Awestruck at the Library of Congress

Posted February 21, 2015 by Melissa
Categories: architecture, photography, Travel

Tags: , , , , , ,

The first time I visited the Library of Congress was in late 2005 (ten years ago, yipes!), when my camera club was able to arrange a field trip for us, complete with tripod permission. I didn’t know what to expect. When I walked in, I was speechless. So when I returned last month for another field trip, I understood completely when a young Australian  woman who had just entered said simply, “Oh my God” on looking up.

Jefferson Building, Library of Congress

One of two bronze statues on the ground floor of the Jefferson Building, Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress opened in 1897 and serves as the research arm of Congress. The Main Reading Room is open to members of the public only two days a year; the rest of the time, you need a Reader Identification Card which is valid for two years and obtainable on application. Photography is allowed (without tripods) on the floor on the two Visitors Days each year, and from a gallery above during other times.

There is an abundance of information online about the Jefferson Building’s artistic glories so I will not try to reproduce all of it here. Suffice it to say that the building is a marvel in both substance and aesthetics. Do not miss it if you are headed to our nation’s capital.

Beautiful Bonsai at the National Arboretum

Posted February 6, 2015 by Melissa
Categories: landscape, photography

Tags: , , , , , ,

In early January of this new year, I was feeling a little stir-crazy at home. So I decided to visit the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, at the National Arboretum. I had drifted through the collections before, on other visits, but this time I went specifically to see these miniature treasures.

As many of you probably already know, bonsai is the Japanese art form of growing minature trees in containers (bonsai literally means “planting in tray,” according to Wikipedia). It is over one thousand years old. A similar practice grew up in ancient China, where it is called “penjing” and includes creating miniature landscapes as well as trees.

 

National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, National Bonsai Foundation,  US National Arboretum

Part of the collection at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the National Arboretum.

Because it was winter, some of the bonsai specimens were leafless – but not all of them. A conifer is a conifer, after all, regardless of size. So the Chinese and California junipers, as well as the camellias, still sported their leaves – and one camellia was even in bloom. It was a quiet afternoon, well-suited to enjoying the charms of these beautiful specimens. Here are some of my favorites. If you’re ever fortunate enough to visit the Arboretum, don’t overlook this hidden gem. The museum’s hours are more limited, however, so plan your visit between 10 am and 4 pm most days.

 

“Seeing Deeper” at the National Cathedral

Posted January 23, 2015 by Melissa
Categories: Uncategorized

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Living in the DC suburbs, one of my favorite places to photograph both gardens and architecture has long been the Washington National Cathedral. Earlier this month, the Cathedral cleared its nave of chairs for a four-day period. It publicized this event, offering (paid) access to photographers on two mornings before it opened to the public.  The Cathedral called it a “week of exploration and experience” and christened it “Seeing Deeper.”

Although the price tag was a bit steep  ($25 per person; the Cathedral has recently instituted an admission fee of $10 on normal days for sightseeing except when worship services are going on) and there was no guarantee of good sunlight to illuminate the stained glass windows, I signed up right away. As luck would have it, the day I signed up for turned out to be cloudy, so I got no striking photographs of sunbeams on the walls. But I found much to admire and photograph on the main floor (which is the only part we were allowed to visit), and put my tripod to good use. I hope you enjoy the results.

Discovering Long Bridge Park

Posted January 9, 2015 by Melissa
Categories: Environment, landscape, Landscape design solutions, photography

Tags: , , , , , ,

Last summer, as I was nearing the end of my photo-a-day project (or rather, its extension after the workshop ended), I ventured across the bridge to Arlington, Virginia with a friend from the class. We were exploring the Crystal City/Rosslyn area, which consists primarily of large office and apartment buildings centered around the Crystal City Metro stop. Sarah wanted to check out some galleries, but afterwards we walked around and eventually stumbled onto the Long Bridge Park area.
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The park, which has three full-size, large athletic fields and an elevated walkway planted on either side with native perennials, is near I-395. The walkway offers views of the Potomac River and flights taking off from National Airport.

The walkway over Long Bridge Park offers views of the National Monument.

The walkway over Long Bridge Park offers views of the National Monument.

Long Bridge Park

Joe Pye Weed and other native perennials line the walkway, which also serves as a running destination for local residents

County residents have authorized a bond offering that would help fund a large aquatic center, but the County Board recently shelved plans as construction bids came in too high. Nonetheless, the athletic fields apparently are quite popular. And as we wound up our walk in downtown Crystal City, we found the other end of the Park’s offerings, a beautiful ‘water wall’ installation that helped cool us off on a hot July afternoon.

Long Bridge Park

These water walls and plantings (looked like feather reed grass to me!) in the downtown area of the park help provide green space for all the surrounding office buildings.

Photo a Day Finale

Posted November 28, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: photography

Tags: , ,

In early June, the “Naked Vision” workshop I had been taking with Colleen Henderson came to an end – over seventy days of daily photography (posting to a private, group Facebook page). In prior posts, I shared first some garden images, then other shots, from that project.

After the workshop ended, I kept shooting daily for another two months before deciding to take a break. The process has changed how I look at the world around me, and has made me a closer observer of what I’ve come to call “quiet spaces.” Here’s a selection of images from those last two months.

Garden Shoots will be on vacation until after the winter holidays.

Autumn Vistas at Dumbarton Oaks

Posted November 15, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: landscape, photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,

One of the most amazing gardens in the Washington DC area is tucked away at the top of Georgetown. I’m speaking, of course, of Dumbarton Oaks, designed over a period of thirty years (more or less) by Beatrix Farrand. Farrand, the first woman landscape architect in the United States, worked with Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss to create an expanse of garden “rooms,” and designed every aspect of the landscape, from the plantings down to the finials and stone benches you find throughout. (For those of you who follow such things, National Geographic just ranked Dumbarton Oaks as one of the top ten gardens in the world.)

On the first of November, I went to visit the gardens. The last time I saw them, several years ago, I had been disappointed in the herbaceous borders. But this time the whole place looked spectacular; and there was a new “performance art” installation in the form of sound pipes in the Lovers Lane Pool, by Hugh Livingston. The Dumbarton Oaks website describes them as “an imaginary chorus on a watery stage.”

Dumbarton Oaks, Hugh Livingston, Lovers Lane Pool

“Pool of Bamboo Counterpoint,” by Hugh Livingston, at Dumbarton Oaks.

Livingston’s sound “piece” follows on other temporary art installations that have graced other parts of the garden in past years, including Patrick Dougherty’s “Easy Rider” installation in the Ellipse, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

After investigating the pool installation, I spent several hours in the rest of the garden – the weakening fall sun was low enough that photography was less challenging than I’d anticipated. Hope you enjoy the show.

Dumbarton Oaks is located at 31st and R Streets NW in Washington DC. From now until March 15, 2015, the gardens are open only in the afternoons from 2 – 5 pm and admission is free.

 

October at Longwood – Part 2 – the Meadow Garden

Posted November 1, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: Environment, landscape, photography, Travel

Tags: , , , , ,

When my friend Sarah and I planned our trip to Longwood earlier this month, one of the destinations I had in mind within the gates was its new Meadow Garden. Opened in June of this year, the 86-acre expanse was designed by Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects and boasts three miles of walking trails and boardwalks that take visitors from the edge of Hourglass Lake up to the Webb Farmhouse and Galleries. We covered a lot of territory (and continued to struggle with the strong sun, photographically) and marveled at how beautiful and wild the garden is. Some friends who had visited in September had been able to see goldenrod in flower, at the end of the summer season, and we were a bit early for strong fall color in the trees. But these images should give you a good idea of how magnificent the space is.

For more information on the Meadow, visit Longwood’s website and this excellent article published by the American Society of Landscape Architects earlier this year when the Meadow Garden opened.


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