The Queen’s Bath, revisited

Along with all the amazing ruins, the ancient Maya site of Palenque also offers some really nice waterfalls not too far from the site center.  Dubbed the “Queen’s Bath,” it’s actually a series of waterfalls with terraces.  It can be a really amazing thing to see and photograph.

But can it ever change its appearance with the seasons.

Our most recent trip to Palenque was timed to fall just after the end of the wet season, in early December.  Enough water was flowing in the Otolum creek to give the Queen’s Bath some life:

The Queen's Bath

Note that this is a 1/13 second exposure, so you can see that you can get some nice blurring of the water without a tripod (note that you can’t use a tripod in the ruins without a permit requiring paperwork in advance, etc.).  At least, an exposure like this will work if your camera or lens offers image stabilization.

For comparison’s sake, here’s a shot taken from nearly the same spot two years earlier (but at the end of the dry season, in mid-May):

Queen's Bath (dry season)

Dark little forest

When we stopped at the Chicago Botanic Garden on our recent trip to the windy city, we found they had a whole courtyard devoted to bonsai trees.  Better still, the trees were displayed with frosted glass backings — making for some really nice photo compositions.

In this particular case, the glass could have been a bit taller.  But I’d never been to Chicago before, and have no plans to return anytime soon, so I wasn’t about to be fussy.  A bit of work in PS Elements, and the size of the frosted glass became immaterial.

Personally, though, I prefer the silhouette / monochrome version.  Gives it a nice, crisp look, don’t you think?

If you’re curious, this tiny forest is a Sawara False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’).

Plein air

On our recent trip to Chicago, we did our usual tour of the local botanic gardens (one of the benefits of being married to a garden-loving woman).  While wandering through the Chicago Botanic Garden, I spotted an in-progress plein air watercolor:

Plein air

Sadly, the artist was nowhere to be found, so I couldn’t chat with them.  Just the same, I liked this composition…

Coming to a point

Interesting things, flowering cacti — they give a photographer such a list of contrasts to work with.  Bright vs. muted colors.

Coming to a point

Spiky vs. soft shapes.

Nipple cactus, redux

Angular vs. rounded shapes.

Nipple cactus close-up

These are all shots of a “Nipple cactus” (Coryphantha sulcata, a.k.a. Pineapple cactus), seen at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. At least, that’s how it was labeled — but all the online information on this species shows it to be both smaller and bearing yellow flowers.  Not sure what’s going on there…

Wall of color

One of the particularly nice things about Austin’s River Walk is that if you catch a boat taxi, you can just sit as it carries you past all sorts of beautiful and photogenic scenery — take this view, for example:

Wall of color

Of course, you’d better have your wits about you.  Things come up fast, and you can miss a number of interesting sights in the time it takes to swap lenses.

Nasturtium

A.k.a Pohe Haole (Tropaeolum majus), brought to you by the Limahuli Garden & Preserve (part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden system) on Kaui, Hawaii:

Nasturtium

The Limahuli Garden and Preserve is a neat little place to stop by should you ever find yourself up on the north end of Kauai (get to Hanalei, then continue west until the road ends).  Beautiful views, lots of great plants and flowers to see and shoot, and you get a bit of history in the mix as well.  Nasturtium was introduced to Hawaii in the 1800s, so this was shot in the “Plantation era” part of  the garden.

Vibrant

A bit of color for your week, courtesy of a planting on the stairs up to the Coit tower in San Francisco:

Vibrant

If you’re passing through San Francisco and looking for a workout, there are few to beat the stairs up the east side of Telegraph Hill from the Embarcadero to the base of the Coit Tower.  You’ll climb some amazing, steep steps from either Greenwich or FIlbert St.  Along with the exercise, and the beautiful views over the Bay, the local residents take fantastic care of their flowers along the way.  So keep your camera handy for a little flower photography when you’re pausing to catch your breath!

Unwelcome visitor

This is a Japanese Beetle (Popillia japonica), in case you’re unfamiliar with them — beautifully colored, with their iridescent shells offset against the flower petals’ colors.  But hell on roses (and grapes, and birch trees, and…).

Unwelcome visitor

Japanese beetles are apparently not a big problem in Japan — they have many predators that help keep their numbers under control.  But since their arrival in the U.S. early in the 20th century, they’ve been expanding their territory from their original “beachhead” in New Jersey.  Courtesy of the warming climate, they made it to Colorado a few years ago.  Luckily beetle traps are available via the internet, since local home and garden stores apparently haven’t taken notice of their arrival.  Yet.

Seen in the War Memorial Rose Garden; Littleton, Colorado.

Protea

Seen at the Ali’i Gardens in Maui, Hawaii:

Protea

My apologies for the dearth of posts lately, but my computer’s hard drive has been getting flaky (bad enough to cause issues, but not bad enough to make the source of the problem obvious), and finally died yesterday. Its replacement should be online within a few days.