A Quest for Curves: The Natural World

I’ll say this for Photo 101: it’s causing me to look more closely at my surroundings. When “The Natural World” assignment popped up on my phone’s WordPress app, I was waiting to pick up my son. Dutifully, I began searching for “curves” in the natural world nearest me: a large, open field adjacent to the church parking lot. I took the photo below partly because of the lovely colors (no filter, folks!) but mainly because of an abundance of curves in the landscape — the rounded shapes of the trees, the distant hills, and the clouds — set off by the horizontal line of the green field and the vertical tree trunks. Not long afterwards, the daylight faded.

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If you’re participating in Photo 101, you might see the problem: when I read the “Natural World” assignment, I seized on a key phrase rather than the whole idea. That happens when I read on my phone: my grasp of the material is often incomplete. The words that jumped out at me were “lines” and, in particular, “curves.”  Here are the words in context (I added the italics):

Exploring the outdoors, with camera in hand, is an opportunity to look for natural lines that lead our eyes to different parts of a frame. Envision the bend of a stream, or the curve of a petal: how can you use these lines in your composition? If you see strong vertical, horizontal, or diagonal lines, can you play with the orientation to create a more dynamic composition? Can you apply — or break — the Rule of Thirds?

Unfortunately, I didn’t read the assignment thoroughly until days later, at which point I had taken more pictures of the natural world — looking for curves and lines but not in terms of how they related to framing the picture. Never having looked for curves and lines in nature before, I had fun with this assignment (or my primitive grasp of the assignment). On a hike at the Arboretum, I spotted curves everywhere. Lines ran parallel to the curves, and lines cut diagonally or vertically across the curves. Soon, my 10-year-old was enthusiastically looking for curves with me — in waxy green rhododendron leaves, in strangely arched tree trunks, in the rounded ends of white oak leaves, in acorns and pebbles.

On your next walk, I recommend this fun exercise: see how many curves you can find in the natural world. Then, look for straight lines in nature. In my part of the United States, the curves dominate. Even straight pine needles, when grouped together on a branch, make a soft circle of green. The next time I take pictures of the natural world, I’ll try to go one step farther and use those lines and curves to — what was that again? “Create a more dynamic composition”? For now, enjoy the curves.IMG_3053


All photographs taken in November 2014 by Sandra Fleming with her iPhone 5s and copyrighted  © 2014. Next time I go looking for curves, I should take my Lumix: the Lumix has a view mode that divides the screen into nine squares, so I could look for curves or lines AND try to apply the Rule of Thirds.

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A Mountain Greenery Home

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“In a mountain greenery, Where God paints the scenery . . .” — “Mountain Greenery” lyrics by Lorenz Hart (Photo: iPhone 5s)

Like many mothers of my generation, I spend hours of my life on the road: driving my children to soccer practice, music lessons, dance class, and homeschool tutorials. This photo of a highway that I travel every day represents my home in western North Carolina better than a photo of my house. The fact that I snapped this picture with my daughter’s iPhone 5s as my husband drove us to church Sunday morning suggests that I tend to run late — otherwise, I would have had my phone and its invaluable built-in camera with me. I respond to beautiful sights by photographing them, which is why I borrowed someone else’s phone to capture the unusual sight of fall foliage against snow-capped mountains.

What is also apparent to an experienced photographer is how little I know about cameras. I’ve had my iPhone for less than a year, and I am more accustomed to taking pictures with my point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix or the Nikon CoolPix L320 that I bought on Black Friday. In Photography 101, I hope to improve my skills, particularly my use of light and my understanding of composition. Maybe along the way I’ll learn what “aperture” and “ISO” mean?  For a tagline, I currently use the phrase “celebrating beauty in creation.” Better pictures of the beautiful places that I post about would help me show beauty to my readers.

Despite its imperfections, the highway photo hints at how lovely the Blue Ridge Mountains were this weekend, with the golds, oranges, reds, and greens of the trees frosted by an early touch of snow. Within a day, the snowman that my son and husband made had melted. Today, the trees look much as they did before the rare November snow, although more branches have shed their leaves. A long, cold winter is predicted for our area, but, for today, the road is clear, and the fading colors of autumn are still beautiful.

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My backyard after the snow (iPhone 5s)

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Coolpix L320

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This is the first time I’ve seen snow on the leaves of a tulip poplar. (CoolPix L320)

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Capturing Beauty with My Camera?

A camera has become a “beauty essential” for me: if I see something beautiful, I photograph it.  But is my constant use of a camera hindering my appreciation of beauty?

What oft was thought

Twice lately I’ve encountered the disturbing implication that, because an incident wasn’t searchable on the internet or hadn’t been documented in a photograph, the incident had never occurred. I have decided not to share the details of the incidents, both of which I encountered via Facebook links. One link involved a rumor that I don’t wish to feed. The other link had to do with a crime; given the circumstances, the person searching for facts about the murder was understandably distressed that the incident had received little attention. What concerns me is the perception that reality can be determined by a Google search: if there are no results, it just didn’t happen?

To me, it seems absurd to infer that something didn’t happen simply because someone failed to document it. True, artifacts and written records give us valuable clues about the past; we would know little about ancient civilizations without…

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