February evening light


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It’s been much longer than I intended to be away from this blog… but, intensions are are strange things. They are like promises nagging to be kept and I’ve decided to keep this promise to myself and resume this blog tonight with a simple evening tale.

Bridges across the Merrimack

Old and future new bridges span the Merrimack River

There’s an old metal bridge across the Merrimack River in Massachusetts… downriver from the towns of Haverhill and Lawrence and Lowell and a dozen other old mill towns whose power source was the river itself. The old Bates Bridge is being replaced by a new concrete structure and an arched design of the kind that says ‘modern’ and ‘up-to-date’ in the same way that the old flat metal design says ‘out-dated’… it’s faded green paint and growing rust a temptation for macro-grunge lovers like me. I was hoping to get to the bridge sooner but it was after 4 in the afternoon and the dark shadows of a winter’s afternoon are not the best time for that kind of photography.

The ice breaker on the river.

The ice breaker on the river.

So, as I drove away along the south side of the river, I noticed that the river was clogged with ice from the recent cold temperatures and covered with the heavy snowfall of the weekend ‘Nemo’ storm. I stopped to capture an image or two of the ice and the construction site under the two side by side bridges. I began to wonder if the amount of ice and the forces it could bear on the barges holding 3 enormous cranes for the construction companies could be a potential problem… when a strange craft came from under the bridges and proceded to push the ice around. As it did, the floes drifted away from the big ice pack and floated harmlessly down the river past the barges. An Ice-breaker! Round and round it went clearing the ice from the river while comuters traveled across the old Bates Bridge north and south… home from work to Haverhill or Groveland on either side… oblivious to the work going on below on the river.

The ice yields to this quiet but forceful pressure.

The ice yields to this quiet but forceful pressure.

The open river but for ice near the shores.

The open river but for ice near the shores.

It was so quiet from where I stood. Only the sound of the boat to break the stillness of a quiet New England scene. In the opposite direction… a promise of a sunset to come… but, I couldn’t wait. Another time, another sunset on the Merrimack.

Looking upriver, the scene is shadowed by the anticipated sunset.

Looking upriver, the scene is shadowed by the anticipated sunset.

Walking on Main Street


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We walked on Main Street in Georgetown, Massachusetts… Jack and me, crunching our way through the piles of color and texture, our heads down against a steady breeze. Not because of some extreme temperature that need be endured… but to shield our eyes from the low and exceptionally bright Fall sun. We walked away from the center of town along the busy street, trucks rumpling by every few seconds… until the sidewalk ended, then turned and walk toward town on the other side of the street. We’re making good time when… a car stops and two young girls, visitors from Germany inquire about where they can find a MacDonald’s or a Starbucks. They aren’t looking for a fast food meal or overpriced coffee… but a WiFi zone so they can communicate with their families and friends… relate the details of their trip… reassure their parents that they haven’t kidnapped here in Massachusetts. So on we go. Main Street, we discover is all about texture and color today! I’m trying to take pictures of what I’ve found and Jack is all about getting back to the pet store we discovered on our way. There’s a treat waiting for him, he’s pretty sure.

Here’s what we found on a little portion of Main Street…

Color… of course… it’s Fall in New England. It’s what we have! With the tropical storm ‘Sandy’ approaching, there will be little color left when she’s gone!

Shadows on a red barn. The low sun at this time of year is interesting… creating patterns on everything.

Texture!! Can you even tell what it is? There’s another with a different pattern…

Believe it or not… this is from a front door. Paint peeling off a door on a house built in 1810. It’s unoccupied and probably for sale. Any one interested?

An American porch… without a doubt. The glow on the ceiling is a bounce from all the yellow leaves in the yard. I wanted to sit and watch the day go by.

Primary colors… gone too soon, to be sure.

One of my friendly tree people. This one seems a little anxious about the coming storm… excitable but harmless. :)

The white shade… A composition in angles and lines. This historic house, the Adams Clark House, is striking in that a corner of the house is almost directly on the street. A personal favorite from the days walk. Look how all the lines and shapes lead the eye to the center of the photo and the brightest spot… the shade.

An accidental heart… they find me everywhere… this one in the peeling paint of a neglected fence.

You’ve Got Mail… I couldn’t help smiling at the irony of talking with the girls from Germany communicating half a world distance from their families while we stood in front of this “LETTERS” slot on an ancient door. How long would someone have waited for a simple letter from a loved one to slip through this portal with the “latest” news?… not that long ago.

Leading the eye…


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I noticed something odd while I was editing a few recent images that I found interesting and thought I’d share… We’ve had some spectacular “cloudshows” lately and I stopped to capture one in the parking lot of my local grocery store. I liked the angle of the cloud formation and the overhead, umbrella of the massive formation on the left. While looking at it on the screen, I made a duplicate copy to try a different crop so I could look at them side by side. The two images aren’t that different but… it occurred to me that I was looking at images with two different subjects!

cropped version

In the cropped version above, the eye is moving down the dark column on the left and finally rests on the bright sun in the sunset at the bottom. To me, the subject  of this image is the sunset, the color and drama in the distance.

original version

In the original, it’s just the opposite… the eye is drawn down the thin clouds from the right and back up to the bright spot at the top. The eye is being lead in a completely different direction. (See the black and white images with the arrows.) The subject of this version of the image is the overwhelming scale of the scene, the height of the column of clouds, aided by the bright edge at the top and the tiny light poles at the bottom. A completely different feel. The actual sunset is secondary.

I’ve never seen as dramatic an example of the effects of knowing where the eye is being led and how much a simple edit can change the subject of an image. It’s important to know where the viewer’s eye is going in the composition of an image. You want the viewer to see what you see… to experience the impact of the scene as you did… or at least as close as you can assist them to see and feel.

Which image conveys what I wanted you to see? I’d have to pick the original. While I cropped the duplicate to make it a stronger composition, I lost the subject I wanted to present… the scale and feeling of being a tiny being on a beautiful planet… a very special place, even in the grocery store parking lot! :)

Agree? or Disagree? Your thoughts?

Walking up North Street


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On fine Autumn days like this we like to walk. Jack is the perfect excuse to walk and does so nicely for a 10 month old puppy, greeting people on the street without jumping and patient about being fussed over. Jack has one agenda during our walks and I have another. His is to smell anything and everything… and mine is to find something to capture in my camera. I don’t look for anything specific… just record what I find. Here’s what we found on our walk up North Street in Georgetown, Massachusetts: a spooky house, a ghost in a tree, several trees with faces, fall leaves, a dog in a birch tree, a flag in the breeze… among other things…

Shadow composition with red hydrant.

Ghost in the tree… a spooky figure in a hooded robe.

A spooky house appears abandoned… but, getting closer showed…

… a colorful object in the window suggests an unlikely resident.

A tree with a face.

A bittersweet wreath in the shadows.

A tree with a number of faces… a large one at the bottom looking left with a puffy cheek… a small face just below and to the right of the large one… a profile on the right side of the trunk (by the white cloud). At the top there appears to be a man standing with arms outstretched.

The beauty of the day reflecting in the water of a creek on North Street.

The true colors of fall leaves are revealed!

The most amazing found object… a complete dog in the bark of a birch tree.

Only days from an election… the American flags are everywhere.

Jack agrees that there are good smells on North Street. We’ll be back. :)

The Accidental Artist


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The Rusty’s Truck Series

My friend Rusty comes over and hunts out in the woods… during bow season in the fall. When he’s not doing that… or hanging out at the local village store/coffee shop/post office in our little town with the other “guys in pick-up trucks”… he’s up on somebody’s roof. Rusty is an excellent roofer and his truck can be seen in all the best driveways around town.

Strange Sun

Strange Sun – Rusty’s truck series

A few weeks ago, his truck was parked in our driveway… along with a few others as we got some house and yard projects taken care of. Rusty was here putting up staging on the roof for our local house painter. His truck and all his ‘roofin’ stuff was parked under my studio window. I stood staring down at years and years worth of worn wood and metal and paint and welding and rust, and grunge and… well, I just had to record some of all that amazing beauty that was right under my nose… literally!!

Untitled 1

Untitled 1 – Rusty’s truck series

After some friendly teasing about about my taking pictures of his creative welding techniques and a few examples of what I was capturing from the back of the camera preview screen… he was pointing out areas that might be good subjects for a shot. Soon, both he and the house painter were directing my efforts, offering drop cloths and paint buckets as possible subjects.

So… even my friend Rusty is an artist and he doesn’t know it! I hope he enjoys the gallery of images from the “Rusty’s Truck” series.

Carib Sunset ~ Rusty's truck series

Carib Sunset – Rusty’s truck series

Surfs Edge – Rusty’s truck series

Untitled 2

Untitled 2 – Rusty’s truck series

Deep View

Deep View – Rusty’s truck series


A-B-N – Rusty’s truck series

Filling the empty canvas…


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The large white space has been knocking around this room and that one for longer that I remember… a 4 x 5 foot canvas… totally empty, that I bought for something that must have been in my mind years ago. Every now and then it would be in the way and it would get shuffled to the basement or the studio upstairs… or even used in the big window in the summer as a sun shade. Forgotten, it would sit in a corner… or behind a stack of frames where I’d eventually rediscover it. It’s accusatory white face gleaming at me… wanting to be painted and hung somewhere… anywhere. It developed a cut from something… a careless moment or pressure from some unkind frame or piece of orphaned glass leaning too close… Oops! so sorry… I hope it doesn’t hurt too much. A 4 inch gash 2 inches from one edge. Now that would have to be fixed before it could be painted… another delay!

Lucy's Snack Inspiration

Lucy’s Snack Inspiration

Several years ago… (God, this sounds awful!) I actually decided what I wanted to paint on the now spotted, fingerprinted and slashed white stretched surface. Vacationing in St Martin a few winters back, I took a photograph of a building whose orange color hurt the eyes to look at it… but, it changed the mood of the day to pass by it’s glowing walls! Everyone who walked in it’s presence looked outlined and “graphic”. One woman walked by in an outfit the same orange color. It was AWESOME! But, even though I could ‘see’ the finished painting in my mind… the start was still years away. Then……………………. I started.

Work in Progress in the photo studio... this thing is BIG!

Work in Progress in the photo studio… this thing is BIG!

The photo is fine for a photo but the painting in my head was a lot closer… a color-blocked composition with a figure walking through it. I rearranged the elements… sky, wall, roof, gate, sidewalk, street, figure… tighter and more focused… the elements becoming an abstract by themselves. Oh, and see that big hole on the right… yeah, gotta do something about that. I sketched the elements out and used a little fixative on the charcoal lines… then rough scrubbed in the blocks of color and values. Because this was so set in my mind, I felt there were few decisions that hadn’t been worked out even though I don’t remember thinking about it that much. I was just executing an already done painting. Weird… Next…



Things started picking up and I put an orange wash all over the figure and the sidewalk. Anything in front of the walls of Lucy’s Snack would glow! The under-painting let’s me work through what the values of the elements should be. I left off the iron gate because it would be easier to over-paint the wall instead of painting around the delicate lines. I really missed it as an element and couldn’t wait to get it back in.



I work on detailing some of the green metal roof, putting in a shadow for the figure on the wall and under-painting the clothing. The time of day is early morning just after sunrise with the sun low in the sky. This is when colors are their most intense, washing out in mid-day and softening in evening. This is the best time of day to photograph… and I love the light. The light is certainly an important subject of this painting. Oh, yeah… the hole is patched. Duct tape on the back and filled the gap with gesso and orange paint. Fingers crossed.



More detailing, building up that glowing color on the walls, adjusting values… darker or lighter… over-painting the clothing to the black and white in my vision… Really missing that gate. She needs that element to walk toward… to be ‘grounded’.



Finally… the gate from the unseen doorway. It adds so much… oh, well… that’s just me. Things are coming together. Lots of adjusting here and there… I think her head looks too big… so, I make it smaller from the back taking out some of the cap in the final. Seeking more movement in the skirt. Finishing the sidewalk textures and the street and painted stripes. The purse looks too important… no, just unfinished. I add a texture and more shaping, a shadow, a reflection from the white skirt on the bottom.

Morning light... Final

Morning light… Final

Is it done? Seems to be. I’m trying not to overwork it. Time will tell.

WIP face detail

WIP face detail

The canvas size makes it hard to see detail… so I’ve included these. It is great to keep a record of whatever kind of art project you’re working on.

WIP Final detail

WIP Final detail

Filling the big white space...

Filling the big white space…

So it’s done… the white canvas is no longer getting kicked from place to place. There’s a fortune in orange paint on it. The price of canvas has doubled since this one was purchased. And the empty white space in the kitchen is filled with something that reminds me of a very special place on the planet. It makes me smile… and want to plan the next trip there!

Blueberry Luminance


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Blueberries for breakfast! What a great idea… yes, let’s plant some bushes just on the edge of the front yard… and we’ll have blueberries for our pancakes or waffles. Yes!! That was the conversation about 20 years ago when the front lawn went in and blueberry picking… and eating… was an anticipated pleasure. It didn’t exactly work out the way we thought.

As the bushes grew and the fruit production increased, so did the chipmunks and birds who enjoyed the harvest of the sweet little fruits!! I even tried bird netting… which the chipmunks could get under… and several times a day during the picking season had to rescue birds caught in the net. So, we rarely got more than 3 or 4 ripe berries at a time. But, early this morning out in the yard throwing the Frisbee with Jack, I realized that there was actually enough ripe fruit hanging for breakfast! I just had to see it as a competitive sport… and beat them to ’em!

Of course, I had to photograph my triumph over the critters and carried them back to the studio before I put them on my cereal. I love the variety of colors and the softness of the tones… and while I was processing the image, it occurred to me to  that the blueberries were a perfect example to show the effects of “noise” that occurs when using a sharpening tool in any of the processing programs… and also the way that the Adobe Lightroom “Luminance” tool can correct the “noise”. Noise is the grainy appearance the image has when it’s been sharpened. It actually looks like clumps of color have separated out from the smooth blend of tones you expect to see. The first image here has been over-sharpened to show a lot of noise. The second has the Lightroom Luminance applied at 100 on the scale. When overdone like this, the image starts to look like a painting with all the blending going on. With the right subject it’s kind of cool! Now… breakfast!

Blueberry over-sharpened… noise or a grainy look.

Blueberry over-smoothed with Luminance slider in Adobe Lightroom.

Grill this soon…


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I’m a really lazy summer cook… it’s just too hot and there are so many other interesting things to do in the summer… and there’s not enough propane in the tank to cook… and I’m not really hungry anyway… I got a million excuses not to cook when we’re in one of these heat waves. But…

Jane captured our dinner with her iPad. There’s some chicken in there, too.

My friend Jane came over yesterday with dinner… (that fits nicely with all my excuses ;) and she brought this wonderfully different recipe for skirt steak that I had to share. This was so FAST and SO GOOD! The meat is marinated after it cooks on the grill… so, the marinade can be used as a top dressing for the meat and vegetables or potatoes, too… since it never has raw meat in it. Here’s the recipe.

1/3 Cup soy sauce
1/4 Cup Worcestershire sauce
2 scallions sliced thin
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
4 Cloves garlic minced
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
1/4 Cup vegetable oil
12 oz. of skirt steak (more or less)

  1. Heat grill to hot.
  2. Combine soy sauce, Worcestershire, scallions, 2T of sugar, garlic, mustard, vinegar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil until all is blended and sugar has dissolved. Let stand at room temperature.
  3. Pat the steak dry with paper towels and sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  4. Grill steak on a hot open grill for 3-4 minutes on each side. (Depends on how hot your grill is to put a good sear on the surface of the steak.) Immediately put the steak into the marinade. A 9×13 baking pan works well if you’re grilling it whole. Poke the steak all over with a fork to let the marinade get into the meat. Let it sit  for just 2 minutes then slice into 1/2 inch diagonal pieces and serve hot with some marinade spooned on the top.

We had enough for 6 people… and extra marinade to put on grilled asparagus… Asian coleslaw, sliced cucumbers and pasta salad with black beans and corn. So easy and fast on a hot summer day. Mmmm maybe there’s enough for a cold lunch salad today…

Jane, where did you get this recipe? I want to give credit! And… thanks for dinner!!

Yep! Made a great cold steak salad for lunch! I chopped up some of the cucumbers and asparagus, too… and added shaved Parmesan cheese.

Catching the wind…


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still life daisy

still life daisy

A lovely Gerbera Daisy sat on my kitchen window sill a few days too long and became a waterfall of delicate seeds falling everywhere… spilling onto the counter top and beyond. It’s mid July… when all the summer stuff is in the sale bins… and this cascade of seeds is just too much of a harbinger of fall in the midst of a brilliant sunny summer day!!

But… I can admire it’s beauty a little while before every whisp of downy seedling is in the compost!

chaos cascade

chaos cascade

designed for dancing

designed for dancing

Light as air

Light as air

tiny dancers

tiny dancers

catching the wind

catching the wind

Walking in the Past…


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The dates of the 5th Annual Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk 2012 (that is a mouthful!!) have not been announced but I’m waiting to hear!! I missed last year’s walk which took place in October. Winners images are posted on the Worldwide Photowalk site from last October. On two days last fall there were 27,924 people of all skill levels… with all kinds of cameras… walking in 1118 different groups and capturing the world they found where ever they were. It’s a GREAT experience to meet other people interested in Photography and walk a common route that is planned by a group leader and then see that experience through everyone’s eyes. It’s amazing how different the captures are. Leaders select a representative image from what the group captures and submits it to the Photo Walk headquarters where winners are selected for prizes. Of course, the real prize is going on the walk to begin with.

On one of the WWPW I’ve participated in, the walk was through an old mill town along the Merrimack River in the city of Lowell, Massachusetts. The site of the mills and factories along the rivers and canals that supplied the power almost 2 centuries ago was a mixture of sad at the results of the ravages of time… and delight at the rediscovery of the marvelously large spaces that are being renovated and turned into living and working spaces in the heart of the cities. These images are from that walk among the red brick buildings where you could imagine the giant machines turning out shoes by the millions and fabrics to support the garment industry for a westward expanding nation… and thousands of young women coming from the farms of the northeast to take jobs in the hundreds of factories along the Merrimack.