Posts with tag: "fine art"
Monday, January 29, 2018
By MonaElisaPhotography
Pin It

I was the quintessential city girl. Thanks to my parents I’ve had the privilege of living in Milan, Sao Paulo, Paris, Toronto, and now as a 30-something adult, Amsterdam. But regardless of the city, there were some sounds that made up my daily sound track: the hustle and bustle of traffic, the roar of motorcycles, the halting brakes of the metro, the pounding of jackhammers, the tiresome beeps of reversing trucks, the dings of a departing tram and now in Amsterdam, the clinking and clanking of passing bicycles. Animals were minimal, and whatever bird life there was, quickly drowned out.

 

The sounds of nature were not part of my daily repertoire. Fast-forward to my nature-loving husband whose mantra is, “Let’s thank God for the bumblebees and the butterflies,” and a whole new world opened up for me. I remember on some of our first forest walks together being mesmerized by the sweet cacophony of different birds singing away in the canopy of the trees. To me, it felt like nothing short of miraculous. Call me crazy, but it stirred something deep inside that I was (and still) unable to put into words.

It reminds me of a quotation from Shakespeare, The earth has music for those who listen. For me, so often I am unable to hear the beautiful music of the earth. One, because I am usually too busy making my own noise, and two, I’ve forgotten to listen (something I’m working on).

 

Recently, I bumped into an article published by the BBC that explored how plants have senses. They can see and hear, AND respond. Obviously, their senses express themselves a little differently than ours, however, there is no doubt that they are present, and are continually responding to the world around them.

 

A fascinating study conducted by Heidi Appel and Rex Cocroft from the University of Missouri found that the munching sounds of caterpillars caused plants to release chemical defenses to their leaves for the purpose of deterring these little predators. Isn’t that amazing?! You can read their findings here.

 

It seems that even though plants do not have ears, in the traditional sense, they can sense vibrations and frequencies, and thus react accordingly. But what else do plants hear?

Birds singing in Hilversum Forest, Netherlands

What astounded me the most was a recent mini lecture that I listened to that explored the relationship between birdsong and plants.  Plants receive most of their nutrition through their roots from the soil. However, there are also micronutrients found in the dew that descend in the early morning. Plant leaves have what’s called stomata. A stoma is a tiny opening or mouth found on the under-surface of leaves. Two cells (guard cells) make up the stoma that open and close with resonant frequency or vibration. These stomata are able to open up to receive the micronutrients that come from the air when the dew falls, and thus impact the plant’s growth.

 

A correlation was made between the opening and closing of the stomata and when birds sing. When do birds sing the most? Usually just before or at dawn precisely as the dew begins to settle. The frequencies from the birdsongs allow the stomata to open and receive all the micronutrients that descend upon the surface of their leaves. Is this not absolutely incredible!!!??

I’ve been able to find a number of articles discussing experiments regarding the link between the opening of stomata with certain frequencies (i.e. musical tones or types of music) and plant growth. There are even businesses in the USA capitalizing on this. They sell a whole sound system, recordings, and fertilizers to farmers that they can use to incorporate this phenomenon. Imagine a farm setting up speakers with surround sound around their fields playing birdsong while simultaneously foliar feeding (spraying water-soluble fertilizers on the surfaces of leaves).  I wonder if they turn up the bass on that?! The scientific community seems to be divided on some of the research, however, it has me riveted.

 

It also brings into question all the pesticides being used for farming, and how it affects birdlife. Of course, there is the known fact that pesticides can have a deadly impact on birds. Like DDT and DDT’s chemical relatives killing bird population. But an indirect effect is bird starvation. One of the main objectives of pesticides is to kill insect threat to crops, but as a result, there is now no longer a food source for birds. So, if they aren’t able to migrate to another location to find food, they die. (You can read more here).

 

And isn’t it wild to think that the very animals we need to help support our plants and crops to grow and thrive are the very ones we deter or inadvertently kill? Perhaps the issue at hand is much more complicated than my current understanding, nonetheless, it speaks to me about the wonderful balance we find in nature.    

It’s miraculous to see and understand how plant and animal life are so interconnected. In the blog post, Amongst Wolves, I mentioned how the reintroduction of wolves had incredibly changed the landscape of Yellowstone National Park. There is so much we can learn from nature. I can only imagine the transformation and flourishing we would see if we prioritized bird life when it comes to the impact that they have on plants (and as a result, our food source).

 

This brings a whole new meaning to allowing the music of the earth to fill our ears and to allow it to touch our hearts. 


Which sounds of nature enthrall you the most?


Although I have a deep admiration for our feathered friends, I definitely do not have the patience for bird photography. Mike Agiannidis has patience in spades. He is a typical renaissance man- photographer, fisherman, and car whisperer, who is brilliant at all three. Based in Toronto, Canada, him and his wife specialize in landscape and automotive photography. He was kind enough to showcase some of his wonderful bird photography for this blog post. You can find them here, on Instagram, and here. Make sure to check out their superb photography. 


Make sure to check out our web shop for beautiful fine art botanical prints to adorn any space you call your own. Let nature in with us! 

 

Want more? Stay up to date, connect with us and be part of our nature-loving, adventure-seeking, and obsessed with all things botanical community! Subscribe hereOr follow us on InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.

 
Saturday, October 28, 2017
By MonaElisaPhotography
Pin It

One of my favorite films growing up as a child was Disney’s The Jungle Book. Not only was this film full of animals and some pretty jazzy music (Bare Necessities never fails to bring a smile to my face), but the idea of a little boy being adopted and raised by wolves had always fascinated me. I consider wolves to be such beautiful creatures, but wary of their reputation (think of Red Riding Hood or Aesop’s Fables). 

 

Earlier this year, we bumped into BBC’s Ingenious Animals. In Episode 3 (See a clip here), they delve into the world of animal communication. Specifically, they discuss communication amongst wolves. Previously, it had always been thought that the wolf pack was held together by the aggressive and domineering alpha male. With further research, they found that this was not necessarily the case. During experiments where they took turns removing different members from the pack, the rest of the pack would howl for their missing family member. It was discovered that the wolves would utilize a different call depending on who was missing. They realized that these calls changed depending on the closeness they felt for the missing wolf, in the same way that you would feel different if an acquaintance left the room or your best friend. Thus, this was not necessarily a top-down hierarchy in the traditional sense.

 

Furthermore, in experiments where they were comparing differences between wolves and domesticated dogs, they found some fascinating results. They performed experiments in which they observed the difference between how wolves share food versus dogs, thus measuring the animals’ tolerance. What they found was that dogs don’t share their food. Whoever is the alpha dog, goes in and eats everything, while the subordinate dog does not even attempt to get a bite. There’s no dinner for the underdog. In all the experiments where the wolf alpha male was released with a subordinate, the wolves always shared their food.

 

The reasoning behind this behavior? Dogs are scavengers and less likely to share. Wolves have always hunted in packs to bring down their prey, thus they have a need for tolerance, communication, partnership, and friendship, ensuring their success and survival. We could learn a lot from these fascinating and marvelous creatures, don’t you think?

So, why am I telling you this?

 

Firstly, because we cannot assume that our postulations or the knowledge we have is correct. This is something I am definitely working on :)

 

Secondly, because this past September we had the incredible privilege of visiting The Wolf Conservation Association in Belgium. Although almost extinct in Europe at one point in time, the wolf has slowly been making a comeback. 

 

This association rescues wolves from private citizens, animal parks, and zoos that no longer wish to keep them. They are often mistreated and when they are no longer wanted are euthanized. It’s heartbreaking to hear of their mistreatment and that once the entertainment value dissipates many of these animals are killed. This association believes that this is not responsible behavior neither does it show love or fair treatment for the animals in question. They champion the cause of wolves by rescuing them, educating the public and making sure that these wolves live in nature or in the very least semi-natural conditions. It’s not just about the protection and preservation of the species but also of the ecosystem. They apply pressure on public authorities for changes in laws for the protection of animals in Belgium and Europe. Wolves aren’t pets. 

 

And if you ever doubted their role within the ecosystem, take a peek at this incredible video which explains what happened to the natural environment once wolves were reintroduced at Yellowstone National Park in the USA. 

Our day at the association was wonderful. We were able to see all different types of wolves from all over Europe. We even saw some beautiful Hudson Bay wolves which are native to Canada. All these were semi-wild and very wary of us. 

 

However, we had the amazing privilege to enter into one of the massive enclosures where we were allowed to interact with two Swiss wolves (a brother and sister) that had been hand-reared and were unable to be released into the wild. It was incredible and I’ve been reliving it in my mind and heart ever since. It was like receiving the most loving greeting from your best friend or a wonderful relative you haven’t seen in years. I don’t know if it was the pregnancy hormones that endeared me to them, but I was so moved by their affection. I almost started to feel guilty, as the brother wolf barely left my side. They of course made their rounds to all the guests who had entered in the enclosure, but the brother wolf stayed with me most of the time allowing me to pet him, talk to him, and even feel the pads under his feet as he cuddled with me and sat or laid by my side. I know this wouldn’t happen in the wild and neither should it, but it made me imagine how a perfect world would be without fear.  The sister wolf would of course come around, say hi, give a short cuddle, make sure she wasn’t missing anything too exciting, and then would be off on her way. 

Unfortunately, time was limited within the enclosure (I think that was the fastest 35-40min ever) and we were not allowed to bring our camera equipment, but I trust that these images we captured with our phones can give you a sense of what happened.

 

When I think back to that day, I have tears in my eyes, because it’s what I imagine heaven would be like—no fear, only perfect peace where, “the wolf...shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion… together; and a little child shall lead them," (Isaiah 11:6).

It's a memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life. And one which encourages me to keep the discussion going on how we look at, think of, and treat our world around us whether it be how we treat each other, nature or wildlife. Please remember that when you invest in a piece of fine art with us or any product you purchase in our online shop, a percentage of all proceeds will be donated to one of three organizations whose sole mission is: wildlife and habitat conservation, offering medical care to displaced persons in war torn countries, or rescuing children from the sex trafficking industry (You can read more about it here and here). 

 

I’ll leave you with Jane Goodall’s extraordinary words,” Let us develop respect for all living things. Let us try to replace violence and intolerance with understanding and compassion. And love.” 

What does a perfect world or heaven look like for you?

Want more? Stay up to date, connect with us and be part of our nature-loving, adventure-seeking, and obsessed with all things botanical community! Subscribe hereOr follow us on InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.

 
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
By MonaElisaPhotography
Pin It

There’s a little unsightly nook in our apartment just between the couch and my favourite Calathea. And regardless of what I do, it is always a mess of jumbled white wires, plugs, and chargers. Sometimes it reminds me of the scene in Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones is dropped into the Well of Souls where he comes face to face with a slithering tangled mess of pythons. I exaggerate… but between the wires for the mobile phones, tablets, laptops, e-reader, camera equipment, modem, and our lamp; it gets overwhelming.

 

We live in a digital age of touchscreens where we can have anything we want at a swipe or a tap. It’s amazing but I’ve realized it comes at a price. 

 

When I was studying for my Montessori certification years ago, one thing that made such an impression on me was when we discussed sensorial learning and its importance in child development. See, everything that is not digital but tangible  engages ALL our senses and gives our minds and bodies feedback. This feedback is what allows us to learn and experience the world with all of our faculties.  

 

There’s a huge difference between reading your favorite novel in a paperback or limited edition or on an e-reader. The e-reader is fantastic, you can carry an entire library in your bag and even read it in the dark (no flashlight required!!). Practical and extremely convenient. However, your experience dramatically changes when you pick up a physical book. The weight of the book in your hands, the act of opening the book and turning a page, the minute breeze you feel against your face when you turn a page, the texture of the paper against your fingertips, or even the fragrance that the page wafts to your nose. It’s not just about the words on the page.

And over time, the experience changes. You can always tell which book has become a favorite; the fingerprint marks on the pages, the creases in the spine, the dog-eared corners, or the underlined passages that are adored. All of this tells a story. It’s a story of experience, enjoyment (or lack of) and value.

 

I have no qualms with my Ipad or my other digital devices. They are so unbelievably practical. But to me that’s all they are: practical. On their own, they tell no story, but must be turned on and used as a vehicle to get me where I need to go (digitally). But we forget. I forget! What began as a tool to get me somewhere or something can itself become the SOMETHING that I strive for.

 

When I started this journey on rediscovering how to marvel and relaunch monaelisaphoto, I debated whether to create digital products or physical art. I’m embarrassed to say that the last time I printed a photograph must have been at least 4 years ago and I was still doing portraiture at the time! A photographer who doesn’t print their own photographs? Insane!

 

While in the testing phase over the last year we printed many samples on so many different types of papers with diverse finishes, textures, weights – and it was GLORIOUS. The photographs and images became so much more alive than what I could have hoped for or even imagined. There’s such a difference in seeing your art for REAL, as opposed to on a digital screen. It’s mind blowing.

And the story these pieces tell changes every day and throughout the day—and that’s all thanks to the light or lack thereof where they decorate our walls.  

 

A little background on our printing process…

 

We’ve found a phenomenal laboratory in Germany that utilizes excellent archival inks with an exceptional color gamut. With much testing, we decided on a bright white torchon archival paper (285gsm) as our medium. Torchon comes from the French word that means “course structure”. It has the same texture as watercolor paper and it’s simply sublime. The details that you see in the highlights and shadows are beautiful, and gives the image a sense of three dimensionality that other paper simply cannot.

 

It was almost a pity to frame these pieces as it felt like it took away from the sensorial experience of the paper, and how the light influences what you see as it hits it or is reflected from it. And yes, the texture of the paper on your fingertips even feels lovely (although I don’t recommend ‘feeling up’ your prints).

 

Our paper is museum grade which has 82 years’ longevity if displayed framed under glass or 132 years if displayed framed with a UV filter. (I’d like to see a tablet survive that long. And absolutely no charging required ;)

 

I’m so very proud of our final product. I wish there was a way that I could have each of you over so that you could see with your own eyes the difference between seeing our work in person versus on a digital screen (preferably with a glass of wine, and your favourite song playing in the background).

 

In an age where we tend to value things on the cheap because they are fast, convenient and fulfill our immediate desires, we often forget the beauty that comes with craftsmanship, quality and longevity. It’s difficult to remember amongst the clutter, the noise and all the various things that vie for our attention what it is that truly speaks to us, restores us from our weariness and makes us marvel again. In a digital age, something real is so worth the investment.

What experiences do you miss the most in this digital age?

Want more? Stay up to date, connect with us and be part of our nature-loving, adventure-seeking, and obsessed with all things botanical community! Subscribe here. Or follow us on InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.

 
Friday, March 24, 2017
By MonaElisaPhotography
Pin It

Dirk and I always enjoy during our downtime, curling up on the couch, sharing a glass of whiskey and watching nature documentaries. I confess that I always get squeamish during those hunting montages, so with my trusty pillow by my side I’m always ready to do a full-face plant when anyone is getting eaten. 

 

Recently, we bumped into Planet Earth II and I was blown away by one of their segments on the Chinstrap Penguin Colony. These little guys live on Zavodovski Island (just north of Antarctica) on an active volcano. Not only is the island volcanic, and surrounded by treacherous cliffs but it lies in one of the stormiest seas.

Photo credit: taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/

 

Every January, the island explodes with newly hatched chicks. Hungry and vulnerable, they depend on one parent to protect them while, the other goes on a 2-mile hike to the ocean to feed. Once at the coast, they have to time their jump into the ocean with absolute precision in order to catch a wave that will pull them into the freezing water otherwise they fall against the cliff’s rocky edges. They must feed, avoid predators, and swim back to the island, and again find the perfect wave to propel them back onto the cliffs to return to their starving chicks. Many arrive back bloodied, bruised, and/or with broken limbs, while others simply don’t make it. And let’s not forget, that after this ordeal they still need to hike back 2 miles and find their nest amongst 1.5 million other penguins!

 

I was deeply moved watching this. Are these penguins extreme thrill seekers? Is it instinct? Are they just bat crazy? What possesses them to do this EVERY OTHER DAY? Unfortunately, I can’t answer these questions. I’m not a penguin, and I’m so grateful I’m not. But the single motivation that I can observe is that they are consumed with an absolute desire to feed their chicks and give them a chance at survival. It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, awesome, incredibly vulnerable and frightening. These penguins have only one single focus and that is the preservation and protection of the next generation. (You can watch the clip here).

 

It reminds me of a beautiful quotation I ran across on a storefront two years ago:

I marveled at those words the first time I read them. It’s so easy for me to be consumed by my own desires and needs without a second thought to how my choices may affect those around me. Or how I can be blind to the needs of others. When I read those words, it made me pause, and start to question the choices that I make and the way that I live my life.

 

As we get ready to launch our online shop on April 11, one thing that’s become incredibly important to me is the desire to leave the space in which I inhabit on this earth (hopefully) better than the way I leave it, not only for the environment but also for those that will come after me. And I want it to be a part of my business model, without question. 

 

When you invest in a piece of fine art with us or any product you purchase in our online shop, a percentage of all proceeds will be donated to one of three organizations whose sole mission is: wildlife and habitat conservation, offering medical care to displaced persons in war torn countries, or rescuing children from the sex trafficking industry (more details coming soon in a future blog post).

 

Firstly, I’m very excited about this as it allows us to support and empower people to bring about good in this world in the midst of incredible injustice and pain. Secondly, as a customer, you can choose which organization you would like to receive the proceeds. Thus, choosing one that aligns closest to your own passions. We are all so very different and have diverse causes that we care deeply about. 

 

So, whether you are concerned about the environment, or you passionately care for the next generation like the Chinstrap Penguins, please know that when you invite us into your home by purchasing a piece of fine art photography from us, you’re also doing good and partnering with us to leave our temporary earthly home in a better place than it was before.

 

What causes are you most passionate about? 

 

Want more? Stay up to date, connect with us and be part of our nature-loving, adventure-seeking, and obsessed with all things botanical community! Subscribe here. Or follow us on InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.

 
Friday, March 10, 2017
By MonaElisaPhotography
Pin It

Marvel.

 

I love that word.

 

It’s what you do when you come into contact with something or someone that is extraordinary. It evokes admiration and astonishment. It also nurtures a sense of curiosity and pure enjoyment. It means your heart is captivated and you are filled with wonder. It’s both a ‘something’ that impacts the way you see and feel, and an action that makes you pause, admire and reflect.

 

I’ve always carried a hunger to explore the world around me. In my earlier years, I usually attempted to cram as much as humanly possible so as not to miss out. As I’ve matured, I’ve slowed down and tempered to the utter relief of my husband. My curiosity and hunger remain however, I’ve learned (and continue to learn) how to enjoy life at a different pace.

 

 I’m learning to marvel. 

When we moved to the Netherlands two years ago, I had assumed it would be a grand adventure. Challenging, of course, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I was wrong. For the first year, I was inconsolable. From a bustling multicultural metropolitan city awake at all hours to a small town where you were lucky if you saw 3 people on the street at one time on a Friday night (I have video proof). From a rich and diverse community of family and friends to zero friends. Add to that not being able to work, a different language, a different culture and the unending grey and rainy weather … let’s just say I was unraveling ;)

 

There’s two types of noise that can feature as our companions. The one I had been used to in Toronto was that of external noise. The one that says, “You CANNOT stop. Pick up that phone. Fulfill your obligations. Make sure to respond NOW. Don’t forget to do this. You MUST do that.”

 

Then there is internal noise. This companion I was familiar with and I know her well.  But without all the external noise, her decibel increased by astronomical proportions. As I battled all the internal noise and loneliness I was experiencing, there came a point where I just couldn’t listen to that voice any more. 

 

I was hungry for a different voice. 

What I discovered? There was beauty all around me and if I could just stop and let myself be captivated by it, it could offer some relief. If I could open myself up to it, to know it and be known by it, I could find some peace from all the negative voices and noises I was constantly hearing. This beauty may have looked and sounded different than what I was used to, and it may have even not been to my taste at times but it was and still is beautiful, worthy of being appreciated and precious.

 

See, to marvel, is to take your eyes off of yourself, off of your problems, and off of all the voices that bombard you whether external or internal. It asks you to be still, to pause, to admire and to wonder. And in that moment, it’s just you and that extraordinary vista, or that tiny bud about to burst with color, or your best friend’s laughter in full force, or how the breeze makes your curtains dance in the afternoon light.

 

To marvel is to be fascinated by a wonder and a beauty that transports you to another state of mind where all you can do is be captivated.  This is what my heart hungers for. Not the busyness or the to-do lists but those quiet moments of awe that feed my soul, inspire my senses, and ground me again.

 

And this is what I hope to inspire and offer to others as we forge into a new direction at monaelisaphoto. We want to inspire you to marvel again at the beauty of nature, and the details of the world around you. 

What makes you marvel?

Want more? Stay up to date, connect with us and be part of our nature-loving, adventure-seeking, and obsessed with all things botanical community! Subscribe here. Or follow us on InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.