Walk in Wonder

It’s late autumn in the far southern part of the United States. I’m enjoying late afternoon walks near my house and here are ten things I’ve noticed while walking:

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia
  1. The warmth of the late afternoon. No matter how cold the mornings are starting, by the late afternoon, I don’t need a coat to walk outside. The same temperature in the spring feels much cooler, I think because the earth is retaining cold. But at this time of the year, the earth is retaining warmth.

  2. The trees have such variety! Some are golden yellow (no red ones on my walk), others have no leaves, some have barely started to change. But overall, the branches are more bare and it is a definite look of autumn. Interestingly enough, our crepe myrtle is nearly bare and our neighbor’s tree, which borders our yard, is still green and lush with leaves. I wonder if they watered it more when it was so hot in the summer.

  3. The clacking of the leaves as they fall or bang against each other. I always know when summer is ending because while the leaves are still green and on the trees, they’ve dried out and make noise when they hit against each other. That accelerates in late fall though – dried leaves on the pavement and sidewalks has a distinctive sound. It’s melancholy – winter isn’t far behind – and a signal that it’s time to put summer to bed and get ready for winter.

  4. The crunching of the leaves under my feet as I walk. My grandsons (and their mother before them) love to drag their feet and hear the leaves crunch. Even my beagle enjoyed it! If there was a big pile of leaves somewhere, he had to walk through it both to sniff what was there and I really think he enjoyed hearing it too.

  5. The street can be slippery with all the leaves, especially when it’s wet. I have to be careful to not walk on top of a bunch of leaves on the pavement. I can feel them slipping under my feet on some days; I walk in the middle where there’s less leaves and my footing is more sure.

  6. Our neighbors are burning leaves and a tree that they’ve taken down. It’s more smoke than I’d like when I’m near it, but when I’m at the other side of the neighborhood, it smells good. Burning leaves has always been a sign of autumn and goodbye to summer.

  7. With the leaves down, there’s so much more sunlight on my face as I walk. I have to make sure I bring a hat, although even with more sunlight, it’s not always warm. Somedays I still need a coat, especially when I’m in the shade.

  8. I love the light at this time of the year! No matter when I take my camera out, it’s always a warm yellow, from morning to late afternoon. I don’t take my camera to walk around the neighborhood, but I still observe the gorgeous light that the autumn brings, from the trees to the house windows to the overall scenery.

  9. A neighbor is using their outside grill. I can smell the meat cooking and the charcoal. It’s making me hungry! It also reminds me to buy a pork shoulder to smoke on my Big Green Egg this weekend. I love using the Egg in the cooler weather. I’m not fighting the bugs or mosquitoes and it’s very primal to play with fire when it’s cold outside.

  10. It’s so much easier to breathe at this time of the year. The humidity is down, but it’s not so cold yet that my bronchial tubes hurt. As a result, I can go farther and the hills aren’t so hard to walk up.

What are your favorite observations when you go for a walk at this time of the year? Please. . . add to my list!

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!


Observations On Autumn


Used Topaz Labs Impression filters to create a painting
Used Topaz Labs Impression filters to create a painting; this is Witch Hole Pond,  Acadia National Park in Maine

Use what you have, use what the world gives you.
Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness;
harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire.
Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled
with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce,
roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself.
The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die
are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see
is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before
the black and white silence of winter.
― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

I love that phrase above – that the turning of the leaves is the world’s oldest performance art.

The color change hasn’t quite come to central Virginia yet.  The trees have a yellow tinge – some do at least – others remain stubbornly green, and some are slowly going from green straight to brown.  A few, very few, have started to show red on their tips.

The shadows are lengthening as the sun stays lower in the horizon.  Even at noon there is a long shadow on the ground and the light remains golden all day long.

The seagulls have come back to the James River.  They head somewhere, presumably north, in the spring.  Their return is a sure sign of fall.

It was the opposite when I lived in the Midwest.  The redwing blackbirds would return in the spring.  I’d drive by a field and see them clinging to a cattail, swaying in the wind.  Then one day in August – I never could pinpoint the exact day it happened – but one day, they’d be gone.  Just like that!  And I knew fall was coming soon.

Of course, the food changes in the fall too.  The apples at the farmer’s market?  Wonderful.  They are so much better than store bought apples with their crisp texture and equally crisp, sweet taste.  The peaches and corn are long gone, the tomatoes nearly so.  But the apples and pumpkins are everywhere.  With the cooler nights, I can roast turkeys in the oven again, driving myself and the dogs wild with those wonderful smells.

Used Topaz Labs Clarity filter to brighten up the colors and deepen the shadows
Used Topaz Labs Clarity filter to brighten up the colors and deepen the shadows in the photograph of Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Maine

Today I nurtured my creativity during my lunch walk by making it a point to simply observe what was around me.  The study of biological phenomena has a name – phenology – which I discussed several years  in my posts here and here.  I have, with practice, improved my observations of nature and what it means.  It’s much more relaxing to walk and notice what’s around me in that moment than to dwell on the latest problem sitting on my desk or plan what needs to be said in a phone conference later on.

Happiness, not in another place but this place…
not for another hour, but this hour.
― Walt Whitman

 I also nurtured my creativity by processing this picture, then using some plug-ins to enhance it more.  The photograph one (directly above) turned out superb, but I rather like the painting one better (at the top).  Although I started with a preset in Topaz to create the painting effect, I adjusted it so that the colors were still distinguishable and it wasn’t just a big splash of bright colors.

Just so you can see what I did, here’s the original photograph before any processing.  Remember that I shoot in raw, so anything will need some further processing before it’s usable.  Were I to shoot in jpg, the camera makes those decisions for me.  It doesn’t start out in a bad place, but it needs some help.

Unadjusted original
Unadjusted original photograph of Witch Hole Pond, Acadia National Park in Maine

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


Travel Theme: Mountains

My favorite boy toy and I spent a lovely day in late 2011 wandering our way home along the Skyline Drive, which goes through the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  As I wrote here, we’d already taken the time off from work.  Whether we rushed it or just took a leisurely drive, we had already invested the day.  We pulled off in nearly every parking lot we found, took pictures, oohed and aahed, and enjoyed the warm fall day.  Thankfully, the day we drove home the roads were open following a recent snowfall.

To see more mountain shots, visit Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack.  She has some great quotes with her photos, along with numerous links from her many readers.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous,
leading to the most amazing view.
May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
Edward Abbey

The mountains are calling and I must go.
John Muir

A Walk In November (Autumn Sounds)

This week’s Six Word Friday uses the word “sound”, something I was thinking about after my walk last weekend at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens:

Autumn has more sounds than expected.

I don’t know why, but I was expecting a quiet, contemplative walk around the gardens, enjoying silence and beauty.  The beauty was there, but it was not very silent!

The birds were chirping and twittering like crazy.  There was ambient insect noises too, although I only saw one fly, one bee and a few wasps.  I have no idea what was making insect noise.  There was, of course, the rustling of leaves under foot, but since we were still coming into peak colors, it wasn’t as noisy as it could have been.

Add to that, the gardens were busy for a cool Saturday morning.  There were a lot of families there, with little kids running and laughing (and the inevitable crying).  The hill between the greenhouse and rose gardens had all kinds of little legs running up and down it and adults as well, chasing after and trying to retrieve those fast movers.  There should have been some good naps that afternoon!

Instead of quiet and solitude, the gardens had energy and motion to them.  Once I realized that the mood was not as I expected, I smiled, relaxed into it and just enjoyed it for what it was.

If you double click on any of the pictures below, it will open in a slide show so that you can see them larger.  Also, each time you close and open my page, the catalog will rearrange itself.

Enjoy your weekend!

Other walks are posted for January, March, April, and October.

Thoughts On Fall Colors

It happens this way every year – I see all the photos from family, blogs, and on the Internet of bright fall foliage.  It’s gorgeous and colorful and I am oh-so-jealous.  Fall comes later to central Virginia and in early November, I finally decide we’ve missed it.  The colors are nice, but nothing spectacular.

And then the magic happens and peak color happens.  Starting Monday this week, the color change went from pretty to brilliant.  The reds are bright, the orange shimmer, and the yellows look like gold in the sunlight.

I have to pay attention when I’m driving because I want to gawk at the lovely trees lining the expressway.  During lunch today, I was fascinated with the bright red trees lining the apartments behind the restaurant.  I didn’t read, I looked out the windows the entire time I ate my sandwich.  The trees were backlit by a bright sun, shining right the leaves which made it even prettier.  I couldn’t take a picture with my cell phone – the back lighting is hard to get right – but I could enjoy just watching it.

So here’s to enjoying the moment and appreciating beauty in nature, whether the leaves are still up or not (or for other parts of the world, green and leafy).  Remember to look around and simply enjoy what is there right now.

This picture from last weekend has my favorite combination of colors – yellow, maroon & orange, with a hint of green and brown!

Fall Colors at Colonial Williamsburg

This week’s travel theme at Where’s My Backpack is “bright” and as I reviewed my photos from this weekend’s trip to Colonial Williamsburg, I thought it was a great way to select some photos for sharing!

My favorite boy toy and I started our day early, rolling out of bed and getting on the road before sunrise.  As we were heading east, the sun rose to a brilliant orange before it ducked back into the dense gray clouds.  It was still gray and dim when we started walking around Colonial Williamsburg looking for pictures to take.

Not too surprisingly, the lovely flower beds from earlier this summer are gone, although a few stragglers were left behind.  I’d like to think they were too pretty to be ripped out, but it’s more likely they bloomed after the beds were cleared.

There was plenty to take pictures of, I just had to work harder to find it.  I took this picture of the horse and carriage because it was so pretty framed against the right leaves of autumn.  When she turned to smile at me, I realized this teamster was the same woman whose picture I’d taken over a year ago.  She’s one of the friendliest of the teamsters who work at Colonial Williamsburg and always has a wonderful smile when her picture is taken.

As for the tree, the back half is actually without leaves.  I was unsuccessful in my other attempts to photograph it and make it look normal.  I didn’t realize when I snapped this photo that this would be the one to show the tree to advantage.

Because of its many historical reenactments, Colonial Williamsburg always has cast members who are walking around in costume and in period with their actions and words.  I spotted this young woman and her companion across the commons area by the governor’s palace.  Most of the cloaks worn last Saturday were brown or blue.  No one else wore a bright red one, which makes me think she was either the governor’s wife or more likely, his daughter (remember, this when the British ruled the country, before the War for Independence).

I found these berries along the brick wall that leads from the governor’s palace gardens to the garden mazes by the canal.  I think they’re rosehips, but when I look back through my photos, I’ve never photographed any flowers along that wall.  Some photos I took in August show that wall to be just green, no flowers, but if they aren’t rosehips, I don’t know what they are.  The mustard yellow really contrasts with the bright red on these.

The kitchen gardens have a second crop of plants coming in – mostly carrots, cabbages and collard greens.  There were multiple varieties of the cabbages and collards, including this collard green that is a bright greenish yellow.  I’m pretty sure it’s not lettuce because of the thick, waxy texture of the leaves.  The other collard greens were the duller green that I usually see in the grocery store.

I was the only person standing there when these two British soldiers started fencing.  I quickly swung up my camera and started snapping away.  Within minutes a crowd had gathered and I lost my opportunity for pictures without someone standing in the way.

Most of the guys I saw in costume had the white socks of the man on the left.  I did not see anyone else with the boots that had the bright red top on them except for the man on the right.  Undoubtedly he was a higher level official on the governor’s staff.

After a few hours, the sky cleared out to a lovely blue with big white clouds, making for some nice photographs.  When the clouds rolled back in and the temperature dropped again, my favorite boy toy and I grabbed some lunch at the Dog Street Pub, then headed back home for a nap and chores.

I hope you enjoyed your weekend, whether you worked or not.  The temperatures here have turned cool.  I took down the tomato plants in the garden as we came close to frost last week and the tomatoes are no longer ripening.  My parsley is still growing quickly, but the other herbs have slowed way down.  I’ll be posting about that shortly.