Clouds Close to Home bring a welcome respite

Four years is long enough for my  “Suburban Growth” photography project. The last step is to make a video slideshow that shows the stages of development in  East Dublin, California.  (Soon.)

Windemere Trail, San Ramon
Windemere Trail, San Ramon

 Photo Tip: When documenting a subject over time, careful planning and record keeping of focal length, shot position, time of day, f stop, ISO, etc. are necessary for some form of consistency.

(My excuse for not following that rule is I didn’t know what I wanted when I began.) I just jumped in when I liked a shot. Plus, I suffer from “CRS syndrome,”–I can’t remember shit!



Fall Foliage Briefly Illuminated by the Sun

9 am  shooting toward partial sun, 11/19/14
9 am shooting toward partial sun, 11/19/14

For the past three days it’s been gloomy with fog, rain, and dense clouds here in Northern California. The sun briefly  appeared after I waited about 40 minutes in a Pleasanton parking lot, so I quickly took a shot of the sun behind some leaves. Pity, with all these clouds, we’ve still only had about 1/2 inch of rain.  I didn’t find any puddles with fall leaves. Maybe tomorrow and hopefully with some sun because water often looks best in the middle of the day with the sun shining on it. Landscape photography is very different from urban photography. When I lived in a big city, chance was my best friend, whereas here a lot of patience and probably a tripod is necessary for good landscape photography.

Fall Poem “The Gifts Autumn Brings” by Jyrone Denny: Cool air, bright colors, The sweet smell of dying leaves.

10 am, light behind me on a cloudy day.
10 am, light behind me on a cloudy day.

Every day feels like a bonus since I’ve been lucky enough to have already lived more than 70 years.

In these bonus days, I hope to find art near my doorstep and share it with you.


Copyright © M. Hutchison, 2014

Please like, comment and share this post.





Everything Has Changed for Photographers

 Dinosaurs Still Roam the Earth in the Digital Age

Ceramic Staurikosaurus by Marian Coleman 2013
Ceramic Staurikosaurus by Marian Coleman, 2013

Those who practice the ancient art of ceramics like my friend Marian can more easily navigate the digital age than old photographers like me. No matter how hard we struggle to be part of the new age, we are dinosaurs about it become extinct. My darkroom was a beloved haven where  for decades I unraveled the mysteries of my images.

Where has the mystery gone?

Now I sit in front of a back lit computer monitor struggling to understand software programs designed by engineers whose lives revolve around the numbers 0 and 1. Where are the mysteries buried in computer code? Only engineers know, so as Mao Zedong said, “I curse the river of time” that has brought us here.

Honestly, I’m fascinated with technology and don’t really regret the past decade or so I’ve spent deciphering Photoshop and my computer’s operating system. It hasn’t been easy because I really don’t belong to this age and because I lost my memory somewhere.

 An unknown person once said,

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history with the possible exception of handguns and tequila.

The large ceramic dinosaurs below are mounted on acrylic and are approximately 28″wide by 22″ high.

Solitary artists with an aversion to sharing won’t go far in the digital age

I don’t like to share my creative process, even though I’m a socialist.

Scandinavian artist Edvard Munch (The Scream) was so possessive of his paintings that he rarely left his studio and when he did, he carried as much of his work with him as possible.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty recently said:

Your value will not be what you know, but what you share.

Dinosaurs Need Not Apply

Google started a TV school and studio in order to create new TV channels. Entrance into the school  is mostly determined by how much you collaborated in your online YouTube productions.

Archaeoptery by Marian Coleman
Archaeoptery by Marian Coleman, 2013

 Next time I’ll write about resizing your pictures for optimal viewing online. For now, visit what I think to be the best photography site– Digital Photography Review. At this valuable site, you will find answers to your equipment and photography technique questions, keep up with the latest photography news and join challenges where everyone votes for the best pictures by subject.

 Good Bye for now, and don’t forget to set your laser printer to stun.

All ceramic art by Marian Coleman is copyrighted © 2013



I’m Still Here

My shadow at a neighborhood skateboard park
A mere shadow of my former self at a neighborhood skateboard park


There are many advantages to an unplanned retirement in addition to the wonderful memories of  great times you had while not saving money. When you must stay close to home  because of financial constraints, you can explore  your neighborhood in depth. For example, how many 70 year old woman actually get to explore the ups and downs of a neighborhood skateboard park  as I did recently one  morning around 9:00 a.m.?

As Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) wrote about age in his book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

” You were old, Father William, the young man said, ‘And your hair has become very white; And yet you incessantly stand on your head–Do you think, at your age it is right?’ ‘In my youth, ‘Father William replied to his son, “I feared it might injure the brain: But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none, Why, I do it again and again.”

I may have little brain left and not a lot to say, but as the great director Federico Fellini’s character Guido said in “81/2”, “I have nothing to say, but I want to say it anyway.”

Another advantage to an unplanned retirement  is you have ample time to work on a long-term photography project since you won’t be out shopping or traveling. You can shoot thousands of pictures practically free. I currently work on a project about ranch land being lost to suburban sprawl. The project is slow going, but so am I. With any luck, I’ll be around to take the after photographs when the houses are finished. In October, look for more pictures of building progress on this site.

copyright © M. Hutchison, 2013

When Photographers Cease to Roam

Chance and the Unplanned Retirement

Don’t just sit around and fret if you left your retirement up to chance and are now forced to spend your final days close to home. If you can  find your way to a bus stop or still have your car keys, there are many photo subjects to explore near home. Even your house or room can make an interesting subject with a little imagination.    

Voyage Around My Room in 42 days 

is a delightful free e-book on Google Books by a mid-eighteenth century writer Xavier de Maistre who wrote it while confined to his room under house arrest for dueling. There he plotted the room’s latitude and used  compass readings to give directions to various items in his richly described room.

Expect Hometown Photography in weeks to come–

I have lived in this suburban town of 46,000 for the past six years and have photographed what I think are the  highlights. You’ll see the best of my Dublin, CA wildlife and park photos, plus my series on new house construction. Think about bread for the ducks and geese, but never the wild turkeys.

Wild Turkeys at Dublin Apartment Complex
Young Wild Turkeys at Dublin Apartment Complex














“Do you believe in the life to come? Hum: mine was always that.” from the Samuel Beckett play Endgame (1958)


Copyright © 2013 Marlene Hutchison

Photo Tips for the Not-So-Young

More than a Billion New Photographers:

Smartphone technology has created more than a billion new photographers. With a camera always at hand, (the best camera is the one you have with you), this highly democratic development has increased the possibility of everyone capturing  “stunning” images.  Not everyone is happy about the  democratization of photography. After all, it took more than a hundred years to elevate it to an art form. Photographers complained when Kodak put a camera in almost every American home in the 1940’s. I had a photography professor who complained that  David Hockney had ruined it for photographers by taking snapshots for his collages like the one below (Pear Blossom Highway) and developing them at local one hour photo shops instead of in a darkroom.  

Professional photographers admit  that chance  is often an element   in great photographs. So with a camera always with you, you’re posed to capture “decisive moments” that make great photography. It  is just an opportunity, however, and not a substitute for intentional study and honing of the craft.

Conserve your Energy for What Time is Left and Follow these Tips

It’s better to know what you can’t do than what you can do. Don’t attempt the impossible.

Gravity isn’t easy, but it’s the law.  Don’t hang from cliffs or tree branches trying to get a shot. Leave “extreme” photography to the young. If you must try out action video/photography, strap a GoPro Camera to your head before you go out for your morning stroll or find a quiet lake to Kayak or canoe and record your trip.

Don’t hand hold your camera while driving. Your children might report you to the authorities or worse.

When I die, I want to die like my grandmother who died peacefully in her sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in her car.

Hwy 5 while driving
Hwy 5 while driving

Festivals and Rock Concerts are way Too Noisy and Exciting  so look for Quieter Scenes. Park yourself beside waters that can be stilled with a fast shutter speed of 1/120 second or higher. Or create a running water effect while relaxing beside a rushing stream, a waterfall or ocean waves. Set your shutter speed between 1/30 sec. and 1 second.

Even Flowers can be Too Lively. Don’t bother with flower photographs on a windy day unless you’ve set up a windbreak or have an assistant to hold them still. Instead, head for the nearest park bench and wait it out or change the subject to stationary objects such as walls and buildings. If you must photograph those gorgeous flowers in the wind, use a fast shutter speed of 1/250 second or higher. I like backlit flowers where the sunshine comes through the petals from behind.

“The trouble with Dawn is that it Comes Too Early in the Day.” Susan Richman  If you’re not a morning person, forget the “Golden Light” at dawn and catch it at sunset.

For the most part “Keep your face in the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.” Walt Whitman

iPod picture with app
iPod picture with app applied















Goodbye for now.

This Concludes Photo Tips for the Not-So-Young

copyright © 2013, Marlene Hutchison

Photographs through an Indoor Window

A Strategy for Staying Home

Susan Sontag once wrote that travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.  Why not  save the planet and shoot your pictures from a window at home.

Photographer Andre Kertesz shot many photographs from above or from a window

Also, I remember a New York City woman in her eighties who rarely left her apartment, but shot memorable street photographs from her apartment window.

“When I was young, the Dead Sea was still alive.” George Burns


The most famous use of through a window photography was in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Rear Window”(1954), where a photographer with two broken legs is confined to his apartment. The photographer, played by Jimmy Stewart, even discovered a murderer while spying on his neighbors through an open window with his camera.

See a clip from the movie “Rear Window” below: ( Grace Kelly plays the girlfriend)


Photo Tips for Shooting through a Window at Home

  1.  Open the window if possible to avoid glare 

  2. If you can’t open the window, get as close to the glass as possible or put your lens against the window to cut down on glare

  3. Turn off your flash 

  4. Use exposure compensation to underexpose (-) the scene  by a third to one stop

  5. Follow the general photography rules and don’t shoot outdoor scenes between ten and four unless you’re shooting through tinted glass.

  6. Hold your camera with two hands and keep your arms close to your body when you don’t use a tripod

Photo Tips through Windows when You Must Travel

Scenery from Moving Bus
Arizona Scenery from Moving Bus

If you must travel, take a bus or car. I shot this photo with a high shutter speed late morning  from a moving bus in Northern Arizona. When you are moving, use a high shutter speed to keep things in focus.  I like the reflection in the window, but you can avoid it by pressing your lens against the window. Unfortunately, you will also pick up more motion from the moving bus when you lean your camera against the glass.


When you stay in a hotel, always ask for a view and change rooms or hotels often for the best variety of shots. The following photos were taken from windows in two different rooms at the Miyako Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

For the richest colors, take advantage of the golden light up to an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset as in the above shots

Copyright ©, 2013 M. Hutchison

Made in the Shade

 “Today, everything exists to end in a photograph” Susan Sontag

This is even truer today in the world of social media. With the birth of photography, people could experience  images in multiple places and ways for the first time. Then, TV expanded the possibility of simultaneously sharing images throughout cultures and sometimes the whole world. Today online, we post our real and imagined experiences  in photos and videos. We have the power to fabricate “our image” through photography. In essence, we have become our own publicity machines.  If thinking about being a publicist 24/7  makes you yearn for a nap, see previous posts that mention naps as an alternative to photography.

Flattering Portraits often “Made in the Shade”

“If you look like your passport photo, in all probability you need the holiday” Earl Wilson

Not All Shade Is Created Equal

Boy Looking for Shade
Boy Looking for Shade
  • Don’t shoot under a tree: Sun will come through the tree and make blotchy patches on your subject. It may also create a greenish cast.

  • Find a building with neutral walls because colored ones can cast unwanted color onto your subject

  • Position your subject facing the brightest light in the shade

  • Blur the wall background with a wide aperture or set your camera on portrait mode

    Pay Phone Dog
    Pay Phone Dog

As you can see in the these portraits, I didn’t follow the rules of good portraiture.  Personally,  I only like to make portraits  to show place and context. There are some excellent sites with good outdoor portrait examples, just Google portraits in the shade.


A student recently excitedly told me how she couldn’t wait to visit the place in Yellowstone that  she  showed me on her smartphone. It was a professional photograph of a Yellowstone Geyser Pool shot from a private plane and heavily saturated in a photo editing program, plus it had the advantage of being back lit on her phone. I felt bad for her knowing that the real place couldn’t possibly compete with the photograph.

“So successful has been the camera’s role in beautifying the world, that photographs, rather then the world, have become the standard of the beautiful.  Susan Sontag


 Rich Colors Found in the Shade

Visit next Friday for photo-tips on shooting indoors without a flash or tripod


Enjoy the 1962 performance by George Lewis and his band playing “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree”

Copyright © 2013, M. Hutchison