Dahlia daydreams and a little bit of printmaking

dahlias by ephpyle

If you’re addicted to looking at flower photography on instagram like I am, you’ll know it’s still dahlia season. (See #dahliaseason.)  My own garden dahlias disappointed me this year. I picked up the plants at a local garden center without paying much attention to the variety and I ended up with these short, mottled white and magenta flowers.(above) They still look pretty enough, but I found the high contrast of bright pink and white together a bit jarring and I didn’t like the way they looked with other flowers.

dahlias of 2014 by ephpyle

In past years, I’ve grown softer pink and yellow dahlias, like these flowers from 2014 (above and below).

bright dahlia by ephpyle

So, I’m already dreaming about what I’m going to plant next year. So far, I’m thinking about ‘café au lait’, ‘apple blossom’, or some type of pompon dahlias like ‘Eveline’, all pictued below. (Photos are not mine – they’re from wikimedia commons, details and links at the end of this post.) If you have any particular favorite dahlia varieties to recommend for growing next year, I’m all ears.

My daydreams also led me to make some dahlia-inspired white line wood cuts.

dahlia white line print by ephpyle

Clearly, pink dahlias have been on my mind. I wanted these prints to be softly colored but now, when I look at them in comparison to photos of real dahlias, they look positively washed out and I’m not sure what I want… Other than to grow more and different dahlias next summer.

dahlia white line print 2 by ephpyle

Photo credits for dahlias I’ve never grown:

Cafe au lait dahlia:  Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia ‘apple blossom’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia “eveline’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Making the most of summer abundance and instagram

plum island phototaker ephpyle

Every summer, I  develop an obsession with Instagram. Last August, I found myself rising early to catch the morning light, planning family outings to picturesque locales and filling my instagram feed with landscapes.

This summer, the photography passion has returned, but instead of landscapes, I’ve been focused on flowers and gardening. I’ve been snapping photos, editing photos, posting photos and dreaming of photos of flowers, plants, gardens.

gathered bouquet ephpyle

I cannot stop thinking about how to best capture my garden flowers in bouquets…

hydrangea and ferns ephpyle

… in styled scenes…

dramatic flowers ehpyle

…in dramatic lighting…

garden puttering ephpyle

or on site, in the garden.

I am astonished at how many hours I can fritter away snapping photos of flowers and plants, dreaming up creative projects, and quite honestly it makes my head spin. I’m happy to know I’m not alone, as, photographer Kim Klassen recently posted. Kim suggested it might be the longer days. I wonder if the lush, vibrant plant growth and bright summer light stir something within us, a primal need to make the most of the abundance of summer(For me, it might also be related to my children being off at camp for a few weeks, but that’s so… practical.)

My current instagram obsession has pushed some of my other projects to the back burner, but like all true summer romances, I know it can’t last. For one thing, I’m taking a printmaking class next week. That should help shift my focus if nothing else. Until then, see you on Instagram!

stewartia blossoms ephpyle

Giddy with garden flowers


I’m giddy about gardening right now. I feel like the expression “embarrassment of riches” was coined for me, for this afternoon, when I came home from Maryland, with an arm full of hydrangeas, and found my yard still filled with peonies.abundant flowers 2015

What lush abundance! What a thrill it was to to gather these flowers together. I also cut a few scabiosa, but my clippers never made it near the foxglove, mountain laurel, or other blooms that had popped open in my abscence. I put down those clippers and went to find my camera instead.

pale pink peony

I frittered away far too much time taking photos of flowers this afternoon, but it was fun. I hope you’ll enjoy these photos half as much as I enjoyed taking them.

blue hydrangeas

I’ll probably post a few more photos of these beauties in my instagram feed, because, like I said, I’m delighted, enamored, giddy with garden flowers. Join me there!

peonies and hydrangea

more pink peonies


Summertime white line prints

white line printing

I’m so excited to share these new white line prints, and I’ll be the first to admit that they are a little outside my usual range. Usually, I’m mucking around in natural greens and brown for plant-inspired printing, so I must have been craving the simple bright colors, just as all of us have been craving sunshine after a long cold winter. IMG_0771

Working from old instagram photos, I chose two beach-related shots. Can you tell I’m ready for summer?

beach umbrella

First, I carved and printed this simple beach umbrella photo. Carving so many converging lines has some challenges, but I’m happy to say I persevered. I particularly like the mottled effect the printing process left in the sky section of the print.

white line print beach umbrella

This same effect also enhances the look of the next print I worked on, of these vintage-y, semi-rusted beach buckets. I was really happy with the way this print was coming along, and even posted my progress on instagram.

white line printing buckets

When it came the background, though, I lost my way. In the photo that inspired this print, the buckets sit on a painted step, but I wasn’t sure that would read very well in the print, so I split the background with an arbitrary horizon. Bad idea.


Thankfully, I didn’t actually carve the area around the buckets, so I can change it on my next print. Still, I have to figure out how to treat that background. I have some ideas, but I’m all ears if you have any suggestions.

Small moment: Sorting embroidery floss

sorting floss

I’m tidying up this morning, sorting embroidery floss before I finish up my second embroidery project. Handling the threads, enjoying the textures and colors can be intensely satisfying-  a small moment but a pleasureable one.

Since I’m new to embroidery, I’m trying out a system of wrapping the threads on little cards and keeping the cards on a ring. If any of you more experienced stitchers have any tips on how to store floss, I’m all ears!

I’m also participating in “A Picture… a Moment” a link up over at Weekend Doings. Martha takes beautiful photos on her blog and on instagram. I’m thrilled to be part of this party. If you’re a blogger, you should link up too!

Weekend Doings

Photos and reality


I’ve been thinking a lot about photos and life. Sometimes a photograph can be more beautiful than the reality (hello, photoshop!)  Sometimes a photograph can fail to capture the magnificence of reality (e.g., vacation photos of the grand canyon.)

I spend a lot of time trying to make beautiful photos. It gives me pleasure, it’s a creative outlet, an escape.

This past weekend in my household was difficult. We are all (except for my 5 year old) stretched too thin with too many commitments, obligations, and interests. There were times when the chaos, the comings and goings, the desires and tensions of a family of six were a lot to handle.


And there were times when I sat editing the photos of an orchid that recently began reblooming. As I cropped, enhanced sharpness, fixed the color, beautified these photographs, I thought of some of the less than beautiful moments I’d experienced in my own house in the past few hours – children hitting one another, panicked searches for lost gloves and more than one imperious “leave me alone!” I thought about the contrast between the noisy reality going on in my life and the serene calmness in the photos I was trying to create.

By working to beautify my photos, am I trying to ‘fake’ my life into something its not? Am I trying to pretend I have a more perfect life? That is certainly not my intent, yet, I hear time and again “pinterest makes me feel guilty” or too much time on facebook, looking at photos of other people finishing triathalons, celebrating with friends, and posing with their beautiful families, makes people feel depressed.

I don’t post ‘real’ and gritty photos because that’s not what I want to see when I go online and because, well, it just seems like that would be boring. Maybe that’s why other people tend to post their photos of happy moments too. Who wants to celebrate, share, dwell on the negative?

I was intrigued recently, when I came across this post, Reality Reframed, by Tracey Clark. I particularly like the way she shows the relationship between a snapshot of real life and a selective, edited, artistic photo. I like the idea of trying to find the beauty in everyday life. I like the idea that the act of making something, even a simple edited photograph, is an escape, antidote, a salve against the chaos and ugliness that can be real life.

So, here is my reality: I found my orchid reblooming here, next to the box of temporarily abandoned art projects, the rosemary standard I forgot to give to my sister, a green plastic spray bottle.

Novelty and Narrative on Instagram

image from instagram feed of pchyburrs

I’ve posted before about how I love instagram as a creative outlet – a forum to learn, practice photography, and glimpse faraway places. But I also love instagram as a place to be surprised and amazed by the creativity of others. The instagram posts of Pchyburrs and Chibichibin never disappoint. They go beyond photography and into the territory of illustration and story telling. Through careful staging, editing or both, they create images that are novel, thrilling, and clever. Narrative images that make me pause and think. Images that soar and delight.

image from instagram feed of chibchibin

On photographs and flowers


In addition to vegetables, my garden also produces flowers. Maybe it doesn’t produce the variety I might like (no dahlias, no roses, no aqueligia) but it still thrills me to cut and bring in home-grown flowers. I sometimes fuss and re-arrange the stems and take photos, but before long, I am tossing wilted brown stems into the compost bin.

Earlier this week, I gathered a final bouquet of the summer, wandering, snipping, reflecting, enjoying the garden as it heads toward dormancy. I was so delighted with the resulting bouquet, I posted it in on (you guessed it) instagram and facebook.


There is much handwringing these days about how we (collectively) over-document our lives, posting photos of our breakfasts, tweeting the splits of our latest run, sharing minutiae. It might be true that in the act of documenting our lives we miss out on living them. Yet, what about the pleasure we get from celebrating (and re-visiting the photos of) the simple and ephemeral moments in our lives?


For me, there is undeniable pleasure in documenting my garden. It is an act of joy and an act of creativity. Sometimes its hard not to share. Forgive me, dear readers, if I sometimes over-share. I may have posted excessively about my hydgrangeas this summer, but I have spared you the snapdragons, foxglove, and clematis, among others. For this year.


Instagram as creative outlet


In the year since Facebook paid $1billion for it, Instagram has been much maligned. People roll their eyes, believing its nothing more than a haven for narcissists, cat lovers, and the mean girls of middle school.

But I love Instagram. Really love it. Admittedly, it can be just another vehicle for over-sharing –  there are plenty of photos of breakfast bagels, lunchtime frittatas, and the like. Yet, its also home to boundless creativity, much cleverness and breathtaking beauty.

You just have to find the right people to follow. Some share simply beautiful photos, others add clever captions to lovely images, still others cobble together arresting images from photos and the myriad photo editing apps available.

Thoughtful editing makes the difference. This means taking the time to construct an image through cropping, rotating, adding filters, blur, and many other techniques I haven’t yet learned. This means prepping an image for instagram is a creative process. Yes, you can do all these things in photoshop, but the immediacy of taking a photo, editing and sharing, all from my phone, has me entranced.

For a while, instagram was my only creative outlet. I craved the times when I could sit silently and edit a photo, my fingers flicking across the screen, my mind abuzz with possibility, as I tried moving the horizon, blurring the horizon, cropping, adding filters, taking filters away and so on. Sometimes I would throw an image out, after trying for 10 minutes to make it into something worthwhile, an image that could capture a mood, tell a story, or simply be beautiful. Process, not product.

I’ve begun to take better photos; I see the world differently; and I’ve added the word bokeh to my vocabulary, even if I cannot yet use it effectively. But honestly, I’m not here to prattle on sanctimoniously about a community of creativity, only to say really, people, Instagram isn’t only for selfies, it can be a quick, portable and exhillarating creative outlet.