Ireland on the Mind at Christmas

Irish Christmas Spirit

Where would we be without Saint Patrick?  He was a force, to be sure.  A favorite story,  is the landing of his return to the island 432 AD.  The tides on the eastern coast of the Irish Sea can be strong.  His plan was to sail up to coast further north than what we call today Strangford Lough.  On passing this inlet the boat was swept into the lough tidal narrows.  Circumstances called for a landing, rather than wait for the tide.  Patrick came ashore where the Slaney River enter the lough and “quickly converted” the local chieftan, Dichu, who provided a barn for holding services.  The name of the town “Saul” in Irish is Sabhall Phádraig, translated as “Patrick’s Barn.”

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In this posting I’ll go lighter on descriptions of technique.  Leave it to say I held to the Canon fixed lens EF 50mm f1.2L USM throughout.  Some, like the photograph of Saint Patrick, used a tripod.  Others, like the latter two of the following Irish Themed Cross set were handheld.  Generally a flash was used to supplement ambient sunlight from a large north-facing bay window.

Here the “celtic” cross is converted to an Irish theme through a substitution of a shamrock with golden decoration inspired by pagan neolithic petroglyphs for the nimbus (circle) intersecting the central intersection of arms and stem.

For the first three I played with aperture, taking advantage of the stability of a tripod.  The final two of the set are handheld.

Note the fanciful leprechaun snowman with pot o’ gold, on the left.

Blown glass Irish dancers.

“Travel memories”

Lets’s finish up with a resin cast Santa Claus in hiking garb.  Hiking is a favorite activity of ours.  Featuring a stout staff and Aran Island sweater.

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Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Christmas Angels

Merry Christmas

The angels of our Christmas tree and home remind us of the Jesus birth stories of scripture and the force of love in our own lives.

What comes to mind with the sudden appearance of Gabriel to Mary and that astounding message? Unlike the attempt of Jonah to avoid his calling, the subtext to Mary’s ready acceptance is the risks faced by an affianced woman who becomes pregnant. The book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 22 verses 13 – 21) calls for stoning a woman who presents herself for marriage as a virgin, when she is not.

When learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, as a follower of Mosaic Law, was to divorce her quietly to avoid exposing her to shame. It was a visit from an angel, in a dream, that convinced Joseph to accept Mary (Matthew Chapter 2, verses 18 – 24).

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An angel visited shepherds, announcing “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God.” Luke Chapter 2, verses 8 – 13.

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Was it an angel who warned the Magi, in a dream, not to return to King Herod with news of Jesus (Matthew Chapter 2 Verse 12)? Scriptures clearly state (Matthew Chapter 2 verse 13) “the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt.”

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People can be angelic in expressing love for others through action. I am thinking of a movie Pam and I viewed last evening, “The Theory of Everything.” Jane Wilde, in her love for Stephen Hawking, stays with him when, shortly after their romance began, he was diagnosed with ALS. The prognosis was death in two years. In all likelihood, Jane gave Stephen his life and work through loving him. He is alive and working today at 75.

Nested Angel

The love of our parents is more common, no less precious.

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A note on the photographs, I used a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr with Canon lens EF 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt, Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head.  Some of the photographs were hand held.  When the flash was used, it supplemented ambient light from a large north facing bay window.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Herald

Luke 2:8 – 11

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the LORD appeared to them, and the glory of the LORD shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Christmas Tableau

Cozy Snowmen dance round the candle

My dear wife Pam is the heart of Christmas in our home. Over the years we have collected a treasure of ornaments and knick-knacks she crafts into displays around our one. Pam completed the project well in advance of our grandchild holiday visits, before card writing and gift wrapping.

My contribution is a photographic time capsule. Here is some of my artistic output from this work.

This grouping of five cozy snowmen (three males, two females) are warmly dressed in knit sweaters and stocking caps; the women with long skirts. The five hold hands in a ring, rising from a common platform. We place a cup and devotional candle in the center.

The tiny group evokes community, harmony, amity. I captured them with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III dslr, a fixed Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens mounted on a Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head. Fixed lenses provide the sharpest macros. The mounting allowed precise framing and use of the widest aperture and a low ISO. The light sources were sunlight from a large north facing bay window, a Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt and the candle. When used, the flash was angled in various ways toward the ceiling.

I start with a tight shot, maximum aperture. A single figure is in clear focus, the remaining gradually lost in the bokeh. The flash was used. I can almost see then circling around the candle in a winter wind.

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Here the candle is lighted, aperture narrow to f8 using only the candle and ambient light (no flash). The group is visible within surrounding figures. I backed away and the viewpoint is higher.

The candle light enhances the perception of community.

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Viewpoint is closer, still only the candle and ambient light. Aperture widened to 3.5. I must remove the hair in lightroom.

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I backed off, aperture at the max with only the candle and ambient light. The figures are placed in a tableau with other snowmen and a structure, a birdhouse.

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For this overview I swapped in a Canon 24mm f/1.4L II USM with a flash, aperture f2.2.

Christmas Snowman Display
Christmas 2017 snowman display laid out in our den on top of the entertainment cabinet.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Fresh Snow

In Dawn’s Light, Untouched

Here is a story of a local man’s narrow escape from this week’s snowstorm.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pushing Back….

…Darkness

The wonder of electricity through a timer, lights greet the sunset offering cheer until, precisely 4 hours later, surrender to the night UNLESS there is a power outage and the lights return for a renewed countdown.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Santa Elf Spotted…..

….on paddle board.

She was captured via IPhone coming…..

….and going on the Cayuga Inlet off Cass Park, Ithaca, New York, on a December afternoon.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Our Solo Thanksgiving Feast

We spread our Thanksgiving goodies over three meals for our 2020 solo celebration.

Breakfast: Homemade Apple Pie (Grannie Smith Apples), Coffee with foamed milk and cinnamon
Lunch: Relish plate, sour cream onion dip, potato chips (avocado oil), Irish cheddar cheese and crackers, Dr. Frank Pino Noir
The roses are the last blooms from our garden.   

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Homecoming Parade 2003

Celebrating Electors Voting Today

In 2003 I was 50 years old, my son Sean graduated college and started his first job and we made time for a tour of Arizona together in November. The timing was perfect for me to take in the University of Arizona (U of A) Homecoming, my first since graduating 1975.

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One absolutely positive memory from my time at the U of A was trying out for freshman cheer squad when I first arrived in Tucson, somehow being chosen and then serving for the fall and spring terms. So, when I received an invitation of the cheer alumni events I accepted and planned to be there in Tucson for November 7 and 8.

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November 7 there was a reception for cheer alumni and current squad members. Everyone was welcoming and friendly, as you would expect, and I learned a bit about the younger members, how many were on academic scholarships.

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The squad advisor, Phoebe Chalk, and I chatted briefly. She responded, “We have photographers,” and I floated the idea of my taking photographs during the parade so I let that drop with the intention of doing it, anyway.

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I came prepared the next day with a Sony Cybershot F828. It was “Sony’s flagship prosumer digital camera” at the time. It worked well that day, the variable lens was especially helpful.

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At the staging site I encountered a problem. The cheer squad headed the parade, behind the University President with the cheer alumni well behind. My solution was to approach Peter Linkins, the outgoing University President, with a request to photograph the cheer squad.

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He said, “OK”, made a phone call and I walked up to the squad. They remembered me from the reception and I was on my way, “embedded” for the parade.

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I walked alongside and on the alert.  As we crossed passed the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium and into the intersection with Cherry Avenue the squad broke formation for a stunt.  Three men formed the “base”, they were  J. Justin VandenBerg, Ricardo Abud (captain) and Robert Scoby, around a “flyer”, Taylor Hendrickson, and launched her into the air, above the pavement.

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My sense of amazement, awe and concern is reflected in the reactions of the team members.  Taylor was thrown more than 15 feet high for a complete flip to land in the arms of the three base members.  I call this image, “Mind.”

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They did it again and I was more prepared to capture the instant of launch.  “Aerialists,” is the title of this image.  The next flyer to launch was Kristen Ortega, here standing on the shoulders of her partner.

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Kristen was launched in front of the review stand.  “Grace,” is the image title.  The three base members are the same.

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Here is the rest of the parade.

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I posed with the cheer squad afterwards.

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Click link for another posting about Arizonians, “Portrait of a Navajo Guide.”
Click link for another posting about Arizonians, “History and Ghosts of the Triangle T Ranch.”

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills