A Garden Grows in Ann Arbor

My mother-in-law has come for a week-long visit from the eastern shore of Maryland and I have kept her very busy with various activities.  One of my plans before she arrived was to take her to Schedel Gardens in Elmore, OH.  They have a mansion tour you can take on Wednesdays and Fridays but when I called to make our reservation for the tour, I was told the tour guide would be off that Friday, so no mansion tour.  Schedel costs $10 per person just for access to the gardens, and when I looked up the directions for how to get there, it looked a bit complicated and included having to use the Ohio Turnpike.  All this had me looking for an alternative outing for the two of us.

Toledo Botanical Gardens are lovely, and free, but I had already taken her there in the past and wanted something new.  I got the brilliant idea to search for a botanical garden in Ann Arbor and found Matthaei Botanical Gardens which is run by the University of Michigan in conjunction with the city of Ann Arbor.  Admission is free – with just a nominal cost to park ($1.40 per hour with a $5 maximum) – and best of all getting there was easy!  Actually, it was funny because Matthaei is located on Dixboro Road, which happens to be one of our alternative routes if we are going up north and traffic is backed up around the 23/14 split at Ann Arbor, so I knew exactly where I was going!  (Funny to think I passed it by on multiple occasions and never new it was there!)

We were blessed with a lovely day for meandering around the gardens.  It was a bit breezy and cool, with occasional clouds fighting with the sun for dominance of the sky.  We started off our visit at the Visitor’s Center and Conservatory.  The Conservatory has a Tropical House, a Temperate House and a Desert House.  I was anxious to get plenty of photos with my new camera!

At the entrance to the Conservatory.

At the entrance to the Conservatory.

I was fascinated by this plant that looked like giant feathers.

I was fascinated by this plant that looked like giant feathers.

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I guess next time I go to a garden to do photography, I will have to carry paper and pen to write down the names of the flowers I photograph!  I experimented with some macro-photography.  This was one of my favorites.

Intricate workings.

Intricate workings.

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I think this is a flamingo orchid.

I think this is a flamingo orchid.

This is another of my favorite macro shots.

Up close with the cacti in the desert house.

Up close with the cacti in the desert house.

Mom and I were fascinated with this agave that had grown right through the conservatory glass ceiling.

Ambitious agave blowing through the glass ceiling.

Ambitious agave blowing through the glass ceiling.

Oh, and I almost forgot about the koi pond!  I was happy my photos turned out – somewhat! 🙂

Koi

Koi

After the Conservatory we wandered out to the Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I experimented with things I had been reading about in the photo books, such a frame-in-frame and leading lines, but the sun was directly overhead by this time and so I didn’t achieve the exact effect I was hoping for.

The Perennial Garden was so lovely but I was disappointed by the results of my photos – the color was not as vibrant as it was in real life, although a few of my efforts were pretty good.  My mother-in-law used her iphone to take a picture of me taking pictures.

The novice photographer at work. :)

The novice photographer at work. 🙂

Perennial Garden

Perennial Garden

Beautiful flower - don't ask me what kind, LOL.

Beautiful flower – don’t ask me what kind, LOL.

I do remember this is an oriental poppy.

I do remember this is an oriental poppy.

Gaffield Children’s Garden was next.  I loved the ivy-covered tunnel entrance to the Children’s Garden.  Even though I am now well “over the hill”, I enjoyed the Children’s Garden very much.  What a great place to take kids!  There are plenty of places where they can play in the dirt and run free in this area.  I wish I had known about this place when my children were little!

Entrance to the children's garden.

Entrance to the children’s garden.

Outside the Children’s Garden was the MiSo house – an all solar powered home.  It looked very interesting but unfortunately you can only tour the MiSo house on certain days, and it was not open on the day we were there.

The MiSo House.

The MiSo House.

The Botanical Gardens are filled with lovely sculptures and artwork.  Well, and some that are “interesting”.

Alien head.

Alien head.

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We wandered back through the Great Lakes Gardens and stopped under this pergola for a rest and to enjoy the water features of the Gateway Garden.  My mother-in-law took my camera to shoot a couple photos of me.

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I had packed us a simple picnic lunch which we enjoyed near the Willow Pond.  There wasn’t much to see in the way of bird activity except for a pair of mallards, a whole lot of Canadian geese with their goslings, and red-winged black birds.  But I think this would be a very good birding spot during spring migration.

Ducks on the Willow Pond.

Ducks on the Willow Pond.

Matthaei has several walking trails throughout the grounds but we only walked the short trail around the Willow Pond when we finished our lunch.  These were the biggest Queen Anne’s Lace I have ever seen in my life, but you don’t really get the sense of how large they are from the photo.

Huge Queen Anne's lace.

Huge Queen Anne’s lace.

We topped off our visit with another stop in the Visitor’s Center and the gift shop, stopping to take a couple of photos of the mosaics that adorn the front walk-way.

Lovely mosaic.

Lovely mosaic.

Then I took several photos of the beautiful flower garden in front of the Visitor’s Center which was filled with a colorful array of peonies.

Peonies

Peonies

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If you are in the Ann Arbor area and looking for a nice outing, I encourage you to check out Matthaei Botanical Gardens.  Also, click here to visit their web site which is filled with information about the Gardens (there is also the Nichols Arboretum closer to the U of M campus) and their many educational programs.

Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed our day and I am anxious to go back again!  I’m sorry if I put too many photos in this post, this is only a fraction of what I took that day! 🙂

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8 Responses to A Garden Grows in Ann Arbor

  1. avian101 says:

    Very nice post! Great photos Amy! 🙂

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  2. Loved it! You can’t put too many photos of such beautiful flowers in a post. 😉

    You’re doing very well with your new camera, the macros are especially good for some one just starting out with a new camera.

    Now then, for a few tips. It’s good to know the “rules” and keep them in the back of your head, but they have become rules because those compositional elements are universally appealing. Your eyes will naturally be drawn to things like leading lines and frames within frames. The trick, which the books don’t teach, is seeing the world through a viewfinder even when you don’t have the camera to your eye, that comes from practice. When you find yourself walking around seeing the world around you in photo sized bits, you’ll know that the practice is paying off. 😉 My “rule” is that if it catches my eye, shoot it!

    In one place you mentioned that the colors in your photos weren’t as vibrant as real life, that’s where learning exposure compensation comes into play. You’re generally better off shooting flowers slightly underexposed to bring out the colors of the flowers. That, and the angle of the sun, which also comes from practice and trial and error. Just like every one else, I’m disappointed when one of my photos doesn’t turn out, but I learn from every bad photo that I shoot. There are times when I think that shooting bad photos is more important to improving your skills than good photos are. It’s not like the days of film when bad photos cost money, you can delete the attempts that don’t work, so go out, shoot away, and have fun with it!

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    • Thanks, Jerry! Since I don’t have a natural artistic eye, learning some of the “rules” is helping me a little -especially that rule of thirds. I have a very “balanced” personality – part of my perfectionism I guess – and I like everything centered and nice and neat. So, learning to let things be off center is taking some getting used to in my head! LOL But I’m seeing the benefit of it in the photos.

      I am hoping that once my mother-in-law’s visit is over, I will have more time to learn and play with my camera and the different settings. I have been reading lots of tip sheets about shooting in manual mode and adjusting the exposure, etc, so I’m hoping I will soon have more time to actually try the things I’m reading. I think it’s going to take putting them into practice for all of it to sink into my head. I also want to take more time with the camera manual, but things have been pretty hectic since I got it so I haven’t had time to really do things step-by-step and see how it works out. I’m still scared to death of hitting the wrong button and not knowing how to fix it! 😀 I’m not a naturally confident person, it takes awhile for me to build up my trust in myself.

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      • I shot a photo in manual mode once, it was a mistake because I turned the mode dial to the wrong setting. 😉

        Some people push shooting in manual as a way of lording themselves above those of us who don’t. As if fighting the manual settings makes them a better photographer, the dirty secret is that it doesn’t. It’s only for bragging purposes.

        The only time that the statements above don’t apply is those few photographers who carry a second light meter around with them, use it to meter a scene, and set their camera by the second meter and not the camera’s meter, and very few do. If you’re relying on the camera’s light meter, then shooting in manual only makes photography harder, not better.

        The truth is, that with your camera, you have complete control over the exposure in Av, Tv, or even program. You can change all the settings that the camera comes up with in any of those modes, and more quickly than shooting in manual.

        I use program most of the time, so I can shoot quickly, not having to worry about anything other than getting the shot.

        For flowers and insects, I switch to Av to control the depth of field to get the entire subject in focus.

        On very rare occasions, I’ll switch to Tv to stop action, or to blur action. I’m actually more likely to set the ISO to accomplish the same effects.

        But, in any of those modes, I can adjust the brightness up or down, and that’s the really important thing, not what mode that you started in.

        When pointing the camera upward to shoot a bird against a bright blue sky, I’ll use zero compensation, or maybe go up 1/3 stop. Against white clouds, it’s +1/3 to +2/3, otherwise the birds will be black lumps. With grey skies, it depends on the color of the bird, but I typically go up +2/3 to a full stop, sometimes even more.

        When shooting birds that are lower in the trees or on the ground, I start at -1/3 and go from there, sometimes it’s -2/3.

        With flowers, it depends on the color. I’ll start at -2/3 for white or yellow flowers, and go as low as -1 1/3.

        But, your camera will be slightly different, depending on how it is programmed to begin with. You don’t need to worry about depth of field so much, digital compacts have an incredible depth of field due to the physics of light, the small sensor, and the way that the lenses are built.

        Maybe I’m sounding too preachy, but I can tell that you’d like to improve your skills, and I’d like to make it easier for you.

        What you should be doing is noting the position of the sun in relationship to where you and the subject of your photos are, and how the photos look. You can adjust for almost any lighting condition, but that takes experience and practice. Then, when you’re in a similar circumstance, you’ll know which way to turn the exposure compensation dial, and how far.

        I hope that this helps.

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    • That helps tons!! I guess I didn’t realize I could do the same type of changes in P that I could in M, so that is extremely helpful! Now I just have to get to the point where I’m not afraid of the buttons! LOL

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  3. tootlepedal says:

    I enjoyed your pictures a lot. Keep shooting.

    Like

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