THIS COULD BE THE START OF SOMETHING.......
Sometimes a small change in the routine of oneís life creates ripples that reach down through the decades, determining where you travel, who you will know, even the books you will collect, or as Dr. Seuss once said, "Oh the places youíll go! The things you will see!"
For us, that small change occurred on a January day in 1966. We were living in Los Angeles, and Glennís work was all-absorbing for him. The stuffed briefcase came home with him every night and made the 25-mile commute back to Wilshire Boulevard and his office the following morning.
On that fateful January day, probably a Sunday morning as we dawdled over breakfast, out of the blue Glenn announced: "I need a hobby." Startled, I looked up from the Sunday paper, and agreed with him, "Yes, you do." His next sentence: "I think Iíll take up photography." My reply, "Well, that would be interesting." And then, the most startling announcement of all from Glenn: "I think Iíll photograph wildflowers." Wildflowers? WILDFLOWERS? I could not have been more taken aback if Glenn had said he planned to photograph only icebergs in Greenland. The word "wildflower" was barely in our vocabulary. Yes, weíd casually noticed the wildflower display carpeting the desert around Phoenix where we once lived. There must have been wildflowers incidental to our campsites in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but we had never specifically remarked upon them.
I wasnít about to discourage my workaholic husband from whatever diversion would give him something besides work to think about. So, off we went to the camera stores, because the simple fixed lens camera that had been adequate for family pictures and scenery shots wouldnít be versatile enough for Glennís new hobby. Glennís choice was a 35mm "SLR" camera with a standard 50mm lens. Here was where my education about cameras began. "SLR" stands for "Single Lens Reflex" and such cameras let the photographer see through the lens, rather than through a separate viewfinder. Very helpful when trying to take close-ups of subjects as small as a wildflower blossom. For a man who apparently picked this photography hobby out of thin air, he was suspiciously knowledgeable about the equipment he would need!
New camera in hand, we headed for Palm Springs in mid-February. Our timing was perfect. The pink Sand Verbena wildflowers were carpeting those brilliant white sand dunes that stretch south through the Coachella Valley. And, up in Indian Palm Canyon, on the outskirts of Palm Springs, we found delicate blossoms tucked among the huge boulders. Glenn had a field day--snapping this flower and then that flower. We could hardly wait to get home, so he could get all those pictures developed and we could enjoy once again the rich colors of the blossoms we had just seen. This was not to be. Print after print was just a fuzzy blur of color--rather like smudging a colorful chalk drawing. The pictures didnít look anything like what we had seen with our own eyes. What was wrong? Glenn knew right away. The naked eye could separate out the blossoms and the mind created a picture with sharp definition. But alas, the 50mm lens on his camera didnít see things that way. What it saw was, basically, mush. It was at that point that Glenn uttered, for the first time, those words I was to hear again and again for the next 36 years, "I need better equipment."
The first addition was a set of closeup filters and then a set of extension tubes. Later, Nikon cameras and multiple lenses would become necessities. Ahh, NOW we were getting somewhere! The new camera with its special attachments could isolate single flowers and the detail of the petals and stamens emerged. The prints were now "keepers." Another necessity emerged--photography books and especially, magazines. "Popular Photography" got a lifelong subscriber in Glenn. He decided that 35mm slides captured the brilliance of the flowers far beyond what print film could produce. So, another layer of "equipment" was added--a slide projector, viewing screen, and flat metal boxes to house the growing number of slides Glenn was producing.
Beginnerís luck was with us that spring of 1966. In Southern California the winter rains and spring sun combined to provide the best wildflower display seen in over 20 years. We spent every weekend in the great outdoors; either out on the Mohave Desert where the yellow Desert Dandelion and orange poppies stretched, acre upon acre, or in the brushy Malibu Hills where there were splashes of brilliant red Paintbrush among the chaparral. As the season progressed, we drove along the Angeles Crest Highway, high up in the mountains where purple Penstemon created sheets of color on rocky slopes above the road. We were seeing the land and the flowers as if for the first time. We couldnít believe the amazing variety of flowers and the beauty to be seen through a close-up lens. A whole new world had opened up to us.
It wasnít long before we bumped into the next aspect of Glennís new hobby. One weekend, we would find a Paintbrush. Maybe a couple weekends later, at the other end of the county, we encountered another Paintbrush--similar yes, but the color was different, or the leaves were a different shape. Now we realized we wanted to know which plant was which. And how to gain this knowledge? Through pamphlets with a few color pictures, field guides, and ultimately dictionary-size "floras" which lead you through a series of multiple choices to learn the identity of a specific plant. If you were very observant when looking at a plant (and learned all the special botanical descriptive adjectives), at the end of the choices you would know the identity of that particular Paintbrush. If you made a wrong choice--you ended up deep in the Depths of Confusion. When we started buying and using flower guidebooks we crossed a watershed--now we were studying botany, not just photographing pretty posies. And thus began our library of wildflower books--now numbering well over a hundred and fifty volumes, plus a filing cabinet filled with pamphlets, plant lists, and even magazine articles describing a good wildflower "hot spot."
We were hooked now. Our neighbors began to complain that we were never home on weekends--very true. Our children began to decline our invitations to go on wildflower hikes. They would ask, "are you bringing the camera?" Of course we always said "yes," and they said, "thanks, but no thanks." They learned quickly that a wildflower hike with a camera wasnít really a hike at all. We would go maybe a few hundred yards, spot a flower, out would come the camera, and it might be minutes or an hour before we moved along the trail again.
If Glennís hobby was not drawing us closer as a family, it was certainly giving the two of us a common interest--one with artistic and intellectual challenges that have kept us chasing those wildflowers for 36 years. We became a team--Iím the "spotter," always looking ahead up the trail, or staring out the side window of the car, looking for that flash of color that will make me sing out, "I think I just saw a ...." and then Glenn stops walking, or parks the car at the nearest pullout, and hauls out his camera gear. He goes into action, zeroing in on a blossom, composing the picture, calculating how far away the flash should be held, and just to be on the safe side, brackets the shot with different exposures. This may sound simple, but in the desire to get the best possible picture, Iíve seen Glenn literally dig a hole so he could be eye-to-eye with a flower; perch precariously above the edge of the Grand Canyon, or even wade out into a lake with camera held high over his head--to find the most beautiful water lily blossom.
Getting "up close and personal" to the wildflowers can also bring you a bit too close to other creatures of the wild places. Weíve dodged rattlesnakes in Utah, shaken off ticks in Delaware, watched scorpions skitter away in Arizona, declined to share the trail with a black bear in the Strawberry Mountains of Oregon, and been chewed on by mosquitoes most everywhere--even in dry Nevada.
Soon, a company transfer found us living on the other side of the continent--near Philadelphia. But now, we had a whole new geographic area in which to seek out wildflowers. Our home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania was far removed from the urban landscape of Philadelphia. We had little country lanes, magnificent hardwood forests and picturesque streams all in our backyard. We also had one of the best resources amateur botanists could wish for--a few miles from our home was Washington Crossing State Park--right on the banks of the Delaware River, where, yes, George Washington made his historic crossing and caught the Hessians napping in New Jersey. The significance of this park for us was not the history, but that the state of Pennsylvania had created a State Wildflower Preserve--a living "museum" within the park. Wildflowers from throughout the state were all right there, growing and blooming, just a few miles from our home. Best of all--they had botanists on their staff, who gave excellent beginning botany and wildflower identification courses. Glennís slide collection kept growing, and so did our knowledge of plants.
We discovered others with the same peculiar notion that it is fun to go looking for wildflowers, on or off the beaten path, and then to puzzle out the correct identification. In the 1970ís a new interest in the environment swept the nation--our vocabularies included words like "ecology" and "endangered species." During that same era, almost spontaneously throughout the US, like-minded people banded together to form Ď"native plant societies," with the objective to learn more about wild plants and work to protect them from extinction. We were among the founding members of the Utah Native Plant Society, and since 1985 weíve been involved with the Native Plant Society of Oregon. Weíve volunteered in various ways with these organizations, and been repaid many times over by the friendships weíve made and the "secret spots" weíve been led to, where lovely, and often rare, flowers bloom.
Today, Glennís slide collection numbers over 12,000! Weíve "been there" from Alaska and Canada to Central America and Europe, and in all those places weíve "done that"-- found, enjoyed and photographed as many wildflowers as we could. Recently Glenn has been preparing his Oregon slides so they can be used in the "Oregon Flora." As we look at his picture of a particular Oregon wildflower, we are transported back to the place where we found it in this beautiful state of ours.
And this is the greatest reward of all--to be able to relive, once again, the experience of being at the spot where that flower once bloomed. For us--it still blooms and we realize that we captured more than just an image on that slide--we captured wonderful memories of our life as well.
Barbara Halliday June 26, 2002
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A SAMPLER OF GLENN'S WILDFLOWER PHOTOGRAPHY
Photographed at Reedsport, Oregon
May 18, 1986
Photo no. 86-383
Photographed at Tom McCall St. Preserve
Columbia Gorge, Oregon
May 27, 1986
Photo no. 86-461
Photographed near Point Reyes, California
April 10, 1987
Photo no. 87-150
Photographed in Kings Valley, Oregon
western Willamette Valley
June 12, 1988
Photo no. 88-441
Photographed at McCord Creek,
Columbia Gorge, Oregon
May 5, 1989
Photo no. 89-357
Phlox diffusa longistylis
Photographed at Crater Lake Nat. Park
July 13, 1989
Photo no. 89-778
Photographed at Otter Point St. Wayside,
Oregon Coast near Gold Beach, Oregon
July 9, 1999
Photo no. 99-121
Unless otherwise noted, text and photos are the property of Glenn and Barbara Halliday, © 2005