Sunday Reflections

Tonight's Moon: ISO 100, 200 mm, f/8.0 at 1/250 sec

Tonight’s Moon: ISO 100, 200 mm, f/8.0 at 1/250 sec

I gave myself an unplanned silent retreat today. It began this morning when I spent several hours with Lectio Divina (a way of prayer and meditation using the Scriptures). My spirit began to grow quiet and calm with the silent study, prayer, and reflection and I decided to allow myself the luxury of more.

My home was silent, with no TV, music, cell phone. In addition, I avoided the noise of computer interaction; Internet and email are just a few of the noisy distractions.

Now, I go to bed with peace.

What does this have to do with the image of the moon? Not much … but yet, a lot. On my walk with Sophie tonight, I was completely filled with thanksgiving for the stars in the sky, for the cool air, and for the brilliant moon hanging low, just above the rooftops. I rushed her through her walk, hastily assembled the camera, and set up in the front street to capture the moment.

Good night, moon. Good night everyone.

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

 

All Soul’s Day and Social Security

When I was a girl in small town Indiana, we placed flowers from my mother’s garden on my grandparent’s graves on All Soul’s Day, which is also my birthday. This time of year, the stores abound with fall flowers which bring floods of memories of simpler and happier times of childhood.

It’s midnight in my time zone and I am now officially eligible for social security. I am 62 years old today, born November 2, 1950. My future is uncertain; it is a little frightening to go into these years alone. But it’s not impossible. Just as the seagulls who can stand calm, unruffled by the heavy winds and crashing surf, I too can weather the storm.

 

Our Paths Crossed Again

In June, I spent a fascinating day wandering around Shanghai with a incredible woman I’d met through this blog  (Exploring Shanghai With Flamidwyfe).

I spent another day with Sandi, this time in Florida, USA. Last week, I participated in a workshop in on Miami Beach,  learning IB teaching methodology; Sandi, who had recently returned to the states after finishing her gig in China, joined me at the very comfortable (luxurious) resort. You must understand, however, that while Sandi was toasting her toes poolside, I was holed up in the nether regions below ground. Check out her blog entry. 

Sandi (not to be confused with the hurricane, although she exudes strength and power that could stand up to any storm) and I spent the evening sharing a bottle of wine and years of stories.

While Hurricane Sandy was gathering energy to cause devestation further north, we were gifted with a glorious pastel sunset as a result of her passage near South Florida.

Sunset, Miami Beach, October 27, 2012

Next post: Sunrise

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 #3

5:30 PM, 10/12/12, 1/60 sec at f/10, 24 mm, ISO 400, Canon EOS 60D

When I arrived at the top of the mountain for my highly-anticipated sunset pictures, I rushed out of the car with Sophie, camera, and recently acquired monopod, which I thought would be great to use for the sunset shots. Quick. Portable. And the WRONG piece of equipment.  I had a difficult time holding it still and had almost as much (maybe more) camera shake than if I had hand-held the camera.

What did I learn? Lesson #3

First: USE A TRIPOD FOR LANDSCAPE. I said that before, didn’t I? If you look closely at the image above, you will see that the details are not sharp. This image would not print well — not one to hang on my wall.

Second: Notice that my ISO is even higher than in the shots taken earlier in the afternoon as you can see in a previous post. I reasoned that since there’d be less light, I should bump up the ISO. Again WRONG! Keep the ISO at 100 for the cleanest shots.

Nature provided me with a glorious opportunity to create some fabulous shots (just look at the incredible light show in the sky). My inexperience and my haste ruined them. I’ve probably read all of the advice about landscape photography before, and I’ve probably taken notes in workshops on how to take good landscape shots; however, I guess I needed to make my own mistakes in order to learn the lessons.

By the way, if you look closely, you will see houses at the base of this rock formation. Wouldn’t it be super cool to actually live there?

Next post: Sunrise shots the next morning

A Brief Respite and Many Thanks

Know how the drudgeries and duties of life sometime step to the forefront and keep us from doing what we want to do? That’s happened here and I’ve spent the past few weeks organizing, purging, cleaning, doing some part-time work to earn a little extra money, and taking care of those unpleasant tasks of life.

As a result, I’ve been away from my blog community. I’ve been nominated for several awards recently; I am humbled and honored by every acknowledgement and nomination, but I’ve not had a chance to accept and to pass on the honor. I plan to take care of that very soon. My thanks and gratitude to each of you who have nominated me.

Tomorrow, it’s back to teaching as fall break is over, but I’m thankful for my brief respite in this beautiful piece of Arizona.

This shot below is taken from one of the more common sites for sunset pictures in Sedona. Tomorrow I’ll explain what I learned from my mistakes in getting the sunset shots.

The rays of the setting sun reflect against the light rain falling on the Red Rocks of Sedona.

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.