Weekly Photo Challenge: Harmony

Considering that I sing in an acappella chorus in a chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, this should be an ideal topic for me to address if there were no pictures involved!

I could also talk about my attempts to achieve harmony with nature through my outdoor activities, but I have already done that too many times already!

So, this time I have decided to take a different perspective.  I have some pictures that attempt to demonstrate some examples of what I think is a visual harmony of some sort, sometimes achieved somewhat unintentionally, between something natural and something created by human beings.  Hopefully I do not have to say anything more.

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Here are more submissions for the the challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Season

Unless I focus on the above topic from the perspective of the seasons in one’s life, I could end up going back to a familiar place and repeating myself in response to the weekly challenge since I have addressed the subject of the seasons in other photo challenges. (You can check our my submissions the past under the topics of Change, and also Happy Place.)

But I have no interest today in really saying anything about myself. Instead I will simply focus on this season of Winter up here in the northeast United States, and our experience of it during a walk we took last weekend on the C&O Canal towpath beside the Potomac.  We drove up to a section near Hagerstown, MD.

We ended up on a section of the trail in the area of Dam 4.
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The swiftly flowing river appears to be clear of ice in these parts.
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There is a still a layer of snow and ice on the trail.
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I suspect that some of the snow on the ground is from the blizzard a few weeks back.  The consistency of the white stuff has turned somewhat hard. There are larger ice crystals on the ground that catch the sunlight, and  we found that the surface was mostly capable of supporting our weight without giving in.  The traffic on the trail has been light before our arrival, and the snow has not compressed to ice (which would have made it a more slippery and dangerous path to traverse).  That having been said, it is still more difficult to walk on the snow than on the dirt.

The surface of the trail is not characterless.  There are the fallen branches that pop out of the ice.
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The dried leaves that have fallen on the ice can stand out.  I thought some of these even looked pretty.
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The leaves can even start a melting process since they seem to absorb the heat of the sun faster than the ice around them.
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The bladdernut pod has even created a cavity in the surface of the ice.
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And there is plenty of other life around.

The snow flies (are they also called stone flies?) are everywhere over the ice.
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There are plenty of bird sounds to be heard all around, from the cry of soaring hawks, to the loud “wuk, wuk” call of the pileated woodpecker.  There are many small birds in the bushes all around the trail.  These are difficult to spot unless one is looking carefully, but this little thrush was very cooperative.  It sat around while I took my time to change lenses to take its picture.
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Winter in our parts can certainly be more challenging than our other seasons, but there is still much to celebrate and enjoy if only you set you mind to it.

It is somewhat interesting to see the varied responses to this challenge.  Some of you in lower hemisphere are in the midst of summer (and a hot one in some places), while others in the northern hemisphere seem to be experiencing weather indicating that spring is on its way.  We are still in the throes of the winter season in our part of the world!

Unexpected Pleasures (Sept 10th, 2014)

One of the conversations I had with a high-school classmate during a reunion trip to New Mexico was regarding how much more accessible the outdoors have become here in the US since the days of our your youth when we came over from India.  It seems like there are many more parks and many more marked trails everywhere, created by all kinds of government and private entities, exposing us to more of the wonders of nature in the country.  It is a great thing!

But sometimes it is the unexpected that thrills the senses.  I was on my way to Cloudcroft, out of Alamagordo, driving up into the mountains on Route 82 from the high plains, when I came to a lookout point just before a tunnel.  This was a few miles away from Cloudcroft.  I could see White Sands behind me.
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The parking lot was empty except for this older couple who had come to the location on a motorbike.  The couple looked like a rough sort, and my first thought was caution.  (I was guilty of stereotyping!) But the woman was friendly.  She wished me hello and asked me if I had been on the trail.  I said I was not aware of the existence of a trail at this spot.  The gentleman then came up and told me about a trail that led from the lookout point down into the gorge between the hills where there was a stream flowing.  He said there were waterfalls.  He said that most people did not know about the trail, which was the best thing about this spot, and that he brought his grandchildren to the stream regularly.  Since I was being flexible in my schedule I decided that I would try the trail.  The gentleman told me that it started just beyond the lookout point, nearer to the tunnel, at a place where a black water pipe ran beside the road.  He then offered to walk up with me to show me the exact spot.  I grabbed my camera bag and followed.  When we arrived at the location of the pipe all I could see was a steep slope going down from the location of the pipe. I told myself that I was not going to give that slope a try today.  The gentleman laughed, saying that he would not attempt something like that at his age himself,  and then showed me a somewhat hidden trail leading off to the right, beside the road, on the other side of the guide rail.  He pointed to a cliff in the distance that the trail would pass and told me that there was a cave-like structure over there.  The cliff looked steep.  I was not convinced that would be passable but I was going to give it a shot.  I climbed over the guide rail and followed the unmarked trail.  Pretty soon I arrived at the cliff.  Indeed there was passable trail.
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Pretty soon I had descended the cliff and this is what I could see behind me.
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The parking lot seemed quite far away at the top of the cliffs, but in fact it had not taken me too long to get to this point.  Immediately in front of me was an opening into a shady wooded area.
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And there was indeed a stream flowing in the wooded area between the hills.
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I followed the stream to a series of very small waterfalls at the end of the trail.  I thought it was quite pretty.
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On the way back I took this picture.   It looked quite peaceful.
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During the walk back I also took my time to look at the flowers along the trail. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was just the beginning of a wonderful (though tiring) day.

And here is another picture of White Sands, a place I was was going to visit later that day.
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Here is another blog I wrote during the trip to New Mexico.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Life Imitates Art

How does the photograph really capture life?
Can the imitation of art also be artistic?
Should the art that is being imitated be something created by somebody else?

In the first part of my response I have series of pictures of nature that in general look like paintings to me. Since paintings are works of art by definition (may not be good art, but art nonetheless!), I think these could fall into the category of life imitating art.IMG_7057IMG_7073IMG_7196IMG_7339OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I believe this last picture is more in tune with the theme imagined by the author of the challenge.
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For more pictures submitted for this week’s challenge visit this site.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Time

Time is an integral part of almost everything that we experience in our lives today. Almost everything that we do takes into consideration the time factor, whether it be the time taken to accomplish the task, or the time at which the task is expected to begin, or where it should end.  The modern world also has an insatiable need to be as efficient as possible with regards to how time is spent.  We always seem to be in a hurry.

Perhaps it is useful to understand/recognize that the pervasiveness of the “time-factor” in human experience is something that has changed over history, and that time was not this important in times past.   (Some of you may already know the interesting story of the role played by the railroads in establishing time zones.)  These days the concept of time has been taken to its limits, with even fractions of seconds becoming significant in our experiences.  Athletic events are judged and winners determined by time differences that lie in the order of 100ths of seconds.  The timing of signals in the electronics that we all use today is at the nanosecond level.

I cannot help feeling that the human entanglement with the concept of time is at an unhealthy extreme today, and that this is perhaps the result of the advancement of technology and also what we call progress.  The way we interact with time today forms the basis of our continued existence as a civilization.  There is no escaping it.  (As an aside, it is interesting to note that physicists today are not even sure whether time exists at the most fundamental level of physical reality.)

But if we step back and and look at time from a more philosophical perspective, we can go in so many different directions with the theme!  Time may sometimes be defined by a state of mind.

The atmosphere in the pictures below gives me a feeling of time slowing down.

The pictures below make me think about the impact of the passage of time on the lives of people.  What happened to these people?  Why did they abandon these homes and did they go to a better place?

The pictures below remind me of the damage caused by humans to the planet over time.

Finally, time is topic covered in a lot of music.  Here is an oldie that I still enjoy listening to.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant

Vibrancy in the image domain seems to come from the presence of a variety of colors  enhanced by good lighting.  Unfortunately, my pictures of the outdoors do not include a great variety of colors in each of them, but I have sometimes been able to get myself in a good position at the right time to bring something out in the objects being photographed because of lighting.

I had to find the right position to get this vibrant effect in the picture of a tree.
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The skies at sunset.
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I think there is vibrancy in pictures of flowers in the sunlight.
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Autumn is always a good time to try to get pictures of leaves in a vibrant setting.
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Other pictures in the vibrant theme can be seen here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic

We just got through a major blizzard in our area that I have blogged about.  Woke up this morning to this sight in front of the house early in the morning.  It lasted only a few seconds.

Today is the first day after the day on which the roads to our neighborhood were cleared.  Our driveway is also completely free of snow and ice.  We have not been away from the house for four days. We will be venturing out into the still recovering neighborhood in a few minutes.  And I will be carrying my camera.  I feel optimistic!

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And Finally We Are Done With the Storm

The snow had stopped falling on the morning of the third day. We had to clear up our driveway one more time from the overnight snowfall. This is the final result after we got done.
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After that was done, we worked on digging a path to the front door through the snow piled over the walkway.
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We enjoyed watching our neighbor’s cat playing in the snow.
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Snow removal from the patio in the back was started because of concern about the patio collapsing from the weight of the snow.
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The fourth day dawned with the cul-de-sac still not cleared of snow.  I was anticipating another day of being stuck in the home.
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But we were pleasantly surprised by the morning arrival of the snow clearing equipment.
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The guy driving the red pickup truck noticed me taking pictures from a window and did me a favor by breaching the wall in the snow in front of our driveway with a single run with his snow shovel.
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And then we were completely clear after some more work expanding the breach to the width of the driveway.  The mail box can even be reached!
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And hopefully that is that for this storm!

PS. As you can see, the front section of our roof is clear of snow because of the solar panels.  It all came sliding down with a massive thump on the evening of the second day.  Our neighbors all still have snow on their roofs.

After the Storm

It is the day after the storm.  And what a beautiful day it is!

As the sun rose over the cul-de-sac,
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It began to shine its warm light over the smooth snow, and tops of the plants tall enough to peek out over their cover of white.
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There is not a cloud in the sky.
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But yesterday was another matter..

We confronted by a wall of snow when we started cleaning out the driveway just before noon.
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This was perhaps the only time I stopped working before the job was complete.
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When we came back later in the evening to complete the job, there was probably another foot of snow on the ground when we started.
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We finally got the job done after the sun had set.
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We will still have some clean-up activity today.  It will probably be a day or two before the snow plows make it to our cul-de-sac and clear the roads so that we can get out of the community.  They will probably leave a wall of snow in front of our driveway that we will have to breach in order to break free.

This was the amount of snow that collected on the table in the patio yesterday evening.
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Lets see what adventures are in store for us today!

 

Half way through the Blizzard

I wrote yesterday about the blizzard that we were expecting. It is now the morning of the next day. We are now more than half way through the storm and have received more than a foot of snow.  The snowfall is only expected to taper down later in the day.

It was quite pretty outside last night.   It looked very peaceful in spite of the snow coming down, or perhaps because of it.

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This morning we awakened to the wind and the following sights.

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The night was quieter than I expected.  In the past, under similar conditions, we have awakened to the sounds of the house reacting to the storm, and to the sound of the wind whistling into the home through unsealed cracks in the window sides.  That has not happened this time, perhaps due to the work we had done this summer sealing up the windows.

Our neighbors have already started clearing their driveways.  Perhaps it is time for us to start.