The Four Seasons Sculptures at NYBG

Posted April 12, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: landscape, photography, Travel

Tags: , , ,

Yesterday I came back from a quick family-related trip to the Big Apple. I did manage to squeeze in time to ride the train out to the New York Botanic Garden. Unfortunately, the grounds were still in “winter mode” (except for some nicely blooming hellebores and cyclamen in the newly refurbished Rock Garden). So I visited the Enid Haupt Conservatory to take in the orchid display.

New York Botanical Garden

The entrance to the Enid Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden, now featuring a huge display of orchids.

They were gorgeous, and worth a post of their own. But as I was completing my tour of the orchid display, I stumbled onto an amazing set of seasonally-based statues in the courtyard behind the Conservatory. Created by the American artist and filmmaker Philip Haas, the installations are  inspired by the sixteenth-century Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who created “composite portraits” composed of collage-like compositions of fruits, vegetables, and other materials.

The sculptures began as models (which are on display in the Conservatory library) and then were constructed as full-scale works. For more information and a video of their installation, visit the New York Botanical Garden’s website. In the meantime, here are some of the images I took on a cloudy day when I was the only person around to admire these magnificent structures.

"Spring," by Philip Haas, in the Conservatory's rear courtyard.

“Spring,” by Philip Haas, in the Conservatory’s rear courtyard.

"Summer," seen from the front right side.

“Summer,” seen from the front right side.

The other side of "Summer." I think this was my favorite of all of them.

The other side of “Summer.” I think this was my favorite of all of them.

"Fall" is encased in a wine press! (I think)

“Fall” is encased in a wine press! (I think)

"Winter," starkest of all.

“Winter,” starkest of all.


Iron in the Garden

Posted March 28, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: landscape, Landscape design solutions, photography

Tags: , , ,

I have a thing about ornamental metal work in the garden. I like it a lot, if it’s well designed and works with the space it’s in.

There are so many ways to use it – benches for a start. OK, so they probably aren’t as comfortable as wooden benches, but they can really smarten up the space. The Victorian style of this iron bench works well with the Ripley Garden.

ornamental ironwork, garden benches, Ripley Garden, Smithsonian Museum

A heavy, well-painted iron bench invites visitors at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden.

More commonly, you may come across beautiful garden gates and fences to add a special touch to the garden; to let passers-by look but not touch, or just to serve as a backdrop to a glorious planting area.

ornamental ironwork, garden gates, Charleston gardens

This circular design on a gate leading to a small garden in Charleston SC is inviting. I wanted to step inside!

ornamental ironwork, garden gates, Charleston gardens

Detail of an ornamental gate in Charleston. Love the brass insets in the shape of a star and flourishes.

garden gate, Corinna Posner, ornamental ironwork

A custom-designed iron gate in a northwest DC garden designed by Corinna Posner of European Garden Designs.

ornamental ironwork, fences, Magdalen College

A glorious iron fence with decorative panels at Magdalen College, Oxford sets off the herbaceous border in front of it with style.

ornamental ironwork, Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace’s gates are very grand and have lots of nice glittery gold bits.

Then there are opportunities to think outside of the box a little bit, either practically or to add a stand-alone sculpture to a space.

ornamental ironwork, Chanticleer Garden

A custom-made bike rack near the parking lot at Chanticleer – where form mimics function perfectly.

ornamental ironwork, Morris Arboretum

Another iron bike rack, this one at the Morris Arboretum outside Philadelphia.

ornamental metal sculpture, University of Georgia Botanical Garden

A freestanding metal sculpture (OK, probably not iron!) that would look right at home in someone’s garden. This, however, is found at the University of Georgia’s Botanical Garden (in Athens, Georgia).

What about the front garden, you say? Small space? How about an interesting railing or two?

ornamental ironwork, railings, Chanticleer Garden

Chanticleer’s magic includes a whimsical iron railing with supports that look like plant tendrils.

ornamental ironwork, railings, Georgetown gardens

Iron railings enclosing a front stoop in Georgetown are designed along a musical theme – a lyre.

For something really out of the box – if you have a sizeable garden – consider rusted ornamental orbs like these or commissioning something from Andrew Crawford’s ironworking shop in Atlanta. Or let me know if you’ve come across something in your travels you’d like to share, and I’ll add it to the list!


Ban Rarra in Action

Posted March 15, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: architecture, dance, photography, Travel

Tags: , , , ,

One of the things that struck me while in Cuba was the passion for the arts that I saw in almost every setting. Dance, music, visual arts, every aspect you can imagine. The very first day, our SFWorkshops group was treated to an amazing “rehearsal” event by a dance group called Ban Rarra, in a beautiful but decaying theater within walking distance of our hotel.

Cuba, dance, Ban Rarra

Ban Rarra practices and performs in a large, crumbling theater space in downtown Havana.

The dancers are apparently all professionally trained graduates of the Escuela Nacional de Arte. Their energy and talent were unmistakable. We watched an hour-long “rehearsal” that was almost non-stop, and were allowed to photograph from any and all perspectives – on the main floor as well as from two levels of balconies (which required careful navigation). Because the light was very low and tripods not an option, I chose to shoot almost exclusively using camera motion and shutter priority set on 1/20th of a second (the ISO settings were insanely high). Hope you enjoy this look at an incredibly talented troupe, and if you’re every fortunate enough to visit Havana, try to get to one of their performances.

Garden Spots in Havana

Posted February 28, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: Environment, landscape, photography, Travel

Tags: , , , , , ,

A couple of weeks ago, I returned from a week in Cuba with the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. I went to see Cuba before (as one of our group members put it)  “there’s a Starbucks on every corner.” It was an incredible trip, and I’m already planning to return next year if I can.

I didn’t go to photograph gardens, and the photos I took for the most part fell into other themes – architecture, people, cultural events, and the city itself. More of those images later. But to my surprise, there were plants and parks everywhere. Plants on balconies in pots. Lushly planted pocket/plaza parks. Bougainvillea growing up the sides of buildings. And in some cases, ferns sprouting out of cracks in the facades of some of the older, crumbling  but still magnificent edifices that serve as businesses or in-town tenement apartments. While I work on my other images (too many!), here are a few photos of green spaces in Havana.

Inside the US Botanic Garden

Posted February 14, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: landscape, photography, Travel

Tags: , , , , , ,

Several weeks ago, before the DC area became inundated with snow, a photographer friend had some business to attend to at the U.S. Botanic Garden in downtown DC. The visit entitled her to a parking pass right in front, and she was kind enough to invite me along.

I had forgotten how nice it is to see plants in the winter without having to freeze any part of one’s anatomy off in the process. The Botanic Garden doesn’t allow tripods, so we went armed with high ISO’s and explored various parts of the building, starting with the entry hall.

US Botanic Garden

Azaleas and cyclamen in bloom under a canopy of tropical palms in the entry hall of the US Botanic Garden.

The Garden’s interior spaces are designed to mimic various kinds of climates, ranging from tropical jungles to desert spaces. Along the way, I saw orchids, lots of air plants, misting water (in the jungle area), and birds of paradise. The Children’s Garden and the “Southern Exposure Garden” were “closed for the winter” but would be worth a return visit. If you’re in the DC area, don’t miss this gem, tucked away up near the Capitol. It’s a great place to forget winter and enjoy yourself.

Up the Down Staircase(s) in San Francisco

Posted January 31, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: architecture, photography, Travel

Tags: , , ,

Since today as I write it’s snowing like crazy here, I decided it was time to return to my recently-developed interest in photographing buildings. Staircases in particular. For example, on a recent field trip to photograph churches in Baltimore, one of the most interesting shots I came across was this one.

Backus house, staircases, First and Franklin Presbyterian Church

Staircase at the Backus House, part of the First and Franklin Presbyterian Church in Baltimore

Staircases can be beautifully curved and wooden, like this one. But it was on my trip to San Francisco this summer that I first had a chance to see and photograph staircases to my heart’s content.  Before my trip, I researched architectural sights I shouldn’t miss, and thanks to Thomas Hawks’s website, came across lots of inspiration. Some were in public view, others required a bit of fancy footwork to see and photograph. I’ve turned some of these images into notecards, fascinated by the shapes and tonalities (makes a change from the garden notecards I usually print, as well).

I hope to return this coming year, maybe even with a tripod.

New Year, New Horizons

Posted January 17, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: landscape, photography

Tags: , , , , ,
Fall impressions in my neighborhood.

Fall impressions in my neighborhood.

A new year stretches ahead. I’ve shifted gears again. In late December, I left my position as a landscape designer at Landscape Projects, where I’d worked for almost twelve years. Taking early retirement has been a dream for a long time, and suddenly here I am. Now I will work as a part-time marketing consultant to my old firm and some designer colleagues who want a little help with media sites. But mostly I will be a photographer, of gardens and other subjects.

This blog has helped me sell photos, now and again. In 2013, I sold images to White Flower Farms (have you gotten the spring catalog yet? Look on page 57 and 132 for photos of Hosta ‘Elegans’ and Dutchman’s Pipe), Phaidon Press (a half-page image of Opus 41 in New York for their tome Art & Place, and some landscape architects across the country. Another image sale for the cover of a book on California gardening is in the works.

This year I hope to work with at least three or four landscape designers to photograph their work for their websites, Houzz sites, or whatever else is needed. But what I’m most excited about is the chance to stretch myself as a photographer by trying new techniques and visiting new places. Cuba is on my itinerary for February – so I’ll have to overcome my reticence about photographing people I don’t know. I chose the trip because of my love of photographing architecture and colorful street scenes, like I was able to capture in Mexico in 2009. Stay tuned for a report and photos when I return.

In the meantime, I want to share a couple of images inspired by a fellow photographer (a real pro) named Sarah Salomon, who specializes in “motion” images. First, here’s the “straight shot” – of a gorgeous Japanese maple I happened upon one day while out visiting a client.

An enormous dissected Japanese maple in front of a house in northwest DC.

An enormous dissected Japanese maple in front of a house in northwest DC.

Well, OK, I thought after viewing it in the camera’s LED screen. Kind of ho-hum. So I experimented:

My first attempt – a bit shimmery but not quite what I felt I was after.

I also didn’t like the little white streaks marching along the bottom edge of the image. And I wanted more of the house visible on the left, as an anchor.

That's better. Tweaked a bit in Lightroom and Photoshop.

That’s better. Tweaked a bit in Lightroom and Photoshop. The white streaks are still there but don’t bother me as much for some reason.

Since then, I’ve experimented more with this technique, discovering along the way that for every “keeper,” there are many, many shots I delete (thank God we’re in the digital age, I can’t imagine doing this with film). And on Veterans’ Day, on my way to the office, I stopped in a mundane residential neighborhood and took this, which I quite like.

At Sarah's suggestion, I desaturated the yellows so they wouldn't overwhelm the rest of the image.

At Sarah’s suggestion, I desaturated the yellows so they wouldn’t overwhelm the rest of the image.

So, head’s up that the coming year’s posts may be a bit different than before. Although gardens will always be my first love, I’ll be traveling down some new roads. Five years plus after my first post (December 2007), maybe that’s not such a bad idea.


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