Weekly Photo Challenge: Off-Season

One of the advantages of being self-employed is that you can take advantage of the freedom of your schedule and do things when you feel like it.   Steve and I like to travel in the spring and fall when places are less crowded.  Consequently, we got the opportunity to be the ONLY visitors at a National Park one day.  It was Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California, and it was April.  Here is what the walk up to the Visitor’s Center looked like:

off season 3We hadn’t really come equipped to hike in so much snow, so we settled for watching the video describing the volcanic terrain from inside the cozy Visitor’s Center.  One park ranger is all we saw there that day.  (I should note that this was in 2011, before the severe droughts of more recent years.)

Here’s a local off-season shot:

off season  Milwaukee on the first warm day in March.

I hesitate to label anything off-season, though.  All seasons of the year are open for exploration.  Nature is doing its thing whether crowds show up or not, and I love to see natural areas at any time and at different times.  It’s always beautiful, always worth it.  Here is my final shot of Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas in October: 

off season 2

Off-Season

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Motion of the Ocean

Initially, this challenge had me stumped.  I primarily photograph nature in still life.  I’m a very calm person, not enthralled by activity and speed.  Movement is, however, the way of the Life…but I generally see it in a larger, slower context.   How does the Earth move?  In myriad ways at varying paces, constantly, glacially, and in the beat of a hummingbird’s wings.  How have I photographed movement in Nature?  In water – falling and surging, as well as frozen.  Last September, I had the opportunity to revisit the Pacific Ocean.  It is constantly in motion, yet can appear stationary in a landscape photograph when spread out to the horizon.  Its dynamic nature is more readily apparent at its edges, and that’s where I aimed my lens. 

I recently discovered some really dramatic ocean photography in the work of Ray Collins.  Visit his website here to be really swept up in the motion of the ocean!

Motion

Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird Curiosity Eclipsing Fear

There is something in me that craves a sunrise.  I’ve known this for a long time.  It’s an exhilarating feeling, a feeling of adventure, of anticipation, of freedom.   Perhaps it’s because getting up early means you have a special mission…to board a plane or set off on a journey or explore a new day.  I think I first experienced this adventurous feeling when my sister and I set off cross-country on a road trip when she was 20 and I was 16.  She was going back to college in Ohio in her newly purchased car.  We set off from our home in California, and I was along for company.  Unfortunately, we never made it to Ohio because we crashed in Nebraska and she was killed.  That rather put a damper on my adventurous spirit for quite a while.  But I recently discovered that I still love a road trip even though I can never put disaster completely out of my mind.  Learning to embrace that perceived conflict, that life is exciting and wonderful and not entirely safe all at the same time, has been a great journey in itself.

Sunrise in Kansas on my most recent road trip

Sunrise in Kansas on my most recent road trip

It’s like the feeling I get when I’m camping ‘far from civilization’.  The nights seem very dark and very long as I lie awake in a tent with howling winds or other unidentified sounds surrounding me.  I feel aware and a bit afraid and very alive.  When the sun begins to rise, I feel eager to rush outside and see the light dawn on all those things that felt so mysterious and vaguely threatening.  I realize then that a sense of curiosity is eclipsing my fear.  That is what I want to develop more and more.  Perhaps that’s a return to childhood; perhaps that’s what maturity is.

Early morning frost on the tent in New Mexico - same trip

Early morning frost on the tent in New Mexico – same trip

Early Bird

Photography 101: Connect

The prompt says, “There are many ways to interpret this theme: from a gadget to a handshake, from a bridge to a gathering among friends. What’s yours?”  Well, I have two.  One is quite literal, and I think it’s a strong image:

connect 2“Blessed be the ties that bind….” 

If you’re a sailor, there’s nothing more important than well-connected lines.  This is concrete understanding of the physical world.  It means something right away.  Here’s one that’s a bit more intuitive:

connectSisters

How strong is this image?  Well, it is emotionally powerful to me.  These are my two living sisters.  We had just learned that Sarah’s husband has cancer.  I was visiting them in California.  We get together; Dharam greets Sarah with a hug, I pull out my camera.  How do you connect?  (I hugged her, too, BTW)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Some signs are meant to be helpful, but come across as completely confusing.  Like this one in the Milwaukee airport, just past the security checkpoint. 

RecombobIt took me a while to think through this one.  I had just been stripped of my shoes, my jacket, my purse and my backpack, been x-rayed, patted down, swiped and wiped, and I felt….discombobulated.  So there, with a few chairs underneath, was the designated area for getting recombobulated.  See, spell check doesn’t even recognize that word!  Helpful, sort of, but mostly not.  But amusing, definitely.  And absurd. 

Another sign I found on my travels.  A possible answer to the question, “Can you handle this?”

handling bats

Turns out, you can’t handle this.  114They never said I couldn’t photograph it, though.

Some signs need translation. The town of Embarrass, Wisconsin on the Embarrass River is nothing to be ashamed of.

I wanted to go into the Post Office and ask about their deep, dark secret.  Instead, I went home and looked up the history of the town.  Turns out, it was settled by French Canadian loggers who found it difficult to get their floating logs past this point on the river because of snags and debris.  In French, “embarrass” means to impede, obstruct or entangle.  Oh. 

Will you recognize the signs of the times?  Well, the times, they are a changin’. 

leaves

By this time next week, I will be unemployed and heading toward New Mexico for the Wilderness 50 Conference.  Yes, the signs are telling me that it’s time for a change. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure!

I am late jumping into this week’s challenge because I’ve been on an adventure!  I’ve been in California for the last week visiting family and taking excursions.  I lived in CA for 15 years, but it’s been 4 years since I’ve been there.  In the interim, they’ve established a new National Park.  The Pinnacles have been designated a National Monument since 1908, but 2 years ago it became a National Park.  And it’s still the newest one.   My father and brother used to hike there years ago and raved about it to me.  This week I made my first visit.  California condors have been reintroduced to the area, but I didn’t see one.  I did see a tarantula and a wild bobcat, though!  The tarantula was in one of the caves that was formed when giant boulders from the top of the Pinnacles crashed down into the canyons.  It was very dark under there, and it took me a while to figure out how to photograph the critter.  The CCC built some very helpful trails with stairs and railings in the 1930s that make exploring those caves and getting up to the rim of Pinnacles relatively easy.  What you might not notice in the photos is the silence.  Yes, even in California, one can find silence.  Solitude.  Space.  But those places seem to be shrinking every year as population and development boom.  The state has changed since I left in 1991.  And it will keep changing.  Some changes are good though.  It’s nice to know that condors live there now.