Tag Archives: Huntington library

Things Not Photographed

I’ve written frequently about the ways that photography helps me see what I would not ordinarily notice.  Today’s post is about all those things that I notice when I am taking photos that I simply cannot capture or do justice to in a photo.

It was just a few days ago that I came across this quote from Dorothea Lange:

A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.

And that has been true for me.  Yesterday I was out taking photos with my youngest son.  We explored the Huntington gardens and museums and old Pasadena…and I took some nice photos.  But there were so many things I saw that I simply was unable to photograph.  The Japanese gardens were extensive and gorgeous!  The harshness of the midday sun was a challenge for photography.

japanese bridge

And while I love this shot of the bridge, I wasn’t able to do justice to the vibrance of the koi swimming below the bridge or capture the beautiful blossoms of the lily pads floating in the water.

As we moved from the Japanese gardens to the Australian outback and into the desert, I was captivated by the hummingbirds.  There were the usual Anna’s hummingbirds…the larger variety common to my area.  But there were also these tiny hummingbirds, flitting and swooping from blossom to blossom…moving almost before you could see them, much less frame a photo.  I did capture these beautiful cactus blossoms though.

cactus flower

To cool off, we headed inside to the art gallery and the library.  Even though this space feels unfamiliar, I am sure I visited this place as a teenager on a field trip.  The only thing I can remember about the visit is seeing the paintings of Blue Boy and Pinkie.  But walking into the gallery reminded me immediately of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland!

I found myself thinking about curation and exhibition as I walked through the library…noticing the stories told and the ways the displays invited visitors to experience historical events.  I also watched my son–as an adult–drawn to interactive displays, things that can be manipulated, looked though, turned, opened…  I found myself drawn to this display of lightbulbs, showing how they have changed over time.


And while this photo looks flat…like a poster, this is actually a display of the original lightbulbs. You can see the markers where someone has removed a couple of bulbs for study of some sort.  I didn’t notice those until after I had taken the photo.  I wonder what kind of study you do with old light bulbs.

The conservatory is a big greenhouse filled with plants.  And as we headed towards it, I was fascinated by the light blue and white of the building and light blue and white of the sky.


And what I didn’t capture was the interesting ways that plants are adapted to their surroundings.  The tiny fibers of the carnivorous plants, the special adaptations of seeds, and even the special slime of the slug we found slithering down the wall.

With his fancy camera, Nick was able to capture this grasshopper I noticed as we walked through the children’s garden.  (Photo credit to Nick)

grasshopper Nick

Old town Pasadena also offered an interesting view of the world.  Pasadena conjures images of the Rose Bowl parade…streets lined with people.  Streets with iconic names, like Colorado Boulevard.  We decided on lunch at Russell’s…an establishment that advertises existence since 1930.  (They definitely make a great California BLT!)

Russell's Pasadena

And what I didn’t capture was the stiff and proper waiter and the bright red interior…including the velvet curtain that separates the hallway where the bathrooms are located from the rest of the diner.

I noticed a clock tower as we drove to find parking.  So once parked, we spent a bit of time exploring on foot…and found the tower.  What isn’t captured is the way that downtown areas are an interesting intersection of poverty and affluence, those with no permanent place intermingling with those exploring that same place.

clock tower pasadena

After dark, as I drove home, the large orangish harvest moon lit the way.  As I drove I thought about the beauty of the moon…and how hard it is to capture it in a photograph (at least with my equipment).  When I pulled into my driveway after a long and wonderful day, I did take out my phone a take a couple of shots anyway.

Moon through palms

And all day today I’ve been thinking about how much I see when I set out to take photos–more than I ever capture through my camera lens.  For me, my camera has truly become a tool that helps me see far beyond the lens.  I pay more attention to the world around me, even those things that I haven’t been able to capture in a photographic image.  I’m still hoping to catch that insect in flight, the landing of a raindrop, the surprised expression of a loved one, light that caresses an image perfectly…  But even more importantly, I am seeing those things even when I don’t get the photographic image…and that is priceless!