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

 

To Spring

Well despite the Nor’easter, today is the first day of spring!  In Nashville, we had some snow on March 12th and snow is possible again tonight, but in the interim, we’ve had several nice days, enough to share some images of Nashville’s early spring blooms. Photos were taken at Nashville’s Cheekwood Botanical Gardens.

tulips and hyacinths
tulips and hyacinths
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stand-outs from the crowd
the lone daffodil
the lone daffodil
ladybug
the climb of the ladybug
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reflections of a dad taking his family’s photographs

We’re due spring showers for most of the next ten days, but after that? I think more spring flowers.

“We loiter in winter while it is already spring.” — Henry David Thoreau

Happy spring!

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some thoughts on cell phone photography (Part 2 – more cameras = greater transparency)

 

iPhone capture of La Spezia, Italy train station
a big wide world with people coming and going and sharing different viewpoints and perspectives as captured on my cell phone

We all see life and life’s events unfold through a lens that’s unique to our own lives. It’s a lens that’s based on where we’ve lived, our past experiences, those with whom we interact, books we read, jobs we hold, faiths we practice, places we have traveled, etc.   It’s a big wide world out there with many different angles, viewpoints and perspectives.

So maybe it’s not such a stretch to suggest that media organizations also see through a filtered lens or subscribe to particular viewpoints. I know traditionally trained journalists pride themselves on unbiased, objective reporting, yet it seems more and more the daily news (or at least the news that’s emphasized) varies significantly from one media source to another. 

In the early days of cell phone cameras, I remember reading FB posts from some photojournalists saying how disappointing it would be if the major news organizations started relying on amateur photos and video from cell phone cameras instead of their own  professional equipment and training. I’m not sure what these photojournalists would say today, but I do think American journalism is struggling, and cameras on cell phones have little to do with it. I think many Americans today first learn of news from questionable or unreliable sources.

But recently during this period of evolving journalism came one very loud and clear news story: a troubled teen armed with semi-automatic weapons killed 17 and injured many more at a Parkland, Florida high school. And how did this news first break? Through student cell phones, which included still and video camera footage. You know what? That camera footage didn’t present the situation with a slanted, biased, or unvetted viewpoint; it presented the situation just as it played out.

There’s a lot of talk about the harmful effects of too much cell phone usage and with much of that I agree; it’s just that at the same time, I think it’s possible that that “transparency” so often promised but unfulfilled by politicians, is also lacking in many of the current media outlets. You know where you can find transparency?  In the stills and video on your phone.

I’ve thought about posting some of the Parkland students’ videos here but have decided they might be too disturbing for my audience so I’m now turning to discuss another form of camera phone transparency.  Please keep reading – I’m building to a point here.

A couple months ago a friend invited me to join her at a http://www.Photovoice.org workshop in London. Rather than paraphrasing what Photovoice is all about, here are some quotes from its website:

Photovoice’s vision is for a world in which everybody has the opportunity to represent themselves and tell their own story. We work across the world to build skills in underrepresented communities, using participatory photography and digital storytelling methods. We have worked in partnership in over thirty five countries in seventy-three different projects. Photography for social change.

A caveat at this point – Photovoice projects sometimes use DSLRs or point and shoot cameras, but nevertheless often rely on the simplest and most available cameras, which often are cell phone cameras.

In trying to gain a better understanding of Photovoice, I began reading some of the  posts from those who have already put cameras in the hands of the marginalized. The posts which can be found on the website are powerful.

In one titled “Look Beyond – using Photovoice to break down barriers in mental health,” Dr. Maria Quinlan, a sociologist at the University College Dublin, asked a small group of students facing mental health challenges to tell their story – how they experienced life – by photographing their world. One student photographed an electrical socket with a cord plugged in on one side with the other side empty.  His caption read: “Two sockets. One is connected, one disconnected. I have days when I’m connected to society and others where I’m totally detached. Lost, alone. I fight to stay connected, I want to, now stay connected. That is why the connected plug is first. This was not always the way.”  

So what’s the point in all this? The point is that in an age when almost everyone carries a camera with them at all times, there is a greater transparency of what goes on in our world. So while politicians and perhaps the media often fall short on transparency, the news is there, often on our camera rolls. This constantly growing population of cell phone photographers supply us with the footage from school shootings, other people’s thought processes, and worlds we have never seen or experienced before.  

Do I miss the days of the Walter Cronkite type journalism I felt I could trust? Yes. Do I miss mornings where I would search through The Tennessean newspaper for amazing photographs from veteran photojournalists? Absolutely. But am I also glad we now have an opportunity to see a broader, more transparent, more immediate view of the world as captured by a larger group of photographers? Yes.

I am glad both to have lived during the days when people read newspapers and watched the evening news, and to live today where so many have a camera in hand and capture a reality we otherwise might never have seen or understood. Cameras in the hands of just about everyone, not just a privileged few, provide an educational opportunity for us to discover worlds not previously seen or understood, and to act when we discover those in need or suffering injustice.

Thanks, as always, for following my blog.  I won’t be attending a Photovoice workshop this spring, but I will be making an exciting announcement in the near future.  I hope you’ll plug in.

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some thoughts on cell phone photography (Part I)

Just as it seems like it’s a good time of year to clean out your closets, yesterday I spent some time scrolling through my cell phone photographs to see what was worth keeping and what could be trashed. In doing so, I was surprised to find, amongst everything else, a good many keepers. Below are some of these images.

This first set of photographs remind me of the types of photos I would often take as a photography student. They highlight lines, shape and form. These photographs typically convert nicely to black and white, although I left one in color because I liked the pink.

The warmer, golden images below are parts of light fixtures.

The next two photos are abstractions giving a hint or suggestion of a sunrise.

The cloud photo was how the sky looked above the Maryland Farms YMCA when I finished playing tennis a few weeks ago. The shinier sunburst image that I took yesterday morning is largely reflected light from the trash can at the bottom of the image.

So it seems when left on my own I take a lot of shape and form and abstract photos. Not really sure why.

Above you see more light fixtures and these have the bonus of having faces. These I found at the mall. BTW, one advantage to taking photos with your camera phone as opposed to one of your larger cameras is that it reduces the risk of being stopped by security. 🙂 

Anyway, when shooting professionally, I still rely heavily on my DSLRs and mirrorless camera, but the times are changing.  More and more professionals are incorporating cell phones into their photography and cell phone photos and video are used frequently by the media, stock agencies, and yes, law enforcement. Cell phone photos also line the walls of many fine art galleries. 

Certainly the ever-changing technology in camera phones is partly responsible for this phenomenom, but I would maintain that it’s still the photographer and not the camera who is ultimately responsible for creating powerful imagery. It is, after all, the photographer who plans, who waits, who designs, and who clicks the shutter when the moment is just right.

To bring this point home, you might go back and look at the “FIRSTS Project” in one of the September issues of Time Magazine. In that project, Luisa Dorr used her iPhone to photograph twelve covers and 46 portraits of women who “are changing the world.” In doing so, she and the powerful images which came out of her iPhone made history. Here’s a question for you: Was the iPhone responsible for the success of the FIRSTS Project or was it the vision of Luisa Dorr collaborating with the Time editors who used the iPhone as a tool to realize and/or futher their vision? I think the latter. It’s all just amazing, however.

So have you taken a look through your camera phone images lately? Where have you been putting your focus?  Do your photos track or follow your life or something you enjoy?  Is there a photograph perhaps on your phone which is more important to you than a photograph you’ve taken with a bigger or more expensive camera? My guess is maybe so.

And now the end all question which I must ask on behalf of all photographers: Is there now really a need for you ever, ever, ever to ask a professional photographer this question: “Wow! What camera were you using when you took this photograph?” As many professional photographers say time and time again, “the best camera for you and for me both is the camera we currently hold in our hands.”

Thanks as always for following my blog. May you always find joy in your photography, no matter the camera you hold.

 

 

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Honoring MLK Day

Exactly one year ago today, Melinda Gates tweeted, “Let’s honor Dr. King by waking up on Monday morning and asking ourselves what we are doing for others.” 

I loved that tweet a year ago as much as I do today and so am sharing it with you now.  No matter how busy we are, I think we can fit that one in.

I think there’s one other thing we can fit in.  It takes five minutes and 17 seconds.

I always get chills when hearing this speech. It also still resonates.

Thanks for following my blog and for honoring Martin Luther King Day in a meaningful way.

 

RIP 2017

We did something a little different this year for Christmas.  We spent Christmas at Scott’s new home in Tampa and just had a blast. We all needed a little break and the warm weather was a welcome change. 

In looking through the images I took in Tampa, I think there’s enough in the group to pay homage to 2017.

So here we go using Florida’s Christmas photographs to tell the tale of 2017…

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Busch Gardens Tampa roller coaster

I’m starting with the roller coaster photograph because that’s generally how I view 2017 – a wild ride. The year was filled with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, and some thrills. Enough said.

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orangutan at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida

How do I feel about 2017?  Well, despite all the blessings in my life for which I am grateful, when it comes to thinking about many of the major news events of 2017, the country’s current political schism, and all who have been affected by loss or hardship as a result of one of the many 2017 natural disasters or mass killings (and the list goes on), I think I am a kindred spirit with the orangutan pictured above. 

Certainly there were reasons to celebrate during 2017, like the Nashville Predators making it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the very cool total eclipse of the sun this summer. A special highlight for me was a photography trip to Italy.  You just cannot stand in the middle of Florence and not be inspired by Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo. 

So while in Tampa one afternoon during our Christmas break, I ventured to nearby St. Petersburg to tour the Salvador Dali Museum to view the work of another inspiring artist. Dali’s work is, well, surreal. The cool architecture of the building was just icing on the cake. 

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spiral staircase in Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

I suggest you visit the Dali Museum if ever in the Tampa/St. Pete area. It contains the largest collection of Dali’s work in the United States and is well worth the visit.  

Before leaving the Museum I stopped in the gift store. Hiding in one of its corners was a colorful Christmas tree which looked a lot like a children’s art project. I picked up my camera and took this in-camera abstract. I’ve always liked abstract photography and experimented with it a lot of it in 2017. 

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So what’s a fitting way to bid farewell to 2017? I think a quiet sunset photograph over the Gulf of Mexico, the same Gulf of Mexico that just a few months ago played host to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

 

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sunset at Honeymoon Beach near Clearwater, Florida

Times do change and it’s time now to put 2017 to rest. 

I hope 2018 brings peace, goodwill, good times, and well-being to all.

Happy New Year!