Sunday, February 12, 2017

Early Morning Wake Up Call

January has had its share of foggy mornings this year, and although I understand the hazard they impose on early morning commuters and school buses, the photographer in me loves those kind of misty, mysterious beginnings to the day.   A few weeks ago, my morning was running uncharacteristically ahead of schedule and the world was again shrouded in that gray fogginess that softens the hard edges of winter, so I grabbed my camera bag and headed north to the woods of Bailly Homestead in the Dunes National Lakeshore.   Unfortunately the farther north I drove, the less fog I encountered and by the time I had parked the car, unpacked my camera and hit the trail, it was almost gone altogether.

What I did find was the calming peacefulness of an early morning walk in the woods.   It was the kind of quiet that draws you in, wraps itself around you and slows your pace.   There were still sounds -  forest morning sounds of birds calling to each other, a slight breeze that scraped the tops of bare trees against each other and my footfalls on the soggy path.

As usual when I am hiking, my mind began to wander to other precious early morning experiences. My thoughts traveled back to the early hike on the Wonderland Trail in Tremont, Maine with the morning's rays streaming in through the trees as we trekked to the rocky Atlantic shoreline and watched the sun climb into a blue, blue sky. Then there was the morning last August, waking up on a windy ridge high in the Cascade Mountains, to watch the sun peek out from behind Mount Shuksan and pour bright light into our tent.

My life is ever blessed for the experiences of those mornings.    I cannot promise that my mornings in the future will be altered to spend more of them with a quiet woodland walk to start to my day, but what I can guarantee is that when those mornings arise, they will be cherished .

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Record Store Day

Every April since 2007 one Saturday is set aside just to celebrate record stores and music sold on vinyl records. They call it "Record Store Day" - imagine that!

Before the age of CD's and digital downloads, every month, every week, every day would have been Record Store Day.  Sure, there were cassettes and those awful 8-tracks because spinning vinyl in your car wasn't a option.  But there was something about the anticipation of searching out the newest albums, standing bent over the front of long, waist-high wooden cases of creative album covers, sorted alphabetically and by genre, fingering through each album to find new music or that classic disc for your collection.

Where I lived, there was a favorite spot in a neighboring town where we went to buy new albums.  It was a small, bright store really in business to sell audio equipment - stereos, speakers, turntables and all the related accessories - however the store also had several long cases filled with vinyl records.   Many of the teenagers who visited the store knew and greeted the store's owner by name. Grabbing the newest release before it sold out meant the trip was successful but there were always plenty of other albums to flip through if you arrived there too late.

Last Saturday we headed into Chicago to celebrate Record Store Day and we planned our route to visit five different locations around the city.  These days my husband does the searching, mostly for more obscure titles and filling in the gaps of his collection.  I go along for the interesting locations, the people we meet and, lets face it, the fantastic options for a great breakfast and lunch.
The weather was beautiful.  It was a great day to be in the city and we hopped around from neighborhood to neighborhood celebrating record stores and music with a lot of other folks.

At a pop-up location in a sweet little brick building in Logan Square, we waited in a line that extended from the front counter to the rear wall and back towards the front again in a large loop. At a popular store in Lincoln Square, a five-piece rock band was tucked into the back of the store, playing tribute to David Bowie by covering only Bowie songs.  At a store in Wicker Park, if you made a purchase, you could spin a wheel to win free stuff - it was all stuff the store probably needed to get rid of anyway, but it was still fun and I didn't see anyone pass up the opportunity.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bare Trees

I know it is April in Northwest Indiana and we are all anxious to see buds forming on the trees and green in our landscape again.  However I love photographing the shapes of trees, proudly standing and reaching long after their leafy garments have fallen to the ground.

Trees have a mysterious beauty and grace that can only be seen once they have shed their green robes.   Yes, they are beautiful when they are full of spring blooms, majestic in summer's green mantle and breathtaking in autumn's fiery display.  But beneath all those trappings, each tree hides a personality that can be witnessed only when the sap flows down to the roots and winter's winds scatter the leaves.

Boughs and branches curve this way and that, always reaching like bony fingertips up and out and over.  No two trees are the same, no shape duplicated.  To me they are fascinating!

They stand in stark contrast against the sky - silhouettes that remind me of the Asian art I tried to emulate as a young girl.  Dropping a large dot or two of India ink on slick white rice paper and blowing air through a straw to make the ink travel across the page uncontrolled,  I was able to create dark, meandering lines that looked like branches and vines.  My artwork was a pale comparison to the artistry of the real tree trunks and branches I love to capture in my photographs.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Springtime Celebration

Last Friday I was talking with a person who moved to this area from upstate New York.  The conversation naturally led to the beauty of that part of country - something with which I can agree wholeheartedly, having visited the Finger Lakes region last August.  Then she looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and said, "now I live here (meaning northwest Indiana) where we don't have anything pretty like that."  That's where we began to disagree.

The next day we drove down to Newton County to visit our grandchildren.  I love daffodils for many reasons and my daughter told me about this farm nearby where they plant hundreds and hundreds of them simply for the joy of it and they love to share it with visitors.   It was such a beautiful spring day and finding this farm was part of my plan for the afternoon.  My daughter decided to load the two kids into the car and join us.  Armed with some directions from my son-in-law and my camera gear, we crossed Highway 41 and wound our way along country roads south and west past a lovely brick church, flat fields waiting to be planted, white farmhouses and large oak trees silhouetted against a bright blue sky.   The paved road gave way to gravel and the gravel road gave way to a single lane of double tire paths bordered on each side and separated in the middle by well-kept grass.   This lane made a turn to the right and became the approach to a beautiful secluded farm tucked away in the middle of the Indiana landscape.   There were daffodils everywhere - surrounding the pond, carpeting the grass around the windmill, scattered amongst the trees that bordered the sweet little farmhouse.  It was lovely!

We spent about an hour there lazily wandering around the pond.  The family that owns this land takes the time each fall to plant more and more daffodils so that in the spring, they not only get to enjoy this springtime celebration, but welcome friends and neighbors to visit and enjoy it too.  Several others came and went while we were there, enjoying the day and the sight.   Quite often I had to stop and take it all in, trying to capture with my camera just how special this place is.  And I remembered my conversation from the night before.  Our part of Indiana does not boast of the same beauty and sights as other parts of the country - it doesn't have to.   Indiana's landscape and people have a beauty uniquely their own. It's a joy to find little surprises like this farm and I know you've got a lot more to show off, Indiana.  I'll be looking for it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

That Lake!

I was having a pretty stressful Monday yesterday so I went to the lake.  I certainly wasn't dressed for a stroll on the beach in my ankle boot wedges and office attire, but fortunately the sand was still packed pretty hard from having been frozen throughout the winter.  I'm sure I looked out of place as I stepped as carefully as a person could in high-heeled shoes on a sandy beach, but I needed this.  And the lake did not disappoint.   It never does.

I could have stood there for hours watching those waves start somewhere close to the horizon line, rise up, crest into whitewater and crash into Lake Michigan's famous ice boulders before washing over the edges of remaining shelf ice onto the beach.  The sound was amazing; watching all that power come roaring into the shoreline was fascinating.  Crazy as it sounds, it was calming to stand at a distance safe enough from the danger of shelf ice unpredictability but close enough to see the ice boulders roll and bob in the aftermath of each wave.  
In contrast to the continuous attack of the waves against the shoreline, stood the serene simplicity of the landscape. While the waves were gaining their momentum farther out, my attention turned to the shapes of monolithic shelf ice along the shore, the stark line of the horizon against the watercolor sky and the patterns of sand on a thawing beach.  

I did finally remember that I had a limited time schedule and checked my watch, not altogether sure how long I had been wandering up and down that section of beach.

I always have a hard time pulling myself away; convincing myself that I've seen enough; taken enough photos; experienced the best of what I came looking for.   Just before I stepped back onto the pavement that led to the parking lot, I turned back around for a final glance.   That lake . . . wild and powerful and dangerous one minute; calm and peaceful and elegant the next.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A February Snowstorm

I've lived in Northwest Indiana for most of my life and one sure thing everyone learns about living here is that the weather is always going to change. Especially in February!

Last weekend, we enjoyed the most beautiful sixty degree Saturday.  The sky was blue, the birds were singing and the hiking trails were calling my name. Today, a mere five days later, we awoke to a world completely transformed into a scene from a holiday Christmas card.   Twelve inches of heavy wet snow (my snow shovel-wielding husband swears it's more) started falling last night and didn't stop until this morning, causing every bush and small tree in our yard to bend in graceful arcs and travel to be perilous.

After we heaved a deep sigh and finished clearing off not only our driveway but the neighbors, as well, it was hard to ignore just how beautiful the world had become overnight.  The birds had managed to find access to their seed in the feeders, and were amicably sharing their grub with a local squirrel.  My scarecrow bird house was smiling out from under the hat Mother Nature redesigned for him. There were patterns everywhere and everything had become simpler, cleaner, quieter.

I banished our lab mix, Cooper, to the house, much to his
displeasure, because I wanted to experience the peaceful
landscape untouched.  I have to admit I wasn't really
dressed that well for carefully trudging through wet
snow up to my knees.  Cold and wet were soon forgotten,
however, once I began to explore all the fascinating
creations the snow had made in my backyard.  There were graceful arcs and soft pillows; bushes taking a bow to stately maple trees whose bark was all speckled with bits of snow.   There were stick branches reaching to the sky with snow shaped by the wind winding around them like ribbon candy.  The sun tried to make an appearance for a few moments but its hazy glow gave way to clouds again in short order.

Finally, hearing a jingling behind me, I turned to find
Cooper poised at the edge of a snowbank.   He had waited long enough for his own way of enjoying this February gift.  A quick call of his name was all it took to have him bounding through the drifts, around the garden, in and out of the beautiful formations.  Of course, he could do this for hours, and so could I.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Eckart America Annual Awards Banquet

As a photographer, it is always a privilege to share in the celebrations of life and capture photographs that will provide memories for years to come. This was my third year to provide photography for the Eckart America annual awards banquet.   Held each year at the Innsbrook Country Club, the event is always a warm, pleasant evening set aside to celebrate milestones and recognize successful achievement.
Many in the room have worked together for a long time and it is evident how they care about each other as they exchange hugs, visit over cocktails and catch up on each others lives with spouses and significant others.    The evening moved quickly through cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, dinner, awards presentations, music for dancing, some fun in a makeshift casino and even a round of happy birthday sung to one of the managers.   You are always a class act, Eckart America.   Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.