Commitment: the state of being emotionally impelled to do something. My commitment is to making art, loving life and doing well.

Daily Artworks... my continuing challenge for 2015: Observe and record. Record and observe. And stretch - s-t-r-e-t-c-h - myself.
What will I discover?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 31

Janus in the Birches  

Looking Ahead and Looking Behind    
- Much can be observed by looking backwards at a sunrise     

Janus, the Roman god of transitions, and especially the god of the New Year, is depicted as a two-headed figure who is able to look in two directions: to where we have come from - the past - and also to where we are going - the future. Janus is able to act appropriately in the present - now - because of being able to see both ahead and behind.
Similarly, I think, while I can get lovely sunrise photos by shooting in the direction of the sun, sometimes I can make even more telling photographs by observing the effects of that sunrise on my surroundings. These effects include capturing opposites like complementary colors in shadows, and revealing objects not in the image by the absence of the light they are blocking, and by enjoying the overall glow of the atmosphere.

And so with the New Year. Here's to Janus in the Birches, looking backwards at 2013, and looking forward to 2014. Best wishes from here for a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 30

Sunrise Light and Color 

This is the jpg - 99KB

This is the png8 - 204KB
Testing Blogger's Color Rendition   
- checking out the differences   

I wanted to check again the differences between Blogger's rendition of a jpg version of a photograph and the png version. This photo was taken at the same time as Day 15's photograph, which lost its intense darks to some rather pretty blue-violet tones, when it showed up in the blog.
I anticipate similar color-shifting on the jpg, and none on the png. Let's see!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 29

Red-polls and Catkins 

Acrobatics in the Branches   
- and it's all out in the open   

In the winter, without the leaves in the way, you can see a lot of what goes on in the branches of trees.
All day today, a flock of red-polls has been making its way through these trees - fifteen or twenty tiny acrobats perching right-side up and hanging up-side down and pecking out seeds and insects as they go.
Spend some time to watch it now, because in another few months, all this activity and entertainment will be hidden from view by spring greenery.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 28

Tracks Left By a Mourning Dove 

A path in the snow  
- with a cone from a tamarack tree  

Easily identified by its long tapering tail, and light beige coloring, the Mourning Dove is a common sight in tree branches and on telephone wires. The name "mourning dove" comes from the birds' long-drawn-out coo-coo-coo call that has been described as sounding like a lament.
The Mourning Dove's diet is mostly small seeds, which the birds peck from the ground, moving quickly to hunt for more food and avoid predators. But they don't stay on the ground for long, zooming back to their secure perches again. These tracks are the evidence that they have been here.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 27

Catkin Rosettes

(This is the jpg - 100kB - is there a perceptable difference?)
(This is the png8 - 373kB - is this one that much better?)

Tiny pieces of birch catkin mulch, or could it be breakfast cereal?   
- or maybe a jigsaw puzzle?    

We haven't had snow now for several weeks, and the catkin detritus is drifting into piles along the surface of what snow there is, accentuating rises and falls on the ground.
These cross-section exposures of the centers of catkins show the geometric layering of three-lobed nutlet upon nutlet in the catkin, nature's redundancy.
Let them accumulate! In the spring, these piles of organic matter will provide a rooting material for newly-sprouting birch seeds.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 26

Sunrise Contrasting Colors

WHAAA'  ???  Here's the photo as an optimized .jpg.  Changes that happened after importing to Blogger included pixelization and color shifts.

Here's the same photo saved as a .png-8. It's almost identical to original. Blogger, what happened? 

Lights at Sunrise 
- and the colors they produce 

There are two light sources in this photo - one, the rising sun bouncing through the clouds in the eastern sky, and the other, the artificial light on the building behind the trees.
To our eyes, the areas where the light does not strike show up as complementary colors to the light - in this case intense blue-violet against intense orange-yellow.
The artificial light merely serves as an accent to the colors the sun produces.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 25

Oh Christmas Tree!

Sunrise Snow Globe 
- with firs, aspens and birches outside the window    

For every Yule tree ever celebrated in decoration and in music, this is a Season's Greeting to an icon.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 24

Touseled, Tattered and Torn

Winter Catkins  
- starting to show signs of wear  

As the birds and the wind and weather have their way during the winter, the catkins will give up more and more of their seeds, and the geometrically-ordered array of nutlets on the stalk will gradually fall off.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 23

Striped Clouds at Sunrise

Striped Bands of Clouds  
- and vertical bands of trees  

What's not to like about the colors of a sunrise through bands of clouds, back-lighting the vertical stateliness of birches and aspens and the elegant tendrils of last summer's tree flowers?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 22

Look Up! Red-polls Overhead

Red-polls Feeding on Birch Catkins  
- and a shower of nutlets 

I'm standing still taking photos of catkins in the early morning golden light, and I hear a whistling whoosh, and then I get a shower of something - and I look up.
It's a flock of about a dozen red-polls in the trees above me, digging into the birch seeds, and making quick work of the job.
So, picture your head cranked way back as you look a this photo, and marvel at these tiny birds - these two could spread out quite comfortably on the palm of my hand - who have to find, and are able to find, vast quantities of food to keep themselves going throughout the winter.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 21

Solstice Sunset

Solstice Sunset  
- a golden winter glow on the shortest day of the year

It's the shortest day of the year, the angle of the sun is low in the sky, the air is crisp and cold and the sunset light is pure molten gold through the trees.
Solstice - it means "the sun stands still" - is the point at which, to a viewer on earth, the sun appears to change the direction of its movement in the sky. Many people around the world celebrate the winter Solstice as the time when the light comes back.
From here on the days get longer, and as the sun tilts higher and higher in the sky, the winter season changes to spring, and when the sun hits its highest point in mid-June, it's summer. And the solar cycle continues through autumn and back to winter again.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 20

Yarrow in Snow

Yarrow in Snow  
- a tiny celebration at my feet 

Making my way through an accumulation of snow, I nearly walked on this yarrow plant. It looked like a set of miniature fireworks, radiating an exuberant display of energy in the snow drift.
Yarrow is so common, growing by roadsides and in fields, that people may not even know its name, let alone its reputation. But Achillea millefolium has a medicinal history going back to ancient Greek soldiers who used its astringent properties to treat battle wounds. It is a common plant that is uncommonly useful and it is pretty, summer and winter.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 19

Tamarack Cones in Winter

A String of Orange Cones  
- colorful winter decorations  

Tamarack, larch, juniper, hackmatack, whatever you call it, this tree is a botanical wonder.
It is an conifer but it loses its needles in winter. It replenishes its chlorophyll every year in new leaves just like a deciduous tree. It looks like its cousins, the evergreens, but really it isn't one.

Tamarack wood is sturdy and workable for everything from shipbuilding to snowshoes. The inner and outer bark, the needles and the sap provide medicines. The roots are strong for weaving baskets. The tender new shoots and the inner bark are good to eat.

And this tree is attractive year round. In spring and summer, its needles are soft and smooth, in fall, they take on a luminous yellow color, and in winter, the tamarack's branches and cones show the complex structure of the tree.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 18

Winter Dawn Spectrum

Sunrise Spectrum  
- a full range of colors from a prism of clouds  

This morning there was a full range of color in the sunrise - deep blue in the unlit sky, then pinks, violets, a brief intense red-orange, a suggestion of yellow, and a rather rare occurrence, several stripes of green in the clouds above and to the side of the rising sun.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 17

Sunny Birches with Catkins

- silhouetted against birches in the sun  

Catkins are a birch's way of making another birch.
In summer, the fertilized female flower ripens and develops a stack of tiny tri-lobed nutlets, the tree's seeds. Over the fall and winter, these miniature gliders gradually separate from the core of the catkin and drift to the ground. There, the nutlets provide food for birds, mulch for other plants, and where conditions are right, some of the seeds sprout and grow into baby birches.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 16

Moon and Birches

Almost-Full-Moon-Rise Through Winter Birches  
- with a diffuse glow of color through clouds 

Watching the moon rise majestically and slowly above the horizon is such a relaxing thing to do.
In the summer, these birches are in full leaf and they block the lower sky. It's only through the bare branches of these trees in the winter that the moon can be seen at such a low angle.
And the light, yes, it is bright enough to read by.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 15

Branches in Winter Dawn

Sunrise through Branches  
- directing the viewer's eye through a blur of color 

Different camera settings will give wildly varying results in a photograph.
A twist of a dial on a camera lens could have put sharp focus on all the trees in this scene, right back to the rising sun. A different twist of the dial allows the viewer's eye to contemplate just the branching structure of the twigs in the foreground, leaving the wonder of the early morning color as an unfocused blur in the background.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 14

Golden Birch Catkins

The Colors of Birch Catkins
- winter decorations for the garden 

Every few years, birch trees will produce a bumper crop of seed-bearing catkins. This year the birches are filled with dense clusters of these ochre-colored pendants.
The catkins create vertical patterns that look like golden chandeliers in the tree branches, moving gently in the wind.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 13

Winter Dawn

Sunrise through Trees  
- brilliant color to start the day

There is a drama in watching a sunrise. From the full darkness of night the sky gets paler, gradually brighter, and then, more intense light starts to show. It may be a colorful sunrise, or the sun may present itself in a neutral gray light.
But actually, the light from the sun is always the same. The color effects of a sunrise or a sunset are due, in fact, to clouds at different levels in the atmosphere and from particles of dust or moisture suspended in the air, and to how the sun's light is refracted and reflected through them.
So, a glorious "sunrise" is actually the colors a viewer sees in the clouds between him or her and the sun.
Somehow it's nicer to think that it's the sun giving us a brilliant start to the day.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 12

Winter Dawn Silhouette

Birch Branches in Early Morning Light  
- against a bright dawn sky

What can I say?
All I could do was sit back, catch my breath and enjoy the scene as I got ready for the day.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 11

Light Snow on a Field

A Field of Winter Trees  
- with a light overnight accumulation of snow

There's a path that runs just behind this cluster of trees, and a slow-running creek just beyond the path.
The creek is frozen over, there is no wind, and no-one has ventured outside yet this morning on the path, so the overnight blanket of light snow lies undisturbed.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 10

Light Snow on Fir Branches

A Fir Tree Twig 
- with a light dusting of snow

You might walk past this young fir tree with the spines of its branches mounded with fine powdery snow. And then, suddenly, if you step back to look again, the whole tree comes a festive structure of stripes in light and dark.

This is the entire fir tree, it looks rather unremarkable in its setting at the corner of the driveway, dwarfed by more substantial trees.
And closeup, what an impressive sight! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 9

The Colors of Birch-bark

Birch-bark on a Bright Day
- intense sunshine reveals brilliant colors  

It's a cool and crisp day, with full strength winter sunshine reflecting off the snow. On a day like this, you see more color everywhere because there is more light to reveal it. Birch bark's natural colors go way beyond pale grays and beiges, they are oranges and pinks and yellow-oranges, glowing in the sunlight.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 8

Birch Catkins

Birch Catkins
- gone to seed 

Catkins. Such a cute word. The origin of the word is, yes, exactly what you think... cats.
Catkins are the flowers, male and female, of the birch tree and its relatives. They are called "catkins" because they do look like a tiny feline tail. On a birch tree, in spring and early summer, the female flowers stand upright on their stems, and the male flowers hang down heavy with pollen. Even before the trees are in full leaf, the female flowers have been pollinated by the wind, and by late summer a crop of tiny triangular birch seeds come whirling to the ground.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 7

Birches on the Riverbank

Riverbank Birches at Sunset  
- with a thin sliver of moon

Sunsets on the river are worth seeing. Depending on the weather, the sunset can range from brilliant reds, pinks and oranges in the clouds, to a lone pale disc dropping into an overcast void. Depending on the season, the river can be a reflecting mirror, or a flat white field of snow and ice, with fringes of birch and alder on the riverbank. And depending on its cycle, the moon shows as a pretty-shaped decoration hanging over the scene. It's transient, though, a sunset is. So it's really worth taking a few minutes to look at it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Birches and their Neighbours - Day 6

Birch With Drifted Snow

Windblown Snow   
- caught in the roughness of birch bark

Black and White version

We are building up an accumulation of snow, a few inches at a time.
The wind blows the tiny snow crystals away from exposed areas, and the particles get caught and build up on rough surfaces like tangled grasses, weathered rocks and in this case, heavily textured birch bark.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Birches and their Neighbours - Day 5

Fir With Birches

Fir Tree Growing Tall  
- in the shadow of birch trees

I've been watching this fir tree for a while, wondering if it will take on the shape of a good Christmas tree.
It is growing tall and nicely spread out in the shadow and under the protection of a cluster of birches.
But the birches look like they don't want to let this particular fir tree go any time soon.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Birches and their Neighbours - Day 4

What Grows on an old Birch Tree?

Lichens on a Birch Tree Trunk  
- texture upon texture

As if the glory of weathered birch bark peeling off in strips of parchment and tissue paper isn't enough, older birch trees accumulate colonies of lichens as well. Lichens are interesting - neither plant nor animal, they are a symbiotic blend of algae and fungi. Lichens are able to make their own food by photosynthesis, so they aren't parasites and don't harm the tree. And the textures!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Birches and their Neighbours - Day 3

Winter Branches

Red Osier Dogwood Branches  
- bright red lines in the wintertime

The red color of these branches stands out in the morning sunshine, and it looks especially bright against the sky and trees on the hill behind. The abstract composition of forked lines is minimalist, and compelling in its simplicity.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 2

Frost on Birch Tree Trunk

I love birch trees.
I love the solid cylindrical form of a birch tree trunk when I touch it and the fluttery sound of its dry papery shreds. I love the subtle colors of birch bark and the mottled dark and light patterns of the scars where branches have detached from the trunk.
I love the play of sunlight through the leaves of a birch in summer and through the complicated filagree of the branches in winter. I love the warmth from birch logs burning in a fireplace, and I love the taste of bitter-sweet birch syrup. 
And I love the look of a stand of tall birches swaying in the wind. I love birch trees.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Birches and their Neighbors - Day 1

Frost on Squashberries
- a process of satisfaction 

I love photography – I love how it happens. 

First I find something that catches my eye. Then I work through what I consider attractive about it, and then I look at it again through the camera viewfinder, and if it still looks good, I take the photograph.
Afterwards, when I look at the image to edit it, I may be seeing what originally caught my eye, or I may find something completely different. Maybe what I find is better than what I wanted. Maybe I can enhance the image in the editing process.

In the end, making a good photograph is a process of satisfaction. At each step of the way, I have to be satisfied in order to continue working on it.
And so, looking at the finished photograph is also an experience of satisfaction, for me the photographer, and also for the viewer who I hope enjoys what satisfies me.


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