Posts with tag: "nature photography"
Monday, January 29, 2018
By MonaElisaPhotography
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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! 

 

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Sunday, November 26, 2017
By MonaElisaPhotography
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A couple months ago we announced that our ‘lil team was sprouting. Well, our lil’ sprout is here! It has been just my husband and I for the last 12 years, and now it is unbelievable that we are now 3. 

 

So, let me introduce you to Ethan Oak. We chose the name Ethan because it means strong, optimistic, solid, and enduring. We chose Oak not only because oak trees are symbolic of strength, might, beauty, and highly revered in folklore and mythology. But also, based on the verse found in Isaiah 61:3. It’s a beautiful passage full of hope, and we pray that Ethan Oak will grow into his name and be an oak of righteousness in a turbulent and unsure world.  

We are beyond grateful for all of our families’, friends’, and readers’ warm thoughts, prayers, and support. Ethan Oak was born October 18th. He was 8.3 lbs! Birth and delivery was nothing short of miraculous. Contractions began October 16th at around 1PM. After consistently having contractions for 5 hours we thought he was arriving that night. However, Ethan needed much more time. After 2 sleepless nights with intense contractions ranging from 2 to 10 minutes apart, the midwives decided to break my water in the early morning of the 18th, and we soon held Ethan in our arms!! We are so thankful we were able to have Ethan born naturally at home, and our midwives were incredible and so wonderful. 

 

I marvel at just how miraculous our bodies are made, and how they can create, sustain and push out a tiny human life. 

Nature knows exactly what to do whether it’s how our bodies function or how plants grow and bloom. Every season evolves into the next in utter beauty from spring to summer to fall to winter. It doesn’t need to be ordered or instructed, everything opens itself up to the elements and surrenders itself to the unfolding of life.

 

I came across this quotation a few months ago and it is so apt as the chill of winter is approaching and the last leaves descend and return to the earth. Every fall,” the trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.”  

I want to encourage you that if you’re going to through a tough season in your life, there is reason enough to raise your head in hope. There is much beauty to be discovered (or rediscovered) all around you… even in the process of letting go. Sometimes the things that we hold on to most tightly are the very things that are weighing us down, and stop us from enjoying what is right in front of us.

 

Currently, I am learning to be an expert in letting go with this new little one... especially of sleep, but so so so many other things too. And it’s absolutely worth it.

 

It’s in art to celebrate in the ‘letting go’. 


We love to celebrate the wonder of nature here, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed.  And we have a couple of happy announcements!

 

We launched three new mini collections in our shop just in time for Christmas. Each collection comes with a set of two beautiful fine art prints that complement each other perfectly: Tropical Reverie, Fern Fractals, and Arid Daydream. They are each sized 20cm x 30cm or 8in x 12in. They are a gorgeous pair and at a special price for the set.  

Furthermore, we are so happy to announce that we've been able to reduce our flat-rate shipping costs for Canadian, American and UK customers (HALLELUJAH!!) and still offer the same exceptional delivery service *insert happy dance*.  Our state-of-the-art fine art printers in Germany estimate 10 business days for both printing and delivery to North America.

 

We also released a November gift for you and are offering a free phone wallpaper to take you back to lazy sunny summer afternoons for those -20/-30 Celsius days (shout out to Toronto)! You can download your free gift here. Feel free to send us a screenshot of your new wallpaper in use via Instagram

What are you in the process of letting go?

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017
By MonaElisaPhotography
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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?

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Friday, March 24, 2017
By MonaElisaPhotography
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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? 

 

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Friday, March 10, 2017
By MonaElisaPhotography
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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?

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