The other day, my daughter asked me what I was doing. “Taking pictures of the garden,” I replied. When she responded “What else?” and gazed at the ceiling, I laughed.
In defense of my almost eighteen-year-old, the eye-rolling is justified. As soon as May skips in, flowers blossom and I run out with the camera. Conscious of this compulsion (and the volume of pictures stored on thumb drives), this year, I delayed photographing the Creeping Phlox in the spring; until I panicked I was going to miss it entirely. Like an alcoholic who takes that first tempting drink, I’ve been out there regularly since.
This morning though, as I climbed ledges and squatted with the Nikon, while attempting to get the right angle to capture the wrought-iron bistro set in front of the Stella d’Oro lilies (too much light), I wondered about this fixation of mine. What compels me to photograph the same things over and over again—specifically, my garden,* which I clamber in and out of several times a week? It has something to do with capturing a scene at its peak essence—during the height of its appeal. All summer, I scramble all over my ledges trying to do so, mostly ending up with disappointing results.
Of course, an experienced photographer stands a better chance of getting a premium shot. Regardless of talent-level though, it’s a nigh-on-to-impossible to capture and freeze perfection. So, considering my novice photography skills, the whole thing becomes a lot harder. Not that I’m saying my garden is perfect either, not by a long shot. I tend to yank things up and replant them anywhere and if it doesn’t work, change things up the next year. But the individual blossoms making up the ever-changing pallet behind my house are perfect, and it seems to me that if I can capture all that beauty in one frame, the final product should shake a viewer to the core. But I never get everything just right.
Few of my pictures look like what I see in my garden…the bees, the butterflies, the un-staked Jacobs Ladder bowed and dropping tiny petals amid the fuchsia Cleome. Sans the camera, the seasons tell their own story, starting with the jagged lawn and rhododendrons that shrug off the cold in April and May, followed by my beloved violet Phlox that peters out by Memorial Day after reassuring me that winter is gone for good. In June, Dutch Iris, Bell Flowers and Sun Drops fold us into summer. Day lilies open wide mouths during soft warm days that bleed to a puddle of humid thickness by the end of July. Late that month, the Balloon Flowers buds puffing up next to the yellow Heliopsis usher in the cool air and rasping cicadas of our stunning August nights. I can recite the blossoming of this cyclical story in my dreams, but I’ve never taken a photo that reaches the essence of it, no matter how many times I’ve clicked the shutter.
If I lapsed into a coma tomorrow and woke up sometime April-September, I’d know the month by the slide show outside my kitchen window, and yet I fail to capture it with the camera. My photos remind me of lightening bugs captured in a jar. They might glow, but the image is nowhere near as spectacular as when you are sitting outside on a dark summer night, and all of a sudden, you see a wink.
*If you want to read more about my photography fixations, your can read here, or here, or here...or even here.
If you want to see the picture by professional photographer Mike Sleeper that I will always wish I took...you can click here.
|April starts it all...|
|May phlox, not to be missed.|
|June sun drops (blurry picture, grrrr)|
|Oh how I love July|