Taking Stock…..

Fall, in all its glory, is a beautiful season. One of my favorites. Leaves change color, flaming crimson and bright, newly-minted gold, lending the trees the appearance of large, glorious bouquets. Days grow shorter, temperatures cooler. The large crab apple trees at the end of the driveway were the first to drop their leaves and I walk to the mailbox on a crisp carpet of curled brown husks that crackle underfoot. It’s football season. Days of cozy, comfortable clothing, long sleeves and sweaters, before the need for heavier outer wear. Chili-making days, apple crisp-baking days, scenting the house with mouth-watering aromas. The Pumpkin Spice craze is in full swing.

We draw inward in cooler weather, contemplating the season just past (where did Summer go, anyway?!). It’s a time to take stock, to reflect on what no longer serves us…to leave behind old ways of being and doing and find the courage to embrace a truer path. To begin building the chrysalis in which we will slumber for a time, emerging renewed in the light of a distant Spring.

As so often happens when I sit down to write, this post has taken a different pathway than the one I originally envisioned. Fall and its beauty are fleeting, over before we can reach out to grasp it as it passes by, and I am reminded that time waits for no one. My wish for you–my readers and friends– is that you will be present to each new day and the gifts it contains, because it will not come again.

3 Fall Images, All Leaves            Ribbet collage

Mine is the morning…..

I awoke to a beautiful morning here in Iowa, with a cool, Fall-like temperature….so I got dressed, laced up my sneakers, grabbed my phone, and went out to walk before I could talk myself out of it.

I am met by bright sunshine, a light breeze, and a perfect, cloudless blue sky, so clear it might have been painted on just moments ago. I walk down my driveway and out into the roadway, noting the autumnal changes in the landscape: maples turning, sumac beginning to show a touch of crimson; clusters of goldenrod and ‘ditch daisies’ at the side of the road, spiderwebs in the grass spangled with dew. Around the first curve of the road, our neighbor’s two dogs bound out to greet me. The black one, always more friendly than the smaller tan one, sticks his cold wet nose into the palm of my right hand. I laugh out loud and ruffle his ears and the two of them head off in pursuit of whatever adventure beckons to them.

It’s too early for the horses to be out yet, and traffic is almost non-existent. The morning is mine, and all the wonders it held: a monarch butterfly that followed me for a bit, lazily drifting from flower to flower; crows raucously calling, a lone turkey vulture circling, far over head. My goal was the old barn and silo that sit a little more than a mile from home. I’m nearing it now, pushing up my sleeves, wishing I’d worn a lighter top. I cross the road and begin the home stretch, sunlight spearing through the treetops, shadows lying across the road like lace. Pampas grass, the fuzzy heads brilliant in the morning light as if etched upon the day. My muscles are warm and loose and I kick it up to a light jog, feeling exhilarated. The horses are out now, grazing, sunlight burnishing the warm chestnut of their coats, tails swishing away the flies. I smile to see them. Traffic is picking up, people hurrying to unknown destinations, driving too fast. Do they even take the time to notice what a glorious morning it is?

Closing on home, I take the short cut across the yard to the back door….and as I kick out of my shoes in the entryway, I stop for a moment. I am thankful. For life. For the gift of the morning. For blessings too numerous to list here. I hope you took some time, today, to do the same.

Autumn Collage II, K43        Ribbet collage

Before and After……

My gardens are finished for this year, with a few straggling hollyhock blooms and die-hard daisies lending an intermittent spot of color to the landscape. While waiting for the full glory of Autumn I look to my archives for inspiration, photos I have yet to edit. Here are two shots of a crab apple spray, taken in mid-April this year. I decided to include the ‘before’ image this time, to give you an idea of the editing process.

It helps if there’s not a lot of background to eliminate; over time and repetition (not to mention trial and error and error and error), I’ve developed my own ‘formula’ for dealing with that. Every photographer has his or her own preferences and as long as you arrive at the desired end, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to go about it. I used to moan about the fact that there were only round editing tools for square images….until the day I discovered the airbrush function. I’ve never taken any classes; I’m self-taught, so things that might seem obvious to a more experienced photographer/skilled editor are like huge ‘A-HA’ moments for me. Airbrush is my new best friend! I usually play with the color values, too, and the light/dark ratio. As you can see from the original shot versus the finished one, I started with a fairly light image….and ended with a darker, more dramatic presentation. Although there’s background, it’s indistinct to begin with. Think about the mood you want your shot to convey and then experiment until you find a combination that works for you.

If photography is about patience, editing is patience squared. It takes a little time to find your ‘sweet spot’ so….keep shooting, keep editing….and above all, have fun! I promise you, it’s well worth the effort.

Crabapple Blooms, E67, Crop      Tulips, Lupine, Crabapple Blooms APR 19 2015, Late Afternoon 081

Crabapple Blooms, E67, Crop; Version II, Watermark      Tulips, Lupine, Crabapple Blooms APR 19 2015, Late Afternoon 081