Saturday, October 31, 2009


Back in 2004 I visited Half Moon Bay and, at Farmer John's Pumpkin Patch, Farmer John himself showed me this eerie pumpkin. The scar on the side looks like a great horned owl with one wing outstretched. Farmer John also had some rather, um, "different" pumpkins hidden behind the counter that he also let me photograph, but those are best seen in a different blog! ©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A walk around the block . . .

First of all, hello to June, Gisela, and Jill, who called me from a cafe in North Carolina just before I was headed out to walk. Crazy ladies . . . but I digress. This is a twig from a cedar tree (I believe) -- the road was littered with them. Since it was pouring rain during my walk, I didn't stop to shoot right there, but brought the twig home where I'd be warm and dry. The background is an old math book that I got at an antique mall -- bought it specifically to use the cover as a background and to use the pages in collage work.

I tweaked this picture a lot, clarifying and unclarifying it, blending the two, sharpening parts, then adding darkness around the outer edges. It's not a photomontage, but it comes kind of close. What I like is the overall richness of the colors, the warm fall look. ©Carol Leigh

Things that fall out of books

I found them in Santa Fe, stuck them into a book to dry, then rediscovered them yesterday. Aspen leaves. Reminders of fall in other places. I took a simple photograph. Very shallow depth of field so that just the middle of the leaf, where it meets (becomes) the stem is in focus. Meanwhile, we have 30mph winds and rain and hail and one rumble of thunder which sent the cat under the bed for hours. ©Carol Leigh

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fern close-up

Yesterday I brought inside a fern frond to photograph. Well, it looked better outside than it did when I began examining it up close inside. The weather's making the ferns look a bit weathered and tattered, and not in an "artsy" sort of way. So I zoomed in tightly to capture just a bit of it. I used a 50mm lens and a 35mm extension tube because that's what was on the camera. Usually I use this lens/XT combo to take shallow depth-of-field photos, but this time I set the aperture for f/11 to make sure everything was sharp. During the 1.3-second exposure, I waved around some brown leaves in the background to add color and shadowing. One light from the right lighted the fern, as well as track lights from above. ©Carol Leigh

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Last of the spiderweb photos

The spiderweb is rather tattered and torn now. I couldn't even find it at first this morning. I misted it and it showed up nicely, but it's so windy that the droplets evaporate quickly. I used a 50mm lens with a 35mm extension tube to see what I could come up with. This is one of the best of the bunch. It's not great, but I do love the softness and the interesting colors in the background. Because of its location, I can't photograph the web straight on; I have to come at it either from a sharp angle or shoot directly at the edge of it, which is what you see here -- the edge of the web -- kind of like looking at the edge of a nebula through a telescope.

And isn't that what's great about photographing nature? No matter what we see, there's always something bigger out there, but constructed in a similar manner. We can see a tree in the veins of a leaf. A grand canyon in a stream bed. The edge of the universe in the edge of a spiderweb.

Ha! What if our Earth is just something wrapped and cocooned in a web, a little morsel waiting to be eaten by some giant cosmic spider? Oh, the joke's on us . . . ©Carol Leigh

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another chance

This morning, guess what? The spiderweb was still there, even though it has rained a lot since Thursday. Okay. This time I'm more prepared. I put my 100mm macro lens and an extension tube (can't remember which one right now) on a tripod and attach a cable release. I also take with me a flashlight and a little spray bottle of water (breezes have evaporated most of the water droplets, so I replenished them). I'm much more prepared. It's kind of windy, however, forcing me to use higher ISO settings than I would like.

And here's where "live view" is amazing. I can focus on a water droplet and then, looking at my LCD screen "live," click the focus magnification button once for 5X magnification and then can click again if I wish for 10X magnification. I can stand back, look at the viewfinder, and immediately see if the droplet is sharp or not. Alas, the breeze is shaking things all over the place . . .

I take some "regular" images and then, just because I can, I turn on the flashlight and illuminate the wood behind the web. Not the web itself, necessarily (the droplets are so tiny they don't show up well when lighted), just the background. The warm tungsten light from the flashlight turns things an orange color, which is fine with me. Again, "live view" lets me stand back, wave the flashlight around, and I can just look at the LCD screen to see when the effect is just right — I don't have to keep my eye pressed to the viewfinder.

Then I look at the edge of the web. Gasp. Wow. All those little droplets all lined up. And all that out-of-focusness right behind them. Amazing.

You know what else is amazing? I have to practically WADE through robins to get to the "decklet" where the spiderweb is. I've never seen so many in the back yard — maybe 30 of them. They flutter off, but then return when they see I'm ignoring them. The red-shafted flickers (three of them) return as well. So do the Steller jays. Crows begin screeching and juncos begin "tsk-tsking" and the next thing I know a hawk flies out of a tree, followed by several cranky crows. It's a veritable ornithological extravaganzo!

I have been up working on photography in one form or another since 1 this morning. (Did you see the photomontages I made?) I'm exhausted but exhilarated. Wishing you the same exhilaration (without the exhaustion) today! ©Carol Leigh


This is what I love about photography: surprise. We're getting ready to go into Newport to run our usual Thursday errands, but first, I see there's dew all over everything in the back yard. Hmmmm . . . Maybe something good to shoot? I grab a camera with the lens that's on it — an 18-55mm — and begin looking and shooting, sort of "warming up." Nothing's happening. And that's when I see the spider web. Adrenaline rush! But this lens won't let me move in close enough. (The background is really busy and I need to come in super close so that it will blur out.)

Back in the house. I grab my 50mm lens and a 35mm extension tube. Why? The macro lens is on another camera on another tripod and damn it! I'm in a hurry! I choose the 50mm lens because it opens way up to f/1.8. The fat extension tube will give me magnification. How much? Don't know. Don't care. Gotta move fast.

Back outside. Web's still there. But the dew drops are evaporating quickly. It's becoming breezy. I move in as closely as I can without becoming a feast for some lucky spider. The sun's rising fast, light/shadow/light/shadow through the trees in the distance.

It's difficult to focus on something using a combination of an aperture of f/1.8 (super wide open, very shallow depth of field) and using an extension tube. Especially hand-held. And these photos reflect that. They're not all that great. But you know what I love? Look at how WEIRD the spiderweb looks! Isn't that incredible? I love the distortion shallow depth of field gave me.

And this is for Linda, who was frustrated with her f/1.4 lens/25mm extension tube combo yesterday. Often the key is to work WITH the unique characteristics of your lens/extension tube combo, not try to force it. The beauty of your lens is shallow DOF. Move in close on just one little focal point and let everything else go absolutely wacko around it! Not every photo you take will be a winner. So what? The beauty of digital is that we can play with this stuff, JUST TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

As a result of shooting this spiderweb, I had the joy of the bizarreness, the strangeness, the uniqueness of seeing something completely differently. Yes, there's lens flare. Yes, there's green stuff on the right from the trees. And I'm showing these pictures even though they're definitely not my best because THIS is what I love about photography. The joy of seeing. The fun of experimenting. The amazement at what we see when we just let go, when we don't feel compelled to be perfect.

Sometimes we shoot simply for the joy of it. ©Carol Leigh

Friday, October 23, 2009

An old-fashioned look

I'm learning different Photoshop techniques (as usual, by scrounging around online looking for tips, which works great for someone with my limited attention span). I took a rather monochromatic photo of a fishing boat yesterday and this morning did all sorts of things to it to create this rendition, which looks like it was perhaps taken in the 1920s. (It helps that the boat itself is quite old.)

Now I just need to go back and figure out all my steps to see why I did what I did and how. My days are simply not long enough. ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Running errands

Today was our usual "errand-running" day, and yeah, I had to check out the fishing boats. The skies were overcast, so I knew that the colors would look good. It's also getting close to crabbing season, so over in the crabpot staging area, I knew that there would be piles of buoys all over the place. Aah! This is what I love about living here. A trip to the library and the store, and look what I come home with! All photos taken with a 28-135mm lens and a polarizing filter. (Because even though the skies were overcast, there can still be glare on shiny stuff.) ©Carol Leigh

Just 71 days left . . .

[I wrote this on December 30, 2008 and posted it in my "Creative Edge Alumni Group." In light of Dale asking me why/how I use an artist's journal, I thought I'd post it here in my blog.]

On the brink of a new year . . .

Our lives are so fast-paced, with events, images, and noise bombarding us constantly. No wonder we feel time is screaming by and continues to pick up speed. Before we know it, a day, a week, a year, and perhaps a life, is gone.

How can we slow it all down? How can we savor the little things? How can we remember the quiet of an early morning, the day it snowed on the coast, the clever phrase we just read, the pithy quote, the price of crab this season, that there were 10 fishing boats on the horizon last night?

How can we freeze-frame all these seemingly insignificant things and "mark" them so they take on more meaning, more importance, and add quality to our life?

We do it with our photography. Why not add words and scribbles to your artistic melange and create a journal of sorts?

Journals aren't just a "chick thing" -- stereotypical crafty moms with glue sticks -- nope. Lewis and Clark were masters of the journal; Benjamin Franklin became a publisher as a result of his; and Leonardo da Vinci? I rest my case.

Your journal may consist solely of your photos -- a photo a day? a week? It may consist of 3x5 cards (actually, this is a cool idea, and I just thought of it). Keep index cards handy when you read, when you eavesdrop in a restaurant, when you watch TV. Write down the date and the absurd statement, the humorous quip, the clever quote. File the card away. Do this daily and, combined with your photos, at the end of a year you've got something interesting with seemingly no effort.

What's my point? Life is zooming by way too fast. Let's slow it down and savor it by paying more attention and by recording -- in pictures and words and scribbles -- the little things that are too easily forgotten.

By elevating the smaller stuff and giving it more importance and by snagging it in some form that we can go back to, the current moment becomes that much more enhanced. Our life becomes richer and more meaningful as a result.

A new year begins tomorrow night. Slow it down. Savor it. Make it important.

Carol Leigh
[Written 12/30/08]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A break in traffic . . .

On our way home from the Bay Area last week we made a pit stop in central California. There's always something around to photograph! I found complementary colors on a galvanized metal wall and artificial flowers in a (real) window box. My standard "walk around and keep a low profile" 18-55mm lens was used for both. ©Carol Leigh

Monday, October 19, 2009

Things that scare us . . .

In the previous post, someone commented about "melting down" while trying to learn a new skill, and the horrible feeling that comes from thinking everybody knows something but you, and you're a complete idiot. I think we all feel that way from time to time. And the key is to not let it get to us, to do the best we can, muddle through, and not worry about what others are thinking of us.

In light of that, let me share with you a page from one of my art journals. These are books (always the same, just with different covers and different colored paper) that I scribble in, usually on a daily basis. The cover says "artist's journal," but what I create inside isn't really art. Well, it's art, but it's not "good" art! And you can look at it and think, "What a talentless dummy!" And that's okay. (Note: Talk about being scared! This is something new for me to do in this blog. But here goes . . .)

My point is that on January 31st of this year, I'd run out of space in the previous book and was beginning page 1 of a brand-new book. This is scary! What if I muck things up on the first page? Does that set the tone for the rest of the book? Oh, the pressure! Oh, the tension!

So here's a picture of my first page. I purposely spilled coffee on it (or, rather, painted some coffee-colored smudges on it) so that the pressure was alleviated. Easy.

It might be difficult for you to read my writing. The top part of the page says, "This is the first entry in a new journal and it's always so daunting, so scary. Will it set the tone for the rest of the book? Will it be good enough? Maybe I should spill coffee (insert stain here) on it, just to break it in?"

We all have self-doubt. We all often think we're not good enough (especially in photography and Photoshop). It's how we handle those feelings that counts. And as I get older, I realize how easy it is to now say, "I don't understand what you mean. Would you mind going over it again?" I used to just nod my head and try to look intelligent. Ha! Doesn't work any more!

It's a new day. Ask questions. Live with ambiguity. And know that everyone, no matter how strongly they express themselves, is worried about appearing stupid. ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, October 15, 2009


A lot's been going on the past month or so. Taking a day to be quiet. Ommmmmmmm . . . ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Home again

The final leg of our little trip found us in a fair amount of rain as we headed over the mountain passes. We took a new route (for us) from I-5 to the coast, stopping to shoot this barn with its open hay mow. And it's all lush and green with touches of orange, red, gold, and yellow. Home again, where yeah, it's raining, with wind gusts up to 47mph. Welcome (back) to Oregon.

P.S. Guess what? Once back on the coast, a two-lane road, we're heading north. Heading south, coming right at us in our lane, is a car passing traffic. We had to slow down and pull way over to avoid getting hit head-on. And the car was from (you guessed it) Washington! ©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heading back home . . .

On our way back home yesterday we found a sort of "bus graveyard" -- major adrenaline rush! I took all sorts of images that eventually I'm going to use in my photomontages. Lots of rivets, parallel lines, numbers, peeling paint, and more. ©Carol Leigh

Murals in the San Francisco Mission District

Sunday I conducted a three-hour photo walk to shoot the colorful murals in San Francisco's Mission District. There were 10 of us and we had a lot of fun finding "art within art" as well as asking Chris to walk back and forth in front of one particular mural. "Okay Chris, next time faster and take longer strides! No! Slower! Oops, I didn't get it. Could you do that again?" Poor Chris looked like a duck in a shooting gallery! These mural images depict Frida Kahlo looking on in a rather stoic manner. ©Carol Leigh

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Well, in my previous post I said I didn't get any good photos, but I'm thinking this one's not too bad. The lighting was quite monochromatic and so I desaturated the photo even more to sort of even things out. I loved the way the six geese were paddling across the water in a straight line. The scenery to the left in the original photo wasn't very interesting, so I just cropped it out. ©Carol Leigh

En route . . .

En route to the San Francisco Bay Area, we stopped at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Well, it's not yet the height of the season AND my longest lens was just a 200mm. So the best photos I got of birds were these here on the sign! (And I can't believe they included a puffin! He doesn't look very happy.)

It didn't matter, though. Sometimes it's just the being there that's important. Hearing the sounds of the geese, the wigeons, the splash of water. I didn't mind not getting any superb photos. I just loved being there. ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, October 8, 2009

En route . . .

Greetings from lovely downtown Anderson, California (just south of Redding). This morning, while stopped for road construction in Oregon, I loved how the fog was slanting down through the trees, so photographed this scene through the car window.

It's interesting observing the driving styles. In Oregon, we think Washingtonians drive like idiots. Guess what? Washingtonians drive like idiots in California, too! ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Positive thoughts in Santa Fe

It's all good. ©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Worcestershire sauce

I am STILL working on my upcoming macro class and so have close-up shots like these on my brain. My problem is that I see a photo and think, "Yeah, this would be good to add to the program, too" and off I go. I can't seem to say "enough," and I want to offer so much in the class that it makes me nuts. Okay, even more nuts. Tomorrow morning the final presentation gets locked into place and maybe things will settle down a bit. Ha! Anyway, this is an old weathered Worcestershire bottle that has a beautiful iridescence to it. And nope, it won't be part of the macro class program. The line has officially been drawn. ©Carol Leigh

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's tough being 12 . . .

The "two" is stapled on, the wood is weathered, a nail is missing. But oh, baby, just wait 'til you hit 13! A whole new set of challenges is on the horizon. ©Carol Leigh

Friday, October 2, 2009

St. Francis church in black and white

The sun was so harsh and the shadows so bold, I decided to work with the contrasty conditions rather than against them. I turned the original color images into a more cooler-toned black and white look. Two views of the same architectural detail, one vertical, one horizontal. To see a more subtle photomontage of this church, click over to my photomontage blog here. ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On the low road to Taos

We stopped at a number of places along the low road to Taos. The milagro-encrusted cross was nailed to the side of a fruit stand. The old screen door/porch we saw at "Gasoline Alley" near Embudo. And "Ristra #58" was tucked away in a corner in Ranchos de Taos. As usual with me, no big vistas, just lots of details. It's a flaw. ©Carol Leigh