Impact

DSC05238

Last week, I invited my “Creation Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts” class to participate in a mindfulness exercise. After reading Psalm 8 and discussing the tension between human significance and insignificance in the natural order, I asked them to go on a silent meditative walk for twelve minutes, taking special note of nature’s persistence even in the midst of an urban setting. I asked them to find an object, animal, sound, or smell that grabbed their attention as they also took note of how their own body felt during the exercise. For many in the class it was a much needed pause at the end of the first week back at school.

During the reflection time, one student noticed the ants on blades of grass while another compared the movement of cars beyond the large green space on campus to ants, busily running across the tree branch of a road. One student collected acorns while another marveled at the vastness of the sky.

As for me, I took the time to walk behind a building on campus where I rarely tread and discovered a large tree with four strong trunks extending towards the sky in a circle. I embraced my wacky professor persona and climbed in between the trunks, leaning on one while propping my feet up on another. I took the time to observe the textures in the bark and the structure of the branches. As I was exploring various knots in one of the trunks, I discovered this nail and immediately wanted to know its story. Why was it there? Did it serve a purpose? Was it there to tie of a string? To hold up a notice? Did someone just feel the need to hammer a nail in the knot of the tree? I took a few snaps of it with my iPhone, but sometimes an iPhone is not enough. So, on my way into work this morning, I brought my macro lens and handheld led light and explored the story of the nail further, resulting in the image above. I still have many questions for that nail, but our conversations leave me wondering again about the significance and insignificance of humankind, our impact on the natural world, and nature’s persistence in spite of us.

Stages of a Marigold

We planted a container garden last week, partly to grow some delicious herbs and peppers, and partly to get us outside a bit more when we are at home. We are also learning a lot about how to grow and the care that gardens need. One of the things we learned is about companion planting, and that having flowers in your herb/veggie garden helps keep pests at bay. So we planted some marigolds in various containers, and I had a bit of fun with our macro lens this evening. Here are some shots of Marigold flowers in various stages. Prints are available if you click the images.

DSC04468-EditDSC04467-EditDSC04457-Edit

 

Questing for Beauty

DSC00184-Edit-3-Edit-Edit.jpg

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.

DSC01206-2-Edit-2-Edit.jpg

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.

DSC01254-2-Edit-Edit-Edit

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.

DSC01209-2-Edit-Edit

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. 🙂

DSC00366_HDR-Edit-Edit

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

DSC09719

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

DSC00223-Edit

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.

DSC09783

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.

DSC00410-Edit

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.

World Lion Day

I was busy photographing some lion cubs at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium when I heard this massive roar behind me. It was lunchtime for this young male lion, and he certainly let the whole area know. I was fortunate enough to fire off a few photos for a stunning portrait session. I just love the deep gold of this lion’s eye. Lion imagery is so important in the texts I interpret, and simply visiting the local zoo from time to time helps give me a deeper appreciation for this creature.