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
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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
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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
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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.

Bee Chases Bee

My turn! My turn!
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Photo taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Richmond, Virginia
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While photographing the bees with my camera, I’ve observed how they attempt to knock each other off the flowers. I imagine it’s a survival technique – if the flower is good, why should they try a different one even though others are nearby without competiton?

The bees try to chase away each other, as well as wasps, butterflies, beetles, and anything else that might be collecting pollen. Sometimes they’re successful in getting the prize, other times they lose and have to find their own flower.

What’s interesting is that the butterflies aren’t easily dislodged. Often I hear a thunk as the bee bounces off a butterfly and careens off, usually acting a bit wobbly.

This was post processed using;

  • Topaz Studio – AI Clear, Precision, and Contrast; Abstraction 2 provided simplification
  • OnOne – Sunshine Radiance
  • Textures – 2 Lil’ Owls Canteen and French Script Collection
  • Border – Photomorphis Textural Borders

Bee Butt Cuteness

Bumblebee at work on a thistle
Taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
Richmond, Virginia
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“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should,

for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”

Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
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The sight of this bumblebee buried deep in the flower made me laugh. As I looked for a quote to use, I realized that I didn’t have a bee butt in the picture. Instead, I photographed an upside down bee that was so laden with pollen, it looked like it was wearing pantaloons.

I was surprised to find there’s a Pinterest board for bee butts, as well as articles, tweets and all kinds of social media.

And those little round fuzzy rumps are cute as long as they aren’t sitting on me.

The original picture had a leg sticking up, looking like a turkey drumstick. I cloned that out. It was funny, but not picturesque.

The picture was post processed mostly in Topaz Studio by using AI Gigapixel to upsize it, AI Clear to remove noise and BuzSim 2 for the abstract look. Black Dust and Black Magic 3 textures in the background were from 2 Lil Owls. The picture was finished in onOne with a center spot vignette and torn paper frame.

Perfect Peony

Tree Peony at
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Richmond, Virginia
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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.

Plato in the Peonies

The Beauty of a Spent Peony
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Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his own hemlock. A man toting a sack of blood manure across his lawn is kin to Atlas letting the world spin easy on his shoulder.

― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
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Gardening IS a handy excuse for being a philosopher. It teaches life lessons in so many ways.

There are successes and failures. Many, many failures sometimes. So many that sometimes we wonder whether or not to even continue.

A gardener has to experiment, research, and keep notes.

Patience is paramount. Seeds and plants take time to grow, soil takes time and effort to amend, and constant pruning is a necessity.

Things can go wrong beyond your control, from weather to bugs to dogs digging in the dirt. And they’re not always even your dogs!

Some challenges can be overcome, others cannot or are not worth the price to pay.

But a gardener grows, learns, and moves on – the same as in life. To not do so invites stagnation, misery for you and worse, misery for everyone around you. We have to accommodate change, whether we want to or not.

So gardening, like many other things in life, makes us all into philosophers. The lessons learned become lessons for the rest of our life.

The question is – are we paying attention to it?

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This picture was post processed using:

  • Finger Painting in Topaz Studio
  • Splendid Spring as the background from Daily Texture
  • Festival Lights and a Brayer Mask from 2 Lil’ Owls Textures
  • Sloppy Border 19 from onOne

Winter Beauty

Deep Run Park, Richmond, Virginia

To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Beauty in All Hours


I took this picture during one of my winter walks at our local park. The day was cool without many people walking (always a surprise around here). I love how the bare branches interplay with the evergreens and sky.

The great thing about walking – besides just getting some fresh air – is how it builds up my feet and ankles. I can stand longer in the kitchen to cook or to hike farther on my photography trips without pain.

When I get off path at this park, the ground is uneven with lots of gnarly roots. I’ve wrenched my foot and fallen a few times. It’s a good workout though and walking in the woods always makes the day better.

The picture started out as this:

My initial processing cropped the picture down and removed the bright red coat from the dock. Should I process this again, I think I’d leave that in next time.

The remaining processing was done in Topaz, with a finishing vignette and frame from onOne. The details are as follows:

The Muse Has Left The Building

My chair and it's comfy pads along with a pile of books and my notebook.
My chair and it’s comfy pads along with a pile of books and my notebook.

Remember on the old Frazier show, how it would always end with “Frazier has left the building“, a riff of course on the phrase, “Elvis has left the building“. Well, in response to weekly photo challenge for this week on muse, I find it hard to show what’s calling to me because nothing is.

The muse has left the building.

Continue reading “The Muse Has Left The Building”

Looking Up From the Ground

I become so focused on my photography, that sometimes I forget to look up and just enjoy the moment.

The other day, I was intent on photographing this robin while I was at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens:

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Chasing a Robin

What appealed to me were the rich colors of the feathers on its back, as well as the distinctiveness of the white around its eye:

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Pretty Robin!

Yes, I can photograph robins in the backyard and I have (click here to see the momma robin outwitting me). But when I’m at the gardens, I photograph anything that appeals to me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I always come back with a lot of pictures even on the days I plan on only walking.

Continue reading “Looking Up From the Ground”

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!