Aspen Love

In the San Francisco Botanical Garden, at the northern entry to the California Natives area, is a small copse of quaking aspen. I say small, yet it serves, along with the footbridge in its midst, as a very effective tunnel, or curtain. You pass through it and emerge into the flowered fields and open skies of the Natives garden.

I do have a fondness for such “magical” transitions. And I love the shimmer of the leaves, the gold they turn in autumn, and the lovely bark. But I also love the density, the tall skinny trees, the intermingling branches. It is a challenge to capture with the camera — and to artistically convey — the appeal of that density; the live eye may love it, but the image and its frame seems to call out for isolation and a clear, if not single, subject. And so I take up digital tools to work with the original captured image — varying focus, playing with simplicity or firmness of texture — to convey what I love about the scene.

These two images come from two different seasons. (Click to open larger.) In the Spring, cow parsnip grows tall and green in the midst of the aspen, a wonderful “forest within a forest.” In the fall (an image from my concluding “Trees Love Light” exhibit) leaves grow scarce, becoming dangles of gold in the tangle of woods.

Pelican: Invite to Abstract


As I zoomed in on this guy, at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve during a recent trip to Southern California, I wondered: Could I make this into an abstract? Something that would require at least a split second for the viewer to recognize as more than an artist’s combination of colors and textures? That approach was particularly tempting when the head was pulled down tight against the body, eliminating the visual cue of an outstretched beak. Ultimately I didn’t carry it quite to that extent, but those moments with the pelican — a co-operative subject, accustomed to humans and intent on fishing — still allowed me to work up an interesting treatment, with a textured backing.Pelican_rev_SMKane