Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 37) – Wildflowers

15 July 2019


Wildflowers; Sally W. Donatello 2019 All Rights Reserved

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this image. Prints are available upon request. 


Another wildflower meadow has been lingering in my mind for years. As a seasoned gardener, my cultivated spaces are a work in-progress. My current gardens are nearing the twenty-year mark. Still, each season is greeted with its own signature intentions.

This year a wildflower garden was created where a tree had been removed, opening a small area to be designed and re-imagined. It is an optimum location to fulfill dreams about wildness.

After preparation of the soil and freely broadcasting native annual and perennial seeds (to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds), bounty appeared. Delicate and seductive flowers now catch the sun and wind, creating portraits and even shadows of themselves.

Neighbors stop to gaze at the burst of pleasure that each flower spreads. It’s a plot of pure visual ecstasy, especially as each week brings new surprises.

The eye moves slowly across the expanse, bringing a quiet moment in a world speeding through time. One can leap from the outside turmoil to inner peace: flowers as small miracles of nature’s healing. 

In the Lens section is a taste of the glorious wild that brings continuous emotional uplift as the summer proceeds through its dance of heat, humidity and storms. This combination has given my gardens nature’s gentle and intense attention, providing for viewers to indulge in spiritual awakening that bears its own inner wildflower meadow.  

The power of one single flower can melt the heart and nourish mind, body and spirit. The power of a meadow dots not only the landscape, but also transports us to a sanctuary of peace and quietude.


National Geographic online Travel Photo Gallery has a slide show of “19 iconic trees [from] around the world.” Compiled and written by Kevin Johnson it has some awe-inspiring photographs. Here is short introduction:

“A visit to historic or meaningful trees provides a sense of connection to the wonder of the natural world. Vital parts of their ecosystems, trees also spark our imagination, inspire famous books, receive worship, and bear witness to history. Spending mindful, intentional time around trees—what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing—can promote health and happiness.”





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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 36) – Mother Nature’s Golden Touch

08 July 2019


White Clay Creek and Nature’a Golden Touch; Sally W. Donatello 2015-2019 All Rights Reserved

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this image. Prints are available upon request. 


When I lift a camera into position, I am transported into another realm. The eye reveals a place that removes me from reality, and yet I gaze into a slice of the outside world. The frame limits or increases my creative decision making. It also unleashes my intuition and a built-in freedom. How can a single mechanism be so freeing and inspirational? And simultaneously seem so limiting?

The ability to use any photographic device to detail aspects of one’s visual environment is to singularly possess a wand that taps the creative process. While some may use today’s technology to snap and share on social media, I am caught in the clutches of stilling a moment and allowing my inner voice to capture the image. For me it is not about sharing, it is the process of discovery and interpretation.

My image making is a personal mission and is not predicated on others to view it. But I have come to realize that as one builds an online community, a circle of similar-minded people are drawn to each other. This community has a mirroring effect to help me see how others see and in turn they do the same with my work. What has always astounded me is how we find each other within the vast realm of cyberspace.

To be inspired through the looking glass is to be uplifted to a space of pure meditation: a quiet and vigorous state of the new and the old in coexistence. The creative process is a nest of possibilities and no matter the camera, it is my own lens that carries me into the unknown and then the known: a soulful coexistence between my inner and outer worlds.

Note: My book group is reading Richard Preston’ s The Hot Zone (1994), which continues to be a well-received early account of Ebola’s leap into the United States. Recently, this nonfiction book was released as a film by the National Geographic channel.

The book is a hard read, terrifying and edifying all at once. But in the last few pages I learned humanity’s role in the release of dangerous and hostile viruses, one of which could easily be the pandemic that erases life as we know it. Here is that passage:

“In a sense, the earth is mounting an immune response against the human species. It’s beginning to react to the human parasite, the flooding infection of people, the death spots of concrete all over the planet, the cancerous rot-outs in Europe, Japan, and the United States, thick with replicating primates, the colonies enlarging and spreading and threatening to shock the biosphere with mass extinctions…Nature has interesting ways of balancing itself. The rain forest has its own defenses. The earth’s immune system, so to speak, recognized the presence of human species and is starting to kick in. The earth is attempting to rid itself of an infection by the human parasite.”

To ignore our role in the earth’s ills is to doom our species. The intersection and results of humanity’s need to conquer and control the planet and the health of the earth is escalating. After reading Preston’s book it is lear that our own evolution (consistently has played and) is continuing to play a major storyline in the earth’s forecast.

Most of my adult years I have believed that nature will bat last. And I continue to believe that Mother nature with her golden touch is the quintessential master of the universe, and will remain to reinvent how she will survive.



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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 35) – Foraging my Inner Garden

01 July 2019


Foraging my Inner Garden; Sally W. Donatello 2019 All Rights Reserved

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this image. Prints are available upon request. 


“When you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the end of June and as the daylight seems to expand during the fully-engaged summer season, I meander through my gardens to forage for the uprising of jubilant flower heads: florets and larger blossoms that bring a gentle breeze of elation through my body and mind.

And so the image in the Lens section is a blend of those discoveries: flowers that I cultivate. As I meander through the wild and tame, I am drawn without a sense of direction. The flowers appear and I succumb to their charisma. My fingers build a small bouquet, which seems to expand in its appeal as the number of flowers are selected: tiny, medium and larger jewels fit into a symbiotic shape: wildflowers from my (teeny) meadow, annuals, perennials, and volunteers (that appear through happenstance).

My arrangement is intuitive, not calculated, and allows beauties to float and mesmerize. To forage and harvest is to maintain a presence in nature’s sanctuary of the season’s abundance, touching the magical elements of the natural world.

If I linger, then immediate memories take shape. When I proceed, the gathering creates a different kind of meaning and remembrance. Both coalesce around the instantaneous awareness that nature can kidnap our spirits, provides a respite from reality, and brings unknown assurance that life will go forward with or without us.

And so the foraging and harvesting blazes a trail through my interior, calming and transporting me to a place of sweet quiet. While the flowers shout with their colors and designs, I am caught in the gaze and the comfort that they exude: how the wild and the tame, at least in my gardens, coexist.


British nature writer Robert Macfarlane’s new book, Underland, A Deep Time Journey, builds upon his reputation as narrator for nature’s mysteries and triumphs. His writing stirs as it informs. The review in The New York Times by Terry Tempest Williams, who is another seasoned and notable nature writer, entices and made me want to want to immediately read this book. Strangely, I am in the midst of re-reading Macfarlane’s early classic, The Wild Places (2007), which describes some of vast and remote places that still existed in the first decade of the millennium. His reverence for nature is evident as he shares connections that he experiences with the natural world. Macfarlane’s new book expands upon his relationship with the natural world and his ability to lyrically and brilliantly share that bond with us.

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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 34) – Magnolia Collage

24 June 2019


Magnolia Photomontage; Copyright © 2019 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this collage. Prints are available upon request. 


Friday the summer solstice swept into emotional view with low humidity, gentle winds and clear cloudless skies. The water table overfloweth, which has my spring garden looking as though it is mid summer.

Since the solstice arrives with a “lengthening” of the day—the longest in a year, the day was awash in a glow that illuminated not only the landscape but my heart. I grabbed the here- and-now and felt the celestial energy running through my veins. The rhythm of the nanoseconds could be felt just as the natural world spread a message of possibilities.

The gardening life does allow for a slip into a safe haven, a sanctuary that rescues time and suspends all negative feelings. Gratitude wings its way through me, how fortunate to have passions to steer my course: a quartet of life savers and life sustainers: nature, photography, reading and writing. Each sits within my core and gives meaning and sustenance at a juncture in history when purpose has become even more necessary.

To define one’s path in a world that seems to be self-destructing gives each of us a chance for personal growth: defining and redefining who we are and what we want and how we will manage to shore our own self and still work towards the greater good. Creating a personal philosophy is a life devoted to experimentation. and self-direction.

To exercise balance in an age of imbalance is a significant challenge. To keep one’s mental energy thriving under “normal” circumstances is tough, but to continue forward in 2019 is painfully tough. Without forgetting we must move onward; without forgetting we must find a way to recognize everyone’s contribution—everyone’s part in the evolution of our republic and universe.

As the solstice signals additional daylight, the inner glow increases. Self-reflection clings to those beams, and creates the belief that humanity will rise to up and slay the dragons of destruction.

Mother Nature and human nature depend on seeing, really seeing what needs to be accomplished in order for time to continue as we know it. As the summer solstice reminds us, time can only continue as long as we recognize its presence.


Posted in Black-and-White Photography, Collage, Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 33) – A Burst of Nature Photomontage

17 June 2019


A Burst of Nature Photomontage; Sally W. Donatello 2019 All Rights Reserved

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request. 


“It is by economy of means that one arrives of simplicity of expression.” Henri Cartier-Breslin


French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s art was defined by his humanist philosophy. An ardent practitioner of black-and-white photojournalism he considered himself “a visual man.” He said: “I watch, watch, watch. I understand things through my eyes (Life, 15 March 1963).” And so this week as I was prancing around my gardens, I was contemplating Cartier-Bresson’s thoughts about how he expressed his artistic vision as “the decisive moment.” His work was the result of the point where the universe conspires to create a unique time when visual forces align and coalesce. 

At first I was going to have a diatribe with myself about how technology historically did not allow the instantaneous capture of an image; when one pushed the shutter button, there was a delay. It took until the twenty-first century to bring that true “decisive moment”
closer to reality. Of course, that catchy phrase means so much more than it appears to mean. Because even in that instant of discovery Cartier-Bresson made choices about light and composition and … 

What the iconic Cartier-Bresson was espousing was not necessarily replication, but the intuitive gesturing of a scene. That moment when you recognize a slice of reality, which ironically is a surrealist idea, and you must still it. The subconscious is accelerated. 

His realization that intuition was a key to creativity and the artistic process resonates loudly with me. And this week as my lush garden continues to evolve, an internal dialogue kept speaking about chance and improvisation as my own approach to the creative process: whether it’s my gardens, living space, photography, or, well, my life.

My mixture of tamed and untamed is bound by intuition and experience and knowledge. But it is also a mixture of the joyful and the serious; it takes commitment, a concentration of effort and work to discover that unique sighting, that essence that grabs one’s full attention to recreate a visual narrative. 

Cartier-Bresson has been an influence and no matter how many times I read his words and view his photographs, I am caught in the still of his captured “decisive moments.” 

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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 32) – Palm Photomontage

10 June 2019


Palm Photomontage, Longwood Gardens; © 2019 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request. 


To avoid melancholy in my written voice I am going to quote an article that uplifts, and sustains that feeling for at least a few inhales and exhales. In yesterday’s Tip column in The New York Times Magazine an article about butterflies and especially monarchs cheered my inner spirit, at least temporarily.

My milkweed plants, which lure the monarchs, are in full bloom. I’m watching anxiously for a sighting of those spritely butterflies. And still I pause, knowing these tiny winged creatures represent resilience and the survival of human intervention.

Here is the entire how-to column from journalist Malia Wollan’s article, “How to Attract Butterflies.” In three paragraphs she provides the reader with pertinent facts and suggestions for action to participate on behalf of the butterfly population. She evokes optimism as the threat for the disappearance of many species continues.

Here is Wollan’s commentary published Sunday, 09 June 2019:

If you plant it, they will come,” says Catherine Werner, sustainability director for the city of St. Louis, Mo., referring to the milkweed on which female monarch butterflies lay their eggs and the resulting caterpillars hatch and feed. Since 2014, Werner has led the Milkweeds for Monarchs program, which now includes a 30-acre pollinator pathway along the Mississippi River and more than 400 milkweed and nectar-flower gardens in backyards, front yards, schoolyards and rooftops across the city.

To appeal to monarchs and other butterflies, plant a nine-square-foot plot in a sunny location with a mix of nectar plants and milkweed, a wildflower. Use at least three different milkweed varieties native to your area (look for regional guides online). “Don’t plant tropical milkweed,” Werner says; it isn’t native and can harbor monarch parasites. And to avoid disrupting the reproductive cycle of Western monarchs, don’t plant any kind of milkweed if you live within five miles of the California coast.

Old-timers in St. Louis remember the sky being darkened by delicate orange and black wings. In more recent decades, though, the number of monarchs has plummeted by some 80 percent in the East and 99 percent in the West. Next year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is expected to decide whether to include the butterfly on the endangered species list. Entomologists think the decline in the Eastern monarch population, which flies through St. Louis on its annual migration thousands of miles from Mexico to Canada and back again, may be due in part to farmers’ in the Midwest increasingly planting herbicide-tolerant corn and soybeans. The herbicides sprayed on these crops kill milkweed in agricultural regions, where female butterflies are especially prone to lay their eggs. “Don’t use pesticides or any other chemicals if you’re trying to attract butterflies,” Werner says.

With as few as nine plants and an hour or so of spadework, you can grow a sanctuary. Werner planted milkweed plots in both her front yard and backyard; she recently counted more than 30 monarchs flying by the city’s Gateway Arch in just five minutes; someone snapped photos of a monarch caterpillar on milkweed in front of city hall; and the number of butterfly gardens is already about double the program’s goal. “You can make a real difference for these ethereal creatures,” she says.

 In the Lens section is my weekly image: Palm Photomontage, Longwood Gardens. It seemed an apt composite to emphasize that changes in the environment and weather are not black-and-white issues. Effects are incremental and increasing.

While there are layers and layers of catastrophic problems, there also are multiple solutions. And some that you and I can do immediately: eliminate use of chemicals inside and out, plant natives flowering plants, reduce consumption and waste, recycle, and cultivate habitats for wildlife. Regardless of the season of the year where you live, these are ways to protect and preserve some of the earth’s resources. It also elevates my mood to do something, anything that might help.

I hope that Wollan’s suggestions prompt you to plant milkweed that lures monarchs and other butterflies. The plant acts as a host and is a source to keep their life cycle ongoing.

I also hope that you take a small or giant step to help secure the future of Mother Earth. And, yes, spread the word.

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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 31) – Japanese Flowering Dogwood at Longwood Gardens

03 June 2019


Japanese Flowering Dogwood, Longwood Gardens; © 2019 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this image. Prints are available upon request. 


In my part of the universe spring has been lush. This means that senses are on high alert. And each is challenged to be aware and present to emote this season’s gifts.

Truly, it seems changes are moving quicker than one can absorb the grandeur. Sights, sounds, aromas increase as I breathe the day’s arrival. And the pledge to awaken not only the landscape but our immersion into its rejuvenation is realized.

As a steward of the land, my days are driven by hands in the soil and a vision of my small part of the landscape. Daily I cradle tools to care and maintain the appearance of habitats created by me and are meant to encourage wildlife. But sometimes it takes another hint or view to stir my own “green” creative process.

Yesterday I took myself to Longwood Gardens to spy on this month’s rebirth and the newly planted. The staff at Longwood Gardens was out caring for the beds, solving problems and answering questions from the scores of plant lovers. As gardeners know, the work is ongoing no matter how small or expansive one’s charge.

I am cheered by the crowds who are drawn to this world-renowned horticultural center. Some come daily to stroll the grounds. Others will attend a few times a year, enjoying annual events or seasonal offerings. Since I live about an hour’s drive from this national treasure, I can go at a whim. No matter my mood, these gardens provide an inner glow–an inner glow that acts as meditation and salvation.

On this particular visit my attention was steered by early spring trees that are in full bloom. Longwood’s collection of aged are magnificent, graceful in their years. Some jewels of spring’s flowering are short lived, and others linger.

In the Lens section is a sample of the eloquence that can be expressed by tree’s seasonal performance. This Japanese Flowering Dogwood has such visual punch that I lingered, trying to appreciate every angle of the mature tree.

I perceive trees as spiritual wings of nature, lithe spirits that wager a promise to continue their earthly duties. Trees are networks of the natural world and their persistent messages echo to me: honor and revere and trust in their gifts. We must listen to them to sustain our planet and our own existence. Coexistence is one key.

What is part of the emotional lift in these visits is the scores of others that come to see nature in the raw, even as the displays and grounds are cultivated. And while I do not need inspiration for my reverence for Mother Nature, I leave these gardens newly awed by a discovery, sightings or thoughts.

Nature gives abundance to my days. And Longwood Gardens is a testament to the need humans have to carry the torch for the natural world. 


Yesterday The New York Times Book Review had its summer reading issue. Among the gems were suggestions about gardening and nature by Dominique Browning. From her list I selected this one to recommend. It’s the third publication in Peter Wohlleben’s series about the “mysteries of nature.”

Browning describes this final edition of Wohlleben’s trilogy:

THE SECRET WISDOM OF NATURE: Trees, Animals, and the Extraordinary Balance of All Living Things (Greystone, $24.95).

“Here we read about the relationship between trees and fish, and how wolves and ravens share meat because the ravens keep watch for marauding bears. Wohlleben shares the story of a crow that thanked him for bird seed by leaving gifts on a fence rail. On the question of bird migration — are birds genetically (mechanistically) programmed for certain routes or do they learn from older birds? — Wohlleben reports on cranes that appear to decide collectively to alter their routes depending on the availability of food and breeding grounds. By the end of the book, it’s clear that it’s we humans who are extraordinary, in ways awful and awesome, dominating and exploiting the natural world, ceaselessly, ruthlessly, with little sense that we’re imperiling ourselves and the generations to come.”


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