18 June 2019

Silly Walks as an Antidote for Anxiety

Never underestimate the power of silliness and laughter to combat anxiety and depression. I'd been feeling quite a lot of anxiety lately, about a lot of things--the state of the world, politics, stresses in my family and feeling overwhelmed in my own life. But tonight I saw a funny gif posted online:

 That reminded a friend of mine of Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks, so she posted this:

And that reminded me of the prank silly walk crosswalk sign in Norway, so I posted this:

By this time I was completely in a silly walk mood so I went searching for more and discovered that there's an official silly walk crosswalk sign in Spijkenisse, Netherlands.

Here's the opening ceremony for that one:

There's also one in Groningen (also in the Netherlands).

And there's a Silly Walks Tunnel in Eindhoven (also in the Netherlands; those Dutch are really into this!).

Here's John Cleese at the opening ceremony for that:

And the city of Brno (Czech Republic) has an annual Silly Walk March across the city.

By the time I'd watched all of those I was laughing out loud and the feeling of anxiety in my stomach was completely dissipated. I think if we did stuff like this to enhance the silliness of the American population, we'd solve some of the things that cause many people anxiety.

22 September 2014

Hidden Face in Renoir Painting?

I have an app on my tablet called Jigsaw Puzzles that lets you do a jigsaw puzzle from any photograph you supply, or one of the built-in samples that the app comes with. I was working on a puzzle of Renoir's painting Woman at the Piano, which I'd seen and photographed at the Art Institute of Chicago. As it is a portrait orientation painting, and the app runs in landscape mode by default, I had started working on it with the woman rotated sideways. Doesn't matter much when you're just working on the edges and gathering like colors together. But that perspective caused me to notice something that I wouldn't have noticed if I'd been working at it upright.

The stool she's sitting on, when rotated 90 degrees clockwise, appears to have a hidden picture of a bearded man's face in it. What do you think?

Here's the original painting:

Now here's the seat cushion from the stool, rotated sideways and skewed a little bit, and enlarged:

Do you see the bearded man or am I crazy (like people who see Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich)? Could it be a signature self-portrait of Renoir himself hidden in the painting? I'm sure someone would have found it and commented on this before if so, but I can't find any reference to it online.

Anyway, it's interesting what you can see if you look at something familiar from an unusual perspective, and close up.

08 September 2014

Harvest Supermoon

Or is it a Super Harvest Moon? I need a more stable tripod head for my heavy 500mm lens. I have a ball-and-socket head, and it creeps a bit even after I tightened it; plus it's hard to focus the 500mm lens, so I had a tough time getting the image as sharp as I wanted. I tried a number of different combinations of settings to eliminate camera shake, let in enough light, and get a depth of field that would give me a sharper image. I ended up settling on this one taken at f/10, 1/500 sec, and ISO 200. It's my best moonshot yet. Makes a big difference having a lens that really works with my camera! If you recall, the last moon photo that I posted had an interesting story with it, about a lens that didn't fit the camera.

26 August 2014

New book: The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

I am excited about the forthcoming publication of my friend Michael Yankoski's latest book The Sacred Year. It is a very fitting nudge to get me back to blogging here on Space for God. It may appear from the dearth of recent posts that I haven't been making much space for God in my life over the past couple of years. Actually I have, in bursts, like the 6-day spiritual retreat I took on the holy isle of Iona in June, but not on an everyday basis. The Sacred Year is a book that is essentially about making space for God: slowing down our lives enough to incorporate spiritual practices that deepen us, to counter the prevalent feeling that we're spread too thin.

I have read Michael's previous book Under the Overpass and really loved it. His writing style is fantastic, and it really challenged me. I've now read the introduction and sample chapter of The Sacred Year available here. It has Michael's same gripping prose and a depth of hard-earned wisdom that is remarkable for someone his age (29 when he wrote it).

Michael has placed himself in situations where he can be attentive to the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing through his sails, and has learned a great deal through those experiences. In Under the Overpass, he told about his few months of intentionally living as a homeless man in order to learn appreciation for the plight of the homeless. In The Sacred Year he shares the wisdom he has learned from an even longer experiment.

Michael had came to a point in his life where he was feeling spread too thin, "like butter that has been scraped over too much bread" (as he quotes from Tolkien). So he took himself off to a monastery to learn from the monks a rhythm of life that would allow him more balance and depth in his relationship with God. From there he committed to a year of working through various spiritual practices that are not commonly undertaken by Protestants. The first one (the only chapter available so far) is single-tasking, the practice of attentiveness. It is something that most of us, easily distracted in this hyper-connected online world, need to hear. His description of contemplating an apple was sheer joy. It reminded me of Robert Farrar Capon's chapter on contemplating an onion in The Supper of the Lamb.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book, which I will be able to do when the Kindle version ships to me on September 16. Check it out on Amazon.

06 May 2012

Super Moon!

I went out to shoot the moon tonight, because it was a "supermoon" -- the closest full moon we get each year as the moon reaches its perigee -- and it was very clear tonight from Vancouver. I shot this with my 500mm Tamron f/8 SP macro lens and a 1.6x extender, and the lens didn't even attach properly to my camera because it was an old mount for my old Yashica. I haven't used it ever with my 5D yet, and that's why. But it was worth trying tonight anyway, and it worked. I just held it up to the camera body and shot. I shot it at ISO 200 and 1/200 sec. I don't know the f-stop (the camera said f/0, probably because I didn't have the lens mounted so it couldn't communicate with the lens). I used a tripod and self-timer to minimize shake. I was actually able to leave the lens kind of "hanging" off the camera body since the body was aimed up towards the moon and gravity held the lens on with no light leaking in. That was lucky, as it was impossible for me to hold the lens still enough with my hand at that shutter speed and focal length.

03 January 2012

Photo a Day: Jan 3

The day almost got away from me before I remembered I hadn't taken my photo, so the subject matter is kind of boring. Taken right next to my computer desk. I'll try to venture farther away tomorrow.

02 January 2012

Photo a Day: Jan 2

I was going to go out for a walk today to take my picture of the day, but it was dark before I knew it. Fortunately the days are getting longer, so this issue will recede. This was shot through my upstairs window, of the Christmas lights wound around my balcony railing.

01 January 2012

Photo a Day: Jan 1

I decided to do one of those photo-a-day projects that I've seen others doing. I think it will help me refocus on seeing the world that is out there, one of the main reasons for this blog after all. I'm going for spontaneity here, and the art of seeing, so no Photoshopping.

Today felt uncommonly warm for a New Year's Day. I went outside to check if the neighbor's snowdrops were poking up out of the ground already, and they were. No buds yet, but still, a nice early harbinger of spring. So much for our coldest winter on record that was predicted. I suppose it could still happen, but I'm not holding my breath, and I'm sure hoping the weather prophets were wrong.

11 December 2011

A walk in the neighborhood

It's been a long time since I've walked to church and had the luxury of time to be attentive to what I was seeing along my path. I had my camera with me too, and was inspired to pull it out and take some photos. It felt good. It's been way too long.

This neighbor's front yard always draws my attention. But this time I saw that the owner, an avid gardener named Jim, had added another whimsical element to it: this structure which seems to be part fish, part bird. You must click and zoom in to see it more clearly! I later found out that my housemate Jo had helped him place it in its location. He wanted it oriented in the best possible way to catch the eye of passers-by. It worked. As I was admiring it, Jim came out to chat with me. He proudly told me he had just celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday. He is one of the bright sparks in the neighborhood. His garden brings joy. I'm glad to see he's going strong at 90!

22 October 2011

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners

The winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year have just been announced. This is my favorite photo competition in the world. The photos are stunning. I got to see the 2004 winners in person in the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow. Wow! Here's this year's Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award Winner: Still Life in Oil by Daniel Beltrá, Spain:

Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award Winner: Still Life in Oil by Daniel Beltrá, Spain.

20 October 2011

Contemplative photography

Sorry this blog has been dormant for so long. I've been posting lots over at Faith and Technology.

I've come into contact with Alex Soojung-Kim Pang who is working on a book called Contemplative Computing, which is also the name of his blog. He's got quite an interesting post on photography as a technology that invites skill, essentially a contemplative practice. Made me realize I've let that practice lapse in my life, and I want to get back to it.

05 April 2011

Edge Effects

I recently discovered a cool cache of useful Photoshop actions (free to download; donation requested; do give; I did) at The Light's Right Studio. I’ve been playing around with the TLR Edge Effects set and liking them.

You have to run one of the Create Unframed Edge actions first before you can run one of the edge effect actions, with the exception of Gaussian Blur Frame which requires one of the Create Framed Edge actions to be run first. Took me a while to figure that out, but now it’s awesome. My favorites are Gaussian Blur Edge, Frosted Glass Edge, Spatter Edge, and Sprayed Strokes Edge.

Here's what the image looked like:

And here's what it looked like after applying Create Unframed Edge and Gaussian Blur Edge actions (4 clicks):

You'll have to try it out yourself to see some of the others. There are a couple dozen different sets of actions, and I've only had time to play with one of them so far. Go to http://www.thelightsrightstudio.com/photoshop-tools.htm. And if you like them, do give a donation to support Glenn Mitchell's creative work.

14 February 2011

Catching up

Finally got my new PC after more than six months limping along on my old slow laptop which kept me from getting much photography work done. So I'm back!

Just a pretty sunset image from a recent trip to Galiano Island for now.

I recently finished reading Enter Mourning: A Memoir on Death, Dementia & Coming Home, by Heather Menzies. Very profound and well written. She's a photographer, so she used her camera as a way of processing the whole experience of gradually losing her mother to Alzheimer's Disease and finding healing from old wounds that it was too late to work out with her mother verbally. She intersperses her reflective memoir with some shots she took while on a visit to her mother's old cottage after moving her into an assisted living facility. Here's a beautiful excerpt that grabbed me:

"I reached for my manual Minolta slung over my shoulder, and took off the lens cap The camera and all the actions involved in taking photos bought me some time, helped prop open the door to what I was doing. As an old friend Moira once observed, we ritualize the unknown as a way to face up to it, to wrestle it into revelation; my camera became my medium for doing this. Repeating the ritual motions--adjusting the shutter speed and focal length—-slowed me down and allowed me to dwell in my hands and eyes, opening my senses to the body of this remembered space. It brought me closer, helped me to be present to what I'd spent so much time absenting myself from over the years. I also used the camera to hone in, to find and focus in on what I had particularly avoided. I'd learned to divine for water when I was a kid at the farm, using a forked apple branch, and I felt I was doing something similar here in this quest. The camera was the stick while Mum's place and the tangle of the time we'd spent here together was the ground, the currents of water were my feelings running hidden beneath its surface."

I've done a bit of using my camera to understand my mother's journey into the ravages of the disease, and to study the bits of herself that she's left behind all over the house. It's too personal to share any images here, but I definitely find it a method that helps me process stuff.

19 July 2010

Interview with the photographer

I was interviewed by Iambic Admonit (Sorina Higgins) in a blog series on "Where are we now?" (the state of the arts in North America). Here's the interview.

05 June 2010


My photo "New Beginnings" has been published in Comment Magazine in their online edition.

16 February 2010

Focal lengths

Someone over on a Flickr group I'm part of was asking us to post some wide angle portraits and pet shots. I didn't have any to share, but I did post this:

The widest angle I've got is 28mm. It was interesting that you asked this question, because that led me to discover a feature in ACDSee, the photo organizing software I use, that lets me search for photos by focal length. I was surprised to find out how seldom I used the 28mm focal length. (I have 28-70mm and 70-200mm zoom lenses.) I tend to do portraits and pet photos somewhere between 60-100mm.

I did a breakdown of what focal length I've used on all my photos since I switched to digital:
28mm - 491 shots
29-39mm - 3382
40-49mm - 4239
50-59mm - 3898
60-69mm - 2508
--> 70mm - 7288 *
71-100mm - 697
101-130mm - 564
131-160mm - 377
161-199mm - 347
200mm - 1879

By far my favorite focal length is 70. Not surprising, since that's the highest I can go on my short lens and the lowest I can go on my long lens, so when I'm stretching the limits and wish I had the other lens with me, that's where I'll gravitate.

It's also interesting that I prefer the 200mm extreme to the 28mm extreme, but the larger majority of my non extreme (including 70mm as an "extreme" because it's the end of the range on both lenses) shooting is done on the shorter lens. That's probably mostly a matter of practicality. It's lighter and smaller, and it lives on the camera (it's the only one that it fits in the case with on it), so if I'm going out and only want to bring one lens, that's usually the one that comes with me.

Wide angles lenses (smaller focal lengths; 35 and below) are best when you want to fit a lot into your photo, either a wide landscape scene, or an entire subject from close up (this was shot at 28mm):

Medium length lenses (about 60-90mm) are good for portraits (this was done at 70mm, from fairly close to the subject):

Long lenses (aka telephoto; about 135 and up) are good for close-ups from a bit of a distance (this was done at 200mm):

19 November 2009

Cool things you can do with color

Originally uploaded by jakerome
I came across this palette on Flickr done by jakerome. It is made up of a 16x16 gride of square photographs each emphasizing a single color. Put together, they produce a quilt effect. Very cool!

31 October 2009

Long time no post

It's been a busy summer and early fall, and I haven't had time to post anything in a while. So here are a few of my best shots to catch you up with what I've been doing photographically (and otherwise) for the past three months. I'm now storing photos on Flickr, so clicking on these images will take you there and you can browse at some of my other work.

After being inspired by some of the reading I was doing for the Food Course, I bought a share in a CSA farm called Urban Grains, which grows organic wheat; well, UG partners with Cedar Isle Farm which actually grows the wheat. The shareholders took a field trip in July out to the farm in Agassiz, BC, to see the wheat fields and meet the farmer. The setting was stunningly beautiful, in the Fraser Valley with the Cheam Range of the Canadian Cascades off in the distance.


In late July and early August I went to Santa Fe for the Glen Workshop, put on by Image and CIVA. I also did some touring around that part of New Mexico, visited several cousins, and saw a lot of great Spanish Colonial art and stunning landscapes. No wonder Georgia O'Keeffe and others have been so inspired there.

New Mexico

In August I went back East for my family's annual vacation at our summer cottage in Vermont. The highlight of the week was of course getting to see my nephew Isaac again. He seems to get cuter every day, if there were any possibility of ever being more cute than he already is. Sorry no public photos of him. Friends can see them on my Facebook page.

In August, and late September to early October, I had visits from two dear old friends, spent time with them at Galiano Island, and did some fun things in Vancouver. Here's a B.C. Ferry, all repainted in preparation for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, going through Active Pass as seen from Sturdies Bay on Galiano Island. Man, if only I had the new "content-aware fill" feature that Adobe Labs has been working on for some future version of Photoshop! I'd get rid of that light post in front of the ferry. Too time-consuming otherwise. But take a look at a cool demo here.

B.C. Ferry repainted for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics

I'm taking a portraiture photography class at Focal Point, the photography school which is a block from my house. (I'm so lucky!) Our teacher is Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, a well-known Vancouver-based commercial and fine art photographer who has photographed famous people including Bob Hope, Douglas Coupland, and Annie Liebovitz. He's also an avid gardener, so he likes to have us use plants as props in some of our photos, and he is teaching us to recreate certain historical styles in portraiture. He also sometimes is wacky and suggests amusing poses with props. Here are a couple of my best shots from a studio session.

This first one is heavily color adjusted in Photoshop.

Katie Johnson with Hydrangea aspera var. villosa

Jesus and Mary Magdalene

We've had the most glorious October for fall colors this year. I went out shooting some of the leaves in my neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, and this is my favorite one. It looks like they're floating on water, but they are on the hood of my neighbor's car, with reflections of the trees overhead.


Finally, I got to attend the U2 360 Tour concert in Vancouver the other night. It was a great experience. Took my trusty G9 along with me and didn't see any signs or hear any announcements about no photography allowed, so I went for it. The stage was set with this giant space ship on it. Apparently it takes so long to set up (8 days) that they had three identical sets so they could be working ahead setting up the stages for the next two concerts while performing one. This tour cost them about $750K per day! Hmmm, you wonder how many poor children in Africa Bono could have fed or given AIDS medications to if they'd kept the budget to...oh, maybe $300K per day? Still, I know he inspires many and is very generous, so I don't complain too much. It certainly was quite a spectacle.

U2 360 Tour @ BC Place, Vancouver

U2 360 Tour @ BC Place, Vancouver

05 July 2009

SoFoBoMo Book

OK, I’ve decided on a solution so that I can post my book. I added a page of text explaining the situation and posted the PDF as is. Hopefully I won’t get sued (apparently it’s not very likely: see “Can a Recipe Be Stolen?”), and maybe I’ll even inspire some purchases of the cookbooks that some of the recipes are drawn from.

Here is the link to the completed book on the SoFoBoMo page:

26 June 2009

SoFoBoMo - Finished!

I finished in perfect time! I started shooting on May 24, finished the PDF on June 23 and had 22 copies of it printed and spiral bound to give to the people involved, and got most of them distributed that same day. I had participated in a two week course on the theology of food, titled "Food: Creation, Community, and Communion." That was going to be the title of my SoFoBoMo book. I took photos throughout the entire course, of us working in the garden, cooking, and of course the food itself. I've put a selection of the best of those in my Food Course Flickr group.

But I shifted my project goal as the course progressed: I decided to create a cookbook with all the recipes of the dishes we ate -- the food was amazing! I began collecting the recipes (sometimes by photographing the page in the cookbook they came from, other times typing them in directly from a friend's description, or copying from emaikl). Fortunately, I had taken enough photos of food to illustrate the cookbook with a photo for nearly every dish (ended up using a total of 42 of them -- not always my very best shots overall, but the best of the food ones I did).

Unfortunately, I can't post it on the web, because it ended up being a cookbook (with photographs of nearly all the dishes), and some of the recipes came from copyrighted sources, and I didn't track down sources in all cases. Even when I did, I'm not sure what the legality is of republishing a recipe from a published cookbook without permission. So, while I have the personal satisfaction of having finished, I don't get credit on the SoFoBoMo website for being among those who did. Oh well, at least I learned I can finish such a project, and will be better equipped to do it next year.

Here's the front cover, at least;


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