Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Along Back Country Roads

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Far off the major highways, in deep woods and high mountain forests, lie some of my favorite back country roads.

Paved roads in remote places in the American West lead to canyons and deserts where the human population is minimal and natural landscapes stand out.

Sometimes a back country road is a little more than your vehicle can handle. Use caution!

My very favorite back country road is the gravel lane where my mailbox stands. I’m grateful to have a home far from the heavy thoroughfares where noise and stress oppress the environment.

Thank you to the Lens-Artists guest hosts this week, Wandering Dawgs, for inviting us to share our back road adventures. Happy travelling, all, and safe home again!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Getting Away

When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
…”

Not being a city girl, I have never escaped the hustling crowd by climbing the stairs to find solitude “Up on the Roof”, like the Carole King/Gerry Goffin song describes. I prefer to travel to and explore places of natural quiet where there is (ideally) no human presence. Wilderness is my favorite Get Away. I am heading out tomorrow to Strawberry Mountain Wilderness in the Mahleur National Forest on my very first backpacking trip. I will not be tethered to a powered vehicle or a “civilized” infrastructure for three whole days. I will be relying on my own two feet and the company of a few experienced hikers. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for more than 40 years!

I have done day hikes in designated Wilderness before, but never an overnight. It is extremely important that our group Leave No Trace of our visit. Keeping wild spaces as pristine as possible ensures that conservation and spiritual values are not compromised.

If we lose the ability to get away from the impact of human domination, we may lose sight of humility and perspective altogether.

Thank you to this week’s hosts, Rusha and Bert of Oh the Places We See.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Black and White

It’s really been a joy to participate in the Lens-Artists Photo Challenges over time. I have “met” so many interesting bloggers and “traveled” to so many fascinating places. And I’ve learned something about technique and artistry along the way. This week, the guest host is Anne Sandler. Her header image took my breath away, and then she totally schooled me on processing black and white photographs! Visit her post HERE.

I am less than a novice when it comes to processing. I use the very rudimentary tools that came with my camera. I’ve never even used Photoshop. The texture and tone and clarity that Anne achieves is truly stunning. What I know about Black and White is that I like it for portraits and for “art”. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: On The Water

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one
in its net of wonder forever.”
– Jacques Yves Cousteau

“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.”

– Wallace Stevens

When despair for the world grows in me…
I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me
the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
– Wendell Berry

“A lake carries you into recesses of feeling
otherwise impenetrable.”
– William Wordsworth

Being “On The Water” is a perfect vantage point for reflections on vastness, on stillness, on currents and exhilarating sparkles of light. There is perhaps no better environment to illustrate the simultaneous refreshment and danger of being alive on this planet. Our impact on our waterways, our uses and abuses of water, will affect future generations of all species in great ripples and waves. Take care, but enjoy the beauty around you whenever you find yourself on the water.

Congratulations to our guest host this week – John – for an excellent Challenge post!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: One Photo, Many Moods

“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.”
– David Alan Harvey

Soft color, diffused light, water falling as gracefully as a diaphanous gown over the form of a posed dancer – the picture above puts me in a mood of dreamy peace.

In black and white, water and rock are opposing elements. There is work being done, erosion and the exposure of contrasting light.

In this cropped version, the multiple paths of falling water suggest possibilities, nuance, ambiguity, secret diversions. In monochrome, it suggests a kind of sexiness that distorts reality. Our Lens-Artists host, Tina, says, “This week, we’d like you to think about the various ways you create your images. Show us the same subject captured using multiple, different approaches.” Her post shows fabulous examples of her photographic skill. Click HERE to see!

In working with the photo above, I made a couple of discoveries. First, I converted it to black and white, which felt more nostalgic to me. If I had a sepia option, it might make me think of an historic war zone.

Then, I zoomed in for a cropped version and noticed a spider web with intersecting lines that mirrored the angles of the fence material, creating an abstract I hadn’t foreseen.

This abstract evokes philosophical thoughts about boundaries and materials. How resistant are the fences that keep me from crossing into new territory?

“Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts,
you change those facts.”
– Garry Winogrand

This photo exercise yielded some interesting results. I find it worthwhile to experiment with my vision and allow for unexpected rewards. Thank you, Tina, for the challenge!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Wonder-filled World

I love that Amy chose Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” for this week’s challenge theme! That was the key quote I chose as my response to the “Happiness Is…” challenge that Lens-Artists posted back in December of 2018. Here’s the link to that post: https://scillagrace.com/2018/12/01/lens-artists-photo-challenge-happiness-is/

Of course, there are always new opportunities to wonder at this wide, beautiful world!

Yesterday, I hiked for the first time in the Cascades of central Oregon. Snow-capped mountain peaks and colorful wildflowers graced every scenic view. It was truly spectacular!

Iron Mountain has a volcanic plug or lava neck at its top – that’s the rocky protrusion just to the left of the peak. It was formed when lava in a vent hardened. As we climbed up to the top of that formation, we could see the porous features of the lava itself and the rust-colored iron in it. It made me wonder at how this was once an active volcano, as were the other peaks in the Cascade chain on this Pacific ring of fire.

Fire, snow, sunshine, trees…this is a world filled with wonders that shape the future and tell the past. We have so much to enjoy and so much to learn!

Photo credit: Wendy Fekkers

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Shade and Shadow

Saturdays, holidays, easy afternoons
Lazy days, sunny days, nothing much to do.
Rainy days are better days for hangin’ out in-side
Grainy days and city ways make me want to hide
Someplace cool an’ green an’ shady.

Find yourself a piece of grassy ground,
Lay down close your eyes.
Find yourself and maybe lose yourself
While your free spirit flies.
— John Denver

It’s early June, and already there have been days of record high temperatures here in Oregon as well as other parts of the U.S. My adults kids live in apartments without air conditioning…who would have thought you’d need it in the northern part of the country? The fear of another summer of wildfires is palpable. We seek out shade and water while we live in the shadow of hubris-driven climate instability.

Light and shadow are opposite sides of the same coin.
We can illuminate our paths or darken our way.
It is a matter of choice.
— Maya Angelou

Thanks to Ann-Christine for hosting this week’s Lens Artists challenge. Stay cool and kind and be safe!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: From Large to Small

White … is not a mere absence of color; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black…. God paints in many colors; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily,
as when He paints in white.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton, British author, 1874–1936

For this challenge, Patti asks us to “pick a color and select several photos that feature that color.  Start with a photo of a big subject in that color (for example, a wall) and move all the way down to a small subject in that same color (for example, an earring).”

The Sun is 109 times bigger than the Earth, and its mass is 330,000 times greater. The Sun’s light allows us to see everything we do see, from the largest things on the planet to the smallest. It illuminates water in the form of vapor, liquid, and solids which cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and float in the atmosphere. It’s not surprising to see white in a skyscape or a seascape or as snow on the landscape.

Of course, sunlight and water come together in every living thing on Earth, and many of these smaller things are white as well, like birch trees, caterpillars, and snail shells.

Finally, a single snowflake, delicate, unique and perfect, is a very small example of the cosmic marriage of light and water in bridal white.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Let’s Get Wild!

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” — The Wilderness Act of 1964

If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” – Lyndon Baynes Johnson, President who signed The Wilderness Act into law.

“…in Wildness is the preservation of the World. Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind…I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows. We require an infusion of hemlock, spruce or arbor vitae in our tea…” — Henry David Thoreau

“Idolatry always reduces to the worship of something ‘made with hands,’ something confined within the terms of human work and human comprehension. Thus, Solomon and Saint Paul both insisted on the largeness and the at-largeness of God, setting Him free, so to speak, from ideas about Him. He is not to be fenced in, under human control, like some domestic creature; He is the wildest being in existence. The presence of His spirit in us is our wildness, our oneness with the wilderness of Creation. That is why subduing the things of nature to human purposes is so dangerous and why it so often results in evil, in separation and desecration. It is why the poets of our tradition so often have given nature the role not only of mother or grandmother but of the highest earthly teacher and judge, a figure of mystery and great power.” — Wendell Berry

In 2014, I went to New Mexico to participate in a Wilderness 50 Conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act into law. I didn’t go as a delegate from any conservation organization or as an employee of any of the agencies associated with U.S. public lands. I went as a citizen eager to learn about how wild places are being protected in this country. I went to lectures, panel discussions, break-out seminars, film presentations and information kiosks. I went on a field trip to a nearby designated wilderness. And then I went home, east of the Mississippi River. I determined that I wanted to visit wilderness areas and work to protect land whatever way I could. I got a job at a land trust six months later.

The greatest tracts of wilderness land in the U. S. are west of the Mississippi, but there are a few in the Great Lakes region, in the North Woods, with dispersed campsites scattered around. I found a dispersed campsite across the road from the designated wilderness on the banks of Scott Lake. As I set up camp, I was greeted by two trumpeter swans on the lake, a raucous chorus of frogs and a host of mosquitoes. That night, there was a bit of rain. In the morning, a bald eagle perched high in a dead tree on the far side of the lake, illuminated by the rising eastern sun. Staring at him through my binoculars, I imagined him enjoying an aerial view like ones I’d seen in pictures of Alaska. Could I really be in the wilderness, finally? My rational brain convinced me of the disparities, but my romantic soul glowed. Even in Wisconsin, there can be solitude, common-union with nature, and a wild hope.

The inevitable down side of climbing the wilderness mountain is returning to ‘civilization’, re-entering the spaces that humans have altered and asking a million critical questions about our involvement. Was this action necessary? Was this change beneficial and for whom? How is this decision going to effect this environment, this habitat, this life? How do I take responsibility when my ignorance is so vast? How do I do my best to learn and choose and be aware? What do I do when I see individuals or systems causing destruction?
I learned the 4 pillars of Environmental Education while volunteering at a local Nature Center: Awareness, Appreciation, Attitude and Action. My experience in the wilderness took me on a journey past those milestones: being aware of the solitude, of the multitude of interconnected lives as well; being awed by the variety and majesty of all that I saw; feeling a deep desire to protect, to respect, and to serve Life; and finally, deciding to make changes and choices in my own life and lifestyle, to learn to embody the experience, not just as a vacation or a change from habit, but as a daily practice.

I am thrilled to meet another wilderness enthusiast through the Lens-Artists group and urge you to visit this week’s host at her blog, Rambling Ranger. Dianne has been a National Park ranger in both Alaska and Death Valley, California. She’s a fabulous photographer and writer…and I am now one of her followers!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Cool Colors – Blue and Green

ADVICE FROM A SEA LION
Soak up some sun
Keep your whiskers clean
Let troubles roll off your back
Don’t flip out
Spend time at the beach
Have a playful spirit
Make a splash!

It is a negligence of the mind not to notice how at dusk heron comes to the pond and stands there in his death robes,
perfect servant of the system, hungry,
his eyes full of attention, his wings pure light…
– Mary Oliver

“There’s Rosemary for you, that’s for remembrance!
Pray you, love, remember.” (Ophelia, Hamlet)
– William Shakespeare

I can’t help wondering how many more years we will be able to view sea lions and great blue herons in places where humans predominate. We’re in the midst of a mass-extinction event called the Holocene or Anthropocene extinction. If the current rate of human disruption of the biosphere continues, one-half of Earth’s higher lifeforms will be extinct by 2100. Seventy percent of biologists polled in 1998 acknowledged this event. It is happening, humans are causing it, and it is ongoing. What is being done to educate the human community and dismantle the anthropocentrism, the human supremacy, that drives behaviors that contribute to the destruction of our planet? Oceans, grasslands, mountaintops, and a host of unique habitats have been plundered and colonized to suit the human appetite for consumption.

Environmentalists are in despair. You can read a million articles and books on the subject. In the last one I read, Eileen Crist says, “In the twenty-first century there will be a reckoning with how we’ve lived, what we’ve done to the planet and ourselves, and that reckoning will set in motion an awakening: a different way to go about things.” Rather than just feeling BLUE about being GREEN, I hope to inspire the humans I know humbly to consider their place in the Tree of Life. Back in the 1940s, Aldo Leopold said we should change the role of homo sapiens “from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.” That attitude, combined with our ability to solve problems, may finally lead us to restrict the damage that we inflict and bring our species back in balance and scale with the rest of the biotic community.

My thanks to Tina Schell, our host this week for the Photo Challenge. Visit her blog to see gorgeous photos of one of the United States’ unique habitats, Kiawah Island.