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

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.

orangutan
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.

 

sunsetgulf
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!

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.