Looking Towards the Sun

“And I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.”
― Nicholas Sparks

This was post processed using Edward Hopper 1 in Topaz Studio and a 2 Lil’ Owls texture from the Exposition collection. Finishing touches in ON1 included a surreal dynamic contrast, lens blur for the vignette and the border, instant.

Taking a Walk

Smiling Back at Me
Taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Richmond, Virginia

I love taking walks and often use my camera as an excuse to do so. Having a wonderful botanical garden so close to my house makes a big difference too – I can be there with a short drive and the scenery changes constantly.

With my camera, I’m much more observant on my walks. This is true with my cell phone camera as well. I’m looking and scanning for what could be an interesting picture. I’m also looking to see what’s new, different, or what’s changed since the last time I was there.

Not every picture is perfect and not every photo is worthy of post processing work. But by showing up and taking pictures frequently, many are in fact worth further work. But to have such pictures in my inventory, I have to be out there taking them.

The flowers above are so cheery – I feel like they’re just waiting for me to smile back at them.

This was post processed using the Fresh Start Haze and Soft Boost actions from 2 Lil’ Owls. Textures were from Jai Johnson’s Impressionist Spring and Splendid Spring collections. Topaz provided the Artries Movie Poster abstraction, and ON1 was used for various finishing effects.

Sunflowers In Virginia

“I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life that the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.”

― Helen Mirren

I had no idea there were sunflower farms in Virginia! Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery graciously allowed my husband and I to take pictures even though they weren’t open to the public at that time.

Fields of A Thousand Suns
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
Goochland, Virginia

As you can see, the clouds were beautiful and dramatic, making the sunflower fields even more beautiful. When a gentle wind came through, they nodded their heads in unison, making for a field of golden delight.

“A sunflower field is like a sky with a thousand suns.”

― Corina Abdulahm-Negura

Plentiful Sunflowers

There were bees everywhere, along with wasps and butterflies. Many sunflowers had multiple bees on them too, rolling in the pollen.

Competition for a Sunflower

The opportunity for taking these photos was unexpected. And what a gift it was! All kinds of pretty pictures came home with us, along with the memories of walking the fields and seeing all that beauty around us. It was a wonderful day.

Perfect Peony

Tree Peony at
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Richmond, Virginia

Sometimes I don’t realize that I’ve taken a perfect picture until I get home and start reviewing my work. That was the case with this tree peony.

The color, the symmetry, the unfolding of the petals – all made for a rich and luxurious flower, waiting for me to release it to the world.

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The background was replaced with Daily Texture’s Sweet Tooth. Finishing was done in ON1 with radiance sunshine, center spot vignette, and the Martha border.

This was taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.

It’s Beautiful Everywhere

One great thing about spring in Virginia is how pretty it is everywhere. I thought I’d show you what I see as I’m driving around! A word of warning though – these are not drop dead gorgeous shots. They can’t be. The locations are bad and on the days I shot these, so was the lighting. But it had been raining and more rain was coming. So it was either take the pictures or have none.

But back on topic – it’s pretty in front of the bank.

Flowering trees at the bank
Flowering trees at the bank

Continue reading “It’s Beautiful Everywhere”

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.

20111031 (170) Blog
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!


If I Had An Extra Hour. . .

Flowers & a bee at the botanical gardens in Richmond, Virginia
Drumstick allium (allium sphaerocephalon) and a bee at the botanical gardens in Richmond, Virginia

Today’s question is – if I had an extra hour in the day, I would:

  • Work on my photography skills
  • Read
  • Clean the house more frequently (it gets way too dirty for my tastes before we clean it again)

I would not:

  • Cook more – cooking once or twice a month works just fine for me.  Eating a fresh cooked meal each day is not important anymore.

I found today’s question from 30 Days of Lists causing me to think more carefully about the constant wish for more time in my day, mostly – is an extra hour a day enough time to make a difference?

Birthday present from my daughter (because I'd admired hers so much)
Birthday present from my daughter (because I’d admired hers so much)

Not surprisingly, the answer is yes and no.

Yes – I’ve gotten a surprisingly number of big projects done by devoting 30 minute a day most days of the week to it.  I get frustrated feeling that I’m barely chipping away, but then one day it’s done or done enough to move on.

No – It takes me forever to get anything meaningful done.  I’d be more satisfied if I could devote big chunks of time to my passions and interests outside of work.  And by big chunks of time, I mean high quality time, not the leftover time when I’m too tired to really enjoy what I’m doing.

I also wonder if I could find an extra hour in the day, right now.  For example, being more disciplined after work to work on my photography skills or sit and read instead of mindlessly watching television.  If I am somewhat successful to find 30 minutes a day to work on a crummy project, can I expand that to 60 minutes and do something more worthwhile?  Or spend it half on the crummy project and half on my photography?

That’s easy to write, but I’m not so sure about execution between coming home late from work most nights and being so tired by 9 pm – which is normal to be tired that late in the evening.  It’s hard to complain about being tired after a good and productive day at work.

But it’s worth thinking about and seeing if I can tinker with my routines more (here’s a post from several years ago on why I think routines are so important in my life).

Of course, I could spend an extra hour a day cuddling a miniature pinscher and letting him use me as his very own pillow.
Of course, I could spend an extra hour a day cuddling a miniature pinscher and letting him use me as his very own pillow.

Changing topics – I haven’t responded yet to the comments from yesterday (thank you so much for taking time to write me something!), but after I wrote yesterday’s post, I wondered why I cared so much about sharing my list.  Is this interesting enough to bother with posting each day or should I just keep it in my journal?

Several years ago, I wrote a good post about why I blog.  I’d been working my way back from some major discouragement over the whole blogging thing and laid out why I was blogging and keeping on with it.

Those reasons are still true two years later.  I blog:

  • To remember my life for myself;
  • To share my life with family and friends, including the many friends I’ve made here through our blogs;
  • To be an encouragement to others;
  • Because I need to write;
  • To point out beauty and happiness everywhere.

Yesterday’s post did all those things.  Some of you hooted with laughter because you would have had the same items on your list.  Ya’ll thought it was pretty good that you weren’t the only ones that couldn’t pass by those things!  For me, much of that list is the same as it was when I was a child and young adult.  The things I loved then, I still love now.  And as always, you enjoyed my pictures, even though they were slices of life instead of pretty flowers.

I’m enjoying the challenge and the questions.  I’m also making some new friends at WordPress who are also participating in this.

So yes, it’s worth my time to write this up and share it.  I hope you do too and thanks, as always, for the likes, your words of encouragement and the laughter you share in the comments.


Hydrangeas in Bloom


With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
― Oscar Wilde

And I learned what is obvious to a child.
That life is simply a collection
of little lives, each lived one day at a time.
 That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers
and poetry and talking to animals.
That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets
and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.
But most of all, I learned that life is
about sitting on benches next to ancient creeks
with my hand on her knee and sometimes,
on good days, for falling in love.
― Nicholas Sparks

For more about hydrangeas, check out these websites:



Photos were taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and along the James River Canal by Brown’s Island in Richmond, Virginia.

A Fall Walk

I love spending time on the weekends at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.  Although they’re not big, they have a lot there and it changes every week.

More and more I realize though that I don’t go there to think, meditate or even contemplate.  I find that as I wander around with my camera, my brain is just. . . empty.  Yep, empty.  I’m not thinking about anything.  I’m enjoying what I see, what I hear, and sometimes what I feel without analyzing, questioning, or worrying about it.

I’m just enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.  Well, somedays there’s no sunshine and it’s too humid to hardly breathe, but that doesn’t stop me from having a good time.

For some reason, mostly because my garden is dying back, I didn’t think there’d be much there to see or take pictures of.  Ha!  I was wrong about that.

Sometimes the beauty is subtle.  I enjoy it because the colors or shapes appeal to me or I just find it interesting.  These cone flowers are way past prime, but the round centers that remain are just pretty, at least to me.

Sometimes it’s textures that surprise me.  I can’t always make them photogenic, but I try to capture anyhow.

This one really surprised me.  It’s a passion flower, but very different than the one on my mailbox.  I took a bunch of pictures from different angles, but that fringe was just incredible.  And the whole flower was just so purple!

So where was I?  Oh yes, empty brain.  I used to think it would be neat to go to the gardens and just sit there, praying and contemplating.  Unfortunately, the benches are really uncomfortable.  I can’t sit forward and I can’t lean back.

Besides, I can sit in a comfortable chair on the deck in my backyard.  Here, when I walk I see all kinds of things.  Some are just downright cute.

Other things are just beautiful, even if I can’t get a very good picture (I don’t think this butterfly is native to Virginia; I took it inside the butterfly exhibit that’s still here in town).

I can’t get too excited about my inability to focus or concentrate.  My job has a lot of stress and decisions that need to be made pretty much each day.  I need downtime on the weekends and learned a long time ago that if I don’t make time for it, my energy and patience the following week will pay dearly for it.

So I accept that leaving my brain empty and / or wandering is a good thing and to just leave it be.  It’s a great reset for my mental health and some exercise as well.  Besides taking pictures of pretty things :)

Did you know roses bloom from April to October?  I didn’t.  I found that out during the tram ride at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.

I also love visiting a few favorite places and observing the changes since the last time I was there.  Fall comes slowly to Virginia, but there are signs that it’s on the way.  In the spring of course, I look for the swelling buds that say the leaves are nearly here.

I have lots more pictures to share, but will end today’s post with more of the brown-eyed susans.  I loved them!  I took them from every angle I could think of.

I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a walk with me.  Did you empty your mind for a few minutes?  It would be nice if you did.  Maybe you can go take a walk now for a few minutes, even if just to fill your water glass, and relax a little longer before going back to your day.

I leave with you with this thought:

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible
and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.
It is a little star-dust caught,
a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Although I’ve been using photos from both this and last year from the botanical gardens, I didn’t think to do a series each month of what I saw.  But here are my walks there in JanuaryMarch, April, and November.