Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 51) Bamboo Sculpture at Longwood Gardens

18 November 2019


Ikebana Bamboo Collage; All Rights Reserved 2019 Sally W. Donatello

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


My days are made more bountiful when I can combine what allows me to be in a conscious state of bliss: combining art and nature. When they are paired, there is a symbiosis that magically and mystically acts for me as a meditative state. I am able to be with my surroundings and completely eliminate outside influences. It’s a state of flow and tranquility, almost contentment.

And that’s exactly where I found myself this past week: wrapped in a glorious exhibition at Longwood Gardens. The month-long display titled Blooms & Bamboo: Chrysanthemum and Ikebana Sogetsu Artistry, ended yesterday. Truly, it was one of the most extraordinary visual celebrations of art and nature. I was hypnotized by the manipulation and design that the created.

Here is a description from the Gardens website: “[The exhibition was] … designed for Longwood by Headmaster of Sogetsu Iemoto Akane Teshigahara of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana. The traditional art of Japanese floral design, Ikebana serves as an expression of Japan’s deep connection with nature. Spanning more than 600 years of history, this art features hundreds of different Ikebana schools, each developing its own forms that depict the ideal of beauty and grace. One of the most modern of such schools, the Sogetsu School of Ikebana focuses on free expression and is based on the view that Ikebana is a way for human beings to express themselves. Teshigahara shares, ‘Although I have created bamboo installations in a variety of styles in Japan and around the world for more than 20 years, the two installations at Longwood will be the greatest and finest of all, both in terms of scale and bamboo-manipulation techniques.’ The display is rounded out with 23 Ikebana arrangements throughout the Conservatory, as well as a visionary sculpture created by the founder of the Sogetsu School. In support of Teshigahara’s designs, 635 pieces of 26-foot-long bamboo poles were delivered to Longwood last month, representing Japanese timber bamboo, or madake (Phyllostachys bambusoides), and Meyer’s bamboo (Phyllostachys meyeri) of 4-inch and 2.5-inch diameters, respectively. These massive poles of bamboo were harvested from a specialty nursery and landscaping company with well-established groves in Georgia.”

In the Lens section is a collage that captures some of the magnificence of Teshigahara’s masterpiece. I cannot express the emotion that washed over me as I stood in awe and amazement, observing from as many vantage points that were physically possible. As I circled the intricate shape, each location offered a different shape and more intrigue. The combination of the Japanese principles of flower arrangement and the use of bamboo created a work of short-lived enchantment; its existence was ephemeral and a month long. The installation will be removed over the next few weeks, and the bamboo recycled: a fitting circle of visibility to invisibility that will remain in my mind’s treasure trove of site-specific art.

The display exemplifies the ability to take a simple natural form and honor it through various uses of the material. Bamboo has been a mainstay for decades in my gardens, and its limitless applications make it my favorite for outdoor sculptures and supports.

Bamboo exudes a Japanese spirit and that quality was front and center in this exhibition. From the extreme height and width of the sculpture to the small surprises in the interior and external to the contemporary style, the work captivated and inspired. It also encouraged much contemplation.


Posted in Black-and-White Photography, Collage, Gardens and Gardening, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 49) – Nature’s Colors Photomontage

04 November 2019


Nature’s Colors? Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2019 Sally W. Donatello

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


How long will Mother nature’s colors last?


“Honeyland” (2019, runs one and 29 minutes): the film has gotten rave reviews. This documentary records the delicate balance and interdependence between human nature and Mother nature. The theme crosses boundaries with covert and overt life lessons. It is one of the best documentary of the year, and most awarded at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Here is a description from Rotten Tomatoes:

“Nestled in an isolated mountain region deep within the Balkans, Hatidze Muratova lives with her ailing mother in a village without roads, electricity or running water. She’s the last in a long line of Macedonian wild beekeepers, eking out a living farming honey in small batches to be sold in the closest city — a mere four hours’ walk away. Hatidze’s peaceful existence is thrown into upheaval by the arrival of an itinerant family, with their roaring engines, seven rambunctious children and herd of cattle. Hatidze optimistically meets the promise of change with an open heart, offering up her affections, her brandy and her tried-and-true beekeeping advice.It doesn’t take long however, before Hussein, the itinerant family’s patriarch, senses opportunity and develops an interest in selling his own honey. Hussein has seven young mouths to feed and nowhere to graze his cattle, and he soon casts Hatidze’s advice aside in his hunt for profit. This causes a breach in the natural order that provokes a conflict with Hatidze that exposes the fundamental tension between nature and humanity, harmony and discord, exploitation and sustainability. Even as the family provides a much-needed respite from Hatidze’s isolation and loneliness, her very means of survival are threatened.”

I highly recommend it. It can be rented or bought on iTunes. If you watch it, let me know your reaction.

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 48) – A Symbol of Autumn, Collage of Leaves

28 October 2019


Autumn Leaves Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2019 Sally W. Donatello

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


We–the birds and I–love the rain, we love the saturation of the knee-deep dry earth, we love the promise of additional glory from the landscape, we love the emphasis on mood, we love the implication of hope.

Fortunately, yesterday I filled the bird feeders to the maximum. I watch as their feathers are lifted by the current intense rainfall and its fierce winds, the usual gangs are merrily dancing from suet feeders to seed feeders. The rain is not a deterrent.

These rains are desperately needed and I am joyous. Still, I just could not take myself to the Farmer’s Market. I felt as though the gusts would carry me to who knows where. The rain is sheeting, really pelting. How do the birds take it?

It’s a perfect day to withdraw into my usual Sunday rituals. And added to those mainstays are my mind experimentations with how my photography will align more with my current state of angst about the world’s dilemmas. There is an overwhelming amount to consider, ponder and synthesize.

I need to focus on a partnership between nature snd three broad but serious areas: climate change, conscious consumption and social justice. That’s the direction. Now I must do it. But how?

In the Lens section is a collage that represents the autumn season. Trees are spectacles during this metamorphosis from rainbow-like landscapes to gray tones. It’s a time that plays with the mind’s moods, and tries to prepare for much of the natural world to hibernate. Much can be said for slowing the senses and sensibilities as well as the mind and body. And I think the obvious that autumn is one of nature’s greatest lessons.


Margaret Renkl is an Opinion Columnist for The New York Times. Every article touches on her devotion, observations and passion for nature. She seems to write directly to me. I hope that you will read the article about the bird that stole my heart on first sighting decades ago. The hummingbird it truly one our most beloved of the natural world.

Posted in Collage, Digital Art, Gardens and Gardening, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 47) – See the Unseen

14 October 2019


Spring Tulip; All Rights Reserved Copyright 2019 Sally W. Donatello

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


Each of the four seasons unveils elements that spark deeply emotional action and reaction. Still, autumn has a substantial hold on introspection. There is an internal force that weaves its way through my days and nights, giving attention to the seen and unseen, the noticed and unnoticed. From the dancing foliage to spent summer florals to bare trees to decomposing plants to migrating birds to hibernation to shifting daylight: the changing earth’s axis nods for us to pay attention to the world outside ourselves. This is a gift of autumn’s melodies.

The expanse of change requires a deep inhale and eventual long exhale. I tuck inwardly to assess, and then charge outward.

As geese fly overhead for autumn feeding grounds, my heart races with momentary contentment. Their distant quest resonates with their determination—determination made possible by the physical world of our planet and solar system.

Autumn’s timetable brings staggering resilience to the forefront. My spirit soars with ideas even as it puts some to sleep.

Contemplation has become the centerfold of my thoughts. I’ve been pondering my collages and photomontages, images made with the underlining theme of coexistence with nature. Through these works I can show the omniscience and omnipresence of Mother Nature: how she influences much of human nature, even as many do not recognize that bond and connection.

Nature is my muse and passion. She allows me to be who I need to be. She allows me to mobilize some of my inner thoughts into outward representations.

I’ve decided to observe (spy) on myself, relegate the synapses through new expressions to focus on my advocacy and reverence for the natural world: a world that simultaneously slows me down and inspires acceleration.

I want to create images with a new found emphasis and urgency about the climate crisis, which already has been an underlining theme. But it’s a process to find my aesthetic voice in this quest.

Our voices must echo across our neighborhoods, towns, urban centers, states, countries. It is a global crisis, one every single living creature shares in its reality and dangerous effects.

In the Lens section is an image that evokes my theme. While we march forth every day to our own singular beat, each path is riddled with the unseen–the unseen that exposes the beauty and the chaos of our world. The exposure of the tulip’s center is a macro view of its hidden secrets.

On a planet that we have tried to tame (to our detriment and the planet’s), I work at building more and more habitats for the wild things in my corner of the universe. Maybe its time for the wild to be in charge again.

Posted in Digital Art, Macro Photography, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 46) – Deconstructed and Reconstructed Meadow Flowers Photomontage

30 September 2019


Deconstructed Meadow Flowers Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2019 Sally W. Donatello

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


Memory is an evergreen phenomenon. Even yesterday’s experiences can rarely be recalled with precise accuracy. Bending a thought is more attuned to what the mind preserves. Still, the essence can be found, and its emotional gifts can be felt and stored.

Frequently, I ponder memory’s role in life: how it easily can manipulate how we act, how we behave, how it shapes us. Even the smallest of experiences needs hard work to recreate its fullest meaning.

This past week I decided to take a stroll in my wildflower meadow and explore more than its benefits. I was struck with thoughts of construction, destruction and reconstruction, because each flower head has vast elements—elements that spur eye-catching investigation and lengthy after thoughts.

Take one single cosmos and pluck a petal; it has dimensions that are worthy of examination: scalloped edges, fine lines of various colors at its base, and saturated hues that stun. Just one petal can induce deeply heartfelt awe and wonder.

And so the idea that a meadow is packed with such pleasures has me tinkering at each phase of a species’ evolution. Wildflowers are mirrors into the convergence and divergence of the universe’s playgrounds. And since I act as a year-round steward, they provide memories to savor over and over.

Photography provides memory. It gives us enough information to sense our original reaction and be able to store others. As I frame a subject, light changes visual perception, color influences, form and lines echo comparisons; all become part of the memory’s syncopation.

Long ago I decided that part of my adventure in nature would become more than an immediate reaction. As I gathered flower heads, I became more and more steeped in the deconstruction of the whole into its parts. I’d create a sculpture from flowers that already are sculptures; art birthing more art.

The gathering was in itself filled with unexpected discoveries that the mind slowed its cadence during that process. As I filled a small square container, it became the vessel for remembrance, a vessel for rainbows of florets, a vessel to inspire creativity, a vessel for memories.

Methodically, I made the arrangement, flat and on a white board. As humans we continually deconstruct natural habits, leaving bare and lifeless behind.

Sometimes the harvesting of the natural world is more than the sum of its intentions. The harvesting becomes symbolic of human dependence and human interference. In the Lens section I wanted to show my imagined deconstruction of the flowers, the up close and personal effects of how (symbolically) we construct, destruct and reconstruct our environments.


Posted in Digital Art, Gardens and Gardening, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 45) End of Summer Photomontage

23 September 2019


Anemone, Garlic Chives and Geranium Flowers Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2019 Sally W. Donatello

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


Small and incremental whispers fill our lives. We decide which passions move our ability to listen, to seize those moments and fulfill their destiny. And these inner voices do shape our lives. We just must absorb and process them and then respond.

Every season has its staggeringly majestic natural wonders. And yet jewels consistently appear throughout the natural world; each floral discovery has its seductive powers that in the future will echo the past and remind us what is yet to be. They play a major role in my internal and external narrative.

At summer’s end there is a longing and a forecasting. Longing comes in the shape of what the season has brought, and forecasting is the lead for the uncertainty ahead. This past Friday the youth (plus anyone who is anxious and distraught about the reality of climate change and its worldwide effects, including me) from around the world united to strike against the inaction, especially from America’s government, to save our planet through a partnership between nature and human nature. A deep commitment could be seen across the faces of the participants. It was a startling moment in the history of our planet and proclamation of the “known” urgency to save Mother Earth and generations yet to be born.

And so I work harder and harder at how to make some difference. While I do the usual recycling, creating wildlife habitats, volunteering and awareness of my actions, I also use aesthetic, instinctual and philosophical symbols of each season to reinforce my reverence for Mother Nature and our dependence upon her well-being. This past week the blossoming end-of-the-season anemones, garlic chives and geraniums signaled to me the beauteous fragility of our times–times that could lead to the best versions of humanity. My hope is that it will.

In the Lens section my photomontage uses a deeply fuchsia-colored geranium as a backdrop to the sweetly almost pure-white anemones and fragile tiny white florets of garlic chives; wind flowers and delicate tasting herbs bring comfort and make my heart ache for their longevity: past years of their showiness stack memory upon memory. And I must ask: will the future hold a place for them?

Photomontage allows me to create the layers that are in nature and my mind’s imagination. Nothing stands alone; all is interdependent; each a testament to the evolution of species; each a tribute to the forces of nature; each a tear drop paying tribute to hope for a forever coexistence.


Posted in Digital Art, Gardens and Gardening, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 44) – Primordial Soup II

16 September 2019


Primordial Soup (Second Try) Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2019 Sally W. Donatello

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


The cacophony of sound ended the still of the night, awakening me after a few hours sleep.  As the rhythm of the brief shower washed over my thoughts, I had hoped for a soaking rain. It’s been almost two months since we had showers or summer thunderstorms, I mean rain that truly nourishes and nurtures the earth and all its plantings.

Still in the morning the evidence of the night’s surprise shower filled my gardens. It’s as though I had spent time at a spa where mind and body had luxurious attention paid to them. Suddenly the notion of the crumbling world order and my sense of living in a parallel universe disappeared, being replaced by bliss. Even imagining the primordial soup (and what it has become) coerced me to think about a “second chance” mixture.

The Lens section holds my photomontage that represents how I envision the next primordial soup, another opportunity for the planet to learn from this present “iffy” experiment. Because while the current trajectory of humanity and the planet are, in my opinion, not on a viable (Unless dystopia is your hope.) path, I have to ask: Would another experiment do the planet justice?

Still, it is a philosophical conundrum to try and surmise just how we came to be the kind of animal that we are. Sure, science explains the biology, but how do we explain the full spectrum of our behavior?  How do we explain the human animal’s actions and the consequences that are real as much of my country’s current administration ignores the terrifying forecast? How much longer can my country sustain its land mass as the current administration seeks to plunder our lands, water and air?

And so I fill my bird feeders, plant native plantings, watch the birds and animals drink from my pond, and nourish the wildlife right in the middle of my small Mid-Atlantic town, where the wilds things roam. And as I drink my morning tea I salute the red-tailed hawk as it sits upon the lower roof of my home, watching for its next meal.


For those of you that are concerned about monarchs and other pollinators, here is a terrific article (hot off the press) about Tennessee’s successful roadside meadow plantings program. Margaret Renkl, who is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, wrote in today’s issue, “Tennessee Makes Way for the Monarchs.” Here is a quote:

“Wildflowers once grew in profusion on roadsides everywhere. The shoulder of a highway, from blacktop to tree line, is the perfect setting for flowers that require full sun; it’s a ribbon of meadow that unfolds before the eye for as long as the road goes on. During my childhood in Alabama, every highway and back road was alight with butterfly weed, which belongs to the family of milkweeds. In summer it formed a bright corridor of orange flowers so covered with orange monarch butterflies that from a distance it looked as though the flowers themselves were taking flight and floating on the breeze … Coming home from Alabama this month, I stopped at the Tennessee welcome center in Ardmore, stepped out of my car, and was astonished to discover a newly planted pollinator meadow just down the hill from the welcome center. Up close, the acre-size plot was blooming with asters and liatris and ironweed and two different kinds of goldenrod. The plot was so loud with insects that the roar of highway traffic, only yards away up the little hill, was faint by comparison. While I stood there, dumbfounded, a monarch butterfly floated past. I was too stunned to take its picture.”



Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments