52 week Challenge: week 9

Week 9: Artistic: Shadows – The opposite of light is dark, the absence of light is shadow. Interpret this into a masterpiece.

This was quite an interesting assignment and opened up a lot of possibilities. The one constraint I set myself was that I was only going to use natural light, so no flash or lamps to create shadows that weren’t natural.

I had a trip to Philadelphia, and  in the end settled with a fairly classic abstract taken on the steps of the terrace on Liacouras Walk in Temple University. I converted it to a black and white image as I think it works better for contrasting the zigzag lines onto the grey stone steps.


However, last night just as I had returned home from work I caught sight of the shadows cast from a couple of our German Erzgebirge ornaments being cast by the final rays of the setting sun through the window. These are delightful little wooden sun and moon characters and I thought their shadows were lovely, as well as relevant to the time of day.


In this case I left the image as full color as I think the dark wooden background of the shelf makes the shadows seem warmer, as it partially reflects the sun into a blown out highlight.


52 week challenge: week 6

Week 6: Artistic: Candy – Your artistic interpretation this week should be inspired by something sweet. A great chance to play with macro photography.

This one was relatively easy for me, as we have a house full of candy at the moment, an excess from xmas and some more recent additions for Easter. Or rather, since “candy” isn’t a term I would normally use, we have lots of “sweets” in the house, to use proper British vernacular!

The ones that I chose are known in the US as “fruit candies”, but as kids we would have called them “boiled sweets” and they were a staple available from any elderly relative who, back in my childhood days, always seems to have a variant of these on hand in a paper bag in case of getting a dry throat or a cough. Odd behavior perhaps, but I’m just telling it like it was.

I was going to use a zoom and some of my macro tubes to experiment but in the end I decided to stick with f/1.7-20mm as before and set this up in my “studio” by placing a black cloth over a chair balanced on the ironing board under the shop LED lights in the basement! I couldn’t be bothered to dig out a tripod from the trunk of the car so I took the shot hand held and used manual focus to get as close as the lens would allow me.

Sweet and Fruity

I’m pleased with the result but let me know what you think.


#dogwood52 #dogwoodweek6

Artistic inspiration

For my day job I work for a large corporation, doing corporate activities that generally involve me “flying a desk”, as I like to describe it. For those of you familiar with the corporate world you can perhaps empathize with the following story: We are in the process of a management-led activity to “improve morale” and increase the level of “teamwork” following a series of layoffs and restructuring, all amid a general atmosphere of continued uncertainty. This activity involves a full day of team building exercises which will include each of us being prepared to share with the group something that inspires us.

I have a naturally skeptical disposition when faced with this sort of activity, having been through initiatives of similar ilk many times over the last 25 years or thereabouts, so I have been facing this week with mixed feelings of boredom and dread, as I don’t want to derail the well-intentioned plan, despite my innate misgivings.  In fact, I have been struggling hard for a week to find a relevant example of inspiration without wishing it to be too trite.

Now, fast forward to a completely unrelated activity: the recent tragic early death of a local artist, friend and teacher of my wife. Although I did not know the lady directly I accompanied my wife to her memorial service at the local Quaker Meeting House and was very moved by the deeply heartfelt personal nature of the modest occasion. The memorial allowed for anyone present to speak on any memory or thought about the deceased for as long they wanted and one mourner stood and recited the following poem:

“I am an artist.”

I am an artist.

My definition of art is creating

something with my hands that is an

expression of who I am.

Art is a part of me.

I can’t escape the urge to create,

to get out my feelings in the way

of paper and glue. Or losing myself

behind the lens of my camera.

I am so thankful for my art.

It’s my own personal therapy.

And in the process I am leaving my mark

in the works I create.

I am an artist.

And there is nothing else in the world

I would rather be.

-Author Unknown-

I don’t consider myself to be a spiritual person, having been bathed in secular science all my life, yet as I listened the words struck a chord within me which I think will remain with me for a long time and I felt truly inspired. I truly believe that the unique act of creating art for art’s sake is a wonderful activity; personal yet shareable, challenging yet cathartic, and most importantly mind-expanding.

We should always have this in the back of our mind on this as we peer through our viewfinders and create our masterpiece.


For Mary and Diane

I originally wrote this piece in October 2014, when it inspired me in that moment to go for a contemplative lunchtime walk and to sit under the autumnal trees overhanging a local brook and create the artwork above. I have since returned to this artwork several times and it even hangs at work in a friend’s workspace. It also seems ironic that, some 15 months later, our organization is repeating the same training, so making this post relevant again and, much more tragically, only last night a second artist friend of my wife’s lost her battle with cancer too, re-emphasizing the cyclical nature of the world perhaps.


52 week challenge: week 3

Week 3: Artistic: Red – Shoot whatever inspires you. Red should be the focus of the image. Don’t be afraid to be creative.

According to my previous post on this subject (wow, was it only a week ago?) this assignment should be the one I find the easiest of the three repeating themes. After all, there is certainly not lack of red objects around, even in the winter. In fact, have you noticed that whenever you start to look for something specific you suddenly see it everywhere? We used to call this the new car effect when we were kids. My father would change his car periodically, usually replacing one non-mainstream model with another every few years. They were not new vehicles, but they were new to us, and usually we had not seen many of that particular model on previous travels. However, as soon as we went on a trip of any length it was amazing just how often my brother and I would see “our car” from the back seat being driven on the road. Long before in car entertainment, and rear seat belts, this was theme that played out on many trips.

So, back to the task at hand. Driving around the local area, walking the dogs, and even just pottering about the house and garden I am seeing red (although not in the “getting angry” sense, thankfully!).

So what should I do?

Then it hit me as walking down our driveway; perhaps I should concentrate on something that is quintessentially American. How about the red flag on the mailbox?


I am still challenging myself by only using my m43 20mm prime lens, forcing me to really get into the shot rather than having the convenience of a zoom, but then the advantage of being able to open the aperture up to f/2.0 helps get a great bokeh on the background.


#dogwood52 #dogwoodweek3

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