Weekly Photo Challenge -Work of Art

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Pablo Picasso

A DAY IN THE LIFE

A SIMPLE LIFE

This week my husband and I are hosting a bit of a family reunion, so there’s not much time for blogging.  I hated to miss Michelle’s Photo Challenge, “Work of Art”, so I’m posting an abbreviated entry.  The shot above captures a simple home on laundry day from China’s beautiful Longsheng area. I post-processed it with PS Elements filters to create a bit of an impressionist view of the scene. Below,  I applied a similar treatment to a lovely floral scene in China’s Hangzhou.

PRETTY IN PURPLE

PRETTY IN PURPLE

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

Edgar Degas

Impressionism has always been my favorite form of painting. I studied the French masters as part of my undergraduate degree, and have visited the incredible collections of the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.  My entry this week is a nod to their courage for creating a new and boldly different (in its day) style in the face of much criticism, and an acknowledgement of their incredible talent.

Impressionism and painting in general are an obvious entry for art, as is photography. But art can be so many things to so many people. To see what some other bloggers chose for their focus, click here.

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge -On the Move

“I demolish my bridges behind me…then there is no choice but to move forward.”

Fridtjof Nansen

FIREFIGHTERS

FIREFIGHTERS ON THE MOVE

This week Cheri’s Photo Challenge asks us to illustrate movement. I enjoy the challenge of depicting motion using technology that is basically designed to capture a still moment (or at least it was before video became so prevalent). The shot above captures the intensity of the firefighters rushing INTO the fire I was driving away from. I was amazed at their courage and dedication as they hurtled forward toward the danger.

Doubling the challenge, I’m also responding to Ailsa’s Travel Theme “Rivers”. The shot below, of a ghostly ship passing through my composition of the Hong Kong skyline at night, was captured on its lovely Pearl River.

GHOST SHIP, HONG KONG

GHOSTLY SHIP, HONG KONG

“Progress and motion are not synonymous.”

Tim Fargo

Below, in the same skyline, the movement is seen in the clouds above the city.  During the long exposure needed to accommodate the darkness, the clouds were moving quite quickly. I always find it amazing that clouds pass so visibly in a photograph, since the naked eye sees them as a bit more static.

EVENING ON THE PEARL

EVENING ON THE PEARL

“We see in order to move; we move in order to see.”

William Gibson

Motion can also be depicted in the abstract, shown below in a shot I made by moving the camera very slightly up and down during a long exposure. I liked the way the yellow reeds caught the sunlight, drawing them out from their grassy surroundings.

THREE TREES

THREE TREES

“What-ifs and could-have-beens are not the way to move forward.”

Judi Fennell

Finally, perhaps the easiest way to illustrate being on the move, the use of car headlights as they pass through a scene. As you can see, this shot of downtown Charleston was taken during last year’s holiday season.

SHINING THE LIGHT

SHINING THE LIGHT

“Life moves on and so should we”

Spencer Johnson

To catch some other blogger’s on the move, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge -Spring

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

GREEN

GREEN

It’s spring again at last, and all the world is smiling.  Ash has asked us to respond to this week’s challenge with signs of spring.  Here on Kiawah, all of the creatures that share our lovely spot on the planet are peeking out from their winter’s hideaway. The bright green frog above as well as the baby gator below.

BABY GATOR

BABY GATOR

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

As those of us on Kiawah know only too well, where there’s a baby there’s sure to be a watchful mama close by. The one below, which my lens captured just yesterday, seems as happy as we are that spring has finally arrived.

HAPPY GATOR

HAPPY GATOR

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.”

John Muir

Here in South Carolina’s beautiful lowcountry, spring arrives early. Plants and animals begin peeking out from winter’s hibernation in late March and early April. Baby creatures are born and flowers bloom as winter disappears and spring’s warm breezes caress the earth. Nesting loggerhead turtles return from the sea to deliver their eggs to our shore. The hatchlings who survive will make their way to the sea, amazingly finding their way back each following year to hatch their own offspring.

TO THE SEA

TO THE SEA

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

Neltje Blanchan

Kiawah is also a stopover for the beautiful Monarch butterfly as it makes it’s way across the country, following the warmer climates it needs to thrive.

RESTING MONARCH

RESTING MONARCH

Spring brings joy to life.”

A.K.White

It is a time for our beautiful shore birds, like the great blue herons and graceful egrets below, to nest and bear their young.

HERON FAMILY

HERON FAMILY

“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.”

Marty Rubin

FAMILY TIME

FAMILY TIME

“Every man and every living creature has a sacred right to the gladness of springtime.”

Leo Tolstoy

Flowers begin to bloom, from the lovely purple and yellow irises to the gloriously scented magnolias that share their potent perfume with anyone passing them by.

PURPLE AND GREEN

PURPLE AND GREEN

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

Claudia Llompart

MAGNOLIA

MAGNOLIA

“At springtime all is born-again.”

Eric Metaxas

It’s not only the creatures who come out of hibernation to enjoy springtime’s warm sun and soft breezes. Residents too (including yours truly) are once again taking to the paths and beaches to soak up the joys of springtime. This year especially, after the absurdly long and harsh winter of 2014, we are all entitled to bask in the beauty of nature’s rebirth.

FINALLY !

FINALLY !

“Nothing is so beautiful as Spring”

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Here’s to spring, may it teach us the value of perseverance as winter vanishes at last!

To see some others’ views of springtime, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge -Letters

“Never underestimate the value of knowing another’s language. It can be far more powerful than swords and arrows.”

 Melina Marchetta

THE POWER OF WORDS

THE POWER OF WORDS

Cheri’s challenge this week focuses on Letters – highlighting the power of language and our ability to communicate with one another through writing. Languages have always been among my favorite things. I majored in them in college, where one of my favorite classes was Linguistics. There, we learned quite easily to read, write and speak a bit of Swahili among other things – all based on the rhythms. cadence and basic structure of language.

NAXI PICTOGRAPH

NAXI PICTOGRAPH

“There’s no such thing as dead languages, only dormant minds.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

While in China last fall, we visited Lijiang, home of the Naxi people.  Theirs is the only remaining actively-used pictograph language in the world. The symbols are called Dongba, and they have been traced back as far as the 7th Century.  During the Chinese Cultural Revolution Dongba use was discouraged and many manuscripts were destroyed. Today they are working to restore it in order to preserve the Naxi culture. Dongba priests create works on paper which is handmade from wood, then sewn into books. The language is extremely complex, with over 1,400 characters, mostly  pictograms like those above. It takes upwards of 15 years to become proficient in Dongba script, which helps explain the dwindling few who use it.

BEAUTIFUL SCRIPT

BEAUTIFUL SCRIPT 

“Pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language. ”

Muriel Barbery

Dongba is not the only beautiful script in China. There are 7 main Chinese dialects including the official national language, Mandarin.  Most of the Han Chinese share a common script despite their different dialects; so although they do not understand one another’s speech, they can communicate through writing.  I captured the image above at a park outside of Beijing where several Chinese were practicing script-writing with large brushes on granite pavement – a very different form of street art.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

Rudyard Kipling

I had to laugh at myself when I saw this shot after downloading it. If you look closely at the yellow and brown Chinese sign, you’ll see the English translation below – “No Photograph”.  For those too impatient to read, there’s a pictorial most anyone can understand! Clearly I was more focused on the shot than the sign 🙂

UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

 “Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Like the red circle with a line through it, some symbols work in every language.  Exhibit A above, for example, delivers an obvious message regardless of  language.

Finally, I’ll close with a lovely sign that includes both script and a heart-warming little white cottage complete with picket fence. Here in the US it’s a symbol of achieving the dream of owning one’s own home in a quiet, simple place where the heart can feel at home. It seems it too is a symbol that works in any language.

PURE LIFE

PURE LIFE

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

J.K. Rowling

To see some of the letters of others, click here.

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.