Saturday, January 31, 2009

Last Day

Whew... I made it. Here it is the last day of our challenge and I DID IT! I thought when we started that for sure I would run out of things to take pictures of before the end, but instead I learned to look for new things. My world is so much more interesting now that I have learned to watch for photo ops, LOL!

Thanks for issuing this challenge Linda. It has been a wonderful experience.

Today is also the beginning of the end of another era. My youngest daughter is a senior captain on her school's dance team. Today was the first competition of her last dance season. I can't say I will miss the busy-ness of being a dance mom, but I will miss the dancing so much. They are so beautiful! And finally, after FOUR YEARS, I have learned enough to set my camera to take a decent photo in a high school gym. (I owe Linda big thanks for that too!)

And one last photo. This one is an "oopsie" -- I spotted our resident hawk posing on the power line at the end of my driveway and hurried to take a picture. I was in such a hurry that I forgot to switch the camera from ISO 1600 (for the gym) back to 100 (for a sunlit afternoon.) I also did not get a chance to change settings and snap another photo before the darned bird flew away. This photo is straight from the camera, completely unedited.

Sometimes, a "mistake" still makes for an interesting effect.

Friday, January 30, 2009


One of the very first signs of spring around here is the appearance of pansies and primroses for "winter color" in the garden. Now, I love my garden as much as the next Oregonian, but I am much to lazy to even imagine myself crawling around in the ice cold mud to plant anything at the time of year! My mother-in-law does though, and she adores primroses.

These appeared on display this week on tables in front of my local grocery store. (The plastic is to protect the blooms from the freezing fogs we have been having this week. Alas for spring!)

Aren't they pretty?

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The planet so close to tonight's crescent moon is Venus, according to In The Sky .

It amazes me how close it looks in the sky to my eye, and yet in the photo, it is quite far away. Gotta love perspective!

New Moon

OK, so it's not technically *exactly* the new moon tonight... but it's the first time I've seen the moon in a while and it's more new than anything else!

Come to find out that the human eye is still the most magnificent optical instrument in creation. I can see it all at once, but I find that with my camera I can show you either the whole moon, with the sunlit side completely blown out in glare...

... OR the really cool sunlit side itself. Alas for a lens that could REALLY bring detail into focus at that distance. As it is, I used a 300mm lens, a tripod, and a delayed shutter release so my hands wouldn't cause any lens blur.

I wonder if I were to try a manual focus if I couldn't get it just a littler sharper...? And I also wonder what planet that is -- anybody know??

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Comfort Junkie

Anybody who has ever shared house room with a dachshund knows that they like to snuggle. It doesn't matter what the temperature is -- they will find a blanket to huddle under.

This is Sailor. He has long hair, but it makes no difference.

Some days I wish I were a little dog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wait 15 minutes...

The saying goes that, if you don't like the weather in Oregon, just wait 15 minutes and it will change. As beautiful as yesterday was, today was just plain nasty again. Oh well, it is still winter after all.

But, what do you take a picture of when you can't see anything??

You've seen these trees before this month, but not like this. This photo is straight from the camera -- I swear I didn't do anything to it!

Monday, January 26, 2009

My world... literally

It is a beautiful winter day here in the Pacific Northwest. The sun is shining and the air is clear... a perfect day to grab my camera and drive up the hill to visit Mount Angel Abbey. You can see our farm from up there. (The green arrow is pointing to it - be sure to click on this one!)

The Abbey was established in 1833 by Swiss Benedictine Monks. Their campus is one of the most peaceful places on Earth.

The bell tower was built on to the church only a few years ago.

These are the old bells.

Back when we still lived in town, on still days we could hearing them calling the monks to prayers.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A cold, wet, nasty Sunday afternoon

Coziness time!

(If you look closely you can see the second dog tucked into the curl of her knees. Two more napping humans and another napping cat didn't fit into the picture...)

It's what we do on Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Have you been "bitten"?

If you don't understand the reference on this bumper sticker on my daughter's truck, you probably haven't. Either that, or you don't have teenage daughters, LOL!

I tried a macro shot of the frost on her truck as well, but this is the best I could do. I REALLY need to concentrate more on not jiggling the camera as I press the shutter release. I never noticed before I started this project how much trouble I have with absolutely crisp focus.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Behind Closed Doors

One of the fringe benefits of working in a library is access to the Closed Stacks, the collection of books that are not allowed to leave the building. These books are irreplacable and usually too fragile to stand up the the rigors of being handled by the general public.

I love the leather bindings and that "old book" smell.

Most people probably don't even know that these books are here. All you have to do is ask and you will be allowed to look at and read them. You just can't take them home.

Does your library have a collection like this?

I love books!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sunrise This Morning

Are you tired of Mt. Hood yet? Sunrises are much more dramatic in the summertime when the sun rises farther north, but then I would have to get much earlier than I would like. This is the view this morning at 7:22 a.m.

I want to "collect" some more of the little churches near our farm too. I took a different way to work this morning to catch the early light on this one, which is about 3 miles up the road to the north of us. We have actually attended services here when we didn't have time to make it to our regular church.

I love what the early morning light does to a photograph, and isn't that blue sky something. It is a VERY rare sight around here this time of year. Usually.

I was going to include a detail shot of the lovely scroll work at the base of the steeple, but I thought it would be unkind to feature the bird doo that has accumulated over the winter...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Capturing "Our" Blue Heron

This huge bird has been hanging out in our north field for months now, and for months I have been trying to get an in-focus photograph of it. I saw him out there as I drove in from work this afternoon, so I raced into the house to grab my camera. I carefully checked *all 3* of my settings, hooked up the gorillapod and used it to attach the camera with zoom lens to a fencepost to stabilize it and started shooting. Woo hoo! Success!

I got a couple shots of him posing for me and then he started stalking. Have you ever seen a heron hunt? It is a wonderful study in patience and guile. There he goes...

He pounces! Unfortunately for him, he comes up empty.

Almost right away he began stalking again, so I hung around.

He pounced again. Honestly, they move almost too quickly to watch.

This time he came up with something. Yesterday I watched him catch a rat, but today's catch wasn't quite so dramatic. Probably a shrew or a mouse, judging by the size of it.

He worked it for a few seconds,

... and then it was gone.

It was all over so quickly! This whole episode took about 1 minute.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Day of Mistakes

I had such high hopes for today's photos! I have been wanting to photograph this tiny church in Silverton since we began, but the weather has not been cooperative. Today was a clear and lovely sunny day and I knew I would be out walking this morning, so I took my camera to work again just for the sake of getting these pictures.

So, we've been doing this for twenty days now and I've gotten a little cocky... Yeah, I know how to set my camera, LOL. Sigh... it turns out that the tricky part is *remembering* to set your camera when working in the manual modes. Arghhhh!

I DID remember to set the white balance for this photo, but I forgot to reset the ISO from the indoor shot I took yesterday. So, all of today's pictures, taken outside on a bright sunny day, are loaded with digital noise.

Another problem with this first shot is the fact that it was taken at exactly the wrong time of day. The late winter rising sun was right in my face and throws off the whole view. I need to go back there and try again at sunset.

Just for fun I took a shot looking up at the steeple. Now this one I am satisfied with!

I will go back again another day and try again. I have always loved this little building.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Work-in-Progress Doll

Today's photo is of a doll I am trying to finish up. I like to take digital photos of my works in progress to give me a more objective view of what I'm doing. The 2-D image helps me see details that need attention that I don't notice on the real thing.

This girl's hair is just pinned on -- it will look MUCH better when it is attached for real, but I didn't want to photograph her in her bald state. I wanted to get a better view of how her dress is fitting though, and whether or not her expression suits me.

I'm pretty happy with her so far.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I attended a formal banquet last night (in a fabulous new dress, which made what would otherwise have been a tedious evening MUCH more fun.) Unfortunately, most of my photos contain underage subjects and I do not have permission to post their photos.

So instead, I give you a different glimpse of the festivities. Imagine, if you will, Kool & the Gang playing "Celebration" in the background.

My new Gorillapod got quite a workout in the dim light. The right tools make photography SO much easier!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

An Icicle, Oregon-Style

Our fog has finally lifted today. I went out to look for something to photograph in the morning light and found this little bead of moisture left from fog freezing to the fence wire, partially melting, and re-freezing. Not very impressive as far as icicles go, is it?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fog over Silver Creek

Today was our 8th day in a row of pea soup fog... apparently we are having a weather pattern where the cold and damp is being held in place by a layer of warmer air above it. HOW I wish that were the other way around, LOL.

This is Silver Creek as seen from the walking park behind the library where I work. That bridge is only about 50 yards from where I was standing to take this photo and yet it is barely visible. It's kind of cool to see how objects in the distance appear almost as layers in a collage.

And by now you know that I can't resist attempting an intersting macro. The point of focus for this photo didn't land *quite* where I wanted it, but I still like the image. Those "stalks" of moss are about half an inch long. Not bad for an older point-and-shoot!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Something a little different

Before she died, my Mom was sending me heirloom family photographs to digitize. It has been a while... perhaps it wouldn't be too much to ask my Dad to continue sending me batches to play with...

This is a high quality scan of a photo of my paternal Grandfather as a young man posing on his farm in Eastern Wisconsin back in the early 30's. One of my favorite things to do with old photos is to closely examine the details -- check out that car! And the chickens.

This is my digital repair. I cloned out the age spots and fold marks and reintroduced a higher level of contrast. Seriously... Photoshop is the most addictive fun. I must have made half a dozen versions of this photo so far, each a little different.

Some day I hope to make a scrapbook of these photos. When I get a little spare time, LOL!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Favorite Thing

I don't do houseplants.

(There. I said it. To the dismay of my female friends and relatives, all of whom have luscious displays of indoor foliage, I refuse to keep houseplants because my indoor thumb is, alas, black. If you knew how many plants have suffered gruesome and prolonged deaths at my hands, you would understand why I feel like... well, not a murderess, because I don't do it *on purpose*, but... I don't deserve to be in charge of a life form of this type.)

Except this faithful Christmas Cactus. Heaven knows it has tried to die, but I usually remember to water it in time. Do you think the fairy wind chimes are looking after it?

And even after suffering a level of neglect that would break MY heart, it is putting out blooms for me this year.

It desperately needs repotting, but then... what else would I put in this pot?? I LOVE this pot -- I can't take it out of my window.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Grass is Greener

It's not just Solomon -- they all do this. You would swear they never got fed!

The grass will be back in the spring, in the meantime...

I'm just glad they aren't the type to challenge fences. If they were cows they would be OUTA THERE, LOL.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Unexpected in the Morning

I glanced out my kitchen window this morning and just happened to see our resident blue heron hanging out in the North field. I grabbed my camera (thinking all the time how lucky I was that I still had the zoom lens attached) and as I went out the door I was just in time to see him fly off behind the big barn. I headed to the barn and walked up the hay alley to see if I could find him on the other side, but darn it! he was gone.

I turned around to head back to the house.

To my surprise, as I stood there looking back up the alley I found a few things to see, and decided to put some of my new knowledge of the manual controls on my camera to the test. This is a very challenging setting -- the only light in the barn is natural daylight, and the openings to the outside make for horrible backlighting if you can't block them out of your photo.

Jake and his Dad were working on a cow with a sore foot. She was quite grateful for the relief when they were finished, but at the time she was not a happy camper...

My presence was NOT helping, so I left them alone. As I continued to walk, the steam from these cows' breath caught my eye. (I should have used a slower shutter speed for this image, but I didn't have my tripod with me. Thank goodness for Photoshop -- I used Elements v6.0 to lighten the shadows just a little, tone down the glaring highlights, and bump down the midtone contrast. I think I might go back in and try to increase the color saturation as well...)

This last one is my favorite for today. The tractor and feedwagon were blocking just enough of the light coming in through the door to keep the backlighting down and make an interesting image. I used a commercial action called "sharp shot color pop" from EZActions to finish. The difference between this image and the unedited photo is subtle, but very effective.

I'd love it if anyone following this challenge would share some of their favorite Photoshop toys and techniques. There is so much to play with out there!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Moon Almost Full

I took these Friday evening, the night before the full moon. Last night's full moon was invisible behind heavy clouds. Not so much as a glow to show where it was shining.

They are mostly an exercise in photography for me, as these images can be found in almost any astronomy book, and are a little ho-hum. I found some tips here that show how to capture an image of the moon that shows up as more than merely a glowing disk of light in a photo. Who knew that you needed to use ISO 100 at night?? I used a 300mm zoom lens, f/11, 1/400 shutter speed to shoot this photo. It is unedited except for cropping. (If you click to get the full size image, along the lower edge you can see the shadows cast by the craters... I can't imagine how huge they must be to show so much texture.)

I took this next one before I remembered to use the zoom. I am always amazed at how small the moon really is in the sky -- it just *seems* so much bigger than this!

Some of the sites I googled recommend shooting at phases other than full for more interesting photographs. I may try that if we ever get another clear moonlit night. That's asking kind of a lot in this place at this time of year!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rosy Sunset Light

Some days when the sun sets, the sky turns a beautiful rose pink, fading to gold with a faint hint of green at the horizon. It is very beautiful.

This 150 year old church is a landmark that can be seen for miles in any direction. It is about 3 miles East of where I was standing to shoot this photo. The 300mm zoom lens I used on my camera makes it look much closer, doesn't it?

Looking West a few minutes later, Mt. Hood glows in the reflected light of the same pink and gold sunset. Look at all that snow! (Compare this photo to the same view shot last November.)

Did you know that tonight is the largest full moon of the year? If the clouds clear up I am going to try to get a photo of the moonrise.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Take-Your-Camera-to-Work Day

It isn't raining or stormy today for a change, and I knew I would have to run some errands at work today, so I took along my camera just to see what I would see on my walk.

This massive old oak tree fell victim to last week's big wind storm. You don't really get a sense of the scale of the thing in this photo -- that trunk is a good 6 or 7 feet across! Can you believe something this huge could fall down and cause no damage except for a lot of debris that had to be picked up?

I never noticed this manhole cover before. I have walked that sidewalk a hundred times...

You know you live in a damp climate when even the moss grows ferns!

More moss and some lichen on a garden rock. (This is not either a macro. It's just a close up... )

Oh, how I love this gate. An artist in our area specializes in wrought iron architectural details. Isn't he amazing? I wish I could afford a piece of his work. This gate leads to...

... this balcony. Silver Creek is running *very* high these days, due to the unusually heavy rainfall we are having, as well as some heavy snow melt up in the mountains.

And back to the Library. I included this shot just because I was so happy to catch a glimpse of truly blue sky. It is almost as good as medicine to see such a sky at this time of year.