A Spring Break in North Georgia

A Spring Break in North Georgia

Entranced by the lush cherry blossoms and  legions of showy dogwood trees, I disregarded plumes of pollen and dodged incoming traffic to capture a few spring moments in our community. It was nice to take a break from travel photography, and to relax behind my camera seeing just what I want to see and not what I want to show. I have new respect for photographers now that I’m trying my hand at travel blogging. Usually when I go on a journey I’m with someone, (hello family!) and I feel guilty for holding a day of sightseeing hostage so I can stop every few minutes to figure out what lens to use. When we do wander around together, I try to alternate camera days, but invariably the days I don’t bring it with me interesting clouds are dotting the horizon and when I do, the atmosphere is as thick as pea soup. And then there’s the gear. I’ve seen some amazing equipment out there, lenses the size of toasters and I’ve come to realize that big isn’t always better. For me at least, travel photography is much easier with a couple of small lightweight fixed lenses, a 50 mm and a wide-angle. Like everything in life there is a balance, and in this case it’s finding the sweet spot between enjoying the moment and documenting it.

When we moved to our community 20 plus years ago, it was mainly rural, and most people didn’t recommend moving “so far” north of the city. Like many urban areas the boundaries between these areas collided and suddenly we’re a northern suburb of Atlanta. The downside of being almost urban is the increase in development, traffic and sadly the loss of a historic building or two. Still, it’s a lovely place to live in the best of both worlds, close to the city, with a touch of the countryside.

An old repair shop, Holcomb’s Machine Shop.
Our little town’s main street, all grown up.
I drive past this charming old fireplace almost every day. I imagine it warming the hands and hearts of a family from long ago. Each time I pass it, I’m thankful that it’s no one has had the stomach to demolish this piece of local history.

I learned that this was the area’s original sheriff’s office. Today, it’s a modern bike and coffee shop, Whitetail Bicycles, catering to those who travel on two wheels instead of four.

I never expected to use my photo session as a sort of historic tour of our area. It was interesting how my experience evolved into a greater appreciation for the beauty in the unexpected, and how happy I was to share what I saw through my lens.

Take care, and happy spring,

e.

A Whisper to Winter

A gentleman on horseback ambled through my viewfinder not long ago, and without stopping, asked me what I was taking pictures of. His words made me pause for a minute. I was standing in that sun swept North Georgia field for a reason, but how do you explain how special the light is in late winter to a stranger who had to ask? How the sun transforms everything it touches with its amber glow, the grasses, those oceans of wild wheat that pulsate in the light, rows of nimble dancers swaying in the wind. I started to sweep my arm around to show why it moved me, then dropped it back to my side and mentioned something vague about the setting sun and wished him a wonderful evening. His friendly voice carried across the field as he and his horse continued on, half shouting about how bad the traffic had become and that he can’t take his horses on the roads anymore because of it, and did I know he used to photograph his daughters during their many years of horse shows. After they disappeared into the woods I slowly turned and drank in what was left of the day, then quietly whispered a goodbye to winter.

elisaruland:milton30

Version 2

elisaruland:milton31

ELISARULAND.COM-Milton50

ELISARULAND.COM-MILTONTRAIL5

ELISARULAND.COM-prespringh (1)

ELISARULAND:MILTONHORSE

Crossing the Celestial Equator

Crossing the Celestial Equator

On Wednesday, September 23rd, the sun’s rays began to shine directly over the Earth’s equator marking the beginning of the Autumnal Equinox in the northern hemisphere. Fall’s arrival reminded us here in the U.S. that the days are growing cooler, that it’s time to dig out sweaters, find the forgotten rakes, and to pick fresh apples and start baking them in pies. It’s the season of leaf peeping, pumpkin carving and cheering through hours of football. It is a time for counting blessings and gathering our families to celebrate all that is good in life, for cherishing our friends and remembering those who passed. This year, remarkably, the sun’s rays also guided a humble man of the cloth to our country, a Pope named Francis, who taught us that kindness and humility, acceptance, and caring for those less fortunate than us remains our daily priority. This year, when the sun crossed the equator, it delivered hope.

The Courtyard Less Traveled

The Courtyard Less Traveled

Beyond the Louvre Pyramid lies a courtyard that few people notice during their stay in Paris. It’s just steps away from the crowds lining I.M. Pei’s modern glass entrance, but the Cour Carrée sits nearly empty even during the peak tourist seasons. This section of the museum called the “Old Louvre,” is the original site of a 12th century fortress, and later, a larger royal residence. The handsome buildings surrounding this courtyard were built between the 16th and 17th century, replacing the last external remnants from medieval times.

It’s the perfect place to enjoy the architectural history of the Louvre, especially at night, when the lights enhance the majestic Renaissance structure and interesting sculptures. Take a stroll one evening and study the details, or bring a camera and photograph the nighttime moment. If you’re lucky, you may be serenaded by a roaming musician or two. Luckier still, a night bicycle tour may glide through your photo shoot with their helmets aglow and surprise you with a laser-like light show through your photograph, adding another enchanting memory to your memory book  (above).

Related: Six Things You May Not Know About the Louvre

WP Blur Challenge: Or, How I Learned to do this on Purpose in Photography Class

WP Blur Challenge: Or, How I Learned to do this on Purpose in Photography Class

The ability to enhance your blog with beautiful photography seems like a no-brainer, until you actually attempt to master beautiful photography. After gamely trying to self-teach myself over the last few years, I finally caved-in to taking a few classes after someone innocently remarked that I had a good eye, but needed to master the technical. Shortly afterwards I was standing in the middle of a busy parking lot in downtown Atlanta adjusting my shutter speed for Lesson 2 on “panning” of my Photography class. It’s hard to adequately describe the visual of our cute young instructor gamely running from one end of the lot to the other encouraging our small group to freeze her motion with our cameras as we moved our bodies side to side, all in unison. After several attempts no one was successful, but I’m pretty sure it was due to mutual concern that our instructor, for all her enthusiasm, was going to hurt herself. Two weeks later, after lesson 4, I stood alone in the dark next to my car and started panning the cars passing by, trying not to focus on the fact that I was standing alone in a parking lot in the dark. My first three attempts were fine. I was relaxed, feeling the motion, and following through with my body just like your arm should after hitting a tennis ball. About to call it a night, a saw the flash of red before I saw the car, a red Porsche driving down the street fulfilling my dream of photography Nirvana. Not a technical masterpiece, but not too bad for a mid-session Photo2 student. Photo Challenges the Daily Post: Blur

Lingering Over Lunch in Paris

Lingering Over Lunch in Paris

It was the French crêpe recipe I noticed in my kitchen file that brought me back to the terraced street in Paris, the rows of cobblestones drenched in sunlight and the busy café we selected for lunch. The restaurant L’Ebouillanté was busy in a mellow late Autumn sort of way, lingering made easier in the European sun. I clearly remember the day last November, wandering for hours around le Marais district of the city, known for its boutiques and art galleries, block after block of charm, until we collapsed happily on the inviting chairs arranged haphazardly in the shade. It was an exquisite moment, the back of the lovely gothic church Saint-Gervais et Saint-Protais towering over the scene and the sparkling Seine just across the way.

It’s why we have the urge to roam, I think, to fill ourselves with unfamiliar cultures until we’re exhausted and ready to re-fuel with the local food and drink, energized for another adventure. I can still taste the crêpes prepared how I love them, crispy and not too sweet, more like a meal than a dessert. Busy schedules tend to make our meal times upside-down these days, and crêpes are perfect for any time of day.  You can dream a little dream of Paris with my favorite crêpe recipe, below, and if you don’t feel like cooking? Take a break, and just dream.

Combine 3/4 cup of sifted flour, 3/4 cup of water, 2/3 cup of milk, 3 eggs, 2 Tb. melted butter, and 3/4 tsp. of salt in a blender and blend for 5 seconds. Stop machine, scrape sides with a spatula, and blend for 20 seconds longer. Transfer batter to a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 1 hour.  Heat a 7 inch iron crêpe pan until moderately hot, brush pan lightly with oil, and heat until oil is very hot, remove pan from the heat. Stir batter, half-fill a 1/4 cup with batter, and pour into pan. Rotate the pan quickly so batter covers bottom in a thin layer, return to heat, loosen crêpe with a spatula, and cook until the underside is golden. Turn crêpe, brown other side, and transfer to a plate. Continue until the batter is gone. Adding 3 tablespoons of orange liqueur to the batter is a nice touch. L’Ebouillanté is located at 6 rue des Barres, Paris France, Marias, 4ème

The Drama Queen

The Drama Queen

Chenonceau was the icing on our travel cake, the multi-arched trophy for completing a meandering two-hour bike ride through the breathtaking French countryside.  No amount of reading or research prepared me for the beauty of the site, the stunning architecture, its delicate design. And at first glance, it didn’t surprise me that the château, also known as the “Château of the Ladies,” or in French “Châteaux des Dames,” for the succession of powerful French noblewomen who each made an impact on the castle.  The original owner, Thomas Bohier, disappeared on the king’s business so often that his wife, Katherine Briçonnet, made most of the (stunning) design decisions, during construction of the main château.  In 1547, King Henry II gave the château to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and after he died in a jousting tournament in Paris, his wife Catherine de Médicis, unceremoniously forced Diane out of the château and into another as a sort of consolation prize. Catherine, as regent of France would continue to spend a fortune on the château turning it into a spectacular party destination for the local aristocracy, and with a bang hosted the first fireworks display in France in honor of the ascension to the throne of her son Francis II.  Another notable and quick thinking female resident, Louise Dupin, saved her family and the château from destruction during the French Revolution.  She negotiated with the revolutionaries, convincing them that the castle was the only way to cross the river Cher, and offered that the bridge be open to everyone.  If there was an 1700’s equivalent of “you go, girl,” it might have been quietly whispered among her entire staff that evening.

Visiting the Loire Valley wasn’t on our original itinerary to Paris, but I was eager to make it happen since seeing the great châteaux in their natural setting was long on my list of places to go.  These days it’s easy to be both travel agent and client with all the necessary resources found right on our own computers. By shortening our time in Paris by a few days, and arranging for a rental car at De Gaulle, we could relax and drive at our own pace to the charming small town of Amboise, known for being a home base for the eastern section of the Loire Valley.  I found the perfect hotel with views of the Loire River and the Château d’Amboise, the Hotel Manoir les Minimes, (thank you, Trip Advisor) making our side trip itinerary complete.  I eased the worry of managing Paris traffic, and a possibly delirious jet lagged four-hour car drive by embracing the encouraging online tips from other travelers, and ignoring the advice to take the train from those absolutely terrified of the famous tangle of rush-hour on the Périphérique. It was also helpful to figure out where to find a strong cup of French java before we exited the airport terminal.  All worth it for the beautiful drive from Paris to Amboise, the chance to castle hop by bike, a road break to visit the remarkable Chartres (stained glass madness!) Cathedral on the way back to Paris, and to experience – in the most beautiful way – one of the prettiest regions of France. Recommended reading: Rick Steve’s Snapshot, Loire Valley

Everything Will be Alright

Everything Will be Alright

It was just over four years ago when our son made his decision to attend Indiana University, a large public research institution in the charming mid-western college town of Bloomington. And it was five years ago during our student tour, that I remember standing at the entrance to the oldest part of the campus from our place under the graceful limestone arches known as the Sample Gates. A few years later we gathered for parents weekend and cheered on the football team, met roommates and friends, and celebrated university life. Time marched on, the distance between the school and our home is several hours, young men aren’t in need of their parents as often, and the visits to the Bloomington campus ceased, until a few weeks ago. With graduation looming, I heard the call of this beautiful mid-western university and felt an instinctive pull toward our son to spend a last visit together, cement graduation plans and to dream of the future. I met housemates and friends, celebrated university life and embraced the instinctive moment of motherhood when I knew that everything would be, alright. Before I drove back to the airport, I stood again at the Sample Gates and imagined a young man from Atlanta, Georgia tossing his graduation cap from the sunroof of his car as he turned left at the limestone gates for the last time, driving towards a friendly fading sun who lightly whispered a future of love, laughter, hope and promise.