Sea Blue Lens


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My Year in Pictures: 2015

I recently completed a 365 project (my second), and it’s been one of my favorite activities over the past year. In November of 2014 I downloaded an app called Project 365 Pro onto my iPhone. I take/choose one photo every day, which the app puts into a calendar format. It’s been fun, and on many days over the past year has been my saving grace. It’s the fact that it is so casual, so not serious, that makes it so therapeutic.

No matter my mood — happy or sad, energetic or tired, optimistic or discouraged — I remember I need a photo for my calendar. So I go outside and take a walk, or look around the house with fresh eyes, and find something to photograph. The activity itself is refreshing, and there’s something I find very satisfying about the small accomplishment of filling that day’s calendar square with an image. Other things might have gone wrong, but at least I did that!

At the end of each month, I’ve saved the calendar page and shared it on Facebook. And now I have a brief visual diary of the past year. Each image is a reminder of something that happened, or that I did or saw. And there’s a record of me as part of my own life, too, since I’ve included at least one self-portrait each month.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen these already. But here it is, my year collected in one place. It’s not necessarily Art, it’s just life.

2015-01

2015-02

2015-03

2015-04

2015-05

2015-06

2015-07

2015-08

2015-09

2015-10

2015-11

IMG_8212

I learned about the Project 365 Pro app from the lovely Carol Hart after seeing her post her own months of photos on Facebook. There are a number of similar apps, some with more features, available for iPhone and probably for Android phones, too. I like this one for its simplicity and ease of use.

Scrolling through all of these months, I’m shocked at how fast each one has gone by, how quickly one season rolls into the next. It reminds me that I want to be present in my life every day, no matter what that day may bring. I’m starting my new calendar right now  — with a new selfie for the New Year.

IMG_8248

Someone in a Facebook group I’m a member of referred to 2016 as “Sweet Sixteen.” I love that thought! I wish you all a happy, healthy, fulfilling, sweet new year!


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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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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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Good Morning, Sunshine

The Old Maple

Reaching For the Sun

Yesterday was grey and drippy, but today dawned blue and gold. The thermometer rose, at least briefly, into the low fifties. What should I do? I know — I’ll sit on the back doorstep, soaking up sunshine and making vitamin D. It’s probably even better for the soul than for the body.

Sunshiny Day

Sun Worshiper

There are still some sizable piles of snow on the shady sides of the house, but most of it is gone from the lawns, leaving behind a few icy patches and a small pond.

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Chillin’

Snowmelt

Snow Puddle

Underneath it all, things have been getting ready, and now they are venturing into the light.

Spring Peepers

Spring Peepers

And then, as if that weren’t enough surprises for the day, I found this:

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang

Perhaps it’s a reminder that things will work out and balance out: the light and dark, the warm and cold. It may have seemed like an endless winter, but spring is coming. The real thing will be here soon!

 


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Photo-Heart Connection: December 2013

IMG_1917The Quiet Time

On a day very near the end of the year, I paid a visit to one of my favorite places, Laurel Hill Cemetery, for the first time since returning to Maine. We’d had a couple of good snowstorms by then, and I was suffering from a mild case of cabin fever. I’d intended to drive down to the beach to see what the snow looked like there — as a California native, I’m still bemused by the sight of snow on the beach. But the road to the beach passes by the cemetery, and on impulse I turned into the drive.

Most of the small lanes had been plowed, but fresh snow covered everything else. I saw only one or two sets of footprints leading off the road to a gravesite. It was very cold and very still. I stood for a long time beneath a tall tree, trying to locate the source of a quiet, intermittent tapping. A woodpecker, I thought, though I never could spot it. I saw a squirrel or two and heard, once, a flutter of wings and quick burst of birdsong.

At the edge of a hill sloping down to the river, someone had placed a wreath on a stake, just a simple circle of balsam twigs with a red bow, vivid against the black and white landscape. A remembrance, no doubt, though there was no headstone nearby nor any note attached.

I wandered along the narrow roadways for about an hour, breathing the clean, cold air and taking photos. The one above is of a spot I’ve visited often, though I’ve never seen it like this before. I love the dark evergreens, the latticework of leafless branches, the soft grey sky and pure white snow-covered ground, the river a shining sheet of ice in the background. I look at this image and I take a deep, relaxed breath, in and out, utterly at peace.

In a few months, this spot will look very different. The sky will be bright blue, the branches will be glowing with new, pale green leaves, and that entire slope will be blanketed with yellow and white daffodils. Hundreds of people will come to enjoy the sight, many of them to take photos of their own. I’ll be there then, too.

But for now, I will treasure this cold, fallow season, this quiet time, filling my heart with what is, as I wait for what is to come.

Linking with the Photo-Heart Connection at Kat Eye Studio.


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Turn, Turn, Turn

This song keeps running through my head: To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and a time for every purpose under Heaven. My favorite season has just begun. Fall always makes me feel a bit melancholy, yet excited and happy about the changes and new beginnings that always seem to hum in the air at this time of year.

DSC_2849 misty morningMisty Morning  21/365

The last day of summer dawned cloudy and cool, with fog veiling the mountains. By mid-morning it had burned off, leaving a clear blue sky and a sun already shifting to the south. The air is cooler but the light itself seems to have a warmer, more golden quality even at midday.

DSC_2772 blackbirdWatcher

A few flora are flourishing despite the drought:

IMG_1104 yellow daisiesYellow Spiny Daisy

DSC_2833 purple astersMystery Aster

California Buckwheat 23-365California Buckwheat 23/365

Fauna are frolicking in the cooler weather:

DSC_2805 NiñaKickin’ It Up

DSC_2904 bunny hopThe Bunny Hop

Fall visitors are coming back:

DSC_2894 Nutall'sWoodpeckers and Finches and Sparrows, Oh My!

I’ve seen male and female Nuttall’s Woodpeckers here before, but only one at a time. I was really excited to spot this pair in our Charlie Brown tree on the first day of fall.

DSC_2887 WC sparrowRight on Cue

This little guy, the first of the season, showed up the same day, just hours after I said to my daughter, “I hope the White-Crowned Sparrows come back soon.” They winter over here but leave in spring to spend the summer elsewhere — probably somewhere cooler, if they are at all sensible. I haven’t seen one since April. I don’t know why I like them so much. They sing the same few notes over and over, but it always makes me smile to hear it.

And last but not least, the apples have been harvested. We had plenty of help:

DSC_2446 apple birds

DSC_2565 bunny apple

DSC_2656 squirrel apple

But we did manage to salvage a few for ourselves.

DSC_2867 apple basketLast of the Harvest  22/365

At the beginning of September I began a 365 project, my first, with a small group of online friends. It has so far truly been a gift of grace, keeping my interest in photography up even while other concerns are occupying much of my thoughts and time. I thought I might feel intimidated by the group, whose work I already knew and admired, but instead I’m loving it! I’m being inspired and uplifted every day by their photography, while learning to look wider and go deeper with my own. I can’t think of a better new beginning for this fall.


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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.