an everyday photo, every day | photography • art • poetry

christmas

Colorful Puddle

christmas lights reflected in puddle

Colorful Puddle

A colorful display of lights and decorations reflects in a puddle in a brick alley at night, like a little world unto itself.


Colorful Stars on Main Street

wreaths with holiday lights along light posts

Main Street Wreaths

Carnegie’s holiday decorations light up the street.

Hmmm, how can I make a street I photograph all the time look a little different from the last year? Well, get out the cross-screen filter for starters so that each light or highlight in the images has extra interest; I like to set the cross a little off-kilter, not a plus-sign, not an “X”, but something in between. Next, use the 70-300mm zoom lens and manual focus so just the very first light and wreath are in focus and all the rest, all the wreaths all the way down Main Street to Washington Avenue, are successively blurred just a little each step of the way. Even the stop lights look festive, as noted in a holiday song. I liked the effect.

Last night as I was crouched to photograph this in a fairly dark spot on Main Street, I frightened a couple of teenage guys who apparently didn’t see me before I suddenly stood up very near to them, and the shuttle that takes residents from one of the local nursing homes on their errands stopped, opened the door and looked at me, then went on. I photographed this last year as well, and included a story of photographing where people don’t expect it, including hunching down in the dark by a wall wearing a cape and having the police stop to ask what you’re up to.


Unexpected Berries

Berries with snow

Unexpected Berries

The burning bush continues to flare, even as its leaves are gone for the season. These berries had been there all along, but not nearly as brilliant in the landscape as on a snowy morning, as the snowfall slowed and the sun struggled through the cloud cover to touch each berry, each accented with a little tuft of fresh fluffy white snow, a perfect touch for the holiday season no matter which holiday it happens to be.


A Christmas Eve Surprise

skulls at christmas

Look Out Christmas Myths and Stories!

Perhaps Santa, Frosty, The Little Drummer Boy and the Holy Family and attendants don’t actually see the demon glowing-eyed skull raised from the depths of Hell to eat them all alive and disappear back down into the soil from whence it came, leaving only a few scorch marks and melted snow.

Think Hades wasn’t happy about giving up Persephone this year and he’s come for some more captives?

If I were Santa I’d toss them all into that cute little sleigh and be off like the down of a thistle!

Merry Christmas!


The Little Tree

crocheted tree with jewelry decorations

The Little Tree

Happy Holidays, and thanks for looking at my photos this year!

It’s a very little tree—one I made, in fact! I crocheted the shape and stuffed it with (clean) old socks all snipped up, and it’s decorated with all my single earrings, charms I don’t like, pins, cufflinks and other assorted unwanted jewelry, festooned with a gold chain and a strand of tiny clear plastic beads and topped with a crystal earring. An ankle bracelet holds it on the tree.

I had intended to make several of these for friends, but only made one so far and decided to photograph it so I’d remember what it looked like, and so that I could write down the pattern for the crochet. We had had a nice snow, so I used the warm morning light to photograph it in its “natural state”, and it looked quite cute!

Maybe I’ll get a start on these for next year while I’m on a roll. In the meantime, enjoy your holiday weekend! I’ll have some…interesting holiday lights to post later.


Merry Christmas From the Neighbor Kids

carolers at the door
carolers at the door

"Jingle Bells"

I heard young voices singing outside, and bells ringing. Who was out there caroling? I had done that with a few friends when we were young, but that was 40 years ago, kids didn’t go Christmas caroling anymore.

But there was a knock on my door, and I saw three young men who I didn’t recognize until they took their hats off. The performed a more-than-respectable a capella version of “Jingle Bells”, ringing three handbells. Of course, I sang along. They deserved more than the change I dropped into their cottage cheese container for the effort, for their performance, and for the memories.


The Starry Night

tree with lights
tree with lights

The Starry Night

This night was full of stars near our community tree. I used my old cross-screen filter simply held in front of my lens to create the stars of the brightest lights on the tree and the tree-top star itself. As a bonus, it was clear enough to see the stars in the sky, though they weren’t bright enough to flare on the filter. Looking off into infinity, from our little tree with its stars out to the universe itself, was a beautiful sight on a cold winter night.


Winter Sparklers

blurred lights

Winter Sparklers

Someone bumped me as I was photographing a tree with lights, but I like it better than the photo without being bumped. Really, I’d have to work hard to repeat this intentionally, that’s the beauty of a candid shot.


Witnesses

photo of holiday decorations

Witnesses

I’m just not sure all these characters were really witnesses to the holy birth. I mean, the first Santa from the left should certainly have given up his candy cane hut to give Mary some privacy in giving birth and shelter the new baby. But perhaps mixing a little metaphor just makes the day interesting.


Donation Birds

trees covered with white doves and lights

Donation Birds

Every bird on these trees represents a promise to a child for gifts this holiday season.

I haven’t been in a mall in probably a decade, and was only in this one for the sake of setting up a holiday art exhibit. The simply beauty of these trees stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes; I didn’t even need to know why the birds all had tags, I just knew it represented the generosity of several hundred people. And it was only December 2.

It made the trip to a mall worth it.


Holiday Lights in the Rain

holiday lights in the rain

Holiday Lights in the Rain

I had a lovely photo of yesterday’s frosty morning in my back yard, but as the day grew dark early today I passed this ebullient display of holiday cheer on a dark rainy day and decided I had to share it.

This particular little house was once a garage to a huge Victorian home. It not only faces the alley but the narrow porch steps right onto the sunken and undulating bricks of the alley. One would think it wasn’t the choicest place to live, yet I always see children and adults around, lots of toys and talk and play; it seems to be a happy little house. I wasn’t surprised to see this complete selection of holiday decorations.

The shining bricks and puddles in the alley reflect the holiday cheer. Note the homemade Steelers emblem in the left-hand window; no display in Pittsburgh would be complete without it.

I usually associate holiday lights with snow, or at least with a clear cold night, but I also love colorful night photography and especially rainy nights.


Main Street Lights

photo of main street with holiday decorations

Main Street Light Up

Carnegie’s Main Street features new holiday decorations, lit for the first time on this Light-Up Night in Pittsburgh, which I couldn’t approach for all the extra traffic the previous evening.

The photo’s not so great, but it was a little difficult to convince one of Carnegie’s finest that I was neither involved in something illicit nor bowing to pray to the railroad crossing sign. Well, it was Saturday night.

And why would I take such risks to get a good image of Carnegie? Read about my current exhibit of photographs of Carnegie.

Any photographer will tell you that you usually don’t get the best shot standing upright and focusing the camera normally. Sometimes you need to climb a tree, run into the middle of traffic, ford a small stream or hang sideways off a bridge to get the shot you’ve got in mind.

Before digital I cruised the trails, woods and streets with up to four film cameras, each with a different lens and film. You can change all these settings and lenses now, but with film cameras you’ll ruin an unpredictable amount of film if you remove a lens or take out one roll before it’s done and replace it with another. Needless to say, all this camera gear was heavy, especially if I was also packing art materials.

grasses and sun

Grasses and Sun

A few years ago in autumn I was enchanted by the nodding heads of various grasses trailside, and seeing the big clear blue sky with big bright sun overhead decided to try to get various shots of the grasses with the sun and sky behind. I laid down next to the trail and took my shots, moving around as need be, then sitting up, my heavy backpack hindering me so that I had to push myself up from the ground.

A bicycler was watching, uncertain, and asked, “Do you need some help?” in a tone that indicated physical help wasn’t what he had in mind.

“No, I’m fine,” I said, “just getting the best shot I can, it’s a little difficult to get up with all this stuff.” I laughed and thanked him. He looked unconvinced, and kept his eye on me as he moved away.

carved pumpkin cat and figure

Cat Pumpkin

More recently, I was photographing Jack-o-Lanterns along the trail at the Panhandle Trail Night Walk by lying flat on my stomach on the trail and setting my camera on a little three-legged thing that’s handy for photographing items close to the ground. I was careful not to do this when people were headed for me since, even with the bright moon, they’d never see me before they’d trip over me.

I heard, “Oh my God, what happened?!” “I don’t know, is that someone laying on the trail?” “I can hardly see!” The voices were rapidly approaching, and I really wanted to reassure them I was okay, just taking photos, but I also wanted to focus and get my shot before the candle in the Jack-o-Lantern went out. So I compromised by not moving anything but my mouth but saying cheerily, “I’m fine, just photographing the pumpkins!” They, too, seemed unconvinced, and perhaps a little upset that someone would try to frighten them that way, perhaps thinking I was going a little too far and really didn’t need to lie flat out on the trail in the dark to get the good photo.

So on Saturday I was walking home from a performance at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library Music Hall some time after 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night. I always carry my little camera and often carry a small tripod for evening and night shots, but didn’t have it with me. I tried setting the camera on the street, but got a lot of the street in the bottom of the shot and still not a good angle of the lights.

I walked a little farther to the Main Street Bridge which has concrete railings along the sides and at a right angle at the end because railroad tracks cross right there, hence the railroad crossing sign, just a little reminder to pedestrians not to walk in front of a train. This hip-height concrete wall was just the right height to set my camera on and get the perfect angle down Main Street.

I turned on my little camera and set it on the wall, then knelt down behind it, clicking away with different exposures by focusing on different things in the image.

I heard a car coming up on the street, and realized that I was dressed in my long black wool dress coat, black walking boots (even with my dress) and a big long shawl wrapped all around my head and shoulders to keep warm in the night air. I either looked like a garbage bag leaning against the wall, or perhaps a terrorist in a burqua or a long black robe and headpiece lurking and pointing a gun at unsuspecting motorists or who knew what. I thought briefly of a few innocent people who had been arrested or even shot for appearing suspicious, decided one of the shots I’d taken had to be good, stood up quickly and turned a little holding my little camera where it could be clearly seen.

The officer rolled down the passenger window. “Everything okay here?” he politely asked.

Most of the officers know me at least to see my since I’m involved in many things around town, but I was so bundled up I might not even recognize myself.

“Just fine, officer,” I said brightly, trying unsuccessfully to remember his name, “just getting a shot of our holiday lights and the new decorations. I was using the wall as a tripod.”

Unconvinced again. “Okay, I just thought I’d check and see if you were…okay.”

“I’m fine, officer, thanks for your concern, and have a good night” I said as I turned my camera off and dropped it into my pocket.

Until the next adventure…read about my two photo exhibits at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, “Carnegie Photographed, 14 images of Carnegie” and “Of Harps and Fig Leaves, photographs of Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall”.


I Will Miss My Christmas Lights

photo of my holiday lights

Christmas Lights

Not the best photo, but the last day of January approaches the last day the lights will be on.

I will indeed miss marking 5:00 p.m. every day, even as the days grow longer, to see from the corner of my eye that the colored lights are “on”. I have a grapevine garland I made swagged around the outside of my porch roof right under the gutter, and the lights are draped on that garland. I used to be a white-light-only person, but one year I wanted the warmth of those little multi-colored lights and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I purchased a few strands of the new LED lights this year, and I just don’t like them, the colors aren’t right.

I’ll string other lights around the door, maybe even the pink flamingoes already, or just the string of white lights with red hearts for Valentine’s day, then I can change to green shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day.

I think I’ll string the lights around the underside of the roof so they glow and I can see them inside.


No Fridge, No Problem

photo of refrigerator goods on a windowsill

No Fridge, No Problem

Sometimes you just have to marvel at the ingenuity of people. The temperature hasn’t even seen 20 degrees for days, so why not put your Mountain Dew, half n half, lunchmeat and a few cold ones out on the windowsill? On the second floor, no one can steal them.

This is the same place where, on Christmas day, a bearded white man and a bearded African-American man, one sitting in a lawn chair, one standing, were dressed in Santa suits and waving their hands and beer bottles at passersby. I tried to take a photo, but it was so dark and rainy they just didn’t come out, not to mention the cranky driver behind me who didn’t see any humor in the situation at all.

Some people really know how to enjoy life and make the most of any situation. I’m not being sarcastic.


One Last Holiday Wish

Peace on Earth.

photo of peace spelled in christmas lights

Peace Tree


In Hospital at Christmas

photo of hospital bed and tray with food

In Hospital at Christmas

My mother was in the hospital during Christmas week. She’s fine now; she had pneumonia which was caught early enough. She lives in a personal care home and has a whole long list of ailments, and it’s a surprise she’s as well as she is. Visiting during the holidays was not so dull as one might think as the whole hospital was decorated as well as the staff, and the nurses and aides kept her room neat and clean and kept her company along with giving her “Frosty”.


Happy Holidays!

lighted snowman on front porch at night

Happy Holidays!

Y’all come back now, hear?!


The Blessed Event

photo of a lighted plastic manger scene

The Blessed Event

No matter your beliefs or how you express them, I hope you find joy and peace in the mystery of this season.