Archive for January, 2012

Splendidly Rotten

Sometimes I just can’t get enough of rotten leaves… If they are decomposing in just the right way, they really do become (at least to my eye) a whole world unto themselves.


Tongue Tied

In celebration…

Photo Credit:  Sandy G. Connolly

Well, today is a special day for me.  I am honored to accept two blogging awards.

I was quite moved to be recognized by fellow-photographer Pablo Buitrago, who nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award:

Pablo inspires and motivates me everyday with his creative and disciplined approach to photography.  Not only do I learn from the work he posts each day, but from the wealth of information about his subjects that he posts (both in English and in Spanish) along with his photographs.  If you aren’t already familiar with his blog, I urge you to check it out here: You’re sure to be inspired by what you find there.  I’ve been very grateful to Pablo for the time he has taken to comment on my own posts here.  It’s through these exchanges with fellow bloggers that we can motivate and challenge one another, and I’ve really enjoyed that. Thank you, Pablo!

To formally accept this award, I must simply tell a little about myself and then pass on the award to other photographers that I would like to recognize.

This post is an enormous leap for me because I am extraordinarily introverted.  My family will be in shock that I am actually following through on this, but here we go:

A little bit:

I thought I’d share first what I really look like.  On my “about page,” I am dressed in a bit of disguise (the result of a day of family dress-up with my sister, her children, and my 3-year-old daughter).  These pictures below (and the one at the top of this post) are from another “family dress-up day,” but this time of another sort:  my mother, sister, and I were all doing “portrait shots,” wearing the clothes (and jewelry) of our great-great grandmother.  The clothes date to the late 1800s.  These and the other photographs, which I will post on my about page, were taken by my sister, Sandy G. Connolly, who pulled together, with some impressive ingenuity, a makeshift studio to pull off this shoot.   Here is a link to the professional photography website that she shares with her business partner Irene Liebler:

Photo Credits:  Sandy G. Connolly

For fun, I’ve got to include this photograph of “THE HAT” (you’ll also see that while I’m introverted, I also live up to the description I include of myself with my “gravatar”…).  I’m going to post this photograph in its full size because my ancestor’s hat deserves no less:

Photo Credit:  Sandy G. Connolly

Moving on to fulfilling the requirements of the award, here are some of the basics about me:  I am 41 years-old.   I have an incredible life partner with whom I am sharing the utterly mind-boggling, breathtaking, wondrous experience of raising a child.  I’m a professor of French language and literature at a small women’s college.  I am a literary translator and scholar.  (Seeing the photograph above, it’s hard to take any of the sentences I just wrote in this paragraph with any seriousness.  The next paragraph, however, might make a bit more sense??)

Now for a few miscellaneous facts about me: When I am not working, I am playing, playing, playing (and not just with my daughter) or studying.  I’m a bit of video game geek (well, basically, I’m a geek all around). I have a DS.  I am also crazy about i-Technology…. I have been studying Japanese for years.  My goal is to one day read The Tale of Genji (源氏物語)  in the original 11th century Japanese.  When I’m not playing and studying, I am practicing yoga or going on long walks.  I also have a strong interest in tea.  I don’t just drink tea, I aspire to study and “live” tea.  I have a particular interest in Chinese green tea.  My daily favorites include lung ching, pi lo chun, and tongyu mountain.  I think it’s obvious from my photographs that I am a nature lover.  I am also devoted to the rights and welfare of animals.

There!  I think that’s enough!

As indicated by the rules, I must now nominate other photographers with whom I’d like to share this award.  Here they are below.  And, friends, I will not be offended in the slightest if you are unable or uninterested in following through on accepting the award.  I simply would like to take a moment to recognize you for the incredible work you do and the inspiration you offer through your blog:

There’s more still! (I don’t think I have ever in my life revealed so much about myself at one time.) I have the great pleasure to accept the Versatile Blogger Award:

I’ll follow the rules, as stated by the very kind person who nominated me for this award, and will simply go in order.

RULE 1 – thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.

Pamela, thank you so much for nominating me.  I was surprised and honored by the recognition.  I’ve really enjoyed my visits to your blog:

RULE 2 – Share 7 random things about yourself.

Are you ready?

1.  I am fascinated by the pupils of goats:  they are rectangular instead of round.  There is something pleasingly disconcerting to me about this.

2.  I frequently  bump into trees and poles while walking because I’m looking down at the ground hoping some fantastic insect or plant will catch my eye.

3.  For reasons only my siblings and dad will understand, I keep myself in tip-top form as a competitive player of Rock-Paper-Scissors.

4.  I am a roller-coaster enthusiast.

5.  I have an uncommon passion for peanut butter.

6.  I find 90-degree angles calming (and, as a result, have an enormous collection of orange Rhodia graph notebooks).

7.  I love Hello Kitty.

RULE 3 – Select 15 blogs or bloggers you have recently discovered or follow regularly and nominate them for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Gang, I nominate you wholeheartedly because I am either a delighted newcomer to your blog and admire your work or I am a regular and devoted follower  of your blog and want others to discover your site if they are not already familiar with it.  I will absolutely understand if you are not interested in following up on the rules of receipt…

Congratulations to all!

RULE 4 – inform the bloggers they have been nominated.

I’ll take care of it!  I’m going to sign off here, because I’m sure you all have had enough of ME!

Wheels on a Wagon

I drive through beautiful farmlands on my way to an animal shelter in central PA where I volunteer once a week (see my other blog devoted to my work at the shelter: Inspired by fellow-blogger and photographer Denzil Jennings, who, both by his stellar example ( and his words of encouragement, I decided to pull my car over on the highway and step out of the vehicle, and, (gasp!) on to the property (!) to take some shots.

I’ve passed by and admired the wooden wagon featured here countless times, wishing I could take some photographs of it.  Well, now I’ve finally done it.  However, once I was there, I really struggled to figure out exactly what I was aiming for.  If you’re  a follower of this blog, you’ve probably noticed I have a strong interest in abstract macro photography.  How, then, to get a handle on the fascinating lines, shapes and shadows of this very large wagon?  I worked my way from large to small.  The more I zeroed in, the the happier I became (naturally!).  It was the wheels that enchanted me most:  their spokes, and especially their hubs, so spectacularly rusted.

I’ll show my shots in reverse order.

Wheel Hub 1

Wheel Hub 2

Wheel Hub 3


Wheels and Shadows

Wagon Wheels

The Wooden Wagon

Oh Sumptuous Demise

Left Behind

I often walk through a community garden that’s a mile or so from my house just to see what sorts of things I might discover growing there (or dying there, which is often just as interesting).  The other day, before the recent snow, I was passing through and happened upon two rather unexpected finds.

Carrots left over and left behind.

Superhero: Caught in the wire

If you have suggestions about how I might better capture the superhero (before he escapes), please share!

As is

I often come across feathers on my walks, and I usually do stop to take a picture (or ten), but rarely find my photos of much interest afterwards, from a compositional point of view.  This particular feather, however, scattered among several others, seemed so fluffy and bright.  This and the others are (were) quite small… only a few inches long.  I didn’t pick them up or move them.  In fact, this is often the challenge I give myself when photographing things on the ground.  I take the shot as is, no moving things around or rearranging to “improve the scene.”  I don’t know why I’ve made this rule for myself, but it seems to have worked its way into my way of  doing things.  What about you? Do you impose completely arbitrary rules on your creative process?  Should I stop this madness?

A sliver of warmth

This “pod”  (I’m sorry to be so ill-informed about the subjects of my photographs!) has caught my eye on more than one occasion, and I’ve taken several photographs of it on different days throughout the fall and winter.  It has, of course, changed over the course of the last months, and I’ve been fascinated by its evolution.  In its current “empty” state (it was loaded with a milk-white fluff several weeks ago), there remains a sort of hammock intact, with the most delicate, florid folds. The dessicated exterior conceals a slender sliver of warmth on a cold winter’s day.

Big fat (vine?)

This spectacular vine, or root, actually I’m not sure which, is in a neighbor’s yard (well, a stranger’s garden–to tell the truth…. I couldn’t help myself).  My problem is I don’t know quite how to “get it.”  Sure, I’ve taken a picture of it, but I just know there must be a better way to capture this.  I took a few abstract macro images, but they don’t quite do it justice.  The colors, textures, curves, and fatness of this thing are fascinating.  How can I fit all of that good stuff into the photograph while also preserving the shape?  I’m just not satisfied with this picture, but I’m not sure how to approach it differently.


Which is the better composition here?  Any preferences?


In celebration of our snow day here, here is another frozen pond shot!

A Copper Moon

I’ve become quite bold about dashing into strangers’ yards to photograph something that catches my eye.  Yesterday I saw this beautiful birdbath that had fallen over (I can’t imagine how, it looks like it weighs a ton).  The colors of the patina that are forming on its surface were glimmering in the afternoon light.  I couldn’t resist stretching right out in this unknown person’s  yard to have a closer look.  Of course, I helped  myself to a few shots.


I can always count on my partner to give honest feedback about my photographs.  She is an art historian with a very solid understanding of what makes a successful image and what doesn’t.  We have had a lot of conversations about composition.  Sometimes if I am sorting through my own photographs from the day (I have been going out every chance I get lately to get in some “practice”), she’ll look over and offer comments.

We’ve narrowed her system down to “strong” and “BORING!”  And I take no offense whatsoever when she says “BORING!” It’s actually somewhat of a relief to have that immediate response because I was usually already leaning that way myself.

Of course I have  my own ideas about my work and don’t always agree with her, but it’s food for good conversation, when we disagree, because I learn a lot from these discussions.

This is where the images I’m attaching for today come in.  These provoked an immediate “BOOOORING!” from her, and I was a bit taken aback.  I like this first image.

She says it’s flat and uninteresting.  I reply:  “But look, I caught those drops just before they fell!”  “So,” she replied. “There are lots of photographs like that.  There is nothing unique about this.  Your feelings in the moment as you captured it don’t transfer to the image.  You can’t think that way.  The image stands alone.”  “But for me there is a certain tension here, amidst a calmness. I like it.”   “You emotions are not infused into the image. Your liking it doesn’t make it good. It’s a weak photograph.”  And the conversation continued.  To no avail, I defended the color, the composition, the interest for nature-lovers…. There was no convincing her.  The photograph remains “boring.”

While none of the images here are “successful” from her point of view, it’s the third one that she considers the strongest.



I am eager to hear what others think about these, and believe me, I am completely open to all opinions here.  I want to understand what makes an image work and what doesn’t.  What would make these images stronger? How would you have approached this “shot.” I’ll be grateful for your input!

Update:  I just saw a great a shot over on Steve’s site:  I think that I’m going to figure a lot out by seeing strong examples of what actually does work.

Update #2:  Fellow-blogger and photographer Pablo (of the fantastic blog raised a question in his comment about what the first image would look like in B & W, so I decided to check it out.  Here it is:

1 (B & W)


I think that this version takes care of some of the “busyness” that a few people mentioned was problematic in the color version, but it also exposes other areas of weakness.  Steve mentions in the comments that the subject matter and the  focal point of the image are not the same, which of course means the composition doesn’t work, and this is really clarified for me when I see it in the B & W.  I also can see, now that I’m looking at it in B & W that the raindrop I was most intent on capturing (the one in the front) is not as in focus as I thought.  Many thanks to Pablo for his question, because has helped see the image in an entirely new way!

I Love Your Curves

Exposure: 1/250 sec at f/2.8

Focal length 5.1 mm

ISO 1600