Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Nature (The Tame and the Wild, Part One)

05 May 2014


I. Colfax, California

1. Sunbeams on Cedar, Colfax, California, © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

1. Sunbeams on Cedar, Colfax, California, © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

II. Crystal Hermitage Gardens, Nevada, City, California

2. Tulips at Crystal Hermitage Gardens, Ananda Village, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

2. Tulips at Crystal Hermitage Gardens, Ananda Village, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

3. Tulips, Crystal Hermitage Gardens, Ananda Village, Nevada City, California, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

3. Tulips, Crystal Hermitage Gardens, Ananda Village, Nevada City, California, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

III. Yosemite National Park, Yosemite, California

4. El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridleveil Falls, Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

4. El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls, Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

5. Bridleveil Falls, Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

5. Bridalveil Falls, Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

6. View from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

6. View from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, iPhone 4s, April 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

IV. Point Bonita Lighthouse at Marin Headlands, California

7. View from Marin Headlands with Golden Gate Bridge in Distance, Sausalito, California; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

7. View from Marin Headlands with Golden Gate Bridge in Distance, Sausalito, California; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

Let me know which you prefer and why.


If you are a regular reader of my Lens and Pens, you know that I’ve been incommunicado for over two weeks. Those days were charged with adventure, happenstance, reunions, serendipity, and tenderness. Emotions were on high alert, and mine succeeded in spilling into my heart and soul with vengeance and a treasure trove of bizarre and wondrous moments.

While I’ve been in Northern California on other occasions, this journey was stacked with firsts and day-after-day of hypersensitivity to this region’s expansive wilderness and kaleidoscopic cities: the primitive and pristine mixed with the historic and modern, and my almost prancing between rural and urban.

More importantly, I spent every day with family and friends, so the memories become layered in so many directions that they are relived with the most genuine of affection and gratefulness. Each day’s experiences have settled into a deep inner well that keeps nourishing me with intense flashbacks. How fortunate I am, and I know it.

While I’ve had similar experiences in California, the elements that converged made it an exceptional passage through place and time. I’ve returned rejuvenated, and accompanied by an even deeper sense of reverence and wonder.

This holiday was another pilgrimage that wavered between the present and the past. Truly, every new venture is partially influenced by what has been, and yet the new enters as a fortress with room for the familiar and unfamiliar to influence todays and tomorrows.

Narratives were woven around three cities: Nevada City (in the Sierra Mountains), Berkeley and San Francisco as well as side trips (e.g., Oakland–the New Brooklyn) to other remarkable places. While each has its own appeal, the spiritual effects of this trio was a never-ending combination that coalesced into rich, sweet, tender and vibrant passages.

While the destinations alone would be a triumphant package, it was the mixture of adventures shared with each person that was the entry point for remarkable confluences of events and occurrences.

Mostly, I can boast of spiritual discoveries along with new vistas in the wilderness and urban landscape. Often when I view such splendor I am prone to welling of intensity: tears rising and blurring my view, which stills me and that is a good omen. Still that emotion is a testament to the visual abundance that rocks my inner and outer worlds. Simply, Mother Nature inspires me.

While springtime on the West Coast can be vacillate in temperatures, on this excursion Northern California weather cooperated: sunny and warm days with cool nights: perfection. We even had one overnight and morning rainstorm, which is very much-needed throughout the region.

This initial post is one of several to be launched about my trip. Most of the days were spent in the region north and south of Nevada City that is filled with the Gold Rush’s legacy to American history. But visits to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park were more than memorable. They’re locked into my past and present.

The remainder of the trip was spent in Berkeley and San Francisco: two cities high on my list of “I could live” in their yin/yang urban and close-by natural environments. They have so much (including family and friends) that it astounds my sensibilities.

I will need many posts to show the depth and breath of the landscape–scenes that stole my emotions. But also while my iPhone 4s did record splendor, my Nikon DSLR was necessary to get the crystalline views of such monumental images.

In the Lens section is a sampling of the trip’s tribute to Mother Nature. There are seven images that begin to detail the variety of my trip’s main theme: mostly the wild.

Part I: Colfax, south of Nevada City-Cedars are captivating for their dimensions, but it’s their texture that also lures me. On a visit to friends where they live on a ridge in Colfax, this cedar’s majestic stance is about to be leveled due to the bark beetle. Sadly, its existence is being joined by others affected, including pines, by the same plight in Northern California.

Part II: Crystal Hermitage Gardens, Nevada City-These spring gardens are spectacular, and are only open to the public in April. I felt fortunate to be able to stroll through their 13,500 tulips that are luscious to the eye. They are cultivated and maintained by the cooperative spiritual community, Ananda Village, which is in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. The tea gardens and views of the Yuba River Gorge are powerful visual scenes. We strolled through the tulips that were nestled in terraces, and each row invited you to gaze at individual and clusters of colors and varieties. We heard about the mouth-watering scones, but kept focused on the flowers and the serenity and solitude.

Part III: Yosemite National Park-After two and a half days in Yosemite National Park, which is located in the High Sierras, I was overwhelmed with views of granite cliffs, gushing waterfalls, hiking trails, light and shadow, abundance of natural rock formations on the valley floor, snow-capped peaks, the ebb and flow of the Merced River, and 9,000 years of history. I will never be able to express the gifts bestowed from this protected wilderness. We walked and walked, and became saturated but kept going and going. There will be a few posts devoted to this national park that was given in 1864 to the American people and others around the world. The experience is inexpressible. For decades Zion National Park in Southern Utah has stood at the apex of my favorite American natural wonders. Now Yosemite shares that spot. Both are miraculous examples of what John Muir called “special temples of Nature.”

Part IV: Marin Headlands-At the Marin Headlands is the Point Bonita Lighthouse. After a half-mile walking trail brought us to the tip of the headlands, the expanse initiated an inner gasp. Point Bonita is part of the largest urban national park in the United States. The Lighthouse serves as a guide to waters that take maritime travelers through the Golden Gate (connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean) and under the Golden Gate Bridge. The view takes your breath away and holds it in safe keeping. This excursion was capped by a sighting of 130 harbor seals.

I hope that you get a slice of the joy that I experienced. I’m happy to answer any questions, because if you want a place to dig into Mother Nature’s omnipresence and so much more, then Northern California offers a sweeping variety: architecture, arts, cuisine, culture, entertainment, history, and natural wonders. Each comprises the tame and the wild. 

Tip of the Week: For those of you who are new to using your Smartphone as your camera, you might want to read a short article from The New York Times Getaway column from 27 April 2014. James Hill wrote “Snapping Good Photos with Your Phone.” While on the Amalfi coast in Italy, he found himself without his SLR, and turned to his iPhone to record his vacation. He discusses a few apps, and talks about close-ups, composition, framing, color coding, and dawn and dust. Click here to view it.

View other entries for this week’s challenge:

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 Photo Challenge, please contact me.

Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature

2nd Monday: Macro

3rd Monday: Black and White

4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel). (Animals and Objects are themes.)

5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.

This entry was posted in Abstraction, Black-and-White Photography, Gardens and Gardening, Human Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Street Photography, Traveling and Travels, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

84 Responses to Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Nature (The Tame and the Wild, Part One)

  1. Love all pics you took at Yosemite National Park!

  2. It took me a moment to work out 6. I thought the sky was ocean. I love that disorientation – like waking up at night and having to piece together where you are.

  3. What marvellous photos !

  4. Love the waterfall!! Did you camp or stay at hotel?

  5. I am really enjoying your photos from your trip. The tulip gardens are stunning. I think it is the vibrant colour that attracts my eye. I posted my nature contribution early. I must have missed the pingback.

  6. thirdeyemom says:

    Lovely!!! I was wondering where you’ve been! Fabulous photos and can’t wait to see more from your trip!

  7. Maria F. says:

    Your images are of great quality, I keep hearing the iPhone 4S camera came out to be the best. What a crisp, sharp images you got from sunny CA!

  8. Dawn says:

    Welcome back. I’m pleased it was a restorative and lovely holiday. I’ll jump back into the posts next week. Be well – terrific submissions this week – very much a pleasure to view.

  9. elisa ruland says:

    Sally, I was touched by your expression of warm memories from your recent trip. I loved how you used the word layers to describe your many emotions, all beautifully said, and your photographs are fantastic!

  10. Su Leslie says:

    Welcome home Sally. I’m glad you had such a wonderful, inspiring trip. How could I choose a favourite image when they all capture some of the magic of your experience. If pushed, I’d say number 5 – but it’s close. Here’s my contribution to the theme – a little something from my own time away.

  11. kathleenmc1953 says:

    Thanks so much for the beautiful pics! I’m glad you had a great time here in Northern California. Can’t wait to see the other pics. And thanks for the iphone article reference. I take my photos with my phone for my blog and, I think, they come out pretty well. I’m always looking for tips!

  12. I always wanted to see Yosemite. My friend went there last Summer and he said it was just beyond words beautiful. California is truly blessed with Nature. One of the main reason why someday, I wish to go back there and make up for what I missed. Have a great week!

  13. Indira says:

    All photographs are beautiful. Nature is beautiful in every form.

  14. maryslow says:

    These are all beautiful! I especially love the effects you used for #3. The vibrant colors and the subject matter of all of them are breathtaking.

  15. Suzanne says:

    It sounds like a fabulous holiday. The first photo of Yosemite is my favourite for it shows the panoramic grandeur of the American west. Here’s my contribution to the challenge – I liked the idea of contrasting wild and tame nature

  16. Tina Schell says:

    Lovely Sally, it’s magnificent out there, isn’t it? We did a a similar trip 2 years ago and it was such a joy! I’m all for El Capitan – it’s so special!

    • Tina, I was entranced with the waterfalls that were in their prime, even with the smaller snows this year. Fabulous that you had “similar” experiences. Yosemite is truly a national treasure. Thanks so much.

  17. Welcome home! Loved your new photos, especially the Yosemite pics.

  18. marialla says:

    Noh, seeker of beauty!!! You have once again presented such glory!! Thank you. Mari

  19. FireBonnet says:

    I’m so glad you had such a spectacular time in our wonderful state. Your heart, mind and soul seem filled with wonder and delight. What more can you ask for in a vacation? I adore Yosemite and your shots there are great, but my favorite of the bunch is the Marin Headlands. The view of the bridge is terrific!
    Here’s mine for this week.

  20. Welcome back! It’s obvious that you had a spectacular time! Your photos are all gorgeous! And your “models” are magnificent! 🙂

  21. My favorites are……..all.of.them! They’re all great nature photographs. Well done! 🙂
    And I would submit mine later this week because I’d like to shoot new fresh photos with my iPad again! 🙂

  22. Sally, its wonderful to see you back, it sounds like you’ve had an amazing trip, and you have some beautiful photos (and memories) in your post! Ive mixed up my photos today, so I cant really enter as some were taken with my Sony camera. Trust me!

    • Amanda, hope to see your participation next week. Steve joined this week, which was so nice to see his work. See you soon. Thanks.

      • I will, I’ve missed you, and next week i’ll be more careful when I upload all my pics into an album! 😀

      • Oh, I missed you too, and it’s lovely that you expressed it. Thanks so much.

      • Hi Sally, I have a query. Steve thinks I can use my camera for the challenge. Its a compact camera, and non SLR. I’d be grateful if you let me know if this is the case. I’m slightly confused as I always think of this challenge as being mobile phone only, although I know you changed the name. I’m no camera buff, so here’s the link for my camera.
        Many thanks

      • Actually I would say no. It’s suppose to be a challenge that defies the use of the traditional camera. The point-and-shoot would fit into the traditional camera category, which are considered DSLR. I have in mind the lens that is more 21st century alternatives. But, in fact, I found the camera that you own described as: Professional DSLR-style handling and manual controls in a compact body; Wi-Fi and …Hope that helps.

      • I cant see that description of it anywhere on the link Sally. It is definitely non SLR though. In that case I actually think the name of the challenge is misleading. Obviously its your call, but I can see confusion ahead.

        Another point to consider is this. When I chose this camera, I was choosing between 2 models, the one mentioned, and the QX10 which is a lens that attaches to the iPhone. The camera shop explained that it was the same camera within a different body. If I had gone for the QX10 I would have used those shots in the challenge without hesitation. Im curious, what is your opinion on those types?

      • I’ll get back to you. Am giving it some further consideration.

  23. It is good to see you back safe and well. Here is my post. Love your photos. 😀

  24. Angeline M says:

    So, here you were in my stomping grounds! I’m so glad you had a good time and saw wonderful things. As Allan says, we have a treasure trove here in this area, and I am so blessed to live here. I can’t wait to see all of your photos! Your collection today is wonderful, each and every one is my favorite. Have a great week.

    • Angeline, I must tell you that I wanted time to bring together those of you in San Francisco that I’ve met through my blog. Beside Allan and you there are others. It was not possible this trip with family and friends tugging at me. I am totally in like and love with San Francisco and the entire Northern part of California. I wanted to leave a comment on your post, but the comment section was not there. See you soon.

      • Angeline M says:

        Family vacations should be just about that. Now you just have to come out and visit again to see us all 🙂
        I’ve turned off comments for just awhile. I’m heading into some busy days and didn’t want to offend anyone with no responses to comments left. I have a post that I’m putting together for Wednesday or Thursday with details.

      • Angeline, it would be a memorable experience to have a reunion of those of us that have been sharing, and have never met: aka the life of a blogger. See you soon.

  25. Steve Lakey says:

    Hi Sally,
    I love the splash of colour in the Tulips photo. Also, the angle of the View from Glacier Point almost gives me vertigo, but it’s great!

    Here’s my contribution.


  26. Glad you are back. I hope your trip was as beautiful as your photos. Here is my entry

  27. Amy says:

    Welcome back, Sally! Thank you for sharing your enjoyable vacation. Here is my entry for this week:

  28. Now this isn’t fair Sally. I can’t pick one today. I think you did a terrific job on all of them. I love California and all its beauty.

  29. Welcome back, Sally! Your Yosemite photos are amazing and I can’t wait to read more about your trip. I’ll have my nature themed photo ready to post later this afternoon. 🙂

  30. DG MARYOGA says:

    What a glorious photo series,Sally !!! Glad you enjoyed your holidays ; I enjoyed mine,but I have lost contact with all my remarkable WP friends,try very hard to catch up …
    Love ♥ ,Doda 🙂 xxx

  31. Welcome back. Reading your experience on your trip, it seems that you really had a great time on vacation.

    All of your photos look wonderful. No. 6th is my most favourite because of its sky and clouds.

  32. Lignum Draco says:

    Sounds like you had a great trip. Welcome back.

  33. Gracie says:

    Beautiful captures, Sally! Looks like a fun trip. I always come back with soaring spirit after a visit to family and friends, so I can definitely relate.

  34. Welcome back, Sally! I’m so happy you had a wonderful time on your trip and I look forward to seeing your photos and reading about your experiences. All your beautiful photos make me happy and long to see these places again (or for the first time.) But I’m especially drawn to the first two. I like the sense of height in the first as well as the ray of light and the second allows me to focus on the beauty of that small grouping of flowers.

    Have a marvelous week and enjoy all those memories!


  35. Gallivanta says:

    Welcome “home”. It’s lovely to see and read about your time away. My favourite of these photos is the last one of Marin Headland. It seems to embrace the viewer.

  36. Allan G. Smorra says:

    I am looking forward to your NorCal posts. These photos are a wonderful tease.

    • Allan, I have so many stories–some bizarrely serendipitous and other simply glorious. Your part of this country is a treasurer trove of adventures, and you are fortunate to live there. Hope all is going well at home.

      • Allan G. Smorra says:

        Thanks, Sally, things are improving for us. This area is a treasure trove and we know how fortunate we are to live here. The scenery/weather is beautiful and we have a wonderful group of family, neighbors and friends. What more can we ask for?

      • All of that and retirement too: Life is good for you. That’s great. See you soon.

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