Aw, I want one!

29 06 2009

After the HLAA Convention was over, we headed toward Huntsville to visit our friend Sue. We wanted to show my sister the nearby towns of Franklin and Leipers Fork en route and we just had to stop to photograph this adorable baby donkey. He (she?) came right up to us to get some attention. I shot the image of Michael petting it to show you how small this little guy was.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Another night at the Opry

29 06 2009

During our behind-the-scenes tour at the Grand Ole Opry, our guide Jamie introduced us to the security guard at the entrance where the artists enter the building. She mentioned that no one gets past him without identification. There was a blonde-haired woman standing at the guard’s desk who looked remarkably like Rhonda Vincent to me, except she had blonde hair (Rhonda Vincent’s hair is naturally a very dark brown). In response to Jamie stating that “no one gets past the guard,” she looked over at us and said something like, “tell me about it. I had to show him I’m in the program guide to convince him who I was.” We all laughed. Barbara’s husband, Bill, who is a big Rhonda Vincent fan, linked arms with her and said something like, “Darlin, come with us,” or something to that effect. Funny thing is, he didn’t recognize her even then until we were at the end of the tour and we told him who she was! Hal Ketchum and his daughter, Sarah Rosie, walked right past Debbie and me backstage and since his hair wasn’t its usual gray, we thought he was a band member!

SIDEBAR: Jamie took us to the historic Studio A, where Hee Haw was filmed. I grew up watching Hee Haw and just had to go stand in the exact spot where the background haystacks would have been. I could just picture Buck Owens and Roy Clark doing their “I’m a pickin’…and I’m a grinnin'” spiel. It always impressed me that Roy Clark could play the banjo, guitar and the mandolin. Such talent! Mike Snider (who was on the roster this night) stars in Pickin’ & Grinnin’ with Mike Snider: A Grand Ole Comedy Revue, which debuted just a few days ago in Studio A (the television portion of the Grand Ole Opry).

FYI: In the photo with Alison Krauss holding a hymn book (9th photo down), that’s her (handsome!) brother, Viktor, accompanying her on acoustic bass.

I shot these photos from the second to the last row of the Opry. Yes, in the waaaay back. (In fact, I just read that there are 4,400 seats in the building. I’m pretty sure I was in seat # 4,399.) I shot with my Nikon D300 set on 1600 and higher, depending on the light fluctuations, and used my Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR lens, handheld (except when shooting vertically—then I used my sister’s handy shoulder as a prop—thanks, Deboo). The images aren’t too shabby from that far back (at least you know who the artist is in each one), although it would have been such a treat to be up front for optimum photography! I used this same lens when I shot the images from our first visit to the Opry in 2008 here. The Opry show was back in the Ryman Auditorium at the time and we had better seats to that show—I was shooting at no more than 800 ISO during that performance, so the images are a bit better.

I included the last photo of John Conlee’s dialogue during real-time captioning, a first for the Grand Ole Opry! It was great to be there during its debut and the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) hopes they will implement it as a regular service. At the time I shot this photo, Conlee was introducing Sammy Johns, who wrote and recorded the 70s classic, Chevy Van.

Click on the individual names for their biography / websites / music video:

Jimmy Dickens
Jimmy C. Newman
Rhonda Vincent (Heartbreaker’s Alibi with Dolly Parton)
Mike Snider
Hal Ketchum
Point of Grace (I Wish)
John Conlee
Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys
Jim Ed Brown
Sammy Johns
Opry Square Dancers
Vince Gill
Alison Krauss with The Whites

View Alison Krauss videos on AOL Music here. One of my favorite duets is this song, How’s the World Treating You, with Alison and my long-road-trip buddy, James Taylor.

THIS JUST IN: Thanks to Wes for the correct name of Hal Ketchum’s daughter, as well as some background info on Hal:

Hal Ketchum is one of the best, pure and natural singers of any genre of music. Had the pleasure to see him in concert about 50 times and have gotten to know him as well. Very down to earth guy. By the way Hal has one grown son and daughter by his first wife and three younger daughters Fanna Rose (Rosie), Ruby Joy and Sophia Grace by his current wife Gina. Ruby is the one that has been with him recently on stage at the Opry as well as other concerts. The daughter in your picture of Hal is Rosie. Just wanted to clear that up. By the way, great shots.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


It would stand to reason…

29 06 2009

that a couple as cute as Chantell & Austin (in the wedding photos I’ve been posting lately) would have to add an equally cute puppy to their newlywed home! I didn’t shoot this image, but if I had to bet on it, based on the hairy legs (it’s a safe assumption that those are Austin’s legs and not Chantell’s), Chantell probably shot it—so I’m giving her the credit. I don’t know what the pup’s name is yet.

THIS JUST IN: The puppy is a mixed breed of Jack Russell Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier. His name is Jack!

© Chantell Muchemore. All rights reserved.

Chantell & Austin's puppy

A few more butterflies…

28 06 2009

…from the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

28 06 2009

While in Key West, we visited the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory before we met up with the Muchemore family for the big event—Chantell and Austin’s wedding.

This conservatory is definitely one of our favorites now! As you walk around the winding pathway through the conservatory, you’ll hear classical music playing. Not only are there 60+ species of butterflies, they also have an array of exotic birds, tropical plants and a koi pond. Ever notice that most butterfly conservatories are hot and humid? That’s the case here, except for the strategically placed cool air tubes throughout the conservatory—these are to help cool the air for the birds. We humans appreciated that touch on a hot Florida day, too! There’s also a Learning Center and a wonderful gift shop. Founders Sam Trophia and George Fernandez established the Conservatory and the Trophia Butterfly Foundation in January 2003. Read more about Sam Trophia in this article on

I photographed a plethora of butterflies at the Wings of Fancy exhibit at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland last year. If you fancy butterflies, click here and here to see those photos. I often find butterfly subjects to photograph in our garden—check out the Monarchs I photographed last fall here. Last year I designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat poster for my friend Mary Ellen of Happy Tonics in Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

I have no idea what kind of butterfly this is below, but it’s a beauty, isn’t it? I made a half-hearted attempt to identify it for you but it’s late and I need some shut-eye (it may surprise some of you, but yes, I do sometimes sleep).

As my father often writes on his blog, “I’ll get back to you later with more details.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Yes, another wedding photo…

28 06 2009

Can I help it if these two are so photogenic? I used either the “Rusty Cage” or the “Super Fun Happy” filter from Doug Boutwell Studio’s Totally Rad Action Mix to achieve this warm and dreamy effect.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Abbie does it again!

27 06 2009

AbbieTshirtLeave it to Abbie Cranmer to create something this original! Abbie is a cochlear implant recipient, of course. Whatever else did you think she meant?

I met Abbie online last year when I was looking for younger people with hearing loss to profile for Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I stumbled onto her very entertaining and equally educational blog and just knew we had to profile her. She is now involved with HLAA and was the guest blogger for Convention 2009 last week in Nashville. You can read her recap of Convention 2009 here. It was great seeing you again, Abbie!

Abbie wrote for the magazine in the May/June 2008 issue. She came all the way from New Jersey to be photographed in my studio for the cover. See the final cover here and check out the glamour shots from the rest of the session here.

Download her full feature article here:

More convention photos to come…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Captioning: a first for the Grand Ole Opry

26 06 2009

One of the events at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Convention 2009 was a night at the Grand Ole Opry, a radio show that began in 1925. Before the show, several of us were treated to a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry, including the back entrance where the artists enter, the mailroom, the green room and historic Studio A—where the music variety show Hee Haw was filmed. At the end of the tour, we got to stand in the background on stage during the first performance by Little Jimmy Dickens and the Opry Square Dancers.

Although we weren’t allowed to shoot photographs during the tour, I saw a photo opportunity tailor-made for HLAA when the Grand Ole Opry’s vice president and general manager, Pete Fisher, was introduced to us by our tour guide, Jamie Hulet. For the first time in its 83-year history, the Grand Ole Opry would be real-time captioned. I saw an opportunity to get a shot with some of the people who got that ball rolling. We were granted permission to shoot, and Fisher called Jimmy Dickens over to join us. The Opry was treating that night’s show as “somewhat of an experiment” and may continue the use of captioning in the future.

Thanks to Karyn Menck of Tennessee Captioning and her team of CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) writers, the HLAA staff, and to the Grand Ole Opry management, we enjoyed the show with real-time captions. Associated Press picked up the story about the captioning and the news spread across the country. Read more about the use of captioning at the Grand Ole Opry and HLAA’s involvement in this article on

On the entertainment roster that night were: Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman, Vince Gill, Hal Ketchum, bluegrass vocalist Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Allison Krauss with The Whites, Point of Grace, Jim Ed Brown, bluegrass legends Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys, John Conlee, singer/songwriter Sammy Johns (who wrote Chevy Van, a hit in 1975), comedian and banjo champ Mike Snider (of Hee Haw fame), and the Opry Square Dancers.

My sister Debbie and I couldn’t get John Conlee’s 1980 hit song, Friday Night Blues, out of our heads after that night! We realized just how old we were when we remembered the words to that song and his 1983 hit, Common Man, which was also written by Sammy Johns.

Here’s a fact I didn’t know—if you’re inducted into the Opry Hall of Fame, you’re paid just $600 for your performance. If you’re not a member, you earn just $300. Clearly these artists do it for the love of the Opry and its history and their love of performing!

Kudos to Nancy Macklin, director of events for HLAA, for putting on a fantastic convention. I could hardly believe it when I learned this was her first time planning a convention—she was organized, professional and less stressed than any convention planner I’ve ever encountered—wonder what her secret is?

I’ll have more stories and photos to share from our evening at the Grand Ole Opry. See photos from our first visit to the Opry in 2008 on my blog posting here.


Photo, from left: Brenda Battat, executive director of HLAA; Pete Fisher, vice president and general manager of the Grand Ole Opry; longtime performer and oldest living Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy Dickens (then and now); and Barbara Kelley, deputy executive director of HLAA and editor of the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine (which I design and produce for the organization). Barbara wrote in a recent press release, “It was fun to be a part of history, satisfying to have communication access, and rewarding to know that the work of our organization and others is paying off. Thanks to the Grand Ole Opry for looking forward. We hope it continues.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Chantell and Austin on the pier

26 06 2009

I had such a blast photographing these two on the beach the day after their wedding. Both were spontaneous, up for anything, clearly crazy about each other and photogenic to boot. I had complete creative freedom, trusty assistants (the groom’s parents), a tropical backdrop, magical afternoon light, and easy-to-direct and very appreciative “models.” This assignment truly could not have been more ideal! I’ve photographed over 100 weddings in my photography career (most during and after college in Texas), and this one was the most laid-back, go-with-the-flow, low stress events of any of them!

Be patient and one day I might share an image or two and some really crazy stories about some of the most memorable weddings I have photographed. I shot one wedding during a tornado alert! I actually have photos of the mariachi (Mexican music) band swaying in the fierce winds with a turbulent navy sky in the background—at 4:00 p.m. on a South Texas afternoon. The bride and groom were so much in love and anxious to marry that they were apparently oblivious to the impending storm. Then there was the bride who paid half down, then went off to work as a migrant worker for a year. (Half down was $75, if you can believe that—I never charged more than $200 for a wedding—at the time, “top” photographers charged anywhere from $500-800. Those were the days, huh?) She came back with the balance in a piggy bank— we had to break it open to get the money (I can still hear the quarters, nickels and dimes as they rolled across our coffee table). Sweet couple—although a little slow on pickup and payment! Trust me…I’ve got the stories!

In those days the contemporary photojournalistic style wasn’t in use at all—we had a checklist of posed images to get and then we could play after that. I love the new approach and it suits my shooting style so much better. And we shot print film then; digital wasn’t available yet. Having immediate feedback makes the job much more enjoyable and guarantees you get the shot. It almost makes me want to hang out my wedding photographer shingle again. We’ll see.

You can view the previous Key West/wedding photos here, here, and in the posting below this one.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Pier Collage

Muchemore redux

25 06 2009

Here we go again! More photos finalized from Chantell and Austin’s June 1 wedding in Key West…even more to come (I’m editing and prepping photos in a folder that contains almost 1,000 images)! Special thanks to the groom’s parents, Kathy and Kevin, for their creative sand art creations for the photos.

You can view the previous Key West/wedding photos here and here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Wedding Collage 3

Big sky on I-81

25 06 2009

I shot this image Tuesday afternoon en route from our trip to Nashville. We drove down the previous week to get set up to photograph the Hearing Loss Association of America Convention 2009, June 18-21. We had a great time meeting and photographing so many HLAA members. We also got three new covers in the hopper—member Lois Johnson from Houston, Texas; member (Ret.) Cpt Mark Brogan from Knoxville, Tennessee; and member Jennifer Thorpe and her family from the Nashville area. There will be lots of photos and stories coming right up! As my dad ( always writes, “I’ll get back to you later with more details.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

I81 Scenic lorez

Shelley’s stunning cloudscapes and Texas skies

16 06 2009

With her express permission, I’m taking this opportunity to brag on my blog-buddy Shelley’s stunning storm and sky photos. I’m always amazed at how huge the sky is in my home state! 

I stumbled onto Shelley’s pbase gallery in December while I was in Texas visiting my family. Shelley is a certified storm spotter and is fortunate to witness the most beautiful, turbulent, storm-filled skies of the Panhandle (and lives to tell the tale and share these stunning photos, too).

Click on the link below and be sure to double click on each photo to enlarge.

My friend Jeff is headed west to join a storm spotting expedition and I wanted to give him some inspiration for this upcoming photography jaunt. Bring ’em back (alive), Jeff!

Photos below © Shelley D. Sparks

Shelley's Photos

Hey! What are ya? Deaf in one ear?

13 06 2009

The long and short of it
I’ve had about a 20% overall hearing loss since I was a toddler, and although my parents bought me a hearing aid when I was about seven or eight years old, I wore it just a few times and gave it up, much to their dismay. Then I lost the hearing in my right ear in the spring of 1993 due to some known and unknown causes (years of scar tissue build up in the ear canal caused the stapes to no longer work or something medical-technical-ish). It most certainly wasn’t an easy row to hoe at first (have you ever seen an x-ray of your skull? Talk about surreal. Gone are fantasies of immortality when you witness your skeleton).

I eventually adjusted to life without hearing in that ear. So now I had a 20% loss in the “good” ear and no hearing at all in the other. The biggest problem I have with the complete loss in my right ear is that when I do hear something, I can’t tell what direction the sound is coming from. I assume it’s coming from my left side! This causes me to do a lot of spinning around to locate the source. And this happens regardless of whether I’m wearing a hearing aid in the “good” ear. People with normal hearing can talk on the phone and when one ear gets tired, they can move the phone to the other. I haven’t been able to do that for 16 years.

Imagine what it’s like when someone wants to share a secret with me and starts whispering in the “bad” ear. Yep, it will remain a secret that way, that’s for sure. If I don’t hear it, I can’t spread the word anyway, now can I? It’s foolproof! (And a note to all my friends—Sue, in particular—who are sensitive to my hearing loss and always accommodate me by being on the left side or facing me when they’re talking without my asking—I sincerely thank you for those thoughtful gestures.) I also get overwhelmed if there is too much noise because I can’t block any of it out as a normal-hearing person would—there’s just too much distraction and I can’t focus on what I do want to hear.

Humor on the high seas
Fast forward just a few years after I lost the hearing in my right ear. I’m on a Caribbean cruise with my friend Norma and we meet two gals and end up spending time hanging out with them at dinner and other social events. One evening we’re sitting around in a semi-circle in the piano bar and I’m listening to Norma, who is on my left (the good ear), talking away. One of our newfound friends is trying to talk to me on my “bad” side and for obvious reasons I can’t hear her. (#1. Got no hearing in that ear, lady and #2. I’m engrossed in conversation with Norma, so I’m focused on that task). She knows I’m listening to Norma, though.

Eventually she taps me on the shoulder and asks, “Hey! What are ya? Deaf in one ear? I’m trying to talk to you!” I realized she phrased the question that way in jest, of course, but imagine the look of horror on her face when I turned to reply, “Ummmm…yes, as a matter of fact, I am deaf in one ear.”

What are the odds of that happening again? She spent the rest of the evening apologizing profusely.

In the studio: Micah Doughty

12 06 2009

Just a few images of Micah Doughty from the photo shoot yesterday morning

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Micah Doughty

In the studio: Katie Doughty

11 06 2009

I photographed Reed Doughty and his family about a month ago at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria. I’ll have some of those photos to share shortly.

Reed Doughty (#37) is a defensive player for the Washington Redskins and was profiled for the November/December 2008 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Click here to read that blog posting, see my cover photo of Reed, and download the full Hearing Loss Magazine article. Reed is serving as the 2009 Honorary Chair of the Washington, D.C. Walk4Hearing™ to bring about awareness about hearing loss, its implications and causes. In the upcoming July/August 2009 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, Reed comments, “Hearing loss might have a stigma sometimes, but I am in need of hearing enhancement. I’m going to wear hearing aids. I hope others will get the help they need.”

This morning Reed’s wife, Katie, came to my studio with the boys, Micah and Caleb, for some indoor head shots to round off the collection of photographs. While Barbara Kelley, editor of Hearing Loss Magazine, entertained 2-1/2 year old Micah, I was able to get some beautiful shots of Katie. Although she says she has never modeled before, she takes direction beautifully and, as you can see, is quite photogenic. I got some really cute shots of the three of them together and more of a very animated and talkative Micah that I’ll share as well.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Much more of the Muchemores

11 06 2009

Okay, I couldn’t resist…with a last name like that, this blog post title was inevitable! Muchemore to come…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Amazing tree in downtown Key West

11 06 2009

I’m fairly certain that a Ficus aurea, or strangler fig, has taken over this tree (or group of trees) in downtown Key West. I did some research online and learned that they are common throughout the Caribbean and tropical Americas. You’ll find excellent and very detailed information about strangler figs with illustrative photos on this site:

Michael serves as my scale reference in the first photo. Doesn’t the second photo look like a backdrop from a Harry Potter movie? If I have misidentified this unusual tree, enlighten me!

THIS JUST IN…Artist Val Webb posted a comment on my garden-only site, Here is her comment:

“It has been many years since I visited Key West, but I seem to recall that the tree in question is a banyan tree. There is a large one on the Thomas Edison property there.”

I looked up “banyan tree” and learned that a banyan is a fig tree that starts its life as an epiphyte when its seeds germinate in the cracks and crevices on a host tree. The seeds germinate and send down roots toward the ground, and may envelope part of the host tree…giving them the name of “strangler fig.” So apparently banyan is another name for it. Thanks for the input, Val!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


AHS Great American Gardener Awards

10 06 2009

AmyGoldmanSusieAwardLast Thursday night, I photographed the American Horticultural Society’s 2009 Great American Gardeners Awards dinner, hosted by AHS at their River Farm headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.


Amy Goldman won a book award for her latest tome, The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit, published by Bloomsbury USA. Goldman (left) is presented her plaque by Susie Usrey, Chair, AHS Board of Directors (right).

HeirloomTomatoBookI mentioned Goldman’s other books, The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds and Melons for the Passionate Grower, in a posting in March here. I have both of these titles in my library and plan on adding her beautiful tomato book as well. All three books are the most beautifully designed and photographed books I have ever come across (and I own 1,000s of books, so I can attest to this without hesitation!). Photographer Victor Schrager’s work is hauntingly beautiful—he turns humble fruits and vegetables into stunning works of art.

Gwen Moore Kelaidis received an award for her book, Hardy Succulents, published by Storey Publishing. William Cullina received an award for his book, Native Ferns, Moss and Grasses, published by Houghton Mifflin. Scott Odgen and Lauren Springer Odgen received an award for their book, Plant-Driven Design, published by Timber Press. This year, AHS awarded two Citations of Special Merit: Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch, second edition published in 2008 by Workman Publishing; and Herbaceous Perennial Plants by Allan M. Armitage, published by Stipes Publishing.BookAwards

MichaelDana&WifeTEACHING AWARD—given to an individual whose ability to share his or her horticultural knowledge with others has contributed to a better public understanding of the plant world and its important influence on society. Dr. Michael N. Dana, Ph.D., is the recipient of this year’s award. Dana teaches horticulture in the department of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Left: Michael Dana with his wife, Beth, who is a physical therapist.

PanayotiKelaidisTHE LIBERTY HYDE BAILEY AWARD—This award is given to an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to at least three of the following horticultural fields: teaching, research, communications, plant exploration, administration, art, business, and leadership. This year’s award was given to Panayoti Kelaidis (right), senior curator and director of outreach at the Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado.

THE LUTHER BURBANK AWARD—This award recognizes extraordinary achievement in the field of plant breeding. This year’s winner was Jim Ault, director of environmental horticulture at the Chicago Botanic Garden, in Glencoe, Illinois. We have Ault to give thanks to for breeding the first orange coneflower, Echinacea Orange Meadowbrite, and the first three-species Echinacea hybrid, Pixie Meadowbrite!

Ronald GassTHE PAUL ECKE JR. COMMERCIAL AWARD—This award is given to an individual or company whose commitment to the highest standards of excellence in the field of commercial horticulture contributes to the betterment of gardening practices everywhere. This year’s recipient is Ronald E. Gass (left), president of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery in Litchfield Park, Arizona.

THE G.B. GUNLOGSON AWARD—This award recognizes the innovative use of technology to make home gardening more productive and successful. This year’s recipient was Soil Food Web, Inc., in Corvallis, Oregon. Soil Food Web, Inc. analyzes soil samples to determine the presence of a range of beneficial soil organisms that are key to sustainable landscapes.

KarenKennedyTHE HORTICULTURAL THERAPY AWARD—This award recognizes significant contributions to the field of horticultural therapy. This year’s recipient is Karen L. Kennedy (right), who has spent 23 years using horticultural therapy to improve the lives of people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. She is the manager of wellness programs at the Holden Arboretum in Kirkland, Ohio, and also teaches introduction and programming courses in horticultural therapy for the Horticultural Therapy Institute in Denver, Colorado.

PaulComstockTHE LANDSCAPE DESIGN AWARD—This award is given to an individual whose work has demonstrated and promoted the value of sound horticultural practices in the field of landscape architecture. This year’s recipient is Paul Comstock (left), head of Comstock Studio, a landscape architecture and planning practice that is part of the Valley Crest Design Group in Malibu, California. He is formerly the director of landscape design for Walt Disney Imagineering.

CarolMorrisonMERITORIOUS SERVICE AWARD—This award recognizes a past Board member or friend of the American Horticultural Society for outstanding service in support of the Society’s goals, mission, and activities. This year’s recipient is Carol F. Carter Morrison of Barrington, Illinois, who served on the AHS Board of Directors from 1999 to 2008. Carol (center), is pictured with former president and CEO of AHS, Katy Moss Warner (left) and Susie Usrey, Chair, AHS Board of Directors (right).

William WelchTHE B.Y. MORRISON COMMUNICATIONS AWARD—This award recognizes effective and inspirational communications—through print, radio, television, and/or online media—that advances public interest and participation in horticulture. This year’s recipient is William C. Welch (at left, with his son), who has taught horticulture at Texas A&M University and currently works for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in College Station. Welch is the author of Perennial Garden Color (Taylor Trade Publishing, 1988), Antique Roses for the South (Taylor, 1990), and The Southern Heirloom Garden (Taylor, 1995). He is co-author of The Bountiful Cutflower Garden with Neil C. Odenwald (Taylor, 2000). He is also the editor of the Southern Garden website and contributes regularly to Southern Living magazine and other publications.

CarolSawyersTHE PROFESSIONAL AWARD—given to a public garden administrator whose achievements during the course of his or her career have cultivated in widespread interest in horticulture. This year’s award recipient is Claire Elyce Sawyers. Since 1990, Sawyers has been direct of the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Previously, she worked at the Mt. Cuba Center, a 650-acre non-profit horticultural institution in Greenville, Delaware. She is the author of The Authentic Garden: Five Principles for Cultivating a Sense of Place (Timber Press, 2007).

ShawnAkardTHE JANE L. TAYLOR AWARD—This award is given to an individual, organization, or program that has inspired and nurtured future horticulturists through efforts in children’s and youth gardening. This year’s winner is Shawn Akard, the outdoor education coordinator for Hollin Meadows Science and Math Focus School in Alexandria, Virginia. The School’s Outdoor Education Program started in 2005 as a volunteer effort to beautify school grounds using native Virginia species. It has grown to include numerous working gardens that serve as active outdoor classrooms for 600 students.

THE URBAN BEAUTIFICATION AWARD—This award is given to an individual, institution, or company for significant contributions to urban horticulture and the beautification of American cities. This year’s recipient is America in Bloom, based in Columbus, Ohio. This independent, non-profit organization is dedicated to promoting nationwide beautification programs and personal and community involvement through the use of flowers, plants, trees, and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements.

On a personal note, as a self-proclaimed “gardener obsessed,” I must say that it is exciting to meet anyone in the horticultural field, whether they are plant hybridizers, authors, or teachers. I especially enjoy meeting the garden book authors since books and gardening are two of my passions!

Josie at 8 months

6 06 2009

My garden club’s newest sprout is growing like a weed! And she has quite the fan base, too.

Check out Josie’s first debut on my blog here. See Daddy’s little girl here, “au naturel” in my studio here, with Mom & Grandma here, and turning 147 days old here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


What 20 bucks will get ya in Key West

5 06 2009

(Delicious bruschetta not included) While eating dinner Saturday night at Caroline’s on Duval Street, we watched a cockatoo dancing in time to reggae music on a nearby bench. The bird is on exhibit at Jungle Greg’s Rescued Animals booth in downtown Key West. A sign lists prices at $10 for each animal for photographs. He also had various birds and two large snakes on display. So Jungle Greg must have been feeling pretty good that night because he attached four birds to Michael for just $20 so I could get this shot. Whatta deal! The money goes to his rescue projects (at least that’s what the sign purports; the  animals on display aren’t rescues). I did observe that the animals were far more lively and conversational than the proprietors. But $20 isn’t too bad considering he usually charges $30 (plus tax) to shoot a photo for you and that gets you one 4×6. As we were leaving, two twenty-somethings came up and said, “we’re scared to death of birds, but can we get a photo of the python wrapped around our necks?”

Coming soon: See how fast you can part with $35 in 15 minutes in the tropics!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Bruschetta & Birds

Cloudspotting: spinal column

5 06 2009

Key West sky photographed Tuesday, June 2, during a dolphin-watching tour

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Here lizard, lizard, lizard

5 06 2009

Every time I hear the word lizard, I think of that Taco Bell dog commercial shown here.

On Sunday, Michael and I visited the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, the only “frost-free” botanical garden in the continental U.S. The garden showcases flora native to South Florida, Cuba and the Caribbean and emphasizes cultivation of threatened and endangered species of the Florida Keys. This “biodiversity hotspot” is home to many species of plants and animals. Common animals includes box turtles, Green iguanas (one greeted us in the parking lot), Mangrove Skipper Butterflies (which I saw and photographed), and various turtles, crocodiles, birds and snakes. And there were lizards virtually everywhere…on the walkways, benches and in trees. I saw at least six different species, three of which are in the collage below. There were so many that as I was photographing one lizard, another would crawl into the frame or run past my subject! And I had to look closely to be able to spot them—they were so well camouflaged. More photos to come…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Lizard Camouflage

Weekend in Key West!

4 06 2009

That title should explain my brief (and abrupt) exit from my blog. Michael and I flew into Key West on Saturday afternoon. We spent that evening exploring Key West, followed by a visit to a botanical garden and a butterfly conservatory on Sunday. Late Sunday afternoon we met up with the parents of the groom, Kathy and Kevin (groom’s parents), who are my parent’s neighbors in San Antonio. They had asked us to join them at their timeshare in Key West; the trip soon morphed into the impromptu sailboat-at-sunset wedding of their son, Austin, and his lovely bride, Chantell. I was asked to photograph the event and was thrilled to do so. This is just one of the photos I’ll be posting. I shot this shortly after they said their “I do’s.” (Notice the sunset behaved well for the shot, too!) It was the most fun wedding I’ve ever photographed (and I’ve shot over 100 of them since college)! Chantell and Austin—with their unbridled energy, enthusiasm, and sparkling white smiles (not much to improve in Photoshop there!)—were such a joy to photograph. Perfect weather, perfect wedding, perfect couple with perfect smiles, perfect day!

We had to get back so I could photograph an event for the American Horticultural Society (which I’m leaving for now, in fact), so we (sadly) couldn’t stay with them the rest of the week. This was our second time in Key West, but we saw quite a bit more than we did on our first trip many years ago. I felt like we were in some exotic country—almost forgot we were still in the U.S. It’s quite a different atmosphere—lizards, iguanas, roosters and chickens running loose everywhere…very laid-back atmosphere…brightly colored cottages and exotic flowers in bloom…and bicyclists and mopeds galore. It was a short but very adventurous four days!

More photos to come of botanical garden lizards and flowers, butterflies, Key West shots, parrots, Hemingway’s house, cats, boats, interesting clouds, dolphins, snorkeling…and, of course, more wedding and sailboat shots.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Chantell Austin Wedding