Playing with Fire and Light at the Georgia Renaissance Festival

A couple of weeks ago we went with our niece, Sarah, to the Georgia Renaissance Festival. We try to make it out there at least once a year, and had some fun playing with light this time. There are still a few weeks left to go out to the festival, which closes on June 7. Here are some of the highlights of our day:

Gargoyle

This lovely gargoyle greeted guests at the Georgia Renaissance Festival.

Love the eyes on this gargoyle who was heckling visitors (in a fun way) as they entered the gates.

I love the eyes on this gargoyle, who was heckling visitors (in a fun way) as they entered the gates.

We quickly went to the dog trick show. This border collie had fun playing with medieval frisbees.

We rushed to the Dynamo Dogs show where Michelle captured this border collie playing with medieval frisbees.

Both the trainer and the dog were great at the show.

Both the trainer and the dog were great.

This rehabilitating owl's orange eyes can stare right through you. We love the Birds of Prey show at the festival.

This rehabilitating owl’s orange eyes can stare right through you. 

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We never miss the Birds of Prey show.

Prayers to the fiery serpents. Aaron Bonk with his flaming whips before the Birds of Prey show.

I like to call this “A Prayer to the Fiery Serpents.” Aaron Bonk with his flaming whips before the Birds of Prey show.

I love capturing fire entertainers. It does make me wish that they had some evening shows at the festival. This is from the Cirque du Todd show.

I love capturing fire entertainers. It does make me wish that they had some evening shows at the festival. This is from the Cirque du Todd show.

I caught the tail end of the joust when Michelle and Sarah were practicing their archery. I had some fun processing this with some new Lightroom tips I learned from Ron Clifford in my new cohort in The Arcanum. I used a combination of radial filters and adjustment brushes to direct the light to the main action of the scene.

I caught the tail end of the joust when Michelle and Sarah were practicing their archery. I had some fun processing this with some new Lightroom tips I learned from Ron Clifford in my new cohort in The Arcanum. I used a combination of radial filters and adjustment brushes to direct the light to the main action of the scene.

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.

Sacred Detail: The Completion and Dismantling of the Sand Mandala

After discovering the Tibetan practice of the Sand Mandala through the Emory-Tibet partnership last Monday, I visited the display daily, with the exception of Tuesday, to view the progress. You can read about my experience of the opening ceremony and line drawing here and my experience of viewing the construction of the initial stages of the mandala here.

Geshe Lobdang Tenzin Negi is a senior lecturer and the director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership. Here he is explaining the symbolism of the mandala.

Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi is a senior lecturer and the director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership. Here he is explaining the symbolism of the mandala.

I choose the word “construction” intentionally, as I learned throughout my experience that the monks envision the mandala in three dimensions. It is a model of the cosmos and resembles the structure of a temple or shrine. At the heart of this particular mandala is the Buddha of Compassion, Arya Avalokiteshvara. According to the lecturer at the closing ceremony, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, the devotees contemplate the Buddha of Compassion in order to cultivate an attitude of compassion towards all sentient beings. They contemplate how compassion can manifest in holistic medicine and spiritual knowledge and also to inform ethical behavior and the resolution of political tensions.

During the closing ceremony and dismantling, the monks chant prayers of compassion. The dismantling conveys the impermanence of all things, and there is a mixture of emotions, particularly from the unfamiliar onlookers on the dismantling of the exquisite artwork. The monks distributed some of the sand to the spectators, but carried most of it in a sacred urn which they traditionally pour out into a flowing body of water that carries their compassionate prayers to the entire cosmos. After a procession around Emory University, they carried the urn to a creek behind the Michael C. Carlos Museum to complete the ritual.

If you ever want to view variations on the ritual, there are several videos of these monks performing the ceremonies online. These are also the same monks featured in episode 7 of season 3 of House of Cards. We, of course, had to binge watch the season in order to see the brilliant cinematography of the construction and closing rituals. I even used the images and my experiences in my “Creation Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts” course this morning to talk about analogous thoughts of impermanence in Ecclesiastes and temple construction in Ezekiel.

Here are my final images of the series.

The inner sanctum of the Sand Mandala. The Buddha of Compassion is at the center of the structure. Representations of other deities surround the center, places on eight petals of the lotus flower.

The inner sanctum of the Sand Mandala. The Buddha of Compassion is at the center of the structure. Representations of other deities surround the center, placed on eight petals of the lotus flower.

The monks putting the finishing touches on the nearly completed mandala.

The monks putting the finishing touches on the nearly completed mandala.

A detail shot of the outer courtyard of the mandala. I was impressed with the detail in the figures of various creatures.

A detail shot of the outer courtyard of the mandala. I was impressed with the detail in the figures of various creatures and the two-toned swirls of clouds.

Another perspective on the details of the outer sphere.

Another perspective on the details of the outer sphere. Is that a monkey in the lower left quadrant?

A monk lays the initial lines of the outer lotus petal ring.

A monk lays the initial lines of the outer lotus petal ring.

Another perspective on the lotus petal ring.

Another perspective on the cloud creation.

The filigree on the outermost ring represents the flames of wisdom that purify the one who enters into the mandala.

The filigree on the outermost ring represents the flames of wisdom that purify the one who enters into the mandala. The flames consume all negativities and ignorance.

The three outer rings surround the mandala. The outmost ring represents flames of various colors. The black and yellow ring represent a three dimensional cosmic dome that surrounds the mandala. The innermost of the three rings consists of lotus petal designs.

The three outer rings surround the mandala. The outmost ring represents flames of various colors. The black and yellow ring represents a three dimensional cosmic dome that surrounds the mandala. The innermost of the three rings consists of lotus petal designs.

The beginning of the dismantling ceremony. The dismantling involves the same precision and contemplation as the construction.

The beginning of the dismantling ceremony. The dismantling involves the same precision and contemplation as the construction.

©2015 Garber Geektography. These images are not for sale or for any type of commercial use in accordance with the wishes of the Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc.

Sacred Geometry: Tibetan Week at Emory University

A funny thing happened on the way to a field trip. On Monday, I took my class on “Creation Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts” to the Michael C. Carlos Museum to see the various exhibits on creation motifs from Native American, African, African American, and ancient Near Eastern traditions. Little did I know that we would be going on the opening day of Tibet Week at Emory University. Much to my pleasant surprise, the opening ceremony of the Mandala Sand Painting was taking place after the end of our tour. While most of my students needed to return to our campus for other classes, I took the opportunity to stick around, observe, and photograph the event.

The presentation began with words of introduction followed by some chanting by the monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc. Following the chanting, the monks proceeded to lay out the line drawing for the Mandala Sand Painting. The monks are completing the sand painting over the course of several days and the process is open for viewing from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. the remainder of the week. I plan to go back later in the week to view the progress, and hopefully, the completed result. In the meantime, here are a few of my photos from the opening ceremony. During the process, I thought often of my mother, who is a retired geometry teacher who still practices her love of geometry through quilting. I thought also of my sister, an engineer and all-around crafty genius who loves nothing more than getting out her rulers, protractors, and compasses to create cool things. I have been contemplating the creation of art as a spiritual practice by the monks, my family members, and others all week.

The beautiful, colorful sand, meticulously prepared by the monks.

The beautiful, colorful sand, meticulously prepared by the monks.

The monks open the ceremony and bless the site of the mandala through their chanting.

The monks open the ceremony and bless the site of the mandala through their chanting.

They carefully measured each of the initial lines in order to create perfect symmetry in the line drawing.

They carefully measured each of the initial lines in order to create perfect symmetry in the line drawing.

They used the compasses to both measure and draw curved lines as a part of the design.

They used the compasses to both measure and draw curved lines as a part of the design.

They snapped chalk strings to create many of the straight lines.

They snapped chalk strings to create many of the straight lines.

Using smaller compasses, they continued to add guidelines for the full drawing.

Using smaller compasses, they continued to add guidelines for the full drawing.

There were many lines running through the mandala at precisely measured intervals.

Many lines intersected each other at precisely measured intervals.

They use rulers and chalk pencils to fill in the lines created by the string.

They used rulers and chalk pencils to fill in the lines created by the string.

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All images ©2015 Garber Geektography

Photo of the Day: Not so Killer Croc

The following is a crocodile that my family encountered on our River Wallace boat tour in Belize. I used this croc to play a bit more with the forthcoming texture pack by Karen Hutton and Tanya Wallis. I found a texture that contained a cool/warm tone split that conveniently ran along the same line as the fallen tree. I was going for a crocodile in Dagobah feel with this one.

Here is the croc as I processed it without adding textures.

Here is the croc as I processed it without adding textures. I used all the normal processing tools I normally use to try to enhance the texture of the croc’s scales.

Here is the croc as I added a two tone texture from Karen Hutton's and Tanya Wallis' forthcoming texture pack. The texture had a nice split tone from warm to cold that conveniently mimicked the line of the croc on the fallen tree. I like how the minty portion of the two-tone gave the background the Dagobah-like feel I was trying to suggest.

Here is the croc as I added a two tone texture from Karen Hutton’s and Tanya Wallis’ forthcoming texture pack. The texture had a nice split tone from warm to cold that conveniently mimicked the line of the croc on the fallen tree. I like how the minty portion of the two-tone gave the background the Dagobah-like feel I was trying to suggest. I also cloned out the distracting branches on the left side. The warm center of the texture, coupled with the vignetting also helps draw the eye into the subject more.