The Chain of Love

May 29, 2015

A song I heard on the car radio today impacted me.  It was entitled ‘The Chain of Love’ by Clay Walker.  It has to do with paying kindness forward, and not letting a kindness end with me.  Events have a way of coming full circle, don’t they?  I was grateful for this song that interrupted my afternoon.  Then I was reminded that we have choices every day: songs we listen to, things we read, the programs we watch, and the people we choose to receive from.  This song, touched my spirit and placed me in a position to steward the atmosphere that I was ready to enter and, in return, make a positive impact on some people there.

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“Someone once helped me out,
Just the way I’m helping you
If you really want to pay me back,
Here’s what you do
Don’t let the chain of love end with you.”

The last blog post brought some good feedback.  I love it that expressing my thoughts gets others to thinking too!  It’s funny that my ‘vision’ may be more defined due to the fact that I have fewer choices when it comes to photography.  Could those of you who have everything at your disposal – mountains, fall color, ocean, water, waterfalls, gardens, nature reflections, etc-  be struggling more with your vision?  I don’t have the answer to that – I just try to do the best with what I have.  Recent feedback tells me that I may have defined my vision, even though it needs more refining and development!

In life, there are givers.  These people steward their gift, and then give it away.  They teach what they know to genuinely help another, they give of their time, they encourage, they build another person up, without the threat that if they compliment or build another person up, it takes nothing away from who they are, what they do, or the work they create.  A person secure in their purpose or vision can do that well.  I want to be that kind of person.

Then, there are takers.  Without understanding the principle of ‘reaping and sowing’ we can be self absorbed to the point that building up and encouraging another seems to threaten our position.  We may even withhold, depriving another of something they deserve.  Tearing down, instead of building up – at the expense of others.  We’ve all seen that take place.  Where there is someone who opens a door for you, there is often someone there who wants to close it.

So, I want to thank someone who has been willing to take the time on more than one occasion, to reach out, build up, encourage, promote and lend a hand.  It was John Barclay’s blog post asking ‘who do you surround yourself with’ that made me realize I do not have the ability to connect with fellow photographers except through blogs and the occasional workshop.  I responded to his post, and finally, there was someone who HEARD what I was saying, and stepped in to help me find a way to connect.  Do I always depend on other people to do that?  No.  But how gratifying it is when people are willing!  If what I am doing is taking the correct course, then God will open doors for me that no man can shut!  Sometimes it’s better when others build you up and not yourself!  John’s blog also was instrumental in introducing me to a new photo buddy near me who shares my vision!  God orchestrates so beautifully!

John helped to open a door; someone came and tried to shut it.  For those who follow this blog, pardon me while I expand on that a bit.  500px is a photo sharing community where images present well and friendships can be made.  The positives end there.  This site has a voting algorithm that encourages ‘strategic voting.’  There is such zeal to get to the top popular pages that people can ‘dislike’ your image, causing a loss of several percentage points – WAY more in proportion to the small increase one might get with a ‘like’ or ‘add this to favorites’ vote.  This ‘strategic voting’ can advance one’s image – and it’s done by downgrading another.  People visit and comment/vote on your images in hopes of getting votes in return.  Messages to the support staff are returned with trite and cliche responses with no effort whatsoever to listen and research what their photo community is saying.  I had to really ask myself after becoming a victim of ‘strategic voting’ and getting nothing but an abrupt and insensitive response in return from their ‘support’ staff, ‘Do I really need to be part of a community like this?’  So, my review, based on my experience is to avoid 500px.  I do not need ‘pat me on the back’ comments, votes hoping for a return favor, and lack of customer service.

It’s easy to get caught up in the vote getting.  But a song I heard just a couple of days ago reminded me of something important.  If I’m chasing anything more than I’m chasing the Lord, then I need to redirect!  There will be something good come out of this sad and unfortunate situation.  Increased exposure in the last 6 weeks (from 500px and a guest blog post on Nature Visions) has led to twice the traffic on my website!  (my edit 4/28)  By the way, the blog image was my most ‘disliked’ image ever!

Stay True to Your Vision

February 23, 2012

Someone I know wrote a blog post recently asking the question:  “Who do you surround yourself with?”  He was referring to those photographers who have mentored and inspired him along the way.  This got me thinking.

Photographically speaking, there is no one within miles who shares my vision of nature photography.  The Dallas/Fort Worth area is not a mecca for nature photography anyway.  Geographical proximity certainly helps to keep one in touch with other like-minded and creative people.  You will also need someone who will want to spend the time ‘mentoring’ in this busy world we live in.   People come and go in our lives, without much commitment.  I would suggest that inspiration comes from others – vision comes from within.

There are 2 people who have inspired me to keep my vision in front of me.  One is Maryland photographer Tony Sweet.  Formerly a jazz musician, his primary vehicle for personal expression currently is photography, mostly nature, and teaching.  I took Tony’s  online course years ago called ‘Fine Art Flower Photography.’  I love flowers, but took the course in July in Texas.  What an absurd thing to do!  With triple digit temperatures threatening anything blooming,  I had to set up everything manually – buying flowers, finding backgrounds, etc to submit my meager and marginal offerings for the assignments!  Even today, I wish I could take a ‘do over’ for that course!  I have had to make modifications in my flower photography, utilizing a macro studio in my home, and creating my own ‘backgrounds’ with texture overlays, but Tony helped to lay a foundation for what I do.  Tony has stayed true to his vision, therefore I am continually inspired by his work, and he is one of the most accomplished and versatile nature photographers I know.

The other person – gone way too soon – is Nancy Rotenberg.  (Emphasis on the word ‘is’ because she IS and will continue to be an inspiration to many.)  Her photography is an inspiration, but there were some intangible things she taught that inspired me.  She taught me to relax, not strive for that perfect image, but to let the image come to me.  She had a love of all things beautiful and she was a ‘dancer of artful living.’  There are many who can inspire us in our creative dance:  musicians, writers, photographers, and other artists.  She often quoted Ansel Adams:  “You don’t just make pictures with a camera. You make pictures with books you’ve read, the music you’ve heard and with the people you have loved.”

Despite the fact that there are those who provide me with inspiration and encouragement, I’ve learned my vision doesn’t depend on how many workshops I attend, how many courses I take, how many books I read, or how often I visit someone’s website.  I can try to imitate someone else’s style, but it’s funny how it never turns out like I expect!  So, I have to be me, in spite of some limitations I face.  For those who know me, I profess there is healing in nature.  The greatest healer of all created it!  My goal is to encourage people to pause and receive from nature, whether it is listening to a waterfall, walking along the ocean shore with the ebb and flow of the tides, enjoying a vibrant sunset, or looking at the patterns inside a flower.  We all need to learn to *respond* and not just react.  This is healing to the body and comes from engaging the heart. Perhaps this is the ‘health professional’ in me talking!

My photographic work has evolved.  I’ve learned to create artful flower images – and do it ‘where I’m planted!’  (Pardon the pun!) One of the things I do to keep my vision in the fore front of my mind is to go on ‘artist’s dates.’  I do not have immediate access to things I love:  big waterfalls, the ocean, many gardens, mountain scenes, or lush forests.  I do, however, love to go somewhere quiet in nature and activate all my senses.  Soon, something will attract my attention, whether it be a sound, a beautiful patch of color, or the interesting curve of a cloud or tree trunk.  Following the advice of those who have inspired me, I listen and wait for what makes my heart sing; I consider all the possibilities for how to capture that wonderful aspect of nature photographically, should I want to do that.   One of my favorite photographic subjects is soft focus flowers.  Could the reason be that these images are in contrast to the cluttered, harsh world we live in?  In this noisy, disruptive world where creativity takes a back seat, we must be proactive and stop and realize we have *5* senses.

Do you believe you are creative?  What kind of images speak to you?  Who do you listen to?  Are you a victim of others’ expectations?  Can you identify the tugging in your heart that is pulling you toward a vision?  Listen to your heart – the world desperately needs your unique voice.  I’m talking to myself here too – still learning to focus on my own vision!

My good friend of 25 years graduated to heaven late last night.  Gail was one of the most giving people I know.  She would give you ‘the shirt off her back’ but more importantly, she gave of her time – always willing to listen and give feedback.  We shared countless hours sharing about the Lord; we earned the right to speak into each other’s lives, because we genuinely loved one another.

Gail was a wonderful prayer warrior.  My family, my children, and my grandchildren are who they are today and where they are today because of her willingness to spend time in prayer.  We can’t discount how important prayer is.  We often prayed together on the phone – some things are too important to wait!

So many of us now rejoice because Gail is now with the One she loves, dancing through heaven in perfect peace, which often seemed to elude her here on earth.

A lover of nature, Gail loved the beautiful lake view from her house.  These spring tulips are dedicated to her.  I think she would have liked them.

Beauty for Ashes

November 11, 2010

This Saturday, November 13, will be the last TCU football game in Amon G. Carter stadium in Fort Worth as we know it.  The entire upper deck will come down and a major renovation will begin.  Several of us alumni and season ticket holders met earlier this week and were granted access to areas providing us with some great views of this historic stadium.  We played with fisheye and wide angle lenses, walked up the ramp to the upper deck (in some strong winds!) and even ran into the ‘dynamite team’ who were there beginning their work for the upcoming implosion on December 5.  (The same company that imploded the old Texas Stadium)

A bit of nostalgia will grip some of us as we sit in the sold-out stadium on Saturday – after all – there is a tremendous amount of history that played out in Amon G. Carter stadium.  There are 4 generations of legends:  Sammy Baugh, Davey O’Brien, Jim Swink, Bob Lilly, Ladainian Tomlinson and others.  And, back when championships were won on the field rather than in computers, this stadium has seen national champions.

However, if you know me, you know that I find ‘life lessons’ in my photography and in my life experiences.  How can a stadium renovation speak to us?  We all have to get rid of the old to make way for the new from time to time.  When the west side of the stadium lies in rubble in a couple of weeks, a major cleanup will begin to bring something new, revitalized, and innovative.  Be challenged to apply this scenario to your life.  Our Lord applied these verses in Isaiah to Himself and this is His promise to us:  “….to comfort all who mourn……. to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  (Isaiah 61:2-3)  Beautiful things rise out of ashes.  What will you trust the Lord for today that will transform your ashes into indescribable beauty?  The Lord always keeps His promises and He is faithful!

For football fans:  A related and well done video on the changes coming to Amon G. Carter stadium:

While on a trip recently – a photo tour to the Palouse led by John Barclay and Dan Sniffin – the conversation regarding photographic subjects came up more than once.  For me, the images that make my heart sing often are ones of simplicity, soft focus, and frequently – pastel colors.  I tend to prefer a ‘soft sharpness’ – a strange description, but anyone familiar with the ‘Orton’ technique or soft overlay will understand that look.  In reflecting on my life right now, could the reason for my preference for simplicity be due to the fact that simplicity is what I need in my life right now?  My husband and I are in the middle of a move.  (Amazing that I am finding the time to write this!)  For three years, we have lived in a ‘high energy’ area and it became apparent that for health, peace of mind, stress reduction, and nurture of creativity, we needed to move.  It’s interesting what stirs creativity in photographers.  Some need time and quiet to connect with their subject, some can hop out of the car and begin shooting, whether it be simple lines and soft focus, textures and grunge, or old and cluttered.

One stop on the recent trip brought us to an old house, where several walked in – and turned and walked right out again without taking one shot.  Others relished in the old artifacts taking up every space in the house.   My mantra says that there is healing in nature.  As a health professional (not currently working) I see the need for time spent in an environment that calms your soul, nurtures your creativity, and gives you life.  Yes, I like simple lines and soft focus – that’s my preference and what nurtures me.  I enjoy a bit of texture and grunge from time to time – as long as there is ‘space’ in the image.  Clutter?  It drains my energy, my creativity, and and makes me long for the simple lines of nature!

Let me know what you think of what I’ve written and feel free to share what you like!  I like variety in my photography.  How do you respond to the images I’ve posted?  Do you have an emotional connection to one type versus another?  Try and discover what it is that nurtures your own creativity and makes your heart sing – and WHY!

Blog image:  Lensbaby with Alien Skin SnapArt for painterly look

2nd image:  Old car, barn and texture (Thanks, Joe, for your help with this one!)

3rd image:  Graphic lines of barn, land and sky

4th image:  Wide angle of Red barn – landscape with Orton technique

After the Rain

May 6, 2010

Rain can mean different things depending on your perspective.  If one refers to the flood of God’s mercies, well, that’s good.  If your reference point happens to reside near Nashville, Tennessee of late, then you might not be too excited about rain.  Rain can make your lawn thick and green, but if you do not have the covering of a lawn, then it brings mud!

The blog posts were taken the day after some good rain.  The water drops remained on these tulips and, not only did the flowers hold up under the weight of the rain and water, the drops added a new dimension to their beauty.