I hate driving in the fog. Scares the heck out of me. It gets a little misty outside and my palms begin to sweat. Hate driving in the rain more, but that’s a story for another day.
But yesterday morning, I was so jazzed about taking pictures that I completely forgot to be afraid when I woke up and everything was shrouded. What I saw instead was an opportunity. So I packed up the camera gear to take with me when I dropped my son off at around 8. The mist was thick around us as we drove over to the college. No matter. I was a woman on a mission.
I wanted to find a tree in the distance to shoot, and I had the perfect one in mind, one I’ve shot before during the various seasons. It’s a grandfather oak standing alone in field at Anderson Marsh Historic State Park, which used to be a working ranch. It’s an impressive specimen. As I drove over to Lower Lake, I went over a variety of scenes in my mind, thinking about how I would capture this beauty in the fog, which was lifting fast as I parked. I hurried down the park’s driveway to the ranch house and barn, stopping to frame different shots with fences and overhanging branches as I walked. They all seemed to have potential, but I didn’t get that special feeling I had “The One” for the day. The fog continued to lift and I decided to call it shoot and walked back past the barn toward the car. I glanced over my shoulder one last time at the tree and – whoa – I saw my shot. I brought my camera to my eye, fired off two frames, and headed back, never running into anyone else; I had the park to myself.
As I reached the car, I thought about the fog and dreams and shots and trees. I glanced down past the key as I put it in the door, and came to the embarrassing realization I was still in my pajamas, a short denim jacket thrown hastily over them! Dreams, indeed. I was certainly in a fog when I left the house, thinking of nothing else but that majestic oak.
Slightly red-faced and grateful I hadn’t run into anyone else, I returned home and hastily popped my SD card into my computer. There were many nice shots of the oak and fences; the oak and rural decay; the oak and a post in the way; the oak too obscured by fog to make an impression; and the oak, framed by the corner of the barn, a denuded tree, its black branches making lace in the sky, and a country fence. It’s the last frame I took and it spoke to me.
In post processing, I felt it cried out to be converted to black and white, and I played with the contrast until the board fence in the very foreground was a suggestion, not a distraction. Other than some minor tweaks, that's it. Below is the finished image; It's titled “Echo”:
The nutcrackers are in the house! We have been collecting nutcrackers for well over a decade now, and every year it’s a cherished ritual to unpack them and put them on display above our kitchen cabinets. The sentries line the walls faithfully each Christmas season, lighted garland at their feet. The arrival of the nutcrackers after Thanksgiving signals the start of holiday fun.SentriesUncle Sam and the Viking.
Some years ago, after realizing we had amassed a number of nutcrackers, we called it an official collection, and decided to add a new one every year. The job of surprising the family with a novel nutcracker annually falls to me, and I love it. We have a Scotsman, kilt, bagpipes and all; a pirate with treasure; a Viking in the stereotypical horned helmet; an ’80s hair band guitarist affectionately referred to as “Bon Jovi”; an American soldier, acquired during the Gulf War; a jester; a Santa Claus; Uncle Sam; and a host of traditional nutcracker soldiers. In fact, we now have 35 of them, the latest addition being a 3-foot-tall black cat, memorializing our much-loved companion, Faithful, whom we had to put down this year after 14 years of delightful existence. FAThree feet tall with color-changing LED lights to boot. Great Scot!Complete with bagpipes. Rock StarAffectionately known as 'Bon Jovi.'
The nutcracker collection will continue to grow, from the silly to the serious – it’s a tradition we all take great delight in. It binds us as a family, as all good traditions – and all good cats – should.
What I have is 40+ of my images decorating an office suite in Santa Rosa. How did I get so lucky? Well, let's just say I know the right people -- people with bare walls! This agency moved into a new office space after being housed in a cube farm, and the crew was determined to make it their own. I was invited to hang my photographs on the walls, and the result is lovely. Above is the interior of the conference room, where three 48"x48" canvas panels show off vibrant calendulas from our garden.
At right is the view from outside the conference room, which has a glass wall facing the main office space, so the photos are visible from just about everywhere. It's one of my favorite parts of the installation. The calendula photos were taken after the project was proposed, so I shot them with the conference room in mind. I must have photographed about 20 different flowers (we had tons of calendulas this year) before whittling the choices down to these three. I particularly like the thick black border I chose to offset the bold orange flowers. I think it came out great!
Here's my credit underneath a photograph of Bodega Bay, in Sonoma County.
To the left when you enter the lobby is a doorway, and in the hall beyond hangs "Gateway," a photo taken at Fort Ross in Jenner, also in Sonoma County. Because of the wide-angle lens I used to take this photo of the photo, it looks much smaller than its 20"x30" size. Above the reception desk hangs an image of the turbulent rocky shore of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.
If you read my blog entry "Tulips Under Pressure," you know that I struggled to provide a macro tulip diptych for this office. Once I had good images of two halves of an orange tulip, they were enlarged to 24"x36" each and mounted 1" apart. Here's the final installation (I'm mighty pleased by the result):
In the main communal space of the office, there is an area referred to as "the lounge." There are comfy chairs and little tables, and it's a great spot for an informal meeting. Overlooking this space is a wall of shelves, which were just crying out for an assortment of smaller images. You'll note they're all flowers, which is not only what I specialize in, but is what the agency administrator called for. "Flowers. Bring 'em on!" he said. So I picked a dozen flowers, ordered them up in a variety of sizes, and this is the result.
There are flowers dotting walls everywhere in this office!
RaysThe sun shines through an ornamental pear tree. I picked up my camera yesterday. Removed the batteries. Charged them. Put the SD card back in. All the while humming soothingly to myself, my hands working, my mind kind of blank. I wasn't committing to anything, mind you, just getting ready in case the mood struck.One.This looks like a color splash treatment, but it's not. There are flecks of color visible in the asphalt. I just loved the color of this leaf against the dark gray.
I picked up my camera this morning, popped on the long lens, checked the menus and settings, and got in the car, headed for my neighborhood library. The building is surrounded by a ring of ornamental pear trees, which turn flashy colors in fall. It's the closest thing to fall color we've got around here, in the land of the oaks.
I shot for just 15 minutes before I decided I was done, and got in the car and drove home, smiling to myself at the sweet feeling I had at least one or two "keeper" shots. Turns out there were four. I was mostly into single leaves, but the photo at top really grabbed me too.
I felt -- no heard -- the collective sigh of relief from those who love me best; perhaps it was just my own sigh, loud and clear. The muse is back. I'm back.
I haven’t touched my camera in six months, even to take the batteries out. But my shutter finger is getting the tiniest bit itchy now, and I’m seeing the world around me in terms of the pictures it would make, which is a hopeful sign.
Being away from the camera leaves me feeling just this much less than whole. I never thought photography would be a part of my life, and now I’m worried that it won’t be on a regular basis. It saddens me to think of the growth my work could have experienced had I been shooting this past half year – I’d be better both technically and artistically, I bet.
But the muse is not to be commanded. The muse commands me.