Cim MacDonald has released a photo book featuring gorgeous images from Chemainus Gardens.

Cim MacDonald has released a photo book featuring gorgeous images from Chemainus Gardens.

New photo book shines a spotlight on a special corner of Chemainus

Cim MacDonald has published a book full of images taken at Chemainus Gardens.

A jumping duck snatches a bug on the wing.

A tiny frog lazes in a white lily pad.

A woodpecker chatters on a rotting branch.

Pond ice reflects late-afternoon light.

These images are among 200 plucked by photographer Cim MacDonald from 3,000 she shot of idyllic seasonal splendor that is Chemainus Gardens.

Don’t expect a written story here.

MacDonald’s photos, captured without flash, do most of the talking in her debut work.

Sure, she dropped short descriptions on many of her educational 130 pages, decorated by her Nikon D-3.

But the “60-something” painter-turned lenswoman aimed to plant as many shots into Gardens as possible.

“The hard part was figuring out which ones were going into the book,” she said of the publishing project supported by Gardens’ office manager Linda Kelly and owner Len Wansbrough.

“I had so many good shots, but had to cull.”

So she printed a passel of candidate pictures; MacDonald likes hard copy best.

“I laid them out on the floor, and it was much easier to pick them,” the Chemainiac said. “You have to see them; you just can’t do it on a computer screen — it had to flow, especially going through the seasons. I loved the winter.”

But a majestic barred owl, a honeybee working in a mallon, and a delicate spider web are also in the book probing spring, summer, and fall in the Gardens’ of ecological complexity.

“I found out what bug was what, and what flower was which.”

She first heard about the Gardens in 2008.

“Seeing a little frog on a hydrangea started it all. I go every couple of weeks and walk around the ponds and see what’s there,” she said, glad of company from pal Jean Grandison.

“It just bloomed from there.”

Work around some of the Gardens’ 40-odd homes, squatting amid nature lovingly left undisturbed by development, saw MacDonald shoot vibrant flowers and much more during the past six years.

“It didn’t matter if it was cold or raining; its a very serene place to go. I watch dragon flies and frogs. It takes you away from the hustle and bustle.”

The 40-acre Gardens give folks “a place where there’s wonderful things to watch, like ducks rather than chock-a-block development,” said MacDonald, suggesting the Gardens as a template for other housing projects, nestled in nature.

She learned to see nature through the methods of master lensman Freeman Patterson.

Cowichan Valley photographer Andrew Leong also inspired, and sponsored, MacDonald to join the Professional Photographers of Canada. But book publishing was new ground for the Cowichan Valley Camera Club member.

“I really enjoyed the design part because of my background in fine arts, and the writing. I tried to keep it humorous but factual.”

Craig Shemilt, vice-president of Victoria’s Island Blue/Printorium Bookworks helped guide MacDonald through the process.

“This is one of the best books we have every printed,” he wrote.

“The photo images are outstanding, with extraordinarily high contrast and detail. The layout design and formatting flows so well throughout the book and lends itself to a highly educational aspect.”

Chemainus Gardens also shows what a senior can do, MacDonald said of her book.

“It doesn’t matter your age; you can still do a book, or work on something.”

Meanwhile, she envied folks living in the Gardens.

“I’d live there if I didn’t have my art career.”

For copies, e-mail cimmac@ and

Ladysmith Chronicle