Wednesday, September 28

Overall a Beautiful Day for a Birthday

My birthday was yesterday. It was also my sister, Moira's birthday. And my friend Patricia's birthday. September 27th is an enormously popular day for a birthday. Sam took me for a walk and to shoot some photos (even some of my feet, which has been an annual b-day tradition of sorts, since 1977) I won't gross anybody out by posting my feet-photos (at least not this time), but here is one I like -- sunlight on water.

Overall a beautiful day.

Sunday, September 25

September Vibrant

A sugar maple near our house was just turning today - the color looks unreal and it really was this color - I actually de-saturated the color a little before posting it because it was too bright.

Thursday, September 22

Yesterday after working out at E's, helping her set out more plants in the Zen garden, discussing my new idea for how to do the fountain set-up, and mapping out for her, all the perennials she has in containers (and where they should go in the ground before winter), we headed out on the Missouri and Hauser Lake for a cruise in her boat. Sam willingly jumped right into the boat and snuggled up to E's sister on the back seat. The light was perfect, the air nippy and the evening calm and quiet. A redtail graced us with piroettes from the cliffs above us and we saw a family of whitetails browsing at the shore. By the time we got back it was dark. I had fun.

Tuesday, September 20

Garden Urn Fountain

This is the urn we're using to make a fountain in E's Zen garden

Monday, September 19

Helenans are Lucky to Have World-renowned Ceramic Arts Center

Arch sculpture at the Bray

From the Bray website:

The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts is a public, nonprofit, educational institution founded in 1951 by brickmaker Archie Bray, who intended it to be "a place to make available for all who are seriously and sincerely interested in any of the branches of the ceramic arts, a fine place to work." It's primary mission is to provide an environment that stimulates creative work in ceramics.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bray is located three miles from downtown Helena, Montana, on the site of the former Western Clay Manufacturing Company. Set against the wooded foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the 26-acre former brickyard is internationally recognized as a gathering place for emerging and established ceramic artists. The nearby mountains and brick factory ruins provide a backdrop for the creative environment; more important is the dynamic arts community created by the resident artists that come to the Bray to work, share experiences, and explore new ideas.

Richard Swanson, a longtime Helena resident, has these "dervishes" in unexpected places around the grounds of the Bray - you have to keep your eyes open to notice the off-balance spinning top shape in a high window, at the top of a smoke stack, on a fence post ...

For more photos of the ceramic arts around the grounds of the Bray ... and photos of the old brick kiln structures, click here

Archtypal Map - Glue Table Abstract

I was taking photos of the mess in Tim's shop and the ones I shot of his work tables looked so cool, like abstract paintings, or maps. If you click HERE, it takes you to a set of photos I took in his shop, including a few more abstracts similar to this one.

Sunday, September 18

Tim's Work in SF: Reassembling Antique Display Cases

Tim just spent last week in San Francisco putting these antique display cases together for someone who bought them from the Helena owners. They are now being used in SF by Heather & Company to display antiques in her 9,000 sq. ft warehouse.

Here's what the cases looked like when they were still in place, in Helena. He dismantled two long cases like the one on the side of this space ... plus two center, lower cases like the one in front. Tim was the one they called -- to put them back together again. He was probably the only one who would know how to reassemble them. It took a full week to reassemble them in SF.

Antique Display Cases Pre-breakdown
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.The front door of the jewelry store has also been lowered
Carving Detail on Display Cases

Just getting started

And here they are after he finished reassembling them in SF:

The cases were originally shipped in two pieces by rail from Seattle in the 1920's (I could be wrong about the date) and installed in an upscale jewelry store in downtown Helena . In the ensuing years, the ceiling of the jewelry store had been lowered and the doorway remodeled so it was much smaller. When the owners wanted to sell them, they had to have Tim disassemble to cases into hundreds of tiny parts (notice the curved glass doors - all of the glass doors slide up above the cases, to open) in order to remove them from the building.

In reassembling the cases, he had to touch up the finish, and make many new parts that were not able to be salvaged from the original cases. All without his shop. My husband is so talented (and I'm not biased, am I?)

I think they need the lights on inside the cases to look as good as they did in Helena, in their jewelry store home.

Saturday, September 17

Grandma's Oatmeal Cookies

Today I baked cookies to send to Mickey and Jenny in a care package. This is the first time I've taken photos of food ... but I kinda like the way they turned out. Made this mosaic with Picassa -- it took me 10 minutes, from camera to finished mosaic. Not bad for an amateur.

Tim is patiently waiting for his tea and cookies.

Thursday, September 15

Chrysothamnus nauseosus in September ... the bugs are dazed, slow, drunk on the sap of this native plant, late in the day ... cool air ... the flowers and leaves seem to have absorbed the flowing last light of the day.

Wednesday, September 14

My Family

I made this Collector's Edition Sheet of Postage Stamps, titled: Family Collection with Tim, my mom, me and our children. It's just for fun, but I needed something to cheer me up, so I just played around with this today. And this is the result of my short playtime. Actually, I think these stamps should be worth alot more than 37 cents, but ... that's the going rate I guess.

Monday, September 12

it's like this


like her smooth,
almost faceless
That's how it feels
Or just gray. Or
not even gray
- just blank.

Sunday, September 11

Requiem for an Era

Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
Earlier this summer, I spent an hour shooting out at our county fairgrounds, in the old stables and barns scattered about. At the pond was an enormous gathering of geese and ducks waiting for their daily white-bread handouts. The only boarders were two very sad looking horses in the worst of the stables. Most of the barns stood empty -- it had been a long time since they had been filled with the musty breath of cows, and the sweet smell of horse sweat, children's laughter, cowboy hollers and the voices of swanky announcers calling over their loudspeakers.

I went back intending to try for better photos of the horses, and was surprised to find nothing where three rows of stables and a large old barn had been -- a huge pile of twisted bent and rusty metal sat off to the side.

My first thought was that I just wasn't looking hard enough, or maybe the stables weren't where I remembered them (even though I'd been out to these same stables dozens of times over the last 25 years ...) I got out of the car and looked closely at the pile of metal hunks - and noticed some telltale signs of the old stables I remembered. It seemed they had been callously ripped apart and bulldozed into an almost unrecognizable mountain of debris.

From twenty feet away, the pile was an ugly reminder that we still live in a throwaway society, even though we know on a deep level that we cannot continue to use up the non-renewable resources at the rate we have been ... still, these historic -- and to me, beautiful --- structures were gone forever.

I stood there wishing I had come back earlier, had known this was going to happen, had been there to document the life, and demise of these wonderful, earthy-smelling, warm-colored stables.

I felt sad. I wanted to walk away from there. But I made myself approach the mountain of metal closer and saw there was true beauty in the tortured twistings and folds of old steel. Okay, then I would try to capture some of the that remaining beauty. Some of stables' elegance and grace. The forgotten rural values I remembered. I wanted to shoot the light here before the pile was sent to it's final resting place -- probably the dump.

I hope I can help even just one person share the way I see beauty in common garbage. I hope I can help even one person be able to look at the world of waste around them and see the possibilities of light. If you want to see the rest of the photos I took that day, click here.

Saturday, September 10

"Do I have to put up with this indignity???"

Well, it happened - the vet put this thing on Sam. Much to his displeasure -- in fact, he seems quietly offended and refuses to look at me now. I shot this by just putting the camera on the ground and pretending I wasn't doing anything special. Otherwise, Sam pointedly looks the other way when faced with my little digital cam.

It turned out the growth was benign, which is good news, but it's taking a long time to heal. He was told ... if ya lick, ya get the lampshade ... but, did he listen? anh-hunh. I guess the licking is nigh on irresistible. And wrapping the foot didn't work -- trying to keep a bandage on this old guy's foot is like trying to keep a cheese sandwich dry in a swimming pool. Not fun!

I made a slideshow of Sam's life -- you can watch it by clicking on this button:
View slideshow

Chair Details

Chair Details
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
I added some photos of Tim's finished sanctuary furniture and the moving process, to the set about his woodworking. The furniture looks SO good in place, in the St. Paul's sanctuary. They are having their first service in their new church tomorrow.

Friday, September 9

Sky Bowl

Sky Bowl
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
In the next few days I will feature image sets for the seasons in Montana. This "Sky Bowl" photo (the sky reflected in our birdbath) represents my Montana Summer set. Click here to see the whole set.

Summer in the Rocky Mountain state of Montana begins late and ends early. In the brief phrase we call "summer" Montana makes a rich and complex statement of her essence: nature reigns here!

Montanans are among the world's most "outdoors-living" inhabitants. We make full use of the warm season to grow what we can in our gardens, explore nature and love life. Everything summerish gets compressed into a little under 10 weeks; then we get our first frost, the nights are cold enough for a comfortor again, migrating birds desert us for warmer climes.

Montana's largest city has a population easily under 100,000. Our entire state's population is three quarters of a million yet we have one of the largest land masses of any US state. Driving from one side of Montana to the other takes all day -- and we always pass at least one person we know on the road. Strangers wave at each other and smile. We can walk out the back door of our house (in the capitol city) and in one block, be past the city limits, into beautiful natural hiking country.

I love Montana. Although our economy isn't the greatest, and it's sometimes hard to find reasonable airfares in and out of our city, I wouldn't trade Montana for anywhere else on earth.

Wednesday, September 7

Summer Jam Session around the Fire

Anika, Damon, Gabe, Kyle, Andy and someone's foot ...

I know, by professional standards these photos of our kids and their friends ... are just the worst ... but I'm keepin' 'em because they remind me of some of the best times we've had as a family sitting around our backyard fires, playing music, debating politics and philosophy, laughing & joking together.

Tuesday, September 6

Sam's Daily Grind: Holding Down the Floor

Update on Sam's foot surgerY: we just heard from our vet, who told us the test results show the growth on Sam's foot was benign. So now he just has to stop licking that foot and let it heal. It was an "Adnexal Dysplasia" -- a cyst that had begun to get icky. Anyway, I'm glad he's okay and doesn't have to have anything else done to his poor foot! It's been hard to keep Sam from licking that foot.

Here he is doing his job: Tim say's it's "holding down the floor" whether it's the house floor, the shop floor, the porch or the ground outside. Sam does a really good job. So far, the floors are all still there where they are supposed to be.

Gotta Lotta Work To Do Keeping the Floor From Flyin Away

Monday, September 5

Labor Day Labor of Love

My husband, the owner and proprietor of Timothy's Fine Woodworking --- is taking a brief break from his labors ... on Labor Day. He spent today building the baptismal font for St. Paul's Church. In the past week, Tim has finished the other furniture for the new sanctuary: two large arm chairs, a smaller armless chair, the pulpit and a lectern, an altar and a long bench. These are all made of highly figured cherry, fiddleback maple and birch.

My handsome, kind-hearted husband ...

Tim calls me a shutterbug but he knows I occasionally come up with good photos in my poking around. I played with my camera in Tim's shop for awhile, shooting mostly macros and odd angles. I hope to be able to take some photos of the finished furniture when it is in place, in the new church about mid-September. The huge altar has graceful curves:

Earlier this year, I put together a set of photos showing the building and installation of an amazing 7 - 8 ft high circular stained glass window made by Tim Carney (my Tim!) and a Helena glass artist, Barry Hood. You can see those photos here.

Hurricane Katrina - a few thoughts

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina is heavy on my mind and heart. If you haven't seen some of the unbelievable photos and video footage from the disaster, The Sun Herald has many photos listed by city and neighborhood there.

Some dear friends of ours lost both of their elderly parents as well as several houses in their family. Two others in their family are missing and we pray they will be found. At least the rest of their family members managed to get out - but not before they had to float out on pieces of their houses. I am so sad and worried, thinking about the huge, indescribably awful task it will be to clean up, to bury the dead (people as well as all the animals, pets ...) and to mourn the incredible losses of lives, homes, jobs, beauty, everyday-ness. It will be a long, long time before life in Louisiana and Mississippi gets back to normal if it ever can.

It makes me angry that the mainstream news in other parts of the US are focusing almost
more on the effects of Katrina on things like gas prices, rather than reminding everyone of the loss of life, home and jobs. And that our federal government (and the state governments as well) were so ill-prepared for this disaster. That they sat on their asses while the hurricane was blowing through and immediately afterwards -- without sending help in right away. I watched 60-minutes interview with Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, last night and was stupefied! Listen to Ray Nagin's angry and frustrated stance on a radio talk show broadcast from his darkened city offices -- and try to remain unmoved!

Here's a quote from Mr Nagin's broadcast:

"We authorised $8 billion to go to Iraq, lickety split. After 9/11 we gave the president unprecedented powers, lickety split, to take care of New York and other places," he said.

"Now you mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique... that you can't figure out a way to authorise the resources that we need?"

He went on: "I'm not some drug addict. I'm thinking and talking clearly here now. I don't know whose problem it is, I don't know whether it's the governor's problem, I don't know whether it's the president's problem, but somebody needs to get their asses on the plane and sit down the two of them and figure this out, right now."

"This is ridiculous. I don't want to see anyone doing any more goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city and they come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops which we can't even count." -- Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans.

Before the interview was over Mr. Nagin and the radio show host broke down in tears and were unable to continue talking.

Now we all must help with the work at hand -- not just rebuilding homes -- but providing schools, hospitals, jobs, mental health services and other basic needs ... can there ever be normalcy in these places again?

We are keeping everyone who has been affected by the hurricanes, in our prayers and trying to help with donations as much as we can.

Sunday, September 4

Garden Quilt of Colors

Another rescue (maybe) of some horribly blurred (on purpose) photos of our garden late in the day.

Friday, September 2


Last winter I opened an account at Flickr, a photosharing site. Anyone who registers (it's free) can upload up to 100 photos each month. If you want to upload more photos, or larger (higher resolution) photos, you pay a small fee to get a Pro account then, your photo uploads are unlimited. With Flickr's easy-to-use uploading software (which you can download for free) it takes me just a few minutes to post photos online - even if I'm uploading 20 or more at one time.
For me, the Flickr Pro account has been a good investment - it has paid off already just in the amount of improvement I've made in my photography skills. With the feedback from others on the photos I post, plus being able to see professional photographers' work and discuss their techniques with them, I have learned so much. Other artists and people involved in photography, design and visual media would benefit from the inspiration and publicity Flickr provides. Anyone can view your pics and write comments. You can also send the photos to your blog with one click, so Flickr makes blogging really easy and fast.

I've also found great inspiration by sharing my photos with other artists and photographers. There are some amazing photos on flickr and it's database is searchable by "tags" -- keywords people attach to their photos. So I can, for instance, search for "decorative metalwork from Indonesia" and come up with dozens of photos on that subject. Or "textures" or "peeling paint" or "dog noses." The possibilities are almost endless. Gardens are really popular on Flickr, so that gives me a huge number of photos to browse for ideas, inspiration and just fun.

I've met some interesting people from my own country as well as foreign countries. Some of these people I have gotten to know a little better through their photos and personal emails between us. I feel like when/if Tim and I ever travel outside of the US, we will have friends to stay with - friends who have something in common with us - photography - at the very least.

If you're reading this and you don't have a Flickr account, maybe you will consider opening your own account. It's easy to register and set up your own Flickr page. Try it free for as long as you want, and if it's something you find helpful and interesting, go for it! (I'm not being paid to say this, either!)

Thursday, September 1

Crawling around on the ground with my camera ...

Ajuga from the Ground
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
A few days ago I spent some time either lying on the ground looking through the viewfinder, or just setting my camera on the ground and shooting randomly. I know ... I know this isn't what a professional photographer would do ... but then, I'm not a pro with my digital camera. So I get to do anything I want with it. Here's one of the resulting photos, Ajuga in our shade garden... I imagine this is what the Purple Brocade Ajuga groundcover (which is in reality only about 1/2 inch high) would look like to an ant or other insect.

Information on many Ajuga cultivars, commonly know as "Bugleweed" is easy to find on the internet or in perennial/groundcover books. There are the usual Ajugas, and recently several cultivars have been developed with more colorful foliage, longer bloom times, or smaller leaves. One of my favorite Ajugas, for pathways, around stepping stones and other places you might walk, is the miniature Chocolate Chip Ajuga. The leaves of Chocolate Chip are truly tiny -- a combination of chocolate brown, dark bronze and green with tiny spikes of dark blue/purple flowers in late spring, early summer. The foliage and flower colors are perfect with shade-tolerant gold and chartreuse plants and other plants with blue parts. I'm thinking of the gold Hakone grass, sedges, blue fescue and other grasses; cushion spurge; Polemonium, Brunnera (forget-me-nots) and Hosta. Use Ajuga to fill in around stepping stones or in semi-shaded rock gardens. Try planting any of the ajugas under tree canopies or where you have spring or summer bulbs. They like some shade and moist, rich soil, but will also grow in less-than-ideal conditions.