CFFC: Shiny: Photographic Effects and Mistakes

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge theme this week is shiny.  Using photographic manipulation and mistakes added to the shiny-ness of some of these photos!

Icicles – I got the effect I was looking for in this shot, with the late afternoon sun shining behind the icicles to create a golden glow. (Taken from my living room window)
The full moon rising in the darkness plus the bright holiday lights on people’s balconies brought out the contrast between dark and light. Using my cellphone camera made the moon look larger and shinier than it actually was. (Taken across the street from my church in Des Plaines)
I cropped this shot to focus on the shiny golden table surface with the reflection of a shiny wine glass. (Restaurant in Cairo, Egypt)
20181224_195431 (2)
This photo needed no modification – the shiny white marble floor of this mosque reflected the architecture around it, creating an awe-inspiring effect. (Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo, Egypt)
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Israel is easy to spot with its shiny golden dome standing out against the shades of white of the old city. I enhanced the contrast to emphasize this magnificent building.
This photo was an accident – I had my camera on the wrong setting so this photo of sailboats on the Mediterranean Sea (at Cesarea, Israel) was overexposed. But I liked the effect and the shiny surface of the Mediterranean casts a white glow on the scene. (I also discovered I needed to clean my lens!)
The day following this, we drove along the coast of the Dead Sea by motorcoach on our way to Masada. It was still relatively early, so the rising sun made a shiny reflection on the surface of the Dead Sea, our first view of it.  Once again, my cellphone’s sensitivity to bright light made the sun bigger and brighter than it was.

86% Totality

On Monday, August 21, 2017, many people across this country were excited to get a look at the solar eclipse.  For the first time in generations, the total eclipse would pass over the continental United States! Some people made pinhole boxes, like we used to in school. Some trekked down to Carbondale or Makanda in southern Illinois to join the crowds viewing the total eclipse – we didn’t go because all rooms were booked, but we vowed to go in 2024, when it will cross southern Illinois again! Some used colanders or their hands to see tiny crescents. A friend in Texas took this shot.
colander eclipse crescents-Amie R

Another friend journeyed down to Cherokee, NC which apparently was also in the path of totality. Before the total eclipse, she took this shot of crescents coming through the openings in a tree canopy.  Then she got a picture of the total eclipse.crescent shadows-Marge Smtih

total eclipse-Marge SmithMy photographer cousin who lives in Wyoming in the path of totality took this excellent picture.DSCN0306

Here in the Chicago area, we had 86% totality, but that didn’t stop anyone from having a good time! I worried about a shortage of eclipse glasses – I looked online but companies were charging hundreds of dollars for them! Luckily, my friend Betty and I went to the Chicago Botanic Garden, which was partnering with the Adler Planetarium to sponsor an eclipse viewing event – we were lucky to find both parking and eclipse glasses, which were being handed out free one pair per family.

Happy me – I got eclipse glasses!!

The grounds at the gardens were crowded with people, who had brought lawn chairs or blankets to sit on (picnics were not allowed). The smell of cooking hamburgers wafted through the air as people stood in line to have lunch before the big event.

We attended a concert by a trio of musicians, one of them the composer of a piece written expressly for the eclipse. In his introduction, the composer said that, although we sometimes feel small, the eclipse lets us feel part of something bigger.


All around the outdoor concert venue, people had set up chairs on the lawn and were getting ready. I heard one woman tell another, just around noon, that the eclipse was starting: “It looks like a cookie with a bite taken out of it!”

A pair of teenage girls and a mother and daughter figure out how to take pictures using their cell phones with the glasses over them. (Not only could looking directly at the sun when not totally eclipsed can damage your eyes, it can damage cell phone cameras as well.)

This guy was ready to take some professional-looking photos. On the right is the rose garden, a waiting crowd getting settled.

Meanwhile, the flowers and plants had a lot to offer in terms of beauty while waiting.

Betty and I finally chose a spot at the edge of a tree, but with a good view. Clouds were gathering and people worried about the eclipse being obscured by a cloud cover.

I settled into a comfortable viewing position, lying down with my head resting on my purse, and holding my eclipse glasses over my regular glasses.20170821_131032

Part of the time, it was clear enough to see the full eclipse, and I managed to take this picture using my cell phone, holding the glasses over the lens, while Betty clicked the button.  At first, I thought it was just a yellow blotch with a reflection of the sun’s rays at the left,
but when I blew it up, I could see it was a perfect crescent!20170821_130602 (2)

Not bad for a cell phone!!

Soon afterward, during the period of 86% totality, a cloud cover began to obscure the sun, but the cool thing about it was that at first it was a thin layer of clouds and you could see the eclipsed sun right through it with your naked eyes!! I tried to take a picture of it but the clouds moved so fast. Still, if you look carefully to the left of the small light patch in the center of the photo below, you can see a faint partial crescent.

After that, the sun completely disappeared behind a thick layer of clouds – we’d gotten to see the best part anyway! So we got up and went to have salads for lunch and then admired some more flowers before going home.

I am keeping the glasses for 2024 – Carbondale or Bust!!


Photo credits:
Amie Rodnick
Margaret Smith
Katherine Murray
Katy Berman, blog author

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.




Alaska 2016: Alaska’s largest city and an outdoor museum (Part 2)

The Iñupiaq and St. Lawrence Island Yupik have traditionally occupied northwestern Alaska – a vast area to the north of a roughly diagonal line from the northeast corner of Alaska to to the center west, north of Norton Sound. In addition, these people live in the northern border of Canada all the way east to Greenland. Their society is based on subsistence hunting of sea mammals and land animals, as well as gathering the resources from land and sea. They are a people of the sea, rivers, and mountains.



The Arctic climate in that region is extremely harsh. People need ingenuity, skill and ability to make use of the resources available. People worked in cooperative groups to hunt animals such as whales and caribou, and to gather. Their living groups were based on kinship and marriage. Each household consisted of three or four generations, headed by a senior hunter and his wife, who were responsible for distributing the food their crew had obtained.

Iñupiaq family in front of cache, Seward Peninsula


Kalakuk, Box Drum
Kalukuk, box drum

The fourth group in the exhibit were the Yup’ik and Cup’ik people, who occupy southwestern Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands. Their territory extends north to Norton Sound.

The qasgiq is the men’s house and community center. It is bigger than the structure where the women and girl live, but basically the same construction.

When boys were old enough to leave their mothers, they would go to live in the qasgiq, where the older males would teach them how to be Yup’ik or Cup’ik men. Women would bring food to the men, and in the evening joined them for singing, dancing and festive events. The architecture of both the men’s and the women’s houses were the same – a wooden post and beam structure made of driftwood and covered with sod. Seal or walrus intestines were used for a removable window on the roof.

Qasgiq, the Men's House

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Inside the house


The the spring, communities moved closer to the coast for the availability of sea mammals. Meanwhile, those communities farther inland would wait for the salmon runs by hunting geese and ducks. Those who lived near the mountains went up to hunt squirrels and headed back down after the ice broke up. In the summer, they moved to camps at the head of rivers, where they would catch, smoke and dry the salmon. In the winter, people gathered to repair equipment, share stories and perform ceremonies.


The cultural group from Denali and Fairbanks are the Athabascans.  “Denali” is in fact   an Athabascan word that means “Great One.”  It is the name they had given the highest mountain in North America, which is sacred to them, and finally last year it became the official name by executive order of Pres. Obama, changed from Mt. McKinley.

Athabascan territory covers the largest area and consists of eleven language groups. In addition, the Athabascan language is related to the languages of some native groups in the American Southwest.

The Athabascans were traditionally migratory, traveling in small groups to hunt, fish and trap.  Today they live along the main waterways of central and south central Alaska. They adapted their culture and traditions to their nomadic way of life.

The pictures below appear to indicate a more settled way of life, which may be a representation of how they live today.

KODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Detail of the building construction

We did manage to see all the outside exhibits but didn’t linger at any of them too long – usually they are supposed to have representatives of the tribes explain the artifacts and demonstrate one of their cultural traditions, but those people were not there. Perhaps that was a good thing because that would have slowed us down and we’d never get through all the exhibits.

As it was, I rushed into the exhibit room inside, hoping to be able to see some of it.  There were native people there, who greeted me; they were selling things.  I smiled and greeted them back but didn’t stop to talk to them or look at their merchandise.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Aleut and Alutiiq baskets are some of the finest in the world. There may be 2,500 stitches in a square inch! It might take 15 hours to complete.

I didn’t see much before Dale was calling me again – it was 2:25, time to go to the bus. Even after we boarded, we had to wait for a couple who had lingered longer, and were late.  There were only 17 people on the tour.

Westmark Hotel in Anchorage

At about 3:30 we were dropped off at our hotel, where we checked in and went to our 12th floor room, and found our luggage waiting for us there.

The room had a balcony and I took a few pictures of the view from there.  We then went back downstairs and walked around part of downtown Anchorage.  It was a beautiful day, with clear skies and the temperature was about 75°F!  We found Kaladi and got coffee there.







A souvenir store full of Alaska kitsch



There was an outdoor to-scale exhibit of the solar system.  On the left is the sun, and spread throughout the city are each of the planets, placed relative to their distance from the sun. The sign on the right explains the exhibit.

When it was close to dinnertime, we ran into our dinner table mates from the cruise ship. I told them we were just about to go somewhere for dinner and if they wanted to join us. But they had another agenda – a theater across the street from the hotel was showing a short documentary about the aurora borealis.  The guide they had on their train car that morning had said there was going to be a “major event” tomorrow night.  I thought about what our bus driver, Tom, had said:  that the aurora borealis rarely made an appearance and when it did, it was usually grayish in color, hardly distinguishable from clouds.  This comment had been a disappointment to me, so I was encouraged by this news from our cruise mates.  Since the show was playing every hour on the hour until 9 pm,  we decided to go later.


Earlier we’d passed by Humpy’s, a restaurant across the street from our hotel and some people coming out of it had great things to say about it, so we decided to go there for dinner.  It’s sort of a sports bar, but they have tables outside in the back where it would be quieter.


We shared a table with an American Catholic couple from Michigan who were here on some business with their church but also a vacation.  We enjoyed talking to them.

The food was great too:  I had a fish taco with chips and salsa; Dale ordered a halibut burger with fries. We both had a glass of white Zinfandel wine.


After dinner there was still an hour of daylight left so we killed time until it was time for the 8 pm showing of the film.  It was $11 each with a coupon and a senior discount!  We were slightly late, so the movie had already started when we went in.  The beginning had the scientific explanation of the aurora borealis.  After that were a series of “scenes” of the Northern Lights taken by a professional photographer, with music accompaniment.

The movie was nice, but not great – not what I thought it would be.  Was it worth spending $22?

Finally we returned to the Westmark Hotel.  It was twilight and all the lights were coming on in downtown Anchorage.  I took a few pictures from the balcony.

Photos: The sun on the Baltic Sea

While on our cruise in the Baltic Sea earlier this month, I saw and photographed many sunsets. Some mornings when we couldn’t seem to sleep past dawn, I also took pictures of sunrises. Then there were times when the late afternoon sun glistened on the water, casting everything else in silhouette…

Aug. 7, 9:02 p.m.
Aug. 7, 9:02 p.m.

Aug. 7, 9:03 p.m.
Aug. 7, 9:03 p.m.

Aug. 7, 9:03 p.m.
Aug. 7, 9:03 p.m.

Aug. 8, 6:37 p.m.
Aug. 8, 6:37 p.m.

Aug. 8, 8:49 p.m.
Aug. 8, 8:49 p.m.

 Aug. 8, 8:57 p.m.
Aug. 8, 8:57 p.m.

Aug. 10, 10:36 p.m.
Aug. 10, 10:36 p.m.

Aug. 11, 5:38 a.m.
Aug. 11, 5:38 a.m.

Aug. 11, 6:39 a.m.
Aug. 11, 6:39 a.m.

Aug. 12, 6:22 p.m.
Aug. 12, 6:22 p.m.

Aug. 12, 6:23 p.m.
Aug. 12, 6:23 p.m.

Aug. 12, 6:27 p.m.
Aug. 12, 6:27 p.m.

Aug. 14, 7:39 a.m.
Aug. 14, 7:39 a.m.

Aug. 15, 5:54 p.m.
Aug. 15, 5:54 p.m.

Aug. 17, 8:20 p.m.
Aug. 17, 8:10 p.m.

Aug. 17, 8:17 p.m.
Aug. 17, 8:17 p.m.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Feb. 20, 2008 – Lunar eclipse

To find something appropriate for this week’s Flashback Friday, I went digging through my collection of CD-Rs.  I’m winter weary, so I didn’t want to look back at other snowy winters past.  Then I came across this…

On Feb. 20, 2008, there was a total lunar eclipse. My husband took these pictures, starting with the total eclipse.  We watched with awe from a window on our stairwell, the best place in our house for moon viewing.

DSCF6272-2The total eclipse turned the moon into a reddish color, more like Mars than our moon!

DSCF6273-2An eclipse of the moon is when Earth comes between the sun and the moon, blocking out the sun’s light which normally reflects off the moon, making it appear white and bright. This phenomenon only can occur when the moon is at full moon phase.

DSCF6274-2As the position of the Earth moved relative to the sun and moon, the eclipse waned, and gradually the moon grew bright again.


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.