Tag Archives: light

Catching Light in a Bottle


Have you heard the expression, “Catching lightning in a bottle”? Well, this isn’t lightning, but it is a close relative. I mean, after all, it’s electricity – and so is lightning.

Someone got clever and decided to make a hanging lamp out of a mason jar. I thought it might make an interesting shot. Rather shocking what some folks come up with, isn’t it?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1782, 160 Pennsylvania militiamen murdered 96 Christian Indians–39 children, 29 women and 28 men–by hammering their skulls with mallets from behind as they kneel unarmed, praying and singing, in their Moravian Mission at Gnadenhuetten in the Ohio Country. The Patriots then piled their victims’ bodies in mission buildings before burning the entire community to the ground. Two boys managed to survive, although one had lost his scalp to his attackers. Although the militiamen claimed they were seeking revenge for Indian raids on their frontier settlements, the Indians they murdered had played no role in any attack.

This infamous attack on non-combatants led to a loss of faith in the Patriots by their Indian allies and reprisals upon Patriot captives in Indian custody. The Indians resurrected the practice of ritualized torture, discontinued during the Seven Years’ War, on the men they were able to apprehend who had participated in the Gnadenhuetten atrocity.

Although the Moravians and their Indian converts were pacifists who refused to kill under any circumstances, they found other ways to assist the Patriot cause. Like other Indian allies who refused to kill fellow Indians, they aided the Patriots by working as guides and spies. The German Moravian missionaries were also supplying the Americans with critical information, for which they were later arrested and tried by the British.

None of this protected the Indians when 160 members of the Pennsylvania militia decided to act as judge, jury and executioner. The Delaware Indians they murdered were neutral pacifists. Their Christian missionaries were aiding the Patriot cause. Furthermore, they did not live in the manner described as savage by European settlers–they were instead engaged in European-style settled agriculture in their mission village. There was no political, religious or cultural justification for the militiamen’s indiscriminate brutality during the Gnadenhuetten massacre; the incident is sadly illustrative of the anti-Indian racism that sometimes trumped even political allegiances during the American Revolution.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman took the first acid trip in 1943 while he was conducting tests for a migraine cure in Basel, when he accidentally absorbed the LSD compound through his fingertips.

On the Edge

Are you one of those people who lives life “on the edge”?  I mean, like a base jumper, bungee jumper, Navy Seal, astronaut, free-swim with sharks, crocodile-wrestling kind of person?  Someone who can’t seem to tempt fate enough with all sorts of daring-do?

I’m not.  I never have been.  I won’t jump out of a perfectly good airplane even if I have a parachute and am attached to a jump instructor.  Shoot, I won’t hardly try something new at a restaurant!  I’m a creature of habit…as long as they are safe and sane habits.

What is the most daring thing that I’ve done in my life?  (Does getting married or having kids count?)  I honestly don’t know.  Maybe it was when I was in my late teens and early 20’s when some friends and I would go wading out in a Florida lake at 5:30 a.m. in the morning until we were chest deep in the water and we’d throw top water lures back in towards the lilies and reeds in pursuit of large mouth bass.  What was daring about that, you ask?  Well, if you don’t care about water moccasins, copper heads and alligators, not much, I guess.  But we did it quite a bit.  Looking back on it now, I can see where it probably wasn’t all that smart of a thing to do.

Now, for my really clumsy transition to today’s picture: when I took the shots of these leaves on some vines, I liked the way that the light lit up the rather scalloped looking edges.  And, that made me think of living life on the edge.

Maybe I’ll have to consider taking up something really daring lest you all think that I’m no fun.  (No comments on that, please!)  I think perhaps I should take up sudoku or shuffleboard.  I heard that that’s a very dangerous sport.  You could slip on the puck or get whacked in the head with the pusher-thingy.  See?  I’m starting to think like a daredevil!

_MG_7016ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1989, an earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area, killing 67 people and causing more than $5 billion in damages. Though this was one of the most powerful and destructive earthquakes ever to hit a populated area of the United States, the death toll was quite small.

The proximity of the San Andreas Fault to San Francisco was well-known for most of the 20th century, but the knowledge did not stop the construction of many un-reinforced brick buildings in the area. Finally, in 1972, revised building codes forced new structures to be built to withstand earthquakes. The new regulations also called for older buildings to be retrofitted to meet the new standards, but the expense involved made these projects a low priority for the community.

Just prior to a World Series game between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants, a 7.1-magnitude tremor centered near Loma Prieta Peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains rocked the region from Santa Cruz to Oakland. Though the stadium withstood the shaking, much of the rest of San Francisco was not so fortunate.

The Bay Bridge and the Nimitz freeway, both featuring double-decker construction, saw a collapse of the upper deck.  Forty-one of the 67 fatalities of this disaster were motorists on the lower level of the Nimitz, who were killed when the upper level of the road collapsed and crushed them in their cars. Only one person was killed on the Bay Bridge–which had been scheduled for a retrofitting the following week–because there were no cars under the section that collapsed.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Traditionally, a Jewish baby is not named for a living person. There is a concern that the “Angel of Death” will mistake the infant for the older person if the names are the same.

Lighting Up the World

Most of you who know me also know that I am a Christian.  This photo blog isn’t about my faith, however…it’s just a blog about things I think about or that I see during that day that I photograph.  If you want to read my Christian devotional musings, I’ve got another blog for that.

Today’s photo, however, was taken at Perimeter Church and is a shot of a part of a stained glass window.  You may recognize the passage these words came from, but if not, that’s OK because I’m not wanting to talk about the passage of Scripture, but a thought it brought to my mind about America and what I see happening to my beloved country.

There was once a time when America was almost universally respected, if not loved.  The Statue of Liberty in New York harbor holds aloft her torch as a symbol to the world of the “light” that can be found in, and that is, America.  As a parallel, Christ said his followers were to be light to the world, and America served that role for generations.

I wish I could say that it is still that way, but I’ve got my doubts.  I see opposing sides vilifying those on the other side of nearly every issue – liberals and conservatives alike.  Both sides take snippets, or sound bites, from a statement made by their opposition and then rant and rave about the statement (which was taken out of context more often than not), or they emphasize a few words rather than looking for what the speaker meant.  It’s the old “letter of the law” versus the spirit of what was trying to be communicated.  Both major political parties hate each other and think there is no redeeming value to be found in the opposite party or anyone who is a member of that party.  They ascribe the worst possible motives and refuse to believe that someone on “the other side” (sorta sounds like “the dark side”, doesn’t it?) could possibly be sincere or believe what they do for some seemingly good reason.  Now I’m the first to tell you that being sincere isn’t enough – we can be sincerely wrong – but it is a basis upon which we once could operate in this country.  We used to give one another the benefit of the doubt.  Seems to me that we no longer do.

I fear that this election year is going to see the worst possible sorts of vilification, name calling, slander, gossip, rumor and innuendo that we’ve ever witnessed.  I hope I’m wrong.  I love America – and I’d love for us to once again be respected, if not loved, by the rest of the world instead of sneered at and denigrated. Maybe, just maybe, America can once again become a light for other countries in the world.  We can’t be their salvation nor can we solve the world’s problems, but even shedding light in dark corners of the world is a good thing.  But we’ve got to relight our torch as a nation!

In order for some of that to happen, I need to check my own internal state of the union and be the kind of person who is sincere, trustworthy, gentle, respectful and loving toward others.  I’ve got plenty of work to do, but it’s worth doing.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1954, Bill Haley and the Comets recorded “Rock Around the Clock”.  It went on to sell 25 million copies, second only to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  I don’t know if it’s been surpassed since then, but it held second place at least as long as singles were being sold in a physical, not digital, format.  Let’s rock!!!

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: uninterrupted since the 6th century, a member of the same family has sat upon the throne of Japan.  The current emperor, Akihito, is the 125th in the line of succession.

The Glory of Color

I am a fan of color.  I know that many of the greatest photos ever taken were done in black and white.  Ansel Adams was a master at the darkroom work which brought out the best in the black and white image.  I’ve often wondered what his pictures would have looked like in color.  I love colors – blending and twisting into one another in a glorious, swirling dance to tantalize and delight the eye.  I’m so grateful God created colors…and gave us eyes to see it!  (I hear that dogs and cats really can’t see color – and that makes me sad!)

I not only love color, but I loved stained glass windows.  Today, we attended church with our son and his wife.  They attend a large church here in the Atlanta area, and we’ve visited with them before and I’ve always been blessed.  Today, rather than going to the large auditorium (which probably seats several thousand people), we intended on going to the Chapel…a much smaller, but beautiful place, where the music is a bit different.  We’ve not attended at the chapel before…and we still haven’t, as today they weren’t having a 9:00 service in the chapel…only in the main auditorium.

Still, I’d been in the chapel before and thought it was beautiful.  I had to go back to the church building later this afternoon for a meeting and I took my camera with me, thinking I might be shooting some pictures of people.  I didn’t.  But, I did sneak into the Chapel after my meeting and took a few shots of some of the stained glass windows.  There is just something that captivates me with the light passing through the translucent, colored glass.

I liked this picture because of the variation in the colors…including the reflection on the flooring of the stage.  I hope you enjoy it, too.

The glory of light and color...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, slavery was officially abolished in the United States with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Coco Chanel introduced her first perfume in 1921.  She called it Chanel No. 5, skipping past 1-4, supposedly because 5 was her lucky number.  She introduced it on the 5th day of the 5th month (May).  She may have been on to something, because it went on to become the best selling perfume in the world.

Shedding Some Light

I know people who have the marvelous gift of being able to take the most complex matters and make them simple and understandable to about anyone.  I envy people who have that ability.  One of the reasons that I envy them is that I don’t think that I especially have that gift!

On the other hand, there are those who can take the simplest thing and make it sound terribly confusing and complex.  I try to avoid those folks because they give me a headache!!!!

So, there are some who shed light on topics, and others who darken and obfuscate things (like that fancy word that makes things more confusing?)  This picture that I shot one evening in Healdsburg shows the two extremes.  One street light was working, the other was not.  And there you have it!

Light, or darkness...clarity or confusion?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1793, Marie Antoinette, queen of France and wife of King Louis XVI, was executed for treason.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: now this one is interesting…cut-out shapes of a moon and star were used in colonial times on outhouse doors to designate the gender of the intended users.  The moon cut-out was for women and the star was for men.  But, men’s outhouses were often such a mess inside that the men preferred using the women’s outhouses and the star was eventually phased out!

The Dance of Sunlight

In the final analysis, photography is all about light – capturing the right amount to render the desired effect, but not too much or too little (of course, that’s subject to interpretation as beauty is in the eye of the beholder!)  It can be about the contrasts in light or in a scene – and the more contrast, the greater the photographic challenge.

I took this picture Saturday over my sister’s back yard fence.  Now, before you say, “What in the world is the blurry green stuff toward the bottom of the picture?”, let me say, I know that it was there when I took the picture – and I left it in on purpose.  What caught my eye was the coolness of the shade, the vibrant greens, but most of all, the tree in the back of the neighbor’s yard that had the top leaves in blazing, dancing sunlight, while the shadows of the oaks behind the yard softened everything else up.  I used the blurry green to sort of “frame” the image – although I’m sure most pro shooters would say it was the wrong thing to do.  But I like it, and it’s my picture, not theirs, so ppfffffttttttttt!!!!

I am not sure what kind of tree this was, but I think it’s a Japanese elm or maple?  I’m sure someone will tell me.

Sunlight dances all around us, enriching our eyes with its beauty.  I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I do.  (Oh, and remember, you can click on the picture at least once…maybe twice…to see it in larger form.)

Sunlight dancing on the leaves...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1941, Nazi troops reached the outskirts of Leningrad.  By September 8, they had totally surrounded the city, beginning a siege that would last until January, 1944.  While there are no accurate figures, the death toll of soldiers and civilians together may have reached 1,500,000, and another 1,400,000 may have evacuated.  Hitler expected the city would “fall like a leaf.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: some of American’s funniest entertainers worked in sales before they hit the big time.  Steve Martin sold Disneyland guidebooks, Carol Burnett sold handbags in a shoe store, Ellen Degeneres was in to vacuum cleaners, David Hyde Pierce sold clothes, Jerry Seinfeld sold light bulbs, and Jerry Van Dyke sold Bibles.  Rodney Dangerfield, one of the icons of stand-up tom-foolery, sold aluminum siding to put food on the table for his family.

Water In the Desert

It sure seems like a long time ago now that we were making our way through southern Utah on our way to Arches National Park.  As with much of our trip, it was hot…and though the Colorado River coming down out of the mountains of Colorado were flowing with a wild and crazy volume, it seemed exceedingly dry.

And so, as we made our way towards the eastern edge of Arches, we were driving through some wild and rough high-desert like places.  Today’s photo was taken at one point where we pulled off the road to fire off a few shots because clouds were rolling in – dark, threatening clouds – and the interplay of light and shadow on the rocky promontories and foreground brush was striking.

Not long after taking this picture (a matter of just minutes), we were treated to a virtual “monsoon” as the rain came down in torrents.  Not only was there rain, but it was cold rain – so cold that we even saw some “flakes” that were probably sleet – not snow.  It was SO REFRESHING!  And it helped make our day!

Just before a deluge in the Utah desert east of Arches National Park

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1804 Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in perhaps the most famous duel in American history.  Samuel Broadhurst, a relative of Burr’s, tried to negotiate an agreement between the two but the challenge was issued…resulting in a sad tale of history.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: a 1999 survey of snorers indicated that 19% snored so loudly that they could be heard through closed doors.


I am a product of the ’60’s and ’70’s.  I love the music from the sixties and early seventies!  It is my humble opinion that it was during those years that rock and roll reached its zenith.  Sadly, the music of today (for the most part) just doesn’t do justice as a successor to the great songs of the ’60’s and ’70’s.

One song that can become an “ear worm” (that’s what they call a song that gets stuck in your mind and you keep singing it over and over in your head) was by Tommy Roe.  It’s title is Dizzy and here’s some of the lyrics to help you remember it, too:

Dizzy, I’m so dizzy my head is spinning
Like a whirlpool it never ends
And it’s You girl makin’ it spin
You’re making me dizzy.

I can identify with feeling all sorts of emotions  when it comes to girls.  Butterflies, excitement, fear, intimidation, wonder…but dizzy?  I don’t know that I ever felt dizzy because of a girl.  There are plenty of things that can make me feel dizzy: the Scrambler at the fair, a roller coaster (or is that nausea instead of dizziness?), turning around in circles, getting up too fast can make me feel dizzy at times.  I can look at certain images (photos) or designs and they can make me feel dizzy, too.

Today’s picture is an illustration of another photographic technique that yields interesting results when you have bright colors or lots of colors.  The technique I used on this picture was to set a slow shutter speed (no faster than 1/4 second, preferably longer), focus on the center of what you want to shoot, then press the shutter button while rotating the camera 90 degrees or more.  In the case of today’s picture, I rotated the camera 90 degrees counter-clockwise. Of course, the results look different depending on how many degrees you turn the camera.

One of the funnest things about this kind of picture-taking is that you can’t ever really imagine what the results will look like.  I have some rough idea, but it always turns out a bit different than I anticipate – and I find that exciting!  This picture, like the last 2 days, was shot at the Ferrari-Carano tasting room in Healdsburg where they were gracious enough to let me shoot.


Dizzy, I'm so dizzy my camera is spinnin'...


ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1907, Charles Curtis from Kansas, became the first native American Indian to serve as a US Senator.  He resigned in March 1929 to become Herbert Hoover’s vice-president.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: during the 1966 Macy’s Parade, Ronald McDonald made his first ever national television appearance.  He’s been an institution ever since!


Zoom, Zoom

One of the great advantages of a DSLR versus a point-and-shoot digital camera is the ability to control the zoom/exposure while actually shooting a picture.  Point-and-shoots are great and take some fantastic pictures, but it is more difficult to create certain kinds of photos “in camera” instead of with magical tricks courtesy of Adobe Photoshop.  Point-and-shoots have another advantage: they are smaller, lighter and fit  in a pocket or purse.  That’s not the case with most DSLR’s.

Today’s picture is one that I took in the same place as yesterday’s photo, but in adjusted the point of focus by turning the zoom lens as the exposure was being shot.  Perhaps you’ve seen  photos before of a field of flowers that had a very sharp central focal point, but which showed the flowers surrounding that point as if they were streaked.  That kind of image can make an item either seem to leap off a page, or recede into the background, depending on whether you start at the shortest focus and zoom in, or at the longest focus and zoom out.  Of course, in order to have time to actually zoom, you’ll probably want to shoot not by controlling aperture, but by controlling shutter speed.  I’d suggest a shutter speed of a minimum of 1/4 second…and longer may get even better results than that.  But it needs to be slow enough to zoom through the range you want!

I like to take this kind of picture when there are sharp colorful lights or just lots of color (as with a flowerbed.)   Zooming like this is one technique to create some unusual images.  Tomorrow I’ll share another one with you so you can see the difference between two different exposure techniques.  (By the way, I learned this technique from a book by Bryan Peterson – whose books I highly recommend!)


An exposure taken while zooming during the time the shutter was open


ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: “Bloody Sunday” took place in 1905 on this date when the troops of the Russian czar killed 500 workers who were protesting.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Point Pinos on the west coast of the United States is the longest perpetually running lighthouse in the country.  It was first lit in 1855 and has warned sailors ever since of the rocky coast off California.


Rivers of Light

Photography is all about light – either the presence of it, or the absence.  Both can make statements depending on the intent of the photograph.

Of course, we are dependent on light anyway – for vision, for photosynthesis that allows plants to made their own food without which any life on planet earth would be impossible.  Light can give us warmth – who hasn’t at some point or another stepped out of the shadows in to a direct sunlight to delight with the warmth of the rays on the skin?

I took today’s picture with my Sony A-100 in 2008.  It was one of the first pictures I’d taken with the camera.  My wife and I had been in San Francisco for some reason (probably just to goof off), and it was getting dark (and cold!) when we came back across the bridge northbound headed toward the town where we live.  I wanted to experiment with setting the shutter speed so as to capture trails of flowing light from the cars headlights and tail lights as they traversed the Golden Gate.  I didn’t have a tripod, or the image would probably be sharper, but I thought it turned out OK for my first effort at a full manual exposure.  I still like the picture…and I will never forget how my heart jumped with excitement when I saw the result on the LCD screen on the back of the camera.  I’ll shoot it again one of these days now that I have a better idea of what I’m doing.  For those interested in photography, I’d recommend Bryan Peterson’s books on Understanding Light and Understanding Exposure.  But – you will likely need a DSLR rather than a point and shoot digital camera to do some of the things he describes.

Let the rivers of light flow!!!!


Rivers of Light on the Golden Gate, San Francisco, CA


ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1930, the comic strip, “Mickey Mouse” appeared for the first time in a newspaper with Fred Gottfredson as its ghost writer.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Early European umbrellas were made with wood or whalebone and were covered with either alpaca or oiled canvas.