Rudbeckia and coneflowers_13614_StaatsThe landscape is filled with the bright colors of summer now.  Everywhere I look I see deep greens accented with yellows, pinks, reds, blues, and whites.  The contrasts are clear and glorious.  Where once the scenery was mono or duo-tone, we now have an array of shades and hues to rest our eyes on.  In our backyard, the coneflowers and rudbeckia are in full flower.  They are similar, yet so different in their patterns and petals and I never tire of studying them.  It’s a delightful time to get lost and absorb all the wonders that Mother Nature provides during our short-lived summer months in Minnesota.

Bright coneflower_StaatsSummer is about sunshine, warmth, and color.  We’re surrounded by blue skies, green grass, and the flowers that bloom profusely, sharing their colors.  Our gardens are in full bloom now; the coneflowers, roses, lilies, clematis, and coleus.  The coneflowers have always been one of my favorites.  They start out a pale yellow, with their petals reaching upward to the sun.  As they mature, the petals become a deep pink and then turn downward.  It’s almost as if they were two completely different flowers.  Their beauty and brightness always speaks to me of summer.

Coneflowers 7D_2268_StaatsSummer is the season of so many flowers, yet one of my favorites is the coneflower.  From a tall stem and a tight bud, the petals are gradually pried open by the sun and warmth.  The white petals are small, and reach upward.  Then as they mature, the petals turn a beautiful shade of pink and flex backwards, leaving the cone accessible to butterflies, bees, and small birds.   I have coneflowers in various stages throughout the gardens, yet this photograph seems to symbolize the uniqueness of this flower with both the early blossom and the fully developed bloom in the background.

As I set out on my bicycle early this morning the temperature was already in the 70’s and the air was thick and humid.  I was thinking about our recent 500-mile ride across Kansas and how this morning’s 20-mile ride wasn’t much in comparison.  All of the scenery across Kansas was new to me – the beauty of the plains and the rolling hills have left a mark on me, and yet today’s ride was going to be over city streets that I’ve ridden so many times before.  I set a goal to pay attention to the scenery and surroundings of today’s ride to see what I might find and experience.  As I headed east into the sun I knew there was a slight curve ahead where the cemetery trees would be shading the road, but I was amazed at the rays of sunlight piercing through the leaves amidst the haze of the humidity.  I continued on knowing that I’d be passing many lakes I’ve ridden by countless times.  I passed this scene, then turned around and went back to photograph.  In the quiet of the early morning two fishermen had a glass-like lake all to themselves — it reminded me of an old tourist postcard for the lakes of Minnesota.  I thought about sitting in the chair and watching them, but I suspected there might be more scenes waiting for me ahead.  I rode to a small prairie restoration area and was greeted by blooming butterfly milkweed and gray-headed coneflowers.  I passed a lake that we have fished on many times, yet today there wasn’t a boat in sight.  Instead there was flotilla of geese gliding quietly across the lake.  A mile further down the road and I spotted a shy doe grazing on the far side of a pond — close enough to the woods to be able to run inside if she felt threatened.  Feeling strong as I neared home I looked down and saw I was riding at 20 mph in a high cadence on a city street, much like the riding I’d enjoyed in the western flats of Kansas.  All the experiences of my ride today were ones that I could have easily passed by and not noticed, but the intention of seeing with fresh eyes had brought me an appreciation for what was here for me today, in this place, now.

I’m pleased to announce that I have a collection of photographs that will be exhibited at the Hudson Hospital in Hudson, Wisconsin beginning this Wednesday, August 3rd.  The hospital has a wonderful healing arts program which includes over 200 works of art throughout the entire campus, including patient rooms.  My images for this exhibit are titled “Close to Home.”  I have been interested in the belief held by so many people that we must travel to faraway places to find the beautiful things in our world.  Yet in the small area of my city lot with its small brick house and gardens is a world of great beauty and wonder, like this monarch butterfly that balanced on a purple coneflower one hot day in July. The exhibit runs from August 3rd through December 11th.  There is an artist reception this Friday, August 5th from 6:00 to 8:00pm.  I invite any one near the Twin Cities area to come to the reception or to stop by the Hudson Hospital to see their fine exhibit.  For more information about the hospital or for directions, please go to www.hudsonhospital.org.

This past Friday night was the opening reception for the 4th annual Horizontal Grandeur fine art exhibition at the Stevens County Historical Museum in Morris, Minnesota.  The exhibit brought together artists from across the country, all living in states with prairies.  Inspired by Bill Holm’s essay, “Horizontal Grandeur,” there were inspiring and wonderful interpretations of  the prairie theme.  I was honored to have two of my photographs juried into this show.  This image, “Dawn’s first light on the prairie” was photographed while I was an artist-in-residence at  the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa.  My second photograph in the exhibit is the image from my April 11, 2010 blog entry “Pasque flower welcome to spring.”  For a complete viewing of the pieces in the exhibit, please visit the website for the Stevens County Historical Museum at www.stevenshistorymuseum.com.

Here in the Twin Cities I’m a member of the Minneapolis Photographic Society — a group of wonderfully talented photographers with diverse interests.  Each year there is one image that is selected as Color Print of the Year and one that is selected as Monochrome Print of the Year.  This year I was awarded the Color Print of the Year for my image “Through the red barn window.”    To see more of the award-winning images from the group, please visit the website:  http://www.mplsphoto.com/mps/site/a28yearend.php

And lastly, I am excited to have a photograph published in the July/August issue of  “The Iowan Magazine.”  This image “Swept into the center” is the opening spread of the portfolio section titled “red.white.blue.”

It’s been a busy and exciting few months, and I feel honored with these exhibits, awards, and publications.

Under the coneflower 50052The heat of summer brings the purple coneflowers into abundant bloom.  And one of the best places to photograph these delights of summer is in my own backyard.  Most photographers understand how important it is to be in close proximity to what you choose to photograph, allowing you to be there when the light changes, when the scene changes, and to observe and “see” the subject in much more detail.  So my backyard is the perfect practice-field for me.  Last night we enjoyed a beautiful evening — nice light, no winds — a perfect setting for photographing.  This bloom was calling to me to sit on the ground and photograph upward, capturing the opacity of the petals, and colors of the entire plant, and to see it from a different perspective.  Little did I know that there was a small insect hiding underneath too, posing just as I snapped the shutter on the camera.