I have learned so many new things as we have been designing and implementing a Japanese-style garden here in Selah, Washington. The biggest thing that I have learned is how little I know and how much I need to learn. Studying and learning is a big part of the enjoyment that I am receiving from this project. Patience is a key element that I am balancing.
Walking through a Japanese garden is an adventure in discovery. To get to the point where this image is taken, I take a meandering stroll. I enter the garden from our driveway along a gentle bending path and come to a fork. I choose to walk up a gentle slope. The path curves upward to a wide level space where I pause to closely observe a brilliant yellow “Chief Joseph” limber pine. I turn around and see our pond in the distance. I continue to walk up the path to another wide area at the top of a stream. Again I pause to look over the now dry stream bed and over the valley below. After several moment, I cross a large basalt rock bridge over the stream. I turn to my right and see this vignette of the Kotoji and Yukimi lanterns. One leg of the Kotoji is anchored in the stream. The Yukimi is placed on a rock extending over the edge of the pond. On a bright day (without ice or snow covering the pond), I can see the reflection of the Yukimi on the pond. I feel like it acts like a guardian for the koi in the pond.
After I take the photograph, I step back upon the stone bridge. Looking down on the stream, I consider the options that are available to landscape around the stream to create a natural setting. Ideas flow through my mind. Nothing quite gels at the moment. There is no hurry to come up with a design. A landscape is developed over a period of years. It is never completed. Now is the time to have patience and just enjoy what is in front of me.
As we developed the design for our Japanese Garden, winter color was an essential element. Throughout the garden, we added several conifers that turn to a brilliant yellow to contrast against the greens of other shrubs and trees. We also selected deciduous Japanese maples and other trees that have color in their winter bark. The soft light browns of key rocks add to the color contrast. However, these were gifts, not necessarily part of our planned design. We just got lucky here.
One Japanese garden design technique is to used “borrowed scenes” from the area around the garden. As much as possible the background elements should look like they are part of the near and mid-range scene, giving it additional depth. As we laid out our Japanese garden last summer, we identified several elements for which we positioned them to take advantage of the background hills and landscape. In this image we used our neighbor’s large front yard tree, their pasture, and their fence to give depth to the Kotoji landscape view.
Hoarfrost is amazing. The small ice crystals build up on each other as the frost forms. Here, the hoarfrost continued to build up over a two day period. The frost looks like multiple sharp spikes on the exposed Japanese maple branches.
I was prepared for a sharp prick when I touched a branch. As soon as I got close the frost melted. No pain!
I looked out the window and watch the fog roll in. Ghost images appeared where just a few minutes earlier trees stood. I couldn’t resist going outside to try to capture the feeling. I was thinking, “Look at all these cool silhouettes!” It only took a few moments for my fingers to freeze, making it difficult to operate my camera. I took a few images and scurried back into the warm house.
Frequently I look out my window and see this American Kestral perched on a pear tree watching over the pasture below. This seems to be one of its favorite spots. This morning, I waited for the sun to rise a little and shine through the morning fog to silhouette the Kestral. It was a beautiful way to start the morning.
Looking out my window before the sun came up on the Winter Solstice, I saw some bilious clouds forming. I knew a fantastic sunrise was on the way. I grabbed my camera and just waited. I was rewarded with this beautiful view from my patio. What a beautiful gift and wonderful way to start a new day!
How can I make a simple branch covered with frost pop out from its surrounding??? Just move around to position something interesting behind it. I found a faded clump of Japanese Forest Grass for a background. Using a shallow depth of field caused the grass to look like a radiating energy force field. I could feel the energy emerge as I recorded the image.