Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Over the Hill

“The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down. ” – George Eliot

Donna of Wind Kisses is our host for this week’s challenge. She mentions that she will be turning 60 years old this week and invites us to explore the idea of “over the hill”. Coincidentally, I turned 60 last month, so the topic turns my thoughts to the long view of life’s journey.

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” – Nelson Mandela

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride.” – James Taylor

The journey of my life has definitely been a range of summits and valleys, each with their difficulties and exquisite beauties. I’m not looking to quit any time soon, although my pace has slowed a bit. I strive for the wisdom and grace that will teach me to walk observantly, respectfully, and kindly toward unknown horizons.

Happy Birthday, Donna, and many happy returns of the day!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Favorite Finds

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins as in art with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” – Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Our host this week, Ann-Christine, writes, “I am sure you have something hidden in your archives that once surprised you or filled you with awe…” I am delighted to be continually filled with awe by light falling on something living, something vibrant. Most recently, it was the orchid my daughter gave me last week for my birthday catching the morning light streaming through my kitchen window.

Getting a beautifully lit close-up at marine life at the Oregon Coast aquarium was a special treat. So was that perfect moment of morning fog being pierced by the rising sun at Spencer’s Butte.

Looking deep into the undergrowth to find those diamond dewdrops, you might be rewarded by a wealth of jewels, arranged in magical symmetry.

My favorite finds are these simple and exquisite examples of Nature’s inexhaustible variety and beauty. Thanks for asking, Ann-Christine!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Here Comes the Sun

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
– Ecclesiastes 1:1-9

From 93 million miles away, the Sun’s light and heat affects each day of our lives. It comes to us as an ancient ray, a Source for all of life on this planet. I think of the ancient ways of life under the Sun, and I feel that I was closest to those ways last month on my backpacking trip to the Olympic National Park wilderness coastline. The trailhead is at the place where the Hoh River meets the Pacific Ocean. South of the river is Hoh tribal land.

“The Hoh River Indians are considered a band of the Quileutes but are recognized as a separate tribe. The Hoh Indian Reservation was established by an Executive Order in 1893. The Hoh Reservation consists of 443 acres located 28 miles south of Forks, and 80 miles north of Aberdeen. The Hoh Reservation has approximately one mile of beach front running east from the mouth of the Hoh River, and south to Ruby Beach.” – Hoh Tribe website: hohtribe-nsn.org

All over the beach lie the sun-bleached bones of the Ancients – cedar and fir trees, washed up by the tides in a jumble of giant driftwood. Among these bones you might also find the bones of less ancient giants: whales.

From our beach camp, we watched the Sun slide further and further down into the waves.

My small story of the next day includes the little detail that I slipped in the mud, fell with the weight of my whole body plus my pack on my outstretched left hand, and broke my wrist.

Being that we were in wilderness and had just come over the most difficult terrain, the quickest way to get to a hospital was simply to continue to trek the next two days up the coast. The tidal tipping points prohibited doing it at any faster pace. With tremendous assistance from my five hiking partners, we continued our journey and saw the Sun go down and come up on this beautiful coast two more times.

Even though there may be nothing new under the Sun, the unexpected can still happen. When my mind is reeling and my footing is uncertain, it’s good to feel the return of sunlight, the assurance of the day’s arc. It gives me the motivation to just keep going and see what will be. And I say, “It’s all right.”

Thanks to Amy for hosting this week’s Challenge. Do visit HER POST to see the Sun in many facets of its glory!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: My Photo Groove

For me, photography is a precious, sentimental hobby with its origins in a love story. It allows me to delight in the moments of my life and savor them over time.

When I was in high school, I envied friends who were taking photography classes. Their images were so artfully composed and memorable. My boyfriend (who later became my husband) bought me a Canon AE1 for Christmas after we’d been dating a year. My mother wasn’t sure it would be wise for me to accept such an expensive gift at the tender age of 17, but I was absolutely sure this was the perfect gift, and the perfect giver. I really enjoyed taking pictures of my loved ones and the memories we’d made, and kept them close to me when I moved away to college.

When Jim and I married and had our four ridiculously photogenic children, I was the one taking pictures and chronicling our family’s growth and adventures with the very camera he’d bought me that Christmas.

Two years after my 47-year old husband died and our children had left the nest, the mechanism on my Canon that advanced the film jammed. I decided that for my 50th birthday, I would buy a digital camera…another Canon.

At this point, I fell in love with photographing a new subject – Nature. My new and current groove is all about what is out-of-doors.

Of course, I’m still the family photographer and thrill at the opportunity to capture special moments with my favorite humans.

In two weeks, I will be celebrating my 60th birthday. I think I deserve another milestone present in my photography story. I’m thinking that I will either get an 18-300mm lens for my Canon, or a small, tough, travel camera like the Olympus I borrowed and took backpacking last month.

Thanks for listening to my groovy photo story, and thanks, Anne (our host) for asking! I look forward to seeing what other Lens-Artists are exploring with their art.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Picking Favorites

“This exercise will really test your ability to be self-critical, as it has mine. Look into your archives and apply your most critical eye; play ‘judge’ and try to look dispassionately at your images. Pick out three (just three!) that stand out as particular favourites. Choose three from different genres please, but those genres are up to you: macro, wildlife, street, landscape, architecture. Anything goes, but each must be an image you are proud of.” — Toonsarah, Guest Host

You must understand, first of all, how difficult it is for me, the mother of four wonderful humans, to pick favorites. ‘Dispassionately’? You’re killing me! So, I will pick three favorites…AND three runners-up.

LANDSCAPE

Badlands National Park, South Dakota. After driving long hours over seemingly monotonous grassland, we reach this ancient valley and step out of the car onto Sage Creek Road. This is our first look at this fascinating park, and we are utterly gobsmacked! I like how this shot shows the scale and color of the landscape.

Seal Rock Beach, Oregon. My adult kids moved to Oregon, and I went out to visit. This moment of my daughter’s joyful exuberance captured my heart, and I moved out a year later. I love the light and reflection in this shot and the contrast in moods between the ocean and my daughter.

PORTRAIT

I am proud of this for several reasons. First, my son asked me to do his wedding photo shoot. I’d never done one before; I was terrified I’d fail him, but I didn’t. Second, it was a challenge to photograph outdoors and get good light that would balance their very different skin tones. I used fill-in flash, and that really helped. I love how my son is adoring his bride in this shot, and she just glows! I was really happy with my work that day, and so were they.

I just love this shot of my daughters hugging. I love the soft monochrome light and their bright smiles. It’s so cozy and sweet!

CLOSE-UP

Monarch butterfly caterpillars are very hard to find. They feed exclusively on milkweed plants. I searched the prairie at the George W. Mead Wildlife Area in Wisconsin and found one on the underside of a leaf. I rotated the frame to make the caterpillar right side up and more recognizable.

Gray treefrog, Fox Hill Nature Preserve, West Bend, Wisconsin. I took this photo while I was leading an event for the Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation, a land trust I worked at for five years. I am proud of my work there and very fond of the kettle moraine habitats protected in that area.

Thanks for letting me show of some of my favorite images. I’m eager to see yours!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Local Vistas

“I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
― Nelson Mandela

This week our Challenge host writes, “I bet you love your area too. What are your local vistas? Where do you photograph when you don’t have a lot of time or are not on vacation? What about your hometown excites you? Is it the countryside, city, gardens, amusement venues? This week, tell us about and show us your local vistas.”

I am deeply in love with my local Place – Oregon. I have only lived here (almost) two years, and I have much yet to explore. But the fact that the Pacific Ocean is only an hour’s drive from my front door is a huge selling point. The impact of the Ocean is not to be taken lightly. It helps create the Temporal Rainforest conditions that make the Western portion of this state wet, green, fecund and utterly amazing. I pinch myself regularly when I realize that I am not on vacation – I live here!

My response to the spectacular scenery in this place is to feel a deep and anxious desire to protect it from degradation and educate others about its wonders. I spent this morning in volunteer training at a National Wildlife Refuge an hour away from my front door in a different direction, in the Willamette River valley. I have yet to bring my camera to that Refuge to capture the upland meadow flowers, including show-stopping lupines, that have been lovingly stewarded, but below is a gorgeous marsh in the valley refuge chain that is only a 15-minute drive from my home.

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”
― Jacques-Yves Cousteau

My greatest hope in thinking about this week’s Challenge is that each participant will see with new and affectionate eyes the beauty of their local vistas and be inspired to protect the vulnerable natural features and conditions that create that environment. Thank you, Anne Sandler, for focusing our attention close to home, where our hearts live.

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: Every Little Thing

“Find magic in the little things, and the big things you always expected will start to show up.”
― Isa Zapata

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”
― Andy Warhol

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“He who does not wish for little things does not deserve big things.”
― Belgian proverb

“Life is just a lot of everyday adventures.”
― Carol Ryrie Brink

Amy’s challenge this morning brought a big smile to my face! She shares the little things that make her smile and invites us to do the same. One thing we have in common is taking joy in “bonus bugs” who photobomb our flower shots. Also, we both have come across lizards in regal repose who seem to be enthralled by the world they inhabit. Their small majesty makes me smile!

Treat yourself to some small wonder and visit Amy’s post HERE. The music video will make you smile as well!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Mechanical/ Industrial

“Let us hush this cry of ‘Forward’, till ten thousand years have gone.”
― Alfred Tennyson

“The fact that we have been able to perturb the carbon cycle with our industrial revolution is evidence of how vulnerable we are – because when we destroy our environments, we destroy our food and energy supplies. In short, we destroy ourselves.” ― Annalee Newitz

“Even our best endeavors turn against us. A loom that can do the work of eight men should free eight men from servitude. Instead, seven skilled men are put out of work to starve with their families, and one skilled man because of the unskilled minder of the mechanical loom. What is the point of progress if it benefits the few while the many suffer?”
― Jeanette Winterson

“We must always remember that the fossil fuel era began in violent kleptocracy, with those two foundational thefts of stolen people and stolen land that kick-started a new age of seemingly endless expansion. The route to renewal runs through reckoning and repair: reckoning with our past and repairing relationships with the people who paid the steepest price of the first industrial revolution.”
― Naomi Klein

You might wonder why this blogger is answering a Mechanical/Industrial photo subject challenge with such strong sentiment against the Industrial Revolution. Allow me to illustrate my perspective:

I worked for three seasons as a costumed interpreter at a living history museum, Old World Wisconsin. I had the unique opportunity to sample 19th century living from the comfort of a 21st century life. This came at a time in my life when I had an empty nest and no longer owned property. The slower pace allowed me to think quite a lot about the bigger picture of how to live. The tyranny of personal acquisition and advancement had lost its urgency, and I discovered an expansive outlook on the interdependence of living things. The contrasts presented in my work were remarkable. Busloads of urban kids from Milwaukee saw firsthand that food didn’t originate in a metal and glass store. The US Army sent personnel to learn farming technology that wasn’t dependent on electrical and fossil fuel infrastructure so that they could assist war-torn villages in Afghanistan. I learned that personal comfort and convenience could be sacrificed for a more balanced existence with natural resources and processes.

I don’t imagine that turning back time is possible; I don’t pretend that technological discoveries aren’t beneficial. I believe in the inherent worth of all living things and respect the web of existence of which we are but a small part. I fear the consequences of human domination and consumption on our planet. I hope that new information can lead to new wisdom.

I appreciate the challenge our host, John Steiner, initiated. It’s definitely a subject worth reflecting on, in images and life choices.

Earth Day 2022

“Earth teach me stillness, as the grasses are stilled with light…

Earth teach me suffering, as old stones suffer with memory…

Earth teach me caring, as parents who secure their young…

Earth teach me courage, as the tree which stands all alone…

Earth teach me limitation, as the ant which crawls on the ground..

Earth teach me freedom, as the eagle which soars in the sky…

Earth teach me resignation, as the leaves which die in the fall…

Earth teach me regeneration, as the seed which rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself, as melted snow forgets its life…

Earth teach me to remember kindness, as dry fields weep with rain.”

from the Ute people of North America, in “Singing the Living Tradition”

The international observance of Earth Day is for me the most important holiday on the calendar. I can’t imagine anything more important, or anything that makes as much a difference to everything that lives, as planet Earth. I am still working on how to make this day Holy. I want to marvel at, record, and lovingly share as many memories as I can. I want to be physically active outdoors. I want to help mitigate some of the damage that humans have done. And I want to invite, encourage, and implore everyone to join in the celebration and protection of our lives’ Host. We are all interconnected, living expressions of Earth-ness, alongside everything else on the home crust. What an amazing community to belong to!
This year, I’ve added a new page to my blog celebrating Oregon as my home Place. Please take a look! https://scillagrace.com/oregon-outdoors/

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Colorful Expressions

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
― Alice Walker

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

“Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.”
― Khalil Gibran

“Nature in her green, tranquil woods heals and soothes all afflictions.” ― John Muir

Anne Sandler has chosen “Colorful Expressions” for the theme of this week’s photo challenge. Please visit her post HERE to learn how color enhances photographs and see her wonderful examples. As the global community celebrates Earth Day this week, I hope you’ll feel a gratitude and affection for our planet that compels you to protect and defend her with your best efforts.