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.

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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

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography as Palette in an Age of Uncertainty: No. 14 (“Black” Dahlia Photomontage)

02 October 2017

Lens:

Taken in Polamatic and edited in Snapseed, Pixlr and FX Photo Studio.

Black Dahlia Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2017 Sally W. Donatello

“Black” Dahlia 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:

Some dreams can be realized, and sometimes it takes a leap through memory to tap an unlikely forecast. Black flowers really do not exist. The Queen of the Night tulip that graces by spring gardens can appear noir, but in reality it’s a sensational deeply intense purple.

Its presence brings pause to recognize how color can sway our senses and thoughts. To color personality is evident by our outer choices. The inner hues may be different, depending on our own idea of self. Gardens are similar, they reflect our sensibilities and palettes, and definitely are a major part of my selections.

Color reigns. And by definition black is the absence of color, not the combination that is strutted by white. While I was creating the photomontage, I intuitively added layers. Then the conversion of the white dahlia to black was a stroke of the moment:  it belonged more than just in the realm of my fantasies.

The image became the flower that I’ve imagined exists somewhere, but alas does not. As the tulip, which seems black, a real black dahlia is either dark burgundy, maroon or red. That darkness is still revealed as color, and is not true black as we perceive it.

It’s all about pigment and science explains it. Still, with the kinds of dahlias (20,000) that exist only about twenty have an appearance that we can pretend is black. So I made my own, an image to reflect the idea of an idea.

Note:

“All is connected… no one thing can change by itself.” ~~ Paul Hawken

“The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them.”  ~~ Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken, who is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist and author, has devoted his life to sustainability and redefining the relationship between business and the environment. Generally, he is optimistic about the chances that humanity can alter the course that we have created. His latest book, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming (2017), proposes 100 solutions, which are based on experts in the fields of climate and environment. These solutions are supported by critical policy and science, will turn–he says–the course to reduce global warming. Examples of themes in his book include energy, food, women and girls, land use, and transport.

If you want to learn more about his ideas, go to the Yale E360, which is an online magazine from Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Science. It’s definitely worth the read to discover ways that individuals can make a difference.

Posted in Black-and-White Photography, Digital Art, Gardens and Gardening, Mobile Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography as Palette in the Age of Uncertainty: No. 13 (Autumn’s Hydrangea Photomontage)

25 September 2017

Lens:

Taken in Polamatic and edited in Snapseed and Pixlr

Hydrangea Photomontage; 2017 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved

Hydrangea Photomontage; 2017 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved

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

Pens:

Ode to Autumn’s Hydrangea

Shimmering   Glowing   Jewels  Awaken.

Each  Encourages  Visual Euphoria.

Dancing and Distancing

Moving Inward for Grace and Tranquility.

In the Lens section is a photomontage that honors the autumnal jewel, a black-stemmed hydrangea. These two images are renditions of a flower that always performs with eloquence and a salute to gentle living. Each cluster of flower head bursts with soft patina and almost paper-thin petals.

I am so enamored with this magnificent example of nature’s majesty that I just planted another native called ‘Snow Queen.’ As I water it nightly, there is a sensation of anticipation and wonder. It’s the oakleaf variety, and the first of its species to honor my gardens. Its height will soar and produce cascades of boughs that will direct my imagination toward boundless inspiration.

That’s exactly how nature affects me. While filling my reservoir over and over, she shores and steers my daily journey. This cathartic effect weaves through my inner spirit and gently soothes for moments before reality becomes reality.

Note:

On 19 September in a The New York Times’ column the reader was given answers to frequent questions about climate change. In “Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions” by Justin Gillis, the journalist presents three parts (Part One: What is Happening?, Part Two: What Could Happen? and Part Three: What Can We Do?) to inform the reader about this critical subject that affects everyone on our planet. Hope that you take some time to view it and get involved.

 

Posted in Digital Art, Mobile Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Photomontage, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography as Palette in the Age of Uncertainty: No. 12 (Coneflower Photomontage)

18 September 2017

Lens:

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

Coneflower Photomontage; 2017 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved

Coneflower Photomontage; 2017 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved

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

Pens:

In less than a week autumn will be official. Throughout the summer one floral star and a diminutive bird have been preparing for their most serious duty. Both have been ablaze for much of the season. But in August and September the flower and the bird perform their high wire acts: acts that are aimed at a late breeding season, nest-building and feeding.

Nature provides a sweet tale of this duo: the medicinal coneflower (Echinacea) and the sunny-yellow and night-black diminutive American goldfinch. Once the babies are born, seed heads become the center of the goldfinch’s daily existence. While tiny in size its visual impressions captivate, especially the male’s showy plumage. Paramount to mating is its brightly seductive coloration that woos the female, and humans cannot help gazing at the brush strokes of color.

Nature creates symbiotic relationships and certainly these two perform a duet that brings visual grace to the landscape. While the spritely aviators wait to nest until June or July when fibrous seeds are aplenty, the coneflower is readying itself with stately flowers most of summer’s days.

In my gardens I give ample space to a variety of native coneflowers (commonly called purple coneflower): ranging from white to pink to red, short and tall. Other thistle plants (e.g., milkweed and nyjer) also lure goldfinches. I’ve never seen any other bird imbibe upon the Echinacea’s nine species. It seems the sun-gold birds have priority.

In the Lens section is one variety of native coneflower with its startling and unique flower head, eloquent petals, and intensely lime-colored stem. It does everything to call attention to its presence and is rewarded for its efforts. These perennial daisy lookalikes charm with their long-lasting blooms, and even intrigue in their dried state with spiky needle-like seeds. They are true summer and autumn jewels, and in their dried stage stay on the landscape throughout the winter to serve as more food for the year-round goldfinches. Truly, this duo is a sampling of synergy and symbiosis in nature.

Note:

The environmental anxiety artist, Justin Brice Guariglia, has garnered my respect. It’s not just that he has donned himself with that bold description. More importantly, his work pays tribute and honors nature. Guariglia’s art tells the story of human intervention as it relates to the health and well-being of Mother Earth. Still, his moniker gives meaning to how many feel who create, and so strongly want to have more meaning through image making.

Mr. Guariglia’s art is multi-tiered. His large mixed media images create his vision of the physical world and climate change. Through art history, journalism, politics and science, he uses his art to tell  the ecological story of the Earth in present day time. His mission became clearer after he joined a NASA project in 2015 that recorded aerial views of Greenland.

His new exhibition titled “Earth Works: Mapping the Anthropocene” is being held at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA, (through 07 January 2018), and shows his large works that evoke topography through various techniques. He says his images are “somewhere between a photograph and a painting.”

View his website to see his work that is very much about art as a vehicle for climate education. His abstract images also are a vehicle to tell the story of nature’s fragility.

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

Visual Reflections: Nature Photography as Palette in an Age of Uncertainty: No. 11 ( “Autumn Forecast” Photomontage)

11 September 2017

Lens:

Taken in Camera+ and edited in Snapseed and Pixlr.

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

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

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

Pens:

“Capturing the wilderness connects the present with a past beyond my own. It connects us all to the earth, and our collective past.” ~~ Christopher Miller, photographer and writer

Each season is a study in time. And the next season that is illustrative is about to make its appearance.

Lately as I ease into the day, thoughts about autumn’s approach surface. Signs can be tallied in my gardens and across landscapes. The chill is in the air and temps are unseasonably low. In small doses leaves have begun their descent, scattered but evident of summer’s finale. And, of course we are in hurricane territory.

Autumn spans breezy to boisterous behavior, demanding a more in-depth understanding of what we see and know. It exudes content and context. Its palette is a range of emotional colors. It begs admiration. It secures scores of watchful minds.

In the Lens section are a few symbols of the movement into this new season (officially beginning 22 September). My goal was to create an arrangement that felt as though the flowers were floating in summer’s shadow. They soar with their need for attention and grace in the eyes of their life cycle.

The anemone is not purely white but still boasts of purity, allowing its eloquence to frolic in the winds. The obedient plant (top of the two smaller flowers) is a prolific native that blooms in August and seems to never give up its purple gaze. Its flower is truly eye-catching and an insect gatherer. The charm of the water lily’s flower (from Longwood Gardens) is its timely appearance, giving a breath of sweet color as it floats during its peak performance this month.

These examples of nature’s charm are part of the transition into a season that can provide such startling memories that one’s senses are now at the ready. Autumn grabs you in pre-season and it steers your course for weeks. Definitely, a study in time.

Nature is quite amazing to lead us into winter with this hurrah. And, fortunately, memories last through the somber months of cold and grey. These memories take one through a time of hibernation and planning anew. Sigh…

Each season aligns with our inner stars, moon and sun, reminding us of the layers of time that we are experiencing, reminding us of nature’s abundant jewels.

Note: I’ve always been enamored by floral design, especially minimalistic. But I learn from various approaches, even fuller-bodied arrangements. The compositions of Ariel Dearie are worth examining for their sculptural appeal and influence by Dutch painting. I am especially drawn to her designs that use a single color palette. View her work here.

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