IN NY: HIGH LINE

Last week I was back in New York, the city I fell in love with at the age of five, moved to at age seventeen, then left and returned to several times before moving west in 2012.

When I was in my early twenties I kept a bike in my apartment. I would ride around lower Manhattan on the weekends before my shift at an uptown restaurant, where I waited tables. For a few summers wildflowers grew in profusion on the empty lots that were the future site of the World Trade Center, then just in the planning stages. I could pick flowers for free and bring them back to my apartment. I was always trying to meld city and country. Sometimes I got up onto the High Line, too. The High Line was an old elevated railway on the West side that had been abandoned years before. Wildflowers grew there, and small trees sprouted up through the rubble, totally untended and mostly unseen. It was magic.

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This photo was taken just last week but it evokes the feeling of the old High Line, minus the broken glass and trash. The elevated rail line was used to haul in basic foods like cream, butter and meat back in the 1940’s and 50’s. For a time, it was safer than running trains down on the busy streets. When the trucking industry expanded, the rail line fell into disuse. Instead of tearing down what many people considered an eyesore, the city did the right thing and turned it into a park. It opened in 2009 and became an instant hit with New Yorkers and tourists.

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Above, the park seen from the Whitney Museum. Last year the Whitney moved into a new building designed by Renzo Piano. The building’s hulking, muscular form visually anchors the south end of the High Line. Piano’s design allows visitors to descend from floor to floor outside the building, offering expansive views of the Hudson River waterfront, Manhattan’s West Side, and the High Line. There are nice people-watching opportunities too, if you’re in a sociable mood. I was happy for the crowds that day. I enjoyed the huge portrait show at the Whitney – Seattle doesn’t come close to what New York offers in terms of art. I also liked a Whitney show of work by June Leaf, an older artist who’s not very well known. A gallery nearby had a concurrent show of her sculpture and drawing so we headed over. We passed shows of Sigmar Polke’s painting at David Zwirner Gallery and Richard Serra’s sculpture at Gagosian. We took long drinks at the deep well that is art in New York City. It was a day of serendipity, as one thing led to the next.

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Back on the street next to Whitney, looking up towards the High Line. As you walk north or south through the park, essentially a narrow strip of real estate set with tasteful benches and beautifully landscaped with (mostly) native flowers and trees, you can pass under buildings, peer into windows and gaze down onto streets that cross underneath. You’re just above the fray. It’s enough to gain a different perspective, but not so far above that it isn’t still real, and close.

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If you’re interested, that’s Baptisia in the right corner and Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon) sprouting up through concrete strips that echo the railroad tracks. The pink and blue flowers above are Salvia pratensis (Meadow sage). The metal hoops between the rails are a sculpture called “Steel Rings” that references the Trans-Arabian pipeline, by Rayyane Tabet.

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Tony Matelli’s painted bronze sculpture “Sleepwalker” draws crowds.

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Someone has written “FELIX” on these construction plates. Why, I don’t know. It’s just another manifestation of identity in a city that always strives upwards.

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Frank Gehry’s IAC Building, his first in New York, and one of my favorite sites along the High Line. I love viewing it through these honeysuckle vines winding up a fence, but I understand that may not appeal to everyone.

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DID YOU KNOW that the elevated railroad was built because trains on tracks running down Tenth Avenue caused the deaths of many pedestrians? DID YOU KNOW that “West Side Cowboys” ran ahead of the trains on their horses, carrying red flags to warn passers by of the oncoming train? Eventually the city decided enough was enough and built the elevated line. It fell out of favor when trucking got big. It was considered an eyesore for years, but now lives anew, as one of New York’s big attractions.

The links are excellent – worth a few minutes!

Lynn Purse, of the blog Composerinthegarden, sent a great video link about the making of the High Line:

I made liberal use of some of the so-called art filters on my Olympus camera the day we went to the Whitney and High Line. It was overcast and dull out. The filters added a little punch. I go back and forth about using them, sometimes believing I should stick with images straight from the camera without in-camera modifications that I might later regret (but it’s always good to question one’s “shoulds”).

Two days earlier, I met up with another blogger, Patti Kuche. We sat down in the Rubin Museum and talked a blue streak about photography and blogging. Patti picked up my camera and casually took a few photos from where we sat, using the filters – she knew about them because she had once considered getting the camera.  I liked what she did, and that was all I needed to go back to trying them again. Coming soon: Patti’s photos and thoughts about bloggers’ meetings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images of Spring

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WHERE TO START? How about this closeup of a Camas blossom in a park outside of Seattle? The park used to be a golf club, and efforts are being made to slowly return the landscape to native habitat. Hence the recently planted Camassia quamash, a local meadow flower that grew in such profusion centuries ago, that Lewis and Clark are said to have remarked that the flowers gave the appearance of a lake in the distance. An important food source, the bulbs were gathered and eaten by indigenous people, and like many native plants it has suffered from habitat destruction. Now it’s often seen in perennial gardens.

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At the other end of the flowers-that-gain-our-respect spectrum are dandelions. The first crop has gone to seed, presenting macro photography opportunities. This one wore a glittering skirt of morning dew:

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This pretty little bud is another native that’s been planted here and there in the park, the Western Columbine, or Aquilegia formosa. You may have seen it in gardens:

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Squatting down in the wet grass and peering through it, as if you were a mouse, brings rewards. So does looking up.

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This is our native Vine maple, Acer circinatum, a slight tree with delicate branches and many-lobed leaves. Maples have tiny flowers in Spring – here, they make shadow play on the new leaves. Huge old willows in the park have taken a beating over the years, but the dead branches are left for the wildlife.

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Time to stroll along the willow-draped boardwalk to the water –

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On lake Washington, which hooks around to form a sheltered bay here at Juanita Bay Park, the water lily leaves have grown large enough to provide a resting spot for a weary frog, but aren’t quite big enough yet for the little Pied-billed Grebes, which will soon build nests on and among the lily pads.

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A pair of Wood Ducks, which nest in trees, scoots across the water. By this time the sun is glaring on the water and without a long lens, I can barely get a usable image. But you get the idea – they are eye-popping birds!

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As a pair of Bald eagles looks on from their post atop an empty osprey nest platform, a Mallard mother shepherds her little entourage of ten ducklings across the bay. She passes directly underneath them, but they’re uninterested in the foraging family.

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The abundant Western Painted turtles are safe from most predators and have reappeared on logs across the bay after spending winter in the mud. It’s very amusing when a heavier fellow climbs on board and the whole crew has to grab tight as the log starts to roll. Plop, plop, splash, as they fall in…

(Google log-rolling turtles and you’ll see some funny videos).

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After the walking and bending and all, it felt good to flop down on a bench and, legs splayed, lean back into the sun…

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In a few days I’m off to New York. It’s been over three years since I’ve been back and I feel out of touch. I’m looking forward to being around familiar places, sounds, smells (?), and people. But I’m kicking myself just a bit for leaving at the height of Spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Feeling

InSpring: that feeling.

And how do I

express, convey, record, or transmute it?

Because it pervades, it’s the air, it’s

heavy lilac scent and a

rabbit disappearing

under a hedge, it is birdsong, breeze-on-cheek

and buttercups,

wild-seeded on the margins.

We feel it underneath the

blessing of leafed-out branches,

light

suffusing through the veins,

and neurons…

throughout.

I can try.

 

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Photographed at Bellevue Botanical Garden, 04/22/2016

PUSHED

At Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the flower sellers are a major attraction. Photographing the seasonal bouquets is almost as popular as buying them – maybe more so. The colors are delicious, but what interests me even more than the displays is what’s behind the scenes. The long row of market stalls backs up onto Pike Place, where they are open to the street. Workers often pull heavy plastic tarps down between the flower-crammed work tables and the old brick street. Buckets of flowers get pushed up against the tarp, flattening some of the blooms into two dimensional compositions. Seen from the street, through the scratched scrim of worn plastic tarps, the bouquets take on a whole different look.

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There I am on the brick street outside the market, wading through the debris from the flower stalls. In heaven.

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Behind the scenes – market interior on the right, street to the left.

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Inside the market, long rows of gorgeous locally grown flowers, and happy customers.

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Parting shot

The photos were taken with my older model Samsung phone and processed in Lightroom. I was near Pike Place for a conference that day and I didn’t have my camera, but the phone did the trick.

other views

Spring isn’t all a cherry blossom delight….

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A pond at a public garden, choked with a heavy bloom of algae. Too shallow and still to support much life other than the algae, and littered with old leaves, it actually made me want to avert my eyes. The balance was off – there was probably insufficient oxygen to support a healthy mix of species. I used to garden for a living and I don’t like to see gardens neglected.

Still, there was beauty there, with the branches of a Japanese maple bending gracefully to the muddy water.  I took a photograph, and later I exaggerated the softness to make it all about the drifting colors.

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Bruised, fallen Magnolia petals mingle with last year’s dead leaves – beauty  underfoot.

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Also seen at the garden, intricate textures on the surface of a granite boulder. Instead of Spring’s pretty pastels, the boulder contained a subtly colored miniature map, almost like a view from space.

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A clutch of tiny maple flowers glows deep crimson against lime green leaves. Looking up and peering very closely, odd bits of stamens and petals come into focus.

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A Japanese maple’s dusky, thread-like new leaves stretch tentatively into the air.

 

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Another view of the pond where fish don’t swim, frogs don’t vocalize and ducks won’t paddle. It has a beauty of its own.

 

Photos taken at Kubota Gardens in Seattle.

UNDENIABLE

The urge to get outside, to create, to look in wonder and enter into the season – it’s undeniable.

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From the bottom,

Crab apple blossoms, Maidenhair fern, a pine cone, a Magnolia branch in flower, A Magnolia bloom, fallen Magnolia flower petals, maple twigs with their dangling flower parts, more Maidenhair ferns in black and white, last year’s Magnolia leaf, chewed by insects, and the long, elegant needles of the Montezuma pine. All were seen Friday at Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, Washington.

Note on processing:

I procrastinated about buying the excellent Nik Silver Efex program for converting color photos to black and white. It was just as well because last week, the program became free to all, along with several other Nik programs for digital processing. I’m just getting the hang of it and I expect I’ll find the suite of programs very useful. The first photo, of a pine bough, takes a bright, sunshiny image to a dark place, thanks to the Color Efex program; the second photo’s creaminess was exaggerated with that program’s settings, too.  Sometimes though, it’s best to leave well enough alone – the final photo has only very minor tweaks in Lightroom.

All photos taken with an OM D-1 with Olympus 60mm f 2.8 macro lens. Yes, I brought other lenses, but I only had two hours. Changing lenses takes time, to switch out the lens and to reboot your eyes to the new lens. Besides, I just love this lens.

Next some near-abstract images, also derived from outdoor shots. Coming soon…

Spring being…

…the deep, ragged

edge

between solstice seasons, where

light

changes quickly, it carries us

forward

on cool, stuttering

breaths.

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Photographs taken at Kruckeberg Botanic Gardens in Shoreline, Washington, just outside of Seattle. The garden is a small local treasure. Originally the home and garden of Art Kruckeberg and his family, this deeply shaded spot in a residential neighborhood is now a mature public garden. Dr. Kruckeberg taught Botany at the University of Washington, and  with his wife Maureen, was active in local botanical groups. The couple collected plants that feel right at home in the Pacific Northwest, blending seamlessly with native species. Though set with exotic trees from Asia and other unusual specimens, the garden retains a natural woodland feel.

An early outgrowth of Kruckeberg Botanic Garden was the MsK Rare Plant Nursery, a rambling collection of cuttings, seedlings and plants that keeps the garden supplied continuously with new material and offers area enthusiasts locally grown natives and exotics. Set on a steep hillside, the four acre site’s winding paths slow you down and invite closer looks. Not a place for grand vistas, it is an intimate, quiet experience.

In the midst of a very busy week I was able to squeeze a restorative hour at the Kruckeberg into my schedule last week. Surrounded by green on all sides, I felt my shoulders drop as my breathing slowed and tension subsided – a welcome respite. Sun filtered down through immense trees, highlighting a patch of tiny cyclamens on the ground here, and budding branches above there. Only a few other visitors were around, and a gardener or two. Joy made a small clearing amidst the day’s worries.

SERRA at LACMA

LACMA, or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has a huge space devoted to a powerful sculpture by Richard Serra. I love Serra’s cor-ten steel pieces. They pull you in and push you away, and cannot be ignored. I remember the intense controversy in New York  after his “Tilted Arc” was installed at a plaza in front of a Federal office building, in lower Manhattan. It was 1981, Serra was a well respected artist, and he made a huge statement with “Tilted Arc.” It had a looming presence as it cut sharply across the open space. It wasn’t polite. Being near the work changed the way you felt, throughout your body.

It’s hard to describe the sensation of these pieces, but they can make you tingle, they can throw you off balance, they can draw you in or push you away, and yes, they can make people angry. Some people hated that piece, and after years of litigation and controversy, it was removed.

That fate seems unlikely for the Serra at LACMA.

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Serra had been asked to make the New York piece for that specific location so removal meant not only a loss to the plaza (at least in my view) but a loss for the sculpture, too, as it lost its context.

As he said, “Site-specific works are determined by the topography of the site, whether it is urban, landscape or architectural enclosure. My works become part of and are built into the structure of the site, and often restructure, both conceptually and perceptually, the organization of the site… I am interested in a behavioral space in which the viewer interacts with the sculpture in its context…”

The Los Angeles sculpture, called Band is immense, resting and flowing like a giant orange whale on the concrete floor, soaring twelve feet over your head, offering openings, sheltering spaces, and broad expanses of gentle curves to wend your way around.

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Serra was already a well respected artist when Tilted Arc was installed in New York, and feelings ran high on both sides of the controversy the sculpture engendered. The artist said that removing it would destroy the work, since it was built for the site. Local employees didn’t like the way the sculpture interrupted their habitual paths across the plaza. It was a clash of cultures, with art world stars at one end and government employees at the other. There was a trial and a public hearing. And finally the huge sculpture was removed in 1989.

Tilted Arc remains in storage. Serra doesn’t want it erected anywhere other than on the site it was designed for. Our loss.

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My camera was as overwhelmed as I was the day I experienced “Band” at the museum in Los Angeles. The camera wouldn’t focus. I grabbed my phone is frustration, because I really wanted to bring home a piece of this experience. Later, I got the camera to work.

But I really like the blurred photos. I’m posting both here, so you might feel a little of the disorientation that a good Serra sculpture creates.

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I’m sorry I didn’t take more photos, photos of the kids and adults playing in and out of the curves, photos from every angle, from near and far. But I remember the feeling of being next to it, walking along it, soaking in the strange mix of benevolence and power that it conveys. A good memory.

 

L.A.

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Ah, how exciting to soak up sun and stylishness in Los Angeles, if only for a long weekend…

…and that’s what we did.

Above, some random impressions, mostly from Hollywood and environs.

  1. Home in Hollywood Heights
  2. Canter’s – (“L.A’s Best Since 1931”) I cannot say enough about how happy I was to buy goodies here. Canter’s is a balm for the soul of someone who achieved adulthood with the help of New York Jewish delis.
  3. Lunch at the Paramount Coffee Project (“Australia’s Hippest Coffee”) on Fairfax. I recommend the Dirty Bird (check out this menu!). And of course, there’s a place for pooch!
  4. Sunglasses, a must
  5. Look up!
  6. Sunday evening espresso at Verve Coffee on Melrose in West Hollywood – SERIOUS coffee!
  7. Iced espresso at the Paramount Coffee Project
  8. The door to the tiny courtyard at our little airbnb in Hollywood Heights
  9. Help Wanted sign, Canter’s
  10. More local architecture, with typical palm and cactus landscaping
  11. Island Fresh, Caribbean seafood restaurant in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood. I wish we’d had time to stop!
  12. Seems about right for L.A.
  13. Recycled San Francisco patrol car – and they found a parking spot!
  14. Vintage duds at the Fairfax Flea Market – a great way to spend Sunday morning
  15. A Bird of Paradise bloom in someone’s garden (using an in-camera effect)
  16. The view from Hollywood Heights
  17. LACMA architecture (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
  18. Full moon with palms over the city

Last, setting up for the Oscars. The statues were getting their golden glitz treatment in a lot behind the Dolby Theater. We were en route to grab an espresso on our way to the airport but the street was closed and there was no place to park and run over.But we did pull off briefly to grab a few shots of the behind the scenes prep for Hollywood’s favorite event.

But more important – what about my double espresso?? There was nothing else nearby other than Starbucks, so I took my chances that at least one genuine independent coffee purveyor would be located at the airport. Yes, but what a walk – all the way from terminal five to terminal six at LAX – whatever works – it did the trick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN SPRING…

Haru wa hana
Natsu hototogisu
Aki wa tsuki
Fuyu yuki kiede

In the spring, cherry blossoms,

In the summer the cuckoo,

In autumn the moon, and in

winter the snow, clear, cold.

 

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Verse from:

The Zen Poetry of DOGEN
Verses from the
Mountain of Eternal Peace
STEVEN HEINE
Tuttle Publishing. Boston. 1997

Photos taken on a windy day in Kirkland, Washington.

Olympus OM-D EM1

Olympus Zuiko 60 f2.8 mm macro lens; at f2.8 – f9, iso 200, 1/1250 –  1/13 sec. (longer shutter speed for intentional blurring on last image). Processed in Lightroom.