Autumn Thoughts

When the studies become oppressive and I feel smothered by deadlines and all things academic, the best mental health therapy I know is to grab a camera and head for the woods. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods lately. In fact, I recently discovered Β what is officially known as “nature therapy,” based on the premise that human angst, depression, disconnectedness and stress can in part be attributed to the fact that in our technological world, we have become too alienated from nature. The cure (or at least some relief) is found by spending more time outdoors reconnecting with the natural world. That is certainly true for me. So much so that once I am a licensed clinical counselor (a few years hence) I plan to seek certification as an art therapist, and now, a nature therapist, too. I can think of no better approach to becoming centered and finding one’s authentic being. But one does not have to travel afar to benefit from immersing in the natural world. When not out in the woods, you will often find me on our back deck or in the yard piddling around. This is soul-refreshing work for me. I have great plans for our yard, plans that will make our yard a small wildlife habitat. It will take time, but with patience and perseverance we will have a nature retreat outside our back door. But it is Autumn and for now everything is put to rest for the season. No more digging and planting until the spring. As you can see, a few days ago the trees that line the back of our property were in full color which made the following bird shots more beautiful than ever. Even that old pie plate bird feeder doesn’t look quite as tacky as usual. πŸ˜‰


Now however, the trees in the background have lost most of their leaves. Gray barrenness dominates the countryside. It’s hard to believe that these photos were taken just a day or two ago. Dreary rains have set in and the time has come to settle in to our cozy home knowing that winter is not too far off. School work continues. I will begin my fieldwork (counseling) in the spring, and if all goes according to plan (does it ever?) I will graduate in December, 2013. The work is tiring and I’ve reached the stage where I sometimes consider quitting this process. I am tired of school. But I am old enough to know that this, too, shall pass. And there are always the woods, or the yard, and the foliage and various animals to lift my spirits.

Well, school work is once again calling my name so I’m off. Have a wonderful week; try to get out into nature if you can, and I’ll see you all next time.




Weekly Writing Challenge: And Now For Something Completely Different

As many of you know, I like to participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge that the folks at WordPress send out each week. Not too long ago they also began a Weekly Writing Challenge. Unfortunately I cannot commit to participating in this challenge due to the fact that for the time being most of my writing focuses on academic endeavors. But when I saw this week’s challenge, my curiosity was piqued and I had to give it a try. πŸ™‚

When I first began shooting photographs, digital cameras were unheard of. Everything was done with film and processed in a dark room. At that time I shot almost exclusively in black and white. A friend who taught at a nearby university gave me a key to a rarely used darkroom in one of the science buildings on campus so I could process and print my photos. I also designated a room in our home as a makeshift darkroom. Both darkrooms were frequently put to use. There were also times when I worked for professional photographers doing all of their darkroom work. My camera was a classic Pentax Spotmatic and I still keep it on my desk, beat up and worn from extensive use over the years. But with the arrival of babies, the cost of film and processing, not to mention the time involved in photography, I put away this hobby/avocation and became a ‘responsible’ adult dealing with ‘grown-up’ issues. Many years later, after the kids were grown and out of the house, my brother loaned me a ‘point and shoot’ Olympus camera, my first digital. Once again the passion was stirred and I have not stopped taking photographs since. I once again own a Pentax, this time a K-7. With the dawning of the digital age, darkrooms were replaced with computers. As much as I love black and white photography however, I never could master B&W on a digital camera. So I take all my photos today in color. Even so, I continue to enjoy this hobby.

With this week’s writing challenge however, I decided it was high time to experiment with my camera to learn how to shoot good black and white photos once again, and write about it! I read the manual (ugh!!!) that came with my camera and began shooting. The following photos are my first serious efforts with digital B&W photography but I am pleased with the results. In fact I may stick with black and white as I hone this skill once again. I miss the dark room, but if I can achieve good results, I may return to black and white photography!

My first shots were taken in our living room.

Bubbe’s Chair

My granddaughter knows that this is my favorite chair. In fact she calls it “Bubbe’s Chair.” This morning the natural light streaming through the living room window created a nice effect. What do you think?

Grandaddy’s Lamp

Granddaddy was an artist and carpenter. When he combined his artistry with woodworking the results were beautiful pieces of art with practical uses. He crafted this lamp for me when I was nineteen-years-old. The wonderful thing about black and white photography is that it helps one see design and patterns, the play of light, the elegance of a scene rather than the clutter and mismatched furniture that color photography often reveals.

The Lattice and Shadows

Next, as I stepped outside, the first thing I noticed was how the lattice railing created a beautifully designed shadow on the wooden floor of our deck. I don’t think that a color shot would do this justice.

Stone Against Wood

From the deck one steps down onto a cobblestone border that has been untended for years. I actually like the effect of the space and grass between the stones. I also love the contrast between stone and wood. Black and white makes this a far more interesting shot than if it had been taken in color. Do your agree?

This was an interesting shot. I stood at the back of our yard on my tip-toes peering over my neighbor’s fence. All I could see was the lines of the roof tops of neighboring homes . . . and this flower. What a find! I love this photograph. But this is one of those shots that works well in color, too. So I’ve included a color shot. You decide for yourself which one you like better. πŸ˜‰

Black and white photography also helps the viewer see beauty in what might be considered ‘ugly’ or ‘worn’ in other circumstances. Peeling paint becomes a pallette of beauty when what one sees is texture and scattered patterns. Following are a couple of examples.

Black and white photography can also enhance the graceful lines and nuanced patterns found in flora and fauna as you can see in the following photos.

Finally, as I was returning to the warmth indoors, I couldn’t help but notice the lines of the siding on our home juxtaposed with the lines of siding on our neighbor’s home. Quite interesting.

So this is completely different from the posts you will usually find here. But this subject challenged me to step out of my box and explore the art of photography in a different light. Be assured that I will spend many more hours shooting black and white once again!

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of this experiment in trying something completely different! πŸ™‚

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose . . .


I shot these photos yesterday morning while the dew still lingered. Wish I had time to write, but with only two weeks left in the quarter, my time is spent researching and writing papers, developing presentations, etc. Crunch time! THEN, three weeks of break and high holidays!!!! The adage “A picture speaks a thousand words” works for me today. So enjoy the three thousand words and have a fabulous weekend. πŸ˜‰


The Challenge to be Creative, and Going to the Dis-Comfort Zones!

Anyone who reads this blog knows that photography is where my creative urges soar. In the past month, I pushed myself to step out of my photography comfort zone and experiment with effects that go beyond my normal boundaries. Stepping into the dis-comfort zone has been fun, surprising and incredibly creative. . . so much so that now I must admit that photographically speaking, my comfort zone has expanded beyond all expectations! I love it.

Another area where I am creatively pushing the boundaries is in my writing. This month I have participated in the “A River of Stones Jan ’12” challenge. A simple challenge on the surface, but one which compels me to write in a different way. The results have tickled me and added a new dimension to my writing. I have to think a little harder, but playing with words has definitely added color to these blogs!

So, the creativity continues. But what about the NoCZ-2012 Challenge? I experience stepping out of my comfort zone every time I try something new artistically, whether it be writing or photography. But in other areas of my life, too, I find myself stepping across that line that says “comfort ends here.”

According to Myers-Briggs, I am an introvert. I don’t challenge that label because it fits and I’m ok with that. I love being around people and activity, however I need to withdraw from the buzz of interaction to regroup, clear my mind, think. Then when I’m ready, I’ll engage the larger world again. One area that is particularly uncomfortable for me is introducing myself to new people in new places or situations. As often as I have moved, I am often in “new” situations. In the past I was content to hold back because I knew that it was only a matter of time and we would move on and leave the present people and places behind.

This move is different, though. When Richard finishes with his present job he will retire. We are looking for a house here because we plan to stay and make this our community. I plan to get my license in this state and create a private practice here. There are no plans to move on. Merely waiting for things to happen or for people to find me does not work. I will have to step out of my comfort zone and be the one to reach out to others. And yesterday I took a small step in that direction. After the morning prayer service at the synagogue there was a large kiddush, or meal. This was our second visit to this particular synagogue so we did not know anyone. I turned to Richard and said “Let’s stay.” As we walked into the large banquet room I was a little overwhelmed with the activity and the number of strangers that milled about. But I forged ahead, got in line to get some food, but then where to sit? We didn’t know anyone to sit with. Once again I looked to Richard and asked if he was game to just introduce ourselves to some folks and sit at their table. He followed me. I found a table with some empty seats and asked if the seats were taken. “No, please sit down.” By now of course, my heart was racing a bit, but before you know it we had all joined in conversation. And it didn’t end there! As we were preparing to leave, I saw a woman standing a little distant from the crowd; I walked up to her, offered a greeting and explained that I was new to the community and wanted to get to know some folks. We had a delightful conversation and then Richard and I left.

Looking back on the day, even as I sit here typing, I amazed myself . . . did I really do that? Did I walk up to strangers and just start talking? It’s one thing to do something like that when you are in a particular roll and you approach someone from a professional stand point, but to approach strangers just to chat was a stretch for me. Β Wow. What an expansive challenge!

Well, that was my week. We are still in the first month of challenges so we can look forward to a year of exciting growth if this keeps up! Hope your challenges are helping you to grow and expand your horizons, too. Have a great week. πŸ™‚


Freedom! NoCZ-2012

Freedom is the word that comes to mind when I think of what a week of No Comfort Zone 2012 has felt like. The first week of this challenge I have mainly pushed the limits with photography, experimenting with a photo editing program. Prior to this challenge I was afraid to experiment, but after only one week I’m playing with colors, composition, hues and tints and more. Rather than being concerned with presenting the “perfect” photo, I’ve allowed myself to mix it up, get bizarre, and most importantly, post it for others to see and comment on. I will continue to push myself with photography, to push the experimentation into more edgy areas. I’ve stepped over that boundary line with my photography and I feel good about that.

To some that may seem a trivial thing. But pushing the boundaries with photography is a paradigm for my life, too. For reasons I won’t go into here (I’ll save it for a therapist’s office) I have spent a lifetime working hard to appear “perfect” to the world. It takes an enormous amount of energy to always be “perfect,” and a great deal of angst when I fail to measure up (which invariably happens.) Stepping outside my comfort zone involves letting you see the authentic me, the imperfect, perfectly human me. What I had not expected was how freeing and exciting it is to shed the facade and just be real.

Stretching myself with my photography this week was a lot of fun. Surprisingly my photography got better the more I was willing to experiment and post less than perfect shots. Maybe life is that way too. The more we reveal ourselves, step out of our comfort zone, laugh and get excited about our efforts and foibles, the more real we become. For this coming week I will continue to experiment with photography, but for the challenge I will push another boundary in another area of my life. Check back on Mondays to see how it’s going and what new things I’m discovering through the No Comfort Zone 2012.