Saturday, December 30, 2017

Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things

Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things ©2017 - The title for this piece came from a book by my favorite cartoonist, Berkeley Breathed, published in 1985. I fell in love with the character, Opus the penguin, when I first discovered his comic strip, "Bloom County". I photographed these  adorable, tuxedoed  Humboldt penguins at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ. The Humboldt is a South American penguin that breeds in coastal Chile and Peru. It gets it's name from the cold water current it swims in which itself is named after the explorer, Alexander von Humboldt. Although we tend to think of a penguin's striking coloring as elegant, it is actually a matter of camouflage; from above, it's black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean while from below, it's white belly is hidden against the bright surface. Considered marine birds, penguins live up to 80 percent of their lives in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere. It is a common myth that they all live in Antarctica. In fact, the Galapagos penguin lives on tropical islands at the equator. However, in the case of my little colony of Humboldts, I've placed them on a tiny island in the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey where they are joined by a young gentleman from my vintage photo collection who is dressed as elegantly as they are. I added a cold, full moon rising in the background behind the trees, some clouds and several crows gliding overhead. Assorted filters, texture and color created the mood and atmosphere I wanted to complete the piece.

Pale Rider

Pale Rider ©2017 - The title of this piece came from the 1985 western film, "Pale Rider", a reference to the rider of the pale horse in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who represents death. My little equestrian (from my vintage photo collection) received the title only for his overall pallor and not for a specific association with death (although I leave any final decision on that interpretation up to the viewer). The tree, with it's skeletal limbs and gathering crows, was captured in the area of Bernardsville, NJ.It fit nicely into the background image of a furrowed  ield of grasses in the area of McGuire Air Force Base just south of Trenton, NJ. The small road cutting through the center provided a  convenient bridle path for the pale rider and a hitch hiking crow trying to  move things along with his riding crop. Clouds, a rising crescent moon,  color, texture and filters were added to complete the mood and finish the  montage.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Circle Game

The Circle Game ©2017 - This piece was inspired by the vintage photo of two young girls with facial expressions that are hauntingly wistful. Dressed all in white and holding hands to form a circle, they brought to mind childhood summers of local fairs and carousels. Having no carousel images in my files, I began a search and found an unusually lovely one consisting of not horses, but an assortment of endangered species at The Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ (if you're in the area, it's located in the South Mountain Reservation and well worth a visit). Oddly enough, it included a magnificent dragon that was perfect for my composition. The background image is a montage of three different photos; two from the area around Trenton, NJ of gently, rolling hills and a sky from Watchung, NJ. I arranged the dragons descending from the clouds behind the girls and a number of crows from my travels circling around them. Selected filters, color and texture brought them all together for the final piece. The title for this one was in place before I even began and comes from the first verse of the song "The Circle Game" by the one and only Joni Mitchell, 1970:

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game 

When Dragons Fly

When Dragons Fly ©2017 - I started this piece with the stone pool from an abandoned property in Scotch Plains, NJ. The house had already been demolished but the pool intrigued me with it's curious door shaped opening on one side that didn't seem to lead anywhere. It was surrounded by brush and debris so I placed it on the side of a sloping, stone hill I captured at Leonard J. Buck Gardens in Far Hills NJ with lovely plants growing along the top. The tree behind it came from another area of the gardens, but I loved the dripping leaves so I added it to the background and some clusters of ferns to the foreground. The little fish peering out of the water actually resides in an aquarium at my local pet store. The lady in sapphire blue (from my vintage photo collection) seems to be enjoying an afternoon stroll with her crow sporting his own blue fedora. Lastly, I added the magical dragonflies which were living on the same property with the pool. The sun that day created such ethereal sparkles of light on their wings, reinforcing a supposed connection with nature's spirit and fairy realms. It's hard to believe after hatching from an egg, this enchanting insect lives most of it's life as a brown, rather nondescript nymph under water for several years. When ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs to the surface at night on an emerging plant. When it's system adapts to breathing air, the skin splits open and the adult dragonfly climbs out. It spends the remainder of the night drying out and plumping up it's wings before, at sunrise, taking flight as the beautiful, agile creature we know as the dragonfly! 

"I can still only see a dragonfly, it's wings as thin and light as silk and it's body the color of rainbow. But on the wings of this dragonfly I take off and fly, for my soul carries no weight. It is our bodies - these borrowed vehicles of flesh and bone - that weigh us down. Our spirits are eternally free and invincible."  - Daniela I. Norris, On Dragonfly Wings: A Skeptic's Journey to Mediumship

And the Band Played On

And the Band Played On 2017 - The inspiration for this piece came from the wonderfully creepy little monkey sitting atop the piano playing his cymbals. I photographed him courtesy of Gallery on Main, a lovely antique shop and art gallery in Somerville NJ. I envisioned the composition to be a musical ensemble odd enough that he would fit right in. His first band mate to be added was a goat I captured in the area of Sergentsville NJ. In reality, he was standing with his front feet on a wire fence, scratching his head on a tree limb above. However, in my reality, his front hooves were in just the right position for the piano keys. I was able to photograph the beautiful baby grand at Raritan Music Store in Raritan NJ given I have an especially close relationship with the owner. The amphibian guitar player lives at my house (although I use that term loosely as he's not actually alive but stuffed). He was holding a very unimpressive toy guitar that didn't blend well with the piano so I decided to replace it with a more appropriate acoustic instrument belonging to the human guitar player who also lives at my house. The young vocalist (from my vintage photo collection) leans dreamily on the piano while the crow perched behind lends some backup vocals to the mix. I placed them all on the background image (taken near Princeton NJ) of a tree in a field with long, spidery limbs and missing the top half of it's trunk. Maybe a lightening strike? Selected filters, tones, color and texture completed "And the Band Played On".

A Vigilant Eye

A Vigilant Eye ©2017 - The rolling field of grasses I used as the background in this montage was a lucky find I happened across in Far Hills, NJ. I love using different types of grasses in my pieces and this vacant property was filled with them. It's the future home of Mine Brook Farm, a housing complex being touted as producing a regenerative environment while positively impacting the local wildlife, watershed, soil and ecology. Hopefully, they can make that happen! The abandoned building I placed in the distance, with it's draping blanket of ivy, was captured in western Hunterdon Cty, NJ on a trip home from Easton, PA. The woman peering out the upstairs window is from a vintage family photo given to me by a good friend who thought it would fit nicely into one of my pieces (and I heartily agreed!). The young girl taking an evening stroll is from my own vintage photo collection, but I spotted the majestic red tail hawk accompanying her perched in a tree behind my house. I didn't notice at the time I took the photo because of all the tree branches in the foreground, but upon inspecting the image, I found he was clutching a mouse (apparently his lunch) between his talons. I toyed with the idea of leaving it in the composition, dangling across the young lady's arm but decided it might be a bit too much. So without his mouse, I placed him on her arm and added some clouds, texture, color and filters. As the moon rises in the background, the hawk keeps "a vigilant eye" on the path ahead just as the peculiar woman in the witches hat keeps "a vigilant eye" on the two of them. And perhaps they are all listening to a song being sung in the distance….

The Poet's Song - Alfred Lord Tennyson

The rain had fallen, the Poet arose,
He passed by the town, and out of the street,
A light wind blew from the gates of the sun,
And waves of shadow went over the wheat,
And he set him down in a lonely place,
And chanted a melody loud and sweet,
That made the wild swan pause in her cloud,
And the lark drop down at his feet.

The swallow stopt as he hunted the bee,
The snake slipt under a spray,
The hawk stood with the down on his beak
And stared, with his foot on the prey
And the nightingale thought, "I have sung many songs,
But never a one so gay,
For he sings of what the world will be
When the years have died away". 


Metamorphosis ©2017 - "A change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means" is the definition of metamorphosis that gave me the title for this piece. I started the background with the small out building I came across on an abandoned property in the Delaware Water Gap in northwestern NJ.  The area surrounding it was all rubble so I placed it in a field of tall grasses from Mine Brook Farm in Far Hills, NJ. The Red-fringed Emerald moth (nemoria bistriaria) I photographed as it was sleeping on my front door. Although that is it's species name, it's wings were a beautiful, pastel green; not emerald. Unlike their butterfly cousins, moths are mostly nocturnal creatures in spite of their fascination for flames and artificial lights. While there are a few theories for this mysterious behavior, none have been proven. Many Native Americans consider moths a symbol of transformation and healing while others associate them with death and bringing messages from the spirit world. I suppose the young man from my vintage photo collection could possibly be involved with both. I added the clock from the quaint town of Belvedere, NJ (timing is everything in the process of metamorphosis) and some evening clouds from just after sunset. Lastly, filters and color were selectively applied as well as texture from a daguerreotype that seemingly added tendrils of electricity to the sky.