Monday, November 30, 2015

Sounds of Life

Last Sunday in church the message centered around having children in our midst and returning to a child-like faith. I couldn't help but think of the family photo session I'd had the day before.   As a photographer, taking photos of children is one of my favorite things to do because they are so genuine, honest and real.   Many times, however, I'm exhausted by the end of the session and after my gear is all tucked back into my car and I am driving away, I can't help but wonder if I've captured any photos worth using.

When I scrolled through last Saturday's photos, this one instantly became one of my favorites.  I love the pure joy on that little boy's face.  Oh to have that much fun just because!

I have noticed that, especially in my street photography, I tend to capture the simplicity and uninhibited wonder of children.  Sometimes they are almost unnoticeable but sometimes they are miniature whirlwinds of activity and noise - my minister called this the "sound of life," and I think that description sums it up perfectly. I'll choose the sounds of life every time.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Memories in the woods

There is something about going for a walk in an Indiana forest that takes me back more years than I would like to admit.  The musty-sweet smell, the call of bluejays in the trees, the breeze causing leaves to dip and float from their lofty heights down to the sandy floor, the peacefulness of being out in the woods - sensations that trigger memories of a ten-year old girl, fresh off of the city streets of Chicago for a Girl Scout camping weekend in what we surely thought was a wilderness adventure.   Twice each year, we had the chance to build campfires, tell scary stories, blaze trails through the forest, get lost and then get found again.  It was where I learned folks songs around a fire, how to get toasted marshmallows off a whittled stick so they could be squished between layers of graham crackers and chocolate bars, how to extract our boots from spring mud and how to use stones and sticks to mark a new trail for others to follow.   That young girl would have been pleased to know that this grown-up version lives close enough to walk these forests as often as she can . . . . and remember.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Acadia Cairns - Guiding the Way

Hiking closer to the top of Dorr Mountain in Acadia National Park off the coast of Maine, we found the path and vegetation give way to dense fog and the pink granite rock for which Acadia is known.

What we found as our hike brought us near the top are Acadia Cairns, strategically placed stacked rocks designed to show hikers the way across long stretches of barren landscape.

I was so intrigued by these little formations that I did some research when I returned back home. The word cairn is Scottish meaning "a pile of stones" and the tradition of building cairns to mark the trail for hikers is universal and hundreds of years old.  I found out that there are several different styles of cairns. The ones found on Acadia's trails are called Bates Cairns, named for Waldron Bates, who developed the simplistic style of two to four stones creating "legs," a mantle stone bridging the legs and one smaller stone on top to point the way.  Sadly park rangers have recognized the need to post a sign at the trailhead asking hikers not to dismantle, alter or build new cairns.  It seems in recent years, vandalized cairns have been on the rise, causing environmental and safety concerns for hikers.

Not only was I completely taken by the charm of the cairns - I probably took about twenty photos of them from different vantage points - I was thankful they were there, beckoning us across the granite and eventually leading us back to the semblance of a trail that would take us back down the other side of the mountain.   What reassurance those piles of stones provided - Don't we all sometimes need the comfort of knowing that if we become unsure of the way, we can rely on the directional markers of those who have gone before.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Go To The Ballpark

If you ever feel the need to restore your faith in humanity, go to the ballpark.   My husband and I went to Wrigley Field yesterday afternoon for an afternoon of baseball Northside Chicago style. The day started out rainy and gray but by the time the first pitch was thrown, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful afternoon for a baseball game.

As the ballpark filled and time grew closer to hearing the familiar words "Play Ball" shouted into a microphone by two very excited young boys in blue t-shirts, I began to notice a wonderful phenomenon happening all around me.   Fans and ushers alike offered to help couples and friends and families take pictures to commemorate their day at the game.  It was evident that the usher responsible for getting handicapped fans and visitors settled into their section to the right and left of our seats behind home plate loved his job.   This man smiled and laughed and rearranged seating to make sure each visitor would have the best experience possible and half-way through the game, he returned to check on his new friends, offering thumbs up as a sign that they were comfortable and enjoying the afternoon.

Strangers passed money along rows from buyers to vendors and passed back to purchasing fans bags of peanuts, bottles of water and cups of beer.  High fives were shared for a home run.  Cheers went up for a fan in the upper deck who caught a foul ball with his bare hands.

There was a capacity crowd at the ballpark yesterday. By and large, there was also a capacity of good will, kind gestures and mutual joy in sharing not only the love of the game, but a few hours of sunshine and hopefulness and release from the world outside the friendly confines.  Oh, and by the way . . . the Cubs won.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The County Fair -

July in Indiana means hot, steamy days, acres of tall corn tasseling out, fields strewn with freshly baled hay, cloudless blue skies and county fairs.   Although I have never raised or shown animals at the fair - the 4-H days of my past were full of sewing projects, freezing and canning of fruits and vegetables, and home interior projects - I have wonderful memories watching my daughter, nieces, nephews and friends prepare and compete with horses, dogs, swine and steer for that Grand Champion prize.  These young people spend countless hours learning about, feeding, and working with their animals.   It is wonderful to watch the bond of friendship, admiration and respect that grows between them.

During my visit to the Porter County Fair last week, we stopped in at the livestock auction on Thursday night in the Steer Barn, and I was fortunate to capture this photo of a young lady waiting patiently towards the back of the arena.   Every once in a while the steer would throw back its head and call out a loud, low moo to show its disapproval at having to stand and wait, and each time the young girl would talk to the animal, coo, rub its back and even plant a kiss on the top of its head for reassurance.

It goes without saying that at the end of the night, with all the steers auctioned off, this young lady probably never saw this steer again.  There's a lesson there, too, somewhere that these young people learn. Next spring they will start all over with a new calf, piglet, rabbit, goat, or other show animal and they will meet back here in July at the county fair.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Breathe, stop, listen

There is something wonderful about having driven the same road over and over many times, and suddenly one day you come around the bend and you are surprised by the late afternoon sky, the newly baled hay, the freshly mown field,   Breathe deep, stop, listen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fourth of July Hiking

Between the cool, rainy weather patterns and our overfilled schedules this summer, there has been little time for hiking.  Because the Fourth of July holiday fell on a Saturday boasting a warm, sunny forecast, we decided to pull out our hiking gear and head to Cowles Bog for our maiden hike through this lush, sandy, landscape.  Our yellow labrador mix, Cooper, was ready for adventure, and literally dragged his owners at the end of his leash to the trailhead around 7:30 am, backpacks stocked with water bottles, cliff bars, fruit and dog treats. Except for a group of energetic runners that disappeared down the trail ahead of us, we had the peaceful solitude of the trail to ourselves. Our workweek-worn senses were met with the welcome call of a bluejay in the canopy, the rustle of chipmunks in the brush and the sun-dappled trail before us.

We consider the Cowles Bog trail, a five-mile loop through thick forest, marshy bogs, sandy dunes and a solitary Lake Michigan beach, one of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore's finest hikes.   The trail required just the right amount of physical exertion to get our blood pumping, climbing higher and spilling out suddenly at the top of a sand dune to a wide view of the lake below us.

 We settled down on the quiet lakeshore for a snack of cliff bars and cherries for us and treats for Cooper.   Morning mist was still hanging low over the water farther out.  A single boat was anchored off the shore, the owners of whom probably had enjoyed the smoldering remains of a nearby campfire.

We finished our hike and completed the loop well before mid-day.  On the day set aside to celebrate our nation's birthday, the hike was a fitting way to celebrate its natural habitat and beauty.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Women Build

When I was a little girl I once said that when I grew up, I was going to be a carpenter like my father.   My dad had apprenticed as a cabinet maker in Switzerland in the 1950's.  After he married my mother, they moved to Chicago to begin a new life together, and since there weren't many opportunities for cabinet makers, he became a carpenter - a profession he continued for the rest of his life.

My sisters and I grew up around the sound of hammers and circular saws.  We knew the difference between slotted flat and phillips screwdrivers. We played with wooden folding rulers.  Chunky, flat carpenters pencils were normal in our house. We knew what a plumb line was and our father's old chicken house-turned-carpenter's shop was a treasure trove of sawdust piles, saw horses, stacks of discarded wood pieces and drill bits of every size.

When Habitat for Humanity was looking for  photographers to spend some time taking photos of their recent home building project, I jumped at the chance for several reasons.
This was a unique project because it was called a "women's build" where much of the work was completed by women. Having been the oldest of three girls to grow up as carpenter's daughters, I knew that this work could most certainly be done by capable women and I was thrilled to be able to capture their progress.   It had been a long time since I'd been around a building site and it felt good to wander in and out of the skeletal wood framing, picking my way around two-by-fours, ladders and tool boxes on the unfinished floor.   I was fortunate to meet the young woman whose home they were building.  Although she didn't have carpentry skills to offer, she was there to lend a hand, carry tools, deliver fresh cut wood sections where they were needed and sweep up as she watched her future home rise up around her.  

I drive by the site every now and then to check on the progress and I look forward to one day soon seeing a finished home. And I still love the smell of sawdust.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Bicycle Project

My first bicycle photo was taken on a sunny fall day purely by accident.  We were spending a girl's day together. My mother, sisters, daughters, nieces and I had traveled up Highway 31 in search of gift shops, farmers markets and antique stores.  We had stopped at a quaint little shop in what may have been Lapaz or Lakeville or another of the small towns along that way.  I was drawn to the back of the store where an open door led out to a garden full of outdoor statues, ironwork and yard ornaments scattered among autumn's leaves and vegetation.  Leaning against the back fence was this wonderful old bike, half buried in grasses with an old metal watering can hanging from one of its handle bars, faded white seat covered in leaves and rusty carrying rack over the rear wheel.  I imagined someone riding into the garden from errands, having hopped off to lean the bike against the fence for a momentary rest never to return.

Six years later and everywhere I travel, I notice bicycles.  My Bicycle Project was born.   I am intrigued by them and the places where I find them. I have photographed them on the sandy beach of Lake Michigan, in a bar in Seattle and on a cobblestoned street in a tiny Black Forest town in Germany. I have photographed them being used for decoration, for the necessity of travel and for the joy of the ride.  A bicycle leaning against a wall signifies life, a person has been here, is nearby and will probably return.  For many of us our childhood includes bicycle adventures and we pass the ability to ride down to our children.  Bicycles never go out of style.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sunrise over Chicago

When the alarm clock went off at 3:30 in the morning to rouse us out of bed in the dark, the temptation to roll over and curl back under the covers was very enticing.   The plan was to be downtown Chicago in Grant Park by 5:30 am to participate in the annual Bike The Drive event where they close down famous Lake Shore Drive to automobiles and open it instead to 20,000 people on bicycles.

We pedaled onto Lake Shore Drive at about 5:40 am - ten minutes late of our goal - but in plenty of time to witness the sun rising over Navy Pier and that fantastic lake which fills me with awe time and time again.  This particular morning was certainly no exception.    On any other day of the week, we would be, along with countless others, speeding past this sight in our car - maybe we'd catch a glimpse of the sight and say, "Oh, the sun is coming up" but more important attention would be paid to the traffic and to the maneuvering of our own vehicle along that shoreline strip of pavement.   This time, however, we could stop, wonder, photograph and enjoy the sight.

The old saying, "Red sky at morning, sailor take warning" held true and this was our only view of the sun that day.  By the time we made our ride up to the northern-most stop of the trip, the sky had clouded over and by the time we returned back south to Grant Park, we were damp from the rain.   In spite of the turn in the weather, or maybe because of it, we felt fortunate and blessed for the experience of that sunrise.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fog and Sound

The sound of the lake was amazing that afternoon when the fog hung over the lake like a shroud.   Maybe it was heightened because the lake was hidden behind a curtain.  The continuous swish in and out as the waves met the sand on the beach could be heard loud and clear and strong while I was still climbing down the dunes to the shoreline.  Long before I could see the waves, I could hear them. There was no other sound; no wind or calling gull; just wave after wave after wave washing in with simple white caps, reminding me that although the lake couldn't be seen, its power was still there.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Walking pink

Two weeks ago my daughters, my granddaughter
and I walked in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer walk in Indianapolis on a team to honor and support a young woman very dear to our hearts.  My husband dropped me off on the campus of IUPUI at seven o'clock on a chilly but sunny April morning.  With camera in hand, I walked a block to Military Park where the event was being held, arriving just in time for the start of the Pink Parade.  Since I was so much earlier than the others I was meeting, I wandered over to watch.  

The Pink Parade is a march of survivors, beginning with the newest one year or less, and going all the way up to 50 and 60 year survivors.  Our dear friend began her battle seven months ago so I knew she would be one of the first in the parade.  It was difficult to keep my camera focused through the tears that welled up when I spotted Renae walking in that parade of survivors.   Accompanied by her husband, she looked strong, confident and beautiful and at that moment, my heart broke and swelled with pride all at the same time.  There are no words to describe the battle these women face every day, the strength they exhibit and the examples they set before us.  I am looking forward to seeing Renae in that parade again for many years to come, and marches like this will help make it possible.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Downtown LaPorte photowalk

"I'll take it," I said to the woman in the downtown LaPorte antique store.  She had just taken a vintage pearl necklace out of the showcase for me.   The price was right and it was a unique piece.  So I stepped up to the counter, set down my camera on the glass top and began to reach for my purse.  As soon as she spotted my camera, she struck up a conversation about it, and I knew from having previously been in the store that she was a kindred photographer spirit.  It was evident to her keen eye that it was a gorgeous Indiana Saturday morning, I was armed with my camera and I was headed out for a photo walk. My husband was downstairs sorting through an entire basement of vinyl and knowing he was probably going to be there a while, I turned for the stairs to let him know I was heading out.  My new photographer kindred spirit friend, however, shooed me out the front door with assurances that when my husband emerged from the bowels of the antique store, precious vinyl treasures in hand, she would let him know where I was.

Indiana towns have a character all their own and LaPorte is no exception.  If all those wonderful old facades and brick walls could talk, what stories they would tell.  I strolled up one street and down another, around blocks and through alleyways, gazing into dusty storefront windows and admiring the sturdy small-town Indiana architecture.  I wandered and explored and photographed for several hours that day. My phone buzzed with the text that simply said, "Where are you?" while I was a block down the street and I took a few last photos as I made my way back to the antique store where my photo walk had begun.  It had been a fantastic morning.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Glimpses of Spring

Brown leaves, wispy dried grasses and brown patches of last year's mulch are left uncovered after snow has melted into late March and early April days.  Suddenly you see it - that splash of color there in the midst of the drab and lifeless.  Crocus' defy the chilly temperatures of early spring mornings and frosty spring nights.  They open their petals in spite of that last feeble attempt by winter to hold on.  It is the first glimpse of a beauty lying just beneath the surface waiting, waiting.  Soon color will be all around us but for now, that special spot of purple and yellow in my front yard is enough. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Magenta Barn

Traveling to other parts of this country always makes my eye so much more aware of the images to be found right here at home.  Driving down a random county road, intent simply on getting from one place to the other, I was pleasantly surprised by this wonderful barn, covered in the most fantastic coat of magenta paint and set back from the road on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March at the lake

This lake . . . . it never ceases to leave me in awe of its wonder, its power, its beauty.  Every season, every day has its own images.   

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Music Among Friends

It was Friday night in the first week of December and it was cold, clear and dark. We parked the car on the main street that runs through that sleepy small town.  It was so quiet, but when the door of an old brick storefront opened across the street, light and the sound of music and people spilled out.  We were headed there for a CD release party hosted by Commoner, a local band we had supported through a recent kickstarter project. We were going to gather the items we had received as supporters, as well as hear their live debut.  
Commoner began with five friends and musicians who would frequently sit together, sharing equally their love for the Lord and for music.  They decided that what happened so easily when they were together,  could be shared outward, and so the band was born.
The old storefront is being slowly renovated into coffee house where people will be able to savor locally roasted coffees, relax, visit and where the band can routinely play their earthy, self-written songs of praise.  That old, unfinished building was drafty and cold, and the coffee pots were emptied as soon as they could be refilled, but twinkling strands of Christmas lights draped the walls, the crowd was warm, the music was uplifting and the musicians were joyfilled.  It is a place we look forward to visiting again.