Sea Blue Lens


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Photo-Heart Connection: November 2014

I’ve missed posting my Photo-Heart Connection the past couple of months, and now Kat has announced that she will be ending the monthly link-up at the end of this year. It’s always sad when something good and much loved goes away, but change is inevitable as we go through life, and the old must make way for the new. That’s what the image I chose for this month speaks to me about, too.

DSC_7645 Melancholia

This image is straight out of the camera and sums up my feelings about November very nicely. The month always seems a bit melancholy to me. The days grow short and the nights long. The sky is often gray and the weather turns cold and damp. Forecasts are filled with rain, fog, and even snow. The colorful leaves fade and fall, leaving naked branches behind. By the end of the month nearly all the trees are bare, tender plants have been frost-killed, and the natural world settles into dormancy.

There’s a sense of the year (perhaps of life itself) rushing to its close, a feeling of disbelief — what do you mean, Christmas is coming again? It seems only yesterday. . . .

It seems only yesterday that my children were young, that I was young. That the whole world was young and clean and innocent, but that was probably only my own naiveté. This is now, and it is what it is.

And so I observe with interest as the sunrise comes a minute or so later and the sunset a minute or so earlier each day, knowing the turnaround will come in only a couple more weeks, when the days will begin to lengthen again. I shake myself out of my lethargy enough to put on boots and warm, waterproof jacket, and go outside with my camera, seeking and finding beauty in bare branches and inclement weather.

Once again, the wonder of seeing the world around me through my lens works its magic, and I make peace with my November.

Thank you, Kat, for creating and hosting the Photo-Heart Connection — this practice which has added so much to my life over the past three years.

 


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On Being Still

I’ve mentioned before that I’m taking a class from Kim Klassen called Be Still – Fifty-two. We’re just past the halfway point, and this is sort of a catch-up post. I’ve been doing the lesson each week, but for various reasons, haven’t gotten around to publishing my results.

I’m pretty sure I’ve also mentioned before that still life is not a genre with which I feel comfortable. Doing setups for these lessons and “styling” a photograph is hard for me, and when I see the beautiful work done by other students, I feel that mine isn’t quite “right.” So I hesitate to put it out there.

OK, so that’s silly. First, it’s not a competition. Second, Kim encourages us to find and follow our own style, so there is no “right” that I should be worried about. And third, no one has ever been anything but kind and supportive about my photography. Therefore, after giving myself a good talking-to, I’ve just finished posting my “homework” for the past month or so to the class’s Flickr group, and thought I’d share a few of those images here.

White Pitcher Red AppleWhite Pitcher

Assignment: Create a photo inspired by a still life painting. My inspiration was a painting called White Vase by Neil Carroll. This was the first time I’ve tried photographing against a dark background like this.

DSC_7498Pear on Plate

Assignment: A composition using only two objects, such as a pear and a bowl.

DSC_7528Pair

Another take on the Two Objects challenge. As you can see, I’m rather captivated by that dark background effect.

Butter & Eggs Cooking for One

Assignment: A still life with butter and eggs. This one was fun. I’ve had that book for a long time, hoping for an opportunity to use it as a photo prop. And my daughter and I had to go antiquing to find the perfect butter dish, especially for this assignment.

Strong teaStrong Tea

Assignment: Square format, looking down, with two sides of the frame left open. This was  taken with my iPhone and processed with Laminar Pro.

And that brings me up to date, just in time for the lesson that arrived today!

Now, if I can just keep it up going forward . . . .

 


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Last Look at the Leaves

I woke this morning to white flakes drifting from the sky and beginning to cover the ground. It wasn’t cold enough to last for long, but the message was unmistakable. Winter is very near! Before it gets here, I really wanted to post some photos of the glorious autumn we’ve had here this year.

About a month ago, being encouraged to “change it up” and take a break from still-life photography for our Be Still – 52 class, I visited Laurel Hill Cemetery to photograph the fall leaves. I’ve been there many times in the spring for the daffodil display, and I got some wonderful photos on a snowy day last winter. Can you believe this was my first fall excursion to this beautiful cemetery?

DSC_7044Welcome!

DSC_7061Under the trees, the air itself seemed to be glowing.

DSC_7060It was just as brilliant underfoot.

DSC_7086An unexpected downpour sent me dashing for the shelter of my car.

DSC_7149I thought of heading home, but the rain passed quickly, leaving the color even more intense.

DSC_7098From the benches above . . .

DSC_7094. . . you can look out over the marsh and river.

DSC_7201Raindrops

DSC_7177Victorian era cast iron fence

DSC_7273Mosses and lichen

DSC_7285Paper wasp nest

DSC_7165A perfect maple

DSC_7167Old, crooked gravestones

DSC_7243Kaleidoscope of color

DSC_7253These trees looked as if they’d been purposely decorated by the windblown leaves.

DSC_7322The road back to the gate passes the pretty, vine-covered chapel, built in 1890.

DSC_7326It’s worthy of its own photo essay.

DSC_7332The tower

DSC_7330Even the window glows with autumn light.

DSC_7355One final look back. Goodbye, leaves . . . til next year.


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Hunting and Gathering

Inspired by this week’s Be Still – 52 lesson, I took a couple of nature walks to gather materials for creating some still life photographs. My first impression, as I thought of “gather – drop – place and prop,” was that Mother Nature does such a fine job of gathering and dropping that she doesn’t need any help from me. All I needed to do was “place” my own two “props” and snap away:

IMG_5376 Fall FeetMagic Carpet

However much fun that was, it didn’t really satisfy the requirements of the lesson, so I set off to collect some autumnal miscellany around the neighborhood. There can be hazards to this kind of still life photography. Did you know that if you bring certain dried wildflowers into your house, you will soon have seeds of said wildflowers everywhere? The Queen Anne’s Lace was so messy that I didn’t use it after all, in spite of its fascinating structure. I’m still vacuuming up prickly little seeds. My basket of goodies also contained other unintended “organic matter” that was inclined to make itself at home in my home, but don’t worry, I put the little spiders safely back outside.

Anyway, after gathering a basketful of colorful leaves, berries, seeds and twigs, more than enough for a dozen still-life photo shoots, I came home to arrange and photograph them. I’m still working on where and how to set up still lifes in this apartment — finding space, light, and clean backgrounds is a challenge. My workspace for this project was an antique folding sewing table set up by the living room window.

DSC_6941 work spaceMy Garden and Reflecting Pool

DSC_6942 fallen leaf pondFallen Leaf

DSC_6926Autumn Joy

This was my final composition, taken from above and processed with Kim’s moodswing Lightroom preset. Okay, assignment done, I thought.

But then . . . Sunday I woke up in a melancholy mood. Thinking it might be interesting to try the assignment with odds and ends I could find at the beach, I headed to one of my favorite places, the Audubon Walk at Biddeford Pool. Five minutes of sea breeze and sunshine, and I was a new person. It works every time. I must remember this!

P1040477 Wood Island LightWood Island Light

I took my usual path, which was more overgrown than I’ve ever seen it before, probably due to the very rainy July we had this year. The only birds I saw were sea gulls and chickadees, but there were lots of butterflies and bees on the wild asters.

P1040389 butterfly-bee-asterAutumn Feasts for Tiny Beasts

I came home with over 100 photos in my camera and a much lighter heart. Oh, and a few bits of this and that in my pockets.

DSC_6961 beach treasures_aboveA Day at the Beach

Some granite eggs, a few shells, a bit of old brick and scrap of wood, seaweed, three hearts (I only asked the Universe for one!), and two tiny bits of sea glass. I was amazed at how many red-berried trees and bushes I saw. These were only one of at least a half-dozen different kinds of red berries I discovered. The yellow ones are bittersweet berries. There are tons of it out there, but it’s not quite “ready” yet — the outer casings haven’t yet opened to show the orange berries inside.

DSC_6971 beach still lifeBe Still, My Heart

Lesson learned from this week’s still-life photo assignment? I must get out more. Literally out: outside, into nature. I need it as much as I need food, water, sleep, and air to breathe.


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Man of Mystery

This week’s Be Still – 52 project is still-life family portraits . . . creating a photographic “portrait” of a person without the person! That sounds impossible, but I liked the idea and knew immediately that my subject would be my father.

This past June marked the twentieth anniversary of my father’s death. Twenty years! So hard to believe it’s been that long. Dad was a complicated man, and also a somewhat mysterious one. As a child, I knew nothing about his background except that he was from the Midwest. We had no extended family. I once overheard a snippet of adult conversation saying that his name, the name I knew him by, wasn’t his real one. But I was a shy child who didn’t ask questions, so I tucked it away in the back of my mind and mostly forgot about it. I sensed it was something I wasn’t supposed to know about, anyway.

My sister, who is ten years younger than I and much more direct and outgoing, challenged Dad in his later years to record his life story for her. She gave him a tape recorder and some tapes. After his passing, I found notes he’d jotted down about his early life, and one tape that he’d begun, expanding upon those notes.

And that was how we finally learned a bit about who our father was, by following clues in those notes and doing some detective work on Ancestry.com. It wasn’t a spy-novel-secret-identity sort of story after all, just a sad family drama that caused a young boy to run away from a troubled home at age 14, in the middle of the Great Depression. In the same way that we didn’t know where he came from, his family never knew where he went. He took the name of his biological father and changed his birth date to appear four years older than he actually was. It must have required all of his intelligence and ingenuity just to survive in those hard times.

How I wish we had known all this while he was still alive! Sometimes I wonder if he would be pleased that his secrets have been revealed. We are pleased, anyway. My sister and I have been able to connect with both sides of his family and have learned we have a plethora of cousins through both his maternal and paternal sides. We have so much more understanding and compassion for the more difficult aspects of his personality, now that we know something about his birth and early years.

DSC_6564_DadFragments

The still life I created in Dad’s memory is comprised of some of the few items I have that were his. Even they are mysterious! I have no idea of the source of the pewter box and the larger jade elephant, but remember them being around all my life. They were the only things I really wanted of Dad’s after he died. The “Birthdays ‘Round the Year” book was a gift to him from a woman (not my mother) on his birthday, two months before I was born. There’s an inscription with her signature, “Jhana,” inside the cover. The poetry clippings were inside, dated in his handwriting. The book is filled with dates of births, deaths, weddings, and divorces in various handwritings. Dad’s own death is recorded there in my own hand.

Those are his World War II draft registration and ID cards, with that incorrect birth date. The cuff links remind me of the white dress shirts he wore as a bartender, leaving for work each night as we children were getting ready for bed. I found the handful of tarnished old coins, mostly foreign, in the bottom of an old cigar box. Dad loved unusual coins, and always checked through his tips carefully for anything of interest. One of these is a United States seated liberty quarter dated 1842, worn so smooth that it’s barely readable.

This is such a tiny part of who he was, and what he was. It says nothing of his warmth, his beautiful singing and speaking voice, his sense of humor, his love of books, his talent as a gardener that he turned into a second career after he retired from bartending. It also says nothing of his demons, his alcoholism, his delight in shocking and aggravating his neighbors, his ability to build up and tear down with his words. As I said, a complicated man. I loved him and sometimes I hated him. But he was my father, and in the end, it’s the love that remains. I miss him very, very much.

Image processed with Kim Klassen’s textures bestill and appreciate.


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Out and About

Yesterday my daughter and I took a little drive down to Kennebunkport to see what we could see. It’s one of our favorite things to do, and this is one of our favorite times of the year to do it. The summer crowds are gone and the weather was cool, clear, and perfect.

IMG_5086Peaceful

As we walk from the public parking lot back into the village, I always stop by here, where the road crosses over the river, to take a few photos.

IMG_5095Into the Blue

I love the sight of New England’s cupolas and spires against the intense blue sky.

IMG_5093Touch of Autumn

It is early yet, but we did see a bit of color here and there.

IMG_5099Vacancy

This bird house is awfully close to the street, and I don’t know if it is ever occupied or not. But it’s cute, anyway.

IMG_5116Times Past

There are two kinds of antique shops I love. One is the junk-store kind, where you can prowl to your heart’s content in hopes of unearthing an unexpected (and cheap) treasure of some sort. The other is this kind: like a museum, except you can touch the precious things on display. If you have the money, you can even take them home with you. I do not have it, but I love looking (and touching) anyway.

IMG_5103Pooh Corner

When I looked back over the photos I took during my 365 project, I noticed that I actually do take quite a few still lifes. This was a surprise to me. But I also realized that this is the kind I take — found subjects, rather than ones I have gathered and set up. I just never thought of them as “still lifes.”

IMG_5106To the Loft

What can I say? I love these stairs and that light bouncing around at the top. And I was drawn irresistibly up.

IMG_5107View from the Top

IMG_5108Illumination

IMG_5109Horse with Girl

The tag said this was from China. I have no idea if it’s antique or not, but I thought it was charming.

IMG_5112Little Green Apples

Back downstairs. Though I’m not generally a fan of the chipped paint look, I liked this worn blue table a lot. I can see it in back of my couch. In my dreams.

IMG_5113It Was a Hot Summer

IMG_5121David by the Water

Outside, if you duck and go through a little passageway, you find this surprisingly formal small garden tucked away next to the building.

IMG_5147The Good Earth

Another of our favorite shops. The floors are so tilted it will make you dizzy. All of the pottery here is made by the husband and wife who own the store. My favorite mugs came from here.

IMG_5139Fresh Picked

Another of my “found” still lifes.

IMG_5142Deck with a View

From this deck we could smell seafood, and it was time to seek out some lunch. Clam chowder and warm blueberry pie with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream — which, as usual, I never even thought to photograph — and then it was time to head for home.

So glad we went! Today it is raining . . . and that’s good, too.

Note: All photos were taken with my iPhone 5S.


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Doing Laundry

I’m taking an online class on still life photography called Be Still – 52, taught by the lovely Kim Klassen. I’ve never thought of still life as “my thing,” but I enjoy Kim’s quiet but effective teaching style and have learned a lot from her about post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements.

The year-long course includes a focus on mindfulness and inner calm along with the technical lessons and photo prompts. The class began in mid-May, while I was in the throes of apartment hunting and packing and moving, and the idea of slowing down, breathing deeply, and finding a quiet place to be still  through my photography was tremendously appealing.

However, all that apartment hunting, packing, moving, and unpacking again meant that I fell far behind in the class. Now that I’m (more or less) settled, I’m busy trying to catch up on past lessons and not fall further behind with current ones. How’s that working for me? Well………let’s just say I have a ways to go.

Anyway, one of my favorite prompts so far was “Laundry time.” I was recently given some vintage linens which I thought would make lovely photo props. Unfortunately, they had some pretty serious vintage stains, and were stored in a plastic bin with some anti-insect stuff whose smell gave me a headache. Perfect subjects for a laundry exercise, right?

Here are a few images I took as I washed, dried, and folded them for putting into the linen closet.

DSC_6271Clean and Simple

DSC_6252Hung Out To Dry

DSC_6268Edges

DSC_6336_editFinished

Sadly, some were beyond redemption, but these and a few others turned out beautifully. You’ll probably be seeing more of them as time — and class — goes on.

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