Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Nature (and Reflections)

06 January 2014


1. Sunset on the Pond, iPhone 4s, January 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

1. Sunset on the Pond, iPhone 4s, January 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

2. Sunset on the Pond, iPhone 4s, January 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

2. Sunset on the Pond, iPhone 4s, January 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

Let me know which you prefer and why.


Usually, inner reflection of the past is not a regular part of my repertoire. I very much like to live in the moment–the here and now. Throughout the decades this philosophy has merged as interior layers were built by the usual peaks and valleys of life’s journey.

I admit that the tail of 2013 and its touch upon the infancy of 2014 offers a place for a deeper introspection of last year’s evaporated months. This turning point can conjure a slightly-tender, curiously-midland, or outrageously-gigantic roller coaster of emotions to pursue one’s most recent back story.

Usually, I resist a concentrated backward glance. I prefer to just be. But another winter storm appeared a day ago, and rising from it came a patina of musing and wondering about the thick and thin of past year.

Winter also edges me with the “hibernation” syndrome. Because other animals are dozing underground, this seasonal habit creeps into my thoughts. Oh, and the sun has barely been visible: producing lots of gray mornings and afternoons. I ponder the possibility of sleeping until Spring appears.

Since winter strips away parts of the visual landscape, I savor that underlining beauty. Bare trees are quite stunning; they give pause for renewal.

Ice and snow bring a different luster to the landscape (and we always need the water). Mostly, I try to keep it all in perspective: three more months of dips in the temps and the landscape will begin to regenerate and rejuvenate itself.

On the day before this last storm the sky’s overcast tones drew me to a local pond. A thin glaze of ice covered parts of the surface. The sun was doing its best to show the surroundings: to pull through the clouds.

The icy parts were opaque, but the pond had enough open water to reflect the light and outline the mature trees. A hint of magic presided.

In the Lens section are two almost identical images. The first shows a more ethereal view of the scene. The sun blasting through the sky, creating indiscernible reflections. The second image taken not long after the first provides more details in the mirror-like glow.

Each image is a testament to how a moment can change what we see. How the tick tock of time alters our perception and vision. How one variant can reflect the past or pierce the present.

“Sculptured Rock, Marble Canyon, Arizona,” 1967, American Photographer Eliot Porter, Google Images

“Sculptured Rock, Marble Canyon, Arizona,” 1967, American Photographer Eliot Porter, Google Images

Tip of the Week: Nature photography is a mammoth challenge. Whether one is trying to still an animal’s cadence, capture the brilliance of a summer flower, freeze an autumn sunset, focus on the face of a bird, steal a private moment between two praying mantises, or shoot the glaze on a midnight moon, the result is very much dependent on the eye of the photographer. That’s not news or groundbreaking. But I have learned that what I see in front (to the sides, in back, overhead) of me takes closer examination than the scene or time might allow. Nature photography can take an inordinate amount of patience, but so does photography of any subject. A landscape, for example, can be so vast as to cause emotional overload. My approach is to break it down into planes: to see the scene as layers that need to be assessed. This point of view can be summarized as: featured plane (reflection as focal point), horizon (where pond meets the landscape), mid-ground (spectrum of light), foreground (trees as backdrop), cloud and skyline (top and through trees). Nature photographers usually include at least five planes, sometimes six. Of course, this suggestion can change with the complexity or simplicity of the composition. Photography is not about rules; it’s about our individual vision. But with experimentation and practice it also becomes full of instinctual and subconscious choices.

"The Day After Valentine, " 2006, Dutch artist Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Google Images

“The Day After Valentine, ” 2006, Dutch artist Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Google Images

View other entries for today’s challenge here:

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog.

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.

Below is 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 Black-and-White Photography, Mobile Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

62 Responses to Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Nature (and Reflections)

  1. wisejourney says:

    The 3rd one with that magical burst of sunlight

  2. Beautiful! Nature gives a sense of escape. Of healing that mends our soul in more ways we can fully describe. Thanks for bringing nature so close to us.

  3. Su Leslie says:

    Stunning photos Sally. Here’s my take on the theme:

  4. says:

    I must say that I really liked the clarity of the second photograph ! Love your challenges !

  5. I really like the second image for the very reasons you describe. The sun flare is smaller and allows the viewer “in” and the reflections are lovely.

  6. Sally — I’m baaaaaaack! I only noted a subtle difference between your two frames, so just a little nudge in favor of frame #2 for its clarity. Nice B&W.

    • Tom, I’m so-o–o-o delighted to have you “back.” I wanted to show how nature is evergreen (no pun intended). She is constantly on the move. That subtle difference was nature’s work. That’s so much.

  7. Marianne Green says:

    Fascinating picture with a view of nature I have never encountered!

  8. marialla says:

    Like watching miracles !

  9. cindy knoke says:

    I’m no help! I like them both!

  10. I prefer the 2nd because I like the way the light has more structure to it, as opposed to being a large blob in the first. Very insightful post too 🙂

  11. I like the second photo, Sally. Both certainly do have an ethereal, elusive quality about them. The second seems to have a better balance between the light and dark. I could not find a reflection this week, but nevertheless tried to incorporate some of the tips you mentioned re planes in landscape shots.

  12. Gallivanta says:

    Good to know that the sun was out! How do you capture such bright light without hurting your own eyes?

  13. Amar Naik says:

    The first challenge of new year. excited to be part of it 🙂 I love the effect in your photos to get clean burst of sunlight. The reflection in this clicks is also great.

  14. HansHB says:

    A beautiful post!

  15. My eyes kept going back and forth between the two but I believe I like the second one best. The first is definitely ethereal to me but something about the second one just draws me in. Perhaps it’s because of looking at the brighter one first! Great shots, Sally!

  16. FireBonnet says:

    I enjoy #2. I like the more defined shadows in the forefront and the delicate light beams from the sun. I used to get that feeling of wanting to hibernate when I lived in the north and then Colorado, but here in CA, not so much. We have sustaining sunlight all year long.

  17. Two great photos today Sally, I really like how your choice of black and white puts all the focus on the clean burst of sunlight.

  18. Bother are magical. The sun glare or glow light is in the shape of a light bulb from where I sit. An irony or synchronicity??? Hope you don’t mind my projection. I like #2 the reflection is sharper. But My mind could change soon. Happy second week of 2014.

  19. I like the second one, but yet I also see the possibility these series have of being seen as diptychs. The second one seems to me a bit more organised and compact, while the first one is kind of overwhelming with brightness, so the second one is more “controlled”.

  20. Literally, the first photo looks like a lightbulb has been turned on..very cool effect.

  21. Angeline M says:

    I really like the second one best, more ability to look into the photo and the detail in that one for me.
    Year’s end and then the cold and feeling the need to hibernate it is inevitable that there might be just a wee bit of introspection and looking back over the past year; but then, how wonderful to look forward and plan the warm days coming.
    I’m also in Northern California where we are having cold nights and mornings, but days in the mid to high 60s with a lot of sunshine…but looks like we are heading into a drought, we’ve had no rain in the flatlands, or snow in the Sierra. Wild animals from the hills and mountains are coming down into populated areas looking for food and water. Nature is happening!

    • Angeline, I was immensely happy to learn that Secretary of State John Kerry’s next mission is a global climate treaty. “We” must make the environment a priority. It saddens me to know that animals are suffering due to human intervention in nature. I wish that I could send you the rain that we are experiencing today. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  22. Amy says:

    Love the sunset on the pond. The reflection is so beautiful, especially the second one.
    Under 10 degrees is brutal…Stay warm, Sally! I will submit my entry later today.

  23. suelca says:

    I like both of them. What I immensely enjoyed was your commentary – about the seasons and life. Nature does metaphorically nudge us to co-join the past with the present, in all seasons really, as the solstices celebrate. Living in No. Cal., I miss the impact of dramatic seasonal changes that bring on reflection and possibly self-awareness in one’s world. But the sun and its warmth is welcome as I head out into the cold of nature. Thank you.

    • Yes, the seasons definitely affect the matters of the mind. Northern California is a marvelous place to live; it provides a completely different kind of pondering. One’s ability to see vast stretches of land in its natural form is missed here. My first experience westward was Southern Utah, which to this day has had a profound effect upon me. But I must say that the coastlines are the best part of East or West. The ocean is one of the most nurturing of Mother Nature’s bounty. Thanks so much.

  24. aloha LensAndPensBySally – i prefer the 2nd photo. i like the added detail around the pond and the sun flash. it draws me into the work more than the first. i like that.

    a thought on reflection or introspection (as a look into our past) too: i like this being in the moment. i think it is a good thing. however i think it is very much human nature to look back and even forward—we are like that at times. when that happens i see that as being in the moment as well, if/when we allow ourself to be in it—(being in) that moment of introspection/reflection. not that it is a moment i wish to dwell in (perhaps no more than any other moment), it is after all simply that moment, one moment among many. which of course may pop up in us at any time via what is around us. . . . or perhaps via what is within us as well. way fun on your reflective thoughts.

    aloha. and onward. or perhaps now-ward.

    • Yes, there are always moments of introspection. Hopefully, we apply lessons of the past to the present. However, humans do not seem to be good at that emotional task. I ALWAYS enjoy your comments. Thanks so much.

  25. Trifocal says:

    I would go for the second. It looks like a scene from the Arthurian ‘Lady of the Lake’ story; how it would have appeared to Bevedere just after the sword disappeared back into the lake. Very nice.

  26. Suz says:

    I like both. What I truly savored this dawn is your commentary. You eloquently described the dualities found in nature during these times of winter and the choice we have to evaluate the past to the present, and possibly the future, then making our daily life as we prefer. I miss the cues of seasons that metaphorically nudge one to this place, tho living in No. California, I like watching the sun converging with darkness in the morning and knowing its warmth will be savored. Thank you.

    • Suz, I love Northern California. It offers a bit of (almost) everything. The East Coast and the Mid-Atlantic bestow the four seasons with grace and triumph. But also there is a steady uncertainty about the weather. Today it is raining and in the 50s. Tonight it will be under 10 degrees. Hmmmmmmm. Thanks so much for your comment and visit.

  27. I Am Jasmine Kyle says:

    Absolutely Haunting Photos… I get hibernation syndrome as well!

  28. Loved both of them. They looked like paintings. I loved the reflection and the part that we can see only darkness.

  29. Sometimes there’s a clear-cut winner in the which-do-I-prefer stakes but today I have to say that I like them both. Maybe my brain is frozen from the sub-zero temperatures outside (I’ll be staying in today) or maybe it’s just that they’re both lovely photos…or both. Anyway, enjoy the warmth today, Sally, as I suspect the frigid air will arrive tonight or tomorrow. Right now we’re at -16F with -44 wind chill. Time to make a pot of tea!


    • Janet, it’s been so-o-o-o-o cold and icy. Today the rains have arrived, washing away the snow and temps have temporary risen to 50s. Tonight the forecast is under 10 degrees. I’m off to make that cup of tea. Thanks so much for your comment.

  30. Interesting picture and while I will go with #2, it is interesting to see both together for comparison. Have a great day 🙂

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