Looking Up From the Ground

I become so focused on my photography, that sometimes I forget to look up and just enjoy the moment.

The other day, I was intent on photographing this robin while I was at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens:

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Chasing a Robin

What appealed to me were the rich colors of the feathers on its back, as well as the distinctiveness of the white around its eye:

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Pretty Robin!

Yes, I can photograph robins in the backyard and I have (click here to see the momma robin outwitting me). But when I’m at the gardens, I photograph anything that appeals to me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I always come back with a lot of pictures even on the days I plan on only walking.

Continue reading “Looking Up From the Ground”

A Late Winter Walk

Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.
– Henry David Thoreau

A few days before the official start of spring, I took a walk at one of my favorite places, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. The shadows were lovely, even though the trees are still bare. The crocus were in bloom – just barely – so spring is definitely on its way.

Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The last time I shared pictures from the botanical gardens, it was still early fall (click here to see) and there was an abundance of colors all over. The day I took these photos did not have such. I still enjoyed being there, but had kept my expectations low as to what I would see.

The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

When the leaves are down, I see things that are otherwise covered up. I made that observation years ago and it’s still true today.

Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Here’s another view of the greenhouse. I don’t normally stand this far back, but I loved the composition of the center of the greenhouse against the empty trees.

Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I also don’t normally photograph the bridge from the gazebo (my gazebo shots are usually taken from the bridge though!), but once again, I liked how the light played with the shapes. Plus it was pretty empty, so I didn’t have to wait so long to get pictures without people in them.

Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I’ve noticed when I walk the dogs around the neighborhood that the leaves are sounding like fall when they skitter across the blacktopped road. We have a lot of old oak trees around the homes here and they don’t drop their leaves until they’re nearly ready to start putting out new green ones. So everyday there’s more leaves on the grass, the cars, and skittering around in the wind.

Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I was cold. I didn’t wear a winter coat, but I was wearing a heavier hat and my fingerless gloves.


The greenhouse was its usual oasis of warmth and bright colors. I love going in there when it’s cold out! Years ago, a fellow blogger (Patti at A New Day Dawns) left me a comment that the greenhouse was like dessert after a cold day in the garden. I laughed then and I still laugh now at that, because that’s exactly what it reminds me each time I go in there when the garden has so little color. In fact, some of the pictures that I took in January 2012 had more color and foliage than I found in mid-March of 2015.

That statue had a little brown spider (most likely a wolf spider, nothing more) on its head. I didn’t realize it until I was nearly done shooting the picture and the spider moved! And yep, every one of my carefully composed pictures had that little spider on it. I did clone out of the final photo above. Still, wish I’d known it was there. I would have come back later to take the pictures.

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I enjoyed the beauty of the day. No, it’s not the over-the-top cacophony of colors that I see from April to October. But it was pretty, the fresh air was great, and I enjoyed finding new photos that I wouldn’t have probably taken when the trees were in full leaf. It was a good day.

Spring Reminds Us That Life Goes On

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Just living is not enough.
One must have sunshine, freedom,
and a little flower.
Hans Christian Andersen

This week’s six word Friday uses the word “flowers” and it perfectly describes my Friday at Colonial Williamsburg:

Flowers bloom ~ bees comes ~ life continues.

I took the day off from work to chase the light.  The weather showed overcast and / or rainy for the whole next week except last Friday.  I was eager to see the gardens, so off I went, leaving the office and all the tax audits behind.

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I love April – on the days the weather is nice.  So much of April seems to be rainy, windy, overcast, hot, cold or humid.  Each day is a guessing game – do we run the furnace or the air conditioning today?  And there are only a few days to leave the windows open.  Once the pollen comes, everything stays closed up.

The carpenter bees were having a good old time in this esplanade from a camellia tree.  They weren’t just rolling around in the pollen – they were head butting it, doing fast and furious circles in it, and greedily capturing as much as they.  Then they flew off, their rear legs looking like fat orange pantaloons.  I was surprised they could fly with as heavily laden as they’d become!

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The artist is the confidant of nature,
flowers carry on dialogues with him through
the graceful bending of their stems
and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms.
Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.
Auguste Rodin

I’m doing better at taking red flowers and it’s a good thing – there were red and pink tulips all over!  I don’t know if that’s normal or if that was this year’s color.  I didn’t visit Colonial Williamsburg last April and by the time I went in May, the tulips were done.  Here’s how the tulips and flowers looked at the botanical gardens last April.

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October is my favorite month, but each month brings its own beauty and April is no exception.  The days are finally warming up, everything is getting green and leafy, and the flowers have come back for another year.  Each month has different flowers, of course, and April’s seem to be rather delicate, showing for a few weeks and then dying back.

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I know it’s a bit of a jumbled mess, but I like these as well as the more formal and polished gardens.  It’s an apt metaphor for my own life.  I admire people whose lives are organized and orderly.  They know what they’re doing and when, things are planned out and thought out.

That is SO not me.  My life isn’t a total mess – we can find important receipts and instruction manuals.  Our vacation planning tends to be only a week or so in advance, although chasing the light influences that.  I have no intentions of planning a photo trip just to sit in a hotel room and wait for the rain to stop.  Likewise, I’d have been really unhappy to skip Williamsburg, then have crummy skies for photography on Saturday & Sunday.  This worked out much better to take a vacation day and have a great time.

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The Capital Building

Instead, our weekend (with the overcast skies) was spent in cleaning out the garden and planting it.  I’ve given up on vegetables so we’ve turned it over to flowers.  We’ll see if that grows better.  I already know I can attract bees, butterflies, and birds to it.  So with flowers, there should be more.  In fact, after I cleaned out and raked the garden, I was visited by a robin who enjoyed scratching around the dirt and finding some food.

Later this week, I’m leaving on a road trip.  I’ll be visiting my daughter the next two weekends, and off on a business trip in-between (a several hour drive from where she lives).  I’ll be visiting one of our manufacturing plants, seeing legislators, and in meetings with our tax counsel.  My favorite boy toy will stay home with da’ boyz.  I have no doubts he will enjoy having the house to himself and not having any regular meal times.

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Have a good week!  Pet a dog if you can, kiss a sweetie (two legged or four – but not on the mouth!), and enjoy the flowers.  It’s a good day every day, even if some days you have to look harder for it.

I believe in pink.
I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.
I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.
I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.
I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.
I believe that tomorrow is another day and
I believe in miracles.
Audrey Hepburn

Spring Flowers

My favorite boy toy and I have been busy working on the house.  So while I’m taking a break from my regularly programmed life, here’s some spring flowers to celebrate the first day of spring.  I took these at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens a few weeks ago.

Spring Is Coming

Last week, the eagerly awaited event finally happened – wait for it, wait for it – YES!  There were robins shivering in the snow.  And according to my observations over many years and in many states, that means spring is ready to arrive.  Last year’s robins shivered in snow right around the same time (click here for last year’s actual pictures of the robins in snow).

There have been other signs of spring.  Several weeks ago, a large flock (30 to 40) of cedar waxwings came migrating through, yanking red berries off from any hollies that weren’t already denuded.  I saw a blue heron flying overhead already, although I don’t think I saw egrets.  I think those were seagulls, which have not yet left to go north.

So last Wednesday looked like this – be sure to look for the beagle!

In anticipation of the snow, I’d brought home my laptop and some work.  I had a very clingy dog due to problems with our fire alarm.  For some reason, the sound just terrified him and earlier in the week, he’d breached the dog gates several times trying to get away from it.

So the easiest thing to do was to put the dog bed under the kitchen table where I worked.  He was happy and I was comfortable.  Unfortunately for him, there was the big eeew! factor of a tiny dog deciding he wanted to do this too.  But the bed was big enough for both of them.

Major icky happening here.

So go forward just three days and I went for a walk to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.  Although I started with my winter coat on, I quickly traded it for my lighter spring coat and eventually wrapped that around my waist to get it off.  The sky was blue, the clouds were pretty, and although there weren’t a lot of flowers, I saw enough to enjoy my walk.

One little bird was singing away, his throat feathers puffing out each time he let loose.  I thought it was a wren until I got home, looked at my pictures and realized it was a little sparrow.  He was certainly vocal and warbled quite prettily.

And of course, I couldn’t help but go into the greenhouse to see what was there.  It was a great way to end my morning and I thought you’d like it too!

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Enjoy the rest of your week!

So Many Signs of Spring #1

I did go to the botanical gardens for a spring walk last Sunday afternoon.  My intention was to share my walk with you, the things I thought about, and the things I saw.

But life isn’t going that way.  As I write this, I am less than an hour away from my daughter arriving for a long weekend.  She’s working from our house the next few days (and I’m working too), but we will have her all the way through Sunday.  Yippee!!

I’ve got the bed made up for her, some cooking done for my lunch, and am now taking a few minutes to let you know I’m not sure I’ll be posting much these next few days.  If time permits, I’ll put up a few pictures.  Otherwise, I will be busy trying to win Scrabble with a child who knows as many words as I do.

Of the many pictures that I took on Sunday, this was the one that best signified Spring to me – tulips and a robin.

© 2012 dogear6 llc

Have a great week!

A Walk In March

I took a walk at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens recently and thought you might like to come with, if for no other reason than to get some spring colors to cheer your day.

I nearly didn’t go – the sky started out a flat, dull gray which matched my mood.  When the sky cleared, I kept checking the horizon to see if it was going to stay blue skies or not.  My favorite boy toy wisely suggested that I get out of the house and take a walk.  He thought I’d either come back in a better mood or else be tired enough for a good nap, after which I’d feel better.

This was the view when I walked out of the visitor’s center.  It was just gorgeous – I loved these clouds and even though there’s not much green, I thought it was a great view and I cheered up immediately.

Because the dark clouds were rolling back in, I went right to my favorite gazebo to get some pictures.  I posted a different one here that ultimately became my header photo for March.  I liked this because it had both the clouds and the water.  I think it’s cool to look at all the reflections in the water.  It truly is a mirror image.

Although it was mid-morning, the shadows were still long.  This bridge is leading to someplace that can’t be seen, with a lamp to light the way.  Will it be good?  Ordinary?  Bad?  There’s no way to know unless I walk the bridge and find out.  At least, that’s how I felt when I took the picture.  The mystery of adventure is always attractive, even though the reality may not be.

Aren’t these two little kids just precious?  The gardens have several nice sculptures and with the leaves down, they are much more noticeable.  While it’s a little boy and girl sitting together, I like to think it’s me and my sister.  I’m the one in the shorts and gym shoes; she’s the one in the dress that’s sitting nicely.

Of course, she’s the one that ran competitive track in high school and college.  She went to the state finals one year, infuriating my favorite boy toy as none of the boys (himself included) were good enough that year to win at the regionals.  So maybe she’s the one wearing the shorts. . . nah, I didn’t wear dresses unless I absolutely had to.  She didn’t mind a nice dress and still doesn’t.

I’m pretty sure this sundial was at the other end of the garden last year.  Since I was in a putzy mood, I spent some time examining the face of the dial.  It was actually accurate, after the time change this last weekend.  For the first weekend in March, it was ahead by an hour.

With this unusually warm weather, the magnolia trees were in bloom.  Unfortunately, the nights are still cold and as a result, the blooms had blasted.  They were deformed, the edges were browned, and the sizes uneven.  The middle of the tree wasn’t as bad, but it took some effort to get a good shot.

This called a Lenten Rose (helleborus).  I don’t know much about them, but would imagine the name comes from them blooming during Lent.  They must be frost hardy as well.

Here’s the inside of a white one.  Isn’t it delicate?  Of course, the photographer was reminded she’s not doing her yoga consistently enough while contorting in a bent over position to get this.

I’d debated about putting this picture in.  It will be pretty in another month, but for now, it’s just desolate.  I felt the same way – over busy, overtired, and just frustrated with a lot of things.  My boy toy was right to get me out of the house.

When our daughter was little, we went through a particularly tough time.  Not only were bills tight, but we hated where we lived and I didn’t like my job.  My husband would make us leave the house on Saturdays to go hiking.  We either improved our collective mood or we came home too tired to fight.  It worked and eventually that season of life ended but not the lessons learned in managing our moods and emotions.

I wasn’t the only one out.  This little sparrow was digging furiously in the dirt here.  A number of my pictures show the blur of his little rump, his head whipping around, and his body shaking off his dirt bath.  He didn’t mind me standing there, so I kept shooting away.  It was such a little thing, but it gave me a big smile to watch him for a few minutes.

There were all kinds of daffodils in bloom.  These have a bright orange lip and were a small flower.  There were big daffodils, small ones, medium ones, and all variations of yellow.  They were all over – big beds of them.

I don’t know what this is!  I usually takes pictures of the signs for later reference, but didn’t this time.  I think it’s another magnolia based on the leaves and the center of the flowers.  Last year, I only saw the white ones.  I had no idea they were in striped pink and red too.

They’re so bright and I love how they tip to the side, like they’re dancing in the wind.

And the white magnolia’s were open too.  I was fascinated by the center of the flowers and will spend some time playing in Photoshop with them.  The flowers are as big as the palm of my hand.

These irises surprised me.  They were very tiny, barely 4″ off the ground, but as brightly striped as the irises from last May that were as tall as my waist.  There were some bees out, but none on the irises.

I called my boy toy to tell him I wasn’t done yet, wanting to go through the greenhouse.  He wasn’t particularly missing me, but said he’d get his own lunch.  He told me to stop out and get some lunch, then go to the bookstore for some browsing.  Was he a sweetie or what!  More flowers, lunch out, and books?  It doesn’t get much better than that.

As you can see, the fountains now working.  This garden is new since last year.  I had no idea it would be so pretty.  There are a lot of benches so people can sit and relax (when the weather is better of course).

I shared a walk in the gardens in January.  Patti, from A New Day Dawns, left a comment that the greenhouse flowers were like dessert.  I loved that analogy and thought of it as I went in the doors.

So pretty!

So bright!

So delicate!  These are azaleas.

This is also new in the greenhouse.  It’s made from ferns, orchids, and bromeliads.  I was fascinated at how attractive it was and how unexpected it was to find this around the doorway into the back greenhouse.

Here’s a close-up.

The right wing of the greenhouse is a permanent orchid collection.  I don’t often go in there, having seen enough orchids from when my husband raised them.  I found this little flower though – it looks like a butterfly, doesn’t it?  I didn’t recognize the orchid though and showed it to my boy toy when I got home.  He was puzzled, not having ever seen an orchid flower that looked like that before.  And he was quite the orchid expert in his time too!

At which point, we both started laughing.  You do realize that this is a cactus, not an orchid, don’t you?  No wonder he didn’t recognize it nor did I (and I’d gotten pretty good at identifying them).

Coming out of the greenhouse, I looked across to the visitors center.  To the right is the education center.  The library is closed on Sundays, but there was a photography exhibit inside that I enjoyed for a few minutes.

I was glad I went for a walk!  I came back in a better mood.  The fresh air and some exercise were just what I needed.  And the beauty was incredible.  Everytime I go to the botanical gardens, there’s something new to see, something for me to enjoy, even at the end of winter.

Other walks are posted for JanuaryApril, October, and November.

iPhone Photography

Although I make every effort to take my camera with me everywhere, sometimes I don’t have it.  I’ve been using my iPhone camera and it’s okay.  Not great, but no worse than an inexpensive point and shoot.

Over the weekend, I finished reading the book, “iPhone Art in My Life: Volume One” by Dewitt Jones.  A few months ago, I published a quote of his (with permission).  I’ve followed Dewitt’s work for years, so was interested in what he did with this different medium.

Not too surprisingly, the pictures were fantastic.  Each picture has an inspiration comment from him (something else he excels at) and a listing of the iPhone software used to process the picture.

I’ve downloaded several of the apps he recommended and I’m going to have to practice more to get the hang of using them.  Usually I import my iPhone into Photoshop Elements if I’m going to do additional processing.  After seeing what Dewitt Jones did, I want to play more with this.

If you want some quick help, the Digital Photography School has a great article on 10 Quick iPhone Photography Tips.

Karen Walrond, at her blog chookooloonks, has a review of the book by Stephanie C. Roberts called, “The Art of iPhoneography“.  I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to take a closer look at getting it.  Unfortunately, it’s only available in paperback.

I’m not sure I’ll get overly comfortable with using my iPhone for seriously photography, but I am glad I have it when I’m out and my Canon Rebel isn’t with me.

Over at A Daily Life, a new post talks about why a field trip can help your blogging and photography.  If you signed up to receive comments from another blog and it’s become too much, this post tells you how to turn them off.

Here’s the picture I’m using for my header this month.  I took these tulips a year ago at the botanical gardens (and not with my iPhone).