I Miss Blogging

Ducks on a pond

Ducks on a pond

In the past, I posted nearly every day. Like a child showing every drawing and scribbled attempt at poetry, I snapped away, made a few edits, posted, and said to the world hey look at me look at what I did! I did it! 

I’m still taking pictures; having the camera in my hand is like holding the hand of a trusted dear friend. However, there have been a few changes in my life. First, I’ve promised myself better health,  which means getting more sleep. Second, I’m more focused on work, prepping for classes and preparing reports. Finally, I moved into a small place, by myself. (Someday, when I find a way to write about this without hurting others, and in a way that it will help others, I will….maybe.) The move has almost doubled my drive time to work and to my son’s house.

Consequently, I have less time to edit pictures, write, post, and read other blogs. And I miss it so.

Most important, for some reason, I’m rarely happy with my pictures. Is my eye becoming more discriminating? Or am I in an artistic slump? The truth is probably a combination of the two.

Last week, between appointments, I stopped at a city park and worked on getting a sharp focus. The above shot of the ducks is the only one out of 83 shots that does not disappoint me.

But I had a treat today as I babysat my best playmate, my granddaughter. She had just gotten out of bed, and because I was focused on work, when she asked, “Grandma Mona, I need your iPad please!” I handed it over and took out my camera, forgetting all about the work.

Sunday Post: Peaceful

I took this shot July 3, at a city park where I worked in Feicheng, Shandong Province, China. I’ve returned to this image frequently, trying to attach a story to the woman.  At first look, this might appear to be peaceful scene, but the more I look at it, I don’t think it is.

Resting After Supper

Resting After Supper

The reflection of trees at the top of the image give us a feeling of peace, and the woman is resting in the peace of the evening. However, the lotus leaves cut across the shot, right in the center, creating a feeling of unease and unrest. Look closely; there is a discarded paper cup littering the lotus leaves. A metaphor?

The woman, herself, appears to be more troubled than peaceful. Her brow is raised; her posture is not relaxed. She has carried her portable stool down the hill to the lotus pond, possibly searching for a quiet rest,  for a moment of peace. Is she praying for someone? Her husband? Her child? Herself?

You can find other posts in response to Jake’s Sunday Challenge at his link:  http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com

 

I am thankful…..

My future daughter-in-law with #2 son.

We had a party because she said “YES”!

I’ve been away … Well, I’ve actually been right here in this bizarre southwestern city that clings tenaciously to the heat. I’m wearing a sweatshirt tonight just because I miss the change of seasons, thinking that possibly, if I wear winter clothes, we might experience a chill in the air for longer than the 15 minutes before the sun rises.

But I’ve been away from my blog in order to catch up on reports, lesson plans, grades, and sleep. Another reason I haven’t posted is that I had not had the camera in my hand for a while, and when I did, the images I produced were either boring or totally awful.  I think exhaustion saps creativity and crumples knowledge and skill.

Last week, with a few days away from school, I got some good shots when my little family of six gathered for Thanksgiving.

My #2 son with his fiancee and his brother, my #1 son

My #2 son with his fiancee and his brother, my #1 son

I had handed my camera to someone else for the first shot above; that’s me on the left, toasting my son & his fiancee, who combined their engagement party with my sons’ dad’s Night-Before-Thanksgiving-Casino Night. (How’s that for a mouthful?)

My beautiful daughter-in-law asked that I not post any pictures of her on FaceBook (does that include this blog?) because she is expecting my 2nd grandchild in February. She has no idea how beautiful she looks. Respecting her wishes, I have not included any pictures of her.

What am I thankful for? I am thankful for my family: Two handsome, intelligent, and successful sons; two beautiful, intelligent, and talented daughters-in-law (soon); one incredible granddaughter; and one baby on the way. I am blessed!

My Final Lesson in Shooting Landscape

Saturday morning: While it was still dark, before dawn, Sophie and I began our trek up a small mountain to capture the sunrise.  Immediately, I realized that the flashlight that I keep in my camera bag didn’t work and I had to negotiate the rocky ascent with a dim light from my iPhone. Fortunately, Sophie led the way.

We weren’t on the mountain long before I realized there was another problem. I had diligently checked the forecast for Sedona before leaving home, but I had paid attention to only the daytime highs (thankful for the possible break from our 95+ degree Phoenix temps). Now, I own a warm winter coat and gloves, but they were inconveniently tucked in the back of my closet back home while my hands and feet began to feel numb. Worse than that, my little cocker spaniel shivered and huddled in the freezing weather.

We waited for nearly an hour before the sun’s rays began to inch over the mountain; however, it was not in vain. I used the time to wait, to pray, to practice meditation (I’m terrible at it as my mind will not quiet down). I enjoyed the pure quiet in that suspended state between sleep and wakefulness, while the sky slowly lightened.

The site I’d chosen is one of the famous vortexes of Sedona. I won’t take this space to explain the vortex, but your can find out more by googling “vortex Sedona” if you are interested. I, however, did not experience the energy that many people claimed to feel (only COLD).

7:03 AM 10/13/12 ISO 250, 1/60 at f/18 105 mm, Canon EOS 60 D

Eventually the sun’s radiance slowly casts its glow upon the face of the red rock formations in the East, but nothing spectacular was happening. However, when I turned around I audibly gasped at the breathtaking beauty as the sun splashed its color toward the West.

7:08 AM, 10/13/12, 1/40 sec at f/18, ISO 250, 24 mm, Canon EOS 60D

7:09 AM, 10/13/12, 1/40 sec at f/18, ISO 250, 70 mm, Canon EOS 60D

LESSON #4: 1) Plan for the weather. 2) Change the settings for sharper focus. Do you see the settings on the above images. I should have set the ISO at 100 and the aperture at f/11. 3) Use the tripod (which I did this time, I am happy to report). 4) Use a cable (or off-camera) release to further minimize camera shake. 5) Check ALL equipment before leaving home, not just the camera gear. A working flashlight would have been invaluable as I stumbled up the mountain in the dark.

I couldn’t leave the top of the mountain without commemorating our early morning experience.  Sophie is not at all happy as she continues to shiver against the cold.

After I got the shots from the top of the mountain, I drove to the other side of town and watched the early morning light and shadow play across the the famous Bell Rock in Sedona.

Even though I did not produce an image sharp enough to make a large print to hang on my wall, I did learn valuable lessons about shooting landscape, and I had the chance to relax my mind as I stood in awe, dwarfed by the magnificence of this incredible natural world God has given us.

My Lesson in Shooting Landscape #2

Clearly this is NOT a landscape shot, but I want to share with you my overly exuberant travel companion. Sophie was NOT happy to be perched on the edge of a small canyon just off of Schnebly Hill Road in Sedona. Check out that expression: “I want to be home on my couch!” I found out that my Sophie, whom I’ve had for about 3 months, gets car-sick.

Below is one of the first shots I took as we (Sophie, car-sick travel companion & I) drove into Sedona. I was excited to see the storm clouds, which provide a dramatic backdrop as the afternoon sun highlights this famous rock formation. I made two mistakes: 1) hand-held camera & 2) ISO 200. I should have used the tripod. It would have taken only a few minutes to dig it out of the back of the pretend SUV (Subaru Forester does not qualify as a full SUV) but I was in a hurry. Hurry for what? In addition, with an f/stop at 13 and shutter speed at 1/80 of a second, I could easily have dropped the ISO to 100 to get a sharper image.

Lesson #2: Take the time to get your gear together and pay attention to the settings. Go with the lowest ISO possible.

Bell Rock, ISO 200, f/13, 1/80 sec, 55 mm.

My Lesson in Shooting Landscape #1

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted and even longer since I’ve taken a decent photo. Today, Sunday, October 14, is the last day of my Fall Break and I return to teaching my Freshmen tomorrow. My week off was consumed with appointments and a 2nd job (doesn’t this just sound like a teacher?) and time disappeared in a whiff. I was determined, however, to steal just a little time for myself.

Consequently, Sophie and I took a brief road trip 100 miles north into the Red Rock country of Sedona, AZ. We were gone just 27 hours; oh how I wish we could have spent several more days. In the next few posts, I’ll talk about the images and about the lessons I learned during our mini-vacation.

Lesson #1: PREPARE.

This rock is one of the first that you see as you enter Sedona from the Interstate between Phoenix and Flagstaff. All of the different formations have names; this one might be Cathedral, but I’m not sure. If I find out, I’ll let you know.

The stormy skies gave me the perfect backdrop.

Afternoon sun and storm clouds add drama to the Red Rock of Sedona. ISO 200, 40 mm, f/10, 1/160 sec.

Pearl Drops of Water

The water drops like pearls from this the worn, scratched faucet, reflecting a bit of the kitchen.

I am trying to get a sharp focus on the water drops; although I’ve gotten close, I just haven’t gotten what I want. I’ll let you see my rough drafts, so to speak, as I experiment with this subject.

Canon 60D 105 mm 100 ISO f/8.0 1/250 sec