Experiments in Black and White

After a month or so of suffering the blahs, I finally got out on a fine spring day. Had a few errands to run and brought my “new” camera along in case I would find inspiration. While I haven’t been doing much in the way of taking photos, I have been reading Valerie Jardin’s blog and enjoying her city scapes, many of which are done in black and white. Color seems to soften lines while the contrast of tones seems to bring them out, creating a different emotional reaction in the viewer. I have done little in black and white since the time I had a old box camera when I was a kid and had to wait a week to get my pictures back from being developed. Anyway, on the road I passed a work area with a couple of old trucks parked next to a crumbling building. Wow, I thought, putting on the brakes, now that’s something I can work with. After turning around several times to get as much of my car off the road as I could, I snapped these photos. Of course while I was thinking black and white, my camera was working in color. (I really must read the manual all the way through.) At home, I downloaded my photos into my computer, played around with Photoshop, and here is the result. Turned out pretty well, I think, though I’m not sure they tell the story I had in mind. Perhaps a more subtle manipulation of focus, but that is for another day.

Old open truck with high wooden sides and the words Oversize Load painted on them.

Working Truck



Old truck ready to haul firewood.

Firewood hauling and more.

Two old trucks


Looking for Spring

Purple crocus flowers in snow

Cheery purple harbingers of spring under snow cover


Cheerful yellow in the snow.


Ready for plants…someday


Rock textures intensified by the moisture.


A crowd of snowdrops.

photo of snowdrop flowers

Snowdrops in their element




Dafs and snowy bushes.


Dafs waiting for a chance to open.


These photos were taken Monday after a day-long light snow. By Tuesday afternoon, with the temperature up to 50 degrees, the snow had melted. Still cold, though. Nature seems to be stuck on the inhale.


Flower Show Photos – Philadelphia March 2013

On Wednesday I went to the Philadelphia International Flower Show with several friends. Although we got there relatively early (10 am), the crowds were already stuffing the floor and I found it difficult to approach some of the displays much less get any good photos. Since it was a cold, wet day, I took my  Kodak Z650 instead of my new Canon. I knew that with the Kodak I’d get some good shots along with many not so much (which I’d have to delete), and  I took so many shots I had to change batteries.  The crowding kept me from some areas, and people staring unmoving at some displays kept me from photographing other scenes. Results were mixed, but all-in-all, I was satisfied. I discovered that, just as with the Canon, too much light on the subject, unless corrected for, burned out the detail. (Note to self: figure out how to fix this.) While I really prefer to use natural light, using the flash mostly eliminated camera shake, so I had to decide which result would be better. The flash changes the colors, and the “shake” ruins the crispness. So I did both and neither. Have a lot to learn yet, with any camera, but with camera hand, remembered how much I really enjoy photography.

And that is the bottom line.

Not Quite Yet

Purple Crocus

A splash of color as an early crocus tentatively grows up through winter’s debris

I, like so many people living in the Northeast, am tired of the long, gray days and 40-degree temperatures, and am looking around for a sign – any sign – of spring. Here, in the front flowerbed, a tiny crocus glows quietly amid winter’s debris. Can you see it? It’s almost hidden in the monotone beiges and grays. Blooming on its own schedule, it will soon be joined by snowdrop and other early spring flowers, but for now it’s the advance notice that seasons do, indeed, change. Could this sign be what the cacti in Anticipation are waiting for?

Anticipation of the Unknown

photo of white-haired cacti

Anticipation of exploring the great unknown…

The Old Man CactusCephalocereus senilis, photographed at Longwood Gardens a few years ago. I have to wonder if they are still there, considering their obvious fascination in this photo with what is beyond the window pane. Can’t you just see them drawing near, hesitating a bit, and then one of them boldly making a break for it and the rest gleefully following leaving an empty bed and wondering gardeners behind?

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA is a very special place of beauty. I am fortunate enough to live close enough to the garden to visit it a couple of times a year. My photo archive has many photos of Longwood during the different seasons, and one particular set of at least 20 differently-themed Christmas trees and decorations taken during the holiday season a few years ago is of special note and one of my favorites. I also have some photos of giant pumpkins and a blown-glass pumpkin display from a fall visit which are colorful and fun. Then there are the spring pink blossoming trees and the fresh pale green grass which bring to mind all the wonderful fragrances of earth and vegetation that fill the air. The green shoots peeking up through the earth, hinting of beauty to come…

Oh. Lost track again. I have realized that if I am to continue to post photos (one a day?), I will need to dip into my repository for a while until time permits me to begin again the challenges I have set for myself with my new camera. I find it valuable to look at previous photos of mine to see what’s good and what needs work. I’ve been able to use my older camera to good advantage in many cases, I see, and the pics I am not so proud of serve as lessons in what I need to learn to get the most out of the new camera.

Then there are the ideas I am finding in other photographer’s blogs and essays. I am beginning to think that there really is no end to what I can learn and create.

Happy thoughts tonight and I do love cacti.


Valentine’s Day Red and White

Flowers: rose and carnations

Rose and Carnations from a flower arrangement

Love Valentine’s Day, especially because it’s also my birthday – even if thrifty folk think only one gift will cover both bases. Here are a few flowers from a beautiful arrangement my husband brought home yesterday. I used my 55-250mm lens to get close in. Originally the white of the carnations was more washed out, but I enhanced them with Photoshop. Note to self: learn how to avoid burn-outs.

Transits and Blood Oranges

Blood orange segments

Blood Orange segments ready to be devoured

This Wednesday past I found myself in the produce department of my favorite supermarket, kinda reveling in the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables which seems miraculous to one who grew up in the ’50’s pretty much raised on canned peas, corn, peaches, and fruit cocktail. On a good day, I find food shopping infotainment (on a bad day, a chore). My education began when my supermarket expanded its size and offerings, presenting me with exotic items I could not name and which needed to be researched in Martha Stewart or the Food Channel.  Durian fruit, star fruit, horned melon, mangoes, the Giant, just a short drive from my home,  had them all and more. So Wednesday I’m drifting through the aisles when I see what looks to be a navel orange, but no, it’s a blood orange. A name to conjure with, Blood Oranges. My mind immediately jumped to a film I’d seen once set in some dark jungle hot humid country, steamy scenes, exotic, foreign, say what, yikes! Ah decadence. I’ve never eaten a blood orange, I thought, and inspired, snatched one up and put it in my cart.  Hidden in its orange covering, it looked like any other orange and thus passed through the checkout line unremarked.

So this morning while waiting for the snow and wanting some breakfast, I took the orange out of the fruit dish and peeled it. As I pulled off the skin, I took in the unfamiliar darkness of the flesh and after segmenting it, understood why these are called blood oranges. The dark red succulent flesh looked almost dangerous and if seen elsewhere, would most likely need a band aid or at least some gauze. Beautiful, though, just beautiful. I ran for my camera to capture the moment, arranging and rearranging the segments and peels to best advantage. I wanted to create a central focus on one segment with the rest of the composition slightly blurred. The photo above is the best of the lot. I used the 55 mm lens. I want to try similar photos with my other lenses, so I guess another blood orange or two is in my future. The fun and excitement of trying to catch just the right shot has helped me decide that I will be doing more food photography as well. There are lots more exotic fruits to try.



Antidote to One More Gray Day

Tractor and Harvest Display

Harvest Display at Quakertown Street Fair

Twisted my knee so badly yesterday that I found myself unable to get off the couch today. Elevate, ice, and rest, they told me. So now, around midnight, my knee is much better thanks to the advice plus a couple of Advils, and I can crawl to the computer. I didn’t want to let another day go by without a photo, so I poked around my iPhoto to find something interesting and came across a series of photos I took last October of an Arts Day in Quakertown (PA). A fun festival, there were all sorts of booths and amusements,  several petting zoos, a costumed pet parade, and lots of food and music. I think when I have time (soon), I’ll edit the photos and post them here as a story of sorts of a magnificent Autumn day with that bright sunshine and perfect cool day that makes Autumn so special. Thought this photo of a tractor and a harvest display is fun and certainly an antidote to the gray and wet weather we’ve been having here lately. Some simple things are quite lovely in their own right.

Photo taken with my Kodak Z650. A nice camera for quick snapshots, it has some additional settings for more interesting photos, but with it, the frustration level  of focus challenges and its inability to listen to me (!) upped my frustration ante to the point where when I got my new Canon digital, it was as if I’d finally escaped childhood. Interesting metaphor, huh.  I got a million of them and I’m not shy about mixing them. I think you get the idea though.

Of course, now I have to think of an excuse as to why perfection continues to elude me…


Catching Up

light snow on logs

Snow Lightly Painting Logs

Once again I’m catching up to something I’d promised myself to do in a timely fashion. Been 10 days since I posted anything here and since the vow was a photo a day, I’m so far behind it’s embarrassing. But I will persevere. My original intent with this was to use my new camera to take at least one photo per day, using different features and lenses, and then post it here. I’ve used the camera several different ways so far, and haven’t really begun to scratch its capabilities. But I have learned several things along the way:

  • 1. Even automatic settings can screw up if I don’t make sure the camera is set correctly.
  • 2. The picture in my head isn’t always what the camera sees.
  • 3. To take excellent photographs, one needs to develop a level of unconscious expertise which allows one to avoid dumb mistakes. Practice, practice, practice.
  • 4. I like nature photos, particularly photos of my woods, to the point of obsession. Obsession is boring.

Time to change up. Looking around, I discovered  the digital-photography-school.com (Digital Photography School) web site and signed up for their once-a-week newsletter. In it  I found great lessons on composition, lighting, etc, and inspirations for me to try when it’s warmer. (Yes, I am a fragile flower when it comes to subzero temps.) Just having read a few issues has changed the way I look at photos. So no, I’m not abandoning my project, I’m just revising it a bit. Perhaps I won’t be posting every day, but I will be posting, sometimes a group of photos with a story line or  a set of photos working on a particular aspect. I have most of the year ahead of me and I’m ready!


Photo of debris on forest floor

Woods Debris

Autumn debris suggests rich nourishment for the spring to come.

Broken branches and twigs pruned from the trees by time and ice layer over this richness and seem to protect it. I was struck by the variations of brown and gray in a single small area: warm tones contrasted by cold tones. A feast for the eyes.

Shot with my 55mm lens.