On finding magic when you need it most

The day started poorly.  My husband was away and my daughter woke up at 4am, and although she happily played in her bed for an hour before falling back to sleep, I wasn't so lucky. My day, which had been planned around a delivery arriving at a specified time, was further upended with a call stating the courier would be about two hours late, but to stand by in case they were able to make up some time. I burned my coffee. I was cranky.

I knew a good shooting session would cheer me up, but I couldn't go far due to the aforementioned delivery. So I dropped my daughter off at nursery and drove the short distance to Chawton, This sweet village is famous as the site of the Jane Austen House and was the place she called home for the last eight years of her life. I have always enjoyed a good wander here, so I was hoping it would be the pick-me-up I needed.

As I pulled into the car park, I was greeted with this sight.

I nearly squealed with delight (and I'm not really that much of a squealer). The fields behind the village were covered in the most beautiful mist, and, being winter in England, the sun was still relatively low in the sky despite being mid-morning.  I put on my wool hat and grabbed my camera. My mood had already been dramatically lifted.

I had such a wonderful time. I was pushing myself to capture as much as I could, but I was also trying to be fully present in the moment, because what a special moment it was. I'm often so eager to take the photo that I forget to enjoy myself, but this morning I found myself putting the camera away, taking in the scene, finding the elements that stood out to my own eye, and then picking the camera back up to shoot. (But, let's be honest here, I didn't take too much time for myself because THAT LIGHT.  I could not, would not lose that light.)

As I wrapped up in the field, I looked to the right and knew I wasn't quite done for the day.

That church tower rising out of the mist in the distance was enough to make me practically run down the village lane (again, the light, people, the light!) - there was so much more to see. (I had basically forgotten about my delivery at this point.)

It's safe to say that I couldn't drag myself away from these scenes. St. Nicholas's church was stunning in the morning light and mist, with its lovely gates and the sheep roaming the surrounding fields. The church is adjacent to the Chawton House Library, an institution dedicated to the field of women's literature and housed in the estate that once belonged to Jane Austen's brother. I didn't mind that it was closed to the public for the season because I could still enjoy scenes like this:

And this:

I was insatiable. And fortunately, the light stuck around to play for a bit.

Yes, the sheep were looking at me like I was a crazy woman. But I was a crazy woman who was far happier for having visited this magical spot on this magical morning.  And I got home in plenty of time for that pesky delivery.

That Venetian Magic, Part I: The Light

It went without saying between me and my husband that there was only one city in Europe that we would travel to more than once during our time abroad. This is a city that we love with an equal level of affection; he for the history, me for the scenery, both of us for the magic. That city is Venice.

Venice is a photographer's dream. The facades, the architecture, the water, the color ... they all add up to a picture perfect moment around every corner and down every calle. I move at a snail's pace, taking too many photos (is there such a thing?) in an attempt to capture that Venetian magic.  (I'll overuse that word in this blog post, so it's best to get used to reading it.)

As I culled and edited my photos from this recent visit, I wondered how I could even begin to organize the nearly 400* images I had in front of me.  (*number of images post-culling.  Like I said, SO.MANY.PHOTOS)  Scrolling through them, it became very clear what the first category should be:  that magical Venetian light.

Venice glows in the late afternoon sun.

One morning, I woke up before 6am and high-tailed it to Piazza San Marco to catch the sunrise. A low cloud cover on the horizon kept me from getting that iconic sunburst shot through the columns of the Doges' Palace, but it diffused the early morning light so beautifully that I decided to keep shooting.

Once the sun was up, Venice managed to make even that harsh midday sun appealing.  There's nothing quite like the light hitting those glorious buildings, making the facades glow.  This may only be rivaled by the light dancing on the water and casting pretty shadows on the canals.

And if I wasn't already convinced of Venice's magical powers, the golden hour arrived, followed by that soft twilight, and it occurred to me that this place might be a little piece of heaven on earth.  It is.

Stay tuned for Part II of That Venetian Magic, featuring Venice's colorful cousin, Burano.

SHP xx