Como Conservatory: Two Acres under glass

What an honor to spend time with Tina Dombroski, Head Horticulturalist of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, and Laurel Lundberg, Director of Giving, on May Day. 

Tina (pictured) has been with the Conservatory for nine years.  Prior to coming to Minnesota she spent time in New York and Texas, and prior to this role she worked at Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in West Sussex.  Tina and Laurel were so gracious with their time and our many questions.

Some  things you may not know about the Conservatory that I found of interest:

  • There are two acres of plants under glass.

  • Lilies are showcased in every Sunken Garden Show except the Autumn Show because they suit the Victorian-style design of that building beautifully and they are a favorite of the lead gardener.

  • Following the Macy's Bachmann Flower Show the Conservatory gardeners have first pick of the remaining flowers to bring to the Como gardens.

  • There are two working greenhouses where plants are cared for on huge rolling metal racks. The racks mobility makes for savings in square footage, moving them left and right to create aisle space.

  • The flagstone throughout the conservatory was installed in the 1920s and cost $58,000.

  • The Conservatory was built a century ago and this King Sage Cycadaceae tree pre-dates the building.

As an avid gardener and working in the field this was a special tour for me.  I recall entering the doors of the conservatory as a little girl, likely holding my mom's hand.  Huge thanks to a dear friend, Anne Sundal, for making the arrangements for a wonderful day.

This is a momentous year for the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory as visitors, staff and the state of Minnesota celebrate its 100th anniversary!  Part of the celebration includes the planting of a centennial garden which you can watch take form over the next six weeks.  June 19 - 21 is the Centennial Celebration Kickoff Weekend with music, movies, gardener talks and demonstrations.

What National Geographic Photographers carry on assignments

At a recent National Geographic Travel Photography Seminar the presenters where specific about what they have in their bags.  I'm guessing it is a question they get often.  These are the basics of their knapsacks:

  • two camera bodies
  • lens: wide-angle, telephoto, mid-range zoom and fixed portrait
  • one flash
  • tripod (carbon fiber is best)
  • half-gray filters
  • magnifying glass (to see the camera screen in detail)
  • small notebooks (to document the date, place, time, subject and other points they will not remember after taking a thousand shots)

More lecture notes you may find useful:

Before you travel, research what you want to see and capture, write it down in a take-along notebook. 

When you arrive in a new location, ask those that live there "What do you think is cool here?" and "What should I photograph here?".

If you are going to a foreign country, learn how to say:  "May I take your picture?", "That's beautiful", "What is your name?".  Each culture has a wide spectrum of comfort level with being photographed but most people are flattered when asked to have their picture taken.  Dress appropriately for the area to fit in.  Convey confidence and a positive energy. 

If you love what you are doing it will show.   

A day with National Geographic Photographers Susan Seubert and Catherine Karnow

I was jazzed about spending a day listening to two master travel photographers.  A notepad, pens and highlighter in hand and I met good friend Julia Snelson at the Hennepin County Library.  The day was amazing, the seminar was packed with great insights.

Takeaways (please note that I am paraphrasing):

  • Great travel photos are often a bit 'messy'.....there is no studio; conditions can change rapidly, lots of tourists get in the shot, the terrain is unfamiliar.  Accept the challenge, observe and move yourself toward the picture you want to create. 
  • Shoot people up-close.  Actually, when you think you are close enough, get in closer.  If you can catch the glimmer of light in the subject's eyes there is instant intimacy for the viewer.  But here's the real challenge - while close-up try to include some of the surroundings so there is context.  More challenging than you might think!
  • Get out and shoot in bad weather.  A stormy sky is wonderful; a stormy sky with a tiny ray of light is the ultimate gift.  
  • To make food look yummy, shoot in natural light.  So take your fish taco basket outside and take pictures under an umbrella or tree.   An easy idea, right? 
  • To shoot a seafood or farmer's market, try for an aerial shot from a bridge or as high as you can get. 
  • Try 'dancing around the teacup', a term used by seasoned photographers to take multiple shots of the same subject.  This one resonates with me because I find myself taking 10+ pictures of the same subject until I am content.
  • Stick with the situation.  If you don't get what you want the first time, go back later in the day or the next day, then go back a third time if it's important.  Patience is vital.  

I'll write up more notes and pass along soon.  You can scan National Geographic seminars and exploration opportunities here

This photo was taken Labor Day Weekend (2014) while traveling with friends in Vancouver, Washington. 


Instameets? Minnstameets? What the heck are you talking about?!

The word 'Instameet' surfaced 11 years ago.  In the early days of Instagram, people with Instagram accounts began exploring their cities together to take photos and connect.  Instagram tracks the major meet-ups and last year alone there were more than 1,000 Instameets in 70 countries! 

It's safe to say it's more than a passing trend. 

'Minnstameets' are specifically for Minnesotans that have an Instagram account and an interest in meeting face-to-face.  I've been to several Minnstameets since returning to Minnesota, many with my husband David who has been so supportive of my interest and goals with the local Instagram community.  In August, 2014, I hosted one of the events.  It was a Picnic at Regional Lake Park in Eden Prairie, a gorgeous afternoon for grilling, a keg, games for kids, frost-your-own cookies in the shape of Minnesota, lots of hellos and hugs and a memorable sunset.  About 75 Instagramers were there and while the timing was a bit daunting with David coming home from another hospitalization six days prior to the picnic (gulp) we are happy it worked out with the help of others.   

Minnstameets are welcoming experiences.  We meet at a designated location but tend to move around looking for interesting places or structures to take pictures.  All are welcome!  You are welcome!!  There are people new to taking pictures, people that make a living taking pictures, small business owners, stay-at-home parents, artists, large business owners, woodworkers, students.....all you need is an Instagram account.   

I took these pictures at the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis, where we celebrated the 11th Worldwide Instameet Day in March, 2015.  Well, all except the last image which was taken by a drone. 

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The GlasgowOliver Project: 14 days + 14 photos

A photo-journal by David Lee Glasgow and Julie Oliver. 

David and I met at a Walker Art Center get-together of Instagramers.  We decided to try a simple project - take a picture for 14 consecutive days and match them up at the end.  Start Monday, March 30th and take our last picture on Sunday, April 12.  No themes.  Nothing complicated.  Just shoot and align later. 

David's photos are on the left and my photos are on the right.  It's a bit surprising that several of the side-by-side images have a similar tone, which was random.  We take pictures almost daily, these were for each other.  And now you.

Everyday life is interesting.  

Monday, March 30 

Tuesday, March 31

Wednesday, April 1

Thursday, April 2

Friday, April 3

Saturday, April 4

Sunday, April 5

Monday, April 6

Tuesday, April 7

Wednesday, April 8

Thursday, April 9

Friday, April 10

Saturday, April 11

Sunday, April 12




Meet Shania

Shania Feldten is adding to her modeling portfolio and we had a great time in the almost empty state fairgrounds. Please contact her at if you are looking for a youthful model; she would be gorgeous in prom and wedding dresses as well as edgy, contemporary clothing. 

The Weekend: HAMMS Event + American Craft Council + Coffee Hag featuring Julia Snelson

Three ways to support artisans and go for something different this weekend.

Hamm's Event

One day only.  An interesting location.  A great cause.  HAMMS (Help A Minnesota Maker Succeed) Saturday, April 11, 2015 at The Schmidt's Artist Lofts; 900 West 7th Street, Saint Paul, MN

American Craft Council

Three days.  More than 220 Product Makers from across the country gather to show their handcrafted contemporary furniture, glass, home decor, toys, jewelry and clothing.  Meet the Makers.  April 10-12, 2015; St. Paul RiverCentre, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 


Coffee Hag

This suggestion for your weekend is at 329 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato, MN.  It is near and dear to my heart because the Coffee Hag is cool and they have a friend's artistry on their walls.  Julia Snelson and I go back a ways, as in 1992.  We lived across the street from each other on Baker Avenue in pretty West Mankato.  The thing with Julia is that she can do anything she puts her mind to - - seriously, anything.  She has taught herself how to create gorgeous photos that focus on her love of flowers and travel.  She plays hockey, canoes and kayaks.  She makes pottery, Ukrainian Eggs, and wine!  And she established a butterfly garden long before I knew there was such a thing.

Julia's photos are on display at the community-minded Coffee Hag through the month of April and are available for purchase.   

I stopped yesterday to see Julia's gallery and for the best Chai Tea I've ever had; the perfect blend of more cloves and ginger than any other spice.  I wish I could say the Cherry Almond Scone made it home for today's breakfast but that was wishful thinking.  David's scone survived the trek home and he agreed it was one of the best things ever. 

Congratulations Julia!  Cheers to hoping lots of people stop for coffee, scones and your artwork. 








Trying a camera and lens without having to make a purchase.

Camera equipment is ex-pen-sive.  And sometimes you only need a piece, like a tripod, for a day.  If you want to try-out a camera, lens or related equipment without making the major investment there are options.

On April 18 and 19, National Camera Exchange will have equipment to try for free at the Minnesota Zoo.  Their super friendly representatives will help you get started and answer any questions.  No registration or fee required.  But you do need to pay the entrance fee to get into the zoo which is not cheap for a family so I like this idea of adding a camera experiment with it.  Just remember to bring your own memory card so you have pictures to take home!  Click the link for more details.

National Camera Exchange

There are companies that rent anything camera and video related.  Renting a camera might seem intimidating but they have point-and-shoot cameras and if you try a DSLR (digital) camera you can always put it on AUTO if the settings are confusing.  Wouldn't it be fun to take a different camera on a short trip or for a weekend of shooting-around-town?  Frankly, I'd be more overwhelmed renting a video camera but would try it if someone I knew could help.  I can totally see renting a video camera after a newborn is home and things have settled down a bit.  I'm thinking footage of a new puppy in the house would be fabulous too.
Click and learn.

Borrow Lens

Lens Giant



And who doesn't want to try one of these bad-boys.  Renting a drone for a day is on my long-term list of things to try.


I would be interested in your experience if you try one of these rental companies.