Let it Fly or Breaking Free

Not much to say. I’ve been in a big funk lately. It’s been much too hot and humid to play nature photographer. Even cutting blooms and twigs and setting up still lifes, no interest. I really think the muses, Old Eph and Muriel, have left again. Probably down under, enjoying the winter.

I celebrated another birthday this past weekend. I’m always grateful to be topside. We drove to the Shakedown, a vintage car show at the EAA air museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. A lot of pretty old restored jalopies and rods to match my age group. The husband managed to recognize and name most of them. He still held fond memories of youthful escapades, and teen pranks of converting the trunk to a beer cooler.

We’d attended better car shows, so the fun actually started over at the hangers where some of the vintage airplane collection is stored. That was far more interesting. Now it was getting fun. I found a few photo ops I thought I’d play with using Photoshop plugins. I converted to black and white, retro, textures and even some grunge. I used DXO B & W for the airplane and statute, and the rest used combos from Topaz. I threw out constraints, should haves, and must dos. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did playing with them.

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Weekly Photo Challenge:Fun

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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

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

 

I Know a Painting

“Some paintings become famous because, being durable, they are viewed by successive generations, in each of which are likely to be found a few appreciative eyes.

I know a painting so evanescent that it is seldom viewed at all, except by some wandering deer. It is a river who wields the brush, and it is the same river who, before I can bring my friends to view his work, erases it forever from human view. After that it exists only in my mind’s eye.

Like other artists, my river is temperamental; there is no predicting when the mood to paint will come upon him, or how long it will last. But in midsummer, when the great white fleet’s cruise the sky for day after flawless day, it is worth strolling down to the sandbars just to see whether he has been at work.”

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There

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The Wisconsin River at the Sand County Shack

Weekly Photo Challenge:Half Light

 

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

 

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Mellow, butter, goldenrod, lemon, cream, canary, primary, and get my sunglasses, yellow

Less than sixty minutes remain of the winter solstice. I don’t celebrate Christmas or New Years. I’m among the group of people in which holidays hold nothing but bitter memories. As mid-summer passes into fall, I count down the days until December 21st of each year. I’m starved for the individual flavor each additional minute will bring to my evening table.

The solstice means I’ve made it through another year. I’ve survived the worst of my imagined and real terrors. Except for the weather, hopefully everything will continue on for another year. There was a time in my life when yellow was my favorite color. I couldn’t be miserable wearing yellow. My living quarters, even without southern windows looked sunnier with a touch of yellow on the walls.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I really don’t look good wearing yellow. Decorating with yellow looked dated past the 1970’s. As life moved on I shifted my love of yellow to flowers, admired golden sunsets on the prairies, and on rare days when I woke early, appreciated the butter soft glow of a misty sunrise.

Today I’ve taken time to break all the rules about photographic placement, color, form, and size. I’ve gone back into my vault and overhauled a few old favorites taken at a Pow Wow in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin several years ago. The yellow were everywhere. I stopped short of pulling out the yellow-green.  It was a close call, but I’ll save those for another day.

Feel free to let me know what you think of my solstice madness.Enjoy your own mid-winter, or mid-summer holidays, depending on which half of the planet you live on. Thank for stopping by. See you next year!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge:Yellow

 

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The Landscape Weaver

There dawns a day in mid-May, it arrives cloaked in a full flush of shimmering green, morning mist late in leaving fields, the air chiffon and clover. On this day, the weaver of landscapes will be dancing under cover, laying down his warp, deep in shadows, edged by flowing waters and threads of cirrus clouds. He’s busy in the fields replacing frayed edges of last year’s worn panoramas.

The weaver wefts his magic threads in June, twisting finer yarns into plump blue-green leaves, blue-budded lupines, yellow coreopsis, sharp-edged sedges, and rough textures in and through an early flush of grasses laid upon lowland hills and marshes.

The prairies and wetlands erupt into color about the same time as holiday fireworks explode in July. No longer content to remain quiet, yellows, maroons, purples, blues, hues and saturation pop and whistle, announcing their arrival ahead of a marching band of cicadas.

By late July our man of natural threads sits back and admires his nearly completed tapestry. It’s viewable for anyone slow enough to stop and look; hanging, dipping slightly in the humidity, like a sheet on a sagging clothes line. Summer’s fabric is nearly complete.

Walking through a fairgrounds after closing compares to visiting the lowlands the last week of August. The venerable artist has left the ground littered with weft of broken stems, bent grass, and empty seed heads. When the first cold breeze sneaks into the morning, entangling grasses like a fervid couple under the grandstand –  a hot flash followed by a quick chill; the blooms are gone, empty seed pods swinging from brittle stems remind me of a ferris wheel. The weaver moved off to the southern hemisphere, leaving his fraying work of art behind.