“Signs may be but the sympathies of nature with man.”
This week Cheri has challenged us to share some “signs” while Ailsa has asked us to address “bountiful”. Over the years I have made many a photograph of interesting, funny, clever and even beautiful signs. But I’ve posted several times on the subject, for example here and here. So instead I’ve decided to illustrate some “signs” of the arrival of autumn’s “bounty” here on Kiawah.
First up, our iconic pinkish–purple sweetgrass. Each spring dry sweetgrass bushes are cut back so that they can once again grow green for the season. In fall that green becomes a delicate pinkish purple which lasts for about two months. It is beautiful to look at, especially when it borders the fall colors of our marshes. While our friends in New England and other parts north delight in their red and gold leaves (which I must admit is one of the few things I miss about living in the north), here in the south we celebrate fall with pink. As an added bonus, there is no need for leaf raking once fall has shed her glorious coat of colors.
“Not everything is a sign, some things simply are what they appear to be.”
Another sign of fall here in the south is the arrival of our beloved shrimp boats. This of course also signals the availability of the freshest, most delicious white shrimp you’ve ever tasted. 😄 We humans aren’t the only ones who await the boats’ arrival. Below we see some clever birds awaiting the bounty to be found in the shrimpers’ nets. I’ve treated both of these shots using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2. I was going for an antique look in the first, and a ghostly feeling in the second. Sadly, I’ve tried to portray shrimping as a dying art – impacted by an aging fleet, the rising cost of fuel and ever-increasing competition from low-cost suppliers delivering lesser-quality foreign products.
“Success is not a stop sign.”
While at the beach shooting the shrimpers, I turned to see the beautiful golden dune grasses gently bending in the breeze. Although the grasses are with us year round, in the fall their color becomes even more golden as the sun begins to set further to the west.
“Life is one big road with lots of signs.”
Yet another sign that fall is upon us – the many families who share our beach during the summer season have left to return to real life and schoolwork. Below, their lonely sea kayaks are stored sadly under one of our many beachwalks. Although we miss their laughter and the joy of their play, we also appreciate the return of peace and quiet as we stroll happily along our now mostly-deserted shores.
“Words are but the signs of ideas.”
“I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.”
One of my favorite things about the photo challenges is that they incent me to revisit my archives, often times coming upon photos I’ve not seen for a while. The shot above, for example, was made during a class last year on “painting with light”. I remember distinctly that the evening was much colder that most on Kiawah, and I was trying to shoot wearing gloves – always a challenge . It was a fun class that I really enjoyed while learning quite a bit. In the first shot we used no additional lighting and focused on capturing the evening’s stars. By comparison, in the second we used a flashlight to illuminate the gazebo, which then became a more prominent element of the composition. Personally, although I enjoyed playing with the light, I prefer the first shot; how about you?
“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
In the bridge shot from Shanghai which follows, the lighting was already in place and the two stargazers offered an interesting compositional element. How nice of them to stand perfectly still without even being asked 🙂
“The darker the night, the brighter the stars.”
After Shanghai we visited Hong Kong, where we were told of their marvelous nightly light show. Challenged by the size of the crowd (all of whom had obviously heard the same thing) I was determined to find an open spot for my tripod that would allow an undisturbed shot. Fortunately my husband is a tall and determined guy, and was able to help me maneuver into position for the capture below. For more night shots of both Shanghai and Hong Kong, visit my post here.
“Listen to the music of the night.”
Finally, two shots taken several years ago in beautiful Dubrovnik. The first was taken from my hotel window with the camera positioned on the sill. I was enamored with the red rooftops and the outstanding quality of the evening’s blue light. By comparison, the second was taken on a moody, lamplit, cobblestone walkway. I liked the effect of the blur, which I thought added to the feel of the composition.
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
Edgar Allan Poe
“The night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs, and silently steal away.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
This week in particular, it is important for me to remember that the darkness does indeed help us to appreciate the gift of light. I offer a huge thank you to my family and friends – all of whom are part of that very light. I also thank Ben for his timely reminder. To see the nights of some other bloggers, click here.
“The strength we find within ourselves gives us endurance and perseverance.”
Ellen J. Barrier
Our challenge this week, Endurance, has caught me feeling a bit philosophical, as has Ailsa’s Travel Theme, Strong. As always, there are many ways to interpret the concepts. For some literal examples of both strength and endurance, I invite you to visit my previous posts on man-made masterpiece Angkor Wat, or natural phenomena like Patagonia’s Andes Mountains and the Giant Redwoods of California. This week however, after spending a day photographing some of Kiawah’s incredible nature, I’ve decided to address the challenges a bit more abstractly.
Take the butterflies above for example. These incredibly delicate creatures teach us the value of moving with the help of the wind rather than fighting it. How much more easily might we endure life’s challenges if we accepted the help of family and friends? What about the strength we might draw from spirituality or a belief in a higher power? Allowing others to support us during times of need can be a much-appreciated gift as we deal with life’s inevitable moments of crisis.
“Scars are not signs of weakness, they are signs of survival and endurance.”
Rodney A Winters
In the abstract above we see two examples of endurance. The reeds’ delicate stalks endure by bending gently rather than resisting the often-extreme coastal winds around them. The trees, on the other hand, survive by setting their roots deep in the soil and using their strength to hold themselves steady as the wind blows around rather than through them. So too must we decide whether to bend or to stand strong in the face of life’s challenges. There is a place for both reactions depending on a given situation.
“Endurance: It is the spirit which can bear things with blazing hope.”
Here, the lowly grasshopper. His lesson? That endurance can often be achieved by blending into our surroundings. Had I not stopped for a closeup of the flowers around him, I’d never have spotted him. His coloring and form are amazingly similar to that of a simple stick in a field of sticks and flowers. For us too there are times when laying low and remaining unobserved is the best response, and others when it’s important to stand up and be counted. Each individual must determine for him or herself where to draw their personal line.
“Stay determined to endure hard times. No situation is permanent.”
Lailah Gifty Akita
Finally, a young bobcat I happened upon during my photography outing. His endurance lesson features adaptability to change, and to taking advantage of available resources. As recently as 20 years ago, much of Kiawah was an undeveloped barrier island rich with ground cover and teeming with prey. Today the bobcat has learned to use our boardwalks and golf cart paths to traverse the island more quickly and easily. They protect themselves from the sun in the shade of our porches, and naturally manage our marsh rat and deer populations. Might we not benefit from learning that endurance often depends on accepting change and making the necessary adaptations?
“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
Last week I responded to the “Adventure” challenge with some favorite wildlife photographs from our African safari. It seems only appropriate then, that I respond to this week’s “Humanity” challenge with some favorite captures of the people we encountered on that same journey. Above, the expression on the face of a fisherman in Cape Town reflects the challenge of a difficult life. On the other hand, his son’s smile exemplifies the carefree exuberance of youth. A family that could be found anywhere in the world, demonstrating a classic parent/child dynamic.
After capturing the father and son, I was compelled to photograph the mother, seen below. What do you suppose was on her mind as I caught here in such serious thought?
“The ‘norm’ for humanity is love.”
Jack D. Forbes
We also visited a local community nearby, where my attention was drawn to this scene. I felt the woman’s pose within her environment told an eloquent story.
“No matter what is happening in the world, I continue to believe in humanity.”
We spent several hours with some local children in a nearby school. Here, two of the wide-eyed students observing us as we observed them.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
Dalai Lama XIV
After school, we saw three young friends experiencing the joy of finishing the day’s work. Although it could be anywhere USA, this happy group of kids is headed home from school in South Africa.
“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.”
During our community visit, some of the residents graciously shared with us their customs and daily chores. Below, a woman who taught us how grains are processed to make one of the staples of the local diet using the long pole she handled so deftly. Several of the more adventurous among us sampled the fruits of her labor 🙂
“Where humanity sowed faith, hope, and unity, joy’s garden blossomed.”
Finally, one of my favorite people of all time, our guide in Botswana, Ezekiel. Full of life, exuberance, joy and love, Ezekiel introduced us to the glory that is Africa. His smile never dimmed, his knowledge of the land and the beautiful creatures who inhabit it led us to love it as much as he did – gift for which I will be forever grateful.
“The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.”
A famous quote by Maya Angelou seems particularly appropriate for this week’s challenge. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Words to travel by, don’t you think?
Want to check in on some other bloggers’ views of humanity? Click here.
“Here’s to having an excellent adventure and may the stopping never start.”
Most photographers love an adventure; after all, with lens in hand even the back yard can be an adventure 🙂 Those who have been following my blog know that my husband and I love to travel, and many of our journeys have been adventure-focused. We’ve climbed mountains, soared in hot air balloons, hiked on and cruised through glaciers, crossed wobbly rope bridges in the rain forest….well, you get the idea. But for me the word adventure automatically takes me back to our safari in Africa.
“Life is a daring adventure. I am enjoying every bit of the joyful journey. “
Lailah Gifty Akita
There are two schools of thought when photographing animals in the wild. One approach is to get up close and personal and try to capture the spirit within, focusing if possible on the eyes. Another option is to show the animal in its natural habitat, preferably exhibiting characteristic behavior. With thanks to Michelle for her Adventure challenge, I thought I’d contrast the two approaches to see which resonates more strongly. I’ve opened with two different captures of the powerful and incredibly fast cheetah. It was quite something to see the burst of speed this seemingly docile creature employed when she spotted potential prey.
“Let your imagination be your adventure and see where it takes you.”
Above and below we see first, two wildebeests locked in battle, showing their prowess with their sharp and (one would assume) deadly horns. Second, a portrait of this rather odd-looking animal – although I suppose not so odd to another wildebeest:-) – looking quite placid.
“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.”
One of the most beautiful creatures on safari is the lithe and graceful leopard. We saw them in trees, on the hunt, with their young, at rest, feeding on their catch – in just about every way possible. Each time we were thrilled with the sighting and watched as long as possible. Here then, a close up followed by an environmental portrait.
” Between safety and adventure I choose adventure.”
“Even the mediocre can have adventures and even the fearful can achieve.”
Following the beautiful leopard, one of the most reviled of wild animals, the hyena. Perhaps they’ve been given a bad rap based on their association with witchcraft and their reputation for stealing food from other animals. In fact, hyenas kill most all of their food themselves and are quite crafty – working in packs to defeat faster, stronger predators. We witnessed a hyena challenging a leopard for her kill and were amazed that the leopard lost the battle in fairly short order. Below, two approaches to this species.
“I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure”
Finally, one cannot think of Africa without a nod to the king of beasts, the lion. Hardly the dominant creature he is reputed to be, we found them mostly sleeping or at least at rest, and bearing the scars of many battles. We saw more juveniles than mature beasts, and more females than males. Unfortunately their numbers are in serious decline due to loss of habitat, encounters with humans and continuous battles with one another. How sad to think their future could be in question as they are such incredibly majestic animals.
“Adventure: extreme circumstances recalled in tranquility.”
Jules the Kiwi
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.”
As we all know, time does fly. Although it feels like yesterday, it’s been nearly 8 years since we experienced this marvelous adventure. Digging deep into the archives, I’ve included only shots not previously posted – with thanks to the Weekly Challenge for the pleasure of revisiting fond memories while making my selections.
One final thought; despite my aversion to an early wake-up call, in Africa daybreak and sunset are the times when the animals are active, and mid-day sun is nearly unbearable. Even for me though, the daily 5:00 am departure hardly seemed a challenge when the promise of Africa was on the agenda.
So…. close-up or environmental portraits? I must admit I’m partial to the close-up myself but I enjoy the habitat shots almost as much. How about you? And if you’re in the mood to enjoy the adventures of some other bloggers click here.
“There is more than one way of perceiving. Thoroughly check your inner dialogue.”
This week’s challenge was, to me at least, one of the more interesting we’ve had thus far. The subject “dialogue” calls for us to include two photos which can be perceived as having a “consensual interaction” , opening up meanings which were not there if each was viewed alone. The set of photos above connects the interior of a single conch shell with a group of conch on the right. The intricacies of the beauty that lies within might be lost without the focus on the single shell. Likewise, without the perspective of the outer shells, one is left wondering about the purpose of the subject on the left.
“There is always an inside from outside the door.”
The two photos above were made at the same lighthouse. As a photographer, I found the interior much more compelling. Did you recognize the construct of a lighthouse before seeing the second photo? To me the details of the left side capture speak to the complexity of the mechanics necessary to to make the beacon shine from the more straightforward exterior structure shot on the right.
“What lies in front of you, and what lies behind you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Finally, a small home, which like the others in this post comes from a long-ago visit to the Bahamas. I shot the photograph on the left because I loved the angle of the staircase. The simple exterior gave me no hint that there was such an interesting scene to be found in the back :-). The backyard scene told us much more about the lives of the residents than did the capture from the front.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my “dialogues” this week – to see the photos in more detail, please click on the individual shots. To check in on some other dialogues, click here.
“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.”
An interesting challenge from John Godley this week with the word “fray”. The dictionary defines it as “unraveled or worn at the edges”. It goes on to portray usage in such terms as “frayed nerves” or “jump into the fray”. I’ve opened with a slightly humorous twist on the theme, with what might be considered bargain treatment for a case of frayed nerves :-). I found it on a photo expedition last week in downtown Hudson, New York. It should be recognizable to Peanuts fans everywhere!
“History always has a few frayed tricks up its sleeve.”
On a more literal front, notice the frayed edge of cloth poking out of the door behind this old gas pump. This little scene from yesteryear was spotted in the hills around the same area. My husband and I were following a scenic route recommended by Mister Google which did not disappoint. Here then, some of the other scenes that greeted us along the way.
“Nature’s heart beats strong amid the hills.”
Richard Monckton Milnes
While my husband drove, I co-piloted – shouting out for a stop whenever something caught my eye. Let’s just say we made many stops, indulging along the way in a very satisfactory visit to Dad’s Copake Diner-home of yummy burgers, friendly waitresses, and delicious soft ice cream – yet another visit to days gone by!
“A quiet, secluded life in the country….such is my idea of happiness.”
Of course the bucolic countryside was home to quite a few lazy cows and grazing horses. One farm is home to a number of rescued horses, including the two below. I found myself wondering if the mare’s white face was the result of mistreatment or simply old age. Of course we hoped it was the latter.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
“God had given him a tail to keep the flies off, but he would sooner have had no tail and no flies.”
So where do the cows and horses return when they’ve eaten enough grass/flowers/hay and it’s time to call it a day? To the iconic red barns of course. We saw lots of those as well, including both old and new, spiffy and nearly done in/worn/shall we say “frayed”?!
“Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase. So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”
“Creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place.”
The rural roads notwithstanding, downtown Hudson offers a wealth of opportunity for a photographer. I’ll surely be posting some captures from my visit in the coming months. But I’ll close with one more literal example for the theme – the tattered edges of a newspaper on a colorful downtown door.
“Two of the cruelest, most primitive punishments….the empty mailbox and the silent telephone.”
Want to see some other frayed examples? Click here.
“The dance between darkness and light will always remain.“
C. JoyBell C
This week our challenge is “silhouette”, admittedly not one of my favorite forms of art. If I hadn’t skipped last week’s challenge due to a hectic travel schedule, I’d have seriously considered skipping this one. Then again, isn’t that what a challenge is all about – stretching to do something outside of your comfort zone? So here’s an attempt to deliver on the silhouette challenge with some shots of our lovely barrier island. The opening capture features South Carolina’s state tree, the palmetto. I shot it on Kiawah’s famous Ocean Course; well-known to golfers everywhere :-). And yes, the sky really was that color.
“The dark does not weep for itself because there is no light.”
The second shot was made with a view from the Ocean Course toward a small gazebo overlooking the sea. In both this shot and the last, our brilliant island sunsets offered me a perfect opportunity to feature the drama between darkness and light.
“If we are unwilling to be aware of the dark, we cannot see the light.”
The capture above features a romantic couple taking in the view from a bicycle path that runs 10 miles, to and from the furthest ends of the island. The vistas along the way are spectacular, especially as the sun casts its final rays across our beautiful salt marshes.
“Darkness is your candle…..you must have shadow and light source both.”
Finally, not all silhouettes feature bright sunlight. Here, a small bird swims in silhouette surrounded by the peaceful quiet of a foggy morning on one of Kiawah’s many lagoons. For me, this final image is more compelling because of its simplicity. As always though, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, fellow beholder, are you a fan of bright and colorful, or do you prefer muted and monochromatic? Isn’t it nice that nature gives us such lovely choices?!
To see the silhouettes that captured the imagination of some other bloggers click here.
“A zigzag strategy is the best way to get ahead.”
In response to this week’s challenge “zigzag”, I’m opening with the ultimate example, China’s Great Wall. The wall zigs and zags as far as the eye can see through some of the world’s most mountainous and remote terrain. It makes one wonder at the amount of effort that must have gone into its design and construction. The wall was one of many zigzagging examples on our journey throughout the country this past fall. Here then, a few of my other favorites.
“How many twists can a tongue twister twist around the twisting tongue.”
The rice fields of Longsheng offered many samples of roads and plateaus zigzagging their way about. I chose this shot particularly because it gives one an idea of the scale of the fields compared to the the road twisting through their base.
“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
Henry David Thoreau
Above, a look at the zigzagging path that runs through old town Shangri-La. Actually I should say “ran”. Sadly the town was virtually destroyed soon after our visit by a massive fire that burned for 10 hours and destroyed more than 250 homes and businesses.
Below, an amazing vista seen from the incredibly crooked, narrow, and (I thought) dangerous road we traveled from Tiger Leaping Gorge to the lovely farmlands of Shangri-La.
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
Finally, an “up close and personal” look at the long day of a dedicated farmer working the zigzag paths of China’s verdant fields. I must admit I enjoyed the rudimentary scarecrow almost as much as the farmer himself 🙂
“Crooked paths look straighter as we approach the end.“
Wishing everyone the pleasure of discovering new paths, be they straight, crooked or even zigzagged.
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
Those of us on Kiawah recognize that for most of the country summer means relaxing and enjoying your own backyard. Here, where the temperature and humidity can be sweltering, summer means it’s time to travel. While it is actually Kiawah’s most popular season, for those of us born and raised in the northeast, summer on Kiawah can be a bit too warm for our blood :-). So in response to Krista’s Summer Lovin’ challenge, I’ve chosen to feature our recent trip to beautiful Glacier National Park.
“Why is summer mist romantic and autumn mist just sad?”
In July we had a lovely time visiting friends in cooler climes, including Michigan, Oregon and Montana – where we were a mere half-hour’s drive from the park. We spent a long and wonderful day there with our friends, driving the Going-To-The-Sun Road with stops along the way for photography and hiking. We entered the park at its west end , making our first stop at Lake McDonald where I captured the photo above. It was early morning and a beautiful layer of mist was still rising from the extraordinarily calm waters. The serenity of the moment was wonderful as we had the lake all to ourselves – who knows where the rest of the usual tourist crowd was that morning!
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”
Our timing was perfect. The famous G-T-T-S Road had opened just a week earlier, as the snow plows had finally cleared away the year’s final snowfall. Because the snow was so heavy and so late, we were treated to many rushing streams and waterfalls along the way. I was lusting for my tripod which was doing me absolutely no good sitting in my closet at home 😦
“I love how summer just wraps it’s arms around you like a warm blanket.”
It seemed to me that the more harsh the winter, the more vibrant the spring – especially the flowers. We found many scenes where colorful blooms were everywhere, oftentimes pushing up within inches of the snow, which remained on the ground everywhere we looked.
“Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair…”
Susan Polis Schutz
Lest I give you the wrong impression, it was NOT cool in Montana, in fact most days the temperatures were in the high 80s and low 90s. There was virtually no humidity however so the air was crisp and clear and we never really broke a sweat. In the park it was even cooler and we had tons of fun hiking through the snow in short sleeves and a sun hat :-). The obligatory snowballs were thrown several times but fortunately there were no serious hits.
“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
The thing about Glacier National Park is that the views and vistas never stop coming. They are literally around every curve and corner. It was all I could do to stay in the car rather than get out and walk the 50-mile road so as not to miss any of it! My friends, especially the one driving, were incredibly tolerant – even pre-planning the route with stops that would take best advantage of the photography opportunities. The shot above captures a scene we found at the end of one of our hikes (which I think was St. Mary Lake, but there are some 700 miles of park trails so I could definitely be wrong!). The couple in the shot are enjoying a well-earned rest after a long, sunny hike. The cool breeze coming off of the crystal clear water was a wonderful respite for us all.
“The summer demands and takes away too much.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the horrific wildfires that have plagued the west over the past few years, and Glacier is no exception. Here I’ve included a shot of a forest decimated by fire. In 2003, 136,000 acres were destroyed by fire, fully 13% of the entire 1,000,000 acre park. Current thinking is that fires which occur naturally should be allowed to burn, as they clear the dead trees and branches that would be kindling for much larger fires if left in place. Apparently, fires serve as nature’s reset button as new growth springs up in the paths of their destruction.
“Rejoice as summer should…chase away sorrows by living.”
Then of course there is the disappearance of the very glaciers for which the park is named. Of the 150 glaciers known to have existed 150 years ago, only 37 remained as of a 2010 park study. Scientists have predicted that all of the remaining glaciers will have disappeared by the year 2030.
“Summer softens lines that winter cruelly shows.”
Finally, a word about danger. Most of the serious photographers I know are continually on the lookout for that one “magic” shot. We make a point of searching for things that a casual observer might miss. Oftentimes we put ourselves in precarious positions, especially around water, to capture what we see. The week after our visit, a 33-year-old woman slipped and fell into the water while photographing the 30′ high upper falls at Lake McDonald. She was swept 1/2 mile down to the lake. She was rescued there but died later that day. So although I laughed when I saw this sign at the time, clearly the message is not to be taken lightly. Let us all remember not to take unreasonable risks in our quest for excellence – and above all, to stop shooting long enough to absorb the beauty that surrounds us. Life is short, live every moment!