Lens-Artist Challenge: Going Urban

An urban photography outing is best begun in a coffee shop. I love this shot of Emily – don’t you think it looks like a double exposure?

Jim and I don’t do a lot of urban time because it isn’t his favorite place to be – especially big cities. Consequently urban photography is a new challenge every time I take my camera to a city. This trip was an exciting challenge because I drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2016 to meet up with my granddaughter, Emily, who was about to start her senior year of high school. She had taken a photography class so we thought it would be great fun to do some urban photography.

Grand Rapids is a medium-large city – second to Detroit in Michigan. We decided to focus on the Grand River area that runs through the city on its way to Lake Michigan – about 30 minutes to the west.

Grand Rapid’s culture has been influenced by Dutch Reformed Religion, furniture making, Amway, and Lake Michigan. It is also the home of the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum that had opened just a couple of months before we were there.

This sounds like a trick puzzle after 58 years. The explanation is that Ford was appointed vice-president by Richard Nixon after Spiro Agnew was convicted of tax evasion. Then Richard Nixon resigned just before his impeachment for his role in breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters (Watergate), making Gerald Ford president. Ford did run for president in the next election but lost, probably because he pardoned Nixon, which was an unpopular decision.

Like every photographer, Emily took a few minutes retreat to check if her photos were as she wanted them to be.

I started this blog last Saturday thinking I would be one of the first to post. Well it didn’t happen and this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge is posted by Tina with the topic being Opposites. I will get right on that one and include a link. There should be some fun entries for that one. If you want to see other posts on Urban Environments you can follow this link.

Lens Artist Photo: Doors/Doorways

What fun to revisit the photos of doors I have been drawn through but also drawn to as a photographer. I like doors.

I took this photograph when visiting Dublin in December, 2007 while taking university students on a cross cultural study trip. I was drawn in by the unique colors and intrigued by the sign that read, “The Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers Society.”

So many of my photographs bring back vivid memories – like this one from 2012. We were driving around the Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec Provence, Canada with our camping trailer in tow. It was lunch time and as we have done so often, we pulled into the parking lot of a church to fix us a bite to eat. Workers had just finished polishing these front doors to return them to their bright copper. I took the photo with a small Olympus digital.

This was taken in 2014 while in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada where my husband’s father was from. While he was checking out family tomb stones in this cemetery, I took this photo of the chapel doors. It is a favorite of mine because of the beautiful color and the aging, ornate style.

I spent a few days in Buenos Aries and took many, many photos of doors in the neighborhood of our small hotel. However they didn’t turn out well because I was too close and the lens distortion was too great to correct in post-processing. I do enjoy looking at this door, however, and thinking about the life stories that were enacted here.

This is one of my favorite compositions from all subjects of my photographs. The door at the front is open to the sanctuary of a church. There seems to be some sort of existential meaning trying to speak to me but my brain can’t quite hear it.

These last two were taken at different places in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, near the Bay of Fundy. They tickle my funny bone and make me smile every time I look at them. Side-by-side, the difference in scale adds a little surrealness to them that makes me feel a little off kilter.

This door led to our B&B in the country-side village of Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan.
This is our daughter coming out of the door to our B&B on the highland meadow of Son Kul, where Kyrgyz herders take their livestock to graze in the summer.

My travel doors are in response to Sylvia’s topic of Doors/Doorways. She is hosting the Lens-Artist Challenge this week.

Sculpture, Art and Architecture

When I saw that this week’s Lens-Artist Photo Challenge is “Interesting Architecture” the only photos I could think worthy were used in a post I published in 2013. I had to go back in my posts (way back) to find the photos but decided that I couldn’t do much better than my original post. I hope all will forgive me for repeating – especially if you followed me and can remember the post from 8 years ago.

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I don’t think any building has impacted me as much as the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. I’ve seen some pretty amazing buildings in big cities such as Chicago, London, St. Petersburg, and Washington D.C that are huge and elegant and gilded in gold. I’ve also enjoyed some very impressive world-class art museums. The Broad Art Museum is small, a basement and two floors, with a small footprint but it packs a big wallop. There are three display rooms that are the typical, windowless rooms that hold a special display. I’m not going tell you about it because these rooms and this art could be most anywhere in the world.

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Instead I am going to tell you about the building and the art and the building that is art, from the outside in. It is new and very modern. I am not turned off by modern but I’m not usually drawn into it. It doesn’t speak to my soul – until now. This is the full length of the building, completely covered with metal panels forming different patterns of light and shadow and lines. Even the bench and the landscaping become a part of the angular design. The whole exterior is covered with angular panels.

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The two sides come to a point at one end (top image), with the main entrance in the shorter side of the triangular shaped structure and another entrance under the apex. It looks like an impenetrable fortress until I see glimpses inside. As I walk around the outside, lines and shapes draw me in and begin to open the structure ever so subtly. Let yourself be drawn in too, by clicking on the first photo of each gallery to see larger images.

The front entrance seems closed and hidden but as I move closer it opens up. I am drawn in by light panels on the ground that are designed to pull my eyes to the building. I am drawn in by the sculpture by the front entrance that feels softer and curved until closer inspection reveals that it, too, is angular. I am drawn in by the angular shapes and lines of the building that show me where to go. It plays with my emotions – holding me out while drawing me closer.

I walked in and stop, taking it in, surprised. It is a small space in area but not visually. Walls that are solid from the outside are filled with windows.

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The solid fortress is open and full of light so that the inside and outside become one. As I move through the building, busy Grand River Avenue becomes a part of the art. This very modern building integrates with the older brick buildings of the campus.

I move further into the building and see that every detail becomes a work of art, the art of the architecture.

Most amazing is the integration of art and architectural form. When I walk into the first exhibition room I am drawn to the side wall. The art is subtle, almost not visible, feeling like a shadow.

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I walk closer to see what makes the shadows, the movement, the undulating lines.¬†This art isn’t hanging on the wall, it is a part of the wall. I look from multiple angles to see the pins, the string, the shadows of pins and string, and the glistening heads of pins. I step back to see the sum of the parts, repeating the process again and again.

There aren’t many pieces of art but all are artfully displayed and frequently seem to become a part of the architecture. I feel as if I am a part of the space and from this perspective the art becomes alive – interactive. As I move around the space, from side to side, from main floor to balcony, from room to room, the art interacts with light and architectural lines to form new images.

We were most intrigued with a sculpture of hexagons hanging on very thin threads. The tops are mirrors and the bottoms have designs painted on them so they reflect what is above as they gently move with the air currents caused by passing visitors. They also reflect the light from the windows, my clothing, and my camera lens. It is like an open air kaleidoscope; it is mesmerizing.

I walk across the gallery and sit on a bench to take in the room. I realize how much this sculpture is a part of the architecture, the architecture supports the sculpture, the architecture is a part of the art, and visitors become a part of the exhibit.

In fact I begin to notice that people become an important part of the interactive experience of this structure, of the art.

This is what a museum should be like. This stimulates my intellect that loves the interactive integration that results in a total that is greater than the sum of the individual parts. It excites my emotions because what is, is not what it seems to be.


Seen Better Days: Barns

Manitoulin Island, Canada

I was immediately pulled into Tina’s Len-Artist Photography Challenge: Seen Better Days. Maybe I can related because my body has seen better days. I love photographing barns and the barns that catch my attention have changed over the past 12 years. I started wanting to photograph old, falling down barns, then I was more attracted to barns with unique architectural features or color, then I enjoyed photographing working barns, and now I find my favorite barns are those that have character. Maybe that same kind of character I attribute to my body; warn out from years of good use but still serviceable and maybe can be patched up a bit with proper care. These categories of barns aren’t mutually exclusive as I’m driving down dirt roads but as I have gotten more photography time under my belt (that has gotten a bit bigger) I have gotten more selective. Here are some of my favorites from over the years.

Vermont, U.S.
Prince Edward Island, Canada
Down a Dirt Road in Michigan

This next barn was taken this past week as I was going down quiet country roads looking for fall color. I saw the beautiful doors, put on the breaks, and did a U turn. I have been noticing in our travels through Michigan this summer that many barns are getting renewed with this sheet siding. It doesn’t have the patina and character of wooden boards, but it preserves barns for another generation or two.

Love those doors!

After I took the photos I wanted, I had to turn around and there was a drive to another house close by. I was excited because this also gave me an excellent opportunity to photograph the barn from another angle without drawing attention by noticeably trespassing. This barn had truly seen better days before the owners decided to give it some hope for the future. Is this a lesson for those of us who are struggling with the impact of living in aging bodies while our minds are saying, “Wouldn’t it be fun to…”? Maybe it just reminds us to “patch, patch, patch.”

My last barn was chosen just because it made me smile. I don’t remember the photograph and have no idea where I took it. It is dated 2014 and the file is named Amish country, encompassing a large area to the south of where I live. The slight tilt (didn’t straighten with editing) and the architectural features make it seem slightly inebriated. I wonder if Moonshine had been made in this barn at some time in it’s history?

Garden Roof


This roof represents one of my top 25 favorite places in the Naples Botanical Garden. This is the roof I sit under after taking my first 100 photographs. On my normal go-around this is the place, the Asian Garden, that I reach when I am hot, my hip is starting to hurt, I’m getting tired and a bit dehydrated. I look for this roof, and what is under it to sooth my weary spirit.

I sit on a bench, pull out a bottle of water, and smile as I look through the morning captures on my camera monitor.


And then I take some more photos of the landscape around this structure.


Ah, but I can’t forget that this post is in response to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, and her topic this week is roofs. This roof has beautiful lines and is covered in tiles that provide an interesting focal point among the green foliage growing around it.

If you enter these photos for a calming retreat, you will have to provide the songs of birds and a small water fall, both stored in your memory from similar special places with special roofs. There is room on the bench beside me and we can have a fun chat.