October 05, 2013

The magic my camera couldn't capture

Reflecting on the growing season now ending, I realized all the beauty I couldn't begin to adequately document through photos ...

  • The rush of migrating birds into the garden in April and May--when suddenly the robins, chickadees, and cardinals were joined by northern flickers, indigo buntings, hummingbirds, and so many more.
  • Discovering Lady Slipper Orchids, Prairie Smoke, Wild Indigo, and Brittle Prickly Pear growing in the wild.
  • Dusk in late June when suddenly, out the back picture window, thousands of points of light rose up from the perennial garden--the first mass of lightening bugs, flickering on and off for our own personal light show.
  • Finding a live, perfectly healthy toad hopping through a farm field that had just been cultivated with a heavy tractor and planted with vegetables for a community garden.
  • Stunning sunsets with waves of purple, red, orange, and blue--back-lighting black forms of branches and leaves, like personalities passing into the night.
  • Taking a solitary hike early one morning, with songbirds flitting in and out of the tall plants, pollinators buzzing from bloom to bloom, and the early light glinting off the edges of nature in the most perfect way.
  • A lone monarch, floating onto a Milkweed patch--one butterfly, by itself, nectaring for nearly an hour in a safe spot. The few photos I took couldn't begin to capture the beauty.

And then the most magical moment of all ...

The first day of October. It was unseasonably warm at midday--near 80°F. On a whim, I drove to Olbrich Botanical Gardens--one of my favorite places. The wind was light, the flowers were blooming, and the pollinators were buzzing ... everywhere! But especially on the Calamintha. Every plant was covered with dozens of pollinators, and the scent was overwhelming.

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My photos can't begin to capture the sight, scent, and sound of it all. But that was just the beginning. As I sat on a bench taking in the sensory overload of the bees on the Calamintha, I noticed a monarch dropping down from the sky ...

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Then two more ...

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And then I noticed the Buddleia plants at the gardens were covered with monarchs. So many that I couldn't count them all. I sat down and took it all in. I tried to capture a few images with my camera, but it just wasn't enough. So I sat and watched ...

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Orange shadows above me that I momentarily mistook as falling Orange Maple leaves--were, in fact, more monarchs. They were flying in from the north, and staying put for the afternoon on the wealth of nectar at the garden.

I haven't seen a monarch since, and I might not see any more until next spring ... if I'm lucky.

Shirley at Rock-Oak-Deer recently posted about how to create a fast-moving slide show that looks like a video, so I decided to try it.


It worked! But it still can't really capture the moment. I hope the monarchs will be back again next season. There's always hope ...

Monarch Collage

We'll miss you.

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47 comments:

  1. Just lovely Beth.........and it is so true, even when I get great shots, at the time I am reminded of everything about a scene that doesn't appear in the photo. I do love your pictures, though - so don't stop taking them :)

    Lee

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    1. Thanks, Lee. Sometimes, I just want to sit and take it all in, because the photos just can't capture the beauty. And sometimes I feel like I'm too busy trying to get the right angle or the right light that I forget to just enjoy the joy of it all.

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  2. Fabulous, Beth! So glad you got to see a whole bunch of them! Seeing just ONE was a treat for me; maybe there'll be more here, too. I love your fast-moving slideshow, it does look like a video. I should find out how to do that. Lovely photos and glad you enjoyed your day :)

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    1. I remember the amazing photo you posted on Facebook about all the butterflies in your garden--that was enchanting! Lots of swallowtails, if I remember correctly? I'm trying to be hopeful about the monarchs--seeing that many in one place makes it hard to believe they're threatened. I hope we'll see some again next spring and summer!

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  3. glad to hear of numbers of Monarchs, it was an alarmingly quiet season for them?

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    1. Yes, the numbers have been down for quite a while, but particularly low the past two years. So to see a great group of them in one place is really a treat!

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  4. Ah, I wonder how many photos I have missed, compared to the ones I have taken! I don’t really feel I have experienced something properly until I have taken a photo of it, my camera is like an extension of me, we are fully attached to the hip (or brain, or whatever!). Your monarch photos or so lovely, truly beautiful, glad you had a great day out and had your camera with you :-)

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    1. Sometimes I feel that way, too, Helene. And then other times I feel like the camera keeps me from really being present in the moment. Sometimes I'm so busy trying to capture the photo that I forget to simply enjoy the experience. Thank for your kind comments. :)

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  5. I love this post, Beth! Yes, there are times we just need be out and taking everything in. I've been enjoying watching the butterflies, and think it's awesome when the Monarchs swoop down to say, either, "Hello!" or "Hey, did you know you are in my space?"

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    1. I so enjoyed seeing your photos of the monarchs in your garden! I'm thrilled to have just a few in my shady garden. But it's truly magical to find many of them in one place! I know what you mean about them swooping down, and they do seem to be communicating, "Look out! I need some nectar!" I didn't want to bother them too much, and I didn't have a telephoto lens or a tripod--so I did the best I could. But the experience was wonderful!

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  6. Monarchs are so beautiful and you did get some beautiful photos! In the past week we have seen a few Monarchs about in our yard, the first in many years. I planted an Asclepias 'Butterfly Weed' in early summer and the butterflies love it. I know it is a host plant for Monarchs so perhaps the Monarchs have discovered it!

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    1. Thanks, Dorothy. Glad you've had a few monarchs in your garden, too. I don't get many in my garden because it's so shady, but it was wonderful to see so many of them at the botanical garden!

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  7. Wow! That is so cool! We seldom get Monarchs in the PNW. I've seen a few swallowtails float through my garden, and we also get loads of hummers. That little stop motion video turned out pretty cool, well done. Yeah, sometimes you just need to stand there and watch, and forget about trying to capture the magic in the camera.

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    1. The butterflies were dropping down too fast for me to capture them as they landed. But there were just so many of them, I could hardly believe it! I love swallowtails, too. They are fortunate and more flexible with their broader variety of host plants. Too bad the monarchs larvae can't adapt and eat something besides Milkweed. I wish I'd had a gardening friend with me to share the moment!

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  8. You paint lovely pictures with your words. I sometimes think the camera can be something of an impediment for enjying the moment, you view the world at one remove, through the lens, sometimes it is good to just sit and marvel, and sometimes those magical moments experienced either without a camera, or that the camera cannot capture, are all the more precious for being ephemeral, remaining only in the soul.

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    1. Thank you, Janet. Yes, sometimes I feel like I don't really "see" the scene unless I put away the camera--temporarily at least. Your words resonate with me--that's exactly how I felt the other day...and many other times.

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  9. Lovely! You are amazing with a camera. It reminds me a bit of those flip cards of bumble bees, etc. that I used to have as a kid. Sadly, I rarely see monarchs here, despite all I have done to attract them. I wonder if I am simply not on their flight path.

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! You are too kind. I was surprised to find out later that I had enough shots in a series to make the fast-motion slideshow work--that was fun! The monarch migration seems to be narrower this year. I feel blessed to have witnessed a part of the miracle!

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  10. Really gorgeous. I have Calamintha blooming this year for the first time and your description is spot on. I also planted a compact Buddleia but it is still quite small. I haven't seen any Monarchs since August. I remember Olbrich from when I lived in Madison, yes it is a wonderful garden.

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    1. Thanks, Jason. Lucky you to have Calamintha in your garden! I can see trying it sometime--especially after seeing how much the pollinators of all types love it! I know it's not native, but maybe it would work in a pot? And Buddleia isn't native either, and I know it has been somewhat controversial along the coasts. But my impression is that it's not too much of a thug here in the Midwest. It's beautiful, and the butterflies obviously love it. Olbrich, to me, is like a secret garden that really isn't a secret. ;-)

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  11. You did an amazing job capturing the beauty of the Monarchs! Your area still has Butterfly Bush blooming. I'm sad to say ours has passed but there is a ton of activity on the wild asters here as well.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, that was on Oct. 1, but I imagine it will continue blooming until the first hard frost. We don't have one in the forecast for the foreseeable future--hopefully that will help the migrating species this year.

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  12. Hi Beth, i am smiling with your list of things to capture. We have butterflies and birds too, but not as plenty as the famous monarchs. But maybe i am happier with the varieties visiting my garden, although some are very elusive for my camera. Year by year i watch those particular species that i can't capture, and still some are still very fast. At least this year I was able to document the first sighting of a red-orange beautiful one!

    Regarding scenes in a landscape, sometimes i just stop and savor the moment, as the whole landscape is much beautiful than the single frame in the camera. When out of town, sometimes i just stop and watch everything. My companions sometimes urge me to go on shooting, but i said i am watching all of them in wide angles. Thanks for your visit.

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    1. Congratulations on your success! Any butterfly is a beautiful sight! Your description of stopping and waiting and taking in all the "wide angles" is exactly how I feel. When I feel that any photo I take will be inadequate--sometimes I just stop and take it all in. And I feel so thankful to have witnessed such beauty. Thanks for sharing the lovely description!

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  13. I've only seen a few monarchs and very few caterpillars. :( I just added 'Find a spot for a calamintha' to my fall garden chore list. It's amazing all the little things that only gardeners notice about being outdoors. I pay much more attention to light than I used to and when it hits the garden just right, it's breath taking.

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    1. Yes, I agree--gardeners and especially garden bloggers seem to notice the nuances of how it all fits together. In the quest to document and share the beauty, however, sometimes it's just so beautiful it's almost too overwhelming. And, yes--the light is fascinating. It's also another thing I should have mentioned I just couldn't capture this season. One day, the light was flickering from spaces in the Oak leaves and through a morning fog--and I should have tried to photograph it. But I didn't. And I know the photos wouldn't have done it justice anyway.

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    2. I am now the proud owner of a pink flowered variegated calamintha. :o) Of course, I tried to grow this once before - in moist shade - and nearly killed it so I gave it to a friend who stuffed it in the ground in hot sun and ignored it. It flourished. Time to try again!

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    3. Ah, sounds like it prefers neglect. Good luck! And I'll be curious to hear/read/see all about it. ;-)

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  14. Lovely Monarch pictures. Those wonderful butterflies have been few and far between in my garden this year, though recently I am seeing a few migrants passing through.

    I think we are all haunted by those missed opportunities - the camera shots we couldn't get. At least I know I am. But I keep trying and sometimes I get lucky.

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    1. Because most of my garden is very shady, I see very few butterflies here--swallowtails more than any others. So it's a special treat to visit a sunny garden with plentiful butterflies. I'm glad you're seeing some migrating butterflies, too, Dorothy. :)

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  15. I love this post, the words and the pictures! Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Tatyana! I had several more of those "moments" today. Moments I wanted to share, but I was on my way somewhere or busy with work, or whatever. I appreciate your kind words.

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  16. Your photos are beautiful, Beth! But I can only imagine what a thrilling sight this must have been to see this horde of Monarchs. Photos just can't capture all these special moments. There have been so few Monarchs here that when I do see one I'm just too mesmerized watching it to go grab the camera.

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    1. Thank you, Rose. I totally agree with your last sentence. During my day at the garden I was just so overwhelmed. It was a total sensory overload that I had to sit down and take it all in and just watch for a while. I kept thinking, how do I document all this beauty and this amazing experience? The fact that I truly couldn't count all the monarchs and the fact that everything was so "right" about it all. And I thought, "How do I describe this? No one will believe it!"

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  17. I haven't seen a monarch this year. Nor a red admiral. I think it must have been a bad year for these beauties. My last missed photo moment was last week when a small group of golden crowned kinglets stopped by. They move so fast that I could not keep up and I eventually just relaxed and watched them in the trees.

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    1. Oh Patty, that moment with the group of kinglets must have been so sweet! Supposedly, they winter here--but I don't recall ever seeing them. I'm so torn with the camera--the blogger part of me wants to capture everything, and the writer/observer part of me wants to just sit back and take it all in.

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  18. There are often moments that our camera never captures - it's nice to have the memories though!
    Those images of the monarch are incredible Beth. Well done on getting the slide show to work. Knowing that I will more than likely never see a monarch in my life - I thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Angie! Gosh, if you ever travel to North America, I hope you have a chance to see monarch butterflies! Most of us who grew up here frankly took them for granted, and now that their populations are threatened we're feeling sad. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way about missed moments. Thank you for your kind words.

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  19. Beth I can concur about a few of those moments I can never capture...but the monarchs what a treat...love the pictures/video...the last shot is the best.

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    1. Thank you, Donna. In retrospect, I should have tried to capture one in flight, but most of them were literally dropping out of the sky and spending the day in the garden. Plus, I was so in awe--the whole experience caught me off guard.

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  20. Those moments that the camera didn't capture are little pieces of grace...time suspended so we can simply soak it up and breathe it in.

    Gorgeous photos, gorgeous moments.

    Jen

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    1. Thank you, Jen. I couldn't have said it better--"little pieces of grace." I love that! Lately, I've been experiencing a lot of those and it just makes me thankful for all the very simplest blessings of each day.

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  21. So many wonderful moments not captured by the camera! But it is also good to just take it in, not worrying about focus or photo composition. It must have been amazing to see all the monarchs, and your photos do give us the essence of the moment. I loved your slide show "movie" !

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    1. Thanks, Deb. I did take some video, too, but it degrades so much when I upload it. If I could show it straight from the iPhone, it might be worth sharing. Yes, worrying about photo composition, etc., is fine sometimes, but then other times I just want to take it all in with my own senses.

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  22. What a fabulous sight that must have been. As beautiful as your images are, I know they don't come close to seeing these beauties in person. The autumn light is something I wish I could capture with my camera. Someone more skilled than me might be able to do so, but I marvel daily at the difference in it from the harsh summer light from not so long ago.

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean about the autumn light, Holley. It does make photography a little more interesting though. But no photo or photographer (even the best) can capture the most magical moments. They just have to be experienced.

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  23. Wow fabulous so exciting great photos.

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