Cee’s Black and White Challenge: Food

From the Garden, Photo Challenges

Sweet Georgia Onions

While working on a project to document the process and progress of our urban container garden when I came upon this challenge from Cee’s Photography.  The challenge is to capture a food item in black and white.  Like many photographers, there was time when I only shot film, and primarily black and white film.  Today, I’m shooting RAW with Nikon D5100; Nikkor lens: 35mm 1:1.8. There are many ways to convert a color digital image to black and white. I converted this image by completely reducing the saturation of the RAW file before importing into Ps Elements.

The image depicts the ‘first fruits’ of our Bonnie Plants Sweet Georgia Onions harvested on May 7.  We planted 24 onion ‘starts’ on in one Earth Box on February 22. The Earth Box is a 29″ L x 11″ H x14″ W/D plastic planter invented by Blake Whisenant, which uses a ‘bottoms up’ watering method. The yield ranges from golf to tennis ball-sized onions. While they are ready to eat right now, most will cure for about a week while the papery outer skins dry, the roots shrivel and the green necks begin to dry.   They can keep for weeks, but it’s not likely they’ll be around that long–deeelish!

Thanks for another good challenge, Cee!


Family History Keepsake Book

Photo Projects, Preserving Old Photographs

In an earlier post I described how much I learned from the research I compiled for a family history. The original project was completed in 2008. It was “published” in-house using my desktop photo printer and presented to each of my siblings in a three-ring binder.  Recently, I revisited the project. I included some newly found information, polished up the photo retouch/restoration and published it through Shutterfly.com.  This little video shows the final preview on Shutterfly.com captioned with some of the work involved in creating a Family History Keepsake Book.

Inspirations: Generous People and the New Media

Photo Projects, Preserving Old Photographs

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Perhaps it’s a reflection of my life experience, but I never cease to be amazed at the opportunities of the new media.  Just think of how the shopping experience has changed since the explosion of the internet.  Successful retailers add value to their products by engaging, entertaining and educating customers.  One of my favorites is Adorama  (where I buy most of my equipment). Another great find is Creative Live, an interactive, free, live broadcast for creative professionals.  Recently, I was particularly inspired by the multi-talented, award-winning photographer Sue Bryce. Generous and authentic, Sue turned me on to a simple method of sharing some of my work. I had no idea how simple it is to create a QuickTime video of desktop work! Incorporating the one hour photo retouch demo into  iMovie, I was able to compress it into 10 minutes.  Amazing!  You can see the full 10 minute video here:

Digital art wedding gift is a Courtship Souvenir

Photo Projects

Boy meets girl and the courtship begins.  Through a series of romantic dinners and casual picnics, visits to amusement parks, movie theaters and quiet walks on the beach, their love blooms. One day, he pops the big question and soon, wedding bells ring.  That’s not always the way but often enough, it is.  And many couples enjoy sharing their courtship memories with their wedding guests.

For this digital art project, I was commissioned by the bride’s aunt to create a different take on the photomontage poster.

Inspired by a vintage postcard design and armed with some of the bride’s best dating pictures, I layered the images with a “greeting” and their wedding date.  To “paint” the fantasy beach, I shot the sunset image near Folly Beach South, SC imported the sand from the shore of a Caribbean island and created a silhouette of the couple from one of the dating pictures.

The couple displayed the keepsake canvas print at the wedding reception.

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Climb Aboard Dream – Digital art project

Photo Projects

Four-year-old Nick is in love with the US Navy Blue Angels—the famous demonstration squadron of sleek blue jets.

Lucky Nick. He lives in Pensacola, Florida—home of the Blue Angels–and just minutes from the National Aviation Museum. There, Nick can visit “historic and one-of-a-kind aircraft, both inside the Museum’s nearly 300,000 square feet of exhibit space and outside on its 37-acre grounds.”

At the museum, his beloved Blue Angels “dive” in diamond formation inside a seven-story glass and steel atrium. Nick sees them eye-level from the Second Deck.  Even better, he can climb aboard the cockpit of a “real” jet.

For his bedroom, I created a poster in the vintage style of  illustrator Jessie Wilcox Smith. This Philadelphia artist was best known for her covers on Good Housekeeping magazine, like this one from May 1932.

Nick’s poster is a combination of two images, reworked in Photoshop. In addition to removing the background and transferring the image into a “painterly style,”  I also deleted the distracting gorilla on Nick’s t-shirt.  I shot the sky-high clouds from the window of an airplane – not one of the famed Blue Angels, but nicely diverse in the color and cloud formation.

For me, the finished poster represents the same imaginative possibilities I see in the Jessie Wilcox Smith poster.  To Nick, it’s a picture of a dream.

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Mother of the Bride

Casual Portraits, Special Ocassions

In the Winter of 2012,  I embarked on one of the most enjoyable journeys a mother can take. I had the privilege of helping my daughter put together her wedding. Once she found her dress, visualizing a theme became easy. She chose “Effortless Elegance” and each detail reflected that theme–and involved making a choice. We spent weeks sifting through ideas, vendors, resources, and of course, finances. Even a modestly priced wedding is likely to cause sticker shock.

It is true that after the cake is gone, the flowers dry out, and the dress is packed away, the only tangible evidence of the wedding day memories are in the photographs. But a budget is a budget and this Reasonable Family Photographer has to eat—and pay the caterer. So, we selected a capable young photographer who was willing to meet our needs and who agreed to sell the CD of the proof images so that I could build the albums. To save a bit more money, I shot the bridal portraits a few days before the wedding. The bride, no stranger to mom’s lens, was a beautiful model—if I do say so myself. Here are a few of the images from that shoot.

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Mothers and Daughters: A circle of life and love.

Casual Portraits

I think of the bond between mothers and daughters and the old expression comes to mind: A son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter all of her life.

We look into our baby daughter’s eyes and see ourselves–only better. Full of promise; free of worry.

Our daughters unlock the mystery of our mothers.  Once upon a time, there was a teen-aged us who swore we’d “never be like HER.” Then, when we least expect it, we hear our mother’s voice coming out of our mouth!

Once elevated to the realm of grandmother, nothing compares to the simple joy of observing a daughter with her child.

Some 80 years ago, someone looked into a daughter’s deep brown eyes and was filled with wonder.  Today, that baby is a great-grandmother.  It was a privilege to capture these moments with Great-grandma Rose, her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter–and namesake, Matilda Rose.

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Wedding Day Memories September 2012

Life Captured: Weddings and Other Special Events

These are a few of my photos from JoAnn and Dan’s wedding in September.  I like to mix black and white with color images when telling the wedding day story.  The dramatic moments seem more intense in black and white but the vibrant colors –especially the blues– seem to demand the full palette.  The final shot has a timeless quality.  My parents, married 60 years ago, had a similar image in their album.

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Every Day Observations: Animals

Life Captured


One of the real joys of my photography is documenting everyday observations.  For me, the familiar is exotic.  I’m amazed at the texture in a common toad, the brilliant color in a butterfly or the tender beauty of the egret ascending the marsh.  I look for emotional reactions with some images.   Does this angry squirrel make you want to cover your head?  Who can stifle a yawn while looking at this cat?  I’m tickled by the little pooch who seems to be planning his escape –if only his legs were long enough to pedal the bike.

Preserving Old Photographs

Photo Projects, Preserving Old Photographs

What archivists say about the preservation of photographs


  1. Avoid dampness. It causes photos to stick together and promotes mold growth.
  2. Give them a good home.  Above ground interior closets maintain fairly constant temperatures throughout the year and make a good choice for storage.
  3. Copy them now. Color dyes used in photographs printed before the mid-1980s irreversibly decay with time–and fade dramatically when displayed. When stored in boxes or albums they might last only 20 years.  For older photos that we hope to keep for future generations, the National Archives recommends they be copied now and printed onto the more stable color photograph papers.
  4. The National Archives website provides a lot of information about caring for family archives.  

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Retouching faded or scarred photographs is particularly challenging and time consuming, but worth it for a cherished family heirloom.  Watch a time lapse video of my retouching here.

The good news is that since the mid-1980s and especially since 1990, major photographic manufacturers have developed more stable dyes.  These photo prints are not likely to fade over a lifetime–and if properly stored, will last perhaps 100 years.

Life Lessons: Documenting Family History

Photo Projects, Preserving Old Photographs

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The process of restoring old photos is time-consuming and requires an artist’s eye and hand.  But it’s well worth the effort when you’re holding onto the surviving images of a cherished loved ones.  This is my father as he looked when he met my mother.  He was 12 years old.

Isn’t it ironic that the older we get the more interested we are in history?

At least that’s the way it is for me.  No doubt typical in my adolescence, I found the subject a boring mish-mash of names, dates and places, which seemed to prove that people just keep doing the same things over and over.  Greed. Repression. Famine. War.  Escape. Exploration. Followed by more of the same.  Greed. Repression. Famine. War.   Who cares?  Nobody seems to learn anything from it, so why should I?

Little did I know that my youthful nescience was proving philosopher George Santayana’s observation, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I didn’t have any idea who George Santayana was.  I recently learned the sentence following that quote in Santayana’s 1906 volume Reason in Science reads: “In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted, it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children…”  That was me, all right!

My father cared about history.  For him, it was a fascinating story of the human family.  He saw the slow progress of humanity as an unfolding of wisdom. And he understood that the key to success in any era is simple:

Be kind.

It’s no wonder, then, that my foray into documenting family history began with our Dad.  Since I did not begin the process of sorting through the photos and papers until after Mom had also passed, I relied on memory, oral tradition and some original documents like military records, their first mortgage and some family photos going back two generations.

Since I have eight siblings, I wanted to prepare something that could be easily duplicated.  Duplicating the photos and scanning the documents was the obvious first step.  The challenge in dealing with old materials is complicated by the lack of care they have received over the years.  Retouching photos is time-consuming and requires an artist’s touch.

While tracing his family roots through census records, reading historical maps, newspapers and even text books, I learned of our family’s escape from repression and the Irish potato famine, exposure to the Tammany Hall Riots and conscription into the American Civil War.  Subsequent generations were laborers and nurses, some ancestors were sent to live in a ‘home for the destitute’, others joined the Navy—as did my father.  His service was brief, but it was active during the early years of the Korean War. My dad was the first of his family to graduate from college.   On his modest salary he fed, clothed and educated nine children.

The project of documenting Dad’s family history was fascinating.  I learned a lot about a man I thought I knew.  And typically, I found there was much more I would never know.  It was the kind of history lesson that only Dad could give.