Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Going Wide

“Look wide, and even when you think you are looking wide
– look wider still.”
Robert Baden-Powell (founder of the Scouting Movement)

“Cleverness is like a lens with a very sharp focus.
Wisdom is more like a wide-angle lens.”
Edward de Bono

“Accept the terrible responsibility of life with eyes wide open.”
Jordan Peterson

I absolutely adore landscapes! I love to hike and have worked for a land trust protecting land. Just this morning, I was interviewed by a land trust in my new home state of Oregon for their annual appeal video. I was eager and honored to share my passion for an evolving land ethic to guide humanity into better harmony with the Earth and my gratitude for organizations that uphold those ethics.
This week’s challenge is about wide-angle photography. The truth is, however, I don’t own a wide-angle lens. I do have a Landscape setting on my Canon Rebel T3i, though. It provides a large depth of field and color saturation to enhance greens and blues. I use it extensively when I’m out in the wide open spaces of the USA.

Maybe some day I will invest in additional lenses for my camera. I encourage you to visit Patti’s blog to see some stunning examples of wide-angle photography and learn more!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Looking Up/Looking Down…on Fungi

“A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a ‘wood wide web’ of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous
amount of information and goods.”
― Tim Flannery

This week’s photo challenge is hosted by guest Sofia Alves. Her prompt encourages us to Look Up and/or Look Down.
In my photo library, I find fungus and mushrooms in Nature at many levels, high in the trees and underfoot. I recently watched the documentary Fantastic Fungi and was absolutely blown away by the intricacy and importance of mycelial networks and the beauty of a mushroom’s growth over time. I absolutely recommend it for the photography and the ecological information.
Autumn is the perfect season for mushroom spotting. I invite you to take a look at the variety of color, shape, and size in the mushrooms I’ve showcased here, and then go out and see what’s growing in your neck of the woods!

Nature doth thus kindly heal every wound. By the mediation of a thousand little mosses and fungi, the most unsightly objects become radiant of beauty.” – Henry David Thoreau

Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom.”
– Thomas Carlyle

“If a healthy soil is full of death, it is also full of life: worms, fungi, microorganisms of all kinds … Given only the health of the soil, nothing that dies is dead for very long.” – Wendell Berry

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Keep Walking

“The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours …but it is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.”
― Henry David Thoreau

I must walk toward Oregon, and not toward Europe.
― Henry David Thoreau

“When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

“I think I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
― Henry David Thoreau

A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it
without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese.”
― Aldo Leopold

Walking is one of my very favorite activities – specifically, walking in Nature. From a very young age, when I’d walk to school and back twice a day because we allowed to go home for lunch, I’ve used walking time to process my thoughts and feelings. I remember splashing in puddles and kicking up leaves and singing to myself as I passed the houses on the way to kindergarten. I remember rehearsing conversations out loud walking home from junior high. I remember walking over a hill in high school, eager to meet up with my best friend. Now, in retirement, my daily walk is .7 miles down the dirt road to the mailbox. I also find a trailhead and take myself for an adventure several times a week. I am truly fortunate to live in an area with a LOT of trailheads! I don’t use a device to count my steps each day, but I strive to remember to be grateful for each step I take. I hope I will be able to walk for many more years.

Thank you, Amy, for hosting this week’s challenge and for sharing your walking stories and photos.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Inspiration

Inspiration…that moment when you draw in breath, a gasp, an awe-filled audible inhalation, the desire to take in the spirit of something beautiful, breath-taking.

I moved to Oregon exactly one year and one week ago. I have been inspired by something about it every single day I’ve been here, I think. The natural communities are incredibly diverse and resilient and interesting and beautiful. Today, for example, I joined a work party collecting camas seeds. These little seeds are nestled in the dried flower petals like beans in maracas. They shake and rattle as you walk through the meadow grass. Indigenous people roasted the bulbs of these plants as a food staple, high in natural sugars, similar to sweet potato. When I returned from this adventure, I walked down my driveway and began collecting blackberries from the invasive Himalayan canes that grow as a huge, prickly nuisance to most landowners, a deliciously irritating problem. They are everywhere. Free food!

This has not been an easy year for me by any means. It hasn’t been an easy year for most people. On top of the universal griefs and fears, I am new in town, isolated, unemployed, and missing my mother who died in October. There are always mornings when I find it hard to get up and get on with my life. But when I look out my window at OREGON, I find motivation to join the young hawks and the gentle deer, step outside and breathe in the rich scent of Douglas fir.

In such a setting, I feel like I belong to the Earth, like a tree taking root and creating a tall, strong life. I’m grateful to have this new inspiration in my life. If you’re curious about previous explanations of my blogging inspiration, visit THIS POST. Thanks to Patti for creating this challenge and sharing her beautiful photos.

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: 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: 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.