Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009


My day improved at the dinner table yesterday evening. Actually, nothing about my day changed except my view of it.

My tree-cutting brother spent his day wielding a chain saw and a rake in a hostile neighborhood. The homeowner was pleased with the job, but his wife was miffed about the tree work and refused to go out to dinner with her husband. The next-door neighbor granted permission for the work, but her daughter became upset and called her father who became even more upset. And the neighbor across the street threatened to sue because a log rolled on his lawn.

My college student sister was stewing about the previous night's accounting exam. She wasn't the only one who lost sleep over the assessment. A flood of emails between instructor and students ensued. The students complained that the exam wasn't fair. The instructor threatened not to let class out early in the future.

By the time I had eaten my potato I was content with my day. "Wow, I had a pretty good day today," I thought. Then I remembered the afternoon's frustration. The computer network wouldn't work; the picture files were too big and wouldn't open, the computer wouldn't recognize the card reader... it was terribly frustrating at the time. But by six o'clock my memory was fading. Compared with my siblings' misadventures it didn't seem that bad anymore. Besides, my frustration revolved around a machine, not people.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Painting with light

Every photograph needs light, but sometimes it doesn't need much. Painting with light is the process of creating an image using a tiny amount of light and a long time. For the self-portrait I set the camera on a tripod and used the self-timer and a long exposure (30" f8.0) to capture me painting with a tiny flashlight.

My photography students thoroughly enjoyed their painting with light assignment and experimented with various light sources and subjects. To introduce the concept I had them view a tutorial about painting with light.

Monday, October 26, 2009


My Dad loves popcorn. He pops it nearly every night with his stir-popper. Then he sits on the couch, a bowl of popcorn on his lap, and reads the newspaper. On Sunday afternoons he pops enough to share with all of us.

Saturday, Logan harvested popcorn. Popcorn stalks look much like sweet corn or field corn plants. The ears are narrow and pointed and the kernels are much smaller and harder than sweet corn. In the fall, after the stalks have died and dried, we picked the popcorn. Then we husk the ears and hang them in onion bags in the basement to dry.

After the popcorn is dry we shell the kernels from the cobs. We have a hand-crank corn sheller that Logan modified to suit popcorn kernels. We store the shelled corn in glass containers until we are ready for an afternoon snack.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Substitute teaching

Since school started I've been fairly busy substitute teaching. I usually sub two or three times a week, though I could probably take a job every day if I wanted.

Friday I was a junior high math teacher. It wasn't a particularly pleasant seven hours for me. Rather than dwell on the negative aspects of substituting, I decided to focus on some positives.

  • I never take work home. I don't have to grade papers or read essays or write lesson plans.
  • If I don't feel like going to school one morning, I don't have to go. I can take a week or two to visit relatives or I can just spend the day at home if I want.
  • I don't have to attend staff meetings or conduct parent teacher conferences. I don't have to justify my lessons according to the state's Grade Level Content Expectations.
  • I don't have to deal with long-term discipline issues. If a student gives me problems I either write a note for the teacher or send the offender to the office. I don't have to mete out on an appropriate punishment or call home to talk to the parents.

And the list could go on. As I look over it, I feel much happier about substitute teaching than when I was in a room with thirty-one adolescents and the pythagorean theorem.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Photography class

My siblings are studying photography this year for their homeschool art credit. To document their progress and provide a portfolio of their work, each group is compiling a photo book with images they've captured. And, since every subject I teach involves writing, they are composing brief descriptions of photography topics we've studied, such as aperture and painting with light, as well as captions explaining their photographs and how they took them.

Here are a few of my favorite images that they've created.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


It's autumn's "in" color.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pumpkin picking

Julie, Libby, Logan and Naomi picked pumpkins Saturday afternoon. Dad used to drive the pick-up truck out to the field in the evening and we would all load it with pumpkins. We older ones would cut the pumpkins from the vines and the younger ones would carry the smallest pumpkins. We would load the pick-up bed and then Dad would drive it out to the road where we would line them in neat rows to sell. When it was dark we'd head inside with red noses and cockleburs on our socks. That was before Libby or Logan or Naomi were even born. Now Logan is old enough to drive the tractor and there are no little ones running around getting their mittens stuck together with burrs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Abode of light

What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
Job 38:19-20 NIV

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Bill is the latest addition to Brian's herd, with the purpose that there will be more additions in the spring.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lake Huron

On our way north, Thursday afternoon, to pick up a Sanaan billy goat we took the expressway. We chose the scenic route for the way home and followed Lake Huron on the east side of Michigan's mitten. We stopped at the marina in Alpena for just a few minutes. The sun was nearing the horizon and the sky and water were inspiring, though the air was a little nippy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The camera is an instrument
that teaches people to see without a camera.
--Dorthea Lange

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Black crushed panne

Dad informed me that he needed a photograph of himself for work. His request was apropos, because I had just purchased five yards of black crushed panne to use as a backdrop. Hitherto I hadn't been able to convince anyone to sit for me and had to console myself with self-portraits.

When we returned home from church Sunday, before Dad removed his tie and coat for dinner, I set up my studio in the living room. I assembled the PVC frame that Betsy gave me for Christmas and draped it with my new imitation velvet. I scrounged up my Grandma's old movie spotlight for extra lighting and recruited a light-holder, whom I instructed to aim the light at the white ceiling.

Mid-way through the session I heard my assistant proclaim, "Look, the light makes black look purple."

"Aim it at the ceiling," I said. I was too late. The light was smoking and there was a hole melted in my new backdrop.

We scrunched the damaged material to the edge, I recruited another light-holder and we proceeded with the shoot. Then Monday morning I stopped at JoAnn Fabric and purchased two and a half more yards of black crushed panne.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sewing sisters

Betsy discovered a terrific Columbus day sale at JoAnn Fabric. She bought three pieces of material. Then she called Julie and they decided to meet at the fabric store in the afternoon. Julie invited me on the outing, and to their surprise I accepted. I dislike fabric stores, but I like being with my sisters, and lunch was included in the deal.

All of the rest of my sisters like to sew and we piled bolts of fabric in our cart. I picked a red and black plaid and a black corduroy embroidered with wispy pink flowers in hopes of conniving one of my sisters to turn them into skirts for me.

I am not a good shopper. My feet hurt. "Are we done yet?" I asked Julie.

"I haven't looked at everything yet," she answered.

Eventually we made it out of the store with bags full of fabric. My feet survived the ordeal and Julie and Betsy managed to put up with their non-shopping, non-sewing sister.