Tag Archives: photography

As The Camera Clicks, So The World Turns

I know people who have an affectionate relationship with their autos. When I was young, the 1979 VW microbus that was the family car was named, for reasons I never understood, “Clarissa.”

Well, I don’t name cars. I can understand some affection for them, but a car is a pretty cold piece of machinery to me, and my heart lacks the capacity to wax poetical over a utilitarian device. When we traded off one cherry red minivan for another, my heart ached only for the unpleasant necessity of the car buying experience—it let the old van go with nary a look back.

What “things” are nearer and dearer to my heart? Well, bikes, for one. I could write about each I’ve owned, from the red one-speed that was my 8th birthday present when we moved to Iowa, to the blue Schwinn 1974 continental, the first 10-speed bike I owned (actually, the last 10 speed I owned since subsequent bikes have all had more gears).

Anyway, besides bikes, I’ve had some affection for certain cameras. Not all cameras—many film cameras have passed through my hands virtually unnoticed. But a few cameras have meant more to me.


Found this image on Google of a 1979 Minolta. Not sure mine was this exact model, but it looks pretty darn close.

First of all, there was the Minolta 35 mm SLR that I purchased in the fall of 1979, and which became my main camera for most of the next decade. It was trusty and durable, and shot a lot of black-and-white film that I developed myself.

Those were the days. Sadly, I did not do well at archiving many of those images, and they, like the camera, are part of history.

Flash forward to Cedar Rapids in the first decade of this century. When I became a faculty advisor to the student newspaper at Mount Mercy University, I encountered my first digital camera, a Sony model that required floppy disks to stare photos. Each disk held about 10 pictures, so instead of rolls of film, a photographer needed a stack of disks. Of course, one advantage was that the disks could be erased and re-used.

For the first year I was adviser, the photos were universally terrible, and the students all blamed the cheapness of that poor Sony. When I finally took a close look at it, I discovered years of finge prints on its lens, and a quick swab with a Q-Tip and some alcohol, and viola, the camera suddenly took crystal-clear photos.

Anyway, I didn’t own that camera; it just alerted me to the convenience of digital photography. My own personal digital camera was purchased in 2010. We owned a previous digital camera, but wanted a slightly better one to take to Puerto Rico for Jon’s wedding and chose a Kodak EasyShare model.

Well, the Kodak D-something EasyShare was a sweet little camera—10 megapixels per image, decent optical and electronic zoom, OK video, and lots of photo modes. The family got very tired of me snapping and posting numerous flower photos, but that’s just what happens when you put a camera in my hands.


Again, a Google image. Can’t say this is the exact model, but it sure looks like my poor, dying, confused camera. although it has served well for two years. Still, shouldn’t a camera last longer than two years? Bah, humbug, and you kids, get off my lawn!

Today, sad news, camera fans. The Kodak has been slowly going erratic, suffering from some software confusion that I have not power to fix. I tried reformatting the SD card, but the camera freezes on startup, wants the date entered but won’t accept it, and on a two-day bike trip this weekend, I could only get 4 images.

A camera you can’t boot up is not much of a camera.

The Kodak served me well, and I’ll miss it. It was nice because I always had it with me, and most of my posts on this blog feature images from that instrument. But, just as the Minolta eventually failed, so too has the Kodak. The frustrating thing is the Minolta lasted a decade, while the Kodak kept its act together for only two years.

I do own a “nice” digital, a Nikon SLR, but it’s not practical to carry with me all the time, so I need another, smaller digital camera. I want something that’s inexpensive, but shoots decent photos.

Do you have any suggestions, blog readers?



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My Motto–Shoot It In the Grotto!


Final one

Yeah, not sure if it's worth 4 photos, but still, I liked playing with small changes.

Mary and copula

Statue of Mary in the Grotto with Warde Hall copula in background. She’s also framed by the Grotto kiosk she is housed in.

Saw an art class in the MMU Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto midday today as I was walking across campus–a photo class busy capturing images.

Later, when I crossed campus, I couldn’t resist. I’m not sure what images they were capturing, but I was playing with three ideas: Framing, repetitive forms and angles.

The Grotto is a great place to spend a bit of time, and I found myself sort of daydreaming–when I was done and ready to leave, it was almost a shock to realize that very noisy heavy machinery was banging away in the background at the construction site of the University Center.  Had not tuned into to it.

Anyway, I’d be curious to see their Grotto pictures from this fine sunny day. Here are mine.

Water fall

Must have been inspired by Kathryn Hagy images. Some of my photos were of the rocks at one of the artificial waterfalls that circulates water and helps to limit mosquitoes in the pond.

Falls 2.

Rocks and water.


Water and rocks.

Final water one.

Last falls image.

3 icons

I liked the juxtaposition of the Ten Commandments monument, bridge and copula, several of these images.

Ten Commandments.

Another view.

Closer view.

Zooming in makes objects appear closer together.


Some plants. I like the dagger-shape of young daffodils before buds appear.

Side view

Daffodils from the side.


Final side view with a bit of Grotto as backdrop.


Detail of railing leading to Grotto bridge.

Stairs and shadows

Just liked the afternoon shadows on the steps leading down to the Grotto.


Day lilies start to sprout near the top of the stairs that lead to the Grotto.


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A Few Fall Photos

Bug on bike tire

Not sure a leaf insect counts as "fall foilage," but who knows? The tire of my new bike on Thursday of this week before I rode home (and no, the bug was not harmed--left under her own power before I had to encourage her)

Oct. 20 Update: Gazette has posted information needed to enter their fall photo contest, click here.

The Gazette runs a fall foliage photo contest, which I’ve never before entered.

I might this year, although my most recent check of their web site didn’t reveal the contest rules or deadline (hello, Gazette? If you announce something in your paper, make it something that can be found on your web site).

Anyway, here are a few photos I’ve taken at the Mount Mercy University campus.

Update: Fall photos in this blog are from Mount Mercy University campus.  See fall leaf pictures from my back yard in this facebook gallery.

Any suggestions? What are your favorites of these?

Oak Tree

Oak tree in Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto, MMU campus, Oct. 1

Same oak, MMU grotto

Looking at setting sun through tree, Oct. 1

Oak view number three

Same tree, 3 very different views from Grotto Oak at MMU Oct. 1

Another Grotto plan

Don't know if bugs on berries mean "fall" to the Gazette, but another plant at the MMU Grotto.

Warde Hall Parking Lot

Warde Hall parking lot at MMU--maple leaves in a pile

Maple leafe alone at Warde Hall parking lot

One maple leaf, by itself, at the MMU Warde Hall parking lot Oct. 1.


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Noontime in the Garden of Light and Dark

New bird bath, gift from Audrey, installed and filled. I like how the bush over the bath reflects in the water.

I was being lazy today—not a surprise, enjoying my final day of being 51 years old. After church, as Audrey worked on a lavish birthday meal for me because Katy and Theresa and assorted members of their families (kids in Katy’s case, spouse in Theresa’s) were coming over for a 1 p.m. birthday dinner, I lazed in a hammock in the back yard.

First, I skimmed a few news stories, a few opinion columns, and read the comics.

Then, after swatting one of the many mosquitoes to whom I unwillingly served as an egg maturing protein source, I looked up and thought about light.

Me, in hammock, contemplating light. Shady back yard with sun shining between leaves is a good place to ponder photons.

One of the frustrations of having any pretense of being a photographer is that the human eye is so much more sensitive than most cameras are to color and light. We look up through the canopy of an enlarging tulip tree, and have no problem seeing greens in the shade, in the light and the blueness of the sky. Yet, to a camera, the scene is much more harshly light or dark.

A camera is to our eyes what Sarah Palin is to a functioning brain. One sees the world in stark lights and darks, the other deals much more deftly with subtly.

Anyway, despite even a modern digital camera’s limits compared to the potent potential of rather advanced optic sensory organs and a huge brain to process the data, I think much of photography, particularly interesting photography of details, dwells in the contrast between light and dark.

I present numerous exhibits, with some commentary. With the exception of the candle photo, which I think Audrey took (not 100 percent sure, Theresa used the camera a lot, too), these are all pre pre-birthday dinner, taken in the back yard, some without leaving the hammock.

Looking up through the tulip tree at light and dark leaves.

Now, I don’t claim that these are great photos, or fantastically artistic. But I will say, from having dealt with students using cameras, that seeing the light, the way it plays across a scene, where light and dark contrast and the direction from which light is coming, are keys to taking pictures.

Light, dark, sky, shade--leaves shining as they diffuse the sun, a leaf in shade. All of which was more vivid and ever quickly changing when viewed by eye.

I hope you enjoy some of these images. I enjoyed taking them and thinking about them. Now, after posting this (it will take a while with all these jpg files), back to work.

Some additional day before birthday photos on Facebook.

This one is a magnolia leaf. I lIke the leaves that are blurry in the background, suggesting the kind of canopy there is in the back yard.

Magnolia, part one. Sharp lines between light and dark.

Same leaf, different angle, zoomed out a bit more for context.

Hammock fabric shimmers in light like armor, deeper color in shade.

OK, I got up and moved. This is the hammock swing on the maple tree, not the hammock. Light on white rope, darkness in background (which is just part of the yard and fence, would not look so dark to human eye).

New birdbath in place again. Like the way the ceramic surface gives a distorted suggestion of a reflection.

Yeah, almost the same view, closer to patches of light and dark.

Bush is a volunteer in the side garden so I don't know what it is. But it's in the light ...

I think this one is the weeping cherry tree. Colorful spots in background are toys in the sandbox. OK, camera may not react as quickly as eye, but frozen instant with depth of field is something it does well.

Native violet leaf in garden near bird bath. With, yes, dark background.

Not quite as arty as a Kathryn Hagy water photo--but me filling birdbath with one hand, and photographing with the other. Lucky right hand can handle hose, because it leaves my good left hand for more complex work (I am a southpaw).

The birthday picture I did not take, Audrey did, I think. Nikayla and I with my brithday brownies.

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