This unusual cactus made me smile. With arms pointing horizontally north, south, east, west and a few other ways in between, I expected to see place names and distances written. ” It might say, “Miami – 103 miles,” or “Key West – 90 miles,” and “Cancun – 468 miles.”
I guess I’m more accustomed to cacti of other shapes like the saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert or the Cholla “Teddy Bear” Cactus of the high desert in Joshua Tree National Park. Perhaps you know the prickly pear cactus or the barrel cactus from your hikes in the Southwest United States. Say hello to the Florida Semaphore Cactus, or the Consolea Corallicola.
Christopher Plummer, the iconic actor who played Captain von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” celebrated the simple goodness of an Alpine flower in his touching song, “Edelweiss.” (Sadly, CP died this week at age 91, but he left us gifts that will live on for generations.) In ” The Sound of Music,” the purity of a loving marriage, a close family, a father singing to his children and a tiny wildflower stand in contrast to the rigid, militaristic, powerful, cruel, violent and murderous culture of Nazi Germany.
Sometimes I wonder if we have learned from history, or if we are doomed to repeat it. Take a moment to look at these sunlit orchids, and to think about what is good.
As a photographer, I’m always attracted to a scene that shows a path, because my mind questions, “Where will this path lead?” In this infrared photograph, the scene looks quite mysterious. A line of stepping stones provide a solitary path across a dark pond to a tiny Asian temple.
I feel a celebration of sunshine in the golden foliage and deep blue sky. The deliberate path to the little shrine is an invitation to personal meditation. How does this image speak to you?
What are your weekend plans? During COVID times, we need to choose an activity that is both safe and restorative. My husband and I are taking walks.
Depending on where you live and what climate you have, you might be walking in the snow, in the city, in the woods, the park or something else. What’s in your neighborhood? In Florida, we are often walking along the edge of a lake. In late afternoon, we find a walk in Nature to be restorative. Along the edge of the lake, we observe the colors and reflections of dusk.
Getting out to photograph nature in 2020 has been challenging. I’ve become better acquainted with the parks near my home than ever before, but last week was different. My husband and I drove to New York City for a family visit. Seeing the family after a long wait was terrific, but it was also fun to visit the New York Botanical Garden and within it, the tropical plants in the beautiful Enid Haupt Conservatory.
Walking through the Haupt Conservatory, we were surrounded by ferns, palm trees, an assortment of cacti and lots of unfamiliar and varied green plants. Since it wasn’t crowded at all, we could take our time, and I could take photos!
Sunshine streamed through the windows at high noon, so conditions were perfect for Infrared Photography — my new creative pursuit. With a Sony a6300 camera converted to see only Infrared light and part of the visible light spectrum, only above 590 nanometers, I captured a dozen or so images. It was fun to have a fresh subject to shoot, and some new infrared images to process.
Here is one of my Conservatory images of (visibly green) foliage looking quite different in infrared.
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.
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.
Are you finding ways to exercise your creativity during Isolation? I hope I can inspire you to play a little. Of course, first things come first: we pray, we clean, we prepare meals, we help our neighbors, we work remotely, we stay in touch over the Internet, we catch up on our sleep, we read, we exercise and then we do it all over again.
But for the first time in a long time, the rat race has paused. You can actually be patient when driving a car. You can smile and say hello to strangers you pass outside. You can reflect about life and how to live a better life when normalcy returns. And you now have time to be creative. It’s okay to amuse yourself — draw, write, cook — whatever pursuit suits you.
I have been experimenting with my Lensball, which I ordered in December, but have been too busy doing everything else until now. It is a carefully manufactured and polished spherical prism. When you take a photo of it, the image you see is reflected on the back and then the front of the sphere and it appears upside down. Don’t let this stop you. You can always invert the image in photo editing software if you need to. There are endless creative possibilities. (You just have to be very careful to keep the lens ball out of strong direct sunlight, as it heats up in about 2 seconds and can burn your fingers!) You can guess how I discovered this outdoors in southwest Florida.
“Alligator Nursery” are two words you don’t normally see together! This mother American Alligator owns this territory — has been lounging on this ledge for years, so it is no surprise that she has made this private corner the nursery for her babies. How many baby alligators can you spot in this photograph?
Mother gator tries to protect her young from predators, which include adult male alligators. Dad gator doesn’t hesitate to snack on the children.
This close-up of Mom Gator and four baby gators reminds me of the advice given to human mothers of newborns, “When baby sleeps, you should sleep.”
When visiting Florida, keep your distance from any alligator you see and don’t walk close to the edge of any lake or pond, for alligators are dangerous to humans and their pets. If the alligator is hungry, it will strike very fast without warning.
I always try to be open to a new way of seeing things. I had climbed to the top of the Vessel in Hudson Yards and taken photographs from many different angles. I was finished, and started to descend the stairs when this reflection caught my eye. Oh! I’m not finished.
If you viewed my previous blogs about Hudson Yards and the Vessel, you have an overview of the Vessel from the outside and from the top looking down inside.
Interested in visiting the Vessel for yourself? Take the New York City subway 7 train to the western terminus at Hudson Yards. Buy your tickets online ahead of time.