Weekly Photo Challenge: Give us a Smile

Smiling pictures? I’d like to say it’s a specialty, but to be fair, birds, dogs, and squirrels aren’t big smilers. Since they constitute the majority of my pictures, I have to resort to (gasp!) pictures of people. In this case, my husband Garry — who smiles only slightly more often than the dogs.

Actually, Duke is a pretty good smiler — for a dog!

We thought the Sox were going to play a bit better, but they are perking up. So let’s smile!

Doctor and patient smiling. Hint: the doctor is wearing white.

Duke makes him laugh. Eventually.

Garry and Harvey Leonard, with a smile!

DOCTOR AND PATIENT – Marilyn Armstrong

Today was Garry’s 3-month post-operative surgical appointment at UMass hospital.

He hasn’t had any problems at all with the surgery. Actually, he has not had any trouble with the process, except for the minor detail that every day is a surprise. Each new sound is something he has to recognize, then classify.

He hears the squeaky ball that Duke is chewing. He hears the trucks pulling into the driveway. He recognizes the opening and closing of the gate downstairs. He can hear his own breathing and finds it distracting. We all assure him he will learn to filter that kind of sound, as well as many other ordinary sounds that the rest of us automatically don’t notice.

It takes a lot of work to learn to hear when you are 76. Sounds that the rest of us have always recognized, he is hearing for the first time. It’s a lot of work and a lot of mental processing.

Garry and Dr. Remenschneider. When your doctor is not much older than your grandchild, you know you’ve put on a few years.

It can be a bit exhausting for him. I suspect sometimes all he wants is that old familiar silence where no one expects him to answer because they know he didn’t hear them.

Today he picked up the phone when it rang … and he heard it. He hates telephones and has for a very long time. It has a lot to do with getting calls from work at all hours of the day and night. Over the years it became a bit of a phobia. Hopefully, he will get over it. Because all of us deserve to have to listen to the other electric company’s spiel on how they will lower our rates (no they won’t). At least the political season is over for a couple of months so the surveyors won’t be calling. That’s something.

Dr. Aaron Remenschneider – and a great surgeon!

On the positive side, I am (finally) not the only one who wonders what that weird noise is in the basement. Also, when we have an argument, he knows what I said — which is not always ideal.

He is not the only one who has to learn new things. I have lost my role as permanent interpreter, which to be fair, I’m glad to lose. I have not lost my role in telling people to please speak up, especially the receptionists in the Hearing Clinic.

They speak so softly, I can barely hear them. Meanwhile, the people they are talking to are actually in the process of trying to learn to hear. I figure they should speak up. Put a little diaphragmatic air into your larynx and push it out through your vocal cords. That’s what makes it possible for others else to hear you.

It’s what speakers are taught. Actors and reporters, too. Sometimes, you don’t have a microphone. You just have you.

Okay, among other things, I was a speech major. Actually, I have a degree in it. I have never used the degree for anything except telling other people to “please speak up!”

Doctor and patient. Hint: the doctor is wearing white.

Garry is quite the star of the Otolaryngology Department. He can hear remarkably well for just three months into the program.

I expected him to be a star. When Garry works at something, he really works at it. He had to learn to speak properly with significant deafness. He learned it well enough to be on television every day for many years. So given this challenge, I knew he’d work at it as hard as he has ever worked at anything else in his life.

The hard work paid off. He can hear. I wish he had this option in his life many years earlier but if ever the expression “better late than never” had relevance, now is that moment.

Next week, he has his three-month audiological checkup. I bet he’s going to be a star.



And the word of the day is DEBONAIR!

My husband used to be the best dresser in Boston. He spent a fortune on clothing. He loved looking good. His father was a tailor and for him, a suit that fit perfectly was like a hot sports car — and he had one of them, too. Did I mention his 1969 hot orange convertible Challenger? He actually had a matching wristwatch — gold with an orange background. That’s what he was showing Tip O’Neill in this now almost-famous photograph.

Garry wanted to be debonair. Like Cary Grant. He loved the way Cary Grant wore clothing and over time, Garry became quite a clothes-horse. You’d never know it from his stretchy pants these days, but in his time, he was quite the dresser. He still irons a crease in his jeans because they need that crease or they don’t look right.

Except he almost never wears jeans anymore. He is retired and so is his wardrobe. But he keeps a few things because every now and then, he has to stand in front of an audience and look good.

He looks good!

Recently – Photo: Garry Armstrong

I always felt slightly underdressed in his company — even when he was wearing shorts and a tee-shirt. Even my father — who rarely noticed anything other than himself (a consummate narcissist) — remarked that Garry looked better dressed in a grungy pair of shorts and shirt than most people looked in a tuxedo.

It was hard for me to live up to that, but Garry was a big help to me in finding clothing that looked good on me. He had an eye for drape and line. Even our granddaughter wouldn’t go shopping for a prom dress without his help. That is something!

At Broadcasting Hall Of Fame, September 2013

He never managed to help Owen much, though, but Owen was allergic to nice clothing. Greasy jeans and tee shirts with holes were his thing from very early on. Clothing that didn’t have paint stains on them wasn’t worth wearing. I guess that’s the flip side of debonair? Anti-debonair?

These days, it’s all about comfort. Elastic. I warned him, though. Once you discover elastic, you’ll never go back. it’s true. After you have learned to love stretch, nothing else feels right.

Yoga pants forever!


I read a lot about inner beauty. I notice it most when someone posts a particularly terrible selfie on Facebook. They look dreadful. Haggard. Sickly. It is a bad picture. Typically, the subject didn’t bother to put on a clean shirt or comb his hair. Not even a smile. Direct from cell phone to social media. Yuck.

You need an awful lot of inner beauty to overcome looking that bad. Not to worry. Everyone will write to tell him or her that “You are beautiful inside.” This is how, in modern America, you tell someone they look like shit outside.

I’m not against interior beauty, though frankly, I’m not clear what being beautiful inside means. I know if the people who take those terrible pictures would make a minimal effort to not look like crap in their own selfie, they would need much less reassurance of their interior superiority. You can look good outside without diminishing your endogenous pulchritude.

With two Scotties – NOT a selfie!

Is there something wrong with looking good in a photo? I swear people take those dreary pictures on purpose, as if to make a point about “inner beauty” being more important than the outside stuff.

I don’t get it. If Garry takes pictures of me I don’t like, I delete them. If I take pictures of Garry he doesn’t like, I delete them — even if I think they are pretty good. No one needs to look ugly in photographs or even feel they look ugly in a picture. Your inner beauty can shine without bad photographs. Really, no kidding.

What is inner beauty? Does it require a repulsive exterior as a sort of bizarre contrast? If you’re really unsightly to gaze upon, you must (therefore) be beautiful inside? It’s okay to use makeup or shave the stubble. You can comb your hair. Put on a nice sweater? And maybe — if nothing else — smile?

Also NOT a selfie

About “inner beauty,” I declare I want to be inwardly beautiful like all the cool people seem to be. Generally, my inner beauty means a functional digestion. A heart that beats regularly. Not pouring boiling on my hand while draining the pasta.

Much like outer beauty, the inner stuff is over-rated. Maybe I just don’t get the whole inner beauty thing. To me, inner beauty would be a properly functioning body. This is not automatic in my life. There are many days where nothing about me seems to work.

Do you know how hard it is to find a picture of inner beauty?

I believe there are many worthy aspects of personality which lack any visual reference. Intelligence. Understanding. Empathy. Humor. Wit. The ability to talk and listen. None of this stuff reflects in the mirror and whether or not it could be considered “inner beauty” is a matter of debate. Maybe beauty is simply the wrong word for it.

Back to inner beauty. What is that? Do I have it? Can I get more on Amazon? My inner beauty is tired and needs a lift.

Beauty is a fragile thing.

For what it’s worth, if I like you, you are beautiful. I see everyone I like as attractive — and people I don’t like as ugly. I once had a really unattractive boyfriend who I didn’t know was considered ugly until my girlfriends felt they needed to tell me. I was surprised. I didn’t see it. They probably thought I was ugly too.

What I know for sure? At least smile for the picture. Comb your hair (or run you fingers through it). You don’t need to look your best — but you also don’t need to look your worst. Inner beauty will never overcome bad photography.


Two of my cameras, the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and E-PL6 have flip screens.  You can turn them 180 degrees and aim them at yourself. Advertised as “selfie-friendly,” I felt obliged to personally test the function for myself.

My results were traumatic and be forever engraved in my memory. All else may fade, but I will still shudder when I think about those hideous pictures.


From this test, I reached a few conclusions that I will share with you.


A few guidelines, as it were, about who should take selfies. Who should not. Ever. Take. Selfies.

  • If you’re over 65, it’s a bad idea. On principle.
  • If you don’t own a real camera and have no idea what I’m talking about when I say “flattering angle,” “portrait lens,” or “good lighting,” selfies are a very bad idea.
  • Just because your camera (or phone) is “selfie-friendly” does not mean your face is. Have a friend take your picture. Preferably a friend who knows how to use a camera.
  • Wrinkles and selfies go together like oil and water. Actually, oil and water go together much better than wrinkles, wattles, liver spots — and selfies.
  • Your arms are too short. I don’t care who you are. Your arms are still too short. If you are over 50, you would need to be ElastiGirl (or Guy). Otherwise, your arms are too short.
  • Nothing will compensate for the bags under your eyes, the deep folds of your throat. The furrows where your chin droops. It isn’t about fat or thin. You can be young and fat and look pretty good in a selfie. You can be slender, fit, and 75 … and look like a zombie who hasn’t eaten a good brain lately.
  • Touch up tools are not enough. If the picture is awful, there’s only so far Adobe’s Healing Tools … or even the Glamour Glow filter … can take you. If the picture is horrible, touching it up will make it a touched up yet somehow, still horrible, picture.

If youth is a faded memory, don’t take selfies. If you cannot resist the temptation, filter the hell out of them. Whatever you’ve got in your photographer’s arsenal of touch-up tools? Use them. Liberally.

What? You don’t have photo touch-up tools? You are a senior citizen taking selfies using your mobile phone? Are you deranged?  If you are not outright traumatized, you will be at least saddened by the experience. It will make you doubt yourself.

Don’t do it. You will look bad, even if you are really attractive. The camera is cruel and it lies, no matter what anyone says. It emphasizes wrinkles, spots, flaws, fat, bags, and bald spots. It doesn’t see you with an overlay of love.

I see selfies posted on Facebook. Most are awful. I cringe when I see them. What are the people who post them thinking? I don’t need to know the individual to recognize an unflattering picture. These shots aren’t merely unflattering, they are cruel. Why would someone post a picture which makes him or her look terrible?

Selfies are usually extreme closeups — which by itself is a reason to shy away from them. Anyone who has ever worked in front of a camera will tell you: extreme closeups are for the very young. With makeup. And excellent lighting.

Everyone else? It will look like a prison intake photo in which even youth may not be enough to save the picture.

Some parameters as the first picture, but I tilted my head and remembered to add the hint of a smile.

Meanwhile, the friends of the folks in these godawful photographs tell them that their beautiful soul is shining through, another way of saying “Omigod you look horrible, but I can’t say that because it would hurt your feelings.”

I have a hot flash for you. Your beautiful soul is not shining through, but your wart with the bristly hairs is. Photographs do not capture your soul, just your image. If you need a picture of yourself and there is no one on earth you can ask to hold the camera a decent distance away, have you heard of a mirror? Step back, get some perspective. Maybe turn your head so you get rid of that “America’s Most Wanted” look. Do not use a flash.

How about some makeup? Do you own a hairbrush? Would you consider using it?


Don’t wear white. If you have an unfortunate neck, wear a scarf. Jewelry can help. Earrings can work wonders.

Guys? Shave. Trim the beard. Remove the nose hairs. How about putting on something attractive? That wife-beater shirt might not be your best choice for a self-portrait.

Why do people think it’s cheating to look good for portraits? Is there some law which requires full, naked disclosure in photographs?


I delete ugly pictures of me, Garry, family and friends who look grotesque in pictures. I use all the tools at my disposal — filters, healing brushes, soft focus — to make the subjects of my portraits look attractive. Not necessarily young. Just nice. Because we all deserve it.

Putting your best foot forward is legal. It’s good. Try it. It will make you smile. Oh, and that’s another thing. Smile. A smile makes everybody look better.

Now, put down that cell phone. Back away. Don’t make me hurt you.




From Cee:

As I promised in last week’s essay about the Rule of Thirds, I’m going to extend that discussion to cover what I call the Magic of Two-Thirds. Instead of putting your subject in one-third of the frame, use two-thirds, leaving the rest bokeh or negative space to accent your subject.

As with the Rule of Thirds, you can use the upper or lower two-thirds or the left or right two-thirds. I use two-thirds a lot with my flower photography, so you’ll see a lot of examples here. It’s great to use for any still life photography.

You can use the top and bottom two-thirds, but I find those are harder for me to frame, especially using the top two-thirds. Top weighted photos can look a little awkward sometimes. They can be quite effective if done right.

But enough words… let’s turn to the things that say a thousand words… some pictures!


These are the proportions I use for most pictures flowers, gardens, and bouquets. These are also ideal proportions for many (most) portraits.


I’ll try to include a variety of subjects. It think the important thing is to leave at least a quarter to a third of any picture more or less empty. If you make every part of the picture busy, it’s hard for the eye to find the main subject.


This proportion is also important when designing a page for print or web. You need to make sure you have “white space” or it becomes difficult to read or focus.

Bonnie - 1




wang theater boston night


Bi-tonal treament (warm-cold filter) on the Mumford River Dam


Photography by Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

It takes a village to raise a child. It take two photographers and a lot of coaxing to photograph a Scottish Terrier.


You could say that Garry and I teamed up … but I think if you were Bonnie, you’d say we ganged up. On her.


Forced her to sit still. Coerced her into letting us see her eyes. How undignified!


Although more than half the shots were blurry, we got a few we like. Presenting Bonnie. With and without her favorite person.



We met him in the parking lot of the hotel. He was loading ice into his cooler. We were on our way to dinner. Garry was having trouble with the door lock (this place uses real keys!) … and suddenly, we knew. It was opportunity knocking.

Garry told him that today is our 25th anniversary and could he please take our picture? I gave him my camera.


He found the on/off button all by himself — a good sign.

Just a stranger, a passerby, in the parking lot of life. From it, our 25th anniversary portrait. We made it. Amazing. It doesn’t seem like that long.



This week’s topic is “Take a New Photo.” You can use any photo you’ve taken in the past week or two, if you can’t get out and get new photographs today.

It isn’t hard to take pictures of my husband. It is very difficult to take pictures he likes. I like these. He said they are “okay.” I leave further judgement to you.

Garry black and white portrait 1

Garry black and white portrait 3

Taken with Olympus PEN PL-6 and a 45mm f1.8 portrait lens. Processed in Photoshop.



Cee’s challenge this week is for faces. Being at my friend’s house and her being uncharacteristically willing to let me take her picture, voilà! Taken with my new 60mm Olympus macro/portrait lens using the camera’s art effects and of course, Photoshop.

Cherrie BW pensive portrait

Cherrie bw portrait hadley

Hop on over to Cee’s Photography site for more great pictures.