The Summer of Bonsai

This summer I purchased a starter tree from a nursery. I have a vague memory of walking through a mall as a very young child and seeing a display with one or two trees. Bonsai has captured my imagination since that first encounter.

I had a starter tree once before, but it died from neglect, so I was determined to get it right this time.

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It's still alive! #bonsai

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Despite keeping the tree alive, there was still a disconnect. I read a book on the subject of bonsai care and aesthetics, then started to view the activity more as an art form than as a time suck.

The central tenet of bonsai is naturalism. You shouldn’t see the artist’s touch when you look at the tree. This seems paradoxical becuase you are shaping the tree through cutting, wiring, and stunting the growth.

Bonsai
Classic Styles

I started studying the art form in my spare time. Gradually, I gained more knowledge and became more confident.

To me, the scariest thing about bonsai is the wiring of the tree. I’m afraid that I will snap the branches or worse, the trunk. However, wiring is where the true artistry of bonsai comes into play.

Rather than going withthe present moment, I struggle against the task and contort myself unnaturally under the self-imposed stress. I want perfection. I know intellectually that bonsai aesthetics require naturalism and asymmetry, but I want perfection.

 

It came together when I saw this video of a man creating a bonsai out of a Chrismas tree. The tree was plucked from a local nursery and it was transformed into something special.

bonsai

I went outside and re-wired my tree. I was mystified. It looked so much better from a simple perspective shift. The tree was imperfect, but that’s what made it beautiful. 

Bonsai

My tree finally look right. It looked like a bonsai! A weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I could get more trees.

Thia breakthrough helped me look at all of my other projects in a new light. The perfectionism had tainted what would have otherwise been cause for celebration. Being so fixated on what I wanted, I overlooked the beauty of what I had.

bonsai

I hope to take the lessons I hae learned through practicing bonsai with me. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys nature and reflecting on one’s day!

Adventures in Macro Photography

A few years ago, I became very interested in macro photography after watching the insect documentary, Microcosmos.  I couldn’t afford a fancy lens dedicated to macro photography, so I purchased the cheapest extension tubes I could for my Nikon.

I have played around with it sporadically, but more recently I have been practicing with in earnest.

macro photography

Macro photography is definitely one of the hardest disciplines to master. When you extension tubes, more light is needed to achieve the proper exposure. There are two major solutions that I have found to this problem, each with their own drawbacks.

 

macro photography

You can shoot with a long exposure and closed aperture to solve this problem. However, you will need a very stable tripod and an agreeable subject. Caterpillars, frogs, and other calm, mostly stationary subjects are ideal for this method.

macro photography You can also shoot hand held with a faster exposure and more open aperture, but that makes focusing it’s own problem because of the shallow depth. The freedom this affords is well worth the annoyance of the shallow depth.

macro photogrpahy

Although macro photography may be the most difficult discipline in photography, it is certainly the most rewarding.

What did you think of this post? Do have any tips for macro photography? Let me know in the comments.

If you liked these photos, follow me on Instagram for more!

Cultivating a Relationship with the Natural World

 

The biggest mistake in the plight for the preservation of the natural world was to create an ideology around it. The well-being of our planet is not a political issue; it is a human one.

I have long theorized that people don’t care about the natural world because they don’t have a relationship with it.  Planting native species at your home is a great step that you can take to develop one. By simply planting species native to your area, you invite all sorts of wildlife to visit.

Green Anole
Carolina Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

 

eastern tent caterpillar
Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)

 

Baby birds

Volunteering with citizen science projects is a great way to help in a meaningful way and learn from seasoned professionals. A lot of conservation work is done entirely by volunteers so they need your help!

Indigo Bunting
Bird Banding

On Spring and the Seasons

Although Spring officially occurred for us on March 20th, the effects of Spring are just now being felt here in Georgia. Spring and Summer are kind of melded into one season here and that “season” is my favorite time of year.

It is as if the whole world took a hot bath, so that everything would arise fresh and new. Birds are migrating, butterflies are drinking, and lizards are basking in sunlight everywhere. We do not have a particularly harsh Winter, but I do miss having some of the wildlife that leaves each fall. When I see the first Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hover over the front yard, it is like an old friend coming to visit for awhile.

Even Natasha likes to watch the insects fly by.

I like using the Four Seasons as a metaphor for life. Traditionally it used to as a metaphor for aging, but I believe it can be used in a different way. Life is rather cyclical like the Seasons and we all have different internal “weather” from day to day.

Spring could be starting a new a job or going to a new school, Summer could be the period where you try to obtain your goal, Autumn is a change in plans, and Winter could be a rut of some sort.

I think this metaphor works because successes and setbacks are temporary in life, much like the weather. If it is a sunny Spring day, appreciate it; it will not last forever. If it is a cold winter night and you can’t sleep, endure it; it will not last forever.