Dragons Galore

“It is the little creatures that make the world go round.”

Dave Goulson

BIT OF BLUE

BIT OF BLUE

It seems it really “bugs” most of us that there is no more Weekly Photo Challenge, so this week I’ve decided to feature one of the most interesting bugs of all – the delicately-winged dragonfly.  A good friend here on Kiawah is a bit obsessed with these little creatures so after our last photography outing we decided to stop at one of the more heavily-populated marsh spots to see what we could find.

HANGIN' ON

HANGIN’ ON

“The transparency of dragonfly’s wings assures me of a pure, innocent world”

Munia Kahn

Happily, there were dragonflies aplenty. Blue, green, yellow… you name it, we saw it. Their little heads seemed to me as if they were enclosed in a protective helmet shaped much like that of an NFL pro. They’re difficult to shoot because they don’t sit still for long and their travels are never in a straight line. Further, they flutter rather erratically as they fly, making them difficult to follow. But shoot them we did, rising to the challenge as best we could.

LEAF ME ALONE

LEAF ME ALONE

“Dragonflies are reminders that we are light and we can reflect light in powerful ways if we choose to do so.”

Robyn Nola

I ran into an issue with my Fuji as we were shooting – for some reason the camera was putting a very dark vignette around every photo. I was very unhappy and interrupted my shooting to google the problem. Sure enough, I was able to find that the issue was not uncommon – for some reason the camera had slipped into “toy camera” mode, which once identified was easily fixed. The camera had also recorded the raw file, so all was not lost. The internet of everything strikes again thank goodness 😊.

LIVING ON THE EDGE

LIVING ON THE EDGE

“I love to see the sunshine on the wings of the Dragonflies… there is magic in it.”

Ama H. Vanniarachchy

Incredibly, dragonflies (and their female companions, damselflies) can move at 45 miles-per-hour and can hover, fly up or down, fly backward or forward in either direction and mate in mid-air. They can see 360 degrees around themselves and use 80% of their brain power for sight. In most parts of the world they are symbolic of change and maturity, and to be touched by one is considered a sign of good fortune.

GOING GREEN

GOING GREEN

“I am a dragonfly, rising on the wings of unlocked dreams on the verge of magical things.”

Aimee Stewart

According to  Smithsonian.com, dragonflies have been with us some 300 million years and fossils of their ancient ancestors had wingspans up to 2 feet long. There are more than 5,000 known species including the Globe Skinner, which has the longest migration of any insect – 11,000 miles back and forth across the Indian Ocean. 

One of the things I enjoy about photography, and especially as it relates to  blogging, is that it pushes me to learn things I would otherwise never know. Such was the case this week as I studied this seemingly simple, yet actually incredibly complex and capable insect. Hopefully you’ve found it as interesting as I did!

 

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On Being Blue

“What if the blue i see is not the same color blue you see?”

Neo Shamon

NIGHT HERON IN THE MUCK

NIGHT HERON IN THE MUCK

It’s a funny thing about blue. There are as many varieties of the color as one can imagine, and beyond that, blue can also depict sadness or feeling unhappy. Last week we bid farewell to the WordPress Photo Challenge, which made many of us a bit sad. So this week, I’ve decided to look at some happier examples of the blues. 

BATHING BLUEBIRD

BATHING BLUEBIRD

“Let the blue of the sky and ocean take your blue away when you feel blue.”

Munia Khan

Here on Kiawah we are blessed with an amazing variety of birdlife.  How can a photographer complain when faced with a gorgeous, normally furtive night heron mucking about in the bright green algae of a local pond? (And yes, their eyes really are that red!) How can one be sad while watching a feisty little bluebird making the most of a local birdbath?

EGRET AND SUNNY SKIES

EGRET AND SUNNY SKIES

“If you are feeling blue, try to paint the sky with It.”

Muhammad Imran Hasan

Even while playing (bad) golf on a beautiful day, the sight of a lone egret posing against a bright blue sky is enough to make one smile even after a nasty double bogey. How nice of him to wait until we’d finished before soaring off to his next destination. 🙂

GREAT BLUE

GREAT BLUE

“Blue is everlastingly painted by the deity to be a source of delight.”
John Ruskin

Finally, I’ve seen many great blue herons here on Kiawah, and photographed quite a few as well. The capture above, however, is one of my favorites. To me, the shape of the heron’s neck, and the expression on her face, looks almost angelic. One wonders what such a beautiful creature must be thinking at any given moment.

 

May all of your blues this week be happy ones – see you next week.

A Sad Goodbye – WPC

“A fool sees not the same tree a wise man sees.”

William Blake

AUTUMN ASPENS

AUTUMN ASPENS, COLORADO

This week, sadly, we say goodbye to the WP-supported Weekly Photo Challenge. My first WPC response, believe it or not, was nearly 6 years ago in August of 2012. For that challenge, “Growth”,  I posted a photo essay about a visit to the Redwood forests of California – definitely an All Time Favorite. That post can be seen here.  I thought it only natural that this final WPC response also be about trees. This time the magnificent redwoods are joined by shimmering aspen groves and ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish Moss among others.

LIFE SUPPORT

LIFE SUPPORT

“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.”

Karle Wilson Baker

Saying goodbye to something we hold dear is never easy.  That point was driven home inexorably in a novel I’ve just finished, The Overstory by Richard Powell. Apparently, Mr Powell shares my sense of awe and wonder at the magnificence of trees as well as their importance as a key element of our world. He weaves myth, science, and character development into a compelling story both lyrical and imaginative. 

AMONG THE GIANTS

AMONG THE GIANTS

“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

John Muir

Mr. Powell’s novel has received rave reviews, and rightly so.  Scientific facts are presented in a way that is both understandable and wondrous. Landmark historical events are woven within the context of his story’s development, and characters are written in a way that we truly care what happens to them. Plot lines that seem far-fetched, such as living on a platform high in a giant redwood for a year or environmental protesters camping out in forest areas slated for clear-cutting are in fact based on actual events.

SPIRIT OF THE SWAMP

SPIRIT OF THE SWAMP

“A forest is not a wilderness, but a community of souls who speak to one another on the wind.”

Anthony T. Hincks

The novel focuses on the nature of trees and forests; their place in our ecosystem, our growing knowledge of their complexity, and the essential importance of their contribution to our planet. Our future – the air we breathe, the climate in which we exist, the food we eat and the creatures by which we are surrounded – all these and more depend on the forests we have only recently begun to appreciate.

THREE LIVE OAKS

THREE LIVE OAKS

“Listen, and you can hear the forest breathe.”

Louis L’Amour

I found the way the author personified the trees and the forests to be one of the more interesting aspects of the novel.  Much as we now know dolphins and whales can communicate without human-defined language, so too Mr. Powell encourages us to believe that trees have a compelling message to deliver, if only we are open to hearing it.

FOREST PRIMEVAL

FOREST FLOOR

“The world’s forests are shared stolen treasure that we must put back for our children’s future.”

Desmond Tutu

Compellingly presented through his characters’ experiences, Mr. Powell’s outlook on the future of our forests, and therefore our planet, is somewhat pessimistic. Rather than a dire prediction, let us hope his means instead to awaken us to the fact that the world’s resources will thrive only when we begin to recognize their importance.

The Overstory is the first work I’ve read that comes close to portraying the emotions I felt walking among the redwoods. Then and now, words fail to describe the power and grandeur of these massive specimens. In my previous post I mentioned a National Geographic photograph which can now be found here. The photo is actually a composite of 83 photographs and is the only one I’ve seen that even begins to show the immensity and majesty of these titans. A copy of the photograph from the original 2009 issue still hangs in my home office.

As for me, The Weekly Photo Challenge may be gone but I will still be posting, as I hope will most of the other participants. Perhaps we will find a new way to continue the community we’ve grown to know and appreciate through the years.  

A special thanks to Sally of LensandPens for the book recommendation, as well as a sincere thanks to the editorial team at WordPress for their creativity and commitment to us all. It was so much fun to see their “all time favorites” – I look forward to seeing yours!

 

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”

Imogen Cunningham

 

 

 

 

 

Blossoms with a Twist

“A flower does not bloom for itself, but for the world. Do likewise.”
Matshona Dhliwayo

PETALS WITH A TWIST

PETALS WITH A TWIST

Each May here in the low country of South Carolina, our world is enhanced by the beauty and fragrance of budding magnolias. This year I was determined to capture some of these glorious specimens before their ephemeral nature caused them to disappear as always. 

ARMS UP

ARMS UP

“If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment.”

Georgia O’Keeffe

Interestingly, one of the challenges we face when shooting magnolias is the local deer population. For some reason deer are prone to chewing the blossoms that are within their reach. They don’t eat them, they just seem to enjoy the chew – much like we humans and gum. Of course, that means most of the remaining blossoms are above the heads of those who, like me, are trying to photograph them.  Fortunately I was able to find several trees with blossoms taller than most of the deer but still within my reach.

EARLY BLOOMER

EARLY BLOOMER

“Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.”

Gerard de Nerval

Creamy white petals, dark green leaves and popping yellow centers make the magnolia blossom a wonderful specimen for the eye or the lens. Sadly though, their beauty is extremely short-lived; based on my completely unscientific observation between 4 to 5 weeks.  Perhaps this is one of the things that makes them so special. 

FADING GLORY

FADING GLORY

“Though you watch the petals shrink and change colour, you cannot help treasuring them”

Munia Kahn

BEAUTY IN BEIGE

BEAUTY IN BEIGE

“I loved the flowers that die, I loved the charm of the sky.”

Ssantosh Kalwar

Like their human counterparts, aging magnolias have a special quality all their own. Their petals begin to brown, creating an entirely different look – one which I find equally beautiful. Eventually the falling leaves litter the ground beneath them, creating a gentle mulch and a weed barrier, both of which are good for the tree.

LAST LOOK

LAST LOOK

“Every flower returns to sleep with the earth.”

Suzy Kassem

While it may look like a new bud, the image above is a magnolia whose leaves have fallen, leaving behind only the blossom’s receptacle.  (So named because it includes many stamens and pistils). Plant experts who study the evolution of flora believe the magnolia to be among the most primitive; some of the oldest fossil flowers discovered are similar to magnolia blossoms.

Those who know me know that although I treasure and admire a beautiful garden, I am totally inept in that area.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I so love the annual appearance of these lovely flowers – Mother Nature grows them all on her own with no help from me or anyone else. As usual, she knows exactly what she’s doing 🙂

 

WPC: Twisted

Liquid Magic – Kiawah’s Beach and its Birds

“Mother Nature is the greatest artist and water is one of her favorite brushes.”
Rico Besserdich
3 STOOGES

THREE OF A KIND

To me, this week’s “liquid” challenge called for a post highlighting Kiawah’s amazing 10-mile beach. Rather than focus on its beauty, I’ve chosen to feature the incredible birds that thrive on its waters and the life teeming within them.

AVIAN CONVENTION

AVIAN CONVENTION

“I will find comfort in the rhythm of the sea.”

Charlotte Eriksson

Birds of all sizes and shapes arrive throughout the year to feast on our shores. Royal terns such as those in my opening image and the one below dwarf the tiny plovers and dunlins who also enjoy a place to rest as they access the nutrients in our waters. This past year a local program was initiated to educate residents and visitors about the importance of leaving the birds undisturbed as they use our shores to prepare for the next phase of their migration.

FRICK AND FRACK

FRICK AND FRACK

“Be alone with the sea for it is there you will find answers to questions you didn’t realize exist.”

Khang Kijarro Nguyen

Although I must admit I felt a bit like a voyeur, I was amazed by the mating rituals of our feathered friends as they frolicked among the waves. Should I apologize for having invaded their privacy by photographing the scene below? Apparently the smaller birds weren’t the least bit interested!

BIRD LOVERS

BIRD LOVERS

“We have the responsibility to care for the ocean as it cares for us”

Suzanne van der Veeken

As one who appreciates the beauty, power and absolute criticality of our oceans, I find myself thinking about the issues we humans can influence. Issues like proposed seismic testing, plastic pollution, overfishing and of course climate change are several things on which each of us can have an impact. What are YOU doing to make sure our children will be able to enjoy the oceans tomorrow as we do today?

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Old-World Charleston – WPC

“This place is special to me and I just wanted to share it with you.”

Anthony T. Hincks

CHARLESTON'S ICONIC PINEAPPLE

CHARLESTON’S ICONIC PINEAPPLE

When my husband and I decided to move south, there were a number of key items on our wish list. We hoped to find a beautiful natural setting ☑, access to an active lifestyle ☑, an adequate airport for staying connected with family and friends ☑, excellent medical care ☑, and a nearby city of reasonable size with restaurants, cultural activities and charm. After 17 years we still believe we’ve found the best of all worlds with our choice  – including our access to the charming city of Charleston, SC.  My opening capture is the city’s iconic pineapple fountain, a symbol of welcome, friendship and hospitality.

WALL OF JASMINE

WALL OF JASMINE

“The place cast a lovely spell on me that seduced me one breath at a time.”

Brenda Sutton Rose

Walking through town in springtime, the bouquet of jasmine follows you everywhere. Horse-Drawn carriages transport visitors down cobblestone streets lined with moss-laden giant oaks.  Often one can spot dolphins at play along the beautiful harbor. It’s a place in which you can imagine what life was like centuries ago.

Charleston has received awards too numerous to count in recent years, but some of the more notable include:

o  #1 small US City – Conde Nast Traveler Readers (6 years in a row)

0  Best City in the US – Travel + Leisure Magazine

o  Best Town – Outside Magazine

o  Top community with Green Spaces – National Geographic

o  One of 29 Best Small US Cities – National Geographic Travel

o  South’s Best City – Southern Living‘s readers

o  Several James Beard awards for our outstanding restaurants

PHILADELPHIA ALLEY

PHILADELPHIA ALLEY

“This is the place of places, and it is here.”

Gertrude Stein

In response to Erica’s challenge for the week, oftentimes when I seek inspiration I head into downtown Charleston, as I did this past week with a good friend and fellow photographer.  Meandering through the streets and alleyways, we came upon an interesting scene in photography-friendly Philadelphia Alley (named because of a contribution that city made to rebuild the area after a major fire). If you look closely at the end of the alley in the image above, you will notice a craftsman we found hard at work as we wandered in.

MASTER CRAFTSMAN

MASTER CRAFTSMAN

“Habits, places and faces grow into you over time, like tree roots burrowing into stone work.”

Frances Hardinge

Although I am normally shy about asking strangers to allow me to photograph them, in this case the opportunity was too good to pass up. Not only did I ask if we could take photos, I also asked him to create some dust for us while we were shooting – a request with which he was happy to comply. For me it was the favorite set of images from the day – proving how important it is to be open to opportunities you cannot plan in advance 🙂.

For those who are interested, here’s our workman from a bit farther away.

TILER AT WORK

TILER AT WORK

“Your promised land is your place of fulfillment”

Sunday Adelaja

Here’s to a week of unexpected opportunity and inspiration – and a Happy Mothers Day to those of you who inspire us all. For more responses to Erica’s “Place in the World” challenge, click here.

 

NOTE: Despite it’s contemporary excellence, because Charleston truly feels like an old-world city I’ve processed this week’s images using Nik Silver EFEX pro.  All images captured with Fuji X-T2.

Unlikely Moments – WPC

“The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.

Roald Dahl

UNLIKELY INTERACTION

UNLIKELY INTERACTION

It’s been a very busy week here on our little island, so I’ve dug into the archives for a response to Michelle’s Unlikely challenge this week. Following her lead, my opening image is a favorite from our African safari several years ago. I remember wondering what the giraffe must have been thinking as he or she came upon the strange red animal in the grassy plains of Botswana 😊.

MONKEY BUSINESS

MONKEY BUSINESS

“Beauty exists, even in unlikely places.”

Richelle E. Goodrich

Even more unlikely, we came upon this little fellow during our visit to Victoria Falls.  There, the animals seemed quite comfortable with their human visitors. No doubt the restaurants and other accoutrements we travelers require provide endless entertainment for the creatures there, although this one seemed a bit unhappy he couldn’t make the human contraption do whatever it was he wanted.

 

Wishing you a fun weekend filled with some happy, even if unlikely, moments.

 

Nature’s Lines – WPC

“Embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

FAN PALM

FAN PALM

If you spend time looking for lines in nature, you’ll be amazed at how prevalent they are. While my opening capture of nature’s lines looks like a plant with some of its fronds missing, in fact the fronds are there but have lost their color due to this winter’s unusual frost. To me, in addition to the lines, the color changes made the plant more interesting – as did the sunlight brightening the verdant green. 

LINES IN THE SAND

LINES IN THE SAND

“I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”

Vincent Van Gogh

Often here on Kiawah our beach is re-designed by the effects of tidal surge. One afternoon as I strolled along with my highly-portable Fuji 🙂 I was amazed by the grooves that had been carved in the sand.  Clearly Mother Nature has her own ideas about how to create lines.

JELLY LINES

JELLY LINES

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

Henry David Thoreau

On another beach stroll, this time with iPhone in hand, I came upon a jellyfish washed up onto the sand. In this case the lines are one of the creature’s natural features. Interestingly, jellies can be found in every one of the world’s oceans and have survived for over 500 million years. They are actually not fish at all so are more often referred to as “jellies” in today’s vernacular.

SWAMP FOREST

SWAMP TREELINE

“Nature is pleased with simplicity.”

Isaac Newton

Moving further inland, on a recent visit to Magnolia Plantation (which I featured in a previous post) I decided to try my Fuji on some vertical pans.  Although I must admit it took me a bit more effort that it had with my Nikon, I was pleased that once I worked it out, my Fuji handled it quite nicely. Clearly the issue was my comfort with the new camera’s mechanics rather than it’s capabilities.

GATOR IN THE BUNKER

FREE LIFT

“Let us give Nature a chance; she knows her business better than we do.”

Michel de Montaigne

Finally, I’ve closed with an image of many lines. Those in the sand are of course the result of the hand of man on one of our beautiful golf courses. But notice the line of plated armor down the back of the alligator, and the lines that run between the top and bottom of his tail. If that’s not one of nature’s most interesting sets of lines, I don’t know what is.  As any golfer would agree, there would be no penalty assessed for a ball left in this bunker! 🙂

Wishing you a week filled with natural wonders.

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Prolific Signs of Spring

“Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.”

Charles Dickens

EGRET ON A BRANCH

EGRET ON A BRANCH

Here in lowcountry South Carolina, spring is in the air. Beyond the warm sunshine and soft breezes, there are signs of seasonal change that we’ve come to love. Chief among them, we appreciate the devoted nesting behaviors of our beautiful avian residents such as the egret above and the pair below.

NESTING

NESTING

“Springtime crawls out of the wild mouths of flowers.”

Cecilia Llompart

Like many other parts of the country, springtime brings with it an amazing variety of colorful flowers. Although our fragrant, creamy magnolia (my personal favorite) is only now beginning to bud, the wisteria, camellia and azaleas have blossomed everywhere these past few weeks – adding their wonderful scents to the very air we breathe.

GARDEN PATH

GARDEN PATH

“To everything there is a season.”

Ecclesiastes 3 KJV

What is it about flowers that brings a smile to most everyone’s lips? Is it their color, their fragrance, or simply the fact that they persevere whatever havoc the winter throws at them? 

WISTERIA

WISTERIA

“All seasons have something to offer.”

Jeanette Walls

Beyond the birds and the flowers, so too the creatures who call our island home become ever more plentiful – deer giving birth to fawns, gators to hatchlings and bobcats to kittens. Life begins anew as both flora and fauna sense the turn of the calendar’s pages.

DEAR DEER

DEAR DEER

“Spring is the fountain of love for thirsty winter.”

Munia Kahn

Sadly (for us at least) spring is also the time when our sleepy island awakens, soon to be shared with the many visitors who come for our warmth, our beautiful beach and it’s breezes, and for all of the wonders we preserve so carefully during our winter season. Hopefully all will follow the oft-quoted advice to “take only photos, leave only footprints”.

SEASIDE VISITORS

SEASIDE VISITORS

“Every season has a reason.”

Gift Gugu Mona

I’ve chosen to present this week’s images of spring using Topaz Studio Impressions. Here’s hoping your season of warmth and rebirth is also underway. To see more responses to this week’s Prolific challenge, click here.

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Spring Awakening – WPC

“It is spring again. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

SPRING RITUAL

SPRING RITUAL

As Jen has so aptly pointed out, for many of us here in the US, spring has finally sprung. This week I was fortunate to participate in a 2-day session with Ralph Lee Hopkins, an incredible photographer as well as the Director of Photography Expeditions for Lindblad/National Geographic. All of this week’s images, focused on some local spring rituals, were made during a post-lecture shoot with Ralph on one of Kiawah’s beautiful golf courses.

SOARING EGRET

SOARING EGRET

“The ghostly winter silence has given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life.”

Jack London

Interestingly, some glorious egrets and cormorants have created a very active rookery beside one of the course’s lagoons. Although the weather was not Kiawah’s best, the overcast made it a bit more feasible to capture the snowy white birds as they soared through the trees and tended to their nests. They were clever in the placement of the rookery, making it impossible to get close, but we did our best with zoom lenses, cropping and creativity.

POND PLANTS

REFLECTED POND PLANTS

“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.”

Pable Neruda

Beyond the nesting birds there is evidence of spring’s arrival all around us. The ponds are blooming with new plants, baby alligators are everywhere, and the beautiful trees are filled with that wonderful shade of green that is only fleetingly seen as spring arrives.

COPSE AND LAGOON

COPSE AND LAGOON

“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.”

Marty Rubin

Jen mentions that during her years in South Carolina her favorite season was autumn – which does indeed provide welcome relief from summer’s heat as well as the incredible purples and pinks of sweetgrass. For me though, spring’s arrival plays an even more important role. I love the smells and sights of the season – the budding flowers and trees, the courtship rituals of the birds, the birth of the fawns and bobcat kittens…it doesn’t get much better than spring on Kiawah for a nature lover.

FRONDS

FRONDS

“Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?”

Neltje Blanchan

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite images from the day – the sight of soaring white birds in motion against a pale sky is for me a near-spiritual moment. The elegance of these graceful creatures as they return to the nest, where their life-long mates are tending their soon-to-be-born offspring is a special gift not to be taken lightly.

SOARING

SOARING

“Spring came, and with it the outpourings of nature.”

Dalai Lama XIV

 

Wishing everyone the beauty of spring’s awakening whatever your current season.

 

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