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Look up and Around, Birds, Birds, Birds

When we look up into the branches of the trees on property we see birds. They’re also on the ground, in the shrubs, sitting on  the sturdy stems of prairie plants. We garden for birds, providing food, natural shelter, and running water. They come to us for meals, to train their fledglings, and to bathe. This time of year, even natural enemies set aside their differences. Our stream will have three or four bird species bathing together. In spring, they defend their territory, and only hang with their own kind. It’s like school kids, the 3rd graders don’t get to play with the middle schoolers. Now, the field is open to all.

 

 

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge:Look UP

Charly Makray-Rice Photography @ Viewbug

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Looking Up

When I was a child, full of exuberance and heady ideas and more than one shattered dream, my tiny Hungarian grandmother sat me on a painted kitchen chair and said in her heavily accented English, “When you’re feeling down, remember take time to look up, and when you’re feeling good, remember take time to look down”. Being born a city child, her words didn’t make much sense at the time. All I saw looking down were discarded cigarette butts, wads of chewing gum, and fly-blown doggie doo. The only thing I noticed when I looked up was my playmate’s mother framed in the second story window. Grandma was usually a wise woman, but in this looking request I really doubted her judgement.

It’s been over forty years since my grandmother passed away, and almost as long since I moved to rural Wisconsin. Back then, I didn’t know anything about country living, I just knew I couldn’t live another day in Chicago. There had to be a better way to live, but rural life often proved difficult. Low wages, few job choices, and frequent unemployment plagued me for several years. Being often unemployed left me a great deal of time to wander the woods beyond my tiny home, seeking solace in the quiet trees.

Depressed and frightened about my future, I listened to my grandmother’s voice as it echoed deep within my anxiety-ridden brain, “look up! ” Following its command, I saw two red- tailed hawks circling the air above me. I watched them glide along the thermals, spiraling ever smaller, finally becoming an infinitesimal speck gobbled by the greedy sunlight. My spirit soaring, I whispered to the sky my thanks to grandma.

I dallied away another day slowly driving along a narrow highway which cut through the swampy backwaters of Wisconsin’s cranberry bogs. As faster traffic whipped around me my little voice again whispered, “look!” In a long dead tree, like harbingers of better days, perched two magnificent bald eagles, sunlight shimmering on the ruffled feathers of their regal white crowns. I slowed my car, spellbound by their beauty, and I knew then that I would never again be alone, someone or something wonderful was always going to be with me.

Today,I knew what my grandmother had been asking of me. In good times or in bad, ahead of place and time, her wisdom was now appropriate in my life. With her unseen guidance I had discovered my first pale, blushing, wild rose hidden deep within spring’s new grass, within two inches of being crushed by my heavily booted foot. Later that morning, just beyond my own pointing nose, I watched a waif-like ruby-throated hummingbird flitting outside the kitchen window.

In August of my first year of discovery, perhaps drawn by the bright polish on my toenails, a monarch butterfly rested on my big toe for over an hour. Was I a rest stop on his long flight to Mexico, I wondered? By October, sitting lotus style in a late mown field, I had learned to hold my breath in gleeful anticipation of nature’s surprises. A chipmunk fearlessly scampered over and stood up to its full six-inch length. Was it issuing a challenge by coming so close, or was I in the path of his lair and he had simply not been paying attention to his surroundings. It didn’t matter, I was his audience, and he was my personal entertainment. If only I could only have read his mouse-like mind, this brave six inch black-nosed Schwarzenegger wanna-be.

One afternoon, a confused nuthatch flew down and actually perched for a brief moment on my shoulder, until my expelled breath blew him away. Several times, a field mouse has scampered across my living room rug and paused while I knelt to stroke its tiny back. It has happened so many times through the years and yet I still have no answer for it. They seem to be waiting patiently, pink nose scenting the air, while I slowly rise, grab a can, scoop them up and return them, unharmed to the yard. I like to think they know I’m here to help. I haven’t the heart to kill a mouse after stroking its back.

In November the Aurora Borealis finger-paints the midnight sky in sometimes soft, sometimes garish palettes, but they are no competition for the artistry of the dying storms of summer afternoons which dilute the colors of the setting sun into pale watercolor washes that eventually slide beneath the western horizon, pulling down a curtain of stars to twinkle till dawn.

Winter nature throws her heavy snows over the pine trees, draping laden boughs like melted candle-wax hardened over a raffia-wrapped Chianti bottle. With great snow-quilts she hushes the countryside for sleep. On rare December winter mornings following a foggy evening, I’ve found hoar-frost hugging bare twigs of willow and dead blades of goldenrod like silvered pipe-cleaners in the crisp bright air of mid-morning, stalagmite branches of tall trees held aloft like glistening fingers covered in diamond rings, teasing the value of the mere turquoise gem of the morning sky.

By choice, or by chance, country dwellers do have an advantage over city dwellers. When I take the time to look up and look down, there is usually something very beautiful awaiting my senses. Although grandmother is gone her wisdom and her priceless legacy lives on. She knew that the world was a sometimes difficult, but always beautiful place to be, if only we would all take a little extra time to look up and to look down.

Originally published in The Inditer.com c.1998. The Inditer was one of the first online ezines, long before blogs, newspapers, and what we now know as everyday life on the web. The entire collection of tne The Inditer is archived in the Library and Archives of Canada

Charly Makray-Rice Photography – Viewbug.com

 

Daily Post Photo Challenge: Looking Up

 

Gallery

Sweet Earth Awakens & Crazed Creativity

We live adjacent to a shrub carr, a wetland edged by red-twig dogwood. Half our back yard is planted in mid-western prairie plants and grasses. Another portion is a rock garden and water feature for the birds to enjoy. The first happy signal everything is going to be okay, after a winter’s slumber underneath layers of oak leaves and pine needles, are the budding trees we planted. Apples we never manage, crab apples and cherries for the birds. Almost everything that grows here ends up in front of my cameras.

This time of year, my favorite toy is is my old Olympus E510. It has a lot of mileage on it. A couple of years ago, I started playing with old film lenses on my camera. I fell in love with the crazy blown out bokeh of a cheap vintage Russian Pentacon 100/2.8 that I always shoot wide open. I know there are others out there that make wonderful bubble effects, but they don’t fit my budget right now. One of these days, I’ll have to try this switched to the camera on B & W mode.

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

Changing in Public or How to Feel Naked Covered in Cameras

I’ve been struggling with change for several months. This is the year I gave myself the challenge to push beyond my normal range and find new directions for my photography. My muses, Eph n’ Murial, are never in agreement about the direction I should take. Murial, the traditionalist, is a woman of subtle landscapes and poofy flower sets.

Old Eph, bless his iron heart, must have been a biker dude in one of his former incarnations. He’s into boldness, taking changes, kicking things up, and making me nervous with glowing eyes and billowing beard. (That’s what I imagine he looks like, one elbow digging into my right shoulder.)

Here’s a few samples of the bipolar treatment I’ve been dealing with from these two the past month. I’m a changed person for this year’s challenge. I just don’t know if I’m complete, half-fast, spinning my f-stops, or stuck naked in the middle somewhere. I’m open to anyone’s feedback.

At this time, I feel like Grandma Moses spirit bonded with my seeking heroine, Andrew Wyeth’s, Christina’s World.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

My Half-fast Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is one of the most established principles of photographic arrangement. Its nine equal boxes dictate how the human eye responds to placement and dynamics of movement. If our eye lands on the wrong junction, our brain responds with a shot of bland. Throw in a pleasing curve, or place the subject off to either the left or right third of the arrangement and the brain responds favorably.

I photograph things that tend to be, well, busy. Lots of textures. Trees, prairie grasses and flowers, rows of corn growing, piles of fallen leaves. I work sitting on the ground, or flopped on my belly. Neither position allows for moving easily to find that sweet spot in the lens. These prairie flowers were shot at Aldo Leopold’s Sand County property near Baraboo, Wisconsin.

When I get my subject in focus it rarely stands alone. Wind blown plants wave behind and in front of my little beauties. Rarely does one tree stand alone, unless it has fallen and begun the slow process of breaking back to feed earthly creatures. Weather interferes. I haven’t shot a portrait in over ten years a still life in over five. Point the camera at one of my critters and they immediately move.

My half-fast rule is, if a third of my shots are keepers, I’m happy. I live with lovely, wild, natural bokeh. On a great day, I get close to a rule of 2/3. I’ve learned to live with it. Let me know what rules you’re willing to break. Thank for stopping by again.

I’ve just starting posting different works on a new photo site, ViewBug – Charly Makray-Rice .

 

Weekly Photo Challenge:Rule of Thirds

 

An Improbable Scale

One misplaced finger on the keyboard and an entire prelude, poof. Of course, I have no notes. Muse, where art thou?

Of course, unbelievable, incredible, farfetched on a grand scale. Nothing could top the cake, plant the flag on the mountain peak, or jump the puddle, on a more absurd beginning than this.

Kickstarting my muse is akin to getting the polka band in tune, and the residents of Bogside Senior Living Center onto the floor to jig with Stadler and Waldorf.

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Scale gives photographic material an acceptable variation of density.  This image is a layered composite of four different photos; Birch bark and a layer each of a leaf of Shagbark Hickory, Quaking Aspen, and the top one, I really have no idea.  If anyone recognizes it, please let me know.

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I recently discovered our bog is actually a ‘Shrub Carr’. There are several types of wetlands. A bog has a layer of peat moss covering the bottom layer of soil. We lack that. We do have Red Twig Dogwood, small willows, various ferns, (a bracken or bract, something which resembles a fish scale in texture), sedges, and later in summer wetland wildflowers. The image above is two layers, each a couple of different ferns, Sensitive and Ostrich (my best guess). Dang, I missed the leaf shadow in the lower right corner. Oh, well, as a friend accidentally embroidered, “nobody’s pecfect”!

These are the improbable components in the scale of my life. Not likely to cause a major eruption on Facebook or other social media. I’ve been playing around with On One Perfect Photo Suite again, and recently added Topaz Labs ReStyle and Detail 3 to my collection. Still a seeker, more aha that’s interesting than oh my so boring again.

Thanks again for stopping The Less Paved. Let me know what you think of my experiments. If you’re playing as well I’d like to hear about your work.

 Weekly Photo Challenge:Scale

Reflecting on Refractions or How I Meet Myself At The Door

I’ve been cogitating, incubating, hatching, scrambling, meditating, and kicking my muse in the arse over his lack of inspiration. As all good researchers do these days I turned to Google for inspiration material.  All sources pointed to three necessary ways to create fractures. Water for submerging, or containers or vessels of water, colored paper, and flashlights. Macro photography of wee droplets of glycerine holding an exact copy of the image it sits near, actual or Photoshopped. One clever fellow used a terrific setup consisting of complex placement of objects, colored photo gels, and removing the lens from his camera. He obviously doesn’t live with a dog and three cats.

I was getting tired of ways to reflect refractions and still coming up short. I wanted to try the droplets, but alas, no flowers and no glycerine. I also felt, damn, it was nice the first time I saw it, but frankly, it doesn’t spin my squirrel cage anymore. I still wondered if I could capture detail in a REAL droplet.

Day three dawned with a hard freeze and heavy fog. Perfect weather for refractions. I waited two hours for the sun to pop through, hit the frost edges in my prairie, and pop those sparks into mind-blowing highlights. I drank a cup of coffee and linked to the computer channel, waiting for Operation Migration, and the Whooping Crane chicks to finally leave Marquette County. Their Ultralight went up and came down, cancelled, too choppy, big sigh. I may love this county, but I can’t imagine their crew hanging here for two weeks.

I drank another cup of coffee, lollygagged through Facebook, looked out the window and the frost had melted without the sun coming through! Well burn my butt, that idea trickled down the hill with the rest of the morning dew. I risked madness anyway, heck, I’m already a full bubble off – grabbed my camera and went out to try to find some drops still clinging to the leaves. I say, I got soggy jammy pants laying on my stomach trying to capture light through frost still clinging to my ground-cover evergreens. Some nice photos of leaves in the wet grass and dew drops, more bokeh than refraction.

Day four, did I tell you there was a challenge in this challenge? Today it rained! It poured! Had the light and opportunity presented itself I might of had a chance to get some photos shot through a rain-slopped windshield. I had my pocket camera set up to shoot video of my horse today. She decide to inspect the camera. Got great footage of the camera rolling off the pallet and bouncing across the sand before landing lens down. Of course, it was the type with the shutter on the outside. Always hated that shutter.

Lucky me, I still have my DSLR. I was getting soaked when I got home, but I wrapped my real camera in a plastic bag and went out back looking for the puny fairy droplets that cling to trees. I finally found a few with real refractions. I’m sure to shame myself among the gifted photographers that actually do macro photography. One day, I will catch a BIG refraction, after reflecting long and hard on how it’s accomplished. Late October in Wisconsin is not a very good time for refractions. I figure I’ve done enough reflecting on this subject for now. I’m off to ponder another subject, a good days rest. Thanks for stopping by.

Weekly Photo Challenge/Refractions