Under the weather.

Tree trunk sculpture (1 of 2)

Tree trunk sculpture (2 of 2)

These sculptures, carved by Bill Le Blanc into tree stumps along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Hamilton, are crumbling at the hands of the elements.

Photos inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge, Weathered.

Advertisements

Make your work.

The outside air and I haven’t been getting along too well since the start of this relentless cold snap, so today I treated myself to a trip to the local butterfly conservatory – a lush, indoor tropical garden where the air is mild and much kinder to my face.

I wasn’t the only one with this brilliant idea, though most other adults at the conservatory were accompanied by multiple small children who were either shrieking with delight or cringing in fear while butterflies flitted about their heads (the last time I went with my kids, they fell into the cringing category, so this time I opted for a solo visit).

This gave me an opportunity to make photos (and to take my time doing it). But again: I wasn’t the only one with this brilliant idea. There’s a lot of picture-taking going on in a butterfly garden.

I attempted the classic compositions, in which a pin-sharp specimen is large and beautiful and ideally perched on an equally large, beautiful flower – but my real challenge was to try to make the photos the others weren’t making. Or, more helpfully, not to make the photos I’ve made before.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Growth, and while I hope I’ll grow in many areas of my life this year, for my purpose here my goal is to grow as a photographer. One picture at a time. (“You learn how to make your work by making your work,” as artist Eileen Rafferty puts it).

I know I can’t expect any sudden transformations. But that’s okay. I’ll leave those to the caterpillars.

Butterfly Conservatory (1 of 7)

 

Butterfly Conservatory (2 of 7)

 

Butterfly Conservatory (6 of 7)

 

Butterfly Conservatory (7 of 7)

 

Butterfly Conservatory (3 of 7)

 

Butterfly Conservatory (4 of 7)

 

Butterfly Conservatory (5 of 7)

 

Playing favourites.

In the last WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge of the year, we’re invited to share our most meaningful photo of 2017, but – true to my indecisive nature – I couldn’t choose just one.

I’ve loved exploring photography this year. It’s been a year of learning to observe, to compose, to demystify the buttons on the camera… but also to gain patience, and practice perseverance, and to understand the value of a change in perspective.

To round up 2017, I’ll share some of my favourite photos along with links to the post (if applicable) in which they appeared.

Earlier in the year, I wrote more text to accompany my photos, while lately I’ve been focusing on images only. In any case, when I look at these pictures – each one, when I think about it, nothing more than an arrangement of pixels – I’m reminded of a place, a person, or an experience that has stayed with me. Maybe that moment helped me learn something about making pictures. Or maybe it taught me something more.

Here we go with the first twelve:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Favorites (9 of 24)

The time I thought a dandelion was pretty.

 

 

 

Long exposure of a stump in the Grand River

The time I learned that a neutral density filter can turn a river into glass.

 

Are you still with me? Congratulations (and thank you)!

Here are twelve more:

 

Kids standing on a giant rock

The time it was too cold to swim but not too cold to surf.

 

 

Wind turbines in the mist

The time the wind turbines rose out of the mist to greet the sun.

 

 

Ivy-covered gateway

The time I was beckoned to a secret garden.

 

Church doors at night

The time symmetry looked beautiful in the dark.

 

 

Row of red-leaved trees in autumn

The time the trees were on fire.

 

 

Three trumpeter swans in the mist

The time these birds seemed to float out of a dream.

 

Abstract snowy winter scene

The time I wiggled the camera to make a painting in the snow.

 

Well, there you have it. Thanks for sticking with me. For those who have followed along over the past year: your visits and comments are truly appreciated. I’m touched when my words or photos resonate with others.

As for 2018 – I plan to make more pictures. I was going to try to write something deep about hopes and goals for the new year, but then I read a blog post by photographer David duChemin (a man of considerable talent with words, photos and inspiration). Anything I wrote afterwards just sounded like a really bad cliché. So I leave you with this link to David’s words, because there’s no way I could’ve said it better.

Happy New Year, all!

 

 

 

 

Diversions.

Instead of cleaning the kitchen like you should, do you ever let yourself get mesmerized by the ribbons of vapour rising from your oil diffuser? And then make a bunch of photos of the swirls? And then stare at the photos, looking for shapes and patterns and faces in the curls of steam?

No?

You should try it. It’s fun. Except for the fact that you’ll still have a dirty kitchen when you’re finished.

 

*Inspired by this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Ascend

Turn, turn, turn.

“The long exposure does something that our eyes cannot do, it can accumulate time,” says photographer Michael Kenna. I love his dreamy black-and-white landscapes, in which waters and skies appear smooth as silk. And I love the idea of capturing moments of consecutive time, stacked together in one image.

Well, I’ll need some more practice before I can create any ethereal landscapes, but in the meantime, these photos are the results of a little experimentation closer to home (at my dining room table), requiring only a decorative trinket, a slowed shutter speed, and some patience.

We’re often so concerned about sharpness in images – the crispness and clarity of frozen time – but I think there’s something so pretty and painterly about motion being rendered as soft streaks of woven light.

November 24 (1 of 3)November 24 (2 of 3)November 24 (3 of 3)

Windows of opportunity.

“Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.”

~Alan Alda

Bridges, doors, and windows. I looked through my shots over the past number of months, and a good proportion of them include these elements (also: flowers, cats, stairs, graffiti, my offspring, and a surprising number of insects). Make of that what you will.

But this week’s WordPress photo challenge is Windows, and instead of choosing just one, I decided to include a selection of pictures I’ve made over the past year. Several have been shared in previous posts, but there are a few new ones. Some are shot from the perspective of looking out, some looking in. Some aren’t real at all, but illusions. In every case, I saw an opportunity to make an image, hopefully one with some impact.

Unlike doors, those markers of separation, windows let the light in (or out). They allow observation, and reflection, and a deepening of perception: a glimpse of something beyond our sphere of experience. They can be dressed up, covered up, barred, dirtied, or cracked, but their potential to illuminate remains.

Thanks, WordPress, for the opportunity to share my growing collection of windows (should you choose “Insects” as a theme some week, I’ll be ready with another collage).

Thinly veiled.

We have a white mesh curtain, purchased years ago, hanging in our kitchen. On sunny days, its shadows make an intricate pattern on the floor. I’ve always wanted to incorporate this into a photo somehow, and this week’s WordPress photo challenge of Layered prompted me to round up my models and coax them to pose against the window.

In this shot, I wanted the dappled effect to appear on the skin, like a layer of paint or a tattoo. I must give credit where it’s due: this particular model was very patient while being persuaded to stare into bright sunlight while his mother fiddled with camera settings and fussed with the curtain. The picture ended up pretty close to what I’d been envisioning.

September 26 (2 of 2)

 

My other model was a little less co-operative. I experimented with a different technique, and though it wasn’t what I’d been intending, I succeeded in making a dreamy, romantic portrait of a bored housecat.

September 26 (1 of 2)

Should you desire to make one of your own, just hold your lacy curtain tautly a few inches in front of your camera lens while ensuring your camera’s focus is locked on your feline, who’s lying about a foot or two beyond this layer of fabric, looking at you as if to say, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me, lady.”

My subject yawned at least twice at this tedious exercise and I managed to capture her looking up, her eyes half-lidded, which only added (I thought) to the hazy, old-fashioned feel of this image.

The curtain came down, so to speak, on our photo shoot when Her Highness rose abruptly and sauntered off to the living room to lick herself.

Oh, well. You win some, you lose some.

Home sweet home.

During a walk earlier this summer, my daughter and I spotted a small, coarse, brownish lump in the grass. Upon closer inspection we realized what it was: an empty, tattered bird’s nest, likely blown out of a nearby tree.

Nowhere in the vicinity could we see any remnants of actual birds or eggs, so we picked it up gently and brought it home, tucking it safely in the shelter of a patio flower pot.

And there it sat, forgotten, until yesterday, when I asked my daughter if she’d hold it while I made a photo. For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, Structure, we’re invited to share a picture of “the structure of something typically overlooked.”

September 2 (1 of 1).jpg

And this gave me the opportunity to observe and reflect on this little construction in my child’s hands.

Imagine the time and ingenuity it required for a tiny bird – innately a master builder – to weave this thing, strand by strand, maneuvering materials with its mouth. All this work – despite the fact that most bird species, if I’m not mistaken, don’t re-use an individual nest once the babies have matured. Both the task and the product have a specific purpose, and no time or effort is wasted.

Which makes it even more wonderful when I spot a bit of avian interior decorating:

december-17-1-of-1

This was snapped last winter, when the barren landscape exposed this bit of chic nest décor, which would’ve otherwise been hidden throughout the rest of the year.

I find it liberating and also a bit disheartening that a bird can – once the function of its nest has been served – part with this handiwork (seemingly) without much fanfare. Here, of course, I’m presuming to understand, or possibly invent, a bird’s emotional connection to its nest.

It makes me wonder about our own attachments to the buildings we call home, and how much the structures themselves, aside from all the practicalities and conveniences, influence our emotions related to them. Why do we consider them more than just material things? Would we feel any differently about them if they had no cost? Would we be willing to build them from scratch, with found materials, and using our own hands? Would we be willing to abandon them and start all over again next spring?

I think that’s enough pondering for now. The structure I’m currently sitting in needs to be vacuumed, and I don’t think I’ll find any birds to help me do it.

Thanks, as always, for your visit 🙂