Sunday, March 27, 2011

Longwood Gardens II: Every Flower's Got a Story

I suspect I get my love of flowers from my parents. They always had flowers in the gardens. My father enjoyed shooting photos of flowers, especially those he had grown himself. He experimented with light and filters and backgrounds. We have some nice dahlia photos of his, but most are in the form of slides. Perhaps I was channeling him at Longwood Gardens last week when I took about five hundred flower photos and spent quite a lot of hours sorting and cropping afterward. That's all I do--crop--I don't enhance my photos in any way. This post contains my favorite non-orchid flower photos.

That top photo is a gardenia. That was Mom's favorite flower. I don't remember her growing gardenias until my father passed away and one of her friends bought her a bush to cheer her up. It still thrives in Cape May, and is loaded with pink gardenias in mid-spring. The problem is, Mom loved white gardenias because she carried them when she got married in 1943. She didn't have a fancy white dress or professional photos to remember the day because it was wartime. She and my father were married in their uniforms, U.S. Coast Guard for him and Navy WAVES for her, and the white gardenias were the one luxury. There's now a white gardenia bush next to the pink one in Cape May, purchased in memory of her.

I do remember Mom growing roses. I have never had luck with roses (they practically die when I breathe on them), but Mom grew roses in many colors wherever we lived. Some of her salmon and pink ones still bloom in Cape May, but I don't get too close. I like this photo because I got the blurry background thing right.

Dad's favorite flower, besides dahlias, was the bird of paradise. I remember these growing on the porch of the Cape May house, but once we left Cape May for Staten Island, he turned over his plants to his friend Fred (a mechanic with a greenhouse) for safekeeping. This is my best bird of paradise shot from Longwood:

Generally, I favor hibiscus. Sometimes, I get them to grow and bloom in my own garden. Cape May is a whole different gardening zone from Hamilton, so I'd probably have more luck there except that I'm not there often enough to water them. But here's a nice shot from Longwood:

I pulled out my fish-eye lens to shoot the palm room. The window panes in the background and the palms themselves make a nice effect curved on the sides. There's another one like this that includes Fred (another mechanic, but without a greenhouse) holding my pocketbook. He doesn't like that one.
There's no story behind this shot except that I really like these flowers. I think it's the color. I have one garden beside my house that has almost exclusively this color blooms of different varieties with yellow flowers.

Finally, here's a vintage shot I took in May, 1977, of my parents at the Topiary Garden at Longwood Gardens. (This one I had to touch-up a little bit.)

Longwood Gardens' Orchid Extravaganza

I had been meaning to walk around Longwood Gardens with my camera for months--I missed the chrysanthemums in fall and the holiday lights--but thanks to a great deal from Groupon I got to see the orchid show. Thousands of orchids in countless varieties were worked into the exhibit areas in the Conservatory, and the usual orchid room was full of colorful specimen. I am no orchid expert and wouldn't attempt to grow them, but I can shoot them with the Nikon...I LOVE the unusual color on these:

How do these know to form a perfect sphere?

Is this one my favorite? I'm not sure.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tijuana, Baby!

I was warned not to tempt fate in Tijuana because I would become the victim of unspeakable horrors, but at the same time I was encouraged to explore Tijuana for the delicious food and low, low prices on silver, serapes, tequila, and vanilla. The truth of the matter is, it probably would be dangerous to venture over the border alone in a rental car not knowing where I was going. But a three-hour bus trip with a group of tourists and a knowledgeable, experienced bus driver seemed like a fun way to spend an afternoon. I was right. After the trip, I asked Rick the bus driver if there are ever any problems on this tour. He said in 24 years of driving busloads of tourists back and forth over the border, he can only count three instances where people had problems. In each instance, the tourists had wandered off the main tourist street and had money or jewelry stolen.

Rick told us everything we needed to know on the way south from San Diego.
1. Stay on Avenue Revolucion between 1st and 10th streets, (otherwise unspeakable horrors...),
2. Don't pay the first price quoted: haggle. (I got pretty good at this mainly by stating that I couldn't afford that price and heading for the door.)
3. Whatever you buy has to be carried over the border at customs,
3. "If he's holding a gun, don't take a picture,"
and the scariest of all to me,
4. "Don't eat at that restaurant up there." (Evidently there's a custom where they force tequila down your throat and then shake up your brains to disorient you.)

I was warned not to take a Tijuana taxi. Here they all are getting gassed-up at one of the government-controlled stations:Rick warned us about purchasing prescription drugs cheap at the many drugstores in the tourist area. This was no temptation for me since I take no prescription medicines, but if I had the slightest inclination to save some money this way I would have been discouraged by sights like this:Rick even drove his bus up and down Avenue Revolucion to point out the more reputable establishments. I stayed close to those, bought some Mexican textiles, some geegaws, and had a fabulous lunch of chicken mole preceded by chips and the most awesomely delicious salsa ever. If I lived in Tijuana, I would eat at Tia Juana Tilly's (recommended by Rick) everyday. By the way, there is a legend in Mexico that Tijuana was named after someone's Aunt (Tia) Juana. This is not true, but that nickname is seen a lot.

What I would not do everyday if I lived in Tijuana is get my picture taken behind a striped donkey, but this was fun to do once.

San Diego, California, by Water

During any conference, there has to be some downtime to rest the brain. During a conference in San Diego, this downtime is likely spent walking the Embarcadero, admiring the super-yachts and wondering who the heck lives like that, people watching, cruising over the bay for a walk around Coronado (the movie "Some Like it Hot" was filmed at the Hotel del Coronado),
or touring the USS Midway.This enormous aircraft carrier served the US Navy for forty-seven years, beginning right after the Japanese surrender in 1945. It is difficult to get a sense of the length of the flight deck with the many restored aircraft poised for duty, but it is a whopping 1,001 feet long.
My colleagues and I toured the entire ship, saw the bunks and control rooms, and even spent some time in the brig.

As my colleagues flew home after the conference, I hung around for a couple of days to explore. I walked through the Maritime Museum, made up of floating ships rather than buildings. I eavesdropped on a class learning about the Star of India (1863), the oldest active merchant ship in the world.
I was surprised to encounter the HMS Surprise, a replica of an 18th century British Royal Navy frigate which was featured in the movie "Master and Commander". (I will have to re-watch this movie as I embarrassed myself by falling asleep during my first viewing in the theater. And it was my selection. I was really tired that evening. My friend was annoyed.)
The 1974 B-39 Soviet Attack Submarine was memorable partly for the small, round, three-foot-maximum passageways I had to maneuver through.

Keeping with the nautical theme, I signed on for a whale watching cruise that afternoon. although the promotional documents guaranteed whale sightings, I was skeptical. Way out, almost ten miles into the Pacific Ocean, we did see three Pacific Gray Whales. We were told to watch out for heart-shaped spouts,
and then to look for breaching whales, and whale flukes.
I was thrilled, these being my first whale photos after many Atlantic Ocean whale watching cruises. Our naturalist, from the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, thought one of these three was a yearling and mentioned that these Pacific Gray Whales are the size of a VW Beetle when born.

After a long day of water sightseeing, I headed out to El Cajon Boulevard to my post-conference hotel, the Lafayette. This formerly opulent hotel was a favorite of movie stars in the 1940s and features a swimming pool designed by Johnny Weismuller of "Tarzan" fame.

The hotel is undergoing a renovation and shows promise, but don't stay there anytime soon unless you enjoy carrying heavy suitcases up a flight of concrete stairs. Hey, I saved some money AND got to stay in the Mae West suite.