It’s rare for a plant’s leaves to compete with the flowers for eye-catching beauty, but this tropical bromeliad features some very cool leaves. They look like someone hand-painted them.
Would you pair a striped blouse with polka dot pants? It’s not really my style. Can you think of a plant or animal that pairs stripes and polka dots together? That’s right: mix a zebra with a leopard!
This orchid has a unique fashion sense, and she reminds me of a spider. What do you think of her bold design?
Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic knocked me off my constructive and creative track with wildlife and nature photography. I found myself absorbed with cooking, cleaning, gardening and pondering the uncertainties of when restrictions will be lifted. Seriously, how long can this go on? All of us have had the rhythms of our daily lives disrupted, yes?
I knew that if I could get myself to pick up a camera and begin exploring nature in my own backyard, so to speak, that I would begin to feel like myself again. I ventured out to the newly reopened Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh (masked and careful), and indeed the magic reappeared. My vision and my technical skills are intact! Here is the first image I captured.
Looking back at travel photos from past trips, I ask myself why a certain image resonates for me. I’m drawn to this midsummer scene in bucolic England, in a photograph taken on July 4, 2018. First, compositional elements are pleasing: the bright reflection on the Wear River brings the eye directly to the rowing crew in their boat, and the bridge in the background gives the boat implied direction through the image. Second, the greenery and still water on an ideal summer’s day, lends feelings of tranquility, perhaps even memories of a simpler time and an escape from society’s turmoil. Third, happy memories of an overseas trip seem even sweeter during this time when travel is forbidden.
But, I realize there is more meaning behind my positive feelings for this image. Sixteen years ago my daughter rowed crew for Georgetown University. I watched her crew team on the Potomac River in Washington DC, and I’m proud of her many achievements. While I saw a flashback of my daughter in this scene, I also saw her place in a long history of rowing that goes back many years and across the ocean to the U.K. In this moment, I had crossed the ocean to a foreign country, but I felt like I had stumbled upon my family roots.
I believe it is true that as a photographer I will capture an image that instantaneously appeals to me, but further reflection reveals more meaning. I’m sure you can think of images that resonate for you.
When travel restrictions keep a photographer at home for months at a stretch, it’s a perfect time to exercise one’s creativity with new ways to process images in the archives. On this sunny day in June, I pulled up one of my favorite images of 2020: my daughter and son-in-law on a dog sled in Wyoming with a stunning background.
I was so happy that my dogsled, traveling just behind Courtney’s sled stopped in an opportune spot for me to frame her sled before tall pines, snow-capped mountains and a happy sky, blue with puffy clouds. And for just one second, Courtney and her husband Scott looked up at me and smiled. The triangular composition gives the scene balance and also offsets the white dogs.
Our winter adventures in Jackson Hole will give us some interesting options for holiday cards this year, and maybe a 2021 calendar. I’m sure your photographs from your family trips bring you joy at this time.
My friend Eliza needed a portrait to publicize upcoming speaking engagements and an upcoming book. As a great admirer (for more than 40 years), I was happy to take the job. I was confidently pleased with the results, but Eliza was worried. Looking at the proofs, she was not enthusiastic about how she looked. It was months before I heard from her about proceeding.
Our dialogue about how to see your own portrait is worth sharing. I shared these thoughts: The purpose of the portrait is to present the author as “friendly, intelligent, interested in you and having wisdom to share.” It is not a beauty contest. It does not aim to make you look 10 or 20 years younger than you really are. The audience for this portrait will ask themselves, “Would she have something interesting to share with me? Is she knowledgeable? Is she a nice person? Do I like her? Is she funny sometimes? Would she be someone I would like to have as a friend?”
In reassuring Eliza, I suggested this: beauty is inside and out. Imagine someone who is not friendly, not smart and not the least bit interested in you. That person is not attractive, all because of what exists inside.
You, on the other hand, have that inner beauty and you are a beautiful woman too! When you look at your photograph, you might be critical of your own face, because you prefer a younger you. But we see you differently. We don’t really care how old you are. We only care about the intangibles, which you have in spades.
Eliza, a specialist in historic preservation, Pittsburgh history and architecture, is writing a book about two intrepid women—her grandmother and great aunt—who led the Suffrage movement and became crusaders against corruption in local government. For more information, Eliza’s website is here.
It’s Memorial Day, and I’m with my daughter in Newport, Rhode Island, where ironically I discovered a family tie to Newport more than 200-years-old. Have you heard of Oliver Hazard Perry, the Naval Commodore who successfully fought the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812? A statue in his honor stands in a central park in Newport, and his family gravesite (photo below) is just down Farewell Street from my daughter’s house.
I got curious about our family ancestry when I found some intriguing papers in my mother’s files after her death last year. I learned that my paternal grandfather was raised by his grandmother, Virginia Theresa Perry, after his mother died young. Virginia told stories about her famous cousin Oliver Hazard Perry. When I began to read about OHP, my research put the spotlight on Newport, and I was able to learn even more on a visit to the Newport Historical Society.
But enough about me and the Counselman family from Baltimore. So many of us Americans have descended from the pilgrims who braved the seas and landed in New England. Or perhaps your family came from Africa or a more recent immigration. We must honor today all the brave men and women who did their part, large and small, in forming and preserving this “land of the free and home of the brave.”
While we are staying “safer at home,” I’m looking through the images I captured in February and uncovering a few hidden gems. I have found new examples of why it really pays off to wake up in the dark and get on location as the sun rises. The reflections on the lake makes this egret look regal.
This image is similar to one I blogged about in February, but it’s different with the fish in the egret’s bill. Here is another frame from moments later.
Seeing a North American Badger might not be on your bucket list, but for four photographers in Jackson Hole, seeing a badger was a “bonus.” Having photographed bison, trumpeter swan, elk, coyote, bald eagle and golden eagle earlier in the day, the we called the badger sighting our “Bonus Badger.” For me, it was a first.
Reading about the badger’s behavior on Wikipedia, I discovered that it’s not surprising that sightings are rare. Badgers are solitary creatures, living in underground dens and are mostly noctural. Their predators are golden eagles, coyote and bears all of which are plentiful in this part of Wyoming. Moreover, they are aggressive animals, so I’m glad I was able to capture this photo from the safety of our car.
I like the badger’s furry coat and face markings, and I’m glad I had the chance to see it. Look at those long claws!
February 28, 2020 — It was just after dawn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with temperatures hovering around 8 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was scouting for wildlife with three other photographers. We spotted a Bald Eagle high in a frosty tree. A long lens (400 mm Sony) afforded us a closer look.
For my friend Chris, this was his first time seeing a bald eagle. I had just been bald eagle watching and photographing in Florida the previous week, but seeing a Bald Eagle is always exciting.
We were only weeks away from the lockdown to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, but we were blissfully unaware. How blessed we were to complete this trip to Wyoming before the crisis hit the United States. I think of that childhood game of Musical Chairs. This is where we were just before the music stopped.