Author Archives: Marlene Hutchison

About Marlene Hutchison

I'm a retired teacher, artist, and photographer recently settled in the suburbs about 35 miles east of San Francisco. New places excite me, so I have traveled to all 50 states and have lived in California, Nebraska, Indiana, Oregon, New York, and Georgia. I also love foreign travel, especially Europe, and have lived in Greece and Spain.

The Thrill is Gone (Luster on Dublin Construction Project Fades)

If I had known I would spend years on the project “Dublin, CA development” I would have planned it better. As the philosopher Kierkegaard once said, Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.”

Since I don’t see an end to the development, I’ll stop with a couple of slideshow videos (coming soon) and pictures of NE Dublin excavations and a few of current San Ramon housing developments.

New housing development on Dublin Blvd. 2015
Dirt–The beginning of a new housing development on Dublin Blvd. 2015


San Ramon, CA development off Windemere Parkway

© Marlene Hutchison, 2015

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!



Happy New Year! May the Picture gods smile upon us all in 2015

Photo-Journalism Begins with Henri Cartier-Bresson's street photography in the 1930's
Photo-Journalism Begins
with Henri Cartier-Bresson’s street photography in the 1930’s

Life offers the moments and we seize them with a camera. Recognition of those moments isn’t made with a camera, but with the eye, heart and mind.

1. Keep your camera close-by,

2. Study the light and composition.

3. Take a lot of pictures to increase your chances of capturing that magic moment.

I once spoke with a National Geographic Photographer who shot between 800 and 1200 photos a day and only sent 30 or so to her editor. They sometimes only selected 5 or 6.

Money isn’t much of an issue with digital photography since you can shoot 1000’s of pictures for the cost of a memory card.

When none of your pictures are any good in a day, don’t despair. “The first 10,000 pictures are the worst” said Bresson. Tomorrow is another day. Enjoy the journey.

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

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Brilliant California Fall Foliage close to my home

For those of you not in an early winter deep freeze, take some time to capture the brilliant colors of fall with your camera. (Remember the best camera is the one you have with you.)

San Ramon, CA Nov. 16, 2014
Early morning on a cloudy day. San Ramon, CA 2014

1.  Shoot from afar and close-up:

It’s a good idea to let people know where they are by shooting some pictures from afar. The best time is early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

Cloudy Day, Pleasanton, 2013
Cloudy Day, Pleasanton, 2013

2. Wet leaves have deeper, richer colors:

Shoot them for close-up detail. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for rain here in Northern California. We’re suffering from a severe drought, but hopefully rain will come tonight.  In the meantime, I found some wild turkeys on the lawn at the senior center drinking from the well watered lawn.

Turkeys, San Ramon, CA 2014
Turkeys, San Ramon, CA 2014

3. Shoot toward partial sun coming through the trees:

Unfortunately, cloud cover in my area since Sunday at the right times for shooting has made that impossible. I’m dreaming of rain tonight and sun coming through the trees tomorrow. (Sometimes it takes days to get the light you want.)

The founder of Kodak, George Eastman said, “Light makes Photography–know it for all you are worth and you will know the key to photography.”

Stop back on Friday, Nov. 21st to see if the rain and the sun appeared and I got some shots to illustrate 2 & 3 above.


If you like this post, please share, comment and like.

Copyright © M. Hutchison, 2014


So you want to be a photographer?

After a close encounter with the grim reaper, I’m back with more photo tips, links to my favorite photo-tip sites, favorite quotations often related to photography, and technology photo news.

Choose a Theme, any Theme

Photographers who pick a theme are most successful, like Dorothea Lange who documented poverty in the U.S. during the depression years. The theme can be anything you want. (Right now, the most popular online themes are cats and pretty women.)

“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion…….It must be something you truly love or truly hate.”  Dorothea Lange

On the Road Toward L.A., 1936
On the Road Toward L.A., 1936

If you like landscape photography, now is a good time to choose an Autumn theme

Poem: Across the Bank

“Across the bank, maples have spread silken cloth.

The leaves are busy sprinkling autumn into the yard

A wild goose screams onto the edge of the sky.

The night chums up a longing for home.” Hamwol (1691-1770)

iPod Photo, 2013
iPod Photo, M. Hutchison, 2013

Take a look at a Great Link to photographing fall foliage: Guide to photographing fall foliage

Visit my November blog around the 15th for an update on camera drone photography that began in the post “Beyond the Go-Pro Camera” (see video demo of drone).


Copyright © M. Hutchison, 2014



Beyond the Go-Pro Camera: Photo Tips for Not-So-Young Photographers

Go-Pro Video shot in a Recliner Disappoints

Go-Pro Video results disappoint from recliner
Go-Pro Video results disappoint from recliner

  Action seems to be the cornerstone of Go-Pro Videos, like the ones my niece and nephews make while skiing or snowboarding.  Strapping the camera to your head and recording the action while watching TV, reading a book, or listening  to music in your recliner is less engaging. 

 Is there a camera drone in your future?

Kit Eaton of the New York Times reported on January 2, that he was the recipient of a Phantom 2 Vision drone that with its remote controller and your iOS or Android  device can take beautiful pictures and video of places unreachable to  the Not-So-Young photographer.

For less than $2000., a camera drone provides a bird’s-eye view of hard to reach places.



With the drone, I could photograph land close up that was previously unreachable. I think my current -“Ranch Land to Housing” project would greatly benefit.

As the great photo journalist Robert Capa said,  “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

 I am against armed military drones that appear to be outside the rule of law. Questions I ask– how do you surrender to a drone and who is accountable for grievous errors?  But for now, photographers can benefit from yet another technological novelty that expands our creative possibilities.


Cows Grazing near Fallon Rd. Development, Dublin, CA
Cows Grazing near Fallon Rd. Development, Dublin, CA
Ranch Land Meets New Development, Dublin, CA 3/2014
Ranch Land adjacent to New Development, Dublin, CA 3/2014

Most of you let social media resize your photos unless

1.  you hate social media and don’t want them to mess with your pictures or archive anything about you,

2. you are worried that National Geographic, other photo publications or fellow photographers will steal your photos,

3.  you are a control freak who likes to do everything yourself. (The reason you have a milk cow in the garage),

4. you want to email your photos and they’re too big to fit on a computer monitor and take too  much time to load,

5. you’re afraid that the NSA or other spy agencies will take an interest in your work,

6. OR you shoot huge megapixel files for maximum detail that you later process in PhotoShop or Adobe Lightoom.

If any or none of the above apply to you, visit this excellent link to learn about resizing


Goodbye for now! Please comment if you found this amusing or instructive.

© Copyright – Marlene Hutchison, 2014

Selfie Chosen Word of the Year

Edward Steichen, Photographer-- self portrait Paris, 1902
Edward Steichen, Photographer– self portrait (selfie), Paris, 1902

Oxford dictionary named ‘selfie’ the word of the year, 2013, after  word usage increased by over 17,000 times. Almost everyone who uses the internet has posted a selfie.

 In fact, so many are uploaded daily, that the app Snapchat will automatically erase your last post for you after a few seconds.

 Share your moment to moment life without worrying that your online presence will become too cluttered and annoying.

Photographers for National Geographic  do a lot of editing. They  may shoot over 1200 pictures a day and only put 20 or 30 in their “favorites” folder.

The photographer considered to be the father of photo-jouralism, Henri Cartier-Bresson (1902-2004 once said, ” The first 10,000 photographs are the worst.”

Go ahead and fill that big shoe box in the sky

just be sure to store photos you care about in at least 3 online clouds because clouds disappear.

Selfie in Atlanta Apt. '79
Selfie in Atlanta Apt. ’79

I’ll get back to how to resize images for the web next time even though it’s almost irrelevant to most.

Copyright © Marlene Hutchison, 2014



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 Don’t Scale Steep Mountain Peaks Anymore

Me above Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada on a Hitch Hiking trip in 1972
Me above Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada on a Hitch Hiking Back Packing trip in 1972

Despite the rumor that 70 is the new 40 or 50, I don’t scale mountain peaks anymore, nor do I do much at all. Those who rage against the dying of the light like the 107 year old man who recently jumped from a plane, look for activities that combine adventure with a chance of fame (going viral) like his skydiving did. I heard that skiing down an iceberg in Antarctica was a thrill too.

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  Dylan Thomas

(I plan is to go gently into the night accompanied by my favorite music and images.)

“I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed tenement; battered by the winds and broken in on by the storms, and, from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair.”  John Quincy Adams (6th President of the U.S.)

For Now, Adventure is a Click Away:

 You can take a trip down the Thames River in London or visit the Venice canals thanks to Google Street View Maps on the link below. Miss the crowds and steps in Rome and the long lines in Paris. Just type in the place you want to visit in the search window.

Google also has a new project that documents art museums around the world. You can find places by typing “Art Projects” into the search window on the above site or just Google Google Art Projects.

Visit Next Monday for tips on how to Update your online navigation and digital darkroom skills

Copyright © 2013, Marlene Hutchison





Photography Adventures From Home

If you’re not-so-young anymore and your roaming days are behind you, you’ll find plenty of adventure online while you sort through your lifetime of work or concentrate on close to home photography projects.

Travel with me from the Comfort of your Armchair to My Favorite Photo Sites and New Exhibits

 Wildlife Photographers should enjoy the Site Below

I just saw an aerial panorama view of 8 million flamingos  about to take flight. There are both urban and nature panoramas on this wonderful site. Click on all panoramas

Click full screen and then a thumbnail on the right.   I like #5.   Wait for the panorama to load and then use your scroll button to zoom in and out and wait again.


My Close to Home Wildlife pictures from the Suburban Fringes


Jack Rabbits in adjacent lot to SAP Software Co.

Ducklings with Mother at Alamo Creek, Dublin, California
Copyright© 2013, Marlene Hutchison

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