Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in an Age of Uncertainty: No. 20 (Chrysanthemum Photomontage)

20 November 2017

Lens:

Taken in Polamatic and edited in Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables.

Chrysanthemums Photomontage, Longwood Gardens; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Chrysanthemum Photomontage, Longwood Gardens; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.

Pens:

Life has rhythmic patterns in what we do, feel and see. Those repetitions can be especially prevalent in our senses: black and white, color, gray areas of our sensibilities and thoughts. Nature has a cunning way to lure us and emphasize these experiences, giving a particular point of view of life and its limitless possibilities.

While strolling through Longwood Gardens and its annual Chrysanthemum Festival, the notion of being entirely surrounded by floral enticement easily whisked me into a quiet and tranquil place. Whether single or multiple designs, the displays ignored any of the world’s ills. Yes, the woes of reality dissipated.

Forms, shapes and execution are one of the most engaging of the last few years. There was a definite leap in creativity and visual appeal. The Conservatory was aglow with blooms that cascade, spiral, stand upright, rise towards the light, or dance with one’s imagination. Hanging baskets were bursting with a variety of mums. One area had small brightly yellow loops of button chrysanthemums that stagger the senses. They would have made a lovely garland for any occasion.

Each display seem to guard against the outside world. I could barely ask for more.

The image in the Lens section represents my interpretation: two images that combine to become even more alive with sensuality and technicolor. There is a sense of disguise, hands lifted to cover one’s face. And that’s how I felt as though I could mask the outside, and at the same time become deeply appreciative of the salute to autumnal chrysanthemums.

********** The Festival ended yesterday, but you can amble through this world-class horticultural treasure here.

Note:

British falconer Helen MacDonald is widely known for her book, H is for Hawk (2014), which won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction 2014. After the publication of this  rhythmic, riveting and seminal memoir about her response to her father’s sudden death, the book became a classic of nature writing. Even after I devoured the book, her additional work, which includes other books and articles, began to appear in The New York Times, and sealed my admiration. Through her strongly emotional and lyrical prose it’s clear that she reveres nature. H is for Hawk chronicles how she “fled from humanity” and raised a goshawk, who she named Mabel, to ease her loss. And now there is a video on PBS that covers her latest experience with a young goshawk. This time she says the training of this wild creature is “my wings to somewhere new.” Click here to view Macdonald’s latest step into falconry. Her story is a celebration of how nature can challenge and heal. These birds of prey become her hunting partners as well as companions. It’s an extraordinary peek into the wild, and the bond that can be created between nature and human nature.

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Posted in Digital Art, Gardens and Gardening, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in an Age of Uncertainty: No. 19 (Twilight’s Golden Touch on Lower Manhattan)

13 November 2017

Lens:

Taken in Camera+ and edited in Snapseed.

Twilight at the Museum of Jewish Heritage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Twilight’s Touch Upon the Museum of Jewish Heritage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Sunset in Lower Manhattan; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Sunset in Lower Manhattan; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto each image to enlarge. Let me know which you prefer. Prints are available upon request.

Pens:

One cannot think of climate change without its partner the weather. And the weathering of our hearts is just as affected by the myriad of weather-related altercations that are becoming more and more prevalent, regardless of one’s location.

Yes, for me nature is the master of the universe. And yes, we must do everything to help rectify our own role in this historic and major twenty-first-century major human problem.

Each step of my journey nature provides creativity, inspiration, motivation and tranquility. Each day my spirit is enlivened, for example, with the mysterious magic and mystique of each sunset.

Last week my grandson and I explored one of his favorite places, the East River and the Battery where water and land blend as well as interact with human nature to reveal Lower Manhattan. We arrived for the light show and its performance was extraordinary. We were entranced by the mood, the golden beams, the light gliding over buildings, the landscape illuminated and the river transformed.

We lingered as the light show doubled and tripled its coverage. Suddenly inland structures were golden palaces from ancient history. Everything was embellished and redefined with the touch of that glorious sunset. Nature provides and we are compelled to dive into her offerings. The duality of day and night with its light and dark are obvious, and still the scene riveted our senses.

We paused, we watched, we embraced our good fortune.

Note:

More than five years ago I indulged in a course about Ikebana: the art of Japanese flower arrangement. It was not for the love of rules, but the eye of the practitioner that enticed my interest. I was reminded of this experience as I read the article, “The Rise of Modern Ikebana” (by Deborah Needleman and published in The New York Times’ T Magazine on 06 November 2017).

Here is an excerpt: “One thing, however, that unites all the innovations and developments that ikebana has seen over the centuries is a search for balance between opposites. Ikebana is, fundamentally, an exploration of the frictions between the visible and the invisible, life and death, permanence and ephemerality, luxury and simplicity.”

And the final paragraph especially resonates with me: “like all living arts, ikebana changes and is informed by the culture and the times; what makes ikebana especially poignant and potent in this moment is its direct and personal connection to nature, its awareness of and emphasis on decay in an era in which our own ecological and environmental ruin feels more vivid than ever. A cherry blossom in bloom will soon be gone. But for this instant, it’s ours — and while it is, who among us can turn away from it?” To read the entire article and view examples of the art, click here.

Ikebana’s approach to the spare is very much the space that makes me feel calm and restful. Still, I loosely apply its tenets, bending to my own intuition and visual field.

 

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in the Age of Uncertainty: No. 18 (Floating Autumn Flowers Photomontage)

06 November 2017

Lens:

Taken in Polamatic and edited in Snapseed and Pixlr.

Floating Autumn Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Floating Autumn Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.

Pens:

Last week the sky seduced me with its kaleidoscopic clouds in a white so striking that it kept redefining shapes. Some were stacked in multiple layers of creamy greys and whites. There seemed to be more cloudscapes than blue. This staggering autumn skyline had a joyous drama, giving the day a cheerful tint.

Colors of the season are appearing in glacial movement, and without a hard
frost trees are muted in quiet hues. But that promise of more is erased by
the temperate temps and warmth of the sun, and the skyline with its own pledge of nature’s artistry.

In the Lens section is my own interpretation of autumn’s possibilities: its flare and
serendipity that can stun our sensibilities. The photomontage merges two images
whose subjects complement each other.

The first image is a twilight sky that would not let me turn away from its technicolor performance. Its pink tones reminded me of the southwest and America’s color country. The second image is a trio of hydrangeas that pushed their way through a metal bulwark, still striving to survive as October closed its marks on our days. The resulting combination is as lively as last week’s sky: full of drama and hope and possibilities.

 

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in the Age of Uncertainty, No. 17 (Dried Flowers Photomontage)

30 October 2017

Lens:

Taken in Camera+ and edited in Snapseed and Pixlr.

Dried Flowers Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Dried Flowers Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.

Pens:

Nature displays herself through many kaleidoscopic effects. She beams and navigates pathways in a multitude of directions, never making it easy to guess her next visual symphony.

One of the most unappreciated forms of the autumnal portrait is a leaf or flower is its dried state. The extension of its life’s presence can astound.

There is a meditative element to the collection and savoring of buds, flowers and leaves in various stages. My process of air drying is a glacial dance of what was and what surprisingly can be. The newly-minted can mesmerize for years.

While larger flower heads experience their metamorphosis in the upside down position, smaller samples of nature’s bounty can be left on a shelf or molding around an object or hidden between the pages of a poetry book (seems apt). Regardless of the site of the specimen’s change the afterglow can be dazzling and sustaining.

In the Lens section is an example of a photomontage that blends two such gems: an anemone and a coneflower. Each picked a few weeks ago and offering days of entertainment.

Sometimes I find this dried form one of nature’s most curious examples of the unexpected and unrecognized. These elements and qualities are blissful characteristics of Mother Nature’s limitless serendipity.

Note:

In this week’s Opinion/Editorial section of The New York Times an article focused on the extraordinary nature murals to be found throughout New York City. “Public Art Takes Flight” (by The Editorial Board, published 24 October 2017) gave front and center to public spaces that honor the nineteenth-century painter John James Audubon. He was renown for his paintings of bird life, and lived near the Hudson River in upper Manhattan. Here is an excerpt from the article: “A tour of the Washington Heights and Harlem neighborhoods with the aid of an Audubon map amounts to a new sort of bird-watching. It takes a search to track down the Williamson’s sapsucker, bigger than life, down by the West Side Highway. The black-billed magpie is visible all day now on the Broadway gates of the defunct New Happiness Chinese Restaurant. Elsewhere, Audubon himself is rendered in flesh tones and with mutton-chop sideburns, staring curiously at a cerulean warbler on his shoulder with neither his rifle nor palette at hand.” For those who will not be in the city to see these fabulous murals, view the story here. The art is a spectacular gift to the city’s visitors and residents.

 

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in an Age of Uncertainty: No. 17 (Day and Night Photomontage)

23 October 2017

Taken in Polamatic and edited in Snapseed and Pixlr.

Day and Night Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Day and Night Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.

Lens:

With quiet and vigor day shadows night as night shadows day. The nuances and substance of black and white has the character that threads through our lives; opposites are made to create polar differences.

Day vs. night is continuance in its finest demonstration: the movement of dawn and dusk–light and dark–that signals the balance in life and the varying directions made possibly. These seemingly contradictory and inconsistent remains are evidence about how we dance and weave through life’s journey. Not to be ignored is the relationship of good vs. evil in this comparison.

In the Lens section is homage to this notion of yin yang that brings us challenge each and every day. The image is a composite of day and night, which is cautionary and seamless. Those qualities are part of the human condition, which in our story (even in our struggles and joys) sparks us to be our personal best or moving beyond what we could ever imagine for ourselves and others.

Note:

Susan Sontag (American, 1933-2004) was an intellectual polymath, activist, filmmaker, teacher, and writer. Her legacy can be found in her publications that speak to issues about the arts, culture, politics, and society. She was known to stir controversy and conversation about a range of subjects.

Here are excerpts where Sontag discusses her philosophy about photography, even as she herself was not an image maker but an observer. She believed strongly in the ability of the arts to “inform and transform.”

From Susan Sontag Talking by Charles Simmons (published in The New York Times Archives, December 18, 1977). Simmons interviewed Sontag on the occasion of the issuance of her book On Photography (1977), which won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Criticism.

Q. While you were writing this book did your attitude toward photography change? I had sense that you credited photography more by the end of the book than at the start.

A. I don’t think it changed. What I did come to appreciate as I was writing these essays Is how big a subject photography• really is. In fact, I came to realize that I wasn’t writing about photography so much as I was writing about modernity, about the way we are now. The subject of photography is a form of access to contemporary ways of feeling and thinking. And writing about photography is like writing about the world.

In fact, as I said in the preface, I never intended to write all those essays. I wrote one essay in late 1973 and discovered when I was finishing it that I had more material left over that I thought would be enough for a second essay. And while writing the second essay, 1 realized that I had enough material left over to write a third. And it became a sorcerer’s apprentice situation. By the fourth essay I was seriously worried whether I could ever end it. And I could have gone on. I don’t think I could have gone on from the sixth essay—because that was consciously written in the spring of this year to close it off and to state the most general themes. But I could have written another essay between the fifth and the sixth. I have a lot more material, and the subject became deeper as I was working on it.

Q. I mean you brought a literary sensibility to it. You don’t agree with that?

A. Well, many people seem to think that one should be a photography insider to write about photography as I’ve done. But no insider would do it. Only an outsider would write this kind of book. However, I’m not a literary, as opposed to a visual, person. The distinction is trivial. It’s because I do see “photographically” that I came to understand what a distinctive and momentous way of seeing that is. More generally, people don’t like trespassers, and to people on the inside I’m a trespasser—even though in fact I’m not. Also, I am not and don’t want to be a photography critic.

View the entire interview here.

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in an Age of Uncertainty: No. 16 (Floating Feathers Photomontage)

Lens:

Taken in Polamatic and edited in Snapseed, Stackables and Pixlr.

Floating Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Floating Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.

Pens:

The weight of a day has become pronounced. As the light ascends early morning my inner clock alarms. For almost a year my daily routine has redefined its first charge. Before the election I awoke and perused the news, but its sequential dismantling of my day and my country has been close to unbearable. No one predicted this systematic unraveling of our democracy. And so I changed the routine to include a short return to a dream-like consciousness with even a return to a short nap. This redirection has been cathartic and has soothed the beginning of each day.

I also have sought to lift the weight of my inner and outer world with nature’s guidance. Recently, I noticed more than autumn leaves to collect. The universe seemed to scatter  feathers in my pathway, a feather here and there as steppingstones to what.

These symbolic and uplifting (no pun intended) elements create a sense of calm. I began to imagine their gentle lilt as they drifted through space to their resting place. Their very nature conjures a feeling of exhale from stress to tranquility.

As each was discovered, each brought a visual spirit of the bird and its ability to ascend to a place of dreams and solitude. I could sense their physical agility and the feather’s responsibility to winged creatures.

Of course there is much written about feathers as unique natural wonders, especially in certain cultures such as Native Americans and Egyptians. Included in their symbolism is the significance for each color.

Then I paused to consider the personal implications of those feathers that I’ve collected over the last two weeks. There have been four and each is primarily grey. That color’s meaning includes: peace and balance within, ability to reach mastery, and an ability to be flexible and authentic. Of course, the newly-found feathers can simply be a gift of nature’s omnipresence and her unwavering magnificence.

These moments of discovery and interpretation and even fulfillment are part of what it means to be human and feel alive: the recognition of genuine contentment. Even if it lasts but a second, there is that sensation of being totally present within the discovery.

Sometimes the smallest of experiences can be just what is needed to latch harder onto hope and life’s possibilities. Sometimes a sampling of nature’s genuine beauty is enough to shatter the circle of assault upon one’s philosophy and ideology.

In the Lens section is my ode to those feathers that floated into my personal space, lighting the way and now resting with my collection of dried flowers and leaves. Those floating shamans bring a recognition that life is how we handle what moves into our journey.

How to respond, how to act, how to ponder the next step, how to reach out to others, how to treat others, how to leave judgment behind and keep open to other points of view, how to embrace change, how to honor the planet and all its inhabitants, how to live with forethought and consideration.

Note:

While on a visit to Nevada City, I knew that I had walked on the same streets as a master storyteller. Gary Snyder (b. 1930) is an American environmental activist, essayist, poet, and writer who lives in that area of Northern California. His collection of poems, “Turtle Island,” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. He also was trained as a Zen monk, which can be realized in his approach to his life and work. Here are some examples of his nature writings.

Quotes:

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”

“As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth . . . the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times.”

“Nature is orderly. That which appears to be chaotic in nature is only a more complex kind of order.”

Poem: “For All” from Turtle Island, 1974

“Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.”

 

Posted in Black-and-White Photography, Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography as Palette in an Age of Uncertainty: No. 15 (Dried Hydrangea Photomontage)

09 October 2017

Lens:

Taken in Polamatic and edited in Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables.

Dried Hydrangea Photomontage #3; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Dried Hydrangea Photomontage #3; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.

Pens:

Mother Nature can be a definitive model for the layers that pervade the human condition. As we watch her perform each and every season, subtle elements give sway to changes that represent the life cycle: layers of life itself.

Autumn is a particular stage for show and tell. The season starts with full-fledged examples of maturity, and suspends that aging as it becomes the finale of an existence. Even so each flower can become the energy for next year’s jewels. It’s a marvelous search for the real and the imagined, it is also nature’s path to reuse and renewal. Non-plant life is not as forgiving, but still mirrors the essential steps of the natural world’s progeny.

The layers, which join the present to the past, embrace the here and now with mystery and tenacity. The layers also remind us of the importance of remembrance and its nesting within our inner core or underneath the surface.

In the Lens section is another tribute to the hydrangea, truly an autumn star. The photomontage is layer upon layer that represents the flower’s journey: its strong might and tender magic.

Note: For your week’s contemplation I offer you a quote and a poem by the nature writer Mary Oliver. Her visual language speaks for itself.

“I would say that there exists a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves-we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together, we are each other’s destiny.”

 

“How I go to the woods”

“Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.” From Swan: Poems and Prose Poems (2010)

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 39 Comments