Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Trillium Trail - Two Views

The Trillium Trail, digital photo (color) on archival paper, 16" x 12."
The Trillium Tail, digital photo (black & white) on archival paper, 16" x 12."
I'm offering these two versions of large size digital prints of one of my photos taken on the Trillium Trail at the Thompson Wildlife Management Area in Virginia one spring a few years ago. This site contains the largest known stand of Trillium grandiflora growing in the wild--the flowers range from purest white through shades of link pink to deep cerise, indicating they may have naturally hybridized with other species of Trillium over many years.There are literally millions of them in bloom! Many other wildflowers bloom here in the spring: yellow ladyslipper, Orchis spectabile, several varieties of violets, Lousewort, Squaw root, etc. making the woods seem like one giant flower garden.

Both photos are beautifully printed on heavy archival paper, and are selling for $150 each as is. Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Three Sisters Spring Pastel

Paddling to Three Sisters Spring, pastel on Wallis paper, 9" x 12." Contact artist for price.

This past weekend I attended MAPAPA's Annual meeting. This year it was held at St. Paul's School in suburban Baltimore. The opportunity to meet with other members was, as always, a treat, and the artists' demonstrations very inspiring. I was particularly fascinated by the work of Maryland pastel artist Lisa Mitchell; her demo made me want to try out some of her techniques as soon as possible.  I worked this small pastel from my photos of the Three Sisters Spring taken during our January vacation.

I blocked in the composition by brushing turpenoid over the pastel for the under-painting, and built up the finished surface with my Sennelier set of soft pastels. Lisa had recommended using a variety of touches to blend colors and sculpt out details. It was fun to try it out. My palette is somewhat limited at this point, as I only have a Rembrandt landscape set (fairly hard pastels) and the soft Sennelier half-sticks to choose from. I would like to acquire a wider range of hues and some suitable trays to carry the pastels out in the field for plein air painting. If any of you know of sales of Unison or Terry Ludwig soft pastels and foam-lined trays, please let me know.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Fever

Yesterday Herb and I got up early to begin spring cleaning in our yard. We had rented a chain saw to cut down some big branches that had broken off during the winter. Mercifully, this year's snowstorms were not as severe and there were fewer branches down than the previous winter, when we spent three weekends cleaning up the yard. We were done in a couple of hours.

In the afternoon the sun came out and the temperature rose--I noticed one crocus flower bud had poked up in my front yard, but all the others seemed to be at least a week away from any bloom. I figured that Brookside Gardens, being closer in town and warmer, is seasonally ahead, so I drove there to scout out painting locations for the coming weeks.

An expanse of mauve crocus flowers greeted me at the entrance by the Visitor's Center. Further up the path, intoxicating scents of Witch Hazel and narcissus wafted from my favorite patch of birches (see last year's posting A Host of Golden Daffodils). It wasn't quite warm enough for painting yet, but there were enough flowers to gladden the heart on this sunny afternoon.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kayaking Down the Weeki Wachee

Herb with our kayaks at the starting point.
I'd been hoping to be able to post the finished video I had taken of our kayak trip down the Weeki Wachee River this week, but unfortunately I am still editing it, so I thought I'd post some photos of the highlights. It was chilly the morning we drove down to Weeki Wachee, sunny and clear. In fact, the thermometer never made it over 57 degrees that day.

We put out around ten-thirty and agreed to be picked up at two in the afternoon at Rogers Park, the designated pick-up area for the rentals at the state park, seven and a half miles downstream. The starting point is just below the swimming area near Weeki Wachee's headspring, and the water stays crystal-clear for several miles downstream. The flat-bottom tour boat was coming around the bend just as we entered and honked at us to get out of their way.

Drifting downriver.
I got out my camera and started filming while drifting downriver--the six-knot current propels one right along. After a minute or so we reached the first bend, and it was necessary to stop filming so I could maneuver around a small islet in the middle. As I rounded the islet, the flat-bottom boat was heading back, coming straight towards me and blasting its horn like mad for me to get out of the way, which I managed to do in just a nick of time.

Birdsong permeated the thickets along the river, with the occasional sound of a motor from the road beyond or a plane overhead. I kept filming and drifting, and ended up getting tangled in the branches hanging over the river, or running into the banks when I failed to paddle around a turn--the river is all sharp "S" bends in the upper part.

Herb paddling on the Weeki Wachee.

 The river seemed lower than when we'd been there two years before; we found out later there had been a drought last year. There also seemed to be more fallen trees. At one point my kayak got stuck on the branches of a sunken log and I had to dip my arm in the water to push it loose. The water was a pleasant 72 degrees, but as soon as I pulled my arm out, the cold air made my wet sleeve feel really frigid.

Alligator sunning on the bank.
We saw a good-sized 'gator sunning on the banks, and turtles basking on logs as we made our way down the river. At some point we paddled past the house we had rented two years before and recognized the neighborhood--some of the decks by the river had deteriorated quite a bit since then, and others had been replaced.

Herb way ahead.
A blue heron poses in front of a fake parrot.
Downstream from Dawn Lane the color of the water begins to change subtly as it becomes more brackish--we were now entering the lower tidal zone. A blue heron and a belted kingfisher played tag with us, staying just ahead. There were more houses along the banks on this stretch.

Captain Fred had told us about a place on this part of the river called Hospital Hole--it's a fissure that is 160 feet deep, and divers who attempt it without allowing for decompression time end up in the hospital with the bends. He said once he'd made a bet with a local lad who had no idea just how deep this hole was and thought he could free-dive down to the bottom! Manatees like to congregate around the hole.

Looking for Hospital Hole.
We were looking for Hospital Hole, keeping in mind to bear left to stay on the river (a number of canals go off in this area), when we came across a group of fishermen casting from a large boat. They pulled in their lines to allow us to pass by, and we asked them the whereabouts of the hole. This is it, they said, you're directly over it--one could see the color of the water was different here, a deep sea blue-green. There were schools of large fish swimming around, and then I spotted a manatee cow and her calf coming up for air. I grabbed my camera and noticed there were drops of water on the lens--oh-oh!

Herb and I circled around the hole a few times while I filmed. There seemed to be a pod of about a dozen manatees, with at least three babies. Some of my footage came out blurry from the condensation on the lens, but I managed to get two of the mothers with their calves. One pair came so close to my kayak I could have reached down and touched them, and then the baby turned to look up at me--so cool!

Hospital Hole was very close to the end of the run, and soon we were at Rogers Park pulling up our kayaks on the ramp--we didn't have to wait long to be picked up.

Elena kayaking into Rogers Park.