Aelbert Cuyp was a Dutch painter in the 17th century and his landscape paintings of cattle on pasture at the water’s edge with delicate golden light illuminating the scene really caught my eye when I studied art history. Some painters and artworks I have indeed forgotten over the years, but for some reason I never forgot learning about Cuyp.
When I started making photographs seriously 7 years ago, what I learned in those art history lecture halls as a student informed how I saw the world through my camera. Occasionally I’d notice Jacob Van Ruisdael clouds in the sky or I’d take a portrait using “Vermeer lighting” but I never encountered a scene or a moment that reminded me of Cuyp. His scenes were of a bygone world, somewhere so different from where I grew up in suburban New Jersey with a kind of light that I never had the pleasure of witnessing.
On a walk across the dunes in Northumberland in England this winter, we followed a public footpath that required us to hop a turnstile and enter the pasture of a herd of cattle. I was stunned to find myself in my very own Cuyp moment – the breathtaking light, the cows, the water, the pasture, with nothing to inform me if this was the 17th or 21st century! What a thrill. I feel lucky that I was able to capture and preserve this moment, an art history souvenir that I will treasure.
I’m excited to share with you my latest work, which I produced on a hike last Sunday in Western North Carolina. There were beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains everywhere we looked but the view underfoot on this particular trail was rather special as well. Black and rusty veins of stone swirled together in the bedrock and the sun illuminated little flecks of mica in the stone that sparkled and shimmered. Taking a photograph of it was challenging, as it was hard to capture this shimmery quality in a way that really showed how dynamic and interesting this stone was. After a few minutes I thought, why not try a multiple exposure? I love experimenting with multiple exposures within the camera. Sometimes I try two exposures, sometimes three, and the results can be unpredictable and often very surprising. In this case it was so sunny that I couldn’t see the result until I was back in the hotel and when I did finally see it I was thrilled. The multiple exposure captured what looks like a ripple of energy emanating from the stone and the mica sparkles in a way that is almost celestial. Can you feel the energy in the photograph too?
So many seeds need to be sown, so many plants need to be pruned, so many weeds need to be pulled that it’s easy to be overwhelmed in the face of such a lengthy gardening to-do list. I was in the middle of some such task yesterday when I looked around me and saw so many gorgeous flowers glowing in the gentle spring sunshine. There was no resisting the pull to go get the camera and give the flowers around me the close-ups they deserve.
Photographing flowers in a new and unusual way is a challenge I always welcome. They are quite rightly a favorite subject for many photographers, both amateur and professional, so I have to ask myself what I can do that’s different, unique and unexpected. In the coming weeks I’ll be revisiting flowers now and then as a subject and we’ll see what I can come up with!
I hope you enjoy these spring views of dogwood (above and just barely blooming) and daffodil, magnolia, eastern red bud, brunnera, and lesser celandine.
Camp Helen State Park in Panama City Beach, Florida, is a fascinating place to explore when I’m down on the panhandle for some rest, warmth, and relaxation. The myrtle oaks are draped with Spanish moss, the trails are sandy, the birdsong is exotic – in short, it’s a world away from the plants, animals and sights that I’m accustomed to in my part of New Jersey. The binoculars are always at the ready and there is plenty of natural beauty to inspire a few clicks on the camera.
Before I left for a week in Florida, I wrote about the blast of color that a vase of forced forsythia can offer as a way of hurrying spring along. I was delighted to find that very same yellow color in Florida earlier this week on a walk at Camp Helen, but in this case it was a rather autumnal farewell to last year’s green palmetto leaves. The fiery display was simply stunning in the late afternoon, the low sun slanting in at just the right angle to set the colors ablaze. The blazing yellow also happened to match the color of the northern parula warblers we spotted just perfectly! It was a lovely day trip, and I must say I really enjoyed this unexpected pop of color. Hope you enjoy it too.
Several years ago in my younger and braver days, I snuck into an abandoned china factory in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and I was just in time too because the factory was being demolished. The place honestly looked like it had been bombed, and there I was, working my way through the mess to see if there were any photographs to be had. I stopped in my tracks when I saw the last remaining dinnerware, stacked up and waiting for demolition, and perhaps waiting for me to preserve it before the wrecking ball finished its job. I called my photograph High Tea, and it was a fabulous souvenir to take home with me (though some of that crockery would have been nice too!). “High Tea” has been available on my Etsy shop for a while but it only found a home yesterday thanks to a lovely treasury by Laine of Ingleside Pottery.
Treasuries are an interesting concept – other Etsy buyers and sellers put together groupings of Etsy listings in pleasing and interesting ways, and these treasuries, if they are good enough, get promoted and shared. The resulting exposure can be a real help when you’re trying to find buyers for your work as all sellers are. In this case, the buyer of High Tea was also featured in the treasury, Asya Palatova of Gleena Shop on Etsy. Her charming O is for Owl wee tea cup caught my eye right away, and when I looked further, beyond her Etsy shop and to her website, I was blown away by her work and immediately started imagining her dinnerware on my table.
Asya bought High Tea to hang in her studio for inspiration – how cool is that? She even did some sleuthing about the china factory, learning about its history and the reason for its demise. It feels so good that High Tea is on its way to her. When you’re as attached to a work as much as I am, you really want the photograph to find a good home, a place where the work will be displayed and enjoyed for many moons to come. It will be interesting to see if Asya brings back any of these old shapes, but updated in her unique style. Here is more of her beautiful work, both in progress (as the pieces in High Tea were) and finished. http://gleena.com
Do you shop on Etsy? I do, and everyday I am amazed by the truly fantastic creative works of art and design out there, no matter the medium. From illustrations to tote bags to pottery to knitwear to some seriously funky and fantastic vintage finds, there’s something for everyone on Etsy. I’ve been selling my photography there seriously for the last couple of years and I have to say it has been a slow process to get some sort of momentum in terms of sales.
Lately I’ve been taking on the challenge of how to make my photography more appealing to a buyer, how to help a buyer visualize what a print will be like when it is on actual fine art paper and not just a bunch of pixels on a screen. So today my husband and I went outside on this dreary overcast winter day and I posed him in front of our weathered garden fence (which is usually obscured by globe thistles, cosmos or monarda in the growing season – just typing this sentence is getting me incredibly excited for summer!) with a print. I should say that this is not just any print, this is one of my favorite photographs that I’ve ever taken, Dashwood Cottage.
I took this photograph in England a couple of years ago, on a blissful July day when all was seemingly right with the world and my life. Being there is a very peaceful memory for me. I call the photo Dashwood Cottage because I can just imagine Elinor and Marianne Dashwood (from Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility) to be at home. Above the weathered red door it says 1669, and I just love the trained yellow roses and the ladies mantle border that seems to tumble over under the weight of its chartreuse blooms. The photo is perpetual summer for me, just the thing I need to look at today!