Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in the Age of Uncertainty: No. 25 (Reflections Collage)

01 January 2018

Lens:

Taken in Camera+ and edited in Snapseed and Pixlr.

Reflections Collage; All Rights Reserved 2018 Sally W. Donatello

Reflections Collage; All Rights Reserved 2018 Sally W. Donatello

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

Pens:

As autumn reigns, the sun’s position rearranges its reach, giving renewed meaning as shadows redirect their presence. Between the hours of 10:00 and 11:00 each morning the visual ritual begins.

Upon a wall in my favorite room, a series of images are cast that mesmerize. Minute by minute they are altered. And even as they are ephemeral, they are made for studied gazing. As the sun plays with my senses, there is a rising of contemplation and pure amazement.

I am caught in the performance, and it suddenly seemed appropriate to create a collage of these images. Taken over the days of last year, and gently reassuring me of the power and majesty of the universe.

Unfortunately there drifted to the surface reminders of last year–a year that brought day after day assault and upheaval upon the essence of what my country means to me. Day after day America has been systematically and sporadically attacked by our own administration, upon the essence of my country. But HOPE continues to be forecast in the days ahead. As Mother Nature’s reflections redefine their presence each day, we have an opportunity to do the same.

Rather than connote those reflections as my government’s dismantling of human rights and environmental policies (to point out a few), I prefer to interpret them as symbols of changes we need in 2018. Changes reflected in a steady, direct, dignified, humane understanding of the what it means to be human and work toward the greater good for each and every one.

The reflections in the Lens section represent my enthusiasm for nature and her wondrous possibilities. Those reflections dance with confidence and unparalleled synergy. They dance with unequaled hope for today and tomorrow.

Note:

In the new year it seems apt to honor the biologist and author (of the seminal Silent Spring, 1965) Rachel Carson (1907-1964), who was a key figure in the development of America’s environmental movement. Here are quotes that demonstrate her personal ethos.

“It is one of the ironies of our time that, while concentrating on the defense of our country against enemies from without, we should be so heedless of those who would destroy it from within.”

“The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth — soil, water, forests, minerals, and wildlife… Their administration is not properly, and cannot be, a matter of politics.”

“To sin by silence, when we should protest makes cowards out of men.”

Carson’s bravery and fortitude gave voice to the environmental movement that continues today, and in many ways is part of the future’s hope. Her deeply passionate stance was in defense of the planet’s health and well-being, and her philosophy resonates with a loud blast at the beginning of 2018.

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Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Visual Reflection: Nature Photography in the Age of Uncertainty: No. 24 (Autumn Maple Leaves Photomontage)

18 December 2017

Lens:

Taken in Camera+ and edited in Snapseed and Pixlr.

Maple Leaves Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Maple Leaves 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:

Mary Oliver is a favorite nature writer, and I’ve previously written about her works. As I began to form my thoughts for the image in the Lens section, this poem says in stunning language what was on my mind. It’s perfect: the grace, lyricism and gentle symbiosis of the season’s alteration of what I experience.

“Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness”

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out
to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

by Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings: Poems, 2012

Note:

“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves” ~~ Jane Goodall, British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace.

 In 1997 I sat across from Jane Goodall in a small group discussion after she received the Commonwealth Award of Distinguished Service. This recognition was given as a salute to her public service as “world-renowned for her 45-year study of  chimpanzee social and family life.” Seamus Heaney (Literature) and Edward Albee (Dramatic Arts) were among others feted that day. Twenty years later her work continues.

I was reminded about that experience as I read a review of the recently released documentary “Jane” (September, 2017, one hour and thirty minutes). The film was created from one hundred hours of unseen footage from the National Geographic’s archives. Here is the article (“Brett Morgen Talks About Re-Creating Jane Goodall’s Jungle in ‘Jane,’ written by Katie O’Reilly and published 14 December 2017 on the Sierra Club’s website) that tells how the story of “Jane” was made. The documentary has won numerous awards and is a tribute to her tireless contribution to nature and science. Watch for it at your local movie. Today Goodall is 82 years old and remains a champion of chimpanzees.

 

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in the Age of Uncertainty: No. 23 (Triptych of Autumn Leaves)

11 December 2017

Lens:

Taken in Camera+, Polamatic, Snapseed, Stackables and Pixlr.

Autumn Leaves Triptych; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Autumn Leaves Triptych; 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 oaks, the last trees in my area to shed their leaves, finally are bare and strutting their glorious bones. It was good timing because, while it’s still autumn by the calendar, the first snow appeared this weekend, and plans to return later this week. And it’s cold, really cold, which makes for reinvention of one’s days, and hibernation becomes quite easy.

Autumn leaves fascinate and tease me. Each reinvents its outward appearance—the original, which becomes the chlorophyll green of spring’s leafing trees, are replaced by subtle to brilliant colorations. The season brings less light and more ways to really see the landscape.

As various colors and shapes spread across lawns, gardens, driveways, roofs, habitats, each changes its status, and the more intriguing they can become. Distinguishable marks surface, colors soften or burst, dehydration changes their designs, decay brings stunning alterations. Some linger with determination.

Sometimes a leaf’s decomposition is a sure thing of beauty, while others are meant for less notoriety. The leaves in the Lens section were collected a few weeks ago. They were pressed, and ready this week to have their portraits taken.

Each drew my attention for some outstanding or quiet quality. Each captures the ambience of autumn, and nature’s clever recycling system. Leaves not only give their life to new ones, but they can benefit in other ways: homes for insects, cover for wintering
plants, compose for next year’s crops. On many levels it’s the circle of life and science in all its intricacies and mysteries.

Note:

In the Letter of Recommendation section of the Magazine of The New York Times the article iNaturalist (by Ferris Jabr, published 06 December 2017) caught my attention. It’s subject is as vital today as any day: “Learning the names of our many wild neighbors is an exercise in perspective and empathy.”

Jabr introduces the reader to the website iNaturalist, which has evolved since its first appearance a few years ago. Here is an excerpt from the article.

“iNaturalist is a novel hybrid of artificial intelligence and ceaseless human curiosity. In 2008, Ken-ichi Ueda and several other students at the University of California, Berkeley, founded iNaturalist as an online community for biologists, citizen scientists and people who simply enjoyed observing wildlife. Members helped one another identify species, eventually amassing a database of more than six million labeled photos. When the iNaturalist app was introduced, it was essentially a mobile version of the website. But it has been updated several times, and the current version employs a neural network trained to recognize species using images from the rich library compiled by human user.”

And as informative, “More than an identity, a creature’s name is also a password. It gives you access to entire realms of knowledge about the natural world that would otherwise be inaccessible, because you did not know the right phrase when you went knocking. “Small brown bird” does not have much purchase on Google or in a library, but “house sparrow” (Passer domesticus) will open every relevant portal. The name of the rose is the key to its whole story, to its evolutionary arc and cultural entanglements, to the names and narratives of its many cousins. One discovery inevitably leads to another.”

Hope that you view the entire article found here. It’s worth the read.

 

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in the Age of Uncertainty: No. 22 (Floating Christmas Cactus Photomontage)

04 December 2017

Floating Christmas Cactus Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Floating Christmas Cactus 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:

Floating blossoms bring images of self-proclamation, advocating for Mother Nature. Flowers represent the omniscience, omnipresence and rich prospect of the natural world.

There is no more important time in the history of human civilization than now to honor and respect our planet. There really are no words to express the agony and pain felt from my country’s administration and its willingness to turn their backs on science, the ramifications of climate change, and the well-being of each citizen. Anxiety is high and increasing every day. On my daily commune with nature I find momentary relief. That meditative and safe space is glorious. But sometimes the abundance of nature is directly nearby and inside.

This week I discovered this year’s blooms on my Christmas cactuses, which bring the pleasures of nature indoors. Each November and December they provide incredibly floral design with shades and hues that tranquillize the senses. Each bloom seems to burst into  flame, flashing color and layers of dignity, no narcissism is intended. Its duty seems more rooted in the need to demonstrate nature’s ability to capture our attention, and give us much to ponder and revere.

I was compelled to still their brilliance and delicate showiness. They are reminders that our minds can for a time be diverted to another space that transforms it into a treasure trove of what the world offers. And what’s vital to my emotional well-being.

Note:

With the assault upon public natural spaces in my country, this holiday season I am giving gifts that support the health of the earth and its inhabitants. Examples are planting trees (Arbor Day Foundation), gifts of honeybees, sheep and flocks of chicks (Heifer International) and adopting animals (Sierra Club). And I have been adding a few natives  to my own garden. Planting now will get them acclimated for spring’s arrival in three months. Oh, will I make it through winter? Happy gift giving.

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography in the Age of Uncertainty: No. 21 (Swamp Milkweed Collage)

26 November 2017

Lens:

Taken in Camera+ and edited in Snapseed and Pixlr.

Swamp Milkweed Collage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

Swamp Milkweed Collage; 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:

Autumn conjures a number of patterns of behavior such as slipping into hibernation mode and the preparation of the garden for cold wintry days. Automatically, my body and mind ready themselves for changes initiated by the rotation of the earth and shift in the angle of the sun.

Days begin to shorten, light’s presence lessens. The garden becomes devoid of blooms and color. Acorns and berries take up their duties, and wildlife indulges in whatever can be foraged and hoarded.

There is much work to tend in my gardens. Dividing, trimming, weeding, removing entire plants. It’s a celebratory ritual of what was a few weeks ago glorious repositories from spring and summer production.

Still, there’s a meditative quality to raking leaves, spreading them on garden beds and areas to reduce grass. And there is the act of glacial decomposition that becomes compost and soil for next year’s feats and feasts of plenty. I salute myself about the creation of garden after garden, wildlife habitats, and the small grassy plots; it’s a feeling that I cannot let go.

The rhythms of autumn give me inspiration for this week’s image, a collage of swamp milkweed. This native perennial can spread with such fury that one has to be mindful of its presence in unwanted places. Butterflies and insects feed on its nectar. And it offers the almost weightless floating seeds that emerge from its pods that are one of Mother Nature’s most charming. They entice close-up examination and observation. They also are hosts for the monarch, and they are planted in my gardens as companions to other milkweeds that are critical to the survival of that precious butterfly.

Note:

To read about those famous orange-and-black butterflies, view an article published 17 October 2017 on National Geographic’s website. Here is an excerpt:

“Why Are Monarch Butterflies Important? While monarchs may seem small and insignificant, the creatures play a crucial role in the ecosystems they inhabit. As adults, monarch butterflies visit countless numbers of wildflowers each year as they seek out nutrient-rich nectar. In doing so, the monarchs transfer pollen from one plant to another and assist in those species’ reproduction. And even though monarch caterpillars and adults are poisonous to most predators, thanks to toxins they acquire from milkweed, some animals are still able to stomach them. Orioles and grosbeaks in particular make a feast of monarchs over the winter, and ants, wasps, flies, and spiders have been known to prey on the caterpillars when they get the chance.”

The article answers other questions such as: Why Do Monarchs Migrate, and How Do They Know Where to Go? Hope that you learn something new about these magnificent butterflies and their role in the earth’s ecosystem.

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

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.

Posted in Digital Art, Gardens and Gardening, Mobile Photography, Nature, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 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 , , , , , , , | 32 Comments