Friday, February 16, 2007

Time in the Garden

I went to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens hoping to get some "garden" shots. I knew it was a pretty place, I'd been here before with Debra. While I knew it was not the best time of day for photos, I was hoping for those little light clouds that cross the sun and give you that wonderful diffuse light.

I was also starting my day on the tired side. While I know that rest is an important component of life, it is also hard for me to rest when I'm in a photography rich area. When I was growing up and visiting one of my great-aunts, I was tired and probably did not want to get up early one morning. Her wise comment was that I could always sleep when I got home. And when I'm in stimulating, interesting environments, I want to let it all soak in-I want to do as much as I can while I'm at a location. Resting feels like I'm not taking advantage of my opportunities.

So, in a discipline way, I entered the gardens and began to walk around. The grass was green, the temperature comfortably cool with a gentle breeze. There are benches everywhere. I took advantage of one that was underneath an arbor area. There was a green grassy meadow in front of me. A mother, grandmother and little girl were down there. The little girl was about 3 years old, blond with short pigtails. Something about her reminded me of my daughter-in-law, Stephanie - what she might have looked like at that age. I used that as an opportunity to pray for Stephanie and Thomas. I watched older couples stroll through the pathways. I watched a very pregnant mom with a stroller for her older child. There will be a new sibling soon.

As I sat on the bench, I realized that my photographic muse was being very silent. While a beautiful place, there was no little scene that jumped out at me as being a likely calendar shot or other intimate landscape. But I was enjoying just sitting there, contemplating.

I stood up and continued following the path. Immediately I found this waterfall area. Yes, this would make a good photo . . . in different lighting. Even though I knew it was futile, I began to photograph the area. Taking lots of exposures knowing I would have to blend the photos to get the brightly lit and the shadowed areas to look right.

I finally moved on, knowing I had not gotten the shot I could visualize because of the harsh lighting. I found an area that had a Japanese garden feel. But once again, the shadows were dark and the sunlit areas very bright. I came across the redwood grove area. These redbuds were planted about 100 years ago and it is a nice area, but I had just been in a much larger grove area - so this did not call to me photographically.

I could see a series of clouds above me. I watched their movement in relation to the sun. Hum . . . would they cover the sun for those few moments to get the waterfall? I walked back and waited. I watched the clouds and waited. Surely just a part of that cloud could block the sun. I had my camera on the tripod with the scene framed. I was rooting for that cloud. While the light softened just a little, the sun won.

I continued to wander the garden. While the weather feels like spring, most of the garden area had a "winter" feel. The rose bushes had been pruned, but had no leaves. There were many things that promised to bloom later in the year. AH HA! The camillas were in bloom. I discovered that there were at least three kinds of camillas - singles, doubles, and multiples (probably not the right terms, but it describes the number of petals and how they are arranged in the bloom). There were red ones, pink ones, big ones, smaller ones. I enjoyed their beauty. But I had not brought my macro lens, and with the breeze, I knew it would be an exercise in futility. I moved on. I thought briefly how fun it might be to have camillas at home, and quickly dismissed the notion. Camillas are acid loving plants - my soil is naturally alkaline - even the water is alkaline. I'll enjoy camillas, azelias, and gardenias where they grow naturally or where people have time to add acid and iron every week.

I came across another area that had bushes with tiny blooms. There was a young couple enjoying these, the young man was busy with his small camera shooting macros of the tiny blossoms. They seemed pleased and were certainly enjoying themselves.

I had covered about half of this part of the garden. I had not gone over to the Japanese Tea Garden, but I knew the lighting just was not good - way too bright. We'll be in San Francisco several more days. Surely one of them will be cloudy.

While photographically, the trip to the garden was a bust, the contemplation time was important. Watching the people as they enjoyed their strolls and activities with their children in the garden reminded me how important it is to spend time outdoors in our natural world. The open air, the sunshine, the beautiful plant life, the busy squirrels - this was a peaceful tranquil time - well worth the several hours I spent here. Contemplation has value as well.

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