Category Archives: Photo Journal

Pond Walking in July

Standard

Those seven ponds my husband’s grandfather made way back when are a treasure.  There is always something to notice each time I take a walk around them. We’ve had some incredibly hot weather until just a few days ago, and I haven’t walked around the ponds since July 6.  Today, I made myself get out and stroll around with the camera. 

I thought about the colors I usually see this time of year—green, light green, lighter green. Oh, there’s some green, and maybe a little darker green.  Many of the wildflowers have stopped blooming for the season.  I had to look.

The crepe myrtles are in full bloom.  I love the delicate blossoms.  They look so fragile.

IMG_6678

I’m not always sure of the names of the various trees in my backyard.  Somehow, it never seems important to know, but I wish I knew what tree these beautiful red leaves belong to. These remind me that fall will be coming in just a couple of months.

IMG_6685

I am no flower gardener, but I do love wildflowers.  These purple beauties are all over the place around the ponds.

IMG_6686 

A neighbor farms a small field next to Gramps’s pond, and right now the field is fallow.  These beauties are all through the field.

IMG_6710

And the butterflies!  I wish I had kept count.  I know I saw two black and blue ones on the dam of the Big Pond (yes, that’s the “name” given to the pond—each one of the seven has a specific name), but they wouldn’t be still long enough for me to snap some pictures.  The butterflies below did oblige me, though.  I just wish I had the longer zoom lens with me for these shots.

IMG_6715

IMG_6716

IMG_6720

There is so much beauty in the world.

This Place, and Seeing Something New

Standard

This morning, I took a chance.  It’s overcast, a nearly 50% chance of storms, possibly with severe winds, thunder, lightning, and all that can accompany a summer storm (or two). It’s humid, the kind that feels like one is wearing the air.  But I took a chance and walked around the ponds with the camera.  I “fixed” the problem of the distortions when I downloaded them with the card reader.  The problem wasn’t the camera, but the reader itself.  So, I bought a new one, and that made a difference.  Of course, that means I won’t be buying a new camera anytime soon!

I’m also reacquainting myself with my gear.  Today, I used my 50mm f/1.8 prime.  And I opened the aperture all the way!  I love the blurry backgrounds with the 50/1.8. I also reacquainted myself with the idea of contemplative photography.  Oh, I know, we use the verb contemplate to mean to think deeply about something, but to practice contemplatively photography, I went out with as open a mind as I could—considering that I needed to avoid two things:  snakes and fire ants.  I’m still feeling the effects of the fire ant attack from Tuesday’s walk at the lake! I wanted to see this place where I live.

I don’t know how many times I have walked around the ponds in the last thirty-five years. The paths are familiar.  I know where the oak branches grow out over the big pond, where the mimosa blooms beside Gramps’s, where the Leons (Junior and Senior) plant wheat or corn, where the blackberries are growing and ripening (even though I think the deer have already devoured the ripe ones).  I know that there will be dandelions blooming along the dam of the ponds, too.  And yet, there are surprises.  I suppose I did know that when mimosa blooms, the blooms turn in to pod.  I should have known that acorns to do not appear full blown as nuts with caps.  Yet, these were some surprises this morning.

Pond Walk (6 of 12)

There is color throughout my yard.  The orange daylilies are in bloom.  And just now, the crepe myrtle buds are beginning to pop open.

Pond Walk (1 of 12)

It’s amazing out those petals fit into those small buds.

There are textures to notice as well.  There are seven ponds clustered together, all built by my husband’s grandfather to “grow” minnows to sell to the fishermen on their way to Lake Murray. Now, the ponds are stocked with fish—catfish, bass, bream, and family and friends come to fish for recreation and relaxation. There are still some remnants of Grandpa’s business scattered over them, the frames and piers where he would dip out the minnows before taking them into his bait shop.

Pond Walk (8 of 12)

And I found treasures—four feathers.  I imagine they are probably goose feathers and maybe some small heron feathers.  As I walked between Gramps’s ponds and Pat’s ponds, I made a “rare” egret sighting.  It made me wish I brought my longer zoom lenses with me (but as I said, I wanted to reacquaint myself with my gear).

Pond Walk (11 of 12)

You’ll have to forgive the focus.  I was carrying those feathers!  I had to do some major cropping, too, so that one can see the egret.  I love that graceful S-curve of this beautiful bird.  I also saw the heron, but it was too quick for me!  It flew to the tree tops before I could take aim!

Contemplative photography is a practice.  It requires the photographer to go out with an open mind, to be willing to see things that may be as familiar as the back of one’s hand in new ways.

Today Was Supposed to Be the Day

Standard

Today was supposed to be the day that I would go for a photo walk.  That was the plan when I woke up.  I dressed appropriately, put on my tennis shoes (Southern for sneakers), gathered all my camera gear this time, and headed for the lake.  The swamp roses, wild hibiscus, are blooming on the lakeshore—beautiful white and pink blossoms, some as big as my hand. 

6-22 (1 of 1)

I was also testing out my camera and camera card.  I’m having some problems with the images.  It may be that my camera is just OLD.  The sensor may not be working properly, or something.  Anyway, things are not going well at all, and I’m not happy.

This morning things seemed to be going well.  I was able to get some nice closeups with my Lensbaby Sweet 35 optic with Composer Pro (yeah, it’s as old as the camera, I think). The lakeshore was not crowded.  There was a couple fishing near the edge of the church’s property, but I was going the other way anyway.  No problems with anyone being disturbed or interrupted or bothered.  It was getting hot, though, and it was only 9:30 a.m.! I walked down to the cross on the point, noticing that someone had left a very wilted wreath on the cross.  I’m afraid I’m not tall enough to take it down. Then, I headed toward another little neck of land to get some pictures of the yellow flowers.

That’s when my plans blew up in my face.  I stepped on a fire ant mound hidden in the grass at the edge of the path.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been stung by fire ants, but their name in appropriate.  I must have had thirty or more of those little bugs crawling over my right ankle, and each one of them was biting me.  They were in my shoes, around the top of my sock, and heading for my knees!  I wiped, and I brushed, and I stomped.  Then I headed for home to get the Benadryl gel on those bites.  So, here I set hours later, my ankle a bit red and swollen.  For now, the pain is not bad, and the welts are not itching—yet. I hope I got the gel on in time.

And the result of my photo walk.  I had to discard about half of my pictures.  Some were just badly exposed because I have forgotten how to use my Lensbaby.  Others had that weird coloration, like this one I took earlier in the week:

6-22 (1 of 6)

See that pink corner?  Yeah, that’s what’s happening with my camera.

But I think I did get some pretty pictures of the hibiscus known as the swamp rose.

6-22 (2 of 6)

6-22 (3 of 6)

Telling Stories, Part II

Standard

6-22 (3 of 13)

Last night, we have a summer storm—wind, heavy rain, sharp lightning, thunder that rumbled for minutes. And it lasted for nearly two hours. I confess, I am not one who particularly enjoys storms, meteorological or otherwise.  And last night, I stayed awake throughout the whole storm from 2:45 a.m. until nearly 6:00 a.m.  I roamed the house from window to window to see if I could see what the wind was doing to the trees that surrounded the house; I even turned on a local TV station to see if the weather crew were covering the storm.  I will probably be doing something similar this afternoon, if the forecasters are correct in predicting another band of severe storm coming our way.

6-22 (6 of 13)

And yet. . .

This morning, there is sunshine.  There is a freshness to the air that will be gone in the summer heat and humidity.  We will be grateful for the air conditioning, and some of us will be wondering how we did without it when we were children.  Though I grew up in a modern home with the conveniences of dishwasher, in-house washer and (gasp) dryer, baseboard heating, we did not have central air conditioning.  Only when my grandfather moved in with us did we have get any kind of AC—and that was a window unit to put in his bedroom.  It wasn’t too much longer when Mama and Daddy bought one for the family room.  I was married when they finally put in central heating and air.  To write this makes my childhood seem almost primitive, but then I didn’t think so. 

This morning, there is sunshine.  My husband is out cutting the grass around the house and probably later around the ponds as the weather permits.  I took out the camera to see this freshly washed world.

Jume 22

Honeysuckle, blackberries beginning to ripen, daylilies, vinca, daisies, Rose of Sharon—in bloom, leftover drops of rain in the petals.  Leaves torn from the trees scattered over the front yard. . . .

Remnants of the storm and the beauty that remains afterward.

Had I walked longer and farther around the pond, I would certainly have found more beauty, but for the moment, this was enough—enough to remind me of other stories: sipping the nectar from honeysuckle blossoms with my brother, sister, and cousins at Grandma Wessinger’s house during that week we spent with her and picking blackberries in the pasture behind the house and the blackberry pies that Mama would bake (with the gritty seeds of those wild berries). The rose of Sharon tree with its scars on the trunk from the fire eight years ago, still blooming, still standing, though transplanted, resilient and strong. Daylilies from Aunt Miriam, Granny.

These all have stories.

6-22 (12 of 13)

Picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes, for me the picture gives me the thousand words to tell the story.

Summer Vacation 2018

Standard

It has been a while since I had a teacher’s version of “summer vacation,” that extended period between June and August when I am not in school. For the previous five years, I taught at Remington College in Columbia. We worked in four-week modules, and since I was part time, I worked a mod and then had the next mod off. Now that I am working full-time in secondary education again at Newberry Academy, I now teach for thirty-six weeks and now I’m off for about 10—all of June and July and two weeks in August. Oh, perhaps I should say I also have most of this last week of May off as well, even though I’m going back to school tomorrow for a yearbook mini-camp.

So, how will I spend my summer?

First, I’m going to catch up on my fun reading! I don’t have a reading list yet per se, but I have several books on my Kindle that I want to read.

Second, I’m going to work on my photography. I have subscribed off and on to Lenswork Magazine, a print and online magazine that focuses on the photograph itself, not the gear or even the techniques. For the last couple of years, the publishers have had a juried “contest” in which photographers submit a story in six photographs. I don’t think I can enter that contest this year, but I think it might give me a focus for my summer work. Can I make images that capture the story in six images in such a way that each image can also stand alone and tell that story? In preparation, I’m charging up the batteries now, and soon I’ll clear the memory card!

I’m also planning to work on editing techniques. I joined the Shift Art website (pricey!), but I think it will be worth it. There are tutorials and articles and other goodies to inspire me.

This morning, I worked on learning some editing techniques using Auto Tone and Auto Color in Photoshop. I used an image I took a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know the name of this flower, but it’s pretty, and it’s interesting. I wanted to make sure the flower was dominant, so I practiced, and edited, and started over. This is the image I came up with. I used Auto Tone and Auto Color. Then I applied two layers of patterns and textures. Finally, I added a light vignette. I’ll put the original and edited image side by side to show the two versions.

 

The first image is the original, unedited image. It’s too dark. My edit, the second one, lightens the image and brings out the flower. I like the kind of hazy background, which is further emphasized a bit by the pattern and the texture. At the end of the process, I added a vignette using a curves adjustment layer, dragging the curve down toward the bottom right corner, and then using a black brush to uncover the portions of the image I wanted to reveal. I lowered the opacity of this vignette layer as well because I did not want it too dark on the edges. I still wanted the brightness and haziness of the background to come through.

originalIMG_4833

(I think I may have desaturated the background slightly as well so that the color of the flower can stand out.)

I enjoy floral photography, and I enjoy applying textures. I want to stretch myself as a photographic artist.

Spring Break

Standard

What do you do when you go out for a photo walk only to discover that the camera batteries are dead? I had just enough “juice” to change the white balance and the shooting mode. The last time I used the camera was to shoot a school pageant in the gym, so I had the shooting mode set to continuous and the white balance to auto because gym lighting is notoriously bad and hard to get right, at least for me.

Well, I just turned myself around, put the camera back in the car, and started walking again, pretending I did have the camera. I looked for things I would shoot if I had the camera. I paid attention to the light and shadow patterns of trees, tree limbs, and leaves on the pavement. I noticed the color of the leaves, and the contrasting greens against each other. I watched the ospreys soar in spirals overhead, their bodies black against blue skies. I noticed the fallen blooms from the trumpet vines. I walked with my eyes open (at least until my legs began to give out. I actually pushed myself a little bit too far after having a medical procedure yesterday).

Sometimes, walking without a camera makes it easier to see things. I can go back tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. Yes, I know the lighting will not be exactly the same as it was today, but there will be something new to notice.

I think that’s what I like about photography. It teaches me to see things I might not notice otherwise.

I did manage to get some pictures of the sunrise at church Sunday morning before the Easter sunrise service began. After the service I went out to the prayer garden to take a few pictures of the trees that were blooming. The cherry was in full bloom with some red leaves beginning to show. The palm was also blooming, at least I think that’s what it’s doing. It’s a funny looking bloom, though! Oh well! It is spring here in the South. Tomorrow, IMG_4285IMG_4290IMG_4292IMG_4293I

will try again. I may even go hiking in a state park in the mountains with at least one of my sons, who is also out of school on spring break.

I Miss My Camera

Standard

But it hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s sitting right there on the piano bench (where else would a camera sit, right?).

I just haven’t picked it up in a couple of weeks.

I have been “too busy.”

You see, I started a new job this week. I left my comfortable position at Remington College, teaching one or two classes a day, four days a week, four weeks at a time with four or five weeks off between mods, to teach full time for a small private school closer home. Instead of leaving home at 8:00 in the morning, I’m leaving an hour earlier. Instead of leaving work by 2:15 or so, I’m leaving well after 3:30, sometimes closer to 5:00. Instead of teaching adult learners, I’m teaching 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 year olds! Yeah, everything from middle-school English to senior English, with World History and Desktop Publishing/Yearbook, thrown in just to keep my life interesting. And it is interesting.

But still, I miss my camera. I miss having the freedom to pick it up regardless of the time of day to play.

I miss being able to ramble whenever I feel like it.

I miss the creative element of being a photographer and an “artist.”

Perhaps, when I get used to my new schedule, I’ll figure out how to work in the photography.

But for now, I will study. I will develop a new rhythm. I will simply miss the camera.