MERELY LIVING

DAILY PROMPT: ME TIME — What’s your ideal Saturday morning? Are you doing those things this morning? Why not?


I woke up this morning. I did my physical checklist. Did anything hurt more than usual? Less? Breathing okay? Everything was working as well (or better) than usual, so I put a bit more effort into “me” than usual, weeding through eyebrows until I found an arch. Not as nice as the lady in town creates with her wax, but weather has made going anywhere a hassle. I haven’t gotten to town more than a couple of times all month.

I made it to the kitchen and did my Alpha Bitch thing. The dogs obediently (with just a bit of back talk) went outside to do whatever business they needed to conduct. By the time they got back, I was cleaning.

coffee kitchen view sepia art effect

It’s not that I don’t clean. It’s that I need inspiration and energy. I had a little of both and I cleaned the places around the sink that don’t get cleaned because they are behind or under something. I did the sink, scrubbed the water dishes, refilled them … all the while hearing heavy breathing and the click-clack of excited toenails on linoleum.

The dogs were swirling with energy. Admittedly, I was slow with biscuits. The longer I take, the more worked up they get. Finally, finished, I pivoted to face the fur people. “Huffa, huffa, huffa,” they said. You’d think no one ever feeds them.

“Liars,” I tell them. They huff some more. Bonnie does her happy dance, leaping up and down until finally, I distribute a Greenie and a crunchy to each. Do they think if they don’t do their routine, I won’t give them their treats?

three dogs on stairs sepia

I’ve been up a while. Coffee is emitting little hisses of steamy satisfaction. I straighten the sofa. Bishop has been sleeping on it. He knows he isn’t allowed, but his interpretation is “what she/he doesn’t know doesn’t count” and makes sure he is off before Garry or I gets to the end of the hallway. Sometimes his timing is off and he gets caught in “flagrante delicto” so to speak. He leaves huge tufts of hair behind, so it’s not hard to figure out. Not to mention (but I will mention it) he rearranges the coverlets, pulling them off and putting them in a pile more to his liking. Bishop has the soul of an interior decorator. A hairy decorator with limited taste.

Eventually, seated, with a cup of coffee in hand, I turn on the computer and my day begins.

Today is Saturday. We are retired, so everyday is much the same as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Soon, Garry will join me. We’ll share quiet time, sifting through our email, answering and writing comments. It’s my favorite part of the day. Quiet, friendly, low stress. Whatever hassles the rest of the day may bring, morning is our time to decompress.

It’s life. Unsegmented into “me time” or “he time.” Life does not have sections. I don’t own a piece of the day, nor does Garry. I supposed you might say the dogs own all of it because they own us — but that’s another story.

SATURATED: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Saturation

Autumn in New England is a total saturation experience. I often turn down saturation. Natural color is almost surreal.

Direct from the camera.
Direct from the camera. Will add one click saturation. More would be too much.

The original photograph is true color direct from the camera. The adjustments were cropping, exposure, and a single click (1%) saturation.

Just needs a bit of brightening.
I’ll give it a bit of brightening. The saturation is there. It could go just as is, but for the purposes of illustration …

The further north one goes, the earlier foliage peaks. We missed peak in three states, but I was happy with the color we saw. It was beautiful just the way it was.

No additional saturation. A bit brighter plus a touch extra contrast only. It's enough.
No additional saturation. A bit brighter plus a touch extra contrast only. It’s enough. Notice how by raising the contrast and brightening the whole picture, I also lost the second mountain in the background? There is usually a trade-off. When you modify one thing, other things also change.

In changing saturation, I feel that less is more. I am apt to lower saturation rather than raise it. Saturation, in theory, changes only the intensity of color, but in practice, it changes tones too. Gray becomes blue. Skies becomes pixellated. Everything becomes more grainy.

My suggestion? Adjust saturation using a light touch. It doesn’t take much to turn a pretty picture garish.

NON-WHITE AMERICA IN NORMAN ROCKWELL’S PAINTINGS – HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT, JANE ALLEN PETRICK

NormanRockwell Little RockJane Allen Petrick has written a wonderful book about Norman Rockwell, the artist and his work. It focuses on the “invisible people” in his painting, the non-white children and adults who are his legacy.

For many readers, this book will be an eye-opener — although anyone who visits the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts or takes a serious look at Rockwell’s body of work can see Norman Rockwell never portrayed a purely white America. This perception of Rockwell’s work is a gross injustice to a man for whom civil rights was a personal crusade.

This country’s non-white population were in Rockwell’s paintings even when he had to sneak them in by a side door,figuratively speaking. Black people, Native Americans and others are anything but missing. Rockwell was passionate about civil rights and integration. It was his life’s cause, near and dear to his heart. Yet somehow, the non-white peoples in his pictures have been overlooked, become invisible via selective vision. They remain unseen because white America does not want to see them, instead choosing to focus on a highly limited vision which fits their prejudices or preconceptions.

Ms. Pettrick tells the story of Rockwell’s journey, his battle to be allowed to paint his America. It is also the story of the children and adults who modeled for him. She sought out these people, talked to them. Heard and recorded their first-hand experiences with the artist.

This is a fascinating story. I loved it from first word to last. HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT is available on Kindle for just $3.49. It’s also available as a paperback.

InPlainSight

From the Author

Whether we love his work or hate it, most of us think of Norman Rockwell as the poster child for an all-white America. I know I did. That is until the uncanny journey I share with you in this book began to unfold.  Then I discovered a surprisingly different truth: Norman Rockwell was into multiculturalism long before the word was even invented.

Working from live models, the famous illustrator was slipping people of color (the term I use for the multi-ethnic group of Chinese and Lebanese, Navajos and African-Americans the artist portrayed) into his illustrations of America from the earliest days of his career. Those people of color are still in those illustrations. They never disappeared. But the reason we don’t know about them is because, up until now, they seem to have been routinely overlooked.

For example, in her book, “Norman Rockwell’s People,” Susan E. Meyer catalogues by name over one hundred and twenty Norman Rockwell models, including two dogs, Bozo and Spot. But not one model of color is named in the book.

Another case in point? “America, Illustrated,” an article written for The New York Times by Deborah Solomon, art critic and journalist In honor of (an) upcoming Independence Day, the entire July 1, 2010 edition of the paper was dedicated to “all things American.”

“America, Illustrated” pointed out that Norman Rockwell’s work was experiencing a resurgence among collectors and museum-goers. Why? Because the illustrator’s vision of America personified “all things American.” Rockwell’s work, according to the article, provided “harmony and freckles for tough times.” As Solomon put it, Norman Rockwell’s America symbolized “America before the fall.” This America was, apparently, all sweetness and light. Solomon simply asserts: “It is true that his (Rockwell’s) work does not acknowledge social hardships or injustice.”

The America illustrated by Norman Rockwell also, apparently, was all white. Seven full-color reproductions of Rockwell’s work augment the multi-page Times’ article. The featured illustration is “Spirit of America” (1929), a 9″ x 6″ blow-up of one of the artist’s more “Dudley Doright”-looking Boy Scouts. None of the illustrations chosen includes a person of color.

This is puzzling. As an art critic, Solomon surely was aware of Norman Rockwell’s civil rights paintings. The most famous of these works, “The Problem We All Live With,” portrays “the little black girl in the white dress” integrating a New Orleans school.

One hundred and seven New York Times readers commented on “America, Illustrated,” and most of them were not happy with the article. Many remarks cited Solomon’s failure to mention “The Problem We All Live With.” One reader bluntly quipped: “The reporter (Solomon) was asleep at the switch.” The other people in Norman Rockwell’s America, people of color, had been strangely overlooked, again.I have dedicated Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America to those “other people”: individuals who have been without name or face or voice for so long. And this book is dedicated to Norman Rockwell himself, the “hidden” Norman Rockwell, the man who conspired to put those “other people” into the picture in the first place.

ME AND MY CAMERAS

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Taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 from hundreds of feet away. Great lens!

Some photographers have a favorite camera they use all the time. Others use various cameras, depending on what they are doing. I’m one of the latter. Cameras come and go and no doubt always will. I have slots to fill. I don’t have much money, so I have to hunt for bargains.

Olympus PEN E-PM2
Olympus PEN E-PM2

I always need a camera with a long telephoto lens for shooting wildlife. Birds. My first choice was the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ70. It was cheap and turned out to be worth less than I paid. The lens was crap. Bells and whistles don’t make up for bad glass. I gave it to my son and got a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. With its f2.8 24X Leica zoom, if it weren’t so big, it would be the camera. But, compact is the one thing it isn’t. I got a great deal on it, before word got around and its price tripled. I could not afford it today.

NOTE: If you are looking for a camera that does it all, size isn’t an issue, and you don’t shoot RAW, check out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ60.  With 25-600 f2.8-5.2 Leica lens shooting 20MP, it’s a great camera. Nearly identical to the FZ200, but faster. It’s out of production (the entire FZ line is out of production), but Amazon has some. 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

The backbone of my camera collection are the Olympus PENs. I have three of them: two PM-2, and a PL-5. I had an Olympus PEN P-3 which recently moved to a new home. I got the Olympus PEN PL-5 in return. Why so many? I find it easier and faster to swap cameras than change lenses. And the PL-5 has interesting bells and whistles I actually enjoy using. It’s the first time I’ve ever used built-in camera effects.

Olympus PEN PM-2 with Olympus f1.8 45mm lens
Olympus PEN PM-2 with Olympus f1.8 45mm lens

I replaced my go-everywhere camera, a compact point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix ZS19, with a newer Panasonic Lumix ZS20. On paper the ZS20 is a better camera. Jazzier interface. Cooler bells and whistles. But it focuses slower than its predecessor (especially in low light), and burns through batteries twice as fast.

Pansonic Lumix ZS20
Pansonic Lumix ZS20

Specs don’t always tell the story. I lean heavily on my compact camera. It’s the camera I keep close. On the advice of a fellow blogger, I picked up a Pentax Q7 kit. It is tiny, light, yet does almost everything its bigger brethren do. Now that I’ve figured out how to use it (blame the delay on bad documentation and a stubborn unwillingness to ask for help), I’m hoping it will be my go-to compact. So far, so good.

Olympus PEN PL-5
Olympus PEN PL-5

Except for the Olympus PEN P-3, I’ve never paid full price for a camera. Sometimes I stumble on sales. More often, I get an email from a fellow blogger telling me there’s a “flash” sale on a camera, lens, or software.

solarized art effect horizontal kitchen
Using the art filter setting on the Olympus PEN PL-5

These “flash” sales sometimes last as little as a few hours. I got one of my Olympus PEN PM-2 cameras for about $150 because I would take it in white. Otherwise, the price was $450. I got a second PEN PM-2 the same way. In both cases, I got an email from an Internet friend telling me to grab one, they wouldn’t be available long. I did. They weren’t.

Pentax Q7 in pouch
Pentax Q7 kit

Cameras are intimate items. I would rather share my toothbrush than my camera. Not every camera is right, no matter how carefully you do your research. The P-3 was never right, even though it was a great camera, maybe the best of the modern Olympus PENs. It never felt as good in my hands as the cheaper, lighter PM-2. There’s no logical reason. It’s like finding the pair of jeans. They all look the same to someone else, but they don’t feel the same to you.

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Wide-angle normal on the Pentax Q7

It’s hard to explain to a non-photographer the buzz you get from holding the right camera. I’m convinced cameras work better if they feel our love. And we take better pictures if we love them. Seriously, we do.

SUNSHINE – THE BRIGHT REWARD

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: REWARD

What does reward mean to you?

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After a week of gray skies, today the sun came out. It snowed yesterday and overnight. It may snow tomorrow. But right now, this morning, the sky is deep blue and the shadows are long across the snow.

72-Out Back -2-26_34

The birds are squabbling … a crow is trying to push the juncos out of their forsythia bush. There’s an energy that has been missing in the darker days of this past month. Maybe spring is coming after all?

Taken with the Pentax Q7.

SO LONG, IT’S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YOU – PETE SEEGER

Daily Post: Last Words – You have the chance to write one last post on your blog before you stop blogging forever. Write it.


Have a great life, y’all!

WHEELS – CEE’S BLACK & WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Wheels

This is natural monochrome, not added as processing. It's the way it came out of the camera.
This is natural monochrome, not added as processing. It’s the way it came out of the camera.

Not just for vehicles, there are wheels and wheels within wheels. Medicine wheels and dream catchers. The earth, the moon, and the path we travel … wheels.