Bright Star

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

-John Keats

Last night, Tisen started sticking his head under my mouse-hand, making it impossible to work.  I eventually took the hint and got his leash.

As we entered the park, I looked East and saw a bright glow coming from the ridge.  “Crap!” I said aloud, and then looked to see if anyone heard me.  Saved from embarrassment by solitude, I moved Tisen into a trot thinking we could make it around our 2/3 mile loop in time for the moonrise.

I told myself I was being foolish–the moonrise lasts only a few minutes.  As we made our way down the path, I looked over my shoulder to see if we were missing it.  The light glowed strongly through the trees in the park.  Once again, I said, “Crap!” but this time, there was a man walking behind us.  I might have blushed a little.

I tried to rush Tisen, but this resulted only in him pausing mid-sniff to give me a perplexed look.  When we made it around the next corner, I realized the glowing light I saw through the trees was a well-lit building.  There was hope!

When at last we got back to where I could see the ridge, the glow I had spotted on the way out remained unchanged.  I squinted and saw it was actually a billboard on the side of the hill.

I pulled out my phone and checked the time.  It was only 6:32.  The moon rose at 5:44PM officially the night before . . . the last time I shot the moon rising behind the ridge, it didn’t appear until 15-20 minutes after the official moonrise time . . . the moon usually rises about 40 minutes later each night than the night before . . . there was hope!

I had not missed the moonrise at all.  Perhaps Keats understood the moon better than Juliet–steadfast in its predictability.

Arriving on our rooftop, a glow started to appear behind the ridge.  I positioned the top of the ridge low in the frame to cut out a brightly lit window in a house below the ridge.  Not liking the composition, I reframed including the window and shot again.  As I check the image through my loupe, I realize it was not a window I was seeing at all–it was the moon!  I nearly swooned to death.


Circled Orb

O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.

-Juliet, Romeo and Juliet

The full moon rose at 5:44 in Chattanooga tonight.  I was still working.  I failed to realize tonight was the full moon until well after 7PM.  I took Tisen for a walk and looked up.  Not only was the moon putting on quite a display, but Jupiter was there as if it were orbiting the moon.

As I shot the full moon in a completely clear sky, I thought about words of wisdom shared with me by another photographer about a year ago, although it seems more like a decade now.  He told me not to bother to shoot the full moon.  It turns into a flat rock in photos when it’s full.

Fascinated by the full moon as a subject, I undertook shooting the moonrise as often as possible so I could shoot the full moon as it clears the horizon.  I’ve found this adds an interesting dynamic to the moon.  Plus, the moon pretty much gets overexposed in order to preserve the other objects of the photo, so you get a ball of fire instead of a flat rock.

Tonight, I am too late.  But it’s the last full moon of the 2012 and Jupiter is there beside it.  So, I shoot it anyway.  Unfortunately, Jupiter looks far more impressive in person than on “film.”  The moon-rock effect is in full force, although I tried some additional adjustments in Aperture to try to make it more interesting.

I’ve supplemented the gallery with past shots of the moon.  You can see how the crescent moon looks far more 3-dimensional.  But I am still drawn to the full moon.

In the meantime, one of my friends posted a comment, “Oh!  There’s a full moon!  That explains everything!”  I have often thought I had more energy and anxiety during the full moon.  But, a quick search through some of the research available online doesn’t offer any proof that the full moon has any effect on our behavior at all.

I try to remember the explanation I once heard about why the full moon affects people’s behavior.  I recall being told that the full moon had an effect on the gravitational pull, but my brief search tells me that the increased gravitational pull of the moon aligning with the sun happens at new moon, not full moon.

If only I could find an explanation for why I feel like howling.

Maybe Juliet was onto something.  Maybe it’s the frustration of the inconstant moon changing shape, rising late, and appearing in unexpected places that makes me want to howl.  Especially when I realize I’ve missed moonrise.

Oddly, Tisen doesn’t seem to feel compelled to howl at all.  Maybe he doesn’t notice the inconstant moon?

Up Close and Personal

I have decided I need to use my flash a lot.  Nothing fancy.  Just put it on the camera and use it so I can get used to what it looks like on camera.  Then, maybe I’ll be better able to see the differences when I take it off camera.

But what to shoot now that I’ve decided to undertake this learning process?  Tisen looks mighty relaxed laying on a comforter on the couch.  And he did just get a brand new hat from Twiggy’s mom.  Plus, he’s a little bored now that Twiggy has gone home.

I wrap a snoot around the flash and decide to start with capturing him in his hat.  I like the head-on image the best even though the flash catches the haze of blue in his eyes, probably indicating cataracts.

Then, I see my down jacket next to him on the sofa and decide to see what happens when I take a macro shot with my flash.  The snoot projects the light to the background, leaving the jacket in the foreground unlit.  When I look at the shot on the big screen, I’m surprised to discover the fabric has a distinct pattern.  I’d always thought it was perfectly smooth.

Then I decide to go macro on Tisen.  Poor guy.  I would feel sorry for him, but he barely moved once I took his hat off, seeming perfectly content to model for his crazy mom with the big black camera that kept flashing at him.

It’s interesting to see the parts of a dog up close.  For one thing, he’s dirty than I thought he was!  His little pig ears always makes me laugh.  When he walks, the tip bounces up and down, flopped over at about the halfway point.

I try to shoot his tail, another source of a smile.  He wags enthusiastically when we go for walks.  People pass us on the street and say, “Now that’s a happy dog!” as he goes by with a toy in his mouth and his tail keeping a steady beat.  But tonight no shot of his tail is to be had.  It’s the one part he keeps tucked underneath and I don’t want to risk annoying him to the point where he gets up and lies on his bed under the desk.

I do manage to shoot both sides of his face, but the white side keeps blowing out with the flash.  The black side makes for a creepy close up of his eye.  He stares at me, blinking from the flash.  I wonder what he thinks I’m doing to him.

The poor guy is still struggling with allergies and hot spots.  We’ve changed his diet again; it seems he’s allergic to the turkey we’ve been feeding him.  I’m about to give up and put him on antibiotics again.  It’s hard to wait to see if he will heal on his own when it’s obvious he’s uncomfortable.


After a long first day back from a week’s vacation, I look up from my work and see it’s pitch dark both inside and out.  I look at the clock.  It’s 7PM.  Rain streaks the glass on the windows.  I pause long enough to wonder how long it’s been dark and raining without me noticing.

I realize I haven’t thawed Tisen’s dinner yet.  I dump some frozen nuggets into his bowl and set them out to thaw.  Twiggy, visiting for a few days, dances at my feet, her butt wiggling back and forth with the force of her wag.  Tisen jumps at me.  Both are impatient to go out.

I put Tisen’s rain jacket on (he hates to walk in the rain) but he won’t hold still while I zip it.  After the 3rd attempt, Tisen is zipped in and I grab the leashes, checking the poop bag holder to make sure there are at least 2 bags.  I grab an extra roll just in case.  Then, I head out into the dark leaning back against the leashes like a water skier.

As we walk around the park, I think of what I want to shoot tonight.  I decide I should take advantage of the rain and see if I can capture rain drops.  This is something I have failed at so many times that I have no problem failing once more.

But this time, I am armed with a flash.

Back home, full of optimism, I walk out onto the balcony, attach the flash, position a reflective wrap to bounce the flash, find something to focus on, and take a test shot.  Nothing.

I decide it’s not raining hard enough and sit down to wait.  My glass of wine makes the time pass.  The rain picks up and I try again.  I try focusing close and far.  Repositioning the reflective wrap and shooting without it.  I get a few shots that have some white dots in them.  Nothing very exciting.

I try another round, this time, including out-of-focus street lights to add a background.  I manage to get a few more dots and I kind of like the blurred balls of colored light.  Not exactly what I was going for, though.

The rain slows and I look for something else interesting to try.  I decide to try panning with passing cars to see what I get.  This is just good fun.  Don’t ask me why I have so much fun creating completely bizarre images that really don’t work well, but I do.  I particularly like the one shot of the car crossing the Market Street bridge off in the distance.  Maybe it’s the blurred Christmas lights in the foreground that I like so much?

I am reminded of a photography workshop where the instructor talked about how at least one thing must be in focus for a shot to work.  He’s probably right.

Bubble Wrap

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we will be home for Christmas this year.  I didn’t mention why.  We’re moving.  It’s not the kind of move that makes my Nomadic heart sing, but it’s a move none-the-less.  We are moving to a quieter place not far away from where we are now.

I have moved many times in my adult life.  My moving truisms:  1)  move often, 2) take little, and 3) start packing early.  1 and 2 are intricately related.

Toward this end, I start cleaning out excess stuff and packing what we want to keep even though we are several weeks away from our move.  It’s a busy time of year at work and at home, so the earlier I get started, the less stressed I’ll be.

This means pulling out the empty boxes from our last move along with the bubble wrap and paper packing material, and packing away the decorative things that make us feel at home.  I start with the photos displayed on our walls, mostly by photographers far more talented that I.

It takes yards of bubble wrap to safely package the photos framed under glass.  I wrap each one lovingly, remembering the photographers whose works I display on my walls.

I am tempted to pop the bubbles in some of the wrap.  It’s hard to resist the popping noise bubble wrap makes when you jump on it.  But, it doesn’t make for good protection once it’s been popped.

When I’ve packed the photos and most of the non-essentials in the bedroom, there is still a stack of bubble wrap left on the floor, perfectly sized for wrapping glasses.  It’s too soon to pack glassware, something we most definitely use every day.

I hold a piece of bubble wrap up in the early afternoon light streaming through the windows and get an idea.  What if I were to shoot the view through the bubble wrap?

I imagine reflections of the city skyline in the bubbles like those commonly seen in water droplets.   Then, I imagine a distortion that makes the city look like it’s inside a snow globe.  I can’t wait to give it a try.

I tape a single square of bubble wrap to the window then press my lens close to the glass next to the bubble wrap and focus on the skyline in the distance.  I move my lens so I’m shooting through the bubble wrap and search for an image that might look like something.

Alas, there is so much distortion, most of the focus is lost.  There are no reflections in the air inside the bubbles like there would be in a water droplet.  The plastic creates flare, like when shooting into the sun, but it doesn’t really create a globe effect.

While I’m not fond of the resulting images (I like the macro shots of the bubble wrap better), at least I found a way to play with bubble wrap without destroying it.

A Month Before Christmas

Here we are, a month before Christmas, and I am realizing we are going to be home in Chattanooga for Christmas this year.  Having just returned from visiting family for Thanksgiving, I find myself feeling a bit nostalgic for the old days when family from both sides was within a 3 hour drive.

Combine that with the sudden nip in the air and I find myself wistfully wishing I had a few things to look forward to.

For one, gifts piled under a Christmas tree.  There was a time when I would put up a tree and wrap all the gifts early just because I liked the way they looked. I was known for taking ridiculous care in wrapping packages, always folding every crease, never leaving a cut edge exposed, and often hand making bows from interesting ribbons.

These days, I think more about using up leftover wrapping paper, recycling old paper or gift bags, or having things gift wrapped at the store.

As my nephews have gotten older, the things they want have gotten smaller and more expensive resulting in paltry stack that barely occupies the corner of a table, let alone fills the living room.  It’s a good thing they have also outgrown playing with boxes.

I gave up on having Christmas decorations, including a tree, many years ago.  I found not decorating for Christmas a relief.  The amount of work in exchange for a very small amount of time to enjoy the decorations (since we always went out of town) just didn’t seem worth the trade off.  Especially not in January when we kept procrastinating taking down the outdoor lights in the hope of warmer weather.

Now, I watch the cars driving in and out of the tree lot across the street and find myself tempted to get a tree.  But where would that lead?  Next there would be ornaments, garlands, lights, and icicles.  And it doesn’t stop there.  It’s like a gateway drug to hard-core decorating.  Before you know it, you’re putting snowflakes in the windows, lights on the windowsills, and looking for inflatable, lighted Christmas scenes for the balcony.

Instead of buying a tree, I peruse my old photos in search of Christmases past.  I am reminded of cookies, snow, and our wonderful dogs, past and present.

This will be our first Christmas at home in 21 years.  It will be only our second Christmas without my nephews in those 21 years.  The first time, we were camping in the Everglades.  This year, we will be home with no tree, no lights, no gifts, no family.

Sounds like it’s time to think of a new tradition for Christmas.  Maybe I’ll look into renting a snow making machine–a white Christmas in Chattanooga would truly be a Christmas miracle.

Tisen’s Turn

I imagine our day from Tisen’s perspective.  If Tisen were writing this post, what would he say?

“Mom put antlers on my head.  I’m felt stupid, but Mom kept smiling, so I pretended I liked it.  As long as I had my fluffy bed and Jack, I really didn’t care about the antlers.

Mom also put a snug sweater on me.  It was warm and felt like a hug.  Daddy rolls his eyes when Mommy puts it on me, but I kind of like it.

They left me in the sunroom with my breakfast and a rabbit.  I gobbled down my breakfast before the rabbit could get out and steal it, but then I was in the sunroom all by myself with that rabbit.  It kept watching me.

Eventually, they came back and took me outside.  I got to sniff and pee on some of my favorite spots, and then, JOY!  They finally let me back in the van.  I love the van.  It takes me places with Mommy and Daddy.

We didn’t go very far before we stopped though.  Mommy and Daddy met up with Uncle Paul and Aunt Megan.  I watched them walk into a building.  It was so windy, Mommy’s hair flipped up like a toupee in the wind.

They were in there a long time.  I got worried.  I decided I’d better take shotgun position so I could keep a closer eye on the door.  It was getting cold in the car while I was sitting there.  Mommy left me a blanket on my fluffy bed, but I was determined not to take my eyes off the door, so I stayed put.

Eventually they returned.  Mommy got in the seat with me and let me sit on her lap while Daddy drove around for a little bit.  Mommy was so warm.  She pulled the blanket over my cold ears and paws and cuddled me while Daddy went somewhere.  When Daddy came back, I had to get in the back on my bed.  I didn’t want to leave Mommy, but she insisted.

Mommy covered me with my blanket and then we drove for a really long time.

I was getting too warm.  I had to get out from under my blanket.  Then, we stopped and Daddy took off my jacket and walked me around in some nice grass.

After that, I got to sleep in the back for a long time.  Mommy was sleeping in her seat, too.  I was a little worried about her because her head kept tipping over, but every time I checked on her, she was OK.

After a long time, we were in my very own parking lot and Mommy took me for a walk around my very own park.  Then, we went inside and I found Tiger, Blue Dog, Skunk, and Big Dog all waiting for me.  I told them all about my adventure, but I’m not sure they believed me.  Especially the part about the rabbit.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the most important holiday of the year to me these days.  It’s a holiday that isn’t overloaded with expectations, can be celebrated with little effort (for those of us who don’t cook), and usually offers the opportunity to reflect on all that is good in life.

It’s the last part that makes this a special holiday.  It’s always easy to find something to complain about.  Yet complaining rarely makes me happy.  On the other hand, remembering what I have to be grateful for fills me with the sort of joy that both reminds me how good my life is and makes me sad that not everyone can find a long list of things to give thanks for.

In giving a little more thought since yesterday’s post to my gratitude list for Thanksgiving this year, here is what I came up with on my second attempt.  I am grateful for:

  1. Friends and family who accept and love me with all of my shortcomings, laugh with me when I laugh, laugh at me when I deserve to be laughed at, and remind me that the greatest joys in life often come in the smallest gestures when they’re least expected.
  2. A world so full of wonder that I could live a thousand lives and still not come close to exhausting the potential to be awed and amazed.
  3. The extraordinary number of people in the world who believe that kindness is more important than being right, justified, recognized, or fair.  Examples:  A friend of mine picks up other people’s dogs’ poop in the park.  A neighbor walked across the street with a trash bag one day and start picking up the trash left behind after a marathon.  A woman across the street stood on the corner asking passers-by if anyone recognized a puppy who had been hit and killed, wanting to inform the owners.  Every day there are people taking care of others in ways that often go unnoticed.  I am grateful to be surrounded by inspiring people.
  4. The abundance of food that makes it possible for me to have to watch my weight.  I am sometimes ashamed that not everyone in the world has the same access to basic resources like food.  But for today, Thanksgiving Day, when we Americans traditionally feast until we burst, I set aside my guilt and simply feel incredibly grateful to have had the fortune of being born in a part of the world where food is plentiful and affordable.
  5. Finally, technology.  It gives me the opportunity to experiment with forms of personal expression like blogging and digital photography, the ability to make a living, and access to information from anywhere I have a cell signal.  More importantly, technology connects me to people all over the world I would have never known about otherwise.

All-in-all, I am grateful I have the opportunity to live my life, to find my own path.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Going Classic

On our moonlight walk last night, I also spent some time shooting what could be called “classic” scenes from the Chattanooga waterfront.  I call them this because you can find similar shots hanging in just about any restaurant, office, gallery, or photographer’s booth at a holiday market.  It seems we are all attracted to the waterfront, particularly at night.

I discover several problems with shooting in the dark:

  1. I can’t see what’s in the frame and what’s out until after I shoot and review the shot.
  2. With a very dark foreground, it’s impossible to get autofocus to work in the part of the shot I want to focus in to get the greatest depth of field.
  3. I cannot see well enough in dim light to focus manually.
  4. Focusing on spots of light reflected in moving water is next to impossible.
  5. The magnifying loop is a life saver.

That said, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am grateful, too:

  1. I have this fabulous view within a 5 minutes walk
  2. It’s warm enough to be out shooting in November without having to wear a parka
  3. I have a supportive and patient husband who’s willing to walk the park with me while I shoot at 9:00PM at night
  4. I am able to make time for my hobby
  5. I have made life choices that freed up money for photography and other things I enoy
  6. The aquarium lights are on.

Perhaps I will have a more philosophical list tomorrow.  For now, It’s late, I’m tired, and what I’m most grateful for at the moment is having a comfortable bed waiting for me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Walkin’ in the Moonlight

At the end of the day, I find myself with no new photos, nothing to write about, and a dog that needs to go for a walk.

I decide it’s been too long since I shot down at the riverfront at night.  I have shot the riverfront from the roof and balcony many times, but I can’t remember the last time I actually carried my camera down to the river after dark.

Having gone small yesterday, it seemed reasonable that today I would go wide, so I put my 16-35mm lens on my camera, grabbed my loupe and tripod, and talked my husband into coming with me and bringing the dog.

Walking Renaissance Park at night is always an interesting experience.  The meadow voles who live on the hillside at the park entrance seem to be mostly daytime critters–no rustles are heard in the leaves as we walk by, unlike earlier in the day when something scurried away every few steps.  Ironically, if they would hold still, we would never know they were there.

But as we head down the walkway past the wetland, leaves crunch loudly in the woods to our right.  A little too loudly.  We glance at each other and then peer into the darkness of the woods wondering what might be lurking there big enough to make that much noise.  I remind myself how loud even a mouse can be in fall leaves and we keep moving without any boogie men jumping out at us.

I pause to shoot the reflected trees in the wetland water.  It’s not the most stunning reflection, but I like the bright trees at the top of the hill and the dark sky streaked with clouds.

Tisen drops Snake (one of his newest family members), leaving the red and green toy (doesn’t every family have a Christmas snake?) laying in the shadows along the sidewalk while he investigates a smell.  Whoever was here before him left behind an interesting story–I finish shooting long before he’s done sniffing.

The night is cool, but I am warm enough with a sweater and light jacket.  The frogs and cicadas have disappeared and the only noises we hear besides the occasional rustle of leaves is the voices of other couples walking in the moonlight.

I think how romantic this walk might be if I weren’t carrying a tripod and stopping to shoot for long intervals.  My husband patiently keeps Tisen entertained while I shoot.  Maybe that’s it’s own kind of romance?

As we work our way around the same path we have walked hundreds of times in the past 15 months, I look at the scene anew.  Shooting causes an interesting shift in perspective–I look at the moon, the clouds, the lights, the converging lines, and the sculptures from different angles and look for new ways to combine them in my frame.

I realize the same old scene is actually never the same twice.