Nature

Finding Strength by Leslie Fandrich

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There is nothing more soothing for me than taking out my camera and looking for things to photograph. This week all the trees are blooming and my favorite are the magnolias. I found one today with a very deep shade of pink, it was so pretty.

Nearby were also some horses, so I went to say hello, because, why not? I stood by the fence calling at them while they ate grass and they happily ignored me until all of a sudden they both rushed up to the fence and sniffed at me. I put out my hand and the black one let me touch him, even though I think he was disappointed that I didn't have a  carrot. Horses are awesome.

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Nothing can make you feel better than an animal blissfully unaware and unconcerned with our human condition. You can look deep into an animal's eyes and what is reflected back at you is so simple. So easy. Eat, drink, run. The same with flowers. It's just pure, uncomplicated. They bloom, they die. Done.

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I was afraid I had missed this, while I was in Canada with my Mom. it would have been fine if I had, I took pictures last year and I will take pictures next year, but I was really glad that I didn't miss it, that after the departure of my mother, I am still able to experience the arrival of spring. Together, it is somehow more bearable for me. All is not lost. There is still spring.

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I'm doing fine, by the way. Happy to be home and sorting through my Mom's things that I got to keep. I've got her sewing kit, some of her jewelry and a bunch of personal papers, plus all the notes and message that she's given me over the years. I pulled off five voicemails from my phone (three cheers for an iPhone that saves every message for as long as you have the phone!) and I was so comforted by the fact that each one started exactly the same, "Hi sweetheart, it's Mum." Every single one. So consistent, so dependable. 

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened. ― Dr. Seuss

The books I am reading tell me that I am looking for her. It's a normal part of the process. Actually, almost everything is a normal part of the process. We all grieve so differently. Cry, don't cry. Talk, don't talk. Pretty much whatever you need to do, it's ok to do it. I've been reading two books by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that I really like. On Death and Dying was written in 1969 and is still one of the best books out there on the topic. Her book On Grief and Grieving was written while she herself was dying in 2004. Her co-author experienced her death before completing the book in 2007.

For something that each of us will experience multiple time in our lives, to those that we love and to our own selves, death is not something people like to talk about. Our brains are so good at tricking us into thinking that death is not possible, that it will not happen to us. We deny this truth our entire lives and it leaves us woefully unprepared to deal with loss and to face our own demise. Think about it, plan for it, accept that someday, it will happen.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Facing death allows us to live our lives more fully. Accepting death as a part of life makes our time here sweeter and more precious. I'm not saying this is easy. It's not. I will miss my Mom every single day for the rest of my life, but this isn't going to break me. Life must go on. And it must go on even better than before. It must go on with even more love and more living. She would want that, as I think all of those leaving us do.

Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing... ― Elizabeth Gilbert

My greatest assets during this time has been my independence and my willingness to accept change. If you can draw on those things when you are facing something like this, it will be easier. If you realize that despite all our loving relationships, we are really the only constant in our lives. Also, when things like this happen, it's not about mourning and then moving on, it's about integrating the experience into our lives, letting it change us and growing stronger and more capable.

Some people, they can't just move on, you know, mourn and cry and be done with it. Or at least seem to be. But for me... I don't know. I didn't want to fix it, to forget. It wasn't something that was broken. It's just...something that happened. And like that hole, I'm just finding ways, every day, of working around it. Respecting and remembering and getting on at the same time. ― Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

Have you experienced loss in your life? Have you faced death yourself? I'd love to hear about how you have coped with it and what you have learned.

xo

Arrival and Departure by Leslie Fandrich

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The weather was gorgeous today in New York. I didn't wear a jacket, the air smelled like grass and dirt and the sunshine was warm on my skin. When my Mom first entered Hospice it was still cold outside and she told my sister she wanted to see spring blossom one last time. I took these pictures last year and they are for her.

I'm heading back to Canada tomorrow. My Mom has been holding steady for the last 3 weeks, but they increased her pain medication last weekend (she's now getting up to 20mls of Dilaudid an hour) and the confusion, anxiety and hallucinations also increased so they have been giving her an anti-anxiety medication called Versed. It's a sedative that allows her to relax, sleep and feel less stressed out about what's going on. In the last three days, if she wakes up and the Versed has worn off, she is very upset and doesn't know what to do with herself. Unfortunately, she is getting to the point where she needs to be fully sedated and with that will come a catheter, a cessation of eating and reduced mobility. I don't think it will be long after that.

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I'm not going back to take care of her, the team of nurses that she has at the Hospice facility are doing a great job of that, but my presence may bring her some comfort. I am mostly going for myself and for my sister and Dad. They need my support and I need to bear witness to this. I can't stay away. As hard as it will be to see her like this, I know I need to be there. To share in the grief, to be part of the process, to see her out in the same way that she saw me in. With love.

I'm trying to be really zen about this you guys, and it works sometimes, but I've also had this nagging headache for two days and the feeling of dread about what's to come. In a perfect world everything would be serene and peaceful and beautiful, but that's not reality. At least not all the time. I hope there will be beautiful moments, but this is also the hardest, most stressful time in my life and this is a difficult process. She's angry, she's emotional, she doesn't understand what she needs to do. How does a person die?

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I try to remind myself that death is like birth. It's a transition. It's a changing of states. It's traumatic and you have to labor at it. The body does strange things. You need to accept the process and ride the waves. Eventually, at the end of all the work, there is a release and things change forever. Her and I have been through this together before, and we can go through it together again. I can do this for her. I am ready.

It's a strange duality, spring blossoming and my Mom dying. But I am grateful for the warm sun and the new flowers to bring a little beauty to the world while this is happening. It's the way she wanted it.

Lost Days Video Short by Leslie Fandrich

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Sun soaked and wistful, this beautiful video short by my dear friend Regina Garcia totally made my day yesterday. It makes me yearn for summer (and youth if we are being totally honest here.)

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Regina told me about filming this last summer in Canada with Goh Iromoto and I couldn't wait to see it. They didn't disappoint. I want to be that girl in the film. I love every single scene but especially the night scene by the bonfire. It's just gorgeous.

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Regina and I went to college together and I have always loved her approach to photography and styling. She has always photographed beautiful strong women and her portraits of children (including my own Milo and Quinn) are fun and playful.

Keep an eye on her, I think she has even more beautiful, creative work to come.

Winter Weekend by Leslie Fandrich

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I hope everyone in the Northeast who got a perfect dumping of snow on Friday enjoyed it. We did. Here's a short video to give you a sense of what it was like on Friday while it was still snowing and a bunch of pictures from the weekend. We shoveled, went sledding, played hockey, drank hot chocolate and warmed up by the fire. I even found a snow heart at the end of the day.

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I love how the light changes so much from Friday to Saturday and as the sun goes down. I'm also so happy that we have amazing neighbors that carve tracks out for sledding and shovel the snow off the lake for skating. We are very lucky to live where we do.

Did you get hit with the storm? Do you love winter?

Clockwork Birds by Leslie

I found these amazing clockwork birds at The Evolution Store in SoHo last week. Aren't they beautiful? They are created by Jim and Tori Mullen and you can see more of these beautiful creatures on their website.

Reading about them on the site, it seems as if this is something that developed after many years of collecting ephemera and making art. From the site:

"In 1991 original decoys were passed on to us and they decorated Jim’s studio for years. In 2006 Jim decided to go through his boxes of old and damaged birds and have some fun.  He combined his love of mixed media with his vast collection of found objects and a new 3-D art form was born."

Now, these pieces are sold for $300 - $400 at stores and galleries all over the United States.

It's inspiring to be reminded that sometimes incredible work comes from years of foundational work and everything that you do will add to and build up your abilities, materials and ideas.

What do you have laying around that could inspire your next project?

Beach Vacation by Leslie

Our beach vacation in Cape Cod was a perfect end to the summer. My husband's family rented a house in the New Seabury area, between Falmouth and Hyannis. This is our second visit to the house, we were there three years ago, and our sixth Cape Cod vacation. I wouldn't have said I was beachy kind of person ten years ago, having grown up on the prairies. Vacations with my family were usually spent camping in the mountains. However, after visiting just a handful of times now, the ocean has engrained itself in my spirit. I really didn't want to leave this time. The kids loved it too. We visited the beach everyday and built sand castles, walked on the beach in the early morning and after dark, found shells and rocks, swam in the surf and dug holes. Every single part of being there was awesome.

I'm trying to figure out what the draw to the ocean is for me, how and why a prairie girl could come to love it so much. Is it the sound of the waves, the reflections of the sun and moon on the water or the massive power of all that water? It is those things, but there is something more, something almost primal about the draw of the ocean. Being near the ocean is soothing and calming as well as awe-inspiring and invigorating. It makes me want to lay still, listen and just breath and it also makes me want to jump in and swim in the waves.

At home today, with Milo off at his first day of school, Quinn and I were cuddling on the couch watching a show about the origins of life. Life began in the ocean and the blueprints for humanity were started there. We all came from the sea. I started thinking about how the ocean was like a giant womb for life and what if our wombs, that each of us grows in, are like little oceans. It's kind of amazing to me when nature echoes itself in this way. It's like close-up pictures of our eyes that resemble a massive nebula in the depths of space or patterns in nature like the ubiquitous fractal that can be seen in many different natural objects of all sizes. Each person emerges from a watery womb, just as life did originally. I wonder if the ocean pulls us to it because it's where life came from and it echoes where each person comes from. It's something to think about.

However, whatever the reason is that has caused me to fall in love with the ocean, I realized that I do love it. It's surprising and odd to me, I don't like laying out in the sun, I'm not fond of putting on sunscreen, I'm kind of freaked out by seaweed and sharks, but despite all that, I love the ocean. I love how it makes me feel.

On our last day in Cape Cod, we went down late in the afternoon, built an epic sand city, ate some watermelon and then the kids were ready to go up. I stayed alone to enjoy my last moments at the beach. I was thinking about how good it felt to not be doing anything at all. I was just laying there, listening to the waves and feeling soothed and calm. For a moment I felt bad, it occurred to me that I might be just wasting time, but I reminded myself that when we take the time to notice that we have the freedom and privilege to simply be in awe of nature, we can be truly grateful for being alive. That is not wasting time. That might be the best time I spent this whole year.

Pink Lily Photographs by Leslie

I love a pink lily. I have some that grow in my backyard and this year I cut one to photograph with my 50 mm compact macro lens. I love how these shots turned out, I think they look sexy. The set up was simple, I hung a black velvet cloth on my back door and used a round diffuser to filter direct sunlight. I love isolating the flowers so you can really see the shapes of the petals and the beauty of the colors. I also love the metaphor of a blossoming flower. So perfect, for so many things. What do you think?

Flowering Trees by Leslie

Oh, how I love flowering trees. It's my favorite sign of spring. They are so fleeting and so beautiful. I've photographed a Magnolia tree before but this spring I made an effort to capture a few other flowering trees as well. The top image is a Dogwood and below there are two different magnolia trees, a couple of cherry trees and a pear tree. (I think!) There are so many variations and varieties but what I love the most are the subtle differences in pinks, blues and whites that you see in these images.

Do you have flowering trees in your yard or near your house? Do you have a favorite?

Winter Trees by Leslie

Winter is just as gorgeous as any other season. I especially love winter trees in all their stark branching beauty. This was shot on Christmas Day at my in-laws house.

Camera Settings

Focal Length: 24 mm, Exposure: 1/60 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800

Halloween Snow Storm by Leslie

Frankenstein is not impressed. It's true, we had fun in the snow over the weekend, or at least the kids did! Snowball fights and hot chocolate were the best parts. Chris did a lot of shoveling and large tree branch removal and I mostly tried to stay inside. The snow has dampened the feeling of Halloween for me, leading to the cancellation of a fabulous Halloween party that we were excited to attend and the cancellation of what were supposed to be beautiful outdoor Fall family portraits. I'm all out of wack and I just want to stay curled up by the fire with a cup of hot coffee! At least we didn't lose power like so many others in the area. I'm glad I dressed up on Friday for the Monster Mash at Milo's school because I'm not sure I feel up for dressing up tonight, only to put my winter jacket over my costume. Anyway, despite the strangeness, it really is beautiful and the kids thought it was amazing.

Geeking Out on the Periodic Table by Leslie

When we were at the American Museum of Natural History for Quinn's birthday, my sister-in-law wanted to buy the boys fun placemats. Quinn picked out the dinosaurs, of course, and Milo picked out a colorful placemat of the periodic table. I thought it was very cool myself and I love to encourage Milo towards science. After getting it home and having a closer look at it, I discovered that it was far more than just a fancy periodic table.

Theodore Gray has been able to combine his love of science, talent for photography and his clever humor to create a very interesting and exciting look at the dozens of elements that are the building blocks for everything single thing on earth.

A diamond is forever, unless you heat it too much and it burns up into carbon dioxide gas. Graphite is also pure carbon and widely used in pencils, but not nearly as pretty. In this poster, pretty trumps practical.

This foil is what remained after useful shapes were stamped out, but what those shapes were useful for remains a mystery to me. Pure thorium metal like this is quite rare, and not easily obtained.

These nodules were created by pouring molten aluminum into a bucket of water. There was no reason to do this other than my desire to create a sample to photograph for a certain periodic table poster.

Bismuth loves to form beautiful crystals. You can make small ones without even trying, but one this big requires very pure bismuth and careful control of the cooling rate as the crystal is formed.

The placemat is just one iteration of the information that he has amassed. There is a poster, a book, an Ipad application and the website, each giving us a slightly different experience. The book is full of beautifully designed spreads and large scale images that really let you see the materials.

On the website, if you click on an element and view the details page, you can scroll down and see additional photographs of ways that the element is used and it's applications. There is occasionally humorous and cryptic information about how he obtained some of the materials. On the Thorium page, you can find this:

"Cutout sheets, 20g. This was part of a larger batch purchased by Max Whitby for his commercial element collections: I piggybacked the purchase of this material from the same source, for a sum that must remain confidential per our agreement with the source, who also wishes to remain anonymous. (Nothing illegal mind you, ownership and sales of thorium metal in small quantities is perfectly legal, they just don't want anyone hassling them to sell more of it.)

This sheet is about 1/16" thick, not just a foil, a real plate, heavy due to the high density. The photograph shows it as it originally came to me, it is now 3/4" shorter because I cut off a 15 gram (out of a total of 50 grams originally) rectangle of it to trade for a depleted uranium projectile. Please note that if you're looking for a serious chuck of thorium metal (a) good luck and (b) don't bother asking me, I am not prepared to trade any of this material for blood or money. The only thing I might trade it for is a seriously unusual sample of something I don't have anything like: A significant historical object, genuine DU tank penetrator, that kind of thing."

I just find that whole description fascinating on so many levels and WHAT is a DU tank penetrator?! The way that Theodore tells the stories behind each element is pure entertainment. Secretive buying and selling of rare and possibly dangerous metals aside, the passion and enthusiasm that the author has for his work is apparent throughout the project. The life he has brought to the Periodic Table is incredible.

In addition, Tom Lehrer's famous Elements song now has a visual animation to go with it:

If you thought that was fun, check out Daniel Radcliffe singing the whole thing on a British talk show. I had no idea he was a geek too!! With a great memory!!

I think what is so remarkable about this project is the visual display of information. I am a visual person and if I can see something and make it real, my understanding and memory of it is really improved. I think for students, this is an incredible tool for learning, and every science classroom should have a large poster hanging on the wall and a handout for each student.

Theodore Grey has done us a great service in harnessing his passion and directing it into a project in which we can all share in his knowledge and enthusiasm for the elements that make up our world.

*All images used with permission from Theodore Gray*

Walking the High Line in New York City by Leslie

Ever since I heard about the IDEA of the High Line over 12 years ago, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It took a few years for the city to support the effort and a few more years to design and build it but section one of the High Line was officially open in June 2009 and section two opened in June of this year. I've been waiting for the day when I got to check it out for myself and check this item off my Life List. Read about the history of the High Line.

Jill at Terra Savvy made a trip there with her family in the early summer and it reminded me that I really needed to go there too. I was finally able to go a few weeks ago when one of our best friends was in town with her daughter. It was awesome. I do wish I had been able to relax a little more though, with the kids and the strollers it was a bit busy, but we did get to sit and just enjoy watching the people walk by the end of the afternoon.

If I lived in the city I would make regular excuses to head over to that part of town so I could walk north or south on the high line. It's really more than a walkway though, it's a destination in itself, a place to go and stay if you like. We spent most of our time in section one because Quinn fell asleep in Chris's arms and refused to go in the stroller, so we had to sit down and missed section two. There is a third section, around the West Side Rail Yards, and it's still up in the air whether or not it will be developed as a park and be continuous with sections one and two.

The design of the High Line is incredible, they have done an amazing job blending nature with the city. Nature is beautiful all by itself, but somehow the contrast of the cement and nature together just heightens the experience of both. I love the cement pieces that fit together loosely around the edges to blend with nature, the remnants of train tracks, the vendors, the water feature, the deck chairs and benches and the private spaces. The amphitheater with the street below as a stage is amazing and the artwork hanging on the walls of buildings for ideal viewing from the path are genius.

If you are in New York, you MUST check it out. I hope to return one or two more times before the cold weather comes. I'm so thankful to our friends L and H for suggesting that we go there and it was wonderful to spend the day with them. We love them so much, aren't they pretty? And I absolutely LOVE how adorable Milo is with H.

Blooming Lilies and Plans to Expand by Leslie

My backyard lilies bloomed about a month ago, just as we returned from our trip to Canada this summer. I was happy to be able to photograph them this year. My passion for photography has re-emerged in this last year of blogging and I'm finding that for all the things that I love to do, this is what I am the best at and what I enjoy the most. 

In keeping with the blooming flower as a metaphor, I am finally making plans to expand the photography section of this site. The only thing in that section before was my portfolio, which you can now find in the far right column under "Featured Content", just click the graphic to go there. For now I have removed "Photography" from the upper navigation until I can spend some quality time designing it and creating some new content. 

I am looking forward to working on content that is specifically photography related, like how-to's, guides and tips. If there is anything you are interested in learning about from me, any questions you have about how or what I do with my photography, please leave me a comment or send me an email and I can address it in the new section.

I polished up my About Me page, re-cropping the photo and making the content easier to read with sub-headings. I also added a link to my new professional profile on About.me. I added my email address and twitter handle to my Contact Me page as well. I hope this makes it easier for people to get in touch.

I removed my affiliate links, as they weren't doing anything for me and were just taking up valuable space. Maybe some day in the future, when I have a larger readership I will again consider advertising, but for now this site will be advertising free and all products featured here are non-sponsored.

I added links to the most recent posts and the most recent comments, those appear in the middle column, which is now dedicated to links for navigating site content. My category list is still there, below the recent posts and comments, but simplified without type size changes and with the number of items in each category included in brackets.

I hope these changes will make it easier for you to find what you are looking for and to navigate and browse my older content more easily. If you have any other suggestions or requests, I am happy to hear them!

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II & EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
Exposures: top & bottom: ISO 400, 1/60 secs at f/2.8, middle: ISO 800, 1/60 secs at f/2.8
Lighting: Natural light

Geocaching: A Real World GPS Treasure Hunt by Leslie

Do you know what geocaching is? If I told you that it's a "secret" treasure hunting game with items hidden everywhere around you, would you believe me? I didn't believe it at first and I couldn't wait to learn more. It sounded so fun and intriguing. My uncles in Canada told me about it, but I quickly learned that it is a world wide thing. 

The basic idea is that you use a GPS device or your smartphone to locate a hidden "cache". Once you find it, you write your name in the log book contained in the cache and if there are items you can take one or two as long as you leave items of equal value in it's place. The most basic cache is just a log book, the biggest that I have seen are army canisters containing dozens of plastic toys and other tokens. 

To find the coordinates of the cache's you must join a website called Geocaching.com. You will create a profile and search for cache's near you using your zipcode or address. The results come up in a list or a map view. If you have a GPS device you will download the information to use while you are out in the field searching. I prefer to use my iPhone, which I can use out in the field to search for nearby caches on the fly. When you find a cache, you can also log it on the site to keep track of the ones you have found.

 When you head out you will want to bring a pen and items to leave in place of items you take. Challenges include locating caches in busy areas without people who are unaware about geocaching noticing what you are doing. These unaware people are called Muggles, like in the Harry Potter books. Other challenges are inherent in being out in the woods, we had to turn away from a cache when we heard there was a bear nearby, and you should make all the same kind of preparations that you would for a hike; sunscreen, bug spray, water, hats, good shoes, etc. 

It's a great reason to get out on the trails, providing a purpose and a goal and giving directions. Hunting for a cache in Wawayanda lead us to a trail we had never seen before. The kids love it, there is nothing more fun than finding a treasure box! GPS coordinates will get you to a general area and then you must search with your eyes and brains to find it. Often there are clues you can view if you get stuck. Caches are usually well hidden so that people just wandering by will not spot them, inside trees, under rocks or tree bark or even in a magnetic case stuck underneath a railing!

These are the basics, there are more challenging caches located up mountains or across lakes. Each cache is rated for difficulty and terrain. So far we have stuck to the easy ones, but I hope to scale up once the kids get older. There are multiple caches that string you along until you find the final one. And then there are the trackables. These are often plastic animals or coins that have a serial number on them. When you find one you can enter the code into the website and see where the trackable has been and then move it to another cache. We found one from Japan and I was thrilled when the owner sent me an email from Japan to say Hi! It was kind of thrilling. 

Once you get used to the tenants of the game, you can hide your own cache for people to find. Hardcore enthusiasts love to be the first to find (FTF) a cache, which often comes with a bonus coin or trackable. To be the first to find you must sign up for the paid version of the site to get notifications when a new cache is posted and then run out immediately, or early the next morning to beat everyone there.

Geocaching is a wonderful way to get the whole family out into nature and enjoying the thrill of the hunt. There is more to it than what I have described here, these are just the basics to get you started. There is a rich history in orienteering and letterboxing to discover along with all the different kinds of caches that you can find. From Wikipedia, "Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica. After 10 years of activity there are over 1.3 million active geocaches published on various websites. There are over 5 million geocachers worldwide."

Do you geocache? Please tell me about your best find and maybe any tips or tricks you have learned since starting. Look for me on the Geocaching site: NY Mama.

(Full Disclosure: This is NOT a paid post. These are my own words and recommendations.)

 

More Resources

Geocaching.com: Guide to the Game

Amazon.com: Books, Devices and Tokens

Wikipedia: Geocaching

 

Alone at the Lake by Leslie

Way back in May, before the beach was officially open and the summer got a little crazy, I took the boys to the lake. They had been playing in the water a little bit but the park ranger came over to tell me that they were not allowed to swim because there were no lifeguards. This was the same day that I took those neat sand photos.

Some poeple might think it's particularily lonely to be at the beach when no one else is there, but for me, it's my favorite time to go. We felt like it was our own private place and the kids can wander far without me having to worry about them disappearing in the crowd.

Early season empty beaches are long gone, but soon you will be able to find late season freedom. After labor day it gets a little chillier, but plan to visit your favorite summer spot when the crowds are gone. You can have the place to yourself and extend your summer just a tiny bit longer.

Prints in the Sand by Leslie

Sand, as a metaphor, has great potential. Made up of millions of tiny grains, able to be molded into a shape with water and wind, all at once delicate and strong. It is as powerful as the sea and it's complete opposite.

These patterns and shapes, the tire tracks of tractors pushing the sand around on the beach, were so dynamic and powerful with the bright sunlight. The next day, after a busy Saturday of feet walking all over them, they were gone. 

Blossoms in Purple by Leslie

Last week I started seeing all these beautiful purple flowers blooming at the same time along my drive to Milo's school. So with the kids in the car one day, I made three stops to speed shoot the Purple Sensation Allium, the Iris and some kind of purple wild flower. I had no expectations, being in a rush, but I'm really happy with how these turned out. It was late in the day and the sun was at a nice angle and I'm getting better at adjusting my camera quickly. 

I've always loved taking pictures of flowers and the Iris may have been one the first that I took pictures of years and years ago. I took those first flower shots for my Grandma, who's name is Iris. I always think of her when I see these beautiful purple flowers.

Do certain flowers make you think of certain people? What are your favorite flowers? I had a great flower garden when we lived in New Jersey, but I haven't had the time to really get it going up here yet and there are also way more deer here who like to munch on the most beautiful blooms. I am limited to our fenced backyard for space, but I'd like to plant some Irises, thistles and a few more lilies this summer.

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II,  EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens

Exposures: All at ISO 100 and f/2.8
#1 Allium: 1/2000 secs at f/2.8
#2 Dark Iris: 1/800 secs at f/2.8
#3 Light Iris: 1/250 secs at f/2.8
#4 Wild Flower: 1/3200 secs at f/2.8
#5 Dark Iris: 1/1000 secs at f/2.8
#6 Light Iris: 1/250 secs at f/2.8
#7 Wild Flower: 1/3200 secs at f/2.8
#8 Allium: 1/1250 secs at f/2.8

Lighting: Natural light

Illustrator James Gordon Irving and the Golden Nature Guides by Leslie

Chris discovered a bunch of books that he had as a kid in his parent's basement. This original 1955 Golden Nature Guide about Mammals is one of Milo and Quinn's new favorite books. It's the perfect size for their little hands and they are enamored with the illustrations. Everything in this book is drawn and this somehow makes it a bit more accessible. Drawings can be gentler than photographs and idealized to a point where you just want to hug all the animals.

The illustrator for the Mammals book, James Gordon Irving, contributed to a number of the original Golden Nature guides, including Insects, Fishes, Birds and Stars (covers below). I wasn't able to find very much information about him on the internet. His original illustrations appear in five of the reissued guides by St. Martin's Press.

 

Here is a complete list of all the original titles, with links to details including the cover images.

From Wikipedia:

"The Golden Guides, originally Golden Nature Guides, are a series of pocket-sized books that were created by Western Publishing and published under their "Golden Press" line (mostly used for children's books at the time) beginning in 1949. Intended for Grade to High-School level, the series began as field guides with such titles as Birds (1949)Flowers (1950), and Mammals (1955) and then expanded to a wider range of subjects that weren't strictly identification guides.

They have become quite collectible, and some of the rarer titles (such as Hallucinogenic Plants) can fetch high prices depending on the edition and condition."

For more like this, visit Paper Sponge, my new favorite website. It's all things ephemera, which is one of my favorite words and favorite things. I have a lot of paper ephemera, stamps, postcards, letters, books, labels... the older the better. Do you like to collect old paper things?

At the Lake and a Big Pile of Sand by Leslie

Late in the afternoon last week, a friend of mine tipped me off to the fact that a large truck load of sand had just been delivered to Wawayanda, our local State park that has a beautiful lake and beach area. She told me I HAD to take the boys after I told her how much fun they had in a mud puddle the day before. There were just a few hours before Chris would be home from work and it was a 20 minute drive away, so I put the chicken pot pie in the oven and we headed out for a very last minute, no frills, hour-long trip to the beach.

It's still a bit too cold to swim and there isn't a life guard or swim area set up yet, so I told the boys we were just going to play in the sand. Of course, we couldn't resist dipping our toes into the water and even though I asked them to only go as deep as their knees, before I knew it they were completely soaked. Quinn fell in the water at one point (see the video below) and by then it was a lost cause! I thought it was super cute that they held their shorts up to try to keep them dry, even after they were totally wet.

Even though I had asked them to try to stay dry, I knew it wasn't likely to happen. They were having such fun and I so enjoyed watching them play together that I couldn't possibly be mad about them getting so wet and dirty. It's just a little water and sand after all, nothing that can't be cleaned up. It was the same with the mud puddle. Quinn was covered in mud from head to toe and I literally hosed him off, but it was worth it for the joy I could see in his face when he squished the mud in his hands and between his toes.

Anyway - it's my favorite time to go to the beach; when it isn't too hot, no one is there, and I don't have to cart a bunch of stuff for the whole afternoon. It was just a casual trip to enjoy the sand and the water. Milo and Quinn were such buddies, playing together side by side the whole time. I love being able to step back to just let them be together, summer is so wonderful for all the time we get to spend outside. It really does make everything easier, they rarely fight when we are outside, it's just all smiles and fun.

The Beauty of a Magnolia Tree by Leslie

I just can't get enough spring flowers. I spotted this gorgeous Magnolia tree over the weekend, and while my family patiently waited in the car I walked over to romance it a little. Of course it's gorgeous from far away, with the perfectly blue sky behind it, but it wasn't until I stepped all the way around to the other side and got up in and under the tree did I get this beautiful shot.

All the petals have almost fallen away from this bloom, it's not a perfect flower and the center of the flower is exposed and vulnerable. It's just exactly how I would like to see myself. I am not perfect, I am vulnerable and yet I am still beautiful and strong.

The sun was behind me and the petals of the tree became like a giant soft box, diffusing the light and making everything look just so subtle and magical. 

Magnolia trees are rare around here, there is just one other that I know of, but it was in a difficult spot to easily take pictures of. This one was perfectly accessible.

I got out from underneath the tree and also got this great direct light shot. The shapes of the petals are so graceful. Perhaps my next painting?

But what I love the best about these pictures are the colors. Recently I began reading Color Collective and I love how they pull a color palette off a few pictures, so I borrowed their idea and made a palette for these shots. 

It's the essence of the Magnolia tree in six colors. I loooooooove that yellow-green. It's one of my favorite colors and I use it as an accent in my house often, as in my new Crate and Barrel dishes. I could kiss that color, that's how happy it makes me.

What makes you happy these days? Flowers? Colors? Spring?

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II & EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
Exposure: All ISO 100. 1: 1/200 secs at f/3.5, 2: 1/400 secs at f/3.5, 3: 1/400 secs at f/37.1, 4: 1/250 secs at f/5.6
Lighting: Natural light