Ravello. Villa Rufolo

Arches at Villa Rufolo

We walked from Amalfi up to the town of Ravello, through the lemon groves and forest. It was lovely and lush, although we did get rained on in various phases! Nevertheless, the sun came out when we arrived at the top and we visited the Villa Rufolo. We had been set a photo competition to take the photo on the front of the tourist brochure. It was a mad scurry around the gardens, interspersed with “wows” when anyone came to the sea view from a different angle. I can safely guarantee that pretty much everyone will get the picture postcard shot.

~ Spotted Cow

Amazing views

Tourists in the garden



Basil flowers

Pink basil flowers

Yes, I’m still in the garden. It’s that thing called a summer cold which dragged me down for 2 weeks (!) and the only place I have enough energy to get out to is the herb garden. I know that I’m supposed to pick the flower heads off the basil because it makes the leaves taste bitter. But I’ve failed in this regard and photographing them seemed less labourious. It’s less exciting without the bee, but far more delicate.

~ Spotted Cow

Bee’s knees

Bee on basil flower

I was using the macro lens in the garden (again), set on manual, aiming to get a precise focus on whatever it was. Ahh, a bee landed on the basil flower. Perfect. When I sat down to edit the images, I realised the level of detail I had on the bee … because of course, I was standing at a respectful distance. Seeing the bee’s eye, its bee’s knees and all its limbs in high definition gave me a case of the heebie-jeebies. Grimace.

Click to see the photo at large and tell me if you feel the same.

~ Spotted Cow

Snap Chat. Macro lens

Succulent with pink flowers

I love taking pictures of nature with a macro lens because you can get really close-up and detailed. The thing to remember is that you have to be very precise with your point of focus if there are varying depths of field in the composition. And then, I guarantee that you’ll be amazed at the sharpness. The best thing to do is experiment with shifting the point of focus and you’ll get a variety of results, at least one of which you will be extremely pleased with.

Contrast this with the rainy day pictures I took in my folks’ Sydney garden. I had forgotten to bring the macro lens on the trip and my standard travel zoom lens couldn’t achieve the same life-size magnification.

~ Spotted Cow

Succulent Hydrangea IMGP8033


Snap Chat. Imperfect weather.

Buds in the rain

When I was an inexperienced photographer, I didn’t like the rain. I thought it spoilt the already-poor potential for my perfect picture.

However, over the years, I’ve come to embrace the drizzle. And the fog, the mist, the clouds, and the overcast sky.

So that’s what I did when my folks said they wanted pictures of their garden plants. They’re keen gardeners and they wanted some of the images on the walls indoors. It was a rare rainy day during my Sydney summer holiday, and I thought, why not. The raindrops will add some fresh-ness to the petals and the leaves.

~ Spotted Cow

chilliesFlowers in the rainHydrangea

Kangaroo paws

Kangaroo paws

I love kangaroo paws. The plant, that is. They remind me very much of Australia. I love their fuzzy closed petal hands that really do look like paws. And when they open up, they are like little star bursts. Their bright garb attracts the birds. Get this – each species of kangaroo paw deposits its pollen on different parts of a bird so that the pollen doesn’t get mixed up between the species. Isn’t that clever ?

~ Spotted Cow


Orchids in greenhouse

Orchids remind me of my grandmother because she used to breed them when she was alive. When I was young I would stand in her garden and contemplate their ugly beauty. She grew ones that were trained up a supporting stick and had skinny yellow petals with deep red markings. I wondered why she didn’t choose the bigger, prettier ones with lush vivid petals, like these orchids at the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens in Big Island, Hawaii.

Years later, I read a book called The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, which is about a horticulturalist named John Laroche and his quest for the rare ghost orchid. It is a broad tale about orchid obsession and the lengths to which plant collectors will trek into dark swamps and headhunter-inhabited rainforests to find rare orchids. Orchids like humidity and the shyest ones live in the humid low-light density of forests. It’s a wonder that we think we can buy them from the supermarket and grow them in our houses. I’m minded to read the book again.

~ Spotted Cow

Pink orchids Purple orchidsWhite and purple orchidsThe Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

Columbia Road market. Meeting the Queen.

French lavender

Spring prompts me to get up early on Sunday and head down to Columbia Road flower market. In spite of my best efforts, I didn’t make it there before 10am. It already feels crowded, especially as it’s a sunny London day and people have started out early.

I was trying to get out of the throng, when I saw her – the Pearly Queen of Royal Greenwich, standing on the corner by the door of the Royal Oak. Apt, I thought. She wore her pearly costume proudly, matched with bright pink lipstick. I loved it.

Her name is Gwen and she is the Pearly Queen of Royal Greenwich, across the river yonder. She comes to Columbia Road once a month to raise donations for The London Pearly Kings & Queens Society Charity Fund.

A little girl came to talk to her and the Pearly Queen was effusive. She showed off her handbag. She held out the hem of her skirt where the first line of pearly buttons were sewn. She explained the meaning of some of the pins. And she read out the charities that the fund supports. Then she told the little girl, “now you can tell your friends that you’ve met the Queen.”

I left the market at midday, laden with pots, plants and flowers. By then, people were streaming into Columbia Road. They would have to inch their way through the market stalls.

I had a big smile on, satisfied with my haul. And after all, it’s not everyday you get to meet the Queen.

~ Spotted Cow

Pearly Queen of Royal GreenwichPearly Queen of Royal GreenwichOpen househydrangeas Haul from the market


Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

Spring bee

I cannot tell you how terrified I was taking this photo. The bee was enormous, and even though I was using a zoom lens (100mm), I was still standing a bare arm’s length from it. But I had a bee in my bonnet – pun intended! – about getting it in the picture with the flowers.

This spring photo for the Weekly Photo Challenge was shot in the lovely garden of Casa Ana, a guest house in the Alpujarras in southern Spain. While I was scrolling through Ana’s site, I saw a couple of my photos on her garden page. How lovely. I had forgotten that I had given her a set of my images to use. It’s made my day !