Sea Blue Lens


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Adventures in…Intuition

I went out this afternoon to try to complete this week’s challenge from Kim Manley Ort’s Adventures in Seeing book. To be honest, I’m not sure if I “got it” or not. The purpose was to exercise our intuition, and Kim suggested listening to our body’s leading rather than consciously deciding where to walk or what to photograph. The idea was to allow ourselves to feel something physical, a vibration or resonance, that would give us direction.

I think of most of my photography as “intuitive.” I seldom go somewhere specific with preconceived ideas about what I want to photograph. I go someplace, I see something that catches my eye and causes a quick intake of breath, I “work” the subject and make photos of it. But I can’t say I’ve ever felt the sort of physical sensation that I understood Kim to be talking about. Maybe I was trying too hard to make rational sense of something that’s not based on logic.

Anyway, I bundled up and went outside and stood on the sidewalk, waiting for “something” to suggest a direction. All I heard my body saying to me was, “Are you crazy? It’s cold out here! Let’s go back inside.” I ignored that and arbitrarily turned right and headed for the Riverwalk, mostly because I hadn’t been that way in a while.

graffiti wall

Past Main Street and the railroad overpass, I veered off the sidewalk to check out this little “park” area. There was no one else there — I wouldn’t have gone in if there had been, because the place kind of gives me the creeps. There used to be some rather artistic graffiti on that wall, but someone (probably the city) painted over it, and now it’s just a lot of (to my eyes) ugly scribbling. This is certainly not the kind of image that makes me feel good. I don’t think this is where my intuition was leading me.

Oak

I saw leaves, an unexpected sight this deep into winter. A tall oak tree still held nearly all its leaves, though they were quite dead. I suppose the new growth in the spring will push the old leaves off.

leaves

These are oak leaves, too. The sun was playing peekaboo with the clouds, making the leaves flash like a neon sign as shadows came and went.

solitary leaf

One had broken away from the crowd to lie in yesterday’s inch of new snow.

tracks

dsc_1268

There was much evidence of other, smaller creatures out following their bodies’ instincts. I’ll bet they don’t question where they are going and what they are doing.

through trees

Okay, that’s a pretty nice view. Let’s keep going just a little farther.

No Swimming

I never notice this sign except in winter, when it always makes me laugh and say out loud, No kidding! But I suppose it serves a useful purpose in the summertime, when there’s a boat ramp there.

“Fine. Can we go home now?” my body wants to know. “The wind is picking up and I’m cold.”

No, not just yet. I want to walk up to the birches, then we’ll go home.

birches

So delicate, the tracery against the sky. Who would have expected this? When I left my apartment it was mostly overcast with dark grey clouds piling up on the western horizon.

through the trees

Oh yes, this is what I wanted. Maybe I could go just a little bit farther up the trail…. Okay, wait, my body is definitely talking to me now.

“You said, to the birches. These are the birches. You can’t even feel your fingers anymore. Go. Home. Now.”

And so I turned back, still not knowing if I did it “right,” but happy with my outing anyway. One look back:

dsc_1258

It is enough.


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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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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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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.


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Wrapping It Up


Our final, bonus exercise in the Find Your Eye photography e-course was to review and assess what we actually got from the class. Immediately after the class finished, I went on vacation for a couple of weeks, so I’ve had some time to consider this. But it’s still not easy to put my thoughts and feelings into words.

Having reviewed my lesson posts and inspiration file, I note the following discoveries:

  1. I do have an “eye.” My photographic interests and style have remained pretty consistent for all of the (ahem) many years I have been taking photographs.
  2. My eye is unique to me. While others may take similar photographs, mine are still . . . somehow mine.
  3. I will always be able to find subject matter for my camera. (More on this in a future post.)
  4. Sometimes it really is about the equipment. (More about this later, too.)
  5. Looking at the work of other artists, whether it be photography or other media, helps me to grow in my own work.
  6. Photoshop is not evil, but simply a tool, or sometimes an artistic medium in its own right, to help us achieve the image we envisioned. Post-processing can be fun!
  7. Photographing with intent and purpose can be interesting, informative, and fun, even if I do have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming.
  8. Stepping outside my comfort zone can be challenging and frustrating. It can also result in some very nice pictures!
  9. Thinking is a vital part of a photographer’s tool kit. This is a valuable lesson for someone whose photography is mostly intuitive.

All of these discoveries have been made in community with an amazing group of fellow students. As I’ve mentioned before, this is the first time I’ve ever shared my photography outside of a small circle of family and friends. During this course, I have learned so much specifically from feedback and interaction with the other students and our instructor, Kat, through all of our online photo journals.

My photography is usually a solitary pursuit, but through this course I’ve made connections with kindred spirits from across the country and around the world who now feel like friends. Not only have I found my eye, but I’ve found a new respect for my own work by seeing it through the eyes of others. It’s been remarkable to discover that images I’ve captured with my heart and mind can touch others, even complete strangers.

I’ve discovered a new joy and enthusiasm for my old pastime. I can’t wait to continue the journey in our next class, The Journey of Inspiration.