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.

Lens-Artist: Motion

I have fond memories of watching the motion of the flames of a campfire as we settle down getting ready to go to bed. Maybe sipping a cup of tea or decaf coffee with a bit of Bailey’s Irish Cream. This activity is nice connection between the motion of day and the motion of nature.

I must be thinking about camping a lot because I keep going back to the photos of previous years when we did take camping trips, some as short as a few days and others as long a 5 weeks. When I think of these trips I experience a contented feeling of being in gentle motion. We plan an easy breakfast on travel days and gently work together to close up camp. We have done this a long time so our motions are in tandem, knowing what each of us has to do and which tasks can be picked up by whoever has the time. I can’t take a photo of it because a snapshot in time wouldn’t get the job done and get us on the road.

We love to travel down two-lane highways where traffic is light and there are lots of things to see. Sometimes we stop for me to take photographs but mostly we stay in motion. The next photograph was taken along a road, in New England, going through a wooded area with birch trees. I was having fun practicing with different shutter speeds (what I controlled) as Jim drove at varying speeds (what he controlled).

Writing this post also has me thinking about the connection between motion and emotion. I love the excitement of watching the motion of waves pounding the shore of the Pacific Ocean and hearing the roar of the ocean’s power.

On the other hand I am calmed by the movement inherent in the sand, evidence that the ocean’s (Pacific) water has been there, or maybe from the motion of the wind that we cannot see nor photograph. We can only photograph evidence of the wind’s presence.

Usually my favorite place in the motion of nature is illustrated in the next photograph. This is the lower Tahquamenon Fall in late summer. The motion of water flowing over a rock cliff creates excitement but my temperament enjoys viewing from a distance – within the cool green of wooded areas where motion is usually slowed to a calm.

It has been a lot of fun this past week thinking about motion and photography, and travel and emotion. Thank you, Patti, for this Lens-Artist Challenge.

Mirror

We were walking around the small town of Munising, Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan and I came upon this scene. The memorial acts as a mirror, reflecting the man’s image as he does the careful work of placing another name on the long list of soldiers who served to defend democracy and keep us safe – who now only live on in the memories of those who knew them and on this piece of stone.

I have thought about this image a lot, wondering to what extent we all are reflections in this memorial of people who loved country and chose to defend it with their hard work and possibly their lives. This is an especially important contemplation at this point in our country’s history when so many who love our country and what it stands for are blinded by lies and hate into believing in a way of fight for it that is actually threatening the democracy that is the very core of our governmental system.

In response to the Week-end Challenge of “Mirror.

I Feel the Seasons Changing

Early last week I stepped out on my front porch before the sun was up over the trees of the hedgerow and I felt late summer. The air was cool and dry on my skin and I heard the silence of the morning that seems to come when summer has spent most of her energy and nature is slowing down. I smiled because I welcome this slowing down but it lasted only that one day – then we went into a stretch of the dog-days of August with high heat and humidity.

I’ve noticed that my garden is also starting to take on the late summer look. My attention has shifted from fighting weeds to dead-heading in the hopes that the plants, mainly daisies, will send out some more buds. There is still a lot of color with black-eyed susans, echinacea, zinnias, a few late-blooming day lilies, a bright pink hibiscus, and a few other flowers of various colors sprinkled in. I like what I’m seeing in my garden but I am also thinking about some changes I want to make for next year.

I came across the photo below taken nine years ago and I smiled because I love the goose neck that is featured center front. I believe that was its last year because I realized that it was spreading way to fast and I dug it all out. Well almost – it is still growing in the daisies. And every time I find a plant I think I might let it settle in my garden because I love it so much, and then I remember how fast it takes over – so I pull it out. It will be back next year.

Garden, Early July, 2013

As I look at this photo I realize that the only plant that is still growing (with my consent) in this area is the daisy. The shrubs have been removed, and the cat mint (purple) was transplanted when the stone walls were rebuilt a few years ago. And the lilies are struggling in other places, they just aren’t happy in my garden soil. During the past 14 years my garden has been evolving; and my life seems to be on the same trajectory. Neither me nor my garden are what we used to be.

I know that the aging process involved losses and a lot of change; I developed courses on aging. A life-span development course I developed and taught helped students learn that every phase of life involves some loses that are replaced by new ways of being in our world. Each phase of life has developmental tasks that need to be accomplished in order to be physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy. As we transition from phase to phase some familiar and comfortable ways of being are either taken away or we let go of them. These are frequently treasured privileges, what we have thus far built our identities on. As we approach the end of each phase we need to recognize what we need to give up, what we no longer have, what is no longer useful and then to have the courage to step into an unknown future and learn new ways of thinking and behaving. Have you noticed that what happens to one person in a family or friendship community, impacts the other people, frequently with overlapping demands for developmental change? A fun example to think about is how the developmental tasks of adolescents mesh with the developmental tasks of parents.

Jim and I (and most of our friends) are transitioning into old age. We have retired from paid employment with a mixed bag of sorrows and joys. I miss the status it brought me and the joy of meaningful work that was recognized by colleagues. Jim was overjoyed to leave a job that had become difficult for him to do while maintaining his integrity. He took a part-time job that brought him great joy – can’t wait to get to work joy. He had to leave that so we could spend winters in Florida and travel while spending summers in Michigan. Both of us have been robbed of energy through chronic health issues and normal aging. At core we are struggling to know who we are now that we have moved beyond being productive in our culturally salient way of making money. We both like to help people, but are struggling to know how to help others when we have just about enough energy to take care of ourselves. What seems to have surprised me most is that I am struggling to know how my religious faith can be relevant in my old age. I am in the middle of working through this and will share my doubts, my struggles and new insights in another post.

This link will lead you to an earlier post, from 6 years ago, that is a perfect companion to my thoughts today. https://imissmetoo.me/2016/07/13/memory-of-a-childs-summer/

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”.