Posted tagged ‘equipment’

“Seeing Deeper” at the National Cathedral

January 23, 2015

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.

Roses and More at the Rodin Museum

September 10, 2011

My vacation last month was a big splurge – a trip to Paris and Oxford, in belated celebration of a significant birthday. I treated myself to a week in the City of Lights with my two sons, then took the Eurostar to London (senior discount: half price! I guess there are some advantages to getting older) where a friend who lives in Oxford whisked me away to stay with her for a week.

August may not be the best time of year to visit Paris, but I had no complaints. And although I didn’t go to photograph gardens, my new Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens proved to be a reliable walk-around friend and I brought back a boatload of photos. Today, some scenes from the garden of the Hotel Biron, home to the Rodin Museum.

Rodin Museum, Hotel Biron garden

From the garden in front of the Rodin, you can enjoy not only roses and tightly pruned yews but also a stunning view of the Invalides.

As it exists today, this garden looks nothing like it did originally. (Rodin’s secretary – the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who discovered the site – described it as having “an abandoned garden, where rabbits can be seen . . . jumping through the trellises like in an old tapestry.” Add that to the fact that other artists such as Jean Cocteau, Isadora Duncan, and Henri Matisse were already occupying the premises, and one can understand the allure of moving in.) The rose garden in front of Rodin’s masterpiece, The Gates of Hell, was initially planted in the 1920’s, shortly after the building became the museum of Rodin’s works that it is today.

Rodin Museum garden, Hotel Biron

Paths flanked by sculpted yews, softened by roses, lead visitors to Rodin

A garden dedicated primarily to sculpture has to have its planting scheme and components chosen carefully. Most of the Hotel Biron’s grounds – as is true of many other public garden spaces I saw in Paris – are dominated by lawn areas and large yews carefully sculpted into conical shapes. The roses soften an otherwise very formal feel to the garden.

I was impressed with how many roses in bloom I saw in the garden, despite the lateness of the summer. There was even one named “Rodin,” created by the famous hybridizing firm Meilland. It originates from the Knock-Out rose; seven hundred of the Rodin roses were planted on the southern terrace of the Hotel. The color has been described as a “Tyrian purple,” but I thought it more pink in hue.

Rosa Rodin, Rodin Museum, Hotel Biron


Speaking of the southern side of the Museum, it is a “knockout” by itself. A long central axis of lawn is flanked by two parterres (designed by landscape architect Jacques Sigard in 1993) with “thematic circuits.”

Hotel Biron gardens, Rodin Museum

The rear garden area of the Hotel Biron

Hydrangea paniculata shrubs were at peak bloom in the parterres.

Hotel Biron gardens, Rodin Musum

Panicle hydrangeas and other shrubs edge the parterres.

At the end of the rear garden is a large pond with Rodin’s sculpture Ugolino devouring his children (a cheery thought).

Hotel Biron, Rodin Museum, sculpture

A view of the Hotel Biron from the rear of the garden, with one of Rodin

The grounds are meticulously maintained.

Hotel Biron, Rodin Museum

A groundskeeper at the museum prunes roses in one of the beds on a hot August day. Note the horse chestnut tree in the foreground, with leaves affected by a bacterium that has spread to many of these trees in France and Europe in general.

For more information on the garden of the Hotel Biron, click here. If you are in Paris and interested in visiting, the Museum is located in the 7th arrondissement, near the Invalides, on the rue de Varenne.

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This post marks the 100th “episode” of Garden Shoots! I’m grateful to everyone who has visited, whether regularly or only once.
Thanks to the demands of my fall design and planting schedule in the “real world,” Garden Shoot posts will appear on a every-other-week basis for the remainder of this year.

Red, White & Blooming at the White House

April 23, 2011

In mid-April, some friends with an extra ticket to the White House Spring Garden Tour asked if I’d like to join them. I was thrilled – I’ve never been on the White House grounds before, Congress had just come to its senses (well, at least partially) and averted a government shut-down, and I was longing for a jolt of spring. I had no idea how much we’d get to see but I chose my Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens for the D300 and we headed downtown.

White House Spring Garden tour

The ticket and our guide to the gardens!

The White House Grounds (according to our brochure) are “the oldest continually maintained landscape in the United States” and are open to the public twice a year, for Spring and Fall Garden Tours. Over the years, the grounds have been “enhanced” by a series of landscape architects “to seem idealistically natural” (again the brochure).  I can’t say that everything I saw quite fit with that concept (for example, on a large hill in the center of the South Lawn I saw a group of massive Camellia japonicas in bloom – beautiful, but hardly “natural” looking).  Here and there, usually on the periphery of the more formal areas, however, were stands of trees in bloom or leafing out that looked more like a woodland grove if you averted your eyes from the buildings behind them.

White House Gardens

Blooming redbuds and magnolias near the Northern Red Oak planted by President Eisenhower greet visitors as they enter the South Lawn area from East Executive Park.

The tour  sent us through paths along the South Lawn, and up towards the South Portico, where on the porch a military band was serenading the crowds. I was more entranced by the neatly clipped wisteria growing up the side of the Portico and along its beautiful ornate iron railings.

White House, South Portico

Wisteria growing up the side of the South Portico porch. See the bandleader on the left side of the porch? And check out the patriotic color scheme of the red tulips and blue hyacinths against the white building.

White House Gardens, wisteria

Couldn't take my eyes off this wisteria. Look closely - it's about to bloom! If only this tour had been a week later - with lots of sun in the meantime.

Moving away from the South Portico, we caught glimpses of the Rose Garden and the Oval Office as we headed down for a glimpse of the Kitchen Garden and the views around the central fountain that faces E Street N.W.  The Kitchen Garden was neatly planted (and mulched) with lots of lettuces and herbs – cool weather crops very appropriate for the kind of temperatures we’ve been having.

White House Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden, with a cherry tree (?) in bloom in the background.

White House Gardens, White House grounds

The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial are visible from the hill on the South Lawn. Pity about the bald sky, but you can't have everything.

The magnolias, most of which were still at peak bloom, were probably my favorite trees (along with a number of huge, magnificent dissected Japanese maples just leafing out). Here’s a favorite shot of one next to some more formal plantings near the fountain.

White House Gardens

A saucer magnolia in bloom softens the clipped yew hedge and bedding bulbs surrounding it on the South Lawn.

The Tree(s) at Stanford

February 26, 2011

Last weekend, I escaped the warm, near-60 degree temperatures of the DC area to flee to northern California – where I was greeted by three straight days of cold rain. (Sigh). On the bright side, I was visiting my younger son, who is a student at Stanford. Stanford’s unofficial mascot is The Tree, as in

Stanford Tree

As Orange Bowl champs this year, Stanford students have more reason than ever to warn their athletic teams' opponents to "Fear the Tree."

Stanford University, Stanford Tree

Stanford's banners feature a green tree superimposed on a cardinal red "S." You see them all over campus. Here's one next to a newly planted pine tree near the Tressider Student Union.

Over the course of three days, I found enough non-rainy hours to wander the campus and capture some images of an amazing variety of different kinds of trees that work in the northern California climate surrounding Palo Alto and vicinity. Like last year, I saw large numbers of cherry trees in bloom,

Prunus x okame, Stanford University

Cherry trees in bloom near the Main Quad at Stanford in February.

sometimes within yards of palm trees (seriously).

Stanford University campus, cherry trees, palm trees

Same cherry trees in background, with tropical palms (variety unknown) in foreground, in the Quad.

There were palms everywhere.

Stanford University

Palm trees frame a view of Hoover Tower on the campus. Nice.

Stanford University, palm trees, Old Union Complex

And around a fountain at the Old Union Complex near White Plaza.

My East Coast eyes recognized the cherry trees, some flowering magnolias, and berry-laden crabapples,

Crabapple tree fruit, Stanford University

Crabapple trees (unknown variety) on Mayfield Road on campus. Lots of fruit! Guess the birds have many other food options in this climate.

and yes, orange trees in full fruit in front of the post office.

Stanford University, orange tree

Hundreds of oranges bedecking two Valencia orange trees in front of the campus post office.

There were also trees, however,  unlike any I have ever seen. If I have any readers who can identify this specimen for me, I’d be forever grateful. Look at the amazing bark!

Stanford University

My "mystery tree" on the Stanford campus. Gorgeous bark! Near the Main Quad. Who can tell me what it is?

For some entertaining speculation on the history of The Tree as Stanford’s unofficial mascot, visit Wikipedia. In closing, one can enjoy The Tree, and its many incarnations on the Stanford Campus, as well as fearing it!

Capturing Beauty from the Garden

January 8, 2011

When I started Garden Shoots, I wondered if anyone would read it. Lo and behold, I got lucky. And one of my first readers, Liz Reed, has become an unmet-as-of-yet friend. She is a fellow landscape designer who lives in Pittsburgh. More importantly, however, she is a photographer, painter, and an artist with a scanner. Consider the beauty of “July Tapestry,” created with blooms from her garden, an artist’s eye, and her first scanner, an Epson CX4800.

Liz Reed, July Tapestry, scanography

"July Tapestry" by Liz Reed.

She sent me this image in her first e-mail and I nearly swooned. It’s mysterious, moody, and begs to be examined closely. Composed of Platycodon, Asclepsias, blueberries, and Nicotiana blooms, carefully arranged for balance and texture, “July Tapestry” is a wonderful piece of art.

Liz began experimenting with scanning as an art form after she sold her gallery (Gallery in the Square, which is no longer in existence) and turned to landscape design as a second career. (She designs gardens in Pittsburgh and Long Island at the present.) But she still draws, paints – and has branched out into scanning beauty from the garden. Recently she opened Garden Capture,  a virtual store on Etsy, where you can purchase her images.

Liz Reed, Sunflower Mandella, scanography

"Sunflower Mandella" is the most-often viewed of Liz Reed's images on her Etsy site, Garden Capture.

What she loves about this art form, she told me recently, is the limited depth of field that the scanner creates; the parts of an object next to the scanner glass are sharp, but the rest  fades off quickly into the distance. The lighting is a constant (unlike in regular photography), so repetition and patterns are important. Over time, she has learned the “vocabulary” of how the scanner will read items, so she has become more adept at arranging her materials.

In late summer, I encouraged Liz to enter Gardening Gone Wild’s October photo contest – but it was open only to bloggers, whose company she has yet to join. If you’re interested in how to try this art form yourself, check out this link to GGW’s contest announcement for that month. For some other superb examples of scanned  images (botanical and otherwise), look at Scannography Artists’ website.

Some of her personal favorites  include “Glory Mirror,” “Green Texture Corsage,” and “Glory,” shown below.

Glory Mirror, Liz Reed, morning glories, scanography

"Glory Mirror" by Liz Reed

Green Texture Corsage, Liz Reed, scanography

"Green Texture Corsage" by Liz Reed

Glory, Liz Reed, scanography

"Glory" by Liz Reed

Liz now creates her scans with a new Epson scanner and some updated software. She had a show of many of the images in her Etsy store at Gallery in the Square before it closed. I’m contemplating redecorating my guest bedroom soon, and I can just picture some of her images, framed on the walls, as wonderful additions to the room. So check out her art at Garden Capture – I know you’ll enjoy it.

Catching The Wave

January 14, 2010

About five years ago, I took a busman’s holiday in August while my sons were out hiking with their father in Kauai. My own garden looked dreadful – typical for Washington in late summer.

Wanting to explore some gardens in the Hudson River Valley, which I’d never visited before, I constructed a driving itinerary that started in Hyde Park, NY and included stops at Opus 40, Stonecrop Gardens, Innisfree Garden, and Wave Hill Garden. The other day, my friend Lori asked me if I’d ever visited Wave Hill, and I remembered this trip so I decided to re-visit my photos from that little odyssey, starting with my last stop, in the Bronx.


(Click on each photo for larger version)

Perched on a hill overlooking the Hudson River and the Palisades, Wave Hill consists of 28 acres of gardens, greenhouses and woodlands open to the public since 1965, five years after the Perkins-Freeman family deeded the property to the City of New York. Much of its stunning visual appeal can be attributed to the stewardship of Marco Polo Stufano, Wave Hill’s first Director of Horticulture, whose guidance transformed the site from neglected to spectacular and whose cutting-edge vision and gifts for combining colors, textures and forms still informs the garden’s varied borders and planting designs.

From the Pergola Overlook, full of seasonal plantings in containers that change frequently, to the Aquatic Garden – at its best in late summer and fall – to the Wild and Flower Gardens and beyond, there is eye-arresting beauty and information for every level of gardener to absorb and reflect on. This is a treasure for everyone, and shouldn’t be missed if you’re visiting or living in the New York area.

Wave Hill is open Tuesdays through Sundays year-round and certain holiday Mondays. Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information, visit its website.

Technical Notes: All of these images were shot with my first serious digital camera, a Nikon D100. These days I’m thinking of converting it to an infrared camera because it’s so outdated compared to my D300. But when I sat down the other night to look at these photos in order to post them here, I was surprised at how well they have held up.  OK, maybe it’s due at least in part to obeying the mantra, “Use a tripod, use a tripod.” But whatever the reason, the photography gods were smiling that day; it was overcast and calm even though I couldn’t get in until 9 am when the garden opened. (Confession: the one pergola photo with a blue sky has had some Photoshop magic worked on it so I could turn it into a notecard.)

See the other Hudson River Valley posts:
Opus 40
Stonecrop Gardens

NYC Through a New Lens

January 1, 2010

On Halloween weekend 2009, I visited a close friend who had recently moved to New York City. I hadn’t been to the Big Apple in eons, and fretted about such important things as not looking like a country bumpkin (Suzanne is always beautifully turned out, even in her most casual togs) and – more critically – whether to spring for a new point-and-shoot camera so as not to have to drag my beloved but bulky Nikon D300 along. I couldn’t bear the prospect of spending a weekend in New York, so full of photographic opportunities, and being forced to rely solely on my iPhone, excellent though it is for a smartphone camera.

A week before the trip, I bit the bullet and bought a Canon G11, the newest in that company’s top-of-the-line point-and-shoot models. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Nikon devotee through and through, but I think Canon’s compact cameras are better quality. Although I am still working on mastering the different control interface on the G11, its ability to capture RAW images as well as its reputation for less noisy photos than earlier models persuaded me it was the right choice.

While none of the photos I took will win any prizes, having the G11 allowed me to get lots of images without feeling like having a camera was getting in the way of experiencing the weekend with my friend. On the whole, I was happy with the results. Where it struggled most, not surprisingly, was in capturing night scenes far away, like the iconic Chrysler building.  (For the techies among you, all of these were shot either on full automatic mode or on a “landscape” setting. I did a minimal amount of post-processing work in Photoshop CS3 to resize them for this blog post). To see a  larger version of any photo, simply click on it.

Next post: Visiting the High Line.

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