Week Five: never lose hope

29/365: wipeout


We finally got Sawyer and Zola out for their first ski lessons! They did great. Most of my pictures were boring snapshots of my kids making it down the hill. But this kid took a spectacular tumble at the bottom of the hill, giving me my favorite shot of the day. Of course he was undaunted and bounced back up for another run.

30/265: magnolia buds


Hope springs eternal. One of these days (and it won’t be long) there will be flowers again!

31/365: a time to sow


Milkweed is springing up in gardens all over the city. I’m encouraged by these efforts to help the monarchs and reminded of the collective power of our small, individual actions. Instead of wringing our hands, why not use them to plant seeds of change?

32/365: domestic jungle


Part of the ongoing ‘Peeping Terra’ series – photographs of other people’s windows. The light is so dramatic, I can’t resist! I find windows intriguing, too. In this liminal space, both public and private, what do we choose to conceal/reveal to the world?

33/365: basking/biding


This garden hose basking in the sun reminds me so much of a snake – body coiled, conserving energy until the moment of action arrives. I’ve been observing the steadfast quiescence of all things (objects & beings alike) in these dormant winter days, sensing energy stirring in anticipation as the sun begins to warm our skins once again.

34/365: like a hawk


I’m not a wildlife photographer and I don’t have a seriously long lens so when I have a picture like this it means I was REALLY CLOSE to this hawk! As I recall, I was griping about how ugly winter gets when there is no fresh snow and feeling grumpy about looking at the same old things and then this guy showed up. You just never know…

35/365: what so proudly we hailed


Zola’s after-school choir had the honor of singing the national anthem at the Timberwolves game the other night. All those fresh earnest faces and wide open hearts, so tiny at center court amid the basketball giants. Our hearts swelled with pride and, yes, HOPE.

Week Four: Land of the Ice & Snow

22/365: ice-cycle


This winter, in particular, has been a never-ending cycle of freeze and thaw. This weather is somewhat troubling and often frustrating. Tough to ski, skate and snow when it’s raining. But, it does create an interesting mix of sculptural forms: objects encased in ice, dangling droplets and reflective puddles like this one on top of Minnehaha Creek.

23/365: still life with silk daisies


One to add to my series of silk flower still lives viewed through windows. There is a magic that happens with the light that falls on objects just inside the window pane. It drops off dramatically, creating a perfectly black background like an old Dutch painting.

See also: Silk & Sunlight, Old Masters, and Something Old, Something New.

24/365: old news


All the new news is so horrifying these days. Every headline evokes an, “Oh, God, what now?” response in my head. Old news seems so much easier. The answers are there. We can’t do anything to change what happened. And we know that we survived it all…

25/365: prairie snow


The prairie flowers are an endless delight to me. They are particularly charming wearing their fresh caps of snow, all waving to me in unison as they sway in the winter wind.

26/265: dreamcatcher


Found art on our walk along the creek: a dreamcatcher woven in nylon string and hooped to an overhanging tree branch. With threads echoing the lines of the branches below, the web is poised to catch every passing wind, inviting the sweetest dreams to settle in among us.

27/365: brad’s-eye view


The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships are held every year in our neighborhood, just blocks away on Lake Nokomis. This year we enjoyed traversing the frozen lake to soak up the fresh air and true hockey spirit at the heart of Minnesota culture.

At 6’4, Brad typically has the best view of the action. But I get the best view of him.

28/365: game day


The second day at the tournament was overcast and gray but no less festive.

I have no skill for capturing the fast action of live sports but I do have a habit of photographing the photographers wherever I go.


Week Three: shadows, soup & surprises

15/365: self portrait silhouette


Caving to the irresistible urge to capture my own likeness in any shadow, reflection, or slice of a dull moment. It’s a subject that’s always available. When in doubt, self portrait.

16/365: peekaboo (allium seeds under snow)


As the snow melts, hidden treasures are revealed. This dried allium head appeared to have melted a tiny window around itself in order to have a look around.

17/365: evergreen


A contrast to the stark bare skeletons of the deciduous trees, this wall of juniper is like an arctic jungle teeming with writhing green vines. Green is a magnet to the winter eye.

18/365: shadow play part two: organic


The starkness of winter pairs well with the blinding sun, creating crisp, clean shadows all around. I love the visual echoes.The way the shadow imitates and distorts the original shape to make its own mark, stealing like an artist.

*Recommended Book: Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon.

19/365: shadow play part three: industrial


The empty bike rack near the beach formed geometric patterns of bricks and undulating steel in the January sunshine. All around the icy lake, the souvenirs of summer beckoned.

20/365: Soup for Andy


Totally random find. A can of Campbell’s tomato soup sitting on an empty bus bench. About 2/3 full…Couldn’t fathom the how/why of it but it made me want a grilled cheese with a cup of soup. And I can’t see a can of Campbell’s without thinking of Warhol.

21/365: eagle’s lunch


Another lucky find…these bald eagles were in full view. The juvenile was just hanging out but the adult was enjoying tearing apart the flesh of whatever vermin it grabbed for lunch.

When I was growing up, I never saw an eagle. Now it’s almost commonplace. It gladdens my heart and give me hope for other creatures to see how this species has rebounded.

And no matter how many eagles I see, I am always wowed.

Week Two: winter light

8/365: gathering


We followed the winding path into the darkness, braced against the frigid wind. Coming upon Munro’s installations of light and sound was like stumbling into an enchanted forest or sacred clearing.

Anything that lights up a winter night and sparks such a profound sense of wonder is well worth a little cold.

Bruce Munro, Winter Light at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

9/365: no place like home


I’m not much of an angler but I feel a sense of north country pride at the sight of the ice fishing houses on the lake. The practice is quintessential Minnesota hearty.

And the house is actually a luxury! Some days you see people just sitting out on the open, care ice, perched on a 5-gallon bucket. I admire the dedication to winter activities & the determination to get outside – no matter what. But I’d want the house.

10/365: waiting in the wings


Sometimes when I’m out walking, I take note of all the things – not just plants & animals – that are in a state of dormancy or hibernation. The effect of waiting it out seems even more pronounced and poignant when the items are blanketed by snow.

11/365: stars of tomorrow


The plants that produce and hold their buds all winter so as to be ready at the first blush of spring…I love those guys! We planted a magnolia last spring – I’m heartened every time I pass by and see those furry buds quivering in the arctic winds. The azaleas, too, are steadfast in their determination to shine at the slightest gust of balmy breezes.

12/365: where you least expect it


Thursday my mom & I went to see the Martin Luther exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a collection of art, documents and artifacts – many that had never been out of Germany before.

This odd-looking object was maybe the biggest surprise and stuck in my mind’s eye. It’s the type of hood/mask the doctor would wear to protect himself against infection when calling on plague victims. Imagine this wild, dark visage arriving to care for you in the throws of your illness! Dark ages indeed.

13/365: what you see


One game I play this time of year is a search for color in the landscape. Turns out, if you’re looking for it (like so many things in life) there is is. The rust-colored leaves that cling to the oaks, the many shades of evergreen, the subtle taupe of dried prairie stems, the silver-gray of the Russian and prairie sages. And then, of course, there’s the sky…

14/365: no shadows without light


The sunshine tells a story of darkness & light through shadows against the bright, white ground of snow. I can’t get enough of these painterly silhouettes, the graphic appeal of black on white, and the dramatic elongation of winter shadows in a northern clime.

New Year, New Work

Hi there. Remember me? It’s been over a year since I posted to the blog. Yikes. It’s good to be back!

Last year was not a creative year for me. I intend to change that in 2017. I’ve realized that I make my best work when I commit to the daily photos. It is time consuming, challenging and often grueling to get out every day and see something new in the same old stuff but, then, that’s kind of my jam…

I have some new ideas to explore on the blog this year but for now, I’d like to share the first week of daily photos. Also, if you’re interested in seeing outtakes and other new work as it emerges, please follow my brand new Instagram feed at @avantgardenstudio.

1/365: caught between


A trip to Lake Nokomis on New Year’s Day led to the discovery of a double layer of ice with water, air bubbles & objects trapped in between. Everything is in flux. Sometimes we’re caught in between, a fitting expression for this moment when old passes into new.

2/365: instance of hygge


Hygge is having a moment. A Danish concept that connotes a cozy state of mind  (pronounced hyoo-gah), hygge is readymade for Minnesota winters. Or vice versa.

I’ve been working to embrace the coziness of winter. Wool socks and warm blankets, hot tea, plenty of candles. All good things. I’m not one to hate on winter but sometimes I need a little help keeping my spirits bright…

On this particular January day, I was heartened by the reflection of lamplight amidst the raindrops trickling down my window pane.

For a good intro to hygge, check out this recent article from The Kitchn:

What is Hygge and How Do You Pronounce It?

3/365: the winter garden




There is beauty to be found in the winter garden, no doubt. Seeing it, however, can require a very liberal definition of beauty and a wide open mind.

4/365: willow leaves


I have always loved willow trees for their dancing forms but only recently started to appreciate the simple form of the leaves. While brilliant in season, the subtle colors of the leaves in winter is pure poetry against a canvas of freshly fallen snow.

5/365: crack


This snow-filled crack after a fine overnight dusting reminded me of the Japanese art of Kintsugi – mending broken pottery with a golden lacquer to highlight the cracks. An expression of wabi sabi, this art form highlights the beauty of experience and imperfection of old or broken things.

Imagine seeing our cracks as something to be celebrated instead of mended or hidden.


6/365: fallen sentry


These fragile stems are the last ones standing at the garden’s edge. It takes true fortitude to withstand the winter winds. Their postures and contortions look to me like bent & weary bodies hanging on to what little strength they have left, fighting to avoid the fate of their fallen comrade.

7/365: finding light


Photography can be all about capturing the beauty of light. But not winter photography. In the thin gray light of January, it’s all about making do. Some days the craving for golden reflections can only be satisfied indoors.

coming attractions

In a few more days, the mandarin honeysuckle vine will be covered in luscious orange blossoms. It will be glorious. But I also like the form of the petals before the flowers open. And, the softness of the light. And, well, I guess I just couldn’t wait to celebrate the emergence of the first tender soul. There’s something intimate about this moment. It’s quiet. It’s the kind of subtle revelation you might miss if you weren’t paying attention.

blog060315_mandarin honeysuckle151/365: mandarin honeysuckle


I don’t about you, but one of my favorite things to think about is FOOD. I read a lot of cookbooks and food blogs. I even love reading restaurant menus! And nothing makes me happier than a well-stocked pantry and the pure potential of quality ingredients.

blog_042315_grasses & grains in jars111/365: grasses & grains in jars (wild rice, bulgar, forbidden rice)

Note: If you’ve never had real WILD wild rice (preferably from Minnesota, of course), I encourage you to splurge! It’s a world apart from the deeper black cultivated kind.

fancy pants

I hope you’ll excuse (or enjoy) the endless parade of spring blooms. There is so much activity in the garden these days – it’s just the hottest game in town for a garden photographer like me. I promise that, eventually, something else will tickle my fancy but for now, I’m smitten with the ephemerals and other short-lived beauties. These babies, nearly charmed the pants off me 🙂

blog041915_dutchman's breetches107/365: dutchman’s breeches (dicentra cucullaria)