A Late Winter Walk

Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.
– Henry David Thoreau

A few days before the official start of spring, I took a walk at one of my favorite places, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. The shadows were lovely, even though the trees are still bare. The crocus were in bloom – just barely – so spring is definitely on its way.

Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The last time I shared pictures from the botanical gardens, it was still early fall (click here to see) and there was an abundance of colors all over. The day I took these photos did not have such. I still enjoyed being there, but had kept my expectations low as to what I would see.

The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

When the leaves are down, I see things that are otherwise covered up. I made that observation years ago and it’s still true today.

Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Here’s another view of the greenhouse. I don’t normally stand this far back, but I loved the composition of the center of the greenhouse against the empty trees.

Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I also don’t normally photograph the bridge from the gazebo (my gazebo shots are usually taken from the bridge though!), but once again, I liked how the light played with the shapes. Plus it was pretty empty, so I didn’t have to wait so long to get pictures without people in them.

Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I’ve noticed when I walk the dogs around the neighborhood that the leaves are sounding like fall when they skitter across the blacktopped road. We have a lot of old oak trees around the homes here and they don’t drop their leaves until they’re nearly ready to start putting out new green ones. So everyday there’s more leaves on the grass, the cars, and skittering around in the wind.

Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I was cold. I didn’t wear a winter coat, but I was wearing a heavier hat and my fingerless gloves.



The greenhouse was its usual oasis of warmth and bright colors. I love going in there when it’s cold out! Years ago, a fellow blogger (Patti at A New Day Dawns) left me a comment that the greenhouse was like dessert after a cold day in the garden. I laughed then and I still laugh now at that, because that’s exactly what it reminds me each time I go in there when the garden has so little color. In fact, some of the pictures that I took in January 2012 had more color and foliage than I found in mid-March of 2015.

That statue had a little brown spider (most likely a wolf spider, nothing more) on its head. I didn’t realize it until I was nearly done shooting the picture and the spider moved! And yep, every one of my carefully composed pictures had that little spider on it. I did clone out of the final photo above. Still, wish I’d known it was there. I would have come back later to take the pictures.

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I enjoyed the beauty of the day. No, it’s not the over-the-top cacophony of colors that I see from April to October. But it was pretty, the fresh air was great, and I enjoyed finding new photos that I wouldn’t have probably taken when the trees were in full leaf. It was a good day.

Walls of Creativity, Part 2

Continuing with this week’s photo challenge of walls, another great exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA) was that of Japanese woodblock prints.

There were two exhibits – prints from Kawase Hasui (1883 to 1957) and a commission from a more contemporary artist, Miwako Nishizawa.

Sign to the Kawase Hasui Exhibit

Sign to the Kawase Hasui exhibit

Unfortunately, I could not take pictures at the Kawase Hasui exhibit. I watched a film of his process and how the woodblock prints are made, which was interesting. The chisels and knives used to carve out the prints and the precision to get it done was incredible. This process took years to learn and Hasui had two different men who helped him – one that created the woodblock and the other that mixed the dyes and created the print. Hasui’s work is on display on the Internet at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and also at the Hanga Gallery. The Hanga Gallery can be accessed by clicking here, then at the top selecting the artist Hasui, Kawase.  Unfortunately, I cannot provide a direct link.  Note also that these links are good at this time; if they stop working, please let me know.

Miwako does her own woodblock prints, from creating the woodblock to making the print itself. She taught a class at the VMFA and made a short video of the woodblock process:


Miwako was commissioned to do an exhibit “Twelve Views of Virginia“. She spent considerable time traveling around the state, taking sketches, and deciding on how to best convey what Virginia is about. I know many of the places she visited – Skyline Drive, Colonial Williamsburg, Natural Bridge, Hollywood Cemetery, Manassas National Battlefield. Others were not familiar to me, but her work made me feel that I would easily recognize them when I visit.

The display also had information showing her sketches and preliminary work, as well as other information about the exhibit. I don’t recognize the sketches in any of the woodblock prints, so it is likely they were studies she did but ultimately did not use.

One other curious thing that my favorite boy toy and I both noticed was that almost every picture had three stamps on it – two black ones together and a red one on the other side. We’re not sure what they signified but we speculated it could be the stamp of authenticity by the woodblock preparer, the inker, and the artist.

The Kawase Hasui exhibit and Twelve Views of Virginia commission were donated courtesy of VMFA members René Balcer and his wife, Carolyn Hsu-Balcer. Carolyn grew up in Richmond and is active in education and the arts. René is known as a television writer, director and producer. His shows include Law & Order and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I very much enjoyed their generosity in viewing these exhibits and am fortunate to have such beautiful things available to me here in my hometown.

Part 1 of Walls of Creativity is here. To see what others did with this week’s challenge, click here.


Walls of Creativity, Part 1

During a recent visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA), I came across an exhibit of 20th and 21st Century Art. Although I’m often not a fan of what is in these galleries, they changed since the last time I walked through there and I was impressed by their creativity. For this week’s photo challenge of “walls“, I wanted to share some of what I saw.


Woman Facing Wall by John DeAndrea

This sculpture is cast from a real model, with the scars and blemishes added in as the artist created her. What fascinated me was that despite the gray tones used on her skin, she was so life like! I fully expected her to lift her head up from the wall and say “gotcha!”. Her muscle tone, stretch marks (look at her right hip), and nails were just perfect.

Woman Facing Wall by John DeAndrea

Woman Facing Wall by John DeAndrea

Here’s a close-up of some details:


The Former and the Ladder or Ascension and a-Cinchin’ by Trenton Doyle Hancock

There’s so much to notice on this picture! I found it easy to look at though – the artist does a good job of moving your eyes around it without causing mass confusion. As for meaning, it’s whatever I, the viewer, want to make of it. Is it about the glory of something past? Or feeling like I’ve never arrived? Is it a commentary on work and climbing the corporate ladder? It’s hard to tell, but I found myself thinking about it for quite a while.

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The Former and the Ladder or Ascension and a-Cinchin’ by Trenton Doyle Hancock

Here’s a close-up of some details:


Zero Hour from the Wayfarer Series by Hank Willis Thomas

According to the sign, this exhibit was to explore assumptions and attitudes about black identity, as well being “an emblem of racial hybridity”. This is the reason for why the model is half black / half in white face.

There were several notable things about this exhibit. As you can see, the model turns from fully black to partially black / partially white to all white as you move from right to left. The glass is frosted, so that no matter where you stand, only one panel is in focus. The rest is blurry. And it seemed that because of that, the model was looking right at you no matter where you stood.

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Zero Hour from the Wayfarer Series by Hank Willis Thomas



Vessel by Radcliffe Bailey

Surprisingly, this was not about Christopher Columbus (notice there is only one ship). It was about slavery. The artists’ ancestors escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad by following the North Star. The ship represents passage from Africa, the glass is displacement, and the map is the Mason-Dixon line along with the regiment numbers of blacks who served in the Civil War.

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Vessel by Radcliffe Bailey

Here’s some detail:


Four Men in Formal Attire (after Guston) by Charles McGill

Before I explain this picture, take a close look at it. Does it remind you of anything? It did me and I don’t mean in a positive way either. It strongly reminded me of the hoods of the Ku Klux Klan.

Reading the description, that is what the artist wanted. I’d even go another step and say that the rims of the golf bags remind me of chains used to bind slaves together around their waists. I would have never imagined golf bags to be so evocative, which is why I found this so creative.

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Four Men in Formal Attire (after Guston) by Charles McGill


Xilempasto 6 by Henrique Oliveira

This was the first museum piece sold by this artist. It consists of plywood that has been soaked, stained and painted. In the end, it looks like driftwood, doesn’t it?

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Xilempasto 6 by Henrique Oliveira

Here are the wall cards explaining each picture. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. Whether you like what the artist did or not, it was certainly different!

To see what others did with this challenge, click here.


The Joy of Common Work

Visitors Center at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Visitors Center at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

. . . Do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
– Robert Lewis Stevenson

It’s easy for me to get caught up in wanting everything fancy, just like I think everyone else has it.

But of course, very few have everything fancy. For most of us, we have to cook and wash dishes, do laundry, clean, and take care of our children and / or pets.

There’s a joy in it – in the routine of scrubbing pots, folding clothes or sweeping floors. There’s a joy in the pleasure of a dog when you’ve bent over next to them to put on your shoes and they can look up at you and wag their tail.

Joy is everywhere, but we have to remind ourselves to seek it and be aware of it in the little things in our lives. To not let daily living overwhelm the sweet little things of our everyday actions.

For your amusement, below is the original and some experiments. I like the one that includes the “worn brick” texture and really found it hard to choose between it and the one I finally used. Both look good, but for different reasons.

What Is Orange?

So what is orange?

Orange is warmth and sunlight, whether on my face or basking in a smile from my daughter.

My daughter in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine.  Post processed with Topaz Effects "Exposure Correction" and on1 frame "Platinum Brush".

My daughter in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine.

Orange is the glory of flowers, showing off their brilliance for all to see and enjoy.

Marigolds taken in the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  Processed with Topaz Impressions "Abstract 2" and on1 border "Dano".

Marigolds taken in the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

It is delicate sunrises and spectacular sunsets.

Sunset in Richmond, Virginia.  Post processed with Topaz Effects "Warm Tone 2" and on1 border "Sloppy Border 8".

Sunset in Richmond, Virginia.

It is fruits and vegetables, lined up gaily, whether for eating or decorations.

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Pumpkins taken in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.


Orange is the first beauty of fall, the beginning of the long slide into winter (of which I’ve had enough, thank you).

Gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.  Processed in Lightroom with on1 border "Ghost Effect Black".

Gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.

It’s the color of a beagle’s head, waiting to be petted.

Beagle in the backyard.  Post processed with Topaz Impressions "Oil Painting by Jim LaSala" and on1 border "Russell".

Beagle in the backyard.

To see how others interpreted this week’s photo challenge for orange, click here.

Inspiration and A Funny Story

I’d like to thank Robin at Reflections For My Soul. The flowers she posted reminded me of warmth and sunlight. The day I viewed them, we had just had sleet and snow and then the temperatures went below freezing and stayed there.

Funny story there – I have two Robin’s who follow my blog and regularly leave comments. Yep, two of them. So when Robin at Reflections For My Soul started following me, I was initially confused, thinking that Robin at Breezes at Dawn had changed her avatar from the pictures of her crossed feet to that of a western style hat. It took me a few days to realize that no, I actually had two blogging friends named Robin and they were not the same person.

Before and After

Interested in the before and after of these photos? The sunset was truly that spectacular, being caused by a fire in the Great Dismal Swamp (yes, that’s really it’s name), causing a high level of air pollution due to the particulates it was throwing up.  The best camera is the one you have with and that night it was my old Canon point and shoot, the Pro1. It didn’t have a lot of megapixels, but I got the shot! I posted another version of this several years ago, here.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had some discussions with Stacy Fisher at Visual Venturing and Dee & Gee at Dee Gee’s Photograph Australia about camera gear and post processing our pictures. The reason I bring it up is to encourage you to look closer at these pictures. It is wonderful to have good gear, which is why I upgraded last year from the Canon Rebel 3Ti to a Canon 6D.  It’s also wonderful to use camera raw to get some extra help when post processing your photos.

But we can take the pictures from the old point and shoots, the pictures we took in jpg instead of camera raw, and the pictures that are just marginal, and make them better. They’re still usable! Yes, they might be better with a better camera, but at least for me, it was an evolution. My husband about sat on me to get to me upgrade my old point and shoot to a DSLR, the Rebel (I wouldn’t spend more than that). Even then, I wouldn’t shoot raw nor was I using Lightroom yet. Finally – FINALLY – I started using Lightroom. Cee Neuner and Steve Schwartzman in the blogging community encouraged me to shoot raw when I asked how they were shooting reds without the colors looking muddy.  My husband was happy for someone else to convince me to do it since he was unable to do so.

So here are the before and after shots, with the camera and type of shot used. Remember that with a jpg, the camera is making post processing decisions for you. That is why, straight out of the camera, a jpg looks pretty good. With camera raw, the camera makes no or minimal decisions, depending on your settings. You have to tell it everything, which is why the raw pictures below look so poor. The upside is there is a great more data available, so a picture can be really pushed with processing before it develops problems.

Taken with the Canon EOS 6D, using camera raw:

Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using camera raw:

Taken with the Canon Powershot Pro1, using jpg:

Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using jpg:

Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using jpg:

Taken with the Canon EOS 6D, using camera raw:

So stay encouraged. Keep taking pictures. Keep improving. And keep using the old pictures as well as the new. You’ve worked hard for your inventory and even if you can’t use them now, who knows what future software will make them usable?

For those who read this all the way to the bottom (thank you!), here is a final thought:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.
– Frederick Buechner, American writer and theologian

Have a good week!


AB Friday: March 2015

Final Photo

Final Photo

It’s time again for the ABFriday One Photo Focus Challenge, in which a photograph is provided for readers to interpret with post-photo processing.  This month’s photo came from Loré Dombaj at Snow’s Fissures and Fractures.  To see how other photographers interpreted this picture (and they will be wildly different), click here.
The original started out like this:
Original Photo

Original Photo

As is my usual, I spent some time with Loré’s picture to evaluate what I saw and wanted to emphasize in it (thanks to a fellow blogger, Emilio Pasquale, for pointing out that’s how I do my pictures).  The face of the cherub caught my attention and I decided that’s what my focus would be.  I did some adjustments in Lightroom, then used the radial filters to lighten up the plant on top of the cherub’s head and the cherub’s face.  I used another radial filter to darken the left bicep so it wasn’t so washed out.
I then cloned out the sign that was partially hidden behind the tree and cropped the picture to a 1×1 to remove the extraneous tables and chairs on both sides.  By the way – I cloned out the sign the SECOND time I processed the picture, since I didn’t notice it the first time until I was done with all my adjustments, including those in Photoshop.  It was easier to go back and redo it than try to clone it out so late in the game.
Below is how the radial filters, cloning and cropping were done.  #1 lightened up the entire plant, while #2 lightened up just the darkest part of the plant.  #3 lightened up the face, while #4 darkened the shoulder and upper arm.  #5 cloned out the sign, while #6 cropped the picture into a square.

Detail of the radial filters and cloning done in Lightroom.

Here’s how it looked before going into Photoshop.  I’ve also shown the adjustments panel in Lightroom to show what got changed:
In Photoshop, I applied several different filters to it – Topaz Clarity (Low Contrast and Color Pop 1), Topaz Adjust (Low Contrast and Black Rose), and a border from OnOne (Russell).  The Black Rose was an overall tint that adjusted the entire picture.  I normally don’t do that to my pictures, but in this case I liked how the colors popped out on the statue and tables, while de-emphasizing the plants.
I adjusted brightness and exposure to lighten up the picture slightly, then put on a text layer for a watermark acknowledging the original photographer.  I tried a watermark in both the lower left and upper right corners, before settling on the upper right corner.  That’s why there are two text layers, one of which is turned off (the little eyeball is missing).
March 1PF PS Adjustments Blog
After saving this as a *.psd, I went back to Lightroom and exported it for posting on my blog.  This limits the size and resolution so my pictures take up less space and load faster when my blog posts are opened.  Normally I sharpen my pictures when exporting them, but in this case it over-emphasized the detail, which I felt distracted from the picture itself.


I enjoyed trying out different things, experimenting with several different looks, and creating a beautiful picture.  And for your laughter and amusement, here are some bloopers:

Interested in how I post processed other photos?  Click here to see more.


Babies Now Versus Then

Awww. . . a baby bear hat!  My son-in-law couldn't wait to finally take this picture.

Awww. . . a baby bear hat! My son-in-law couldn’t wait to finally take this picture.

My grandson is two weeks already!  Him and his parents are doing well, albeit with the usual issues of lack of sleep and trying to figure out why he might be crying this time.  In other words, everything is normal.

This week’s photo challenge is “reward”.  Last fall, I wrote a post about parenthood being the ultimate endurance test (to see my post, click here).  One of the things I didn’t mention though, is that having grandchildren is one of the rewards for parenting.

I’ve enjoyed watching my daughter and son-in-law learn to take care of a baby and each other.  Initially, it took two of them to change the diaper.  Nursing was another learning curve, as were the trips back to the doctor for both the baby and my daughter, for well baby checks and questions she had about her recovery.  They figured out how to dress the baby for the cold, get him in and out of the car, plus planning ahead for what all needed to be in the diaper bag.

My sister and I both remember that learning curve well.  We’ve spent a fair amount of time this last week comparing how it was for our first few days home from the hospital and how our husbands learned along with us.

For a further trip down memory lane, I thought I’d share some photos of my grandson versus his mother.

At seven months pregnant, she was smaller than I was, although her 6″ difference in height helped her!

My daughter wasn’t too enthused about how she looked right after the baby was born, but I assured her that all women look that tired, sweaty, and worn out.

The fathers help take care of the baby too.

And then we have pass the baby –

even among the grandparents.

Eventually Mom gets the baby back again.

Aren’t the babies just cute?

Lastly, here are some other pictures of my grandson for your enjoyment!

I’d like to thank my son-in-law and daughter for providing some of these pictures.  The uncle and grandfather are my son-in-law’s family.  The aunt is my sister and the great-grandmother was my maternal grandmother.  I have posts about my sister here and here; posts about my maternal grandmother are here and here.

To see how others used this week’s word, click here.