Friday, May 30, 2014

A Tom Selleck Outing and Potting on the Patio

On Sunday I loaded up Big Red on top of Stuart and drove to Fountainhead to meet a group doing the 3rd Annual Tom Selleck Mustache and  Hawaiian Shirt Paddle.
I passed this motorbike with an incredibly huge flag flapping noisily from the back and seriously wondered how on earth he managed to keep his wheels on the tarmac. I kept them in view for a while as I'd never seen a motorbike paraglide before and I wanted photos. But they remained steadfastedly earthbound, I know not how, and I reluctantly left them behind, wistfully checking my rear view mirror in case a gusty blast lifted them skyward. I found out later that they were heading down to DC where the Rolling Thunder ride was taking place.
I arrived at the marina and met Kay, a kayaking buddy. This was also her first time at this event and we were looking forward to it. I had on the loudest brightest shirt I could find and even decorated my boat with leis, a pink flamingo and a palm tree. Hector, the organizer, was thrilled at my gaily colored kayak and said next year, he'd have a prize for best decorated boat.
Above, I'm with Big Red, who coincidentally was parked next to a kayak called Little Blue.
Hector handed out little bags with our Tom Selleck kit. I was really impressed with it, he'd gone to a lot of effort. and then we pushed off, paddling for a few miles  to a beach where we would stop and judge everyone's shirts.
It was a beautiful day, and we all enjoyed chatting and catching up on news with pals we hadn't seen for a while. Big Red got lots of compliments and I have to admit I did feel rather chuffed at the way he stood out. Some of the group were on paddle boards, which caught my interest. May have to have a go on those one weekend, although Celeste told me it's a lot harder than kayaking.
 Our awesome organizer, Hector, and Celeste posing with Tom between them. We all clamored for our photo with Tom and stood waiting impatiently, pushing our moustaches to our lips to stop them falling off.I really don't know how guys put up with these things. Us girls were constantly wrinkling our noses and fussing because they tickled so much.
 Time for selfies! I grinned as I watched Kay take hers and promptly got my phone out to take mine.
And then we all had to clap for prettiest and ugliest shirt which received prizes of a stuffed furry Doberman dog and pink plastic flamingos. Nice!
 Group photo time and a shot of where it where it was taken from. Glad I didn't offer, that water was freezing!
Had to take another photo, before we paddled back to the marina, of Big Red looking gorgeous although my palm tree had keeled over. I'll give this some considerable thought for next year because if there's going to be a Decorated Boat category, I'm going overboard with decorations, 'scuse the pun!
Memorial Day Monday was going to be a day spent at home. Because of my illness I'd lost a lot of time usually spent on my patio, potting plants and dragging my table and chairs out, so I had to get a move on.
Both Rosie Lee and Kota decided to stay indoors out of the bright sun. Rosie Lee nabbed the open window in the bathroom to get some fresh air while Kota sat halfway out of the cat flap to get his. What a pair!
So I just took a few photos to get started. I want the plants to look a little more established before I take better photos, and I still need to pot more. I also discovered that one of my tree trunks that I use as pot holders has become an ants nest but as I started to roll it away I saw a streak of something shiny from the corner of my eye. I discovered that I have a very cute lizard with a metallic cyan tail living in the tree trunk, so not wanting to wreck his home and food source, I rolled it to the edge of the patio and worked around it. I hope to get photos of him later.
Maggi was very sweet, knocking on my door and presenting me with a huge bunch of peonies. A lovely way to end the weekend, and it was heaven later that evening as I sat down to rest my aching back, with a large glass of red and breathed in the wonderous scent that had filled the room from the bouquet.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Nature Shoot and a Gunsmiths

On Saturday I met with two friends from my camera club at the woods near Front Royal to go hiking and take some nature photos. It was a beautiful day, sunny and bright yet with no humidity, a perfect day. I decided to take mainly short depth of field images, those where the background is blurred, and at the back of my mind, I also tried to keep the idea of texture shots too, since we had a show and tell on that subject at our next club meeting.
Wild geraniums and daisies looking pretty.
We all lamented at the trilliums having died. I was so glad that I'd got some photos three weeks ago, and was determined on this hike to find one more to photograph. There were many dying flowers with limp brown petals hanging sadly but then I spotted one lone survivor. It must have been a late bloomer but it stood proud among its fallen siblings and almost seemed to be spotlighted in its prime. I was so glad I'd spotted this last defiant flower determined to outlast the others., I will definitely be back next year to see these beautiful flowers again and capture more of them. There were so many different kinds and colors blooming here but I was just too sick to do a good job on my last visit.
I concentrated on some light photos noticing that they'd also pass as texture examples.
Some wood textures.
I followed a trail down, down, down, knowing full well that on the way back it would be up, up, up. But it was great to be out in the wilds exercising again and I didn't mind the ache in my legs at all. I found a very narrow trail and decided to follow that. It curved and wound past trees, each bend drawing me further and further in. Where did it go? But I couldn't go too far, not today, as I was with friends and didn't want to wander too far. Plus I had brought my heavy 50D, the strap rubbing against my neck, and I resolved to come back again for a lengthier hike and with a smaller camera.
The beautiful fresh green canopy above stretching out from the tops of ramrod straight trunks.
The amazing symmetry of nature. Not exact but still an eye catching wonder.
By a little brook that tumbled down the hill alongside the trail I spotted two little frogs enjoying the warm sun on their backs. A new swallowtail butterfly also flitted back and forth, its vibrant colors glinting in the bright light. And then smack bang in the middle of the path, highlighted by a ray of sun through the leaves was a poor little dead shrew with its stiff tail pointing upward. I suspected some poor bird had dropped his lunch and was cursing his clumsiness. I left quickly in case it came back looking for it!
I met Janice and Chet by the cars where we decided that going into Front Royal for lunch would be a good idea. Then Janice almost apologetically mentioned that she needed to drop into a gun store on the way there. Brilliant! Awesome! She was stoked that I loved the idea, and I love the fact that I have a female friend who's into guns.
The gun store is Virginia Pistols in Linden, and at the back of the store is a gun repair shop, which is where we headed first. Dan, the owner, was very friendly and helpful, not minding in the slightest when I made a beeline for his AK-47 and then wanted to hold his gun which he had on his belt.
I really wasn't into plastic guns, preferring the old fashioned metal style, but Dan soon had me convinced that plastic was good. Solid and feeling sturdy, he really won me over when he showed me the red tracer beam and the lovely chunky bullets.
I had to have my photo taken with the AK-47, it's been 10 years since I last held and fired one of these. From Christmas 2004 below in an Arizona desert.
I'm not sure if I'll ever buy a gun, and all the time I have doubts the answer is no, but I'd have a hell of a time deciding between a pistol or shotgun. I may take some courses to see if I lean one way or the other afterwards.. But for now, I'll stick with my bow and arrows!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Day of Art at Brandywine River Museum, PA

On Sunday we left Delaware and stopped at Chadds Ford again, not to sample more wine, but to look around the Brandywine River Museum, a beautiful nineteenth century grist mill converted into a museum and art gallery to avoid over development in the area. It showcases the Wyeth family of artists, has paintings from family members as well as a house and studio.
We went on the house and studio tour first, just a small group of 8 (again!), and I was ecstatic to be greeted by another huge clump of bluebells nestled under some trees when we arrived.
N.C. Wyeth was one of America's most famous illustrators and produced paintings for many books. With the proceeds from his illustrations for Treasure Island he purchased 18 acres in 1911 and built this house and studio. After he and his wife passed away, his daughter Carolyn lived here until her death in 1994, after which the property became a museum. Very little has been changed, the furniture and furnishings are as they were when the house was lived in apart from rearranging on occasion.
These beautifully crocheted canopies on the beds were gorgeous.
We then walked around to the studio, a beautiful large open room with daylight flooding in through floor to ceiling windows.
This is the last painting N.C. Wyeth was working on before his death in 10945, a tragic accident in which his car, carrying him and his grandson Nathaniel, was hit by a freight train while they were crossing the rail line in Chadds Ford. Both were killed.
He stood on this huge set of stairs when painting large murals.
I found this message scribbled on a wall at the far end of the studio but can't decipher it fully.
The studio was full of many props that he used in his artwork, bottles, wooden shapes, busts, everyday ornaments, so many items, even a small room full of more props was next door. His palette and brushes were on a table, easels leaned against a wall and his smock hung on a cabinet, stiff with years of paint that had dried hard on the front and sleeves. It seemed such a shame that this space wasn't still being used for painting, I could feel a creative aura hanging heavy as I slowly walked around, so that after a while I was itching to squeeze some paint from a tube and spread some daubs on a canvas.
The shuttle took us back to the museum where we then started looking at the galleries on three floors.
Other artist's works are displayed here along with the Wyeth family paintings and one who really caught my interest was Howard Pyle. He was also an illustrator of books but he has produced many pieces that also tell a story by themselves. I've included two of my favorites but when reading up on him, I discovered many more pictures that I absolutely adored, Some of his painting have a Pre-Raphaelite quality such as The Mermaid below, which unfortunately wasn't on display here at Brandywine.
'Traveling in the Olden Time' by Howard Pyle, c. 1886
'Viewing the Battle of bunker Hill' by Howard Pyle, 1901
I liked a lot of N.C. Wyeth's paintings, and even recognized a few from books I'd read in younger years. He had a wonderful ability to capture light well in his art. I've included my favorites of his below.
'Washington at Yorktown' by N.C. Wyeth, 1938, for a book cover of Victory at Yorktown by Newt Gingrich. Wonderful to see the sketch he drew before painting the final image.
 Endpapers for the book, 1919, Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.
Illustration, 1916, for Robert Louis Stephenson's book, The Black Arrow.
" And Lawless, keeping a half-step in front of his companion and holding his head forward like a hunting-dog upon the scent,...studied out their path."
 'In a Dream I meet General Washington", 1030. This painting was big and crammed with detail. Carolyn and I wondered if the steps he was standing on were the ones in his studio.
And then we came across some paintings by his grandson, Jamie, who is very good at painting animals.
 'Portrait of a Pig' by Jamie Wyeth, 1970. A wonderful story lies behind this painting and is told by the artist below.
"When I first met Den-Den at the Ball farm Den-Den had the run of the place. One day I was working, and Bill said the cattle had gotten out and asked could I help him put them in. So I left what I was working on. I went down and an hour later I came back up the hill when I heard snorting. I thought, 'Oh my God, the pig has gotten into where I am painting.' Of course it was just right open. So I started yelling as I ran up the hill. Den-Den stuck her head around the corner, and her whole snout was covered with cerulean blue, cadmium orange and lemon yellow. She had eaten some twenty-two tubes of oil paint. I thought, 'That is the end of her.' Oil paint is highly toxic. It can kill a dog just like that. I thought, 'That's curtains for this pig.'
"And the next day I arrived in the morning expecting to find a corpse. She was perfectly fine, walking around snorting away, and of course all these rainbow colored droppings were everywhere, and Bill kept saying, 'What in the hell is wrong with my pig?' I didn't tell him, I was terrified. Months later they were sending her to the butcher. I thought, 'Oh my God, I can't have that.' By consuming and surviving twenty-two tubes of paint, she had endeared herself to me. So I took her to our farm at Point Lookout. 'Portrait of a Pig' was painted at Point Lookout."
I was so taken with this delightful tale and had an exact image in my mind of how dear old Den-Den must have looked when she peered round the corner at Jamie and so I got to work in Photoshop and came up with the image below. I'm going to hang this in my kitchen!
 Part of 'Angus' also by Jamie in 1974.
Afterwards we pottered outside on the riverbank, upsetting a garter snake's sunbathing, and then had lunch inside before getting on the road and heading home. We'd had a simply marvelous weekend, and after engulfing each other in huge bear hugs during our farewells, we promised we'd have another adventure together again soon. Can't wait!