Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

 

Beauty Parlor-08077“We need to go get my hair fixed tomorrow, call the lady in Virgilina and see if she’s got an appointment,” my mother said to me.

It was Thursday, Friday is the day Momma usually gets her hair fixed. I picked up the phone and dialed the number, made the appointment. When Friday came around, it was a nice day, sunny, bright and deliciously beautiful. I helped Momma with her bath, got us both ready to go and off we went.

Virgilina is a tiny little town that sits right smack dab on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. At one point in time, it was a copper mining town and had the worst tasting water you would ever drink. Virgilina was officially incorporated in February 1900, even had it’s on bank called The Bank of Virgilina! The current population is more or less 157 people now.

We get to the beauty parlor, I help momma in and get her settled. The lady says to me, “Hey, did you bring your cameras?” She knows I like to shoot pictures. I laughed and said, “Yep, I sure did. Was looking forward to goin’ to a Tobacca-08065different part of town today”. Another lady in curlers said, “OH… You have got to go down to my house! Across the street there’s the most beautiful field of t’bacca with sunflowers growing b’tween the rows. Why I like to eat my breakfast in the morning looking out on that field. It’s so beautiful!”

My mother said she’d be fine, to go ahead and go. I kissed her on the forehead and ran out the door, started the car, rolled down the windows and drove down the road. I was heading out to see the t’bacca.

As I drove, I was remembering my childhood. Coming to this same beauty parlor all those years ago, running barefoot down the street, going to the corner store to see James and get a coke with peanuts. Behind the store is the old firehouse my Uncle used to volunteer in, they’ve got a new one now. My cousin lived and still does a couple blocks away.

Somebody bought the old elementary school, they’re fixin’ it up and livin’ there now. And just a little further down the road is the t’bacca field I’ve been lookin’ for. I’ve never seen sunflowers growing with t’bacca. It was beautiful! It was some of the prettiest t’bacca I’d ever seen and the sunflowers just seemed to highlight the field and make it pop.

Sunflower bee-08060I got out of the car and walked between the rows, weaving in and out. Sunflowers were blooming everywhere, a few of the t’bacca plants hadn’t been suckered yet (the flowers were still on ’em). Bees were flying around, drunk on sunflower nectar. That made my heart sing. I shot pictures and allowed myself to feel the joy of just standing in that field. I know it sounds crazy but, I found that t’bacca field just as beautiful as the lady in curlers. Now I understood why she sent me there.

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front yard-06353I know  when most people see a picture like this, they see a pretty landscape or nice yard. When I see the same picture, I think of getting down on my hands and knees with my camera to discover the world that lives within. To see what actually makes that beautiful landscape. After all, as my father said to me on my this last trip… “Those are just weeds. But, I suppose you could see them as pretty flowers”. In that moment, my dad said a mouthful!

For me, macro photography is visceral. It hits me deep inside, unsettles my nervous system and makes me feel as if I’m falling into a world of unseen beauty. A world that is so tiny and elegant we take it for granted, never taking the time to see what creates it. And yet, when we were little, those same minute details held so much wonder.

It was early spring when I arrived at my parents. The flowers were blooming, the newness of life was evident everywhere I looked, fresh and alive. Life was opening up, seeds were popping, and pollen was beginning to float. I witnessed amazing daffodils of all kinds, tiny little butter cups looking tall and elegant through my lens, and those little Christmas tree shaped bushes covered in blue orchid-like flowers that seem to proliferate in the grass of my parents yard. It’s truly amazing. And to be able to take pictures before it was all mowed made my heart go pitter patter. That was amazing!

As I was looking through the pictures, it made me reflect on what else gets taken for granted. What else is out there we don’t take the time to see? There is so much that comprises our small, individual universe, yet we never take time to just look, feel the wonder and breath in the beauty that surrounds us in our everyday life. Maybe, just maybe it’s time to do that.

Just for fun, here are a few of the pictures that helped open my eyes.

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The day started out sunny, very exciting, then turned cloudy and rainy. We weren’t quite sure what to do but, Den suggested we take a trip to Giverny to see Monet’s garden. Especially since it was one of my top 3 things I wanted to do while in Paris and our days here are dwindling down. We checked the train schedule, bought our tickets and headed out the door. We were getting out of town. Didn’t matter if it rained, we are empowered with umbrellas and raincoats. Besides, a day in the country would do us some good!

We made our way to Gare St. Lazare and boarded our train. We noticed right away how silent the train is, it was unbelievable. The cars were clean and beautiful, seats were comfortable and I even had a little foot rest. Cool! The trip itself was quick and easy, we spent most of the time looking at one of my ipad apps about Paris, trying to decide what to do with the precious few days we have left. Before we knew it, we were in Vernon. And so far, the weather was holding up. Cloudy but no rain, a good omen.

We grabbed a cab and set off for Giverny, it was only a few kilometers away and we wanted to get there as quickly as possible. You can, however, take a bus, a tour or walk. I’ve done the walk both ways before, and after a long day of shooting, you’re bone tired. There were vast fields of amazing yellow flowers, as far as the eye could see. Den asked the driver to stop and he got out to take pictures. I stayed in the car, I was a little worried about the memory cards I had. They have rapidly gotten full and I wanted to save the space for Monet. After Den’s picture excursion, we continued on.

All I can say is wow, Monet created a beautiful vision of loveliness. It’s one thing to see the house and gardens on the internet, it’s another thing entirely to see them in person. We toured his home first. He had such an amazing eye for color. Each room painted differently either in a single hue or combination, including the furniture The dining room was lemon yellow, the sitting room robins egg blue with darker blue details (even the grandfather clock!), Japanese wood blocks covered the walls. His studio was large, airy and divided into two parts with reproductions of his paintings covering the walls.  I thought it was interesting that Monet’s bedroom was large and airy, with 3 big windows to view the gardens while his wife’s room was smaller with a little window looking over the street side of the house.

Now the gardens! Even on a cloudy day with a little sun and drizzle, they were spectacular. Tulips, so many different varieties, so many colors, they leave me speechless! At this point, I think it’s best if I let the pictures speak for themselves. Please remember, none of these are color-corrected. That will happen when I get home. For now, just enjoy the slideshow.

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I never made it to Versailles. It was one of those days that unfolded itself and led me through the labyrinth of  surprises. First off, I just couldn’t get moving to save my life. So instead of pushing, I let go. Versailles is one of those places that requires a full day, not a half day. It’s huge, beautiful and grand, you don’t want to rush it. I decided to walk until I found a metro station.

cheesy deliciousnessOn my way, I passed the cheese shop, then the charcuterie…by this time my mouth was watering. All those beautiful meats, pâtés and cheeses. And weren’t we talking the other night about how we hadn’t had any of those yet? Well, that was going to change tonight! I mean come on, you can’t come to France without eating cheese and pâté, why it’s….uncivilized! I made a mental note of the locations so I could stop on the way home. Finally I came upon a metro station, checked the maps and decided today was going to be another cemetery day. We hadn’t really explored the whole of our neighborhood so, being the cemetery freak I am, I thought Montparnasse Cemetery it is.

Pere Lechaise and Montparnasse are very different. Pere Lechaise is a riot of chaos, wild roots and decaying stones. It oozes and drips with history as it rushes up the hill, while leaving parts of itself down below. Montparnasse on the other hand is more along the lines of orderly modernity with a bit history mixed in. It’s flat with everything more or less in it’s place, a smattering of old and new neatly placed together. Now this doesn’t mean it’s easier to find who you’re looking for in Montparnasse, I spent the better part of 2 hours looking for Man Ray’s grave, I must have walked around or near it 20 times! Not until they began to ring the bell for people to leave did I find it. And to tell you the truth, I expected it to be more…”artsy” than it was, I was a little disappointed. There were other artists and non-artists, there that I found a lot more interesting, even vivacious and carefree, if you will.

My mom loves gizzards and through her, I learned to love them too. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a restaurant today that served an incredible green salad with gizzards and smoked duck, it was fabulous, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I’ve never had gizzards like that, they were tender and succulent, melt in your mouth and with the added delight of duck, oh my! If only I can figure out how they cooked them. That was only the beginning of my food day! On the way home, I picked up a duck pâté, 4 different cheeses (a cow, a sheep, a goat and a blue), pots de crème (a coffee and a chocolate) and french bread. For dessert, we have lemon meringue tart and some bit of chocolate deliciousness. Yes, I’m going to need to diet when I get home. And I have to say right here and now, when I walked into the cheese shop, the aroma was overwhelmingly delicious, I hadn’t smelled those smells since I lived in New York. Wow, the choices were almost too much to bear!

So, I want to leave you with a little nugget. There were little signs in Montparnasse people left on some of the graves, they said regret. It kind of nailed home to me, we sometimes have regrets when loved ones die. And I realized, I want to die with as few of these as possible.

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Yesterday was gorgeous, today not so much.

feeding birdsYesterday was May Day (Labor Day here) with beautiful sunny weather Everyone was out. There were demonstrations in some parts of the city with people here and about carrying flags. We took the subway to the oldest part of Paris to walk in Les Tuileries gardens. People were out in droves, and most everything was closed. We needed to eat and forgot we could eat in the gardens…that was a mistake. We ended up in one of those “trendy” restaurants, you know the kind where a coke costs the same as a glass of wine and the food is…well “eh”. Young girls were sitting outside smoking their little lungs out while families and older people sat inside to escape. We ate appetizers with only one being worth the money, the rest were forgettable at best. The gardens were beautiful with amazing statuary, flowers blooming and perfectly green grass surrounding the paths and walkways. We marveled at the detail in the sculptures and the amount of people in the gardens. Everywhere we looked there was eye candy in all forms amazing art, flowers, a young boy feeding birds from his fingers, families with their kids on tricycles and young lovers in the grass.

One of the coolest things about yesterday was stumbling upon Shakespeare and Co. This is the oldest English language bookstore in Paris and it’s quite a joy to wander in. Books and old photos line the walls, the floors are old and well worn hardwood, a little tile here and there. A step leading to the back read, Live for Humanity, I loved that! I could have easily spent several hours perusing the shelves and wished we had found it earlier. We bought a book while there called, “The Invention of Paris: A History of Footsteps” Éric Hazan and David Fernbach. I’m looking forward to diving in.

Today was cloudy with afternoon rain. I had lunch with my friend Carol who lives here and introduced her to the restaurant we had visited a few nights before. The food was just as good and she was impressed, that was fun.  We later took the subway back to Les Tuileries, I wanted to walk around parts I hadn’t seen yesterday. I enjoyed wandering in the rain with umbrella and camera, with eyes wide open. I walked, got lost and found myself again.

Stained glass in churchI discovered a church with beautiful stained glass windows, paintings of saints, statuary and carvings. Some of the vestibules had been painted long ago and were fading with time. It was dark with very little light and I was surprised there wasn’t a sign asking people not to shoot inside like there is at Notre Dame. I would occasionally see flashes of light as people shot their pictures. I chose to shoot hand held, no flash. Thankfully there were a few places I could steady my camera as I shot.

Tomorrow? Who knows, Chateau de Versailles?

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Yesterday morning we awoke to beautiful, glorious sun. The park across the street was filled with sun hungry Parisians most of the morning, even a guy laying in the grass, soaking up the rays. Seemed like people were relieved to be done with the rain for a bit. I strolled down d’Alesia to run errands and people watched the whole way. I enjoyed myself immensely.

Later in the day, we took the subway to Pere Lechaise, one of the coolest cemeteries I have ever been to. The reality is that Pere Lechaise is the reason I like to visit them in the first place. I am fascinated with the way in which people wish to be remembered. And in Pere Lechaise, remembrance truly comes to life. Buried there is Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Maria Callas, Chopin just to name a few and many others I don’t know. The graves here are full of creativity and meaning. I urge you to check their website for a wonderful little tour, click on the little crosses and see who you can find, double click and see their graves.

We caught a little rain as we were touring the cemetery but, it wasn’t a big deal, it only lasted 20 minutes and we had our trusty umbrellas. Somehow, I thought it was fitting the rain began as we were looking for Jim Morrison’s grave. I came here 20 years ago and at the time, you could sit around and pay your respects. However, the bust that used to sit on his grave has been stolen twice and people have been writing on the graves nearby. As a result, a barrier has been erected to keep everyone at a respectful distance. And at this point, even the nearby tree is being decorated with chewing gum! Personally, I think the tree is pretty cool, sort of a mass art project befitting a troubled artist.

After walking through, what I know was an extremely small part of the cemetery, it was time to go. The tenders were ringing the bell, letting everyone know it was time to leave. The cemetery, by the way, closes at 6pm.

On our way to the subway, we saw a really cool metal sculpture…four women painted green holding a cover over their heads. Coming from the cover was pure, stream fed water. We were encouraged to fill our empty water bottles. The water itself was smooth and delicious, quite tasty! We were later told these fountains are in various locations around the city and if we see one, fill up.

Today being May day or labor day in France, many places will be closed. As my friend Carol said, “any place that can be closed, will be closed.” So we plan on visiting places that we think will most likely be open and visit the oldest part of the city. We’re thinking maybe Place Vosges, Sacre Cour or Notre Dame. Not quite sure yet as the day is still young.

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I feel a creative surge coming on. One that feels a lot like waking up.

I was thinking about it today, I’m about to take a trip that fills me with such joy, wonder and the possibility of magic… yes, magic. And I know it’s going to be an amazing adventure.

I get to delve into a world of just observing… choosing… allowing myself to feel a place that has always filled me with delight. They call it the city of lights, I call the city of magic. You never know what you’re going to see around the corner, down the hall or in the garden.

It’s a lot like life.

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