Sea Blue Lens


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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.


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Scene & Story, Chapter 1: September 2016

Scene & Story is a new project my friend Sarah (Paisley Rain Boots) and I dreamed up last week, in hopes of stimulating our photography and writing. She wrote about our idea and how it came about in this post. Basically, it’s the practice of reviewing our previous month’s photographs, choosing one that speaks strongly to us, and writing a blog post about it. It’s reminiscent of the old Photo-Heart Connection linkup that we both loved and miss.

The photograph I chose from September is not my favorite image, nor even the one that calls most directly to my heart and soul. That would have been the woman on the foggy beach from my last post. Since I didn’t want to use that one again, I turned to runner-up number one, a photo that speaks to me for both positive and negative reasons.

dsc_0504-2Serenity

I love the colors, the reflections, that hazy moon, the tranquility of the scene and the moment. The best thing about my apartment is that it backs onto a river. All I have to do is go out the door, down the stairs, and walk a few steps to see the view above, which I love at any time and any season. Sunset often fills sky and water with exquisite colors and textures.

There are lots of stories here. The old brick mill buildings are finding new life as condos, businesses, and artists’ studios. The railroad bridge is traversed day and night by both freight trains and the Amtrak Downeaster. That huge industrial stack on the right is all that’s left of a former trash incineration facility that was the bane of the communities on both sides of the river.

On this particular evening, I noticed the changing light through my window and went outside with my camera. It was a perfect end-of-summer evening, and the not-quite-half moon was following the sun towards the horizon. I took several photos, then just sat on the granite blocks edging the river, soaking in the peace that I always find in nature, especially by the water. I am so grateful to have this right here, right now.

So…what’s the negative? Looking through my September photos made me think about how close to home I stay most of the time. My river view is beautiful and photogenic, and so is my little park next door. It’s so easy, so comfortable to stay home, to stroll around the familiar neighborhood, to photograph the same subjects over and over. But there is so much more out there and I want to explore it!

This morning, inspired already by this new project, I did just that. But that’s a story for another day.

Be sure to visit Paisley Rain Boots for Sarah’s September 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.


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An Anniversary

DSC_9963Portal

Today marks five years since I began this blog, intended to serve as a photojournal for an online photography class I was taking at the time (Kat Sloma’s “Find Your Eye” course). For the first time, I shared both my photography and my writing with a wider audience than just my family and close friends. Since then I’ve become more confident not only about my photography, but about myself. I’ve made connections online that have become friendships as real as any in the “real world.” I not only found my eye — I also found my voice.

IMG_1757Just Breathe

Why do I pursue photography, anyway? My motivations haven’t changed in the five years since I first thought about that question for Kat’s class. I take photos to capture a moment, a memory, something I want to hold on to. My subject may be permanent as a mountain or ephemeral as a sunbeam, vast as an ocean or tiny as an insect, but it is always something that has captured my eye and my imagination and demands to be captured in turn with my camera.

IMG_1119Quicker Than the Eye

I take photos to explore the world around me.  I love the way my camera helps me to notice things, and even to see things invisible to my naked eyes. I love the way photography allows me to share the things I discover with others. I think what keeps me going, photographing even familiar, “same old, same old” subjects over and over, is the possibility of discovering something new and never-before-seen — at least not by me.

DSC_0052Mother Love

IMG_0630Wings of Light

I photograph the places and things I love. My photography is not a means to an end, it is an end in its own right. I do enjoy publishing my photos on my blog and it’s a special joy when someone tells me one of my pictures has touched or inspired them in some way. But underneath it all is still just that basic need to express myself, to create something that seems beautiful and satisfying to my own eyes.

IMG_0621Summer Sun

DSC_0183Flight

If I’m troubled or anxious, a walk with my camera takes me out of myself and brings peace better than any meditation. Is my photography going to Change the World? No, probably not. But it captures a bit of the beauty I see in the world, and that makes me happy. If it gives you pleasure, too . . . that makes me even happier. Purpose fulfilled all around.

IMG_1796-3

 


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Photo-Heart Connection: March 2014

The moment I saw this photograph, I knew that it was going to be my Photo-Heart Connection image for March.

IMG_2826Through the Looking Glass [208/365]

Why? That’s the question I’m still pondering. Perhaps it was the surprise element in how it came to be.

It was very early (for me, anyway) in the morning and I was getting dressed to meet a friend for breakfast. The rising sun was streaming in the window, striking the mirror on my antique dresser and backlighting me at the same time. The sunlight was doing interesting things to the scratched and hazy surface of the old mirror, so I grabbed my iPhone and took several shots, moving around a bit in relation to the sun, shadows, and reflection, hoping for an interesting self-portrait.

This photo was the last shot of the series, and a complete accident. All the rest were sharply focused — and sharply disappointing. None of them captured the excitement I felt at seeing that light. This one made me stop and suck in my breath, all the while wondering, What happened? How did I get this out-of-focus image? Who cares? Let’s process it!

So I cropped it a bit, and converted it to black and white — something I seldom even think of, but it felt right for this image. Then I brought it into the Distressed FX app and used a filter that added some colored, grungy texture. Quick and sure, yes, that’s it, perfect!

Both the image itself and the making of it are quite unlike my usual practice. The end result is both Me and Not-me. A sort of spirit selfie, not quite corporeal. Who is that blurry woman? What is she doing, where did she come from, and where is she going? All I know is…she’s discovering more of herself every day. Every time I look at this serendipitous, spontaneous photo, I’m reminded of the excitement I felt when I first created it. I can’t wait to see what will be next.

Linking with Kat Eye Studio’s Photo-Heart Connection for March.  Come join us! 


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Photo-Heart Connection: August 2013

IMG_1039 NestNest

This is one of the images from my every-day-in-August series that I wrote about in my last post. Towards the end of the month, it occurred to me that most of my photos so far had been taken outside, so I looked around the living room for potential subjects. I’m not much for setting up still lifes, so I wanted a subject I could shoot as-is, in available light.

Aha! The bookcase. My little bird’s nest under glass. Last year, when I discovered this little domed glass dish with a perky little bird perched on top, I just had to buy it. Inside it I keep a little nest that I found on a walk during my first visit here four years ago. It’s woven from grass and pine needles and tiny twigs, and lined with something coarse and fuzzy like raw wool. The eggs in the nest are from my sister’s cockatiel, who tries to make babies a couple of times a year even though she has no mate.

The resulting photo made me happy the moment I saw it. What surprised me about this picture is how real and three-dimensional the background appears. The rock and ferns are actually one of my own photographs, printed on canvas, which leans against the back of the bookcase. The light in that print seems to be coming from the same direction as the light from the window reflected on the glass, melding the two separate elements into a whole that enhances both of them.

This photograph combines a bit of my life in Maine (the photo on canvas) with my life here in California (the glass dome and nest), illustrating and expressing my love of nature, birds, and, of course, photography. It has enabled me to see a little collection of familiar odds and ends in a new way that makes me appreciate them even more. It reminds me to savor the small, simple things that bring me joy and connect my heart to the everyday world around me.

Linking with Kat Sloma’s Photo-Heart Connection for August.


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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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Third Thursday Challenge: Shooting the Moon

For several months I’ve intended to try photographing the full moon for the Third Thursday Challenge. Clouds, travel, and various other circumstances have conspired to prevent it until — hurray! — this month.

I have tried to take photos of the moon many times before, of course. The results were always disappointing. So I did some research online for information. I read several articles, but one I found very helpful was this one. I went out on three evenings leading up to the full moon, using my Nikon d5100 and 55-200mm zoom lens, experimenting with various camera settings. I even used a tripod!

3 moons-2If at first you don’t succeed….

I felt I’d achieved my initial goal with the final image above, which I was very pleased with. But then I decided to take it a bit further. What I really wanted to do was to capture the moon as part of a landscape. But there are some difficulties with that.

MoontreeX3-2Now what?

If I focused on the moon, the foreground was blurred. Focusing on the foreground meant the moon was fuzzy. And if I wanted to include a larger foreground subject, the moon was tiny in comparison. I already knew that those gorgeous shots of a huge moon rising over a crystal clear landscape were composites — two images combined — so I thought I’d play with that idea a bit.

I can’t tell you exactly what I did for each image, because each one was different and I didn’t record my steps. I just played around with different things — sometimes copying and pasting the moon into the image, sometimes layering two images the same way you would add a texture to a photo. Here are the results of my creative experiment:

birdmoonThe Birds

adobe moonAdobe Moon

moontreeMoon Tree

mooncradleEmbrace

I haven’t perfected the technique by any means, but I really enjoyed trying to achieve an effect I’ve always admired.

Thanks to Brenda at How to Feather an Empty Nest for hosting the Third Thursday Challenge each month. It has inspired me to actually try things I’ve only thought about for years, and through the monthly linkup I always discover even more new things to try. Maybe you’d like to join in!


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Photo-Heart Connection: March 2013

DSC_0269Illumination

This photograph is a mystery to me. I walked into my living room one afternoon and was immediately attracted by this shadow on the wall. I picked up my camera and took three shots of it, then went on about my business. It wasn’t until I reviewed the images that the mystery occurred to me.

Where did that light come from?

This pottery jar of dried California buckwheat has been sitting in this spot on my mantel since fall. My fireplace spans a corner of the living room and is the one spot in the room that receives no direct light at all. Ever. The only explanation I can think of is that the afternoon sun must have bounced off my car in the driveway and reflected through the window and into the corner. But I’ve never seen it before or since, and when I peer through the window from the outside, I can’t even see the mantel.

So there you go. There is a perfectly rational explanation — probably. But the point is that I don’t need an explanation. I like the mystery of it. This photo reminds me that there are things in this world that don’t have easy or pat explanations. There are many things I don’t understand or have the answers to. That’s okay. I don’t need to have all the answers.

I just want to be ready to catch the light when it comes.

Linking with Kat Sloma’s Photo-Heart Connection, a monthly practice of journaling about the one photograph I’ve taken during the month that speaks most strongly to my heart.


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Third Thursday Challenge: 03.2013

DSC_0457Growing Strong

The Third Thursday Challenge I took up this month may not seem particularly photography-related but, believe me, it is.

I’ve joined a gym.

Last Thursday, by coincidence (or fate) the third Thursday in March, our local fitness center offered a free yoga class. I’ve been interested in yoga for a while but had never tried it. A free class just a few minutes from home . . . how could I pass that up?

I went, I yoga’d, I got sore — and it felt good. After class I talked with the owner about the facilities and membership options. I asked if there was a senior discount, he said yes, and I signed on the dotted line. Since then I’ve had two sessions with a trainer to get me started. It feels wonderful to be challenging my body and to know I’m doing something good for my long-term health.

So what’s the photographic connection? We’ve all heard the expression, “Use it or lose it.” I’ve always been blessed with good health, stamina, and reasonable strength. But lately I’ve noticed a decline in that strength. I noticed that when I squatted down to get close to the ground to take a photograph, I had trouble standing again without putting my hand on the ground to help push myself back up to my feet. I also noticed that when I took a walk with my dSLR, my back would ache.

That’s not the person I want to be. I have too many things I want to do, too many ground-level wildflowers to shoot, to let myself get old and tired and weak. Well, getting old I can’t do much about . . . that will happen no matter what, and, as they say, it beats the alternative. But I can take charge of my fitness and build my strength back up. I can get up from the computer, get off the couch, turn off the television, put down the book, get moving.

So, truly, it was my photography that gave me the push I needed. After all, I have to be strong enough to take on another challenge next month!

Linking with Third Thursday Challenge for March.


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I’m Not Sorry

Starting Point

Starting Point

For the next lesson in my Find Your Eye: Journey of Fascination class, I’ve been asked to compare myself to my idea of a “real photographer” to see where I come up short in my own mind, and to think about what I reflexively apologize for about my photography. Oh, yes, and to stop doing that!

The first thing I realized is that my definition of a real photographer has changed over time. I used to think it was anyone who took better pictures than I did. And that was just about anyone. While I didn’t apologize for my photography, if someone complimented me on it I just sort of shrugged it off. I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence. Now I tend to think of a real photographer as a professional photographer — someone who makes a living — or at least has ambitions to — from his or her photography. That’s a more comfortable definition for me, because I have no desire to go pro, and therefore don’t have to compare myself to those people at all.

However, that’s really sidestepping the question, because of course I do have ideas about “real” (i.e., serious) photographers in the sense that Kat means it. They shoot with a top-of-the-line dSLR. They never go anywhere without a camera bag or backpack loaded with a camera or two, extra lenses, flash, filters, etc. They shoot RAW images, in manual, and always use a tripod. They process their images with the latest version of full-fledged Photoshop, not its little brother, Elements. They want to sell their work.

But that’s not me, and I don’t apologize for it. I have tried some of those things in the past; for example, loading all my equipment into a professional-style bag so I could carry it on a photoshoot. I can tell you that having all that weight on my shoulder took the joy out of photography and actually drove me away from it for quite some time. It was eventually buying a small point and shoot film camera that brought me back to the pleasure of taking pictures.

Now I have an excellent dSLR that I love, but I still often use a small P&S that slips into my purse. I seldom use a tripod because it’s just not my style. It’s too cumbersome and fussy for me. I love my Photoshop Elements; it fits my budget and along with Lightroom has all the features I need to handle my post-processing. I’ve still never tried shooting in RAW, since JPEG has been adequate for my needs. And — o, heresy — I shoot in Program or Aperture Priority mode most of the time. Sometimes even in Auto!

All this works for me, and needs no apologies. If it bothers someone else, I figure that’s their problem, not mine. That’s not to say that I think I’m a hot-shot photographer, or that there’s no room for improvement. The fact that I’m here, taking classes and striving to learn and grow, belies that. But I’m happy with who I am and where I am on this Journey. I can admire the work of others and even want to emulate it, without thinking that means there’s something wrong with me.

I think part of this new-found confidence comes with age. I’ve been through plenty and come out intact on the other side. The older I get, the less I care what others might think about me. Besides, one of my all-time favorite quotations is this from Ethel Barrett:

We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.

I am real and my photographs are a real expression of who I am. Therefore, I am a real photographer. There’s nothing to apologize for in that.

Note: That photo at the top? I took that with my very first camera, a piece of plastic junk that didn’t even last through one whole roll before the film advance knob broke. Though the image quality is lousy, I think I had a pretty good eye for composition even then. And that blurry image brings back to me the best summer I ever had.

I was eleven years old.