Sea Blue Lens


A Winter Album

Last Tuesday evening, the weather forecaster told us we could expect perhaps an inch of snow overnight. It only took a quick peek out the window Wednesday morning to see he’d been a bit off the mark. The world had been rendered in black and white.

from my window

Six inches of lovely, wet snow fell during the night and continued softly all the next day, settling delicately on every branch and twig. I kept going out to see what new delights I could discover.

picnic is cancelledNo Picnic Today

snowy arcsArcs



treeTree at the River’s Edge


bridge from upstreamSecret

Everyone photographs this covered footbridge from the other side — the street side. But this is my favorite view, hidden away behind my building and challenging to reach.

solitary firSentinel Fir

The little island, Jubilee Park, is locked up and inaccessible during the winter, but I still enjoy looking into it from the sidewalk and taking photographs of the trees, water, and changing weather conditions.

reflectionsWinter Reflection

mallardsResident Mallards

Apparently they missed the memo about flying south for the winter.

lamppostLamp Post


island ducksIsland’s End

fence-bridgeThe Street Side


snowy branchesBowing Low

hiding placeHiding Place



warming upHome Again

Time to thaw out my fingers with a cup of tea, snuggle under a warm throw, and spend some time with a favorite book. Thanks for coming along to play in the snow with me!



Third Thursday and SHS 5.19.13

It’s a twofer! I decided to combine the Third Thursday Challenge , a monthly linkup at How to Feather an Empty Nest, with this week’s Scavenger Hunt Sunday. I recently bought a new lens, a Nikon 35mm f1.8, but up til now have not used it very much. I’ve been wanting to get better acquainted with it, so for my Third Thursday Challenge, I decided to take on the scavenger hunt using only that lens. My goal was to create images that would work with no (or minimal) cropping or other post-processing.

I couldn’t miss this week’s Scavenger Hunt, since the list was sponsored by my dear friend Susan (Happy No Ears). The target items for the hunt were Three, Hand(s), Fence, Cuddly, and Sign.


Berry BowlPerfection

First they posed for me. Then I ate them. They were just as good as they look.



My daughter made this doll for me with her own hands a number of years ago. Using no model except her imagination, she sculpted his head, hands, and feet from porcelain clay, which she then fired in her own kiln. She sewed the body from scraps of fabric and dressed him in a preemie-sized outfit, and gave him to me for Christmas. His realism amazed me then and still does, all the more because she has no children and, really, no experience with babies. I call him my third grandchild.


Old FenceOld Fence

New FenceNew Fence

I couldn’t decide, so you get both.


Pink ThrowThat Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

I have no babies or pets, and I’m mad at the oh-so-cute cottontails this week for eating my portulaca, so I’m not going to feature them! I love cuddling up on the couch with my soft, cozy mohair throw, so that will have to do.


WelcomeCome On By

Friends are always welcome. Stop on by if you’re ever in the neighborhood!

Results of My Challenge:  The strawberries, both fences, and the pink throw are full-frame. The baby doll was cropped slightly to remove a distraction from one corner. I cropped the welcome sign image quite a bit, since I decided after the fact that I preferred a tighter view. There are a fence and shrub in the way that prevent me from framing this exact view without cropping.

This experiment took me back to my early, pre-zoom days of photography, when all I had was a fixed-focal-length “normal” lens for my SLR. I enjoyed “zooming with my feet” to frame these images as I wanted them, though I confess that I often found myself trying to zoom the lens just from habit.

There was one moment when I really wished for my telephoto zoom:

Visitor farSOOC (straight out of the camera)

But I got what I wanted anyway, thanks to the magic of cropping in Lightroom:

Morning visitorMorning Visitor

Many thanks to Brenda at How to Feather an Empty Nest for the Third Thursday Challenge that encourages me to prod  myself out of my comfort zone. And thanks to Ashley at Ramblings and Photos for the always entertaining Scavenger Hunt Sunday linkup.


The Long Way Home

Where we left offWhere We Left Off

It’s Walk and Click Wednesday and time to finish up that walk I started two weeks ago. I’ve left you waiting at the mailboxes long enough. Let’s venture on up that road.


I don’t know if this place is abandoned or not, but it had a forlorn and forsaken look to it.

Good fencesBoundary

Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors,” in his poem “Mending Wall” but the saying has been around a lot longer than that. I thought this rail and cactus made quite a good-looking fence.


I’ve been curious about this little roofless building ever since I first saw it, so I decided to explore.


It is, I believe, an abandoned well house. The capped-off well head can be seen inside.


I walked up this small wash alongside the road. When I turned and looked back, there were many doggish tracks to be seen. My guess is coyotes — we often hear them howling at night, sometimes very close to the house.


I found three of these old tiles in that wash and brought them home with me. Why? Well . . . I don’t know, they were interesting and . . . I guess it’s like collecting sea glass at the beach. [Susan and Jenny, stop laughing.]

Going UpGoing Up

I noticed this dirt track going up the hill. It was evident that no vehicle had been that way for a long time, so I headed up to see what I could see.

Still StandingStill Standing

This yucca was growing alongside the track, still bearing flower stalks from last year’s bloom. When I moved here near the end of last May, the hills were covered with flowering yucca. It was an amazing sight. I’m curious to see if the show will repeat this year, or if it was a special welcome just for me.

The Other Side of the MountainThe Other Side of the Mountain

It looked like there was once a structure on the top of the hill, but nothing is left but a water faucet, the foundation of a wall, and some concrete rubble. This was the view down the other side. See that fenced area on the side of the mountain over there? We can see that from our house, too, and always wondered what it was for. When I downloaded my photos and zoomed in on this image, I could just make out several horses in the upper left corner of the fence. So now we know: it’s pasture.

Eyes Upon MeThe Hills Have Eyes

Have you ever had the feeling you were being watched? I got that feeling and when I turned around was startled to see these two characters checking me out.

Looking DownLooking Down

So I headed back down and homeward again.

Horse CountryHorse Country

They’re quite serious about these signs. I often pass riders on this road.

Through the FenceThrough a Fence

Why did the photographer cross the road? To capture an irresistible vignette spotted from the other side, of course. I was seriously hoping no one from the house was watching!

Against the SkyAgainst the Sky

I turned onto a smaller side road to make that circle back home, and loved this old fence atop the roadside bank.

Gate to NowhereGate to Nowhere

Almost there! See that trail? It will take us right to the back of the garage.

Watch Where You Step!Watch Your Step!

But don’t go too fast, or you’ll miss these tiny flowers growing right in the middle of the path. Each of these blossoms was only a quarter of an inch (or less!) across.

Finish LineFinish Line

And here we are, home at last. This line of posts, all that’s left of a very old fence, marks the boundary of our property. I hope you enjoyed our little hike!

Linking with Walk and Click Wednesday, with thanks to Lissa for hosting!


Finding the Words

“Ever had a strong reaction to a photograph?” That’s the question Kat asks in the final lesson in our Find Your Eye: Journey of Fascination class. Well, that’s an easy one: of course I have! But the followup question is not so easy: can I explain why I had that reaction?

I don’t like this lesson very much. I’d much rather just look at a photograph and feel whether I like it or not. But Kat believes that if we learn to explain why we do or do not like a photograph, it will help us to improve our own photography.

And although trying to find concrete reasons for gut reactions is not my strong suit, I knew as soon as I read the lesson that she was right. I think this is going to be one of the most valuable skills I can have in my arsenal, and one whose usefulness is not limited to photography. Now all I have to do is figure it out.

The first part of the assignment was to find several photos we liked (not our own) and describe them: horizontal or vertical format, type of lens, point of view, depth of field, type and direction of light, lines and shapes, warm vs. cool colors, etc. Then we were to choose two of our own photographs — one we like and one we don’t — and analyze them in the same way.

Kat suggested that comparing images from the same photo shoot might be helpful, so that’s what I did. Here is my first photo:


Post I

When I first saw this old fence post with its loop of barbed wire, I saw it as a vertical subject which would therefore fit well into a vertical format. I took several shots of it that way, but it doesn’t really do much for me. I think it’s kind of ho-hum, and it doesn’t capture the feeling I had when I saw it.

Then I turned the camera horizontally to see what I could see:

Post II

Post II

Immediately I liked that much better.  I like the contrast of the horizontal frame with the vertical post, and also that more of the clouds on the left and the mountain on the right were included. It feels better balanced that way to me. I like the rhythm of the curved stick and curved wire leading to the circle of wire on the post that then trails off diagonally toward the lower right of the frame. Streaks of light in the cloudy sky echo the curved diagonal line of the grass and mountain horizon. I also see an implied triangular shape from the lower left corner to the top of the post and down the wire to the lower right corner.

This kind of analysis does not come naturally to me. I’m an Intuitive-Feeling type in the Myers-Briggs personality type system, not a Thinking-Judging type. (This exercise reminds me of the analyses we had to do in high school literature class. I just wanted to get lost in the story, not pick it apart for symbolism. ) So all that in the paragraph above? I don’t really know if that makes the horizontal version a better image or not. I just know it feels better to me.

Clearly I need to keep working on this one until I can integrate it into my photography tool kit.


Learning How I Learn


My next lesson in Find Your Eye: Journey of Fascination is about how to learn a new technique. Kat has asked us to think about new photographic techniques we’ve been wanting to try, and to consider how we learn best.  Then we’re to choose the new technique we’re most interested in learning right now, and apply our best learning methods to it.

I have a long list of techniques I’m interested in learning, some written down in actual notes and some just mental notes. Some, like HDR,  are brand new to me, and others, like controlling depth of field, I’m familiar with but not as skilled or comfortable as I’d like to be.

When I’m learning something I’m interested in, I’m usually intense and focused. I like classroom learning, especially if it involves hands-on practice and the opportunity to ask questions and get feedback. But I tend to become impatient with off-topic discussions, or having to wait for everyone to catch up. I love the Internet for the wealth of information about any topic you can think of, and that it’s available whenever I want it.

I’ve learned many new photographic techniques through online classes and from fellow bloggers. When I’m interested in a specific topic, I start with an online search, read articles and watch videos, go back to my camera reference books for further details, and try the technique myself. I’ve recently found videos to be very helpful for me, because I can pause them to try each step with my own camera or software. I also take detailed notes, because writing it down not only helps it sink in, but gives me something to refer back to later if needed.

The specific technique I chose to work on for this lesson is hyperfocal distance focusing. It’s a technique useful for taking photos that are in clear focus from foreground all the way to the horizon. It can be complicated! (There’s a more detailed explanation here.)  It can also be controversial.

I used to be able to use the hyperfocal technique pretty successfully when I shot film. It’s been a problem ever since I got my dSLR, because my digital lenses don’t have the helpful focus zone markings that my old lenses did. The result was images like these:

DSC_0113Foreground sharp; distance fuzzy

DSC_0114Distance sharp; foreground fuzzy

After doing some online research, studying some hyperfocal distance charts, reading my aftermarket camera guide, and playing with my camera controls, I headed out to take some photos. The image at the top of this post and the one below were taken using the information I gathered.

DSC_0004Foreground fence sharp; mid-range shrubbery sharp; distant mountains sharp(ish)

I’m not completely satisfied yet, but I think I have a grasp of the principles and I’ll keep working on it. It feels good to be making progress toward mastery of (or at least competence with) a useful technique that should help improve my landscape photos.



The second lesson in the Find Your Eye: Journey of Fascination class is about photographic contrasts. This lesson encourages us to think beyond the obvious contrast of light/dark to other conceptual contrasts: new/old, hard/soft, straight/curved, and so on.

Looking through my Inspiration File, I discovered that there’s a strong color contrast in many of my favorite images.

Autumn Vines on Lincoln Mill

Autumn Vines on Lincoln Mill

Another sort of contrast I use a lot is something I think of as “solitariness.” (I may have just made that word up.) By that I mean a person or thing all by itself, contrasting with its environment: a lone person on a beach, a spider web gleaming in the rafters of a ruined building, a poppy in a field of lupine, a little bird all alone in a foggy world.

Song Sparrow


The third category that stood out to me was a contrast of incongruity . . . things that strike me as funny or ironic or surprising by their proximity to one another, like a pair of beautiful roses you wouldn’t want to get your nose too close to.

There goes the neighborhood

Stopping to smell the roses…is not always a good idea.

The second part of the class assignment was to go on a photo walk, looking for contrasts to photograph and taking note of how we felt while doing it. I ended up doing my photo walk twice, because I was not at all happy with the first set of images I got. I had a better idea of what I wanted and how to get it the second time around, and was pleased that I tried again. (More on this next time!)

Desert Treescape

Desert Treescape

Contrast: Natural/Man-made — Although the area where I live is very rural, it’s difficult to find “clean” scenic shots. Cell towers march along mountain ridges. Fire roads, fences, buildings, wires, power poles, billboards, etc., proliferate nearly everywhere. In the image above I deliberately framed the electrical transmission tower “trees” with the native junipers and rustic fence in the foreground to emphasize their contrast with the natural landscape.

On the Fence

On the Fence

Contrast: Illusion/Reality — Speaking of that rustic fence . . . it really isn’t. Here I tried to capture the contrast of a traditional post and split-rail fence constructed of very un-traditional molded concrete.



Multiple Contrasts — What first caught my eye here was the contrast between the shape and texture of the smooth, rectangular window panes and the random curves and roughness of the natural stone wall. Then I noticed the soft shadow of the same tree that’s reflected in sharp focus in the window. There’s also a warm/cool color contrast going on here that I like, as well as our old friend light/dark.

Adobe Sky

Adobe Sky

Contrast: Color (warm/cool) and Shape (straight/curved) — Pretty obvious. Might add Texture (smooth/rough), too. This turned out to be my favorite image from the shoot. That was a bit of a surprise, since I expected it to be one of the transmission tower photos. I love the simplicity of this one . . . and those colors!

I enjoyed looking for contrasts, and once I conquered the issues that disappointed me the first time around, I had a great time getting what I wanted. I realized that I have always instinctively used various types of contrast in my photography, but now I’ll be looking for it more consciously.