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: Motion

“A still photograph is called a still photograph because the picture doesn’t move, not because the objects in the picture are not in motion. The photographer’s mission, should he decide to accept it, is to capture motion with stillness. ” – Vincent Versace

Patti, our Lens-Artist host, prompts: “This week, we invite you to have fun with motion. Show us images where you froze the action or focused on the moving parts of an image in the foreground or the background. Maybe you discovered techniques like action panning or time lapses. It’s your choice.”

I have to admit that I haven’t experimented very much with using the blur of motion creatively in my photos. I have used slower shutter speeds to suggest flow, but haven’t done anything dramatic with moving the camera while the aperture is open. I also don’t have any post-production software installed that I can play with. When I look at my images, I see either “freeze” or “flow”.

This last image, however, is more of an example of “surprise and fear”! When this tarantula scurried across my path near Battleship Rock in New Mexico, I reached for my camera and snapped a shot without checking the exposure settings.

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: Summer Vibes

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
― Henry James

What will you be doing with your summer days, my Northern Hemisphere friends? This is the question and the challenge from our guest blogger of the week, Andre of Solaner in Germany. Beginning tomorrow, I will be backpacking along the Coast in Olympic National Park for four days. I am excited – on many levels! It will be a physical challenge, an emotional high, a journey in soulful wilderness, and eventually an unforgettable memory. I’m hoping to have some great pictures to share!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Seeing Double

“There is one art of which man should be master, the art of reflection.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Without reflection, photography literally wouldn’t be possible. Without spiritual reflection, photography wouldn’t be meaningful. May the art you create bring you greater awareness, greater light!” I wrote that on my blog of December 22, 2018 in response to Patti’s Lens-Artist challenge that week.

In my March 7, 2020 blog post, I reflected on the changes I had been through during my cross-country pandemic move. I wrote, “Writing in this blog, storing photographs and memories, was a way to plant the seeds of realization. In my words and pictures, I remind myself who I truly am and see who I am becoming.”

This morning, it is Jez who invites the hunt for reflections with an amazing collection of great photo examples. Visit his post HERE.

The opportunity to see double – to revisit, to reflect, to look again from a new perspective – is a great gift. It often reveals treasures overlooked, depth unfathomed. It’s a practice worth repeating, regularly or periodically. New light can emerge from shadows, reflected from sources once obscured.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Treasures

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover
the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” ― Joseph Campbell

This week’s challenge is hosted by Aletta of nowathome. She lives in South Africa and finds on the sands of the beach a fascinating treasure of endless variety. This week, I found my treasure in the Cascade mountain range of Oregon.

It has not been an easy week. Three of my family members have Covid. My national government is regressing into dangerously harmful territory. I called a couple of friends and took off into the hills, from whence cometh my treasure – being alive in wilderness.

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” ― Walter Anderson

I am enormously grateful for the ability to breathe the mountain air deep into my lungs, to smell the delicate perfume of wildflowers, to walk for miles and hours far away from flawed human systems. I treasure the perspective of the peaks above me and the plants at my feet. I treasure the freedom of flying butterflies, vulnerable yet exquisitely alive for their brief spans.

Thank you, Lens-Artists, for sharing your treasures. As we share, we build a caring community. Your generosity matters.

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.