March of the penguins…

There’s a small window of time when the King Penguins walk. It can’t be too cold, certainly not too hot, and the wind can’t be strong enough to blow airborne fungal spores from decomposing plant materials their way resulting in respiratory illnesses.

It was such a joy to watch the group waddle along a protected route. They were curious and content with their rock star reception by the crowds lined up to watch.

And the baby—not even waterproof yet—just a ball of fluff!

Eye-level with a penguin! It made this photographer’s day. The vernal equinox, taking place today, marks the end of their walking opportunities for 2022, and with the winds howling, I suspect they’ll be tucked away this morning.

King Penguins are considered an indicator species for climate change.

For more nature photos, find me on instagram.

https://www.instagram.com/sherylsonnenberg_photography/

I’ll be watching you…

Today’s image led me on a self-guided study about eye cues and their ability to cause people to adjust their behavior. Pictures of eyes or stylized drawings, both seem to work.

Eyes—they aren’t just windows to the soul—they’re powerful tools that have the potential to modify human behavior.

Cue Sting…every breath you take.

A covenant…

Wild Bird World says that spotting an owl, particularly one holding watch or in a strong and dignified stance, might mean that a well-deserved justice is going to come forth.

I like to think that I’m a practical girl. I prefer when science offers me explanations for the things I encounter, and yet a part of me, that same part that likes to think there is good in everyone, wonders if it could be a sign. I’ve seen more owls in the last few months than I’ve seen in my whole life, prompting us to place a beautifully crafted Great Horned owl this past Christmas, atop our tree.

(Cue the practical girl to return from the forest of mystical signs.)

Some say that when people do bad things, you have to love them and let them go because that type of person isn’t capable of remorse or even an understanding of how broken they are. The carnage they leave in their wake will, in their minds, always be someone else’s fault.

We talk about nature or nurture but does it matter? Is why someone does something somehow a valid excuse for the behavior? Not in my mind. Sometimes people are just evil. They cloak themselves in character traits adopted to disguise the rot inside. A bit dark perhaps for a Monday morning but once you’ve encountered this type of monstrosity it’s difficult to not use it as a measuring stick for mankind.

My covenant? I’ll take the strong and dignified stance, allow a fanciful thought that an owl could be a sign, but never stop fighting for justice for myself or those whom I hold dear.

Stay the course…

In my sailing days there were times when the seas were rough and the waves were breaking from the wrong direction, making the path forward difficult and dangerous. Sometimes, because of the length of the passage, there was no option of turning back.

I remember reaching port after one such trip and realizing that I hadn’t let fear overtake me—I’d stayed the course and come out the other side. Oftentimes, it spoke to having had enough ballast to hold steady in battering seas.

Ballast. We need that on dry land too. Someone or something that balances and strengthens us. I’m grateful that I have that. It comes in the form of friends that stay close, family that supports, and last but not least, my husband.

If you’re a fan of the hit series Yellowstone you’ll understand…I married a Rip. And I’m one lucky girl.

Look for the ballast in your life. Put time and attention into the people that put time and attention into you.

The currency of freedom…

Last summer while driving home from photographing a meteor shower, I used a trucker’s lights to paint this image. He was driving down the same highway that is now obstructed for miles in both directions this side of a major border crossing.


I’m not proud of this weekend’s moment in Canadian history. Freedom is the currency being bartered for. What began as a demonstration closely tied to different mandates being required for unvaccinated truckers has gone south. I don’t believe that the mandate should have been implemented—for many, it was the final straw—coming at a time when the decision to vaccinate or not is still a personal one.

From gridlocks and blockades, to vandalism and desecration in cities across this country, it’s the smaller stories that sadden me the most. The ones that won’t make the national news because they are byproducts, not headliners, of an out of control event. How many lives are being affected because people cannot get to where they need to be, or have help get to them in a timely manner? And who will clean up the streets and highways after the protesters have dispersed? We aren’t just talking truckers here, had we been, I suspect the event would have had a different outcome. I don’t believe their intent was a call-to-arms for the fringe unvaccinated to descend from their social media thrones and disrupt essential workers trying to do their jobs. While protesting is legal, blocking a highway is not.

I’m disgusted. There are consequences to the decisions we make—freedom does have a currency.

Mandate freedom. How about we mandate humanity?

It’s better to be hated…

Why do people love to hate the magpie?

I must confess to spending a large amount of time watching and photographing these birds. Last year I was fortunate enough to observe the parents of a deceased magpie as they held a funeral for the chick they’d lost. A large crowd of these corvids gathered under a pine tree where the nest had been, and on the third day, I buried the body once the funeral appeared to have concluded.

Often the first thing said is that they kill other birds and steal the eggs. Sometimes. But they also clean up large amounts of roadkill and last year, played a roll in controlling the grasshopper epidemic that plagued us throughout summer.

Magpies are capable of understanding that a mirror image belongs to their own body—a cognitive behavior in animals so far only demonstrated by apes, dolphins, and elephants. Then again, they have an extremely large brain size to relative weight, even larger than the African Grey parrot.

I find them to be quite human excepting for their lack of artifice. And maybe that’s what I like about them. Unlike humans, they do what they do and they don’t pretend to be something else. I can accept that, even the cruel bits that I don’t like to observe.

It reminds me of a Mark Manson quote. It’s better to be hated for who you are than be loved for who you aren’t.

On the surface…

Stories—the beginnings are fluid, with starting points somewhere in the timeline and often at a point of action. We don’t know what’s happened before and can only guess at the perils that lie ahead.

Images taken in nature are stories presented within four walls. There are no pages to turn and the cast of characters often remain unknown. They’re not always pretty.

I would liked to have lingered. Waited and perhaps discovered the rest of the tale. I have my suspicions—the heap of remaining flesh and fur spoke volumes—but maybe that’s someone else’s story.

I don’t think I could have photographed this several years ago, but I was a different person back then. Now, when presented with the opportunity, I study nature more closely. I celebrate its beauty and share in its moments of cruelty.

We’re all animals. The difference is some of us keep that hidden inside cloaked with a carefully constructed mirage, while others lay it right out there on the surface for everyone to see. Interesting how a walk in nature can open your eyes and feed your soul at the same time.

Into the Night (shake it off)

Night’s darkness looms

Greens fade into black

The horizon’s bright band

Doesn’t reach where I stand


Headlights behind

Embed thoughts in my mind

The air is so thin

I can’t breathe enough in


Stars blanket the sky

Silence rings in my ears

What once was my zone

is now filled with unknown


The snap of a twig

Mirrors the click of a gun

Suck a breath in

Or the pattern will win


Pull out the camera

Set up the tripod

Scars never heal

But fear’s lost its appeal


(shake it off)

I began writing Into the Night (shake it off) last year after realizing that I had overcome my fear of the night once again. I couldn’t have done it without the patience and support of my husband—he gave back to me what I allowed someone else to take from me.

We are a product of everything we do and have done to us. That’s what I believe. I also believe that good and evil exists and their defining characteristics are not gender based. Gender can however play a role in how these qualities manifest.

Don’t allow fear to be a dictator—empower yourself. Surround yourself with people whose actions don’t raise questions and distance yourself from those whose do. Be ruthless. It might be tough at first but it gets easier over time.

What is orientation?

Is it what shapes the way we interact with the environment?

Is it how ten photographers could shoot the same scene and each image would look different?

Is it why there are differences in how people respond to events in their lives, or perhaps a person’s identity in relation to gender?

Is it the cause of when a business refuses to change its model until it’s too late?

It’s all of these things and more.

Orientation became a critical component of character development last month as I wrote the first fifty thousand words of a novel. It forced me to make mental shifts while in the minds of characters whose actions were completely at odds with what mine would be, under those same circumstances. Some of the characters I lingered with, while others made me want to burn sage to cleanse the air afterward!

Orientation describes why people have certain behaviors, relationships, and varying abilities to adapt—we are products of our experiences, genetics, and culture—and recognizing that allows for better decision making.

When it comes to living your best life, be prepared to make mental shifts on a daily basis. Evaluate and reevaluate. Are the people in your life vested in you? Are they after personal gain? Can they do you harm? Are there strings attached to everything? Look beyond the public or social media picture that’s painted for you. If you don’t, you’ll never know if it’s real or fabricated.

The image above brings another year to a close. It’s a reflection of mountains and trees on a frozen river. And isn’t the end of a year the perfect time for reflection?

This post brings to a close seven years of blogging and happily enough, a doubling of my readership over last year’s numbers. Thank you all, and Happy New Year!

Influences…

When it comes to art, nothing is new. Consciously or subconsciously we are influenced by what we see and hear, but what we do with that information is what counts.

I recently watched a post unfold where a painter sourced a photographic group for photos, replicated some of them, and passed them off as his own work. When called out, he claimed not to know better, yet had a well established website from which to monetize his paintings—which were identical in content to some of the photographs. He hadn’t asked permission to use them, and he certainly hadn’t made any of them his own. He’d simply painted the photograph with no credit to the photographer. One was a carefully crafted landscape image that this particular photographer had planned out. The resulting photo wasn’t a case of being in the right place at the right time. He, like many photographers do, had researched the site, the event that he wanted to photograph there, and when the two came together, he went out and got the shot—his vision, his composition, his expression.

Inspiration is a good thing. It stretches our creative boundaries and takes us in directions we might not have gone had we not been moved in some way.

From episode one of the series Yellowstone, I was mesmerized by the opening title sequences so brilliantly put together by creative director Lisa Bolan, Elastic, and crew. (If I’ve missed other attributions, I apologize.) Black and white photography has always inspired me and I’ve written before about people whose work I’ve particularly enjoyed, Stieglitz, for one. The images that drew me in from the title sequences had a gorgeous, yet gritty, yellowish toning applied to them.

By the next day, I’d developed a black and white toning pre-set for my monochrome imagery that for me, had the feel of those opening sequences. It doesn’t work for everything, it’s a starting point, but I’ve had a lot of fun playing with it.

The image above is a farrier hot-shoeing a horse.

Explore other mediums. Be inspired. Be true to your own vision.