Photography: Finding Love Notes, Naturally

I’ve been “finding hearts” a lot this summer–when I look up, when I look down, when I’m simply enjoying my surroundings. Here’s a sampling of the hearts I “found” and photographed this summer.

❤ ❤ ❤

After seven years of faithful (and perhaps too much) shooting, my camera died on me late one April afternoon while I was shooting Magnolia blossoms. I was heartbroken. One of my good friends offered to purchase a new camera for me in return for a small favor. I would have done the favor anyway, so I resisted until I read a quote about not denying others the gift of giving to us. It finally convinced me to allow her to bless me in this way.  (And yes, I have amazing friends).

The camera arrived on a quiet Thursday afternoon. I unpacked it, took a shot of it straight out of the box with my phone, then stepped outside to give it a test run. The sun was a bit too much for my eyes, so I decided to shoot the heart I “found” a few months ago–I had to cast my gaze downward, which wasn’t as harsh on my eyes.

But what did I see when my eyes adjusted to the brightness of outdoors? Another heart! The heart affirmed my acceptance of the gift (because “truth be told,” I still had a problem with accepting it).

“Affirmation,” June 2017

❤ ❤ ❤

While my guys and I were walking through Ditto Landing a recent Saturday afternoon, my little one pointed out the heart (below) carved into the pavement–a natural symbol of the love embodied in our little family.

“Etched in Stone,” July 2017

I found a second heart during our walk, but I’m saving that one for another post. 😉

❤ ❤ ❤

My neighbor’s mini sunflower “patch” has been my happy place over the last few weeks. As I fretted over one thing or another one morning, I decided to visit them (again). This sunflower was a double reminder to turn my worries over to God and embrace His all-encompassing love, which will carry me through my difficulties.

“First Visit,” July 2017

❤ ❤ ❤

Just a few days ago, as I was again attempting to declutter and destash, I ran across an envelope filled with “found hearts” I received for a swap some time ago. The sender, Kelly (aka Mugsie), also loves found hearts and she sent several of her original photographs. [Click an image for a closer look]

 

Kelly finds hearts everywhere. If this small collection doesn’t convince you, take a look at her “naturally found hearts” site where you’ll find many more.

❤ ❤ ❤

It’s always a pleasure finding hearts when I’m out and about and it thrills me to share the hearts with friends and family. The photos serve well–in quick “thinking about you” notes, as “love posts,” and even as Liberate Your Art selections. The hearts “appear” when I need them most and reassure me that my world is okay.

What about you? Do you “find” hearts? Or is there some other symbol you “find” or look for when you need a particular message?

“Escape” to the Front Porch

A few days ago, the guys and I left home to hit one of the many nature trails in the area. As usual, I had my camera out ready to capture abandoned homes and scenes from rural life along the way. A couple of minutes into the drive, the gorgeous remains of a tree commanded our attention. I was ready to jump out of the car and snap a shot of the tree, when my hubby said, “I think this is your colleague’s home.” We weren’t sure. As we looked toward the house, which was set some distance from the road, we noticed a couple sitting on the porch. We couldn’t make out the faces, but I thought I recognized the SUV sitting in the driveway. We took our chances and drove up to say hello and ask permission to capture a few shots–even if we were wrong.

It was them! But the biggest surprise was the amazing view right outside their front door.

“Living the Pond Life”

The pond, built by my colleague’s husband, is beautiful and reminds me why I love living outside the city and in a place where a front yard can be a pond. It is well-maintained and serves as home to a lot of marine life–fish, turtles, and the occasional unwelcome water moccasin.

Back in May I accepted Books & Coffee’s challenge to share escape photos within our own cities and towns. I have to make good on my promise to share some of my (far too many) “happy place” photos, but what better way to “escape” life than by simply stepping outside one’s front door? I can’t claim my colleague’s home as my happy place, but it did provide the happy during our brief visit.

It’s clear that my colleague’s husband designed the pond to provide a bit of peace and beauty away from the daily hustle and bustle.  Water–in almost any form–has such a calming effect. Even though it was an unplanned stop along the way, visiting my colleague’s pond just about negated my desire for a nature walk.

As for the tree, I almost forgot about it, but I managed to snap a couple before we drove away. The knots and grooves give the tree such striking appeal! [Click an image for a closer view].

Don’t you think so?

Soaring Like a Mountain Eagle

Eagle’s Wings: Photo captured at Brechtel Park in Algiers (Westbank New Orleans, Louisiana), 2011

…and there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar. –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Kindness Matters. Period.

We wrap up our seven days of kindness posts with the postcard I crafted for Louise Gale’s Global heART Swap.  And we end where we began.

Kindness matters.

“Kindness Matters. Period.”

However, Jewel’s song was not the inspiration for the postcard. Instead, I was inspired by the many, many expressions of kindess I’ve witnessed either directly or indirectly and the powerful impact(s) they have made.

Many of us are familiar with the Ian McClaren’s quote (often attributed to Plato), “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We read this so much that it has descended into the realm of cliche. We no longer “hear” the import of the words, but the reality is that most, if not all, of us are coping with something tragic, challenging, or traumatic.

We convince ourselves that we can do nothing to help, that our small efforts don’t and won’t make much difference, but they really do and will. Our acts of kindness may change someone’s mood from desperate to hopeful and may even make the difference between life and death.

So…

Extend a little kindness in whatever form it needs to take for the situation–smile at strangers, wish someone a nice day, drive with courtesy, pay it forward, forgive, agree to disagree, or walk away. During the particular interaction with you–no matter how brief–an individual may be dealing with something that is much heavier, much more trying, so give that person a momentary break from his or her madness.

Kindness matters. Period.

Just in case you’ve missed any of the earlier posts, they’re listed below for your convenience.

Have a kind week!

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

Up on the Roof in France with “The Drifters”

On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below don’t bother me.

I’ve been singing The Drifter’s 1962 major hit, “Up on the Roof” for weeks now.  I can’t get it out of my head! Why this random singing of a song that was written before I was born? The culprit is this postcard sent to me for a Liberate Your Art side swap:

“Rooftop in Apremont-sur-Allier” by Louise Mamet

The rooftop photo was captured by my blog pal Louise of Drops of Everything.  Louise has such a unique perspective. I always enjoy her postcards and her blog.

This particular photo features the rooftop of an old home in the “adorable village” of Apremont-sur-Allier in France.  I am really interested in architecture–I especially enjoy studying the similarities of architecture in different areas of the world–so this was the perfect selection for me.

Louise sent her postcard in an envelope and included a splendid postcard advertising an exhibit at the Grand Pressigny–La Femme dans la Préhistoire  [Women in Prehistory]–a subject right up my alley.  Now, I just have to figure out how to get to France by the end of November.  😉

La Femme dans la Préhistoire

She also included one of her business cards which is so perfect I can’t resist sharing it here.

Photo by Louise Mamet

You can find more of Louise’s photography on her blog: Drops of Everything and on Facebook.

Louise prefers postcards in envelopes, so when I sent a postcard to her I included a postcard reproduction of artist/illustrator/graphic novelist Eric Drooker’s  “On the Roof” to prolong our visual conversation.

“On the Roof” by Eric Drooker

Up on the roof, up on a roof
Everything is alright, everything is alright

I didn’t realize when I sent the photo that I’d be introducing Louise to a new artist, so that was a bonus.  And your bonus–the perfect song to end the week.  Take a listen.

Maybe, you’ll be singing “Up on the Roof” too!

Purple Reign: Loving the Purple Journal

I have often wondered what happens to the photographs I send into the world. Diane (aka Midteacher), one of my photog pals in the A Thousand Words group on swap-bot, takes the guess work out of it for the photos I send to her.  She often lets me know that she has included or plans to include my photos in her various art or mixed media journals.  When I sent her this year’s “love post,” she shared that it was going to be added to her Purple Journal. Yes, her purple journal!

Alistair posing with the purple journal page featuring my 2017 “love post.” Photo by Diane (Midteacher)

Take a look at detail!

Close-up of the “love post” in Diane’s Purple Journal–Photo by Diane (Midteacher)

View the full post here: Playing in the Purple Journal.

I’m delighted that Diane found a beautiful use for the photo, but I’m sharing her post because she shares how she transformed the simple photo into a beautiful journal page. [She’s even running a contest for naming her purple journal.  Help her name her journal and you could be the winner of a purple 8×10 mixed media piece].

I’ve always been intrigued and inspired by Diane’s work. My seeing how she crafted this page gives me the creative courage to give mixed media work a try.

You can see more of Diane’s work on her blog, A Focused Journey: Finding a Focus on the Other Side of Fifty, or you can check out some of my earlier posts which feature her photos:

I’ll be sharing more of Diane’s work within the next week or two.  Until then, enjoy the reign of purple!

 

Love, Lines, and Angles: Finding Beauty in Ordinary Places

My friend Cy doesn’t consider herself a photographer; however, she has a knack for evoking strong feelings with the ordinary things she photographs with her phone camera. She always remarks that she’s learning a lot about photography from me, but I am learning so much from her.

I’ve been attempting to “train” my eye to see things differently and find art in ordinary things. So, while my camera and I have been having a wonderful time watching spring unfold, I’ve also been making a point of photographing some of the mundane things I encounter in my everyday life, things to which I usually pay little attention.

A couple of weeks ago I focused on lines. They were everywhere–in my office, in the air, on the ground, on my student’s back.   Even though my camera was often mere inches away, I captured the photos below with my iPhone because usually the ordinary is most striking when I’m not expecting it and when I’m not attempting to “force” it.

I noticed the power lines on my walk down the driveway to the mailbox one afternoon. I was struck by the awe and power they represent–power to give life and to take it.

Power and Respect.

The dandelion was beneath them, hoping for some attention, before all the “wishes” blew away.

“Dande-Lines”

A sleek bike was resting in the hallway mere feet away from my (work) office. It was a gift waiting for me to return from a brief walk on campus.  The lines on the floor were not to be ignored either.

“Circles, Lines, and Angles”

The table, chair, and railing lines caught my eye while I was having lunch with a friend, reminding me of all the ways we work to stay connected. The empty chair (for me) represented a friend who could not join us for lunch that day.  

“Lines of Communication.”

Finally, my student’s thought-provoking tattoo.  The words “reflect God’s love” are written in Arabic with the sun and rays providing the visual message.  There’s an intriguing story that goes along with this tattoo, but the lines–the rays–grabbed my attention.

“Reflect God’s Love”

There’s simply so much beauty in the ordinary. Sometimes, it takes adjusting one’s angle or purview just a little, but it’s there. Always.  

Have you found beauty in the everyday things that meet your eyes?

“In Solitude the Mind Gains Strength”

My day began at 5:00 a.m. after only three hours of sleep (last few days of class, lots of grading), so today’s post is short and sweet.

I share with you a “quote card” I designed last year– a bit of wisdom to carry with you through the week.

“In Solitude…”

Be sure to find a bit of solitude in the days ahead.

Photo Magic: Exploiting the Possibilities

I’ve been playing around with photos more than usual lately, altering them in PhotoShop and iPhone apps.  I love putting them through multiple processes just to see what evolves.  My selections for Liberate Your Art 2017 came out of such photo-play.

The postcards I sent began as a purple orchid and a pink coneflower.  Both were captured at the New Orleans Botanical Garden in late January–a blog post for another time.

Here’s the orchid–original and altered.

Purple Orchid, Original New Orleans Botanical Gardens, 2017

Magical Orchid, 2017

The orchids were protected in an enclosed, temperature-controlled space. However, the coneflower survived outdoors despite the winter weather.  It offered one of the few glimpses of color in the Garden that cold January afternoon.

“Coneflower,” Original, New Orleans Botanical Gardens, January 2017

I “transformed” the coneflower in many ways and couldn’t decide which to choose for LYA, so I decided to have all of them printed as postcards.  I selected randomly for the swap.  Here’s a peek at 10 of the 15 edits.

“Coneflower Magic,” 2017, Collage Made with PicsArt

Even though I struggled (as usual) with selecting photos for LYA, I chose these not because they represent my best work but because I had so much fun with them.  Since so many things have been so serious and heavy this year, I wanted to share lighthearted images.

A photograph can be naturally beautiful, flawless even, but there’s still something liberating about exploiting the possibilities of it.