A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: LIGHT & DARK – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

LIGHT AND DARK – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

Garry brought me flowers.

It has been a long time since he has been out long enough to buy anything. The roses smell like heaven in a vase. Such are my flowers for today.

THE SLANTED LIGHT BEFORE SUNSET – Marilyn Armstrong

It was late in the afternoon and the sun had swung from the northeast side of the house where the orchids are growing to the living room which faces northwest.


I love the slanted yellow light which shines through the front window. It only shows up during certain months of the year, mainly late February and March as well as September and October.

The house sits kitty-corner at an angle, so no window faces directly in any direction. We have two areas that face southeast and southwest — the bedrooms.


The living end of the house faces north, east, and west. Really, the rooms in the middle are sort of neutral and don’t get much sun any time of the day. Of course, also there are trees and we are very well shaded.

ABOUT THE LIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

Why do you take pictures? What makes you pick up your camera? Is it just the beauty of the scene? Or the smile on someone’s face?

I’m sure it is different for each of us, but this morning, I remembered what it is for me. Because even before I turned on the coffee machine, I grabbed my camera. The light was coming through the window and the Dutch door and I saw something. I remembered abruptly that this is what always grabs me. I take pictures of my granddaughter, my dogs, friends just like everyone else. You don’t need a degree in photography to take a snapshot.

Spectacular scenery is inevitable. Like any photographer, I’m going to try to grab it because I’m a sucker for a pretty picture. But that’s not it. In the final analysis, it’s the light. The color, the subtlety, the flare, the radiance.

It has always been about light. My very first roll of film, in black and white, about half the pictures were of light coming through trees.  I’ve spent a lifetime trying to show just how light filters through leaves or the way it shines through a window. Reflected light on water or wet sand. The sun as it rises or sets. I love the subtleties, the minute by minute changes of color of the sky.

That’s why I almost never raise the saturation level in a photograph. I’m looking for delicate shadings and subtle colors. I don’t want everything more vivid. I am more likely to turn the color and contrast down than to push it up.

Misty beach

The changing colors of the light through the seasons: golden in autumn, nearly white in winter and how these annual color shifts change the way the world looks. Ephemeral, fleeting, soft. I love shadow, the brother of light and how these change with the time of day and the seasons. I can watch for hours the changing colors of the sky while the sun moves across until it finally sinks below the horizon to full dark.

Have you ever watched the sunset from the late afternoon until full dark? The light lingers even after the sun is below the horizon. The further north you are, the longer the sky stays light. Everyone shoots brilliant sunsets or sunrises. I favor sunrises, but I realize that may have something to do with living on the east coast.

Facing east makes sunrise more accessible.  Yet even the most ordinary dawn or dusk contains its own beauty. It’s harder to capture it. Brilliant color is easy compared to incremental pastels. You don’t get nearly as many “oohs” and “aahs” from a photo composed of softer pastels.

I’m fascinated by the way shadows shift as the day ages. All the colors of the world change as the sun sinks and we move into artificial light — street lamps, candles, neon signs — each have their own spectrum and effects.

It’s all about light.

BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON #17 – Marilyn Armstrong

By the light of the moon

The sky is grey with snow expected, but it might be rain. it’s supposed to get cold. January is normally our coldest month, except it has been springtime warm. I don’t have any flowers blooming, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people with better gardens are seeing very early buds. I also think the birds are breeding. Many of the ladies have a big belly in which I think there are eggs. I worry about a sudden cold snap, but I can’t do anything about the weather except to keep the feeders full.

Whatever has been predicted, you don’t know what will happen until you get up in the morning and look out the window. As far as light goes, I have long thought that ALL photography is about light. Just saying.

Given all of that, time to hit the archives!

Full Harvest Moon – Sept. 2016

Super Moon Dec. 2016

Sept. 2016 – Full Harvest Moon

It’s pretty hard to get a good shot of the sky from our property. The Super Moon was taken in a parking lot after a movie, but the others are from our deck.

 

SUNNY MIDDAY, A RED FINCH AND FRIENDS #13 – Marilyn Armstrong

RED FINCH AND FRIENDS

The finches have been conspicuous in their absence. I suspected it was because they didn’t like the food — or couldn’t eat it — so I changed food. And suddenly, we’ve had lots of Goldfinch and today, for the first time (well, second really), a red one came and hung around long enough for me to get some pictures.

I could not make all the pictures square. Many of them were too wide and short. But there were a couple that I could nicely square up.

Red Finch, Tufted Titmouse and Rose-breasted Nuthatch sharing a feeder

I admit it. I can’t tell the difference between a Purple Finch (who is red) and a House Finch (also red). They are the same size and basically the same color and on top of that, they hang out together.

Red Finch and a Rose-breasted Nuthatch

There is a difference in the beaks and the Purple Finch is supposed to be more raspberry than true red, but they look pretty much identical. Even comparing pictures I’ve taken of both, I still can’t see a real difference.

Red Finch all by himself

SQUARED UP ARIZONA SUNSETS #12 – Marilyn Armstrong

ON THE SQUARE – ARIZONA SUNSETS #12 – Marilyn Armstrong

I was amazed at the sunsets everywhere in Arizona. Just when I thought they couldn’t be better, the next night would be even more brilliant.

And so it went from one night to the next night, glorious sunset after sunset. In the mountains and even from city streets. Some nights, the sunset was so red it turned the mountains red, too.

Sunset – Phoenix

In the Phoenix mountains

More from the Phoenix Mountains

Sunset reflected on the Superstition Mountains

EAGLES NEST ALONG THE RIVER #11 – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Eagles nest along the river – Garry Armstrong

The same day as the fabulous sunset, I went out with Tom in his little boat. I took this picture of a bird on the channel marker in the river. I was too far away to see what it was. Marilyn instantly spotted it as an American Eagle. It’s the white chest and head, not to mention its size.

After she cropped the picture, you can see not only the eagle but his nest. That is the big pile of twigs.

Most people don’t realize that American Eagles are fishers. They need to live near water because their main diet is fish. On the Merrimack River located on the northern edge of Massachusetts, there are a lot of boating people who fish. They have gotten used to pulling out a big fish and having a huge eagle fly down and steal it. While these aren’t as big as Golden Eagles, they still have a solid 10-food wingspan and talons you don’t want to mess with. Eagles get lazy when they know all they have to do is wait and a human will provide dinner.

I know there are very large eagles in Africa who migrate to Asia and occasionally Europe in the summer. I think the American Eagle is the largest bird we have in this part of the country unless the Black Vulture is bigger. They are about the same size and rather closely related, though the eagle is a lot more handsome. You need to be a very good birder to tell the difference between them when they are up in the sky. There’s a minor difference in the feather configuration of their wings. To me, they look the same.

Eagles nest on the channel marker

We used to have a pair of eagles nesting in our woods, but they have moved on. We can still see their nest. There are quite a few of them — or were, anyway — in the valley. Lots of water and fish.

As for light, it was such a bright, clear day. Which makes the amazing sunset even more unusual. It was a very special day.

Leslie said she thought it might really be a hawk, but it isn’t a hawk. No hawk will nest on a river like that, but I think she is right that it isn’t a bald eagle. It is probably an Osprey, a slightly smaller eagle that lives almost entirely on fish. There is a similar bird, the Sea Eagle. Except they are rare and live in the Solomon Islands, so I don’t think that is one. But an Osprey? Definite possibility. A different eagle. Bald Eagles are bigger and more aggressive. They hunt for fish by diving into the river.

Osprey’s hunt with their talons, flying low over the water and grab fish with those big hooked talons. Bald Eagles attack Osprey to steal their fish. Lazy bums, those baldies.

PINK SAILS IN THE SUNSET #9 – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Pink Sails in the Sunset – Garry Armstrong

It was an amazing sunset. It wasn’t just the western side of the sky. It was the entire sky in all four directions. There was the purple and pink end and the orange and gold section and some other almost indescribable colors — red, maroon, violet, yellow. What a display!

Both Marilyn and I were taking pictures. The sky was really awesome, as in able to strike awe in all who saw it.

The purple and pink side of the sunset sky

COMING HOME SUNSET #3 – Marilyn Armstrong

IT WAS A MAGICAL DRIVE DOWN ALDRICH STREET

It was just an ordinary day, driving home.

“Pull over!” I said.

“What?”

“Pull over! The sun is about to do something really spectacular and I have a camera!”

Sometimes, if you are in the right place at the right time and just happen to have a camera, some amazing pictures show up. This was our own street, too. We weren’t on vacation and I wasn’t looking for pictures, but I always have a camera. This is why.

Coming home … about 300 yards down the road from the house. Facing due west.

SQUARE AUTUMN DAWN OVER THE TEEPEE #2 – Marilyn Armstrong

Second square, the last light of Autumn sunset

And so another year has begun. Another decade. The last one was insane. I wonder how bad or great the next ten years will be. I’m torn between a faint hope that things have to get better and a sickening fear that it will never get better. Ever again. That the days we remember are gone and won’t come back.

But until I see it getting worse, I’m going to pretend that it’s about to improve. Because I need hope. Don’t we all?

From the rear of the teepee, the day is ending in mid-Autumn.

SQUARE DAWN’S FIRST EARLY LIGHT #1 – Marilyn Armstrong

First square, the first light of dawn

It’s a square New Year, my friends. Even though these pictures look more or less identical to ones I took before Christmas, this is a new dawn. A different sunrise with fresh early light. The problem is that pictures taken from my deck tend to look the same, depending on the time of year.

In the summer is all leaves and you really can’t see much beyond the fence rail and the bird feeders. In the winter, after the leaves have fallen, you see the same trees against the lighter sky. It doesn’t matter whether I take the picture from the kitchen, dining room, or bedroom. Same woods. Same trees. And remarkably, an almost identical sky. These seem to be our local dawn color combo.

First light of day, first frame on the chip

One day I’ll get something different, but so far, unless it’s raining, cloudy, or snowing, this is pretty much it. No matter how hard I try, I can’t come up with something unique. Same old sky. Same colors. Same trees. But isn’t it lovely?

A PERFECT GIFT – Marilyn Armstrong

“I want these earrings, or something as close to it as you can find,” I said, handing him the picture, item number and the website address. The trouble is, my husband doesn’t take orders. If I say I want those earrings, he will buy the other ones because he likes them better. Which would be fine, if he were going to wear them.

I am pretty good at following orders, but it isn’t much fun.  I always tried to find something a little creative … until I realized he didn’t want something unique. He wanted that shirt, that sweatshirt. He didn’t want different colors. He wanted it to look exactly like all his other ties, all his other shirts.

A couple of years ago, my best friend got desperate. She bought the beautiful hand-made leather bag she wanted, handed it to her husband. “Wrap it up,” she said. “You just bought my Christmas present.”

That is one approach. I came up with an alternative.

We buy each other something relatively small for Christmas — an “under the tree” gift. We try to be sure it’s something each of us wants. Amazon wish lists can be a big help (just saying). After Christmas, we go shopping. He gets the stuff he wants and tries it on. So what if it’s the same items he always buys? It’s his choice.

I buy the earrings I want, a sweater that fits. The electronic gadget I’ve been yearning for, the lens on my wish list.

We are both happy. We shop together, share the experience, get to make suggestions, offer input and have a lot of fun. Prices are always rock-bottom after the holidays are over and if you wait a few extra days, the stores aren’t crowded. It totally removes the stress from trying to find a perfect gift.

It turns out if you bring the recipient with you, he or she can choose and they will always find the perfect gift.

LIGHTING: THE BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Lighting

I love the way the sunlight comes through the leaves on trees, the blinds and curtains … and just sometimes through the windows themselves.

Cee's Black-White