White-Winged Crossbills Being Wild Way Up in a Pine Tree

I found them at the rotunda nestled in a large stand of pine trees (Ella Sharp Park in Jackson, Michigan). They were at the top of the trees where the cones were. The female has a dirty yellow color.

Fai Chan

A lot of things are coming together in my life – seem like coincidences but maybe not. As I was thinking about the Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: Wildlife Close to Home, I thought about going back into files and finding wildlife photos from my drives through the Florida Everglades (close to my home there), or maybe looking for those wildlife photos I took in my Michigan back yard. Obviously I wasn’t enthused enough to do it.

Jim and I were watching the birds at the birdfeeders one day and he started talking about Crossbills and wondered if they ever come to feeders. He didn’t do any research because he knew who to ask – our card playing buddy Fia Chan who is a bird photographer extraordinaire. We played cards with Fia this week and Jim asked him about the bird and Fia had a photo on his cell phone along with an interesting story about how he took the photograph. He said they are very small birds and he needed his really, really, really long lens. He indicated that they are three or four inches long and the pine trees were huge 50 years ago when I took our kids sledding at the rotunda.

Several time over the many years that we have known the Chans I have suggested that he start a blog focused primarily on birding and bird photography. Every time he said no, he didn’t have the time and was concerned about his writing. This week when we were playing cards and Fia was my partner I suggested it again and told him I would edit his writing or even be a ghost writer. He smiled big and took me up on the offer. His writing is good, he can do it and he is smart – with lots of information to share about technique, bird characteristics and environment. He sent me an e-mail with more photos of the White-winged Crossbill and wrote this paragraph:

I thank you for offering to help me create and maintain a blog of bird pictures.  After 12 years, I am slowly losing interest in taking bird pictures.  Maybe I am getting lazy as I grow older.  I somehow have to rekindle my earlier enthusiasm and Jean (his wife) is going to help me. We are thinking of going to the Sault to look for overwintering snowy owls, pine grosbeaks, etc., boreal birds earlier next year.  We also are planning to go to Iowa to shoot bald eagles in mid-February. Fai Chan, November, 2022

I seem to be in the same spot as Fai. I just don’t seem to have the energy to go out and take photos even though I’ve seen hundreds of interesting potentials to explore with a camera as we traveled around our dot on the map. I also haven’t had to energy or enthusiasm to do many posts during the past year or so – and it seems to be getting worst. Maybe Fia and I can help each other regain our excitement and passion for going out to find new subjects to capture with our lenses. And I decided this morning that introducing you to Fia Chan and his wonderful bird photographs would be a good entry for this week’s challenge.

Fai and his wife have traveled long distances to find birds he would like to photograph for his massive collection. He has enough outstanding photographs to last him a lifetime, but I am sure once he starts he will want some new ones to show you and they will be out in the field again.

Thank you, Fai, for introducing us to the wildlife that is so high up in the pine trees that we would never have found them. When Fai starts posting I will make sure to provide a link so you can welcome him into our blogging community.

Lens-Artist Challenge: Following the Sun

When I arrived at the Dahlem Center the sun was peeking through the trees.

This morning I went to buy fruit from Ken & Janet who once a week have their Blueberry Hill fruit stand in front of my favorite meat market – about 3 miles from our home. This week they had blueberries but were sold out by the time I got there, peaches, nectarines, plums, and a couple of early apples. As I was leaving to go home, I decided to go to the Dahlem Nature Center as it was almost on my way home, I had my camera, and the sun was shining so I was pretty sure I could get some good photographs for this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge: Here Comes the Sun.

I have taken a few photos of sunrises and sunsets but what I really enjoy about early morning photography is catching the moment when the rising sun shines through the trees to illuminate a subject. In those moments the ordinary is transformed into extraordinary. On my walk through the wooded area of the conservatory my mission was to find these moments.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. Rachel Carson

When I take photographs of nature in these circumstances, I think about the definition of beauty. When I do the post processing I become concerned that what I saw as beauty out in a wild field or along a dirt road won’t be perceived by others as beautiful. I wonder what a professional photographer would say about my images and whether anyone would want them matted, framed and hanging on the wall.

These questions and worries don’t discourage me from moving forward with posting them on my blog, however. I think it is because my photography is driven by a desire to share emotions, whereas my life’s work was driven by thought and skill. It seems like those posts of bloggers I follow that focus their photography on the natural world are the most enjoyable. And for me the most exciting, the most gentle, the most evocative are the ones that are gently bathed in early morning sun.

It had been years since I walked the trails of Dahlem Center and I have changed in body and soul. I am thinking that Jim and I need to take regular walks here. I was wandering along an easy path, taking a few photographs and enjoying the bird calls when something caught my eye. If you look closely you will see the doe and spotted fawn on the path ahead watching me. As I slowly walked closer, they ran away.

Here is a gallery of nature’s late-summer offerings, at least they are the ones that the sun wanted me to aim my lens toward and put into focus.

It seems to me that Mr. Wright needed to add, ‘take care of nature.’ Maybe he thought that loving nature would cover it but I’m not sure. If we don’t respect and protect nature it will destroy us instead of being there for us; if we fail nature, it will fail us.

A special thank you to Amy for choosing a topic that motivated me to grab my camera and hit the trails. It has been a long time since I have felt the joy of searching for beauty with my lens.

One of Earth’s Stories

When Amy announced that this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge is “Earth Story” I began selecting some favorite photos of landscapes from different corners of our earth that I have visited. It was fun looking through my files but I didn’t experience the earth’s excitement in my collection and was having trouble telling the earth’s story with them. A couple of weeks ago I took our visiting-from-Michigan friend, Carolyn, to the botanical garden and several times she talked about getting ready for planting when she returned to Michigan. I realized that my brain is wired to experience the excitement of spring in the northern half of the northern hemisphere, when what appears to be a dead earth comes to life with green sprouts. It is the time when home gardeners are looking at catalogs, referring back to last year’s notes, planting seeds in hot boxes, and thinking about how many plants they are going to purchase at the garden center.

The produce growing season in southern Florida is winter and early spring so I have had the fun of going to local farmers’ markets to purchase fresh produce. They also have produce growing at several places in the Naples Botanical Garden that is used in the kitchen of the Fogg Cafe and given to local food banks. They aren’t big gardens but they are beautiful to view. Did you notice that they are cultivating dandelions? I missed the bloom but the tag says it is pink.

I feel your excitement, northern growers, and look forward to going north to find the wildflowers of spring for a future post. The earth’s story includes growth and regrowth – and providing nourishment for it’s animal and insect population. We need to take good care of her so she can continue to do her work.

Odds & Ends From My Files

I was so excited when I saw Tina’s topic for the Lens-Artist Challenge last Saturday that I immediately found the photos I wanted to use – and then they sat, I would look at them, rearrange them, and they sat. Well today I finally added the words, just as the next challenge is coming out. I guess I can say I had a whole week’s full of fun from thinking about those photographs that have been the odds & ends in my files before sharing them with you.

I have hung on to this first photo because it seems so characteristic of the hot and humid tropical garden I visit several times a week. I have taken so many photos but use only a small portion of them for my blog so it was fun pulling this one up. This one I like because it is of a mood, not a specific object.

That mind thing is happening again where I am so happy where I am in southern Florida but all of a sudden I get a longing to work in my Michigan garden or sit on my purple porch swing in Michigan. Logically I know that isn’t possible because it is still late winter there so instead I meandered through some Michigan files and landed on this one of a gate along a dirt road going down a lane. I lingered on this one enjoying the feeling of cool shade, inviting path, and dappled sunlight. The slight sag of the gate makes me smile – at my age I know all about sags, and hanging a bit crooked.

As I meander through the garden, from lily pond to lily pond or orchid garden, I frequently stop to admire the foliage of all the tropical plants that are strategically place and of course am compelled to try the capture whatever it was that caught my attention. The photo below, and others somewhat like it, are scattered throughout my files but I don’t think I have used them in a post. That seems to meet the criteria of an “odds & ends.” I think what I like about this composition is the overlapping patterns of outward fanning spikes.

We have been too busy to go into the Everglades this year but I hear it calling my name. Southern Florida has had a dry winter so I predict there will be wading birds fishing in the areas where culverts move the southern flowing water under the east/west roads. I’ve been going through past files of photos from the Everglades as a very weak substitution for taking new photos and find that I linger over the photos of the grass-lands that make up a good portion of the Everglades. These have been odd and ends in my files because they don’t quite fit into any category of post. I would discount them as uninteresting except I enjoy them because they reflect what I see as an important part of the personality of this region. It seems to capture the vastness of the area.

The next photo is technically very poor but I haven’t deleted it because I smile every time I see it. It is at the beginning of the western end of the Loop Road, a one and a half lane dirt road that was originally built as a part of U.S. 41 from Tampa to Miami – the Tamiami Trail. It seems like the “Last Chance Turn Around” should be a part of everyone’s repertoire for when we are about to do something that is incredibly stupid.

When I walked into the Idea Garden, maintained by the Garden Club of Naples, and saw this end view of one of their raised beds I was awed by the colors and textures. Ahh, but I never found a good topic under which to post it – so it is relegated to “odds & ends.”

My final “odds & ends” takes us back to Michigan last spring, when Covid was on the rise. We decided to pack a picnic lunch and take a drive to Hidden Lake Gardens. There was a sign saying that picnic tables were off limits because of Covid but my logic couldn’t figure out how Covid would be spread by us using it. Our Covid picnics brought great joy and created fond memories of a difficult period.

Macro Wildflower Seeds

The main purpose of macro photography is to capture the intricacies of a subject that we normally don’t register with our eyes. It allows us to slow down and look deeper into the soul of nature.

In response to Cee’s CFFC: Macro or Close-up.