Summer 2020: Lily Variations (10 of 10)

From More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life by Guy Tal:

“I put the camera away. I needed to rein in my thoughts before I could hope to accomplish anything. I sat in the shade of an old pinyon pine and closed my eyes and breathed in the sweetness of its sap. I waited a few moments until the calmness of the place, soft and persistent, began to circulate within me…. Words and ideas appeared in my mind and I wrote them down, starting with this: ‘Preoccupation is the enemy of inspiration.'”

“For a long time I attributed such healing powers to writing but did not quite experience them in photography. This changed … when I began to practice photography as a contemplative pursuit, by which I mean that I began to place the creative process — the thinking and doing — above what anecdotal images, good or bad, may result. I take my time; I consider; I imagine; I operate my tools without the use of automated shortcuts; I appreciate the tactile feel of the controls, the way the image in my viewfinder morphs in subtle increments as I make small adjustments to settings and composition; I stop to savor the sensations of chill or warmth on my skin and the scents and sounds of my surroundings; I identify birds and flowers and butterflies and rocks around me, and make mental notes to look up unfamiliar ones. It takes time and attention, not only toward making an image but also away from other, lesser things. I realized that the solace I always found in writing was not about writing, but about the writing process, which by its nature imposes such contemplation. And, once realized, I learned that solace could also be found in other things, if practiced with the same mindset.”


Most Americans, I believe, have typically experienced the lame duck period between presidential administrations as something relatively benign — a transition of about two months where handoffs occur between the outgoing and incoming teams, largely unnoticed as we move deeper into fall and winter around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. But 2020 insists on ramming home the message that nothing is normal anymore. We get to witness the tragicomedy of a presidential campaign that won’t let go while the administration seems to have gone on break, only to spend its time in courtrooms where most of its cases fail and giving press conferences where “elite lawyers” drip with conspiracy theories, and, apparently, spray-on hair that can’t handle camera lights. Ah, well, such are the raspy, waning days of the Trump presidential family — not deserving that much of my attention since they will, without a doubt, be evicted in January 2021 — with their stunts becoming fodder for historians, sociologists, and psychologists of the future. Buh-bye!

If you would like to look forward instead of back, you can learn more about how President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and their teams are preparing to assume office in January, on their dedicated web site at Biden-Harris Transition, where the news page is frequently updated.

I told a friend of mine a few weeks before the election — as it looked more and more like Georgia would support the Biden-Harris ticket — that if that happened, I was going to deck my house out in blue lights for the Christmas holiday, as a way of personally recognizing the flip and win. Well, here they are — 2,500 wee blue lights — ready and patiently waiting to be unboxed, stretched out, and festooned (!!) among the tree branches, along the windows, and atop various pieces of living room and dining room furniture.

Christmas decorating turns into quite a project (I usually do a little project plan (not really! (ok, really!!))) that commences around Thanksgiving and never quite finishes completely; and I’m considering leaving the bluely-decorated tree standing until the presidential inauguration. We’ll see about that part; while the lifelike tree in all its actual lifelessness can certainly stay up that long, I may get a little weary of it blotting out my living room window by the first of January or so.

I went hunting for some fall scenes to photograph early last week … but weirdly, there still wasn’t that much color to see. It’s so different from last year, when the whole city just glowed yellow, red, and orange even before Halloween; yet with nighttime/daytime temperatures in the 50- to 80-degree range, leaves are just falling without changing color. Last year’s color extravaganza — created by a couple of deep-freeze days in early October — seems like it’s not going to be repeated this year, but I’ll keep trying. 🙂

Below, finally, are the last few galleries of the summer lily series of photos — the first of which is a before and after version of one of the images. Thanks for taking a look!






The previous posts in this series are:

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (1 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (2 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (3 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (4 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (5 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (6 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (8 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (9 of 10)


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Summer 2020: Lily Variations (9 of 10)

From The Soul of America by Jon Meacham:

“To know what has come before is to be armed against despair. If the men and women of the past, with all their flaws and limitations and ambitions and appetites, could press on through ignorance and superstition, racism and sexism, selfishness and greed, to create a freer, stronger nation, then perhaps we, too, can right wrongs and take another step toward that most enchanting and elusive of destinations: a more perfect Union.

“To do so requires innumerable acts of citizenship and of private grace. It will require, as it has in the past, the witness and the bravery of reformers who hold no office and who have no traditional power but who yearn for a better, fairer way of life. And it will also require, I believe, a president of the United States with a temperamental disposition to speak to the country’s hopes rather than to its fears.”


We’re almost to the end of the summery lily photos, at which point I’ll finally concede that summer is over and start my autumn color hunt — especially since the calendar is telling me it’s November 11 and that’s a pretty accurate sign of fall. See: conceding is easy; you just gotta respect the facts!

If you’ve ever wondered why the season between summer and winter has two names, here’s a fun article that explains how that came about. The word “fall” — as it turns out — actually has something to do with what leaves do this time of year. Who knew?

Why Does the Season Before Winter Have Two Names

Below are a some deep red lilies from my Oakland Cemetery photoshoots; they are, I think, tiger lily variants. The first gallery is a before-and-after image of one of the photos, stylized as I described previously (see Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)) — but in this case I left a bit of extra green left intact in the background. Select either image to view them in a slideshow if you would like to see larger versions to compare.






The previous posts in this series are:

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (1 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (2 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (3 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (4 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (5 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (6 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (8 of 10)

Thanks for taking a look!


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Summer 2020: Lily Variations (8 of 10)

From Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

“Picture the most beautiful mountain you know or know of or can imagine, one whose form speaks personally to you. As you focus on the image or the feeling of the mountain in your mind’s eye, notice its overall shape, the lofty peak, the base rooted in the rock of the earth’s crust, the steep or gently sloping sides. Note as well how massive it is, how unmoving, how beautiful whether seen from afar or up close…. 

“Perhaps your mountain has snow at the top and trees on the lower slopes. Perhaps it has one prominent peak, perhaps a series of peaks or a high plateau. However it appears, just sit and breathe with the image of this mountain, observing it, noting its qualities…. 

“Now, as well you know, throughout the day as the sun travels the sky, the mountain just sits. Light and shadow and colors are changing virtually moment to moment in the mountain’s adamantine stillness. Even the untrained eye can see changes by the hour…. As the light changes, as night follows day and day night, the mountain just sits, simply being itself. It remains still as the seasons flow into one another and as the weather changes moment by moment and day by day…. 

“Calmness abiding all change.”


Since tomorrow is Election Day here in the United States — and it may have some … shall we say … volatility to it — I picked out a quotation of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” variety for this post, instead of one about lilies or flowers. The quote is extracted from a meditation exercise in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book — and while I don’t practice meditation, I’m fairly well read on mindfulness and present-moment awareness as psychological concepts. Short version: exercises like this — along with many immersive nature or creative activities — can help center you as a living being in a moment of time, linking you to a nearly endless experience of light, color, sound, and calm breathing … rather than whatever chaotic, noisy, ratty-ass crap is going on around you. So if you get tense watching election coverage tomorrow … just imagine your mountain, instead.

Below are a few more lily photo galleries, the first of which is a before-and-after image of one of the photos, stylized as I described previously (see Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)). We are approaching the end of this series just as colder weather — including a few frosty nights — has made its way into Atlanta, and finally I’m starting to see some autumn yellows and oranges brushing the leaves nearby. Big photoshoots planned! So stay tuned!






The previous posts in this series are:

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (1 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (2 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (3 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (4 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (5 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (6 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)

Thanks for taking a look!


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Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)

From “Summer Days at Mount Shasta” in John Muir Ultimate Collection: Travel Memoirs, Wilderness Essays, Environmental Studies and Letters by John Muir:

“The common honeybees, gone wild in this sweet wilderness, gather tons of honey into the hollows of the trees and rocks, clambering eagerly through bramble and hucklebloom, shaking the clustered bells of the generous manzanita, now humming aloft among polleny willows and firs, now down on the ashy ground among small gilias and buttercups, and anon plunging into banks of snowy cherry and buckthorn….

They consider the lilies and roll into them, pushing their blunt polleny faces against them like babies on their mother’s bosom; and fondly, too, with eternal love does Mother Nature clasp her small bee-babies and suckle them, multitudes at once, on her warm Shasta breast. Besides the common honeybee there are many others here, fine, burly, mossy fellows, such as were nourished on the mountains many a flowery century before the advent of the domestic species — bumblebees, mason-bees, carpenter-bees, and leaf-cutters. Butterflies, too, and moths of every size and pattern; some wide-winged like bats, flapping slowly and sailing in easy curves; others like small flying violets shaking about loosely in short zigzag flights close to the flowers, feasting in plenty night and day.”


In the last four of my summer lily posts — starting with this one — I’ll be showcasing galleries where I took a lot of creative license with the original images and tried to transform them in new ways. When I took these photos, the lilies were blooming abundantly — with many of the blossoms in large clumps making it difficult to isolate just one, two, or even three of the blooms without also including many that were not yet opened, along with more of the background than I wanted. Here’s an example of what I mean: a fine looking Swamp Lily variation with way too much busy-ness beyond the foreground of the photo.

Whereas I often use Lightroom brushes to carefully trace around image elements to eliminate the background, for these images I tried to use the brush tools like paintbrushes by first turning the entire image black then using a sweeping motion with the mouse to selectively remove the black mask. This is probably something that physically or mechanically would work better with a tablet and stylus; but I did manage it quite well after getting used to some awkward arcing or sweeping mouse movements, then zooming in to add or remove additional black masking wherever I got carried away.

Here are a couple of before-and-after views showing one batch of lilies where I removed much of the background as well as many of the blooms that hadn’t opened yet or faced away from my camera. The first view features the new “image compare” block WordPress recently introduced (see WordPress.com instructions or Jetpack/self-hosted site instructions); the second view shows the before and after versions as a slideshow (click the first image to enlarge).



Here are the final images — first, this peppermint-candy-looking lily, followed by different angles of the Swamp Lily.




The previous posts in this series are:

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (1 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (2 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (3 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (4 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (5 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (6 of 10)

Thanks for taking a look!


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Summer 2020: Lily Variations (6 of 10)

From “The Valley of the Unrest” in The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings by Edgar Allen Poe:

Once it smiled a silent dell 
Where the people did not dwell; 
They had gone unto the wars, 
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars, 
Nightly, from their azure towers, 
To keep watch above the flowers, 
In the midst of which all day 
The red sun-light lazily lay. 
Now each visitor shall confess 
The sad valley’s restlessness. 
Nothing there is motionless— 
Nothing save the airs that brood 
Over the magic solitude. 
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees 
That palpitate like the chill seas 
Around the misty Hebrides! 
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven 
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven 
Uneasily, from morn till even, 
Over the violets there that lie 
In myriad types of the human eye— 
Over the lilies there that wave 
And weep above a nameless grave! 
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops 
External dews come down in drops. 
They weep:—from off their delicate stems 
Perennial tears descend in gems. 

From “The Poetic Principle” in The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings by Edgar Allen Poe:

“An immortal instinct, deep within the spirit of man, is thus, plainly, a sense of the Beautiful. This it is which administers to his delight in the manifold forms, and sounds, and odours, and sentiments amid which he exists. And just as the lily is repeated in the lake, or the eyes of Amaryllis in the mirror, so is the mere oral or written repetition of these forms, and sounds, and colours, and odours, and sentiments, a duplicate source of delight.”

From “The Masque of the Red Death” in The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings by Edgar Allen Poe:

“The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the ‘Red Death’….

It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence…

The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colors and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not….


My, my … I spent half the day looking through my library for some quotes about lilies, was about to give up but then started poking among Edgar Allen Poe’s words when I found the poem above, and a second lily reference in his essay about poetry and our appreciation of beauty. Since I was in Poe-mode, I decided to include a third bonus-quote, from The Masque of the Red Death — one of Poe’s most horrifically endearing (!!) stories about the prince of an unidentified kingdom who tried to shield himself and his sycophants from a plague while partying big-time in his ostentatious abbey, as his subjects got sick throughout the land. Spoiler alert: he failed. I had highlighted these passages a couple weeks ago when I saw a meme on Twitter pointing out that Trump’s Rose Garden gathering for his Supreme Court nominee leading to a coronavirus outbreak that included Trump himself … was just like the plot of Poe’s story. Well, damn, it really was! And there were even buffoons!!

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The previous posts in this series are:

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (1 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (2 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (3 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (4 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (5 of 10)

Thanks for taking a look!


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