When I was in Cologne visiting my sister recently, we spent a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon exploring the Botanical Garden. I was particularly excited by the many fern varieties on display, each one more intriguing than the one before.
I’ve mentionned before both how much I love ferns and how they are my photographic nemesis, so it was great to have some practice in trying to capture their beauty.
While I knelt down here and there in this fern paradise, my sister patiently wandered by my side and was a perfect assistant, placing herself in such a way that no direct sunlight fell on the plants if needed and looking up the species’ names on the ‘plant shazam’ app.
I really love the tightly wound extremities, like tentacles, ready to unfold and stretch out into the world, as well as the different textures and colours.
One thing I love about photographing plants is that there is just such a profusion of possibility to explore and play with. With the seasons passing, the plants and their textures evolve so much. There are new buds appearing and fresh shiny leaves, perhaps flowers, rough bark, apparent roots, unusual seeds and pods, rugged surfaces, uncanny spikes, odd stems, gorgeous color combinations as the light evolves and changes the aspect of the backdrop…
I am astounded that even without wandering far there is always more beauty and unusual details to be found, an infinite amount of inspiration. Look at these star-shaped pods that I came across in the Amsterdam Hortus a few weeks ago, aren’t they delightful?!
Botanic gardens and greenhouses are my happy place. I can easily entertain myself for several hours, slowly making my way along the pathways, mesmerised by the hundreds of different species and their unique details. A couple of weeks ago, I spent the end of the afternoon quietly observing the cacti in warmth of the desert greenhouse at the Amsterdam Hortus. Here are some of the details which I liked the most.
This cactus looks to me like a sea-urchin, stripped naked of its spikes, revealing a pattern reminiscent of a scottish tartan.
These flowers are a delight, the bright colours of their petals popping out against the parched surroundings.
Look at these incredible spikes, lined up all along this plant, it seems like each tip has been handpainted in reddish brown.
The symmetry of the Fibonacci sequence spiralling outwards from the heart of this cactus, growing drier and spikier as it goes…
Spring time in the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam is enchanting! The garden is coming back to life with buds and blossoms everywhere you turn, from the sprawling beds on the ground to the trees, peering out from in between rocks and on flush bushes.
I love how the changes with the seasons means every visit is really different. This time we took a tour, led by a guide who shared her knowledge and fun facts about different plants around the garden.
But my favorite part was afterwards, walking along the winding paths with my camera, unrushed, spotting colours and textures of the new bursts of life, emerging under the sunshine, reaching towards the light.
When, despite the sunshine, it got a bit chilly, I went to my favorite spot in the greenhouse to warm up and admire the captivating cacti… but I’ll write more about that soon;)
Yesterday I had planned to spend some time for my Artist Date at the Botanic garden exploring the greenhouses, looking for new plants I could photograph to accompany upcoming blog posts. On arrival I found the gates of the garden were closed (I hadn’t checked the opening times – rookie mistake!). However I took this setback in my stride and instead cycled around looking for a place out of the wind where I could soak up the sun and write in my journal.
I settled for a bench in a tiny playground just two minutes from my flat, which is mostly sandy with a few plants scattered around the edge. At first glance most plants seemed to have suffered from the winter months and looked rather bland. I didn’t expect much, but then a pink flower close to the ground caught my attention, so I got out my camera and started taking photos of it. Then my eyes searched a bit further for interesting colours, textures and backgrounds, and as I observed the details of each plant, I was led from one to another and kept noticing more and more things.
Here are a few of the finds that I liked most: The lace-like structure of a perfectly shaped Physalis pod with a rough black seed nestled inside it, and a rose hip with tiny lines etched onto its bright red surface… I was also very excited to stumble upon several types of ladybirds, the first I’ve seen this season, mentally thanking them for the natural pest control they perform with their unending appetite for aphids that we would rather do without. Even if it wasn’t the Botanic garden, I was impressed by the many details to be found in such a small space when taking the time to really look.
Over the Christmas holidays, one afternoon I felt the irresistible need for some fresh air, my body craving to make the most of the little sunlight of the short winter days. So I grabbed my camera and went out, with no other plan than to walk along the streets close to home, open to capturing whatever inspired me. The light was beautiful, though I was clearly working against the clock to actually take some photos before darkness fell.
This simple window caught my eye, the colour and texture of the shutters with their half-moon crescents and the stack of mixed-and-matched plates drying in the rack. In my imaginary it brings up a feeling of home, cosyness, like everyone was off having a nap after tidying the kitchen together and in a few hours preparation for the next family meal will start…
I walked further, along the old walls of the village. A few families were out and about, several generations together walking dogs or most probably taking a digestive stroll in the chilly air. The last rays of sunshine lit up these bare trees, so it seemed like they were in the spotlight.
As the sun disappeared, I loved the sight of these pretty lanterns lining the street against the last colours of the sky.
My last find was this incredible mansion with its tower, the wooden beams in different tones of blue, perfectly colour-coordinated. It’ s a private house so I could only peer semi-discreetly from behind the wall, but I can imagine settling there to write a book, a steaming coffee by my side on an old wooden desk by tower window, overlooking the garden while birds flit in and out of the trees…
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #112
During my recent walk in the forest near my home town, at one stage I came across lots of ferns that had been cut down by the side of the path. I was mesmerised by their colours and shapes, which formed these wonderful dense and intricate patterns.
Ferns are one of my photographic nemeses, I love how they look (from shy, bright green ferns in the forest undergrowth to massive native Australian ferns that are more like trees) but always struggle so much to capture them in a way that does justice to their splendour…
I’m grateful to have had a chance to observe the beauty of these ferns and their patterns before they shriveled up and became part of the forest floor, it was the perfect opportunity to practice photographing them:)
Just a five minute drive from the house where I grew up, there is a forest where I love to take walks. There are several options: you can take the tarmac path straight into the heart of the forest, you can explore muddy side paths or you can walk right at the foot of the trees, your shoes sinking with each step into the deep layers of fallen leaves.
Today I mostly ignored the paths and spent the morning deep in the humid undergrowth, guided by every splash of colour or unusual shape, looking at the tiniest details to see what I could find. I was welcomed by trees, mushrooms, mosses and lichens of all types, as well as slugs patiently gliding along and snacking on mushrooms.
On my treasure hunt for beauty, there was just the sound of birds calling to each other. I felt perfectly in the moment, taking in all the beautiful colours and textures. I experimented with photographing what I came across, until my jeans were dirty and humid from kneeling down to get close to the forest floor.
Forest bathing is so healing. Looking at myself in the mirror when I got home I was glowing like I’d just had a long nap or a restorative massage, my body kindly reminding me, yet again, that I should surround myself with nature more often:)
Some days even the most basic things seem overly complicated in my mind and something as simple as attempting to ‘breathe mindfully’ during morning meditation feels unnatural and forced. However I’ve realised there is one thing that I can count on to calm me and bring me back to myself: taking photos of details.
The biggest effort is to head out the door with my camera. Once that is done I let myself be guided by my eyes around the streets near my house or in one of the nearby parks. Looking closely at my surroundings (mainly plants, I admit;) ) I feel this curiousity and a desire to see as if for the first time, and my breathing steadies and deepens naturally as I snap the shots.
Often such an outing results in a few dozen blurry, uninteresting pictures which I can delete again as soon as I get home. Other times in a batch of pictures there are a few that make my heart sing, perfectly imperfect shots of unexpected details I’d never previously noticed or bright flowers and leaves that brighten a grey afternoon.
But I’ve realised that the photos themselves are not the point. I’m learning to trust in the process. It is not about the pictures I take but about getting out of the house to focus on something I deeply love to do, remembering how it feels like to be in flow regardless of the outcome. It is my body’s way of sending me hopeful messages that it still knows how to feel at ease when I am doing what is in line with my heart’s wishes. Now, how to apply this wisdom to other realms of my life??
This magazine cover with the phrase ‘The rise of eco-feminism’ called out to me while I was browsing in a bookstore on our recent trip to London. After briefly leafing through it’s pages, I treated myself to a copy that I read with great pleasure from cover to cover on the train back to Amsterdam.
The content feels very refreshing and easy-going, like a non-judgemental friend who tells you dreamy stories and knows unexpected fun facts about far flung places. Visually it is a gorgeous mix of photography and illustrations that support the articles, as well as inspiring quotes. I enjoyed that part of the content is submitted by readers with varied voices and styles, and that there is no advertising to distract you. I’m excited that I decided to subscribe for a year in order to support the magazine and have the joy of receiving it in the mailbox every 3 months:)