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.


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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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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 30) – Peony Collage

20 May 2019


Peony Collage; Sally W. Donatello 2019 All Rights Reserved

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


As spring continues its metamorphosis, the multiplicity of surprises always inspires. This particular unfolding of the 2019 season has created rather lush sensational floral appearances. There are favorites and as each vies for my attention, I am reminded of their possession of my senses and sensibilities.

Last week the peonies’ melodious aromatic serenade swept through my morning walks. The blossoms of this flower stun with an appeal that entertains with their design and layers of petals that are soft and silky to the touch. Truly, I can never keep from diving face first into their pillowy graceful comfort.

At a distance this particular grouping seems “pure” white. But no flower is truly white. There is either an dash/edge of color or a center of color or pollen that scattered its yellow-orange lure.

In the Lens section are three vantage points of one such beauty: a collage that tries to show its essence. The top and bottom images have been converted to black and white. The middle image struts its true colors: white with edges of dark pink.

Peonies leave me breathless, astonished by their splendorous thin layers of petals, those imperfect edges and almost ruffle-like charm. Nature really knows how to cheer me, how to raise my mood, how to persist in unveiling something that I’ve seen for decades, and then remind me that it seems like my very first time to be visually saturated by its unique majestic qualities. Year-after-year they astonish and seduce.

Posted in Black-and-White Photography, Collage, Digital Art, Gardens and Gardening, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 29) : Spring Floral Collage

13 May 2019


Azalea and Minature Wild Geranium Collage; Sally W. Donatello 2019 All Rights Reserved

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


The rhythm pervades

Revolution, evolution, circular, round, revolving

And the circadian timing.


The rules—our pledge as earth’s protector—changed.

“We” dissolved them.

Re-writing history in symbolic and real realities.


Feel the anxiety and chaos in our selfishness,

Feel our outrage against those seeking greed and power over a sustainable future.










Circling and circling

Like dark angels ready for spring

And succession of plenty.

Devolution is not tolerable,

Only forward rhythmic action, cadence and determination to

Keep the circle spinning

Where is humanity’s generosity to preserve and protect? Where is our pledge with respect and reverence to continue humanity’s experiment? When will we realize that we are miniscule in the narrative about the natural world?

Nature always will reinvent herself, discovering ways to become anew.



“Life as We Know It: Plant and animal species are disappearing faster than at any time in recorded history. We know who is to blame” by The Editorial Board of The New York Times (which represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher and does not include  the newsroom and the Op-Ed sections) wrote this poignant editorial. Here is a quote from the piece:

As The Times’s Brad Plumer recently noted, many ecologists insist that species are worth saving on their own, that it’s simply morally wrong to drive any living creature to extinction. The new report deliberately adds a powerful practical motive to the spiritual one: Biodiversity loss, it says, is an urgent issue for human well-being, providing billions and billions of dollars in what experts call “ecosystem services.” Wetlands clean and purify water. Coral reefs nourish vast fish populations that feed the world. Organic matter in the soil nourishes crops. Bees and other threatened insects pollinate fruits and vegetables. Mangroves protect us from floods made worse by rising seas. “Most of nature’s contributions are not fully replaceable,” the report says. But humans can stop or at least limit the damage. One critical task is to protect (and if possible to enlarge) the world’s natural forests, which, according to a recent paper by eminent ecologists in Science Advance, are home to fully two-thirds of the world’s species.

You can view the full editorial here.

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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 28) – Allium Photomontage

06 May 2019


Allium 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. 


Spring creates a higher level of coloration, form, lines. shape and tones: an architectural patina that is in plain view for our admiration. The drama unfolds with a clear sense about the power of this visual voice—a visual voice that resonates as each day unfolds.

Mother Nature goes about her duties with full force, not dependent on our participation or noticing. But quite the opposite for us. Humans are dependent on nature’s well being and presence. As humanity poisons the air, water and ourselves, nature responds with raging storms and wide-spread drought. The balance is untethered.

Still, as Spring marches forward, there is a profound awakening that inspires the heart and gives meaning to daily revelations. One notices the architecture of a flower, of a tree, of a river, of the skyline. The surge of the season gives some level of hope.

As we stand encircled by the sky, it can overwhelm and remind that it performs miracles with its cunning history of predictable and unpredictable aesthetic and physical elements. The sky holds the past in its layers, shapes that dissipate and re-emerge with courageous vengeance. Clear skies, billowy clouds, starry nights, moonlit hours, daylight harmony, warmth and chill, sublime and outrageous. 

The technique of photomontage offers me the opportunity to tell one or multiple stories—stories that reveal content, context and texture of the universe: open pathways as well as silence about nature and human nature’s journey. This technique also gives ample incentive to ponder how to interpret the results.

Such a photographic creation allows me to partner with Mother Nature, even as I know that is an imaginary relationship that I embrace. The image above has an urgency to revere the brilliant gifts that nature offers: a sky that helps to sustain the natural world and an example of nature’s bounty. Both demonstrate nature’s bounty and majesty.

The burst of the allium toward the joyful and triumphant cloud-filled sky expresses the effect that the natural world has upon me. Mother nature enlivens the day, enlivens optimism, encourages experimentation and incites inspiration.

And often what is seen speaks entirely for itself. Nothing else needs to be spoken or written. And that’s much of my reaction to the above image: a silent yet vocal source of glorious exuberance.




Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments