Sea Blue Lens


14 Comments

Scene & Story, Chapter 3: November 2016

I will admit that November is not my favorite month. In November all those glorious autumn leaves fade and fall. The landscape’s palette turns from brilliant red, orange, and gold to drab gray and brown. Even the sky is gray. Rain soaks those fallen leaves and begins the process of turning them into mulch and humus to nourish future growth. Days grow shorter. The clock gets turned back and, where I live in southern Maine, sunset arrives about four o’clock. This November has felt especially dark. There’s no denying that winter is coming.

Last LeafLast Leaf

Even so, November can still surprise and delight. I chose this photo to represent November because for me it sums up the contradictions of the month. It was a dreary, overcast day. The overnight rain had stopped but was still dripping from every twig. Suddenly, into the reflection of gloomy gray sky and leafless branches, sailed a single yellow leaf, moving quickly with the current. One spot of bright gold, shiny as a new coin, a flash of light in the darkness. Swirling out of sight in a moment, but lingering in heart and mind, a spark of unexpected joy.

November, I might just love you after all.

Please visit my friend Sarah at Paisley Rain Boots for her November Scene and Story.


33 Comments

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.


19 Comments

Scene & Story, Chapter 2: October 2016

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have already seen the image I chose for this month.

Signal FlareSignal Flare

I took this photo on the same day as my hike on the Saco Heath. I was driving home and was only two blocks from my door when I saw this flaming red vine out of the corner of my eye. I drove on home and parked the car, then ran back to frame and shoot the photo. I called it “Signal Flare” for its brilliant color, a sure sign that autumn was truly under way.

Okay, New England fall, colored leaves, pretty picture, and all that. But there’s a reason this photo is meaningful to me.

It was only early October. Virginia Creeper is one of the first plants to show its fall color and I knew there would be so much more to come. I’d already been out with my camera for a good three hours, since around sunrise, and hadn’t had breakfast or even coffee. I was tired and hungry. Surely this could wait? At least until after breakfast…and that coffee!

Better yet, how about tomorrow? (I am an excellent procrastinator.)

But somehow this felt urgent. I needed this photograph, and it couldn’t wait. I didn’t even go in the house first; I just hurried back and got my shot. And guess what? Overnight the rain came, the wind blew, and by the next morning, that vine was stripped bare. I’m so thankful that I captured it when I had the chance.

The older I get, the more conscious I become that tomorrow is a hope, not a promise. This photo is my own personal Signal Flare, a prompt not just to “seize the day” — I’d already done that — but to seize the moment when it presents itself. It may not be there later.

I know myself well enough to know that I won’t always succeed at this. I’m grateful for this image that reminds me to be present, to listen to the quiet voice of my own intuition, and to recognize and receive such fleeting gifts before they slip away.

Be sure to visit Paisley Rain Boots for Sarah’s October Scene & Story.

If you’d like to post your own “Scene & Story,” you’re more than welcome, and we’d love to know about it. We hadn’t planned on a formal linkup, but if you feel like joining in, you could leave a link to your post in the comments.


24 Comments

Muted Brilliance

Where I grew up, fall was welcomed for its cooler temperatures, but there was no spectacular visual display to mark the changing season. In those “long-ago” days, grocery stores sold pumpkins to carve for Halloween, but there weren’t the festive displays that are found everywhere now. Trees? Well, their leaves just turned brown and fell off. I didn’t know anything different. I’d seen pictures of New England autumns, but they were no more real to me than fairy tales.

Now I make my home in New England — and sometimes I do feel like I’m living in a fairy tale. The fall colors are so brilliant that it’s almost a relief when the leaves finally come down, leaving a more peaceful, monochromatic landscape.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all that color. It still amazes me every year, and I run around trying to photograph it all. But once in a while comes a day of fog and misty rain that transforms and softens the colorful world around me.

dsc_0889Rain on River

dsc_0893Wet Paint

img_3875Crystal Beads

img_1586Refreshed

dsc_0898Blue Dawn

dsc_0896

Fog

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

~ Carl Sandburg


29 Comments

A Hike on the Heath

I woke up early Saturday morning, too early. I got back into bed and closed my eyes, hoping for another hour or so of sleep. There was really no reason to get up. Except…there’s a place I’ve been thinking about visiting, and I had a sudden urge to do it NOW. So I got up again, got dressed, grabbed a jacket and my camera, and headed out the door.

A few minutes later, I was alone in the small dirt parking lot at Saco Heath — but not for long. Another vehicle pulled in as I was getting out of my car and a man got out, a large coffee in a disposable cup in his hand. We walked along the woodland trail together for a short way, chatting about the beautiful morning. Then he excused himself to “set a pace,” and took off down the path with long strides, leaving me and my camera in happy solitude.

dsc_0708Ferns glowed in the dim woods.

dsc_0711Sunlight brushed just the treetops.

dsc_0721A graceful fungus thoughtfully placed itself exactly at my eye level.

The heath is a unique geographic feature that is interesting and beautiful any time of year. And as I emerged from the woods onto the boardwalk at the edge of the heath, the sight took my breath away.

dsc_0737The heath glowed in the rising sun and ground fog lingered among the trees.

dsc_0728Every web, twig, and blade of grass was covered in silvery dew, backlit by the sun.

dsc_0750I’ve never seen the cottongrass in such abundance before.

dsc_0766The farther I went, the more magical the light became. It was like wandering into a fairyland.

dsc_0788At the opposite side of the heath, the path enters another wood. It was brighter now.

dsc_0774Two tiny strands of web at the tip of a pine needle were beaded with the minutest drops of water.

dsc_0810Streaks of sunlight picked out details on the ground.

dsc_0816A stray beam spotlighted a branch of golden leaves.

The walk back under full sun had a very different look and feel.

dsc_0840The bordering woods displayed a wall of bright color.

dsc_0847But the path through them still looked dark and mysterious.

dsc_0848Leaves sprinkled the boardwalk like confetti.

img_4083And the ferns in their festive autumn garb gently waved goodbye.

I didn’t miss that extra hour of sleep one little bit.

 


24 Comments

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.


10 Comments

Blurred Vision

Coming and Going

Coming and Going

Hi — I’m back! I didn’t deliberately set out to take a month-long blogging break, but that’s pretty much what happened. Don’t know why, but I guess I must have needed it.

I can’t say I’ve got any deep thoughts or dramatic breakthroughs to report upon my return. But since my Word for 2013 is Explore, I thought I’d jump in with Kat Sloma’s Exploring With a Camera. Each month, Kat offers up a lesson on an aspect of photography, with clear explanations, how-to’s, and plenty of examples. This month’s exploration was “artistic blur.”

I spend a great deal of effort in trying to get my photos to be as sharp as possible. The concept of trying to blur a photo by moving the camera around during exposure, for example, or by deliberately not focusing before capturing an image is difficult for me to grasp. I tried some experiments for this lesson but, sad to say, they were not successful. However, in looking through my archives I found that I do use other types of blur to create the effect I want in a photo.

Desert Willow

Desert Willow

In this photo, I used a shallow depth of field to hint at the setting of this desert willow, but the blossom is clearly the subject.

Eventide

Eventide

In this case, even though it’s the grass that’s in focus, it leads my eye to the cottage in the background. For me, the cottage in the soft, warm evening light, with its sense of peace and quiet solitude, is the real subject of the photo.

Summer Storm

Summer Storm

I took this photograph because of the blur caused by a brief but intense summer rain pouring down the window.

Window Waves

Ripples in Time

While this image was taken on another rainy day, the blurred distortion of the clapboards is caused not by rain but by the wavy antique glass of the window that I was shooting through.

Ripples In Time

Water World

These are ripples of a different sort. The water in this cove seemed very calm, but the blurred reflection tells another story. This is one of my favorite reflection photos.

Downtown

Downtown

In this image of the Los Angeles skyline taken from the Angeles Crest Highway, the mountains and distant city are blurred by mist and rain.

Slow Water

Slow Water

This blurred water is caused by using a slow shutter speed, a common technique used by landscape photographers to give moving water that milky effect. To be honest, it’s not something I do often, but I was experimenting with it one day and this was the result. To me, milky water looks very unnatural; I prefer to freeze the motion, leaving the water clear. But I did enjoy trying and comparing the effects of different shutter speeds on this occasion, and I’ll experiment more with it in the future.

Spots and Stripes

Spots and Stripes

This effect was achieved by shooting through a flowering shrub. Focusing on the bird beyond caused the foliage to blur into a translucent wash of color. I’d like to say I did this on purpose, but I was quite surprised by the result when I downloaded the images.

Illumination

Illumination

The blur here is caused simply by hand-holding the camera. The interior of this church was very dark so the shutter speed was slow. It’s sharper than I expected to get, but I like the softness of the glowing candles.

Angry Squirrel

Angry Squirrel

Autumn Gold

Autumn Gold

My apartment in Maine backed up to the edge of a river, and I had wonderful views from my windows. I took a lot of photos through those windows, with more or less success. These are two of my favorites. I was shooting through a double paned window and a screen, which gave these images a soft-focus effect that I like.

The Blues

Singin’ the Blues

Car window + Raindrops + Reflected Sky + Wide Open Lens. Once I’d have just thrown this away, but I like it. So with this little abstract, I’ll close my exploration for now and go link up with Exploring With a Camera: Artistic Blur. I think I’ll make it just under the wire.