Travel Theme: Horizon


Railroad Park in Birmingham, Alabama

I don’t know what it is about new horizons that thrills me so much.  It’s the excitement of something new, whether learning or seeing or just an experience of some sort.

Wikipedia defines horizon as:

The horizon (or skyline) is the apparent line that separates earth from sky, the line that divides all visible directions into two categories: those that intersect the Earth’s surface, and those that do not. At many locations, the true horizon is obscured by trees, buildings, mountains, etc., and the resulting intersection of earth and sky is called the visible horizon.

The first photo was taken at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.  I was there for a seminar, having spent the first few days of that week visiting a manufacturing location of my employer and then talking with state government officials in Mongtomery, Alabama, also on behalf of my employer.

I’d not been to Birmingham before and this park was several blocks from my hotel.  It had a nice walking path around the perimeter and as you can see, gave an excellent view of the skyline of downtown Birmingham.  It was also busy, so I felt safe walking there.


Smoky Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina

The next photo was taken in Asheville, North Carolina.  Those are the Smoky Mountains in the distance, appropriately named for the haze that perpetually surrounds them.  I went to Asheville for vacation this summer and stayed at the Biltmore Hotel on the grounds of the Biltmore Mansion.  I had a wonderful time exploring the grounds and gardens, eating in the restaurants, and enjoying some solitude.  My favorite boy toy had gone an on extended photography expedition (by himself – vacation for me is NOT getting up at 4 am to take sunrise pictures).  This was my little getaway to reward myself for staying home, taking care of the dogs, and going to work everyday like a good girl.

I’d been to Asheville about 15 years earlier for a conference but hadn’t taken time to explore much of it.  I wanted someplace with lots of outdoors for me to explore, where I didn’t have to worry about mundane details like where to park and eat, and that was nice. . . very, very nice.  In fact, I purposefully kept my vacation shorter in order to stay someplace so nice.


Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia

Last is a horizon from one of my favorite places, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.  I took this from high up in the tree house earlier this spring and got a great sweeping vista of the grounds.  Aren’t the blooming cherry trees just gorgeous?  I love going to Ginter.  Each time, I find something new to look at and from year-to-year, my photos are different.  So while not a new place for me to explore, I stay alert for what will be new on this visit.

So. . . did I cover it?  New places to visit and new experiences to have.  I’d also mentioned learning something new.  And I did!  I learned to be more comfortable traveling by myself.  I do drive back and forth to Atlanta to see my daughter, but I don’t stay in a hotel nor am I on my own.  But in both Alabama and Asheville, I not only traveled alone, but I was on my own.

I had to be careful with my security, observant to enjoy and appreciate what was around me without someone to point things out to me (as I tend to miss things), and not feel guilty for leaving my favorite boy toy behind.  In fact, he came home about 12 hours before I left for Asheville.  I offered to bring him with, but after being gone for six weeks, he just wanted to stay home and unpack.  I had a great time and he encouraged me to go alone, but it was weird and different.  I’m so used to him being with me.  But I did relax and enjoy the trip and was glad that I did it.

I have other pictures to share at from Railroad Park and Asheville both.  I wanted to share these though for Ailsa’s weekly travel theme over at Where’s my backpack?  All kinds of bloggers have linked up to the theme – go check it out and see all kinds of great shots of the horizon!

I leave you with this final thought:

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences,
and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon,
for each day to have a new and different sun.

Christopher McCandless

Categories: Alabama, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, North Carolina, Travel Theme, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Textures in My Backyard


This week’s photo challenge is “texture”.  There are all kinds of great pictures out there to interpret it and I encourage you to click here and check them out.

I eagerly scoured my photos looking for textures until I realized that the photos from my own backyard had some interesting textures of their own!


The two photos above are the trumpet vines that provide privacy between us and our neighbor, whose driveway and garage is just feet away from our deck.  I noticed that the open flowers were facing to the east and when the sun hit them in the morning, they were glowing.  The leaves have all kinds of striations on them, the unopened flowers are smooth and waxy, and the open flowers have a slight velvety texture (complete with moving ants!).

I didn’t see the hummingbird the morning that I photographed the trumpet vine, but it’s been hanging around again this summer.  It really likes the trumpet vine flowers and often in the fall, when the leaves come down, we will find a tiny nest in the vines.

I also found this walking around the deck railing.  It’s a type of assassin bug called a “wheel bug“, named for the large half wheel in the middle of its back.  Talk about textures – look at that wheel, the abdomen, and even the shiny eye.  And yes, it was watching me.  The whole time I photographed it, those eyes stayed focused on me.


Wheel bugs are considered beneficial bugs for the garden.  That long snout is used to pierce through caterpillars, Japanese beetles, and aphids, and suck them dry.

That wasn’t the only texture outside with me that day!  Who could resist scratching that nearly hairless tummy?  The sunbeam came along and captured a miniature pinscher.  For as thick as his pelt is, his tummy barely has any short hairs covering it.


The sunbeam tried to capture a beagle as well.  It must be his age (he just turned nine), but he seems to be shaggier each time I look at him.  For being August and hot, the beagle has tufts of fur everywhere, even in his paws.


From his smooth wet nose to those soft silky ears and his coarse fur, a beagle is a total texture package.  And if you’d like to find out for yourself, he’d love you to come over and pet him!  Just be sure to bring some treats.


Categories: Backyard, Dogs, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

What Inspires Me


The question I’ve been mulling over this week is what inspires me?

This came from this week’s management tip on by Todd Dewett called, “Inspiration Is A Choice” in which he stated that inspiration is not a random occurrence, but is a choice.

According to the dictionary, to inspire is:

to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence; to spur on, impel, motivate; or to affect, draw forth or bring out (such as thoughts or emotions)

Dr. Dewett gave four pointers to practice to attract inspiration:

  1. Always choose a positive perspective
  2. Spend your time with positive people
  3. Count your blessings
  4. Spend time every day finding things that inspire you

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On the day that I listened to this, I paid particular attention to what inspired me on that day to be energetic and engaged, to relax into finding the solutions I needed at work for several problems, and to desiring to spend time working on my photography at night instead of frittering away time in front of the television.

Here was my short list.  I share it with you to inspire you to look for and attract your own inspiration:

  1. Making random chitchat on the elevator.  This day happened to be an executive that I did not know, but I heard about his recent travels and what his family was up to (we actually started talking as we walked in from the garage, so it was bit longer of a chat than usual).
  2. Walking outside during lunch.  It was hot and humid, but the crepe myrtles are in full bloom right now and they are all different colors, as you can see in my photos, from white to purple to red to pink.  I love how the colors just make everything bright and cheery.
  3. Taking time to enthusiastically greet the dogs when they mob me at the door after work.  They’re so excited that I’m home!  It’s fun to make a big deal of them and get them more wild for a few seconds before they go lay down again.
  4. Working on my photographs and seeing them improve as I learn to use Lightroom better.
  5. Encouraging others in their creative ventures, from you – my blogging friends – to the waitress at Cracker Barrel whose poetry books I buy and read, to my favorite boy toy as we both realize that he’s having a major equipment failure with his photo printer.

20130726-38 Blog

This is not a one-time exercise.  I’ve increased my observation of what inspires me, to identify and court it in my life, and just like I’m working on nurturing creativity, I’m also choosing to be inspired.

How about you?  What inspires you?  I’d love to hear it, because you give me ideas to consider and so often, help me clarify my own thoughts.

I leave you with these two quotes, to remind you that inspiration, like nurturing creativity, needs to happen daily.  And that it happens by paying attention, being present in the moment, and being eager to receive it.

People often say that motivation doesn’t last.
Well, neither does bathing. 
That’s why we recommend it daily.
- Zig Ziglar

Do stuff. be clenched, curious.
Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or
society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention.
It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality.
It connects you with others. It makes you eager.
stay eager.
- Susan Sontag


Categories: Creativity, Passion | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Creativity vs. Craft

20130721-184 Blog-2

Stylized rose using textures and presets

The artist is nothing without the gift,
but the gift is nothing without the work.

~ Oscar Wilde

One thing that makes nurturing my creativity hard is the difficulty in accepting that failure is necessary in the process of learning the craft, that the learning curve is messy and long, and the frustrations are endless.  It might be expensive also, as there doesn’t seem to be a way to learn something new without money getting wasted at some point.

Meshack Vallesillas wrote an excellent article here about how often when someone thinks they are not creative, they are confusing craft and creativity.  He states:

. . . anything you might consider ‘art’ is actually made up of two parts; creativity and craft. The craft is the artistic skill used to make art, and creativity is the spark of life or the ingenuity behind it.

It’s easy to look at others and their accomplishments and assume it’s because of their creative gifts that they are so good.  But in fact, creativity requires a perfecting of craft, of practicing, failing, and learning.

Rose as originally shot

Rose as originally shot

I love watching the Food Network.  There are so many examples of practice, creativity and failure.  When I watch Bobby Flay get ready for a throw down challenge, he experiments over and over with the ingredients.  He’s highly creative, but he also practices his craft and hones it.  And his failures seems pretty frequent too!  But if he didn’t try, he wouldn’t know what he knows.

I’ve learned from watching my favorite boy toy that photographers take thousands of pictures, analyze them, throw out most, and go out to take more, trying new techniques to improve their skills.  There is a huge difference in what my favorite boy toy took 40+ years ago when we were in high school together versus what he does today.  But just as importantly, there is a noticeable difference in what he did even several years ago versus what he does today.  I’m not the only one with that opinion either.  The manager of the gallery where he exhibits is amazed at how prolific he is and how each year’s new work is better than the year before.  If you’d like to see his talent, click here.

At work, the younger staff is amazed at the things I know.  I remind them that I’ve had many years to learn this and it’s not something that they will know overnight.  I tell them that learning to do state income taxes is an apprenticeship – not Donald Trump’s apprenticeship, but Mickey Mouse’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  And that it takes practice to get the brooms to bring the water without the water running everywhere!  They laugh, but it gets the point across that their success at work is a matter of practice as much as it is head knowledge.

My new header photo

My new header photo and an excellent example of patience in capturing the subject matter and practicing technique  with Lightroom to fix a small blemish on the bee and properly adjust a photo taken in camera raw (which needs more processing than a jpg)

So when I talked about nurturing my creativity the other day, I forgot the reminder that to be creative means to be learning and executing technique as well as having failures.  I have to remember that practicing something – anything – is part of being creative.  The ideas alone are not sufficient if I can’t make them into reality.  I need to try things to see if I like them and to expand the tools I can use.  Creativity will remain unfulfilled without practice and hard work.

Here are some other links that you might enjoy:

Changing This One Thought Could Lead You To a Better Life (the article I discussed at the beginning of this post)

Why People (Incorrectly) Think They Are Not Creative (best quote – Craft is something you acquire by learning a skill.  If you want to develop your craft, put in your time.)

Creativity, Craft and the Quants (the story about John Lennon and how he could just throw a song together is particularly good – that the song didn’t just happen, it happened to someone with years of experience in listening to and crafting songs)

The Art vs. Craft Gap – A Writer’s Paradox  (another good quote – Art is the essence of that originality and the power of the end result.  Craft is execution using the tools of the trade.)

Crush the “I’m Not Creative” Barrier

Doing a Daily Photo Challenge (my story of how doing a daily photo challenge helped me be a better photographer)


Categories: Creativity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

First Comes Love

Then comes marriage.

And on Friday, my daughter and her husband announced:

baby announce

Yes, there is a baby on the way for next February!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , ,

Nurturing My Creativity. . . Not


Lilies Worked with a Dark Mood Preset in Adobe Lightroom

Lilies Worked with a Dark Mood Preset in Adobe Lightroom

So I’ve been rather missing around here and it’s weird to sit and try to write the first blog post in a long while.

It’s not like my life was wildly interesting during my break.  Mostly I decluttered the house (in a big, big way), cooked, and read.

I lost 40 pounds.  Woohoo!!!  Which is a big reason why I spend so much time cooking.  I’d gotten away from it the last few years.  My favorite boy toy went onto his own diet last fall and lost weight, and I did so as well.

As for the reading, I have been missing that the last few years.  My writing and photography, while fun, took time away from a lot of other things.  As I looked over my goal ideas for 2014, I wanted to read a great more again.  Everything is a trade-off and I knew that when I started to blog.  But I enjoyed the blogging, the new friends that I made, and having a show case for my writing and photography.  But this year, I wanted time for other things as well.

I started a class with Kim Klassen called “Be Still – Fifty Two“.  It’s a year long creativity / photography class.  Kim does some lovely and creative work (you can see it at  I was intrigued by what she would share over the course of a year.  From what I’d seen of a similar course she did in 2012, it appeared to be moderately paced so that I could keep up with it.

Week 6 was working with a preset called “Dark Mood” that she provided.  I was pleased with how the lilies above turned out.  Below is how they originally looked, which is also very nice.  They just aren’t as moody.  I don’t know that I’d alter too many of my photographs with this preset, but it was fun to play with.

The question for Week 6 was what do we do to nurture our creativity?  My initial reaction was, not much.  But as I wrote this, I realized that I am:

  • Writing daily in my journal.  It’s short paragraph using a Moleskine 12 month-weekly notebook, but it is usually daily.
  • At least once and sometimes more in a week, I write a much lengthier entry in my regular notebook journal.  It might be about something I read and want to explore more or an event I want to record in more detail.  But at least once a week, I write more than just a daily paragraph.
  • I’ve started taking courses again (click here for a review on  This is because I recently upgraded both Lightroom and Photoshop to the latest versions and have no idea what the changes are.  I also don’t remember how to do much in Photoshop anymore as I’m not using it enough.

Does my reading nurture my creativity?  I would say it does.  It inspires me, relaxes me, and often gives me things to think about and write about.  It’s a welcome break in my day and far better than watching television, even if I do read trashy romances or too many murder mysteries.  Of course, after doing corporate taxes all day, my brain is too fried to read anything much more complicated than that!  But I read more than fiction.  I recently finished Creativity: The Perfect Crime by Phillippe Petit (he walked the high wire between the Twin Towers of World Trade Center in 1974) and very much enjoyed it.

Is that enough nurturing of my creativity?  I have to think about that more.  On a daily basis, I’m not doing much.  Often, I’m too tired after work to get much done, so my creativity happens in starts and fits on the weekend, after chores and errands are done, assuming I still have anything left over for extra endeavors.  If it sounds like I’m whining, I am.  Which is not right.  My life is good.  But as always, I have more I’d like to do than I have time to do it.

Gratitude, gratitude.  I need to keep practicing that.


Lilies As Originally Shot

Lilies As Originally Shot


Categories: Creativity, Gratitude, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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