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December 30, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Kodachrome

Those memorable Kodak moments captured on Kodachrome slide film are long gone, thanks to the overwhelming success of digital 'film' and personal post-processing on your computer. Today was the last day that this film was processed. Steve Curry was given the last roll to shoot. This was the choice for portrait takers, giving a ruddy glow to even the pastiest of faces. Landscape portraits were warm and dreamy with all of that saturated color. There was no blue or greenish cast to them. And the greatest miracle of this miracle film is that it doesn't lose its color after 40 years. Plenty of time to digitize all those old shots.

I assume this picture, taken of Grandpa Skinner throwing me to my dad at Avila Beach, was Kodachrome. Hey, I'm sure of it. And so it's over 60 years old. I didn't shoot too much of it because it was only ASA 25 (or ISO for you moderns). I switched to Ektachrome for a little more speed, but paid the price by trading the warm color cast to a cooler blue one. Not the best move, but it's ancient history now, set in stone --- on the acetate of each slide.

December 24, 2010

Park Ticket

Angel wanted to test her playground skills today before going to her dad's for Christmas Eve celebrations. Stockton was still socked in at 11:30 and the playground equipment was all wet, so we took advantage of her photography skills. She got her canvas sneakers soaked traipsing across the grass, but got some good shots and didn't complain about her freezing feet until we got in the car.

Grammy stayed home and burned the chocolate chip cookies!

December 21, 2010

Starry, Starry Flight

Starry, Starry Flight

In starry, starry flight between a blushing moon and earthy light —
Ghostly forms — both sign and seal of near and distant storms,
Slowly swim and glide below the jeweled span in which they hide,
Keeping midnight rendezvous with ancient lore and worlds to come.


Last night's lunar eclipse was an extraordinary sight for mortals who happened to see it. I awoke at 12:30 a.m. and noticed the blinding moonlight from two hours earlier had disappeared and knew the eclipse was in progress.

I mounted my camera with the 55-200mm lens to a tripod and went outside in my PJ's and socks. Barb was right behind me. What a view!

After a few minutes, Barb said, "What is that?!" A flock of geese was gliding across the sky below the moon. There were about 14 of them. There was no way I could capture them since each exposure was at 3 seconds at f8. So I grabbed another picture of geese I had, worked it in Photoshop and added it to this picture to approximate the look and feel of seeing this flock right below a red-orange moon!
Like Ansel Adams said, "Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter." I had to add the geese, but what a night to remember!

Here's the original picture I used, and here's how I did it: Working in Photoshop Elements 9.0, I wanted to bring up the stars (there were only about 3-5 of them showing in the original). So I used the oval selector tool and circled the moon. Then I opened Levels and lowered the highlights and contrast to darken it quite a bit. Then I opened Shadows/Highlights (Curves) and lightened the shadows. This made the invisible stars come up. If I went too far, the black background got too light and blotchy, so I backed off just enough to eliminate that. While I was doing this, the dark moon came up to a more normal color. Had I not darkened it at first, it would have been blown out when bringing up the stars. Then I used Layers again to make the black really black.

I found a shot of geese in flight I had taken earlier, tightly cropped them and resized them to a size that would fit when I placed them on my 1100px wide worked copy. The geese were dark on a light sky, so I inverted the shot (Ctrl and "I" keys), which made the background dark and the geese light. I used the paint bucket fill to blacken the background, then used a color that approximated what I saw (kind of a grayish brown from the city lights) and painted each goose with it. Sometimes the paint would only fill 1/2 of the goose, so I used a slightly lighter color to do the other wing. Then I placed them on the worked copy where I wanted them, rotated them, flattened the layers, then used the Brush tool to color them further. I know they look painted, but that's the best I can do. I purposely left them very dark, just like in real life. Just a hint of city light.

I added the larger star on the left to give more balance and a few small stars near the geese (remember, there was a black square around them when I placed them on the working copy.

Guess I could have spent more time on it, but I'm happy with it as is. Interestingly, I could only make it a 84kb file due to all the black in it!

December 18, 2010

Old Sentiments

Christmas cards and advertisements range the proverbial gamut from religious to ridiculous, as you can see in this sampling. Each conveys its message with excellent artwork, photography and color, hoping to attract the buyer who in turn wants to convey a particular theme or feeling. The Victorian era cards depict a wide range of celebration, usually involving children. Ruddy cheeked children. Big, dark-eyed children. Beautiful children. Really unreal and dreamy children.

I remember the winter when we got a brand new 1957 Ford station wagon. It was the first new car I could remember our family having in Paso Robles. The spartan interior and long lines will long be remembered. It may have been right after Christmas when this 'present' appeared. Can't remember.

And, of course, what would Christmas be like without using it to sell cigarettes or hard liquor? This was the perfect opportunity to lend an imprimatur to a number of vices, thus sanctifying their use and by implication, misuse. Shame on you, Ronnie, for keeping all your friends hooked on that nasty habit.

Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to explaining this unusual greeting. Were there pigs milling around the manger? Or maybe they would soon grace the Christmas dinner table. Or the couple who sent out this card looked like pigs, or acted like them or smelled like them or ? I really like the expressions, though! They look like a couple I'd really like to visit with.

Have you cut your own Christmas tree? We did that one year, but didn't drive to the mountains to do it. It was as close as a tree farm a few miles north of us.

My favorite trees have been the ones I've bought live and planted afterwards. The first one, an Aleppo pine, was planted in the early 90's in the backyard and grew along the ground before heading heavenward. About 20 years later, it took vengeance and came crashing down after a strong winter storm. Thankfully, it hit the house, but no major damage resulted. I'm still burning its remains in the fireplace!

December 11, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action

We're always late getting the outdoor lights up at Christmas time. Since this is one of my least favorite things to do, Barb has taken the reins the past few years and faithfully tacks them up in rain, sleet, snow or slush. Today's mid 60's makes it a lot easier, and she enjoys trying to brighten a spot at the end of our cul-de-sac.

Our neighbors spare no expense in their decor, with lighted reindeer, blow-up Santas and tube lights around the edge of the grass. Sorry, but we draw the line with lights. Maybe a star.

Our heater has been broken for a week. Waiting for parts, installing a new thermostat, roof too wet to walk on - another fire will keep us toasty tonight. Thankfully, it hasn't been freezing outside. I'm hoping all the lights will warm us up a bit, too.

Once again, Jesus tells us, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." John 8:12

December 9, 2010

When The Cat's Away . . .

We were greeted with an unusually bright rainbow at work Tuesday morning at sunrise. The brightest anyone of us had seen. We oooo'd and aaaa'd while I kicked myself for not having my camera with me. Jan took cell phone photos. I was hoping a Stockton
Record photographer was up early enough to see it, too.

Then on Wednesday, I decided to take my camera just in case another 'event' might happen. Well, the event happened, but it wasn't nearly as bright and only lasted about 5 minutes, where the rainbow Tuesday was shining for a good 15. So these pictures are but a meager replay of the day before. But you can still see the double arc, just like before.

After the excitement, everyone got more excited as we put up xmas lights. Even Roy and Tasha came with stuff. Tasha wanted to play, play, play, but didn't like her Santa hat at all.

With morale boosted, we all worked harder than usual the rest of the day - even though the boss was out of town! Ha! Roberta, you missed all the fun!

December 5, 2010

True Peace at Christmas

CHRISTMAS -excerpts from a poem by Henry Timrod (1828-1867)

How grace this hallowed day?
Shall happy bells, from yonder ancient spire,
Send their glad greetings to each Christmas fire
Round which the children play?

How could we bear the mirth,
While some loved reveller of a year ago
Keeps his mut Christmas now beneath the snow,
In cold Virginian earth?

How shall we grace the day?
Ah! let the thought that on this holy morn
The Prince of Peace -- the Prince of Peace was born,
Employ us, while we pray!

He, who till time shall cease,
Will watch that earth, where once, not all in vain,
He died to give us peace, may not disdain
A prayer whose theme is -- peace.

Perhaps ere yet the spring
Hath died into the summer, over all
The land, the peace of His vast love shall fall
Like some protecting wing.

Peace in the quiet dales,
Made rankly fertile by the blood of men;
Peace in the woodland, and the lonely glen,
Peace in the peopled vales!

Peace in the crowded town,
Peace in a thousand fields of waving grain,
Peace in thehighway and the flowery lane,
Peace on the wind-swept down!

Peace on the whirring marts,
Peace, where the scholar thinks, the hunter roams,
Peace, God of Peace! peace, peace, in all our homes,
And peace in all our hearts!

This Christ-given peace points not primarily to an inner contentment, but to peace with an all-just, righteous and holy God, who would condemn all except for His sinless Son's intercession on behalf of all who believe in and trust Him for that forgiveness and peace.

May that true peace be yours this season as we celebrate God's greatest gift to a spiritually dead and darkened world. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." John 8:12