The tail end of winter can be an anxious time of the year. You know that spring is just around the corner but, you also know that winter can be stubborn and refuse to leave with any grace and, out of spite might drop another few feet of snow on your front stoop.
I needed to go someplace that would show me spring was indeed on the way. That place was the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Gardens a.k.a., the Bronx Botanical Gardens. I hopped aboard a Metro North train out of Grand Central Station to the gardens and once there followed the crowd to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. As always, this annual exhibit was jammed packed with people of all walks of life and I was cheek to jowl with other photographers. I oozed through the crush of bodies, keeping a sharp eye out for a momentary opening in the masses, to take a few unobstructed photos before getting swept up in the human current and carried toward the next tropical beauty.
No matter how many times I visit the conservatory, I am always mesmerized by the vibrant color that I take in with eyes which have been dulled by a long grey winter. The variety in size and shape is a marvel too, with some spotted, some speckled, some curly and some smooth; tiny blooms, large blooms clustered or climbing like vines. My absolute favorite though, was not an orchid but, a gorgeous turquoise blue Jade plant with purple stems! Hanging demurely from the ceiling, its stunning hue arrested everyone’s attention and caused a chorus of ooh’s and aah’s to issue softly from the lips of all those who looked upon it.
Exposure was a challenge inside the conservatory with the changing light and shadow. I was using my 50mm 1.4 lens which is terrific in low light but, I still at times had to adjust the ISO, shutter speed, aperture or use fill flash to ensure the detail and color of the orchids was not lost due to being under or over exposed. Therefore, I spent a lot of time standing in front of the same little orchid, pressing the shutter, checking the display, cursing under my breath and reshooting. Thank God for digital cameras.
After a few hours among these tropical plants and throngs of orchid lovers, the atmosphere had become sultry, so I pushed my way out the doors to the cool air and wide open space of the conservatory court yard. I didn’t walk but a few feet when I came upon the incredible sculptures of the Four Seasons created by the artist Philip Haas who was inspired by the 16th-century creations of Italian Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. The busts of these noble children of Mother Nature are huge, standing 15 feet high with unforgettable floral complexions, bulbous squash noses, peachy cheeks, twiggy hair and tulip teeth.
Now, the orchids where just beautiful but, they still did not prove to me that spring was coming having been born and raised, so to speak, indoors. I needed natures proof which could only be found in the ground. So, like a blood hound with nose to the trail I walked along the brown and barren gardens, looking for the harbingers of spring. Happily, I spotted the first and sure sign that spring is coming; the tiny cluster of yellow and white blooms of the crocus. Once encouraged I was now seeing signs everywhere. Green shoots and leaves worming their way up from the moist cool soil and bunches of papery mauve blooms waking from a long hibernation. Tiny little buds on some bushes and a few trees. The wind blew a strong cold gust and I zipped my jacket and pulled up my hood smiling; now convinced that spring was definitely on its way.