Sea Blue Lens


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Pastel Perfect

I love color. I love bright colors, flower garden colors, but I’m especially drawn to pastels. This week’s Be Still assignment was to create a still life featuring pastels, in honor of springtime and Easter. I thought about dying eggs, but it didn’t interest me much. And it would have required buying things — white eggs and dye to color them with — specifically for the photo shoot, which is against the “rules” I have set for myself regarding Be Still, to use what I already have.

Besides, I had other ideas. A couple of them.

The first was fashion, something that relates both to Easter and spring, right?


IMG_9881-2Pearls and Lace

IMG_9880-2Pastel Pretties

I used my desk chair for all the photos in this post. It was backlit by the living room window, with a linen curtain pulled closed to filter the light. Rather than spot-metering, I overexposed the images to compensate for the bright back light. Both of the photos above were processed in Lightroom with Kim’s “Pastelhaze” preset. What it did to the images felt like magic!

Well, now that I’m all dressed up in my Easter finery, how about a nice springtime tea?

DSC_8946Simplicitea

I found this irresistible little bird creamer the other day, and thought he’d pair well with my porcelain butterfly teapot, and that they would work nicely together for this pastel photo shoot. (See how arbitrary my “rules” are? But I loved him in his own right, so I wasn’t buying him just for a photo prop; therefore, it was okay. Besides, he was less than $3. I love TJ Maxx.)

DSC_8952-2Tea for Me

Both of the tea set images were processed with Kim’s “Breeze” preset. It gave me just the soft, glow-y mood I wanted.

I have actually learned quite a lot because of my silly, self-imposed rules and other logistical limitations. They have caused me to think creatively about how to adapt Kim’s prompts to my own life and style, and to come up with solutions for space and light problems. And I love finding ways to feature and highlight some of my own favorite possessions. It makes me happy to see my old keepsakes and everyday utilitarian objects become art!


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Peeping Tom

This afternoon my brother-in-law knocked on my door, stepped inside, and quietly told me that someone was spying on me. He pointed to the kitchen window.

DSC_1736The Spy Who Eyed Me

 

DSC_1738Caught In the Act

Some spy. His technique is not very subtle, and he doesn’t blend in well at all. Whoever he works for should probably have sent a Chameleon instead.

Isn’t he a beauty, though? He’s a big one — about 14 inches nose to tail. He wasn’t bothered a bit by having his picture taken. I think he’s a Southern Alligator Lizard, and the long slender tail makes me think it’s a male. We have a lot of smaller ones around the yard, but this is the first one of this size that I’ve seen. I love my wild neighbors, even if they do invade my privacy now and then!


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Blurred Vision

Coming and Going

Coming and Going

Hi — I’m back! I didn’t deliberately set out to take a month-long blogging break, but that’s pretty much what happened. Don’t know why, but I guess I must have needed it.

I can’t say I’ve got any deep thoughts or dramatic breakthroughs to report upon my return. But since my Word for 2013 is Explore, I thought I’d jump in with Kat Sloma’s Exploring With a Camera. Each month, Kat offers up a lesson on an aspect of photography, with clear explanations, how-to’s, and plenty of examples. This month’s exploration was “artistic blur.”

I spend a great deal of effort in trying to get my photos to be as sharp as possible. The concept of trying to blur a photo by moving the camera around during exposure, for example, or by deliberately not focusing before capturing an image is difficult for me to grasp. I tried some experiments for this lesson but, sad to say, they were not successful. However, in looking through my archives I found that I do use other types of blur to create the effect I want in a photo.

Desert Willow

Desert Willow

In this photo, I used a shallow depth of field to hint at the setting of this desert willow, but the blossom is clearly the subject.

Eventide

Eventide

In this case, even though it’s the grass that’s in focus, it leads my eye to the cottage in the background. For me, the cottage in the soft, warm evening light, with its sense of peace and quiet solitude, is the real subject of the photo.

Summer Storm

Summer Storm

I took this photograph because of the blur caused by a brief but intense summer rain pouring down the window.

Window Waves

Ripples in Time

While this image was taken on another rainy day, the blurred distortion of the clapboards is caused not by rain but by the wavy antique glass of the window that I was shooting through.

Ripples In Time

Water World

These are ripples of a different sort. The water in this cove seemed very calm, but the blurred reflection tells another story. This is one of my favorite reflection photos.

Downtown

Downtown

In this image of the Los Angeles skyline taken from the Angeles Crest Highway, the mountains and distant city are blurred by mist and rain.

Slow Water

Slow Water

This blurred water is caused by using a slow shutter speed, a common technique used by landscape photographers to give moving water that milky effect. To be honest, it’s not something I do often, but I was experimenting with it one day and this was the result. To me, milky water looks very unnatural; I prefer to freeze the motion, leaving the water clear. But I did enjoy trying and comparing the effects of different shutter speeds on this occasion, and I’ll experiment more with it in the future.

Spots and Stripes

Spots and Stripes

This effect was achieved by shooting through a flowering shrub. Focusing on the bird beyond caused the foliage to blur into a translucent wash of color. I’d like to say I did this on purpose, but I was quite surprised by the result when I downloaded the images.

Illumination

Illumination

The blur here is caused simply by hand-holding the camera. The interior of this church was very dark so the shutter speed was slow. It’s sharper than I expected to get, but I like the softness of the glowing candles.

Angry Squirrel

Angry Squirrel

Autumn Gold

Autumn Gold

My apartment in Maine backed up to the edge of a river, and I had wonderful views from my windows. I took a lot of photos through those windows, with more or less success. These are two of my favorites. I was shooting through a double paned window and a screen, which gave these images a soft-focus effect that I like.

The Blues

Singin’ the Blues

Car window + Raindrops + Reflected Sky + Wide Open Lens. Once I’d have just thrown this away, but I like it. So with this little abstract, I’ll close my exploration for now and go link up with Exploring With a Camera: Artistic Blur. I think I’ll make it just under the wire.


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Favorite Places

It’s time already for the {In the Picture} self-portrait linkup for October. At first I thought the month had passed awfully quickly, but then I realized that the last Friday actually came a bit early this month. Our optional theme was favorite places: to take our self-portraits in one or more of our favorite spots.

In Maine, I’d have had an abundance of places to choose from, especially at the peak of autumn. I’d probably have headed to the beach, since that’s my ultimate favorite. Here? I can’t say that I really have any favorite haunts yet. I take most of my photographs right here on the property.

Here’s a favorite spot where I spend a lot of time:

Daydreaming

As you can see, my desk is in front of a large window. Above my head is a birdbath you’ll recognize if you’ve been here before. It was unusually quiet when I took this photo. The birds are an almost constant distraction when I’m trying to work at my computer —

This Scrub Jay flew in for a bath while I was typing this post . . . .

— but I love them and can’t bring myself to reposition the desk or close the curtains. Besides, I’m retired, so who cares?

Speaking of curtains, these are only temporary ones, borrowed from another room to keep the sun out of my eyes first thing in the morning. Notice my lovely tiebacks? Binder clips are so useful! The small tree outside the window is a crape myrtle, and until last Friday, it was covered with pink flowers. High winds over the weekend took care of that, but the tree does provide a bit of a fall-ish glow when the morning light shines through it.

When I’m finished pretending to get anything productive done, I often head for another favorite spot:

Front Row Seat

Here I sit on the patio with my feet up and just watch the world go by. I sip tea or coffee, read a book, or . . .¬† just sit, listening to the breeze, the chatter of little bird voices, the flutter of wings, distant dogs barking, and the occasional airplane passing in the distance. It’s peaceful.

Much as I miss all those favorite places in Maine, it’s good to be here.

A note on this self-portrait challenge . . . I feel like I’m in a rut. Technically I’ve completed another month, but I don’t think I really put my heart or creativity into it. I want to do something different and see some progress and growth! I don’t know exactly what that means, but I’ll be trying to figure it out.

Meanwhile, here’s the linky party at Urban Muser. Let’s go see everyone else’s favorite places.

.


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This Is My Life

It’s time for the next installment in the {In the Picture} self-portrait project. This month’s theme, optional as always, was “My Life, Right Now.” The idea was to capture a memory, an emotion or mood, something that would reflect our everyday life, right now.

Since I am retired now, I suppose you could say my whole life is a vacation. Nevertheless….

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I have been missing the easy access I had to the beach when I lived in Maine. A couple of weeks ago, my sister and I took a day trip to Ventura, where we had lunch, poked around the many second-hand shops on Main Street, visited the mission, and wrapped up the day by getting our feet all wet and sandy at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It might have been short, but it felt like a real vacation! I took a lot of photos, but these were the only ones with me in them. That middle one is SOOiP (straight out of the iPhone) and not very flattering, but who cares? It records the fun I was having and that’s what counts, right?

Window On My World

I will always remember this summer as the beginning of a new chapter in my life. In Maine, I worked full time and lived in a rented apartment that looked out over a river. Now I live in California, my time is my own, and my view is of chapparal and mountains.

Dreams Fulfilled

And…instead of an apartment, I live in a cottage that is mine to make exactly as I want it. I’d been considering the possibility of this move for over four years before it actually happened. During that time, I’d visited and had taken photos and measurements of the cottage. I drew up a floor plan to see where my furniture would fit. I’ve spent the last three months bringing that floor plan to life, and it’s turning out just the way I imagined it. As you can see, I”m enjoying the fruits of my labors. For me, this is the picture of retired contentment.

And that’s it for another month. This was a fun theme, and I can’t wait to see what Christy has in mind for us for September. I knew this would be a year of changes for me and I wanted to record it in self portraits. Having {In the Picture} to look forward to each month has helped to give me focus and keep me going when I might otherwise have given it up, and I’m grateful for that.

You can see what everyone’s been up to this month over at Urban Muser’s {In the Picture} linky party.


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Repeating Myself

In this month’s Exploring With a Camera: Repetition, Kat Sloma presented an excellent tutorial on the various ways repetition can be used to enhance our photography. These can include repetition of object, shape, color, line, and light, as well as combinations of these and more.

As I read her explanation and viewed her examples, several of my own images came to mind immediately. It was interesting to look through my archives and more recent photos to see what part repetition plays in my photography.

Here are a few examples I found:

Resting at Reny’s

Danger – Work Ahead

Let’s Scoot!

Reflection

Multiple Mugs

Quartet

Spring Jewels

Windblown

Three Birds

Four Birds

Mission San Buenaventura

Ventura Pier

I love Kat’s explorations. Each one is like a mini-photography class and I always learn something valuable. As I look at the photos above, I realize that I took each image precisely because of the repetition, even though I was often not consciously aware of it. I’ll definitely be thinking about it in the future.


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Transition

Last Look

It’s official, I’m in transit. Yesterday the movers picked up all my worldly goods, except for my laptop and camera gear, which will be in my carryon luggage. (Who needs clothing, right?) Today I finished cleaning and tidying up last minute details and turned in my apartment keys.

Now I’m at my daughter and son-un-law’s place, and tomorrow I fly to California. It’s calm and lovely here and I can finally relax and rest a bit. It’s hard to remember the last time I was this tired and sore, though I suspect it was the last time I moved.

Jenny’s Lilacs

I am fond of saying that all of Maine is just one small town. It seems like everywhere I go I’m always running into people I know (or who know me, which may not be the same thing at all). One day last week, my daughter said to me, “C. said he saw your picture in the library.”

I asked if he meant one of my photographs, though I couldn’t imagine how or why that could be. No, she said that he said it was a picture of me, not by me.

OK, this I had to see. I mean, I know I spend a lot of time at the library, but I didn’t expect to be memorialized on the wall. So I went over to see for myself. Here’s what I found:

Oh, now I understand.

And yes, here I am:

But that’s not what I was doing!

Of course, I had to take a photo of the photo someone took of me taking a photo!

The backstory is that C. and I had gone on a nature hike at a local park a couple of years ago, sponsored by Saco Bay Trails, a local group that promotes public access to recreational hiking trails. I was fascinated at finding two or three gravestones all alone in the woods, just a little way off the trail, and naturally stopped to take a few photographs. I never noticed someone else photographing me!

Ah, Maine, I love you. I’m going to miss you!


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Inside Out

For the final assignment in our Find Your Eye course, Kat asked us to look over our work and put together the beginning of a series of photographs that were related in some way. My friend Susan posted a wonderful series of window photographs in response, and in a comment I teased her about stealing my idea.

She really didn’t know that I was already planning to “do windows” myself. And when I actually started gathering my window photos together, I realized that they are from a different point of view from most of Susan’s. So here is my own take on windows, from the inside out.

I love windows. They connect me with the outdoors, even if I can’t be outdoors. The first thing I do in the morning is throw open the curtains to let in as much light as possible, and if the weather permits, I open the windows, too.

I love the play of light and shadow, and the way the sunlight filters through these curtains.

Faded Curtain

I like the soft illumination of north light on this collection of objects in an antiques shop window. We always feel like we’re not quite alone when we go into this room, even though we can’t see anyone else there.

Olden Days

I love the sparkle of sunlight on these panes, and the pattern of sun and shade on the old trunk below this beautiful window.

Twelve Over Eight

This window at old Fort Popham sparks my imagination.

Keeping Watch

This gorgeous view is from the garage (formerly the carriage house) at the circa 1807 house my daughter lives in.

Framing Autumn

I wonder who lives in that old red house? I wish I could see inside it, and take pictures of the pond from those windows.

Mill Pond

Imagine gazing out this window, your back warmed by the sun, chatting with a friend and lingering over tea on a cold winter’s afternoon.

At the Tea House

This window at a shop in an old barn is always filled with quirky odds and ends, fun to look at while enjoying the loveliness outside at the same time.

Blue Moose

I love the arched frame and blue trim on these windows upstairs at a potter’s studio in Eastport, Maine, and the whimsical little whirlygig placed to catch a breeze.

From the Potter’s Workshop

No curtains on this window, but sails for the sunlight to shine through. I don’t know this lady, but she looks so comfortable and content sitting there with her Sunday paper. I’d like to join her.

Sunday Morning

This was a fun assignment. In looking for a series to do, I found several themes among my photographic archives that are already well on their way to being series of their own. I’ve just never before thought of pulling them together in one place. I’ll be working on that!

I have a bonus lesson, a summing up, to finish this class, but that will be a subject for another day.

.


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Movie Night

Through a lens darkly

Lesson six in my current (soon to be over, I’m sad to say) Find Your Eye e-course asks us to read a little about cinematography, then watch a movie known for its cinematography. The idea was to see what we could observe about how various techniques were used in filming the movie, and how we might use them in our photography.

Kat provided a link to a list of “Top 10 Cinematographic Masterpieces.” When I reviewed the list, I was surprised to find that I had actually seen 7 of the 10 films listed. Of the three I hadn’t seen before, two were not readily available to me, so I went to the library and grabbed the one they did have: The Godfather. Shocking, I know. Almost 40 years after its release, I had never seen this iconic movie that people of my generation have been talking about and quoting from for most of my adult life.

The first thing I noticed was the color. The entire film has a faded, warm, slightly-sepia tone, which enhanced the period feel. The impression given was that it had been filmed in the 1940s and the film had faded or color-shifted, as old photos do. Much of the movie was very dark, and I don’t mean the storyline. Interiors were dimly lit, and often the backgrounds disappeared in the gloom, focusing attention on the faces of those featured in the scene. Even those faces were often darkly shadowed, as if illuminated only by dim room lighting.

The parts of the movie that were set outside of New York had a very different look. The California and Nevada segments still had that faded, period feeling, but they were much brighter in contrast to the dark New York scenes. At one point, the setting unexpectedly changed from grim, dark New York City to the Italian countryside. The atmosphere changed completely, and became bright, with open vistas and beautiful scenery — accompanied by the swelling love theme, the first time I really noticed the movie’s music. It was a shocking transition. Suddenly it felt as if I were watching a completely different movie. When the story cut back to shadowy New York, the foreshadowing was clear.

I’m not quite sure how to apply my observations of the cinematography of The Godfather to my own photography. The dark, gritty noir look is not a style that appeals to me much, though I have in the past used darkish indoor lighting for some portraits that I like quite a bit. Overall, though, the style of those Italian scenes resonate much more with me. I suppose they would, since I am primarily a nature and landscape photographer. Perhaps the strongest takeaway for me is just how much lighting does affect the mood of a photograph.

Home Safe

One movie that I remember purely for its cinematography, and that I do relate to photographically, is Days of Heaven. I saw it back in the early 80s, on a rather primitive color TV. I hated the story, but I was absolutely riveted all the way to the bitter end by the cinematography. In preparing for this assignment, I googled the film and clicked on Image Results. It still takes my breath away.

The images below are definitely more Days of Heaven than The Godfather. But they do use light to capture a mood.

Morning Haze

Still Standing

Last Light


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Something New

For the past few weeks, our Find Your Eye lessons have had us exploring our photographic inspirations and becoming familiar with our favorite subjects. This time, the assignment was to photograph a new subject – something different from our norm.

I take most of my photographs outdoors, of subjects as I find them, such as landscapes, trees, wildflowers, birds, old ruined buildings, and so on. So for this challenge, I decided that I would try still-life photography, deliberate setups that I would create in my own home and capture with available, natural light.

This seemed like the perfect plan, since with the predicted arrival of Hurricane Irene over the weekend, it didn’t seem a propitious time for an outdoor excursion, and I was happy to have a plan that didn’t require leaving home. Friday after work, I headed for the supermarket to stock up on bottled water, TP, and canned tuna . . . and fresh fruit and flowers for my photos-to-be.

Irene's rain

To set the mood . . .

Sunday morning dawned – or rather didn’t. I hadn’t reckoned on how dark it would be with the sky solidly overcast and rain coming down. I was actually dreading this whole session, to be honest, because it seemed so contrived and felt very awkward. But after some procrastination, I gathered together some odds and ends and headed upstairs to turn my bedroom into a temporary studio.

I thought I’d have trouble taking the required 100 photos of my new subject, but that wasn’t a problem. Once I got started, I had a blast arranging little vignettes and photographing them from various angles, then moving things around to try other ideas. I spent a couple of pretty intense hours taking almost 200 photos, and I never even got to the flowers. By that time I was hot, tired, and hungry, so I gathered everything up and went downstairs to refresh myself by consuming some of my props.

Here are three of my favorites from this photo shoot.

Sunday Morning

Pair + Pear

Lemon Lime

In the end, I loved this assignment, and I love some of the images I got. To my eye (ohmygosh, I do have one, don’t I?) they seem quite characteristic of the images I “find” when I’m out taking my normal sort of photos.

What do you think?

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