Friday, 18 August 2017

Widow's Endorphins: World Photography Day

Widow's Endorphins: World Photography Day: Of all my senses, I most cherish my sense of sight.  It is a gift to look into the expressive eyes of another; to see the ever ch...

World Photography Day

Of all my senses, I most cherish my sense of sight.  It is a gift to look into the expressive eyes of another; to see the ever changing colours of the evening sky; to gaze in awe at the unique colours, patterns and shapes of flower petals.

It is part of what makes us human, that we desire to share our experience of the world with others. Long ago, a friend who had gone on an Outward Bound adventure - days of which had to be hiked in isolation - said that he saw so many amazing landscapes, skyscapes, birds and animals, yet there was no one to share the glory of the moment with.  No one to nudge and say, "hey, look at this!"

All of our ancestors must have felt the same desire.  Pick a flower, press it between the pages of a book, and try to describe what it looked like when it was fresh and alive.  Draw a picture.  Paint a picture. 

Just over two hundred years ago, all that changed.  French inventor, Joseph "Nicephore" Niepce, took the first photographic image, using what was called a camera obscura.   Unlike today's cameras, his 1814 camera needed eight hours of exposure to light to produce an image.  Once the image was formed, Niepce couldn't keep it, because the image blackened the longer it was exposed to light. Now you see it, now you don't.

Then, in 1825 or '26 (or '27, depending on what you read), Niepce took what is now regarded as the world's oldest surviving photograph.  Point de vue de la fenetre du Gras, or View from the Window at Le Gras.  He used a combination of chemicals including bitumen of Judea (asphalt), and lavender oil to prevent light from further blackening the image.

The photograph has since been retouched, so that we are better able to see what Niepce saw from his window, overlooking his family estate in Burgundy.  

The first photograph of a recognizable human figure happened either by accident, or experimentation. In 1837, Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the daguerrotype process, was photographing the street view from his high window, overlooking Boulevard du Temple (near the Knights Templar temple). The exposure was "only" 10 or 15 minutes long, however, people moving about their daily lives are blurred into invisibility...with the exception of a man who stood still long enough to be captured in the photograph.  The world's first person to have his picture taken, was a man having his boots shined on the street corner!  You can see him in the bottom left corner of the picture.  The shoeshine boy, is only recognizable as a human figure, once his customer is identified.

There's some discussion about just how accidental this shot was.  Some say, that a skilled shoeshine boy wouldn't take 15 minutes to shine one boot - what customer would want to stand that long? What's more, the figures appear to have been strategically placed at a visual point of interest, with the tree lined street pointing from the temple to their corner.

Up until 1900, photography had been the realm of wealthy inventors, artists and entrepreneurs.  The Brownie camera, invented for Eastman Kodac by Frank Brownell, brought photography to the masses.  It sold for one dollar (not including the cost of a roll of film).  Colour film came along in 1941.  The beginning of the end of those rolls of film came in 1984, when Canon introduced the first digital camera.  By 1999, the first mobile phone with a camera and video device was introduced. Now, everyone is taking pictures!  We're the most photographed people ever!

We're entering a new era of Computational Photography, which uses multiple cameras and collected data to produce 3D and HDR (high dynamic range) images to create photographs with lighting and detail which is at once super real and surreal.  

Floral photography is my natural pain and stress reliever, thus the company name Widow's Endorphins.  Hours pass, and I am blissfully focussed on a new series of floral images, and eager to share them with you!  Hey, look at this! 

World Photography Day is Saturday, August 19th.  Take your camera, or phone with you wherever you go, and record the gift that is today.

Photographs by Joseph Nicephore Niepce and Louis Daguerre taken from Wikipedia.

Photographs Copyright:  Ruth Adams, Widow's Endorphins Photographic Images Incorporated.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Widow's Endorphins: Ain't Misbehavin'

Widow's Endorphins: Ain't Misbehavin': The Obedient Plant has a mind of its own.  This demure looking plant is a happy wanderer, and will never be confined to just a small ...

Ain't Misbehavin'

The Obedient Plant has a mind of its own.  This demure looking plant is a happy wanderer, and will never be confined to just a small corner of the garden.  If your garden has a place for everything, and everything in its place, the Obedient Plant will laughingly tell you, "you're not the boss of me!"

Although the plant is wild, and carefree throughout the garden, it behaves itself in a bouquet.  If you bend the stems, they will hold the pose.  It's that obedience, which makes it popular with florists, who use it in large scale arrangements.  The Obedient Plant, ain't misbehavin'! 

Ain't Misbehavin', the Stride/Jazz/Swing standard composed by "Fats" Waller and Harry Brooks, with lyrics by Andy Razaf, was released when the plant would have been in full bloom:  August of 1929. For a song with opening lyrics, "no one to talk with, all by myself...", it's had a lot of airtime, and been perfomed by many of the greats!  

One of the best descriptions of Jazz, compares the genre to you and your friends taking a trip through the old neighbourhood.  Everyone knows the way to the coffee shop, and you each have a favourite street or park to explore on the way.  So, each friend in turn takes you on a little side trip down a lane, or across a field, through someone's backyard, past that place where they used to make that great BBQ chicken, past the community centre pool, across to the hardware store...and then, you arrive... and hangout for awhile.  Part of the magic of Jazz is in getting there.  

In the nearly 90 years since it was first released, Ain't Misbehavin' has been recorded by Fats Waller, Louis Arstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Dave Brubeck, Django Reinhardt, Leon Redbone (my favourite version), Billie Holiday and Willie Nelson - each taking us on a trip.

If you take a roadtrip from late Summer to Mid-Autumn, you will likely see the Obedient Plant, in gardens from Quebec to Manitoba, all the way down to Florida and New Mexico.  Look for it in sunny spots, since it loves full sun.  Although it comes in pastel pinks, lavender and white, it grows tall enough to stand out: 60cm to 120cm (two to four feet).  Up close, the plant's blossoms look like Snapdragons, which is why it is also known as False Dragonhead.

You'll probably find it in gardens just like this one in Toronto, where it has the white Echinacea flowers completely surrounded!   

Photographs Copyright of:  Ruth Adams, Widow's Endorphins Photographic Images Incorporated.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Widow's Endorphins: Cosmos for an Eclipsed Lunar Eclipse

Widow's Endorphins: Cosmos for an Eclipsed Lunar Eclipse: With so much activity in our sky this month, it's the perfect time to gaze at one of the neglected stars in our earthly gardens: C...

Cosmos for an Eclipsed Lunar Eclipse

With so much activity in our sky this month, it's the perfect time to gaze at one of the neglected stars in our earthly gardens: Cosmos.  Sweet, simple and very independent cosmos, gets eclipsed by roses, peonies, and orchids, the stunningly beautiful, but very demanding divas of the flower world.

The word cosmos, is Greek for balanced universe.  The complete opposite of chaos and disorder. Astronomers use the word to describe the universe as a complex and orderly system.  The flower too, is balanced, with its petals arranged in opposite pairs.  When you look at a large field of cosmos, they look like stars in the Milky Way, spreading across the night sky!

Go ahead, ignore them!  Cosmos thrives on neglect.  These sunloving flowers are one of the easiest plants to care for, even in dry, drought conditions.  They need very little water, and don't bother fertilizing the soil.  In fact, if the soil is too rich, the leaves will take over the flowers. 

Cosmos are members of the sunflower family, however, their seeds look nothing like sunflower seeds.  They resemble tiny pine needles.  The plant self-seeds, too.  If you want to grow your own plants from seed, it's best to start later, rather than sooner.  The plant doesn't do well until after the last frost has passed, which in parts of Canada could be early June.  For once, being an early bird is not a good thing.

So, dear I-love-flowers-but-can't-be-bothered-with-all-the-work gardener, if you're beating yourself up about being a "lazy procrastinator", stop it!  Go out and buy cosmos plants (or maybe do it next year). It'll be a gardening marriage made in heaven!

I first saw cosmos while driving through the Quebec countryside.  It was blooming alongside weathered fencing, in farm fields.  The plants were higher than the wooden fences, their pink petals waving in the wind, above billowing mounds of what looked like asperagus leaves.

Quebec is a long way from the plant's origins in Mexico.  Which only proves the hardiness and adaptability of cosmos.  It grew wild in arrid regions of Mexico, accidentally making its way to the high plains of South Africa, by way of Argentinian horsefeed shipped to feed war horses during the Boer War.

Cosmos was introduced to Britain and Europe in the 1800's.  Then, it almost disappeared.  In recent years, many new varieties have been created, and last year in the UK, 2016 was named, The Year of the Cosmos.

Chocolate Cosmos is creating a sensation.  Discovered in 1860, it was last seen growing in the wild in 1878.  The deep chocolatey maroon coloured flower is gifted with a chocolate scent!  While I haven't had the pleasure of the flower's fragrance, I am told that it is, "out of this world"!

Tonight's Lunar Eclipse won't be seen in North, Central or South America.  It has nothing to do with the smoke from wildfires in British Columbia.  Not every eclipse is seen all over the world. This one will be visible in Europe, South and East Asia, Africa, Australia, and the most Easterly side of Brazil.

It's also visible from Antarctica, but only a lunatic would stand outside to watch a Lunar Eclipse from anywhere on that continent!  Tonight's Antarctic forecast is for temperatures of -55C (-67F)...with the windchill, it will feel like -74C (-101F)!

There's still plenty to see in the night sky this month:  mark your calendars for August 12th, when the Perseid Meteor Shower is at its peak, and August 21st for the Total Solar Eclipse.

Photographs Copyright of:  Ruth Adams, Widow's Endorphins Photographic Images Incorporated.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Widow's Endorphins: Postcards from Balconville!

Widow's Endorphins: Postcards from Balconville!: It's the August long weekend.  While many are heading to the cottage for BBQ's and lake swims, others are vacationing in town.  ...