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

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.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

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.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

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

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

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.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

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

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

Night Blooming Cereus VII

reaction to cold temperature

For the final post of this series on Cereus blooms, of the four buds two failed to fully open after the weather turned cold in late September/Early October. Here is the failed bloom from the same opening bud featured in the last Cereus posting.

Click me for another Cereus flower post.

References

Wikipedia, “Epiphyllum, “Epiphyllum oxypetalum,”epiphyte.”

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Night Blooming Cereus VI

soon to open

Here is a continuation of the previous Cereus posting, the ultimate macros of a bloom on the edge of opening.

Click me for another Cereus flower post.

References

Wikipedia, “Epiphyllum, “Epiphyllum oxypetalum,”epiphyte.”

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Night Blooming Cereus V

evening preparation

Almost bursting open, the third of four flower buds of our Night Blooming Cereus caught one October evening just before opening. The black background is repurposed anit-weed ground cover material.

Here is a series of flash photographs at varying apertures and angles. The white rods are emerging anthers, the pollen-containing tips of long stamens seen in my previous postings of the open flowers.

Click me for another Cereus flower post.

References

Wikipedia, “Epiphyllum, “Epiphyllum oxypetalum,”epiphyte.”

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Night Blooming Cereus IV

What is this plant?

Bloom #2 of this season. Two more in the wings. I broke out the flash and the Canon 100 mm “macro” lens for this series taken an hour after sunrise before this one-night-only bloom wilted.

Click me for another flower post, “Another Woody Peony.”

References

Wikipedia, “Epiphyllum, “Epiphyllum oxypetalum,”epiphyte.”

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Night Blooming Cereus III

Source of popular name?

In an earlier posts the popular name of this plant, “Night Blooming Cereus” was introduced as incorrect, still there must be some truth in the name, I believe it is found in the developing flower stalk and bud.

“Cereus” is from the Greek word for candle. Don’t these developing flower stalks, resemble a candle and the bud a flame?

Click image for a larger version.

Here’s the flower from an earlier bloom this season.

Click me for another flower post, “Another Woody Peony.”

References

Wikipedia, “Epiphyllum, “Epiphyllum oxypetalum,”epiphyte.”

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Night Blooming Cereus II

What is this plant?

Epiphyllum oxypetalum, the scientific name for this plant identifies the name “Night Blooming Cereus” as incorrect. The plant is of the genus Epiphyllum, identifying it as an epiphytic organism that grows on the surface of a plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water (in marine environments) or from debris accumulating around it.  

Nor is it in the tribe Cereeae, derived from the Greek and Latin word for “wax”, “torch” or candle. Plants of the Cereeae tribe, including those in the genus Cereus, are cactus with a columnar structure, are are terrestrial, not epiphytic, plants.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum, also know as Dutchman’s pipe cactus, princess of the night, queen of the night, is a species of cactus and one of the most cultivated species in its genus. E. oxypetalum rarely blooms and only at night, and its flowers are reported to wilt before dawn.

The species name oxypetalum is derived from the word, “oxy” meaning sharp, pointed, acute for the characteristic petal shape.

For the bloom photographed here, I can report it was in this condition 7 am, after sunrise, and did not wilt until after noon.

Click me for the next post of this series.

References

Wikipedia, “Epiphyllum, “Epiphyllum oxypetalum,”epiphyte.”

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved