Category Archives: photography

towering mirrors

This is a photo I took almost 10 years ago to the day, from a trip to New York City for a conference in April of 2004.

It’s funny to think that 10 years ago, I was just really getting comfortable using my first digital camera.

Evening mahjong games in Beijing (friday foto finder: game)

This week’s friday foto finder theme is game While I enjoy playing games, and we have loads of games around the house, I couldn’t remember any particular photos of games. I played with the idea of taking a new photo, but that seemed like too much work. Happily, I remembered this photo I’d taken in Beijing during my brief visit there in 2012. My cousin and I had gone to see the Great Wall in the morning, and returned to the city in the early afternoon. After a bit of rest and recovery, we went for a late afternoon walk, exploring some older neighborhoods of the city.

At one point, we walked along a street that ran parallel to a canal. The street and sidewalk where we were walking were several feet higher than the canal level. Looking down towards the canal, I saw walkway that ran alongside it where there were bunches of people standing and sitting around tables, playing and watching games of mahjong. I paused to take a photo, but one of the onlookers looked up at me and glared, so I kept going after taking only one photo. (I always feel a bit strange taking photos of people I don’t know, and yet I find that the presence of people often make photos much more interesting.)

Even though I only managed one photo, it was fairly sharp, and when I zoom in, I can make out the mahjong tiles.

These are a couple of crops of that one photo shown at the top.

I actually know next-to-nothing about mahjong, and looking at this photo makes me sad about that. I’m sort of wishing I’d thought to buy a mahjong set while I was in China, as it seems like it would have been a meaningful souvenir for a game-lover like me.

To see what other games have been captured in photos, pay a visit to the fff blog. Want to play along? Sharing photos on a theme is a fun game in and of itself!
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frost feathers

Over the winter, I often would find that my car (parked overnight in the driveway) would be covered with frost in the morning. I frequently admired the various patterns. In fact, it was only a few days after I posted a series of photos of the scribble-like frost patterns I’d seen on my car on different days that I went out to find these new and unexpected frost designs:

Rather than the more typical zig-zaggy patterns, the car was covered swiling, whirling whorls and arcs, reminding me strongly of plumes.

Interestingly, it was not just the windows that were frosty, as was often the case, but the whole body of the car.

I suspect that the patterns were not so much frost as thin sheets of ice from freezing rain, which wind had blown around as it froze.

The patterns were just so feathery.

The piles of stuff in the back of the hatchback showed through, adding various colors to the palette of swirls.

These shapes remind me of palm trees.

I had remembered that I’d taken these photos and have been meaning to post them, but I hadn’t remembered that I had taken them the same morning as I took so many photos of ice drops in the back yard. I do wish that I’d gotten some photos with my real camera, and not just my phone, but I suspect that the delicate frost patterns didn’t survive much of that sunny morning.

Photos from a sparkling winter morning

Those of you who have known me for a while will surely know that “sparkling” is not a word that typically gets anywhere near the word “morning” in my world. (Certainly it is not a word that has ever been used to describe me in the morning.) However, there was one morning this January when I was bedazzled by the sparkle of own backyard.

After bustling the kids out to the bus, I walked down the driveway to be greeted by a display of glittering light. The sprinkling of freezing rain the night before had left droplets of ice and water decorating the tangled vines and thorns of our overgrown garden.

The winter sun was low in the sky, gradually burning off the cold mist.

The low rays lit up the ice and water drops all around.

In many places, there were water droplets, lined up along the horizontal branches like dangling crystal beads.

Little balls of ice had been caught in the winding twists of wild grape vines, looking like jewels wrapped in wire.

I was charmed by the twists and coils, the quirky designs of some mildly deranged jeweler.

(This one reminded me of a dangling lightbulb.)

I first tried to snap photos with my iPhone (not shown), but the phone came nowhere close to capturing what I was seeing. I went inside and got my real camera with telephoto lens.

Even with the good camera and good lens, focusing was a challenge. These little beauties were only a couple of centimeters across, with the ice drops probably measuring 6 or 8 millimeters. (I find it funny that the jewelry-like shape of these forms inspires me to use the metric system. When I buy beads, they are always measured in millimeters.)

Using my long lens also meant that I had to be several feet from my target. (See? Feet. I am an American.) It was often tricky to even find what I was trying to focus on in my screen, and any little sway of my body would often throw the focus off. (Really, a tripod would have helped, but I’m not sure how it would have worked the way I had to contort myself to get the different angles to capture the sparkle.) I went back inside to get my pancake lens (200 mm fixed length lens), and had better luck.

Clearly, I was bedazzled, as I see from my photo metadata that I spent about 2 hours taking photos. (Not counting breaks to come in to change lenses, and to look at the photos on my laptop.)

My fingers were numb in my fingerless gloves when I finally tore myself away. It was, after all, an icy January morning.

It was totally worth it.

screened flowers

Late this morning, as I went to the kitchen to get a cup of tea, my eyes were caught by the glow of bright colors from the window. Theo had planted some seeds as part of a project in his pre-K class, and they grew into some marigold flowers. Most amazing to me is that John has been watering them, and they not only grew into plants, but are still alive these many weeks and even months later. This is especially remarkable because the only plants that have historically stayed alive in this house have originated in neglected vegetables.

In any case, it was not the survival of the plants that caught my attention, but the interesting patterns produced by the sunlight coming through the screen, casting shadows across the unexpectedly colorful dying leaves and shriveling blooms. I love the warped grid pattern that emerged on so many of the leaves and petals.

I went for my camera, as I knew the light and focus would be too tricky for my phone. I wanted to capture the glow of the plant, and the strikingly patterned leaves, so this was a job for manual focus.

Even with manual focus, it was tricky, but I enjoyed looking through the results.

elegant metal cranes

With Friday’s foto finder theme of “crane,” there was much talk of feathered vs. metal cranes. I shared some feathery cranes, and Archie, bel and az each shared some interesting photos of cranes of the metal construction variety. But in the quest for cranes in my photo library, I discovered that I had some photos of cranes that were both of the bird variety, and made of metal.

These feathered metal cranes can be found in the koi pond of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

I realized in posting this that I have shared quite a few photos from the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, and from the same visit there in 2009, even: koi, exclamation points in the wild, and a sign reading “keep on path.” I even posted a twisted tree that, while not in the tea garden itself, was just around the corner from its entrance. I have photos from other trips there, but it seems that I keep coming back to this one set.

I still quite like these photos, at least in their content and composition, but am otherwise frustrated at quality of them. Back in March of 2009, when I took them, I didn’t yet have my current trusty camera. I used a little point-and-shoot, and happily carried it around for all my pointing-and-shooting needs. Back then, I didn’t know much of anything about white balance and exposure and depth of field, and while I could appreciate looking at a good photo, had no idea how to get one. I look at these two photos, and feel the limits of my post-processing. The greens aren’t quite right, and there are over-exposed bits, and the focus isn’t quite as sharp as I’d like on the parts that I’d like. These days, I’d know to use a smaller aperture (not that I necessarily had that option on my old camera), and would probably have used manual focus, to boot (which I definitely didn’t have on my old camera). It’s an interesting reminder of how much I have learned.

from deep within the library (friday foto finder: books)

This week’s friday foto finder challenge was to share a photo of books Considering how many books we have in our home (where the number is in the thousands), I have surprisingly few photos of books. I’m sure that books appear in various photos in which the clutter of our house is visible, but I’d rather not go there. Instead, I poked through my photo library to find this photo taken in a library. I took this in 2010, whilst in the swing of my participation in Project 365 (a year of commitment to daily photo-taking). When I did that project, I was playing around with a bunch of monthly themes. When I took this particular one, I was working on incorporating motion blur. Hence the ghostly hand. When I saw that I took this photo 3 years ago to the day, I knew that this was the photo I should post.

To check out more books, pay a visit to your local library. To check out more pictures of books, pay a visit to the fff blog.

3 photos of broken glass

Here are 3 photos of scattered broken glass fragments on pavement that I’ve come across in recent years.¹


Train station parking lot, August, 2010


Sidewalk, May, 2013


Rest area parking lot, September, 2013

I had to drive into Boston for a meeting yesterday, and traffic was a bit slower than is typical late morning, due to construction. I’d also had rough night, sleep-wise, so I’d had more caffeinated beverages than is typical. These combined factors led to me stopping at the rest area on my way in, which is not typical. I looked down at the ground and admired the patterns made by the cracks and the weathered paint, which is typical of me. And I was rewarded by the sight bits of aquamarine-colored glass, bits of someone’s broken car window, sparkling in the sunlight like cut gems. Naturally, I stopped to take some pictures. I was especially pleased that I now had a third photo of broken glass I’d come across to round out my collection. I find it funny that I can remember where I was when I took each of the previous broken glass photos. My mind is littered with this sort of largely useless information.

grains of sand

I’m playing around with crops again, this time to show the coolness of the grains of sand from one of yesterday’s photos. (More of my zooming in can be found here and here.) Next I need to get photos of sand with a real macro lens set-up. Or a microscope!