Questing for Beauty

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High Key Light. The tiny heart-shaped hole, intricate veins, and beautiful color captured my eye on a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Print available.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

My photography mentor, Shari Miller, shared this quote by Henry Miller yesterday.

In case you are wondering why I have a photography mentor, I have spent the last few months giving careful attention to the incredible and mysterious world of photography through The Arcanum: The Magical Academy of Artistic Mastery. The best way to describe the Arcanum is a fun cross between Hogwarts, a MMORPG, and an online course—all geared towards improving your own photography through peer and mentor feedback, access to tutorials and videos, and the discipline of committing to quests … I mean challenges. I have just completed Sphere 0 and after 10 levels, I have a few thoughts on the whole Arcanum experience.

Henry Miller’s quote would be a perfect motto for our cohort in the Arcanum. Shari has named us “The Cohort of Seers–seeing more of the beauty in the world, in others, and within ourselves.” And with her guidance, my peers and I are embracing a joyful experience of exploration and encouragement. We’ve been having a great time discussing intention, experimentation, color, texture, and having fun with photography. I have taken the opportunity and the space to push myself to try new things, think about my goals and the story I am trying to tell, and learn to find my voice and style. Our cohort is not afraid to experiment or discuss the philosophy behind and in our art. Shari has been a great leader in helping us to ask questions and think about emotion, mood–and borders.

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Through the Looking Glass. While on the driftwood beach at Jekyll Island, Shari’s words about borders and experimenting with mood and texture guided me to compose this other-worldly image. Print available.

While my experiences have certainly helped me improve my technique, both in composition and in processing, the most important areas of growth have been in the discipline of photography and the reflection on the images. For me, taking the time and patience to commit to improving and reflecting on my art has been enormous. I am somewhat competitive, and I love games and puzzles, so the structure of “challenges” is perfect for me! In meeting each challenge, I allow myself the time and focus to give care, attention, and space for growing my artistic voice. In a world filled with busy-ness and need, it has been helpful to allow myself this time and place for focusing on something that brings me joy and allows me to exercise my creativity.

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Grounded in Solitude. I’m not usually drawn to landscape shots, but mindful of my tendency towards busy-ness, I found peace in focusing on this quiet scene. Print Available.

The discipline of photography has provided the foundation, but much of my growth has also come through the reflective piece that Shari and my cohort provide. While we do talk about gear, and theory, and software, and technique, we also talk about emotion, mood, memory, story, beauty, inspiration, gratitude, perspective, and philosophy. My cohort is composed of people from around the world with different ideas, interests, and styles. Hearing their viewpoints and seeing their images and the stories behind their images, provides both inspiration and instruction.

As I begin Sphere 1, the next level in the Arcanum journey, I journey with a sense of gratitude for the space, people, and time to focus on seeing and creating beauty. This journey brings balance and light and reminds me of who I want to be.

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Starry Nights. The swirls and patterns in the driftwood reminded me of van Gogh’s painting.  This was such a joy to process and I experimented with several new techniques, layers, and colors before finally settling on this version. Print available.

 

 

Time to Put the Wheel back on the Wagon

We know. It’s been a while since a good, content-heavy post. Between our work and travels in 2015, we got a little bogged down like this farm equipment. But it’s time to put the wheel back on this wagon and start sharing more from our 2015 adventures as we look forward to even more exciting photography in 2016. This first batch is from our October trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stayed in the Cade’s Cove campground so we could be close to the action and the light. I think I had just finished some binge sessions playing Witcher III. The virtual explorations looking for herbs in farmhouses might have influenced my perspective and tone. At one point, we even saw a bulletin board and went looking for quests. 🙂

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I loved the mix of textures in the wood, the puddles after the rain, and the bits of metal on the hub. Print Available.

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Michelle loves texture, too, but she likes to get in closer than I do. 🙂

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Another mystical fantasy image. This was from our first night in Cade’s cove. I liked the cool gray clouds, but I went for a more other-worldly approach, adding some texture and purply-ness to the scene. Print Available.

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Michelle had everyone fooled. The whole park was full of people searching for bears. The people in the line of cars saw Michelle with a longish 90mm macro stalking this caterpillar. Everyone stopped and asked where the bear was. Print Available.

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Towards the end of the trip we decided to go chasing waterfalls. We decided to hike up to Laurel Falls in the rain (thank goodness for panchos). When we got there, we watched a couple climb the falls followed by a proposal. We ended up taking a couple of shots for the family who was watching from below (no pressure!). When they left we decided to play with some long exposures.

A Wild Time in the North Dakota Badlands

It’s been about a month, but we are finally around to processing some of our favorite photos of our Dakota adventure. The first  stop in North Dakota was Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where we encountered the “badlands” as well as some great wildlife. Here is one of our early views of the landscape:

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A black and white rendition of the North Dakota Badlands landscape. I’ve always been fascinated by sedimentary rock. I also could not keep from saying, “It’s sedimentary, my dear Watson,” to Michelle.

We also encountered our first bison of the trip while in the park. Here are a couple of portraits:

I love their orange eyes!

I love their orange eyes! Print Available.

Mmmm, snack time. Processed in Tonality Pro by MacPhun.

Mmmm, snack time. I processed all the monochrome images in this post using Tonality Pro by MacPhun.

One of the highlights of the trip, by far, were the feral horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We came upon this group of horses on our first morning drive of the loop road.

This was the first horse we came across. It seemed to keep a distance from the rest of the herd, thought there was one other gray horse with it.

This was the first horse we came across. It seemed to keep a distance from the rest of the herd, thought there was one other gray horse with it.

This colt was laying beside it's mother, having a snack on the grass.

This young horse was laying beside it’s mother, having a snack on the grass. Print Available.

The horse herd seemed to work together as a family unit.

The horse herd seemed to work together as a family unit. Print Available.

“Marching Orders.” Fed up with the loitering photographers, the herd decided to hike up the mountain for some alone time. Print Available.

A bit later we ran into a family of deer.

A bit later we ran into a family of deer.

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I wonder what these two prairie dogs were conspiring about. Print Available.

This was one of my first attempts at stitching a panorama. I made this photo out of about four or five individual shots. Print Available.

This was one of my first attempts at stitching a panorama. I made this photo out of about four or five individual shots. Print Available.

All images ©2015 by Garber Geektography

Please Excuse Us: We’ve Been Out Chasing Rainbows

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Michelle portrays us as the intrepid adventurers we are using her iPhone 5 and Snapseed 2.0. They just updated the app with a set of “grunge” filters right before she shot this image. It must have been fate.

Yes, yes. It has been a while since our last post. We have been image-mining, as they say, out on our Dakotas road trip for two weeks at the end of May. When we returned, I immediately began teaching a three-week intensive class while Michelle caught up on administrative work.

In the meantime, I hope my foodie picks over on the Instagram account have kept you entertained, if not hungry. I’ve been trying some new processing techniques on our landscape and nature photography, and have been quite overwhelmed by the amount of images we were able to bring back from our trip. I plan to spread those out over the next few weeks on the blog.

In the meantime, here are a few “in the field” images that we shared on Instagram and Facebook over the course of our trip, followed by something new as a preview of what’s to come. I processed all of the images below, except for the last one, using Snapseed 2.0.

Our first destination was to see our good friends Eric and Holley in St. Paul, Minnesota. Thanks to Eric for showing us around some of the chapels at Luther Seminary!

One of the benefits of camping is that I can still cook while on the road!

Here are our cameras and tripods being all cheesy as they try to capture the sunset in the northern area of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Benefit #2 of camping: tuckered doggies!

Of course, we don’t always have to cook. This was a refreshing peanut butter pie from Bobkat’s Purple Pie Place in Custer, SD.

For some reason my neck always hurts when I look at this photo. Checking out some of the waterfalls at Spearfish Canyon, SD.

This was on a fun day where we just ended up driving everywhere we could on some dirt roads in Wind Cave National Park, SD. Unmarked roads are the best!

In case you were wondering, rain + dirt = mud. Michelle getting down and dirty in the Badlands, SD.

We really loved the Badlands. I’m having a difficult time picking which images to process and share!

If my camera does yoga, I don’t have to, right?

For those of you who know Michelle, you know this was a major step! She’s not fond of bunnies! In other news, Wall Drug — whoa!

Our last stop was Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. This place was amazing and we have so many photos! We’ll try to spread them out over the next few months so you don’t get bored! This is a picture of the Desert Dome.

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A little preview of what’s to come. A magnificent double rainbow greeted us on our first night in the Badlands of South Dakota. Print Available.

All images are ©2015, Garber Geektography.

Wherever we May Roam: Tugaloo State Park

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A gorgeous red clay road through the canola field. Print Available.

Our second camping adventure took place in northeast Georgia at Tugaloo State Park, near the small town of Lavonia. Tugaloo

An osprey we encountered at

An osprey we encountered at Richard B. Russell State Park.

State Park is located on Lake Hartwell and within a short driving distance of several other state parks such as Richard B. Russell State Park, Victoria Bryant State Park, and Hart State Outdoor Recreation Area (two of which we visited).  We enjoyed driving through the small towns dotting the area and taking pictures of the canola fields in bloom.  We hopped over to Athens one day for lunch and stopped off at the outlet stores in Commerce on the way home, so there is plenty of variety in the area to explore. We didn’t see too many restaurants near the park, and everything seems to close up early, so be sure and pack your meals!

Sunrise over Lake Hartwell.

Sunrise over Lake Hartwell. This location was about twenty steps from our campsite.

Our campsite was a decent size, very level, and covered in gravel.  We were right on the water, near a small cove for boats, canoes, and jet skis.  The view was beautiful and it was very peaceful to listen to the water as we relaxed in the shade.  We both agreed it would have been more fun to be there with a boat or kayak, but the view was nice and we were able to walk along the beach, and the dogs had fun getting muddy.  We didn’t fish or try the water or the pool—too cold—but it looked like all of the kids were having fun!  We had a fire pit, concrete picnic table, water and electric hook-ups, and a nice, clean comfort facility just steps away. And we loved having a pull-though site!

Sunset near the amphitheater, a short walk from our campsite.

Sunset near the amphitheater, a short walk from our campsite.

The roads to the camp sites were more narrow and uneven than we had experienced before, and this campground was both larger and more crowded than our last experience, but we did arrive at the tail end of Spring Break.  There were a lot of kids and families there, but it was a fun, friendly experience overall. My only complaint would be the ENORMOUS light our neighbors left on all night (the same neighbors who played the radio well after quiet hours). Some friends of ours camped there the same weekend and their grandson had a ball playing with the other kids, swimming, etc. We saw plenty of dogs, kids whizzing by on bikes, and boats making waves in the lake.  It would not be the place I would recommend for peace and quiet, or nice long hikes, but it was a fun getaway and the landscape in the area is beautiful.

While I love wide angle landscape photos, I am beginning to see the different stories I can tell with the telephoto. Here is the same sunset on Lake Hartwell from , as Obi-Wan would say, "a different point of view."

While I love wide angle landscape photos, I am beginning to see the different stories I can tell with the telephoto. Here is the same sunset on Lake Hartwell from , as Obi-Wan would say, “a different point of view.”

Canola Road

As we were driving up I-85 to our faculty retreat at Lake Hartwell, we kept seeing these beautiful yellow fields in the distance and instantly wanted to know what they were. We saw a couple up close and found out that my guess of canola was on target.

This was the first close-up of a field we got. We loved the red barn in the background. The stalks were about 4-5 feet tall, so I had to use my tripod as a monopod to get some extra height. The dramatic sky cooperated, too. Print Available.

This was the first close-up of a field we got. We loved the red barn in the background. The stalks were about 4-5 feet tall, so I had to use my tripod as a monopod to get some extra height. The dramatic sky cooperated, too. Print Available.

After having a wonderful dinner, we rushed to Watson Mill Bridge for sunset. But even in our hurry, we couldn't pass up this Georgia red clay road bisecting these canola fields during golden hour. Michelle insisted I stop, and I think this is my favorite photo from the trip. Print Available.

After having a wonderful dinner, we rushed to Watson Mill Bridge for sunset. But even in our hurry, we couldn’t pass up this Georgia red clay road bisecting these canola fields during golden hour. Michelle insisted I stop, and I think this is my favorite photo from the trip. Print Available.

Don’t Follow the Lights!

Our time at Botany Bay Plantation in Edisto Beach, SC, brought us many surprises. The salt marshes were one type of landscape that we had not experienced, and we had a wonderfully foggy day to photograph them right after sunrise. I kept thinking of Gollum’s solemn warning to Frodo and Sam in the Dead Marshes: “Don’t Follow the Lights!” The fog helped me envision a more ethereal approach to these images, and I played a bit more with texture and color tones.

A pathway into the marshes. I wonder where it leads.

A pathway into the marshes. I wonder where it leads. Print Available.

This was the perspective that reminded me the most of the intrepid trio of Gollum, Frodo, and Sam. I gave it a greenish tinge to enhance the mood.

This was the perspective that reminded me the most of the intrepid trio of Gollum, Frodo, and Sam. I gave it a greenish tinge to enhance the mood. Print Available.

Some of the trees felt like they were creepily reaching towards the marshes, almost yearning to join their kin. I also loved how the fog shrouded the sun enough to be able to shoot into it for a different feel. It was "quite cool" the morning we were there, but  the feeling I went for here was of an oppressively humid heat.

Some of the trees felt like they were creepily reaching towards the marshes, almost yearning to join their fallen kin. I also loved how the fog shrouded the sun enough to be able to shoot into it for a different feel. It was “quite cool” the morning we were there, but the feeling I went for in post-processing was of an oppressively humid heat. Print Available.

A path into darkness. Would it be better to veer to the left and face the dead in the marshes or follow the path into the murky woods? I wonder if I might ask this tree. I played a bit with the colors in the sunlight. With the sun on the left, I toyed with the natural progression from warm to cool in the sky.

A path into darkness. Would it be better to veer to the left and face the dead in the marshes or follow the path into the murky woods? I wonder if I might ask this tree. I played a bit with the colors in the sunlight. With the sun on the left, I toyed with the natural progression from warm to cool in the sky. Print Available.

In addition to the skeletal branches stretching out over the marshes, there were single trees out in their midst. I wonder how those larger trees survived the  Battle of Dagorlad during the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

In addition to the skeletal branches stretching out over the marshes, there were single trees out in their midst. I wonder how those larger trees survived the Battle of Dagorlad during the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Print Available.

Afraid of a Little Rain?

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“Storm on the Mountain.” I spent most of the morning paying attention to the details and doing some pseudo-macro work. As we were leaving, though, I caught a glimpse of the rain cloud on top of the mountain and went into landscape mode. Another thing I learned about walking in the rain is that is the best time to catch some great fog and mist. I processed this as an HDR image while also overlaying some effects using the “Midnight” setting in Color Efex Pro. Print Available.

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Atlanta can be weird when it offers you a glimpse of Spring in the middle of Winter. I love the burst of color I saw in these little buds filled with rain drops. Print Available.

As many of you know, I’m teaching a course this semester called “Creation Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts.” I’m having a blast with the course and am learning a lot from my students. One of the plans for the course is to have intentional encounters with nature and to discover our own connection with it and with the divine.

Our first “experiential learning” session was Monday morning, and, of course, the forecast called for rain.
I debated whether or not to cancel, delay, or offer an independent learning session. The rain was fairly mild between 8:00 and 9:00, so I decided to go ahead with the plan.

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Michelle really liked the wispiness of this shot. Again, I was drawn to the water droplets on each of these shafts of long grass. Print Available.

Of course, when we all got there and emerged from our vehicles, the rain started a bit more in earnest. Luckily, I had read a column earlier in the morning that encouraged me to “think outside the box” even when doing theology. My friend, Carra Hughes Greer, challenged me with these words: “Maybe our quest for knowledge is a bit misguided. We see it as linear; seeking information and truth must lead to answers. Instead, maybe faith is about seeking truth through imagination, a process that is not linear and does not lead to black-and-white answers“(click the link for the full article). I’m so glad that we pressed on through the rain in order to practice mindfulness and a new way of thinking about God and practicing theology. It was a joy to see members of the class walking freely in the rain, using cell phones and cameras to record their encounters, or sitting under shelters with sketchpads and journals.

In conversations afterwards it became apparent that we all needed a jolt out of our patterns of normalcy. When rain threatens, normal people stay indoors. Normal people don’t think about a mindfulness walk at a bird sanctuary. But sometimes the spirit calls us to step out of normalcy and enter into a world of imagination.

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This was my favorite shot of the day. I’ve been watching a lot of Don Komarechka‘s macro work and have been fascinated with the refraction of light in water droplets. If you look at the largest drop towards the right, you can see the upside down image of Stone Mountain. Processed with Intensify Pro by MacPhun. Print Available.

 

All images ©2015 Garber Geektography.