Monday, October 13, 2008

Sidewalk Gallery

In mid-October, the sidewalks of my town's plaza are transformed into works of art as a fundraiser for North Coast Children's Services. Artists team up with sponsoring businesses to work wonders with pastels on a concrete canvas; thus, the event's simple moniker: Pastels on the Plaza. This year, it rained rather enthusiastically the night before but undeterred, participants showed up and got to work. The results, as usual, were often whimsical, sometimes stunning, and, perhaps, brighter than usual, as damp sidewalks made the pastels a more fluid medium. Artists are allowed to use only dry pastels (no oils), water, and whatever blending tools they desire. No fixatives...no chemicals...This is the first year that I managed to remember my camera so I could capture this celebration of art as ephemeral as sandcastles; the minute Nature sweeps through with a cleansing rain, all this beauty and hard work simply melts away. There were lots of bird images this year...This egret was this year's "poster bird" for a local organization, F.O.A.M, aka Friends of the Arcata Marsh. Egrets and herons are commonplace here on the Lost Coast so they are often a popular motif. There were also hummingbirds hovering in sweet columbine...

...and a resplendent peacock, his feathery finery spilling out of the boundaries of the artist's assigned space. This was probably my favorite of the year. I am always amazed at the level of detail and nuances of shading that these artists achieve on such a rough surface. More pics tomorrow..

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Lost Coast Tale: Unexpected Company for Tea

Sometimes...no, many, many times...certain events begin as one thing and end up as something else altogether. Case in point: My latest attempt to capture one of the grand, late summer sunsets here on the Western edge of the continent. I have this thing about sunsets; they fascinate me and I have fantastic view of the setting sun from my apartment balcony. In truth, photos never do justice to this end-of-day spectacle but I love to try to capture the miracle anyway. Ever notice, how, at some point, the sun seems to hover low in the sky, motionless, draped in all its fiery finery, only to begin to sink at an ever-increasing pace? I typically wait just a tad too long to grab my camera and then the race is on: the sun making its beeline for the horizon and me, trying to figure out what setting is best on my camera before the scene melts away. This evening was no different and I was out the door, snapping pictures before I realized what I had rushed into: swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitos. Some years here on the North Coast, the mosquitos seem especially prolific...and huge...and aggressive. So here I am, so beset by these little winged monsters that I'm afraid they'll actually show up in my photos (that's them...that black band at the bottom of the pic...just kidding...sort of). Feeling a bit weak from the constant hum of incoming mosquito attacks, I finish my impromptu photo shoot and run for home, trailing the swarm in my wake.

At my front door, no matter my haste, I am forced to pause...the mosquitos move in for a nice long, itchy drink...but I am held in place by the sight of a beautiful little Pacific tree frog clinging to my door jamb. His tiny little toes are in danger of sudden amputation if I blunder blindly onward so I scoop him up with my free hand and slip inside. The hungry hordes outside bounce harmlessly off my door, foiled in their quest for dinner.
My son always welcomes visitors of amphibian persuasion so I proceed upstairs, camera in one hand, squirmy guest in the other, calling out for Daniel to get ready for company. As I deposit the frog into my son's hands, I realize my camera is still at the ready so, calling out directions, I begin to snap off photos of our new friend. Blinking his copper eyes and slowly surveying his surroundings, the little frog seems momentarily stunned by the turn of events that have teleported him from my darkened door to a bright, foreign world that is getting brighter and noisier by the second as I try to coach my frog wrangler, compose my shots, adjust the lighting, and work the focus button. The green and gold fellow hesitates only momentarily and then begins his quest for home. He leaps with abandon, I cry out in surprise, and my son wisely backs away from the crazy dance of junior wildlife photographer and webbed subject. By happenstance, an empty teacup sits on the dining table and yes, also by chance, the little frog lands unexpectedly in the cup as he tries to escape. I am delighted by this, foolishly believing that this porcelain "cage" will halt my subject in his wild quest for freedom. Cackling excitedly, I snap off a few more shaky (and ultimately unusable) shots before the little one decides he's had enough. In one, brilliant moment that I could not have planned, he leaps to the edge of the cup while I simultaneously click the shutter. I catch him, paused at the cup's brim, comtemplating his next move. After this, a lively chase ensues that spans half my living room; I finally manage to scoop my guest up into a gentle hand so I can return him to the wild. He doesn't go back to the dangerous door jamb however. Instead, I deposit him into the flourishing jasmine that creeps the walls of my tiny back patio. Goodnight, sweet friend, and thanks for the unexpected adventure.
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