So I went to my favorite garden, in the rain, to photograph some flowers and call the post April showers. The problem with that is you really have to wait for the rain to stop.
I read the N.Y Post from cover to cover, drank a cup of coffee, smoked two cigarettes and it was still pouring. Patience is a virtue I thought, just relax and wait it out. But patience is not my strong suit, so I grabbed my camera and mini tripod, pulled up my hood and walked the path.
The rain was finally slowing down when I saw something amazing, fiddlehead ferns. They were trying to hide under a dripping bush, and I knew it would be easier tomorrow morning in better light, but I was already there.
The sun’ll come out tomorrow, so you gotta hang on ‘til tomorrow popped into my head, and I said screw that. I figured I can at least take a few shots to practice my composition, so I did.
According to the weather channel Annie was right, and maybe I can do better tomorrow, maybe not. Then I remembered what Alice discovered; “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.” Words to live by.
Yesterday I found these yellow columbines at Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse. The light was perfect, I had a tripod, and it was as calm as a virgin who never told a lie. But for some reason I ignored all that, I was indecisive and hungry so I left.
This afternoon I went back and it was cloudy and windy. I stayed for an hour in the hope that everything would change, it didn’t, the decisive moment was yesterday.
Henri Cartier-Bresson once said: “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”
These are Virginia Bluebells, also known as Virginia cowslips for some reason. I wonder if every time a bell rings, a cow gets a new slip. I’d ask the local farmers but they may not want to talk about it.
The rain had just stopped as dawn broke over the Haines Shoe House in York, Pennsylvania yesterday, and I remembered a song I heard years ago working on a much larger house in Southampton.
The lead carpenter was a former lawyer who found that chopping wood was more rewarding then Jurisprudence, and he listened to county music all day long.
The song was All Mama’s Children by Carl Perkins and it went like this:
“There was an old woman that lived in a shoe, had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. They were doin all right, til she took em to town, the kids started pickin em up and putting em down.
Now all your children wanna rock, mama, all your children want to roll. They wanna roll, wanna rock, wanna bop til they pop. All your children want to rock.”
The Haines Shoe House is now open for guided tours and they serve gourmet hand-dipped ice cream and Mellie’s Makery treats (it’s not just a bakery it’s a makery). Rocking and bopping are encouraged but only outside.
Euphorbia myrsinites, also known as myrtle euphorbia or donkeytail spurge, is one of the most useful and highly ornamental plants to grow in the garden.
Now for the bad news: the milky white sap has been known to cause extreme allergic reactions that in some cases can lead to anaphylactic shock, and visits to the emergency room are frequently reported.
Charles Bukowski wrote a book called The People Look Like Flowers At Last. This flower looks like the pretty college girl next door who works as an escort on weekends. Approach both with caution and use protection.
It happens at almost the same time each year here in Lancaster, one day it’s sunny and warm enough for the beach, and the next day it’s almost too cold to stand outside and fill your gas tank.
Recently, after weeks of record setting warmth, we had a cold snap with temperatures well below freezing. Although all I had to do was wear an extra sweatshirt, many plants, trees and flowers took a beating.
Some managed to hold on while others were not so fortunate. For them, it’s the end of the road. The ones that made it, the lucky ones, know that many of their friends are gone, and they seem depressed.
But this is nature, survival of the fittest and all that. Lions eat gazelles, giant tuna end up in cans, and photographers remember that it’s hard to adjust camera settings with frozen fingers.
Geraldo Rivera, best know for opening Al Capone’s vault, said: “Mother Nature may be forgiving this year, or next year, but eventually she’s going to come around and whack you. You’ve got to be prepared.” Touché.
I went back to the park this afternoon for two reasons, I have too much time on my hands and I like to watch the progress of the spring flowers. And I’m obsessed with photography and if I don’t get out of the house I go stir crazy, so four reasons.
Yesterday the crocuses were closed for the day and today they were open for business. What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…
It’s easy to forget that flowers that were open and enjoying the sunshine yesterday may not be open the next 30 degree morning. So I decided to go back later this afternoon with a mini tripod and high hopes. But for some reason the crocuses decided to close for the day.
I set up and took a couple of photos in between raindrops, experimenting with composition and aperture. Only the ones shot wide open at f/1.8 made any sense to me. Those images had that temporary, fleeting quality to them which is exactly what a crocus is. They are tiny bits of magic that will come up, flower, and have the bees over for lunch before disappearing completely in a very short time.
I noticed the sign at the entrance and it read Kiwanis Area Pavilion 22, which is part of Lancaster County Central Park. I also discovered this morning that they sometimes open before 8am and close at sunset. No mention of what time the flowers open so be patient.
These Irises are some of the first flowers to come up in a part of Lancaster County Central Park that I visit every spring. This section is on Eshelman Mill Road about a quarter mile down from the Shuts Environmental Library (look for the gates). The flower patch is at the end of the road opposite the maintenance building, with a large parking lot that’s always empty.
Blue Crocuses are already popping up and white ones will be there in a few days. Bluebells will also make an appearance a little later in the season. The best light is early to late afternoon depending on clouds, and they don’t open the gates until 8:00am.
If you have time, stop at the garden of five senses, which is only a few minutes away and well worth a look. Tulips, bleeding hearts and many other flowers are in the garden between late February and April. The garden is open to the public year round, and the paved walkway easily accommodates wheelchairs, strollers and very slow photographers.
Note: Hundreds of deer live in this 544 acre park and wander around like they own the place. Drive slowly early in the morning and late afternoon, especially near the Rock Ford Plantation where they get together to discuss which plants to eat next.
An interesting rule of composition is called the rule of odds, which suggests that an odd number of objects can work better than an even number. For example, a single flower framed correctly (yes, more rules), can appear to have better balance than two flowers together.
Others say that by using an odd number of objects, you’re actually encouraging the viewer to create their own balance. So the whole concept is either classic genius or nonsense.
So what happens if you see some gorgeous bulbs bulbing by the side of the road in good light? You grab your camera and fire off a few quick shots wide open to emphasize that ethereal quality of flowers. Looking at them later, you see that by some happy or unhappy accident you have only two of them in focus, or as much as is possible at f/1.8.
Now what? What will your friends and family say, your art teacher, the boys at the bar choking down chicken wings, the girls at the bowling alley missing the 7-10 splits? How can you possibly explain why you broke the rules?
You frantically think of something to say, something about rules, but all you can remember is the Fight Club thing. So take a deep breath and quote Ansel Adams: “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”
If that doesn’t cut it, mention the Fibonacci spiral and numbers, which of course you know like the back of your hand. That should be enough to confuse and yet impress almost anyone.
Every spring I visit the Garden Of Five Senses in Lancaster County Central Park to see the snowdrops. They come up in February and within a very short time bloom into the most amazing flowers I’ve ever seen, with small bell shaped pedals with just a touch of green on them. Then a couple of weeks later they’re gone, completely gone, as if they were never there.
It’s easy to see changes over time but to watch them happen this fast is really something to appreciate. Of course, people don’t want to be reminded of impermanence so it’s usually a passing thought, then another thought pops in like what’s for lunch?
Charlotte Joko Beck, author of Everyday Zen said this; “Intelligent Practice always deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not. And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that. I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever changing energy field. I don’t want to be that.”
Depending on how far you really get into this whole nothingness thing, you’ll find it either terrifying or enlightening, or both.
Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying wrote; “I shall never forget when Dudjom Rinpoche, in a moment of intimacy, leaned toward me and said in his soft, hoarse, slightly high-pitched voice: “You know, don’t you, that actually all these things around us go away, just go away . . .”