The Fastest Spreading Contagion

While others now talk about a faster spreading mutation of the coronavirus, I thought I’d focus this post on what I see as perhaps the fastest spreading contagion of all. It’s often …

shared with best friends

seen in families
often in business headshots
and on the faces of those exploring nature

Can you guess? It’s a smile. And in a year full of challenge and uncertainty, I’m thankful for all the smiles given to me by friends, family, clients and you.

Among my smile spreading clients is Gianna, a five year old girl who, just a few weeks ago, gave me an early Christmas present – an entire hour of spontaneous smiles. Here’s a small sampling:

Sweet, right? Gianna inspired this blog post.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t thank one more person, Jen Vogus, and a very special community she created, AbleVoices.org, for keeping me inspired and listening and smiling this year.

Jen gave me a special gift last year, an invitation to serve on the first Board of Directors of AbleVoices.org. If not yet familiar with AbleVoices.org, consider visiting its website or reading about it in this month’s CostcoConnection magazine – https://www.costcoconnection.com/connection/202012/MobilePagedReplica.action?pm=2&folio=32#pg35.

So with which image will I close out my 2020 blog posts? Well of course, with one that is hopeful, contains a smile, and was taken on an AbleVoices outing Monday to a local assisted living facility. One of the AbleVoices’ photographers dressed up as Santa Claus, everyone else dressed as elves, and we went window to window sharing the music of the season and good cheer to the residents, all the while taking photographs and learning how to shoot in difficult lighting conditions.

Santa Eric, an AbleVoices photographer, is also coincidentally pictured in the Costco spread

Thank you Santa Eric for sharing your contagious smile. You exemplify all the many gifted and inspiring AbleVoices photographers!

The image above needs little explanation but I do want to share how it brings my year full circle. Last Christmas, Jen shared an op ed written by Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics and published in the Washington Post. Titled To Heal our Divisions, Listen to People with Disabilities, Shriver wrote about four attributes shared in the Special Olympics community: 1) “have faith in the goodness of every person;” 2) “look for common ground;” 3) “celebrate gifts;” and 4) “live from a place of truth and love.” Concerning this last attribute, he wrote: “[T]here is no ‘them’ or ‘us.’ There is just us. Everyone belongs. We are each vulnerable, starving for connection and searching for a way to be of service to each other. We solve problems best when we solve them together.”

Look at the last image again. Re-read Shriver’s words. I don’t know about you, but in these noisy times characterized by suffering, isolation and divisiveness, I think perhaps we should listen more intently to the quiet chorus of the able voices; follow their lead. Do we have to dress up as Santa? Nah, but we can wear a smile, do something good for one another, and move forward and together to a new and more harmonious day.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you share many smiles this holiday season and throughout the new year.

www.maryricephoto.com

Photos for Food

Welcome September! As 2020 marches on as a year of formidable challenges, this month the Society of Nashville’s Artistic Photographers (SNAP) steps in with a unique opportunity for us to come together to do something good, something beneficial, for ourselves and our community. Photography, and art generally, has long been considered a means to nourish or feed the soul. Over the next two weeks, SNAP breathes new life and meaning to this truism through a wonderful initiative called Photos for Food.

Photos for Food is a fundraiser for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee (Second Harvest). It is made possible through the generous support of 41 SNAP photographers, Chromatics PhotoImaging Printing Service, and Aerial Innovations of TN, Inc. These photographers have selected 79 images for inclusion in a virtual gallery open now through September 13th. For $100, visitors to the gallery may purchase an 11 x 14″ print of gallery images. Chromatics, Nashville’s premier photo imaging lab, will print the images and send them to the purchasers at no added cost. All proceeds from Photos for Food benefit Second Harvest. How? Each print purchase will provide nearly 400 meals to the hungry in Middle Tennessee. Yes, you read that correctly, $100 = one 11″ x 14″ print and nearly 400 meals!

I’m an enthusiastic supporter of Photos for Food and I hope you will be too. Please click on the link below to view the gallery of available images:

http://www.snapgallery.org/shop/

It’s an inspiring gallery and endeavor, right? Something in it for everyone I think. In fact, you may very well want to consider purchasing multiple prints! This is a great way to start (or continue) your holiday shopping.

Since this blog is themed “photos in need of explanation,” let’s briefly cover that. Any guesses on why I chose to submit the image below?

Well, I was just thinking … who doesn’t need a little more love in their world right about now?

Thanks, as always, for following my blog. Please consider sharing this post with others. Take care of yourself and be generous with your love.

A Time to Tug

Have you ever read The Invisible String? It’s a children’s book by Patrice Karst. The mother in the story tells her young twins who have woken up in a storm that they needn’t worry and can return to bed. She then describes the invisible string which connects them to her and all whom they love. They can tug on the string whenever they want and, because the string is made of love, it will tug back. Karst asks readers to imagine how far their strings may stretch. It ends by assuring “no one is ever alone.”

Would you agree there are millions of invisible strings stretching around the world right now? They’re connecting grandparents with grandchildren who are social distancing, families gathering on balconies in the evenings cheering in support of first responders and healthcare providers, farmers and grocery store workers with neighbors waiting patiently in crowded food lines.

I could fill this post with countless examples of invisible strings connecting humanity (a good thing for sure) but I’d like instead to invite you to consider another invisible string – the one connecting us to spring and to God.

A couple weeks ago when the news seemed particularly sobering, I felt a tug to go outside and photograph spring. Honestly, it didn’t feel quite right at the time. It wasn’t the eerie quiet in the neighborhood so much as a feeling of guilt in doing something enjoyable. But the tug won out and, as is often the case, the more I photographed, the better I felt. By the time I returned home, my sadness had turned to gratitude. I gave a little tug to my string.

Here are some of the images from that day and another that followed:

patch of paper whites in a neighbor’s yard

tulips under a neighborhood stop sign
bee sucking nectar from cherry tree blossoms in our front yard
peppermint twist
row of pink tulips singing Lean on Me
social distancing, forsythia style
large white pom poms on Chinese Snowball Viburnum

I hope you like these images from around my neighborhood. Granted, they are not as showy as something I may have shot in a botanical garden, but they’ve given me a nice lift. That’s partly because, as devastating as COVID-19 is, it’s helped me appreciate beauty in people, places, and things that, only a few months ago, I’m not sure I would have noticed. I’m thankful for that.

Spring is best known as the season of hope. We’re excited to see the first robin or daffodil because it suggests we’re turning the corner away from the cold, dark nights of winter. Each bud fosters anticipation of something more joyous to come. Yesterday I walked through our neighborhood and saw purple irises, pink azaleas, and Knock Out Roses. Yes, they’re all proclaiming hope, but also providing comfort and reassurance from a loving God who gently, sometimes boldly, tugs our invisible strings made of love. Each little miracle of spring is a reminder – “no one is ever alone.”

Thank you for following my blog. For a free screensaver of the featured image in this post, or for a vertical version from the same tulip patch, please visit http://www.maryricephoto.com/spring. Click Select Photos in the bar at the top right corner of your screen. After the screen refreshes, click download. Should “menu” appear over the top left corner of an image, click it and then download.

Feel free to share the images with others. It’s a good time to tug someone you love.

Take care.

The Corona Virus: Making Sense of it All

News flash: I’m breaking my blog silence with this long overdue, surely much anticipated post …

A little context – On Thursday Gov. Bill Lee announced COVID-19 had spread to Tennessee. Only one man has it. He’s 44, lives in Williamson County (my county), and is staying home. Although his child (children?) attend a local private school, the entire Williamson County public school district responded by closing its doors for two days to do a “deep clean.” Really??

So yesterday afternoon I drove down to Lewisburg, Tennessee to photograph a fast food restaurant and as I was coming home I stopped in the local Walmart to buy some hand sanitizer and soap. That’s reasonable, right? I’d heard Costco had been crazy busy Thursday with people stockpiling supplies & this rural Walmart seemed like a good alternative. It was until the man in front of me at checkout turned around, eyed my soap and shamed me with:

“Oh! I see you’re got some soap there. Uh huh. You’re stocking up to fight the Corona virus. Not me. I’m not doing nothin’ about it. I say bring it on!” (manly big belly laughter follows).

The lady across the aisle then responds:

“Yeah. You know what? My Lysol can [at home] says it fights the Corona virus. Has said that for years. Says so right on the label!”

At this point I try to interject that while her Lysol can may say that, this is the novel Corona Virus – a new strand. It’s like she doesn’t hear me and proceeds to check out anyway. Nevertheless I hear her saying under her breath, “now I do sometimes worry that my children might catch it …” I start to tell her that actually children seem to be resistant but then I, too, fade off. It doesn’t even occur to me to take pictures. It’s just another day at Walmart.

As I’m nearing home about 6:30 I stop in my local Publix to buy some fake ice cream. Soon I realize this typically busy grocery is virtually empty. Only me and a few others are in the store. And, as I start to look around, many of the shelves are also empty. So now I take some phone pictures …

empty shelves for Lysol Wipes

Okay, I get that. Next –

empty shelves for toilet paper

I only get this because a FB repost from a friend in Washington state prepared me. It said “will trade for toilet paper.” Next …

empty shelves for paper towels

Okay, I kind of get this. If the Lysol wipes are out of stock, you spray your favorite cleaner and then wipe with a dry paper towel. Next –

mandarin oranges seem popular

Okay I may get this – it’s the Vitamin C thing. Next …

empty shelves for bottled water

Okay, I don’t get this. At all. Will somebody please explain the run on bottled water? Do people think COVID-19 is going to spread through our water supply??

and then there’s this:

empty shelves for Easter candy

Okay I got this. If we’re hunkering down maybe for the next month or so, by golly at least our kids are going to have a happy Easter! That’s it, right? No??

After I return home I tell Don about my topsy turvy “novel” encounters. You know what he says?

“and all these people vote for President.”

Ahhhhhh

Thanks for following my blog. I’ll be back, sometime, probably …

Fall in the Rockies

A couple weekends ago my sister and I went to Estes Park, Colorado and the Rockies to catch up and enjoy some photography together. I had never ventured west of the Mississippi to photograph fall, but wanted to capture some of those beautiful Aspen I’d often seen in others’ images.

Here’s some of what we saw in Rocky Mountain National Park just a few days before its first snow.


Aside from the picture perfect scenery, the air was cool and crisp and sometimes cold and windy, especially on the Trail Ridge Road. I don’t have any images to show from up there because the 12,000 + foot altitude made that part of the trip brief. Down in the lower elevations we enjoyed seeing the very large racks on the bull elk, although Park Rangers were quick to caution there had been two attacks on tourists in recent weeks so we kept a respectable distance.

I nevertheless got a few pictures of elk. The two below were taken from our car window. These elk were just hanging out on our hotel’s lawn.

All in all it was a great trip – great to finally see fall Aspen trees through my own lens, great to see some of the treasured landscapes preserved by the National Park Service, and great to be connecting again with my sister and Mother Nature.

Thanks for following my blog. I hope you also find time to get out and enjoy this beautiful time of year.

Farm to Table and Beyond

Well, it’s July, it’s hot, and that means it’s time to jump in the pool briar patch. Say whaaaaat? Yes, it’s time to pick some blackberries!

Forget the swimsuit. It’s time to put on your tall leather boots, your best thorn resistant pants, a big brimmed hat, and a long sleeved shirt you don’t mind ripping to shreds or dowsing with your favorite garden variety (no pun intended) chigger repellant. Mix that repellant with a little hard-earned sweat and you’ll be a soggy mess before you know it. You’re in, right?

So Don, bro-in-law Charles and I went to the family farm Saturday to do us some berry picking. Here’s Charles reaching in to pick that one ripe berry.

What a classy style and fine technique. You see, Charles is actually a blackberry pickin’ master. His parents groomed him as a young child for this moment by taking him to the most challenging blackberry patches around. They were filled not only with berries and chiggers but wasps! Oh how he hated those wasps. So here he is in a wasp free zone pickin’ the low hanging fruit.

Well, hmmmm … what are we to do when the berries are plentiful and we come home with more than we thought we would? Give some to others? Check. Ask Don to make some of his could be award-winning blackberry cobbler? Check. Freeze some? Check. Learn how to make preserves and can some? Working on it.

So this morning I woke up in the mood for baking some homemade blackberry muffins and to document this unusual event I decided to also get out my camera. It seemed like a great time for stock photography because who doesn’t need a little yummy in the tummy AND a little extra income on the side?

So here’s stock photo #1. You’re supposed to forget any aforementioned suggestion of DEET and look at this mouth watering bowl of blackberries and think of such sale worthy keywords as “organic,” “healthy” and “antioxidants.”

healthy bowl of antioxidant packed organic blackberries – yum!

Stock photo #2 is in fact a Pinterest wannabe:

Fresh blackberry muffins as easy as 1, 2, 3

Stock photo #3 is pretty much the same scene but shot at a different angle.

Fresh blackberries to be folded into muffin batter

Stock photo #4 is the finished product – homemade muffins on a plate Scott made in kindergarten. Aw …

Blackberry muffins served on a handmade polka dot plate

So what are we baking up next? Well, I think perhaps in honor of that time honored British lawn tennis tourney known as Wimbledon, we’ll be serving up blackberry lemon scones at tea time. You may have to follow me on Instagram @maryricephoto to see if they really pan out.

Thanks for grinnin’ and pickin’ my blog. Happy summer ya’ll.

Go Find a Mockingbird

Would you recognize the sound of a mockingbird if you heard one? I’m not sure I would. It’s the state bird of Tennessee and Mississippi so I’ve seen and heard a lot of them, it’s just I’ve never paid them too much attention. Their gray feathers don’t call out to me the way the brightly colored feathers of a cardinal or blue jay do.

All that changed the other day when walking back to my car after a family photo shoot. When entering the parking lot, I noticed a young mockingbird standing intently on the roof of my car. With camera still in hand, I stopped to photograph it. I liked its soft fluffy feathers and reflection.

Well, soon its mom flew in bringing lunch.

It was fun seeing this play out in front of my camera except I sensed the little fluffy bird was still hungry.

The mom seemed to have gotten the hint and flew away. I then photographed the young bird waiting for its next incoming meal.

At one point it turned and gave me a concerned “Are You My Mother?” look …

Eventually the young bird also flew away and I got in my car and drove home. Today, when editing the family’s photos, I saw the mockingbird images and started thinking.

Initially I thought about To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s character Miss Maudie says this about the birds: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens. don’t nest in corncribs. They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Next I turned to Youtube to watch and hear some mockingbirds. I was soon reminded that mockingbirds actually sing with many voices because they can mimic or “mock” sounds they hear. I heard one mockingbird sound a lot like mourning doves, which was lovely, but that same mockingbird also sounded off like a car alarm, which was, for lack of a better word, alarming. Still, pretty cool.

Well, guess what? May is National Photography Month. To celebrate, I ask you to take some time in the coming weeks to find and photograph your own “mockingbird,” that is, a common subject you often encounter but fail to really notice. In doing so, I think you’ll find a beauty and wonder in your world which you never knew existed or appreciated. That beauty and wonder comes not only from your subject but from deep inside of you. I think, perhaps, it’s what many call the joy of photography.

Thanks for following my blog. Now go find a mockingbird, find lots of them, and celebrate photography this month!

Seduced

Officially I was in Charleston last month to attend a two day photography conference. Unofficially I was there because it makes a nice stop when driving between Tampa, FL & Greenville, SC – where our kids are – and because I’ve been wanting to photograph Charleston’s low country for some time.

First stop was Edisto Beach at sunset. Great afterglow.

Crazy but it was not the most beautiful scene of the day. As I was driving toward the beach during the golden hour, fog and light fell on the low country marshes in an indescribably beautiful way. There was no safe place to pull over to photograph, but the scene is one I’ll never forget.

The next morning I skipped the conference’s keynote address so I could photograph the Angel Tree. Whether 400-500 or 1500 years old (experts disagree), it’s unquestionably a very old and beautiful live oak on Johns Island, just outside of Charleston. Some say it’s the oldest living tree east of the Rockies.

Angel Tree, Johns Island, South Carolina

Its sprawling limbs and gnarly trunk resemble something a movie producer would create, but it comes with a caveat: it’s not photographer friendly. If you want a photograph similar to this, be prepared to spend time in Photoshop removing people and large white signs cautioning visitors not to climb on the tree or sit on its limbs. There are also tripod restrictions. But, despite these obstacles (and some might say protections), it’s still worth a visit. This live oak is Mother Nature at its finest.

Just down the road from the Angel Tree is an Anglican church and cemetery with beautiful camellias and Spanish moss.

Camilla in bloom
Spanish moss in the low country is like Mississippi’s Kudzu – it’s everywhere

When driving over the bridge back to the mainland, there’s a great view of the low country marshes, but again, no place to pull over and photograph. I turned around and found a road leading under the bridge to a boat ramp.

Here’s my first photograph of the marshes. I would like to be in that yellow kayak.

It was in this area that I spent the next half hour or so stalking a blue egret as it hunted its breakfast. Click the Download button below to watch a short animation of this.

I’ve included this image in case you didn’t click download 🙂
and breakfast

There is a unique charm to Charleston’s low country which I haven’t experienced elsewhere. Author Pat Conroy described it this way:

Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship. I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina low country is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes. – The Lords of Discipline

Seduced. I can’t think of a better word to describe it. I was seduced by the low country and as a consequence missed the morning session of my conference.

Seduction connotes something powerful and tantalizing, something that keeps pulling you back. Will I attend another conference? Probably. Will I make a greater effort to return and spend more time photographing Charleston’s low country? You bet.

What do you see when you look at the Angel Tree? Know what I see? I see those long outstretched arms motioning me to come back … Will you join me sometime?

Thanks for following my blog.

Instagram: @maryricephoto

Attending Sunday School with Jimmy Carter

Over President’s Day weekend and on a trip to Florida Don and I stopped in Plains, Georgia, to attend Sunday School taught by former President Jimmy Carter.

Knowing to arrive early for the 10 a.m. class, we pulled into the Maranatha Baptist Church parking lot at 4:30 a.m. We were immediately greeted by John, a church member who chatted a bit about one of their former ministers from Nashville, and then advised us to limit what we brought into the church – like take only your car keys, a Bible if you brought one, and perhaps your phone. He then gave us a card with #60 on it and directed us to park.

We parked and slept in the car until about 7:15 when we noticed the Secret Service and its canine unit sniffing the cars. Soon Miss Jan, a retired school teacher aka “the Princess of Plains,” directed us from our cars to the front of the church.


Miss Jan poses for a quick picture after asking visitors to form a single file line by their arrival number

Miss Jan was very good at her job.

For the next several hours Miss Jan and Miss Jill (regretfully I have no photographs of Miss Jill) advised us and the other guests on what to expect and what was expected of us. They asked us not to clap or stand when the President enters, “after all, this is Sunday school” and “please don’t bring up current politics – we pray for the President at this church.”

Around 9 o’clock we learned that #60 would put us in the second row in the overflow room. The couple sitting next to us told us they had talked to cardholder #29 who had arrived at 2:50 that morning. Don responded that it would take George Washington to get him to church at 2:50 in the morning.

The overflow room turned out to be kind of nice and personal. Jimmy Carter walked in to visit us around 9:45 and began asking us where we lived or from where we had traveled. Often he would add a comment or two of his own based on where he’s lived or traveled. He was friendly, soft-deprecating and often humorous.

After asking questions of us, he asked if we had any questions for him. Several people raised their hands. One visitor asked what he had found most satisfying as President. He answered “working for peace” and then smiled and added “and retreats to Camp David.”

Jimmy Carter talking in the overflow room in his church
Jimmy Carter responding to visitor questions, Plains, GA

Carter then left to start the Sunday school lesson from the church sanctuary which we viewed from a screen above. The morning’s lesson was titled “You shall be holy” and was based on Leviticus 19:1-4, 9-18. The study materials framed the central question as “What does it mean to be holy?”

Carter introduced the study by sharing something he had learned from Miss Julia Coleman, one of his high school teachers: “we must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.” It was something he had also included in his inaugural address.

He then turned to a discussion of the study materials which quoted Mother Teresa as saying, “Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things. It consists in accepting, with a smile, what Jesus sends us. It consists in following the will of God.”

The passage from Leviticus ends with “love they neighbor as thyself”and based on this verse, Carter challenged us to think of someone we know in need, perhaps an elderly person, perhaps someone else, and to spend the next week or so paying a little special attention to them. He said, “it can be as simple as baking a cake for them” and then he chuckled and added, “or maybe just sharing 1/2 of a cake you’ve baked with them.”

We stayed for the church service, a requirement for having your photograph taken with the Carters. The Church is currently without a pastor and so the Georgia Southwestern University Gospel Choir sang in lieu of a sermon. They were amazing.

Below are some other photographs from the morning:

Sanctuary, Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, GA


the ever present and watchful Secret Service
our picture with the Carters – photograph courtesy of Miss Jill

Don and I are grateful to have had the opportunity to join the Carters for Sunday school and church. Had we had more time, we would have accepted their invitation to join them for lunch just down the street at the Silo Restaurant and Bakery. Maybe we can work that in on another visit – that and the peanut butter ice cream …

Thanks for following my blog.

What’s new?

So I’ve been considering blog topics for over a month and finally the obvious hit me – blog on “new,” as in, Happy NEW Year!

“New” allows me to show you a broader spectrum of what I photograph and a lot of what I capture is fresh and brand new. That’s both a privilege and exciting. So let’s view some highlights of the “new” I photographed over the last year.

A good starting point is newborn photography:

Fisher’s mom describes him as cuddly – I’d add super sweet and cute

On the commercial side, Nashville is booming. It’s become one of America’s “it” cities, a mecca of what’s new. I was pleased to photograph a large new shopping complex in Bellevue:

One Bellevue Place, Nashville, TN

I also had the pleasure to photograph Nashville’s new (and best) assisted stretching studio:

The Power to Pause
Brentwood, TN

and I photographed new products for a familiar client.

some of Boconi’s new socks and bags

I shot lots of headshots this year to give folks a “new look:”

and I shot this spectacular event which produced new champions:

Saddle Up’s 2018 Country Music Grand Prix

The real winners from this event are the kids who participate in Saddle Up.

What’s new for me in 2019? Well, the year’s just unfolding, but for the art fans amongst you, I recommend two new Nashville photography exhibits.

Running now through the end of March at the Laskey Gallery at Scarritt Bennett is Shifting Perspectives: Images of Hope in Troubled Times. In this exhibit, Sharon Brown Christopher, Sue Henry, Susan Ruach and I share hopeful messages through abstract photography. For more information, please visit http://www.abstractlensnashville.com.

And from February 4 – March 8, you will want to visit the art gallery at Nashville State Community College to view SNAP: The Photograph Celebrated. Here’s the promo card for this exhibit which was curated by Beth Gorham (possibly my favorite photography instructor ever).

anyone else experiencing deja vu to a May 13, 2018 blog post?

Thank you for following my blog. I look forward to bringing you more of what’s new in the coming new year!