A Little Goes a Long Way

September 28, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

My father was an accomplished civil engineer and site planner whose body of work includes high-profile projects like the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and Chicago's O'Hare Field. Having received his undergraduate training in landscape architecture, the diversification into civil engineering wasn't a huge stretch - though I wonder if it's the future he envisioned for himself when he first graduated from Iowa State University. Funny how life turns out. 

(His pencil sketch above, made during his college career, depicts the Landscape Architecture Building at ISU.)

Dad's interest in plants, shrubs, trees and landscaping in general never waned. The kid whose manicured lawn and beautiful gardens at the family farm in Nebraska were well-known across Dodge County became the man who, years later, kept finding places to add yet another flower bed to our yard in Illinois.

Wherever his travels took him, he made it a point to visit public gardens, parks and open spaces. Even in his later years he could still rattle off the botanical names for just about anything he saw.

There was one thing my dad wasn't especially keen on: yellow. "A little yellow goes a long way," he'd say.  Aspen's ArcArc of the AspenGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

(Actually that just brought to mind a second item: red-leafed trees. Not autumnal red, which he loved, but varieties that are red in-season. The day we buried my mom he could only shake his head and smile when he saw one such tree - sizeable - situated very near what would be his final resting place. Had it been there when they purchased the plots it's safe to assume a different location would have been requested!)

I digress. Back to yellow - for which I inherited my father's proclivity for minimalism. 

There's just one problem with that. I'm currently based in the Intermountain West, where yellow is dominant. You cannot escape it. In Grand Teton National Park it begins with the wildflowers in late spring and early summer. To be sure, there's some variety - but yellow is by far the most prevalent color. Then when the vegetation dries out in July the entire landscape becomes golden. In autumn the aspens, cottonwoods, willows and rabbit brush take up the mantle.

If you're a nature photographer living in this neck of the woods you'd better learn to embrace yellow or the options regarding subject matter will be limited. The irony is not lost on me. Were my father still alive the two of us would have shared a few laughs over this state of affairs.

I'm never going to tell you yellow is my favorite color - but I have adapted. I'm all-in when it comes to saffron, gold, amber and flax. I shoot the spring wildflowers, the summer fields, the aspens and cottonwoods in their autumnal glory, and it's all beautiful.

Sometimes when I'm out working in the midst of this lemony landscape I smile to myself and think of my dear dad.

Yellow, yellow, yellow.

He'd consider it beautiful, too.

Chapel of the Transfiguration Grand Teton National ParkThe ChapelThe Chapel of the Transfiguration is sited - appropriately - beneath the Cathedral Peaks. The log structure was built in the 1920s and placed on the national register of historic places in 1980.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Sunshine BeneathSunshine BeneathArrowleaf balsamroot add splashes of cheerful yellow to the fields of Jackson Hole in late spring.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


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