The Jaeger Company Recognized for Reynolda Gardens Restoration

The Jaeger Company recently received The Legacy Award from the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). This award recognizes "a distinguished landscape architecture project completed 15 years or more ago that retains its original design integrity and contributes significantly to the public realm of the community in which it is located."

Located in Winston-Salem, N.C., Reynolda Gardens is part of the RJ Reynolds Estate, which was developed between 1906 and 1924. It is one of the few estates created in the South during the Country House Era (1890-1940), in which many American industrialists created large estates where their families could enjoy clean air, healthy food and leisure activities. The conservatory and original formal gardens were originally designed by Louis L. Miller in 1913 and later redesigned by landscape architect Thomas W. Sears. The property was managed by Katharine Smith Reynolds, the wife of Richard Joshua Reynolds.

Occupying approximately four acres, the Formal Gardens feature a Lord and Burnham conservatory flanked by three growing houses. A small greenhouse, hotbeds and heated cold frames provided addition space for growing plants, which were both displayed in the gardens and sold to the public. The Sears plan for the Sunken Greenhouse Gardens (1917) included four themed gardens: a pink and white garden, a blue and yellow garden, and two rose gardens. They also featured specimen trees, a central lawn, perennial and shrub borders, two fountains, pergolas and Japanese-style tea houses. The Fruit, Cut Flower and Nicer Vegetable Garden (1921) continued the Japanese-style design theme. This section was divided into a series of beds and borders separated by crushed-gravel paths and post-and-rail fences.

By the early 1990s, the garden plantings had shown considerable decline and the infrastructure had become unsafe. This is when The Jaeger Company, a landscape architecture and historic preservation firm based in Gainesville, Ga., was called in to help with the restoration. The construction and initial planting phase was completed in 1997 and still retains its integrity--which can be seen in these photos taken for the firm in October 2014. 

The garden is currently owned by Wake Forest University and is open to the public for enjoyment. Congratulations to Dale Jaeger and everyone at The Jaeger Company who worked on this project.

Alone (Well, Almost) in the Bisti Wilderness

How often do you feel alone, truly alone, in the wilderness? For most of us, the answer is rarely or never. But last month, a friend and I visited the Bisti Badlands/De-na-zin Wilderness in northwestern New Mexico, and that’s how we felt (though we did, admittedly, have each other for companionship and safety reasons). We never saw another person the entire time we were exploring this wilderness area, and there wasn’t another car in the parking lot or along the several miles of unpaved road leading to the site. Our only encounter was with a rattlesnake, and thank goodness we only saw one of those!

Among protected scenic locations in the U.S., Bisti ranks among the least known. With no trails, we were thankful for GPS, which tracked our footsteps into and back out of this strange terrain (though don’t count on cell service). I started off the old-fashioned way, using a map and compass, but with the lay of the land, it was challenging to keep to any course of direction.

It’s a fascinating place. The terrain is more like what one might expect to see on the moon, and the rich, earthy colors were fantastic. There are mountain-like mounds, washes, narrow canyons, hoodoos, and strange rock formations that look like cracked eggs. Now a high desert, this was once a swamp inhabited by reptiles, dinosaurs and other creatures. At roughly 60 square miles, we didn’t begin to see it all. After more than three hours of serious hiking and rock climbing in near 100-degree heat, we decided it was time to get out of the sun and look for a cold beverage. I’d love to go back in cool weather with camping gear and a guide for an extended stay. We spent a great deal of time scrambling up and down steep hillsides on our hands and knees, and picking out routes that were often dead-ends overlooking canyons. It wasn’t an easy “walkabout.” It looked and felt more like rock climbing, and I would not have attempted this solo for safety reasons.

If you go, be forewarned: There are no facilities of any kind. Take lots of water, wear sturdy boots, and make sure you have a companion. The access roads (there are two ways to get in, including one that is considerably more remote) are located roughly an hour south of Farmington, NM, which is the nearest town with available lodging. In mid-summer and winter, be sure to check road conditions. Snow and rain can make the roads impassable.

LAYERS: As Interpreted by Women Artists of Georgia

LAYERS explores the physical process of adding media on top of media, of interpreting layers of meaning in a work of art, and of capturing layers depicted in a subject. This exhibition by the Women's Caucus for the Arts of Georgia (WCAGA) will be on display August 10 through September 26, 2014, at the Jim Cherry Learning Resource Center Gallery at Georgia Perimeter College and will feature approximately 30 artists working in a wide range of media--from painting and photography to sculpture and fiber arts. The artists reception is scheduled for September 11, from 6-8 pm.

Rio Grande Gorge, ©2014 Lee Anne White

Rio Grande Gorge, ©2014 Lee Anne White

I'll have two black-and-white photographs in the show. Both are part of an in-depth series based on my travels to northern New Mexico to explore the landscape and culture. 

The Women's Caucus for Art of Georgia (WCAGA) is a chapter of the National Women's Caucus for Art (WCA), founded in 1972 to bring women's issues to the foreground of the College Art Association (CAA) and beyond. The focus was and continues to be supporting, recognizing and educating established and emerging women artists, art historians, critics, curators, museum personnel and other visual arts professionals. The Georgia chapter was established in 2000 by 11 women and now comprises more than 100 artists and art professionals from Georgia and other southeastern states, most of whom are based in the metro Atlanta area.

The Widely Known, But Not-So Widely Grown Cactus

The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), with its distinctive "arms," is perhaps the most recognizable of all cacti. Yet it is not a common cactus. It only grows in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexico, and one of the best places to see it is the Saguaro National Park, just west of Tucson.

The saguaro is a long-lived and slow-growing cactus. It can reach 40-60 feet tall, but takes a long time to reach that height. A 10-year-old saguaro may only be 1.5 inches tall. Under the right conditions--the right mix of water and temperature--they can live up to 150 or 200 years. As they mature, they often (but not always) produce branches or "arms" that tend to reach upward. A fully hydrated, mature saguaro can weigh more than 3000 pounds and is covered with protective spines. Although they are considered trees, they are much more fun to photograph than to climb. One day, I'd like to return and photograph these giants at sunset.

All photos ©Lee Anne White

All photos ©Lee Anne White

Morning on the Amelia River

At summer camp, we had a song that everyone always sang horribly off key: "Morning is the Nicest Time of Day." Maybe we sang it that way intentionally, not being very fond of morning. I don't know. Even though I'm no fonder of mornings now than when I was 10, I have discovered that it's one of the best times for landscape photography. The light is softer, there are fewer distractions, the wind tends to be calmer, and your chance of encountering fog is higher. Fog is actually my favorite weather in which to shoot, though doing so can be kind of tricky. Just be sure to open up one to two stops (bracketing your exposures) in order to capture the fog. This shot was taken on a quiet, foggy morning on the Amelia River in northern Florida.

Photo ©Lee Anne White.

Photo ©Lee Anne White.

We All See Differently

Sometimes it's hard to say why something grabs our attention, but I'm convinced that (at least as visual artists), there are certain things that do. And what grabs me may not grab someone else. It's like photo competitions: Sometimes you really have no clue why a judge picks an image. But something spoke to their sense of design, vision, humor or whatever.

Photo: ©Lee Anne White

Photo: ©Lee Anne White

I suspect this would be one of those images: Some might be drawn to it as I was. Others, well, it might not do anything at all for them. No doubt, there is certainly nothing dramatic going on here. Yet I was drawn to the simplicity of the composition, the patterns and lines and the slightly muted colors. I believe there are elements that make this image work: the tilted angle of the street sign, which helps to break the pattern of verticle lines; and the unevenness of the grass along the bottom (as compared to the otherwise straight lines in the image). Or perhaps it is the parking sign with its odd hours located in what does not even appear to be a parking lot. Each of these are subtle elements that provide interest to me in an otherwise common scene. 

On Learning to See

Granted, it's fun to travel to new places to take photographs. Yet, sometimes all you really need to do is head to your own backyard or take a walk down the street to discover interesting images. They are all around you if you take time not just to look, but to truly see. Here's a perfect example: This abstract photograph is the pavement beneath my feet when I stepped out of the car into a downtown parking lot. Can you see it for not only what it is (pavement), but for what it might be (an abstract image about texture, lines, forms and shades)?

Photo ©Lee Anne White

Photo ©Lee Anne White

Beauty in All Seasons

When I wear my editorial hat, I tend to seek out plants and gardens when they are at their peak and look their "magazine" best. But when I'm shooting for myself, I often prefer the off season--fall and winter when plants are losing their glory, yet showing their inner beauty and structure. And this applies whether I'm shooting outdoors or bringing something into the study. It's like when I collect shells on the beach: I prefer the worn shells to the pristine ones. And when it comes to people, I tend to be more interested in those whose faces tell a story. To me, there is great beauty in maturity. 

What Would You Be If You Weren't What You Are?

One evening at a dinner party in Berkely, someone asked: What you would be if you weren't what you are? Without skipping a beat, I responded, "A naturalist." Where that came from, I'm not quite sure. I'd never actually verbalized that before. But in a way, it made perfect sense.

Wasp nest.

Wasp nest.

I collect things. I've collected things since I was a kid. At first, it was butterflies, rocks and flowers. Later it was handcrafted pottery in earthy colors and textures, which we still use on a daily basis. And for years, I've picked up random things I find on daily walks with the dog: feathers, seedpods, cones, bird nests, and shells and sharks' teeth (when I'm at the beach). I enjoy pressing the flowers and leaves, filling jars with nuts and seeds, and simply placing natural items around a room. Our walls are dotted in botanical prints and our shelves are well stocked with books on gardening and nature.

Hornet's nest.

Hornet's nest.

Spurred by allergies, I recently decided to photograph some of these collected items and toss those that had accumulated a bit too much dust. Figuring out how to arrange them for a photograph is always a creative challenge. I like to keep it simple and to somehow capture their sense of gesture or design--whether symmetric or asymmetric. I'm really just getting started with this project, but posted a portfolio of some early images. I'll continue to update it as the project expands.

Northern sea oats ( Chasmanthium latifolium )

Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

I may not be a naturalist, but I do enjoy nature and collect both natural objects and photographs of nature, much as a naturalist might. 

Visual Texture: An Illusion

The concept of visual texture has always intrigued me. As opposed to tactile texture, which you can touch and feel, visual texture is essentially the illusion of texture. In photography, that generally means photographing objects that have tactile texture in a way that highlights or emphasizes the textural qualities of the subject. 

©Lee Anne White

©Lee Anne White

Texture can be emphasized with side lighting and increased contrast. That said, the photograph above, shot in a Nova Scotia fishing village, was photographed under soft lighting conditions. Yet there is contrast between light and dark that helps to highlight the texture. Texture can be captured in both color and black-and-white photography, although I believe B&W photography, by its very nature, is especially suited to doing this.

Heading Out Without Expectations

Most of the time when I head out to shoot, I have something specific in mind--whether I'm taking photographs for a client, my stock files, or a personal artistic project. But sometimes it's nice to go without a shot list or expectations--to simply be open to possibilities.

Photo ©2014 Lee Anne White

Photo ©2014 Lee Anne White

That's what I did one overcast morning last week in Fernandina Beach. I was on my way to the Cuban sandwich shop for a cup of cafe con leche when I made a last minute decision to grab my camera. I wandered past the same familiar buildings, but in the day's soft light and with camera in hand, I began to see things differently.

When you are simply open to what grabs your attention rather than intentionally looking for something specific, new things appear on your radar screen. It's like when I go to an antique store: If I'm looking for something specific, I tend to tune out everything else in the store. When I'm just browsing for fun, I make all kinds of interesting discoveries. That's how I found this little composition. It's just an old garage door on an abandoned warehouse, but the colorful wood, rusting bolts and disintegrating wire mesh gave me something to work with. I made a dozen or more different shots, arranging the elements in different ways. This one was my favorite.

Squint Your Eyes and Look Closer

Most of the time when composing a photograph, we want to open our eyes and look carefully, being sensitive to all of the details in a potential composition. Sometimes, however, it helps to squint our eyes to look at things in a different way. Squinting plays down the details while emphasizing contrast, form and color.

Thuya Gardens, Maine. Photo ©Lee Anne White

Thuya Gardens, Maine. Photo ©Lee Anne White

That's how I discovered this shot. It was a beautiful pot, but it was sitting in harsh midday light, which made it difficult to capture in its surrounding garden--at least at that particular time of day. But by squinting, I could better see what captured my interest anyway: The shape and surface of the pot, along with the dramatic shadow, reminded me of the moon. So rather than thinking of this as a container in a garden, I tried to capture this "moon" against the dark shadows of what might be interpreted as the night sky.

Film cannot capture detail in the full range of highlights and shadow that the human eye can see. If I had shot this at a "normal" exposure, I likely would have lost detail on both ends of the spectrum. But by adjusting my exposure so that the highlights were captured in more of a middle-tone, it ensured that the shadows went black, and a little burning around the edges helped give this a finished look.

The Drama is in the Details

It's just a tiny, unincorporated community, but  Chimayo, NM, is famous for three reasons: The Chimayo peppers that grow there and are often sold as ristras--clusters of large, red chiles that you see hanging from portals. The Ortega and Trujillo families, who are widely known for the quality of their weaving, which is done in the Spanish Colonial tradition. And the Santuario de Chimayo, a small church built by a private individual in 1816, which is currently managed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The church is thought to be a special place of healing, and more than 30,000 individuals seek out the dirt in a tiny back room when they go on a pilgrimage to the church each year during Holy Week. 


Though small and rustic, the church has an elaborate altar, and just inside the door of the sanctuary is a stunning carved statue of Jesus. To me, the bound hands and scarred arms told the story. It was one of those cases in which showing less conveyed more.

Break Patterns for an Element of Surprise

While sitting at the drive-thru at Zaxby's one day, I noticed a beautiful stand of grass at the edge of the parking lot. After ordering a salad, I dashed home (just a quarter-mile away), grabbed my camera and headed back to the restaurant. 


What I loved most about this stand of grass, other than it was a rare monoculture not yet invaded by local weeds, was the way the tall stems and seed heads swayed in the light breeze. I placed the camera on a tripod and slowed the exposure down to catch some of this movement. This was my favorite shot, as the one stem was determined to lean into the wind at contrast to the other grasses. It's a good example of how breaking a pattern with an unexpected element changes the dynamics of an image and makes it more interesting.

Shoot When Others Don't

Among the lessons I learned years ago during a workshop with photographer Brenda Tharp is that if you shoot when others don't, you get the shots that no one else does.

One day recently, while shooting in St. Louis on assignment, it was 5 degrees outside when I crawled out of bed and bundled up for a day of shooting. It was 13 degrees and windy when I actually took my first shot. it never climbed out of the 20s all day. 


I wasn't shooting in color. My client needed black-and-white prints from a large-format camera. But I did toss a digital camera in the bag...just in case. This was one of the few times I pulled it out of the bag (choosing instead to use the camera on my iPhone when the urge to play struck). Maybe it's just that I'm from the South and don't see that much frozen ice, but the ice in this pond was a beautiful color. With the little piles of snow on top, I was reminded of clouds drifting in the sky. 

This is one of those random, stand-alone shots that doesn't belong in a series or with the assignment, and often gets lost and forgotten along the way. So just for fun, I thought I'd share.

Stay warm, my friends!

Applying New Tools and Skills to Older Images

The introduction of digital imaging came with a learning curve for experienced film photographers. Or at least it did for me. I can remember the great disappointment in looking at my first batch of RAW images. Then again, I recall some great disappointments in the traditional darkroom, too. Whether shooting digital or film, images must be processed  and printed (or otherwise presented), and learning how to do that well is challenging. Like most photographers, I'm still testing new tools, experimenting with different approaches and learning a great deal in the process.


Among the things I try to do from time to time is go back to some of my early digital images--those produced when my processing skills were quite limited--and re-process them using newer tools and skills. This week, I revisited a shoot from McLeod Plantation in Charleston, SC, that I produced for The Jaeger Company--a landscape architecture and historic preservation firm. Here are three images from that shoot.


Conversations with Creative College Women

I had the pleasure of interviewing 36 college women last spring about their views on creativity. Each also allowed me to photograph her expressing her sense of creativity in some way. Some brought symbolic objects or items they had made. A few launched into performances. And others expressed their creativity in more personal ways. Some of the images are featured in this short digital story.

Conversations with Creative Women from Lee Anne White on Vimeo.

A Moment in the Garden

Like any good gardener, I’ve been keeping my eyes on the weather. Heavy rains headed this way: 2 to 4 inches, flood watch. That’s when it occurs to me I have maybe an hour or so to photograph my spring garden before the rain batters the Lady Banks rose and azaleas. The irises just started blooming yesterday, but they won’t hit their stride until after this storm system passes.

Photo ©2010 Lee Anne White.

My garden is sort of on the wild side. It was designed that way, as I adore meadows and wanted to capture that spirit. And, admittedly, I haven’t kept up with the maintenance quite the way I’d like. The garden is now 10 years old, so the evergreens and shrubs have filled out (some much larger than anticipated) and many of the perennials have come and gone. That’s the natural order of things. In the early years, the perennials shine. As the garden matures, the woody plants take their place as the stars in the garden. The temperamental plants disappear over the course of summer droughts, soggy winters, record lows and late cold snaps. The stubborn, persistent plants spread their roots to fill the gaps. And the garden takes on a life of its own.

In all its wildness and weediness, and despite the puzzled looks of visitors who have never seen a fall foliage garden in the South, I love my garden. I stripped the sod by hand, tucked each and every plant into the soil, and have tended them (more or less, mostly less) over the years. It may not be exactly what I envisioned back in 2000. But then again, maybe it’s more.

All photos ©2010 Lee Anne White. All rights reserved.