Thinking About Photography (and Aging)

I watched a video this week and the two photographers, Ian Plant and Colleen Miniuk, talked about how, from their perspective, there are no rules in photography (the example they used was the rule of thirds for composition). They believe that the primary goal of photography is to make an esthetically pleasing image, one that is beautiful and tells a story. As I have been thinking about this, it seems like the only story I can tell with integrity is my story. I may tell you that I am working to capture the essence of the Naples Botanical Garden, but what I think this really means is that I am working to show you how I perceive the Garden, how it impacts me, what I find beautiful as I walk down the many paths every week during our winter stay. How the Garden touches my soul.

Of course some of my photography is simply recording “what is” in the few seconds it takes to push the shutter. I have a lot of those photos in my files that help me compensate for my poor memory. The featured photo for today’s post doesn’t fit into that category, however. I took it several years ago and I remember being pulled into the color and the lighting. It spoke to me of the beauty of nature as it matures. I found this photo again this week and I believe it is even more reflective of what I am trying to get my brain around in the learning journey of being old.

This photo reflects how my story was unfolding then; and how my story continues to mature today. I am reading a book by Parker Palmer, one of my favorite non-fiction writers, entitled On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, & Getting Old. This is a book of essays he wrote to help him gain an understanding of his own aging, and I am experiencing the joy of seeing myself in most of what he has written. The most important reading in my life has been when the writing is helping me know more about the person who I am within the context of life, and when I read with courage I discover the person I am really meant to be. These frequently haven’t been the same, but that is another post.

This post is about realizing that my story is a beautiful story. It is a story of pain and pleasure, anger and forgiveness, falling down and getting back up, missed opportunities and exciting success, great loves and painful losses, arrogance and humility. As I sit with my laptop on my lap and my fingers on the keys, I pause my writing, close my eyes, and think about all that has happened before. I come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t change a thing – nothing. My life isn’t like a book that I can go back and edit, delete some parts that I am embarrassed by or make me cry when I think about them. I can’t rip those pages out and burn them, have the brain cells that hold the memories electrocuted. No, all those experiences are written in my history with permanent ink and they make my story what it is.

My life is a beautiful story. If I truly embrace my life story as beautiful, it seems logical that I will be better able to recognize all of life’s stories as they unfold before me and, if my camera is with me, will be able to capture the beauty of life’s joy and suffering, life and death. Yes, I can express my life story, our life story, with my photographic images and it seems I will be successful with a few that will be beautiful.

I burst into laughter with the realization that these high ideals would best be achieved if I were living in a 25 year old body. But my current favorite motto comes to mind – it is what it is.

Lens-Artist: Favorite Finds – Jade Vine

Georgia O’Keefe was in the news recently and this got me thinking of my dream of making my floral photos in the image of her paintings. This summer I have also been going through my many years of photo files instead of spending time out and about with my camera. Several of these meanders through my files led me to photos taken early this year at the Naples Botanical Garden when the Jade Vine was blooming at the front entrance. I remember this find with excitement and would tell myself that I needed to do a post – but didn’t. I knew they had been planted and bloomed there the previous year but seeing them this year was an exciting find.

Blossoms hanging along the edge of the boardwalk leading into the Garden…
Next to a sign that reminds us to “Look Up”

Whenever there is a sign saying to look up, I do. I look up a lot because there are a large number of flowering trees and also orchids have been put in trees throughout the garden. But this time my look up knocked my socks off.

All the vines and blossoms hanging down looked like someone had decorated for a tropical party. I also felt fortunate to find a vine of buds with the flowers starting to poke their way out.

I would have a hard time saying this was a favorite find – because most every day I find something that is a surprise and excites me. However, I had great fun finishing up this post after our power and internet were returned after a 3-day electronic holiday brought to us by a nasty wind storm.

Thanks to Ann-Christine for the Favorite Finds theme – you can see what other people posted by going to the links in the comments here. This week John has posted the theme for Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: Planes, Trains and Automobiles… and the places they take us.

Seeing Double

Naples Botanical Garden in Florida in 2014, just five years after it opened. Waterlilies and other water plants have since been placed in this pond so it is more difficult to get a reflection without “noise.”

What a perfect topic because our life has been consumed by double vision for almost a year. Jim’s double vision is improving very slowly with the low dose of steroids the neuro-ophthalmologist prescribed. The double vision was very disruptive to his daily living and exhausting. He is a much happier man now that more of his day is spent with seeing just one of everything and is able to keep busy with household tasks. He is once again feeling useful as he is able to do the things that bring joy to our lives and keeps things running smoothly.

His improved functioning has freed up my energy for thinking about photography and I have a lot of photos taken in Florida that capture this idea of double vision. I have gone to the Naples Botanical Garden at least once a week during the winter season for the past 13 years and their water lily collection has grown impressively through their hosting of the new water lily competition each summer. I go early in the morning, usually before a breeze is rippling the water in the ponds and this provides me with wonderful doubles.

After the fact, as I meander through my files of photographs, I find that I always stop to study my favorite reflection photos. The photo above on the right isn’t the most beautiful capture, but it sure intrigues me. There is a breeze rippling the water and you can see the reflections on green pedals that were covering the bud. Is that not a reflection of a reflection?

I especially enjoy when photos of reflections make me a bit disoriented. My favorites were obtained in trips into the Everglades of Florida. In the Bald Cypress stands along the Loop Road in January and February the water scenes are quite monochromatic.

Early spring reflections in the Everglades elicit very different emotion within me.

When I was post-processing the following photo I couldn’t decide the best orientation. What do you think?

Thanks to Jez for this fun topic of “Seeing Double”.