On The Tippy Toes For Tulips!

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There’s one time of year many in the Northwest look forward to, and that’s the annual sojourn to the Woodburn Tulip Festival. Over 40 acres of gorgeous colors burst across fields of flower fury, with rows of pinks, reds, oranges, purples, whites and yellows. DSC_8919

For me, as a “budding” photographer (pun intended), the only way to go is to arrive before sunrise and photograph the early morning golden light rising in the horizon over the field. For one, weekends are extremely crowded, lines of cars are backed up for miles, parking is a challenge, and there are just too many people to navigate. It’s hard to take a photo of solitary flowers and solitude when there are unbelievable crowds to contend with.

DSC_8897 Secondly, the morning light is pure. The dawn’s rays shimmer off the petal’s dew as the day begins to gently unfold. The flowers feel alive and innocent at this time. Capturing these hopeful expressions of nature and time are truly heart-warming.

I recently got a macro lens for my camera and WOW! I had such an awesome time out there, rolling on my back looking up at the flowers with the sky in the background, extended on my tippy toes over the center of the buds to be able to peer directly down into their tender centers, and on my knees in the mud, to get close to the tulips to capture them. DSC_8907

The combination of these angles and this type of lens were a truly inspiring way to explore my photographic interests, skills and curiosity. I could not get enough of the tulip’s colors, and details and shapes, and dew, and sunlight. They are gorgeous!

DSC_8937 I was amazed at the technology in the lens and the mind-blowing precise detail a piece of equipment can capture in a split second of time. Simply stunning.

If you’ve not ever tried photographing flowers, I encourage you to try it. It’s inspiring. And if you’re interested in details, beauty, new ways of seeing familiar things or objects, a macro lens will completely open up your perspective.

The tulip festival lasts approximately until the end of April and I suggest a sunset or sunrise experience. As with all nature, the time for their beauty to be shared is all-too-brief and absolutely worth every colorful and fleeting moment.

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Daddy

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Oddly, I know several people who have recently lost their fathers. I specifically wrote this for one of them. Because it seemed like a lot of loss in a short time, I thought I’d pass this along to the others who are in grief; it’s what I imagine a father and child relationship could feel like…

“Daddy”

in the surge of a moment,
my lifeline had ceased –
those semblances of a future fella
who thought like me,
fought like me,
crumbled like rain-soaked chalk
against the stark concrete
of my childhood whimsy.

I held onto a corner of his pant leg,
like a naive notion of a tooth fairy-dream
stay with me, daddy,
silently begged him not to go.
tried to hide forthcoming tears,
pleaded that I wouldn’t stay up past nine if he’d read me
just one more story.

Please, pop, just one more story.

But I know, that he knew,
that I knew,
son, things in life don’t work out that way

I rebelled against time’s validity, anyway.
Just as he suspected I would.

Pretty, pretty please, dad.
I’m looking up at you, to you and for you.
take this book of my heart that’s hurting
from my helpless hand,
find a way
to place it in yours,
and let me believe
our story again.

His dissipating shadow
turned towards me,
sadly he nodded and sighed with defeat.
and yet, his eyes still smiled at me
as he walked away.

pages don’t have ears, son,
but words, these words, my words
of pride, and love, and gratitude
that you are mine,
have eternal heart….

The Velocity of Music

The news of David Bowie’s untimely death from cancer prompted such enormous emotional ripples. Growing up I was not a huge Bowie fan but I always appreciated his creativity; his unbridled, unapologetic spectrum of sound, style and multi-sensory experiences with each work he shared. He was his own voice. That, in and of itself, places him into an untamable category.

What tugged at my heart strings was seeing how many people grieved. How people I know from all walks of wisdom and politics, classes and colors, ages and locations, converged into a single cyber platform of reverence. Memories of songs and moments and milestones and forgotten hopes sprang forth into vibrancy. I really appreciated all the authentic nostalgia. I felt like I got glimpses into people I barely knew, or was afforded a priceless new discovery about those I love.

The mourning of David Bowie affirmed the sheer velocity of music on our impressionable souls. Certain songs can crush and shatter walls of doubt or sadness, over and over again, throughout decades, and in their place leave timeless melody talismans for when we are lost, to help guide our way home.

Get Enlightened

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Those that know me, know I don’t watch TV. I am uber picky. It’s mostly all the same stuff, different station: Sex, violence, betrayal. For a lot of people, this is their entertainment thing, but for me, I want none of that. I want STORYTELLING–Storytelling and writing that’s layered, so interesting and poignant, it doesn’t need schtick. These ploys are cheap, predictable and easy. But, give me a breath-taking portrait….

I stumbled across “Enlightened.” It’s only two seasons, came out years ago, and honestly, the story slayed me. I’ve seen it twice. People are either pro Laura Dern or anti-Laura Dern. If you are not a Laura fan, it’s been suggested to me by a few others who have seen it that this did get in the way of liking Amy Jellico, and this story. Dern plays a VERY strong, very conflicted, very boundriless, very naive, very honest character. I thought she was fantastic. Wow… She knocked it out of the park. Interestingly, her mother in real life, Diane Ladd, plays her mother in this series. They were powerful together. I’m sure they were very proud of each other for their artistic contributions to this effort.

The scripts were written by Mike White, who stars in “Enlightened” as Tyler, Amy Jellico’s co worker, and there is not a single word that was out of place or unnecessary. The most powerful messages came from the fewest words. But, the words were a bulls eye, of time, place, context and impact. He did justice to the meek, kind loyal character of Tyler.

If I had to pick a theme, I’d say Mike White has beautifully nailed portraying the thin, fragile line between feeling hopeful and helpless. That as humans, every single one of us, experiences this irrational, elusive juxtaposition on a daily and often momentary basis. I really thought a lot about the dialog, the many subtle themes that were everywhere if you pay close enough attention. It inspired me. I hope to write as touchingly about the idea of how crazy, brave and flawed we are in our quests for enlightenment.

Third Time’s A (Glowing) Charm…

True story. I sit here on the eve of departure, listening to the Tesla blare on Pandora, thinking about my 30th High School reunion going on right now that I’m regrettably missing, and feeling optimistic. Tomorrow morning I depart for Fairbanks, Alaska, to chase down this bitch of a dream, gazing at the Northern Lights. I’ve attempted two times, unsuccessfully. Once, in Fairbanks, 4 years ago, and March of 2014, I went all the way to Iceland only to be completely shut out by a snowy depression that came and never left while Mark and I were there.

I showed my friend Becki Ginsberg Saltzman the pictures of my crushed dreams from last try, two faces red-worn from the blizzard-burned cheeks and wind-strewn hair, and she laughed. I don’t blame her. The ridiculousness of going all the way to Iceland, the irony of the storm-driven circumstances…

People who have known me ask me all the time, “Are you crazy?” “Why the Northern Lights?” “Why do this to yourself?” Many are not even aware of how many miraculous feats of nature take place at once to set the heavens aglow. Solar flares of unimaginable lengths, winds 12079548_10208377229215420_2563048949444067262_nmoving thousands of miles per second, electromagnetic particles racing towards our earth, only to be sucked in by our magnetic poles, then dazzling the halo of our atmosphere with florescent colors. And oh, all these these amazing feats need to occur without clouds, and preferably during an early cycle moon….

To me, as I’ve previously written about, this Aurora phenomena is my definition of spirit or god. To be a witness to the dance of ribbon, light, time, miracle and mystery, in person, is something I’ve always known I must do. Sometimes we need to be humbled before something so amazing, and so unexplainable, that the compass of being alive gets redirected.

At the moment, Fairbanks conditions for the next 3-5 days appear favorable. A moderate solar storm is in effect, party cloudy skies with reasonably minimal chances of precipitation and even a projected few clearer nights.

I will not be checking the weather all the time, because conditions in Alaska change quickly and I don’t want to obsess over what can and will change and I have ZERO control over.

I think this could happen. Perhaps this time I will come home victorious, and not like the disappointed Peter Brady showing up in his best plaid suit expecting his “surprise party” that was never to be.

Tomorrow night, maybe, could be the night, I get one of these wonderful wins.

One Order Of Sanctity, Please…

rrgb-freckled-lemonadeI entered Red Robin at 4:06 p.m., a few minutes behind schedule to meet my friend Delila for happy hour. I was looking forward to an easy, relaxing conversation, a few cocktails, some grub. As I approached a table she was seated at, I noticed this iPad-looking device propped at the edge. I sat down, we exchanged hellos.

I tried to focus my attention on her since we hadn’t seen each other in a while, but the tablet seemed to be prodding me; from the corner of my eye, I could feel it’s technology tentacles reaching out. “What the hell is this?” I asked Delila.

“I have no idea,” she said.

As I scanned the area, I saw that every table had one. I immediately felt undeniably irritated. I brought the unit on our table closer to me. It’s called a “Ziosk.” They are tablets used to, among other things, place your order. More in a minute on what it’s used for and why I’ll never set foot in another Red Robin because of these.

When I’m making the decision to go to a restaurant, to spend my hard-earned money and precious time, I want to have this sacred hour away from the chaos of life, unplugged. I want to use this time to fully connect with the person sitting across from me—my kids, my friends, my husband. I want all electronics put away. With the dis-ease of being tethered to constant technology, an hour away from it all should not be too much to ask. Though this sentiment may place me in the minority of today’s techno zombie generation, I know I’m not alone.

After a few minutes the waitress came to our table. I asked her what the devices were for, and she said, “to take your order.” I replied, only half-joking because I was so put off by these, “Well, where does that leave you?” The 20-something girl probably working her way through college was visibly uncomfortable by my sarcasm. I don’t blame her, but I couldn’t help my reaction. I was angry at the presumptuousness of Red Robin for having one at every table. I was pissed off that right there in front of me was yet another example, another piece of human interaction erosion being introduced into my life, without my consent or willingness.

We already have to deal with voicemail robots every single time we make a phone call to do business with a bank or resolve issues with a utility company; we go to a grocery store and stare at a checker staring at a screen and in that two minutes, after staring at a screen ourselves and swiping a debit card, realizing that never once was it required to look them in the eyes during the transaction.

The waitress asked if she could get us something to drink and we ordered, through her, a couple of cocktails. I told Delila I was irritated. In defiance, to whom or what I have no idea, I picked up the good old fashioned printed menu. The feeling of holding something as mundane as a menu, knowing they could soon be considered obsolete, was disheartening.

With the Ziosk technology, you have the capacity to order your own food from the tablet’s interactive menu. The Ziosk website highlights, “Get your appetizer to the kitchen ASAP. Order another round as soon as your glass is empty. Order dessert when the craving stpatt3rikes.” Feasibly, based on the structure of this technology, (you can order all facets of your meal and pay your check through the attached card swiper) the only time you’d interact with a human being the entire time would be when they deliver the food to the table.

So, it’s established that you don’t have to connect or interact with the wait staff. The presence of this tablet also ensures that you’ll interact less with the people at your table. Why? Because your face, or the face of your children, husband or friend, will be buried in a screen. Sure, you could just order your freckled lemonade and move on, but who jumps onto a device for a sole purpose without taking a few detours? There are reasons why at 8am when people should be checking emails, cat videos are trending. 
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Isn’t it a fair assumption that whomever is on the Ziosk ordering their onion rings will get curious about all the bells, whistles, features, pathways, upsale opportunities this form of technology has been designed for? Before everyone at the table knows it, faces are trapped. The zombie expression is aglow.

Some could question that because it’s on the table, does it mean you have to use it? Of course not. But I’m not sure what bothers me more. From a business standpoint, Red Robin is looking at increasing efficiency. From their own press release Red Robin states, “The Ziosk tablets are part of Red Robin’s ongoing effort to improve the customer experience and remove the ‘pain point’ of waiting for a check at the end of the meal.” This is bullsh&t. Why don’t they just call it as it is.

They aren’t ultimately interested in my customer experience. In my customer experience, when I go out to eat and spend at least $50 dollars or more, I like being served. I relish in knowing there’s no hurry to choke down a meal because I have dishes to do. There is no real ‘pain point’ for taking my time to enjoy a meal.

The truer subtext is saying that if people don’t have to wait for a human being to order dessert or get their check, the table turnover time increases. They can have a rotating spin cycle of customers. Why have authentic service and customer interaction be at the forefront,
when productivity is?

Red Robin is a business. They have a right to find ways to increase efficiencies and productivity. After all, more customers equal more money. The can spin this business direction any way they want but at the end of the day, it is what it is. Productivity over people.

The other problem I have with where this is headed, what Ziosk represents and Red Robin propagates, is the continued prominence we place on immediate satisfaction. As referenced above, Ziosk business model boasts the benefits of “Get your appetizer to the kitchen ASAP. Order another round as soon as your glass is empty. Ordermenuandordering dessert when the craving strikes.”

Lord forbid we have to waste another three minutes waiting for that “just in-quesadilla” or even worse, our glass of much needed chardonnay should ever be empty. Woe be the wandering soul whose craving struck for mile high mud pie, but then tragically, was lost, because the waitress was taking the order at a table next to ours.

From a consumer standpoint, saying this out loud, the messaging false sense of urgency seems ridiculous. Could vanishing impulses for mile high mud pie cost Red Robin hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost potential revenue? I’m sure it could but when does the constant build up of “I Need It NOW” expectation end?

If you pause to think about it, we get this want-need-must-have-it-now immediate gratification and fulfillment everywhere, everyday, in every aspect of our life. Between social media videos, posts and photos, online ordering, automated everything, nobody has to wait long for anything, anywhere, at any time. Merely a touch of a button delivers us to the promiseland of satiation salvation.

I’m sad and angry for all a system like this represents. Though it may seem completely harmless, incidental, or even inconsequential, technology’s intrusion is presumptuously on your table, whether you like it or not. The developers of Ziosk thought of everything in terms of business attributes.

I imagine many more restaurants will be on board in no time and eventually, lack of human interaction with wait staff, diminished connection to those you are supposedly enjoying a quiet meal with, sharing via social media that you got a hamburger! dangerously subtle collection of personal data through surveys, clubs and “rewards” programs that you join via the tablet (and why wouldn’t you because you’re bored waiting five minutes for your fries), will be the norm.

Our little corners of privacy, being unplugged and human interaction are slipping away. I don’t blame Red Robin for doing it’s job of trying to keep up with the times, technology or wanting to earn another buck. But I’m disappointed that they are sending a clear message that they’re turning a blind eye and choose bottom-line productivity over staying true to the reasons why customers go out to eat in the first place including conversation, connection to loved ones and being served. This technology invasion hijacks them away.

Foo Fightin’ To Keep Rock Alive

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Without sounding like the old has-been rocker lady who tells you how I spent .50 cents to take the Wilshire bus 5 miles (not in the snow, though) to Tower Records in Westwood to spend $1.00 on a 45 after painstakingly thumbing through them for hours, be assured the wiggity iTunes downloading generation of today has no clue. This mine-as-well-be-climbing-Everest-trek is what we did to get our rock on. And damn if all that effort wasn’t worth it.

Vinyl was king. Vinyl was my babysitter, my confidant, my favorite pastime. The rush of pulling out a fresh inner sleeve to see if lyrics were on it, after the jacket cellophane had been ripped, is unmatched. The crackle of the needle making gentle contact on the widest outer groove… All this ritual was rock ‘n roll. And, I do believe, all of this glory, is gone, and has been for a woefully long time.

Like many near-50, reader-glasses wearing, pains-o-creeping peers, I’ve been to a lot of concerts in hopes of recapturing that feeling: the essence of fearlessness, and hope, and rage, and raw vulnerability, that only a favorite guitar solo delivers. But, getting older means so do the mortal gods we once worshipped. It’s so sad when the high notes you belted out in your dreams alongside the record player, now sound like haunted screeches in real life.

But as I was saying, I’m not going to lament on what was. Last night I had a chance to have a true rock n’ roll fantasy of what IS, thanks to a high school compadre, Rami Jaffee. Rami and I go way back, I’d say over 30+ years, to a time when JCA summer camp sing-alongs ruled the roost, as well as jr. high and Fairfax high school days. Rami was always among my budding school-ditching pot-smoking Zeppelin listening crowd, and well, now, after decades, he’s blossomed into a pretty talented musician that happens to play keyboards for a little touring band called the Foo Fighters. It’s so wild to see how some of my friend’s lives have turned out. I have many friends from high school who are now famous rockers and Rami definitely falls into the “Can you believe it?” category.

I’ve followed along Rami’s journey; his instagram photos standing in front of the Foo Fighters private jet; shows for the President; Saturday Night Live appearances; playing on stage with John Paul Jones (fu&k, we listened to Zeppelin together when we were kids!) and yes, it all seems surreal, and more than anything, I am super happy for him! He has literally been able to see the entire world.12009840_10208166018935295_4657383087636527232_n

The Foo Fighters came to Portland last night after not playing here for many years and Rami and I made plans to connect before the show. I’ve never before seen the Foo Fighters and always heard mythical things about their live performances. Rami left me some backstage passes to Club Rami (yes, they were called this) and my husband Mark and I were ready to rock. 12033162_10208165948373531_1011387231523230516_n

Before the show Rami and I caught up a bit, laughed at the ridiculously surreal passage of time while he greeted and hung out with the many other guests. It was nice to see a familiar face from a time so long ago; a face from time when simple was simple and dreams were dreams. And yet, here he was IN a dream, getting ready to go on stage with the Foo Fighters. Rather strange, really….12027693_10208167031360605_6211374935642918077_n

From the moment the HUGE Foo Fighters curtain dropped, the whole show was larger than life. Rami was transformed into someone, who from my teenage vantage point, I would only see from an audience. It made me think that all those shows we were exposed to, in my time, the true age of rock, the bands that frickin’ brought it (WAY too many to list), no matter what, the lights, the sound, the energy, were right there on stage. Rami, along with the rest of his FooCrew, Dave, Chris, Pat, Nate and Taylor, were ALIVE!!

What can I say here that hasn’t been written about how amazing a Foo Fighters show is? Dave, with a broken leg, sitting on a throne made from guitar necks and stage lights, screaming and playing his balls off, talking directly with the audience the entire time, having lights go up in the arena so he can see everyone, never 12027790_10208167322487883_3423663561193404661_nwavering in his commitment or his love of just keeping it REAL in the name of ROCK…. I can’t explain it. I haven’t seen this energy, this raw, pure dedication in the name of music in so long, I thought along with my youth, and my generation’s era of real honest to god music, it had died. The Foo Fighters were all animals! Nearly 3 hours of non-stop hardcore, melt your face kick your ass then squeeze your own balls pounding from the gut music to remind you why Rock could still have a fu*king pulse and to never let it die…. 11044498_10208167061321354_4621148342346675086_n

I was breathless by the time it was over and feeling a stream of god-like rock ‘n roll consciousness I haven’t felt in a long, long time. The dudes from the Foo Fighters actually give a shit. Imagine that. It was refreshing and exhilarating. I’m still in awe and thankful to Rami for the trip down memory lane….The road that was my childhood to be sure, but also a path of transportation to a time and place when I was liberated in life, lifted by music that never left me, and always ensured I’d rock hard until I gently rolled my way home…

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Looped: When Self-Love & Loathing Are The Same

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We are lucky to live in a city where local, small theater is still a viable thing. Sure, the larger-than-life Broadway productions are grand, but shows with an intimate gathering feel like there’s a more personal lesson to be learned. This is especially true with the recent Triangle Productions show of “Looped.”

Looped is directed by Don Horn, written by Matthew Lombardo, and features the multi-talented ever-endearing Margie Boule as the Hollywood film and stage actress Tallulah Bankhead. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a three-person show. But the simplicity of the cast, the set, is what enabled the raw brilliance of the script dialog, and Margie’s heart-felt connection to this complicated self-deprecating character, to shine through.

Tallulah was known for being the actress initially chosen to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind but then lost the part to Vivian Leigh. Leigh, incidentally, also got the part of the title role in a play written for Tallulah by her then friend Tennessee Williams, Street Car Named Desire.

Tallulah became a reigning queen of theater on Broadway and in London, and aside from stage performance, was an equally theatrical hard-partying, booze guzzling, talk of the town. Though this erratic behavior and rough-edged persona became part of her legacy, (Tallulah died in 1968 at the age of 66) Looped both subtly and outwardly pulls back the curtains a little more to reveal the depth of her sadness, guilt, talent and compassion. And, I must say, Margie was simply mind-blowingly incredible to bring forward all the layers of what becomes from  an intricate labyrinth of simultaneous self-love and self-loathing; confidence and doubt; compassion and self-absorption; strength and vulnerability…. These opposing forces were what haunted Tallulah and drove her to a life of avoiding pain, and yet, at the same time, creating it.

I’ve seen some of Margie’s work over the years, and to me, this was my favorite performance. I was blown away by how Margie was completely transformed, by how spot-on the range of emotions were conveyed in such a way you could read between the pause of each line, all the tragedy and comedy of Tallulah’s life. That is some serious talent.

Maybe having the emotional wind sucked out of me after the play was over came from the beauty of the story, and true history–Looped‘s script was taken from transcripts from an actual 8-hour recording session toward the end of Tallulah’s life, thus the name–or the fact we can all relate to Tallulah’s notion of regret and freeing ourselves from guilt to face a more fearless future. Maybe it was the story subtext that nobody is really who they seem to be, especially upon first impressions, and before we become a judge and jury, perhaps we best take a look at ourselves.

I will mention here, too, that Margie’s co-star, David Sargent, was also very compelling as the counter-part character of film editor, Danny Miller, who spent the eight hours during a sound editing session trying to get the inebriated Tallulah to dub a single line. We learn about Tallulah through Danny, and his struggles, and Danny’s character provides some cool contemplation to Tallulah’s fiery fight. David gave the perfect performance balance.

Looped, (subtitled “a comedy about a fading star”)  was the most intimate 100 minutes in a play I’ve spent in a long time. A few days later, I’m still thinking about Tallulah’s tragic, poignant persona, about Margie’s unbelievable gifts and kick-ass performance, about the importance of local theater, the gratitude I have for people like Don Horn who believe in keeping powerful story alive, and how I hope small theater always remains supported to deliver needed reflections about our own lives.

Thank you Margie, Don, David, James and the rest of Triangle Productions for a heart-arresting story about the beautiful lessons received from braving the shame of self-loathing, through to accepting the brighter, kinder aspects of self-love.

Looped performances are evenings, Thursdays through Saturdays, until September 26th, with one Sunday matinee performance left on the 20th. For more background, theater location and ticket information, visit www.trianglepro.org/looped .

Speaking of Photos…

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I recently learned that of the three images I submitted for a juried exhibit taking place in November, all three of them were selected! This is a huge honor, as the members of the jury are part of a group I belong to, Women Learning Photography Together. There are many talented women in this group and they know their stuff! The exhibit will feature about 60 images total. I will let you know more show details once they are all final.

Photo Show At Cedar Hills Parks & Recreation Center

I am super excited to have five of my images (16 x 20) as part of the esteemed Women Learning Photography Together photo show at the Cedar Hills Parks & Recreation Center showing the month of the June. Trying to pick only five was a tough choice but I wanted to present a variety of artistic depth and creative scope. I ultimately chose five images I thought were simple, yet powerful.

One is a black and white image of a white rose placed near a woman named June, in the 911 concrete-etched memorial in New York City (titled “911 Memorial White Rose For June”). I love the solemn yet loving simplicity and contrast of this image. The next one (Morning Time For A Tulip) is a close up of an open colorful pink and organ tulip with morning dew glistening off the petals. The colors are so vibrant and soft, the photo itself looks like a watercolor. The third, (Prayer & Solitude), is an image of a nun praying in a darkened church, kneeling before an alter. The church walls and ceilings have arches, and in the middle though the stained glass church windows, angelic light filters through and illuminates the windows and aisle way. This image was literally a stolen moment of luck, time and place, taken at a church in Iceland. The fourth image (Who Am I? screen, window, mirror), is a portrait selfie, but not in the typical sense. I was in Hawaii, walking by a building. On the outside of the window was a very rusted screen. I wasted by the window and looked into the room, and on the other side of the large room was a mirror. I caught a photo of me taking a picture in the mirror outlined by the reflection from the window through the rusted screen. This image has gotten a lot of positive feedback. Lastly, (So Long, Sweet Haystack Sun) is another luck in timing photo and was of the setting sun behind Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Gold starburst rays sneak out behind the giant monument and leave the foreground in darkened beautiful shadows where the waves are receding back into the ocean. I am ultimately happy with the images chosen and the variety they each represent.

If you have a chance, take a gander at my images, as well as the others presented by four very talented ladies from the Women Learning Photography Together meet-up group! Cedar Hills Parks & Recreation Center during the month of June…

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Morning Time For A Tulip

Prayer & Solitude

Prayer & Solitude

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Who Am I? (screen, window, mirror)

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So Long, Sweet Haystack Sun