Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Nature (Chrysanthemum Festival at Longwood Gardens)

01 December 2014


1. Reflections, Chrysanthemum Festival,, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

1. Reflections, Chrysanthemum Festival,, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Reflections, Chrysanthemum Festival, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Reflections, Chrysanthemum Festival, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

1. Chrysanthemum, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

3. Single/Semi-Double Chrysanthemum, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

4. White Chrysanthemum Display,  Chrysanthemum Festival, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

4. White Chrysanthemum Display, Chrysanthemum Festival, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

5. Double Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

5. Double Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Longwood Gardens; Copyright © 2014 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

Let me know which you prefer and why. Click on each image to enlarge.


Last week was the finale of the annual Chrysanthemum Festival at Longwood Gardens. As many of you know, it is one of the premier horticultural centers in the United States, and I am blessed to have it within an hour’s drive to the north. Without a doubt this year’s autumnal celebration of the chrysanthemum exceeded previous exhibitions.

The staff at the gardens labored over a year creating, cultivating and training these gems of nature. Chrysanthemums have never been a flower that I covet. A small perennial variety has been a mainstay in my gardens, but that’s the extent of it. They’ve never truly wooed me. But I’ve been converted.

The strength of this year’s imaginative displays was its emphasis on training single stems to perform magical feats of artistry. Pockets of variously decorated containers rivaled any other floral celebration of this strangely fascinating flower.

The entire Conservatory was transformed with mums of single, semi-double and double blooms. Trained single-stemmed clusters in tiers or a ten-foot tall chandelier filled to capacity, or a 1,000-bloom arrangement (the largest outside of Asia) stunned with simplicity. While that might seem the wrong descriptor, the mums were trained to give the viewer variations on the theme that did not overwhelm. Even in the huge displays each flower could fulfill its duty.

Truly, each exhibit honored their exquisite and traditional characteristics. And most of the exhibits were single flowers that gave the attention needed to savor their qualities.

While the outdoors was being readied for the Gardens’ Christmas seasonal decorations of greens and lights, this indoor floral festival built dreams of possibilities for amateur and professional gardeners. While you cannot train a “normal” mum to do these feats of fancy, you can order special varieties and learn techniques to propagate and train them.

The Conservatory was lined in various variety of mums. All were attention-seeking containers with the large (almost) contradictory minimalist-seeming arrangements that captured most of my time. The entire space held 16,000 chrysanthemums, and it seemed far less. Most of the spatial planes were covered in yellows and whites, but the displays made it ever so easy to appreciate each variation’s colors.

It was a master plan that worked very well indeed. Sometime horticultural celebrations are so overstuffed with plants that you become visually saturated. This exhibition was just the right balance.

The festival honors the founder Pierre S. du Pont, who planted the Conservatory with mums in 1921. To be sure du Pont would have been pleased with this year’s presentations of Asia’s imperial flower that struts its Japanese influence. If you missed it, do try to attend next year.

In the Lens section are five images from the day’s adventure–an adventure whose day was so cold, it made the indoor experience a double joy. As I gazed at arrangements and plantings, one of the signs reminded that the chrysanthemum’s family tree dates back 3,500 years. To stand in their grace was to honor their interconnection between nature and human nature. The festival fulfilled its mission.

Of the day’s discoveries my favorite chrysanthemum can be seen in photograph 3#, the single, semi-double flower. The original was a soft yellow. But I knew from my initial impression that I wanted to record in monochrome its efforts to conceal (which is typical for this variety) itself. Of the many, many blooms that I spied this particular one had a special presence. It was trying so hard to keep some of its life hidden, and yet also to divulge some of its outward sparkle. I fell in love. It seemed to mirror the human condition, which was appropriate in a festival that brought together imaginative and skillful gardeners with the quiet eloquence of the chrysanthemum.

Tip of the Week: During seasonal changes I am reminded of swings in the weather. Not just the shift in temps, but those wild elements that accompany summer, fall, winter, and spring. Last week we had a fierce wind storm, which came with ice and rain. As I was searching for a photographer to introduce, I thought that I’d peruse the Internet for an artist who sought those outrageous elements. Nature photographer Bruce Omori is the owner of Extreme Exposures Fine Art Gallery in Hilo, Hawaii. His photograph “Volcanic Vortices”received the top prize in the 2013 Windland Smith Rice International Award. His work was selected from almost 20,000 submissions from photographers in 46 countries.

Bruce Omori, Volcanic Vortices

Bruce Omori, Volcanic Vortices

Omori describes how he captured the vortices: “On an early morning shoot at the Waikupanaha ocean entry, lava from the Kilauea volcano poured into the sea. This created a huge escape of steam, and as it rose, multiple vortices began spinning off of the huge plume.  A vortex or two is a pretty rare sight—but when one after another kept forming, my fumbling with the lenses turned into a panicked rush to switch my telephoto to wide-angle lens to capture this awesome scene of seven vortices in a row.”

His work honors the violent and yet magnificent splendor of Mother Nature. To view more of his photographs click here and enjoy the results of his photographic adventures.

View other entries for this week’s challenge:


As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog.

If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature.

2nd Monday: Macro.

3rd Monday: Black and White.

4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Gardens and Gardening, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

91 Responses to Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Nature (Chrysanthemum Festival at Longwood Gardens)

  1. beautiful gardens- very Italian looking! ( or French) I love # 1 best. thanks for the bit of history on it!

  2. restlessjo says:

    Love the subtle golden tones of 2, Sally 🙂

  3. Madhu says:

    Oh that first glorious shot without a doubt Sally!! Love the stunning reflections and all the little details.

  4. prior says:

    Hi Sally – it was very very hard to select a fav – but then once I did I was sure it was the right one… and for me – #4 – especially after clicking the larger version. the White Chrysanthemum Display had that wavy line in the foreground right – and stood beautiful as-is – but it only is half the experience because the background is rich and the lines, structure, and decor gave harmonious contrast (well I think that is what it felt like…) 😉

    and I noticed that most of the readers have chosen the third one, but that was last for me – funny how we are all so different – and with the variety you gave = well – something for all!
    oh and Omori sounds very interesting – I also enjoyed your succinct highlight of such a cool photographer. 🙂

  5. Su Leslie says:

    I so love your shot of the single chrysanthemum; just gorgeous. Here’s my floral contribution

  6. Like a beautiful magical dream…
    Wishing you and your family all the joy and blessings of the holidays.

  7. Ulli says:

    I love the first pic, its like looking into a fairytales world … but nevertheless, they are all beautifull
    all the best to you

  8. Sweet as a Picture says:

    What an interesting festival. I especially like #3 and 5. I love the subject in bw and the angle of the shot.

  9. S. says:

    Sally, just wanted to let you know that your reflections, photography is stunning, it reminds me of the quiet places protagonist go that is followed up by the big emotional scene in movies.

  10. The first one takes your breath away….beautiful art my friend.

  11. MJF Images says:

    Great one! I absolutely love getting up close to active lava flows. Those vortices make a deep rumbling sound, sort of like the air is shearing above your head.

  12. Hi Sally – the first image entitled ‘reflections’ is my favorite. It has an ethereal, other worldly and serene feeling to it. The closeups of the Chrysanthemums, especially the white single/semi double, are amazing – who couldn’t love such intricacy and beauty. Longwood gardens looks exceptional. By the way – I’m glad you appreciated and commented about my recent post with Charles Brandt on Land as Sacred Commons – if I may take liberty for other of your readers… Peace and best regards, Sally 🙂 Bruce

  13. Oh that Chrysanthemum! Lovely Sally, and it sounds like a really beautiful place, you must have had a fabulous time! 🙂

  14. The first shot made me want to walk inside it, breathe the moist air, and just sit. I especially like the way you’ve emphasized depth. Please. Tell me how you manipulated the image to create that effect. It’s fabulous.
    As for Omori’s photo of Kilauea … photos can hardly capture that amazing volcano’s life. And I’ve seen several (and yes, I like this one too). I’ve watched Kilauea pouring into the sea on a full moon night, fire pouring from the mouth of a lava tube, roiling into the surf, chunks of fire breaking off to roll with the waves. It was, well, I can imagine you can imagine what it was like. The best I can do is describe. The rest literally could take your breath away, except a wind blew in across the ocean and cooled our faces and our lungs.

    • Janet, how fortunate to be able to witness such a natural event: a volcano and its powerful displays. I did not any editing on that first image, except for minor adjustments. Maybe it was the distance at which I captured the scene. Thanks so much.

  15. Lignum Draco says:

    It sounds like a wonderful event. They are all good, but #3 really appeals for it’s simplicity and beauty.

  16. All lovely images, but my favourite is the Single/Semi-Double Chrysanthemum. Such delicate tones and subtle colours. It feels like it’s made of silk.

  17. Angeline M says:

    Good Tuesday morning, Sally. Good to be back, and I love your post on nature here. I am in love with the first photo with the reflections in the windows in the background as well as in the foreground; it looks somehow Victorian to me. I was working on my entry before I fully read your post, and see that I was thinking along your lines of the swings in weather 🙂

  18. I do love the reflection shot of #1, I have always wanted to take one of those but I LOVE photo #3! I have love artistic angles and macro type shots, plus the contrast of the background and the flower….Beautiful!

  19. Great photos, Sally! My favorite is the first one with all of those beautiful reflections in the glass, in the pool, etc. Reflections within reflections! My second favorite is your third one. I love the captured delicate beauty. Here is my simple contribution:

  20. I like # 5 because of the colors.

  21. # 3 is pretty special. The striking contrast and the sharp illumination on the petals. Did you apply any filters on that one, Sally? But I also liked the colouration of the first photo.
    We have had storms this week, so I am here with this entry:

  22. Suzanne says:

    I love the 3rd one – such a delicate form in a very strong composition. Here’s my contribution to the challenge

  23. wildsherkin says:

    Your #3 image is simply stunning. It’s so balletic and graceful – almost like a dancer caught in time. Really beautiful!

  24. Beautiful collections!!!

  25. Hopeje says:

    I love Number 3, it s so graceful, so delicate and yet so powerful.

  26. #3 is my favorite individual shot, Sally but after reading your beautiful description of the festival I really enjoyed revisiting the other images and thinking about what it must have felt like standing among so many flowers and plants.

  27. Maria F. says:

    I like all. I’ve been looking for a tripod holder for my iPhone 6+ but it seems to be a hard-to-find product.

    • I’ll check with my camera store. I need to see what they have for the 6, and I can ask what’s available for your iPhone. Will try to go by Friday, maybe even tomorrow.

    • Maria, I just came from the camera store. There is a Pro Master holder/product that you can place the iPhone into it, and use it with your regular tripod. It’s $14.99. I suggest that you check with a local camera store or on the Internet. I am truly pleased with it.

  28. The Third one looks like a swan. I never knew chrysanthemums could be so elegant! thanks.

  29. cindy knoke says:

    Those first two just knock my socks off! Exquisite. Magical.

  30. Great photos. My favourite is the third one. 😀

  31. nalinki says:

    yeah, it’s Monday again 🙂 I especially love your first two pictures. The reflections are amazing. Number 3, the white blossom is also stunning. I decided to go for some snow this week:


    I’m usually all for macro and flower close-ups, and these are truly beautiful, but here a clear favourite is #1. It just tells so many stories to me personally. It has something very comforting and disturbing at the same time, something very lush and blooming and yet not forever, the greenery and the architecture in a forced embrace… Stunning.

  33. These are awesome. It’s hard to pick a favorite but I do love the reflections in the first image.

  34. LavendarLadi says:

    This week I really can’t just pick one. They are all stunning!!

  35. Dina says:

    Lots of nice images, the reflections are gorgeous but I think I’d go for number 3 if I’d frame one. Lovely work, Sally. Have a happy week!

  36. Amy says:

    My fave is the last one, Sally. I like the color and the beautiful petals. Great capture of the water reflections. I will work on my pics (with my new i-6+) this evening and should be able to have it up tomorrow morning. 🙂

  37. Sally, I fell in love with the first reflection shot and then fell in love again with last beautiful flower. I like the shapes and feel of the first and both of them are beautiful!

    Rather brisk walk this morning with temperatures at about 7 with wind chill. Have a blessed week.


  38. Nato says:

    For me it is a tie between the #1 and #3. I find each of them powerful in graceful ways. The lighting and framing is just perfect! Here is my nature submission for this week:

  39. pattimoed says:

    Hi Sally!
    What gorgeous shots! I had no idea there were so many varieties of chrysanthemums. My favorite shot is #3 as well. The texture and lighting are gorgeous. You also shot it from a unique angle. You’ve inspired me to visit our local gardens to see the mum collection–which up to this point I’ve never seen.

    • Patti, that’s terrific. As I mentioned in the post, I’ve never been a fan of the chrysanthemum, but I’ve been converted. After you visit your local gardens, let me know about the collection and your reactions. Thanks so much.

  40. Helen C says:

    #3 is my favorite, It takes my breath away. It’s like an angel. I can look (stare) at it whole day long. #5 is my second. Beautiful color and composition. Thanks for sharing. Helen

  41. coolquilting says:

    The reflections are stunning. My favorite photograph is the third one…the semi-double flower in black and white- such an interesting angle you chose to photograph it.

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