Musing About the Weather

Its raining again!  Well it could be snow.  That would be unfortunate since my Open Studio is this weekend.  I remember well the time it snowed almost 2 feet the day before one of my Open Studios.  That was almost 10 years ago but the memory is very clear for me.  I think maybe 2 or 3 people came.  The forecast for this weekend is sunny for both Saturday and Sunday.

Now it is raining.  The last 2 days it was sunny with unseasonably warm temperatures.  I hear the raindrops falling on my north facing skylight.  When it is a sunny day that is the light I use to illuminate my photographs.  When the sun rises today there still will not be enough light to collect images for my ‘Flemish’ series if I were to be photographing today.  I need warm sunlight to get the directional light that signifies this mood.  The lighting in the ‘Flemish’ series is selectively painted in from the sunlight that is actually falling on the composition.  I could take advantage of this rainy day light to collect more exposures of the Begonia flowers.  The lighting would be flat and have a bluish cast.  I never know what is going to happen when I try something like that.  It can be throwaway or lead to a discovery.  I let the circumstances dictate.

It is the same with the weather.  If it is raining I work inside.  When it stops and I can get outside there is still one one plot that I want to roto-till before winter sets in.  My activities of the day are dependent on my situation of the moment.  In large measure, since I grow all the flowers I photograph, I schedule myself according to the weather.  Now, as winter sets in though, my time will be spent with the Open Studio, of course, but beyond that it is the time for working intensely on creating new pictures from the images I collected during the growing season.

I like the seasons.  It gives me an ebb and flow.  Summer is the time when everything is blooming and I can get high on collecting and storing images.  Winter is the time for developing them, compositing them into new images, I call them my  ‘first-born’, and creating finals.

What is Beauty?

What is Beauty?
I purchased a Begonia plant at a local nursery recently.  Honestly, I do not care for pink flowers but the one I purchased just looked so strong and vibrant that I did not resist very long.  I have set it down in a large flower pot in my studio.  It loves being there.  The sun shines on it many hours of the day.  I am getting used to the pink color.  Two days ago it acted as if a siren calling to me.  The effect of the sunlight falling on the blossoms pulled me in.  I am telling you I do not care for pink.  I have maybe 90,000 photographs of flowers and cannot recall doing a study of any pink flowers.  Besides Begonias are such a common flower.  I tend to pick the uncommon, the outlander.   I have now recorded hundreds of exposures of this Begonia.  It is privileged to get both the morning and evening sun.  I have photographed it on sunny days and cloudy days.  It has become a part of me.  I will never forget it.  I have not had the time to develop and composite but a few of the compositions.  When I do I know that I will find some beauties.

This experience has emphasized to me, once again, that the common and simple are important parts of life.  If one looks carefully, intently many times beauty will appear where none had been seen.  With this concept in mind I have already ordered Zinnia seeds for next year’s garden.  I am sure that I can reveal their common beauty as images of powerful uncommon beauty.

Garden Ramblings for July 7, 2011

Its All About Black and White

Another batch of Yellow Nutsedge has surfaced in my Studio Garden.  The Studio Garden is, as you might have guessed, right below my studio windows.  Therefore it is wonderful to see this garden early in the morning as I enter my studio to begin work.  Now I am greeted by this field of grassy looking vegetation which is my nemesis.  It spreads resolutely and will choke out anything that I consider of value.  If left alone it will send roots down far below the surface and grow a nut of stored energy from which it can continue to harass me and my treasured flowers for years to come.  The Nutsedge comes in with organic materials that I use to condition and fertilize the soil.  I grow my flowers and vegetables almost totally organic and have done so for the last 40 years.  Rarely have I used any of the hard chemicals.  Now I am faced with a quandary.  Do I use a horribly virulent chemical which is one of the few ways to control Nutsedge or do I live with the thing competing with my desired plants for nutrition?  Or perhaps convert to chemical fertilization only so no Nutsedge contamination can occur?  Or seek out different sources of decayed plant materiel which might not be compromised?  Do I give up a lifelong belief in the benefits of organic gardening?  The path I am choosing is to use Nutsedge Nihilator to kill the Nutsedge that is now growing.  Then I am seeking out different sources of supply for my organic materials.  I have found a nursery where they sell genuine compost.  The kind where the piles are allowed to heat up to 150 degrees which kills all weed seeds.  I am also expecting a 10 yard truckload of rotted leaves from a local municipality which I believe has a better chance being free from weeds.  For the future I am looking into purchasing a leaf grinder so I can have landscapers dump truckloads of leaves in the fall and I will grind them myself.

Last NIghts Sunflower





If my garden were a Certified Organic garden by using the Nihilator I would have lost my certification.  But if I did not use it I might eventually lose my ability to grow anything of value.  Then I would have to leave the land fallow for years constantly tilling the ground until the nuts of the Nutsedge lost their energy to re-grow the topside plant.  During this time I would have lost the ability to use the land productively and used a considerably amount of gas for my tiller.   It goes on and on how one action impacts a situation which affects something else, which causes another reaction.  It’s not all black and white.

P.S. If you want to know the source for Nihilator send me an email.

‘I Do Not Understand Death’


I went to my meeting of the National Capital Dahlia Society (NCDS) on Wednesday evening.  Since 2 of my started dahlia plants had died I purchased 2 replacement plants.  This was the last sale of the year.  I was absolutely taken with the other members’ description of a new introduction.  It is called Verrone’s Obsidian.  At last year’s competition I fell in love with Crazy4Jesse and I wanted to try to grow it for myself.  It is quite easy to get carried away with growing these flowers, they are so beautiful.


It was my mistake to leave them out on the porch yesterday.  Crazy4Jesse did fine.  There was no sign of stress.  Veronne’s Obsidian did not.  It was so water/heat stressed that some of the leaves looked crushed.  The water had been sucked out of the cells and they had turned dark almost black.  It made me heartsick.  I had been looking forward so much to seeing the blooms.  What should I do now?  I am toying with the idea of cutting off the dead leaves, coddling the plant for a few days and then setting it out in the luscious garden soil I have prepared for it.  I guess it is most like cutting off a limb that has turned gangrenous so the rest of the organism can survive.  Perhaps it may live even after this severe treatment.  If not, then not.  Crazy4Jesse looks healthy and so do over 20 more dahlias I have growing in the garden.


Verrone's Obsidian by Franck Avril

I do not understand death.  I am not supposed to understand death.  I have to accept it as a part of my life, go on living and surround myself with vibrant life.  That is why I have a garden

Garden Rambling ‘Oh What a beautiful morning…’

June 7, 2011

This morning I went out to the garden firmly resolved to plant more sunflower seeds.  The reason was the rabbits have eaten many of the last crop of seedlings.  I so very much want to do the photographic studies of sunflowers that I have been planning for this summer.

Yet when I entered the backyard the sun was just coming over the horizon spraying a golden glow over everything.  This is my first full year of having magnolia trees in my own yard.  It is so different having the trees where I can observe the blossoms daily.  There was one blossom I have been keeping a close watch on.  As I looked over at it the sun was shining through the trees and glancing off of it.  And to make things better there was only the slightest of breezes.  So I changed my mind and went back inside for my camera and my tripod attached blossom stabilizer, just to be sure.  Thereon ensued a most wonderful hour.  I kneeled before, crawled around and stood over that blossom and recorded the many different moods as the sunlight changed.  What have I recorded?  At this point I don’t really know.  I will have to process the RAW files and composite them before I will begin to able to see the real character of the images.  But I am satisfied that the time I spent was spent well.


It was a cool, beautiful morning and I accomplished a lot in the total scheme of my life but it was not what I had set out to do for that day.  I enjoyed myself tremendously.  That’s just the way life is supposed to be.

Last night and this morning I have been going through my seed catalogs.  The last few years I have been concentrating on growing flowers to photograph.  This year I feel like growing more vegetables again.  I have been pouring through the seed catalogs.  I still don’t have one or two of my favorites but I am going to go ahead and select what I want to order anyway.  There are so many good companies today that I have my choice of who I want to order from and feel that I am doing good by supporting them.  My favorites are the Seed Savers’ Exchange, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Territorial Seed Company, Select Seeds, Nichols Garden Nursery, Seeds of Change and Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  I have been gardening for decades and have been doing business with some of these firms for many years.  All these seed companies are ‘green’ companies.  I choose them on the basis of organically grown seed, heirloom seeds, non-GMO seeds and, of course, the quality of the seed that I have gotten over the years. This list is not inclusive.  They are only the companies that I have done business with and had a pleasant experience with them.  The good problem is that there are now so many ‘green’ seed companies.  The bad problem is that I have to chose and not support some other deserving companies.

What I like to do is get the seed catalog in the mail, go through it marking the varieties I want (and dog-earing the pages for reference) and then go to the website.  On the website I especially appreciate it if it has been programmed so that I can key in the catalog reference number for each of my selections.  That way I do not have to search throughout their site for what I want.  Having keyed in the numbers I then have a listing of all that I have ordered.  At some point in submitting the order I print out a list of my entire order.  Now I know what I have ordered from that supplier without having to tediously write out all the descriptions.  When my order arrives I can then use this printed copy to verify that I received all the right seeds.  Since I order from several companies I also use these printouts to help me avoid duplications from the other companies as I key in my next order.  The good problem is that there are so many varieties to choose from.  The bad problems are I don’t have enough space to plant all that I would like to grow, I don’t have the time to plant, weed and water them all even if I did have the space and if I did have the space and time there would be more flowers than I could photograph and vegetables that my wife and I could eat.

So I guess it’s like the story of the poor farmer of yore who went to the wise man and complained that his house was too small and noisy.  The wise man advised him to bring his cows into the downstairs bay.  He did so but came back the next week to the wise man and said that did not help.  As a matter of fact he said it’s even worse.  So the wise man told him to bring his chickens in with the cows.  The poor farmer was back again saying that did not help.  So the wise man told him to bring his barn cats into the house.  And for good measure, he should to bring his dogs in with him and his wife.  Surely there was room enough room for the doves to roost in the house.  By now when the farmer came back to the wise man he had lost confidence in the wisdom of the wise man.  But this time the wise man told him to remove all the animals from his house.  The poor farmer then realized that his house was indeed spacious and quiet.

Sometimes the definition of a good problem and a bad problem depends on how we are looking at it.

Snow, Snow, Beautiful Snow

It seems we have had the snowfall of the century.  or was it the last hundred years.  Why are we all so intrigued with records?  What’s the point?  As I sit here in my studio I am looking out on a beautiful landscape.  Snow covers everything.  It is hanging off of the trees.  Outside my studio door the porch has snow up to the top of the first glass pane.  There will be some shoveling in my future.  But for now all I see is the beauty, the other-worldliness.

There are no signs of life out there.  No, wait a minute, on closer inspection I do see animal tracks in the snow.  I wonder what it is?  It’s a red fox.  Probably the one I saw last Saturday.  He’s over by the Tractor barn.  For the fun of it I am going to set up my camera with the 200-400mm telephoto lens and see if I can record an image of him.  He has made a resting spot and settled down so all I can see of him is an ear.  I’ll keep on glancing over to see if he sticks his head up enough to record his image.

That seems about it for signs of life.  The sky is lightening.  It a light shade of pink at the horizon transitioning to a light blue with a gradient (photographer talk) up to a darker blue directly overhead.  Already some of the snow is starting to fall from the boughs of the evergreen trees.  With a puff and a fluff it disintegrates into a white dust and falls to the ground.  The snow covers so much.  I see my 45 oak stakes sticking 4 feet into the air.  They remind me of the 45 dahlia plants which I did not have time to dig up this year.  I was too busy preparing for my trip to China where I had a solo show at the Lishui Photo Festival.

I will have to start over again by ordering new tubers from Swann’s Dahlias.  That is actually alright with me since I want to get more collerettes to photograph in this coming season.  I think one of the pleasures of the snow is what it covers up.  The garden cleanups that I was unable to do before winter set in are hidden.  I know they are there but I can more easily push them out of my mind and turn my attention to the coming season.

There are seed catalogs to examine and new photography software to learn and new pictures to create and my annual New Year’s Card to create and …  Beautiful, beautiful snow you have released me to concentrate on other things that are important to do at this time of year.