2018 Review through the Lens: D6-D13

”When we build, let us think that we build forever.”

-John Ruskin

Boy…has this been a week. I don’t know if any of you feel like this right now, but it’s hard for me to tell if I’m coming or going. Every day has been packed, and this season always seems to culminate in a conundrum of my kids going off the rails coupled with the heightened anxiety of “getting everything done” and, oh yeah, I almost forgot, a little joy splashed on top.

As I’ve not been able to find any time to write over the past week, I’ve kind-of fallen behind on my December Photo Challenge. As someone who finds accomplishment and productivity comforting, I was feeling a little down about that. But I’m also that same someone who loves to pull the long thorn out of my side, punch a hole in the blunt end and, from that, create a needle to thread for use in a more purposeful way. So my slack over the past few days, I decided, has actually given rise to the opportunity to share some favorite photos that I was struggling with as I went back through my files.

Remember my spider from D2 of the Photo Challenge? Well, on that same lake trip I photographed this diligent little Titmouse, feverishly working to build a nest down inside one of the posts of our dock. This little bird literally worked on his project for hours, flying away and gathering items (from who knows where), returning back again and again to dive down into the hole. It was one of my favorite captures of the year, but I just couldn’t decide which single shot photo to post. Problem solved. Now I GET to post all 8 of my favorites so that you can see his entire process. Thorn…meet needle.

It got me to thinking, too. That’s what I’ve been doing this past week. That’s what we’re all doing…every week, every day, every minute, in almost everything that we do. If you are purposeful in life, you are building (just like my little friend here). When I meet with my son’s teacher about working to correct a behavior issue and we follow through with a plan, I’m building…building in him. When I teach my toddler how to peel the slices on an orange or top a pizza for the first time, I’m building…building in her. When I counsel someone who is struggling in a relationship, or I give someone a gift just to say “thank you,” or I pay for the person’s coffee in line behind me, or I take time to have lunch with my husband and just talk, or I volunteer teaching kids how to grow something in a garden, or I approach my clients with thoughtful advice, I’m building…building in all of them.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about how the reality is that 90% of my life isn’t even about me. That’s how we get off in the weeds as human beings. We live lives consumed with the lie that life is really about “us.” It’s not. It’s about the sticks and the twigs and the shreds of paper and the bits of fluff that we desposit here and there, along with the string that somehow ties something together within someone else. It’s when you begin to view yourself for the builder that you are, that you truly begin to live.

So press onward, my builder friends. Just keeping flying and collecting and depositing in the places and in the people that need you most. For, after all, life itself first begins with the nest.

All the best,

A. J.

All Content Photos by Amanda J. Schulz

[Check out Day 5 of the December Photo Challenge here.]

2018 Review through the Lens: D5

“I just need green. I need to wake up and see grass and squirrels. I don’t want to see skyscrapers.”

– André Leon Talley


There is arguably no better sense of fresh renewal than passing a rolling field of winter rye, its emerald locks rippling in the breeze. That lush green, vivid and energized, yet calming to every one of the senses, bestowing upon its gazer a new sense of hope and life. For most of us, we experience green on a daily basis…city parks, neighborhood wooded areas, the green of our own well-tended lawns. But have you ever experienced green through a butterfly? I mean…seriously think about that for a moment. It wouldn’t surprise me if your answer is a resounding “no.”

You see, butterflies clothed in green are pretty rare around the world. So you can imagine my surprise last spring when I caught this Photo Challenge favorite in Glen Rose while out on a hike with my son’s Cub Scout den. Scientists really don’t have a concrete answer as to why butterflies typically aren’t green, and even some that appear to be, like the Olive Juniper Hairstreak that I photographed here, actually don’t bear green pigment at all but rather employ a metallic refraction effect through wing scales that only reflect green light.

I appreciate and marvel the rare. I think most of us do. So there was no way this guy wouldn’t make the cut for the 2018 favorites. Clearly, his scales carry a lot of weight. 😉


All the best,

A. J.


“Green, the Envy” (Olive Juniper Hairstreak; Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, Texas. April, 2018.)


This butterfly species is about the size of a thumbnail. Caterpillar host plants include various junipers, thus giving the butterfly its name. This is an example of a species that is almost never seen with its wings fully open (although I caught a shot of that as well, surprisingly). My little guy is enjoying a sunny afternoon nectaring on wild blackberry blossoms.



[Check out Day 4 of the December Photo Challenge here.]


2018 Review through the Lens: D3

Greatness can come from small beginnings.”

– Kamlesh Mishra


Welcome to Day 3 of my December Photo Challenge, where we go small. If you’ve followed this blog, you know how I love macro photography. Photographing in macro truly unveils the unseen naked eye world. To date, this is probably one of the smallest objects I have photographed. It’s the ova of a Reakirt’s Blue butterfly that I captured in our pollinator garden as the female was making her deposits. This is a beautiful little butterfly species that shimmers in blue, gold and copper, when it spreads its dorsal wings in the sunlight.

It’s remarkable that this lovely specimen begins as no more than a dot nestled within a tiny green bud. But, then again, look at you and me. We, too, began as mere specks with nothing more than promise. Just the fact that we exist is unfathomable. Go ahead, look over your shoulder and marvel at the wings you grew to carry you across distances, miles beyond numbering.

And, as you continue the journey, never forget that though you were small, yet are you great!


All the best,

A. J.


“Promise” (Reakirt’s Blue ova on Black Dalea; Belmont Conservation District, Dallas, Texas. August, 2018.)


The Reakirt’s Blue butterfly is a tiny species measuring only about 2.5 c.m. in diameter. Ants actually tend to the caterpillars, trading their body guard services for the sugary substances the caterpillars secrete. Females lay single eggs on each flower bud of the host plant, as the caterpillars prefer eating flowers and seed pods over leaves. Adult butterflies rarely sit still to open their wings, so it’s quite the surprise to catch one sunbathing and snap a pic.


[Check out Day 2 of the December Photo Challenge here.]


2018 Review through the Lens: D1

”The gull sees farthest who flies highest.”

– Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull


Today is the first day of December. Unbelievable, really. Where has the year gone??? For the past several Decembers, in the spirit of the holidays, I have usually participated in some sort of Facebook® photo challenge…Day 1: Snap Something Red…Day 2: Find a Candy Cane…you get the picture (no pun intended). Now that I’ve gotten this blog off and limping and spent almost a year with my camera, I thought it would be fun to move my photo challenge here and share some of my most favorite outdoor shots from 2018! Many of these have not yet been posted on this blog, and several have not ever left my personal archived albums. I will share one photo each day with a fun fact or short story. Just a quick, easy way to pay tribute to some amazing experiences that I’ve captured and to give us all an opportunity to count down the last few days of 2018 together.

As you prepare for this holiday season, I wish you, your family and your friends the merriest of times, no matter where you live or how you choose to gather and celebrate. And may we all remember our lives as blessings and this planet as the greatest of gifts. Full hearts, everyone.


All the best,

A. J.


“Wind Beneath My Wings” (Ring-billed Gull in flight; White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas. January, 2018.)


I shot this image during one of my first practice sessions on capturing movement. Each winter the Ring-billed Gulls migrate south to our North Texas area, spending the season around our lakes and streams. This species nests and breeds along the northern borders of the United States and well into Canada, with each bird tending to return to its nesting site and often its mate. Once nearly eradicated in the late 19th Century by hunters, conservation efforts established during the early 1900’s have allowed their numbers to now measure into the millions. Birds reach full adult plumage at about three years of age.


Thirty Something

“If we love Flowers, are we not ‘born again’ every Day…”

– Emily Dickinson, Letter 1037


As I sat down this weekend to piece together my latest photo compilation, I could not believe that thirty something days had passed since the last Week in Review. My…how time flies! And, let me tell you, it’s quite the anthology of uploads to sift through when you have a month’s worth of photography. I will try exceedingly hard not to do THAT again anytime soon.

I began this month’s shoot on Mother’s Day when I took about an hour to myself to walk through a meadow near White Rock Lake, close to my home. Walking in a field, or a meadow, or a forest, or even my own familiar gardens is nothing short of poetry for the senses to me, and, with each step, I am refreshed, renewed and somehow reborn.

Today, I desire this post to be less about words and more about the visual life story of nature. Honestly, as I scrolled through some of the amazing captures this month, and selected my top 30 images, I felt at a loss for adequate words. It reminded me of Dickinson when she wrote, “Nature is what we know, yet have no art to say.” As you walk through my monthly outdoor journey, simply feel it’s story through color, texture, light, depth, detail.

Truth is…Mother Nature really needs no words to make her point.


All the best,


“Nature” is what we see —
The Hill — the Afternoon —
Squirrel — Eclipse — the Bumble bee —
Nay — Nature is Heaven —
Nature is what we hear —
The Bobolink — the Sea —
Thunder — the Cricket —
Nay — Nature is Harmony —
Nature is what we know —
Yet have no art to say —
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

– Emily Dickinson


“The Tree Stands Alone” (Queen Anne’s Lace meadow near White Rock Lake)


“Lady Luck” (Seven-spotted Lady Beetle on Queen Anne’s Lace)


“Peek-a-Boo” (Gray Hairstreak on Green Milkweed)


“The Stroke of Midnight” (Queen Anne’s Lace bloom ending)


“Good Evening” (Purple Nightshade at dusk)


“Fierce Beauty” (Milk Thistle begins to open)


“Flying Solo” (Clasping Coneflower blows in the breeze)


“With the Sun at My Back” (Milk Thistle in full bloom at sunset)


“Make a Wish” (Salsify “puffball” seedbed)


“Load On My Back” (Female Valley Carpenter Bee on Passion Flower)


“Oh, Sweet Nectar” (Pseudodynerus Mason Wasp on Tickseed)


“And…We Have Lift Off” (Honey Bee with pollen cargo from Texas Primrose)


“Too Hot for Leg Warmers” (Two-spotted Longhorn Bee on Coneflower)


“This Round’s On Me” (Two Honey Bees at the Butterfly Weed Bar)


“They Call Me Mellow Yellow” (Male Valley Carpenter Bee on Passion Flower)


“Taking an Evening Stroll” (Blue Mint Leaf Beetle on Spearmint)


“Look into the Reds of My Eyes” (Immature Giant Leaf-footed Bug on Boxwood)


“How YOU Doin’?” (Male Green Anole Lizard getting his flirt on)


“Hey, Hey…the Gang’s all Here!” (Colony of ants on parsley bloom)


“On the Move” (Gulf Fritillary caterpillar ready for chrysalis)


“If You Give ‘Em an Inch…” (Looper caterpillar on Clasping Coneflower)



“Blue on Black” (Female Pipevine Swallowtail nectaring before laying)


“In the Beginning…” (Female Gulf Fritillary having just laid an egg)


“Winged Tapestry” (The beauty of the Common Buckeye)


“Pure Gold” (California Poppy)


“On Pins and Needles” (Pincusion Flower)


“Remains of the Dove” (Safflower sprouts under bird feeder)


“If the Shoe Fits” (Lady Slipper Balsam Flower)


“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (Sunflower after a sprinkle)


“Overtaking the Path” (When whimsical wins)

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