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: Surreal

My personal world is a bit surreal at the moment. I fell and broke my wrist on a wilderness backpacking trip on Monday. I had to hike two more days to get out to the car and off to a hospital. My hiking buddies were absolute angels, and I have an epic tale to tell. But I don’t have two working hands with which to create photos.

I was hiking a stretch of coastline in Olympic National Park in Washington state. The rainforest of the Pacific Northwest gets an average of 100 inches of rain a year. The trees are giants. The legendary Bigfoot or Sasquatch is said to roam these parts. I would love to have captured him emerging from the fog (or created that impression in a photo), but current limitations make that difficult. So these are very real shots on the theme of Bigfoot, instead.

My attempt at this challenge falls far short. Do visit our host, Tracy, to see Surreal treated well. I wish I had some cheesecake…

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: The Eyes Have It

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”
― Martin Buber

“The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Tina, our Challenge host for this week, reminds us that in photography, the most successful portraits focus on the eyes. She shares stunning examples HERE and invites us to post our favorite eye-catching photos. There is an intimacy in photographing the eyes of a living being that tells a story – a story not only of the subject’s mindset, but also of the relationship between subject and photographer. That is why it is so satisfying to have recorded images of these special beings who have captivated me with their expressions and allowed me to gaze at their souls. I am grateful to have known them all!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Doors

I’m mostly out of doors. Literally. I wondered if I even had any in my photo files? Windows I remember photographing. But doors? Hm. The earliest example I have is below, taken with a borrowed camera more than a decade ago. This door tells a story. But it’s not my story. Interestingly, when I first posted this picture taken in a small town in Wisconsin, a reader commented that this was her home town. Her school bus stop was the chairs beside these doors.

I mostly choose to photograph nature and landscapes. I feel I belong in those stories. But of course, there is interconnection between the natural world and human-crafted doorways. What is my perspective on these passageways?

What is my relationship to this door? Does it beckon me to enter or shut me out? What is the story in a doorway you choose to pass by completely but that others engage with regularly? Below is a gallery of random doors I found deep in my files. Each one reminds me of a particular story, a particular place. I don’t think any of these photographs are especially artful or interesting. But their variety is fascinating. Mirrors, wood, function, decoration, and states of repair create a world of comment on human passage.

This challenge is hosted by guest Lens-Artist Sylvia Bacon. Do visit HER POST to see her colorful expressions of this theme. Thank you, Sylvia, for your inspiration!

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-Artists Photo Challenge: Simple/Complex

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
― Confucius

“I never knew anybody . . . who found life simple. I think a life or a time looks simple when you leave out the details.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

“Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience — to appreciate the fact that life is complex.”
― M. Scott Peck

 “You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you’ve got.” ― Toni Morrison

Congratulations to Sofia, our host this week, for choosing a challenge that is truly inspiring and rich. The challenge is about Minimalism and Maximalism, and in Art, this spectrum can reflect a tension not only in mood and atmosphere, but in history and philosophy as well. Sofia notes, “The Baroque period is probably one of the best examples of excessive decoration and a sense of awe. Money and power were demonstrated by increasingly outrageous works of art…”

Where are your tastes and sympathies right now? Does your brain and body long for the peaceful simplicity of minimal overload and distraction? Or are you celebrating the elaborate interconnectedness and biodiversity of all that we call Life?

I have to admit that I swing back and forth constantly. And maybe that is what evolved human brains do best. Using our abilities to change perspective, focusing in and zooming out with ease, allows us to gather information and make decisions like no other animal on Earth. We inhabit a variety of experiences and notice the differences, and then we get the opportunity to choose how to approach our next interaction. I don’t think there is a “correct” choice, but there is much to be learned about the benefits or tragedies resulting from how we’ve chosen to look at the world. I definitely rely on the opportunity to change my vision when I feel that it is not serving me or others.

I look forward to seeing how other Lens-Artists have interpreted this excellent challenge!