Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Feathered Friends

This week I had a rare afternoon free and the weather was tolerable, so I took the hour long drive up to my favorite shop in Gardiner, WA.;  WildBirds Unlimited.  Do you have one in your area?

This one is truly a treasure, equipped with everything you could possibly want in your backyard wildlife sanctuary.
What's really unique is their landscaped, bird friendly area with a large pond and waterfall.

On this visit to WB I got an extension for my bird feeding pole system I bought there a while back, which came with two extensions for hanging feeders. 
Currently I use one for the WB (lifetime guarantee) blackoil sunflower seed feeder, and the other for their woodpecker friendly suet feeder made from recycled plastics.

My new third extension will accommodate my newest feeder, the (also lifetime guarantee) thistle feeder.


 
Right now I have mostly hooded juncos, towhees and purple finches.  One or two flickers have visited the suet feeder as well.

A couple of days after I put up the new thistle feeder I noticed the juncos had taken a liking to it!  They are primarily a ground feeding bird.
Today my first pine sisken of the season has arrived.  They are usually the reason I put up a thistle feeder at this time of year.  Also when the goldfinches arrive they will feed on thistle too.

I often refer to my Backyard Bird Sightings tracker to see who is arriving on time and who might be earlier, or later, than previous years.  So far everything seems about normal even with the late snows we had in March.

My first hummingbirds began arriving last week, and the first Rufus of the season arrived just two days ago.  Soon I will have to put up a second feeder to accommodate all of them!

I moved the swallows nesting box this year to a safer location, so I hope they like it and decide to stay.  They should be arriving sometime within the next month.

I also put up a new nesting box on the back of the house in hopes of attracting the chickadees, who usually get voted out by the swallows for the first box.

This year I'm also hoping to get more and better photos with a couple of new accessories;  another tripod and a remote shutter, as well as a couple of new spots to set up and shoot from.

What birds are returning to your area?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Poetry for the Soul

What is it about poetry that intrigues us?  Reading it, writing it, collecting it.  Fills our soul.

Poetry has been around as long as there has been speech.  There are famous poets whose words have touched us deeply, whose lines we memorize and often use for metaphors in life.

I was thinking about poetry after a conversation with a dear friend, and wondering how it might fit in with the New Pioneer blog.  Perhaps it is the slower pace of my lifestyle, the rhythmic flow of my relationship with nature.
I wonder if the lives of the masses have gotten too busy for poetry, if civilization has become too hardened by stresses and struggles to be able to appreciate the gentleness of poetry.

I have written verse and essays all my life, since I was six years old and reading Winnie the Pooh.  I especially love journaling and working things out on paper.
My first published piece was in a teachers magazine when I was around eleven, I think.  My English teacher was very supportive of my writing.
All through my teenage years I wrote poetry, mostly sorrowful and love-struck verse.  I wrote some poems for my newborn son in my late twenties.
But all in all I don't think I really took it seriously, it was always just a hobby and a much needed outlet to express myself.

Now in my midlife, I find myself returning to it.  Reading it, writing it, seeing it in my landscape.
Through a bizarre set of circumstances recently, (there are no accidents!), I was lead to read some of Mary Oliver's work, and I am surprised I never read her work before.  Divine!  It's all about nature.
I never thought about including my endless relationships with wildlife in my poetry - what a gift!

So I'm thinking from time to time I will include a poem or two here on New Pioneer and perhaps an accompanying photo -if the wildlife will stop long enough for a pose or two.

Meanwhile I will close this post with one I just wrote last week.  Untitled as yet.

The birds
welcome me
into their
sacred space

If I will
but be
like them

Gentle and peaceful
at one with all

Unsuspecting
and grateful

Friends
with the earth
and sky

Rejoicing
in the mystery
of that
which they call
home

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Photo Art

(imported from my former photo blog)
Manipulating photos brings out the artist in me.  Especially when the photo is not a stand alone work of art.
I love the many functions that enhance details of an image or change its structure completely, when manipulated in a program.

I have four photo editing programs I really enjoy.  I couldn't do all the things I've done with just one of them.  I use PhotoShop 7, Paint Shop Photo, Paint Shop Pro, and Picasa.

For this post I'm going to talk about just two images I have been working on lately.
The first one is this serene setting I shot last Fall of a rare sunny day here in the Pacific Northwest.
I was working at a clients home and just couldn't resist capturing this shot, which of course I took over ten frames of, but this one I used for this project.



  I decided it just didn't have the punch I was looking for, so I experimented with the PS artistic effects.  I chose the colored pencil effect and some sharpening for detail as well as cropping.


I left it like this for a couple of weeks.  Recently I decided I didn't like the gray background, after all, sky and water and hills are not gray.
So I took it into my Paint Shop program and added color here and there.


While some of you artists who know how to paint and draw may gasp with distaste at this, I feel it is all in the eye of the beholder.
I'm still not sure if I'm done with it, but it is fun to play.

Because I love black and white, of course I had to try this in a monotone as well.  I'm not sure which one I like better!


For my next trick I thought I would play with the trees.  (You'll remember these from a previous post).  Same location, same day.


While I actually like this image on its own, I just wanted to apply the same process and see where it would go.


I used the same colored pencil effect in PS, along with some contrast and saturation tweaks.  I love how it brings out the lines and detail in the tree trunks.

Next was to add some color to the sky and water.


Too fake?  Unrealistic?  Surrealistic?  The sky's the limit here (pun intended!).
I visualize this image large, printed on metal with a glossy finish.  I wonder what Picasso would say.

In all fairness to our image of the chairs, I of course wanted to try this in monotone as well.






What projects have you worked on that inspire you?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Snow Days


As with all glitches in life, I try to accept the inevitable shifts and changes in plans.
I think snow days are life's way of saying hey - slow down, smell the coffee, stoke the fire.
They are never planned and often a surprise, if not a monkey wrench thrown in your busy path.

Yesterday was just such a day for me.  Living in the foothills of a mountain range one becomes accustomed to weather anomalies.  The main road at sea level could be clear - but here at 800 feet we could have six inches to a foot of snow - even in March!

I bought an all wheel drive car last year and have quickly learned its limits - and mine.  It's not a snow plow and is no match for gravity on a slippery hill.  It performs much like a ballerina on ice skates on level ground that's icy.

So on these snow days I stay home, change plans, cancel work, apologize to clients.  What else can one do?
I find these unexpected days off to be a test of my attitude.  If I give in and allow it to be a gift, then it is much more enjoyable.

Soon I will find myself cooking and baking, or cleaning, sewing, reading a good book by the fire, or writing a blog post!  Time will pass and I will have forgotten all about the missed appointments.

I think it's a great lesson, a metaphor for life.  When sudden changes are thrown at you - are you resilient?  Flexible?  Adaptable?  I'd like to think that these bumps in the road are also part of the grand plan.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Photo Books

(imported from my former photo blog)
For the past couple of weeks I have been working on some publications, my images in a book form.  I found MagCloud to be the best and most affordable for this.  They offer an easy to use platform for uploading and printing publications.

I now have four books that categorize my many years in photography.  They will be available to the public soon!  I ordered a copy of each of them so that I can see the hard copy before I go public.
Their titles are the same as the collections;  2012 Series, The New World, Looking Glass and the collection of black and white images is called Through My Lens.
The first three collections are limited editions as prints, so only available through me, but greeting cards can be purchased at my site on Fine Art America here.
The black and whites are not limited and cards and prints of any size are also available there.

As is usually the way of the artist, I initially intended these "books" just for myself, a way to see my work at a glance.  I can also take them with me to prospective galleries or other outlets as a sort of portfolio.
Of course my relatives now know what they're getting for gifts this year too!

The second publication I did after the Backyard Bird Tracking template, was a collection of poems and images which I wrote about on my other blog.  This gave me a lot of practice at the online process.

I really want to encourage anyone who has thought about putting their art, poetry, essays, or novel to print, to check out MagCloud.   Finally the age has come where we can be a powerful force to not only promote our own work, but to create it without refinancing our homes!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Self Publishing

With the affordable availability to create publications online, I have been inspired to create my second book of poems.  I'm using MagCloud and am amazed at how easy it is to use!
Just like my Backyard Bird Sighting template I created in Publisher, I converted it to a PDF and then uploaded it to their site.  I can review it before saving and ordering.

OK, enough about them.  This second collection of poems were written over the last six years, except two of them are from the first book (Poetic Zen);  Return to the Sea, which I think I wrote over twenty years ago, and Outta This World which I wrote in the early 2000's.  It took best of show in literary works at the local fair.
I have also included some of my favorite photographs.

It's a small book, 8.5 x 5.5, great for the coffee table, perfect bound, with full color images, 28 pages.
I have been wanting to put out a second collection for years, since my first book came out in 2004, but time and events and life seem to get in the way.

Eventually things worked out and I see the perfection in it all.  I needed this time to not only write more, but to find a theme.  Well, middle age has brought some interesting insights, so I thought I would call it The Afternoon of Life, which I actually got from watching Wayne Dyer's movie The Shift.  He talks about some of the spiritual changes we go through at this time.

If you're not a fan of poetry then this might not interest you - but for those of us who often stare at trees, mystified by their beauty and try to put that into words - this is for you.
Very affordable as a hard copy at $9.95 at MagCloud (plus shipping), but also available as a digital download for only $6.

I give you The Afternoon of Life, Verse and Visuals by J Gray.

The Afternoon of Life
The Afternoon of Life is a collection of poems and images by J Gray.

I invite you to comment about poetry and how it has affected your life, or who your favorite authors are.  If you too are a poet, check out MagCloud and get your work out there!