Thursday, December 27, 2012



I recently entered a small informal online photography contest with the above photo.  The theme of the contest during December was “reflections.”  My photo  ended up taking third place.  Last August I spent a solid hour photographing a single green heron in shallow Pine Lake in Shelby Farms.  I rarely get such an opportunity, but for some reason the bird paid me no mind.  It was one of those *almost* peak experiences.  

The winning photo in the contest was a shot where a single drop of water on the leaf of a garden reflected the entire garden.  The voting was very lopsided in favor of the winning entry, deservedly so.  The creativity involved far surpassed anything anyone else entered.   Can a drop of water reflect a whole scene?  Yes it can!  I saw it!  Reflections are kind of metaphorical.  Is there a tiny aspect of my life that reflects the larger whole?  Perhaps photography itself does that. 

“Reflections” was a wonderful contest theme, and the variety was amazing.  Buildings, puddles, lakes, droplets, glass, marble, etc. were the reflecting surfaces.  If I had the time I probably would have gone to Graceland to get a photo of the mirrored staircase leading down to the “Jungle Room”.  It is slightly disorienting to negotiate. Be sure to visit Graceland if you ever get to Memphis! 

Reflections are particularly timely in December, when we reflect back on our year, as we look forward to a new one—a new beginning.  I used the contest theme to be reflective in my own life, particularly when it comes to photography.  What is it that I want photography to do for my life?  How does it add value?  What direction do I want to go with photography?  How does this hobby enhance my life?  What have I done new or different with photography this year?  What will I do with photography next year? 

I realize that photography, for me, is not an end in itself.  I recently read an article in our local newspaper about the person who consistently takes the best wildlife and bird photos in Memphis.  I have always wondered how he got so many great shots.  He obviously is extremely talented.  It turns out he has a monster lens that he bought at an estate sale, and rarely leaves his truck to get photos of birds!  They fly away if he opens the door.  I could do that (if I had a lens that big, and a truck), but that wouldn’t really provide the need that I have to explore nature with my camera.  Observing nature in a truck, to me, isn’t quite the same as observing it on foot.  Monster lenses are heavy, and tripods can be unwieldy.  Therefore, unless I go that route at some point, my wildlife photos will never be as consistently good and prolific as his.  I can live with that.   I do think of myself as being in competition with the birds, much like a hunter does.  Hunters don’t generally hunt from trucks.  I don’t feel that competitive with other photographers, though.
Photography in general causes me to be reflective, as every trip I take, whether it is to Japan, or to the Tennessee River, or to Shelby Farms comes back to me when I observe the photos.  Also, when I observe a place where I have taken a special photo, that place is transformed in my mind when I see it again.  Here are some other reflection photos I have taken over the past few years: 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Autumn 2012

Usually by this time of year I have My Pictures filled with photos of turning leaves, crisp sunsets, and wonderful low light landscapes.  This year is the exception.  Firstly, the dry weather this year caused a lot of leaves to fall off before they turned colors.  Also, I was on a couple of trips that involved very little time for taking photos.  I managed a few tourist photos, including lower Manhattan before Sandy hit, and some basic photos of hills from the Blue Ridge Parkway, but nothing earth shattering or even very much like fall.  Rather than abandon the blog for the season, I thought this would give me the opportunity to demonstrate a few things that have been keeping me busy—all related to photography of course, and various cheap software.   Mostly I try to stay away from technical stuff because I really am not very knowledgeable about it, but I do like to experiment with various types of software.

One of my trips involved a seven day Foundation Biogeometry course in Asheville.  I took away from that a new appreciation for the ancient science of shape and number, and new ideas to transmute negative subtle energy into positive subtle energy, using shape, number, color, etc.  And yes, electromagnetic fields and other similar influences can weaken people energetically.  Because I work on the computer a lot, I have to be well aware of its effects on my own energetic fields around my body.

As usual when I learn new things, I like to put my own spin on the knowledge, and rather than immediately running around my house with a pendulum measuring earth lines, I decided to make some mandalas on the computer.   It just sounded more fun to me, and I can always correct my house later.   I used some of the principles that I learned at the training to make this YouTube video.   I used guitar music from Jon Sayle (free MP3s here). 

I had to have some software to make these mandalas, obviously.  I don’t have Photoshop, because of the expense and because I like the challenge of getting by with cheap or free software.  If you download "free" software from the 'net, though, make sure it is a reputable source!!  Freebies  come with strings attached, such as unwanted toolbars, and oftentimes computer viruses.  Rather than buying mandala making software, I used an online mandala making program for free that allowed me to save drawn mandalas to a pdf file.  I then used PrtScn (Print Screen) and paste into Microsoft Paint, and used that program to color the mandala and resize it.  I saved it as a bmp file (for better resolution than jpg).  Because using Paint alone results in garish looking colors, I experimented with Photo Filter Factory to put layers over the mandalas.  Someone with Photoshop would likely not need this program.  I have a free version of Photo Filter Factory, but now the free version doesn’t just limit the number of filters, but also the number of times you use it.  It is cheap though, especially when compared to Photoshop.  GIMP may have some free filters, though, I am just not sure!

The only other two software programs that I used for the mandalas were Irfanview to rotate the photos, and Sony Movie Studio to make the slideshow. 

If you take up photography as a hobby, you will find that learning about various types of software is both challenging and rewarding.  Be creative and see where it leads!

And my salute to fall this year is a movie clip of the wind blowing fall leaves at the Tennessee River.  This clip illustrates that camera microphones tend to exaggerate any wind noise!

To illustrate what a photo filter does to a regular photo, here is a basic tourist photo of the sculpture in Rockefeller Center ice skating rink, first straight from the camera, and then with a "parched paper" photo filter:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fall is for Festivals

Well, spring is for festivals too, but the October weather here in Memphis is notoriously good--dry and clear--well, generally. That is October, but what about September? That depends. Why is it that I am talking about festivals in September rather than October? It turns out that festival season in Memphis starts out with many of the smaller, lesser known festivals, targeted for certain groups. They do not want to compete with the huge Pink Palace Arts and Crafts Sale, or even the Arts Festival, both in October. 

And festivals are a fun place to take a camera.

I prefer September festivals. I am always telling my friends and family, "Everything good gets ruined."  Really I am referring to festivals, and my own "Peter Principle" type effect. The Peter Principle was developed by an author who made a very good case for people being promoted in companies to their level of incompetence. They do a good job but once promoted, they may not have the skill set required for the new job.   
But, with festivals, the argument is that once a festival gets really good, it gets popular. Once it gets popular, it gets crowded. It is hard to find a parking place. It is hard to fight the traffic. The same is true with tourist attractions. I love tourist attractions until they get really good and thus attract more patrons. So my children were deprived growing up because we never went to DisneyWorld. When they complained, I pointed out that we had gone to Six Flags and Sea World. These were acceptable because, even though popular, they at least were in my home town of San Antonio, so we didn't have to make a special trip. We just went when we visited relatives.

I also love the beach, but will no longer go in the summertime.  I prefer some sort of off season. 

That brings me back to festivals in Memphis in September.  Festivals are a must for any photographer interested in candid shots (frankly, I don't really like posed shots that much!)  And the best festivals are easily accessible, fun, and not so popular as to be overcrowded. Enter the Japanese Festival in Memphis this past Saturday. The weather was perfect, the crowd good, but I could still get front row seats at the main stage. If truth be told, there was only one stage, with three rotating acts.  I actually lost my program so I am not sure that is the case, but they started repeating after I was there for awhile.

A lot of the charm of the Japanese festival is that it takes place in a Japanese tea garden at the Memphis Botanic Gardens.  It was actually a good time to go to it because I have been seeing the world through orange colored lenses lately, as I have been hosting an informal photography contest with the subject of "orange".  There are few better places to find orange than anything Japan! 
For example, Japan uses a lot of orange in architecture, as seen  above in the roof of the tea room in the Memphis Botanic Gardens.
And then there are the koi fish, a must for every Japanese garden.
That's a pretty good orange start already.  Even better, though, orange koi fish are even used in the theme for the festival.  And there is the traditional reddish orange Japanese bridge-

I was not done with orange, as the first act on stage were the Taiko drummers.  You guessed it--orange!  In the first one, since the drummer's pose looks as if he might take off flying, I decided to experiment with an effect call "focal zoom" in Picasa.  A lot of serious photographers don't like effects like this, but I think they are fun.  And I have a straight version of this anyway.  They good thing is that you can make up your own mind about using effects like this.
And below is a behind the scenes look.  Because I got there early before the crowds, I could take photos from almost anywhere, a big plus. 

Here I am going to insert a video I took with my camera, if only because I get frustrated seeing photos of musical performances without getting to actually hear something.  Although I took this video in high definition, You Tube reduced the quality. Please remember that I do not pretend to be a videographer!

The other acts were a very short Japanese dance, and an aikido exhibition.


I am going to include my very short You Tube of the aikido demonstration because it showcases a huge mistake that I made.  I knew that one thing about my camera was that it could take video and photos at the same time.  Well, I won't make that mistake again.  Every time there was a throw, I started snapping away, actually interrupting the video.  The result is a little odd to say the least.  

This is called learning from mistakes, a very important concept for photographers. Here are a couple of more interesting photos of some attendees.   

A wonderful Japanese street performer made this sugary concoction, which is a dragon I think:

I wasn't done with orange, though.  As the acts began repeating themselves, I meandered toward the exit.  I got hit in the head with a persimmon falling from the tree.  I couldn't resist this photo, which is probably one of the closest I have come to setting up a still life photo.  I did it for "orange".  I started and ended the whole experience with orange, and I wrapped it up thusly:

Check out your community's calendar for some fun fall festivals. Pick out the unknown gems, take your camera, and have a great time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Squirrels in the Present

The idea is that there is a kind of memory in nature. Each kind of thing has a collective memory. So, take a squirrel living in New York now. That squirrel is being influenced by all past squirrels.
Rupert Sheldrake.

Since I am a fan of Rupert Sheldrake, I decided to use the squirrel quotation notwithstanding the fact that the squirrels here are Tennessee River squirrels.  Presumably the morphogenetic field of Tennessee River squirrels is pretty similar to Central Park squirrels. 

Take the squirrel I observed recently at the Tennessee River.  If you had a big bushy tail would you hang by your back feet, completely upside down, and nibble on berries?  I didn't think so. Well, our human morphogenetic field is different from that of squirrels, so I am sure that explains it! I was reduced to observing squirrels at the Tennessee River one morning when the birds seemed to disappear.  Well, the squirrels chased at least some of them away!  As it turned out, I was glad, because this produced one of my favorite photos of the year.  I also learned a couple of things........

For instance, squirrels sit on vines so that they can use the front paws to eat.  I didn't know it at the time, because I was snapping photos from so far away with my new very zoomed camera that I couldn't really see the stuff I was snapping.  What a revelation it is to look at the photos later.

What I love about nature photography is that it is unpredictable.  Luck, persistence, patience all play a role.  I had to snap whatever the animal decides to do.  Even if you get a squirrel hanging by its toes eating berries, any two shots come out differently.  I have an obvious favorite between the following shots.  See if you agree with me. 

Now, the next ones.  Note that I am not the director, merely the observor.  Which is your favorite hanging squirrel photo, and why?


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Catching the Light on Bluebird Lane

Who else here lives on a street named Bluebird Lane?  For years I paid no attention to the name of our street on the Tennessee River.  After all, we don't get any mail there.  I soon found out that it lives up to its name, thanks to a few bluebird boxes the owners of the marina scattered around.

Now, this is not a particularly good time a year to take songbird photos.  They aren't very active, like in the spring, for one thing.  Mainly, though, they are hard to see when leaves are out.  Even when you can see them, it is hard to get a clear view through a camera lens, because even with a big zoom, getting a photo of birds is like threading a needle through the leaves.  The exception of course is if you have a bird feeder, but I don't take advantage of that.  After all, then getting photos of birds would be no challenge.

Another issue is even if a bird lands in a tree, and you can get a clear view of it through a camera lens, often the shade is too dense to get a good photo.  All I can say is, sans a bird feeder, a photographer has to be extremely lucky and persistent to get really good photos of birds this time of year.  

I found a favorite place on a branch not too far from our front porch. Still, I had to use the full zoom of my new camera. Now this is a pretty decent photo of a bird grooming herself. And she sure needed grooming.

While the first photo was completely shady, there were hints of some filtered sun coming through the leaves.  Rare!  Lucky!  Here is mom with a juvenile member of the bluebird family.  The juvenile bluebird does not yet have the red breast, but is still spotted. Mom continued having a bad feather day.

 And for perfect bluebird natural lighting, it came later when the two birds were having a heated conversation.  The light is filtered, shining on the birds, but not much in the background, and the background is green leaves!  Notice the difference the light makes from the first photo.

Later I got a photo of a bluebird that illustrate the principles of both "backlit" (photographer facing the light source), and negative space!  I didn't purposely look for such a shot, but this was pretty natural with the Tennessee River in the background. 

Bluebird Lane is no misnomer!

Friday, July 27, 2012

New Camera!

I'm a fan of advanced point and shoot cameras, because I don't care about being burdened with carrying around different lenses.   There are three things I look for in a camera-- a big zoom for birds, burst mode for birds, and easy automatic focusing.  Of course there are other things, such as ease in changing settings, decent movie capability, etc.  My last camera was a Panasonic, and because I wasn't 100% happy with the way it focused on birds through the leaves in the trees, I decided to go back to a Canon.  Generally I make sure to check the written reviews on Amazon and other sites.  I trust those more than the professional reviews.

I waited until the model was about 1/2 dated (new one out in a few months) because there usually is about a 25% discount after a model has been out a few months.  A huge plus to this particular Canon is that it has a 35x optical zoom. Naturally, I tried out my new camera with birds. 

Although the weather is still too hot to do much outdoor photography,  I sat on our front porch at the river, rested my arms on the railing of the porch, and managed to take full advantage of the zoom.  This is by far the best photo of the red headed woodpeckers that live in our front yard (the downy woodpecker is the more common variety I see in Memphis).

Here is the "shy" summer tanager: 

This photo has the most detailed feathers of any of my bluebird photos.  That may be attributed to the large zoom, my being somewhat camouflaged by the porch, and being able to steady my arms with the porch railing.

I am looking forward to getting to learn more about the camera when the weather improves.  There is a big learning curve with any camera, but this one should be worth it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"It's Hotter than Vinyl Underwear"

Like a good part of the country, Tennessee has been in the grips of a big heat wave, combined with humidity, smog, weather warnings, etc.   For an outdoor photographer, that means  trouble.  I knew my photography would slow down over the summer, but I never suspected that it would come to a virtual halt. After all, at least once a week,  I am awake  at 6am and can get my exercise walking at the same time I am scouring the sky and landscape for ducks, herons, bison, etc. Well, dawn isn't early enough to escape the heat and humidity. I even sent away for a kick boxing DVD to use instead of walking.  (It is still in the box.)

That is my excuse for no blog posts for a month.  So I decided to try to make a weather statement!  I wanted to think about winter to add some balance to the high temperatures.  I don't have many snowy and icy photos, but I gathered the ones that I do have together, and made a slideshow.  I knew there must be a song entitled "Christmas in July", so I did a search for downloadable songs on Amazon.  I generally now buy MP3s from Amazon rather than go to ITunes.  Here is a hint:  If you are making slideshows with Windows, and not a using a Mac, then MP3s are the way to go.  I'm not even sure how to use ITunes music on a slideshow. But then, with Amazon available, I don't have to learn that, thankfully. 

I was wrong about there being *A*  song named Christmas in July.  There were many!  I listened to about ten samples of different songs entitled Christmas in July, and this one was the only one that seemed remotely appropriate, and possibly good. I took a chance and paid 89 cents to download it. Yes, it is a bit hillbilly, but you must know that a native Texan, transplanted to Tennessee, who is married to someone who likes bass fishing, must have at least some affinity for hillbilly type music, as long as it is good.  And this is good.  I need to check out more stuff by the Therapy Sisters.  After all this hot weather we all need a little therapy.  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lessons Learned from a Green Heron

Obviously I am back in bird photography mode again, because I was pretty excited about my most recent photo of a green heron.  It was actually my only decent one of the day, probably because the light wasn't great, and bird photography is pretty unpredictable anyway.  The first time I  saw a green heron I thought it might be a duck that liked trees.  It was in a tree, the size of a duck, and I had never seen anything like it.  Of course, sans my photography hobby, I probably would not have noticed it.  Why is it called green instead of maroon or blue?  Well there is already a blue heron that is quite a bit bigger and blue all over.  Maroon would seem more apt to me than green.    There are bits of green around the eyes of a green heron.  I guess that must be it! 

So what are the lessons learned from this photo?  Let's just start a list.

1.  Always take your camera with you.  You never know when a green heron might appear in front of your eyes.

2.  It is helpful to always have a camera card in your camera.  I cannot count the times that I have specifically gone out with my camera, and no camera card.  Finally I decided I would have to remember to keep an extra small card in my bag, for those emergency situations.  That worked great until the inevitable time that I had neither a camera card in the camera, nor an extra camera card.  Oh, yes, that was yesterday, when I saw the green heron.  I had to resort to the small internal memory.  It was full of course, from past times when I have done the same thing.  Rather than try to figure out if there was anything worthwhile on my internal memory, I just cleared it all out.  There would only be single shots today, as only about ten photos fit on the internal memory.

3.  It helps to be very patient and slightly geeky when doing photography, for those inevitable times when you have to take photos on the internal drive of the camera.  I always transfer photos to the computer using the camera card;  I have completely lost the direct hookup capability.  The Panasonic Manual is about 200 pages, not printed out, and has no table of contents on how to move internal memory photos to the card.  I knew it was possible.  I had actually done this in the past.  Time for the geeky Google search.  After about four false starts I finally found some photography blog where someone had asked the same question, and the blog person pointed to the actual page number in the instruction manual (page 182, in this case).  I had read other blogs but I needed the actual instructions to figure out how to do this.  The patience part is that this whole process was that, for one photo, this took forty five minutes.  Was it worth it?  What choice did I have?    If you ever have a photography question, do a Google search, and you will get a lot of answers, some conflicting.  Go with the majority.

4.  Sometimes there is just too much of one color in a photo--irony that this was green in a green heron photo.  Here is the original photo, before post processing.  This is straight out of the internal memory box--

Generally it is not a good idea to start messing around with colors in bird photography.  I mean, you wouldn't generally want to end up with a purple cardinal, for instance.  It was quite helpful that the green heron has very little green in it, and the green that is there is more yellow.  Audubon Lake is kind of a muddy green, and you can get a bit too much of that combined with the green grass.  Since it is a shallow lake with little flow to it, unattractive debris accumulates on top of the water.  It looks a bit better by adding some  noise reduction (luminance).  Luminance is also good for beautifying skin in portrait photography.  It's better than Botox.

So the green heron taught me, or reminded me, of quite a few photography lessons.  I know, I know, if I transferred photos from my camera to the computer directly, I would not have an issue with not having camera cards when I needed them.  But some old habits are just hard to change.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Big Hazard, and A Heron Swallowing a Fish

Time had come into being, death, birth, and the killing and eating of other living beings, for the perservation of life.          Joseph Campbell 

Before I get to the hazard, I'm going to embed a slideshow of some photos that I took of a heron swallowing a fish. A BIG fish. You can follow it all the way down the throat. If you are squeamish about such stuff that should weed out all the people that don't want to see the BIG HAZARD. Following that, I am wrapping up my spring photos with some cuter, lighter stuff.

Now for the HAZARD--my closest encounter with a water moccasin.  This actually came after my encounter with the heron catching the big fish (carp?) or I might have been a bit more cautious about sitting in the grass taking the photos.

It looked reasonably lazy, so I did get a bit of a closer look.  I am not sure it was a great idea. 
Not a candidate for National Geographic Publication, but it did make an impression on me.
Now for some of the lighter, cuter photos.  First off, I found some nesting herons on an island in the Tennessee River.  Believe me, I was in the relative safety of a boat.  I am more nervous about coming close to a nesting heron than I am a water moccasin.  They nest in groups (it makes for easier babysitting and safety).  Luckily part of the group picked a dead branch, so I had easy photographic access to one part of this.  The nest was probably twenty five feet off the ground.

 This is a photo for Mother's Day-

For a week or two I was following the family of wood ducks in Audubon Park.  I am not much of a bird identification person, but I had to know what these things were, as I knew they weren't the garden variety of mallard, or mixture that I usually see in urban parks.  And cute?  Oh my, they are really CUTE!  The male is extremely colorful, hard to resist for a female wood duck. 

 Learning to Fly!

Spring has been an adventure for sure.  I am sending this blog off to the heat of summer with a nice cool photo of a Seattle spring.  Yes, I was in Seattle for a week.  Even though a got a lot of photos of herons in Seattle, I think we need a change of pace. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Supermoon Saturday!

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
Anton Chekhov

Supermoon Saturday presented quite a challenge for a novice photographer like me.  It does lend an opportunity to share my very favorite photo I took of the moon more than one year ago.  This was a pretty magical moment, as I can still hear all the blackbird noises when I look at this photo.  I took this before I had a camera with a continuous shutter, but I just kept snapping photos until I had some that I liked.  At the time, my Canon had a setting that was labeled “M”.  I thought it was "M" for moon, but now I think it was “M” for manual.  I am telling this story on myself because I want this blog to be unintimidating.    It was almost as if I was an accidental moon photographer.   Well, I was accidental on everything but the timing.  I keep up with moonrise, moonset, sunrise, and sunset times, as well as dew point (in case I want a fog photo).  Here is one website where you may calculate those. 

U.S. Navy Site--Time Calculator for Moon and Sun

Enter my new Panasonic camera and the eclipse of the moon last December.  I tried everything, every setting I could think of and failed to get a decent photo.  I quickly dumped them into the recycle bin.  Well, I don’t have a DSLR, only what is known as an advanced point and shoot.  The last thing I want to do is carry around lots of different lenses, so it mostly suits me fine, until it comes to things like moon photographs.
I practiced the day before the Supermoon and they turned out okay, given my lack of equipment.  I don’t have a telephoto lens, only the zoom attached to the camera, and I don’t have a tripod.    We were at our home on Birdsong Creek on the Tennessee River.  Will someone please tell me how a tripod would help on a boat anyway?  These were taken the day before the Supermoon.  
I rather like this one of the bass fisherman in the family! This one is edited to make it a bit more interesting than the original.

Here is just a straightforward shot of the moon, with my point and shoot zoomed out all the way.  

Because the moon rose about an hour earlier on Friday afternoon than Saturday, there was more light in general.  I had to wait for the moon to be relatively high in the sky to even clearly see it.  Obviously I can’t get photos to compete with the ones taken by huge telephoto lenses, so I was going more for the feeling.  Also, the best supermoon photos are taken in cities next to landmarks that are well lit, to emphasize the size of the moon.  Having the moon up against a dark tree, which could be any size, is not exactly the right backdrop.    
The next night was more problematic, starting with all the haze on the horizon.  I had no idea if the moon would even be visible.  First we tried the one fourth mile hike to the Duck River Overlook, but gave that up when I realized we would have to hike back in the dark, and my husband had a martini in hand and leather soles on his loafers.  Well, there also were bees!  We left, and had time to hop in the boat.   

I had my old Canon with me as a backup, the one with the "M" setting, but nothing happened when I turned it on. It was too dark to even see the settings anyway.   Later I figured out that I had put one of the batteries in upside down.  It was the Panasonic or nothing!

Why I didn’t think about the night being darker than the night before, and the river being rougher, I don’t know.  And, our so called lights on the boat aren’t for navigation, only visibility,  so we felt safer staying within the buoys as we scoured the eastern skies for the moonrise.  Our boat was rocking wildly from the wakes of all the boats trying to make it back to the dock before nightfall.  Needless to say, most of my photos turned out blurry, and some even had two moons.  Honestly they make Vincent Van Gogh look sane in comparison to me:

At the very least it looked like I was heavily into the martinis. Nevertheless, I am not unhappy with a couple of the photos, not because they are technically great, because they are not, but because, to me, they capture the flavor of the evening.   

We had a great time, even if this is all I have to show for it.  I was going to make up for it by being on land for the moonset, but alas, it rained all night long. 
Yes, the moon was that orange, and had these clouds of dust partially obscuring it.  I rather like this one, which is a bit dreamy looking and shows none of the craters.


The waves reflected the light nicely, but caused huge issues with the boat bobbing up and down, and back and forth.
I hope you were able to see the Supermoon on Saturday!  Any visible moonrise is a good one for me.   Would we have bothered to go out it the boat on Supermoon Saturday had it not been for my photography hobby?  I doubt it, and we would have definitely missed out.

Monday, April 30, 2012

My Day in Paris

Paris, Tennessee Eiffel Tower
What drew me to Paris, Tennessee, a town of 10,000 people near the Kentucky border? Paris is only about forty five minutes away from our Tennessee River haven, and my husband was fishing with a friend for the day. The nesting herons could wait. But why Paris? Because this is a photography blog, I can show you rather than tell you. For one thing, Paris has its own Eiffel Tower.

I wanted to go to Paris for the Eiffel Tower alone. You see, the last time I saw this tower it was in Memphis, in 1991. Memphis in May was honoring France, and to help celebrate the occasion, some engineers at Christian Brothers University got the idea to create a scale model of the Eiffel Tower, sixty feet tall. This was quite an endeavor, involving a lot of time from both professors and students.  Christian Brothers had no use for this impressive tower after the festivities were over, and offered it to Paris, Tennessee.  

The refurbished Eiffel Tower now sits on a rise among the tennis courts, the playground, the walking trail, and the municipal pool in Paris. Luckily it was a good day for photography, partly cloudy and a pleasant temperature. I had two shots of the tower that I liked, and finally decided on this one for my post because the clouds were the most interesting, and because the tower is framed by the leaves of a tree. The background in a photo is important.  In this case the tower was far enough away from me that I was able to point my camera at the sky, depress the shutter half way, and then quickly move the camera back to the subject without releasing the shutter before clicking. The result of that is that the blue sky and clouds show up much better than if I focused directly on the tower. If I had not done that the sky would have been washed out. Of course I could have fooled around with the exposure settings on the camera instead, but this was just easier.  If you use this shortcut make sure it will not interfere with your automatic focus. You could not do this if you are close to your subject.  

I learned from my visit to Paris that since 1991, the pride and marketing focus of the town are dominated by the tower. What a wonderful thing the CBU engineers had done for this place!! I started taking photos of everything with the tower in a sign, but I quickly gave up. I felt surrounded by tower signage. It was on the water tower. It was embedded in a fountain.  
From the downtown fountain in Paris, Tennessee
The shops in town use the motif. It was on an Elementary School sign. It was the name of a street. This was one of my favorite uses of the tower by a private business.  

Shop, Eat, Live

World's Largest Catfish Fry Activities

Although I love the tower, and heartily approve of the use of the tower as a symbol for the town, I decided that there must be some other similarities to all things Parisian, and I began to search them out!   Fortunately, the downtown streets were bustling on Saturday.  I had happened upon the last day of the World’s Largest Catfish Fry.   If there is anything that is more important to Paris, Tennessee citizens than the Eiffel Tower, it is this week long celebration. Everywhere there were signs saying that official business stopped on Friday because of the catfish fry. 
Unfortunately, I only got to see the catfish race. I’m taking a slight detour here to prove that I am not making this up!   I saw a catfish race!   It was a no brainer to make this photo black and white. Who wants to see a catfish in color? This is not a fishing blog!   
Catfish Race in Paris, Tennessee

Despite this large event, which attracted a few hundred people in front of the courthouse (Paris is the county seat of Henry county), I found a place to park, and immediately discovered more connections between Paris, Tennessee and its larger namesake. This looks a bit like a Paris street scene, complete with an artist painting portraits.   

Parisian sidewalk artist at work

I could not resist this shot of a traditional Parisian sidewalk café. 
Parisian Sidewalk Cafe

Now I was on a roll, and I hadn’t even left Court Square! I found the Arc de Triomphe, with the Champs-Élysées in the background.


From the sculpture garden at the Louvre:

And, from the countryside outside Paris: 

The Seine River, left and right banks, aka Big Sandy

Naturally Paris has a winery, which provided many comparisons to the larger Paris—the one in France.     But I bet even France doesn’t have bottles of wine in the shape of an Eiffel Tower.     Henry County, Tennessee, unlike Benton County,  doesn’t seem to have many issues with spirits.   Venus de Milo (complete with arms!) was found at the winery. 
Venus de Milo

With the winery came my favorite Eiffel Tower signage 

As you can tell, I had fun with this blog.  You don't have to take photography seriously.  And it can take you exciting places like Paris, without the expense and time necessary for a plane ticket.   I think I had a better time in Paris, Tennessee taking photos than I would have trying to speak French in the other Paris.  Many of my best shots from the day didn't fit the theme, and I am embedding a slideshow for these, which include traditional street photography, more Eiffel Tower signage, and scenes from the surrounding countryside.  I even include my best attempt at Versailles!