Nature’s Mysteries

Sometimes I can’t figure out why Nature develops the way it does, from the big questions (How was the Grand Canyon carved?) to the little ones (why did this tree grow like this?)

Why did this tree grow with a twisted trunk? From a hike in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

Nature’s mysteries keep us coming back to explore some more, and keep us reading and wondering why. I’m always impressed when I see “opportunistic plants” growing in the desert from tiny cracks in the rock where rainwater pools.

Full Moon Sets at Sunrise

If you visit someplace scenic like a National Park for the Full Moon, you can look forward to a Moonset with gentle morning light on untouched Nature. That’s what we found on the morning of May 20 in Joshua Tree National Park. The Full Moon (95% full) looks brightest when the sky is still a bit dark, and a little bit of light on the landscape allows you to see the amazing landscape in the foreground. You will only have a few minutes to balance the darkness and the light for optimum effect.

The rising sun has lit the distant mountains and clouds but not the Joshua Tree in the foreground, which appears almost in silhouette. The low light reveals some detail in the highly textured tree, but makes it a strong visual element in the composition where the moon is the “star.” May 2019

French Formal Gardens, outside France.

The French may have designed the first formal gardens in the 17 century, but many garden designers around the world emulate the style today. Visit the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh for the Spring Flower Show to enjoy the symmetry of the flower beds, bursting with colorful tulips.

Order, rationality, grandeur and symmetry of the 17 century French garden: find it at Phipps, 2019.
Circular tulip bed at Phipps Conservatory, seen through a fish-eye lens, 2017.

Who started this trend? Andre Le Notre designed the formal gardens at the Palace of Versailles from 1662 to 1700. I’m sure you have visited many beautiful formal gardens in your home town or in your world travels. I would love to hear about your favorites.

Mother’s Day Gifts

Mother’s Day is coming up on May 12, and it’s time for all of us to think of a special kindness for a mother, grandmother or special lady in our lives. My aunt who never married was a special person in my life, so she deserved and well appreciated some TLC on Mother’s Day.

Fresh flowers are a wonderful gift especially in Spring, when perennial plants are just starting to bloom again, awakening our own senses and inspiring us to linger outdoors. So are the gifts that preserve the delicate beauty of nature, such as photographs.

I won’t be braving the unpredictable Spring weather at Sewickley’s May Mart this year, but I am happy to fill requests for notecards, tiles and prints of my varied portfolio of tulips, butterflies and other nature photographs. Just drop me an email to share with me your ideas. Let’s make something beautiful and share the love!

Orange tulips in the foreground are emphasized in this image with a shallow depth of field. Can you reach out and touch them? Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA, 2019.

Notre Dame de Paris: Rose Windows Survived the Fire

If you watched the television coverage the catastrophic fire in the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris, the interior of the Cathedral looked like an inferno. As the burning spire collapsed inside the nave, the heat must have been intense. Somehow, miraculously, the famous stained glass rose windows from the 13 century have survived, according to news reports today.

The rose windows are certainly one of the most beautiful elements in the elegant 850-year-old Cathedral. I photographed the North and South windows during my last visit to Notre Dame of Paris on November 17, 2018.

The North Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, built in 1250, has survived the 2019 fire.
The South Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, built in 1260, stands over 60′ tall. It has survived the April 15, 2019 fire, according to news reports today 4/17/19.

These images, shot with a Sony mirrorless camera aIIr7, show detail one might enjoy through binoculars on site. The full resolution version of these images are available for sale on my website (in the Paris gallery), and can be printed at 16 x 20″ at 300dpi. Since I first laid eyes on these windows, as a college student more than 40 years ago, I have been fascinated by their intricacy, artistry and beauty. Take a close look yourself.

The rose window on the West facade, behind the historic organ, has also survived according to reports.

Notre Dame Cathedral: Crown of Thorns Chapel

No one would have predicted the catastrophic fire at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday. Millions of people around the world have visited the iconic, historic and major religious site, and I imagine that millions watched the fire on television with feelings of horror and grief. We are all immensely grateful that much of the stone construction survives, and that the French are committed to rebuilding — replacing historic 800-300 year old craftsmanship with today’s. A reconstructed Cathedral won’t be the same, but we can’t leave Paris without its heart.

I have visited Paris six times, and I plan to revisit my photos from all of those trips. Most recently, I walked through Notre Dame late in the day on November 17, 2019. The security line stretched across the plaza, and the interior was packed with people, but we walked the the perimeter in the side aisles, and I took photos of the two Rose windows and the Crown of Thorns Chapel behind the main altar.

Crown of Thorns Chapel in Notre Dame Cathedral on 17 November 2018. Copyright by Catherine Kelly of USA. Prints available at http://www.cathykellyphotography.com.

My Sony mirrorless camera takes amazing images in very low light. Of course, I was not using a tripod in the Cathedral, so I set the camera for ISO 10,000 to hand hold it. It is ironic that my photo of the Crown of Thorns Chapel included a small fire extinguisher in the lower left corner.

The image shown here in this blog is lower resolution, so it will load quickly on your computer or mobile device. The full resolution image will be uploaded to my website and available for purchase. It can be printed 26.7″ x 11.6″ at 300 dpi (recommended). Please keep in mind that this image is protected by U.S. Copyright law, which means it can be purchased from Cathy Kelly, but it should not be copied and distributed without permission/purchase. If you wish to share this image, you are most welcome to share a link to this blog. Follow my blog, please, if you would like to see more images of Notre Dame Cathedral in years past. My next post will feature the beautiful Rose windows, which were destroyed in this tragic fire.

Our hearts are with the brave first responders, the French, the Roman Catholics, the tourists who visited and held Notre Dame in their hearts and the art historians who revered the Cathedral. We all mourn together.

What do you see in the Hall of Mirrors?

It’s impossible to visit the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles without feeling a sense of awe toward the history that was made here. First of all, it is visually dazzling with 17 floor to ceiling arched mirrors reflecting the light of 17 windows of equal size. The gold leaf and the baroque paintings that decorate the walls and ceiling date to 1678 and the reign of Louis XIV, before the French Revolution.

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A glimpse of the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, France, witness to history.

Beyond the architecture and the stunning visual effect of the space, one must reflect on the history made here through the centuries. “Within the hall, the German Empire was declared in 1871 (Deutsche Reichsgründung)[1] and the Treaty of Versailles signed by the victorious powers of World War I in 1919.”  (Source: Wikipedia).