Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Artificial Light

I have quite a lot of catching up to do as we’ve been out of town for the past week but luckily I have a whole new batch of images in the photo files to work with, so here goes! Ann-Christine was looking at Artificial Light when she hosted the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge recently. For me, one of the most challenging situations in relation to photography is taking pictures in artificial light. Add to that the difficulties of capturing images of continually moving subjects in water and behind glass and that is definitely one big challenge. The first day of our trip to Duluth in Minnesota was a rainy one, so we spent the afternoon at the Great Lakes Aquarium.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Going Wide

This week, Patti is asking us to Go Wide for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. So often we focus on a single item and fail to take a step back to look at the bigger picture. When we visited the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford recently, I felt as though there were some shots that just couldn’t hold everything that I wanted to include. I don’t own a wide angle lens for the Canon EOS so I tried using the camera on my Galaxy phone and the results were quite pleasing.

Sinnissippi Gardens in Rockford lies on the banks of the Rock River. Usually when I take a picture of a river, I like to do so at an angle, so the phone camera came in useful for this shot too, as well as some wider-angle pictures of the gardens and lagoon.

Going, Going, Gone?

The Amur leopard, whose natural habitat is in the southeastern part of Russia and northern China, is listed as Critically Endangered and is probably one of the most rare cats alive today, with only about 90 animals surviving in the wild, which means that zoos like Brookfield are almost literally the last, best hope for these beautiful creatures.

Brookfield appears to have a successful breeding program. Their 10-year-old female leopard has produced four cubs in the past five years so, although the numbers may be dwindling in the wild, there is still hope that these magnificent cats may be saved from extinction. As with many such creatures, poaching and loss of habitat is largely responsible for their demise.

It took many hours and a lot of clicks to get these pictures but it was worth every second. Only by studying their behaviour and understanding the danger that these creatures face in the wild can we ever hope to prevent the disappearance of the Amur leopard.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Looking Up/Down

This week, our guest host, Sofia, asks us to Look Up and Down for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. We did quite a bit of looking up when we visited the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, the other day. There was some artwork that required us to look up and we also had to look up to see the waterfall gushing underneath the bridge. As we were leaving the Gardens we looked up to see someone trimming one of the very tall trees.

From the Japanese Gardens we went down the road to Sinnissippi Gardens where we looked down at plants growing in the conservatory and fish swimming in a pool, while outside we looked down at a pair of swans who in turn appeared to be looking down at some ducks.

Last week, I posted my entry for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge on another blog site, one that I rarely use, so you may want to follow this link and hop on over there to see my thoughts and pictures on the theme of Walking.

Summer In The Valley

The past few weeks have been hot and humid for the most part, a fairly typical Chicago summer, but despite the heat, it was enjoyable to get out for a walk at Spring Valley Nature Center recently. The renovations to the visitor’s center are almost completed with just a few bare patches in the landscaping that will no doubt fill in with time.

The lake was one mass of waterlilies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so overgrown before. There was a heron standing atop what I take to be a beaver lodge, and there were frogs aplenty.

Walking over to the farm, the air was very still and everything quiet. It appears that they have not yet become fully operational after closing for a time because of COVID. There were only two cows munching hay in a field that I have not seen used for some time.

Continuing on, along the prairie paths I spotted a chipmunk among the wildflowers, and a lonely monarch butterfly. Butterflies have been scarce this year both here and in the gardens.

With the days passing so quickly, it will probably be autumn by the time I return to Spring Valley. By then it will be cooler and maybe I will feel a little more energetic. These hot, humid days really slow me down and make me lazy.

Colors of Summer

It has been rather stormy here over the past week or more so I haven’t spent as much time outdoors as I would like, but in between the showers I’ve been able to enjoy the colors of summer in our garden.

Sage Advice

Earlier this year, I made a daring decision to go online and order some plants for the garden. I recalled that I’d had some success in attracting hummingbirds on a previous occasion with Blue Brazilian Sage so I purchased 4 plants and anxiously awaited their arrival.

Because they were rather expensive, when you factored in the cost of shipping and handling, I was quite nervous about them being tossed about in the mail, but when they eventually turned up on the doorstep, I was pleasantly surprised. Each plant was carefully wrapped to protect against buffeting and all four were in excellent shape.

I’d picked out a spot in the garden but despite my eagerness to get them into the ground and growing, I assiduously followed the directions on the accompanying leaflet, allowing them to acclimatize to our uncertain Chicago climate by having them stand for a few hours each day, out on the patio. Meanwhile I supplemented the ground with fresh topsoil and compost, turning it over and working it into our rather heavy clay soil.

When I figured the time was right, I planted them with all the care and concern that a mother lavishes on a newborn babe.  I watered them generously while allowing only a very gentle stream to trickle from the hosepipe so as not to swamp them, and having made sure that everything was just right, I wished them goodnight.

The following morning, I went out to see how they were doing and ……… horror!  A picture of devastation met my eyes. Something had eaten them practically down to the nubs. I consider myself too much of a lady (ha-ha!) to repeat the words that past my lips at that dreadful moment but suffice it to say the air was bluer than the flowers on a Brazilian Blue Sage.

But despite this setback I was not deterred. In the words of the late Sir Winston Churchill, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.…..”  Well, you get the picture.

I wasn’t sure if they had succumbed to the attentions of a gang of marauding rabbits, I wouldn’t put it past them, or if some ravenous bug had decided to tuck in. There probably wasn’t much I could do about it, either way, so I decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

Goodness knows what the neighbors thought as I knelt beside those plants every day, whispering words of encouragement to their few pathetic stalks. They probably figured I’d joined some obscure religious sect. No matter. Encouragement was all I had to offer. That and a liberal dose of Miracle Gro. It would take a miracle, I thought sardonically, to produce anything remotely resembling the plant on the literature provided.

But eventually, little microscopic leaves began to appear, urged on, no doubt, by my exhortations, until it looked as if there might indeed be cause to celebrate. I waited on tenterhooks. Would the rabbits come back? Could I keep the bugs at bay long enough to see actual flowers developing?

It was at about this time that I visited the Chicago Botanic Garden to see how similar plants were faring. Their salvias, I noticed with envy, were much more advanced, larger and with flowers. Of course, they’d probably kept theirs in the greenhouse with all the advantages that a top-class garden had to offer.

Still, where there’s life there’s hope. My plants were growing stronger by the day and with continued blandishments such as, “You can do it!” and “Nice work!” they finally flowered.

But where were the hummingbirds?  For a couple of weeks, nothing larger than a bee approached the blue blossoms. I was somewhat consoled by the fact that they didn’t seem any more interested in the flowers at the Botanic Garden, so I waited. And then, a few days ago, the first of the hummingbirds showed up.  Persistence paid off!  Thanks for the sage advice, Winnie!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Your Inspiration

This week, Patti looks for our take on Inspiration for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I recently spent some time with the lions at Brookfield Zoo and looking through the resulting images, I was inspired to write this little poem.

With thoughtful gaze and stealthy stride,

Behold the monarch of his pride,

Awaits the dawn with stoic grace

And measures out the time and place,

A kingdom of a lesser space.

What long forgotten freedom lies

Within the memory of these eyes?

To rule again, his roar imparts,

The plains of home from which life starts.

Your realm lies here, within our hearts.

Following the sad and untimely death of their two lions, Isis and Zenda, in 2020, Brookfield Zoo acquired two 4 year-old male African lions, brothers named Titus and Brutus, from Utah’s Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. It certainly is interesting to see how they are adjusting to their new home.

Brookfield Zoo is a participating institution in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ African Lion Species Survival Plan. African lions are listed as ‘vulnerable’ according to the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, due to hunting and loss of habitat.

It’s A Jungle Out There!

It’s a jungle out there! A jungle of sunflowers, that is. These are the plants that come up every year around the birdfeeder, sprung from seeds that have somehow miraculously been missed by the many creatures that feast in our garden.

Of course, the birds love them! The goldfinches, especially, seem adept at catching onto the stems and digging out the seeds with their eager beaks. But others, like the sparrows, have to really work hard to hold on.

The bees and butterflies are also at home here among these sunny, golden petals, drawn by the abundant pollen supply .

I’m pretty sure there are other plants in there somewhere, but they haven’t seen the light of day for some time. I’m not even sure what’s on the other side but if I push some of these leaves aside and squeeze through………

Ah! “Dr. Livingstone, I presume!”

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Postcards

This week, our guest host, Ana, is looking for Postcards for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. In this age of texting, emails and social media, I’m guessing that postcards are rarely used now, which is kind of sad. I remember as a child, sneaking a peak at the naughty postcards for sale on the pier or promenade at the various seaside resorts that we stayed at, usually depicting a very large lady with a little, hen-pecked husband and featuring some rather saucy innuendoes.

Later, before I got into photography, I would buy postcards that showed the places I’d visited, more for my own use as mementoes, not bothering to send them to anyone as I usually got home before the postcards arrived, thanks to the third-class postal delivery. Also, what could you really write about on such a small space except, “Lovely weather! Wish you were here.”

The postcard that had the biggest impact on my life came addressed to my husband from his girlfriend which was one of the reasons he became my ex-husband; the moral of this story being, ‘Never commit to a postcard what you wouldn’t want everyone, including the postman, to see.’

Here are a few postcards from my recent visit to Cantigny Park in Wheaton. “Lovely weather! Wish you were here.”