2017 Favorites

It’s a fun tradition during the first week of the new year to go back over my posts from the previous year and pick out my favorites.  It’s also a bit of a challenge, so this year I decided to give myself some categories to help make the task easier.

Also, I decided to title this year’s round-up as “favorites” rather than “best of” as I have in the past.  My actual favorites are not always the photos that would be deemed my finest “works of art”, and that’s okay.  To determine what is my best work I’ve decided I’m quite content to leave to the viewer’s discretion; what is my favorite work only I can determine and, I suspect, makes for a much more interesting story.IMG_5073-1Favorite Bucket List Score: A non-blurry close-up photo of a hummingbird has been on my list for a long time.  If you know how fast these little beauties move, you know why I considered this opportunity a gift!  This wasn’t the only shot I scored, either—and you can check out all of them in this post.

IMG_2193Favorite Associated Memory: Not surprisingly, my favorites are often so because of the stories and memories behind them.  This photo reminds me of a happy walk in the golden glow of a late summer evening, that ecstatic moment when we realized the ditch we were walking along was studded with these ripe little jewels, and the mental picture of my husband down on hands and knees picking every one in sight.  And the taste, oh the taste!IMG_2929Favorite Travel Shot:  I really had a hard time choosing, but oddly enough, I ended up settling on this one that never even made it into a blog post!  (Thus, a bonus photo for you!)  My reason is solely based on the humor of the situation.  This is a wild turkey mama who apparently doesn’t believe in broadcasting photos of her family for the world to see.  She paraded them daringly along the edge of the road, oblivious to traffic roaring by—but when I tried to discreetly poke a camera lens out the truck window, that was a different story.  She has at least six chicks, who are down there in the grass by her feet hiding.  I’m really not sure if that’s a twinkle of mischief in her eye there, or a glint of suspicion, or just a look of triumph for foiling my designs.  She granted me this one cameo peekaboo shot, and that was it.

This is also memorable, because my husband is the one who spotted her as we were driving and turned around of his own accord to go back so I could take a picture.  Now that’s true love, folks.

IMG_1943Favorite Action Shot:  The story behind this one can be found here!img_4098-1.jpgFavorite Landscape:  The more you get into photography, the more you obsess about light.  The absence or presence of the right kind of light, outside of actual studio photography, is something you chase after, wait for, wish for, do your best to contrive for, but cannot ever completely control.  When you catch it, its a glorious moment.  I passed this roadside bed of fire weed many times this summer, but it wasn’t until just the right shaft of late-afternoon golden light hit it, spotlighting the blossoms against the dark backdrop of forest, that it actually became worth stepping on the brakes for.IMG_1076Favorite Car Window Shot: Hands down.  It makes me smile every time I look at it.IMG_4958Favorite Floral:  Obviously I wasn’t the only one who appreciated the cornflower blue of these bachelor buttons in my flower garden this year!IMG_5779-1Favorite Challenge (as in the photos I worked the hardest for): That would definitely be any photo containing otters.  Just don’t ask how many photos I actually took to secure those I deemed worthy to share with you (you can view a couple more in this post).  I’ve found that otters, like hummingbirds, don’t sit still very much.  This is the first year I’ve actually gotten decent shots of them, but I by no means consider the challenge over.  Next Bucket List item: otter close-ups!IMG_4861-01Favorite Nature Close-Up:  I love the contrast of this perfect autumn leaf from my parent’s maple-rich yard posing on their picnic table.IMG_1567Favorite Sky Capture: this alignment of the storm clouds and big round moon just after sunset was so stunning, and I enjoyed the extra fiddling with my camera required to expose those lunar craters just right!  It rated high enough in my small world to become my desktop wallpaper.  It must have appealed to you, too, because it also rated as the post with the most views for 2017!

A close runner-up to that one, however, was this stormy sky:IMG_2880IMG_2882This was the most magnificent sunset I have seen in my life, and the pictures (yes, they’re both from the same evening) hardly do it justice.  It was also the one redeeming feature of the most severe summer storm I’ve had to drive through in my life.  That was the road trip in which we missed half-dollar sized hail by a mere couple miles and because it was raining so hard could see nothing but the taillights ahead of us for what seemed like eternity (probably more like fifteen minutes).  It was unforgettable all around.

I was going to do “Favorite Wildlife”—but so many of those ended up qualifying for the other categories that it seemed a bit redundant!

These photos, along with all the others I shared with you this year, represented lessons learned, whether in the technical realm of photography or in the stunning world of nature, and always in the beautiful realm of our Creator’s goodness, infinite creativity and love.  I considered each opportunity to take a photograph a gift, and it is my prayer that each one, in turn, became a gift to you as well.  If the sharing of these images have even once shifted your heart from the temporal to the eternal, from worrying to praise, from self to God—then I rejoice right along with “the little hills…on every side” (Psalm 65:12).

Now, here’s looking forward to all the yet unknown experiences, encounters, lessons and photographs 2018 holds and looking forward to continuing to share it with you!




Frost Fire

IMG_6324.JPGThere’s a new year rising, about ready to break over the horizon just like the sun was on this breathtakingly frosty morn.

What will it hold?

Naturally, not one of us can predict exactly.  We can talk, dream of and discuss plans, goals and resolutions until the clock strikes midnight—but no one really knows what will happen.  This we do know, however:

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Because of that, just as the hoary treetops turned to fire, aflame with the hope and oncoming glory of the new day, this new year can be bright with hope on your horizon, too.  No matter what it holds, if we acknowledge Him each step of the way—be it exciting, ordinary or difficult—He will make our path straight.  Cling to that!

Best of Both Worlds

IMG_6148.JPGIs it Christmas lights?  Is it snow?


Inside the house, our Christmas tree with the big white origami star brushing the ceiling is twinkling bright; outside the snow lies “deep and crisp and even”*.  In the reflection of the cold windowpane, I can see both at once.  It’s the best of both of my December worlds: all the warmth of a joyful holiday celebration mingled with the wide white expanse of winter’s best accessory, now richly blue in the falling dusk.

It’s also an appropriately symbolic picture of Christmas, considering that the One whose birth we celebrate this week was also the very best of both worlds.  Not of indoors and outdoors, but of heaven and earth.

If I could show you a picture of Him, you might ask:

Is He God?  Is He man?


May the marvel of this mystery fill you with thoughtful joy and wonder this Christmas!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)


*From the carol “Good King Wenceslas” by John Mason Neale.



IMG_5946.JPGI find my mailbox stuffed full of shiny catalogs.  The sign at Walmart carefully documents exactly how few days are left until the big holiday.  My email inbox blinks every morning with a dizzying array of emails from all my favorite companies, wanting to make sure that I don’t forget.  Christmas is coming!  Whatever we sell is certainly exactly what everyone on your gift list needs!!  It’s a sale you can’t beat!!!  Finish you gift list with us!!! Hurry, hurry, before it’s too late!!!!

And they’re right about one thing.

Christmas is coming!  But do you get as weary of all the anticipation being linked to the use of your pocket book as I do?

I’m all about a good sale.  I also really enjoy putting thought and care into shopping for just the right gifts for the people on my list, envisioning their pleasure upon receiving them.  I feel like thoughtful gift giving can be a truly unselfish and beautiful way to commemorate the giving of the greatest Gift the world has ever known.

If that’s really why you’re doing it.

Because sometimes, between the long lines at check out, neon doorbuster signs, the giant displays of cheap plastic stocking stuffers and the mailboxes overflowing with ads, we can lose sight of why we’re even engaging in this cultural practice.  It becomes simply tradition for tradition’s sake, because “that’s just what you do at Christmas”.  It becomes a burden, because “that’s what everyone expects”.  It becomes a ploy, because “if I give something, I’ll probably get something back”.  It becomes an annoyance, because “they have everything” or “I hate shopping”.  It becomes a show, because “people will be impressed by my generosity, my cleverness and my gift wrapping skills”.  It becomes a contest, because “my gift is better than your gift” (or isn’t).  It can even become depressing, because “people are so ungrateful” or “my gift isn’t as nice as I would like it to be”.

But the fact is, if our “giving” has become any of these things, it has lost it’s meaning and it’s not even giving anymore.  It has become some other self-centered practice, and in that case, the world would be better off if you just quit.

Not quit giving.  Quit giving for the wrong reasons.

Because giving isn’t the problem.  The pure act of true giving has never been anything but good.  It’s in the motive and heart of the giver where the trouble can lie.

IMG_5948.JPGI believe that the best way to keep the motive of our giving pure is to simply seek to give as Christ gave.  Jesus put Himself in a manger, knowingly beginning the path to the cross, and gave the greatest gift anyone could possibly give—Himself.  What’s more, He gave that gift to everyone in the entire history of the world, past, present and future.

He gave to people who He knew would take His gift for granted, without comprehending the infinite value of what He had done.

He gave to people who would eventually turn the greatest event in the history of the world into just one more rote tradition—“a nice story to read in December and perhaps attend church to commemorate”.

He gave to a world that just expected Him to give—“no big deal, that’s what God does, and I deserve it”.

He gave fully knowing that He would receive absolutely nothing in return from the recipients—and that they had nothing to give back even if they wanted to.

He gave knowing that His gift would be met by ungratefulness, scorn and even hatred.

He gave to needy people who had nothing but thought they were rich and had everything.

He gave even though it was unthinkably inconvenient for Him to leave His throne in the heavens and confine the Eternal God of the universe to the limits of a frail human body.  He gave even though it would eventually mean excruciating pain of soul and body before the giving of His gift was finished.

He gave expecting to impress no one, but only to please His Father.

No, contrary to what the retail world might like us to think, Christmas isn’t about presents.  But the celebration of Christ’s birth is absolutely about giving.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

“But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and in…love…see that you also excel in this grace of giving…For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:7, 9)

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

Declaring the Glory

IMG_5961.JPGIMG_5939IMG_5962-1.jpgIt was a long, happy weekend of giving thanks.  During family dinner as the silverware clinked on fine china, then again later as wedges of pie were passed, between friends, during joyful church services and into microphones, I heard people express gratefulness for so many beautiful things.

Some were humorously indicative of current life situations, such as…

“Getting 24-hour flu instead of a prolonged cold.”

“All the snow melting so I don’t have to plow.”


“Baby sleeping through the night.” 

Others were sweetly tearful, deeply emotional, such as…


Long lists of volunteer services.

“A phone call from a long lost family member.”


After all the feasting and gathering was over, I took an evening walk under leaden skies, picking my way along the the icy ruts of our driveway as I mentally added a few more things to the list, like:

“Cartons of freshly laid brown eggs in my fridge.”

“Homemade brown sugar hazelnut lattes.”

“The sound of little feet pitter-pattering down the hall.”

It was a wonderfully cheering thing to do on an otherwise drab evening.  But then this happened:IMG_5894.JPGIMG_5900.JPG The dim, dreary skies lit unexpectedly up with all this splendor that kept going and going and going and wouldn’t stop.  I paused to notice the first flush of pink, and then stopped to watch in awe as it spread and rippled and flamed across the entire canopy of the heavens curving over my world.  Then the coyotes started to yap far off in the forest, and I thought about the fact that there’s more than one way to make your voice heard.

People say it with words, the animals with their own unique sounds, the sky with color, each one declaring thanks and glory.  Yes, glory!

For the small things, for the large things, in all things.

To God, our Creator, Giver, Sustainer.

Because giving thanks really is just another way of giving glory.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

“All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You.” (Psalm 145:10)

Winter Fun

IMG_5779-1.jpgRun, slide, repeat.

That’s what I and the otters did last week, I on my skis, they out on the ice, each in our own way celebrating the return of glorious winter to the northwoods.  That early November snow was some of the finest I’ve ever been privileged to make a trail through, and judging from their antics across the lake, perhaps the ice was, too?  Anyway, we certainly seemed to be agreed on the idea that all this cold stuff was meant to be enjoyed!

Then, as the sun lowered on the horizon, they’d run off in a companionable row, as you see them above, straight into their cozy den, and I’d swish my way back to my warm little house to wrap my cold fingers around a hot mug and sip steaming sweetness.  IMG_5812.JPGAh, winter with all your juxtapositions of icy beauty and cozy routines—how glad I and my sleek fun-loving neighbors are to welcome you back!

And speaking of fun, thank you to each one of you who played along in my little guessing game a couple posts back!  In case you forgot or missed the post, I asked people to guess the book of the Bible where the “psalm” I used in the post was found, as well as which photo was taken in the city rather than the country.

The correct answers were: 1) the book of Daniel (2:19-23, if you want to look it up!) and 2) the first photo of bright red snake root vines.  Unfortunately, nobody quite managed to guess both correctly, so I shall have to reserve my promised prizes for a later date!  (So if you’re terribly disappointed about that, I’m sorry, but stay tuned for another chance!)

If nothing else, it was just fun for me to see who actually reads my blog.  And, by the way, that goes for every time someone takes the time to comment, whether here or on Facebook.  It’s a tiny bit of thoughtful encouragement that always makes my day, and I’m grateful!

“A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)


Whitetail Buck

IMG_2411.JPGIt should be noted that, since there is no hunting season on shooting photographs, I generally secure my photographic venison on whatever random day of the year and in whatever random location (such as my flower garden) it presents itself.

I actually took this one’s portrait back in July, when his antlers were still velvety knobs—but since it’s Hunting Season, which is as good as a national holiday in this neighborhood, it seemed like an appropriate time to join the fun and talk about the deer I “shot” this year, too.  I suppose that the fellow above would hardly be considered a trophy, but like most hunters, I also find that the bucks are elusive and capturing one, however short his antlers may be, is something worth celebrating.

He was foolish enough to pause before bounding off with a woof, so he is literally my first buck, at least so far as I can tell for sureIMG_2413See?  There he went, after that long curious look, finally deciding to flee the lady with the giant black eye.  He will, however, have to call upon more wariness than that if he doesn’t wish to be caught by his foolish hesitation and end up in small packages in someone’s deep freeze within the next couple weeks!

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)