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November 11, 2012

Winter Looming

Another winter looms around the corner after a long, long summer and warm fall. But as the earth tilts, even global warming won't stop it from grabbing us by the neck and shaking the daylight out of us.

I don't like the cold and don't look forward to the glove-covered fingers that still hurt and get numb when I'm outside. Our plans to visit Yosemite to take pictures in February won't be deterred, though. No pain, no pictures.

The sandhill cranes are coming back to the area. The rice fields are being cut and flooded just for them and the numberless waterfowl that make the Central Valley their winter home.

Hunters are blasting away at the ducks around the Preserve at Cosumnes River. Pretty jarring, but the birds seem to be used to them (and the freeway truck noise that constantly drones in the distance). Birds get used to all sorts of distractions - like cars driving through their habitat. But the line is drawn at anything two or four legged mammals.

September 23, 2012

Night Before Slaughter

One of the most harrowing battles in the Civil War took place on December 13, 1862 in Fredericksburg, VA. The Union's 9th Army under General Ambrose Burnside was sent on a suicide mission across the Rappahannock River. Stationed across the river for weeks, my great-great grandfather, William James Burk, waited with his 116th PA Volunteer Regiment in the Irish Brigade. He would be among the young men marching across the quickly-placed pontoon bridges to the town (the main bridge had been destroyed). The battle ground would be on an elevated field called Marye's Heights where the Southern Army had perfectly staged defenses.

I cannot imagine the thoughts and emotions William had while preparing for this day of slaughter. Hopefully, he was praying for the God of all mercy to spare his life, and if he did, God answered that prayer, because he lived to fight in many more battles before being captured at Petersburg and sent to a number of Confederate prisons.

Clara Barton was more than a wonderful nurse: she also wrote letters that contained poetry in her prose. She was with the Union troops on the eve of this battle and penned the following [punctuation is original]:

Head Quarters 2nd Div.
9th Army Corps - Army of Potomac

Camp near Falmouth, Va.
Dec. 12th, 1862 - 2-o'clock A.M.

"My dear Cousin Vira,

"Five minutes time with you; and God only knows what those five minutes might be worth to the maybe-doomed thousands sleeping around me.

"It is the night before a battle. The enemy, Fredericksburg, and its mighty entrenchments lie before us, the river between - at tomorrow's dawn our troops will essay to cross, and the guns of the enemy will sweep those frail [pontoon] bridges at every breath.

"The moon is shining through the soft haze with brightness almost prophetic. For the last half hour I have stood alone in the awful stillness of its glimmering light gazing upon the strange sad scene around me, striving to say, 'Thy will Oh God be done.'

"The camp fires blaze with unwanted brightness, the sentry's tread is still but quick - the acres of little shelter tents are dark and still as death, no wonder for as I gazed sorrowfully upon them, I thought I could almost hear the slow flap of the grim messenger's wings, as one by one he sought and selected his victims for the morning sacrifice. Sleep weary one, Sleep and rest for tomorrow's toil. Oh! Sleep and visit in dreams once more the loved ones nestling at home. They may yet live to dream of you, cold lifeless and bloody, but this dream soldier is thy last, paint it brightly, dream well. Oh northern mothers wives and sisters, all unconscious of the hour, would to Heaven that I could bear for you the concentrated woe which is so soon to follow, would that Christ would teach my soul a prayer that would plead to the Father for grace sufficient for you, God pity and strengthen you every one.

"Mine are not the only waking hours, the light yet burns brightly in our kind hearted General's tent where he pens what may be a last farewell to his wife and children and things sadly of his fated men.

"Already the roll of the moving artillery is sounding in my ears. The battle draws near and I must catch one hour's sleep for tomorrow's labor.

"Good night dear cousin and Heaven grant you strength for your more peaceful and less terrible, but not weary days than mine."

Yours in love,

September 8, 2012

What Is Theology?

John Dick was a Secessionist pastor in Scotland. Born in 1764, he started preaching in Slateford, near Edinburgh in 1786. He received his Doctor of Divinity at Princeton, NJ in 1815 and returned to Scotland to head the theology 'department'.
He gave lectures on theology, which were published in two volumes. I remember visiting Bob and Peggy West when Bob was attending Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. The library let me copy volume 1's Attributes of God pages, which I collated and covered when I got home. The picture below is of an original 1858 printing, not my copy.

Here is Rev. Dick's explanation of theology proper. Be sure to read the last paragraph.
"Theology literally signifies, a discourse concerning God. By the ancients,
the term was used in a more restricted, and a more extended sense. In the
writings of the Fathers, mention is made of the Theology of the Sacred Trinity,
and of the Theology of the Son of God, or of the Divinity of our Saviour;
while the word, at other times, denotes the general system of truth contained
in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, or these Scriptures themselves.

"It may be defined to be the science which treats of God, his nature, his attri-
butes, his counsels, his works, and his dispensations towards the human race.
I call it a science, because it is equally worthy of that designation with any of
those departments of knowledge to which it is applied by common consent; for,
although its authentic records do not deliver theology in a scientific form, it is
founded on first principles, from which its subordinate parts are deducible; and,
throughout all its ramifications, there is a connexion, a mutual dependence,
constituting a harmonious whole.
"Reflection upon the subject of theology will convince us that it claims the preference
to all other studies. In God, we behold an assemblage of all conceivable excellencies,
existing in the highest degree, and in  the most perfect accordance; the union of grandeur and loveliness, of every thing fitted to awaken solemn and pleasing emotions,
to impress us with veneration, to gain our confidence, to inspire us with hope.

He is invisible to mortal eyes, but this is not a reason for suspending our inquiries,
because we are furnished not only with external senses, by which we communi-
cate with the material creation, but also with mental faculties, which qua-
lify us for liolding intercourse with the intellectual or spiritual world. The
mystery which envelopes his nature might discourage us, if we entertained a
presumptuous wish to comprehend his infinite essence; but it presents no ob-
stacle to the attainment of that degree of knowledge which will serve as the
foundation of religion, since he has been pleased to grant such manifestations
of himself as are suitable to our limited capacity and our present state of exist-
"His remoteness from us, who are separated from him by an interval of
infinite extent, has been urged by some men as an argument for dismissing him
from our thoughts, and confining them to subjects more nearly allied to us; but
it will have no weight in the estimation of those who consider, that independent
and self-existent as he is, he stands in the closest relations to us, as our Maker,
our Lawgiver, and our Judge. To know this mighty Being, as far as he may
be known, is the noblest aim of the human understanding; to love him, the
most worthy exercise of our affections; and to serve him the most honourable
and delightful purpose to which we can devote our time and talents. To ascer-
tain the character of God in its aspect towards us; to contemplate the display
of his attributes in his works and dispensations; to discover his designs towards
man in his original and his present state; to learn our duty to him, the means of
enjoying his favour, the hopes which we are authorized to entertain, and
the wonderful expedient by which our alien race is restored to purity and
happiness; these are the objects of theology, and entitle it to be pronounced
the first of all the sciences in dignity and importance.
"Ignorant of the other sciences, and of the arts which minister to the ornament
and amusement of life, a man who can sustain himself by mechanical labour, may spend
the short time of his earthly pilgrimage, not without comfort, nor without the
honour which honesty and integrity may procure, especially if religion has
shed some rays of its celestial light upon him; but he who has stored his
mind with every kind of knowledge except the knowledge of God and divine
things, lives like a fool, and shall die without hope."


September 2, 2012

Color the Skies

God created all things ex nihilo - from nothing. That doesn't mean God is nothing, but that God exists apart and outside of His creation. Space, time and life were spoken into existence by the "word of His power." Hebrews 1:3.

And in His wisdom He created color - that visible electromagnetic spectrum of light with different wavelengths.

Colors have come to symbolize certain Biblical truths. Blue refers to heaven and black to sin and judgment. Yes, I know - black isn't really a color.

Most people enjoy any lavish use of complementary colors - and they most likely don't know why. It's a spiritual thing, actually. God's image is relected in us, and part of that primal image is appreciation of beauty - color is part of an expression of all that is beautiful. Genesis 1:26.

This is one reason we enjoy visiting the Color the Skies Balloon Festival each year. Few events boast so much color on a large scale.

Today is a good day to thank God for this wonderful gift of sight and the visible electromagnetic spectrum!

August 16, 2012

Upon Turning 40

There comes that time in a man's life when he doesn't just feel and look old, the whole world reminds him by celebrating the fact. Oh, it's an honorable event, filled with various eulogies, gifts and tears. But it's a glaring reminder of that short path to the future --- a future none of us was really promised in the first place.

We celebrated my 40th year with KP today. Balloons. Banner and posters. Video taping. Pictures. Chinese food. Humorous slide show. Talk of changes and the 'old days.' Three digitaries drove over from corporate headquarters with well-wishes. The company founder sent blessings. Gift card. Bobblehead doll of yours truly.

And I was truly surprised and deeply honored by those who know me best. Barb and Elizabeth sat by me, ready to catch me if I passed out from the praise.

"Let another praise thee, and not thine own . . . lips." (Proverbs 27:2) immediately follows King Solomon's admonition: "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Humility enjoined. Contrition elevated to a new height. The meekness and brevity of life underlined.

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Psalm 90:12.

August 8, 2012

The American Theater

When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, our little experiment was steamrolling ahead as the greatest wonder of the world. Published in 1830, and a second volume in 1835, the Frenchman's critique of American society epitomizes a true understanding and assessment of "the sovereignty of the people."

His words should be required reading in school, regular reading at home and revered reading online.

Some Observations on the Theater Among Democratic Peoples

"As the love of the drama is, of all literary tastes, that most natural to democratic peoples, the number of authors, spectators, and plays is constantly on the increase. Such a multitude, composed of such varied elements and scattered so widely over the land, cannot acknowledge the same rules or submit to the same laws. No agreement is possible among judges so numerous, who never know when they may meet again and who all like to judge for themselves. All literary rules and conventions are shaken by the impact of democracy, but in the drama they are entirely abolished, leaving only the caprice of each author and each audience . . .

"The Puritan founders of the American republics [sic] were not only hostile to all pleasures but professed a special abhorrence for the stage. They thought it an abominable amusement, and so long as their principles prevailed without question, the drama was wholly unknown among them. These opinions of the founding fathers of the colonies have left deep traces on the minds of their descendants.

"In America extreme regularity of habits and great strictness of morals have up to now [emphasis mine] told against the growth of the drama.

"There are no subjects for drama in a country which has seen no great political catastrophes and in which love always leads to a direct and easy road to marriage. People who spend every weekday making money and Sunday in praying to God give no scope to the Muse of Comedy.

"A single fact is enough to show that the stage is not very popular in America.

"The Americans, whose laws allow the utmost freedom, and even license, of language in other respects, nevertheless subject the drama to a sort of censorship. Plays can only be performed by permission of the municipal authorities. This illustrates how like communities are to individuals: without a thought they give way to their chief passions, and then take great care not to be carried away by tastes they do not possess.

"The drama, more than any other form of literature, is bound by many close links to the actual state of society."

June 16, 2012

Space Cowboys

Few things are as strange as peering through a telescope at some of our near and distant neighbors in the sky. You realize you aren't looking at a picture, but at the real deal, although it may have taken some minutes or much longer for the light to reach your lens.

I remember looking at Saturn for the first time through Larry Hindergard's 60mm spotting scope in about 1981 or so in the backyard on Monterey Street. There, balanced perfectly with its creamy white rings around it, sped Saturn in the night sky. I was amazed.

I took Angel downtown to view the moon as it eclipsed the sun last month. The Astronomical Society had set up camp by the waterfront, and she had fun looking at all the equipment and seeing the initial stage of 'contact.' They gave her filtered glasses, which we brought home and used to looked some more.

Then Venus in Transit occurred a few weeks ago. I brought a piece of exposed film home from work, put the spotting scope on a tripod and took pictures the best I could of another phenomenon that I'll never see again. I've posted the best one. The planets and their moons are wonderfully unique - and exist mysteriously. They do not fit the common theories of origination like stellar evolution and 'chance'.

The following is from Vance Ferell's 2001 publication of The Evolution Handbook:

1. There is no known mechanical process that can accomplish a transfer of angular (turning, spinning, orbiting) momentum from the sun to its planets. A full 99.5% of all the angular (rotating) momentum in the solar system is concentrated in the planets - yet a staggering 99.8% of all the mass is located in our sun! To an astrophysicist, this is both astounding and unexplainable. Their theory is that the sun was rotating so fast, it hurled out the planets. Our sun is rotating rather slowly, but the planets are rotating far too fast in comparison with the sun. In addition, they are orbiting the sun far faster than the sun itself is turning. But if the planets did not orbit so fast, they would hurtle into the sun; and if the sun did not rotate slowly, it would fling its mass outward into space. According to David Layzer of Harvard, in order for the sun to originally have been part of the same mass as the planets and moons, it would have to rotate ten-million times faster.

2. The orbits of Mercury, Pluto, asteroids, and comets each have an extreme inclination from the plane of the sun's ecliptic. The solar origin theories cannot explain this.

3. Both Uranus and Venus rotate backward, compared to all the other planets. The other seven rotate forward in relation to their orbit around the sun. Uranus rotates at a 98 degree angle from its orbital plane.

4. One-third of the moons have retrograde (backward) motion, opposite to the rotational direction of their planets.

5. The continued existence of these moons is unexplainable. For example, Triton, the inner of Neptune's moons, with a diameter of 3,000 miles, is nearly twice the mass of our moon, yet revolves backward every six days, has a nearly circular orbit, and is only 220,000 miles from its planet. It should fall into its planet . . . but it does not do so.

6. There are such striking differences between the various planets and moons, that they could not have originated from the same source. "The solar system used to be a simple place, before any spacecraft ventured forth from the Earth . . . But 30 years of planetary exploration have replaced the simple picture with a far more complex image. 'The most striking outcome of planetary exploration is the diversity of the planets,' says planetary physicist David Stevenson of the California Institute of Technology. Ross Taylor of the Australian National University agrees: 'If you look at all the planets and the 60 or so satellites [moons], it's very hard to find two that are the same.'" Richard A. Kerr, "The Solar System's New Diversity," Science 265, Sept. 2, 1994, p. 1360. [150 moons now known]

7. Many say that material from the sun made the planets and moons. But the ratio of elements in the sun is far different than that found in the planets and moons. One could not come from the other.

8. How could the delicate rings of Saturn have been formed from gas, collisions, or some other chance occurrence? The rings include ammonia, which should quickly vaporize into space.

9. Saturn has 17 major moons, yet none of them ever collide with the rings. The farthest one out is Phoebe, which revolves in a motion opposite to Saturn and its rings.

10. Nearly all of Saturn's moons are different from one another in the extreme. Titan, alone, has a thick atmosphere (thicker than the Earth's). Enceladus has an extremely smooth surface, whereas the other moons are generally rougher. Hyperion is the least spherical and shaped like a potato. The surface of Iapedus if five times darker on one side than on the other. One moon is only 48,000 miles above Saturn's cloud cover! There are three co-orbital moon sets; that is, each moon shares the same orbit and chases its one or two companions around Saturn endlessly. Some of Saturn's moons travel clockwise, and others counterclockwise. How could all those moons originate by chance?

11. The chemical makeup our moon is distinctly different than that of Earth. The theorists cannot explain this. "To the surprise of scientists [after the Apollo moon landings], the chemical makeup of the moon rocks is distinctly different from that of rocks on Earth. This difference implies that the moon formed under different conditions. Professor [A.G.W.] Cameron explains, and means that any theory on the origin of the planets now will have to create the moon and the earth in different ways." J.E. Bishop, "New Theories of Creation," Science Digest 72, October 1972, p. 42.

12. Our moon is larger in relation to the planet it orbits [Earth] than is any other moon in our solar system. To have such a huge body circling so close to us, without falling into the earth is simply astounding. Scientists cannot keep their satellites orbiting the Earth without occasional adjustments. Lacking such adjustments, the orbits decay and the satellites eventually fall and crash. Yet, century after century, our moon maintains an exquisitely perfect orbit around the Earth. "The moon is always falling. It has a sideways motion of its own that balances its falling motion. It therefore stays in a closed orbit about the Earth, never falling altogether and never escaping altogether." Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts (1979), p. 400. "Now the moon's elliptical motion around the earth can be split into horizontal and vertical components. The vertical component is such that, in the space of a second, the moon falls a trifle more than 1/20 inch toward the Earth. In that time, it also moves about 3300 feet in the horizontal direction, just far enough to compensate for the fall and carry it around the Earth's curvature." Isaac Asimov, Asimov's New Guide to Science, (1984), pp. 873-874.


I firmly believe with Sir Isaac Newton: "Though these bodies may, indeed, persevere in their orbits by the mere laws of gravity, yet they could by no means have at first derived the regular positions of the orbits themselves from those laws ... This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being." Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy

"I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing." Alan Sandage, (Winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy) J. N. Willford, March 12, 1991. 'Sizing up the Cosmos: An Astronomers Quest'. New York Times, p. B9

May 19, 2012

Linden Cherry Festival

What a wonderful time we had today in Linden for our first ever visit to their annual Cherry Festival. After enjoying the Pioneer Day Parade in Paso Robles for the past many years, it was refreshing to experience a 1/2 hour parade, a massive group walk to the elementary school for the day's events.

Don't miss it next year! We'll go with you!

April 13, 2012

Given the Choice . . .

Guess I'll choose the lightning, thunder and hail over the always present crime storm here in Stockton.

April 8, 2012

He is Not Here, He is Risen

Chris Donato writes:

"If the resurrection did not happen, then we followers of Jesus, along with Saint Paul, “are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). In other words, if Christ has not been raised we are the most wretched, unhappy, sorry lot the world has ever seen, because we have believed the cruelest deceit — the hope of a glorious salvation when all we are truly left with is sin, weeds, and death. But happen it did, and it is believed, for Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). This was, of course, the very reason the apostle John wrote the gospel: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (v. 31). The resurrection is part and parcel of that Gospel message of life in Jesus’ name. It is non-negotiable. One cannot consider himself or herself in line with “apostolic Christianity” without affirming the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This is the clear testimony of the New Testament writings, captured most succinctly in Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”"

April 1, 2012

March Madness

Our theme for the March Challenge was "Water." Any form of water fit the criteria, and so there was a large variety of entries. Thanks to all for their hard work, although we had plenty of moisture this last month to make things easier. Everyone could post up to five pictures, so there will be plenty of viewing this time.

Megen has captured the green of Spring with her closeup of tiny water droplets perfectly placed on these strawberry leaves. Yummy. (If they're not strawberries, humor me)

Dave's first two shots were taken at Delta College, while the last three were taken on the Mokolumne River.

Linda's entries emphasize the different forms water takes, along with it's man-made retrieval and storage elements.

Robert gets the 'prize' for his post of the "God in the Cloud" photo, where you can visualize a face looking earthward. He says, "I almost ran off the road trying to get out of the car before it changed. No time to check camera settings, two shots and it was gone."

His first picture of Becky is explained, "Walnut Grove, we were getting an ice cream at a little cafe. I didn't quite get the angle that I wanted because of some steep steps in front so I had to cut Becky out and move her up."

The river shot is near Clarksburg and the tide pool photo is south of San Francisco at Moss Beach (I think).

Harry's frozen Kentucky photos remind us of winter. He tells us, "They were taken 3/5/2012 between 12:58 and 1:08pm from Parking Structure 5 and looking back onto campus. They were taken from the 3,4,5,6 floors with a Nikon D7000 using a Nikkor 24-120 F4 lens, focal length from 38mm to 120mm. Campus was incredibly gorgeous that day, burning off later into the next day. We get much less snow in Danville and it burns off quickly."

Ginnie posted:

"Our plein aire group painted in the Chimney Rock area this morning. This photo and the next are of the ranch lake/reservoir. Lots of Canadian geese and sign of wild boar who tear up everything in sight. Hellie (whose ranch we painted on) says the tule elk have moved in from the Camp Roberts/Hunter Liggett area and they have seen as many as 15 swimming around in the lake."

Other shots are of Morro Bay and north of it on Morro Strand. She included a non-water picture taken between the power plant and the rock which gives you the flavor and color of the area.

Bruce just can't get away from two-parts hydrogen and one-part oxygen where he lives outside of Portland. He quips, "It's really difficult to find water up here. NOT! By tomorrow morning we will have a new record for rainfall amount in the month of March. Previous record was 7.5 inches. We were at 7.25 inches during the 5:00 news and it's supposed to rain all night and all day tomorrow. Sorry about the drought down there, but we are more than willing to share.

"I wanna go home (Paso). I'll go where God leads me. Just want to see the sun again."

His photo notes:
Another muddy creek from much rain.
Muddy Waters near Canby.
Rock and Water feature at Oregon City Mall.
Willamette Falls High Water.
Willamette River Under 205 Freeway in Oregon City.

Last, but not least is Mr. Just-Under-The-Wire's entry. Thanks, Don, for this great composition.

Thanks to everyone for their participation and interest in our little endeavor. Five posted pictures seems to be a bit overwhelming to me, so we'll go back to only featuring two, like before, next month. You can still send me up to five, but I'll only post two. Got it?

April is Spring Flower Month for me, so do your best to capture the excitement, color and the unusual as we tackle another challenge. And please, no artificial blooms and no artwork, just real flowers, preferably alive.

March 11, 2012

Another adventure scouting for spring color yesterday. We drove to Valley Springs, then on to some uncharted territory northeast through Paloma, continuing on Gwin Mine Road down to the Mokolumne River and the Middle Bar Bridge, then on up to Hwy 49 just south of Jackson. We stopped at the new access parking lot right across the bridge below Electra Road for a few shots, then back to Electra Road.

It is sad to report too little rain will most likely give far less color this year than the past few. We were early, though, and I only saw a few poppies, some spring vetch and a 2" lupine standing alone by the side of the road. We'll try to come back in a few weeks and see how much things have improved.

The water in the river is extremely low this year compared to last . . . down maybe 3' or more. Kayakers, beware!

March 10, 2012

Spring's the Thing

Wow! It's here! Well, almost. Hasn't rained all that much and a lot of last year's dead grass can still be seen in the countryside and foothills. No blooming to speak of going on yet out in the wild. But here in luverly ol' Stockton, you can drive over to Delta College and feast your eyes on some beautiful blooms, including a newly landscaped (this is year two) "Meadow Garden." Not huge, but it gives you the flavor of hillside lupine and a lot of other flowers thrown in.

Enjoy and thank God for giving us "all things beautiful" to enjoy.

March 2, 2012

Photo Tips and Hints

This should really get you motivated for March's photo challenge.

1. Find a boat, preferably an old steamer.

2. Find an old 8x10 view camera.

3. Mount it on the front of the boat.

4. Find a nice swamp.

5. Start looking for gators and dead bodies.

6. Be sure to tip the steam captain.

March 1, 2012

February Challenge Photos

Thanks to everyone who sent their pictures for last month's super-dooper challenge: Doors and Windows.

Some of us traveled to the hinterlands for these shots, while others found their subjects close to home. Actually, you can find doors and windows wherever people have left their mark, it seems. In fact, you seldom leave home without them (if you're in a car or truck!). Their history is as old as civilization and they are mentioned numerous times in the Bible. Jesus even calls himself "The Door" in a figurative way in John 10, showing He is the door of forgiveness and everlasting life.

Thanks to Bruce for scouting out some old buildings and churches up in his neck of the Portland area woods. Many of these old buildings are on historical lists, dating back over 100 years is my guess. This might be a good future challenge idea.

Stained glass is an intriguing art form, developed centuries ago. It is still being used in modern buildings and homes.

You can see the rest of Bruce's wonderful old historical remnants here: Tomlin Anderson Photography

Linda's first entry is titled "Dementia Wars."

".... my mother in law was convinced that someone was coming in the back door and hiding in the basement. The only way we could keep her from trying to go outside (cement steps) or in the basement (NARROW cement steps hard for an able-bodied person) was to tie them closed. :(

Dementia is not a fair enemy.

I think old scruffy windows like this one that Linda captured add imagination and story-telling to whatever they're reflecting, even if it's a backyard with a few trees and a shed. A certain amount of reality is lost as the colors fade and mix with whatever is on the other side of the window. Almost like a triptych, but you're getting three pictures in one instead of separately.

Linda rightly labeled it, 'Full of Character.'

Ginnie says, "These shots were taken on the D40 while we were visiting the old copper mining town of Jerome, AZ. Reminded us of Virginia City, NV, but built on the side of a very steep mountain. Gravity has caused a lot of damage to the buildings. Was quite cold, but the reward was an uncrowded very pleasant day."

I'm still trying to figure this one out!

This was Don's second photo scouting trip to Harmony, the little 'town' just north of Cayucos on the coast. He sent me 5 pictures, one of which was 'deceptive' in some way. So I was expecting to see a reflection shot that had been 'rotated' horizontally and any writing would be 'right reading.' Guess this isn't it.

Don has an affinity for things old and rusty, like me. The colors, textures, contrasts and rarity of such items are amazing. You can almost hear them say, "Come over here, and I'll pose for your camera!" You're presented with a myriad of choices for composition, as well.

Barb and I drove to the Gold Country and hit a few towns on Hwy 49, including Plymouth. This stand alone old building is a few blocks west of downtown on the same street. There was a school right next door with kids playing outside during recess. What a contrast. I'd like to go back and get out of the car next time.

Our last stop for the day was in Jackson, late afternoon, so the east side of the main drag was bright and colorful in the sunlight. I couldn't pass shooting this black enameled door with the sky and buildings reflected in it. My first exposure was way overexposed. The meter was reading all the black and adjusted to it by either opening the aperture or lengthening the shutter speed. I was in Program (P) mode. So I switched to Manual (M) mode and got a more realistic shot with true blacks in it.

February 19, 2012

Doors Galore

In the history of all things symbolic, doors are on my top ten list. How many times have we opened a door, closed a door, walked through a door, locked a door, caught a finger in a door or walked INTO a door? We're probably up in the hundreds of thousands over a lifetime.

Doors keep the weather out, keep the kids out, keep the dog out, and keep intruders out (hopefully).

Doors open for friends, open for kids and grandkids, open for strangers selling security systems, open for some fresh air and open to let out all the smoke from a botched chicken bake.

Our photo assignment for this month is 'Doors and Windows,' so it was a good excuse to head to the foothills and do some scouting. Shooting doors and windows is not as easy as it looks. If you're using a wide-angle lens, you have distortion problems to worry about. A lot of these pictures have had their perspective corrected in Photoshop. You simply click on Image, then Transform, then Distort and drag the corner points until everything lines up the way you want. It's a bit of a contrived look, but for me, the get-every-line-as-straight-as-possible guy, it was necessary.

So write your elected officials and demand that February is declared "Doors and Windows Month." Can you imagine a world without them?

January 31, 2012

Winter Challenge

Well, everyone had two full months to think about, plan and work on their December/January photos with the 'winter' theme. So much of our outdoor landscape turns to a dismally dull display of dead leaves, naked branches and yellow-brown grasses, that we might miss those opportunities to capture the unique shapes, colors and weather that are part of winter's beauty.

Linda didn't have to brave the outdoors weather to find something to remind us of winter. Her 'candle and tree' photo emphasizes the warmth of home and the celebration of Christmas using a powerful minimalist style of photography.

Girl, I hope you live close to the nearest fire station!

Old Davy's backyard sunset shot is nothing nothing to brag about compositionally. But the cloud color was amazing (in real life - hard to translate it perfectly to the screen). Wish I had been out on Woodbridge Road taking sandhill crane silhouette at the time, but that wasn't going to happen. I used manual exposure and underexposed so the sky colors weren't blown out.

These spent cattails are still standing after 7 months after their prime at the Cosumnes River Wildlife Preserve, just north of us. Most of the others I saw had fallen over. I was shooting for a balanced composition here, using the oak reflection as added interest. I strengthened the contrast and blacks in post-processing and bumped up the red and yellow to give it an old Kodachrome look and feel.

Don's morning light photos highlighted dripping ice on a few plants. I'm pretty sure Don used his 60mm Nikkor macro lens that does a superb job when getting really close up and personal. The star-like patterns of the reflected sunlight are caused when the aperture is very small.

This thirsty orange-crowned warbler was caught while drinking at Ginnie's fountain. She has the luxury of being able to take pictures like this from inside her house, which is a plus when it's sometimes 18 degrees in Paso Robles!

And here's picture of a recent Paso Robles sunset in all its glory. Wow!

Thanks again to everyone who sent in their winter photos. Remember, I'm only posting two of those you sent, so please forgive me if you don't see your favorite of the bunch. It's hard to choose from all those sent to me.

Next month's theme - that's February - will be "Doors and Windows." Thanks to Ginnie for suggesting it. I don't think anyone will be at a loss for subjects on this one. Again: Your pictures must be taken in February. Black and white or color is okay. Post-processing to the max (artsy) is okay. People and animals in the shot are okay, as long as the theme is apparent. Keep the .jpg file under 400kb if possible.

Have a good time and be creative.