Lakewood resident Martha Bauder

Lakewood resident Martha Bauder takes artistic photos of debris that blows onto the lake near her home.

The lake is a canvas for Lakewood resident and photographer Martha Bauder.

What started as a project in which she documented the trash and yard debris that blew onto its surface has been turned into a photographic art project – ironically because of social distancing.

“This started as a project to document all the trash, yard debris, etc. in the lake, since many of the landscapers in Lakewood just blow the yard debris into the lake,” said Bauder, a resident of Lakewood’s Montego Bay neighborhood, which she prefers to call Turtle Cove.

“When it’s windy, all kinds of trash/debris get blown into the lake and caught in our little bay,” she explained.

But with quarantine in effect, Bauder said, “landscapers haven’t been as much in evidence and the trash aspect has transformed into scattered leaves, feathers and bugs so I’ve started documenting everything in and around the lake.”

Until she started this project, “I was taking photos every day or every few days of the bird population,” she said. “It’s amazing what lives in our neighborhood. I have photos of egrets, great herons, blue herons, black-capped night herons, green herons, cormorants, ducks, geese, ospreys, American avocets, hummingbirds, kingfishers and more.”

She used the birds hone her photography skills in general, she said, but as the temperatures rise, her subjects are migrating to cooler climes up north.

“I needed something else to photograph, hence - trash art,” she said.

Bauder and her widower husband of three years, Thomas Tostenson, live on the smallest lot on Lakewood’s west lake.

“It’s small but adequate for our needs and great to sit out on the dock watching what happens,” she said. “I love sitting out in the morning and watching the fish jump, and the turtles swimming around.”

Bauder is a retired emergency physician, who joined the Army as a doctor when she was 50.

But four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan left her with PTSD that became so severe “for weeks I never left my house.”

Therapy at the VA and later participation in a faith-based therapy group for about two years led her to rediscover photography eight years ago.

“I was single then and began to do a lot of photo traveling, local and international with friends or photo groups that I became involved with, both because of my love of photography and as a way to face some of my symptoms head-on,” she said.

It was in that activity that she met her husband, a semi-retired hospital chaplain who was a chaplain in the Navy – and who, ironically, dealt with his share of PTSD patients.

“He likes to joke that my photography is my ‘photo therapy,’” Bauder said. “He’s been very supportive, traveling with me on backroads in several countries and many states looking for photo ops. It helps that he is also a photographer.”

Until five months ago when he joined the Army, her husband’s adult son lived with them. 

“I also have a sister and family living in Mesa and my 85-year-old parents living down in Sun Lakes,” Bauder said. “Our house on the lake is the central gathering spot for holidays and celebrations because of the view and location. I say every day that we are truly blessed to be where we are, especially during this particular period in history. It’s not that hard to socially distance when there’s a lake in the backyard.”

Bauder is involved in several photo and art sites online, donates her photos and art to non-profits such as the Hispanic Medal of Honor Society and other military organizations and likes to make photo books for relatives and friends.

“Some of my photos have been featured in art shows,” she said. “I try to send copies of candid photos and pet photos to the people involved. When my next-door neighbor had to put her beloved elderly dog down, I took photos for her the day before and made her a piece of art that she then had printed onto canvas and hung over her bed.”

She also posts her photos on facebook.com/groups/232374304881610, and said “if someone happens to see a piece of my art online that they love, I on more than one occasion have sent them the file to print or do with what they want.

“I’ve never gotten into selling my art, at least not yet, because I’m still amazed that anyone besides myself would appreciate the pieces that I make,” she said. “All the credit goes to the Great Creator who made so much beauty around us. All I do is record it so I can remember it when I’m no longer able to get out and about.”

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