An Observation: Nature Walkin’

It’s easy to take natural beauty for granted. As a photographer, however, I am always looking for a unique angle. Most of my photography comes from Arkansas, and The Natural State truly lives up to its nickname. The choices in a single setting are just as varied as the state’s geography itself. What kind of story do I want to tell with the picture? How can I frame this differently? Am I missing something?

Speaking of “missing something”…we go nature walkin’ ’round these here parts. The “g” on the end of the traditional pronunciation of “walking” is unnecessary in Arkansas. I guess it’s in the spirit of the pronunciation of the state name itself. You know…you drop the last letter when you say “Arkansas.” However, don’t you DARE try to spell it without the “s.” When it happens, it’s not pretty.

As seen in New Mexic.

Batesville, Arkansas is a very picturesque community. The historic homes downtown are postcard-perfect in many ways. The churches are equally as fascinating.

Late afternoon in September. Ahh.

Oh, and I did mention nature, so I suppose I should show you some nature. Batesville is situated along the White River–an excellent photography location for all of you shutterbugs out there.

Nice September day along the White River at Batesville, Arkansas.
Looking towards the bridge along the White River at Batesville, Arkansas.

Guess what?!? It’s also possible to find natural beauty in an urban setting, and a quick trip across the state line to Tennessee can offer up some great opportunities. The clouds in these photographs created some great backdrops for photography along the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee.

Isolated storms, the bridge, a barge, and the Mississippi River. If you turn to your right from this vantage point, you’re looking directly into downtown Memphis.
Towering clouds over the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee.

Of course, if you’re interested in really getting close to nature (in a controlled-ish sense), you should give a drive-thru safari a try. Yes, you can pay to let animals stick their tongues out at you as you cruise at a steady five miles-per-hour. But, the photography is fun…as long as the animals don’t try to eat your camera. I caught up with this rather tall giraffe in Alamo, Tennessee at the Tennessee Safari Park.

Oh, you makin’ fun of me? Well…you’re too tall. So haha. Enjoy getting rained on before anyone else does.

I suppose the drive-thru safari is more like nature drivin’, to be specific. Where are some of your favorite nature photography locations? Leave a comment!

A Photographic Memory: The Grand Canyon

I recently started going through some older computer files to see what I might have overlooked in my photography collection. I determined that a) there’s no real way to overlook photos of something as majestic as the Grand Canyon, b) I had a few of them that I had overlooked in a way, and c) technically, I was actually overlooking the Grand Canyon when I took the photos, so now I’m just confused by my own words.

In any event, I took them around the time I was just getting started with more serious photography, so they leave a lot to be desired. However, it’s nice to look back on what you’ve done to see how far you’ve progressed with time and practice…although now I just want to go back for a do-over.

grand canyon GIF

Another factor in my “I-Just-Want-A-Do-Over” thought is that this was on the return leg of a road trip to Las Vegas. By the time I was able to get to the Grand Canyon (for the second time in my life), the weather had taken a turn for the stormy. IN JULY. Yes, I managed to find a storm in the middle of the desert. IN JULY. (Did I mention that it was July?) So, I didn’t get to stay as long as I had hoped to stay.

Anyway, the Grand Canyon is one of those treasured locations that everyone should have the chance to see in person. I’m just lucky enough to have seen it TWICE in my lifetime because I was along for the ride. I was also lucky that I was old enough to truly appreciate it the second time around…and that I had a really good camera, even if I was in the VERY early stages of learning about photography.

The colors, the contours…it’s just a stunning view from any angle.
You can see the clouds building in the distance. I decided against being struck by lightning to get the perfect photo. I think it was a good choice.

For more information about Grand Canyon National Park, here’s the link to the National Park Service website. (If you plan to drive and have trouble finding it…umm, it’s a really big canyon. Just trust your instincts on this one.)

A Slump: The Never-Ending Winter

It seems that every time we think warmer weather is on its way this year, we have ourselves a few tornadoes and then go right back into the deep freeze.

Snowfall in April was a dead giveaway that winter likes it here and doesn’t really want to leave, despite the fact that most of us have made it quite clear that it has overstayed its welcome and it should just look for other places to hang out because we would like to move forward into the next season that will give us at least a brief period of time to enjoy outdoor activities between the “freezing-to-death” months and the “I’m-melting-melting” months. (Whew. I should try to punctuate more often.)

April 7, 2018 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Ugh.

To top it all off, I’m all about some nature photography. I really, really, REALLY like to capture each of the four seasons that Arkansas supposedly gets to experience annually. Every time I think I’ll have a spare Saturday to go forth and look for pretty spring trees, I end up at home…under a blanket…looking at the clouds outside and expecting the poor little flowers to wither any day now. Or, I’m huddled in a closet as the tornado sirens scream at the neighborhood. But, I’m still trying to find photography opportunities.

I’m too scared to chase the storms while they’re heading towards me, so I get in the car afterwards and follow them. Yep, I’m a chicken.

We have had some short windows of time when the conditions were good for springy, flowery photography, however.

Yes, black and white can work for spring photography. (This print is now for sale in my Etsy shop, MeticulousObserver.)
See?
These little guys are trying to make spring happen.
Okay, so…I cheated and went south and out of the state for this one. You do what you have to do to look for good spring photography opportunities.

Any suggestions on where I should go for upcoming photography excursions? (By the way, I don’t limit myself to Arkansas at all. However, if you suggest Hawaii, I suggest that you might need to help out with those expenses…)

A First Glance: Stairwells and Pretty Pictures

Cliche Alert!

Things aren’t always as they seem.

You knew that, though…right?

Several years ago, I was visiting a friend and noticed an odd contraption in the middle of the room with the Apple logo on it. My mind started spinning with all the possible newfangled inventions that Steve Jobs and his team of geniuses could have come up with that I didn’t know about yet, so I pointed at the object and asked about it.

“Hey–what is that thing right there? Something new from Apple?”

“That? No, that’s my humidifier. I just put the sticker on it.”

the office eye roll GIF
Cue the “I-Feel-Stupid-Now” reaction.

Of course, how was I really supposed to know unless I asked? I’m not usually hip to all the latest technology and lingo and such. I’m not on fleeks with all that and a bag of chips.

I was recently in a situation where I decided it was best to just trust that something I was seeing was a bit…off.

Elevators make me nervous. I was stuck in one once for about ten minutes when I was ten years old, and a little incident in which about a baker’s dozen of my colleagues were stuck between floors on one in the not-so-distant past hasn’t helped ease my concerns. If I have a choice, I’d prefer the stairs…or an escalator.

escalator GIF
Escalators just seem like more fun, don’t you think?

Anyway, I found myself in a building I’ve only visited a handful of times, and I’ve always taken the elevator. However, once I walked through the lobby doors, I noticed that one of the elevators was staying put with the doors open…and was apparently under repair. The interior of the elevator is filled with mirrors, and most of them were covered as though they were being replaced.

The situation screamed, “FIND THE STAIRS.”

I asked a lady that I saw in the lobby to help me find the stairwell…because I didn’t trust the elevators. I pointed at the one in question as I spoke to her and she said, “Oh, that doesn’t look good. Let’s see if we can find the stairs. Where are you going? The top floor? Ooh…hmmm.”

Error Number One: I didn’t ask enough questions about the key card she had to swipe in order to open the stairwell in the first place.

“Umm…when I get to the top, will I be able to get through the other door?”

“Oh, I think so. I think this is just designed to keep people out but not lock them in.”

“O…kay.”

I was huffing and puffing my way up the stairs when I had a little flashback to a summer internship during the ol’ college days. I have always preferred getting to work early, and I was true to form on the morning in question. Interns are typically given what they need and not much else, so I only had one key–the one that accessed the back stairwell. I soon found myself in a stairwell limbo because I wasn’t able to open any other doors. (I’m glad someone was actually there and heard me knocking frantically on one of the doors.)

cat jumping GIF
LET ME IN!

Error Number Two: I thought I was in better physical shape than I am. Had I known that I would have to climb all the way back down the stairs because–surprise–I actually couldn’t get through the upstairs door, I would have just taken my chances with the elevator in the first place. The whole time I was headed back downstairs, I kept praying that I could get back through the original door. Otherwise, I was going to have a problem on my hands.

When I finally made my way back to the lobby, I was able to get back through the door (thank goodness), and I took my chances with the elevator.

I’m happy to report that the problem with the elevator wasn’t as terrible as it appeared. My calves, on the other hand, are now feeling the results of my stellar intuition.

Speaking of things not appearing as they seem, sometimes things are exactly as they appear. (Why, yes, I do have some new photography to share! How did you guess? And, no, I haven’t doctored or otherwise overly edited these photographs. What you see is what I saw…unless it’s in black and white. I did shoot a few in black and white.)

I took a little Spring Break adventure to visit some parks I hadn’t been to before, and here are just a few photographs. Look for some of them to appear in my Etsy shop soon!

The first ones are from Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri. I really enjoyed the trail and the scenery. If you haven’t heard of it, you can find more information here.

Black and White photo from Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.
Color photo from Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.

Another stop…Big Spring, also in Missouri. Although it was cloudy and cool the day I visited, the views were quite impressive. You can find more information about this location here.

I forgot my tripod, but I managed as best I could.
Yes, the water is actually that blue.

So…there are a few photographs for you to look at that are accurate at first glance. I’m going to go rest my calves now. I hope you enjoy the photos.

An Observation: Nice Ice

I believe I’ve made my feelings about winter very apparent.

In case you missed it, here’s a summary:

I HATE WINTER!

winter GIF
I’m pretty sure that guy does, too.

With that being said, you have to look for the silver lining in all situations. Occasionally, our trees quite literally have that silver lining.

No one in northern Arkansas will ever forget the Great Freezing Rain Power Outage Ice Storm of Misery (2009 Edition). Not only were the trees, power lines, elevated surfaces, inanimate objects, cars, grass, leaves, houses, (yeah, you get the picture) and lawn furniture coated with a thick, shiny sheet of ice, the frozen precipitation caused infrastructure chaos that left many, many people without power for several weeks.

Luckily, Winter 2018 hasn’t shown off in that manner…yet. (Let’s hope it doesn’t. Do you hear that, Winter 2018? That’s not a challenge. Just don’t do it.) However, the silver lining has been quite attractive for photographers like myself. (Well, to the extent that photographers like me can stand to be out in the cold long enough to capture the images.)

Pretty scenery…I was able to stop my teeth from chattering long enough to hold the camera still.

I call this phenomenon “Nice Ice.” It’s the kind of ice that doesn’t stick around long enough to do any actual damage. It stays off the roads and only accumulates enough in the trees to produce good photography.

The only problem was the wind. I had to find the light and take the photos quickly before the branches moved, and, more importantly, before my fingers froze solid.

“Nice Ice” is rare around here, but it can make winter slightly more tolerable by providing something to look at other than bare branches and gray.

Oh…and photography.

Lots of photography.

Sometimes, they even throw in a nice sunset for you.

Here’s one.
Here’s another one.

Nice.

An Observation: Winter Isn’t My Favorite

I’ve tried. I’ve given this winter thing a few decades to show me its redeeming qualities, and I just don’t like it.

Maybe some of it has to do with where I live. In Arkansas, “hot” and “humid” go together like peanut butter and jelly. “Cold” and “icy” aren’t typical words in the local vernacular. However, I live in the northeastern part of the state, where we can generally expect a little more winter than our friends in L.A. (That’s “Lower Arkansas,” for the uninitiated.)

“Oh, but I’d rather be cold than hot. You can always put on more layers.”

Every time I hear that argument, I want to scream.

A Christmas Story GIF
More layers. Right. Good idea.

Most of the time, when I add layers, I end up sweating while at least one of my extremities is still numb.

I will admit that the first day the weatherman mentions the word “snow,” I get a little bit excited. (That’s “SNOW.” NOT “flurries.” When I hear the word “flurries,” I get about as excited as I do when he says the word “sprinkles.” You only need to mention “sprinkles” if you’re bringing me a cake. Otherwise, it’s insignificant to my outdoor plans.)

In Arkansas, though, it’s the reaction of the masses that gets amusing. See, I was always taught that you’d want non-perishable items around the kitchen if you were facing a disaster of epic proportions (see also: 12 whole hours of being snowed in…with “snowed in” defined as .025 inches of slush). When the disaster is looming, though, it’s the bread and milk aisles that are wiped clean before everyone settles in to hold down the fort. Because you know you’re not going anywhere for at least three or four days. Because snow is slick.

“Y’all just don’t know how to drive on that stuff.”

Image result for driving on snot and ice
Uhh…yeah, well, I guess that’s a valuable lesson, too.

True. But…most of the time we don’t get actual “snow.” We almost always get some kind of mix, usually starting out with a glaze of freezing rain. Sometimes, it’s exclusively freezing rain, which is a total mess. If we get a layer of snow on top, at least it’s prettier to look at while we’re sitting inside waiting for the power to come back on.

(I’ll admit…it’s good for a laugh sometimes. Our friends to the north definitely have a sense of humor about it.)

And, on occasion, when we’re not iced or snowed in, you can find a few little gems here and there.

I wasn’t going to go through an entire post about winter without at least one original photograph. A little bluebird. (Awwwwwww.)

Most of the time, though, we look at bare branches and gray skies for a couple of months.

Typical winter view. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So, if I had to rank my favorite seasons in order, it would probably look like this:

1. Spring, Summer, Fall

 

 

4. Winter.

Sorry, winter. You had your chance. Be sure to pick up all of your icicles when you leave.

A Work In Progress: Ten Thousand Hours

Malcolm Gladwell is widely attributed to popularizing the so-called “10,000 Hour Rule.” (I’m a very big fan of his work; if you have the chance to read any of his books, I highly recommend them. He based the “10,000 Hour Rule” on a study by Anders Ericsson.) For those who are not familiar with the concept, the general idea is that mastery in any one particular field or discipline requires at least 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice.”

Of course, this “rule” is up for debate, as are many theories in the social sciences. Still, if I took it as an absolute rule, then it could get interesting for someone like me.

Why, you ask?

Well, as a self-proclaimed Meticulously Observant Observer, that title carries with it a (ridiculously impossible to fulfill) degree of perfectionism. Not only that, but I’m interested in lots of different subjects and activities. I don’t like doing anything halfway. I want to do things right.

I’m no math surgeon, but according to my (probably inaccurate) calculations, you obviously can’t achieve those hours in one year…unless you really can add hours to the day and you spend absolutely every waking hour devoted to one discipline. Not particularly practical.

I tried multitasking, but it wasn’t working for me.

Annnnnddddd…I’ve identified at least four disciplines that I pursue regularly outside of work.

If I want to be really serious about four of my specific pursuits, I figure I should start the mathematical breakdown with the disciplines I’ve been involved with the longest: writing and music.

Let’s start with writing.

According to my parents, I was able to read at the age of eighteen months. Writing followed soon thereafter. It was ugly, but it was writing. So, in factoring in my age and the number of hours I spent in classrooms throughout my formal education, I should probably be in good shape on that one.

However, was it all “deliberate practice?” Probably not. Passing notes to my classmates isn’t likely to fit the bill. Hitting every key on the typewriter just to see what it would look like on paper…nope. Besides, all writers know their work is never completely mastered, so this one is likely to be a lifelong pursuit without any kind of designated time frame.

So, moving on…

Let’s add music to the mix. I started playing the piano when I was five years old.

This was just a test run. I was still a couple of years away from my first lesson.

Once again, if I factor in my age, I should be well on my way. Not so fast, though. I didn’t just learn the piano, you see. I’ve spent some decades on the trumpet as well. And I had to learn other band instruments to a level of proficiency required to teach them in my current profession. Remembering that music is always a work in progress…yup, there’s another lifelong pursuit to add to the writing.

But wait…there’s more!

Say, I just happen to be selling this print in my Etsy shop! (Shameless plug? You bet. Marketing is also a work in progress, you know.) https://www.etsy.com/listing/557312440/landscape-photography-color-photography?ref=shop_home_feat_4

Photography. I started to get serious about photography about eight years ago. That would make it one of my later pursuits. Since I work, eat, sleep, write, and work on music as well…we’re starting to rack up some serious hours here.

Oh, and let’s not forget knitting. I really enjoy knitting. Another of my newer activities.

That makes four. Four disciplines, forty-thousand hours.

Assuming that I live at least as long as the average lifespan for an American woman, once I’ve totaled up all of these hours (carrying the one, multiplying by x, and accounting for sleep, laundry, work, channel surfing, reading, eating, proper grooming, staring into space, socializing, being placed on hold with the cable company, family obligations, waiting at the DMV, sitting at stoplights, travel, home maintenance, airport delays, the occasional illness, and other unforeseen circumstances), I think I can expect to be an expert on all four of these disciplines approximately thirty minutes after my funeral service is completed.

Tired Gif GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

What are some disciplines you would like to master, and how long would you think you’ve been working on them? Do you think that any of this kind of work is ever done? I think there’s always room for improvement, but that could just be my perfectionism speaking. In any event, I should probably be working on something…

A Recollection: School Pictures

I had a school picture taken this year so that my mom could have some new refrigerator art.

Never mind that I’m a teacher now; I still think that mothers live for these kinds of things, so it was a kind of daughter’s obligation. Besides, I think it’s time for her to replace some of the old ones.

I’m just waiting on the photo at this point. (I’ll be sure to put my name, age, and grade on the back before I mail it to…you know what, those details really aren’t that important. Never mind. Carry on…)

Waiting. Does anyone else remember that? Waiting? Actually waiting for a photograph to be processed and printed before you can actually see it?

You probably have to think back to your own school pictures for that concept.

Yes, every fall, for one magical day, everyone would dress in their finest and line up for a moment sure to be frozen on the outside of the refrigerator for years to come. You’d stand in line with everyone else from your class as the teacher would walk down the row with disposable plastic combs–gotta get that hair under control because the photographer only gets one shot at refrigerator immortality–and take your seat when it was your turn. Fifteen seconds of, “Okay, sweetheart…turn your head this way, now look up, no…your other up…okay, tilt to the right…other right…your right…THERE…perfect…don’t move…now, look at Big Bird and smile! Thank you…NEXT!”

Kindergarten. A classic piece for the Garland refrigerator door. It’s probably still on some distant relative’s refrigerator. You know…the one who will call one of my parents in a few years and ask when I’ll be going off to college.

If you blinked–or, even worse…sneezed–you had to hope that your parents would be okay with letting you do the re-take when they came back to town to catch up with the kids they missed that day. (These photos went straight to the yearbook, you see. On film, you only had one chance to try to look relatively normal. I did re-takes twice–after much begging–attempting to look less like a deer in the headlights.)

After a few years, you start figuring out that you can still wear jeans as long as you wear your good shirt. Unless, of course, you just really like wearing the entire ensemble. I’d always heard that Paul Harvey hosted his radio show while wearing a suit and tie because he felt he did a better job while being dressed professionally, even though he knew no one in his audience would see him.

In the sixth grade, wearing the full ensemble has little to do with professionalism. However, this outfit did have a matching skirt that I LOVED at the time. Yes, I was wearing it. No, no one tried to stop me.

By the time you get to junior high school, you usually have at least one year that you completely forget about picture day being on the calendar. My brother wore a white t-shirt one of those years, and because our school yearbooks were printed in black and white, everything from his neck down disappeared. (I don’t have a copy of it, so I’ll just write what the old yearbooks used to print. NO PHOTO AVAILABLE.)

However yours tended to look, I think we can all agree it was a little bit of an adventure…waiting to find out how your school picture turned out. Did I smile too big? Did I not smile at all? Was there something in my teeth?

I’m still living out my little adventure by waiting on mine, so I’ll let you know if I blinked before it makes its way to Mom’s refrigerator.

A Trivial Story: Game Shows and Landscapes

By my estimation, I’m now approximately eleven billion dollars into my Armchair Game Show championships. This is, of course, an estimate based on years and years of at-home playing (and experiments with the decimal point).

I'm brilliant. The sticker on my forehead should have told you.
I’m brilliant. The sticker on my forehead should have told you.

When I was in college, I was called to go to an in-person audition in St. Louis for a popular trivia game show. Being the armchair genius that I thought I was, I envisioned a forthcoming glamorous trip to California and rubbing elbows with game show hosts as I watched my opponents go home with the dreaded “parting gifts.”

Instead, I felt like I was hit by the “IT-LOOKS-SO-MUCH-EASIER-ON-TV” train. Oh, and they gave me a free ink pen in exchange for my crippling dose of reality check.

It hasn’t stopped me, though. I’ve probably taken dozens of audition tests over the years for different trivia shows here and there. And I’m absolutely positive that some of you are thinking, “When is she gonna get it? If it hasn’t happened by now, why bother?”

Well, there are a few ways to explain that one:

  1. I’m stubborn.
  2. I’m stubborn.
  3. I know a lot of useless facts I’d like to put to actual use.
  4. I’m stubborn.

Speaking of Nos. 1, 2, and 4…I’m always trying to find some interesting photography subjects. (Nice segue, right? I thought so. I wouldn’t have written it otherwise. Besides, I’m stubborn–see Nos. 1, 2, and 4–and I had to figure out a way to work photography into my little story here. I figured some of you would be expecting pretty pictures.) Quite often, as I have written about in the past, I need look no further than my own backyard. Here’s another one from my series of “fence posts.”

A summer sunset from Ye Olde Backyard.
A summer sunset from Ye Olde Backyard.

Honestly, I was too stubborn that day to go beyond the backyard, but nature helped me out a bit with this one.

After all, I needed to be close enough to the television to continue my mythical game show winning streak.

A Monday Times Monday: The Keymaster

I have decided that I shouldn’t talk about much of anything for a while, lest the topic become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I had a conversation recently about being stuck briefly in an elevator when I was ten years old, then I proceeded to check into a hotel last week with an elevator issue that eventually caused a baker’s dozen of my colleagues to spend close to an hour–you guessed it–stuck in an elevator. (They’re fine, and I’m glad they’re fine. I’m also glad I wasn’t with them, though.)

My next conversation had to do with my memory. I have a very strong autobiographical memory. It’s not something I can explain, and it’s not Marilu-Henner-style perfect, but it’s pretty good. However, I did mention–during two separate conversations about the issue–that I can misplace my keys just as easily as the next person. Laugh, snicker, chuckle. I was quick to recall that the last time I had locked myself out of the house was in 1998, when I didn’t have the option of grabbing a cell phone to call anyone for help. That afternoon, I tried the credit card trick…something I had only seen in movies. I was shocked when the door popped right open. I ran in the house, grabbed my keys, and I was on my way.

Yes, I was on a nearly twenty-year winning streak when it came to locking myself out of the house.

That is, until this morning.

Ghostbusters  GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Yep, I finally did it. Walked right out the front door, pulled it shut behind me, and immediately realized where my keys were…on the sofa. The credit card trick wasn’t going to work on this one. This time, though, I had a cell phone, sent a few messages, and found a locksmith.

This whole situation brought me to two conclusions:

  1. My memory isn’t good for anything more than a side-show attraction at social gatherings, and…
  2. I’m in the wrong business. Locksmiths make good money. And for good reason.

You can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be paranoid about where my keys are tomorrow morning.

On the photography front…I haven’t taken many new photos lately, but I did catch a pretty nice sunset a few weeks ago.

More from the fence. Sometimes, you don't have to look beyond the backyard for photo opportunities.
More from the fence. Sometimes, you don’t have to look beyond the backyard for photo opportunities.

I think I’ll take the camera out again this evening, though, to try to let this Monday-est of Mondays drift away…