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 ūüôā
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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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tulips and hyacinths

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stand-outs from the crowd

the lone daffodil
the lone daffodil

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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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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!