Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dear...

Dear 2013,
In all honesty, I am not sorry to see you go.  You've been unkind to many people I know and my year hasn't been a bed of roses either.  Yes, I know, your sibling 2012 was, in many instances, worse with Sandy and all that.  But I believe that was just the 'set up' for what you had in store.  Your wrath was spread out over the entire year with lows that were so deep I often wondered if humankind would make it to the end.

Well, we made it..so there!  Despite the deaths, illnesses, job loss, lack of funds, and God only knows what else, we made it.  I don't know where you're headed but I will welcome your new version with open arms in anticipation of brighter days and softer nights.

Finito!  Terminado!  Fini!  Fatto!  Finished!

One year marches out while another marches in.

Dear 2014,
Welcome!
You're brand new and shiny and I'm sure you'd love to stay that way.  Right?  Well, here's a little advice early in the game...be kind, be gentle, have mercy, take care of us.  The past 365 haven't been easy and we need a break.  We need you to lighten the load.  After all, wouldn't it be wonderful to hear us all say on December 31, 2014 that you were a very good year?

Thanks for listening and I sure hope you were paying attention to me and not that glass of champagne.

See you around and I hope you're smiling!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's the holiday season!

Well, even though it's in the 20s outside and nature's photo ops are a little limited, I managed to grab some shots of some holiday goodies around the house.  I've been diligently practicing with my Lensbaby and it has really tested my manual focusing ability.  Since I no longer have the eyesight of my youth, I swapped out the diopter on my camera for a -2 diopter and, I think/hope, it's given me more exact results.

A box of Godiva chocolates from Belgium.

Coconut Twists ready to go into the oven.
 

Star Light, Star Bright...one of my mother's old ornaments...precious to me.

This year life's events have grabbed most free moments so every opportunity I've had to hold my camera has been precious.  I'm so hoping for more photo time in 2015!
 
May you find peace, joy, and love during this holiday season
and in the coming new year!!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Scanners...

Do you remember that 1980s sci-fi movie?  I barely do but, every time I scan something, the title of that flick comes to mind.  Maybe I'll actually watch it again one day.

So today I installed a new scanner (thus the 'scanners' inference).  I haven't had a scanner in ages but, after reading the reviews for this model (Epson Perfection V550) and noting it was on sale at B&H, I decided to make a purchase.  I was also influenced by the two boxes of slides I found in my mom's attic.  This machine is supposed to do a great job of scanning photos, negatives, and slides and I'm seeing a scanning project in my future...probably on one of those days following a major snow storm, the office is closed, and the roads are impassible.  You know...a typical winter day in central New Jersey.

So here is my very first scan.  This photo was taken way way back in ancient times when I shot film and had very little knowledge of f stops, shutter speeds, exposure, and composition; let alone how to hold a camera...evidence the tilted horizon.  I chose this photo because it was the first photo I had submitted to my company's photo contest and, yes, it won.  At the time I recall we had to mat each photo submitted and I really had a hard time straightening out the horizon so it would still fit within the 5 x 7 mat.  Today, all entries must be framed and under glass.  Take a look....


And here is the scan, edited in Lightroom 5... without a lot of data and Lightroom 5 knowledge (much to my dismay), it was difficult to make any significant changes but I did finally get that horizon straightened out...


Call me crazy but the original is near and dear to my heart.

Friday, November 1, 2013

After the fall...

there is winter so I thought I should post the following before nature's stained glass disappears.  Just as every season seems to fly by, fall will be a memory and all those beautiful colors will turn to brown and then get trampled and raked and gathered for the compost pile or the yard clippings pickup.  That is the part of fall I dislike...that period at the end when the colors are almost gone and you know that you will soon be surrounded by shades of white and gray.  You can smell and feel the change; just like the change of every season.  You know that moment when you first step outside in the morning and something is different.  You are alerted; like to an animal being alerted to danger.

I so wish the fall...the beautiful, colorful, crisp part...would stay with us so much longer.  It is so full of my favorite colors and temperatures; I will try to hold onto it as long as I can.

 
 
 
 
 
 Enjoy nature's stained glass.
I don't believe Tiffany has ever been able to match her beauty.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Do you have trouble making decisions?  I usually don't.  When I've made up my mind, I'm usually pretty quick to act.  This only changes when I analyze my decision/desires with friends; 'analyzing' being discussing at great length.  After these conversations, I'm usually confronted with additional data/information that makes me think twice about my original decision.

And so it goes...I'm hankering for a new piece of camera equipment.  Yes, I know I don't need it.  But, when things have been leaning towards the extreme negative in my life, I gravitate towards retail therapy.  And I never regret retail therapy.  Actually, and in all honesty, I've never regretted much, if anything, in my life.  It's all a 'learning experience,' but that's another story for another post.

The question at hand...to purchase a lensbaby lens or not?  I've done the research, read the history of the lens, looked at reviews, searched out tumblr for sample shots and then I had the 'conversation' with Angela (http://besoterio.tumblr.com/).  Angela is often my conscience when it comes to camera equipment and then there are those times when we are 'partners in crime,' aka...a bad influence on each other.  Our motto:  See it, want it, buy it!  When she reads this, I'm sure she will be recalling the infamous camera bag purchase we both regretted.

Angela and I both use Nik Software but she is far more familiar with the workings of this set of post-processing photo programs.  She pointed out that I just may get the same effect using one of the programs/filters in Nik as I would with a lensbaby lens.  So I'm hunched over my computer trying to replicate what I think might be a lensbaby effect.  Here are the results.  The jury is still out.  I'm just hoping I don't miss the special sale B&H is currently offering on a nice lensbaby package deal.


Straight out of the camera...converted from RAW to jpeg...no editing.
 
Blur vignette applied in Nik Software with focus point centered on flower.

What do you think?  And while you're thinking, I hope you're enjoying this outstanding fall weather we (East Coast) are having.  Hopefully some fall leaf photos will follow soon...before we are covered in snow!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fading...

As the colors of summer are fading, I am thinking of my mom in the care center.  Last night she did not know who I was.  This has happened before and, after sitting with me a few minutes, she'd come around and recognize me.  Not so this time.



She fell again last Friday.  This was her 7th fall and the 3rd that required an emergency room visit.  She has suffered head lacerations three times.  Each fall has acerbated her mental condition...age-related senility.  The problem with this type of senility is that it results in aggressive physical and emotional outbursts and patients often require sedation.  I am in awe of the physical strength that has come from this 97 year old 100 lb. woman during these episodes.  During this last ER visit it took three nurses to hold her down while the doctor stapled her wound closed.

It is amazing to me how much the human body can endure.  I have prayed that she is happy and comfortable...so many prayers .  I'm now asking God to find a safe place for her.

We once had a conversation about death and I asked her if she was afraid to die.  Her response was no.  She commented that she has had a good long life.  God had been good to her.  She is a strong woman.  I laugh and think...that must be the 'Russian' in her.  I hope she passes her strength on to me.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Playing with macro...

It been oh so long since I've been here...a parent's illness, my own physical therapy, contractors, work hours.  You know what I mean.  Sometimes, while you're juggling all of life's events, you need to drop one of the balls to maintain your sanity and sometimes it takes a while to pick it up again.  I may have to drop the ball again but, in the meantime, some macros to share from my D800 and Sigma 150mm macro helping to keep me sane...

Final glow...the last lily in the garden.
 
Saying farewell to Black Eyed Susan.

Clematis...all done.
Looking forward to a colorful autumn...hopefully as colorful as the spring and summer have been...but a lot more peaceful...and wishing you well.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

I took these shots last night at our town's fireworks display.  This was my first attempt at shooting fireworks and it was great fun.  I followed instructions I read beforehand almost to the letter...used a tripod, focused on infinity (for starters), camera set on manual with aperture on bulb and shutter at anywhere from 8 - 16, and used a remote release (until the battery died).  The only problem was picking my spot since I was at a house party...I really need to speak to someone about cutting down that tree...LOL

Click on each to view larger.  The last shot is a composite of 3 photos sandwiched together and edited in Nik Software.
 
Happy 4th of July...hope it is glorious wherever you are!





Saturday, June 8, 2013

The garden at dusk...

and before the rain...
(click on photos for larger images)

Clematis center...on the way out.
Wild flowers or weeds?
Azaleas - thriving in the shade.
Clematis...totally spent but still interesting.
Mountain Laurel glows as the sun sets.

Budding Foxglove...a bi-annual.

I hope there is something left after the rain stops!
Be safe and stay dry!




Sunday, May 12, 2013

Can you smell them?

My boomerang lilacs were the first flowers to make an appearance in my garden this season.  The clematis is starting to burst and the leaves of the lilies are standing at attention.  Sadly, the azaleas in the front yard are looking pretty weak but the fragrance of the lilacs makes up for the sad state of the azaleas.

Oh, I wish you could smell them.

The beauty of boomerang lilacs is that they will repeatedly bloom throughout the season.  You can cut them back to a point and they will shoot off more flowers.  It's a beautiful thing!
At the kitchen window.
Lilacs often remind me of old English gardens.  They just seem to have a gracefulness about them and their fragrance reminds me of prim and proper London ladies...thus the 'aged' edit below.


Hoping you're enjoying your gardens as we work our way through spring.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Borgata Glass...

(Click on and enlarge the photos to get a better view)

Well, my camera hasn't seen the light of day in what seems to be forever.  Between work, finalizing my mom's issues, dealing with doctors and aids and then there's the sewer pipe that decided to drip all over the basement floor this weekend and the tire that declared it needed more pressure when I pulled into the parking deck this morning...well, you get the picture.


I can't recall when I had a day when I went straight from the office to home, had dinner at a reasonable hour, got in bed before the grandfather clock struck 11 and was able to enjoy a good book without my mind wandering off to the pressing issues of the day.


A dear friend has offered me an overnight stay at one the casinos in Atlantic City.  You know I'm not a gambler but you can be sure I'll be taking her up on this offer.  I'm a sucker for a hot tub and a great buffet.  And I know a buffet is one of the worst places to eat if you're trying to be in control but, I NEED THIS NIGHT!


Anyway, thinking about getting away I came across these shots from our A.C. excursion last fall and decided to investigate who the artist was that created this unusual glass work at The Borgata.  Maybe I'm living under a rock but this is the first time I've heard of Dale Chihuly.  I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I did.  For me, there was a big Ooooooo and Ahhhhhhh factor here.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I wish...

A conversation with my mom…
 
You know, I had a shower today.
You did?!
That tall lady over there helped me. She was so nice.
That's great!  (High five)
When she asked me, I told her no but she said it would be OK.
Well, what did you think?
It was wonderful!  The water was so warm and it felt so good.
Well mom, now you know why your kids spent so much time in the shower.
 
Many of you might think this conversation odd, unusual, or strange. After all, who has not taken a shower? This was my mother’s first. When you grow up during the war and Depression and your father has died at a young age and there are four girls to raise in a two-bedroom apartment with one bath and no shower, you make do. And, often when you are brought up in those conditions, you hold onto your habits because the circumstances have been embedded in your mind, body, and soul.
 
I recall the many visits with my aunts (my mother’s sisters) to the last apartment where she and her sisters lived. There was a claw-foot tub and often, if you weren’t first in line, you had to heat the bath water on the stove. Believe me, it wasn’t that bad and they made it fun.
 
I wish I had that claw-foot tub today.  I wish…I wish…
 
An old punch bowl sits atop an antique
dresser in the attic of my
mom's home.
 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Orchids in the office...


It's a well-know fact among family and friends that my green thumb is not always a true green but rather has some shades of brown mixed in.  So, when the orchid I have in my office decides to bloom in all it's glory, it's a real 'occasion' and time to find the camera among all the current clutter in my house.

This is the third time it has graced us with flowers in four years.  Each time I've photographed it, I've gotten different results and, up until now, I have been less than satisfied .  Perhaps it's because this plant has such an unusual shade of bloom but this time I played with some HDR and I believe I'm finally happy with what came out of the camera.


Here's to a wonderful weekend full of beautiful things!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Losing my marbles...

At the age of 96, mother has moved on to a care center. Yes, I know it’s a nursing home but I refuse to refer to it as such. She has lots of adjustments to make but, somehow, I never considered how much it would affect everyone else.   So….I won’t be posting much in the upcoming weeks…maybe a photo here and there with a short description but, right now, I think my brain in just about fried and I can think of nothing else but getting done what needs to be done in order to make this transition as easy as possible.
 
A bag of marbles found tucked in a dresser drawer at my mom's house.  I suspect my aunt entertained
my son some 30 years ago with these.  I will keep them for him...they will touch his heart
and bring back good memories.
Looking over the last two weeks…
  • I have filled out financial forms about six times, repeating the same information over and over.
  • I have been up until 2 AM printing out 5 years worth of bank statements for review by Medicaid.
  • I have preplanned a funeral, not because I wanted to but because Medicaid required it.
  • I have met with a hospital social worker.
  • I have met with the administrators of the care center (who are angels in disguise).
  • I have met with the financial department of the care center (and I am still in shock).
  • I have spoken to more speech therapists, physical therapists, aids, nurses, doctors, visiting nurses then I have family members.
  • I have packed what seems to feel like several tons of clothes for recycle, yard sales, and washing and I'm still not done.
  • I have visited the care center almost everyday, hoping and praying this transition will go smoothly (and then the staff told me to cut back).
  • I have forwarded all the mail.
  • I have met with a realtor and signed a ton of paperwork.
  • I have met with the attorney.
  • I have called the oil company.
  • I have stopped the milk delivery.  And of all the things I have done, this was by far the hardest and the only one I cried over.
Yes, I am losing my marbles.
 
My blog posts have never been as frequent as I would have liked.  Life has too often gotten in the way.  Going forward, after all the dust has settled and all the paperwork has been sorted and filed, I will hopefully resurrect the creative gene, however creative that might be.  In the meantime, I'll be watching all the wonderful blogs I follow and trying to post a photo here and there and hope my followers hang in with me.  After all, this blog thing has been keeping me sane and going for some time now.
 
Hugs!  Peace!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

15 Minutes...

I recently read an article written by Darren Rowse of the Digital Photography School (on-line) concerning an exercise you can do to improve your photography.  I've become more of a technical person lately and that's not always a good thing.  It's taken me away from the actual joy of photographing and actually looking and seeing what is around me.

So, following the author's instructions, I sat for 10 minutes in my kitchen, took a good look at my location, gave consideration to the light in the room, paid attention to how the setting made me feel, and noticed any details.  The next 5 minutes were spent photographing.  I cheated and spent 10.

Here is what I came away with...
750 ml
Last call.

Closing time.

Luckily there was this beautiful empty green wine bottle sitting on the window sill waiting to be put into the recycle bin.  If not for that, it would have been pots, pans, and dirty dishes.  Do you have any tricks to improve your craft?

Now I'm off to clean the kitchen floor!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are you...

content?

The word 'contentment' popped up on my calendar last Friday.  It's not a word I hear much but seeing it certainly made me pause and think about my state of contentment.

Years ago I remember the word 'contented' being used to describe cows but, for the life of me, could not remember in what context.  Sooooo a Google search was in order...contented cows give better milk, there's a bar called The Contented Cow in Northfield, MN, and it was the Carnation company from which I first heard the term 'contented cow.'  Thank you Google!

October 2011
Lawrence Brook - Davidson's Mill Pond to Farrington Lake, South Brunswick, NJ
(Davidson's Mill Road at Riva Avenue, East Brunswick/South Brunswick border)

So, are you content?  I believe I am.  Some days I'm more content than others but, for the most part, I'd consider myself content.  The calendar page says to sit down and say the word and see what happens...you just might have a physical response.  OK, ready?  Say the word.  Feel anything?  Pretty powerful for a word you don't hear much.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

As high as an elephant's eye...

(a Rurality Blog Hop entry)

While looking through some old photos to post on my tumblr blog, I came across the following taken at Davidson's Mill Pond Park.  I couldn't help think of that song by Rogers and Hammerstein 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning' from Oklahoma!

As high as an elephant's eye...
I'm not sure whom I like better singing that song...Gordon MacRae or Hugh Jackman.
Either way, hope your morning is or was beautiful!

Note:  Long version containing several songs.

Note:  Stage version.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A milestone...

(A Weekly Top Shot Entry)

100 (oops! now 101!) followers!  Over two years ago I started this blog at the suggestion of one of the execs. in the office who liked my photos.  I had no expectations, no goals, no preconceived notions about this medium.  I just thought it would be a really cool way to get my photos out there, to see what people thought, to learn something new.  Two years has flown by and, whenever there has been a major event in my life or a significant milestone or a strange occurrence, I usually take stock and think about what has transpired and what I've learned...if anything.


So, here goes.  The ten things I've learned through blogging...so far...

People are supportive.
There is kindness in this world.
Sometimes you need to grow a thick skin.
We don't necessarily need to speak the same language to understand each other.
Think twice before corresponding with 'Annonymous.'
I can redecorate my bedroom for about $100.
Someday I want to visit Washington and Nebraska.
Reconsider before you add music to your blog.
Sometimes less really is more.
Classical music does inspire...
just like all the followers and all the comments and all the personal messages.
I appreciate every one of them!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Meet me in New Orleans

(A Weekly Top Shop Entry)

A co-worker displays an absolutely beautiful arrangement every year around Mardi Gras.  This year I managed to take several photos.

 
This display hangs off a wall in an alcove so there is not much available light.  I have never had any success with a flash whether it be the horrible camera pop-up flash or a hot-shoe mounted unit.  I suspect I need to put some serious study time into my flash manual.  But, in the meantime, I used this handy-dandy Lightscoop that was recommended in one of the blogs I follow...Thanks Kate! (Chronicles of a Country Girl)   I'm still experimenting with this new toy but, so far, it's a great little unit I've added to my camera bag.

Oh, wouldn't it be exciting to photograph the real thing!



 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Waging the war...

Will we humans ever win the battle against the common cold?  Do the pharm companies have a cure and they are just not telling us?  Is this actually a cold or is it allergies?  I don't have the answers; I only know I've been on the front line for two weeks, armed with heavy artillery and, once again, I have lost.

I'm going to blame it on Nemo and the fact that I shoveled my property twice and my mom's once.  I felt absolutely great afterwards and then, about 24 hours later, I hit the wall...chills, congestion, aches.  It wouldn't be so bad if you could at least sleep but I've surrendered to some nighttime cold meds so that should do the trick.


On the bright side...at least it's not the flu!