Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #137 Soft

My next Lens-Artists Photo Challenge is Soft. Anne-Christine asks what does the word Soft mean to you? Is it something that you touch? Is it the undefined notion that is the opposite of hard? Is it the contrast to sharp from a photographer’s point of view? This is not so simple a concept.

My first thought was that of a baby. We want everything about this new being to be soft. Soft blankets, soft toys, soft skin, soft colors, and soft sounds Nothing hard, or harsh. We want the world around us to be soft and welcoming.

The soft touch of father and son.

Only a week later, my Charlie joined the world. We follow his first developing steps on a webcam.

Charlie arrives home at 7 weeks.
His fluffy soft fur needs tending to. Every evening we bond over grooming

Nature softens the world around me.

Light falling softly on this lotus flower
The dandelion flower pod beakens us to spread its seeds with one soft blow.

My most favorite photographic technique is shooting with a large aperture setting. This narrow depth of field clarifies the subject. This blurred background is called the bokeh. I pay particular attention to this when deciding to purchase a lens for my Fuji x system.

My featured photograph is that of clouds. Soft, fluffy and white. What do you see? When you hear the work “Soft” what comes to mind?

Lens-Artists Challenge #135 A Glimpse into Your World

Over the past year, I followed many photographers as they shared amazing images. I decided that for me to grow I would need to open myself up to this experience. So this week I accepted Sheetal’s challenge to, “Show us the things you love that make your world spin or things about your world that make you delirious with joy.”

Charlie has captured my heart. My Australian Labradoodle just celebrated his first birthday. My life has revolved around this boy, and the bond is strong. The day starts when he says it does. He quietly calls out to me that he is awake. With his collar on, we head to his round bed where we snuggle for a time. Then out for our short walk in our court. Six houses and I take in the changes from day to day. Occasionally, we greet a neighbor or see a jogger. Then home to have breakfast. With no plans for the day, we settle on the couch, catch up on emails and take a morning nap together. I am the person who trains and cares for Charlie’s needs. We take a walk and play fetch. We have one training session a day, one game of “Find It!”, and one grooming session after dinner. Some indoor fetch and he settles while my husband and I watch television. Charlie has found a place in my husband’s heart. When I am away, Charlie keeps him company. Charlie is a people magnet. I just hope that he soon becomes more relaxed being out and about with me and my camera.

Charlie has us wrapped around his paws. Discovering each other, training together, and becoming part of the family.

This litter of 10 adorable Australian Labradoodles is 1 year old (put together by Jo)

Camera in hand, looking out at the world makes me happy. What I capture in the frame just depends on what catches my eye at the time. Small objects, funny signs, colors or shapes, patterns, contradictory images, animal and people expressions, and the people busy doing things. I don’t see myself stuck on one subject. My only limits are what kind of lens I can carry, and I usually only carry two. My camera has an added value in my life by connecting me to wonderful photo friends.

Amusing signs

The pandemic has slowed down life, and I try and appreciate this new pace of life. One day, one goal. Thinking back over the decades I now wonder how I kept up that frenetic pace. I am home with my husband that I have known now for 54 years. We take turns arguing with the television over the news coverage. We share opinions on how to fix the world, if only they would listen. We read the newspaper and find books to read on our iPads. We play Scrabble, and figure out what we want to eat for dinner. It is a serene existence. We talk about what we want to do after “the pandemic”, and when will life return to normal. Actually, we also discuss what that normal will look like. Hopefully, eating out, traveling both near and far, and feeling less restricted to be around people. I look forward to new adventures with my husband and my Charlie.

I am taking the first step in sharing with the Lens-Artists. This is my new challenge, and I hope that I will be able to meet it!

Undersocialized Charlie and my efforts to have a companion dog!

Among the many problems created by the pandemic is the under socialization of my puppy. My nine-month wait coincided with CoVid 19. Born on February 7th he arrived home just after society was shutting down. Governor Newsom declared a stay at home order in mid-March. We picked up Charlie at 7 weeks rather than chance not being about to make the 2-hour drive to Orland, Ca, and Serenity Springs Labradoodles.

So instead of allowing Charlie to have many social interactions during this critical puppy period, we were busy having our groceries picked up through e-cart, and sanitizing them before bringing them into the home. No one knew what we were up against. Social interactions consisted of listening to Amy teach us on Zoom. Charlie would sit next to my computer and together we learned. Amy’s voice and treats were our first classroom at Baxter & Bella online training. As more was known about CoVid 19 I reached out to my friend Carly and a few months ago we went to our first in-person training with other under-socialized puppies.

Nearing one year of age, Charlie now attends class with the “gifted” pups training to be CCI (Canine Companions for Independence) dogs. Sometimes this works, and sometimes not so much. Skateboarders, cyclists, and motorcycles are triggers (Puppy training language). He was so alert last week, that when I asked for a paw he followed the instruction with his eyes on the road. It was funny to watch but frustrating to teach. In this new 6 feet separation society when you take dogs in public you may not want to let anyone pet your dog. So to be polite, you can say, “Please don’t pet my dog, but if you want he can wave to you.” Giving a paw is the first step in teaching dogs to wave. Good adaptation for the pandemic. Right?

Being anxious is detrimental to learning. To desensitize Charlie I decided to park in front of a store and let him watch the world around him. He feels safe in the car. I give him treats when he is calm. I listened to an NPR interview with Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist. Her research specialty is dog cognition. I have since downloaded one of her audiobooks to take with us. A perfect soundtrack for people watching from the car. While we watch I capture some images with my Fuji x100f. I like this camera for street shooting.

Next time I will park right in front of entrance!
Looking in to the store.
Reading while walking.
Charlie, the ghost dog!

Last weekend my friends planned to walk the Johnny Cash Trail outside of Folsom Prison. Since my focus has been on Charlie I decided to take him with me. I brought my Fuji x100f to simplify the photo walk. This was a real test. I met the group in a shopping mall parking lot next to very busy, fast-moving street traffic. He was doing well considering the noise.

Right outside the razor-wired fence of Folsom Prison.

Group planning doesn’t always work out, so I decided to pass on the trail, and went in search of a nature trail. The Miner’s Ravine Nature Preserve parking lot was 1 1/2 miles down the road.

Came across this interesting tree. Such an expression What does it say to you?
Gave Charlie the command, “Wait!” He allowed me to take my photograph.
Raised manhole cover ahead. My friend Anne sees something else.
Charlie walks around the manhole cover.
I took this photo after our walk. I think the nature preserve was on the side that we did not visit. Or else Charlie did not pay attention to the sign. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!

Charlie relaxed, and when I asked him to wait, he allowed me to capture some images. This was a win-win situation.

He always recognizes our car, and is happy to jump in!

I plan to make a point to take Charlie out with me daily. After all, someday we all will not be homebound. I hope!

My Life in the “New Normal”

My idea of living with the pandemic evolves. When I made the decision to cancel my trip to New York in March I was thinking about a couple of months and then a return to the way I usual do life. As many hunkered down, I prepared for lockdown mode. My pantry had enough provisions, and I bonded with my puppy.

Things opened up, but my husband and I kept to ourselves mostly. Went out only when the risk warranted. Learned how to Zoom, and kept in touch by telephone and FaceTime. I enrolled Charlie in classes online Zoom style. Risk lowered, and the nice weather called me to explore the world. But still I hesitated.

After I took Charlie to the groomer I was tempted to lower my guard and take myself for a haircut. The last time I had my haircut was in early February. It seems like a lifetime ago. For the first time in many, many decades I can pull my hair back into a ponytail. Not exactly the look I was going for in my seventies. So I masked up, called up my stylist, and trimmed up my hair. My hair is now one length, I can still pull it back if I need to, and I feel so much better.

Selfies are not my thing!

So here come the holidays. Halloween just passed, and I decided that I would avoid the “Trick or Treat” scene. My grandsons stopped by in their costumes and looked like they had a fun day.

Actually the only character I recognized was “The Hulk”, but they all looked Super!

As it happens, our block was especially quiet. Not one visitor rang our doorbell. I hope that by next year Charlie will be able to calmly greet costumed kids.

Charlie calmly sharing time with us while we play Zoom BINGO with Ed and Leti!

This year would have been a challenge. Maybe next year I will find a Halloween collar that I know I still have somewhere in the house. I have a full year to decide what if any humiliating costume I will put on Charlie.

For now, I can look over my photos of Halloween over the years. Staring Alyssa, Isaac, Eli, Lucas and Wyatt. Rachel and Sean are along for the ride!

Next year we have another Pumpkin to treat!

Our election is over in everyone’s mind except for you know who. I worry about the next couple of weeks until January 20th. What’s life without something to worry about?

Sanity restoration needed for 2021!

My grandson’s 5th and 3rd birthday sandwich Thanksgiving Day. The country is not moving in a good direction with the pandemic. Numbers are rising, and I hope to ride out CoVid 19 and really have something to celebrate in 2021! So I guess, as all the special occasions that have been delayed these celebrations will need to wait.

For now, I will shop online, be thankful for all that surrounds me, and enjoy the little things that make my life special.