Weekly Photo Challenge -Monument

“Art reaches back into the babyhood of time, and it is man’s only lasting monument”

William Morris Hunt

CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CROSS

CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CROSS, SEDONA

This week’s challenge is “Monument”, for which I’ve chosen the famous Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona.  While not a monument in the traditional sense, its placement looming above the beautiful red rocks of Sedona certainly meets the definition “an outstanding, enduring and memorable example of something”.

AMONG THE CACTI

AMONG THE CACTI

“Great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The chapel has an interesting history. It was designed and sponsored by artist/sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Originally it was planned for Budapest, but those plans were disrupted by the beginning of World War II.  Following the war, the concept was moved to its founder’s native Arizona amidst some amount of controversy due to its placement in a  pristine, federally-protected natural environment. With its 90 foot cross atop a 200 ft stone jutting out of the rocks it is certainly a site which commands attention.

TOWERING

TOWERING

“Mountains are earth’s undecaying monuments.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

The chapel has been featured in the New York Times, Life Magazine and The Washington Post among others. In addition to its role as a place for spirituality, it is purportedly a site of one of the four vortexes of Sedona – spots where the earth’s energy is increased, leading to self-awareness and healing. Native American tribes were drawn to the area as early as 1300 AD.

ABOVE IT ALL

ABOVE IT ALL

“Live a life as a monument to your soul.”

Ayn Rand

Some say that if the developers were to propose such a building today, it would not be allowed.  There are those who feel it is a detraction from the natural landscape. For believers and many others, it is a beautiful creation which takes full advantage of a glorious view of some of God’s best work :-).  Whatever your beliefs, a visit to the red rocks of Sedona is an opportunity to enjoy some of nature’s finest offerings.  So what do you think – is the chapel an enhancement or a detraction from Sedona’s beautiful red rocks?

To see the monuments other bloggers have chosen to feature, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge -Threshold, Charleston SC

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come.”

Alfred Tennyson

THE BATTERY

THE BATTERY, CHARLESTON SC

This week’s challenge, Threshold, offers a number of interpretations – two of which I’ve included in my response.  First, I’ve chosen to feature Charleston, SC.  When my husband and I retired from our work in the frenetic technology industry we decided to move to an area with a warmer climate and a slower pace than our home in the northeast.  Charleston became the threshold, or point of entry (as defined in the dictionary), to our new lives in the south.

ARTISTIC VIEW OF CHARLESTON

ARTISTIC VIEW OF CHARLESTON

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”

Kahil Gibran

The second interpretation comes from a day I spent this week with amazing professional photographer Tony Sweet and his partner Susan. Our local photography club sponsored a day with Tony that renewed my spirit of adventure with photography.  (Tony’s blog post about his day with us can be seen at http://tonysweet.com/blog/ ). He describes a photograph as “raw material” for an end product that will eventually be created by the artist, and a brave new digital world where the only limitation for a photographer is his or her own imagination. While I recognize that there are many purists who disagree, I am not among them. I will certainly continue to enjoy traditional photography, but am excited about the possibilities offered by these alternative approaches as well.

NEON NIGHTLIGHTS

NEON NIGHTLIGHTS

“Lack of comfort means we are on the threshold of new insights.”

Lawrence M. Krauss

So today’s post illustrates my personal commitment on the threshold of a new phase of exploration. Tools like textures, multiple exposures, image overlays, selective saturation and many others are elements of the art of photography which are among those I want to learn and explore. Today’s efforts feel a bit like being back in first grade to me, but I am committed to improving my skills and sharing my results. So, as I post about the wonderful city we chose as the threshold to our new beginning, I’ll use some very elementary textures on various photographs I’ve taken since our relocation. I promise to work on improving my techniques as time goes on if you will promise to tolerate my rudimentary attempts :-).

SWEETGRASS IN BURLAP

SWEETGRASS IN BURLAP

 “I say be bold, come out of your threshold and ride the wind wherever it goes.”

Tonny K. Brown

As for Charleston, my husband and I lived in the center of town for two years before moving to our island home.  We loved the energy of the city, which exists within the gentility of southern hospitality. People smile and greet one another on the street, shopkeepers and restaurant owners seem genuinely glad to see you. The only remaining descendents of the Gullah people weave their traditional sweetgrass baskets in the street markets as tourists stroll by. Perhaps these are some of the reasons Charleston has been voted the #1 City in the US and Canada by Travel and Leisure, #1 Travel Destination in the World by Conde Nast, and a Top Location for Retirement in Retirement and Good Living.

POSTCARD ST. PHILIPS

POSTCARD ST. PHILIPS

“Reading is at the threshold of the spiritual life.”

Marcel Proust

Charleston is known as the “Holy City”, boasting over 100 churches to serve its downtown population of just over 125,000 residents.  It was a haven for religious freedom in colonial times and houses the oldest Orthodox Jewish synagogue in the south as well as one of the original houses of worship for French Huguenots fleeing persecution in Europe.  St. Philips, pictured above, sits in the middle of the street and local lore says it was purposely built that way to force residents to think of God as they went about their daily lives.

TEXTURE

TEXTURE

“Maybe we will meet at the threshold of a dream, and we will not sleep.”

Amany Al-Hallaq

Charleston is a wonderful city for foodies (blessed by personal favorites such as Mike Lata’s newest hotspot, The Ordinary, Kevin Johnson’s The Grocery, and Sean Brock’s Husk-voted 2011′s Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appetit). It’s also a treasure for nature lovers and photographers (with nearby notables like Magnolia Swamp and Boneyard Beach in addition to the city’s own charming Rainbow Row and Riverfront Park). Its historic homes and antebellum mansions offer a unique view of history as well as beautiful gardens and textures that delight the eye and draw the lens.

SEA VIEW

WINDOW REFLECTION/SEA VIEW

“For some, the universe ends at the borders of their villages; even for others, at the threshold of their home doors.”

Mehmet Murat Ildan

A beautiful city situated on the Atlantic Ocean, Charleston is an active harbor from which history bluffs can take a short boat ride to Fort Sumter, known as the site of the first shot of the Civil War. On any given day one might see dozens of sailboats competing in a local race, kayakers cruising peacefully along its Ashley or Cooper Rivers, or a massive yacht carrying its owners to other ports along the widely-traveled Intracoastal Waterway.

COLORFUL CANOES

COLORFUL KAYAKS

Whether you are drawn to weather, food, natural beauty, history, waterways, romance or southern gentility, Charleston is a city that does not disappoint. Put it on your bucket list and then as they say at Nike, Just Do It !

To see how some other bloggers represented their own thresholds, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge -Street Life

“A street that you have never visited is a book that you have never read. You never know what you are missing.”

Mehmet Murat Ildan

20140330-223454.jpg

Our challenge this week is to illustrate “street life.” Since I am traveling, and am a bit late with my post, I’ll keep it simple and share this long-time favorite capture from Cambodia.

Street life can mean many things to many people. For example, today I’m surrounded by the busy, noisy streets of New York City. By comparison, yesterday we had a peaceful drive along the winding country roads of New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley, while the day before we experienced the quiet streets of a family wedding in a fairly deserted New Jersey beach town. None of these however, are in any way similar to the family outing pictured above, which was an opportunity to capture the essence of a small, peaceful country that couldn’t be more different than the world in which I live.

To see the streets come alive through some other bloggers’ lenses, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Reflections

 “Zen masters say you cannot see your reflection in running water, only in still water.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

BLUE SKY DAY

BLUE SKY DAY

This week Ben’s Reflection challenge has given me an opportunity to post some of my favorite captures from our recent visit to China.  In Shangri-La there is an area called Napa Lake Nature Reserve.  It was suggested that we skip this area because our guide had been there two weeks earlier and the lake was completely dry. It turns out Napa is a seasonal lake and during the dry season it is a beautiful grassland for animals and birds. During the rainy season, June through September, local streams and rivers feed it to create a beautiful lake. Fortunately, we did not take our guide’s advice :-)

TRUE BLUE

TRUE BLUE

“Who could be so lucky? Who comes to a lake for water and sees the reflection of moon.”

Rumi

As we drove into the Napa Reserve, we were greeted by one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. The water was absolutely still, reflecting the mountains that surround the lake on three sides. The day we visited it also reflected a deep blue sky filled with puffy white clouds. Yaks and cows grazed peacefully on the grasses as local ethnic minorities in colorful costume harvested their crops in the nearby barley fields. Plein-air painters worked with their brushes and easels, focused primarily on the bright red wildflowers that bloomed everywhere. But those are scenes for another day – today is a day for reflections.

SOGGY STABLES

SOGGY STABLES

“Reflection is the lamp of the heart. If it departs, the heart will have no light.”

‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Alawi Attas

The temperature in the reserve, which is 10,000 feet high in the Tibetan mountains, swings between very hot summers and extremely cold winters. Local families have built shelters for their livestock as protection from the sun in the warmer months. These shelters become completely inaccessible as they are surrounded by water when the lake fills.

STANDALONE SHELTER

STANDALONE SHELTER

“The mirror reflects perfectly; it makes no mistakes because it doesn’t think. To think is to make mistakes.”

Paulo Coelho

The area is home to many devout Tibetan Buddhists, and as the photo below indicates, the waters serve as housing for their traditional Stupas, or shrines with colorful flags typical of such structures.

SHINING STUPA

SHINING STUPA

“Each star is a mirror, reflecting the truth inside you.”

Aberjhani

Napa is also a birders’ paradise, well-known as the home of the endangered black-necked crane. Unfortunately the crane is seen primarily in winter, but we did observe many other beautiful birds enjoying their reflections in the still, blue waters.

SITTING ON THE FENCE

SITTING ON THE FENCE

“Leap of faith – yes. But only after reflection.”

Soren Kierkegaard

Posting about Napa Lake has been a lovely reminder for me of a very special experience. Hopefully it has given the reader a moment to reflect on nature’s beauty as well.  To see some other bloggers’ interpretations of the challenge, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Inside

 “Everybody’s a bird, locked inside a pretty cage. ”

Dave McKean

PRETTY CAGES

INSIDE A PRETTY CAGE

As a photographer, one of my favorite things to look for while traveling is symmetry.  As such, I’ve chosen to take an approach to Josh’s “inside” challenge highlighting that aspect.  Above, the symmetrical birdcages of Hong Kong which keep small birds inside of their pretty exteriors.

INSIDE LOOKING OUT

INSIDE LOOKING OUT

“Life is lived on the inside.  What’s outside doesn’t matter.”

Sonya Hartnett

Many of the buildings in China had lovely, beautifully-detailed and always symmetrical shutters through which to look from the inside. Above, an example from the historic town of Zhouzhuang, about which I posted here.  Also in China, a favorite capture from our visit to Ping Yao in the Shanxi Province.  It was actually the charming courtyard of the  Jing’s Residence Hotel, cleverly hidden inside the original antique doors of a 12th century merchant’s home.

INSIDE CLOSED DOORS

INSIDE CLOSED DOORS

“It is your inside that controls the outside.”

Vikrant Parsai

Our visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia offered so many opportunities for symmetry it was difficult to choose from among them. I’ve featured two of my favorites here -  from inside the corridors of the amazing temples.

INSIDE ANGKOR WAT

INSIDE ANGKOR WAT

“It is about happiness inside.”

Zeina Glo

COLUMNS

COLUMNS

“You have to rely on whatever sparks you have inside.”

Lisa Kleypas

In closing, one doesn’t have to travel far to find beauty.  Exhibit A, favorite shot from nearby Charleston, SC, where the historic and stately buildings of the peninsula offer some wonderful symmetry. The play of light and shadows on this courtyard, for example, simply called out to be captured.

CHARLESTON SYMMETRY

CHARLESTON SYMMETRY

“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”

Carl Gustav Jung

To see how some other bloggers interpreted the “inside” challenge, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge -Perspective / Travel Theme – Tempting

“Too often in life we pass by important things. Let’s pause, change perspectives, and see things more clearly.”

Sergio da Silva

CLIMBING HIGH

CLIMBING HIGH

This week Ash has tasked us with illustrating “perspective” – showing how effectively photographers can change the mood or meaning of a scene based on the way it is captured and/or cropped.  For example, you’d think in the shot above that some very talented climbers are effectively scaling the face of a challenging cliff.

DOWN LOW

DOWN LOW

“One of the best gifts you can give to someone is a wider perspective.”

C. Joybell C

Talented maybe, but experienced and up high they are not!  The shot was actually captured while I was watching a beginning class for new climbers who hadn’t really made much progress at all :-)

What about the shot below? Do you suppose this lovely deer is making the most of his forest environment?

YOUNG BUCK

YOUNG BUCK

We begin to learn wisely when we’re willing to see world from other people’s perspective.”

Toba Beta

Actually no, the shot was taken in the yard of a small neighborhood home in the pouring rain. The deer appeared to have a cut on his leg and was catching a quick rest before moving back into the foliage around him. Here he is in the same exact spot- the only change was that I moved to a different position to illustrate the point.

SUBURBAN VISITOR

SUBURBAN VISITOR

Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Marcus Aurelius

So, remember the next time you see something that catches your eye, give a thought to what else might have been in the scene.  Has the photographer shown you everything that was there, or might the reality have been something else entirely?

AT SEA

ON THE SEA

Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions.”

Margaret Atwood

On the sea?  Maybe — or maybe not ;-)

ON LAND

ON LAND

“Faith gives you an inner strength and a sense of balance and perspective in life.”

Gregory Peck

As a photographer it is always tempting to shape the world as we see it. To my mind this becomes a problem only if we are news reporters tasked with documenting reality. Those of us who shoot for pleasure need face no penalty for the occasional trompe l’oeil – after all, seeing is believing……..or is it ?!

Thanks to Ash for his challenge, and to Ailsa for her suggestion on temptation.  To see other bloggers’ perspectives on the world, click here.  For a bit more temptation, try this.

Weekly Photo Challenge -Abandoned

“If you have abandoned one faith, do not abandon all faith. There is always an alternative to the faith we lose.”

Graham Greene

LACOSTE ESTATE, PROVENCE

LACOSTE ESTATE, PROVENCE

Our challenge this week is to illustrate the concept of “abandoned”.  Most photographers are somehow drawn to buildings that have been deserted and left to return to the elements, so the challenge presents a number of interesting opportunities.  Above, the Chateau de Lacoste, former home of the notorious Marquis de Sade in beautiful Provence, France.  Built in the 11th century, it was destroyed during the French Revolution and in 2001 was purchased by fashion designer Pierre Cardin who partially renovated it.  One can only imagine the stories we would hear if the walls could talk!

BASIC BOATHOUSE

BASIC BOATHOUSE

“Old books that have ceased to be of service should no more be abandoned than should old friends who have ceased to give pleasure.”

Bernard Baruch

At a much more basic level, I captured this neglected boathouse along the shoreline of one of the many small lakes of Northern Michigan while visiting friends outside of Traverse City.  On that same visit, we did an impromptu shoot of the long-abandoned Traverse City State Hospital (see my post here). As the photo below illustrates, one need not show an entire building to demonstrate abandonment; many times smaller elements are just as interesting as the big picture.

GARDEN GATE

GARDEN GATE

“The road to positivity is strewn with the abandoned vehicles of the faint-hearted. ”

Peter McWilliams

There are times when the interiors of abandoned buildings are accessible and we are gifted with a view of life in a different era.  Below, a former sheep-shearing building long-deserted but much more interesting to my eye than the structure’s exterior.

MACHINATIONS

MACHINATIONS

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

Leonardo daVinci

Abandoned buildings often provide us with a bridge to a better understanding of times past. In Patagonia, where the shearing building was located, we were offered not only a metaphorical bridge, but as shown in the capture below, a physical one as well.

BRIDGE TO THE PAST

BRIDGE TO THE PAST

“Basic human contact is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. If you’re feeling abandoned by the world, interact with anyone you can.”

Martha Beck

As Cheri notes in her challenge, there are times when abandonment refers to things other than buildings or bridges.  For example, in the famous Recoleta Cemetery of Buenos Aires many of the graves and crypts have been neglected and abandoned. Sadly, their only visitors are the feral cats who make their homes there.

LONG FORGOTTEN

LONG FORGOTTEN

“Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it.”

Bob Dylan

Perhaps our visit to abandoned people and places should serve as a reminder to live life to its fullest. After all, is it not fairly obvious that the time to make our mark on the world around us is only the here and now?

Thanks to Cheri for sending us in such an interesting direction. To see how other bloggers were moved by abandonment, click here.