#ThursdayTreeLove | The Dance of the Magnolia

There is something arresting and unearthly about a magnolia tree in flower. Something that dances between divinity and dementia.  —Pavithra K. Mehta, Magnolia Tree

Louisiana girl that I am, the Southern Magnolia is [naturally] one of my favorite trees. I’ve been trying to “perfectly” capture the magnolia blossom for years. I remember stopping to photograph the blossoms whenever I could before our move from New Orleans because I wanted the perfect magnolia from New Orleans to deck one of our walls.

I managed to capture a few satisfactory shots before we left. They’re far less than perfect, but the expertly composed shots of the flower by my brother [on display in my parents’ home]  and other photographers encourage me to keep working on it.

“Inside the Magnolia”

So, here are my meager magnolia offerings for #ThursdayTreeLove. I shot some on campus a week ago just after a rain shower and some at my cousin’s house a couple of weeks ago before my grand color exploration with the tiny one.

I felt the photos needed texture, so I added just a little [hopefully] without compromising the natural beauty of the flowers and tree.

The magnolia leaf, so elegantly formed, remains strong and glossy even after its fall.

Some of the blossoms deserved the stroke of Impressionism, so I “painted” some.  I’ve come a long way with my art skills since I made a mess last week–thanks to the Impresso app. 😉

These are in various stages of bloom. My photo of a tightly closed bloom is “meh” at best, so I’ll spare you that one.

“And the time came…”

The tricky thing about photographing magnolias is finding ways around the height of the tree. The campus trees are really tall, but I was able to get nice “beneath the blossoms” shots.

“Twinsies”

“The Underside of Perfection”

The gorgeous “end” of the flower.

“Bald and Beautiful”

And finally, here’s a quick video I made of one of the magnolias on campus enjoying the company of the other trees. Thanks to Amanda, one of my photographer friends, for the tip about Pixaloop, which gave me the moving clouds and birds.

I quote Pavithra M at the beginning of this post. Her short piece, “Magnolia Tree” powerfully communicates the essence of the magnolia and our attraction to it. Be sure to click over and give it a read. But should you neglect doing so, I leave you with her closing words:

I think about this outlandish tree that races back to Time’s cradle, and its flowers that open alarmingly wide as if to swallow the sun, the way it gives itself madly to the moment. With radical generosity and no reservation. And what would be possible–if we could lean to live like that.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Good Vibes | Music, Hope, and Monochrome Mayhem

I always want to talk about important subjects, but with hope. Music is supposed to heal people. — Fatoumata Diawara

At the beginning of the year, I thought I’d focus on developing my monochrome photography skills, but life got in the way. Before I pressed pause on that venture, though, I was able to coordinate and complete two “Monthly Monochrome Mayhem” swaps in the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.

Through the swaps, I made another photographer friend, Betty H., from the United Kingdom. She does a lot of concert photography, so she shared photos from a show at Birmingham Town Hall that featured Fatoumata Diawara and Staff Benda Bilili, singers from the continent of Africa.

Diawara is a Malian singer-song writer and actor whose music:

draws elements of jazz and funk into an exquisitely sparse contemporary folk sound – refracting the rocking rhythms and plaintive melodies of her ancestral Wassoulou tradition through an instinctive pop sensibility. At the centre of the music is Fatou’s warm, affecting voice, spare, rhythmical guitar playing and gorgeously melodic songs that draw powerfully on her own often troubled experience.  –from Fatoumata Diawara’s Facebook Page.

Diawara opened for Staff Benda Bilili, a group of disabled street musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The group consists of:

Four senior singer/guitarists sitting on spectacularly customized tricycles, occasionally dancing on the floor of the stage, arms raised in joyful supplication, are the core of the band, backed by a younger, all-acoustic, rhythm section pounding out tight beats. Over the top of this are weird, infectious guitar-like solos performed by a [young] prodigy on a one-string electric lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can. –from Staff Benda Bilili’s Facebook Page

The name of the group translates roughly to “see beyond [appearances].”

Betty says the musicians were “a joy to photograph.” I can tell! There’s so much energy in the photos that I can feel the good vibes.

The spark is even more apparent in the original color photos.

Aren’t the photos spectacular? Betty confessed that she frequently converts concert photographs to monochrome because “working around the choices of the lighting technicians” can be challenging. I see her point, but I love the mysterious aura of the color photos too.

Indie Week’s interview of Fatoumata Diawara outlines her philosophies of music and life. And if you have never heard this soulful singer, please take a listen to Fatou, her debut album.

And then, turn to the rhythmic fusion of soukous (influenced by rumba), rhythm and blues, and reggae found in the music of Staff Benda Bilili.

As Diawara points out, there’s a lot of difficulty in life. There’s also hope, joy, and laughter, which make the tough stuff bearable. I feel all of this in the music of Staff Benda Bilili and Fatoumata Diawara. Don’t you?

Until next time…

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Redbud’s Allure

Nature, in all its wondrous glory,
Has produced much prettier things, for sure;
But, something within me moves each time
I feel the flowering redbud tree’s allure.

from “Redbud Tree” by Bill Galvin

The redbud tree is one of the first indications of spring in these parts. Though the trees bloomed a little later this year and had to compete with the other beautiful blooms, they held their own and drew my attention each time I encountered them.

You can find out more about the tree by checking out the links below:


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Three Days, No Rain [Yay!] | #WordlessWednesday

Only a select few are able to see the true beauty that lies behind what just might seem like a rainy day or a grey sky. –Jessica M. Laar

There’s been so much rainfall in our region this year that [to thrive and get things done] I had to reimagine rainy days. Instead of seeing the dull, gray skies and the muddy puddles [read: ponds] everywhere, I saw the brilliant spring that is sure come. This photo, captured a couple of weeks ago, represents that reimagining. [The pink blossoms/leaves in the trees and shrubbery and on the ground and umbrellas do not exist in the original photo].

Fortunately, we’ve had three sunny days this week. Though the rain is on its way again, for now, I’m enjoying the warmth of the actual sun.

Textures | #WordlessWednesday

Little moments can have a feeling and a texture that is very real.  –Ralph Fiennes

Sometimes, life gets so frenzied that I take rest and moments where and when I can. This is how I managed to capture the photos above.

While waiting for the grants officer at “my” university to finish with a client a couple of weeks ago, I took a few cleansing breaths. As I exhaled, I suddenly noticed the many colors and textures in her office suite. I wanted to touch everything. Instead, I let my eyes and phone [camera] do the work while my spirit eased into rest. [Click an image for a closer look].