Friday, December 13, 2013

Let There Be Light - Photo Challenge

I found out early on that light is everything in photography. After all, the word itself means drawing (graph) with light (photo)! Since the poor results on my first attempt at food photography, I've learned a lot about light, mostly by trial and error. The header photo for this blog is a good example. I was able to capture the beautiful red trillium in the early evening, with the sun behind it, which made for the pretty colors and shadows. Since shadows are the opposite of light, they are interesting, too. My last post showcased black & white photos of a pure white pitcher, where shadows were front and center.

For this challenge, I'm delving into my archives for photos where light is part of the composition and well as the exposure.

I love holiday lights and nativity scenes. In this shot, the only sources of light are the Christmas tree lights and two electric candles in the windows, to the right of the nativity figurines. I'm just learning to use Pic Monkey and did a little editing there to make this final shot.
Aperture Priority mode, shutter speed: 1, aperture 3.5,  ISO 80.

This was the sunrise the day before last weekend's ice storm. I stood, shivering I might add, on my front porch to get this one, probably around 7:00 a.m. The camera was on the  auto-without-flash setting:
shutter speed 1/100, aperture 5.6, ISO 400. 

This is another auto-without-flash photo of a sunset a month or two ago. You just can't beat the good Lord's lighting, so no editing here. It's straight out of the camera. Shutter speed: 1/30, aperture 8.0, ISO 100.

Finally, I can't do a post about light without candles. I used a tripod to get this one last summer, while I was reveling in my blue mason jar haul. You know, I'm still finding blue jars here and there in the outside sheds!
Shutter speed 1/4, aperture 5.6. ISO 3200.

Many thanks to Donna for hosting the Personal Photo Challenge every month. Stop by and take a look at all the lovely photos as we shutterbugs learn together. Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pitcher Study

This morning I was trying to begin decorating for Christmas, but as so often happens these days, I got distracted. Several years ago I found this pretty white pitcher buried deep in a cabinet at the farmhouse and it's become one of my favorite things. So pure and creamy, so lovely and graceful. And not a chip or crack to be found, despite its age of several decades, at least. After I took the fall flowers out of it and dusted my pretty oak table, the pitcher and the shadows it cast caught my photographer's eye.

Despite the rich color of the table, I decided to shoot in black and white. Thirty minutes and several dozen shots later, I ended up with some nice photos. These are the best, straight out of the camera with no editing.

Who knew a simple white pitcher could be such a beautiful thing?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Turn of a Century

A century. Ten decades. One hundred years. One thousand two hundred months. Fifty thousand two hundred weeks. Thirty-six thousand five hundred days. No matter how you measure it, it's a long time. And when it's some one's lifetime, it's worth celebrating!

We did just that today for Robin's aunt, Lavenia, better known as Aunt Beany to the family. Born one hundred years ago today, she is very much alive and doing quite well. Oh, she has some common old-age challenges: she uses a walker now, and has hearing aids (but doesn't like them; she told her friend they were "in the drawer" this afternoon!). When her family and friends gathered to share her special day they enjoyed talking with her

and browsing through her life in pictures.

There were two birthday cakes: one made to resemble her beloved Trimble's Knob, one of two extinct volcanoes in Virginia that just happens to be on her farm,

and one with candles to mark her 100 years.

Although Aunt Beany was happy to see her nieces, nephews, and cousins, the highlight of her day was seeing her friends from home (an hour and three mountains away), some for the first time since she moved to assisted living over a year ago.

It was a wonderful birthday party, for the young

and the young at heart.

"So, Lavenia, how does it feel to be 100 year old?"
"About like it did a hundred years ago...helpless!"
Living to be 100 years old is quite a feat, and being pretty much sound in both mind and body at that age is even more remarkable. Aunt Beany has been blessed with a mind and wit that are just as sharp now as ever. We're so thankful she could celebrate and enjoy her century mark with those who love her. Seeing that sweet sparkle in her eye, still there at 100, inspires me to do everything I can to age gracefully, hopefully being a blessing to others as long I'm around. I've had some good teachers, and if I make it to 100, I still have almost half a century to learn how.

Monday, November 18, 2013

That Was God!

See that ring right there? The only one on my hand?

That's my wedding ring, and although some might consider miraculous that I'm married and have been for over 28 years, the real miracle is that the ring is still there. Let me explain.

Late Saturday afternoon, I went outside to let Leah, who had been penned up all day, out of the dog pen. It was the first day of hunting season (for deer, with rifles) and we don't like to leave the dogs loose for obvious reasons. I decided to work at cleaning up the yard while Leah enjoyed a little freedom. Cheyenne, our Sheltie, went too, with her blaze orange jacket on, so we were all set. I donned my gardening gloves and went to work.

I pulled the frozen marigolds from their pots, then started cleaning off the gladioli bed. I pulled up dead stalks and weeds, throwing them in the wheel barrow as I worked. Leah played with her favorite squeaky toy and I threw Cheyenne's ball for her to fetch every once in a while. I made two trips to the edge of the woods behind our house to dump the debris over the bank where it could rot up out of sight.

By the time I finished, it was 5:30 and almost dark. I called for the dogs, put away the wheel barrow, rake, and gloves, and headed for the house to start supper. Leah had disappeared, which caused mild concern, although she doesn't usually stay gone for long.

Once inside, I took off my jacket. As I reached to hang it up, I realized my wedding ring was gone! Of course, I immediately panicked. Not only was this ring my wedding ring, it was my grandmother's ring as well, making it doubly special.

I simply could not loose it! Amid my agitation, my addled brain managed one sensible thought: it must be in my glove! I raced out to the shed, picked up my glove, and...

nothing. No ring. Now the panic was accompanied by a multitude of bad feelings: fear, dread, disappointment, sadness, and that very sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

With full darkness closing in fast, I ran back to the house for a flashlight. Retracing my steps, I looked outside the shed and along the route I'd taken with the wheel barrow to the dump site. Nothing. The pile where I'd dumped the dead plants and used a stick to push them over was, well, hopeless.

Finding such a tiny thing as a ring amid all that yard debris would be next to impossible, especially in dark with a flashlight. I realized, too, that I would not be able to look for it in the daylight until Monday, as I was leaving before daybreak on Sunday morning to stay with my elderly father and wouldn't be home until after dark. In the three or four minutes that had passed since I discovered my loss, I had not stopped praying, frantically asking God to help me find that ring, to let me find my ring, to show me where it was, please, please God, let me find my ring!

Now, I believe in miracles and that nothing is impossible with God. Seeing the miracles in my life, however, doesn't come quite as easily as believing in the possibility of them. Several months ago, I started a list in my faith journal called, "That Was God!" I wanted to write down the ways, big and small, that were unmistakably God working in my life.

Saturday, I got to add a big one to my list because, I FOUND MY RING!!

I left the debris pile and headed through the yard to the flower bed I had cleared.

With the flashlight and my eyes glued to the grass and still pleading with God for help, I bent over at the edge of the bed, looking, looking, looking. I saw something. It didn't really look like a gold ring, just something. I reached down, and picked up my ring. Simple as that! And it hadn't been five minutes since I noticed it was missing. Make no mistake! That was God!!

Not long after, Robin got home and Leah showed up at the sound of his truck (smile). I met him in the driveway and shared my miracle with him, grinning from ear to ear and turning my ring round and round on my finger. Back in the house, I whipped out my journal and marveled at how sweet it felt to be able to add another miracle to my list. I wanted to write it down before the "shine" wore off and the ordinariness of life tried to convince me it was nothing more than luck.

 Now, when darker days come, I can get out my journal and rest assured that God cares about me and everything in my life - even lost wedding rings. And the sweetest thing is: He cares about you, too!

Monday, October 14, 2013

One Sweet Day

What do you get when you combine apples, sugar, spices, friends, fire, and a whole lot of stirring? Apple butter, of course! All those things came together at our house on Saturday, and we ended up with a whole lot more than apple butter.

The fun began Friday afternoon, when friends showed up to begin peeling six bushels of apples.

Two mechanical apple peelers helped out considerably, but it was still a lot of work.

When all the apples were done, there was a huge pile of cores and peelings, which made quite a feast for our chickens.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Robin and his cousin, Bruce, started cooking in the sugar house. If the photo looks a bit blurry, it is. That's because I was still blurry that early in the morning!

Well before daylight, the apples were simmering in a one-hundred-year-old 30-gallon copper kettle over a wood fire, and the stirring had begun!

By the time all the apples were in the kettle, it was almost full to the rim!

Thus began a day filled with fellowship

and stirring

and food (keep reading, I'll explain)

and stirring

and stirring

and conversation

and stirring...get the picture?

By early afternoon, the apples had cooked down enough to add the sugar and spices. The aroma was delicious and the apple butter was almost done, but still there was stirring.

After another half hour or so, the time finally came to can the apple butter. It was easy to see where the saying, "Many hands make light work," came from. It took quite a team to get the 23 gallons of sweet apple goodness ladled into quart, pint, and half-pint jars while it was still hot.

And in the bottom of the kettle, two silver dollars, put there for good luck and maybe to help prevent the apple butter from sticking.

When the kettle was empty and the last jar filled, the popping of the jar flats as they sealed was music to our ears.

Making apple butter is a tradition all across this great country of ours, be it a family affair, a church fundraiser or a festival event. I can barely remember when my family made apple butter in our backyard in 1964. This photo of the women peeling apples is the only one I could find. That's my grandmother on the left, and next to her is my mother. The other ladies were neighbors, I think.

For our apple butter making, we incorporated some tradition by using Robin's grandmother's copper kettle and putting the silver dollars in the bottom. We might have even started a new tradition: curly fries for lunch! Someone had the good idea to put some potatoes on the apple peelers and fry them in hot oil. Boy, were they good!

All in all, it was a wonderful day, filled with some of the most important things in life: family, friends, and little hands helping big hands.

At our house last Saturday, we made more than just apple butter. Everyone, young and old, went home with a host of good memories. In more ways than one, it was a mighty sweet day indeed.