#Sunday Stills: #Textures in Prescott, Arizona

When Terri Webster Schrandt challenged us to shoot pictures with textures for her Sunday Stills Challenge, I was inspired. Arizona is nothing but textures. Nothing is smooth and silky. So come with me, put on your helmets and gloves and let’s take off for a rough, hilly walk. Since the Lens-Artist Challenge #125 invited us to choose anything, these pictures all fit both challenges. Yay!

Part of the concept of Wabi-Sabi is being aware of our surroundings and looking for beauty in everyday life – in its impermanence and imperfection.

Tina Schell

I tried some filters on some of these shots to make them more Wabi-Sabi, but you really want to click the link and look at Tina’s pictures and read all about Wabi-Sabi then judge for yourself if I even made a dent in achieving it.

On Friday it snowed here – a beautiful dusting and all the highways if you look into the hills you can see in the shadows that the snow remains. We have shadows in Tanglewood Hills. We found textures of tufted grasses sticking out from the snowy blanket like cowlicks on the rocky soil.

We stayed on the pathway where textures abounded. I loved this tree. It reminds me of how my hands and legs feel right now. I bought some Gold Bond “healing cream” not simply hand cream. I feel sorry for this tree if it feels as itchy as I do.

Vince trotted on ahead while I stopped to admire the Wabi-Sabi display just feet from my back door. These photos were taken with our new iPhone 12 phones which we bought to replace the phones we both dropped during our month of moving. Our new phones have upscale photography tools built in. For example, they turn each still photo into a micro-video. On my phone you can see Vince take a couple of steps. Just look at all this texture! Wow!

glances down
yield an abundance
of textures
Haiku by Marsha Ingrao

Wasn’t that spectacular, and I don’t even know if it’s alive. It’s probably how the development got it’s name, Tanglewood Hills.

Depending on the type of tree, many of them are bare or nearly bare revealing layers and layers of texture. Charlotte has woven a tiny filament of texture of her own. Can you see it? Notice how blue the sky is. This leafy picture also works for Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

This next picture takes you out of Tanglewood Hills and into a housing development. I took this picture because of the sharp contrast between the rock landscape and the soft fuzz of grass and the smooth concrete stairs. To heighten the contrast between textures I used a filter, it might have been poster edges. I played with all of them.

As you can see Prescott is quite hilly. Many residents have steep drives or walkways to their home. This picture is also for Cee’s FOTD Challenge. She accepts pictures of leaves.

sanded rust erodes
Hoosier stickers on windows
working man's textures
Haiku by Marsha Ingrao

Vince informed me the Hoosier meant the tires, but I still liked it because that is my home state.

This proud political sign got torn, tangled and crumpled in the textures of life. I thought it made its own political statement.

I have more pictures from today’s walk, but I’ll close with a picture of Wabi-Sabi texture that saves lives. We had more than our share of fires in California this year. If only there had been one of these every few feet in every forest.

I’m very late in the week to hook to Restless Jo’s Monday walks, but here it is a day early. We walk every day, but I don’t always shoot pictures. Thanks to all the Challenge Hosts for inspiring me to take my camera and shoot to a theme. 🙂 Have a great week.

Don’t forget to visit other challengers to encourage them on their photographic journeys.

Just follow the links!

Reminder – New Writing Challenge Starts Wednesday

Sunday Stills: Decorate with the Weathered Look

I think Terri Webster Schrandt chose this topic just for me.

“Your entire yard is weathered,” she told me when I had the honor of hosting her for one night in our home.

My husband and I love the rusted look. It started when we built the fence around the pool sixteen years ago. He wanted it made from rusty rebar. I wasn’t on board 100% at the time, but as he pointed out, “It won’t look any older in 20 years.” He was right.

“I like that weathered, torn look.”

Maria Brink

You can see a few other weathered items in the picture. How many do you see?

“What was so good about it was that the set that they originally built stayed there, and weathered over the five years. It got five summers and five winters of weather. It became more and more authentic as we worked in it, and they added bits to it.”

Derek Jacobi

Like Derek discovered, some of our yard art we bought already weathered. Some of them weathered on their own over the years. You wouldn’t want to sit on this set.

“The entire economy, of course, is locked in a down cycle right now. Last time we weathered this was during another Bush presidency in ’90. We were locked in it for a year and a half and everyone came out of it.”

David Talbot

This year has been more than a little strange. Some industries, like the nursery business, actually did better than it would have because people stayed home and did DIY projects. Like many others, we chose this summer to decorate our garden in the weathered look.

“They think old people are lame. But they’re not. They’re awesome, & I know exactly why I think so. It’s because they’ve lived entire lifetimes. Loved. Laughed. Surrendered. Stumbled. Weathered, beaten, still they don’t crumble, not even as they inch toward death.”

Ellen Hopkins

The weathered fence hadn’t changed much in sixteen years, nor had the style we loved. We found the 1966 Ford dump truck. It is an old weathered soul that had worked full time, then part-time on someone’s farm. After a roadside thief stole it’s battery, it sat on the highway frontage road with a for sale sign on it for a couple of years.

It called out to us, and we gave it a home for its many years of retirement. Vince made it look a little more weathered by painting the headlights brown. We hate leaving it behind, but Vince also flatted the tires and rebuilt the rebar fence around it. It’s not going anywhere soon.

Just like our old cat needed to have kittens to liven it up, the old dump truck needed a companion. I found this little gem at Luis Nursery. He’s moving to Prescott with us. Sorry Mater.

“The spirit of Route 66 is in the details: every scratch on a fender, every curl of paint on a weathered billboard, every blade of grass growing up through a cracked street.”John Lasseter

Richard Dean Anderson

In the spirit of Route 66, Vince repurposed a section of the weathered fence. We used it to support tomatoes on one side and flowers on the other.

“The elderly have weathered enough squalls to know that this one, too, shall pass. They own the courage to be original; they’ve learned to hold their own values above the conventional wisdom. “

Sarah Ferguson

This yard art wreath of flower pots has attained a white patina in addition to its rusty look this summer under the California sun. This week it weathered a giant hail storm. The circular shape and weathered look made me think of “this too shall pass,” eternal, and what goes around comes around. Can you think of other phrases that describe this flower pot wreath?

“I always sort of swooned at the sight of the classic barn structures in central and northern Minnesota, where everything seemed rustic and weathered and made to age gracefully.”

Richard Dean Anderson

Minnesota is not the only place with interesting barns. I am wandering out of our yard a bit with this picture, but Vince and I spotted this weathered barn photo opportunity at almost the same time less than a mile from our house. If he could have transported it home, he would have. Click on the link to see the treasures I found there.

“When I write, I strain with every wizened fibre of my weathered frame to analyze every possible angle of any given subject.”

Jim Goad

The subject today is “weathered look.” Like Terri said, our yard is full of weathered things. I wonder how many of them the new owners will like. They are newlyweds, not weathered like us. My friend Sally told me she will take any of the weathered items they don’t want.

And though there is more yard art that you can keep your eyes open to see, I’ll show you the most popular item at our garage sale, the gazebo. It’s attached so by law it has to stay, but I could have sold it all day long.

So what weathered photo subjects get your attention? Check out Terri’s site for more participants.

Let ‘Er Blow – Water Droplets

This post is for #Sunday Stills hosted by Terri Webster Schrandt.

After reading Suzanne’s post about putting your best “foto” forward, I spent a little more time on these photos than I usually do.

I took these blow hole pictures in Maui, HI. They erupted about every few minutes, each one a little different shape than the last one. We stood at the top of the cliff mesmerized by the shooting droplets. These forceful eruptions will suck in adventurous people who get too close.

I took these photos in Camera Raw, which at the time was a new term for me. I altered the temperature and clarity before I saved it and cropped it so that the blow hole was more in focus. I would have liked it a little sharper, but even using photoshop, this was as clear as I could get it.

I cropped this photo but did not change the color (temperature) of it very much in camera raw. It was too blue for me, so I adjusted the saturation level as a layer in photoshop. Water droplets are abundant in both the waves and the blow hole.

This might be my favorite of the three. I liked the shape. I warmed up the temperature (color) slightly, but did not crop the this picture.

From November through February whales come to Maui to enjoy the 75-degree water and raise their young in the safe warm environment. Humans like us come to see them blow their spouts.

Boats were restricted from coming too close to the whales, but they circled around if they found an active mom. The boat we were on had equipment so that we could hear the whales talking to each other. I cropped this picture so you could see more whale and less ocean.

I hope you enjoyed this short Maui Water Droplet Collection. Have a great week next week. Be sure and stop by Carrot Ranch on Oct. 1 if you like flash fiction. Rodeo Flash Fiction Contest Month is October.

Check out the other Sunday Stills and/or contribute your own.

#Lens Artist 114 #SundayStills The Inside Scoop on Negative Space

#Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #114Negative space #SundayStills Inside

Fire News on the Home Front

“I often find that people confuse inner peace with some sense of insensibility whenever something goes wrong. In such cases inner peace is a permit for destruction: The unyielding optimist will pretend that the forest is not burning either because he is too lazy or too afraid to go and put the fire out.”

Criss Jami, Killosophy

Please pray for all the brave firefighters battling the many blazes in Oregon and California. Without them our own house would be in the midst of the fire instead receiving the ashes from someone else’s tragedy.

A picture of the ashes in the air with a flashlight shining on it at about 8:00 in the evening.

Would you want to go outside in that air? Hugh’s challenge of inside was a welcome one.

The air was a negative space today, but not in a photographic sense. Looking out the window was like looking through a filtered lens that made the grass look greener and the sun a brilliant orange – perfect for Hugh’s Sunday Still’s theme of orange last week.

The weather outside was frightful, and the fire was not delightful. We had no other place to go because the ashes were falling as snow. 

The words may be a little too flippant and insensible for the occasion, but I couldn’t keep myself from hearing this Christmas song in my head. My dad made up stupid words to songs embarrassing me when I was a child. His silliness wore off on me. Sorry!

You could watch the ashes and tree bits fall all day long – from the safety of inside our house.

In Fresno County, just about forty miles north of us the Creek Fire burns the Shaver Lake area. They don’t expect the Creek Fire to be contained until October 15th.

The Creek Fire was first sparked on Friday evening (September 11) and was 182,225 acres as of Friday morning with 6% containment. At least 377 structures have been damaged or destroyed, and more than 14,000 are threatened. Officials say 30,000 residents of Fresno County and 15,000 residents of Madera County have been evacuated.”

Using Negative Space

According to Amy from Lens-Artists, “Negative space is the area around the main subject of your photograph. This space is empty or unoccupied. Spencer Cox at Photography Life explains, “Photos with high amounts of negative space are: empty, subdued, peaceful, calm, and isolated.”

Sue works with children, so she put clear plastic in her mask so that they could see her mouth.

This photo didn’t start out with a lot of negative space, but I wanted to show you this great mask for teachers that my friend, Sue had made. To create negative space, I began by cropping the printing off Sue’s shirt. The Photoshop clone tool covered the the arm of the man and a post next to her with mulch. I guarantee that this negative background will NOT grow weeds.

However, since the real focus is the fact that you can see her mouth through the mask, I thought I could do better. So, I cropped the photo again close to the mask then smudged out Sue’s eyes to create more negative space. Her mouth isn’t digitized, the plastic is steamy. I get so hot working in masks, I can’t breathe – that’s negative space, too. But the next picture is a breath of fresh air.

Prescott Valley

“Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountains majesty…”

In July a real estate friend and I traveled to Prescott, AZ to look at property. What we really loved were the skies.

This flag in the middle of nowhere made me want to get outside the car and salute. It wasn’t exactly nowhere, it was on Road 5 North, not Interstate 5 North, which for some reason struck me as funny because this was no freeway.

Then the skies charcoaled and we pulled over to capture their magnificence. Within minutes they performed the miracle we are praying for in California and Oregon right now. 

We sat inside the car and marveled at how good it felt to have a little downpour. The rest of the picture blurred, giving the picture some negative space and concentrating more attention to the raindrops on the window. The temperature instantly dropped from about 95 to 75. We felt like we had been transported to heaven and were ready to move in that instant.

But we didn’t. We came back and my friend Sally and I walked three miles around Bravo Lake lake at 6:30 in the morning to beat the 110 degree heat. The reflection of the foothills on the glassy surface stopped us in our tracks.

This photo was taken as part Cee’s challenge on horns, but it is the perfect photo to play taps for these two challenges. Looking at the horn from the inside of the bugler’s head revealed that our trumpeter had very little gray matter between his ears. You can see his webbed synapses, and the little Charlotte that keeps his brain spinning. The background blurred giving the picture lots of negative space, as I zoomed in on the inside of his head and his eyes and spidery thoughts horned into focus.

“Where Do You Find These Photo Challenges?” a friend asked.

Click the links to join my friends Hugh Roberts subbing for Terri Webster Schrandt with #SundayStills and Amy with the Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #114.

Do You Host a Writing or Photography Challenge?

If you would like to do an interview on my blog, Always Write about your writing or photography challenge, please contact me below. I’d love to chat with you. 

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Always Write Interview/Guest Post Series #6

#Bloggers Hosting Writing and Photo Challenges

Today’s guest post takes in a different perspective than all of our former interviews and guest posts in this series. Welcome to one of my new California blogging friends, Susan Gutterman on her blog, Musin’ with Susan. She’s a former talented photo challenge host turned participant and has the enthusiasm and boundless energy to go with her skills. See what she’s doing since she gave up her challenge.

Presenting Photo Challenge Opportunities to my Camera Club

by Susan Gutterman

I was very honored when Marsha asked me to write a guest post about my experience of doing a presentation about Photo Challenges online for my Camera club, the Friday Foto Fanatics, or FFF.

At our monthly meetings, and online, I often talk to others about the numerous challenges that I participate in and back in April my friend, Pam, approached me with the suggestion of delivering a presentation to the group, via Zoom, as we were already locked down. She thought that most of our members might not be aware of all of the photo challenges in the blogosphere and on social media and might be interested.

My Photographic Background

I was introduced to blogging in 2013, at about the same time as I began to get serious about photography. I started to read about photo challenges which sounded like a good way to improve my photography skills and keep myself motivated. 

I had developed a love for macro photography and could not find a macro challenge on WordPress, so, in 2016, decided to start my own.  I called it Macro Moments and the weekly challenge developed a small, but loyal following.  I loved running this challenge and learned so much, but a year later decided that it was time to move on and spend more time participating in challenges moderated by someone else. 

Criteria for Joining a Photo Challenge

My criteria for joining a challenge is that participants are serious and that it will encourage me to learn and grow. I look for challenges with technical themes, for example; macro, high key, bokeh, long exposure, and the like, as well as those that are just fun. I often try a new skill which fits with a theme.  I have worked with water splashing, smoke, painting with light and tiny railroad figures, to name a few.

I wanted the club members to learn about online challenges and get them excited about joining in some themselves.  I started with this slide and briefly discussed each point–

A screenshot of a cell phone

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I then described  a number of the challenges that I participate in regularly and shared a photo or two that I had submitted to that challenge along the way, as seen in the slides below. 

52 Frames 

  • Each week has a theme. The purpose of 52 Frames is to turn YOU into a truly awesome photographer.
  • When you join the group, you get your own page on the site.
  • The Photo must be taken the week of the challenge and is due by Sunday at 12:00 am Eastern time. 
  • They have over 2,000 submissions per week.
  • The pictures are published in an album each Tuesday.
  • A select small album called “52 Picks” is published each Thursday.
  • There are small groups of 10-12 that offer each other constructive criticism within the larger group.
  • The website hosts local photo walks through their partners.
A picture containing underwear, pink, purple

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52 Frames Theme: Inverted by Susan Gutterman
Food on a table

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52 Frames Theme: Not What You See by Susan Gutterman

The Trevor Carpenter Challenge

  • This challenge is in a public Facebook Group.
  • Submissions are posted on the Facebook page or on Flicker
  • The photo must be taken the week of the challenge. 
  • The themes are often technical.
Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge Theme: Triptych by Susan Gutterman

Self-Taught Photographers

  • This daily challenge is in a private Facebook group.
  • Photos may be new or from archives.
  • Submissions are posted on the Facebook page.
  • Administrators choose one photo a day to be used for the banner in the next day’s announcement.
  • The banner winner chooses the theme for the next day.
A close up of a flower

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Self-Taught Photographers Theme: Insects by Susan Gutterman

Sunday Stills

  • This weekly challenge is on Terry Webster Schrandt’s WordPress blog, Second Wind Leisure Perspectives.
  • To join, create your own blogpost and link back to Terri’s post.
  • Photos may be new or from archives.
A close up of a flower

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Sunday Stills Theme: Fantastic Florals by Susan Gutterman

Macro Mondays on Flickr

  • This weekly challenge is in a Flickr group.
  • Each entry must be a macro (defined as no larger than three inches.)
  • A photo must be taken during the prior week and posted on Monday.
  • Submissions are posted to the album on the group page.
A close up of some shoes

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Flickr Theme: Zipper by Susan Gutterman


  • This weekly challenge is a local group Facebook group out of Berkeley.
  • It is for women only.
  • The photo must be taken each week.
  • It is added to a weekly album.
  • They take local field trips.
A person standing next to a body of water

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PhotograpHER Theme: Rule of Thirds by Susan Gutterman

Lens- Artists

  • This weekly challenge is hosted on WordPress blogs by four rotating hosts.
  • To enter you create your own blog post and add a link to the original challenge.
  • Photos can be recent or from archives.
A cat sitting on top of a leopard

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Lens-Artist Theme: Distance by Susan Gutterman

The final slide in the presentation was also my handout, emailed to the members.  It is a list of the challenges that I regularly participate in, with links to the sites.

Exploring Online Photo Challenges

  • A Photo A Week Challenge: 


  • Self-Taught Photographers: 


  • Macro Mondays on Flickr: 


  • PhotograpHER (women photographers only): 


Conclusion and Responses

After my presentation, several people contacted me to tell me that they had enjoyed the presentation and that they were going to look into the challenges.  I don’t think anyone was already participating.

I sent an email to the group yesterday asking them to let me know if they had joined any challenges and what their experience had been.  One member responded that he joined 52 Frames right after my talk and he has been submitting every week.

He commented, “It’s a great group”! 

This made me very happy and I immediately looked him up in the group. 


Susan Gutterman was a diabetes educator before she retired.  She counseled people with diabetes and worked for LifeScan, a Johnson and Johnson company which manufactures blood testing products. During her last years with the company she traveled for them to Europe and Asia and her love of traveling took off from there.”

Susan is married and she has two children and four grandchildren. In addition to her photos and travelogues, you can expect to occasionally hear about her life with Gabby, her yellow Lab, her family and friends, and her home and garden.

She hosted a weekly photo challenge called “Macro Moments” for a year and now regularly submit photos to various challenges on WordPress and other social media sites.

She loves “meeting” her fellow bloggers and photographers, and connecting with family and friends in this space.  She meet Pat, from Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss, live and in person in Basel, Switzerland and Nicole, from Nicole Pottier Une photo, un poem from Normandy on recent trips.  Lunches together were highlights of those trips! She can’t wait to read your comments and learn from each other.

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