Weekly Photo Challenge: In the Background

The background of a photo can enhance or detract from the subject. It is sometimes the reason the subject is interesting. Background can add color, shadow, mood to a photo. It can provide the background knowledge you need to understand the photograph. The background can also be the whole point of the photo. Here is an example of a photo I took on a lake in Northern Wisconsin. The trees in the foreground frame the real subject: the colorful chairs on a neighbor’s pier and their shimmering reflection in the lake.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Another example is this photo in which I was trying to capture the type of picture you might see in a hotel brochure: a darkened but pleasant room with a bright window in the background, through which the setting of canoes at a lake can be seen.


In travel photography, especially during tourist trips with loved ones, the background is often a famous monument, scene, or building. In the foreground is your “subject” – a person or group from among your travel companions, but really the person is included in the frame to say “Look where I’ve been!”  The background in these photos provides the context for the individual in the foreground. A classic example is a visit to Machu Picchu. I took a picture of my son Jayme on the Inca Trail above the ruins.


I’ve been thinking about backgrounds and what they add to a photo, and thought of something that is in the background of almost all photos taken outdoors – the sun. Sometimes it’s the sun rays we can see slanting down to the ground when the sun itself is hidden behind a cloud. Or, it can be a completely cloudy day, but still it is the sun that allows us to see and call it “daylight.” The sun creates shadows, contrast and other effects. Some of the most beautiful photos have a sunrise or sunset in the background, with hues of pink, orange and purple. Sometimes that’s all there is in the photo, but often there is a “subject” – someone or something in the foreground that acts as a focal point.  Even so, the background sunrise/sunset is the real reason we take the photo. In these cases, we can see how the background sunrise or sunset changes or enhances the subject, creates a mood or simply beauty. One of my favorite things to take pictures of is trees with light filtering through from behind, set as silhouettes against the burst of sun rays or the colors of a sunset, or the contrast of a bright blue sky with the bright orange of autumn foliage.

????????????????????????????????Recently I took a walk to a favorite local park; it was nearly sunset and dark clouds were gathering overhead. The sun low in the sky behind this tree created an eerie, but beautiful effect, with the bright yellow sun in the middle fading into orange, purple and dark blue, which were provided by incoming storm clouds.

IMAG0316It’s obvious that without the sun, we couldn’t take pictures at all without a flash. Yet we don’t think about the sun in the picture unless it is doing something spectacular (like showing its colors as it sets), or when it is ruining our photograph because we can’t see the subject’s face because the sun is directly behind them.

When the sun is a background feature that enhances the subject, the sun that is the real “star” of the photo (no pun intended) and without the light of that particular time of day, I would probably not even have thought to take a photo at all. 

Peru 2008: Last night in Cusco

For a few members of our OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) group, our last night in Cusco was the end of the trip. Those people would return next day by air to Lima while the rest of us would continue on to southern Peru, to the area around Puno and Lake Titicaca. This leg of the trip was an optional five-day extension offered on most OAT excursions.

The following pictures were taken during our morning walking tour (which I wrote about in my most recent Peru 2008 post) and in the afternoon “on our own.”

689 690 691 692 693694 695 696 697 698 699A protest march approaches in the Plaza de Armas.We came across this protest march by workers in the administrative branch of education. One of our group members decided to join with them! Although some people warned her not to, she managed to find out more about their protest and the protesters were quite friendly.

700 701702703Beautiful balconies on an apartment building in central Cusco. 704706

These women are dressed in colorful traditional attire. Notice the beautiful embroidery and the tiny baby alpaca that one of the women is holding!705We returned to our hotel (San Carlos) to rest prior to going out for dinner. This interesting modern light fixture hung down over the lobby (taken from outside our room).707Because it was our last night together with our entire group of 16, we had reservations at a well-known excellent restaurant in Cusco, Pachacutec, where we were entertained by native dancers and Andean music.708 709 710 711This brass and copper emblem adorned the wall of the restaurant, along with an artist’s rendition of images of Inca rulers.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern in Spain

Spain has many beautiful examples of patterns in its various styles of architecture. DSCN3941At the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, beautiful Muslim artistry has been preserved in patterned tiling. They would make a template which they then pressed into the tiles used for building these walls, creating a repeating pattern. This building style allowed them to build efficiently with beauty. The stylized Arabic writing says something like “There is no god greater than Allah.” Other patterns in these tiles are of shapes and flowers. The ceiling over this alcove also contains patterns created with wood inlays. The stars represent the heavens and their placement forms part of a tessellation of polygons.

More patterns at La Alhambra:


Another master of beautiful artwork and patterning was the Spanish architect Gaudi, whose living works can be seen in Barcelona.

Casa Batlle:DSCN4371 DSCN4382 DSCN4393 DSCN4423Sagrada Familia (the cathedral he designed but never saw completed – and is still not finished):

DSCN4469DSCN4445 DSCN4464Parq Guell:

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Also in Barcelona is the stunning Palau de Musica – not as well-known as other sights in that city, but well worth visiting:

This is the decorative ticket booth:


The beautiful facades and pillars can be seen from across the street. We were not allowed to take pictures inside.DSCN4331And then there is the ancient Roman aqueduct at Segovia; these arches dominate the entrance to the center of the city:DSCN4153 DSCN4156In Segovia also are many interesting facades, and pattern-forming roof tiles:

DSCN4092 DSCN4091 DSCN4076

Patterns exist everywhere; I chose Spain to showcase the pattern theme due to the variety, history and beauty of its man made patterns.






Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above – turtle & tulips

On a visit to The Grove, a local nature center, in early March, I took this picture of a turtle sticking its head out of the water. A little of its shell is also visible above the water.


It’s now tulip season! Tulips now dominate the flower garden landscape here in the Midwest. Following are some tulips I photographed from above, as they opened to reveal their fertile interiors.

IMAG0387I like the hazy quality of this picture.

IMAG0386The evergreen bushes contrast beautifully with the bright pink of this tulip.

????????????????????This tulip is from my yard – I planted bulbs several years ago along the fence bordering our property. I didn’t know what color they’d be – it was a total surprise!