Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Less is More

Amy’s challenge this week is a very meaningful one. Imagine how the Earth would benefit if the human species truly embraced the idea that “Less is the new More!”

We’ve all seen news articles showing evidence of huge flotillas of garbage in our oceans, of urban sprawl eating up wilderness, and of first world over-consumption. I remember being visually struck by a National Geographic article by photographer Peter Menzel showing the possessions of an average family from a variety of countries across the world. (Material World: A Global Family Portrait) The American family had enough possessions to fill the end of their cul de sac. 

One of the benefits of my preferred way of travel, camping, is that it gives me the opportunity to live very simply. The clothes I’m wearing, a tent, a box of matches, some bedding, and a few cooking utensils are completely sufficient. The food I eat is recycled: gathered in and returned to the land. The vast landscapes of the outdoors are anything but simple. The world is a complex array of ecosystems. But focusing on one feature reveals the astounding beauty of simple design.

Removing extraneous clutter from my photos and my way of life allows me to focus on the wonder of the essence of Life. That I am alive and that I am surrounded by life that exists on levels more intricate and vast than I can see or imagine is…simply…amazing.  

Lens-Artists Challenge: Hello, April!

For this week’s challenge, Amy sends a colorful April “Hello” from Texas and quotes Rachel Carson:

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature–

the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.”

Here in Wisconsin, the temperatures are just starting to creep up into true Springtime levels. This morning, there was no frost on the ground, so the maple syrup season will start to taper off, and soon April will show off her new spring colors. Last year, we had a late snow storm that caused a major interruption in spring growth. The first brood of sandhill crane chicks on this property died, the deer ate all the tulip shoots, and my garden planting energy never really recovered. Here’s a contrasting shot of the last two years in the turkey mating season. 

I’m looking forward to seeing the forsythia bloom.

I am looking forward to seeing the first woodland wildflowers take their brief turn on the forest stage.

 

How this Spring will actually unfold, however, is uncertain. Instability in our global climate has resulted in unprecedented changes that manifest locally in more alarming ways each year. I am not sure who April will be when I meet her this year. However, I will surely observe and photograph her, and find her beautiful.

There is something infinitely healing, I believe, in accepting Nature in all her autonomy and taking responsibility for the ways we abuse her.  

 

Lens-Artists Challenge: Around the Neighborhood

Tina’s photo challenge post showcases the birds that live on the barrier islands of South Carolina. The birds in my neighborhood include sandhill cranes…

These majestic migratory birds mate for life, returning to the wetland area behind my house to nest and raise their young each year. Last weekend, I sighted a pair in the sky just south of the Wisconsin border. I wait with anticipation the sound of their raspy bugle cry over my neighborhood. There is snow still on the ground, but today, the temperature is finally above freezing and a light rain is falling. I hope for the joyful return of the mating couple. I hope that they will not lose any chicks to a late snowfall like last year. I hope that I don’t see another colt hit by a car before he learns to fly. And I hope to see at least three begin the long flight to Florida when the leaves lose green and turn to gold, red, and brown.

Wild turkeys are also neighborhood residents.

They stick around all year. In early spring, Tom comes into the yard with his fully fanned out tail, herding hens like some slow moving Zamboni back and forth on the melting ice. When the grass is a nice spring green, broods of up to a dozen little brown chicks scurry through the tall shoots, barely visible around their mamma’s legs. By the time the greens turn brown, there are flocks bustling about all day, roosting in low branches in the evening.

I love these feathered neighbors. Their antics are always fascinating, and I’m so lucky to share this place with them. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Close-Up

Thanks to Ann-Christine for this week’s challenge, and for including those of us who don’t have a macro lens. I love close-up shots and have longed for a macro lens, but just haven’t spent the money…yet.

Getting a closer look proves a few things:

1) There’s endless fascination in the world of detail — pattern and form emerge in astonishing places.

2) A change of perspective is eye-opening and stimulates the imagination.

3) You can never exhaust the discovery of something, even something that you think is commonplace and familiar.

Getting close up invites us into a world of enhanced appreciation. There’s so much to enjoy with our vision…even without fancy gadgets. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Nature

“Measured against the agenda of human survival, how might we rethink education? Let me suggest six principles.

First, all education is environmental education.” — David Orr, What Is Education For?

 

I actually met and spoke to David Orr at a conference near the Aldo Leopold Foundation Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin a few years ago. He is a fascinating speaker, a person who has clearly thought a great deal about how humans fit into the natural world.

Yesterday, I spent the morning volunteering in a homeschool class at a Nature Center. The children, aged 6-8, shared their journal entries during snack time. They each had spent time in a “Secret Place”, observing the natural world around them, drawing pictures, writing sentences using vocabulary words, and playing. I was so pleased to see this, and told them that they were following in the footsteps of Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, Beatrix Potter and many, many others — very important thinkers and learners.

What do we need to learn from Nature? So much. I have a page on this blog called “Spiritual Lessons from Nature”. Click on the link just under the header if you’re curious about them.

Some things I’ve learned about Nature: it’s powerful and deserving of respect. 

It’s complex and autonomous.

It’s vast and largely incomprehensible.

It’s older than anyone can imagine. 

It’s more detailed than anyone can see. 

Humans are just one small leaf on the great Tree of Life.  That’s always good to remember. 

Thanks to Patti for hosting this challenge and for sharing stunning photos of Fiji.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Landscapes

Amy at “The World Is A Book” has invited the Lens-Artists to share Landscapes this week, and has given us absolutely stunning examples from her own albums.
This is my favorite photographic subject.

When I was just 10 years old, I got my first camera – a Kodak Brownie Starmite – so that I could take pictures on our family vacation to Hawaii.  I had seen mountains for the first time just two years prior on a family vacation to visit cousins in Colorado, and felt engulfed by a deep awe. I wanted to take the scenery home with me to Illinois, but had no camera then. I soaked in every vista, eyes and arms wide open. I was so excited to be able to take my own photos when I got to Hawaii.

I remember feeling a crushing disappointment when I discovered that the little printed picture didn’t quite take in all that I wanted to fill it. I still feel that way, but it hasn’t stopped me from trying.

What do I love about landscapes? Long views give me a sense of freedom, a sense of the vast beauty of the world. 

When I was a kid, my parents took me to the Field Museum in Chicago to watch travelogue presentations. I would emerge from the hall bounding like a gazelle. I loved the open spaces filled with natural wonders, like an alpine meadow of wildflowers begging me to run through them.There is nothing as exhilarating to me as a panoramic view of Earth.

It’s so difficult to get all that BIGNESS into a two dimensional frame. 

I wish I had a lens that could do it justice. 

There’s that “pinch me, I can’t believe I’m here” excitement of actually feeling the space around you in a beautifully large setting that’s impossible to get into a photo. 

But I keep trying because I don’t want to let go of that feeling…ever. 

I think I want my soul to be a huge landscape. 

Lens-Artists Challenge: Curves

Curves are everywhere in Nature. I can’t think of any example of truly straight lines in Nature, with the exception of crystals. Even pine needles are gently curved.

I love the graceful elegance of curves. I’ve always envied people with naturally curly hair and marveled at the possibilities that medium allowed. I would arrange my youngest daughter’s hair for hours…if she’d let me. 

In appreciation of Nature’s curly hair, I will play with botanical images. Like yucca…

…and fern……and redwood bark, believe it or not,…

…and the beautiful, slender curves of grass. 

I have no deep desire to make the curvy straight, the rough places plain, nor to inflict geometrical precision on the surprising and unpredictable. I want Life to be unfettered, loose and free-flowing — at least in my head. In daily behavior, though, I’m still a straight-haired practical person. And I still envy my daughter’s hair.

 

Thank you, Tina, for hosting this week’s Challenge. May you find graceful, natural curves all around!