Shadow Cutters

The hard work on my Macro Photography skills continues this week with a theme of “lit by candlelight.” A week ago when this challenge was announced, I was like “pssh, easy peasy.”

Turns out shooting by candlelight has been anything but. Sunday night I did a whole round of photos with a few objects and although candlelight is certainly beautiful, the photos I shot just weren’t working. The photos were…dull. Not interesting. They didn’t give me that excited feeling to share.

Then The Good Man opened up a bottle of wine and put out some cheese and garlicky crackers. That really seemed to lubricate the creative gears. Half a glass in, I had an inspired idea. I grabbed my copper holiday cookie cutters out of the kitchen (not that I have made any holiday cookies this year, but that’s a topic for another time) and got to shooting.

Turns out candlelight casts really great shadows. I’m now pretty happy with the results. The top photo is my entry this week in the Macro Mondays challenge. The black and white was just for fun.

Whew! This is three weeks in a row I’ve managed to produce a new Macro photo for Monday’s event. It’s harder than it looks!

©2017, Karen Fayeth, all rights reserved

©2017, Karen Fayeth, all rights reserved

My Country Tis of Thee

Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.Source

And so it is on this Fourth of July in the year 2012 that I find myself, an American citizen, residing in the land from which our forefathers sought their independence.

236 years ago a bunch of men and women fought to establish a new country, away from the oppression of an overbearing king.

A challenging fight for a worthy goal.

Their victory and the resulting independence is so enduring that two centuries later I can get on an airplane, fly for ten hours, and stand here, on the Thames river, and celebrate my freedom.

It’s both ironic and a little bit alienating.

The drafters of the Declaration could never have imagined.

I’d sing the Star Spangled Banner, but these sodding Brits might remind me that our country’s anthem is set to the tune of a British pub song.

I’d sing “My Country Tis of Thee” but that’s just “God Save the Queen” to this lot.

How about God Bless America? Nah, Kate Smith ruined that one for me.

I suppose what I’ll do to mark the day is simply get up from my bed, go to work (it’s not a holiday here) and do my best. I might even quaff a beer and wish I was at a bbq enjoying a sunny summer day rather than another depressing rainy English day.

And next week when I return home to the shores of California, I’ll carry a small smile.

Because I think to truly understand and appreciate my country, I have to leave it every once in a while.

Happy Independence Day, America! May you all eat too many hot dogs and have an extra bowl of homemade ice cream for me.

The river Thames as seen from the Westminster Bridge

Photo Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ app.

…And you can too

Oh what a Monday morning. Woke with a migraine. Today’s headache is not as severe as the one I had Thursday.

You know…just five days ago?

And here we go again.


I came into work while it was still dark outside to have an early morning call with an important Director in Ireland. He’s taking ownership of my team and while it was a good call, at two hours, with a migraine, trying to understand his brogue, and answering questions in rapid fire succession, I was a little…done.

When I hung up the phone, I sighed.

Wanting a little break, I went to my personal email box. There I found a rejection note from a literary magazine. This is to be expected, of course, when going through rounds of submissions. Generally not a problem. But at that moment, not what I needed.

Then I went to Google to look up something work related, and my broken brain forgot what I needed to look up.

I sighed.

Then, in the grand tradition of many people who use Google as a divination tool, I typed the words “can you make your own lucky star?” into the search field.

Hell, I could use a little luck today.

Turns out I can make my own lucky star.

And you can too.

Star light. Star bright. First star I see tonight. I wish I may. I wish I might.

Have this wish, I wish tonight.

A little office paper. A few folds. A little homemade luck.

“To hell with luck. I’ll bring the luck with me.” ― from The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Finding Inspiration

And so, after many visits and many tries, I finally found the way to really, really *get* L.A.

The secret is this…if ya are gonna go to L.A., then really go to L.A. proper. None of this staying in Burbank or camping out in Pomona. No.

L.A. proper, and more succinctly, Hollywood, is the center of what matters. All the rest of those suburbs just serve to water down that which makes L.A. a goddamn fun place to be.

So you gotta stay in L.A., or to quote Wang Chung perhaps you live and die in L.A., and you only visit all of those other surrounding places if you need to. Mainly, you stay put, because there is plenty to see.

As my amazing cousin lives in West Hollywood, we wanted to stay somewhere nearby. Walking distance, even. The Good Man scored us a room on the Sunset Strip, and that’s where I finally learned to bond with a town that has vexed me for years.

Yes, I know, the Sunset Strip is to local residents what the Vegas Strip is to local residents, a place to go only when company is in town.

But I don’t care.

Our hotel was directly across the street from the famed Rock n Roll Hyatt also known as Riot House. We were also next door to the famed House of Blues.

So here’s my recipe for finding the soul of L.A.:

You get off highway 170 and you roll past the Hollywood Bowl. That street is called Highland. You stay on Highland until you get to the corner of Hollywood and Highland. Is that address familiar? Yes, it’s where the Kodak Theater is located, that place of red carpets and award shows. Be careful to look only at the Kodak, because if you look in the other direction it’s not quite so glamorous.

Turn right on Hollywood and drive slowly (you have to, traffic is a bitch) and let Grauman’s Chinese Theater roll by your car windows. For such a profoundly historic place, it’s so physically tiny.

Keep rolling. No need to stop here. See the stars on the sidewalk whip by as you pick up acceleration and keep rolling down Hollywood Blvd. As you leave the jam packed area, you find yourself among 1960’s era apartment buildings and that uniquely L.A. look of tall palm trees on both sides of the street. You’ve seen this in the movies. It’s as familiar as if you’ve been there before.

Onward to Fairfax where you take a left, then at the next light, turn right.

There you are on Sunset. Beautiful, ugly, magical Sunset Boulevard.

Park your car, check into the hotel, ditch your bags. Get out on the street and walk.

Yes, I said walk. Screw what the Missing Persons said about nobody walking in L.A. In this part of L.A., you do. If you don’t, you’re sorely missing out.

From the Rock n Roll Hyatt, walk west on Sunset past the House of Blues. There’s the Viper Room. There’s the Whiskey a Go Go. There’s the Roxy Theatre. Do you like music? Have you ever listened to Rock and Roll? Well hell, you have got your head and your feet solely in the middle of history, baby.

But there’s other things to see along the way. How about Book Soup, L.A.’s answer to San Francisco’s City Lights? And the Rainbow Bar & Grill. And even a few empty shops and a whole lot of restaurants, new and old along the way.

You note, as you pass each shop door, that everyone has etched into the glass “Established in ____” Yes, everyone has to publicly announce the year they got their start, even if it was only last year.

And when you comment on this to The Good Man, he gives you the quote of the day, perhaps of the whole trip: “In a town with little authenticity, everyone has to manufacture it.”

God he’s a smart man.

But then you take a turn somewhere. Doesn’t matter where, could be Olive or La Cienega, but head south and walk down the hill. Because Santa Monica Boulevard is down there and that’s a whole other place entirely.

Now you are smack dab in the heart of West Hollywood, and yes, the heart of the LGBT part of Los Angeles. There are less historical places to see, and more of just a thriving neighborhood. This place is practically buzzing with life. This is one of those “ain’t got no destination, I think I’ll just walk” kind of places.

Well, ok, I’ll turn off Santa Monica and drop into The Abbey because even though I am straight, I’ve never had a bad time at this place. The drinks are strong and the music is loud and the atmosphere is crazy. And lots of fun.

And it’s on a warm Fall night on the Abbey’s patio, over the top of a vodka tonic with The Good Man and my supremely cool cousin that I think, “you know….this ain’t so bad.”

Shove over, Frank Sinatra. L.A. might be my lady, too.

(No worries, I still hate the Dodgers.)

It’s an 80’s Kind of Thing

Last week the world witnessed what has now become something of a commonplace event, the launching of another Space Shuttle.

Despite the rather aging and ailing technology used to get the shuttle off the ground, it’s sort of amazing how well that ship has flown over the years. Yes, really well, even considering the two terrible tragedies of the Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003.

As the shuttle Atlantis lifted off on July 7, I couldn’t help but be both proud and sad. Proud that another shuttle successfully made it to orbit. Sad that it’s the last shuttle to fly.

As a kid from the 80’s, the Space Shuttle program was something of magic and dreams and technology and good ol’ American pride. I loved to watch each and every launch and applauded as that little dot disappeared into the endless blue. Then several days later it would appear again and our astronauts would come home and by god, we did it again!

Remember when the shuttle landed in New Mexico’s own White Sands in 1982? I sure do. That was a good day, seeing my home state on the big stage. We got the shuttle and got ‘er home safe too!

Sadly, over time and two tragedies and budget cuts and over-administration, the proud NASA tradition has faltered, yielding way to private space programs and astronauts hitching rides with other countries who have the time and money to keep a space program running.

It’s the end of an era which makes me more than a little wistful.

Here’s wishing the crew of the final Atlantis flight an easy, uneventful flight home.

The first shuttle launch, a ship called Columbia, in 1981.

Reuters/NASA photo from The Atlantic Monthly.