Twyla Miranda, a participant in Writing From Nature 2009, took this picture of me while I was taking pictures in the woods of Boyds Mills. Richard noticed that I had the camera turned “wrong side up.” He can’t understand why I constantly flip back and forth between the two options for taking vertical shots. In the case of the D200, it seems particularly perverse because it has an extra button positioned for taking vertical photographs.
One of my regular readers said the photo in my previous post made her wonder what was surrounding the image I actually posted. Here is a shot with the scene from slightly further back. You can see the moss, the nascent Canada Mayflower (False Lily of the Valley), some flowers from a red maple (in the curve of the brown leaf at the left), and some fallen twigs. I posted a photo gallery from Writing From Nature on my website.
Wolfsnail Update: I learned when I returned from Pennsylvania that Wolfsnail has been nominated in the nonfiction category for the 2010 Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award. This is sponsored by SLAYS (School Libraries and Youth Services) a division of the North Dakota Library Association.
This puff ball was sitting on a bed of moss. This week’s Photo Friday challenge is brown. I loved the contrasting colors, shapes and textures. I took this in Boyds Mills, Pennsylvania, during the Writing From Nature workshop. To learn more, click on the posts leading up to this one.
We went out twice this morning: first, we scattered from the house into all directions to do an exercise called event mapping; second, we did a guided walk with the forester who manages the Meyers family land. I took some pictures along both walks. Ferns are all over this place right now and they look very different depending on the stage they’re at. This one attracted me because it was so skinny and contrasted nicely with the shapes and colors around it. I guess it could even be a candidate for the new book, which includes a fern at the fiddlehead stage.
I first photographed this type of moss two years ago when I was here at my first Writing From Nature workshop. This time I loved the juxtaposition of the pine needles with the curly leaves of the moss. I feel limited in my ability to “see” these photos I’m posting because I’m using my tiny netbook and I’m unable to crop and adjust my images in the way I typically do. Once I get home and do my usual processing, I’ll post some of the same images for comparison.
I’m always looking for interesting shapes. I think this resulted from a worm boring between the bark and the tree’s core. I started my walk this morning with my regular lens but I swapped it out pretty quickly for the macro lens. One of the participants here talked about coloring her journal page with lots of green because it’s cheerful. I seem to be drawn here to the places where I can highlight the green in the midst of the winter’s gray and brown. Editor’s Note: I have replaced the images with cropped, edited versions. It is so nice to be able to see them at full size and to be able to massage the exposure and crop.
We wrote picture books today! Lindsay Barrett George, author and illustrator of many wonderful nature books, walked us through the process of making a picture book. We worked in groups to create maps of a habitat; each of us adopted an animal that is found in that habitat and wrote a book about a day in the life of that animal. I ended up being a caddisfly larvae and I got eaten by a frog. I found this exercise very illuminating two years ago; in fact, it really helped me with the pacing of Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. This exercise really brings home the fact that writing a manuscript is a very different thing from creating a page-turning art object. Lindsay taught me that as an author/illustrator, I actually had three jobs: writer, illustrator, and designer.
Braving the chilly winds, the “naturalists” headed out along a muddy trail by Caulkins Creek. Mark Baldwin from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute encouraged everyone to smell the cranberry-colored blossom of the trillium growing along the creekbank.
Stinking Benjamin is the common name for the wet dog smelling Purple Trillium. While discovering the leaf litter under the basswood tree, Susan noticed a large brown cocoon of the cecropia moth. My treasure was found accidentally during a Sound Map activity. I sat for ten minutes listening to the sounds of nature – the song of the redwing blackbird, rustling beech leaves, flowing water and even a plane and truck back firing down the road.
I was startled to look up and right in front of me was this nest hanging down from the branches of a young beech tree. How could I have not seen it before? I was so in tune to sounds that I didn’t even see what was two feet in front of me. I snapped several photos hoping to identify it back at the house using the Peterson Field Guide to Bird Nests. We’ve been so busy learning about nature photography and critiquing manuscripts that the identification will have to wait for another day. The nature walk was full of wonder and surprises for everyone…especially when we learned to open not only our ears but our eyes, too. Post written by Barbara Gowan, author and photographer. Photo of nest by Barbara Gowan; other photos by Sarah C. Campbell.
Spring isn’t as far along up here in Boyds Mills, Penn., as it is at home in Mississippi. The day dawned sunny, though, and I was able to get by with wool slacks and a wool sweater. This collection of rusting implements sits atop a rock outside my cabin.
Some leaves are budding out on hedges outside my cabin. I am working on my tiny laptop and I don’t have access to my Photoshop Lightroom. I am having some trouble cropping using Gimp, an open source program. You’ll see that in the photo to the right I could have cropped off the top. I am considering the best way to do workflow when I have on-the-road tools. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot in the next few days about how to do this best.
This morning, before the workshop began officially, I sat down with Tim Gilner, the art director at Boyds Mills Press, and Andy Boyles, the science editor. We talked about trim size and design of my next book. It was nice to be in the same room talking about the issues in real time.
Mississippi is launching a new award in children’s literature; it is called The Magnolia Award: Mississippi Children’s Choice. As the name implies, children will vote to determine the winning title. I learned about this award during the Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi earlier this month. A committee of children’s librarians and others who are passionate about children’s literature, including faculty members from education and library science departments, has selected 12 titles for the 2009-2010 vote.
They are: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee, Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, We are the Ship by Kadir Nelson, Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee, Pictures from Our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins, Pale Male by Janet Schulman and Meilo So, How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz, The Wall by Peter Sis, John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, and Robot Dreams by Sara Varon.
The state Department of Education, the state Library Commission, the Mississippi Reading Association are part of the partnership that created The Magnolia Award. Third through fifth graders in public, private and homeschooling situations will be encouraged to read the full list of books before voting takes place in April 2010. Librarians in schools and public libraries will run the voting.
I learned this weekend that Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator was nominated for the state of Alabama’s children’s choice award. Through its Emphasis on Reading program, Alabama has been giving a children’s choice award for nearly 30 years. You can see the full list of 2009-2010 nominees here.
The librarian at Orrington School in Evanston, Illinois, included Wolfsnail on her library’s Great Science books list. What’s fun about this for me is that I was born in Evanston and lived there until I was 7. I remember going to Evanston Public Library (which is on Orrington Avenue) for books. Now, there are several copies of Wolfsnail available there. Cool.
I’ll be in Boyds Mills, Pennsylvania, this week at Writing From Nature, a workshop presented by the Highlights Foundation. I will be presenting a session titled “Photographs + Stories = Winning Nonfiction.” Two years ago, when I was in the throes of writing and photographing Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator, I attended the workshop and found it invaluable. When I am not presenting, I’ll be writing, journaling, taking photographs, and learning from other faculty and participants. I’m confident that if I keep on showing up with a curious mind and eye, I’ll find another book in our beautiful, natural world.
I’ll be taking the Nikon D200, which is the camera Richard typically uses. We got the Nikon D70 first and I had become accustomed to it by the time we got the D200. I haven’t really wanted to muddy the waters by trying to learn a new set of controls. However, I’m grabbing this opportunity to get to know the D200 better. It is the only camera I’ll be bringing along. I re-read (re-skimmed) the manual this afternoon and then took it out for a spin in the yard. I wanted to get a feel for the controls. So far, so good. As you can see, I decided to take some pictures of our nascent garden. You can see the progress of the cabbage. Here’s how it started. We got the cabbage in the ground late so I’m not sure it will form a head — though the curvature of this leaf suggests it might.
Our first edible harvest was green onions. We grew these from onion sets; we needed to thin the original planting so we ate them as green onions. Yum!
Just in case we needed evidence of the persistence of grass, here it is. We placed weed blocking fabric under the soil in our raised beds, but the grass is still poking through — especially on the edges. We’ll have to weed.
This is our double-deep bed; it has onions, beets, and carrots in the first three rows. The final row has a tomato and a melon, which we hope will grow up the trellis. With the cage on top, this reminds me of a coffin.
I set the camera on the rail to take this shot. I like the lines.
I was experimenting, again, with this shot. I used the bracketing feature on the D200 to take 7 frames with 7 different exposures. Richard used photomatix software to create one image from the 7. Images like this are called high dynamic range images or HDR. It has a kind of other worldly affect.
Here are some photographs Richard took during his sister’s wedding. Liz, who is much younger than Richard, married Jon last weekend in Auburn, Maine. We flew up for the wedding; it was great to meet Jon and his family and to see Richard’s Dad, who had flown in from England. Richard’s Mom, sister Sophie, neice Harriet, and aunt Mirella watched/interacted with the wedding from back in Melksham using a Skype connection.
These are two of Jon’s neices. Liz (then called Elizabeth) was the flower girl in Richard’s and my wedding. She told me on the day. “I’m going to be gorgeous.” And, she was. Just like these two.
Richard did not use a flash during the wedding. He set up the camera on a monopod (the tripod was too big for the suitcase) and used a lens that does well with an open f-stop.
The official photos were taken outside next to a pond. It was chilly out there — though the cold kept the ground hard enough that the bare patches weren’t muddy. Even in high heels, the women were able to stand near the water’s edge.
Here’s Liz with the quilt that I made for her and Jon. I posted a photograph of the blocks during its construction here.
Richard and I visited Great Salt Bay Community School Friday in Damariscotta, Maine. We flew to Maine for Richard’s sister’s wedding (in Auburn) and added a day on both ends to see friends, Jenny and Boo. Jenny is one of the children’s librarians at Skidompha Library in Damarisccotta. Their children, Essie and JoJo, are in fourth and first grades, respectively, at Great Salt Bay CS. We had a terrific time with the three second grade classes and the two first grade classes. It was Richard’s first time coming along for a school visit and he took the photographs. After I left, JoJo’s class colored the wolfsnail coloring pages downloaded from my website. His was purple, yellow, black, and green. After the two presentations at school, we went downtown to Maine Coast Book Shop and signed the stock.
After today’s wedding, we drove back to Jenny and Boo’s and took a walk in the woods. JoJo and Essie took us to cattail land, the Quaker Cemetery, tree river, and the bridge. We saw birch trees, moss, lichen, wintergreen, dormant blackberry bushes, moose and deer poop, stone walls, swamps, and springs. Richard and Jojo jumped into a spring to see how big a splash each could make. Essie said: “I would spend hours out here if I could. … and usually I can.” Richard took these pictures of the kids. Next post, we’ll include some pictures of the wedding.