Reflecting

 

Fisher Pond, reflection

 

Well, it’s that time of year again… Today was my birthday.

As self-reflection seems to be the thing to do on such days, I did some thinking about my new life and all the changes that have taken place recently. (For anyone that somehow still doesn’t know, at the tail end of last year, I moved from southern California to Vashon, Washington.) It hasn’t just been an extreme change of scenery for me, it’s been a pretty big shift in my lifestyle as well. I went from walking the arid, chaparral-covered hills of a canyon to exploring the moist, green forests and rocky beaches of an island. I also went from spending the vast majority of my time alone with my camera and the critters to becoming part of a small, tight-knit community that I have quickly grown to love and with whom I am eager to share my nature experiences.

All in all, my 37th year was a good one. But the latter half of it seemed to whiz by at the speed of light. The whirlwind of moving to a new state, the excitement and bustle of meeting so many new people, trying to get acquainted and accustomed to my new home; all of it has left me feeling a bit nostalgic for the comfort of some of the things I left behind.

I thought about that a lot today and realized that one of the things I was really missing was this blog. This blog and also the friends who encouraged me and participated by sharing their wonderful comments and insights here. I really want to make the time to give myself this gift once again. And I definitely want to reconnect with my very patient friends who may be wondering what the heck happened to me. *grin*

OK… enough blathering on about stuff. I’ll just end by saying, I’m glad to be back here and looking forward to once again sharing my photos and stories about the things that I love most.

(Photo taken at Fisher Pond… one of the many new “favorite” locales I frequent these days.)

Harsi / May 7, 2012 / water / 8 Comments

Farewell to July

When I opened my eyes this morning, it took me a moment to reconcile the sound.

Rain?!

That didn’t seem very likely… I sat up and let the fog of sleep drift further away.

It is rain! What the heck? It’s raining!

Not a lot, mind you… Just enough to dapple the brown earth and make the air smell moist and alive. But, here in the canyon at the tail-end of July, any rain at all is a rarity and I was grateful for it. I’m quite certain that the wildlife shared my elation as well.

The sky was overcast and lovely for much of the day, but by late afternoon when I finally got clear of the “to do” stuff on my list and went out for a walk, the big clouds had mostly retreated and were accumulating over the peaks of the San Gabriels.

clouds accumulating over San Gabriels

I walked down to the oak woodland area that parallels the road. It was hot and humid and the bitey flies were out in force looking for a meal. (I’m not sure if we are as tasty as the main course — the local Mule Deer — but that certainly doesn’t stop them from sampling.) Fortunately, I had good company and was happy to be out despite the constant waving and swatting.

Previously, I had mentioned that our seasonal creek has completely dried up in several spots. I thought it might be interesting to illustrate this and so I searched through my photos to see what I could find. The picture on the left was taken in early February of this year. This spot along the creek forms a large, slow-moving, shallow pool that is always a favorite congregating spot for the breeding Coast Range Newts (Taricha torosa torosa). The picture to the right was photographed just last week, and as you can clearly see, the ground is little more than damp now.

creek comparison (February & July)

Tomorrow’s post will feature a bunch of pics of the Mule Deer who can (with increasing frequency) be found resting and browsing for food in the relatively cooler, shadier areas around our cabin. In truth, I meant to share them with you today, but (like the female pictured below) I ran out of steam and decided to take it easy instead. I hope everyone else is finding ways to beat the heat and still enjoy some time outside!

Mule Deer, female resting

 

Harsi / July 31, 2011 / hillsides, mammals, skies, water, weather / 2 Comments

A Most Welcome Visitor

When I put together my post, “Common Ground”, I was hoping that I’d get a little positive feedback or perhaps some discussion surrounding the concept. I honestly was not expecting to inspire anyone else creatively. So, you can imagine how pleased I was when my friend Ruth e-mailed me several of her own paired photos! Viewing her unique and wonderful interpretation of the overlapping themes in natural vs. man-made structures and scenes was a real joy for me. I loved the thought of this idea evolving into a community art project of sorts. I promptly asked Ruth if she would mind my sharing some of her images on my blog. She was gracious enough to agree and I am thrilled to present them here…


[NOTE: *Click on any of the photos below to see a larger version.* Quoted captions are excerpts from Ruth’s e-mails. All of the photos in this post (except for the ant) are the property of Ruth Gravanis. If you are interested in re-posting them or using them for any other purpose, you must ask her permission first. You may contact me via this blog if you wish to get in touch with her.]

 

 

Guest photos by Ruth Gravanis.

(top) “while waiting for the bus on a rainy morning on a street near my house”
(bottom) “looking across the Golden Gate, from the Presidio of SF to Marin County”

 

 

Guest photos by Ruth Gravanis.(top) “partially de-constructed aerial bus ramp in downtown SF”
(bottom) “polypody ferns on YBI [Yerba Buena Island]”

 

And last, but certainly not least, she sent me an image of hers to pair with one of mine from a previous blog post:

 

 

Guest photos by Ruth Gravanis.(top) “Transbay Terminal demolition, 10/25/10”
(bottom) big unidentified ant, foraging 5/27/10

 

I hope that Ruth will continue to send me her photo pairings as I truly do enjoy seeing them! All of her images were taken in the City and County of San Francisco. The added dimension of “place”photos taken in geographic proximity to where one lives — makes these all the more special I think.


Of the small (but very loyal) band of friends that read my blog, many of you are also naturalists and photographers. It would be great fun if anyone else feels like joining in and trying their hand at pairing some photos of their own!

 

Harsi / July 23, 2011 / arthropods, not nature, photography, plants, water / 5 Comments

Some Like It (a little less) Hot

Much of the country experienced record high temperatures today. While we’ve been fluctuating between low- to mid-90s, I know it has been much hotter than that for some of you.

I found myself thinking about the temperate island we visited off the coast of Seattle at the beginning of March. Vashon’s high for today was 72 degrees. The average temperature there for this time of year is listed as 78 degrees.

I tried to imagine myself in the midst of all that cool, green loveliness. It was hard… Fortunately, I have a bevy of photos from our trip to assist me in my fantasizing. You’re welcome to join me!

Moist, overgrown and incredible! From our walk around Christensen Pond…

 

Christensen Pond, Vashon, Washington

Intoxicating blue and a breeze along the water’s edge at Fisher Pond…

Fisher Pond, Vashon, Washington

 

Is it working? Do you feel any cooler? Maybe a degree or two?

Well… I tried!  *GRIN*

 

Harsi / July 22, 2011 / plants, travel, water, weather / 4 Comments

Sectionals

Just playing around a bit with dividing photos and how the placement of negative space can change the feel of the overall image….

 

sunset & clouds, sectional

 

 

bubbles on stream, sectional

 

 

ecualyptus at sunset, sectional

 

 

mule deer at sunset, sectional

 

Sorry for the simplistic post, folks. I was feeling pretty beat today… but I have high hopes for tomorrow.

Harsi / June 27, 2011 / mammals, plants, skies, water / 2 Comments

Simple Thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about…

 

sunset abstract

 

SKY

 

and

 

Vashon water abstract

 

WATER.

 

They both draw me in…

Shifting expanses of color.

Vastness beyond comprehension.

A place to become lost.

A place to find things.

 

Harsi / June 20, 2011 / skies, travel, water / 2 Comments

Detail-oriented

I don’t think there has ever been a time in my existence when I wasn’t fascinated by the small details of life. My mother has told me stories of how ridiculously long it took to walk anywhere with me when I was a toddler as I kept stopping every few feet or so to inspect something that had caught my interest. For anyone who’s ever had the experience of walking somewhere with me today, they can probably attest that not a lot has changed! *GRIN*

Though it can be distracting (and occasionally overwhelming), my heightened attention to very small details is not a trait I would ever really want to change. I think it is an essential component of being a good naturalist… and photographer too. Being able to see small differences in two different shots can be very useful when editing a large number of images. Paying attention to how an image makes you feel if you alter the exposure a little or experiment with a slightly different crop can really improve your finished product. Of course, sometimes I wonder if the things I get hung-up on are perhaps too subtle for most people to care about. For instance, I was working on this image today:

 

sky & water pre-crop

 

This gorgeous scene was captured from the window of the train on the return leg of our trip to Seattle. The body of water paralleling the tracks provided a perfect mirror image of the striated sky above. The colors were subtle and perfect. This is the image I took, full-frame, nothing done in post-processing except to adjust the exposure a bit. I wanted this to feel somewhat abstract. I wanted it to be more about the repeating colors and lines than about the context of the scenery per se. As I stared at the above image, something just wasn’t sitting right for me. So, I cropped it, like this:

 

sky & water cropped

 

If you can immediately tell the difference between these two shots… well then, I am impressed! This crop did serve some practical purpose because my camera creates images that are roughly 8 x 10.6 inches. These dimensions are not particularly useful for making prints and cropping this to a standard size of 8 x 10 inches makes sense. But, that’s not why I did it. My reasons were far less obvious…

I am always trying to understand how someone’s eye reads a photo or piece of artwork. I think there are ways to guide the eye. To subtly suggest where the focus should be and how the eye travels to get there. My goal with this piece was to have the viewer’s eye follow the repeating horizontal lines in a way that would feel seamless… flowing, I suppose. Back and forth, like a typewriter, spewing pastel lines of clouds and water. I wanted to include the land below the water because it anchored the whole scene a bit and gave a hint of context. But foreground — especially darker foreground — is always going to draw the eye, and in this case, my attention kept being inexorably drawn to that tiny dark blob in the lower left corner. A little bump that made me stop and scrutinize when I wanted to just keep gliding back and forth.

At this point — if you’re still reading — you’re probably thinking 1) this woman is more than a little neurotic, and 2) does it really make any appreciable difference? Well, I freely admit to the first point… and as to the second, who knows? I felt instantly better about the whole thing after cropping it, but I have no idea how it translates to others. I’d be happy to hear what you think! Here are the two images side-by-side:

 

sky & water compare*Click on this (and the above images) if you want to see a larger view.*

 

Eventually, after staring at these two images for long enough and putting this blog post together, I began to second-guess myself. What was the big deal with the little blob anyway??? It finally dawned on me that it was the “blob” part that wasn’t working for me. Though a small protrusion, it poked up out of an otherwise congruous series of lines and drew attention. But then, to further frustrate things, I simply couldn’t resolve what I was looking at and that made my eye linger even longer on this spot. At this point, curiosity got the better of me and I enlarged the image and seriously increased the exposure to get a better view of the inscrutable dark lump.

 

sky & water blob revealed

 

Surprise! It’s a GOOSE!!! A Canada Goose, with its back to the camera, to be exact. Hah! Now, if this goose had been more visible, recognizable as a goose from a distance, there is no way that I ever would’ve considered cropping it out. That would have been a perfect destination for the viewer’s eye — traveling across the image and settling on this lone bird also surveying the unfolding scenery. Ahhh, but it wasn’t meant to be this time around, I guess.

Hmmm… re-reading this post, it seems awfully long and meandering. Not sure if anything I’ve written will be of interest to anyone. Just trying to give some insight into my creative process, which at times can perhaps be overly rigorous. More and more, I recognize that I must give myself more freedom to have fun and be spontaneous with my photography… but, the details do matter to me and they probably always will. And… I’m OK with that!

Harsi / June 10, 2011 / photography, skies, travel, water / 4 Comments