Friday, August 5, 2016

5 on 5

Hello, my friends!  I have so much I want to share with you.  I'm back participating in 5 on 5 with some very talented photographers this month.  Each month on the 5th we post our 5 favorite photos from the previous month, and then we link to each other's blogs.  I'll post a link at the bottom of this post, and I hope you'll take a peek!

I've been wanting to share with you some wonderful news about my photography.  Last month I showed you some of my recent Dark Flower Portraits, and I just wanted to let you know that some of them are now available at Chelsea Underground Fine Art Gallery in Chelsea, Michigan.  You can find out more here.  It's an honor to have my work in this beautiful gallery.

The photo above is one I worked on this month.  It took a while to complete the process with this one, as I shot over several days as the peonies, catmint, and other flowers were drying.  Once I discovered the moment that I was looking for, I then processed the photo with many layers.  As I've mentioned before, I tend to shoot still lifes in my tiny study up under the eaves in our house.  I have one northern facing window up there that lets me really play with light.  I use lots of different backdrops.  For this one, it was an old chalkboard.

When I'm not working on still lifes, I'm thinking about still lifes.  I take long walks in meadows and along the shore, observing the textures of grasses and flowers.  This shot above was near the end of the day at my old favorite haunt, Maine Audubon at Gilsland Farm.

Another favorite spot is Portland Head Light, where I took the photo above.  As with my still lifes, I sometimes layer many textures over landscapes and seascapes, as I've done with this one.

And then sometimes I just aim the camera, adjust the settings a bit, and shoot.  When the sunset is this glorious, I don't need to do much processing.  I took this shot here in Portland out at our new outdoor music venue, Thompson's Point.  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were playing that night, and it was pretty much a classic coastal Maine summer evening.

I'm wrapping up my summer teaching this week, which means I'll have about three weeks off before fall semester begins.  I've had some terrific creative writing students this summer--and all year--and now I'm ready for a couple of weeks of my own writing and photography time.  I'm not gonna lie; it's been a wild summer--a wild year--with some challenges that I wasn't sure I could meet.  July included a short but beautiful trip to Rangeley Lake for hiking and birding, and some of the most outrageous fireworks I've ever seen.  It also included tons of work, lots of visits from family and friends, and a bittersweet weekend spent with family as we celebrated the life and mourned the passing of my sweet Aunt Connie.  She was the last of my father's siblings, and now that she is gone, those days of childhood feel far away.  In remembrance, I've been taking Dark Flower portraits at the end of this month of flowers from my childhood, including these Queen Anne's Lace, mixed here with some fennel.

Thank you so much for visiting, my friends!  If you'd like to see some more of 5 on 5, head on over to Jennifer Brake's wonderful blog.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

5 on 5

So much has been happening around here this past month!  Lots of interesting things are in the works. I have much news to share and many stories to tell, but first I have the great joy of taking part in 5 on 5, along with some wonderful photographer friends. Each month we share 5 of our own photos from the previous 30 days, and we link to each other's blogs, creating a chain of beautiful photos and stories.  How wonderful is that? Big thanks to my friend, Stephanie, for starting this group back at the beginning of the year.  I've known Stephanie for years now through the blogging/Flickr world, and I've long admired her photography, so I'm just chuffed to be a part of this group.  You can see her 5 on 5 post here.

As some of you know, I've been working on a series of pictures that I'm calling my Dark Flower portraits.  The peonies above are one of the newest in the series.  I'll have news to share about the series in my next post, but for now, I'll just share some writing I did in an Instagram post that was inspired by this photo:

A gardener thinks about life and death always as one. In each flower's race toward blossoming is its race, too, toward decline. I'm saying nothing new, only that when you garden, this thought is always present. In the garden I am surrounded by the new growth of runner bean sprouts, the full flush of a climbing rose, and the last breath of a lush peony all at the same moment. My wheelbarrow is piled high with a day's kill: the weeds I pulled, faded blossoms I plucked, lily beetles I crushed between gloved finger and thumb. The gardener must not be squeamish about death. She must recognize its necessity even as she rejoices at the sight of her first ever iris uncurling itself with a flourish from the spear of its stem.

Not all of my recent photos have been dark.  In fact, some have been quite light and even ethereal. I'm taking nearly all of my stills in a northeast facing window of my little workroom/studio/study.  It provides my favorite light for stills.  I can't imagine taking photos without that northeastern light!

The peonies in the twilight shot above are only a few of the thousands to be seen and smelled at Gilsland Farm in June.  This old farm is home to the Maine Audubon Society, and it is one of my favorite spots anywhere in the world.  Meadows, woods, marshes, and lush gardens all in one magical place on an estuary just a few minutes outside of Portland, but truly a world away.

Clearly, peonies have been inspiring me over the past month, but so have many far less showy flowers right here in my own gardens, including the pelargoniums (geraniums).  In the shot above I tucked some lovely wild pink ones into a busted old crate.

The purple geranium in this final shot is one of Todd's favorite flowers.  It's combined with a wee sprig of lady's mantle in a handblown perfume bottle that a former boss gave me a lifetime ago. The Dark Flower portrait series is helping me to see photography--and thus my life--in a new way, and helping me come to terms with some things about the creative process (and the process of just living in this messy, heartbreaking, beautiful world) that have always frightened me.  I relish this chance to dive deeper and work harder.

Thanks, wonderful friends, for stopping by.  You never cease to inspire me.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

5 on 5

On the beach in Bournemouth
Hello, chickadees!  I'm excited to participate in 5 on 5 this month, along with some wonderful photographers I know.  We share our five favorite photos from the past month.  My favorite photos from May are all from a journey Mr. Magpie and I took to England and Belgium, where he was giving talks for a couple of weeks. We were both teaching our online summer classes while we were there, too, so it was a challenge to juggle work, travel, spending time with friends and colleagues, and just soaking up the ambiance and energy of places that we love.  I returned home completely exhausted, but feeling incredibly lucky that I got to be back in England--and was able to explore a bit of Belgium, too!

A grave in the cemetery at St Alfege's Church in Greenwich
Over the years, London has come to feel like a home away from home for us.  When we're there we often stay in Greenwich, which is a Borough of London, but it's located east of the city center, on the south side of the Thames, across from the Isle of Dogs.  Greenwich is incredibly beautiful, and we like to stay at a wonderful B&B there, hopping on the Docklands Light Railway or the Thames Clipper boat when we need to get into the city proper.

Gravensteen Castle in Ghent, Belgium
Midway through the trip, we took the Eurostar to Belgium, so Todd could give a talk in Ghent, and we snuck in a day in glorious Bruges, too.  Both felt like magical fairy tale cities, and I will be back to post much more about them very soon.  I'd never visited Belgium before, but I hope I'll have the chance to return.

One of the many gorgeous store floral displays for #chelseainbloom during the Chelsea Flower Show
Meanwhile, back in London, the Chelsea Flower show was in full swing by the time we returned.  I didn't manage to snag us last-minute tickets, because I wasn't willing to hand over $300 apiece, but we spent a wonderful afternoon at the Chelsea Physic Garden and wandering past the gorgeous floral displays in the shop windows of Sloane Square.

On Princelet Street near Spitalfields
We don't spend a lot of time doing typical tourist stuff in London anymore, preferring to go to neighborhood markets, or to wander through lesser-known gardens and quirky, off-beat museums, sampling street food along the way.  I'm working on a fun post about some hidden treasures to experience if you're looking for something a little off the beaten tourist path in and around London.

Thanks do much for stopping in, my friends.  If you'd like to take a peek at Stephanie's beautiful photographs, her link is here.