Thursday, December 18, 2014

Maine winter wonderland

A dusting of snow creates a magical scene in the village.
As autumn loosens its grip on Maine in mid-December, the landscape changes from brown to black and white, and back again. Soon the bitter cold will come and with it a permanent white blanket. After several days of cold rain, today brought a lovely dusting of snow to the coastline and village.

A one hour excursion took me not far at all: everywhere I turned, the scenery was being transformed into a lovely snow-laden wonderland. Not long after these photos were taken, the temperature rose and completely melted the crystalline coating. Captured by my camera are the images on this page. There will surely be more to come.

All photos by the author. All rights reserved © 2014. It is illegal to use any of the images without permission.

The snow accentuates the textures and form of the woods.
A still pond reflects the surrounding woods.

A beautiful serpentine tree is made even more striking by snow.

Why this tree is not straight like all the others is a mystery.

Shallow root systems on this granite peninsula create interesting patterns, especially when enhanced by the powdery snow.

Truly a winter wonderland. This scene is in the back yard.

Even the ground cover is more beautiful with snow.

Boughs sag under the weight of the fresh snow.

Walking the short loop around the cottage, each snapshot (above and following) of the snowy woods was more beautiful than the last. I could have stayed out all day.

The lane can be seen through the trees in the back yard. So fortunate to be in this enchanting, quiet refuge.

An old lane gate near the cottage.

A dozen large rhododendron bushes surround and nearly hide the cottage. Even in winter they are beautiful!
When the daylight hours are short, and the stove roars to dispel the cold that seeps into the cottage, the beauty of a snowfall in the woods can brighten spirits. 

There will be many more snowfalls this season. More photos will be added as I capture the images on a walk among the tall pines.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Urban graffiti art

All over the world, urban artists have transformed abandoned and neglected spaces in cities. What once may have been a decaying concrete wall along an empty weed-choked lot is now a modern-day canvas that reflects life in the city as seen by creative, often counter-culture Picassos.

This photo journey is through some of Bangkok's main streets as well as vacant lots. In one instance, I happened to peek over a tin sheet fence into a vacant field whose concrete wall had been brightly painted by the unseen artists, but which very few people have seen. I had to squeeze through a small opening in the fence to access the art.

Following the Bangkok art are photos of similar art in Chicago.

All photos © 2014 by John R Stiles


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chiang Mai, Thailand: An intimate look

Returning to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand for a visit, I had seen most of the "must see" sights. However, as I walked through the streets in the Old City and into the courtyards of some of the more than 100 temples, I began to look a little more closely at the details. As a result, I came away with a more intimate look at Thailand's second largest city.

Following are glimpses into the everyday scenes in Chiang Mai, nearly all without identifying features that give away their location. My intent was to document the city and its people up close. I hope I have succeeded, and invite your comments.

All photos by the author, all rights reserved. Copyright © 2014 John R Stiles. It is illegal to use the images without permission.

Monk vestments drying near the dormitory at a temple.

Colorful decorations hang across a temple prayer hall.

Puppets in traditional Thai dress

A senior monk strolls down a street, shielded from the hot sun

This delicate glassware contains relics of various important Buddhist monks. One (higher, out of sight) is purported to contain a relic of the Buddha.
Thais do not have cemeteries so most temples have memorials like this for families to remember their departed loved ones. 
Temple altars have a variety of Buddha images
Weathered wood of temples has wonderful texture
Bodhi trees (it is said Buddha attained enlightenment under one in India) are considered sacred in Thailand, thus many are wrapped in colorful lengths of fabric.
Intricate reliefs are common on temple windows and doors
This colorful shed caught my eye
An artist paints on a temple's grounds.
Temple altar. The lotus-shaped decorations are made from dried flowers. Beautiful and intricate.
At night, Chiang Mai is quiet, with scenes like this along small side streets.
Street vendors work late into the night. This one is near my hotel.
Akha hill tribe woman near Chiang Mai

Lost in translation. The Thai is not any more understandable, according to a Thai friend. This was written by a monk at a mountaintop temple near Chiang Mai.
Steps on a pagoda that enshrines a Buddha relic, built by local kings circa 1840.
A senior monk blesses the devout.
There are many al fresco paintings on temple walls. Unfortunately, I cannot read the teachings written beneath each one. You will just have to use your imagination.

This is an exception to my unidentifiable location guideline. Anyone who has been to this temple will know it immediately. But I liked the contrast and unusual perspective of this view. Most visitors take photos of the grand vista within the temple grounds. This one makes me feel like being on the inside looking out.

I liked the serene face and gold leaf on this Buddha statue in one of the temples.
Life size concrete elephants surround a chedi (pagoda) at a temple
Kitchen at a riverside restaurant