, no wonder I liked that video!


Patterns have always motivated artists. Whether you locate them inside your perceiving brain, or outside in “nature”  (however you define that), they’re ubiquitous.   I need to narrow down this vast subject, so I’ve chosen patterns in leaves and branches, because they have interested me as long as I can remember.  I’ve abstracted these photographs in Photoshop, mostly using the Posterize and Cutout filters. It’s clear that the patterns I perceived here are at least partly inside my head.  I suspect some will resonate with patterns in your head, too.














More PATTERNS await discovery at the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge.

To spin your mind harder, try googling “Pattern perception brain” and then add “Philosophy.”  The two links below look interesting, but it’s warm and sunny out, it’s spring, and I think my brain’s telling me it’s had enough of the computer screen. For now.


An abstract evocation of warmth, from my hand/heart to yours:

This curled leaf from a Magnolia tree was a meal for a happy beetle or caterpillar, leaving its structure – the veins – for us to admire and ponder. Curled up inside a red lacquered cabinet, it caught stray glimmers of morning sunlight in January.

I found the leaf on the ground at the University of Washington Arboretum in Seattle. Their website says, “Magnolias have a long history. Fossil remains indicate that magnolias are among the most ancient angiosperms (flowering plants) and have changed very little in 100 million years.”

“Magnolias are named in honor of botanist Pierre Magnol, director of the Montpellier Botanic Gardens, the oldest university garden in France. Magnol’s major contribution to horticulture was developing the concept of plant families.”

Strangely enough, I found this leaf (and hundreds more like it) under a Magnolia tree in full bloom in mid April. Lush, graceful flowers adorned the tree above my head but the ground below was blanketed with last year’s leaves, slowly returning to the earth while mingling with freshly fallen petals.

Here are photographs of several magnolias in the UW collection, and fallen petals underneath last year’s skeletonized leaf.

I’ve strayed from the original idea of a simple abstract image for Valentine’s Day, but isn’t Valentine’s Day a bit of a conundrum? A day to celebrate warm feelings of love occurs in a season of cold. So here I’ve set out a few images to reinforce the warmth without forgetting the rest of the story.

From The Daily Post today comes a wonderful potpourri of hearts and the like:

MAPPING A CONCEPT: Weekly Photo Challenge: Concept

Jake’s Weekly Photo Challenge topic is “Concept”.  I like maps as maps and I like maps as concepts – above, a plant found on Florida’s West coast sits on a map of the region, the plant’s tangled arcs echoing the curves of road and shoreline.

My scribbled map of local wanderings in the “wilds” of Staten Island, a forgotten borough of New York City that, if you explore its fringes, can reveal old pot shards at the water’s edge and fields of yellow sweet clover.


Photoshopping a picture of tropical leaves from a greenhouse produces a map-like array of lines and shapes – countries, rivers, boundaries and highways.


The broken glass at an abandoned greenhouse in Yonkers, New York reminds me of a map too. The fragments could be islands separated by canals.


Twigs reach into space like roads reach across a territory; their buds are the exits where something new awaits.



The Boardman Bombing Range in Oregon: No Public Access – says the map.

The Columbia River passing through Longview, and on down into the uncharted parts of a well eaten magnolia leaf.

Today I was planning to post some photographic studies I did earlier this week of  “skeletonized” leaves (their essence pared down to vein structure) and a map of Washington. The leaf  veins are a kind of map themselves, and when they are superimposed over the routes of the map a confusion of lines and scale erupts: the vast spaces represented by the map mix it up with the tiny interstices of leaf veins.  I must have intuited that Jake was going to challenge us to photograph a concept this week. Maps exist as objects but they’re deeply imprinted as concepts in our minds, too. There’s something deeply satisfying about the way maps  reflect our internal sense of order and our external knowledge of the land.

Maps fire the imagination. I like to pour over them at home, make a plan, follow it for awhile, then jettison the map and veer off into the unknown.

And I love GPS, especially when I drive onto a ferry and the screen puts the little car in the middle of the vast blue water.  There’s nothing so pleasurable as turning off the GPS once you’ve reached new territory and exploring until you’re hungry, knowing you can turn it back on again and find your way “Home” anytime.

“A map is by nature interdisciplinary.”  P.C. Meuhrcke