Blog Time!

Welcome back and apologies for the interruption in service. Seems like those pesky supply chain problems affect everything.

Anyway, I’m back to share some photographs I made on a recent trip to the quirky little town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, home to the most haunted hotel in the US, many interesting engineering and architectural feats, a thriving artist community, and the seven story Christ of the Ozarks statue.

pictured left: home on a rock; pictured center: Jesus with a hump back; pictured right: man viewing specimens of real (but not live) human body parts in the basement/morgue of my hotel.

But aside from these curious sightings I also found the real reason for the trip – beautiful fall color.

fall color Eureka Springs, Arkansas

As an added bonus, I also discovered some classic black and white images.

On the way home I spent the night in an impressive Victorian B&B in Little Rock.

The Empress of Little Rock

Then, when back in Tennessee, I stopped to photograph cotton fields:

Except for some brief interludes, I’ve always lived in the South. You’d think I’d tire of cotton fields, but I don’t. I still stop to photograph them. There is beauty and/or intrigue in everything; well, maybe not in the chiggers.

Thanks for following my blog.

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.

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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a little cloud therapy

Oh, America. We’re living in some challenging times.

Last night, Las Vegas experienced the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Puerto Rico, hit by two hurricanes in 10 days, is in critical need. East Texas and Florida are still recovering from devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma. Unpredictable and inexperienced world leaders control nuclear weapons. Cyber security has become an oxymoron. Tempers are flaring, divisions are widening, racial tensions are rising, and statements seem to have replaced respect when it comes to observing the national anthem and receiving a gift of Dr. Seuss books.

So what’s a fitting blog post from a photographer?  I’m not really sure, but I think we — all of us — need to pause, take a few deep breaths and begin the process of healing. Look for those things that unite instead of divide or incite us.

Perhaps today’s topic should simply be clouds. Innocent, fleeting, ethereal clouds.  Clouds which force us to look up and be hopeful. Clouds which rekindle our childlike curiosity and wonder. Clouds which have inspired artists for centuries and recently me when attending “Thin Air,” Catherine Erb’s exhibit of clouds at the David Lusk Gallery in Nashville.

So here we go, with a little cloud therapy.

Remember as a child looking up at the sky and imagining the various white puffy cumulus clouds to be a whale or a duck or something else familiar to you?  And as you grew a little older, you started discovering the rich colorful palettes of a sunrise or sunset?  What about all those other times in between when you just happened to look up and notice a quiet or bold beautiful patch of clouds in the sky?  How did that make you feel?

Recently I’ve been reading the poetry of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver.  From her collection of poems titled Evidence (Beacon Press 2009), in a poem titled “To Begin With, the Sweet Grass,” she writes:

… I have become a child of the clouds, and of hope.  I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is. I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned, I have become younger …

And from her poem titled “It Was Early:”

Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.

I love that line.

Now consider this sentiment from Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, who introduced us to Snoopy and Lucy and Charlie Brown:

Aren’t the clouds beautiful?  I could lie here all day, and watch them drift by.

Me too.

But I can’t, and chances are you can’t, but we can perhaps now, just for a little while.

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Feel a little better?

I think when we look up and see eye-catching or beautiful clouds in the sky, we should make the most of that moment.  After all, the sky will never have looked quite that way in the past nor will it ever look quite that way in the future.  It’s the present — both “the now” and a gift — which we then hold.  And I think wherever we stand (or whatever we stand for), we should consider that moment not only a gift, but as Mary Oliver says, a blessing.

Thanks for blessing me with your presence today.  I’m looking forward to a busy but beautiful month of pleasing fall color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Photography Eclipse Your One Time Viewing Experience?

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There’s a great line in the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty when Mitty (played by Ben Stiller) has caught up with Sean O’Connell, acting the part of a highly regarded Life Magazine photographer who finally has a clean shot of the elusive leopard he’s been chasing.  Although the “ghost cat” is in full view and O’Connell is “camera ready,” he fails to take its picture. Mitty sees the leopard and O’Connell’s inaction and finally turns to him and asks impatiently, “When are you going to take it?” O’Connell answers calmly, “Sometimes I don’t.  If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera.”

So Nashville is on the arc of the eclipse and it seems everyone under the sun (no pun intended) is flocking here to view the eclipse on Monday.  Along with that has come inflated prices on airfare and hotel rooms, a healthy supply of eclipse T-shirts, a shrinking supply of the special ISO marked viewing glasses, and hundreds of tutorials on how to safely view and photograph the eclipse.

But just as O’Connell’s character chose not to photograph his prized “ghost cat,” I’m not planning to photograph the eclipse.  I mean – it’s only going to happen once in my lifetime.  Do I want “the distraction of the camera” (and in this case also the tripod, cable release and flashlight) or should I instead “sit back and experience the moment?”  I think the latter.

I learned the “experience the moment” lesson the hard way several years ago when my daughter was taking dance.  When she joined her studio’s competitive dance team, I photographed her performances regularly.  Then one day, her dance teacher met me in the back dressing room after a competition had ended and with tremendous excitement exuding from every part of her being she asked, “did you see her jump, did you see that split jump?”  I looked blankly back at her and couldn’t honestly answer. Apparently I hadn’t, at least not as she had, because I was too busy shooting.  So I looked back through my images to see if I had captured it.  I had, but I also then realized that in getting the photograph, I had missed the much more meaningful proud parent moment – you know, the kind that takes your breath away as you watch it unfold.  And while I could always look back at my photograph, I could never get that moment back again.

I continued to take dance photographs after that competition, but more and more I came to rely on a friend to take the pictures.  Hers were great, there was no need for us both to be shooting the exact same thing at the same time, and it allowed me to enjoy the thrill of my daughter dancing and then share that excitement with her right after the performance, much as her teacher had done with me that day.

This eclipse on Monday … is it more important to you to photograph it and own a version of one of the many duplicative photographs we’ll see posted all over social media in the days following or are you willing to pause and let the moment take your breath away?  

You know, you can make a decent facsimile of the eclipse in Photoshop like I did above in only a couple of minutes … and if the actual eclipse doesn’t look exactly like it does above, I bet I can tweak my facsimile pretty quickly to make it mirror the photographs.

This past week was a little stormy so the thought of a calm day with a wondrous view in the sky will be a refreshing and welcome change. Here’s hoping for clear skies on Monday, for those of us viewing the eclipse and for everyone in the world really.