Nearing sunset, Lake Crescent

Nearing sunset, Lake Crescent

“Some of my favorite definitions of wealth include the number of sunsets the family sees each year.”
— Mary Pipher, The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families

On two of my evenings at Nature Bridge, I took the time to walk to the Lake Crescent Lodge to watch the sunset.  These moments, and my early mornings on the dock waiting for sunrise, most closely approached what I expected from the retreat — time to settle, sit still, and quiet my thoughts, and rediscover my groundedness in the world.

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While painting was my personal focus for these days away, I was very happy with the photographs I took, too.  I got so many good ones.

It was perhaps a bit jarring for my colleagues on retreat to see me on my iPad so frequently, but I use this technology to help me manage my photographing work.  I took over 300 photos while I was at Nature Bridge, and I have learned that it is overwhelming to edit and caption so many photos at the end of a trip.  So I use my iPad as a handy tool to upload, edit, and caption my photos in small batches as I go along.  So for me, this was not a retreat from the tentacles of technology.  But I can see why people might wonder why I was on my computer so frequently when I was surrounded by all the natural beauty of Olympic National Park.  Perhaps watching me made visible all the time and effort, hidden from viewers, that I put into my photography and this blog.

One of my new friends asked me how much time I spend on the computer every day.  I suppose I am a bit embarrassed and a bit defensive about how much time I do find myself looking into a screen.  More time than I care to admit.  But I don’t have a cell phone, so I am not tethered in quite the same way as millions of other people.  I don’t have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest accounts.  But I do depend on my iPad for email and for uploading and editing photos.  So, yes, I am on the computer a lot.

She also asked me why I take so many photos.  Well, that’s a good question, too.  I take photos because I love to photograph!  I think I am good at it.  It gives me pleasure to share my images with readers of my blog.  But most important, I suppose, is that — like drawing and painting — when I look with a photographer’s eye, I see more attentively, and that gives me a deeper appreciation for the world.

These words of Frederick Franck about drawing, apply for me to photography as well:

“SEEING/DRAWING is not a self-indulgence, a ‘pleasant hobby,’ but a discipline of awareness, of UNWAVERING ATTENTION to a world which is fully alive.  It is not the pursuit of happiness, but stopping the pursuit and experiencing the awareness, the happiness, of being ALL THERE.”
— The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation

While being on retreat did not turn out to be as contemplative an experience as I had expected, I do appreciate being prompted to think about the choices I am making to spend time with my camera or paintbrush.  It’s always good to look at habits and decide whether to continue and recommit, go deeper (to the exclusion of other activities), or let go and find new pursuits.  I’m still committed.

 

 

Impressionistic Photography

November 28, 2015

Foggy morning, Columbia River

Foggy morning, Columbia River

I’m finding it fun to experiment more with my photos, taking time to make a beautiful impression from some of my duds, those photos that I would ordinarily consider too blurry to keep.  I use an app called Photoshop Express to edit my images — crop, tint, color saturation.  I try to create more expressive, subjective, abstract images.  I am pleased with the painterly quality of the resulting photos.  Don’t you agree that they are beautiful?

This is a more natural view of the Columbia River, the morning after Thanksgiving, as the early morning fog was dissipating.

This is a more natural view of the Columbia River, the morning after Thanksgiving, as the early morning fog was dissipating.

This is a more impressionistic take on the same view.

This is a more impressionistic take on the same view.

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As much as I yearn to find time to paint, I still love to take photos.  And it feels very satisfying to push myself in new ways with my photography.  Experimenting makes me feel alive.  I don’t think I will ever set aside my camera for my paintbrushes.  I want time to play around with both.

 

What’s Next?

September 23, 2015

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I have completed one year’s worth of Wordless Wednesdays, and I am ready to look around for another project.  The weekly exercise of making 12 photographic views of a subject was fun.  Sometimes I had to stretch myself to find enough interesting perspectives, but usually I had little difficulty with coming up with 12 photos that I liked and wanted to share.  Maybe I needed to set the bar higher  — 20 or 50 views — to begin to break any creative barriers.

Digital photography makes taking multiple photos of a single image or theme quite easy.  I think going forward I will remember not to settle for the first “easy” shots, but to keep on photographing from different angles and perspectives.

I’m not sure how much I’ve grown as a photographer this past year.  I wonder why I think growth has to come from discomfort or stretching past habitual ways of doing things.  I sometimes think that if I find photography easy or natural, then I must be settling for mediocre shots.  Can creativity actually be easy?

 

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Leaves, staggered like wings awaiting take-off

Leaves, staggered like wings awaiting take-off, Volunteer Park Conservatory, Seattle

“If one decides upon the medium of photography, why attempt to soar in the realms of the imagination? . . . There are plenty of the subtleties of life right on the earth, which need delicate interpretation.”
—  Imogen Cunningham, After Ninety

” . . . a photographer who looks out on a scene.  At one moment it is what anyone else might notice, but almost imperceptibly through some reframing of it — some moment of it, some combination of it with something else, some perception of it — it becomes a picture.”
— David Travis, At the Edge of the Light:  Thoughts on Photography & Photographers, on Talent & Genius

Self-portrait: my reflection in a shop window

When I was walking in Pioneer Square recently, my gaze was arrested by my reflected images in the shop windows.  I stopped to photograph these ghostly mirages.  I have few photos of myself because usually I’m the one behind the camera.  So these shots were a fun departure from the norm.  I felt like a figment of my own imagination.

Reflected image

I like the ghostly effect

A ghost among the candied apples!

 

 

 

Walking down the quad at the University of Washington during cherry blossom time

This post is a gift of armchair travel to my readers who do not live in Seattle.  If you are a resident of Seattle, I urge you to go to the University of Washington to view the cherry blossoms.  Now!  The lovely Yoshino cherry trees are full of cascading blossoms and I’m afraid the peak will be over soon.  You really don’t want to miss this sight.

I’ve enjoyed hanami in Seattle, viewing these cherry blossoms, for many years.  The blooming trees are so picturesque, but it is getting harder and harder to make fresh and interesting photographs of the spectacle.  I try to bring new eyes, but it’s still challenging.  This year, I decided to play around with black and white and also with some of the photo manipulation edits on Picasa.  I’ll share some of these experiments at the end of this post.  Enjoy!

Dappled light

Viewing the cherry trees through magnolia branches

Blossoming Yoshino cherry trees encircle the quad at the University of Washington

Dense clusters of blossoms

Cherry trees with bench

Cherry blossom, blue sky

A photographer's wonderland

An inverted world, reflections in a puddle

Dome and cherry trees, U of W campus

Child with fallen blossoms

Building family memories

Snapping photos of the cherry blossoms

The quad was a great place for people-watching.

Single branch back-lit by the peek-a-boo sun

Distinctive clusters of Yoshino cherry blossoms

Cherry blossom viewing at the University of Washington

The quad seen through the branches of a flowering magnolia tree

Under the cherry trees

Cherry blossoms seen through the skeleton of a magnolia tree

Lamp post under the cherry trees

Cherry trees on the quad, University of Washington campus

Under a cherry tree

Bike racks with cherry trees

Yoshino cherry blossoms

Line of Yoshino cherry trees in soft focus

Magnolia and cherry blossoms with inverted colors

Cherry trees with Lomo-ish effect

Bark and blossoms with Lomo-ish effect

Cherry blossoms with inverted color effect

Looking through magnolia branch, with softened effect

 

 

 

 

Sounder Commuter Train between Tacoma and Seattle

On Thursday my friend Carol and I went to the Tacoma Art Museum and decided to make the journey more adventuresome by using only public transportation.  The Sounder Commuter Train runs twice in the morning and twice in late afternoon, during peak commuting times, between Seattle and Tacoma.  We didn’t want to spend too many hours in Tacoma during the middle of the day, so we decided to take the 594 bus from downtown Seattle to Tacoma ($3.00 fare), and then return on the Sounder.  This turned out to be a good plan for a fun day trip.

The 594 bus dropped us off on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma within a block of the Tacoma Art Museum.  The museum had a special 75-cent admission on Thursday in celebration of its 75th anniversary.  It is a gem of a museum, and the current exhibits featured Japanese woodblock prints, some Impressionist paintings, and “Mighty Tacoma:  A Photographic Portrait,” in addition to an ongoing exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass baskets.

Dale Chihuly's 40 Niijima glass floats on Stone Wave by Richard Rhodes, Tacoma Art Museum

Detail of one of Dale Chihuly's glass baskets

One of my favorite Japanese woodcut prints, Night Rain at Oyama by Tokokuni II, Tacoma Art Museum

Special photographic exhibit, Tacoma Art Museum

Mighty Tacoma: Photographic Portrait, Tacoma Art Museum

Interactive exhibit. The museum's photographer-in-residence took pictures of patrons to add to the Mighty Tacoma exhibit.

Picture Yourself Here, interactive exhibit, Tacoma Art Museum

A Tacoma artist-in-residence takes photographs of patrons for the exhibit.

After a delightful museum visit, Carol and I ate a leisurely lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, walked through the University of Washington Tacoma campus, and then caught the free link (light rail) from the museum district to the Tacoma Dome Station.  There we walked across the street to the Sounder station where we caught the commuter train back to Seattle ($4.75 fare).  We enjoyed a relaxed ride with the recurring sound of the train whistle reminding us that this was quite a different journey than driving down I-5.

The Sounder approaches the Tacoma depot.

Interior of the Sounder Commuter Train (free wi-fi, bathrooms, luggage racks)

Flower Photographer

May 6, 2010

“Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual.”
     — Edward Weston

Pale yellow iris

I never set out to be a flower photographer, but when I review my body of work from the past year, I realize that nearly one-third of my photographs are of flowers.  This was an unconscious choice on my part.  I set out to record my life through the four seasons of a year, and given the lushness of the Seattle landscape, my eye was naturally drawn to the ever-changing newest blooms.

I think my photographer’s eye has been influenced by Georgia O’Keeffe, one of my favorite painters whose work includes many, many close-up paintings of flowers.  I’ve savored many books about her art over the years, have visited her home in Abiquiu (which is now a museum), and have been to a couple of exhibits of her work.  It’s very possible that what I love about her flower paintings is what I try to capture in my photos.  I am drawn to the curving lines, patterns, and colors within a flower.  The abstractions please me.

Flowers are also ideal models.  It’s easy to secure their cooperation.  They pose so gracefully.  And they don’t require model releases.

I haven’t yet tired of taking flower photos.  I’m curious to see how this year’s photos will differ from last year’s.  I expect you’ll be seeing more of them in this blog.

One flower photographer whom I discovered last year, Jonathan Singer, now has a beautiful book out of his flower photographs.  It’s called Botanica Magnifica.  It was interesting to me to see that he did not always photograph the “perfect” bloom; you can see blemishes and tiny brown spots on some of the flowers.  Here is an example of his work from the book:

Jonathan Singer's Iris "Jean Marie" from Botanica Magnifica