Monthly Archives: June 2011

Harmonious

Pastel palette based on flower buds.

Need some interior decorating inspiration? Here’s a freebie for you: do a room in these gloriously calm, muted tones.

The composition of this photograph is nothing special. But Oh! Em! Gee! look at those colors.

Admirer

Woman admiring the West entrance to the National Cathedral, DC

The woman in this picture is Kathleen from Houston. We chatted briefly as we both circled the cathedral, cameras in hand. Kathleen was on a rare solo trip, sans children, and having a wonderful time. Having asked me where I was from (“Across the street!”), she expressed some surprise that I was out photographing a very familiar sight.

I told her that it never gets old. It just doesn’t.

Exterior passageway at National Cathedral, Washington DC

Visitors

Translucent bug on flowers.

Bumblebee on bloom.

Bumblebee on hydrangea.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that these images are as decent as they are. Composing a macro shot while holding the camera out and away from the body (using the LCD screen) is really NOT a recipe for success. I’m now monitoring the External Live Viewfinder at Amazon daily, waiting for the price to get back down to a manageable amount, so that I can just go ahead and buy the damn thing.

It may seem counterintuitive to crop the shots into 16:9 HD ratio, but giving them “epic-movie” proportions somehow highlights the smallness of the subjects. It also suggests that these are single frames in a longer narrative, and I like the idea that even the humblest of insects has a backstory and an heroic future.

Other Planets

Bloomhead.

Flower bud

Daisy

Three flower puffs.

Flower center

You can visit a whole universe’s worth of other planets without ever leaving the garden. (I recommend the enlarged view of these images.)

Happy Father’s Day

Father and son walk away holding hands.

My best wishes and thanks to all the loving fathers who nurture their children and guide them to find their own lives of meaning and fulfillment.

I had an interesting thought about my own father yesterday. I realized that, now that he is dead, I get to unilaterally choose what kind of relationship I have with him. (He no longer has any say in the matter!) I can decide how I’ll interact with my memory of him; if I like, I can even imaginatively rewrite history. Why not? It’s my mind, after all.

Maybe, under those circumstances, I can renew my love and admiration for him.

Wonder

Wasp on daisy.

I took shelter until the brief summer boomer passed. The sky cleared, the sun reappeared, and the air absorbed a few extra percentage points of humidity. Classic summer in DC.

I wasn’t the only one taking photographs in the Bishop’s Garden. I exchanged greetings with another photographer, who told me he’d pulled over after the storm to take advantage of the light. There were droplets of rain shining on petals, and insects busy at work everywhere.

You’re in for a lot of flower pictures in the next few days, because everywhere I turned I saw a new wonder. I was grateful for the opportunity to gaze outward at beauty—rather than inward at my own mess—for an hour or so.

Eaten

Rusted fence.

Things that are not tended will decay. Without the clockwork demands of maintenance, entropy takes hold and hastens things toward the lowest common denominator. Strong iron burns away and paving crumbles, while weeds flourish and are renewed each season.

The same is true of our own habits and behaviors. It is only by making good choices again and again every day, curating the direction and pruning the shape of our lives, that we can stay healthy and whole.

The path of least resistance almost always leads downhill.

Public House

White Hall Tavern, Harpers Ferry, WV

Here’s another problem with envisioning the past: because we picture it based on reconstructions or museum presentations, we don’t appreciate how loud and crowded it was.

This is the interior of White Hall Tavern in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. It’s clean (if a bit worn) and empty. A placard out front describes how it was so well-frequented, so busy, that it was actually a problem for the Federal armory—which supplied its customers—across the street. You wouldn’t know it by looking at it now, would you?

The past had many fewer people in it than we do today. And, by and large, they were much less concentrated in large clumps than we are now. And yet, where people were gathered together, they were often in much closer quarters than nowadays. There was much less privacy, much less elbow room.

This room would have been filled with people (all men, all white), the talk would have been loud, the smoke heavy in the air, the odors strong and pungent. It would not have been picturesque.

Adam & Eve

Ivory sculptures of Adam & Eve in a bell jar.

Most of the really beautiful things I have in my home once belonged to my parents. These two small ivory figurines, who live in a vintage glass bell jar, are among my most beloved possessions.

At one point, my father thought it possible that they were carved by Tilman Riemenschneider, which would have made them ridiculously valuable. I do believe he had them appraised and the upshot of it was something like “School of….” I’m grateful for that, because it means I can keep them.

The workmanship is extraordinary, but above all I like the tenderness, the gentleness, even humbleness with which the sculptor presents the first humans to us. They are fragile and vulnerable. You can see they mean well. Although they have some of the elongated proportions of Late Gothic sculpture, their anatomy is much more Renaissance (and hence realistic) than one might expect. One imagines that this artist might have—daringly!—drawn from live nude models.

Ivory is a beautiful medium, although these days there is no excuse for using it in a new product. I think, however, I may be forgiven for enjoying these artifacts from a time hundreds of years ago when it was rare, precious, and extremely hard-won.


A Year Ago: Formal & Informal

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DCAs I’ve mentioned before, it’s as if the designer of Dumbarton Oaks garden took the interior of a gracious home and recreated it outdoors…
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Audacious + Creative + Persistent

I have to say that I have this kind of crazy what-if idea all the time. What I don’t have is the audacity and persistence to actually pull it off.

Whether you buy the “art” they’re selling or not, you have to love the dazed, goofy grin on Hercules’s face as they clean out his place. Priceless!

You can read more about this project here. And, not surprisingly, the guy who famously traded a red paperclip for a house was involved.


A Year Ago: Flowerworks

Okay, I'll admit, it's been a long time since I revisited rust and decay. But this flower is just amazing. | Click to view larger.

This blossoming plant (I have no idea what it is) reminds me of those fireworks that explode in stages of color: just as one part begins to fade, another opens to take its place…
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