Talk About Going Off!

 By Susan Greene

Not since January of 1983 had the waves been as big as they were in the South Bay of Los Angeles county a couple of weekends ago. big surf redondo beach, CAA major rain storm brought a large swell with it, resulting in huge waves. On Saturday the 1st of March, the waves were so large and walled, or breaking without much chance of riding the face, that there weren’t any surfers in the water when I was there. But Sunday things changed.

surfer watching surf, Redondo Beach,CAThe waves were still large; so large they were crashing over the break wall in the harbor of Redondo Beach.

wave breaking over break wallThe surfer on the crest of the wave gives an idea of just how big those waves were.

big surf Redondo Beach, CAThe shape was better on Sunday.

surfer riding big waveYou could feel the waves’ energy in the air.

surfer riding big wave Redondo Beach, CAWatching the surfers riding the waves with their grace and athleticism is great fun.

surfer riding big wave, Redondo Beach, CAWhen one is in the barrel, it is always thrilling.

surfer riding big wave, Redondo Beach, CAThe beach was crowded with people coming out to see the show.

It’s good to be reminded of the beauty and power of nature every now and then.

~ Susan

Images Out a Window

northern california coast, big surRiding shotgun on a cross-country car trip provides the opportunity for being a witness to  a lot of scenery. I will ride with my camera on my lap gazing out the window when something will strike me. Depending on your time limits and companions’ patience, your chances of pulling over and taking a shot may be limited. I quickly learned, yelling “pull over so I can get a shot of that ____,” too many times will result in a loud groan response. Other times it’s just not feasible to pull over. So, instead of forcing another stop on begrudging backseat passengers or passing up on some of the shots I wanted, I will roll down the window and make them on the fly.

field of sunflowersIt’s not easy and many times they don’t turn out, so if it’s a subject I care strongly about capturing I will insist on pulling over. But, to me it’s worth taking that shot for the memory of a trip and re-visiting the road when at home.

hay rolls in fieldsThe novelty of the open spaces and rolling fields of the interior of the country inspires a sense of wonder in this shore girl.

farm house in fieldThese picturesque fields seem to go on forever.

rolling corn fields AmericaWhen we do stop and explore an area further, a through-a-window shooting opportunity can still be present.

South Dakota Chief Crazy Horse MonumentThe Chief Crazy Horse monument visit was such an opportunity for me. The statue of the Chief inside the museum with the view of the mountain project outside, through a nicely cleaned window, grabbed my imagination.

When shooting out the window of a moving car, a fast shutter speed is required to capture the scene without getting camera blur from the movement of the car. Steadying your camera against either your body or on the edge of the open window helps as well. The key thing is to have your camera in your lap and ready to go.

Always glad to be on the road,

~ Susan

Mardis Gras – Hoorah

By Susan Greene
It’s March and that means a not only a new month but a new literary theme to investigate here at backyard sisters. Imagery is our term of exploration this month. Photography is imagery – thank-you Catherine. Since today is Mardis Gras, I decided to make some images of items associated with this day’s merrymaking.

Mardis Gras masksMardis Gras means fat Tuesday in French and is traditionally the day before Ash Wednesday. Many use it as a day to “live it up” before the somber season of Lent. The city of New Orleans, Louisiana is known for its Mardis Gras festivities – parades, parties and balls are all celebrated and have been since the early 1700’s.

Mardi Gras maskMasks are worn by many to all of these celebrations.

Mardis Gras maskThe wearing of masks as a part of the celebration is believed to be rooted in ritual. In the beginning they allowed the wearers from all classes to mingle and join in the revelry free of societal constraints. This anonymity undoubtedly is a contributing factor in the raucous behavior so often associated with Mardi Gras.

Mardis Gras maskStrings of colorful beads are also identified with the festivities.

Mardi Gras beads in flightThey are tossed from the floats to the cheering crowds lining the parade routes.

tossing Mardi Gras beadsThe spectators jostling to catch as many as possible.

Mardi Gras beads in air The king cake is another of the Mardi Gras traditions.

king cakeTraditionally, it is a ring of braided dough filled with a cinnamon and sugar filling, although now other fillings are used as well. A tiny plastic baby is  baked into the cake.  It is frosted and covered with colorful sugars of the Mardi Gras colors – green, purple and gold. Tradition has it that the person who receives the piece of cake with the baby in it is asked to host the next king cake party – which are held regularly throughout the Mardi Gras season or Carnival, which runs from January 6th,or Epiphany, to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Having never been to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras, I can’t speak of these things from experience but would like to one day. I won’t let that stop me from joining in spirit.  If you would like to read further about Mardi Gras and its history, traditions and activities, this site is a treasure trove of information.

In true Mardi Gras fashion, live it up, for tomorrow we fast.

~ Susan

Self portraits on a path to voice

By Susan Greene

As I was pondering our theme of voice this month, I came across this self portrait of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

It’s not often I turn the lens on myself. So I decided to give it a go. The photo of Cartier-Bresson captured my eye with his use of three different views of himself and his involvement both working and pausing to look out the window. My kitchen window is the same sort of set-up for me. I have spent countless hours standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window while washing dishes or twirling around doing the kitchen dance of food prep, throwing dirty dishes in the sink and washing fruits and vegetables while preparing and cleaning up meals. For many years, I was the privileged observer of my children’s games and make-believe worlds. As they grew and ventured from our immediate backyard – their backyards expanding into the larger world, I started noticing the sometimes quiet other times flurried rhythm of the birds, trees and flowers in the yard.

self portrait in window

Thinking of the backyard days of my children triggered thoughts of my own backyard days and the pure joy of playing outside. It has been quite awhile since I have done that.

self portrait backyard activityFor a time, I was transported to the backyard play of my youth, able to tap into the carefree times of romping in the backyard. The difficulty of running back and forth from inside the house to the outside counting down the seconds to shutter release trying to capture a jump at just the right moment then back in to check the result was a small price to pay.

In the Accidental Creative, author and speaker Todd Henry poses “ten questions that will help you find your voice.” One of the ten: as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  I think we can benefit from re-examining our younger selves to clarify our future selves and hopefully this will lead us to creative outlets for expressing our voices.

~ Susan

A one, and a two…

By Susan Greene

It has been called the “universal language of mankind” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, attributed with beginning where words leave off by Heinrich Heine and having “charms to soothe the savage breast” by William Congreve.  Music is powerful and musical instruments are beautiful tools for expression.

cello The gorgeous woods and metals formed into beautiful shapes which will produce enchanting sounds are works of art in themselves.

french hornSome are huge, I don’t know if the Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro, CA qualifies as an official musical instrument but I like to think it does. This symbol of friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea sits in a pagoda overlooking the Los Angeles harbor and Pacific Ocean.

Korean Friendship Bell, San Pedro CAA wooden log hanging next to it is used to strike it. Four times a year it is unchained and used to ring the bell, to learn when click here. I haven’t heard the bell yet but would like to and am going to make an effort to get there on one of these ringing occasions this year.

Other musical instruments are smaller and more portable.

percussion instrumentsMany a kindergartner has begun a love of music with these percussion instruments.

percussion instrumentsAs an early oatmeal box drummer turned piano player and student of the cello, I have found music provides many opportunities. From an avenue for sharing your voice with others to exercising your mind, especially should you take up an instrument later in life. It is a good challenge for your brain.

conga drums being playedIn this story on public radio about French percussionist, Christine Salem, from the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, she shares how her music allows her an outlet for expressing herself which she wasn’t always able to do.

Music, whether listening or playing, has been associated with many health benefits in the body and mind. From helping us de-stress to boosting our moods and our pace when exercising, there are many well-documented positives to taking in a note or two.

turntable, record playerSo in this week of Valentine’s Day, I leave you with these words from William Shakespeare, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

~ Susan

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

By Susan Greene
Finding your artistic voice, what does that mean? Is it anything like locating your misplaced keys or the missing sock in a pair? Maybe, a little bit, in the sense that it is there and just needs to be discovered. There is much written on the subject and even courses offered to assist people with finding their photographic voices. This month’s literary term of exploration is voice/sound.

breaking waveMost know what a wave sounds like and maybe seeing a photo of one conjures up the sound of it crashing in your mind. Some are gentler and quieter.

susnet wheelie rider on shore Others are big and powerful,

large breaking wave, redondo beach CAcrashing,

breaking wave, surfer and photographers, redondo beach CA with a loud boom.

large crashing wave, redondo beach CA Can a photo convey sound?  This month try to imagine what a scene sounded like when you contemplate photos. As for finding that artistic voice, it might be quieter and gentler thus requiring some introspection. Artistic voice is your unique story to tell how you wish, no matter the medium, you choose the style.  For a photographic voice, look to the photographers that inspire you and the things you are inspired to photograph.

I’ll be looking at the beach!

~ Susan

Washed Up

By Susan Greene
Taking a walk along the sea shore, with eyes cast down, encountering the multitude of items washed up on the sand can get the curious wondering. “Where did that come from?”, “is this flotsam or jetsam?”  and more questions will flood the inquiring mind.

seaweed and seashellsSeaweed and sea shells, even though an expected sight, will trigger pondering of the places they’ve been.  What happened to the rest of the plant or the sea creature that once called a shell home?

seaweed and sea shells

How far have these bits traveled?

seaweed on shorePhilosophically, how did these end up in this location, at this time, in this shape at the same time as I?

seaweed on shoreSeaweed, according to the NOAA website, is “utterly essential to innumerable marine creatures, both as food and as habitat, they also provide many benefits to land-dwellers, notably those of the human variety.” It also comes in many shapes and sizes. seaweed on shore

Finding myself tangled up in seaweed thought, I stumble upon something unexpected.

sea shells on shoreA mussel shell like a tiny bowl full of water, even though the tide is out and everything in the immediate vicinity is dry makes me curious, but not as curious as this…

rope on shoreIf only it could talk, what stories would be shared of its journey and ultimate arrival on the sand in Redondo Beach, California?

Spotting sea glass on the local shores is not an everyday occurrence and when it does, I view it as a gift, and also start wondering: how long was it in the sea? what type of bottle was it? how did it break apart?

sea shells and sea glass on shoreIn the absence of concrete answers, let your imagination run wild. The rope is from a colorful fishing vessel off Mexico. The glass is from a Japanese saki bottle and has been in the water for 25 years. The seaweed has floated down the coast from Alaska before getting caught in a current and deposited on this shore all the while playing host to many sea creatures. You get the picture.

Visit the NOAA  website if you would like to learn a bit more about seaweed regarding some of the health properties and benefits to humans and sea creatures.

I will be at water’s edge creating back stories for the lost and found.

~ Susan