BEING AN EXPERT ON ME – Marilyn Armstrong

I know a few things. Along the road of life, I’ve done a bit of reading and studying. Like many writers, I’m a generalist.

I know something about this, that, and a bit about that other thing. A lot about a few things, less about other stuff — and I’ve forgotten more than I currently know. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge needs to be good for something.

Heritage Lights 13

I’m an expert at just one thing. Me.

I know my body. The strange way it works. I know what I like. I’m good at knowing what I would like, too.

To illustrate my point, this is the story of a lens I bought — and why I’m passing it to another photographer who hopefully will get more use of it than I have. Call this: Photographer, Know Thyself.

In November 2013, I bought the Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I used it once, to shoot a “lighting” at a museum in December.

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That set of photographs are among the best night shots I’ve ever taken. The Panny 20, as it is fondly called, is a sharp, fast prime lens. Slightly wide-angle. Perfect for people who like to do street scenes, especially at night. It was the first lens recommended to me after I got my Olympus PEN E-PL1. That was many Olympus cameras ago, but the lenses still fit because the format has not changed. I think that was in 2011. Maybe 2010. 

The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive. No free now, but a lot less expensive because so many more lenses have come on the market. It was especially costly for me. I was much more broke six — almost seven –years ago than I am now, which is saying something.

Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were many fewer lenses available in 4/3 format back then. This one had a great reputation. Except I didn’t think I’d use it. At 20mm (effectively 40mm in 35mm terminology), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond.

It’s unflattering as a portrait lens. Not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of friends or dogs.

Dancing in the dark heritage museum

I don’t do much street shooting. Mostly, I shoot landscapes and casual portraits. I didn’t feel this lens would be the one I’d reach for as I headed out the door. I like longer lenses for portraits and wider ones for landscapes.

Eventually, I gave in to the pressure. I bought it.

I used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, always ready to go. Always the lens I think I might use, but never do. For “normal,” I use my Olympus f1.8 25mm. If I’m going out and don’t know what I’m going to shoot, I take a camera with a long zoom so I’m ready for whatever pops up. At home, my favorite lenses are the Olympus 12-50mm (with the macro button, though it’s not “true” macro), the f1.8 45mm for portraits.

Let me not forget the f2.8 60mm macro which I use to take most closeup flower shots — and my 100 – 300 Panasonic zoom which is my birding lens. It is a great birding lens. When I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it (it is the most expensive lens I own), everyone said it was perfect for shooting birds. Which is what I wanted it for. I am not alone in the bird shooting department.

What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t.

Red capped woodpecker

No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to know what suits me. As a photographer for so many years, I know the types of pictures I take.  I’m not particularly thrilled by “normal” lenses in the 40 to 55mm range. I never was, even back in the dark ages when I was a newbie photographer.

Unless you’re just starting out in whatever, trust your instincts. Save your money for things you will love. Whether photography equipment, computers, food, clothing, or vacation … go with your gut. Leroy Jethro Gibbs always does … and we know he is always right.

Where you are concerned, there is no better expert than yourself.

MOONSETTING AS THE SUN RISES – Marilyn Armstrong

I used to long for many things. Later, I did most of them. Now they are memories. No need for longing.

These past few years have been difficult. For once, not because of illness of dire poverty, but because the world tipped over and I’ve been clinging to the edges.

In the yearning department, I’ll settle for simple things. Warm weather. Bright skies. This morning, very early — just before five — the sun was rising as the moon was finishing her travels across the night sky.

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The moon longed for me. She told me so.

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At least, I believe that is what she said. Sometimes, when the moon speaks, her language is strange and not entirely clear.

What do you think?

ADVENT FOR CHRISTMAS – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge – Advent

I came to Christmas late. Born of Jewish and atheist parents, we had no celebration at all. Oh, how I envied the boisterous enthusiasm of my Christian friends! The tree. The gifts. The decorations. The family gatherings. It looked like a perfect world to me.

Waiting for Santa at the north end of the Commons – Photo Marilyn Armstrong

When I married a non-Jew (you couldn’t call him Christian because he never showed any interest in Christianity or attended a church except for a wedding or baptism … or any other religious establishment, either.

He believed himself a Druid and was planning to return as a tree. I hope he is at one with my forest. He would enjoy the birds.

Uxbridge Commons at Christmas

Boston Commons at Christmas

Uxbridge Commons – December night

The great thing was Christmas. His family, lacking any noticeable relationship to any religion, was extremely enthusiastic about Christmas.

They were the biggest wrappers and tree decorators anywhere. I could jump into the event with a vengeance without feeling that I’d leapt into another religion since there didn’t appear to be any religion involved.

The Episcopal Church on the Commons, Uxbridge

Santa at the Boston Pops

There were Carols to be sung, though, which was as close to religion as we ever got. When Owen was born, we got even more enthusiastic about the holiday. There was little he could want that he did not get. He was an only child and we had a lot of friends, many of whom were Jewish and thus delighted to find an object for holiday giving.

I wish I had pictures of the wrapping from days of old, but I don’t. All I can say is that some were art.  These days, just getting something wrapped at all is a big deal. Oh, how times do change, don’t they?

I used to wrap packages for the dogs, but they never got a grip on unwrapping. They were baffled by the packages, whining while we unwrapped and passed out the goodies. Now we just give them the goodies and they seem happy without the wrapping paper.

Perhaps they are wiser than we are.

STREETLIGHTS: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Street Lights


Streetlights. I love them! Especially in a city when the streets are a little wet from recent rain. The street light reflects in rainbow colors and the neon signs make a night in the city glow in a million colors.

Night near Symphony Hall

Strangers in the night?

Home. Downtown

Theater district

Night near the theaters

JUNE IS SQUARE: THE FINAL ROOF #30 – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s that time of year again and squares are back!  

I can’t believe it. It’s been a whole month of rooves and roofs. On barns and teepees. On boats and tall buildings. From Boston to a museum by the Blackstone, we’ve been roofing it up all over the place.

And this is the last one! The very last one. I wanted to make it special. Glittery. Different. So I picked the line of tents on “lighting night” at the Heritage Museum on Cape Cod.

Tents at the fair on lighting night at the Heritage Museum


And so the sixth month of the year is finished and we head for the final six months.

That’s right. We are officially closer to the end of the year than the beginning. Wasn’t it spring, early spring, just yesterday? Now it is full summer and the flowers are deep and rich.

See you all in September when squares roll around again!


Well, the theme was ROOFS (or rooves if you prefer). Your roof could have been:

A – Any type, any condition, any size, and in any location.
B – It could be a shot across rooftops, of one roof like today or even a macro
C – You might prefer to spend some time under the eaves and in the attic, or enjoy the view from above as Brian has already done today.


See you in the fall!

THE LIGHTS OF NIGHT – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Light the Night

I love shooting at night. I don’t do it as often as I used to, probably because we don’t get out at night nearly as much as we used to. I still have a few pictures saved. Being on vacation, there are a lot of pictures I can’t access because they are on the other computer or external drives.

However, I think these will do.

The theater district, before the show

Downtown, night

Uxbridge, winter, night

Gibbous moon at night