Sea Blue Lens


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Soul Food

Like everyone else I know, I’ve been grieving the results of Tuesday’s election. This post will have nothing to say about that, because I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been expressed by others…many others. This post is about what I did yesterday afternoon to distract and soothe myself.

I picked up my camera and I went for a walk.

fallen leafFallen Leaf

I followed the Saco Riverwalk, which begins just a few blocks from my apartment. To get there, I had to pass the covered bridge to the little park next door, where I paused to take the photo above.

fernNext I found this delicate fern growing out of a crack in the wall of a railroad overpass.

pathWhen I got to the river walk, the path was so leaf-strewn that it was barely visible. It’s narrow and slopes steeply down to the river’s edge, so I kept my eyes on where I was placing my feet.

daisy-boulderI came across a few wildflowers still blooming. This large, round boulder is a puzzle — it looks completely out of place atop the angular granite riverbank. I wondered how it got here.

rose hipsRosa Multiflora is a terribly invasive plant, and there’s a lot of it in this area. But it is beautiful! It’s covered in tiny white flowers in the summer and masses of small red hips in the fall and winter. I’ve read that they are edible, but I’ve never tried it.

twigsMany trees have already shed their leaves. You’d think those ones at the very tips of the branches would have been the first to go, but they are hanging on tenaciously.

benchA favorite resting place. I love this view to the neighboring town across the river.

birchesThis clump of birches is one of my favorite places to take selfies. Yes, I did get my phone out of my pocket and snapped a few. Not very successfully, though – it’s a windy spot, and I couldn’t keep my hair out of my face!

bare birchesAnd here are the tops of those birches. This makes me think of spatter painting.

oak leavesThere’s not much red left, so I was especially pleased to spot these oak leaves.

dsc_0989The river widens into a little bay here and the path curves left to follow it around.

bittersweetWith apologies to my friends who have to pay florists exorbitant prices for a bit of bittersweet — this stuff is everywhere.

wall of goldAnd here the trail swings back to the right…

power easement…to follow this power line easement.

chickadeeI don’t know what those tall, auburn-colored plants alongside the trail are, but they were filled with the rustling and twittering of small birds. I saw many chickadees, busy doing whatever chickadees do in the fall, calling out their cheery little “chickadee-dee-dee.” (This image is greatly cropped, since I didn’t have my tele lens with me.)

leaf carpetAt the top of the hill, more trees and so many leaves! I sat down in the middle of these for a while, just inhaling their delicious spicy scent. The river walk has turned away from the river now, and is circling back toward town.

yellow leavesFrom here, there’s just a glimpse of the water. The tide was out so the water level was very low. (The Saco River rises and falls with the ocean tides all the way to the center of town.)

red leafOne more surprise: a single scarlet leaf on a bright golden maple tree.

trail's endAnd that brings us to the trail’s end. Those steps on the left lead up to a small parking area, where I begin my zigzag path along the neighborhood streets and sidewalks toward home.

On the way home, I looked up and saw this:

crisscross cloudsCrisscross Clouds

And an hour or so later, the day’s final gift:

sunset viewFrom My Window

I needed that, so very much. I hope it has lifted you up a little bit, too.


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Summer’s End

IMG_0936-2evening starEvening Star (August 8)

Wow, August is almost over and didn’t it go by fast?! Though I haven’t been posting, I have been taking photos.

I have to admit that I’m not a particularly disciplined person. I don’t like schedules and routines, particularly self-imposed ones. But I felt that I needed something to prod me out of my lethargy, so I set myself a little challenge to take at least one photo every day during the month of August.  To make it as easy as possible, I decided to use my iPhone for my pics of the day, simply because I knew I would always have it with me. Also, the photos automatically stream themselves to my computer every time I plug in the phone to charge. No excuses, right?

I did better than I expected. I captured an image every day, even if some of them were not particularly inspired. A couple of times I forgot until almost the last minute, and it shows. But most surprising to me, I enjoyed it very much. Here’s a sampling:

IMG_0903 onion seedGoing to Seed (August 3)

This is what happens when you don’t eat your vegetables.

IMG_0914 Thai iced teaRefreshing (August 5)

Thai iced tea, enjoyed at lunch during a shopping outing with my sister. It’s a special treat, one of my favorite drinks.

IMG_0930 Sky treeSkeleton (August 7)

This small eucalyptus died a couple of years ago, but the birds love to perch there. It’s far enough away from the house that even if it came down in a storm, it couldn’t hurt anything.

IMG_0970 kittyGarden Kitty (August 11)

I met this lovely and friendly tortoiseshell cat at a nursery my sister and I visited.

IMG_0996 thunderheadThunderhead (August 18)

Lots of interesting skies this month!

IMG_1044 rainFlash Flood Watch (August 26)

That wall of rain arrived about five minutes after I took this photo. It rained for about 20 minutes and did flood some small local roads, though there wasn’t any serious damage. The temperature dropped by 20 degrees in those 20 minutes and after the rain the damp ground and air smelled delicious. I wish I could have captured that scent to share with you.

IMG_1049 Ave VDriving Home (August 28)

This is the “avenue” I live on. This was taken a couple of days after the rain and there’s been some traffic, but you can still see where the water ran down and across the road.

IMG_1011 sunset gazeboSunset Clouds Over Moonrise Mountain (August 20)

Moonrise Mountain is my own name for this hill, for just the reason you might guess: from the perspective of our property, the moon comes up right over it. Therefore we’re looking eastward in this photo. I love it when the clouds pile up there and are illuminated by the sun setting on the opposite horizon. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s pretty spectacular when it does.

I know it wasn’t a big goal, but I’m proud of myself for setting it and doing it. Now I’m committing myself to the big one, a 365, starting September 1. I still don’t know if I can do it, but at least I’ve become willing to try. And that’s a good thing.

I’ve uploaded my entire August set to Flickr, so if you’d like to see the rest, you can go here to check it out.


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Small Things

Buds SOOC

One of the things I love most about photography is how it shows me things I can’t see with my own two eyes.  The image above was taken on my Laudholm Farm photo walk last week. My eye was drawn to this little cluster of buds because they seemed so out of place. This is Maine. It’s December. Tender flower buds are normally a distant memory by now, not to be seen again until spring, many months away.

But here they were, on the tip of a branch of an otherwise bare shrub. Tiny, maybe 3/8 of an inch long. So I snapped their picture, to record their bravery and to help myself remember this warmer-than-usual fall and early winter.

It was only after I got home and looked at the photo on my computer screen that I said, “Wait. What is that?”

I magnify, zoom in, and discover:  tiny globes of water, melted frost, perfectly poised on the tips of the buds.

Winter Buds

That is what I love about photography.

[Note: This image is simply cropped from the one above. No other post-processing was done.]

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in·spi·ra·tion

Shhh…photographer at work. I’m thinking.

I’m very glad the weekend is finally here. It seems like it’s been a long week, and I’ve been feeling very tired. Last night I slept for ten hours straight, something that’s almost unheard of for me. I’m looking forward to catching up with my lessons and photojournal posts.

Lesson 5 in the Find Your Eye: Journey of Recognition course asked me to consider which part(s) of the photographic process I’m most inspired by. Intending, seeing, taking, editing, sharing, getting feedback, and so on. I’ve never even considered before that there were steps to the photographic process, never mind breaking down which parts inspire me the most.

I’ve been thinking about this for almost a week now. I’ve realized that what excites and inspires me most about photography is discovery. And capture. I am most excited about photography when I go to a new location, or when returning to a favorite place that I don’t visit often. I’m stimulated by new things I see and feel, and I want to explore and capture them with my camera – both the “thing,” whether it be a single object or an entire landscape, and the feeling it gives me. It’s a way of holding on to “there” even though I have to return to reality here.

Here is an example. These photos were taken on two separate trips to the same place in downeast Maine. On my first visit to this spot, I took dozens of photos of this old smokehouse from all angles, inside and out, in various weathers and times of day. (It’s where I found the spiderweb shown here.)

I also loved this old shed in its field of wildflowers.

A year later, a new discovery: winter storms had further decimated the shed, and I could frame the old smokehouse through what was left of the shed roof.

After a photo shoot, I typically download the photos and take a quick look at them. Then they become a slideshow screensaver on my computer, where I enjoy seeing them every day, and that’s the end of it. However, in this class, I’ve become interested in the other aspects of the photographic process. The  assignments make me photograph with deliberate intention. I’m then reviewing, considering, choosing, and editing. I have to think. And try to express what I’m thinking in writing. All of that is much harder than just snapping away as the mood strikes me. But I’m learning to enjoy those parts, too, more so as I practice and become more skilled at them.

Through this photojournal, I am also sharing my photos publicly for the first time. The response to these posts and my photographs has been encouraging and confidence-building, and has made me think and helped me grow. Receiving feedback is not the reason I take photographs, but I’ve discovered it can be a very rewarding part of the process, and for that I thank all of you!

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Learning from Other Artists

Our lesson this week in the Find Your Eye course required us to go somewhere and view some live art. The real deal . . . an exhibit, a gallery, anything other than on a computer screen or in a book. We were to take notes on what we saw, how we felt about it, what we felt drawn to or repelled by. Then, back to our photojournals, to write about the experience, and what we can learn from other artists that can be applied to our own art.

So on Sunday, I set out. First I visited a local historical museum, where I found a number of portraits from the 18th and 19th centuries, along with a display of new abstract paintings and charcoal sketches by a contemporary artist. Then I headed to a nearby town where I chanced upon an exhibit by the local Art Guild, and visited a few small galleries.

My reaction to most of the historical portraits was to wonder, did people really look like that then, or was it just the artistic style and fashion of the day that made them look that way? Sloped shoulders, pinched faces, pot-bellied gentlemen and stiff-necked women . . . none of them looked like happy people, but then, life was probably pretty hard in Early American New England. Or perhaps it says more about the skill level of the itinerant, self-taught artists who painted most of them. One exception was a portrait of a very handsome young man with beautiful eyes, who reminded me of a picture of Lord Byron that I fell hard for as a teenager.

The piece at the Art Guild that stood out for me from among the pretty oils and pastels was a photographic digital composition. I know that will sound strange to those who have read my previous comments about digitally altering photographs in post-processing, but in this case, the piece had been made by creatively combining separate photographic elements into a totally new composition. It was intriguing, humorous, an impossible composition that was startlingly realistic. I wouldn’t want to live with it, but I enjoyed looking at it for quite a while, admiring all its details and technical brilliance.

The work that I was most drawn to (aside from that one digital aberration) tended to be either impressionistic or extremely realistic, and depicted simple elements of land and sea and buildings, both interiors and exteriors. There were few if any people in them, and the mood was one of serenity. There was, for example, a large watercolor of a rock balanced upon two other rocks, with a single blossom on a tall stem rising up above them against a clear sky.

What I don’t care for are series of canvasses covered in apparently random splashes of discordant color, with pretentious titles that, to my eye at least, have no relation to anything on the canvas at all. I have seen abstract art that I think is beautiful, but not on this outing.

What I learned from this expedition is that the kind of art that appeals to me most is actually a lot like the kind of photographs I take. (Or is it the other way around?) Below are a couple of examples from my inspiration file.

Lamp

Bloom where you’re planted

I enjoyed my gallery outing and look forward to repeating this exercise soon.


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Reflecting

I woke up to rain this morning, and a cool breeze billowing the curtains at my open windows. It’s a perfect day to tackle the final assignment in the introductory Find Your Eye course I’ve been taking:  to look through my  inspiration file and see what I can determine about my photographic style.

So, what can I learn from my own favorite photos?

What I see in my pictures is a reflection of my love of nature. There is, I think, a sense of solitude about them which is a reflection of my own nature. There is sky, water, trees, wildflowers, insects, birds, other small creatures.

There are images of the changing seasons.

I like details, texture, and color, from high contrast to subtle shadings.

There is man’s hand on the landscape, too, in buildings, fences, artifacts of various sorts. I’ve always been fascinated with shards and relics of the past. Again, it is often the details that capture my attention, the play of textures, or the way light and shadow define an angle.

What there is not…at least not much…is people. The people who appear in my photos seem usually to be a prop, a detail in a story, rather than the actual subject of the photo. Often they are strangers, in the distance, or out of focus. I am observing them, not interacting with them.

Nearly all of my photos are taken with natural light, and I do very little cropping or post-processing, except perhaps to straighten a horizon. One thing I have noticed through this class is that when I take a series of pictures of a subject, it is often the first image that makes the final cut. I’m not sure what that says about me or my photographic style!

I’ve really enjoyed this class, and am looking forward to continuing on to the next one.


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Being My Own Inspiration

Taking flight

Lesson two in our Find Your Eye class was to start an “inspiration file.” This is meant to consist of 15 to 20 of my own favorite photographs, the ones that speak to me and that I love to look at. Well, that shouldn’t be so hard.

Well, except that sometimes I make things harder on myself. Before I can pick my favorite/best photos, I must compulsively organize ALL of my photos. I know, I know. But actually, it helped with the exercise, because I scanned through hundreds thousands of pictures very quickly, not letting myself obsess (too much) over any particular one.

It was the 15-to-20 photos part that turned out to be the hardest. I ended up with a few over 50, and had to leave out a lot of others that I really love to get it reduced that far.

Bluebird of Happiness Times Four

What I ended up with is a folder of photographs that surprised me. It makes me happy when I look at each one, and even happier when I see them all grouped together. You see, I’ve never been very impressed with my own abilities as a photographer. But seeing all of my favorites at one glance, I realize I really do like them. A lot.

They are not all brilliant, or technically perfect, but each one has something about it that I love. Some are out of focus, or a bit crooked, but I left them in because they give me ideas. I want to remember to try that shot again, and get it better next time.

Fuzzy duck…but oh, look at that green!

These, my own pictures…they do inspire me, and I think that was the point of the lesson. I’m grateful to have learned it.