Countdown 2 Xmas: Mail Toys Snow Night

I’m back at Tourmaline’s Countdown to Christmas. Let’s see, where was I?

Day 19: Mail
I almost always send holiday cards through the mail. Usually they are late, but this year I’ve mailed them all before Christmas! I order my cards from Shutterfly and couldn’t imagine what to send in this coronavirus year! The one I chose was amusing & appropriate, I thought – it just said “Well, That was CRAZY! Happy 2021 (finally)”. It included four photos, one a selfie of me and Dale in masks, one of Hazel, our cat, and two scenic. (I am unable to copy and paste it here and I used up all the cards!) I had Shutterfly print our return address on the back of the envelope, so sending them was easy! I only had to add my half-page letter, address, stamp, seal, and mail!

Day 20: Toys

Day 21: Snow
We haven’t had any (yet)! But here are some photos from last winter.

Day 22: Night
Last night, for the first time in 800 years, Saturn and Jupiter were to line up in the night sky, and we would see them as one brightish light near the horizon. We were going to go to a park after dark to look at this phenomenon, but alas! It was cloudy!

What I like about night at Christmas time is all the holiday lights that brighten up the darkness when the days are short and the sun sets before 4:30 p.m.!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Monochrome

Lens-Artists’ weekly photo challenge #70 has the topic monochrome. Monochrome can be either black & white or varying hues of the same color.

Normally, to create a black & white photo, I use my photo software to change it from color to B&W, since I do virtually all my photography in color. In this photo, however, I didn’t have to. It was after dark and the tree was lit from the side, so I got this spooky effect.
There was not much color in the original of this photo, either, but I did have to modify it to be completely monochrome. It was taken on Halloween, when we had an early snowfall, accumulating to over 3 inches! Fortunately, it is gone now.
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This photo is a detail from the top of a box, created by a resident of our senior community.
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The aurora borealis

August 29, 2016          11:30 pm

The aurora borealis is the result of electrons colliding with Earth’s upper atmosphere. Typically it forms 80-500 km above Earth’s surface. The electrons come from solar flares caused by solar storms, and while we were in Alaska we found out that 2016 is the 11th year of the solar cycle when it is most volatile making storm-causing flares more likely.

The accelerated electrons stream down Earth’s magnetic field to the polar regions where they collide with oxygen, nitrogen and other gases. These collisions cause the gases in the atmosphere to glow.  Green and white are the most common colors. Which color you see depends on the type of gas in the atmosphere.

The Northern Lights come in several different shapes, such as tall undulating curtains or thin arcs. Late in the evening, near midnight, the arcs start to twist and sway, just as if a wind were blowing on the curtains of light. At some point, the arcs may expand to fill the whole sky, moving quickly and becoming very bright.

(Most of the above information comes from the Space Weather Prediction Center on the NOAA web site.)

We had asked the front desk at McKinley Chalet resort to call us if the Northern Lights were visible.  I had just changed into my nightshirt at 11:30 pm when the phone rang.  The aurora borealis was out!  I put on my shoes without socks even though the shoes were wet because I had tried to clean the mud off them. I pulled on my jeans, and put on my fleece and jacket over my nightshirt to go outside.

We weren’t the only ones out there.  Quite a few other guests at the Canyon Lodge had come out into the driveway to see the aurora.

The aurora borealis is rarely seen south of northern Minnesota in the United States. One reason we chose to take this trip to Alaska in late August (instead of June, when the sun never goes down) was in order to have a chance to see the Northern Lights, which I had never seen in my life.

There were long white streaks across the sky.  One of them began in a spot on the horizon where greenish light glowed.  A ribbon unfurled from that spot, which was mostly white but had a tinge of green.  The colors, I’d learned, were created by different gases in the atmosphere.  We watched as it stretched, then curled in a corner of the sky.  The stars shone right through it and the Milky Way was clearly visible, something I don’t see very often.  We watched for awhile longer and Dale attempted to take a picture but couldn’t secure his camera still enough to take a picture with a long exposure.  Someone else had a regular tripod and the picture she got showed the aurora as bright green!  Later, a guide said that it was because the camera can capture more color on a long exposure shot than we can see with our eyes, so that the photo is actually more accurate than our eyes!


I found this image on Google Images and chose it to approximate the color of what we saw our first night in Denali NPP.

I was amazed to see that the stars were visible through the aurora, which of course made sense – after all, the aurora borealis isn’t a cloud!

After 20 minutes or so, we decided to go back inside.  I was excited for having seen it, yet somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t more colorful.  People were looking up on the Internet on aurora borealis web sites to find out when would be a good night for viewing. “5” is the highest ranking given, which indicates the greatest likelihood of seeing it. Two nights later, we had another chance.

Photo above from

August 31, 2016      11:30 pm

Tonight we got another call to see the aurora borealis. It was only 11:30, only two hours past sunset, but we went outside where there were quite a few other people viewing, just as there had been two nights before.  This time the view was more spectacular, and Dale had read his camera’s manual to figure out how to take pictures of the night sky, so he got some great pictures of the green waves and curves of the undulating borealis. The only color we saw was bright green, but some of the others who had been out there longer claimed it had been purplish earlier.

These are Dale’s pictures of the Northern Lights on Aug. 31, 2016, about 11:30 pm.




Word(s) of the Week: Nyctophilia and Nyctophobia

How would you feel if you were in this scene?

How would you feel if you were in this scene?

Nyctophobia (also called noctiphobia or scotophobia) is defined as an abnormal fear of the night or of darkness. A person with this fear may be characterized as nyctophobic. Here is how the night might sound for one who suffers from nyctophobia:

Scary Sounds from a night in the wild

Am I nyctophobic? I’m not afraid when I’m in my house in the dark, but I am afraid to walk outside in the dark . In some countries, like the U.S., this may be considered normal, since women are susceptible to being attacked at night. I don’t like dark parking lots either, for the same reason.

empty parking lot

Is the last car in the parking lot yours?

Is the last car in the parking lot yours?

This word is pronounced: nick – toh – FO – bee-ah. It’s origin is from from Greek nukt- + phobia.

Conversely, the opposite of nyctophobia is nyctophilia: This is a preference for the night or darkness. It is also called scotophilia.

night sky thru treesPeople who love the night may hear it like this:

Beautiful night sounds

I love the night when I feel safe: in a natural setting, perhaps, where I may hear the crickets, frogs and night birds.I love being in a rural area where I can look up and see a canopy of stars and galaxies.

night in tent

Camping in a tent with these sounds enveloping me can be very soothing. Also, you can download 30+ minutes of night sounds like the sample above to play at home when you want to go to sleep at night.

To find out if you tend toward nyctophobia or nyctophilia, watch the following video of the full moon with night sounds by Tall Sky YouTube videos, filmed in 2011.

Tall Sky


How does this scene make you feel?

How does this scene make you feel?

Note: All photos were downloaded from Google images using search categories: scary night, empty parking lot at night, peaceful night.

Weeekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

For this week’s photo challenge, I selected photos taken in the last three months, all with my cellphone camera.

Taking photos at night can be challenging and for me, often unsuccessful.  However, there are always some surprises as well as opportunities to take night photos that I grab when I can.

Just last Friday, I took some pictures at Navy Pier in Chicago at night.  We were attending a performance at Shakespeare Theatre’s Skyline Stage, which is under a sort of tent, but during the intermission we walked out onto the patio. The Ferris Wheel was nearby, all lit up.

IMAG2698 IMAG2699

The windows of the Shakespeare Theatre building created this distorted reflection of the Ferris Wheel’s flashing lights:

IMAG2692   The Chicago skyline was pretty too:

In July, I took these photos on a lake in northern Wisconsin, at sunset and just after:

Sunset 9:11 pm

Sunset 9:11 pm

Clouds over lake after sunset: there is a small white dot in the upper right corner - that's the moon.

Clouds over lake after sunset: there is a small white dot in the upper right corner – that’s the moon.

And of course, what would summer be without a 4th of July fireworks show enjoyed with some kids? (My nephews). We were on the pier of our cottage on this same lake, and I managed to get these shots:

IMAG2505_BURST001_1 IMAG2503_1 IMAG2500_1I like the way the fireworks were reflected on the surface of the water.