Sunny Inspiration: Look Up!

My neighbor’s sunflowers came in beautifully and I made a few trips to capture them in their various stages. I managed to capture dozens of pics–one is featured in Finding Love Notes, Naturally, posted a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to work with a couple of the photos yesterday–one featuring a sunflower with its “face” turned upward and the other a “downcast” flower leaning away from another that is still full of life. The photos were on my mind and I wanted to combine them with words that speak their language.

The blooms are visual reminders that when the “stuff” of life is coming at us full force, all we have to do is stand firm, “face the Sun,” and rest in the embrace of the One who is always near.

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Sunflower PhotoArt by Me!

Sometimes, it’s necessary to face our problems “head on,” stare them down, and conquer them. At other times–when things are out of our control and bigger than we could ever imagine–we have to turn away from our struggles and focus our attention on the One who handles the insurmountable and scary situations for us. Otherwise, the worry and stress can affect our health.

“God Is Near the Broken-Hearted,” Sunflowers PhotoArt by Me!

We feel alone in such situations–it seems no one understands, can provide the comfort we need or help us manage our problems. It is imperative to know that we are not alone, that God is near, cradling us in His protective arms, and carrying us through the difficulties.

When we train our focus heavenward, our problems are placed in proper perspective, and we learn to trust the “Lover of our souls” to manage all our concerns so we can go on living and loving without distress.

I prefer to see sunflowers with a sunny disposition, but the sunflower in the second photo communicated so profoundly and beautifully the message of Psalm 34:18 that I had to capture it–even with the photo-bombing bee. The bee might seem a distraction, an annoyance even, but without bees there would be no flowers.

Wishing you a week filled with sunshine and good things…

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

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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

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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?

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!

“Art Takes Courage”–Liberate Your Art 2016 Side Swaps

The party is never really over with Liberate Your Art.  It is pure pleasure to find a “random” postcard from another LYA participant in my mailbox.  I had the good fortune of sharing with many other photographers and artists long after the swap and the blog hop.

Wanna see?

“Dandelion in Snow,” Photo by Christine

Christine of Flagstaff, Arizona has been a faithful postcard sender since our first interaction shortly after Liberate Your Art 2016. She sent the dandelion with the blessing, “May you find peace and love everywhere you go.  Enjoy life.  Share and trust.”

“This Spring” by Christine

This was not one of Christine’s LYA selections.  She shot the photo in the spring and lamented the crazy weather–snow in May with wind that took the petals off the trees.  Fortunately, she was able to capture the beauty before the ravages of unpredictable weather.

And for the last LYA 2016 postcard, Christine sent a photo of gulls she captured in Mexico on the Sea of Cortez.

Photo by Christine

“Six Sand Pipers Walk on Water,” Photo by Christine

She also reminded me that “Today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday,” so “live it up and enjoy!” Christine introduced me to the fabulous Love Notes community and regularly sends postcards to many in the group. [For the record, I know the postcard depicts only three birds].

Pat sent a distressed crow with hugs from the Pacific Northwest.

“Birds-Eye View,” by Pat M.

The problem with not posting things soon after receiving them is I misplace all sorts of pertinent information, like whether or not Pat has a blog or how we even connected.

Laurie of Color Poems shared a sweet photo postcard of peonies, chives, and atmint from her garden.

“From My Garden,” by Laurie

Laurie and I “met” three years ago via LYA 2013. She has since been a loyal supporter of “Pics and Posts” and of me personally.  Along with well wishes, she shared a quote on the back of the postcard: “With the coming of spring, I am calm again.” –Gustav Mahler

Sheila Delgado is a multi-media artist I met a couple of years ago through LYA.  She’s been enjoying new ways of painting my favorite flower–the sunflower.

“Sunflower Twins,” by Sheila Delgado

Sheila also printed a bit of creative inspiration on the back of her card.  She appropriately selected a Georgia O’Keeffe quote:  “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”  Sheila features more sunflowers and other art on her blog: Sheila’s Corner Studio.

Louise’s postcard made its way to me from France. She shared a view of Venice.

“Venice” by Louise Mamet

Louise, a professional photographer, described her visit to Venice as “magical.” Check out her stunning photos at Drops of Everything.  If you have time for little else, check out her post on the “swimming pool turned museum.”

Kat van Rooyen is a certified zentangle teacher and a photographer. Can you guess what she sent?

“Zentangle,” by Kat van Rooyen

The original was drawn on Canson watercolor paper with a Micron O1 Sakura pen. Kat’s artistic wisdom graced the back of the postcard: “No one can see through your eyes: no one can speak your art. Create!” If you want to know more about Kat and/or zentangles, find her at Hearts Untangled.

Sherry, who lives on a remote island off Kodiak Island, Alaska, sent her mixed media piece with hugs and a John Muir quote–“In every walk of nature, one receives more than he seeks.”

“Conceive, Believe, Achieve” by Sherry H., Amook Island Creations

I originally met Sherry through swap-bot, but it’s such a delight running into her through LYA.

When Janice posted her extra postcards in the LYA Facebook group with an offer to share, I could not pass up the opportunity of getting my hands on this elephant!

“Indian Elephant,” Art by Janice D.

To use a teeny-bopper/college student expression, this elephant is “everything!” Both my mom and my little one collect elephants, so I really wanted the elephant for them.  The purple–my favorite color–is a bonus. 😉 Beyond the purple, I appreciate this piece because elephants are soooo hard. Okay, for me any drawing presents a bit of a challenge, but I remember drawing elephants for my little one when he was actually a little one.  He celebrated all my elephant art and even though his aesthetic sense has developed quite a bit, he still encourages more than laughs at my drawings and sketches.

Find more of Janice on her blog: Janice Darby Photography.

I swapped art tools with Lynn, who describes herself as an”environmentally conscious” artist: I sent her a pencil and she sent me lots of pencils.  Even trade, right?

by Lynn

“Soul Colors,” by Lynn R.

Lynn can be found at the Studio at Piney Creek Acres or, if you don’t want to make the trip to Pennsylvania, at Trash Bubbles and Life’s Little Bits.

And finally, this impressive magnolia was from a 2015 LYA side-swap, but it came long after the 2015 posts. I love the quote on the front of the card.

“Sweet Magnolia Blossom,” by Shelley Shockley

The heat of the sun awakens my spirit

just as it unfurls the petals of the

first magnolia bloom of spring.

If memory serves me well, Shelley and I both included magnolia photos among our 2015 selections. There are so many types and they’re all simply breathtaking, so it’s nice to include others’ magnolias in my collection.

Want more of Shelley? Check out her blog: Consider This: Visual and Verbal Views from Collinwood.

If you missed my two earlier LYA 2016 post, you can find them here: Tardy for the Party and My Photos into the World.

Ciao!

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Playing with Black and White: Flowers

I’ve been experimenting on and off with black and white photography for a few years now, but I was recently “inspired” by Amy Saab’s blog post “The Roses Had Spots” to set up a series of swaps in the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.

There are a number of photography groups on swap-bot. I belong to three or four. This group is different in that it requires photographers to be at least “intermediate” level and capable of crafting more sophisticated or thoughtful swaps using photos–beyond the simple “snap a shot and send it.” We’re a small group by swap-bot standards, but many of the members are serious hobbyists who may have taken a class or two or who have sold their photographic work at craft shows or in online shops. The idea is to challenge each other to grow and provide constructive feedback when necessary.

In her post, Amy Saab shared “flawed” roses in black and white. She “removed the color to show their beautiful structure.” I’ve done the same thing with “flawed” photos of flowers, buildings, people, and other subjects.

Even without “imperfections,” black and white photography reveals beauty in ways that we often miss because of all the color. Don’t get me wrong. I love the brilliance of color photography, but an image composed in black and white can be breathtaking.

So far, I’ve hosted three “black and white” (or monochrome) swaps–in October, November, and December 2014.  Instead of showcasing the photographs in one blog post, I will share the photos in three separate posts.

The first swap in the series was “Flowers in Black and White.” Swappers were to alter photos of flowers already in their collections and select what they consider the best two and send the B&W photos to their partners. They were encouraged, but not required, to send the color photos as well.

My partner, “Midteacher,” sent four sets. I’m sharing two because the other two are either buried under my desk clutter or are sitting in the collection of notecards I keep at work just in case I get the urge to write a note or letter during a break.

Flower in Purple by DBW

“Balloon Flower” by DBW aka Midteacher

Midteacher writes that she loves B&W photography because of the details the photos expose. “By taking away the color,” she writes, “the eye focuses on the textures and details of the shot.”

Flower in Black and White by DBW

“Balloon Flower in Black and White” by DBW aka Midteacher

She writes that she “loves the veins in this shot.”

Purple is my favorite color and I love seeing purple in nature, but I’m having a difficult time staying loyal to purple in this instance.

Midteacher also sent my favorite flower, a sunflower. She loves the industrious bee who was too “busy to notice me standing away with my camera.”

The Bee and the Sunflower by DBW

“The Bee and the Sunflower” by DBW aka Midteacher

The sunflower is stunning in black and white, especially with the added texture that doesn’t show up so well in the scan below.

The Bee and the Sunflower in Black and White by Dee

“The Bee and the Sunflower in Black and White” by DBW aka Midteacher

I sent my partner four sets of flowers in B&W. Two that appear in earlier posts–dogwood blossoms and daisies–and one that will be featured in a future post, so I’ll share only one of them here.

Untitled 2 2I shot this one in color some time during Fall 2013. The original color image also appears in an earlier post. It was one of the images I used to make a postcard for International Women’s Day 2014. The B&W photo was a bit “blah,” so I used sepia instead.

Here are two I intended to send when I began planning the swap, but I completely forgot about them when I put the swap together.  (Sorry Newfie!)

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I captured the water lily while on a Mother’s Day visit to the New Orleans Botanical Gardens. The lavender flower was my favorite shot of the day.  I like the photo in B&W, but I love the color one.  I found the bright orange and yellow flower while taking a walk one summer day.

Here are two bonus postcards Beckra (RR) sent.

“Wild Alium” by Beckra (RR)

“Blackberry Blossom,” by Beckra (RR).

She writes, “In early autumn Arkansas seems to undergo a second spring of sorts.  Flowers that had lapsed during the heat of summer re-emerge.”

Beckra and I were on the same photographic page when I put the swap together. She had just ordered these B&W postcards when she read the swap description, so she decided to share them with me.  I always appreciate her photographic interpretation of her world.

I’ll post the second part, “Black and White with a Touch of Color,” tomorrow.

Oh, my hubby has finally joined the blogosphere here on WordPress. While you anxiously wait for my next post, head over to his page and show him some blog love. 🙂  Find him here:  Viewfinder.

See ya later!