WANDERING THE BUTCHART GARDENS
One of the best summer escapes is to Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria, capital of British Columbia and home to the neo-Baroque/Romanesque Revival Parliament Building. The 1897 building, which faces out to the Inner Habour and draws tourists to its wide green lawns, is open to the public for limited tours. The city itself is small, but the downtown very vertically intense, while coastal breezes keep the city cool. Lovely St. James Bay, a quaint neighborhood right on the tip, is where I spent a few days in 2017.
By far the height of the trip was my drive up to the Butchart Gardens, which are north of Victoria, on an inlet at the base of the Saanich Peninsula on the island. The garden was largely the result of Jennie Butchart’s efforts. The Butchart family came to the area in 1904. Robert Butchart manufactured Portland cement, and found plentiful deposits of limestone on the West Coast of Canada, which were vital to the production.
His wife, Jennie, had seen a tea garden built by garden designer Isaburo Kishida, and so had Kishida build a tea garden for the Butchart estate, the beginning of the Butchart gardens. Meanwhile, her husband was excavating limestone on the property. When the quarry was depleted, it became the sunken garden, an area of the garden below the main property and that now has a water feature resembling a series of daytime Fourth of July fireworks of water.
Within the sunken garden is a high, freestanding mound from which spectators can sit and watch the fountain go through its series of shoots and spirals.
But the Sunken Garden has much more to see than the fountain. Like the upper area, it has separate garden areas full of colorful flowers and perennials that perfectly set off each color.
Vancouver Island is a two-hour ferry trip from the mainland, and the best part of the trip is the beginning, as the ferry weaves through the smaller islands east of the island. Watching the forested islands go by, with homes and their docks along the coasts of each, you can dream about living in such a beautiful place, where the weather is tepid, supporting all types of plans.
The City of Vancouver is another must-see, though Victoria is first on my list. The neighborhoods south of the city make you think you are in Anywhere, America. There are beautiful brick homes, craftsman style homes, some modern homes, and in many neighborhoods, gentrification is occurring as housing becomes more expensive.
I stayed in Kitsilano Beach, in a fully remodeled three-story home, care of Airbnb.
CREATING THE TREE SERIES
ROCKS CAN BE BEAUTIFUL
I take photographs of many rock formations, rock walls, flagstone paths, granite, rock facades, stones and pebbles. I began playing with them separately, changing colors and lighting. But then I began to layer these photographs one on top of the other, blending them as I went. The results were amazing–color combinations, subtle textures, designs and patterns. See the example below:
I then layered a photograph of a leafless tree and eliminated the background, leaving the layered rock to serve as the background. And voila, we have the tree series. Though I later used other materials as background for the tree series, such as moss, I continue to search for unique rock facades. They sound simple and dull, but the pillow of large stones that I shot in Santa Fe after hiking up the hills shows the many colors and textures that arise from something as simple and basic as the rocks that form this earth.
I have experimented with other backgrounds as well. The photograph below, also part of the Tree Series, starts with a background that includes rocks as well as a shot of a fence.
PILGRIMAGE TO ASHLAND
Every fall for the past four years, I’ve traveled to Ashland, Oregon, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Ashland is a quaint small town of a bit over 20,000 residents nestled between pine-covered hills to the west and grassy hills to the east–the Siskiyou and Cascade ranges. I can walk the length of the city, from Southern Oregon University at the south end to Lithia Park to the north, in 25 minutes. Along the way, there are art galleries, craft shops, bookstores new and used, restaurants and clothing shops that feature soft sweaters and flowing dresses that reflect the laid-back atmosphere of this Oregon hamlet. I never knew why I loved to walk that Main Street, with all of those shops that look inviting, until I learned that the city banned chain stores from that downtown zone–no McDonalds amidst the breweries and B&Bs.
The Varsity Theatre shows independent films and hosts a film festival every year. The central city plaza has flowing fountains of mineral water that flows naturally from the ground, and there is even a special fountain for dogs. Hikers and bums hang out there or near the Chamber of Commerce, strumming guitars for a few coins.
Lithia Park, 93 acres bordered by Ashland Creek, offers a nice hike past the rocky creek bed, a Japanese Garden and recreational areas for tennis players, children and hikers. Deer are as common as the craftsman style homes and occasional Victoria, both of which are getting larger and more beautiful as the city gentrifies. Up in the hills, million dollar homes with two million dollar views are going up or getting facelifts.
Of course, the 80-year-old Oregon Shakespeare Festival is the draw, bringing thousands of tourists from all over who fill the hotels and Bed and Breakfasts from February to October–including me. For the past four years, I’ve stayed in an Airbnb cottage rented by a German woman who makes jewelry and raises horses out in Rogue River and let myself feel at home. The beauty of the area makes me wish it were home.
I have most of my fun in Photoshop by blending images, particularly urban shots or simply photographs of common sights–a manhole cover with an interesting design, an old gate, a rusty trash bin, or some graffiti on a telephone pole. I created the following image by blending a photograph of some graffiti with one of an electrical box, after playing around with some of the colors:
It’s one of my favorites, and has a painterly quality to it. You never know what you can produce in just seconds of blending and toying with the colors. It’s like magic!