Explore The Elements

At The Heart Of It

I was invited to enter a contest for travel/photo-bloggers.

I know, RIGHT? But it’s sponsored by Thomas Cook – an awesome outfit – and it’s called “Explore the Elements”.  As they put it…”It’s all about capturing and expressing the four elements through travel photography…” so I thought “What the heck?” And here we are.

So, OK, I love to travel. But to be honest: I don’t actually want to go EVERYwhere. I only love to go where my heart wants to go. Sometimes my head and heart have different ideas about that.

See, I’ve noticed that my heart is rather discriminating. Its agenda is as particular about life as it is about travel – and it doesn’t like being distracted by destinations not aligned with its mystical itinerary.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a photograph of some freaking INCREDIBLE place and I thought “I need to go THERE!!” (Ice climbing in Patagonia! Night shooting atop a snow-covered mountain peak whilst living in a pup tent! 10-day wilderness backing trips!). And my heart says… “Mmmm, no.”The school of hard knocks has finally taught me to listen to my heart: consequently, I really never know where I’m going next, until my heart tells me. It’s amusing… and a little bemusing.

What my heart DOES understand, whether its the next town or the other side of the planet, is this:

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart”… Confucius

Traveling… both to inner and outer worlds… is elemental. My heart does a happy-dance around the elements. It loves them – and the lessons they have to offer.

Here are Lady Heart’s Top Picks favorite moments with each of them…


“God sent me on earth. He send me to do something, and nobody can stop me. If God want to stop me, then I stop. Man never can.” – Bob Marley

I’ve seen gazillions of photographs looking down on the breathtaking hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Standing above them this particular day, I had an overwhelming desire to see them from the ground. Looking up. It was a nice day for a hike, too… so down we went. It was incredible. Another world. Like standing in the Great Ones’ basement, where all their secrets are hidden away amongst the shrubbery.

Then… this tree happened. You may know that the hoodoos are slowly eroding, washing away, taking everything that grows there with it a little at a time. But this tree had something to say about the process. Clearly, it has no intention of going quietly into the night.

As I stood there staring, its story unfolded. It said; wherever you are, grow. Grow strong and deep. Always reach for light. Never stop. If your roots become exposed, nourishment harder to come by… grow deeper. Maybe even more than you ever thought possible. Don’t even think about what’s “possible”; focus only on what you came here to do. Even if the earth seems too hard beneath you, the journey too difficult; never imagine anything but life and light. Follow that. It is Life.

Welcome to heart-travels. 😉


“Water is the driving force of all nature”… Leonardo da Vinci

I gasped when I first felt SolDuc Falls in Olympic National Park. Literally gasped. The power, the inexorable flow, the poetic beauty, the sound, the mist. It was like stepping into the land of the faeries. One of the definitions of a faerie is “a spiritual being”… and this place had SPIRIT everywhere! The whole place seemed to have one foot in physical existence, the other in the fluid, flowing, formless, subtle substance of spirit-life. I had to stop for some time just to take it all in.

Then it drew me close. Invited me to its very edge (even though I realized one slip and I’d plunge downstream in a decidedly UN-poetic final journey!)… and SolDuc revealed itself to me. I felt as though I was looking through the veil of (un)reality.

Even as I photographed this scene, I was quite sure a zillion others had done it before. So I just went with what my heart saw and felt standing there. That we are part of a flow, a power SO much greater than ourselves. And I wondered: what would it like to follow ONLY that? What would it be like to experience life fully, with the undeniable force of a waterfall?

I took an aim right then and there to find out.
My heart smiled.


“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire”… Ferdinand Foch


Back when the Sony A7 and A7R mirrorless cameras were about to be released, I was invited to be part of Sony’s media event in Nashville, Tennessee. One of the many places they took us to photograph was the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, TN. I was fascinated by the entire process they go through to make their world-famous whiskey.

Part of it involves fire. I couldn’t help but think about how early Native Americans called spirits “fire water” as I stared at this mighty, energetic blaze. Even at a distance (I used a zoom lens for this image), we could feel the burning heat of this 10 foot stack of sugar maple flaming away. They drip the liquid through the resulting charcoal, which gives Tennessee Whiskey its signature mellow flavor.  I thought “Now THAT’S motivation!”, as I wondered who and how and why they came up with the incredibly detailed, precise process that creates this spirit.

Even though the loop was an electrical cable… it looked for all the world like a noose to me. Fire… noose… whiskey… in a town called Lynchburg… it seemed a flash card for darker times.

My heart felt a little sad. Still, it loved the visual poetry of this moment. And it reminded me that fire is an elemental force. Neither good nor bad; it has a agenda all its own to transform everything in its path. Not so unlike the human soul.


“The very air in which you live is an inspiration”… William Henry Moody


To me, there is freedom in air. Freedom to move, grow, expand and feel truly alive. Air moves with a will of its own… you can’t contain it. You can sure learn from its dance, though… and watch how the natural world is designed to move with it. Maybe now and again, remember you can do that too.

I love the camera’s ability to stop movement… while creating an image that looks like it’s moving. This was taken in Santa Cruz, California… a small beach town where the air rarely stops moving. I took this photo on walk out to the beach. These grasses moved as gracefully as I wish I could; flexing, leaping and creating patterns in the air that I wished I could paint. So I did the next best thing and took a slightly longer exposure. Not enough to obliterate every detail… just enough to reveal the sacred Air Dance.

My heart reminded me that such lightness and flexibility was in MY nature too. So I watched for awhile, as the air did its airy thing… quietly, in its infinite wisdom and endless variety.


And so it is with exploring the elements… so much to feel, learn, reflect upon, experience. Being out in them reminds us of who we REALLY are. One with an incredible existence… and creation beyond our comprehension. Yet we stand in the middle of it every day.

“Travel brings Power and Love back to your life.”… RUMI

Even if your travels don’t take you far afield… the eternal elements still await you. Ready to take you on a journey back to yourself.



We get to nominate 5 other bloggers and share the fun!

1. Tanya Wallis
2. Dave Garber
3. Kate McCulley
4. Lauri Novak
5. Karen Walrond

Want to enter? Click here to visit the Thomas Cook contest page!

The official hashtag of Explore the Elements is #exploretheelements. Follow the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to check out competition entries and keep up the whole convo about the contest!