Welcome to my 2018 blog.  Blog entries will be about once a month, highlighting photos, observations, and insights, mainly from four inputs:

  • 2018 Photo-A-Day
  • Contemplative photography
  • Self-Expression via nature and landscapes
  • Musings on Photoautobiography and Photo Memoir

I will continue to explore the concept of Photoautobiography and Photo Memoir.     As Freeman Patterson said in a workshop a few years ago...."every photo you take is autobiographical"


And I will continue making entries about Contemplative Photography, specifically what the photo means to me and what it might imply spiritually.


Thanks for participating in my journey and through my contemplation in the past and during 2018.


Mary Ellyn Vicksta

Delightful Clouds

July 19, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I was driving back from an appointment and the clouds were just gorgeous.  I changed my route slightly so I could see if the clouds were reflecting at all in the water.  There was a breeze and the water was a bit choppy, so I could my route again to see if I could find a quiet bay on Lake Winnebago.

I wasn't the only car parked there.  Others were enjoying the lower temperature day after having a string of two weeks with temperatures uncharacteristically warm.  It was around lunch time and there are a few benches here overlooking the water.

I got out my camera and surveyed the area.  To my eye, it looked like the reflections weren't all that apparent.  I thought I might as well try to capture some aspect of reflection.  The clouds were so cool.

When I got home, I was very pleased with my photos.

The dark cloud made an interesting contrast to the rest of the puffy clouds.  I liked the way the reflection of the clouds created a faint white line in the lake.  I also liked the tiny clouds, like three dots (....) form a connection between the big, dark cloud and the rest of the smaller ones.

Since I wasn't completely sure if I was getting the reflections that I wanted, I took a few more shots.

I shot both vertically and horizontally.  I waited for the breeze to subside a bit and was so pleased to see a slightly rippled reflection in the lake.


Changing my camera to vertical orientation and then I let the breeze create a slightly different version of the reflection.  I really liked the ripples of the reflection in this particular version.  The water and the breeze are playing with this reflection and each breeze, each ripple creates a different effect.


I probably stopped for only 10 minutes.  5 minutes to photograph; 5 minutes to pause and appreciate the clouds, the water, and the reflections on a summer day.

"Slow" Photography

July 18, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Yesterday I had a discussion about studio photography and taking care to have the right conditions.  That got me thinking about slowing down and really spending time with each photo, much like what happens in some studio work.

So, I got home and fetched my tripod, my shutter release, and my 180 mm macro lens.  I went next door and concentrated on taking photos of our neighbor's garden using manual exposure, my shutter release, my tripod, and the cool ability to magnify the focusing area when in live view on my Canon 5DM4.

It took me a while to remember how to use my camera in this mode.  The set up in a little different in the 5DM4 vs my tried and true 5DM3.  I was amazed that these differences had an affect of slowing me down and really thinking about what I was doing.

While fumbling in the beginning, I didn't realize that I accidentally took a short video of the yellow lily gently blowing in the breeze.  Must have accidental hit "start" while in "movie mode" rather than "still mode".    Once I got my act together, I proceeded on slowing composing my photos and taking my shots.  

Slowly, I would turn on live view.  Compose my scene with my tripod head a bit loose so that I could move my camera every so slightly.  Then I would tighten the various knobs on the tripod head to make sure that all was what I expected.  It took a little getting used to since the 180mm lens is a bit heavier than the 100mm macro that I usually hand hold.  But I started to get a feel for it.  Feel is the right word because it was all about "feeling" the knobs on my tripod and camera to get the camera situated in just the right position.  It's a different way of thinking than if you just point and shoot your camera.  Your mind and your hands are engaged at all times, feeling your way through as you check your composition and then make sure that all knobs are secure before you gently remove our hands from the camera and let it sit securely on the tripod aimed at the subject.

The Canon 5DM4 has touchscreen features that are perfect for macro work.  I can magnify the focus area and really fine tune my focusing.  A slight breeze was in the air and the magnified image blew in the wind a bit.  But at the same time I was amazed at how precisely I could focus.

With cable release in hand, I snapped the photo when the conditions seemed right.  

Here are just a couple of the images that I took during this slow photography session.

The first image is what really took the most time.  I was fumbling a bit getting familiar with the camera, but I really like the resulting image.

Another image that I liked I took later in my slow photography shoot.  I was intentional about having a narrower depth-of-field.  And then when I was reviewing photos in LR, I was pleased to see the shadows of on the flower.  Something that I didn't see when I was composing.



I did have a few that were OK, but not exactly what I was hoping for.  The bee was a nice touch, but the overall flora was not the picture that I had in my mind's eye.  I think I was hoping that the the whole image was a bit more macro but the bee flew away as I was trying to move my camera even closer.


Then there was the entire "miss".  I saw this budding flower and wanted to capture it with its green leaves in an interesting way.  I tried and tried and this one was the closest to my vision.  But still not exactly what I was trying to achieve.  15 minutes of patience for a composition that I am not really liking.  I think it's all of the black areas between the leaves that takes my eye away from the lovely blossom, in my opinion.  Sometimes even slow photography doesn't achieve what's in your mind's eye.  What attracted me was the light on the budding blossom; what I don't like is the consequence of having bright sunlight which caused dark shadows.  


My last photo was a quicker shot.  I was more familiar with what depth-of-field I wanted for a particular composition.  I zeroed in on the pollen and wanted the background to be a colorful blur.  And, a quick peek at the resulting photo and its histogram reassured me that I captured what was in my mind's eye.

After my 45 minutes of slow photography, I anxiously loaded my photos into my computer and previewed all of them.  I laughed at the short video that I hadn't intended to take.  I quickly accepted that the breeze affected the focus of a couple of my shots.  Not enough patience to wait for the right moment?  But I was pleased that I spent the time to use manual mode, my shutter release, the magnification feature, and my tripod.  I was pleased to spend time with "slow" photography rather than a quick snap.  

Slow photography is a bit like meditation.  You are present in the moment.  And with photography, you capture that moment forever.

Bumping into Bucky

July 11, 2018  •  1 Comment

It was a fun weekend in Madison and I was delighted to see that there was an array of various expressions of Bucky Badger throughout the city of Madison.  So, here are some of the photos that I took of Bucky around State Street, the Madison campus, and around the Capital.


Bucky in all of it's glory on campus by the Student Union overlooking the lake at UW Madison.


An inked version on State Street in Madison.



Contemplative in front of the famous Red Gym at the UW Madison Campus

One Leg Up while on Campus


As if you were sending a vintage postcard from Madison Wisconsin, showing key sites.

A Mosaic version of Bucky!

A dreamy, night time vision of Bucky with a lit up State Capital in the background.

This is just a small sampling.  There are 85 in total in all parts of Madison.  It was fun to explore those that I did see at various times of the day.

Gosh, I Took a Lot of Photos on Vacation!!

June 19, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I’ve never taken so many photos before on a vacation.  I went through two 32 G memory cards with my Canon P&S camera.  And I had a great time doing it.


We went to Germany for almost three weeks on this trip.  We started in Hamburg and we totally were in luck because the gardens were in perfect bloom.  I am glad that I took photos on our first day because by the third day, the petals were starting to fall.  I think that is when I realized that taking photos often is a great thing because the “moment” can change very quickly.



We took a couple of river cruises during our time there.  One cruise where taking lots of photos was the right thing to do was when we were in Berlin.  It was very clear that we were not to stand up and take photos….too many low bridges.  There were a few very interesting photo opportunities on the other side of the cruise boat, but we were sitting 4 people deep on each side and I snapped a possible photo, but we happened to turn around and take the exact same route back.  When I was back on the other side, I was able to anticipate my shot and get exactly what I wanted to capture the first time around.


And I played around with some of the features on my camera.  I discovered that I have a built in neutral density filter that I just had to use when I saw some water fountains in the Hamburg park area and wanted to slow the water for a more feathery look.


Pad May 20 Water Action in HamburgPad May 20 Water Action in Hamburg


I also didnt bring a computer along, just an iPad.  And I didn’t want to spend time downloading and being tempted to edit photos while travelling.  We had a busy agenda each day from morning until night and downloading and editing wasn’t a part of our travel agenda.  I think I took more shots, just in case-wise, because I wanted to make sure that the lighting was good or depth of field worked, etc, etc.  So, a casual observer might look over my array of downloads in Lightroom and think that a lot of the shots were exactly the same thing….and they were “sort of”.  Just different settings or a slightly different composition or somebody accidentally crossed into my compositioin or the lighting in the museum was casting all sorts of nasty shadows.  All of these things did happen and I have lots of extra shots to prove it.


Although sometimes it was the first shot, like this one at Brandenburg Gate.  5 minutes later and the square was filled with people since the tour buses arrived.


Brandenburg Gate in BerlinBrandenburg Gate in Berlin


One shot that I took over and over again was a jeweled statue of St George slaying the dragon.  I took so many photos because the lighting caused all sorts of reflections.  When I got home and downloaded, I discovered one image that really captured what I saw in all of its jeweled glory.



And, now I have finally gone through and edited photos and uploaded to my photo sharing gallery.  Still lots of captioning to do.  But the sorting process is over for now.  The rough edits are over.  Now, I can enjoy reviewing and I can invite others to view my vacation photos.

My Walk after the Blizzard

April 23, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I was in the house for over two days and had a serious case of cabin fever.  The blizzard had dumped over 2 feet of snow and there was a lot of drifting since wind gusts in our area were over 40 miles an hour.  Once they plowed our street, I thought I would go for a walk.

I put my tall boots on and my down snowsuit.  The winds were still brisk.  My first surprise was getting to our corner and finding out that many people had plowed the sidewalk, but not the portion of the sidewalk where the snowplow dumps the snow.  Huge drifts to walk over.  

My walk considered where things were plowed and where things weren't.  Part of the walk was to discover what got plowed first.  We live fairly close to a hospital so I figure the roads leading to the hospital and the sidewalks around there would be nicely plowed.  Although I discovered just because you were on a main street, don't assume that the sidewalk would be plowed.  Or if it was on a bridge, that the city would have had the time to plow the sidewalk over the bridge.


Memorial Street BridgeThe street is nicely plowed but the sidewalks on both sides hadn't been attended to yet. There was a pretty significant drift where the plow had dumped snow. Closer to the side of the bridge, it was passable but up to the top of my boot in spots. I never used the handrail before, but found it was handy as I walked over the bridge.


One of the side streets was nicely plowed so I started walking towards Pierce Park.  I was amazed at how nicely plowed the street was within the park.  Must have had something going on later that day.  The sidewalk along the park was also nicely plowed.  Figures, it was on a main street.


The Pavilion at Pierce ParkThe Road was nicely plowed here and not a sole around except for the workers finishing up cleaning the road.

I continued my walk and appreciated those who plowed their sidewalk along the busy street.  Made walking a whole lot easier.


Clean Sidewalk , Easy WalkingI appreciated when the sidewalk was pretty clear. Made for easy walking.

There were also interesting moments while walking.  Ephemeral moments that you realize would be gone later in the day when the snow would melt.  Time to enjoy them now and appreciate their beauty.  

Snow on Trees, an Ephemeral MomentIt looks like the trees are dancing with a little bit of snow on the trunks. Fun to walk by and also to realize that a few hours later this scene would look much different.


The winds were so strong that there was snow plastered along the side of the bridge.

Clinging SnowThe winds were so stiff that snow clung to the wall underneath the bridge. Although it probably melted later in the day.


Snow blocked by stone occurred often.


Stone Wall Blocks the SnowThe wall provided a barrier to the snow, but with the winds there were drifts on both sides.


This road surprised me since the sidewalk was perfectly clear.  It was along the river and a walking path for some.  It's nice that the city took the time to make sure that it was clean.  More a haven for geese than for regular folks today.  I was the only person walking.  Just me and the Geese that congregate by the river and were having fun waddling through the snow.


Geese Waddling throughThere is a huge flock of geese close to the river. Today they were waddling in the snow. Kind of fun to watch them!


My next part of the trip was to walk on the Fox Trot Trail.  My plans were changed, however, when I discovered that the bridge in the Flats area was full of snow and that the trail itself was also full of snow.  I came just a little too early because the sidewalk cleaner and the plow were right behind me.  I could walk faster than they could clean the sidewalk and get rid of the overabundance of snow.  Bridges seem to take a long time to clean.


Look Behind YouI had just crossed this bridge where the sidewalk was covered with snow. The sidewalk cleaner and the snowplow were behind me. I discovered that it takes a long time to clear a bridge.

This particular building always look so nice with a snow covering on the ground.  I like the white trim as well.  Don't know what it's being used for these days.


White Trim, White SnowI was attracted to the white trim on this red brick building and the layers of snow. Looks like this building is being used since the parking lot was plowed.

Over the bridge I went on Olde Oneida Street and saw this timeless photo.   


The Red Brick Building in the BackgroundI had just crossed the bridge over the Fox River and saw a nice shot of the river, the river bank, and the red brick building way in the background. Timeless.

My next destination is to start walking to the hospital.  I figured that the roads would be cleaner and the sidewalks pristine.  And I was right.  The only little problem was getting across the intersection.  The plow must have gone though after the worker bees of the hospital had cleared the area.  But I was happily pleased that there was plenty of salt and plenty of walking space on the sidewalk.  No shortcuts taken here.  This will make it easy for me to get home.



Lion and SnowEven the Lion signaling the entrance to the Breast Center at the hospital was full of snow. The pathways around the hospital, however, were completely cleared, with salt to make sure that no one slipped.


Now, I am almost home and this little gnome says it all about a Blizzard in mid-April.


Knowing GnomeThis Gnome says it all about having so much snow in mid-April.