Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Artist's Way

I've started working through Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way. I'm finding it to be intriguing with ideas worth sharing. As a Christian I'm intrigued at how creativity and spirituality are linked. This dovetails with a study I did long ago about gifts that God gave his people when they were building the tabernacle. From Exodus 35:35: "The Lord has given them special skills as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple, and scarlet thread on fine linen cloth, and weavers. They excel as craftsmen and as designers. " While this scripture is referring to the builders of God's Tabernacle, I have to believe that God gave us our creative abilities and that he wants us to use them to His glory.

The Bible tells us that we are made in the image of God. Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us." God is the creator of the universe. If we are truly like him, then we have been given the desire to create beautiful and useful things.

As I work through this book over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing things I am finding useful.

From The Artist's Way: Basic Principles:

1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.

2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life - including ourselves.

3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator's creativity within us and our lives.

4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.

5. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God; good orderly direction.

8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.

9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Today's Bird Photos

Today was my birthday and I decided to spend part of it on my front porch photographing the birds at my feeders. I had one that I wanted to photograph so that I could send the image to a bird expert, because I was having a difficult time with identifying it.

Here are some of the better shots of the day:

I get large numbers of white winged doves. It is amazing how many of them can fit on the feeder at one time!

As I was taking my shots, I visualized trying to get wing action as they landed or flew off. This one probably worked the best.

This is my mystery bird. I think it might be a Lincoln sparrow, but those black smudgy marks on the sides don't match the illustrations in my Sibleys. I've sent it to an expert to confirm the id.

I still have lots of white crowned sparrows.

I figure they'll be leaving to migrate north before too long.

I've been very pleased to have a pair of red bellied woodpeckers visit my burr oak tree. I have this suet feeder set up usually with a fruity suet and a woodpecker suet. I sure hope they bring chicks to my feeder!

Friday, April 24, 2009

NANPA - Texas Hill Country Regional Event-Block Creek Natural Area

Saturday morning started with a small thunderstorm just south of Fredericksburg. The ranches suggested that we wait until it passed. I went with Mike Murphy's landscape group. It was going to be 4-wheel drive territory, so I was happy to be a driver. I asked about whether we'd need 4 high or 4 low. He thought low, but it had just rained and the steep uphill was MUDDY - I ended up in 4-wheel low and we went right up that muddy hill!

Two weeks prior there had been a prescribed burn on another property that got out of control and burned through the Langford property. I was amazed at how many things were sprouting up through the ash! My afternoon photos show it better, but notice how much green grass is growing in the blackened ground. When I saw how the fire came up the valley and the ridges, I thought about how scary it must have been to watch that wildfire coming your way.

This yucca plant looks pretty burned, but look how much new growth is coming from the base:

There were several places where the fire left beautiful patterns in the wood in the trunks of the trees.

Fire is a natural process that helps clear out underbrush making way for new species. For photographers, this was a unique opportunity to enter a burn zone and photograph the leaves now yellowed, the blackend trunks and the sooty soil. Even though we were here in the spring, the yellowed leaves and cloudy weather makes this look more like a fall landscape.

I know that within the next couple of years, there will be so much new growth that this burned area will be transformed. I hope I get a chance to go back and see the beauty that will come from the flames.

It was still cloudy (a little on the dreary side in terms of lighting) so I knew that I was more likely to have luck with my Photographer's Canvas images.

This is my favorite of the ones I've worked so far. I went beyond what came out of the camera using two filters from Topaz to complete my vision.

My title for this one is "Dancing Trees" because I almost see human figures in these bent and twisted trunks.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NANPA Texas Hill Country Regional Event - LBJ State Historical Park

Friday afternoon was dry and overcast. I did not make it to the Wildseed Farm but I did make it to the LBJ State Historical Park and the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead. I decided to do digital art treatments to these images.

The road in front of the farmstead has these beautiful old oak trees.

These old fences fascinate me.

This wagon made me want to try a sepia look in addition to the DA treatments.

Photomatics' HDR and Topaz filters really brought out the faded colors in this old wagon.

Sometimes you just don't get a sunset. Kathy Adams Clark had given us a great location for sunset. We tried lightpainting this tree, but the conditions weren't working for that. I went ahead and tried my zoom techniques. With a little more work in Photoshop, I ended up with this image.

My group ended the day eating Mexican food - good fellowship is a great way to end the day!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NANPA - Texas Hill Country Regional Event

I spent this past weekend in Fredericksburg, Texas at the North American Nature Photographer's Texas Hill Country Regional Event. We had photographers: Kathy Adams Clark, Sean Fitzgerald, Mike Murphy, and Laurence Parent. As we came into Thursday, the weather forecast was not encouraging: rain and thunderstorms for the next several days. I was not daunted, some of my best photographs have been taken on rainy days.
We woke Friday morning to radar showing a strong thunderstorm heading straight for Fredericksburg. The two groups going to Block Creek Natural Area headed on out and got there before the storm broke. Kathy Adams Clark's group photographed hummingbirds from the porch. My group, led by Sean Fitzgerald enjoyed some great slide show presentations as the rain hammered the metal barn roof. The worst of the storm passed and my group got into their photo blinds.

While there wasn't great light for photography, it was certainly a good time for capturing behaviors and wet birds. I really enjoyed watching this house finch as he shook both himself and his head trying to rid his feathers of excess water.

That really is a head there- what a spinning top he created with his head!

I heard someone complaining at one point about just getting finches and sparrows . . . but I'm pretty sure this is a clay colored sparrow . . . not one I see at my house!

While I have also photographed the golden fronted woodpecker in Amarillo, it was fun to see it again here in Central Texas.

A treat even for the ranchers was this rose-breasted grosbeak - a first for their property.

The prettiest bird of the day was the painted bunting. I had loaned my big lens to one of the other participants, so I was shooting with my 100-400. He really never came close enough to a good perch for any of us to get a great shot that morning. But I hear that on some of the other days, some of the photographers got some good shots of this colorful bird.

We did have much better lighting later in the event. There were several different blinds that attracted more species such that each photographer probably came home with a different mix of birds depending upon where he/she was sitting. I didn't get back during the better lighting, but I found myself promising myself another visit to Block Creek Natural area so that I could take my time at all the blinds. One of the nice things about the blinds at Block Creek Natural Area is that you have the opportunity for up close and personal images of the various birds. I hope I get back soon. And I hope I can visit some of the other ranches that are part of the Texas Hill Country Nature Photography Alliance.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hutto's Pond at Riverwalk

Henry and I have been trying to get out and walk regularly. When we first moved to Hutto, we had to drive to Pflugerville or Round Rock to find walking trails. As Hutto has grown, we are now getting more walking trails. We've been over to the pond just south of Brush Creek across from the soccer fields. I don't know that it has a name, but the walk is .7 of a mile. For me it has the added attraction of having some great birds.

My bird list to date from my walks there:
barn swallow
blue winged teal
pied bill grebe
northern shoveler
red tail hawk
red shouldered hawk
red wing blackbird
little blue heron
great blue heron
green heron
great egret
snowy egret
great tailed grackle
yellow rumped warbler
mourning dove
Eurasian dove
double crested cormorant
savannah sparrow
house finch
greater yellowlegs
lessor yellowlegs
downy woodpecker

It is quiet there in the mornings. In the late afternoons, there is soccer practice across the street, people fishing on the pond, families with kids and dogs walking with us. Such a feeling of community! While it has been sad to watch Hutto go from being a rural in nature to urban, it is also nice to have great places to walk!

There is another lake that is being developed as a park for Hutto. We're going to check it out soon!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Mount Redoubt

From Mount Redoubt Photos, a wonderful photo essay of Mount Redoubt's eruption. Some of the photos I'd seen before, others were new to me.

Thanks go to Rich Legg's Twitter for leading me to those great images.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Twitter stuff

My husband started using Twitter before I did. It was a very useful tool when we were in Galveston experiencing and photographing Hurricane Ike. I've enjoyed keeping up with friends via the "Tweets."

Lately, I've been exploring the larger world of Twitter. I've downloaded the application TweetDeck to arrange the incoming Tweets so that like things are together. At the moment, its 10 columns are not enough. I have a column for Friends and Family, my photography friends at the Digital Image Cafe, All Friends, Direct Messages, Replies, Christian, Photography, Organize Clutter, Gardening, and Publishing. I would like more columns so I could have a column for birding, news, perhaps business or editorial.

I'm bookmarking some sites related to Twitter that I'm finding useful:

TweetStats keeps track of your average tweets/day, when you tweet, how you tweet during the days of the week, who you are replying to, what method you used to Tweet (phone, web, Tweetdeck, Tweetie, etc)

TweetEffect gives some information on which posts cause people to follow or unfollow you. (Funny, spell check doesn't like unfollow . . . guess we have a new word there - it is used by RSSfriends.) I suspect that a given tweet may or may not be the reason you lose followers. Some people follow in hopes that you will follow them. If you don't, they drop out.

Tweet Trail lets you enter a subject and it finds other people who tweet about it.

RSSFriends tracks changes in friends list or follower and unfollower on Twitter with an RSS Feed. Friends shows who you are folllowing, Followers tracks people as they follow and unfollow you.

Twellow - Twitter Yellow Pages

Local Tweeps You can search your area (or another) to find local people of interest to follow.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Road

I have a friend that is inspiring me right now. She is facing a potentially difficult stretch of life due to illness. She is viewing this as an adventure and a road - a road less travelled.

Isaiah 57:14
And it will be said:
"Build up, build up, prepare the road!
Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people."

As I thought about this passage, several thoughts have flitted through my head.

We are all on a journey through life. God is already in front of us, building up our road, preparing it for us to travel on to our various destinations. We each have our own, individual road. While our ultimate destination is heaven, our short term destinations will be unique from one person to another.

We all will deal with obstacles as we travel the road of life - disappointments, illness, people who let us down, dreams that seem to go unrealized, difficult people, physical limitations, even aging. We have some choices as to how we will react when we encounter our obstacles. Will we give up and quit - not reaching our destination? Will we find a way to go around the obstacle or destroy the obstacle? Will it be an obstacle that we must wait patiently in expectation for God to remove?

I found myself encouraged with this concept of God removing the obstacles out of the way of his people. It gives me confidence to keep patiently walking the pathway that God has set before me, knowing He will guide me to the destination he has planned specially for me.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


When I take my Photographer's Canvas images, using in camera motion blur, I never know what I'm going to get. Occasionally, I get some almost mysterious effects - totally unplanned, and definitely not photoshopped. The only adjustments to these images was the conversion from RAW which adjusts contrast, color balance, and saturation and the removal of sensor dust spots and blobs. I can promise you that these were taken of the aspen forests in Colorado. But just like sometimes our imagination sees images and shapes in the clouds, sometimes these abstracts give our imagination new input. These two images have given my imagination a glimpse of more than just trees.

So, I'm curious . . .

What do you see? I would love your comments!