This Tricolor Stromanthe caught my eye at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh this week. The plant is not part of a special exhibit, and I’m sure I have walked past it many times before. I was attracted to the way the plant looked enough to stop and take several photos, hoping to share how much the leaves look painted.
The Stromanthe is a tropical plant in the family Marantaceae, native to portions of the Americas from Mexico to Trinidad and northern Argentina. It can grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet. It is also called a Tricolor Prayer Plant, and it thrives in indirect light, while bright light brings out its brightest coloring.
Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic knocked me off my constructive and creative track with wildlife and nature photography. I found myself absorbed with cooking, cleaning, gardening and pondering the uncertainties of when restrictions will be lifted. Seriously, how long can this go on? All of us have had the rhythms of our daily lives disrupted, yes?
I knew that if I could get myself to pick up a camera and begin exploring nature in my own backyard, so to speak, that I would begin to feel like myself again. I ventured out to the newly reopened Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh (masked and careful), and indeed the magic reappeared. My vision and my technical skills are intact! Here is the first image I captured.
My friend Eliza needed a portrait to publicize upcoming speaking engagements and an upcoming book. As a great admirer (for more than 40 years), I was happy to take the job. I was confidently pleased with the results, but Eliza was worried. Looking at the proofs, she was not enthusiastic about how she looked. It was months before I heard from her about proceeding.
Our dialogue about how to see your own portrait is worth sharing. I shared these thoughts: The purpose of the portrait is to present the author as “friendly, intelligent, interested in you and having wisdom to share.” It is not a beauty contest. It does not aim to make you look 10 or 20 years younger than you really are. The audience for this portrait will ask themselves, “Would she have something interesting to share with me? Is she knowledgeable? Is she a nice person? Do I like her? Is she funny sometimes? Would she be someone I would like to have as a friend?”
In reassuring Eliza, I suggested this: beauty is inside and out. Imagine someone who is not friendly, not smart and not the least bit interested in you. That person is not attractive, all because of what exists inside.
You, on the other hand, have that inner beauty and you are a beautiful woman too! When you look at your photograph, you might be critical of your own face, because you prefer a younger you. But we see you differently. We don’t really care how old you are. We only care about the intangibles, which you have in spades.
Eliza, a specialist in historic preservation, Pittsburgh history and architecture, is writing a book about two intrepid women—her grandmother and great aunt—who led the Suffrage movement and became crusaders against corruption in local government. For more information, Eliza’s website is here.
The French may have designed the first formal gardens in the 17 century, but many garden designers around the world emulate the style today. Visit the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh for the Spring Flower Show to enjoy the symmetry of the flower beds, bursting with colorful tulips.
Who started this trend? Andre Le Notre designed the formal gardens at the Palace of Versailles from 1662 to 1700. I’m sure you have visited many beautiful formal gardens in your home town or in your world travels. I would love to hear about your favorites.
“Ghost Tulip” is my own affectionate name for this unique tulip that reminds me of the Ghost Orchid, the elusive tropical orchid that blooms in Florida in mid-summer. Seasonal Florida residents can’t catch a glimpse of the ghost orchid, since they have months ago fled to northern climes.
My good friend Sharon was patient with me as I composed, focused and captured 64 photographs at the Phipps Conservatory Spring Flower Show. I shared with her my thoughts on photographing flowers.
“I’m mainly concerned with finding good compositions here. The background must be simple yet show some depth. If I choose a single flower to dominate the composition, it’s helpful to have a second flower play best supporting actor, to echo the main actor, but play a secondary role, as in this composition,” I added.
Later, “I mentioned that a star pattern is always a good thing, as is an S curve or a diagonal.”
“Why?” she asked. “Ha, ha, good question,” was my reply.
Pittsburgh PA, you have met your match. Newcastle, England, like you, is a city of bridges and a former coal and steel center making a successful transformation into a technology center with an entrepreneurial spirit.
This innovative pivoting pedestrian bridge is a great symbol of the new Newcastle. Admire the Gateshead Millennium Bridge connecting pedestrians on the wharfs of sister cities Newcastle and Gateshead. These are two university towns with an abundance of pubs, many of them taking full advantage of the riverside waterfront.
The pedestrian bridge closes to foot traffic and pivots, lowering the high arch and raising the lower arch when a large vessel needs to pass through. Have you ever seen a bridge like this?