A few days ago I walked into the bonsai courtyards at the Chicago Botanic Garden and decided to see what I could find there through my viewfinder. The whole idea of bonsai seems to me to be an abstraction of nature–creating a perfectly controlled, beautiful miniature plant. So just “taking” a picture of a bonsai seems to be not much more than recording the abstraction created by the gardener. But, I was drawn to the azalea bonsai, which was perfectly in bloom and beautiful beyond words.
The image is pleasing to me despite its imperfection (do you see what?). I had decided to extend my photographic thinking for this summer to include “flourishing” as a theme and this seems to fit. But flourishing can be much more, and I was thinking that images of flourishing might go beyond the very literal, using the expressionist approach of capturing images with a moving camera.
So, here it is, the Dancing Azalea.
At first I wanted to go back and try again, but I suspect it is already too late! And the idea of “dancing” did not come until the wee hours of this morning. As a sequence the images convey shaking and shimmying, each move with the gesture and personality of a dancer. I then thought of a sequence of photos taken by my sister of my Dad a few years ago, dancing and conducting to Mozart in his wood shop with the most delighted expressions on his face.
Back on May 15, I posted some images of red maple leaves in the throes of unfurling. They looked sad, frightened, and lacking in energy. You’ll be glad to know they are in a happier state now.
As spring has progressed, I have been noticing that the unfurling stage of different plants’ leaves and flowers is expressive, conveying an emotional sense of the transformations the plants’ cells and tissues are going through.
The unfurling stage of a Jack-in-the-Pulpit flower is awkward and almost comical compared to the final bloom.
Spring is such sweet sorrow. For years April and May have made me feel both joyous and melancholy. The long-awaited changes of this season of rebirth happen so quickly and then are finished, yielding to the warm, humid monotony of summer. Life seems to be moving too fast and is passing me by.
The jewelweed, the elm, and the Canada Warbler are precious beings that have dwelt deep inside of me since childhood, returning to befriend me now and again.
The springtime of their lives has passed so very quickly.
Fog is common in spring near the icy waters of Lake Michigan as summer’s humid warmth battles winter’s cold wind. On a foggy day last week I set out with an idea of exploring the silhouetted shapes of oak trees. When I got to the lake, I realized that the foggy landscape gave me a lot more to think about.
The woods viewed through fog become achromatic and mysterious, with promising hints of green barely visible.
Even though the visual hints of spring were limited, hidden birds performed as a magnificent orchestra.
The way ahead is uncertain; are there treasures and insights to be found in the mist, or merely the possibility of getting lost?
My Japanese maple tree leafed out last week. It was a cold damp day and its newly unfurled red leaves hung limply with raindrops clinging to their tips. The tree seemed sad and bedraggled but this was only a brief stage in its transformation from resting in winter dormancy to becoming a sun-fueled powerhouse of photosynthesis a few days later. On this day I searched through my camera’s viewfinder to capture this moment of languid but fearful expectancy.
I am seeking. You might say I am seeking enlightenment in a Buddhist sort of way. But in my dreams I am seeking in a very different way. Last night I was seeking missing shoes amidst a confusion of people and their belongings. The night before I was seeking fluffy pink moths that had escaped from me. Other times I am seeking items to put in my luggage or missing plane tickets or the gate for my flight. I wrote before that I am seeking simplicity, serenity, and space. In my dreams I am dealing with confusion, frustration and uncertainty. In my photos I am looking into the tangled bank of nature and finding sometimes order and pattern, sometimes simplicity, serenity, and space, sometimes beauty. And often the result is unexpected and joyful as hidden wonders are revealed.
From 2013, Chicago Botanic Garden, a spider illuminated by light filtered through orange zinnia petals.
From 2013, Chicago Botanic Garden, intimate details in the throat of a flower.
From 2012, California, palm frond.
What is on my mind? I am seeking, trying to find simplicity, serenity and space in my life. When I am shooting I am drawn to make images that capture this. Here is a photo of a tulip I made 3 years ago that is still one of my favorites. I was a complete beginner then, but this tulip caught my eye and I was lucky to get a pretty nice background. I now can see that understanding that this image represents what I am seeking in life will help me to make better images.
Tulip, Chicago Botanic Garden, 2012
I am seeking Simplicity, Serenity, and Space in my life. So why do I like this photo?
Bench and Bush, Overlays, Chicago Botanic Garden, Winter 2015
I am constructing this blog to practice some ideas about connecting my life to my photography. Comments on the words and the photos are welcome.