I don’t tend to photograph people, preferring the outdoors and flowers.  However, people watching is a great past time, and getting portraits, candid or otherwise, of family or strangers, shows the diversity of the world in a face.

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Train Ride

Trains are not a common form of transportation where I live.  To go anywhere, you get in the car.  Fortunately, some thought has been given to how the area I live in was planned; it did not “just grow” (like Topsy, I think), but ideas of liveable space at its root.  We have little shopping areas within walking distances, and parks in every neighborhood.  Much of what I want can be had by walking, but to get to work, I need to drive.  When I was a kid in Chicago, public transportation, specifically the El, is my remembered form of getting someplace.

Anyway, there is a bit of romance about trains.  The Istanbul Express comes to mind.  The lonely whistles of trains heard as they cross the prairies.  Rushing rivers seen from the windows of narrow railways winding through the mountains.  Jack Kerouac and Carl Sandburg.

And then, the local historical train:  The Fillmore and Western Railway.  This is a a small company, for tourists and train enthusiasts, riding the no-longer-used rails in the backwoods of Ventura County, through orange groves and behind the houses of Fillmore, Santa Paula, and Piru.  It’s really fun!  There is an old Pullman, from the 20s, to dine in, with possibly some of the old fixtures, and another car with a combination of what looks like old seats from the 40s or 50s, and perhaps earlier.  Behind the cars are open carriages, shaded from the sun, so you can get out and look at the countryside as you ride through it.

Riding a train is sort of like spying.  Things you don’t see from the road are seen from the train.  Looking into the farmland, we saw orchards and beehives, as well as transients sleeping behind fences and in makeshift camps.  Paths amongst eucalyptus trees looked inviting, as did the oranges and lemons on the trees.  The air was clear and blue, and with the small rains of the past couple of months, the hillsides have emerged into a green that is already beginning to fade back to beige and brown.

Besides looking out the windows and wandering to the back of the train to take pictures, people were fun to look at and to talk with.  We saw families with small children, couples, kids of all ages.  Once we settled in, and the rhythm of the train became familiar, comfort levels rose and we – and others – wandered around.

Bits and pieces of the train became interesting – whether it was the debris left behind by the wanderers, or the small details of the train itself.  Waving at children who waved at us was so much fun – I remember doing that when I was little.  Look!

One of the fun things is that this train is just slow.  We used our phone apps to determine how fast we were going – no faster than 16mph while we were recording, and certainly much slower through the little towns – old California farming communities.  Our trip was from Fillmore to Santa Paula, with about an hour in Santa Paula before returning to Fillmore, stopping for 30 minutes at a local koi vendor.

California is not just freeways and too many people.  There is a lot here.  Agriculture, history, people, scenery.  Ventura County is north of Los Angeles, and like much of the state, has a variety of things to offer.  It is a beautiful place to be, and certainly this short little trip reminded me how lovely it is.


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Some Yarn at Last, or, Asta Sollilja

Asta Sollilja

Beginning mid-December, I started this sweater, designed by Kate Davies, and available in her book Yokes.   Asta Sollilja is a sweater derived from traditional Icelandic sweaters, but with waist-shaping (not that I have much of one!) and short rows to make a distinctive front and back. Traditional Icelandic sweaters have neither, but are wearable in any direction, although with regular wear, take on, perhaps, more of the owner’s body shape.

I used Cascade 220 and changed the colorway a bit, cutting down on one color and using navy blue for the dark brownish color as well as the navy.

I just finished this sweater and was soooo excited, I just had to take pictures of it! I used Jeny’s Stretchy Bind Off, which is fantastic in that it is tidy, and stretchy, and can be done quite nicely with 2×2 ribbing at the neckline.  You can see the video here.

I still have ends to weave in and armholes to graft before the final wash and blocking – but this is the first Finished Object of the season – my New Year’s resolution – the BIG ONE – is to finish up my plethora of UFOs.



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Now ON loved sweet MLE,
And quite B9 was F8
B4 he did with NRG
SA to AV8.

He flew with EZ XTC,
Nor NE did XL;
A B caused him one day, ah me!
2 DV8, he fell.

They gave to ON ODV
And XS OP8;
His brow grew IC 4, U C,
Y then it was 2 L8.

“O, ON,” MLE did say,
“No more an NTT,
I envy even grim DK
Your MT FEG.”

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Manipulations in Photography, or, Dropped Match

Part of me is just a purist – photography should be straight forward, SOOC, with some – but not a lot of – modifications.  However, blending and layering different images and textures is not something in my repertoire.  I don’t think like that.  I see art that is not realistic as something we do with watercolors or etching, but not with photography.

Left Over from Last Year

And then, now that I have started playing much more with presets in LR or PPS9, I find there are a lot of ways to post process pictures to a point that I like. Faded presets are all the rage now, ones duplicating, or attempting to duplicate, colored images from the past. Over-exposed film, under-exposed film, light leaks, cross processing, faded Kodachrome. There are family photos from the 50s that now look like this.

Left Over from Last Year ii

To me, this is a “normal” bit of post – but layering images to send a message? Looking at the work of different photographic artists, I realize I need to re-think my approach to the merged and blending of images. There is a lot out there that is emotionally appealing and thought-provoking. The voice of the artist can take many forms, but I have never really given too much credence to this in photography, or using photography to move into more creative realms. It’s hard to explain, really.

When I looked at the above photos, I started thinking about how dry our area is, in the third year of a serious drought. Tomorrow, some rain, but California is way behind on its water needs. Countries worldwide are reporting their hottest years – Norway, for one – and California as a state, too. Not good, but we all “know” that there isn’t any global warning . . .

What will this landscape, already barren, look like if it goes up in one of the periodic fires we get? We’ve had several in our area already, one being the Springs Fire that swept through last year, killing animals, damaging environments and narrow ecosystems. This, then, is my thought about a favorite local park, and a dropped match . . .

Dropped Match

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Crustless Ricotta Spinach Pie

Crustless Ricotta Spinach Pie

Crustless Ricotta Spinach Pie

4 eggs
1 c. heavy cream
1. c. whole milk ricotta cheese
1. c. grated Swiss, Jarlsberg, or Emmenthaler cheese
1 bunch of baby spinach, washed, rinsed, chopped, and squeezed as dry as possible
Fresh nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 F. Rinse spinach, put in pan, steam until limp, then drain and squeeze and chop. Set aside.

Beat together eggs, cream, ricotta, and nutmeg. Stir in spinach and grated cheese.

Pour into 9 inch pie pan, sprayed with oil. Bake for 30 minutes; remove when pie is set but still jiggles. Cool.

Good with a fresh salad, or for an easy breakfast grab-and-go.

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Portrait of the Pears

The other day I went shopping deliberately for fruit to shoot.  Food photography can be fun, but it does require more of a set up than I use when I am shooting pictures as I work in the kitchen.  I bought pears, tangerines, and apples from Whole Foods, checking the produce out for perfect fruit, and because I really think they have the best fruits in the autumn and winter months.  I used flash with the MagMod, backlighting from my eastern-facing studio window, a Lastolite scrim, along with silver reflectors and white foam core.  Not everything was used in every shot, but I did enjoy playing around.  Camera was the Nikon Df and the Nikon 24-85mm f2.8-4 lens.

The purpose of this study was to work with equipment and to work with software. Just practicing a studio set up and then working with the light – which was done in the morning given the eastern window – was fun. Shooting outdoors is not the same as shooting indoors. Doing studio work helps me focus on thinking about light, shadow, texture, composition, color, ad infinitum. It is a good way to focus more than just the camera – it creates a consciousness of the environment, one which I can control to a certain degree.

Besides the learning curve of studio work – and the fun – I really enjoy still lives of plants, food, fruit, and vegetables. For me, it brings the beauty of the natural world and an appreciation of its diversity to the forefront – something easy to forget in the face of just the busy-ness of everyday life.

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