Friday, February 27, 2009

Story Behind the Picture: "Sandy Paws"

These are the (very large) feet of my dog, Sheba. You are probably wondering why I don't have a photograph of Sheba's sweet face, as I do of Bronco in this earlier posting:
I have two answers for that: one, Sheba is a "lens licker" - try and point a camera in her direction and she will launch herself at you with eighty pounds of love and saliva, invariably leaving a big tongue-print on the lens. Two, Sheba was far too interested in saving a surfer than posing nicely for the camera. While I managed to capture her steady paws, she was barking furiously at the "imperiled" man on his surfboard (only he wasn't in danger and didn't need saving, but don't tell that to my wannabe-Lassie who kept swimming out and harassing the poor man).
Sheba is a natural rescuer: she guards the stairs when my toddler is too close (there is a gate, mind you, but she seems to think it inadequate). She herded my oldest son away from the street when he made a dash for freedom (I was pregnant at the time and couldn't run very fast. She may have taken her duty a bit far when she knocked him into the ivy bed and held him down with her front paw, but I was still grateful for her help). My favorite Sheba-rescue story of all time, however, is the day she diagnosed my appendicitis. I was feeling only mildly uncomfortable at the time, but she insisted on poking at my left side, crying, and finally, taking my sleeve in her teeth and dragging me over to the phone. I decided to listen to her and call my husband at work: by the time he drove home, fifteen minutes later, I could barely walk. When I arrived at the E.R., the doctors were amused - and amazed - that I would seek medical treatment on the advice of my dog. They also told me she was absolutely right.
People still ask us why we chose her from all the dogs at the pound. It wasn't her webbed feet (Labrador?) or her huge ears (German Shepherd?) or her talented nose (??), and it certainly wasn't her manners (bull in china shop?). We simply fell in love with a dog who needed saving and she's repaid us countless times since then.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Story Behind the Picture - "Watchful" and "First Day"

“There’s nothing so good for the inside of (wo)man as the outside of a horse.”
~~ author unknown

This day was long in coming – my mare was ready to be retired from competition. Her biological clock, so to speak, went into overdrive when she visited the breeding farm: she would often steal the foals of other mares, proudly parading the confused newborns around the paddock as though they were her own. Their mothers did not appreciate this.

It was with great joy that I finally felt her burgeoning sides swell and watched her grow rounder, yet become no less graceful, with each passing month. I moved from Virginia to Philadelphia before her foal was due to arrive, but I drove back south at first word that the baby had arrived. I missed the first wobbly hours of her uncertain steps and awkward legs – by the time I saw the new filly, still within the first twenty-four hours of her birth, she was already remarkably bold and adventurous, just like her mother. She had also discovered her teeth and enjoyed trying to nibble at my camera bag as I sat in the paddock with them. My mother came with me and complained about the flies (which were indeed rampant in the late-day heat). Luckily, the filly was quite interested in watching my mom swat at swarms of insects and I was able to take a number of shots…until, of course, she decided that testing her teeth on my shoelaces was even more fascinating.

She followed me to the gate of the paddock that day, despite her mother’s whinnies and reprimands. My mom laughed and consoled her, said she understood what it was like to have a daughter that didn’t listen. I laughed because I saw an adventurous little filly that would no doubt be as strong and fearless as her mother.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Story Behind the Picture: Danny and Daddy

I've been tagged by my very talented friends Allie and Michelle: the tag is to take part in the 6 by 6 game. Rules: choose the sixth image out of your sixth picture folder from your computer and blog it. Then tag six more people to do the same.

I cringed when I first opened my sixth folder: it was from 2005, the year I "went electric," Bob-Dylan speak for the time I picked up that digital camera I swore I'd never use. It is full of all manner of messy shots as I tried to master the very confusing land of digital photography (yes, folks, I still do think a manual light meter is easier to use!). When I clicked on my sixth image, I smiled. It was the day I tried to take portraits of my very wiggly 8-month-old. My husband stopped in for a visit to the "studio" ( the nursery, actually, with a dark blue sheet draped over the rails of the crib) and he couldn't resist scooping Danny into his arms. The lighting isn't perfect, the images are blurred, but after revisiting it four years later, I've decided this might be one of my favorite imperfect portraits of 2005.

So now to tag my six:
1. Judi Judi FitzPatrick
2. Lynne Autonimous Artisans
3. Stef Earth Soul Jar
4. Laura Baroque Babies
5. Rhonda Rareimage
6. Kristen A Painting a Day

Friday, February 13, 2009

Story Behind the Picture: "Train Crossing"

Sometimes you need to listen to your friends. Not the ones that convinced you to try out that really terrible hair-style in high school, or skip that study session in college in order to bar hop, of course. I mean the friends that invest themselves in your dreams and support you with their enthusiasm and love. I have three such friends at Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia who, despite my rowing for a competitor club, always invite me to hop in a Vesper boat for a fabulous spin around the river. Tina, April, and Catherine agreed to let me bring my camera one morning and promised, hands over hearts, to keep the boat steady and balanced and to not splash water on my equipment. They were impossibly patient with me, stopping every few strokes to let the boat run while I shot photograph after photograph of the scenes that surround us on the river. I apologized each time I asked them to help me back up, spin, or otherwise adjust our position so I could capture the light just right. And each time, they laughed at me, told me they were happy to help, and asked if I wanted to take just a few more photos before we started off again. I have April to thank for this very image. She sits in two-seat, behind me, in our four-person boat. She also has a fantastic eye for color and light. While I was busy fumbling with my water bottle as we prepared to spin at the Twin Stone bridges, she tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the rumbling freight train slowly snaking its way across the river. "Take that one!" she encouraged. "The train?" I asked. "Yes! It's beautiful!" she answered. I shrugged and decided to humor her. April can, after all, spot a hummingbird a half-mile away. I took my camera back out of the waterproof case, lifted it to my eye, and laughed. She was right. Without her, I would never have paid attention and the moment would have been lost.

Now this image hangs in my husband's office and both my sons adore this photo: my oldest even spotted a yellow traffic light in the distance along Kelly Drive. Can anyone else see it? He must have eyes like April.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Story Behind the Picture: Bubbles

This photograph falls into a category I've labeled "Surprised My Neighbors Haven't Called the Police." Why, you ask? It's certainly not due to the subject matter. No, rather, it's due to the efforts that this particular photograph required...
I'll explain: have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with an inspiration, or been unable to sleep because your mind was racing with creativity? I saw this picture in a dream one night, a picture of bubbles drifting across a winter sky, glinting in the sunlight as they traveled past my eyes. I woke the next morning, determined to recreate the lovely image that had been dancing in my head for hours. I waited for nap time because, as much as I adore my children, there is simply no way to concentrate on taking pictures outdoors as one or both of them will, without fail, make a dash for the nearest busy intersection. So the blessed hour of naps arrived and I walked out into our backyard armed with a bubble-blowing pipe and my camera, well aware that, without children, an adult with a bubble pipe and a hot-pink bottle of bubble solution looks a little...loony. The winds that day were, of course, horrendous - by the time I sent a good harvest of bubbles skyward, they were already halfway to New Jersey, long before I could catch them in the lens of my camera. Anyone that has ever seen my backyard, will know it's the size of a postage stamp...running after bubbles traveling at mach 2 is not really possible. The only option left? My shared driveway. The air current seemed to form a nice tunnel - each time, I blew a huge batch of bubbles and then ran like a crazy person underneath them as they flew out to the street, clicking away with my camera pointed skyward. I think I repeated this process about 30 times. Each time I reached the sidewalk, I truly expected a team of orderlies to jump out from behind a tree with a straight jacket. I know my neighbors with whom we share our driveway saw the whole episode - I ran right past the windows of their home office each trip I made.
In the end, despite my ungainly and Herculean efforts to capture at least one usable image (did I mention I was also wearing big snow boots at the time?), I decided a little public humiliation was a small price to pay for recreating my dream in technicolor pixels.
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