Black and White Friday – Going to the dogs

Perhaps that is no longer a derogatory term, considering how nice dogs are and how not nice we humans can be. They master spiritual teachers, in my opinion. People always think they give us unconditional love. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think they teach US how to love unconditionally and we love them the better for it. They can do something completely exasperating, like chewing up a favorite hat, or peeing on the floor, or accidentally biting your finger when you’re playing with them and within seconds, we forgive and forget. If a human did that we aren’t quite so quick to let them off the hook. Love, devotion, joy, exuberance, simplicity, sweetness and vulnerability in limitless supply. Here’s to going to the dogs.

Gimme The Ball©Kathryn Van Aernum

Gimme The Ball © Kathryn Van Aernum

Black and White Friday – Coffee and Canines

I decided to treat myself to a special coffee at Drip in Five points after an early morning photo shoot this week. I was walking out of the shop, latte in hand, when I glimpsed this English Lab further down the sidewalk, facing me with an attentive, “sit.” He was earning his keep guarding the sidewalk and storefront of his owner’s shop. I Set the coffee on the hood of my car, grabbed my camera, but as it is many times with animals, the minute you get out a camera they completely change their pose and the moment is gone.

Already on my mission, I had just gotten to the shop door when the owner had brought the dog inside. I asked him if he would be willing to bring his dog back out so I could photograph him. He kindly obliged, but the scene I had seen could not be recreated. However, this look of adoration was far better than what I thought I wanted from the moment.

Glad I went for coffee.

Five Points Pooch©Kathryn Van Aernum

Five Points Pooch©Kathryn Van Aernum

Black and White Friday – To Convert or Not to Convert?

This is a topic I’ve wanted to explore for a while. What works as a black and white image, and what doesn’t? Especially, images we are really used to seeing as color. As I’ve explored in the past, the American flag works surprisingly well as a black and white. It translates. So, I wanted to take another iconic symbol of Americana and see if that translates also. I found this gem of an old county store on the back roads heading to Charleston a couple weeks ago.

Let me first say, this was a challenging shot to work with both in color and black and white. It was taken with the sun blazing from its apex in the sky making it a very “contrasty” image. As a color photo, toning down the contrast without washing it out was a challenge. As a black and white, the contrasts were even more challenging to work with. I did the conversion in Lightroom, creating my own  preset that is almost infrared in its treatment. I did not want to bleach out the trees that true infrared would have done, but I wanted that blue sky to go dark to create the backdrop for the clouds.

Both versions required a lot of work to bring the detail back in the shadows below the awning and in the dead Christmas wreath. (I wonder how old that wreath is?)

So, does it work? How does the color one feel? The black and white? Let me know your thoughts.

Middle of Nowhere - Color©Kathryn Van Aernu

Middle of Nowhere – Color©Kathryn Van Aernum

Middle of Nowhere - B&W©Kathryn Van Aernum

Middle of Nowhere – B&W©Kathryn Van Aernum

Black and White Friday – Roadside Attraction

Last Sunday I drove from Columbia to Charleston taking the back roads as long as I could. I was delighted to find the headwaters of the Congaree river. Finding a river’s source is always special. Of course I was hoping to stumble into something that would be visually interesting to photograph. I think this image qualifies!

I saw it out of the corner of my eye, too late to pull over, so I had to slow down to let the car behind me pass before I could make a U turn and go back.

Simultaneously fascinating and creepy, it definitely projected, “I’d turn back if I were you.”

What amuses me the most is if they want to discourage human interaction, leaving it plain might be more effective. This arouses curiosity almost enough to ignore the “no trespassing” and the “beware of spike strips” signs. At least it would for some I know.

What do you make of this?

Black and white Friday (c) Kathryn Van Aernum

Voodoo you think you are? (C) Kathryn Van Aernum

Black and White Friday – Numbers

#Blackandwhitefriday Half Mast Again(C) Kathryn Van Aernum

Half Mast Again(C) Kathryn Van Aernum

Today is a 1 for the 9. It was on my mind a lot before 49 became a new number. In this last week we’ve heard a lot of numbers. 9…49…51…23…33,000, the list goes on.

There are other numbers – ages – ages of children and of young people and not so young people. People who are falling at the front lines of our collective dysfunction.

Whatever our differences politically, ideologically and however we fall on the issue of gun control, can we agree the we are a nation that is in distress?

I offer this poem again because to me it speaks of a different silence that is needed before we proceed with all our words. It is not the silence of indifference, or helplessness, but of a willingness to drop the arguments that separate us and just come together in the open air and see each other for the first time.


Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.

Black and White Friday – Exposed

Earth Lungs©Kathryn Van Aernum

Earth Lungs©Kathryn Van Aernum

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye. – Saint-Exupery

Seeing these root structures—beautiful and intricate—reflects to me our own beautiful and intricate interior life. On a physical level they look like human lungs for sure. But the vulnerability of the tree’s life system bared for us to see is especially captivating, more so than the beautiful and majestic tree itself. The names etched on the roots make me think of all the people we encounter in a life that are etched in our memories, forever becoming a part of us.

These roots are also a reminder of the paradox that in our vulnerability, lies our strength. We seem to learn how to create a million defense strategies in our adaptation to being a well-defined grown up. But the truth is, our beauty radiates out from our vulnerability and defenselessness. When we reveal our inner life to one another – especially that which seems to scare us – we find strength and stability, and more often than not a sympathetic and understanding ear. I know it is my journey to trust that. I have a spiritual mentor that says in a joking way, “When all else fails, tell the truth.” She jokes because we usually exhaust all other possibilities before we will expose our inner world. But we long to do it. We crave connection that only letting down our guard can bring.

Next time I am faced with exposing my inner life (like writing this) I’ll think of these great big tree lungs and B R E A T H E.

Are there life lessons that nature has taught you? I’d love to hear from you.

Black and White Friday – The water’s fine

I was with a friend today hiking at Paris Mountain in Greenville, SC. We were walking down a trail and she commented as we passed by a divergent path that as a kid she would be all about exploring it. I asked, “do you want to?” She hesitated, but then allowed her inner child to be indulged as we walked up the path. We were met with pond that was the source of the streams that meandered through the trail we were on. Frogs bellowed as dragonflies with slender cobalt blue bodies danced and darted around it. It was exactly the kind of magic a child hopes to find on an adventure.

The magic of summer is upon us and this image reminds me of the lake I lived on as a kid, and the endless hours I would spend playing and plunging into the water off a dock just like this.

Next time, I’ll take my swimsuit and indulge my inner child as she beckons, “Jump in, the water’s fine!”

Summer splash (c) Kathryn Van Aernum

Summer Splash

What adventure or experience does your inner child want you to do?

Black and White Friday – The Eyes Have It.

Eyes are Watching©Kathryn Van Aernum

Eyes are Watching©Kathryn Van Aernum

In the top picture, I’m not the only voyeur watching this scene. This was taken in the cul de sac of the apartment in the Marais I stayed in. I think I’ve noted this before, I love taking pictures of people taking pictures. I wonder whose photos I’ve ended up with.

Bride Indifference©Kathryn Van Aernum

Bride Indifference©Kathryn Van Aernum

This was on the love lock bridge: Pont de Arts. Neither the groom nor the bride are engaging with each other. Hope that isn’t indicative of things to come. There are also no more love locks. I hope that isn’t indicative either.
Hats-ParisMarket©Kathryn Van Aernum

Hats-ParisMarket©Kathryn Van Aernum

This was from the market at the Bastille. I don’t think I’d want a hat from this vendor, given the fact that the mannequin heads look like the havn’t been washed since the French Revolution. Nonetheless, their eerie gaze caught mine and made for an interesting photo.
Other than the eyes, there is another thread to these photos. Can you spot it?

Black and White Friday – Random Act of Beauty

This is from the analog archives and my first jaw-dropping trip to NYC when I was in my early 20’s. New York was not at all like I pictured it in my mind and it took 48 hours of not speaking for me to begin to wrap my head around what I was experiencing. My companion, Carol, kept asking if I was alright? I would nod affirmatively, but I honestly don’t think I knew for sure. After the initial shock, the reality replaced the fantasy and I fell in love with it.

This setting is the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in Central Park at 72nd street. It was one of those moments where I stopped gazing at the amazing angel statue long enough and turned around to see this woman sweeping the steps with a corn broom. (Very often the most interesting shot is behind you)

In the days before leaf blowers, people used brooms. But this woman doesn’t seem to be a city worker. What struck me is that she is in a house dress, with a sweater wrapped around her waist. It’s as if my grandmother decided to go sweep Central Park. Was this her act of devotion? Was she senile? Was it a daily ritual? If for nothing else a woman sweeping Central Park seems to qualify as a senseless act of beauty.

This was also before the great restoration of the fountain and clean up of New York City. The columns are no longer adorned with graffiti. To some, a random act of destruction; to others, a secret, maybe violent language; and to another set of eyes, calligraphic expression. Maybe even senseless beauty.

Woman Sweeping Central Park © Kathryn Van Aernum

Woman Sweeping Central Park © Kathryn Van Aernum

I think I had a modest telephoto of 135mm. It was one of those rare times as a photographer that you feel you captured something special. But, I’d have to wait until I was back in my darkroom in Virginia developing the film to find out.

While I was looking at some of the history behind the Park’s design, I came across some interesting facts:

Calvert Vaux co-designer with Frederick Law Olmsted, felt that Central Park, including it’s fountain, would be about “love.”

The sculptor of the angel was Emma Stebbins. She was the 1st woman to receive a major sculptural grant from the city of New York in 1864. On a personal note, she had, what was termed in those days, a “Boston Marriage” to a very famous actress of that time, Charlotte Cushman.

Historical references courtesy of Curbed New York – Evan Bindleglass

Black and White Friday – Soup vs. Art

Lake City SC is an enigma.

This almost forgotten little town, held together by rust, is for one week of the year transformed into a major art destination. But don’t confuse it with anything like Art Basel. Or Charleston. To me, it is something better. It’s humble surroundings make it something deeper, richer and brings art to an audience that you may not find at your typical gallery opening. I’ve been to it three years in a row and I always return uplifted, inspired by the art and artists, but also touched by the sincerity and gratitude of the residents. But I think the best way I can put it is from the following excerpt from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.

“Did I tell you what happened at the play? We were at the back of the theatre, standing there in the dark, when all of a sudden I feel one of ’em tug at my sleeve, whispers, “Trudy look!” I said, “Yeah, goosebumps. You definitely got goosebumps. You like the play that much?” They said it wasn’t the play that gave ’em goosebumps, it was the audience!

I’d forgot to tell them to watch the play; they’d been watching the audience! Yeah, to see a group of people sitting together in the dark, laughing and crying at the same things…well that just knocked ’em out! They said, “Trudy, the play was soup, the audience, art.”

So they’re taking goosebumps back with ’em into space. Goosebumps! Quite a souvenir. I like to think of them out there in the dark, watching us. Sometimes we’ll do something and they’ll laugh. Sometimes we’ll do something and they’ll cry. And maybe, one day we’ll do something so magnificent, the whole universe will get goosebumps.”
― Jane WagnerThe Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Art Fields, amazing as it is, was soup, but Lake City is art. I got goosebumps.

Color TV • Phones©Kathryn Van Aernum

Color TV • Phones©Kathryn Van Aernum


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