Better than Fall Color?

Like a lot of folks and especially photographers, I spent much of the last four weeks chasing fall color. It started in mid-October when my sister and I took a weekend trip to Damascus, Virginia. Here’s what we found right across the state border in our home state of Tennessee:

fall scenic of stream at Backbone Rock State Recreation Area, Stream Valley, Tennessee

But guess what? Fall color wasn’t the highlight of the weekend. The highlights came the next day.

What can cause more excitement than fall color? Snow! Yes! Our Sunday morning adventure began with snow. Granted, we had to drive to the top of White Top Mountain (that’s really the name), but here’s some of what we saw:

Admittedly, not a blizzard, but for this Nashville girl escaping 80 degree temperatures, it was way cool (in fact, really cold). Certainly an exciting and invigorating way to start the day.

We next visited Grayson Highlands State Park and just a short hike down the Appalachian Trail we found THE highlight of the weekend – wild horses.   Needless to say, I love wild horses. They’re so beautiful and free. I think the last time I saw some was several years ago on a trip to Wyoming.

Okay, so these horses weren’t running wildly with wind blowing freely through their manes like you see in the movies, but …

here are a series of images, shown in chronological order, that are very tender and sweet. It started with this:

and then this happened: 

Dam and foal #2
Dam and foal #3
Dam and foal #4
Dam and foal #5
Dam and foal #6

Now how many weekends have you found beautiful fall color, been surprised by the first snow of the season, found wild horses on the Appalachian Trail, and a foal nursing from her mother? Whatever you may think of the images, it was all pretty awesome.

I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to spend this “fall color” weekend with my sister and to share it now with you. 

So here’s a thought – as we move from Thanksgiving to Black Friday and beyond, should you get a little overwhelmed by it all, you might think about these images. Why? Because they might help you keep things in perspective.

No matter the deal you may land on the internet, the best things in life are actually … free. Better yet: “the best things in life aren’t things.” – Nancy Whitfield

Thank you for following my blog.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Shalom

I didn’t start this blog to respond to societal ills, but I seem to have a hard time ignoring them. When I heard the news of the Las Vegas shooting, I quickly wrote a blog post on clouds. Following a series of natural disasters last fall, I blogged about the beauty of New Mexico. But the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh has taken me a bit longer.

In my quest to pen the right words, I came across a quote from Etty Hillesum which eloquently sums up my thoughts on what we can do to prevent future hate motivated killings.

Hillesum, all too familiar with anti-semitism herself being a Jewish author who lived in Nazi occupied Holland, wrote this: “Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”

There it is.

Often in writing blog posts I am tempted also to quote Scripture. So far I have resisted that urge. But this time, in the aftermath of a senseless anti-Semitic mass shooting,  I think it’s appropriate to share this verse from the Old Testament: “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

The image above is hopeful. The tree of life you see in the image is beautiful, created and strengthened by God, and surrounded by peace. The dawning of each new day brings new possibilities of peace.

Do you remember the song “Let there be peace on earth?” And the next line? “and let it begin with me?” Let’s sing that song, if not with our voices, with our hearts and actions.

Today.

Thanks for following my blog.  Shalom.

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Art and nature

It’s a theme that seemed to come up a lot when I was an English major in college.

I experienced some art and nature firsthand last Tuesday morning when doing some early morning photography in Nashville’s Edwin Warner Park.

The first two images below are abstracts made by intentional camera movement.

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Green

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Green and blue

They’re art. Or perhaps, nature in art?

The next two images are not abstractions, but pretty nature images.

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butterfly on red salvia

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one fine day

They’re nature. Or perhaps, art in nature?

Which images do you like better?

I like both and am reminded of the famous quote from John Muir: “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

How true.

Thanks for following my blog. It’s a great month to be outdoors in nature.

 

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Zane at 8

Last weekend we were treated to a return visit from our niece Robyn, her husband Thad, & their sons Zane (8) and Sam (4). They previously had come in April to run the 1/2 marathon and during the race, Don had taken the boys fishing. Before this visit, Robyn had texted that Zane and Sam wanted to go fishing again with Uncle Don.

So on Saturday morning, when Robyn and Thad left for a few hours to attend a teacher’s conference, Don and I (and Betsy who was home from Florence-weary South Carolina), headed to our neighborhood lake with fishing poles, crickets, and a cooler.

Now for those of you who think summer ends when school starts, think again. Today is actually the last official day of summer, and rest assured, it was a very summery day last Saturday morning in Nashville. Think sunny, humid, and 90+ degrees.

Unfortunately, early attempts at finding a fishing spot in the shade where the fish were biting failed. Exit Betsy.

“The boys” and Don were on a serious mission though and kept trying.  Here you see them, a little fatigued but still determined, halfway around the lake.

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No luck.

So they had no choice but to try the dam, which as you might tell from the image below, was in full sun and blazing hot.

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You gotta love Uncle Don’s Huck Finn style hat and brim.

Wait, did I just say bream?

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I did! 

As soon as Zane could cast his line, he was reeling in the bream, one right after the other. He told us his goal was to catch eight. He didn’t say why but it was clear he wasn’t leaving, no matter what, until he had caught eight.

But wait. What about ‘lil bro Sam? Well, about the time we got to the hot dam (I’ve always wanted to use that term in the proper context) I sensed Sam had about had it, so we found a picnic table under some shade trees about 20 yards away for a different kind of fish experience.

Well, it seems Sam loves to snack (“graze”) and after two juice boxes, 1/2 bag of goldfish and a bottle of water, things were starting to look up. Sam, in fact, was smiling up at me from under the table. So I grabbed my camera but didn’t like shooting through the table so I asked him if he could come back up.  He then assumed this pose:

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Okay, I have to admit, I really love this photograph. 

Sam and I continued to talk. I asked,

“So what was the favorite thing you did this summer?”

He answered, “swimming.”

I asked, “Do you know how to swim yet?”

He answered, “no, but Zane is teaching me.”

I said, “That’s nice. Zane is a great big brother, isn’t he?”

Sam nodded enthusiastically in agreement.

We went on to talk about Pokemon, Daniel the Tiger, and Paw Patrol.

Soon we heard Zane yell excitedly “I did it! I did it! I caught eight fish!” Sam and I went over to congratulate him.

Okay! Mission accomplished. Time to head home.

As we were walking back home, Don said he started comparing the day’s fishing to the fishing in April. When home, Don whispered to me, “Last spring, Sam caught 7 and Zane 3.”

I smiled.

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Bragging rights: Zane & fish #8

That little smile? Priceless.

Thanks for following my blog and sharing in one of our sweet end of summer memories.

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Don’s AMAZING farm photographs

Every time Don goes out to the farm he comes back with stories of things he saw or did that day. Sometimes, similar to an eight year old boy coming home with a prized turtle found in a creek, he brings home souvenirs such as deer skulls, nests, or snake skins. Recently his prized possessions have been photographs.

The common thread in Don’s images is a “wow” effect. I think if his current farmer gig were to ever end, he could perhaps get a job with Ripley’s Believe It or Not. See if you don’t agree.

So we’ll start with two of the images he got from his game or trail camera this week.

Animal #1

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That’s a bobcat. In daylight.  I’d be happier knowing its home was the San Diego Zoo.

Animals #2 & 3

MTC_Cameraare just deer; HOWEVER, that buck is kind of big and the interaction between the two is pretty sweet.

So now some of Don’s cell phone photos …

Scene #1

That’s grass Don’s been mowing – the kind you probably have in your yard except about five feet taller.

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Animal #4

Farm mule snake

That’s about a 5-6 foot snake. So you know how this blog is named “photographs in need of explanation?” Here’s what you need to know about this snake. It fell out of Don’s four wheeler from the dash onto his legs when putting the key in the ignition. Can you even imagine? You’re in your vehicle and a snake like that falls on your legs? I get creeped out even thinking about it.

Animals #5

Farm bee swarm (3)

This is a bee swarm. I actually saw this also. It was about ten yards away from some bee hives. It’s a little hard to tell from this photo, but the swarm is about 1 1/2 feet long and 3-4 inches deep. There were several bees flying in and out when we were there. Fortunately, neither of us got stung.

So that’s the buzz for this week’s post of Don’s AMAZING farm photos. We’ve learned they make great cocktail party conversation.

Thanks for following my blog and thanks, Don, for sharing your photographs this week.

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in an Oregon state of mind

Don and I spent some time in Oregon in June.  Neither of us had been there before. Here are some quick take aways:

  1. it has an incredibly diverse landscape;
  2. it seems like everyone has a dog and takes the dog(s) with them everywhere they go; 
  3. Road signs say “Speed 60” instead of “Speed Limit 60.” Why no limits in Oregon?
  4. They don’t let you pump your own gas and gas stations often close at dusk;
  5. Seafood, beer, wine, fish hatcheries, logging, and Les Schwab Tire Dealerships seem to dominate the landscape (btw Les Schwab did a great job patching two flat tires for us); 
  6. Oregon appeals to a lot of outdoor enthusiasts and photographers (ask Don about breakfast with the professional windsurfers sometime); and, be sure to remember this last one …
  7. the Oregonians we met and spent time with clearly love Oregon and appreciate what they’ve got.

So what photograph(s) do I share?

Well, at this point, only two. 

So because Oregon is such a dog loving state, we’ll start with “Fetch.”

yellow lab chasing ball in water in Joseph Oregon

“Fetch” was taken in Joseph, Oregon, in the heart of what is called Oregon’s “Little Switzerland.” The mountains in Joseph look a lot like the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I was sitting on a boat dock when a woman nearby started throwing a ball in the lake for her yellow Lab to retrieve. I went over and started talking with her and then made friends with Kona. Good times.

This second image was taken on the Oregon coast, I think near Newport.

Oregon Coast

 

 

I like the whimsical nature of this image. Often I look up at the clouds and think about the shapes they make. The boulders in the background of this image also invite you to imagine. Is that a dragon back there? Or maybe a clone of the Loch Ness monster?

It’s never been a goal of mine to visit all 50 states but when I took a silly Facebook quiz many years ago I realized I had then been to 40+ states and so started considering it.  This trip made Oregon my 48th state to visit. What’s left? North Dakota and Hawaii. Will I visit those states? I don’t know.

Sure, I like to travel, but in recent years I’ve come to realize that while it’s fun to visit new places, lasting contentment does not come from travel; it comes from appreciating wherever you presently are.

A couple nights after coming home from Oregon I did a photography session with newborn twins. As I looked around at the location the parents had chosen, it occurred to me, particularly in that golden hour of light, that the setting was as beautiful as any I had encountered in Oregon, and I was so lucky to be there, in that place, with that family, in that moment.

That state of contentment where you appreciate where you currently are – it’s the only state you really must visit.

Thanks for following my blog and joining me as I remember our time in Oregon and think like an Oregonian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loose in the Palouse

I’m back to the blog after a little long road trip. This post is about how we started that road trip, after flying into Portland, Oregon, and then driving six hours across the state.

So … there’s a little patch of heaven in the southeastern corner of the state of Washington called the Palouse. Sometimes called “America’s Little Tuscany,” its pastoral rolling hills of wheat are vast and serene. It’s been on my bucket list of places to visit and photograph for years. Don and I went last month.

Before reaching the iconic fertile hills of the Palouse, we stopped in Palouse Falls State Park, a geological 180 from what I had come a long way to photograph. It has never been on my bucket list of places to visit or photograph, and we almost turned back several times before arriving.

Seriously, we had all sorts of reasons not to go — it was out of the way, we’d be late checking into our hotel, the park had closed recently due to security concerns after someone fell to their death when part of a cliff collapsed, and there were rattlesnake warnings all over the place — but I think …

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it was worth it. Pretty awesome, right?

The next day was the day I’d been anxiously anticipating. Armed with maps and apps, we drove to the top of Steptoe Butte State Park, probably the most popular photography destination in the region. Here’s my photograph of what I understand to be one of the more beautiful scenic overlooks of rolling hills in America:

Fog on top of Steptoe Butte State ParkFair to say, June 9, 2018, will not go down as the day I captured the beautiful expanse of the rolling hillsides of the Palouse.

Undaunted by the weather, I went ahead and made a few photographs that day:

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Palouse hills 1

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the ladder by Silo #6

wheat barn
simple but strong

Okay, but not what I had come to capture.

Towards the end of the day, when we were near Oakland, Washington, the sky opened up for a short while.

barnwebThat wet red barn on the rolling hillside is the closest I came to what many people view as an iconic Palouse scene. Still, it’s not the abstract photography I wanted from miles and miles of overlapping hills reaching into the horizon.

What is beautiful? Is it a red barn against a green hillside? Abstracts made from hills filled with light and shadows?  A waterfall into a deep canyon?

In an interview with Krista Tippett and published on http://www.onbeing.org, cellist Yo Yo Ma described beauty in this way:

It could be music. It could be a poem. It could be an event … [o]ften, in nature. But, when that encapsulated form is received, there’s a moment of reception and cognition of the thing that is, in some ways, startling … We are part of nature and we observe nature, but we’re part of the human realm, and there’s that moment, when essentially there’s a transfer of life. [I]t’s the human cognition of that vastness, the awe and the wonder, something that’s, in a way, bigger than yourself.

The Palouse is beautiful – all of it – but on this trip, the part where we felt that transfer of life into a world way bigger than ourselves, more than anywhere else, was the part we almost missed … Palouse Falls State Park. And you know what? At this point in my life, I really like that an old dry canyon with water and energy and life flowing in and through it, can on any one particular day be more beautiful than fertile fields many miles away.

Sometimes a little fog helps you see things a little more clearly.

Thanks for following my blog.

Stay tuned for the next post which will likely feature some aspect of our 2,000 mile jaunt through Oregon, where we saw whales, sea lions, elk, deer, marmots, eagles, dogs, more dogs, one cat, lots of fish, but no ducks. And they call themselves the Oregon Ducks? I’m not kidding, no ducks. Not one.

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“Give them their meaning”

There is often a lot of fluff on Facebook but then there are times when you read a post with some depth. Often it’s the announcement of a birth or a death or some other significant event in a friend’s life or family. 

I came across one such post Saturday from a friend named Posie who posted this:

The young dead soldiers do not speak.

Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses: 
who has not heard them?

They have a silence that speaks for them at night 
and when the clock counts.

They say: We were young. We have died. 
Remember us.

They say: We have done what we could 
but until it is finished it is not done.

They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished 
no one can know what our lives gave.

They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours, 
they will mean what you make them.

They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for 
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say, 
it is you who must say this.

We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning. 
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.

Archibald MacLeish

In researching this poem titled The Young Soldiers do not Speak, I found an interesting article on a speech Archibald MacLeish (a three time Pulitzer Prize winning author) gave when asked to address a group in 1966 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes. 

On the topic of what the Pulitzer Prize means to an author, he said, among other things:

What these awards have done for many of us in this indifferent world of ours – this particularly indifferent American world – is somehow to include them [poets].  We need, most of us, a sign of recognition, not recognition of our ultimate worth as poets — only poetry itself can give that — but recognition that we exist. That we are there. Among those who went before and those who will come after.

Hmnn … “recognition that we exist. That we are there.” 

For the past year, many of my camp friends and I have been reading daily Facebook posts from a camp friend with terminal cancer. After we knew her at camp she became a chef and she’s been generously sharing favorite recipes and cooking secrets with us over the past many months. She’s also shared stories from her life, lessons learned through the years, and an intimate glimpse of the special love she holds for her husband Neil. Her posts are honest, thought-provoking, and well-written. 

A few days ago in a post titled “Epitaph” she wrote: “I have been blathering on here for a little over a year and I do want to record a few important things.” She then lists several things important to her and then gets to this: “Someday, I hope in a distant future, one will be able to look back and say ‘She was here.'”

There it is – that quiet plea for us to recognize, to remember … and in this particular case, it came bundled with a treasured recipe for chess pie.

Over fifty years ago a celebrated poet referred to us as “indifferent” Americans. Amidst all of today’s Memorial Day trappings – the picnics, lake outings, and blockbuster Memorial Day sales, can we not stop and give meaning to the lives of the departed service men and women and be grateful? We can and we should and I trust we will. 

But, in doing so, are we the different amidst the indifferent? If so, can we be the difference that one day overcomes the indifference? I think so.

Happy Memorial Day.

 

Healing Field Flags of Remembrance
Memorial Day Flags of Remembrance in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

 

 

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The Iroquois Steeplechase

What was on Nashville’s hot list this weekend? The Iroquois Steeplechase. It’s been a Nashville spring tradition since 1941.

As one of the premier steeplechasing events in the country, the Iroquois offers the well-heeled social and equestrian circles of Nashville an opportunity to sport new spring fashions, party, and raise money for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. It’s a fun place to hang out for the day, especially if you’re a photographer.

So what did I see and photograph Saturday? Well, for starters, hats. Lots and lots of hats. Here’s a sampling:

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Then, there’s the people watching. Let’s just say there were many fashion conscious people out there:

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Some things I found humorous:

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Some images seemed timeless:

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And last but not least, there’s the horses, the races, the jockeys, and the winners:

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All in all, a great day. Thanks, as always, for following my blog.

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Re-introducing Mary Rice Photography

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So my site experienced some technical difficulties overnight … ahem … 

My apologies to all who were unsuccessful during this period to access it.  I believe (fingers crossed) the problem has been resolved.

Let’s try again! Please visit:

http://www.maryricephoto.com

Everyone gets a bonus photo out of this. It’s the one featured above. I call it “the path to cyber security – it’s a little foggy right now.”

🙂 

Thanks to all my helper elves who made me aware of the problem.

Now let’s put that unfortunate bug-a-boo behind us and move on to enjoy Mary Rice Photography.

Oh, and Happy World Book Day! — Mary