There are serious techniques in photography, but there are also “tricks.” I learned most of the serious stuff, but eventually I also learned a few tricks that have saved a lot of otherwise useless photographs and turned them into “art.”

Late twilight by Lake Otsego – backlighting at work

One of the very first “tricks” I learned in photography was how to create a dark frame around a picture. All you need to do is stand in shadow and shoot into light. You will create a dark “frame” around your picture. It has become a standard “thing” for me. It looks surprisingly elegant and requires zero skill.

More back-lighting

The second was in response to the bane of back-lighting. If you want decent detail on your foreground, back-lighting tends to make that difficult. For what I would assume are obvious reasons. Sometimes, you simply can’t make it work because the different between the items in front of that very bright sky are too intense to get any decent details without a lot more work than you are willing to put into that picture.

Okay — yes, it’s true. Not every single photograph is worth hours of effort. Sometimes, it’s a nice shot, but this isn’t your day to spend the afternoon messing with it to make it perfect.

For those of us who take a lot of pictures, imperfect is where most of them will be. Not every shot has to be an award-winner — and anyway, is someone giving out awards? I haven’t gotten one in years!

Date palms under a dome of sky

For this, there are silhouettes. This can really make a very crisp, clean photograph. Just don’t let too much clutter mess up your lines!

That’s it for the day. Two little tips that if you didn’t already know them, are easy and fun.


There was a dance with the name “Silhouette” back in the very early 1960s … or maybe it was the very late 1950s. 

Okay, looked it up again — 1957 was the original by The Rays, but other groups put out versions of it too — Herman’s Hermits and the Ronettes — both 1965. And the Nylons in 1981. I missed the 1981 version — I was in Israel by then.

It was a line dance. It may have been the very first of all line dances. I liked it because I could actually perform it and you couldn’t say that about me and other dances — of any kind. It had steps that anyone who could walk could probably master, except most of the guys I knew who barely managed walking without stumbling. It wasn’t drinking, either. They just had problems with managing their feet.

I seem to have found a lot of non-dancing partners through the decades.

These days, “silhouette” is a type of black & white photograph.

When I was a child, though, it meant a shadow show, fingers and a bright light behind a white sheet. Every kid learned to make a rabbit and maybe a horse. And of course, a silly talking face.

Sometimes, on a bad day as I try to have an intelligent conversation with one of the dogs, I feel like I’m one of those “pretend” talking shadows.

You know what I mean?


I fully expected to write this post this morning, but somehow, I forgot. Just … forgot. I got involved in trying to catch up with comments and email and somehow lost the thread of the morning. And now, it’s after dinner and I’m throwing this together because …

Gibbs and The Duke

I never caught up with my email. Not even close. There are at least 80 new emails in there and I’m not going to finish them today. It’s will be another mass delete because the eighty I don’t finish today will become 200 tomorrow and 500 by Monday. Moreover, I spent the afternoon researching the price of cameras. Canon DSLR cameras. My granddaughter still has the camera I gave her five years ago. She needs a new one, but she does not want a new one. She likes the old one. In fact, she LOVES this one. Unfortunately, the new lenses she wants are not going to work on the older camera body. So …


We’ll thrash it out tomorrow. I can’t afford it anyway, so if she’s really determined to keep it, well, okay. Keep it … but new lenses are going to be hard to come by as auto-focus and other camera functions keeps changing.

The Duke

Meanwhile, the dogs were doing something really cute. They did it yesterday, but by the time I got to my camera, they were suspicious that “you know who is going to take our picture,” so they headed for the out-of-doors. They have an apparent deathly fear of my taking their picture.

Gibbs and the great out-of-doors

They were doing the same adorable thing today, so I tiptoed to my camera. I had the right lens on it, so I grabbed it and just shot a bunch of pictures. Many are blurry, but I didn’t think this was the moment to try and take perfect shots. I actually got better pictures than I had any right to expect. Some are even sharp.

Instead of glorious autumn foliage, today you are getting cute pictures of my dogs.

At play, in the out-of-doors

And an apology for my failure to live up to expectations. I didn’t get to your posts and I didn’t even nearly finish my email. It turns out I can’t finish my email, get to everyone’s posts, write a piece or two, take pictures, process pictures, and also have a conversation with my granddaughter in a single day.

The truth is, I probably won’t succeed tomorrow, either. I love you all, but reality bites and it’s telling me I need to slow down.

This is me. Slowing down.



Creating a silhouette is an easy technique to learn and useful in a lot of different situations. For obvious reasons, it doesn’t work well if you are trying to create a portrait … but in nature and architecture, you can create a little bit of magic with very little effort.

Silhouettes may make photographs appear “black and white” even though they are in color. The effect is easily achieved with the light source behind your subject.


dreamcatcher silhouette


All you need to do to get a silhouette is take your light reading on the brightest part of the scene or object. The dark part will got even darker and you can slightly increase contrast in post processing if you want to make it a true silhouette with no detail.

Voila! Silhouettes!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette – The Tree

I took this shot about two weeks ago and as soon as I saw the topic for today’s challenge , I heard the little bell my brain rings when it it’s telling me “I got that!”

I almost missed the tree, but my granddaughter’s friend pointed at it and said “cool tree.” She was right. It’s a very cool tree. Photo – Marilyn Armstrong

There is a story that goes with this and it has nothing to do with the tree. It’s a “duh” story. My own “duh” story, but to be fair, if it hadn’t been for that strange message, I’m sure it wouldn’t have taken me nearly as long to figure out what was going on.

I’ve been working with computers as since the early 1980s, which is a pretty long time. I have lots of funny stories, including how many times I’ve thought the computer on which I am working had died only to realize that the plug was loose.

All I wanted to do was create a slightly higher resolution picture that would look crisper on your monitor. And mine.

I opened the photo in Photoshop. When I tried to change the dpi, I got a message telling me I couldn’t change the size because the size was linked to the printing preferences. Huh?

I do not print photographs at home. One picture can use up a lot of ink. I get better prints for less money using a professional online printing company. I had never seen this message. I didn’t know that Photoshop has print preferences … and as far as I can tell, it doesn’t because I never found anything but the regular printer settings that every Windows application has.

I checked through all my preferences, then looked for a preferences file amongst the Adobe files, and for any settings on my printer that might be affecting Photoshop. I searched the Photoshop forum and help files. The application was working fine a few hours earlier. I hadn’t changed any settings since then. Moreover, I’ve never printed anything directly from Photoshop. So why would it send that message? Everything else on the computer seemed normal.

So I thought maybe it was some weird incompatibility with the new anti-virus software I installed the other day.  I restored the system to before I installed the program and installed different anti-virus software. I didn’t like the new one anyhow.

Finally, as I was getting ready to uninstall Photoshop and reinstall it  — assuming I could remember where I saved the license and serial number information …

I took a deep breath. I pressed Num Lock. And everything was back to normal.

I would have figured it out if I hadn’t gotten that weird message about printing preferences. If the numbers failed to work with no other message, I would have checked to make sure I hadn’t pressed Num Lock by accident.

Windows could make this problem disappear. They have a little picture that comes up to tell you if your Caps Lock is on. Can’t they make the same kind of thing for Num Lock too? Would that be so hard? I’ll never ask, though. I’m far too embarrassed.