Hey There, Man in the Moon!

Wrapping up this month’s shadow exploration prompted me to turn my camera towards the moon. I have always had a fascination with the moon, maybe it comes from growing up during the Apollo space program and watching the astronauts bouncing around on its surface or liking the idea of a “man in the moon” watching over us and keeping us safe at night. Whatever it was, I have been admiring and photographing it for years.  _MG_2264

The moon is continuously lit by the sun on one side. We see changes in the size of the illuminated part due to our location in relation to the moon at different times during the month. The lit portion is most easily observable, the rest remains shadowed. However, the shadowy bit is often faintly visible – not when it makes a daytime appearance though.

_MG_2486During a full moon, is the optimal time for examining the shadows of the surface and searching for the face of the “man.”

_MG_2447Occasionally, the moon,earth and sun line up in such a way that the moon passes into the earth’s shadow creating an eclipse. On February 20, 2008, there was a total lunar eclipse. Seeing the earth’s shadow slowly makes its way across the moon thrills me.


IMG_1928Photographing the moon can be tricky, since it is a very bright object against a very dark background. First of all, a tripod is highly recommended along with a remote release, or using the self-timer on your camera will work if you don’t have a remote. A low ISO, 100 or 200, and smaller aperture, f16 or greater, are recommended for capturing the details of the surface. The shutter speed is what you will adjust for a proper exposure, a slower shutter speed will inevitably be necessary, explaining the need for the tripod. It helps to use a long telephoto lens. The moon is relatively small in the big sky and using a telephoto lens will bring it closer to fill your frame, 300mm lens or longer is recommended. Use the spot meter on your camera to obtain the correct exposure for the moon. Sometimes, you may have to improvise. Recently while riding in a car I spotted a moon shot I wanted to take but with no tripod I adjusted the ISO higher and aperture wider.


Adding elements to your image along with the moon can add interest and a sense of place.

Looking to the sky and hoping to see the man in the moon.

~ Susan

Shadow Study

As we examine shadows and their use in photography further, today I am offering a few photos which capture shadows for different purposes. Shadows can add dimension to an image.

IMG_1785 shadowIn the winter, the surf will sometimes be very large, for our area, and cause erosion of the sand leaving a sharp drop off winding its way down the shore. The shadow reveals the path.

St Croix walkwayThe shape of the arches is repeated by the shadows on the ground.

_MG_5629 shadowsShadows are functional also.

The shadows of clouds on the ground, in landscapes, is a favorite of mine.

IMG_9234 shadows

IMG_4956 shadowsStill looking on the dark side,

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

There is something about eating seasonally that just makes sense. It’s better for the environment (no shipping produce far distances). The cost of seasonal produce is usually less because there is a relative abundance of it during it’s local season. Since shipping from other parts of the world or hothouse growing are unnecessary it has the added benefit of tasting better too. Even though we are accused of not having seasons here in California, the number of tomatoes in our garden is slowly dwindling and squash are in the markets and community gardens.

_MG_2396I find I crave seasonal foods during their season. It’s fall here and that means squash. This squash dish pairs well with many main dishes: poultry, fish, and beef for a few. The hardest part of this recipe is preparing the squash for the oven.

First, cut open the squash and scrape out the seeds.

_MG_2407Next, peel it.

_MG_2409Finally, cut into about 1-inch sized cubes.

_MG_2415 Place the cut squash on a rimmed baking sheet and add olive oil and maple syrup – I like to incorporate the oil by mixing it with my hands (after washing thoroughly of course).

_MG_2420After adding the seasonings and baking, filling your home with the smells of fall, you will be rewarded with a scrumptious, versatile side dish.


Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

  • 1 medium butternut squash – seeded, peeled and cubed into 1- inch sized cubes
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion cut into small-medium sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, I like the real maple syrup
  • 2 tsp dried sage, I like sage a lot, you can adjust this to your tastes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°.  Add squash, onion, olive oil and maple syrup to rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and stir with hands, or spoon, to coat the vegetables with the oil and syrup. Add the seasonings and stir a bit more to distribute evenly. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until squash is soft and beginning to caramelize a bit. Serves 6-8.


This would make a nice Thanksgiving side also. Here’s another squash recipe from earlier this year if you are feeling like variety in your seasonal vegetables.

Bon Appetit,

~ Susan

Prints in the Sand

Walking in the sand, head down, lost in the search for textures, it struck me. No, not a bird dropping or any other such beach related object, but the idea that the sand at the beach,  is like a mini sand dune and the texture of the surface is revealed through shadows. The indents and dips created by the movement of man, animal and machine traversing from path to shore produce patterns and reveal clues to the activities of those who have tread before.

tire track in sandThe smooth sand is as smooth as a blank canvas and has no shadows but add the imprints of feet, tires, rolling balls or dragged surfboards and an image is exposed.

bird feet prints in sand

The sand above was stirred up by a machine but only partly disturbed, the rest remains smooth except for the tell tale sign of a visit by a seagull.

_MG_2347The deeper the imprint the darker the shadow.

_MG_2352There seems to be evidence of a dog having been in this section, maybe chasing after the bird.

_MG_2360A barefooted stroller as well as a sneaker clad one and a seagull left evidence of having passed this way.

DSC_0235Later in the day, the shadows are longer and the textures even more pronounced.

Try a texture revealing shadow hunt yourself. It offers another way to see the world around you.

~ Susan

Shadow Play

This month, we are turning to the dark side, shadows that is. We will explore shadows’ effect on your photography; either as a subject or using them to create mystery, add texture and highlight forms. Using a shadow as a subject, can add interest and mix things up a bit in your photography. Tennis season is winding down and I have been photographing the girls in action quite a bit. I noticed the position of the late afternoon sun during the matches causing long shadows to be cast from the players.

_MG_2075-2It creates something different from the usual tennis action shot. Here is study of a serve in shadows. First the toss,


next, the swing,

_MG_0983and finally, the follow through.

_MG_0984Part of the original subject can be included in your photo,

tennis player shadow


or both the original subject and the shadow.

_MG_1206The shadow selfie is one unique way to capture a special time.

shadows on beachAll month, I will be singing “Me and My Shadow”, the children’s version. In case you haven’t heard it before, you can click here.

Keeping an eye on the shadows,

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Split Pea Soup

_MG_2204There are some food traditions that are shared by many, turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving and ham on Easter to name a couple, and then there are food traditions shared by families – split pea soup on Halloween is one of those in our family. Our mother began serving the traditional meal when we were little. She had the revelation while trying to come up with something quick to make ( it was usually accompanied with hot dogs), on a night when time flies by with costume preparations. Her ultimate goal: that we would have some “real food” in us before heading out trick-or-treating and eating a bagful of candy. In the early days, I remember the soup being from a can but as we got older, and needing less help from her with our costumes, she began making the soup from scratch. The meal then takes longer to prepare but the flavor boost is well worth it. Also, it can be prepared the day ahead, thus allowing the flavors to “marry”. We began looking forward to the “Halloween dinner” as much as the trick-or-treating. Then, as a young mother myself, I appreciated the relative ease of the split pea soup and hot dog Halloween dinner and have carried on the tradition with my own family. Seems like every year, at this time, I develop a craving for split pea soup. Homemade soup is my idea of warmth and love in a bowl, just the thing to take on the ghouls and goblins.


Split Pea Soup

  • 1 – 16oz. package of split peas, rinsed and sorted
  • 3 quarts water, chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (I use hickory smoked pepper to give it a smoky flavor)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped carrots
  • 1 C chopped celery
  • 3 medium white potatoes chopped

In a large deep pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until translucent.

Add the peas, water, or broth, and seasonings. Simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.


Stir in the carrots, celery and potatoes ( I use my food processor to chop the carrots and celery) and simmer an additional 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until soup reaches desired thickness.

If the soup is getting too thick for your taste you can add more liquid. Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes as well.

Serves 8

_MG_2202I had some potato chips left over from a party and they make a nice garnish for adding a little crunch, or just sprinkle with cracked pepper and serve.

~ Susan