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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 …

palousefallsw

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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