Recently I was sent to Alabama, Huntsville to be exact, for work. Unlike most work trips, I was sent out a little early to capture footage from a few classrooms for a couple projects we are working on. I spent most of the day in three schools and probably a dozen classrooms. I finished off what I needed to capture and was done for the day. My plan was to get together with co-workers for dinner but I knew they were still busy with their tasks. There was time to kill before they were ready, whatever shall I do?
Off the recommendation of one of the derby girls, I looked up where the Botanical Gardens was in relation to my location. To my surprise the gardens were only about 10 minutes away, perfect. Time to go commune a little with nature and take a breath.
I made my way to the botanical gardens and equipped myself with a camera body and a 24-70mm lens. I didn’t want to load myself down with the 70-200 lens for a couple reasons: 1) it gets heavy and I get hot after a little bit, especially walking around outside. 2) as I have spoken before, I wanted to force myself to have to work within the constraints of the one lens – give myself that challenge I’m always after. There were a few times where I really wanted that longer lens, but I had to make do with what I had. I was also armed with my other ‘must haves’ of my sunglasses and music – this day I walked around to Conjure One in my ears.
Ok, let’s do this thing.
I realize I was not going to the gardens at the right time of year. Many of the plants and flowers haven’t bloomed yet and they were doing construction on part of the land so there were areas blocked off. However, I wasn’t going to let that stop me, the guy at the desk told me where I can find some flowers in all their glory. This is an outing where I can leave the concrete, asphalt, and society behind for a brief time and just take a breath and recharge some of my batteries. I don’t meditate but walking around the gardens with a camera in hand can be a very relaxing and centering action – one of my zen moments.
At the time, the gardens were hosting little houses all over the property. I stumbled across a few of them and saw some of the great artistry on these houses. My favorite would have to be he Hobbit house – actually I think that is probably most people’s factories since they placed it so that it was the first one you can encounter. Don’t get me wrong, the variety of bird houses were awesome, but this whole picture of a hobbit’s grounds was incredible. I liked how they added all sorts of details to the point that you expect a little guy to walk out that door.
Something else they had, which is always a favorite of mine is a train set complete with a town. The level of detail was incredible and it I just wish the train was moving. I try to present these images as being real life. The first time I saw these little ‘towns’ at a gardens was at the Lauritzen Gardens and I was fascinated with what was created, so now whenever I come across one I can’t help but stop and snap away. And as nice as these setups were I had to remind myself that I was there for the nature piece, so don’t spend the remaining time there at the entrance, there is more to see Joshua, go find it!
I had a map of the gardens in my pocket but I didn’t want to refer to it much. The point of going to the garden was to get to nature a little and just be – escape the crazy real world and enjoy the stillness. Ok, so I did turn to the map when I first got underway because there was one spot I wanted to make sure I saw and luckily it was at the far end of the garden. So aside from the pavilion place with the Koi pond I truly did not have any other predetermined ‘must see’ spots.
Thanks to being a work day and not the prime blooming time for much of what the garden had to offer I didn’t see many people walking around – I was almost completely alone and that is what I wanted. Seldom do we take the time to disengage from people and life. Sure we all have hobbies but even something as simple as reading is structured and actions have already been laid out. A hobby still requires you working within a specific guideline and while it does provide an escape it doesn’t necessarily allow for a recharge of the soul. Meandering around a garden with no hopeful outcome other than, well, walking out alive removes the ropes of any deterministic bonds. Yes I had a camera but if no images resulted from my time there, or even if any photos were taken, the experience would still be as endearing to my psyche. Photographs of my time there are an icing on the cake rather than the batter.
You might think that by using headphones that I was isolating myself from my surroundings. The elegance and peacefulness that Conjure One provided opened the door for me to soak in the elements that were flooding my other senses. The aromas of the trees and what plants and flowers were blooming in some areas was intoxicating. Despite best efforts by manufacturers, I don’t think these smells have been completely copied. The shadowed walk in the woods under the trees canopy was punctuated by beams breaking through the branches. The dance on the gravel of shifting light and dark gave me a moving painting to walk on. So yes, my ears were taken over by my headphones and Conjure One, but I was not removed from any connection with the garden.
I am not a nature photographer. Yes, I enjoy going out and will do some clicks with flowers and plants but I wouldn’t consider myself a nature photographer per se but more like a photographer that sometimes takes nature photos. This is a regular dilemma that I have when people want to talk photography with me. Inevitably the question arises, “what do you like to shoot” or “what kind of photographer are you?” – that last one said with curiosity and not an accusatory ‘what the hell do you think you are a photographer?!’ way. There is a lot I like to shoot but what kind of photographer am I really? I try not to adhere a label because that pigeonholes and we don’t want that now do we. I tend to just say that I like to do a little of everything, which is true, but that I really like doing black and white street or black and white nude photography. Usually what happens is a certain idea comes to mind when I say nude but my approach to explaining it has allowed me the fortune of not having any negative reaction. Here is the funny thing, while shooting nudes is a preference it is also something that I rarely do. I have more concert, street, roller derby, and hell, nature photos that I do my nudes. Everything else is easier to shoot and, for the most part, don’t require another person to be involved – concerts and derby aside, the participants aren’t working with me, they would be doing their actions whether I was there or not. So there I am, the ‘not a nature photographer’ purposefully walking around a garden to take pictures.
And I think that is one of the reasons why I like doing the gardens, I can get inside my own head and escape most of the world and just feel the music, feel the surroundings, and breathe.
This trip I wasn’t so much doing any introspective musings as much as I was being a meandering mindless fool. I double backed on the trail a few times, found a dead end more than once – not always related to the doubling back – and really just went where my eye took me. When the pace of the music sped up a little I would walk a little faster and when it would slow I would too. My pace was all beat driven but my picture taking was not. I find this a little funny because when I’m capturing I have music and when I edit I like to have music too, but while editing I do let the rhythm guide my hands. So it was nice to just let go and allow what was in my ears guide me.
I ended up in the butterfly house but, as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t there at the right time of year. The building was nice and spacious and I can only imagine what it looks like when there are butterflies all over the place. Alas, my desire to be surrounded to the beauty-winged creatures while I attempt some macro-ish photography was thwarted. Oh well, guess that means I’ll just have to return again someday, maybe.
Near the butterfly house, which is actually part of the kids garden area, was a picnic area with a dozen or so hammocks under the trees. Come on now, what better way to fully indulge in the care to the wind, see where the day takes you attitude than to lounge on a hammock shaded by the trees and gently swing feeling the breeze and getting lost in the music.
These are the times that we have to find in order to face the next challenges and journey. Sure, finding a little escape into some gardens isn’t always available but maybe finding a few moments to put the head back, close the eyes and escape into the sounds of … whatever we want I guess. Sit outside before going to bed to listen to the night sounds of crickets and frogs and the wind blowing. We get too caught up sometimes in what we think we should be doing or more accurately what we think we should be doing through other people’s eyes. For me, these little excursions when I am on the road help prepare me for the chaos and go go go of the next day. I am able to step up to the coming day’s events and not feel tired before things even happen. Sure, at the end of the day I might be beat because of the hectic pace we get thrown into, but if we start from a stable position then we can emerge with a confident and accomplished feeling.
I meandered through the gardens taking the random picture here and there, got lost along the way sure, but enjoyed the journey. Here with this writing I meandered a bit, showed a random picture here and there and sure got lost along the way as well. What was the journey in this piece? What was the point to it all? Finding a moment to shut out the crazy world and see something a little new that isn’t part of the day to day. I can’t offer you a hammock, shade and nice breeze but I can offer up images and something to look at for a few moments to allow you to take a breath have something to get lost in and maybe have your own little zen moment.
To see these and all the rest of the images from my visit that day, click ->HERE<- to view the gallery.