Last week we were blessed with some exceptionally fine weather for November and everyone seemed to be enjoying the warmer temperatures. There also appeared to be some leg and wing stretching exercises in progress in preparation for those long winter days ahead. The first two images were captured at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg where there were a few mallard ducks, a couple of frogs that refused to be photographed and a lone turtle doing some calisthenics.
The creatures at Brookfield Zoo were certainly making the most of this late autumn reprieve and were soaking up the rays with evident pleasure.
Meanwhile, at the Chicago Botanic Garden, a tardy heron, who should probably have already been on his way south, stopped for a wash and brush up and gave his wings a bit of a stretch while an armada of geese sailed calmly by.
The sun may come out tomorrow but it probably won’t get much warmer and will definitely get a lot colder than this in the months to come.
This week, Patti asks that we Focus on the Subject for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. She has even been kind enough to offer a few suggestions on how we can achieve this. So, following her example, here are a few shots that I hope illustrate her recommendations.
Framing the shot. Taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Leading lines and color. This is like a two-for-one, taken at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.
Freezing the action. Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago.
The eyes have it. In this shot of my grandson’s lovely wife and their dog Crush, while Christianna appears to be gazing out into the distance, Crush has definitely spotted something interesting. (probably someone walking around with food.)
Selective focus. Zooming in on the butterfly throws the background out of focus and leaves us to marvel at one of nature’s beauties.
This week, Ann-Christine has chosen Hideaway as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. My hideaway may seem strange to many but this is my take on it. Being rather an introvert by nature, I feel more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it and photography seemed like an ideal hobby for me to pursue. I like the feeling of invisibility that it gives me while looking through the viewfinder, as though I’m the only person in the place. So that’s my hideaway, wherever I happen to be, behind the camera, which in this instance was Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
My walking activities have been somewhat limited over the past couple of weeks owing to recurring foot pain and I’ve been trying to rest it as much as possible, but when I saw that Amy had chosen A Photo Walk as the topic for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, I decided to put my tortured tootsie to the test with a walk around Spring Valley Nature Center. It may have been a mistake to undertake this walk without the benefit of pain-killers but then it wouldn’t have been much of a test, and apart from one or two brief moments when I felt like curling up on the path and crying, things didn’t go too badly.
This was my first visit to the Valley since August of last year – it has been closed for much of this year – so I was curious to see if there had been any changes made to the landscape. The Bison Bluff play area was open for business but not too many takers.
The rest of the nature center was busy, however, with couples and families strolling about, making the most of the lovely autumn weather. Many were wearing masks but many weren’t, (tsk, tsk.) I’ve become so used to wearing mine that it doesn’t seem to bother me now.
The water in the pond was quite low as we haven’t had too much rain lately, but there were plenty of frogs even if they were cunningly camouflaged by the mud. I also saw a couple of turtles doing leg-stretching exercises and some scruffy-looking mallards up-ending in the deeper waters.
It seemed strange to see the farm buildings so deserted. Because the fallout from Covid meant cancelling all the programs at the Center, all the livestock has been shipped off to outside farms until next year. But at least I didn’t have to worry about being scared to death by the chickens that usually run around the farmyard.
This week, Tina has chosen Inspiration as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. With so many places closed down, travel restrictions in place and family gatherings limited because of Covid, and trips to the city put on indefinite hold because of increasing violence, I’ve been finding it hard lately to get motivated enough to get out and take pictures. I decided to look to the younger generation for some inspiration. Youngest granddaughter loves going to the zoo and great-grandson adores dinosaurs so yesterday I took my cue from them and headed over to Brookfield Zoo where by happy coincidence they are featuring a dinosaur exhibit. I think the kids would have approved.
Although the place was quite busy, most people wore masks and practiced social distancing and it was good to see families out there enjoying themselves, taking a break from all the turmoil that health, politics, social injustice and natural disasters has thrown at us this year.
Although the zoo itself is open, not surprisingly, all the indoor exhibits are closed which meant no pictures of gorillas in Tropic World and only a limited view of the bears. Add to this the fact that most of the animals were sleeping (when aren’t they?) and with the usual challenge of trying to get a decent shot through the intervening fences and wires, it proved to be an interesting exercise in zoo photography.
Despite so many of the attractions and services being unavailable, the zoo more than made up for it with the addition of the Dinosaur Exhibition. These prehistoric giants looked quite at home in their various settings and the animatronics and sound effects had all the kids (and some of the adults) squealing with excitement.
This week, Amy has chosen Negative Space as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. At first I thought this might be a bit tricky. As some of you have already pointed out, when we take pictures, we are usually focusing on the subject rather than the surrounding space, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized that many of the images in the photo files might fit the bill and in the end I had to stop myself from adding to the list.
This week, Amy is asking us to share some moments Under The Sun for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. If you do any kind of gardening, you know that there are no such things as lazy days. I have an old tee-shirt that I use for working in that says, “I garden, therefore I weed.” Isn’t that the truth! It’s never ending and, at this time of year, done mostly under the sun! But fortunately, with all the spring rain that we had, the plants have grown sufficiently to cover the weeds until I can get to them. And I will…. eventually. Along with the weeds, perennials continue to flourish beside annuals and biennials that reseed and pop up randomly around the garden. Cultivating, deadheading, trimming and re-planting are just a few of the jobs that keep me busy out in the garden.
And I am not the only one who has been active out there in the garden in the summer sunshine. The rabbit explosion has produced several litters of plant-munching bunnies. Luckily there has been enough foliage to go around so I don’t feel too bad when I see them eyeing the flower beds. The coneflowers have been attracting both bees and butterflies and recently there have been hundreds of little skippers too. The sunflowers have had their fair share of interest and it’s amusing to watch the squirrels trying to get at the seeds. They are very resourceful and use the garden furniture to their best advantage.
Just as the sun is starting to go down, I catch a glimpse of a mouse peeping out from under the leaves, and a wren making short work of some hapless insect that is almost as large as the little bird itself.
And when the sun has disappeared below the horizon, there is still plenty of activity in the garden. There’s often a distinct whiff of fox outside, first thing in the morning, and a neighbor has reported seeing a coyote surveying the property with an eye to finding a late night snack. Skunks and possums are also frequent visitors and can be heard scratching about on the stones beneath our bedroom windows at night.
There’s never a dull moment and whether I’m running about wielding a trowel or a camera, there’s little time to sit back and enjoy those lazy days of summer under the sun.
This week, Ann-Christine invites us to share some Winter images for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I have to admit that I am a creature of comfort and rarely stray too far from home during the winter months. The older I get, the less appealing the idea of getting togged up in boots, scarf, mittens and heavy winter coat becomes. These shots, three at the Chicago Botanic Garden and one at the Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg are a few in my very sparse collection of typical winter photos.
This week, Patti is looking forward to Autumn for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. For so many reasons, autumn is probably my most favorite time of year. Primarily, I love the colors, and then there’s the cooler weather, not to mention less biting bugs and irate red-wing blackbirds. Of course, any time of year is great at the Chicago Botanic Garden but autumn is a very special season full of bright flowers and glowing foliage.
Autumn is one of the few times in the year that most of our family is able to get together and there is nothing more fun than our Family Fall Festival which is usually held at our daughter’s house in Indiana. She really puts on a terrific show with festive decorations that include Halloween characters, many of which are animated. The kids love it!
The Morton Arboretum in Lisle is the ideal place to visit in autumn when the trees are at their most colorful. A membership to the Chicago Botanic Garden gets you into the Arboretum for free and you can spend the day taking in the sights.
And what would autumn be without a trip to the pumpkin farm. This one is in South Barrington, Illinois, but we also visit a couple in Indiana and Wisconsin. They are a little more low-key but usually just as enjoyable.
And finally, one of my all-time favorite Halloween shots. “Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog,” and a Big Mac to go, please.
This week, Tina is celebrating Spring for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. One of my favorite local places to visit is the Spring Valley Nature Center and Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg. Sadly it wasn’t open this Spring for obvious reasons and and will remain closed at least through August. That being the case, here is a nostalgic look back at Spring in Spring Valley.