Putting Pen to Paper

wooden dip pen with ink on tip

By Susan Greene
Wrapping and packing up the holiday accoutrements, produces, in me, a conflicting sense of sadness and excitement. Sadness for the end of the holidays and the joy of spending extra time with family and friends yet, excitement in the start of a new year. The house appears barren when the holiday decorations are gone but an opportunity to take a fresh approach to the everyday decor presents itself. With the new year, comes a chance to re-evaluate and set new goals for the next twelve months, a blank piece of paper to fill as you wish.

hand writing on blank paperThis year, the backyard sisters are using literary terms as springboards for stories, photos and teaching; maybe even some food.

writing with dip pen

Sharing thoughts, experiences and emotions with others, through writing, is an art. The writer of the sisters will provide the terms and offer her insights while I will supply a photographic interpretation. I am excited to see what the “writer sister” of the backyard sisters has up her sleeve for challenging and sharing with us.

wooden ball point pen on paperMy tools are ready for the inspiration. Writing is an important part of how we communicate and to write well is a gift. Our backyard father has been sharing his memories of growing up through an ongoing book titled “Jaunts with the Memory Elves”. Each year at Christmas, for the past ten years, he gifts us with the addition of a new chapter. These are priceless gifts and I am grateful for the ability to experience, through his narration, not only our grandparents as parents but also living in New York and driving and moving cross country.

keyboard typing handsMy fingers are ready for typing and my pen to be put to paper.

dip pen tip on paperI am anxiously awaiting the first term, sister . . .

~ Susan

How Shallow is your Field?

angel tree topperThe halls are being decked, the tannenbaum’s lovely branches are becoming adorned with lights, beads and ornaments and the spicy aroma of molasses crinkles cookies baking in the oven is filling the house. The perfect time to grab the camera and capture some of the details. This week we are exploring shallow depth of field.  A shallow depth of field will be achieved by using a large aperture which is represented by the smaller f-stop numbers. Using an 85mm f/1.8 lens and opening the aperture to its widest or almost widest, is my method of focusing on a specific area or item in a scene.

_MG_2653With the aperture open to f/2.8 I can focus solely on the mug and blur the books or…

_MG_2655focus on a portion of the books only and everything else will blur. If you want to isolate your subject from the other elements in the photo this is an excellent method. Shutting down the aperture to f/8 will allow you to achieve focus in most of your scene.

_MG_2659At f/1.8, the focus is on the top book and cider inside the mug;_MG_2662 at f/7.1, all the items on the tabletop are in focus.

_MG_2661  A shallower depth of field can be used to isolate ornaments on the tree.

_MG_2666

_MG_2668Also, using a large aperture enables focusing on one item in a group.

_MG_2671Which depth of field is used is based on what you are trying to communicate in your photo. With people gathering to celebrate at this time of year, there are many opportunities for experimenting.

~ Susan

Searching the Depths

“I can’t believe it’s December! Where has the year gone?” These phrases are uttered often at this time of year.  Personally, I can’t believe we have arrived at our last month of focusing on a photographic term. It seems like only last week we were compiling the list, challenging ourselves to concentrate on one subject a month. Wrapping up this photographic term-of-the-month year will be a closer look into depth of field.

Depth of field refers to the range of distance in an image where objects appear acceptably sharp. Sometimes, a photographer chooses to keep most of an image sharp which is known as deep depth of field. Other times, just a small part of the photo is kept sharp, thus emphasizing the subject by separating it from the background and foreground by making them blurry or indistinct, this is known as shallow depth of field.

DSC_0244One of the main methods of controlling the depth of field is the aperture. The aperture is the opening in the lens which lets light in and can be adjusted, becoming larger or smaller. The larger the aperture, represented by a smaller f-stop number, the shallower the depth of field. This week I am contemplating deeply. Deep depth of field is achieved by using a smaller aperture, a larger f-stop number. The f-stop for the photo above of Griffith Park Observatory on the hill was f/8. In the next photo, the f-stop was 13.

_MG_9157The kite surfers are at varying distances from me yet they are all reasonably sharp.

_MG_8802An f-stop of 16 enables the water’s surface to be sharp in the photo above.

It can be beneficial to occasionally sit back, entertain deep thoughts about what you are trying to communicate with your photos and whether the use of a deep or shallow depth of field could be one of the methods of accomplishing your goal.

This week will find me out in the field,

~ Susan

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_1910

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.

_MG_2265

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

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,

_MG_0986

next, the swing,

_MG_0983and finally, the follow through.

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

tennis player shadow

_MG_1202

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 close-up color

_MG_1953Inspired by a photo accompanying a book excerpt in Shutterbug magazine, I looked at a collection of mine differently. This spurred the realization of the potential for color exploration and abstraction. Pastels and earth tones are the most prevalent colors of my array.

_MG_1993I have gathered these from both near and far.

_MG_1964I am looking at this collection in a whole new light.

_MG_1986The interplay of the shapes and colors is something I am just discovering about my array.

_MG_1966I like this mystery game.

_MG_2045I am especially drawn to the pastel pink and flesh tones in the one above, as well as the vibrant hues of this one.

_MG_2037Whereas, the earth tones of this one are not to be downplayed.

_MG_1968If you haven’t guessed yet, these next few photos will probably give away the items in my collection.

_MG_1955Did you guess yet?

_MG_2024Last chance.

_MG_1937You probably got it by now . . . sea shells!

I confess to being a long time beachcomber. My collection adorns many of the window sills in my home. Gazing upon them transports me to the various shores where, while strolling, they were spotted, picked up and lovingly chosen for various reasons – their flawlessness, uniqueness or color. I will always remember once, many years ago, coming home and sharing the day’s treasures of the sea with my mom by placing them in her hand, and the shriek she let out when one of them began moving across her palm – I had inadvertently collected a crab’s home – sorry mom and crab: I did return it to the sea.

I have gotten more careful and choosy over the the years but still enjoy a long afternoon strolling the sand with an eye out for a new addition to my collection. Now, I have another criteria for selection – as the possible subject of a color, abstract photo.

The book excerpted in Shutterbug magazine is The New Art of Photographing Nature: An Updated Guide to Composing Stunning Images of Animals, Nature and Landscapes by Art Wolfe and Martha Hill with Tim Grey. Judging from the pictures accompanying the article, I would like to see what these three have to say.

This week either gazing at my window sill or out looking for new treasures.

~ Susan

walking on the red side

_MG_1883Red is associated with love, power, passion and energy. The color red sure grabs our attention. It’s no accident many street signs are red as well as the traffic light for stop. When red is used as an accent color or subject color in photography, it grabs the viewer’s attention and draws them into the photo. At this time of year, even in southern California, there is a little extra red out and about – some of the trees have begun turning red. It is with red in my eye and camera in hand that I head out on my daily walk. The trees, on fire with different shades of red leaves, are real attention-grabbers.

_MG_1889With zoom lens at 300mm aiming up into this tree, I fill the frame with the signs of fall. Then looking down, I can’t ignore this lone one so beautiful in its solitude.

_MG_1891Walking along a pair of red shoes has been left on the curb – that doesn’t happen everyday. I am in luck, this “I spy red day”, to stumble upon such a find.

_MG_1905When I am consciously looking for red, I realize how easy it is to spot.

_MG_1907Even when the red is a small part of a larger whole. Something red in the sand gets my attention, from quite a distance away I can’t make out what it is. It is another gift…

_MG_1910rose petals are scattered about. I am beginning to think there is a little red elf going ahead of me planting these items in my path. I wonder, are there always so many random red objects on my walk that I just haven’t noticed before or was this red photo walk meant to be today? While down on the sand, I decide to include orange-red and capture the lifeguard flag.

red orange flag on beach

 

The grape leaves right in my own yard are changing with the seasons too.

_MG_1887These flags stand out among a sea of green trees and gray roads.

_MG_1916After this walk, I am seeing red. It’s hard not to.

Try looking for the red around you this week and incorporate a splash of it or use a red object as your subject in your photos and see what direction your creativity takes you.

~ Susan

 

 

Into the Blue – Waves

There are many different shades of blue, 62 according to Wikipedia. There’s sky blue, deep sky blue, cerulean, baby blue, and, as a September baby one of my favorites, sapphire blue; just to name a few. The ocean has a dynamic color quality. The shades change and vary on different days and even at different times of day. Add to that variety the constant motion of the waves and you end up with a dazzling display.

_MG_1506I went to the shore with the intent of freezing the waves in motion. That moment right before they break when the water becomes translucent and the light shines through is my target.

_MG_1605I was struck by the added delight of the different shades of blue on display. It was late afternoon and the sun positioned behind the waves making it’s way towards the west and the horizon.

_MG_1489Sometimes, the sun’s beams shone through the waves.

_MG_1529Other times, the water appears like glass. The blue of the waves changing as it makes its way to shore.

_MG_1568When shooting towards the sun the blue is lost a bit in the glare.

_MG_1543

Aiming away from the sun the blue is most apparent. Capturing the waves,

_MG_1545

at the moment they are about to break,

_MG_1546is never the same twice.

_MG_1572The waves, even though not particularly large this day, possess a power. For me, it’s the power to mesmerize and lead to a relaxing meditation on their constant roll to shore. Then, the challenge to catch, with a photo, the split second in the cycle of one wave and ponder the array of blue hues present there. Other days, it’s the call to grab a boogie board and harness the power for fun.

This October if you are a fan of baseball and a certain southern California team, there is another shade of blue to get excited about – Dodger blue! Yes, it is one of the 62 shades listed in Wikipedia.

Go Dodgers!

~ Susan