Musings: Tools & Teachers

I have new work that I am excited to share with you. New work however, means writing an image specific Artist Statement. It is challenging to concisely describe, in an engaging way, the why and how of one’s creative process. With help from several of my peers, I refined and edited my statement and considered the job well done.  However, today, I realized that two other important influences in the making of these images had not been mentioned in the statement. So, here goes!

First, I want to acknowledge the role of my new Nikon D500. I am not a “gearhead.” I am not one of those photographers who is into every technical detail, who reads every review and has bags full of gear I want to own, but wouldn’t use. Six years ago I purchased a basic 12 megapixel DSLR and it has taken me further than I could have imagined.  But I was getting frustrated with not being able to quite capture what I seeing. I starting losing interest and wondered if it was because I was “done” with this project. It didn’t occur to me that I had outgrown my camera. When I heard someone describe the D500 as the perfect camera for sports and wildlife photographers I realized that they were describing exactly what I needed! There is nothing wild or athletic about my botanical still life tableaux dancing in moving water, but they are fast moving compositions in rapidly changing light conditions.  With its fast focus system and high ISO, the D500 allows me to capture a new level of fleeting abstract images … images that I could not see or imagine when I began this journey.

The other game changer was studying with Harold Ross. From the minute I saw his work in Lenswork magazine I knew that Ross was someone I wanted to learn from. He creates stunning still life images that look like old world paintings.  I was intrigued not only by the illustration-like and “Dutch Master” quality of his images, but also the minimal amount of studio equipment involved.  Ross, who developed his technique during his career in commercial photography, is a gifted teacher. I learned more about lighting in one workshop with him than I could have imagined.

Creative inspiration comes in many forms. Finding the right tools and teachers are an important part of the journey.  

Dates and details of upcoming shows can be found here.  

Adrift and In Stillness

Adrift and In Stillness






When my parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary their friends put some money together to buy them a Heritage Waterford Crystal bowl.  For the next twenty years that bowl took center stage in my mother’s dining room, where she hosted frequent elegant gatherings.  After her death it was consigned to a life of darkness and quiet solitude in my dining room cupboard.

We lived very different lives, my mother and I.  Nannette was beautiful and stylish, formal and proper, cool and crisp, sharp edges and bold colors. My style has always run toward faded blue jeans and hiking boots. Dinner party tableware in my house goes in the dishwasher or the recycle bin.  

But the other day I took that bowl out of the cupboard, not for dinner party elegance, but as a frame for the botanical world takes center stage for my art.  I wondered how side- and under-lighting through the cut crystal edges would affect a still life in that bowl.  As I worked, carefully arranging graceful organic forms in this crystal anniversary gift, it occurred to me that another milestone is just around the corner.  Soon it will be 25 years, a quarter of a century, since Nannette was here on Mother’s Day.  Yet her presence remains heartfelt as my ephemeral botanicals and her enduring crystal, together, become something new.



When I am out photographing in nature, often at the edge of water, or thanks to my Bog boots actually standing in the water...I am thinking about things like: can I get close enough to capture that abstract arrangement in the next nanosecond before the wind changes it? is my shutter speed fast enough? don't drop the camera! remember to listen for the dogs who want to mark my camera bag.... My artful intention is there, but internalized on a deeper level.

So it always take me aback when other people write about my images as if they could peer into my head and see that intention.  Recently, my image Copper Pinnate was selected by the Westport Concerts on the Point to be used in their posters and program.  In the program notes, Jane Loos writes: "We chose this image because, like baroque music from Telemann, Handel and Geminiani on today's program, it is ordered, ornate and strongly emotive. Like baroque architecture, it is characterized by explorations of form, light and shadow, and dramatic intensity."  

Art is about transformation and I am glad that in my case the process is largely out of sight.  If Jane had seen the precarious jerry-rigging of this fern in fast moving water and the tipsy tripod that nearly followed it into the stream words like ordered and ornate would not have come to mind.

Enjoy the music!  It should be wonderful.

Evening Sky

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” ~ Edgar Degas

There was a time when my job with a camera was to document events. Now, free from editorial constraints, I have been learning how use my camera to make art. As I had hoped, this creative journey has been wonderfully satisfying, both artistically and intellectually.  But I never anticipated the deeply touching stories that my images evoke in others. 

Evening Sky

A large print of Evening Sky now hangs in a busy South Shore office.  I created this image as the sun was leaving its last kiss on a quiet ocean cove. The colors and patterns were so striking I abandoned the dinner table and ran outside with my camera until the last light was gone. While I responded to the visual elements, this buyer saw and felt something much more. When I delivered Evening Sky she told me, "I don't think I explained why I chose this photograph. I have been diagnosed with Parkinson's and when I look at these ripples, the beauty in that movement helps me to make peace with my tremor.”

For more information about Evening Sky click here.






The Moment of Truth

My was tripod precariously perched along the rocky and muddy stream edge and I was so engrossed in the scene unfolding in my lens that I failed to hear the pack of dogs coming to swim.  Most of them were a bit spooked by my presence and stopped on the bridge above me, but one young pup was beside himself with excitement.  He had found the biggest "fetch" ever – the 8 foot length of bamboo that was holding my botanic still life in the current.  It was the moment of truth.  I could protect my bamboo or my tripod, but not both.   Before the pup scored a total victory, the owner came down the trail and called him away, apologizing for his dog’s lack of appreciation for fine art photography.  

Some days I come home from the woods with good images, some days there is nothing to show for my time except a good story. But whatever the outcome, time spent watching the myriad of dramas unfolding in the moving water always makes me happy.

My Garden and Brook images begin with a walk around the garden.  I snip specimens for their lines, shape and color and bring them to moving water.  Yesterday’s bouquet and the October light was so beautiful I had to stop and compose some "dry" still life images.

Images from The Garden and Brook series will be on display at several shows between now and the year's end.  Check the Exhibitions page for details.

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

It is a few days before Spring makes its appearance on the calendar, if not in the landscape.  Despite the lingering snow and a new crop of icicles replacing the ones that just melted, there are moments to relish simple things like stairs without snow.  As beautiful as the snow was, all 90 inches of it, I found that my color photos did not capture the feeling of that stark monochrome landscape so I returned to my roots in black and white.

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Unplug to Recharge....

People are quite shocked when I tell them I took no photographs during my recent trip out west to raft on the Selway River - a 47-mile stretch of Class IV whitewater. It flows through the pristine Selway Bitteroot Wilderness described by author Wallace Stegner as the "geography of hope." Huge moss covered western cedars grace this river canyon and its banks, giving it a distinctly Northwest feel despite its proximity to the Continental Divide.  The cedars and Ponderosa pine make the Selway’s fast moving flow into an ever changing canvas of green and gold.

No, my camera didn't go overboard in a rapid.  Not bringing it along was a very conscious decision.  I didn't want to be distracted by equipment and the pressure to capture the beauty that was there every moment.   It was a choice to immerse myself in the river world, to watch a new ripple geometry and stare into standing waves, to let my photographer's eye study the play of light in each changing moment with no further obligation. 

A week unplugged left me more recharged than I have felt in a long time.  And I have a treasure trove of Selway image memories that I can recall whenever I wish – no devices needed.

MOMA Moments

It still takes me aback, how many people are snapping photos in museums. Recently  at the Sargent Watercolor Exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts there was a woman religiously taking a photo of every painting with her ipad.   She appeared to be on a mission to photograph all 90+ paintings in the show.  It struck me as almost tragic that  while she was so busy concentrating on framing images with her ipad, she never directly experienced Sargent's rich, lush colors, marks or textures. 

But earlier this week, I confess I fell prey to the impulse to whip out my iphone camera in the Museum of Modert Art in New York.  No, I wasn't photographing the art hanging on the wall - just this priceless Frida moment:

Where is your eyebrow pencil when you need it?

Where is your eyebrow pencil when you need it?

And then there was this view across the atrium of a staircase - framed like a painting, an abstract still life.  God...I love my iphone....


Mixed Messages

Driving across the bridge from Souris to West Souris are a series of signs that gave me pause. 


"Provincial Police? I want to report a drunk driver on Route 2." 

"Hellloooo, ish thish the Provincial Po-lice? (hic!) I wanna report (hic!) a guy ushing a cell phone."

Rainy Day Spuds

It is a gray and rainy day in PEI.  The project of photographing the wonderfully colored metallic roofs in PEI won't be happening today.  I left the rain cover for my camera at home....So what is a girl to do?  There is reading, a binge of couch potato Netflix watching, or there are real live PEI spuds to build activities around. 


Off I went to the Coop hoping to be able to buy just 2 potatoes to make a small soup, but this was the smallest bag and it was $1.79.  Armed with an onion, a few sausages, the chard purchased at a farm stand yesterday, and the nearly dead carrots that had been left in the fridge, soup-making began in earnest.  But that didn't take very long, even with making roasted parsnips for a snack.  

After I had washed a few potatoes, the bottom of the sink looked like a silty red river bottom.  I thought of taking a photo but why use a silty sink when you can set up your tripod and do a full-blown photo shoot?. How often does the lowly spud get its picture taken?  My first adventure in food photography...May I present The Clean and the Dirty: Spuds from the Hood,


Rainbow over Souris...

This is the view from the front yard of the house in Souris West, Prince Edward Island, where my dad, late in life, found time to sit still... time to enjoy the serenity of this landscape of gentle farms rolling down to the sea. That he loved the quiet peace of this place was a surprise to everyone, even him.


Walking on the sandy streets along the beach I have been pondering the joys and surprises that come unexpectedly later in life.  I always thought that the love of the outdoors that I share with my brothers was something generational and had no connection to our parents.  Appreciation for nature and outdoor activity simply weren’t an important part of our family life growing up. The pleasures of camping and hiking eluded my parents and, as for the white water rafting and rock climbing we loved, the less said the better.  Yet in the autumn of life, my Dad came to appreciate the quiet grace of this landscape and I became an artist.  I guess we are all a family of late bloomers.