Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Nature (in Crisis)

02 December 2013


1. Gingko Leaf, iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

1. Ginkgo Leaf, iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Gingko Leaves, iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Ginkgo Leaves, iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

3. Gingko Leaves, iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

3. Ginkgo Leaves, iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

4. Gingko Leaves, iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

4. Ginkgo Leaves, iPhone 4s, November 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Let me know which you prefer and why.


If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. If you have any questions about the Phoneography Challenge, please contact me.

“Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,

The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:

The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,

The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.

The moss is slippery, though there’s been no rain

The pine sings, but there’s no wind.

Who can leap the world’s ties

And sit with me among the white clouds?” Gary Snyder (b. 1930), Riprap and Cold Mountains Poems

“Nature is orderly. That which appears to be chaotic in nature is only a more complex kind of order.” Gary Snyder (b. 1930), poet, essayist, and environmentalist

Nature is quintessential to my existence. She allows my spirit to be itself, and even glide the rim of her immensely powerful story.

The seasons move intensely into my soul. Autumn, which now reigns in my part of the U.S.A., brings bare and almost bucolic views. Everyday scenes become rearranged and redefined within a relatively brief span of time.

Already I feel the lure of hibernation. Along with other animals groundhogs have descended  into their wintry underground residences. The horizon is empty of animals, except “my” birds. Since it’s unseasonably cold, they are stacked in queues or fighting to get to the feeders.

Since I spend some part of everyday in reverence with nature, I often ask myself: Is there a place devoid of human intervention? Have I ever walked where no one else has tread? Can I conceive of a life completely immersed in Mother Nature’s bounty? When are we going to fully embrace the global need to attack climate changes and the result of them?

I do as little as possible to intervene with the natural world, even returning much of my property to natural habitats. My gardens are a source of wildlife zipping in and out of my sights. To an extent it comforts me, but not as much as I want. My concerns escalate daily.

In the Lens section are images of Ginkgo leaves, which are apt symbols for the remarkable trials, tribulations and triumphs of Mother Nature. The Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo Biloba or Maidenhair tree; native to China and symbolic in Japan) is unique among living examples of longevity. I found hundreds scattered on my daily walk around the UD campus.

Without hesitation I handpicked dozens and brought them home. Their distinctly eloquent fragility marks their appeal. Each dried with a lovely dainty quality–alluring and subtle.

This ornamental gem is a living fossil, because it’s virtually the same today as it was 200 million years ago. Currently, there are no other species that share its genus, yet in the true sense they are related to all. One Ginkgo tree can celebrate a 2,000-year-old birthday. Now that’s resilience.

It struck me that these unusual shaped leaves have witnessed scores of human decisions that have brought magic to our species and destruction to our planet. The Ginkgo has been privy to it all, and continues to survive (seems a haunting burden). This staying power is a powerful commentary on the will of nature and human nature: the world that has been and the one that is.

One of my favorite periods in art history–Art Nouveau (1880s-World War I)–used Ginkgo leaves to represent the life cycle–organic shapes that strayed from industrialization and fortified nature’s place.

Art Nouveau, Gingko Designs, Google Images

Art Nouveau, Ginkgo Designs, Google Images

Ginkgo Leaves, Art Nouveau Google Images

Design Using Ginkgo Leaves, Art Nouveau, Google Images

This ancient yet modern tree speaks volumes about nature’s ability to thrive over vast stretches of time and place. For years it’s even salt-and-peppered my city. Its individualism makes for a strange chapter in the earth’s history, but its continued presence is a testament to Mother Nature’s persistence to battle human intervention.

(for additional information about this remarkable tree, see Peter Crane’s book, Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot, Yale University Press, 2013 by clicking here at the Amazon store).

Tip of the Week: Here are two articles that prompted my post. From The New York Times: 1. ‘The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear” by Jim Robbins, 22 November 2013, click here 2. “Climate Crisis: Who Will Act?” by Kofi Annan, 24 November 2013, click here.

Here are other entries for today’s challenge:


As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. Here’s a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Phoneography Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature

2nd Monday: Macro

3rd Monday: Black and White

4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

This entry was posted in Nature Photography, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

83 Responses to Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Nature (in Crisis)

  1. Indira says:

    You have captured them so beautifully, can’t choose one. All are magnificent. Didn’t know dry leaves can look so beautiful.

  2. How can we choose, they are all stunning

  3. Marius Constantin says:

    Lovely compositions and textures.

  4. wisejourney says:

    Pretty, wow! Ethereal.

  5. Allan G. Smorra says:

    The first tree that I ever drew was a Ginko tree in Atlanta. I had no idea what it was at the time, but I loved the shape and color of the leaves in the Fall.

    Photos #1 and #4 are my favorites because of the colors.—opposite hues, and beautiful in their own rights.

  6. Suzanne says:

    I really like the first photo for it highlights the shape of the gingko. The interesting work people take for this challenge makes me wish I had an i-Phone. I really like the photos on your blog but my slow internet connection means I can’t always load the comment stream. I do enjoy looking at your photos though.

  7. thirdeyemom says:

    Gorgeous photos. Can’t decide my favorite. We just got our first big dump of snow and it is beautiful. Like you I love the changing seasons and love nature. Thanks for inspiring!

  8. Bastet says:

    Fantastic post….though I enjoyed all the photos, I think that the second photo is just awesome!

  9. cindy knoke says:

    You are a major talent. Simply remarkable.

  10. I finally had time to come back and comment…whoa…I didn’t know most of this info on Gindgo tree. Your first image is beyond beautiful!!

  11. dsaquarelles says:

    I prefer 4 for the dreaming colors which are unusual.

  12. Trifocal says:

    Puzzled over this set for some time. Started out thinking 1 or 3, but have decided on 4. A very mysterious and enigmatic picture; must have been hard for you to get it just right too.

  13. Love the leaves. It’s color hues, shape and texture just draws you close to nature and all it’s amazing adventures.

  14. Gallivanta says:

    It’s wonderful to know that we can look on the gingko as a symbol of hope. We need to give nature more credit for its adaptability to our often unkind, uncaring presence.

  15. EvaUhu says:

    I never knew ginko leaves would look so beautiful when dried 🙂 the colors are really amazing, subtle yet strong. lovely to look at. if I had to choose a favourite among your images, I guess it’d be ‘everybodys darling’ number one. I also liked your text on the endurance of the ginko. wish we had some around where I live, but they are hard to find outside botanical gardens or very ‘sophisticated’ private gardens.

  16. Crisis? It is the natural sessional progression of life. I love the first !

  17. elisaruland says:

    What a beautiful post, Sally. Your ability to weave so many different elements into a cohesive post is a pleasure to both read and view.

  18. marialla says:

    Very interesting photos. Quite the perspective!!

  19. Amar Naik says:

    Beautiful clicks and really informative post. Learned about a new leaf name today. My favorite is the fourth pic.

  20. I like them all for different reasons…if I ‘had’ to pick, the close up would be the one…but I choose all 4! Bravo to you 🙂

  21. Trifocal says:

    ‘Have I ever walked where no one else has tread?’
    Indeed you have; think of all the tidal beaches you have walked along and also the saying of Heraclitus; ‘You can never step in the same river twice.’
    ‘I often ask myself: Is there a place devoid of human intervention? ‘
    Yes there is- we just need go out at night and look up. The parts of the universe we have affected are infinitely small compared to the whole. Personally I sometimes find that a considerable comfort.

    • The quote by Heraclitus is one of my favorites. My questions are dialogues with myself that pose more questions. It’s a philosophical debate with myself about the human condition and our intervention. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I truly enjoy your responses. See you soon.

  22. Steve Lakey says:

    Great photos, Sally. I particularly like the colours of the first photo.

  23. livvy30 says:

    The photos are amazing! I love them all. I’ll have to get out and about with my phone.

  24. Madhu says:

    The first without a doubt! But they are all beautiful! Amazing textures.

  25. Lovely post today Sally. My favorite of the group is the first one but as always they are all wonderful. I’m a big fan of Art Nouveau too. 🙂

  26. Sally these are excellent photos, the texture is amazing…I love them all! 🙂

  27. Those ginkgo leaves are so beautifully lit. The images are all small jewels on their own. And the colours are amazing. My favourite is the first one. It’s just such a perfectly shaped composition of two leaves, the tones and colours are stunning – and so is the processing.

  28. FireBonnet says:

    I am entranced by the first one. The colors in the leaves are at the same time rich and delicate. I am reminded of Oriental fans of all things. And it reminds me the most of the Art Nouveau examples you show. Once again a beautiful and thoughtful piece of writing.

  29. My daughter is planning to go to Mexico to see the Monarchs in Feb, but has heard they are not there.

  30. So many things I’m fond of in one post. Gingko leaves and Gary Snyder and heartfelt word of your love and concern for nature. Thank you for a wonderful way to start a week.

  31. It’s good to see you drawing out (abs-tract-ing) your photographs to such an extent.

    Of the Beat Generation poets, Gary Snyder is the only one I’m aware of who’s still alive.

  32. Kainoa says:

    Hi Sally, I really like the composition in #4. The layers drew me in and the Ginkgo leaves’ texture reminds me of the underside of mushroom caps. 🙂

  33. scillagrace says:

    Thank you for this post: I walk past Gingko trees each time I go to work. They are not tall, and I’ve never thought of their resilience or longevity before.

  34. Sally-these are absolutely beautiful-I particularly like the top two-the color, the light and the textures really speak to me-another beautiful series-

  35. Cathy Ulrich says:

    Beautiful Ginkgo leaves, Sally.

  36. ~meredith says:

    Hi, Sally; I loved your article about the Ginko–very enlightening. Of the four pictures, it seems that the fourth picture best lends itself to your title. They are all distinct, though, which is very cool. This is such great blog. I love the ingenuity. By now there are probably others like this, but you really have great insights.

  37. My favorite in #2 because it has imperfections that are beautiful and seems to be suspended in space, as if launched into the cosmos.

  38. Don’t think I’ve seen Ginkgo leaves before (that I’ve noticed)! They’re all beautiful photos but I think I prefer the first one. There’s something about the color blend that appeals to me. Hard to explain! 🙂

  39. Amy says:

    Beautiful, graceful leaves. Thank you for the lens and pens, Sally. Be back later…

  40. Lignum Draco says:

    Hard to explain, but I prefer the last one which seems a bit sombre.

  41. Sally, I discovered a Ginkgo tree near our library this fall. What lovely leaves, so graceful! Off to link my post and get my morning walk in. Blessings on your Monday. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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