Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Vicky Dorvee

Inkberry Books’ exhibit focuses on wildflowers


August 21, 2019 | View PDF

Courtesy photo Nature photographer, Leslie Madsen is August’s featured artist at Inkberry Books in Cottonwood Square Shopping Center in Niwot.

Avid hiker Leslie Madsen used to march along to get to the top of a mountain and back down, treating it like a task to be completed. But retirement brought a more leisurely pace to her treks, allowing her to be in the moment and observant of her surroundings. That’s when she fell madly in love with the splendor of flora in the high country and wanted to bring it home with her by way of photos.

Madsen’s talent for capturing the beauty of wildflowers is on display at Niwot’s Inkberry Books in Cottonwood Square Shopping Center where she is August’s featured artist.

“I play tennis and snowshoe and guide for SkiMeisters, a private ski club, and swim and bike, but my happy time of the year is summer hiking for flowers,” Madsen said.

A lot of those flowers are now Madsen’s old friends. When she meets a new one, she researches it to become better acquainted, and if she learns of a wildflower she hasn’t seen, she’s likely to go traipsing off to see it in person. In fact, traveling to faraway places in search of wildflowers has become her passion.

In this, her first-ever exhibit, there are close ups of the carnivorous Alpine Butterwort in Slovenia and the Snow Everlasting Daisy from her trip to Tasmania, along with landscapes from around the globe. A recent tour of Mont Blanc helped to satiate her floral hunger for a bit, and resulted in weeks of identifying new wildflower varieties.

But for that month-and-a-half when the Colorado high altitude becomes an explosion of blooms, you’ll find Madsen heading up to Indian Peaks or James Peak Wilderness area early in the morning, either on her own or with a few friends, in search of flowers until night falls. Environmental changes like beetle kill and climate change have altered habitats and that means Madsen’s searches take her higher and higher in the mountains.

“These flowers are tenacious and you have to be tenacious yourself to find them,” Madsen said. “And depending on the flower, whether it’s an orchid or a high alpine flower, it can take them anywhere from a few years to a decade to store enough energy to bloom. The more you research it, the more you understand what it takes for them to bloom and survive.”

Spoken by the ultimate flower enthusiast, the devotion to her art form is evident in the photos she takes as they impart the reverence and gratitude she feels for each flower’s beauty.

Each of Madsen’s dozens of framed photos on display (from $75-$200) is accompanied by the name of the flower variety and where it was photographed. Mostly self-taught with some photographic workshops under her belt, the iPhone 10 with add-on lenses has become her go-to camera.

“Wildflowers are gorgeous, they’re colorful, they’re expressive, they have personalities,” she said, “like the Yellow Lady’s Slippers. This is a very tiny two-inch flower and they fool the bees into coming into the pouch thinking that there’s going to be nectar. These are smart little plants.”

Ten years into her hobby, Madsen has become a naturalist and an educator, stopping to talk with others on the trail to point out unique plants they may not notice, like the toxic Elegant Death Camas. This summer she’s making it a point to find the Pygmy Wood Nymph and she’s risen to the top of a two-year waiting list for an orchid hunt in Madagascar.

Another fascinating part of Madsen’s life is a volunteer gig she’s had for ten years with the nonprofit Audio Information Network of Colorado (AINC), where she records readings of magazines and newspapers for the blind and visually impaired. The Left Hand Valley Courier is one of the weekly papers she reads for her recording of the Boulder County News show, so while she’s not a resident of the area, she is very much in the know.

AINC is based in Boulder and is a free service – http://www.AINColorado.org. The organization provides 24/7 programming that’s downloadable covering hundreds of publications. Boulder County News, which includes the Courier, is aired on Fridays at 7 a.m. and is also available via podcast and streaming.

Madsen’s photography exhibit will be on display through the end of August. Visit http://www.InkberryBooks.com for store hours.


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