Observations, Learning, and Activities for the New "Over 21s"

Archive for June, 2015

Photo 101, Day 16: Treasure + Close-up

There are times when what we want is not what we are able to achieve.  Take the photos on this post, for instance.  The assignment: find the treasure(s) in a close-up.  There was not a whole lot of coices for me today to photograph.  It was one of my stay-at-home days because of migraine-induced visual perception problems.  The pets would not cooperate for a close-up, and so I attached the macro lens and went out to see what I could find among my sun-burned and heat-stoked plants on the back porch.  Somehow, the caladiums managed to continue growing into this heat wave–well, not exactly a heat wave as such; it’s always horribly hot in the summer in the Caribbean.  If you can’t be nearer to the beach, you simply roast.  There are no two ways about that.  Even the cats decided to stick around in the air conditioning, which they generally hate.  But allowing me to take a photo of them?  Well, that was a different story.

That the caladiums are still setting out leaves on days like this, therefore, is even more amazing, as they are not heat lovers, and prefer the milder winters we have here.  By now, I should have had–at the most–sprouts letting me know where next year’s plants would spring up. Usually, by February and March, I have pots of gorgeous colorful heart-shaped leaves.  But this winter was a bit warmer than most, and it was a bad winter for the family all around, especially for me…and somehow the plants were neglected for long enough that the usual late-winter to early-spring color blasts were more like scraggly spindles with oddly-shaped leaves.

Part of the heat was not the weather itself, though.  I hope to get a chance to show you the wonderful view we have in this condo of the ancient back of the casino next door to the gated community some day.  But not today.

When we moved here, there were plenty of trees and  tropical plants hiding the less glitzy side of casinos–not just on the island, but everywhere casinos spring up.  There are the tourist scenes, and then there are the back streets and alleys behind the buildings with the beautiful facades.  For us, we hadn’t realized what our view actually was until all the trees between us and the casino behind us came down.  The worst part is that the casino air conditioner exhaust is even with our sliding glass door.  When they cut down the curtain of trees and wild plants at the request of our community power base, it left our home exposed to tremendous heat from the climbing morning sun and the exhaust from the casino A/C.  I like to have fresh breezes coming into the house, but with the trees gone, the doors were shut tight, and the plants were forgotten too often.  I was lucky to get any color at all from my caladiums.

Color in the Caladium

Color in the Caladium

So when a poor little neglected plant set out beautiful huge green marbled new leaves during the past week or two, I was delighted.  That the colored plants also set out some leaves was a gift.  And I decided to get  up close and personal with them with the help of my macro lens.  Because there was a bit of a breeze today while I took the photos, you an make out the mysterious objects in the background that look suspiciously like fingers trying to shelter the leaves from a breeze that followed a mid-day sprinkle.  But the color is sensational, and the variation caught by the lens was, to me, something glorious.  Not the best shot in the world, but a delight to me.

Then I zoomed in on the green and white plant next to it that gave me the illusion of stained glass windows in a cathedral, even though they are only green and white.  The interesting patterns that fade so quickly from the point of focus when using a macro lens intrigued me nonetheless.

Stained Glass Window?   I love the patterns formed by the leaves, and although this is far from the best shot i could have taken, the rain began to fall again, blowing onto the camera, and generally making me fearful of the circuits shorting if too much water decided to be carried in by the wind.  At some later point, I’ll take more and better shots, maybe using the regular lens and a zoom rather than the macro lense.  But I’ve always found treasures in the simplest things, and the patterns on the leaves of these glorious plants is one of my simple pleasures.


Small Tribute to Photo 101: Chaos Under a Macro Lens

This is a sort of tribute to all the members of the Photo 101 Class.

WordPress’ Photo 101 is technically over, although there’s another week to continue posting and commenting on the class Commons.  Below is a photo that I took using a macro lens for the first time–ever–several days ago.  As a lesson in its use, I was amazed how little flexibility there is in depth with these lenses.  That’s not a bad thing; in fact, it’s exactly what the lens is supposed to do–focus on a very near object and only on that object.

Below is a photo of a section of brain coral I was testing the lens on.  Because my hands shake a bit, the shot itself is perhaps more blurred all the way through, even with the shake compensation on.  I’m wondering if perhaps I should have used a “sports” setting instead, pretty much assuring a faster shot.

2015-06-11 15.16.30

The other surprise I got was the level of detail in the shot itself–the non-blurred parts, anyway.

Thanks for all the comments and for allowing me to learn from all of you.  I may not have “finished” the course, but I appreciate everything you’ve posted.  Thank you especially to the coordinators of this course. You’ve all been fantastic!


Photo 101, Day 15: Landscape and Cropping

While waiting for phone calls to be returned or the time to come around to make a call, I routed around in my photo albums for landscapes that could use some cropping.  I had a gorgeous before and after set of one of my cats sleeping in a box, but that wasn’t the called-for landscape.  I found this picture, taken in St. Kitts in November, 2014, and realized that the cloud pattern was taking the focus from the background and middleground of this photo. It was just too dominant and drew the eye too strongly.  I loved the cloud pattern, but as a photo, it didn’t sit too well.

landscape before

By cutting down a little from the right and eliminating some of the clouds, the entire focus shifted to the middle and foreground.

landscape cropped

The “gentle cropping” seemed to brighten everything unrelated to the sky,and shift the focus of the scene–just before we were splattered with a bit of rain, incidentally.  I would have loved to take a photo of the scene after the clouds passed, but our guide was in a hurry to show us more of the island–and get as little mud on his minibus as possible, I think.


Photo 101, Day 11: Pop of Color

While driving around the island on errands and business during the past two weeks, I haven’t been able to find composition items that would meet the criteria of most assignments. As I was reviewing this past week’s assignments for Photo 101 at home, and feeling rather badly that I had gotten so far behind that I couldn’t really catch up, I began to find things in the household, or “possible” photos from other assignments, that seemed to fit the bill for some of the assignments for this last week of the course. Earlier, I found a “motion” shot from some beach pictures I shot the first week but didn’t use; then I hooked into an earlier Blogging 101 post that gave me an idea for a scale and perspective project. My home and hobbies are providing me with pieces that are fitting the themes for this week. One more photo after today and I will have only skipped the second week assignments–but I may be able to finish some of those tomorrow, if I can get myself away from my computer for a break and walk around my community–and as long as it’s not raining so I don’t “douse” my new camera before I’ve learned to use it properly. Interestingly, it’s not my new camera that I’ve used for my favorite photos–it was my iPad Air and iPad Mini that produced most of the photos I’ve used for this course. And here is another one.

I’ve been taking oil painting classes in addition to drawing classes, and I realized while looking around my seriously messy living room that I had started an oil painting that both starts and will result in a “pop of color” image. Although the oil needs a lot more work, it is primarily the shades of green in the background and a few muted cornflowers that will be added. The center–and central part–of th photo is a bright poppy that seems alone in a field of eventual muted greens and blurred blues, and unfortunately does not adhere well to the rule of thirds..

So I decided to take a shot of my unfinished work, because it already meets the criteria of a genuine pop of color.

The Lonely Poppy

The Lonely Poppy


Photo101, Day Fourteen: Scale and Observation.

I was not going to publish any more for Photo 101, since I am so short of time and so pressed for subjects. But this assignment on Scale and Observation allowed to me link it back to a Blogging 101 assignment I had done several days ago, on my favorite toy as a child–which, especially back in my day,was an unusual toy for a father to give a five-year-old daughter. I became very excited over this assignment because I have this huge piece of brain coral, a couple of Lego figures and props, and a new art gallery event poster which I picked up today by pure chance. I decided to create a meaningless little tableau, which I hope you find as whimsical as I do.

Almost Alone on the Hill

Almost Alone on the Hill

Photo 101, Day 13: Capturing Motion

OK. One last post, since I took this photo with the intention of using it with this class anyway.  I have a wide view and and narrow view of this scene.  Although the narrow view shows the foam of the incoming waves, I think this one shows the movement of said waves better.  Remember, I’m photographing from the very eastern outskirts of the Caribbean Sea, so we don’t get much in the way of waves unless a storm is coming–at least not on the western side of the island (the eastern side borders on the Atlantic Ocean and has entirely different waves–more like the ones I remember growing up in New Jersey).  However, you can almost see the waves coming in before they decide to break…

2015-06-10 18.16.32

I actually like this photo because it hides some of the tourist debris (empty plastic tea and water bottles, empty beer cans, other non-degradable debris).  I also like the way the sand demonstrates a bit of the movement it went through during the long hot day.

Photo101, Day 2: Street Scene (Finally accomplished!)

The photo depicted here was taken in the village of Grand Case, on the French side of the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean.

2015-06-13 17.06.28This photo was taken during the early evening   Although Grand Case–or at least the street that largely accounts for the tourist business–is so crowed during the day during tourist “high season”  (October to April),  the streets are barely peopled during low season (May through mid-October–when the weather is too hot even for Floridian snowbirds escaping the cold season from the American and Canadian northern regions). I would have preferred the busier time after 7:00 PM, when the street is crowded with diners and store browsers. Unfortunately, all I had available to me was the considerably lower picture quality of my Android S4 Mini, which takes lousy evening shots. Although I am not happy with the sparsity of the tourists and citizens that would have been crowding the narrow street later, I discovered–from a different perspective–the same yet very altered street on which I spend many hours two days a week. This photo shows not only many of the shops and restaurants along the “near” end of the village’s “main drag,” but also some of the buildings that I noticed for the first time after snapping the photo.  The big “validated Parking Lot” in the foreground points the way to where I generally park on Wednesdays, when we split our time between drawing lessons and painting lessons.  During the day, the lot is free to all who park there (right behind the building housing The Elephant Box shop and studio and the dinner restaurant on the lower level).  I learned last week that I get charged $3.00 to park there, whether I was there long before 5:00 for the painting lesson and leaving at 5:05, or had spent the entire evening dining and browsing through the many open shops until well past 10:00 PM.  This afternoon, I managed to find a parking space right behind the white car in the right foreground, praying fervently that I would not be ticketed or hauled to impoundment.  I lucked out. The car was still across from the studio when I “finished” my lesson at 7:00 PM, and there was no parking ticket on the windshield when I came out.  Of course, I drive what is definitely an island car, with a huge dent in the passenger side rear door that is now missing a handle, a decal from the previous Dutch-side election to support a friend running for office, and a lei of artificial flowers strung from my rear-view mirror. Maybe island cars are not so quickly ticketed.

Instead of taking this wide photo at street level (which would have given a greater impression of emptiness), I took it from the balcony of The Elephant Box, which taking a quick smoke break from watching my instructor, who was busily re-constructing my work for about the gajillionth time.  She had chosen the work for me, and the moment I saw it, I knew it was far beyond my capabilities as a novice painter (today, she admitted that it was a difficult scene even for her).  I took the opportunity of her “re-working time” to snap a few photos from the balcony of her shop and studio to complete my Day 2 Photo101 assignment. The next painting will be simpler, and produced mostly be me. (wink, wink)



Photo101, Day 5: Rule of Thirds

Today, I had neither much time nor much choice of subjects. The photo below uses the Rule of Thirds–perhaps a bit over-enthusiastically–and the perspective is a little close for the subject, I think (I like more space). Lots of triangles, though…

Bougainvillea Wilting

Threes a-crowded

Photo101, Day 4: Blissful Captions

Pure bliss! A claw in the curtain to control the inevitable slide down, a paw ready to swat the dog’s tail, and that easy get-away. Such fun!!

Ready for mischief

Get ready. Get set. Gooooo!

Photo101, Day 3: Water

Water surrounds me. I live on a tiny island, barely 17 miles across, that would fit quite comfortably inside Los Angeles, where I lived previously. Although I’ve live here for over 2 years, it wasn’t until I obtained my DSLR, a painting assignment, and this Photo 101 assignment that I really thought about what the water that surrounds me is, and what it means–not only to me, but to the people who have spent most of their lives here, on the island of St. Martin, that is home to two countries and about 80,000 people. Today, I finally had a chance to take my new camera to a nearby beach.  I took photos of the water breaking on rocks, and photos of the “point” marking the resort on the very edge of the village of Maho, on the Dutch side of the island.  For my art class, I wanted the photos of the waves crashing against the shore and rocks.  But for this assignment, I wanted the other shots, taken close enough to sunset to color the water and the horizon in hues that are difficult to see across lakes or rivers–maybe even along other seas.  The water in these photos are the Caribbean Sea.  If I had the time to drive to Orient Bay, it would have been the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the photos instead. Another day I’ll take those photos, but not today.

No_Green_and_purpleThis first photo is the second one I took. To be honest, it was difficult to see exactly what would appear in the photo. With the sun in my eyes, I was wearing sunglasses when I took it. I knew approximately what I was seeing, but not exactly. You can see that the sun is very low in the sky. I was surprised when I viewed the photo on my computer that the clouds formed positively fascinating patterns.  The darker clouds in the foreground have been hanging around most of the day, dropping a bit of badly needed rain. It wasn’t enough to fill our cisterns or our water supplies, but it helped some of the flora on the island to fresh and aerated rain again instead of the low oxygen content of our captured cistern water.

After the clouds, I looked carefully at the water itself. I saw the ripples of the tide coming in even though this was not the best position to catch the waves lapping the sand, closer and closer to the rocks with each soft wave. The light from the sinking sun formed a jagged ribbon more reminiscent of the tinsel garland on Christmas trees than a tattered bit of cloth, with a shimmer that augments rather than detracts from the blur of sun on the resort at the point of the cove.

The first photo I took, which I show second because there is something very special about it that even showed up on the viewer on the camera, is my favorite of the two–not only because of that something special, but also because I was actually able to see what I was shooting, and I kind of like the off-center framing. What I saw in this photo is a wider view, giving the impression of a wider expanse. The blur of sun is still there, but it no loner captures the tattered ribbon of its reflected light. In this picture, I feel the vastness of the sea surrounding me–and I guess I consider myself as much a part of the island as it has become a part of me. I also see the more of the clouds, especially that beautiful ring like a halo around the sun.


But here is the surprise: If  you look more closely at the small dot of light toward the left of the photo, you will see that it is green, not the expected blue of the sky shining through the clouds, or a reflection of the water which is clearly not a green reflection of the Caribbean Sea. At that distance, the water is deeper and holds a deep blue-gray color. A popular activity here on the island is to watch the sun set over the water and hope for a glimpse of the Green Flash which occurs just as the sun finally sinks below the horizon of the sea.  I’ve never seen the Green Flash–not yet, anyway.  Usually, when I’m up and about in the evening, I’m either not close to a beach, or there are too many clouds hanging over the water.  The clouds obscure the Flash, and many a tourist leaves the island disappointed because they didn’t see St. Martin’s Green Flash.

The green dot is not the Green Flash, but probably is based on a similar principle, that is a reaction to the “last” bit of light reflected on the water just before the sun’s rays disappear.  In this case, I think the hole in the clouds is getting the last bit of sunlight that it’s going to get for the day.  In fact, a few frames further of exactly the same scene clearly shows no green spot.  And if you zoom in a bit on this photo, not only do you see that the spot is indeed green, but that there is a faint purplish ring reflected from the clouds that parted just enough to show the green.

That the “flash” is not seen in the first photo is understandable–I was shooting that photo to give the scene “height” and the feeling of depth over that of breadth.  Had I looked at the wide photo before shooting the long photo, I may have concentrated on that rather than on the different viewpoint. What is truly interesting to me is that the long shot contains the same cloud formation as the wide photo and was taken literally a second or two after the wide shot–but there is no green light surrounded by purple. Something about taking the wide shot (which I think captures vastness better) allowed its capture, while the long shot (which seems to capture distance better) may have been responsible for the difference in the color of the dot.  Or maybe, just like the Green Flash, it disappears almost the instance it shows up…