Remember the day when going to the mailbox was a pleasure? Next to reading the newspaper, reading mail gave a means of being connected. In particular, getting a card or letter from someone made the day really special!

When I was a pre-teen, my aged aunt passed away. I remember sitting at her majestic old family home and sorting through boxes and boxes of letters she had saved from correspondence with family and friends. My recollection was that of elegant handwriting, personal messages, and a multitude of various stamps.il_340x270.1320424388_d2di

Reading some of those letters was like reading the diary of both the sender and the recipient. I suppose it was the way of communicating back then. And, expressing your heart in a letter was what one did to get their message across.  I felt as if I were reading a chapter from a novel and wanted to know more. There were letters from her brothers who had served in World War II and who gave their lives for our country. There were also letters from other family members and from persons unknown. I wish I had kept some of those letters.

stock-photo-vintage-statue-of-liberty-stamp-three-cents-in-god-we-trust-965045What I did keep were some of the old stamps. I remember thinking, “That’s cheap!” Stamps on these letters came from various places in the United States and from overseas. I collected the odd stamps I thought were interesting and stored them in a box of old stamps and coins. The least expensive stamp I recall was a three cent stamp. At the time, stamps costs thirteen cents. I thought three cent stamps were ancient history.

Today, stamps are almost history themselves. This isn’t necessarily true. But, with electronic bill pay, many just don’t send mail anymore. I rarely purchase stamps myself. I rarely even mail a post. When I do, often the post office will scan the post electronically and postage is added as such. No stamp needed.2017-us-flag-stamp

As it turns out, stamps are increasing in price. For those who purchase the Forever Stamp, there is nothing to do. Except, that is, to prepare to pay a penny more when purchasing new stamps starting January 21, 2018.

I still like to get a personal card in the mail. Though I am not very good at sending them. Perhaps I should reconsider and think of how receiving personal mail makes others feel.


January 31 – Trifecta Celestial Events

Super Moon / Blue Moon / Blood Moon – Trifecta!

Photographers, sharpen your F-stop and tune up your long lens, as a trifecta of celestial events take place on January 31, 2018. Those of us in North America will have the unique opportunity to experience a rare viewing the Earth’s moon as a blue moon, a super moon, and experience a total lunar eclipse (blood moon).

Blue Moon

A blue moon occurs when there is more than one full moon in a given month. Indeed, the January 31 full moon will be the second full moon in the month of January 2018. And, it will be the only blue moon of 2018.  The last blue moon was May 2016. After this month, the next blue moon will take place in March 2018. While not a rare occasion, a blue moon only happens … well, once in a blue moon. See the list of future blue moon dates.

2018   –   March 1, 2018    /  March 31, 2018
2020   –   October 2, 2020 /  October 31, 2020
2023   –   August 1, 2013   /  August 31, 2023

Super Moon

The orbit of the moon around Earth is not a perfect circle. Instead, it is an elliptical orbit where the moon varies in distance from the Earth during its 27 day orbit. At its perigee, the moon is closest to Earth and appears 14-30% larger than the moon typically appears. Conversely, at its apogee, the moon is furthest from Earth during a given orbital cycle. For a super moon to occur, the moon must be at its perigee and must be a full moon. Though a super moon can occur either during a full moon or new moon. For the purposes of this article, a super moon is a full moon at its perigee._MG_0806 co - signature

While the moon does not occur differently to most people, it is best noticed when the moon is closest to the horizon. Therefore, photographic opportunities of the super moon are best at moon rise or moon set. For those following the super moon, the closest super moon in over 60 years occurred on November 14, 2016.  After January 31, 2017, the next several super moons will take place the following dates.

  • 2019  – January 21
  • 2019  – February 19
  • 2020  – March 9
  • 2020  – April 8

Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the Earth completely blocks the light of the sun. Viewing an eclipse was especially heightened during the popularity in the United States as the total solar eclipse of 2017. But, what about a lunar eclipse. For starters, those of us in the United States will be able to view a full lunar eclipse on January 31, 2018.

_MG_8603 stack crThe phenomena of a blood moon occurs during a total lunar eclipse as the moon continues to be visible at lunar totality but has a reddish brown appearance. Without going into an expose about the wave-length of light and light bending (which this author does not intimately follow), the short of it all is that the light remaining during a total solar eclipse is absent of blues and greens. What remains are reds and oranges leaving the appearance of what some call, a blood moon. After January 31, the next lunar eclipse visible from the United States will be as follows:

  • 2019  – January 19

January 31, 2018

Plan your viewing and photographic trip early and plan to catch a rare lunar event on January 31, 2018 as those in the United States experience a super moon, full moon, and lunar eclipse (or blood moon). And most importantly, share photos for the world to see!


Canon 7D Mark II – Review by Ken Rockwell

I am seeking a new camera and want to make an informed decision. The replacement for my previous camera is the Canon 7D Mark II. I found the Ken Rockwell review to be quite thorough and informative.

Canon 7D Mark II Review by Ken Rockwell

The Canon 7D Mark II is the world’s best camera for shooting indoor or night sports. Unless you have installed special lighting at the arena so you can use an older pro camera like the Canon 1D X or Nikon D4S, the new 7D Mk II has a special new flicker-compensating feature that lets you get consistently great photos without the random dark frames caused by most artificial lighting.

Even in daylight, the 7D Mk II is the best camera for less than $6,000 for shooting any kind of action because of its extremely high 10 FPS frame rate. Only a huge $6,500 pro camera goes faster.


Canon 7D Mark II (by Ken Rockwell)

The 7D Mk II is the world’s fastest APS-C camera and has more processing power than any EOS camera. It’s faster than any of Nikon’s pro DX cameras like the D2HS. For sports, unless you’re a full-time Sports Illustrated shooter with a $6,800 Canon 1D X orNikon D4S, the 7D Mk II just became the new world’s best sports camera, in most artificial light, no camera is better at any price.

The 7D Mark II’s AF sensor array covers most of the frame, unlike full-frame cameras whose AF areas are still all stuck in the middle. Will this lead to pros abandoning the 1D X and Nikon D4S so we can focus all over our frame? It just might! Who said this was a consumer camera? Its shutter is rated for 200,000 shots! … read more

by Ken Rockwell

Congratulations Photography Students

Once an educator, always an educator. 
Whether teaching students or when in administration in public schools, I always considered myself an educator. I certainly hold the adage, once an educator, always an educator. This is true in several of my current endeavors: real estate and photography. 

I will elaborate on my real estate endeavors in a later post. Today, I want to brag on a couple of my photography students. 

Spring 2016 has been the first semester that I taught photography for the College of the Mainland’s lifelong learning program. And, what a pleasure it has been for me to have been enriched by the wonderful individuals who took my class. 

From week to week, I saw growth not only in their photography, but also their confidence. One student, Pat, said, “Trudy forced me to get out of my comfort zone.” This is certainly the way to grow.

Students from the lifelong learning program are encouraged to submit art to the Texas City Art Festival. Several did just that. Today was the culminating activities with a program preview and awards reception. 

 Awards were given to two of my students. Patricia Givens took third place while Susan Scott Smith took honorable mention. Both had impressive photographs. I am so proud of these ladies and the courage they exuded to be a part of a large community event. Congratulations to both! 



Good people sometimes choose to make decisions that are not ethical.

I always lock my car.

This morning I entered my car to find that someone had been inside of it. The interesting things is, I always lock my car.

In fact, when I exit my car, by habit or by instinct, I check the door by pulling the handle. Always. Although I keep my keys inside my purse, I have on rare occasion left them inside my  car. By checking door handle, I can know whether I need to re-enter my car to retrieve those keys. With that habit established, I can see no possibility that I could have left my car unlocked last night.

Yet, this morning, my car was unlocked, someone had been inside, they rummaged through the console areas, and took several very items very precious and valuable to me.

My belief:

In life, I tend to have an impression that all people are good. And, I believe that to be the case nearly always. Yet, good people sometimes choose to make decisions that are not ethical. In these cases, I believe they are dealt with by a higher power.

  • I always lock my car.
  • My car was unlocked this morning and things taken from it.
  • People who practice unethical behavior deserve what they get.

Sure, I will say a prayer for them. They will need it.


Editing a Dark Photo with PicMonkey for Hobbiest Photographers

Getting Started Using PicMonkey to Edit a Dark Photograph

Editing photographs is a certain fact with digital photography. Once mastered, editing can be just as fun and rewarding as taking photographs. Let’s look at a photograph that may have been lost to poor conditions and or camera settings and use to salvage to would be tossed out file.

  1. Navigate to from your browser.
  2. Select EDIT in the menu window. (PicMonkey has many editing tools that are available for free.At some point, you may be interested in using the free 30 day trial upgrade which gives you access to all tools.)pm start
  3. Upload a photograph of your choice. _MG_1881.jpgIn this case, we will be using a photograph of a yellow wildflower that that I took when traversing back roads in Texas. This image is very dark, but I have delayed tossing it to the trash.
  4. When in PicMonkey, you will see several menu options on the left. The first menu option is Basic Edits. In Basic Edits, we will use Exposure, Sharpen, and Crop. 1_Original
  5. First let us start with Exposure. This dark image can most benefit by adjusting the sliders to increase the brightness. Adjust the sliders noticing the changes to the image as adjustments are made. When the exposure is as you like, select Save. At any time you do not like the results of your adjustment, select Cancel to being that setting all over.2_Exposure
  6. Next we will select Sharpen and then select Unsharp Mask. 3a_Sharpen
  7.   After selecting Unsharp Mask, adjust the sliders to achieve the desired effect.3c_Sharpen
    • Radius means only the pixels next to the edges will be sharpened. It is often effect to select only 1 to 2 for this slider. Otherwise, the results will be a weird halo effect.
    • Threshold determines how much contrast there needs to be between colors for them to be sharpened.
    • Clarity is used to adjust local contrast.
    • Select Save when finished sharpening the image.
  8. Next, we are going to select the Effects menu and scroll down to Camera Effects and select HDR. HDR stands for high-dynamic range and basically pulls out the light, medium, and dark tones in images. In the case of PicMonkey, this filter allows us to use one image. Select Reverse Effect. Apply the HDR filter with a medium to large size brush to the petals of the flower only. Then select Save. 4_HDR_reverse effect
  9. While still in Effects, under Basic, select Boost. Selecting a small brush size and applying Boost only to the anthers of the flower will provide for the desired effect. Always save changes. 5_Boost_pistils
  10. The final adjustment to be made will be to Crop the image ideally placing the flower off center which is more pleasing to view. We will again select the Basic menu and choose Crop. Crop as desired, and Save. 6_Crop
  11. Now to complete our PicMonkey experience, it is necessary to save the image back to your computer. At this point, you can rename the image if desired.
  12. Notice the comparison of the original image and the final edited image. FinalComparison
  13. The final image:

Disclaimer: These adjustments are arbitrary and used on the particular image as indicated and only for demonstration purposes. While this author does not claim to be the expert on PicMonkey, sharing this tool with other hobbyist photographers might allow for alternatives for creative manipulation of images.