Water

“Water”. It was an assignment given to the local art group as the subject of a project set a year into the future. I imagined painters mostly using oils, acrylic or watercolor for their media. I was invited to join the group and attend the next meeting, at which everyone would be sharing the results of their efforts.

What would they paint? What kinds of water? Waterscapes of crashing ocean waves? Quiet lakeside ripples along some inland shore? Rain-smeared window’s mosaics?

Ice Angel

Karen said, “Make it bigger” at the Cabin Fever Art Exhibit, as she admired my greeting card photograph of a frozen ice sculpture shaped like an angel. “We cancelled our meeting last week because of the winter weather and the make-up session is in two weeks. You could bring that. It’s water. You could bring a larger print.”

Okay, I thought. I can do that. I would like an opportunity to create a larger print. I envisioned using my professional Epson printer and using metallic luster paper to better suggest the texture of ice. I thought I had plenty of time to get around to the printing task. I already owned the paper. Two weeks later, the day had arrived and I needed a print for that night. I still had several hours before the meeting.

I felt jealous of a perceived lost opportunity to study water: to study how to best capture water’s magical ability to bend or reflect light. Painting water is hard. Painting ice is even harder. The textures that make the brain understand whether it is water or ice is in the way water refracts light. The colors aren’t the solid blues of children’s story books. To paint water one must see the subtle gradations of color (be it in blues or grays) that make ripples visible. To photograph water, one must know that light is often interpreted as white and the variations of white are often lost if the picture isn’t underexposed for the brightest highlights that so often delight the human brain. The  best days to photograph water, especially moving water, is on an overcast day.

I decided to assess my catalog of photographs taken in 2019 to see what I would learn about my own skills and choices of water as subject. I might not be able to actively study water with my camera, and with a set of preconceived assignments, but I could backwards engineer a study of sorts.

I looked up famous water art on the internet to prepare myself. I found Claude Monet’s impressionist images of lily pads on water. I remembered an image I had taken “on assignment” for the Penobscot River Restoration Project back in 2011. It was an autumn waterscape of lily pads in the foreground set amidst reflections of surrounding shoreline trees. I have gained many new editing skills since then and I wanted to see what I could do with the previous digital information. The image wasn’t as pleasing as I had remembered it. I used my new knowledge of Photoshop’s content-aware tool to delete the bushes in the foreground to gain a different perspective and wished I had the lenses then that I now own to capture the desired crop. I fiddled with it several times before it was good enough and made my new print on metallic paper.

Monet-Like lily pads with reflections

 

I doubted the painters would be bringing work from other years and therefore wanted something from 2019. The ice angel was taken in 2016 and had been edited many times in different ways to satisfy my different artistic interpretations of her. I knew I would print her today but I needed no further editing to create my print. I still had time to review my images taken during 2019 to discover what kinds of “water as subject” I had found.

I love winter and many of my images of water are of ice: lawn ice, lake ice, and most notably ice that forms on a leaky wooden penstock aqueduct used to generate hydroelectric power (but not in 2019). Last winter, in 2019, I went outside to take photographs only twice, in January and March, and both times in the Kennebec Highlands in Rome, Maine.

January started out warm. It felt like an early spring day. The snow was smooshy soft. The trees were bare and the moist day darkened the trunks and branches into stark patterns against the white snow; white, not gray from city car exhaust! Tree litter made up of seeds often texturized the snow. Who knew the trees let go their seeds in winter?

I found a dead beech leaf sunk into the pristine snow outlined by an orange ice aura, suggestive of life after death. Was it a picture of water? No. The subject was life after death.

Another image from that day was of a tiny green hemlock sapling emerging from the top of a downed tree trunk covered in snow with a wall of sea green ice behind it.  Is the subject water?  No, it’s the tenacious hemlock.

Below it though, were icy toes. Icicles formed from melting snow and waterfall splash on the tree trunk had been transformed from pointy tips into toe-like shapes from the rushing water below. Subject: water as ice, liquid and water behavior. I had chosen a slow shutter speed to blur the movement of the water below the icicles and consciously decrease the harsh contrast between black water and ice without burning out the white highlights that gave away the frozen nature of that water.

Icy Toes_9596

 

In June I spent a week out on Monhegan Island with a cottage full of painters. Daily walks around the village and onto the island’s many trails produced almost 2000 photographs,, but not much of it about water!

A bypassed jewel from a day considered “lost” caught my attention in this perusal of my images. I remember thick fog enshrouded the island that day. Air made visible in folds of drifts in varying intensities of white blotted out all but the nearest trees, wonderful salt air smells, air made personal as its presence was both visual and physically felt on the skin. The humid air made the colors pop even as it hid features of the landscape. The seaweed was a golden hue against rocks of blue while the ocean waves crashed gently against the shore. I had been disappointed that I had no dramatic sunset or spectacular surf to photograph, just the rocky shore and muted hues of ocean water.

Monhegan Shore and Surf_1617

Water as subject is often beaded. Morning dew is frequently captured in art. I had two from my week on Monhegan. For the photographer it is necessary to use a macro lens to capture the details of the light being refracted by the drops of water.  I had used the “live view” feature of my camera to enlarge my focal points so that I could adjust my focus to ensure that the coveted beads were tack sharp.

The heavy morning island dew had settled on an orange mushroom protruding from a tree, creating a necklace-like effect. Four women crowded around the tree and exclaimed that there should be a photographer to capture what they were seeing. I walked over to them in that instant and they motioned me over to share their discovery. The beads were backlit, and on my computer screen, I could see inside them were reflections of the ferns growing below them.

Beads on Mushroom

Later that morning as I exited the infamous Cathedral Woods path I found a dandelion seed head covered with tiny beads of morning dew. The round beads contrasted nicely against the white spikes of the dandelion seeds. Better yet it was in open shade which softened the light and there were no distracting stems to obscure my view. Is the subject water? Not by itself, but it is the water that makes the images unique.

 

My walks along the Kennebec Messalonskee Trails in Winslow on the East Kennebec River Trail yielded a July image of greens. A dark foreground in deep kelly green, grass on the ground with an overhanging tree branch encircle an open view of a Kennebec River edge with reflections of the shoreline forest on the water, broken by a gray tree trunk extending from the shore into the river. It’s a peaceful scene. The subject is the water on the shore of the Kennebec River.

Green Peace_3687

 

A kayak trip into the Belgrade Marsh in August produced iconic waterscape pictures of a pair of loons, a white lily flower and a white feather holding a large drop of water. Photography that day was frustratingly hard as the kayak moved with the wind and my inexperienced paddling. In addition, I was using a camera body I was unfamiliar with in order to extend the telephoto reach of my 70 – 200mm lens. I worried that without a stable tripod my images would be out of focus.

My kayak seat put me too low to obtain angles to crop out distracting details, particularly in my attempts to capture the gorgeous white lily flowers amongst so many ugly lily pads. Water as backdrop made later editing choices problematic because the light had to be consistent with the patterns that lent perspective to the central images. 

Summer Waterlily

Water is an integral part of the three favorite images from my kayak trip that day. The subjects are inseparable from the water in which they are found. I spotted a white feather draped against a pickerel flower stem close to an island shore. It drew me like a magnet as I paddled closer to uncover the nature of the round object pinning the feather’s wide tipped end to the top of the water. I discovered it was a huge drop of water. I paddled around it twice to obtain different vantage points, careful and concerned that I might dislodge the feather’s delicate balance against the stem. Water above, water below, but the subject is a white feather.

My final exercise was to capture a pair of loons, parent and chick, as they hurriedly swam away from me and my friend. I knew the loons were too far away to get the coveted images I admired in wildlife photography (with my limited focal length of 300mm). Nevertheless, I clicked away hoping that at least one image would be acceptable.

 

An August walk onto the Waterville/Winslow bridge crossing the Kennebec River to photograph the train trestle in Waterville yielded an image of foam patterns in the water as it passed close to the automobile bridge because I thought to look down. Subject: water as revealed by the patterns in the foam.

Kennebec River Lace_3774

 

October is a favorite month for photographers (for me and many others). I traveled three times for field trips; to Baxter State Park, toAcadia and to the Kennebec Highlands. What I wanted to find was pitch black water with bright fall leaves beneath the water’s surface. I didn’t find any. My attempts to create artistic water seemed thwarted on these three excursions. Photography is an adventure for me, an exploration into the unknown to seek the gifts of nature “as is.” It’s difficult to value the gifts of a day trip, and to see what is before you, instead of anticipated images running through one’s heart and head.

Baxter State Park was troublesome. It was an overcast day with brief rain squalls in early October, low set clouds and the leaves were already past peak colors. Nevertheless, from Baxter I captured lovely shades of burnt sienna rocks beneath the waters of Roaring Brook on the Sandy Stream Pond Trail. I focused on the water drop on the maple leaf on the rock and let the water be in soft focus.

Mid-October Acadia National Park had surprisingly intense shades of orange and red trees, but not in the fast running streams. I liked the way this small fall of water sprayed out in downy tendrils more characteristic of fabric than liquid.

Acadia Autumn Stream_000592

Near the end of October in the Kennebec Highlands the color was all but gone. A lone oak leaf trapped in a fall of water caught my attention. I used settings to blur the water while keeping the oak leaf in tack sharp focus.

 

I printed off my collection of images from 2019 on Epson Luster paper, printed my Ice Angel and Monet-like Lilies on Red River Metallic Luster paper and headed off for the art society meeting. I was surprised to see thirty people present. I recognized Karen from the art exhibit and sat next to her.

What did I see exhibited that night from the painters who had a year to study and paint water? I found that some had waited until the last minute to complete their assignments! Some paintings were unfinished. Most were completed works of art; the artists explained that it had usually taken them months to finish. The skills ranged from expert to beginner. Water as part of a landscape predominated: lakes, rivers or ocean. There were a few abstracts. Some painted from real life, but most painted from photographs taken by themselves or found on the internet.

I was glad to be near the end of the presentations;  I was the only one to show photographs. I chose to share the Ice Angel and its antecedent to show the stark difference between what I initially saw and what the finished choice looked like. The Wooden Penstock with its frozen leaky ice towers above the ice sculptures near its base. The Ice Angel is clearly visible facing the Penstock with her back turned to the viewer. The finished artistic version shows a closer view of the Ice Angel with the penstock as an indistinct background.

 

I told them my story of finding Claude Monet’s lily paintings on the internet and passed around my own Monet-like lily landscape. I forgot to mention my choice of metallic paper or that I print my own work. 

I’m happy with my backward engineered assignment. It gave me a focus to review my 2019 choices and incentives to improve future ones. The group of artists were a pleasure to meet. An unanticipated perk was that I met my neighbor: a fellow artist, and hopefully a friend for future outings to find artistic worthy photographs to bring home.

Into the Kennebec Highlands to find blue stripes

I hiked into the Kennebec Highlands on Sunday March 8 to find the Mountain Maple bark with thread shaped blue colored lichen I found last year on March 21. I was worried that our warm winter weather might have accelerated the appearance of the brightly colored lichen. It’s an hour walk through the snow to that tree. At first glance the bark was dull, the blue lichen (or whatever it is) was so pale it almost seemed white and the other lichens were equally dull. I had come prepared to capture it with my macro lens and almost didn’t take the time to shoot the disappointing bark. But my husband encouraged me to shoot it anyway. Good thing! I discovered as I looked through the lens that the smurf-blue hue of the lichen was more apparent when magnified.

The light is afternoon open shade. I had a tripod and remote so that I could take the image at slow shutter speeds to allow myself maximum depth of field ( f22, ISO 500, and 0.7 seconds with my macro lens on my Canon EOS 5D Mark III). I changed perspectives to attempt to find the best vantage point to capture a good image. I wanted the texture of the bark completely sharp throughout the image but the round shape of the tree trunk made it difficult to find such an area. Mountain Maples are an understory tree and remain relatively small.

 

Using Adobe Lightroom I made adjustments that intensified the saturation of the colors but nothing like they will become as the season warms up.

My husband took a photograph of me with his iPad when I stopped, as he requested, to photograph a pair of trees with contrasting bark. He doesn’t usually accompany me on my walks in the woods citing poor physical condition. He actually did better than I did when we crossed several small brooks and had to step on rocks or logs to get across them.  Below is the bark of the two trees I am photographing above.

 

Longfellow’s Cabin Fever Exhibit a success

Gale Davison’s Booth attracts many customers. My friends Jody and Rosemary stopped by while attending the show to look through my many cards and matted prints. I am excited by my volume of sales because it was the first show of the season and the first show I’ve participated in for over almost 10 years. I will be planning more shows this year and will post them on my website.

Jeweled Stripes

Jeweled Stripes

This is an image I’m still working on in anticipation of entering it in the Harlow Gallery Member show running from June 21 to July 27. The theme of the show is stripes.

I went out for a hike in the Kennebec Highlands in Rome, Maine on March 21, 2019 with my friend Glenn LeBlanc to see what we could find to photograph before spring temperatures and rain took the remaining snow away. Actually, there was quite a bit of snow still out there that day. This tree caught my eye with its riveting lichen bejeweled bark with its lovely vertical stripes. The blue lines are a mystery. The orange and green are typical lichen growths. But what explains the fine blue lines?

I hope to get back out there before the leaves have sprung forth to see if the mysterious blue lines remain. I will also send the image to the Cooperative Extension to see if someone there can tell me what the blue is.

Addendum: the acute blue colored stripes were gone after the leaves were out.

Knots and Loops – Sold!

Knots and Loops, Monhegan Island, Maine
Knots and Loops, Monhegan Island, Maine

 

For the second time this image has caught someone’s heart. The first image was a landscape version printed by Elm City Photo and sold at the Boothbay Region Arts Foundation Art in the Square Show in September 2010. This portrait version of the image has been printed by myself on my former Epson Stylus Pro 3880 Ultrachrome K-3 Ink printer. Future images will be printed on my new Epson SureColor P800 Ultrachrome Ink printer.

I took the initial image during a Scott Kelby World Wide Walk on July 24, 2010. Mike Leonard of the Portland Camera Club had organized the walk. This image was taken with a Canon EOS 40D DSLR with a EF 28-135 f3.5 to 5.6 IS USM lens.

I’ll be returning for a week long visit to Monhegan Island in June to shoot more magic images of the island.

Oil Lamp in Window

One of my artistic periods was during the early 1980’s while I was living in Dutchess County, New York. I lived in the towns of Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls, and Hopewell Junction. I worked in a retail camera store with a color finishing machine to play with to create my own wet process color prints. I belonged to a public darkroom in Poughkeepsie. I was part of camera club. It was an unsettled time in my life when work and residences changed frequently and ended in May 1985 with an abrupt move to Maine.

I was living in the most awful apartment I would ever live in when I arranged this still life “Oil Lamp in Window.” This was the only window and source of natural light in a very dark basement apartment. I had noticed how the light became magical as it shown through the window and arranged the still life to take advantage of the romantic light.

It was before Halloween in October 1983. I had made a spider web, and made a spider to decorate the window above the shelf. On the shelf an orange ceramic pumpkin sat which I had painted in a greenware ceramics class. I used my 1984 Canon F-1 to take a roll of some forgotten kind of color negative film to capture my Halloween decorations. I usually hand held my camera but for these I put it on a tripod. I took several images of my pumpkin, spider and spider web but only one shot of this Oil Lamp!

I don’t remember the exact chronology of how many or the when of my print making from my days when I used Elm City Photo for my enlargements. I have two remaining prints from that that time. I know that it was exhibited in the 1986 Waterville Arts Festival and that it won first place in the Waterville Camera Club contest in 1989. In September 2002 I asked for a digital copy to be made from the original negative. It is only a 1.2 MB digital copy.

In 2010 I bought an Epson Stylus Pro Ultrachrome 3880 Printer to use to make my own digital prints from my work. This image was created in March 2019 using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance its quality and to remove scratches and grain still evident in the digital copy from 2002. 

Summer Boats

Summer Boats_Grand Centeral Cafe_1

My husband and I drove up to Addison, Maine in July 2005 to see his mother’s childhood family summer residence. It’s a two and half hour drive from our home in Waterville but not if you take the scenic roads and use Route 1. We had booked ourselves an overnight stay at the Pleasant Bay BnB in Addison to spend the night.They were also a llama farm and sold their llamas to guard property from intruders!  The BnB is a lovely house and the owners were delightful hosts.

The family property we looked at had been sold decades ago. Don’s Uncle Vern had kept ownership of the tip of the peninsula and what remained was an edge of mostly sandbar no bigger than a postage stamp and much too small to build on. It was covered in brambles typical of abandoned ocean front property.

Don encouraged me to use his 5 megapixel Sony “point and shoot” camera for our trip. Somewhere on our return trip home we stopped at an ice cream stand with a picnic table at its back to enjoy our ice cream. I noticed these two boats painted in complimentary blue and red sitting on the shores of a tidal inlet. Where? I don’t remember. Somewhere where there is tidal water along Route One between Ellsworth and Addison. I do remember standing on the picnic table to get the composition I wanted!

“Summer Boats” represents my entry into digital photography. I was still using my Canon F-1 SLR as my primary camera.  It wouldn’t be until 2006 that I was comfortable enough with the digital cameras (and computers to manage the images) that I began to use a digital camera to create artistic images. But, it wouldn’t be until January 2008 that I purchased my own SONY point and shoot camera but then upgraded to a Canon EOS 40D DSLR by August.

 

Unidentified Object Identified

A Light in the Woods

Each month The Portland Press Herald invites people to participate in a community storytelling project hosted by the Maine Sunday Telegram  Meetinghouse Opinion Page; I decided to share a funny story from my childhood. I didn’t submit the image above for the online post on March 14 or for the print publication on March 17, 2019. But for this blog post I went searching through my archives to find an image to match the mystery of that night.

Here is the beginning of the story:

I’m with my best friend Sherry and my younger sister. We’ve walked a mile with Sherry to her home so that Sherry can collect her things to spend the night at my house. It’s dusk. I’m 14.

There are no street lamps. The backyards face into miles of woods. The interior lights from the houses we pass barely penetrate the gloom of the falling darkness.

To read the rest, check out the link to the Portland Press Herald story:

Unidentified object identified

Let me know what you think.

Valentine’s Day Crows

A murder of crows

settle among my trees.

Perched in clumps of five and ten

along branches,

directly outside my window.

They yell,

bobbing up and down,

looking below,

looking skyward,

calling out imagined insults or directions.

The cacophony drives me to take out my camera

to capture their show.

A white polka dotted curtain masks their many faces.

Snow is falling.

Black bodies create graphic bird shaped splotches

along the vertical lines of tree branches

rising upwards into gray skies.

Two sit closely together.

The one on the right leans towards the other.

He strokes her head gently with his beak.

She sits still.

Accepting his sweet caresses.

He is tender and patient.

I cannot see if she lifts her face to him.

The falling white snow obscures their intimacy.

Two lovers among the crowd of gawking onlookers.

CrowsForValentines-1471

June/July 2013 Fifth House Lodge Wednesday Workshops

Six weeks of three hour sessions with a wonderful group of writers.  What emerged was an explosion of discoveries about how my mother’s death impacted me.  A house introduced itself to me and invited me to take its pictures with my camera to explore the many metaphors within the canvas of her wall and the accompanying twining growth of the wisteria vine up her sides.  The writing class brought clarification to the emerging subconscious recognition of conflicts needing resolution and seeking expression through written words.

Return to Fifth House Lodge

20120223-085905_MG_0142I

I visited Fifth House Lodge in February 2012 for a two day personal writing/photography retreat. I loved the quiet solitude of the Lodge, wrote many pages, and took numerous photographs. You will find more in the gallery. The Lodge was filled with heart rocks, white walls and great energy for creativity.

I’m returning for the Women’s Writing Workshop over the summer. Joan Lee Hunter, writing coach, and owner of Fifth House Lodge informs me that the tattered clothesline that caught my fascination has been replaced with new line. Good thing I took it when I saw it!

I’ve learned how to straighten my original of this photo below of my shadow silhouette in the window reflections superimposed on a watercolor print on the wall of one of the Lodge’s bedrooms. This one shows how the specific camera settings in Adobe Lightroom can straighten problems with parallax.

 

I am looking forward to returning this summer and discovering what else will unfold.

Eagles fishing for alewives

20130515-0705
Yesterday I went looking for osprey fishing for alewives. In May osprey are easier to spot because of their presence in places where large quantities of alewives are swimming upstream in Maine’s many tidal rivers to reach freshwater lakes and ponds.

The alewives return from the ocean as adults to the lakes and ponds where they were spawned to repeat their cycle of birth and renewal. Their annual runs up Maine rivers and streams all along the coast coincides with the blooming shadbush (otherwise known as the serviceberry). Alewive numbers have declined principally from loss of habitat due to dams and other man made obstacles restricting access to their spawning grounds, as well as other factors (such as harvesting and pollution of ocean waters). Their numbers are coming back with the removal of many dams and new passages through the use of additional fish ladders.

I went to one of the oldest uninterrupted fish ladders in Damariscotta Mills. It creates a conduit between the Damariscotta River at Great Salt Bay and Damariscotta Lake. The alewives are plentiful because this ladder has existed since colonial times. Everything seemed to be out to eat the alewives except birds of prey.  There were cormorants and herring gulls crowding the shores and stalking the milling schools of alewives as they made their way to the ladder. The herring gulls filled the edges with flapping patterns of wings of white and grey. The sound of the gulls filled the air with constant cries that was louder than the flowing water. I checked the sky for osprey flying overhead, but there were none to be seen.

I went further south to Fort Popham to observe how the alewives were running as they entered the mouth of the Kennebec River and to assess whether this would make a good location to photograph osprey. The water was much deeper and wider. At high tide the alewives run right off the waters near the fort. Herring gulls, cormorants and seals were actively harvesting the alewives at Fort Popham, but still no ospreys!

A couple asked me if I had spotted the immature eagle on the ledge of the fort. They said they knew it was an eagle by its yellow feet. I thanked them for their information and went up to see the eagle for myself. My view was impeded by a cage of metal bars, but I could see the eagle on the ledge. It was not an osprey but an immature bald eagle. Later it would return to the same spot; by then I was below it on the ground.

Waiting and patience (and practice) is what it takes to get good images of birds in flight. A good location is  one that allows unobstructed views with a distance between photographer and bird that matches the zoom capacity of one’s lens.  Mine is a relatively short telephoto for bird photography (only 70-200mm).  I practiced on the herring gulls and cormorants. My patience was rewarded by a shot of the immature bald eagle when it landed again on the edge of the fort.

20130515-0709

On my return home, I crossed the Kennebec River near Ticonic Falls and spotted four ospreys flying in the air. One had a fish in its talons. I thought how ironic that what I wanted was right in my own back yard! If I  just wait patiently, I could shoot osprey much closer to home than a trip to the coast.