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.

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.

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.