The Eye of the Beholder

Written by Judy Broom.

“Wow!  This would be a great spot for a golf course.”

This was for many years the highest praise my spouse might utter for scenic beauty – whether we were looking at the wild beauty of a natural landscape or the symmetry of a meticulously man-made garden.

We always built time apart into our vacation travel.  I might hit the shops, visit a nursery or wander a neighborhood peering over fences at what the locals were growing in their vegetable plots or cutting gardens while my golf-addicted partner headed to his appointed tee time.  He’s a good sport.  He never rolled his eyes or hesitated when I invited him to go with me to an important botanical garden or spend the morning rambling the grounds of an exquisitely planted estate.   Still, it seemed to be the exercise and fresh air he relished more than the greenery.

Then he got a new camera.  Something happens to the eye of a beholder when it looks at growing things through a camera’s lens.

The heather bed at Dunn Gardens is undeniably an attention magnet when early spring bloom paints it in shades of pink and lavender.  Everybody appreciates it then.  But a budding photographer’s eyes will watch a subtler show as the slanting light of a late summer afternoon reveals a swathe of heather pincushions in hues of lime, olive, chartreuse and sage.

Who can resist pointing a camera – or the lens of a smart phone – toward the brilliance of a golden locust tree shining against a dark conifer backdrop?  The contrast of light and dark creates drama at the same time it challenges the skill and equipment of the photographer.  With the nearly unlimited capacity of digital cameras we shoot and shoot and shoot.  And slowly we learn the limits of our gear and our knowledge.  And we learn new ways of seeing.

The glow of sunlight through foliage enchants the eye – even if it eludes the camera.  Droplets of early morning dew sparkle on flower petals, drawing the lens and the photographer closer and closer, inviting a finer and finer focus.  A bend in the pathway opens a peek-a-boo vista never noticed before. 

No matter the season: Autumn replaces the ubiquitous green with warmer hues – made richer yet against a bright blue sky. A dried seed pod, dismissed with yesterday’s ordinary vision as a plant “done blooming,” is now an object with structural interest. Slick, moist mushrooms gleam from hiding places in the fading undergrowth.  And the shutter softly clicks.

Our vacations still include plann

ed time apart.  My husband will never enjoy shopping and I will never appreciate “a good  walk spoiled.”  But his new enthusiasm for photography has him now finding gardens we can visit together and helping me see the garden anew. 

Dunn Gardens is lovely in the autumn, open for weekend tours through the end of October.  Sign up online and bring your camera or smart phone and be prepared to educate your eyes.

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