The Top Five–Photos of 2019

Time to take a look back at my five favorite photos from 2019! Notable this year is that a lot of my pictures were taken (or cropped) in “square” mode, since I’m using Instagram more than ever.

First, a picture from early in the year, when we enjoyed a snowy day in the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden:

Another winter picture, this time of two snow leopards at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago:

A spring photo featuring cherry blossoms in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Japanese Garden:

The Red Arrows in flight!

Fall at Forest Park’s Pagoda Circle:

And an honorable mention…a photo taken at the holiday flower and train show at the Missouri Botanical Garden just a few days ago!

Obviously, I have my favorite places to take pictures, but I like that I’m constantly finding new ways to highlight them!

The Top Five–Photos of 2018

It’s time for a look back at my top five favorite photos from 2018! They can be organized into two categories…pictures from our trips to Chicago, and pictures from the Missouri Botanical Garden.

First, a picture of the Chicago skyline from outside the Adler Planetarium in January:

And a picture of Lake Michigan from Glencoe Beach:

We were back in Chicago in May, and I loved the poppies at the Chicago Botanic Garden:

We visited Chinese Culture Days at the Missouri Botanical Garden for the first time, and the dragon was a huge hit!

Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden is always one of favorite events:

My children will accuse me of “cheating,” but I’m adding two bonus photos anyway…not necessarily because they’re great pictures, but because they have such great memories attached to them. First, this picture from our trip to Florida of Bunny at Diagon Alley, which is pretty much the happiest I’ve ever seen her:

And the picture I took of Chickadee the day we went pumpkin picking, and she got “baby porcupines” stuck to her boots. Two months later, and the memory still makes me giggle!

I’m already looking forward to the pictures I will take in 2019…I can’t wait to see what special memories I capture!

The Top Five–Photos of 2017

Choosing my “Top Five” photos of the year is one of my favorite more recent traditions. Of course, if I’m honest, the “Top Five” always turns into six, because I can never totally limit myself!

The first of my favorite photos came early in the year, at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Chinese Garden. Not only do I love the photo of the garden itself, I also love that is was covered in snow!

My next favorite photo is also from the Missouri Botanical Garden. The Climatron was lit up beautifully for the “Garden of Glass” exhibition, and I love the beautiful colors!

This picture from the Naper Settlement is beautiful to me both for the stunning green of the scenery, and for the women in period costume outside the log home:

Chickadee loves posing for pictures, and there was something special about her in her London shirt, holding an umbrella on a rainy day:

Back at the Missouri Botanical Garden for a lovely fall photo in the Japanese Garden during its 40th anniversary:

And a bonus picture of the Fab Five at St. Charles at Christmas Traditions…this is always one of my favorite spots for a family photo, and this year’s picture was especially amazing!

So there you have it…another year of my favorite photos. I can’t wait to see what kind of pictures I take next year!

The Top Five–Photos of 2016

Last year, I forced myself to pick my top five photos (ok, 10 total…five from my Canon DSLR, and five from my iPhone), that I had taken over the course of 2015. I thought it was a fun little project, so here are my top five (and only five…fine…five plus one, from either camera) photos from 2016.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is always one of my favorite places to take pictures, especially the beautiful Japanese Garden:


Our town square (which is actually a circle, but I digress), is always beautiful, but especially at sunset:

Another favorite photo spot is Forest Park, especially the view outside the Art Museum in the spring:


I took many pictures when we were in Chicago last May…this is my favorite lakefront/skyline shot:


Back at the Botanical Garden, and the always-photogenic Climatron:


And because I can never leave well enough alone, a bonus picture of a sea-lion, mid-wink, following the sea-lion show at the St. Louis Zoo:


This list is a little different this year, because not one picture of our family made the cut. I did get a lot of great photos of the children in 2016, but really, they deserve a category of their own…it’s just too hard to choose!

Photo Editing

One of the challenges when attending the Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden is figuring out how to best use the photo op stops. Night time photography is still a challenge for me in general, and trying to photograph people and Christmas lights together is particularly frustrating. I keep trying though, and I can usually come up with at least one decent picture.

When I was going through my photos from our visit a few weeks ago, I came upon one that I thought was pretty good, but I decided to try out the “auto enhance” feature in Photos, just to see if I could cut back on some of the glow on the children’s faces. I really don’t edit my photos much at all, beyond cropping, but I have used the auto enhance occasionally in the past, usually with pretty great results.


Version 2

I was not prepared for the difference I would get just from that one edit. I went from a warm red glow, to an almost normal picture with the click of one button. Of course, you pretty much completely lose the effect of the Garden Glow, so in the end, it wasn’t a successful edit, but it was interesting to me to just how the editing program would try to correct and balance the colors and light!

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.