Leaf Art in the Tropics

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.

#bromeliad, #sonyalpha, #luminar, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #leaves, #art, #color, #design #flower, #nature, #photography, #skylum
This Bromeliad bloom is eye-catching with its bright colored pointed petals, but these leaves are unique. Find this tropical beauty at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. © Catherine Kelly

Stripes and Polka Dots

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?

#orchid, #stripes, #striped, #bold, #diversity, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #thingstodo, #flower, #nature, #photography, #sonyalpha
This unique orchid can be found at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. ©Catherine Kelly

Picking Up the Camera Again

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.

#vine, #nature, #meaning, #contrast, #why, #pink, #pinkandgreen, #phipps, #depthoffield, #focus, #photography, #sony, #sonyalpha
Can you feel the tug of Nature’s work in sharp focus, standing out before Man’s work, the Conservatory building? Yet, I believe the two elements harmonize. I see the vine as fresh, delicate, independent and strong. I made a deliberate effort to show only the vine in focus by using a wide open aperture with a short depth of field.

Finding Roots in England

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.

#crew, #england, #wear, #riverwear, #wearriver, #durham, #durhamuniversity, #crew team, #rowing, #bucolic, #durham, #UK, #travelphotography, #why, #roots, #georgetownuniversity, #family, #memories, #pride
Rowers on the River Wear in Durham England, July 4, 2018. This scene inspires reflections on the long tradition of crew teams, in USA and England.

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.

Creative Processing

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.

#jackson, #jacksonhole, #thingstodo, #winter, #winterfun, #dogsled, #topaz, #adobe, #sonyalpha, #stayathome, #processing, #photography, #family, #creativity
Processed in Photoshop and Topaz Simplify, this photograph gained a painterly effect. I believe that the viewer can more easily place themselves in the scene when the faces are modified. I hope you agree that this image is more than just a family photo now.

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.

Dawn’s Early Light

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.

#greategret, #reflection, #lake, #light, #morninglight, #earlybird, #fishing, #color, #dawn, #florida, #naplesflorida
Great White Egret catches a tiny fish while dawn’s early lights paints the lake with color.

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.

#greategret, #ripples, #lake, #water, #fishing, #reflection, #color, #dawn, #morninglight, #florida, #birds, #egret, #wildlife
Walking about in the shallows and dunking its head, this Great Egret makes circular ripples in the lake.

Ever See a Badger?

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.

#badger, #wildlife, #jacksonhole, #elksanctuary, #nature, #winter, #nocturnal, #
North American badger comes out of his den to look around in the Elk Sanctuary in Jackson Hole, WY.

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!

Bald Eagle in Winter

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.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #winter, #wyoming, #wildlife, #nature, #jacksonhole, #eagleintree
Bald Eagle in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a frosty morning in February 2020. Perched high in an aspen tree along a stream, this eagle kept watch for possible prey.

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.

A Virtual Visit to England

Today is one of those days when I feel like taking a walk in a beautiful faraway place. Maybe it’s just because I can’t! The Stay-home directive resulting from the current Coronavirus crisis is hard on a lot of us with wanderlust. Are you like me — dreaming about your next trip?

In the meantime, we can look back on past trips when we could wander along a path in the middle of a summer’s day and explore the evolving view. On July 4, 2018 I was walking alone along the River Wear in Durham, England. I would have preferred to have a friend along, but my husband was working that day.

I came to this spot along the river where the afternoon sun lit Durham Cathedral up on the bluff as well as what appeared to be the mill house, which reflected in the river. The leafy trees near me even framed my image, and the clouds fell right into place as well. Today, nearly two years later, in May 2020, I’m channeling the peace and beauty of this day.

#durham, #durhamuk, #durhamcathedral, #wearriver, #wear, #view, #riverbank, #riverwalk, #landscape, #architecture, #bluesky, #clouds, #england, #storybook, #afternoonlight, #nikon
Midsummer’s greenery cushion the stately Durham Cathedral along the banks of the Wear River in England. How fortunate I was in this moment to enjoy the afternoon sunlight, a clear day and the foreground trees to frame my view of this historic architecture. I feel like I’m part of a storybook as I walk along the shady path.

What Ducklings?

As soon as Mama Muscovy Duck saw a photographer across the lake, she silently signaled her ducklings to hide beneath her. It amazed me to see all eight ducklings completely hidden underneath her feathers, while she confidently looked around as if to say, “what ducklings? I don’t see any ducklings.” In this sequence of photos, you can see the adorable fluffy chicks before they huddle together beneath Mama’s feathers.

#muscovyduck, #ducklings, #muscovy, #florida, #motherandchild, #wildlife, #nature, #spring, naplesflorida,
Two yellow chicks and one dark one hide under mother Muscovy Duck. Soon the rest will follow. Naples, Florida 2020.
#muscovy #muscovyduck, #duck, #ducklings, #florida, #nature, #wildlife
Muscovy Duck with ducklings. Native to Central and South America, the Muscovy Duck is an invasive species, but very common now in Florida. Note the adult’s distinctive red fleshy face. Many bird field guides do not include this duck.
#muscovy, #muscovyduck, #ducklings, #florida, #nature, #wildlife
All eight chicks have followed each other under the protective skirt of their mother. One duckling takes a moment to look at the “threat,” only a photographer about 30 meters away. Photo shot with 600 mm lens, and cropped.
#muscovy, #duck, #mother, #behavior, #protect, #ducklings, #hiding, #nature, #instinct, #maternal, #florida, #colorful
Mother Muscovy Duck, hiding all her ducklings under her feathers while she sits lakeside. Location is near my home in Naples, Florida, 2020.
#muscovyduck, #muscovy, #duck, #ducklings, #behavior, #wildlife, #nature, #florida, #lake, reflection
Mother Muscovy Duck hiding her 8 ducklings, reflected in the lake — still until the photographer leaves.