School’s out for summer.

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I cringe at the thought of being sprayed by ice water, but for some reason, my kids love it. Apparently other people’s kids love it, too, because we have a dozen splash pads scattered throughout town, usually crowded with soaked, screaming children, dashing through jets of frigid water. As far as I can tell, they’re screaming with joy. (I know. It’s weird. It’s fun to watch, as long as I don’t get splashed.)

To celebrate the first day of summer vacation, my kids screamed at a splash pad and then their lips turned blue while they waded in the murky, glacial waters of the nearby creek. Convincing them to eventually end this activity took a fair amount of coaxing. If not for the fact that I’m 100% sure I gave birth to them, I might wonder how they could possibly be related to me.

To top off the day, they slurped up their first ever root beer float (I had one, too. I like cold liquids, as long as my body isn’t being sprayed by or immersed in them. Also, I didn’t want the kids to think I don’t know how to have fun).

Let the adventures begin!


In the spotlight.

Our backyard faces south, which usually means we’ll melt if we hang out on the patio during summer afternoons. A canopied pergola is on my wish-list, but until such wish is granted – I’m not holding my breath – we’ll slather on our sunscreen and melt on, thankful to have a patio in the first place.

But in the early mornings there’s a bit of shade, and a dark patch in the corner of the garden where sunlight leaks through the slats between the fence boards, throwing lines of light onto the foliage below.

My growing interest in photography means I’m making efforts to learn how to observe light and how to use a camera to catch it the way I see it. Often I’ll point and shoot and inevitably be disappointed in the way the light is rendered in the photo, even if I’m happy with the composition of the shot. I finally realized it’s because when the camera’s in any sort of automatic mode, it wants to do its job and make you an evenly-exposed photo. As in, not too light and not too dark. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the photo looks good.

So I’m trying my hand at shooting in manual mode more often. The trouble here is that I’m already slow and bumbling with my camera even in aperture or shutter priority mode, so shooting in manual means I better be dealing with a subject that isn’t about to get up and walk away while I’m fiddling with dials and settings and test shots.

I wanted this photo of the smoke bush to be dark so that shaft of light illuminating the leaves would really pop. I didn’t want the camera to “fix” the exposure and lighten up the dark bits. I switched to manual mode and experimented with a fast shutter speed and wide-ish aperture until I got the look I wanted.

Well, I don’t know whether anyone else likes this photo, but that shouldn’t really matter. I like it. It’s a success to me because it represents one of the first times I’ve taken full control of the camera – my sometimes confusing and misunderstood tool – and used it to capture a quirky-light moment the way I envisioned it. Wish granted.

Now I just need to work on that pergola.

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Cat for rent.


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Somehow, in my stroll around town tonight, I wound up running into not one, but two tail-less cats.

One didn’t want to pose for me and promptly disappeared when I took a step in its direction, but the other was quite happy to lounge in front of aptly-worded caution tape while I made a photo.

This feline was too busy ignoring me to show off its tail-less rear end for the camera, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Walkway closed.

The meek river running through town quickly turned mighty after a massive downpour on Friday. It seemed like most of town showed up on Saturday to take in both the street art festival and the height of the water line. I wandered around pointing my camera in all directions and overhearing people exclaim, “I’ve never seen it this high!”

For today’s post, I decided on a monochrome version of the swollen Grand, just kissing the edge of the upper riverside walkway:

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…and a shot of the staircase (gated and padlocked, though that was probably unnecessary) leading to the lower walkway, now under several feet of water:

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By the way, this is the lower walkway, pictured in drier times (the black railing of the upper walkway/staircase is in the top left of this shot, just above the group of people in the distance):

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You get the idea.

It’ll be at least a few days before we’ll be able to skip along here again. (Don’t worry, we’ll play by the rules and wait till the padlock’s been removed from the gate before venturing down the stairs. Safety first.)

Artists at work.

My skills in sketching with sidewalk chalk are limited to basic shapes (triangles, ovals, hearts), the alphabet, and if I’m feeling really creative: stick figures.

Not so for these folks! Here, a few of the talented artists at this year’s Cambridge International Street Art Festival. These photos were made near the end of Day 1. Though I couldn’t make it back to see the finished pieces on Day 2, no doubt they’ll be posted on the festival’s website shortly…

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There were five permanent installations this year, but I arrived in time only to catch one of these graffiti artists at work. Look for these beautified walls in another post!

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