Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Various old gravestones

This guy hangs around my Mother's house during Halloween. He greets the trick or treaters with a big smile. I thought I would post some of the gravestones from the Old North Burying Ground in Weymouth, MA. They are fascinating, and most from the 1600 and 1700's.This is the Captain's stone. He seems a little creepy to me. I think the stone cutter was trying to capture his death bead portrait.

Mr. Torrey has a scary looking flying skull to decorate his grave. Why did the colonists like such gruesome carvings, I don't know.

Jane's stone at least has a flying smiling skull...
This is a sibling stone. This depicts a brother and sister who died within a couple of days of each other. You can see the children tucked into their beds (or is it their coffins?)

Anyone else have photos of interesting gravestones to share for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Late Fall in VA

This is one of the many times I wish I had a longer lens, like a 200 or a 300mm. My puny kit lens happened to be on my camera when these three balloons floating away in the distance showed up. This was the best I could do with what I have. This is also my street. I have a photo somewhere of this street with the fog rising from the bottom of the hill, but I can't find it.

Because this is somewhat of a tourist destination, balloon tours operate year round, and a few take a trip over my house and down the road to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I live on a mountain right before the National Park. I love looking at the balloons with their bright colors and the sound of the flames whooshing up to send them away. My dog doesn't like the sound but thinks he can catch them. Silly dog.
The dogwoods are turning red, and the berries are being eaten by squirrels, deer and my resident mockingbird. The mockingbird perches at the top of the tree and scolds anything else who dares approach his source of berry. I liked the way the sun hit the middle leaf in this shot.
My winter birds are returning. Oh I really could use the long lens to capture those beauties. We have yellow throats, junkos, fox sparrows and purple finches here in the cold months. They make up for our gorgeous hummingbirds who have left for Mexico.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Items around my house in Black and White

I had a nice cup of green tea this morning. I was trying to be able to capture the steam as it curled around in the shaft of sunlight and strips of shade but couldn't do it. I did enjoy how the reflection of the window blinds is mirrored on the cup, and how black and white shows the geometrical lines of the cup and the shadow of the tea bag.

This one was a little more creepy. This is the side of an antique peanut jar with Mr. Peanut in glass. It came from my husband's grandmother's house and dates from the 1920's. I find Mr. Peanut to look a little scary.
This is a shot of the end of a conch shell we found on the beach in NE when we first met in the 1980's. I love the texture of the shell, and was pleased how black and white show off the lines and shades of the shell.   Photography can be great therapy when you are under the weather!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Playing with Photoshop

This shot is a collection of perfumes sitting on my marble table, posterized in Photoshop. I love Photoshop. I love to play with it, design and create with it, and see what I can do with it. Some people think Photoshop is cheating. I do try to get everything right in the camera: I shoot in RAW, I am careful of my exposure and my white balance, I try to use a tripod or at least a sturdy surface ( I shake a lot from years of taking asthma meds.) But then there is the pleasure of editing with Photoshop.
I learn everytime I use the program. I have about six books about how to use/create and design with it, but I still need to practice. What is important to me may not be what is covered in the books. Photoshop is such a huge program, no one book can cover it all.

Plus, every photographer uses Photoshop differently. I guess they call it their workflow. I don't follow anyone else's flow, I try and do it myself. I also use the internet for online learning about photoshop.

I started with Photoshop Elements, a great program. I took two online classes on how to use it. Then, my husband surprised me and bought the latest edition of Photoshop for me to use. It is a whole new learning curve (but that is what I wanted to do, right? Expand my brain cells). Currently I am teaching myself about layers, adjustment layers, masks, and portrait editing.

Do you think a photo editing software is cheating?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Old North Cemetery, Weymouth MA

My husband and I have always loved to walk in old cemeteries: the kind you can find in New England, some dating back to the 1600's.

These shots were taken at the North Weymouth, or "The Old North Cemetery" in Massachusetts. It is the second oldest cemetery in Massachusetts. The web site states it may be the oldest cemetery still in use in the USA.

This cemetery is beautiful to walk around in the fall. Huge old colorful trees dot the landscape, and shady paths wind around the ancient stones. The stones are wonderfully carved, and some tell a story. Look at Elizabeth Cotton's grave about. It says, "Here lyes the body of Elizabeth Cotton...who died upon this road for reason of a fall from her horse, October 31, 1710 aged 45 years..." What was this middle aged woman doing riding her horse through a graveyard on Halloween? Why did she fall off her horse? The grave also states she was from Hampton, Ma, no where near Weymouth. She was married, too. This stone alone could be the source of a good historical fiction novel.  There is a Civil War memorial in the front of the area, as seen below. You can read the names of the men who fought and died and then find their family plots.
I love the old trees in the cemetary. They are wide trees, big enough to hug and admire the colorful leaves. I have more stone shots, if anyone is interested in seeing them. Maybe I will include more closer to Halloween. Here is a link to the Cemetery: Old North Cemetery. Enjoy the photos there, also. You can take your dog also, which is unusual for a public cemetery. I guess they figure the folks who have been dead 400 years won't mind!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


This is a photo of my Mom, on her last visit to my home. She is watching something interesting on the TV (probably pretending to watch one of the many CSI shows my Dad prefers). She is 74.
I was thinking of my Mom, and how mothers must worry about their daughters as they grow up. I don't have any children, so I can't fully understand the worries, but hearing about the latest girl to have disappeared in my area, I can sympathize.

A young girl, 20 years old, disappeared during a Metallica concert in my town. They found her purse and her car in the parking lot on Sunday. She hasn't been seen since Saturday night.

This disappearance brought to mind when Natalie Hollaway disappeared in Aruba on spring break. I would watch the news for her, and somehow was upset she was missing, much like this girl's disapperance is bothering me now.

I think: that could have been me. I was a young girl, once, full of myself, not afraid of much, out in the wild world, going to concerts, on trips, all over, without supervision. I took some chances, I know. I was lucky. These two were not.

I appreciate Mothers. They worry everyday. Yet, they let go. With smiles on their faces and knots in their hearts.

On a lighter note, here is Dad in the middle of a big yawn, right before he fell asleep in the rocking chair he bought me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall in the Garden

Fall in my garden is a messy place. I lose interest in weeding by September. The deer have made a salad out of most of my plants. What is left is on its own.

The resilience of the plants is amazing. To the left is an old Mum plant, bought at Walmart on a whim, about three falls ago. I took it out of the pot, placed in the back garden (the one only we can see) and let it go.

The mum is no longer the nice orderly ball of flowers you see for sale at all the local supermarkets in the fall. It has spread all over the back garden in big sweeping masses, some touching the ground. It blooms twice a year; the spring and the fall. The color of the flowers has deepened, somehow. I can't kill this plant. And the deer leave it alone.

The shot to the left is that of my last remaining, uneaten, Anaheim hot pepper. We love hot peppers and grow two bushes of them a year. We have a successful Habenero plant, and this one, an Anaheim pepper plant. Poor plant. We probably had about ten growing peppers on it three weeks ago. One morning we noticed all the peppers, branches and most of the leaves were eaten (Deer, those varmits) off the plant. One lone pepper remains.

Oh, those lawn boys. Came around the corner in their ridearound mower and chopped down my birdbath. We had specially picked this birdbath about eight years ago, for its shallow depth and the center part, where little birds could perch ant get a drink. The lawn company promised to reimburse us for a new bath. Ever try to find a birdbath in the fall?

And the final sign of fall. My putty colored house is covered in these Oriental ladybugs. Covered. Thousands of them cling to the sunny front of the house during the day, and fly into the woods at night. Many escape into my house. We find them everywhere. They stink when you squish them, so we try to put them back outside. I wanted to get a shot of them swarming but got creeped out by them flying around my head and into my ears and all over me. Yuck.

What does your garden look like in the fall?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Temple of Music

This shot is of the Benedict Temple of Music, built in 1924 and still used today at Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island for concerts and family get togethers.
We were surprised at how peaceful and interesting the park in the middle of the city seems to be. There are loads of places to sit and picnic, or walk around with your dog, or take some great shots of the old park architecture and various ponds and huge old trees that dot the landscape. There is also the wonderful zoo there (can't take the old dog though), a garden, a police barracks with horses (my dog loves horses), lots of trails, flowers, ducks, locals, all kinds of things. I wish we had more time to spend there. Next time we go up we will plan to spend at least half a day taking some shots and enjoying a peaceful walk with the dog.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


This shot is of the Tappan Zee bridge spanning the Hudson River. It is taken from inside the car, while I am driving (husband took the shot, I am not that crazy to drive and shoot at the same time) along the bridge, through the windshield. I am petrified of bridges.
Bridges are one of my fears. From when I was a little girl, I had a particular nightmare about a steep bridge over deep water, with no guard rail on the side, and the road being covered in ice and snow. The bridge seems like a ski slope in my dream, with the car struggling to get up it without falling over it.

Years later, I was with my boyfriend at the time (now the husband) going on a day trip in Rhode Island. We came to a steep looking bridge. Sure enough, it was the bridge of my nightmare. I was shocked and a little sweaty palmed. Here was my nightmare in real life. Of course it was summer, so it wasn't as frightening but still.

Speaking with my parents afterwards, I came to find out the bridge in RI was one they used to drive over with me when I was very young and we lived on the border between MA and RI. It must have frightened me as a child.

Most recently the Old Jamestown Bridge was demolished, so there goes the stuff of my dreams.

Jamestown bridge photo from Wikipedia original source not specified.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Meet My Little Love

Here is one of the loves of my life: my dog Baron, or officially, Birkenwald's Little Baron. He is a purebred schipperke, a small black dog from Belgium. He is twelve years old now, and acts like he is two. My FaceBook friend list is full of schipperke owners. Probably because they are unusual dogs, and not seen very often.

Questions schipperke owners get frequently are: "Is that a cat?" Hmm, no. "What kind of dog is that?" Well, at least the person can tell it is a dog and not something else. Even worse, the person who says, "Is that one of the miniature pigs?" Those people I encourage Baron to lunge and bark at. A pig. How degrading! The weirdest inquiry about Baron happened at the public library. Baron was minding his own business, when a man with a BMI of about 50, asked us: "Is he one of the boat dogs?" We told him that yes, schipperkes are often found on boats. Then he said, "Is it true he has to lifted up to pee? Like going over the edge of a boat?" At that point, I wanted to be far away from the big man, and so did Baron. He knows when he can smell a strange being. I didn't know what to say so we scootled away.

Baron is an active dog. That is putting it mildly. On days when we are all home he is a whirlwind of activity. He wants to go out about every hour to make sure nothing has invaded his turf. He wants food. All the time. He wants a belly rub, or to eat a tasty spider he finds on the floor. He jumps up on our laps for a chew on a rawhide stick and to watch the Yankees on TV, then jumps down a minute later to see what is happening in another room. Sometimes he goes upstairs. What he does up there is beyond me. We just hear alot of thumps. How can a 16 pound dog make thumping noises?

Baron is a challenging dog to take photos of. First, because he is black. And he doesn't stop moving. And he hates cameras. I only got this shot because my six year old nephew was waving something enticing in front of him on a fork. Later he shared his cake with Baron, so maybe that was it.

Right now he is downstairs watching an old Humphrey Bogart war movie with my husband. War movies put him to sleep. (me too).

I would tell you about my other love, but he hates getting his picture taken even more than the dog!

Friday, October 16, 2009

New England Skies

Skies in New England in the early fall can be beautiful. This shot was taken at Webb Memorial Park in Weymouth, Massachusetts. I love the contrails of the airplanes streaking across the bright blue of the sky mirrored in the blue of the Atlantic Ocean below.

This memorial is on a slight hill at the park, with wonderful views of the ocean and the islands across the way. Commander Donald Haviland, Chief Engineer, was honored with this memorial, and a Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for going above and beyond his duty for others. He was lost in the Arctic Ocean on duty.

We have been going to this park for years. And so have the locals. You are bound to encounter dog walkers (dogs must be on leash), and sprightly seniors strolling around the paths. There are gentle inclines and declines and scenic lookouts all throughout the park. Birding is great here too. This is where we saw our first Orchard Oriole. Photographic opportunities here are great: bring your wide angle and your long lens for the birds.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Poppy to brighten up the place

It is a dismal dank day around the eastern seaboard today. Misty, cool and the kind of weather to sleep in.

Most of us can't sleep in. Hi ho hi ho off to work we go. At least if we remember to take photos of all the gorgeous flowers in their gaudy summertime glory, we can have a little sunshine to look at on our desktop.

This is a shot of an Oriental poppy along side some purple salvia growing in my backyard. I planted the poppy seeds years ago, after I had some money left over at Walmart, and saw the poppy seed plant envelope. It was cheap, and I figured I would through the teensie seeds around the ground and see what nature did. It did, about two years later, much to my surprise.
This flower is huge. We only get about two poppy flowers a season. Hard to imagine such a extravagant bloom comes from a seed about the size of a head of a pin. You can see some of the seeds in the middle of the flower.

My gardens develop much like my brain: scattered, deep in places, bare in others, with shots of color to amaze me. I like to plant bulbs of all sorts all over the place, and see what comes up. I have thrown more than just an packet of one type of seed around the ground, but the poppy has been the most spectacular. A lot of my garden is overgrown. In the spring, I go on a plant hunt in my garden. I rake the leaves, pull up the weeds and see what little gems are hiding.

I don't know what kind of flower the little yellow ones are. I bought some bulbs from a friend who was selling them to raise money for her son's school. They come up every year.

The last shot is of some sort of wild daisy. I had nothing to do with this one. This is a gift from Mother Nature.

I hope I brightened up your gloomy day if you are having one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This shot was taken at the Cape Cod Canal, in Sandwich, Massachusetts. The canal is the body of water visitors cross when going to visit Cape Cod.

The day was cool and cloudy, with the typical milky white sky of the Cape in the early morning. Later that day it was sunny and bright, but we like to get to the canal before all the boomer exercisers on their bikes and skates, and the Mommy brigade with the strollers gets there. We like to hang with the seabirds, tugboats and the fishermen.

The Canal is a great place to walk your dog (if you avoid the crowds during the day and the summer). They provide doggy bags for the dogs and public restrooms for the humans. You can walk the canal on both sides, there is a beach on one side with fishing and an RV area, and a walking trail with a power plant on the other (and fishing). The power plant side has an area for the big ships to park while offloading their oil for the plant. You may get to see a ship from far away like Greece, or South America.

We have seen a lost humpback whale at the canal, great blue herons, commorants, eiders, seals and bluefish along with tugboats and pleasure boats. Fishing is tough here because of the currents, and best left to the die hards but it is relaxing to watch them through their lines and wait patiently for a catch.

Take your camera with a wide angle lens, if you have one. Fall is beautiful on Cape Cod and not half as crowded as the summer.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Neighborhood Cat

Every neighborhood has one: the cat lady.

Mine lives across the street, and happens to be a physician. She takes in the stray cats who populate our mountain in packs of feral felines, fixes them, feeds them, and lets them go. We have quite a healthy pack of cats living around here.

This gray/blue cat is named Gretal. She belongs to the Doc, although, I think she belongs to herself. In this photo, she has on a collar with her name, but usually she is galavanting around the neighborhood quite naked. She is a beautiful thin little kittie, and for a time adopted us as her second family when she was younger.

She liked to sunbathe on our deck and tease our poor dog, who in fine doggy fashion, would rather chase a cat then be a buddy. She would follow me down the street with her tail in the air, or hide in my bushes and shrubs, only to leap out taunting my leashed dog to play catch. She used to roll over and show either Baron or me her belly for a rub, then grind her head against my jeans.

Now she is older and wary of strangers. She is still the neighborhood cat, hiding in my bushes or sleeping on my front doorstep but no more belly rubs. This shot was taken when she was younger, and liked to sleep in a shaft of sunshine in my backyard.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Walking the Neighborhood Route

When my husband and I lived in Massachusetts, we developed what we called our 'Neighborhood Route': mostly around the Wollaston beach area, along the salt marsh and the ocean. We prefered the marsh side, because we are both birders, and enjoy seeing the salt water birds. Over the years we saw exotic birds such as the glossy ibis and the snowy egret, and our favorite sighting: the osprey with her young.

This shot was taken heading towards the parking lot on the marsh side, close to the new playground and across the creek from the marine gravesite. It was a beautiful morning, and my dog, Baron, was excited to be back on his old trail. He marked every bush he could find. You can see him straining to mark some more.

You can't see it in this shot, but behind my husband is an old apple tree with discarded apples littering the walkway. I don't know how old the apple tree is. I have always wondered if the creek area used to be an old farm. There is a nature walk you can take online at Sailors Home Cemetery Salt Marsh Trail

Let me know how I did with the grayscale conversion: I use RAW conversion in Photoshop and play with the colors!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why I need your help

DR. Yankner, of Harvard Medical School, is doing extensive research in the aging brain. One of his most interesting finds is brains of people age 40-70 show different rates of aging. The genes responsible for memory and learning have higher rates of damage then other aging effects. Up until age 40, people tend to have the same rate of damage. Once middle age is reached, lifestyle may have an effect on the rate of continued damage.

Science has proven we lose brain mass with age. We lose neurons and the connections between them. However, recently scientists have discovered the brain can make new connections and new neurons later in life with brain use and with exercise. There are studies in animals and people showing a decrease in loss of brain function with increased use of the brain through new tasks and challenges.

Brain exercise. Sound silly? There are DVD's out now to train your brain. I could pay $500 to buy a series of exercises meant to improve my brain function at any age. What I decided to do was take up two hobbies, photography and writing, which will help me train my brain for free (well, almost free).

What I am hoping to do with my blog is gain readership, and more helpful: critics and teachers. I am an amateur writer, and amateur photographer. I would like to post a photo and receive imput on the exposure, composition, and anything else. For writing, start with this blog entry. Was I clear? Spelling mistakes? Composition? Were you bored? Smooth reading, or did something stop you in your tracks?

Learning photography and writing will help me expand my brain cells. Maybe I can help expand yours too.