The Top Five–Photos of 2015

I have been working hard on improving my skills as a photographer this year, mainly using our Canon EOS Rebel T2i DSLR, and I’m pretty pleased with the results. There were five photos taken with that camera that really stood out at me, starting with this view of the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden covered in snow in March:


This water-lily, also photographed in the Japanese Garden, is the best picture I’ve ever taken:


I also love this picture of Bunny at Eckert’s pumpkin patch:


And the gorgeous fall color in Forest Park:


This picture of Chickadee at the Belleville Christkindlmarkt definitely captures her personality!


And because I can never leave a “Top Five” list at just five, here are my favorite photos taken on my iPhone 6, starting with a selfie I took on January 2, after I finally got the courage to dye my hair a wild color(s):

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The tulips blooming in Forest Park in April were beautiful!


And my favorite picture from our vacation to Charleston:


Another shot in Forest Park, this time of the Apotheosis of St. Louis, complete with a halo:


And one more from the Missouri Botanical Garden, this time from the Garden Glow in November:


I’ve learned how to use different settings on our main camera, and I’ve learned when it’s better to use my iPhone to get the shot I want. My goal for the coming year is learn more about aperture and exposure, and hopefully next year, I’ll have even better photos to share!

Jane Kirkpatrick Duet Blog Book Tour

I recently had the opportunity to read two book by Jane Kirkpatrick (and author I had previously never read):  A Flickering Light and Aurora.


A Flickering Light is about a young woman, Jessie Gaebele, in Minnesota in the early 20th century, who dreams of becoming a professional photographer.  She, along with a good friend, Voe, finds a job working in a portrait studio, and learns much about the art and science of good photography.  As the owner and operator of the studio, F.J. Bauer, falls ills on more than one occasion, she learns to handle all the aspects of photography, from posing and developing pictures, to setting up appointments and handling payments on her own.  What she does not anticipate is falling in love with the (married!) owner, and tries to deny her feelings, even though they are apparent to everyone who knows her.

I was a little hesitant as I began this book, because I thought the setting and topic seemed a little strange.  While I enjoy taking pictures, as well as looking at good photography, I’m not particularly interested in the technical aspects, and I feared the book would be dry and boring.  Turn-of-the-century Minnesota also does not hold a lot of interest for me, so I was concerned about what I could take away from the book.

As it turns out, I found it to be a solidly good read.  Although I had to work a little to get into the book at the beginning, once I did get involved, I found myself really wanting to know what was going to happen to all the characters–Jessie, boy-crazy Voe, the Bauer family, and Jessie’s own family, especially her younger brother, who suffers from a speech impairment following a fall, for which Jessie carries a lot of guilt.

I also did not find the information about photography to be dry–quite the opposite.  Reading about how photographs were taken and developed in that period of time, especially in contrast to today’s digital age, was fascinating.  It was also interesting to read about the challenges a woman of that time faced, as she tried to enter a male-dominated field.

Despite my initial reluctance, I am very much looking forward to the next book by Jane Kirkpatrick, Shimmering Grasses, and finding out what happens to Jessie’s career and personal life as she continues her quest to become a respected photographer in her new home in Milwaukee.  I was also very interested to discover that this book is at least loosely based on the author’s grandmother’s own experiences as a female photographer.

auroraAurora is the true story of the same-named Utopian colony in Oregon organized by German settlers in the mid-1800s.  While it is a non-fiction book, because of the wonderful array of photographs of the community, as well as some of the handiwork found there, it is more suited as a coffee table book than a book you would just pick up and read from cover to cover. I did find it to be interesting, although it’s not necessarily something I would want to read again.  I really enjoyed the photos, especially the ones of the beautiful quilts from Aurora.  I also appreciated the directions to make two different quilts at the end of the book (although I’m certain that is a task I could never accomplish!).  It is quite a pretty book, and anyone interested in religious settlements in America would find it to be an enlightening story.

Book Review: “In the Footsteps of Paul”

The idea for In the Footsteps of Paul by Ken Duncan is a good one.  A kind of a photo-journal of the places the apostle Paul visited on his various missionary journeys.  The pictures in the book are beautiful.  Some of them look exactly as I imagine the Biblical locations to have looked.  Some show a more modern portrayal of these old cities. And still others demonstrate how cities often decline and fall into disrepair over time.

While I really enjoyed the photography, I found the rest of the book to be lacking. I would have preferred to have only Biblical text, and of course captions identifying the photos, as the entire text of the book. Instead, there were also many quotes used, as well as narrative by the author. The quotes used on many of the pages were distracting. Some of the narrative provided was OK, but much of that, like the quotes, was a distraction to both the photos and the Biblical text.

The other thing I found off-putting about this book was the number of times the author listed a photo as a place Paul “probably” saw, or “must have” seen.  If we do not know for sure it is a place he actually traveled to, saw or experienced, I don’t understand it’s place in the book. I prefer accuracy, not probably or might have.

This would make a good coffee table book, if you just want to flip through it and look at some amazing photos, but the written content leaves something to be desired.