Alycia Christine

Enchanting Art, Encouraging Tales

Tag: camera (Page 1 of 3)

Flashes of Perspective: My Face-Off with a Gorgeous Dragonfly

Gossamer_Beauty-AC4x6Hi, everyone! Sorry I’m so late in posting this. I would love to tell all of you some witty and charming excuse as to why my blog article is coming this late on a Tuesday, but the truth is that I flat forgot that it was Tuesday!

Anyway, for today’s photography lesson I wanted to show you one of the photos I shot while I was visiting South Texas last week. I had some time to shoot one afternoon and so my camera and I investigated the drainage creek running behind the Weslaco hotel where I was staying. The entire area had become this amazing microcosm of a wetland with cattails, tall grass, willows, flowering shrubs, fungus, frogs, ducks, fishing birds, water bugs and more. There were tons of dragonflies all around and I was lucky enough to get one of them to pose for me. The result was the best dragonfly portrait photo that I’ve ever shot!

I took this particular photo with an f-stop of f/8, a slow shutter speed of 1/160 seconds, a medium intensity ISO speed of 400, a long focal length of 300mm (i.e. I drug out the big zoom lens for this shot), and no flash. Since I was shooting under an overcast sky, I did use Photoshop to punch up the color a bit. However, what you see in the finished photo is practically identical to the colors that I saw when the sun was out earlier that day. I hope you all like the photo. If you have any questions about the technical aspects of it or want to know more about how to shoot something like it, let me know.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Photographing Plasma and Reworking Blogs

Orb_Cloud-AC4x6I have several announcements today:

First of all, there is a new Author Interview page up in the Fan Corner of the alyciachristine.com website. If you want to know more about me, go check it out!

My second announcement is that I have decided to make some changes to the structure of my weekly SCRAWLS blog. Normally I post a blog article every Tuesday: story excerpts on the first Tuesday of every month, a writing lesson on the second, a general update on the third, and a photography lesson on the fourth Tuesday. While all of this is fine and dandy, I feel like some of the content posted each week is just too long. Therefore I’m going to post any book reviews or other off-topic articles I write on my website independently of my regular Tuesday blog schedule. I also plan to make the photography lesson into more of an individual photo critique and how-to piece rather than a huge monthly lesson. Since I have already covered so many basic photography rules, I now want to show how some of those rules directly apply in individual photos rather than explaining the overarching principles of dozens of photos at a time. I also eventually want to bundle the past two years’ worth of lessons into one easy-to-read Photography Beginner’s Guide.

Finally, I plan to host my first Bonus Tuesday vlog (video blog) on the last Tuesday of September. Whenever there is a fifth Tuesday in a month, I hope to post a special video for fans on YouTube and AlyciaChristine.com as a fun way to say thank you for all of your support. I thought it might be fun to do author readings as part of the Bonus Tuesday video series since doing an in-person book tour of Musings is beyond my budget right now. Because my section of West Texas scrub brush has finally received internet service upgrades, I think I can finally do this for all of you!

If you have any questions about the upcoming blog changes or suggestions of things you want to see me write or video chat about, please contact me!

Now for today’s photo:

I shot this photo with my trusty Canon EOS Rebel T2i at about 9:30 one evening so that everything was dark for except my subject. I used an ISO of 3200 with an aperture f-stop of f/11 so that the camera was very sensitive to light. I also used a 0.6 second exposure time. The focal length was 53 mm and there was no flash. This image is a handheld shot, which means that I took the photo without using a monopod or tripod to steady the camera against any shake. Believe it or not, 0.6 seconds is a long time to keep a camera still, but I still managed to do it by keeping my posture stiff and holding my breath during the shot. By the way, the luminous subject of this photo is actually a child’s Plasma Globe. I think it looks much more interesting when you photograph it with a long exposure rather than a shorter exposure. What do you think?

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Flashes of Perspective: A Balloon Story

InWonderACS3x5When artists talk about the different techniques involved in our craft, we sometimes forget that all of the technique in the world cannot replace the creative spark that guides our work. After all, my fondest memories of a particular photograph come not from the techniques I used to capture the shot, but from the beauty that I was able to record with my camera at that particular moment. Consequently I would like to share one of those moments of beauty today and tell you the story of how it came to be.

In 2011, my husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to go on our first vacation together since we have been married. To celebrate our anniversary, we decided to take a road trip from Texas to Colorado to see the sights. We had always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon and during our time in Colorado Springs, we finally had our chance. We bought our tickets well in advance and readied ourselves to wake up at 5 a.m. on the morning of the flight. Instead of waking up at 5 a.m., however, I woke up at 4 o’clock with an upset stomach. By the time my husband was awake, I was thoroughly miserable.

I was far too stubborn to stay in the hotel room and miss the possible fulfillment of a childhood dream, so my husband drove to the launch site outside of Larkspur while I rode in the passenger seat clutching a trashcan to my chest just in case. I stayed near the site’s port-a-potties for most of the morning, but finally felt well enough to fly the blue skies. It took a while for the wind to die down enough to make a hot air balloon ride safe, but once the winds and my stomach finally calmed, the journey skyward was spectacular. There were two huge balloons toting 12 passengers apiece. While Matt and I traveled in one, I was able to photograph the other.

I was proud of all my shots that day, but the photo that I call “In Wonder” remains one of my absolute favorites. I captured this particular photograph while our hot air balloon was traveling up the slope of the hill that is visible in the photo. The winds shifted at just the right moment to carry the other balloon into my camera’s field of vision. I waited until the balloon and the hill aligned just across the horizon from each other at more-or-less Rule of Thirds ratios and snapped the photo.

All too soon, we had to land the balloons and end our floating adventure, but the memories and photos of flying beneath a colorful envelope filled with hot air still bring a smile to my lips.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Angling Your Perspective

WistfulACS3x5A few months ago, I talked about the rule of Photo Saturation. In that lesson, I talked about the need for a photographer to shoot many photos of the same subject so that he or she can create the best quality image of that specific subject. While multiple shots are good, the trick with making Saturation work well for you is to shoot the subject from as many different angles and vantage points as possible, not just from the same position over and over again. It is this rule of shooting from multiple angles, which is called Viewpoint that makes the rule of Saturation so effective.

Let’s Get Started

Viewpoint allows a photographer to use a camera—any camera—to its fullest purpose. It is also a way for the photographer to directly convey a certain sense of emotion to the viewer. When a camera is placed at a certain angle relative to its subject, it will dramatically affect the way the viewer perceives that subject. Simply put, Viewpoint is a way for a camera’s angle and distance from its subject to maximize the photo’s emotional impact for the viewer.

For example, if a photographer shoots a small subject from a point below it, the subject will appear larger to the viewer. If, however, the photographer shoots the same subject while looking down on it, the subject will appear smaller.

Good photographers will always move around so that they can experiment in shooting the same subject from different physical and emotional angles. Some of these Viewpoint angles are: high-angle shots, bird’s-eye views, eye-level camera angles, low-angle shots, and worm’s-eye views.

Let’s Break It Down

High-Angle Shot

A high-angle shot is a shot in which the camera is physically higher than the subject, so that it is looking down toward the subject. This type of shot can make the subject seem small and therefore weak or vulnerable to the photograph’s viewer. Because I am short (I stand a measly five feet, two inches), I usually have to climb a latter or tree to get this type of shot.

“Forlorn in Black and White”

“Wistful”

“Urban Salmon”

Bird’s-Eye View

A bird’s-eye view is an extreme version of the high-angle shot. Photographer’s often shoot this type of shot using a plane, a hot air balloon, a skyscraper, a crane or some other platform that can reach extreme heights.

“Sky Light Line”

“Floating Between Paths”

“Skeletal Terrain”

Eye-Level Shot

When the camera is level or looking at the subject straight on, this is termed an eye-level shot or neutral shot. It has little or no psychological effect on the viewer.

“Sunlit Spines”

“Sophistication”

“Crowned Glory”

Low-Angle Shot

When a photographer shoots a low-angle shot, he or she takes the photo from below the subject. This type of shot has the ability to make the subject look powerful or threatening to the viewer. Often photographers will use this type of shot when making a portrait of individual politicians or athletes to make each seem quite literally larger-than-life. The easiest way to get this type of shot is to shoot while sitting or kneeling on the ground in front of the subject and shoot up at it.

“First Dance”

“Colorful Launch”

“Dragon’s Gaze”

Worm’s-Eye View

A worm’s-eye view is an extreme version of the low-angle shot. To achieve this type of shot, a photographer usually has to lay flat on his or her belly and crawl on the ground to get the best photo.

“Morning Formation”

“Totems to the Sky”

“Wharf Wheel”

Homework

For this assignment, I want you to shoot three different subjects using the five different Viewpoints that I have discussed. Each of the three subjects must be photographed at a high-angle, from a bird’s-eye view, at eye-level, at a low-angle, and from a worm’s-eye view. This means that there should be at least 15 good photos captured of these three subjects. Once again, I suggest using static subjects for this bit of homework. Have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: The High Life of Highlights

Glacial_Highlights-AC4x6Hi, everyone! Welcome to the fourth Tuesday of October and this month’s photography lesson. I can’t wait to discuss with you one of my greatest allies in the creation of striking photographs: highlights. There is something truly magical when the sun’s rays illuminate a photograph’s subject at just the right angle. It reminds me of a perfectly pitched high note in a song. Highlights are so important in photography because they allow the photographer to draw the viewer’s eyes to an image’s subject by making that subject appear brighter than its surroundings.

Let’s Get Started

Highlights work a bit like the Photography Rule of Contrast. If you will recall, I explained in my lesson on Contrast that the color of a subject can make it stand out more than anything else in the image as long as that color directly contrasts the colors used elsewhere in the photograph. A classic example of this is a bright yellow subject against a dark purple background. Instead of contrasting colors; however, the rule of Highlights contrasts amounts of light within an image. A subject that is highlighted will always be more brightly lit than anything else in the image (except the source of the highlight itself).

There are three main types of highlights: spotlights, leading highlights, and backlights. Spotlights are the most common and simplest type of highlights. Spotlights specifically illuminate the whole front or the top of a subject to make it stand out from its surroundings. Leading lights are a bit more complicated. These highlights are shown as a literal line of light which begins at one point in the photo and ends at the photo’s main subject. The most common leading light is a ray of sunlight coming out of a break in the clouds to highlight a subject below the cloud break. Our eyes follow the line of light from its start to its end to see the subject it illuminates. Finally backlights light up a subject from behind rather than in front like spotlights. Backlights can be used to create a sort of halo-lit subject or they can be used to make a full silhouette of a subject.

Let’s Break It Down

Front Spotlights

“Gilded Autumn”

“Japanese Red”

“Stone Straws”

Top Spotlights

“Metallic Pinwheels”

“Pasta Illumination”

“Sun Dabbled Dune”

Leading Light

“Glacial Highlights”

“Heavenly Highlights, No. 1”

Backlight Halos

“Crowned Glory”

“Sunlit Spines”

Backlight Silhouettes

“Hammering the Sun”

“Sunrise Florets”

Photographer’s Note

Try to shoot your photos during times of day like early morning or late evening when the sun is low in the sky and therefore gives you a better chance of using long rays of light to highlight specific subjects. Some of the best natural light happens during the 30 minutes after sunrise and during the 30 minutes before sunset on a sunny day. You can also use man-made light for this assignment. Look for narrow beams of light that illuminate only one particular subject. Also be careful not to overexpose your photos. Otherwise your subjects will look blown out or washed out because of too much light centered on them. Play with your camera’s ISO and shutter speed to help fix any over-lighting problems. Also keep in mind that good highlights can appear and vanish quickly so plan your shots so that you can work rapidly and efficiently.

Homework

For this assignment, I want you to shoot 12 or more photos using the various highlighting techniques that I have discussed. Make sure that at least two photos demonstrate each type of highlight: spotlights, leading lights, backlit halos, and backlit silhouettes. I suggest using static subjects for this round of homework. Have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

SCRAWLS: Musings Edits, Alaska Aftermath, Book Reviews, and Other Updates

Ask_the_Owl-4x6ACThis morning found me sitting in my office chair with the sun streaming through the curtains of my window and the air outside registering a crisp 56 degrees Fahrenheit. Talk about a stark contrast from the high 90s of last week! Today would have been a perfect day to curl up under the covers and sleep late, but I think talking to all of you is far more fun.

As I have not posted an update about my general activities since July, I thought I really should do that today. As many of you know, I have been up to my eyeballs in Alaska vacation photos and Musingsshort story collection edits. And while much of my time has been spent on these two major projects, there is a lot more that goes on around the Cooke-Sears household than these. So here is the rundown of the many tasks that I have accomplished and the few chores still left on my agenda for October.

Since the last update, I have:

  • Finished all of my personal edits and completed the first round of beta readers’ edits for the novel Skinshifter. Now I am waiting on second-round beta readers to finish their edits so that I can give the book a final polish.
  • Rewrote two chapters of Dreamdrifter. I now have the rough drafts of chapters 1 through 16 completed and about 85,000 words written.
  • Continued editing and organizing the contents my soon-to-be-published Musings anthology. Anyone interested in beta-reading this or future projects should contact me HERE.
  • Read the Self Publishing Attack!: The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books by James Scott Bell. This is an informative and insightful book about the self-publishing movement and what it takes to maintain your professionalism as a self-published author.
  • Read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas. This is an incredible book about the craft of writing. I highly recommend it to novices and experts alike.
  • Read One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke. This book is based on the journal of Richard “Dick” Proenneke, a man who decided to leave civilization behind for a year and a half in lieu of building his own log cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness and surviving off the land. It is an interesting read for those wishing to understand what life is like beyond the hum of electricity or the convenience of running water.
  • Read Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School) by Gail Carriger. I am usually not much of a steam-punk fan, but this young adult fantasy book kept me turning the pages with gusto. All that I can say is that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is anything but a boring place to learn your p’s and q’s. Even though I’m in my 30s, I’d gladly go back to school if I could attend here!
  • Read the Bible during daily devotions. I am so proud of myself for doing this because I have not taken the time to do a daily devotional in recent years. Yay for a new habit turning into a good routine! By the way, if you are a new student of the Bible, I suggest beginning with the book of Romans and then following that by reading the gospel of John. These two books will help you understand the core principles that the Bible teaches. Also, I recommend using either the New International Version or the New King James Version (NKJV) translation. In my experience, these two English translations seem far more accurate than many others. If you prefer using a devotional in lieu of studying scripture chapter by chapter, you might try my First Fruits book.
  • Posted eight SCRAWLS blog posts discussing different writing topics and showcasing excerpts of my fiction work. In case you missed them, here are the links to the story excerpts from “Chosen Sacrifice”, “Raven’s Fall”, and “What Tendrils Echo”.
  • Posted three Flashes of Perspective blog posts teaching various photography techniques and sharing over 30 pieces of my art photography.
  • Finished several commercial photography shoots for private clients.
  • Processed and uploaded about 35 photos to my AlyciaChristine.artistwebsites.com photography website. Find them all HERE.
  • Reorganized the AlyciaChristine.com website. If anyone has any more suggestions to improve the site, contact me please!
  • Went on a seven-day cruise with my husband through Alaska’s magnificent Inside Passage. Read the blog post about the journey HERE.
  • Culled through 2700 vacation photos to find the best photographs from the Alaska trip. I am still in the process of tweaking and uploading the best, so please be patient with me.
  • Learned how to use my camera’s video recording feature. Sometime soon I hope to include a few videos on Alycia Christine.com.
  • My husband and I visited my parents and friends of ours in Lubbock, Texas and visited Matt’s family in Laredo, Texas.
  • Helped my husband prepare and go through his Walk to Emmaus. He loved his walk as much as I loved mine!
  • Helped my husband prepare and leave on a three-week-long business trip. I was so bored without him that I made up chores just to have something to do.
  • Helped cook lunch after the funeral of one of my church’s members. It was a sad, but good gathering.
  • Took on a part-time job to help make ends meet. The government shut down has hit our family hard.

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

  • Finish all beta reader’s edits for Skinshifter.
  • Continue to pull older photos off of the alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com photography website as I add new photography. I expect to add another 50 photos from vacation and an additional 20 from other photo shoots before I am finished redoing the photography website.
  • Finish the last personal edits of Musings and send it to my editor for final critique.
  • Continue to write the rough draft of Dreamdrifter. I will continue working on the book during NaNoWriMo this year. Since Musings has my main attention right now, I don’t expect to get 50,000 words written on Dreamdrifter. However, I do hope to add 20,000-30,000 words to it by the end of November.

Wow, remind me not to wait so long between updates! If you made it through all of that, you deserve a cookie! In any event, I am off to write some fiction. Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

🙂 Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia Christine Sears and/or Alycia C. Cooke with love and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts on this particular topic and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Flashes of Perspective: Saturation Makes Perfect

Egg_Tentacles_AC4x6For this article of Flashes of Perspective, I thought I would discuss with all of you the photography rule of Photo Saturation. Photo Saturation is a very important aspect of photography, especially if you are going to shoot photography professionally. It was the first rule that I learned to use in the classroom and it is always the first tool that I employ in the field.

Let’s Get Started

The rule of Photo Saturation is a simple one. Basically it is the idea of photographing a specific subject several times in order to get the best possible representation of that subject. Many artists and craftsmen will create rough sketches of their work before they actually execute the final product. A writer, for example, might create an outline of a story before he or she actually writes it. Then the writer will take the rough draft and refine it correcting grammar issues, punctuation problems, consistency errors, and other mistakes until at last she has a final draft. In photography these rough sketches or rough drafts come from repeated attempts to shoot the perfect photograph (i.e. photo saturation).

Let’s Break It Down

My personal approach to Photo Saturation is to have a rough idea in my head of what I want the final image look like before I start shooting a subject. Sometimes I have a clearer image in mind that others, but always I strive to shoot a subject from as many different angles and vantage points as possible so that I can create the best quality image. These multiple images are my rough drafts. I always have to stay flexible while I am photographing because sometimes the rough idea that I have in my head is not always as good as the best photo that I actually shoot in the field. The give and take between planned photos and the spontaneous bonus images that I get on-site is the main reasons why I photography so much. No matter how much I plan a shot beforehand there are always surprises once I step behind the lens. Photo saturation helps me make the most of the surprises and the planned shots.

Most of the time I shoot a ratio of 10 to 15 photographs for every one final image that I show others. When I started shooting photography at the age of 10, I was lucky if I had one good photograph out of every role of 36 that I shot. Years of practice, better equipment, and continuous tutelage has led me to have a far better photo ratio than when I began. My eventual goal is to have a photo ratio of closer to 1 in 5, but for now I am very pleased with what I have accomplished.

When my husband and I vacationed in Alaska this last month, I purposely overshot everything I saw. My use of Photo Saturation meant that I came home after a 10 day trip with over 2700 photos. Of those 2700 photos, I will upload maybe 200 total shots to my website. I will be the first to tell you that shooting that many photos for so few publishable results is a bit extreme, especially for me, but doing going to the extreme of Photo Saturation has allowed me to bring back and showcase the very best images possible from the trip. While so many photos from the trip were very good and my photo ratio averaged about 1 in 8, I only want to upload the photos that I think are of award-winning quality. After all, I think my art collectors deserve the best quality products possible.

Last week I presented 14 photos from my Alaska trip. This week I wanted to reveal 14 more photos to further share my adventures with you. I have also included the number of photos I took before finally getting that final awesome image to give you an idea of my personal use of Photo Saturation.

Static or Slow Subjects

I took 5 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Boardwalk Parasols”.

I took 4 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Flower Pack”.

I took 7 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Ice Streams”.

I took 23 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Mountain Ice”.

I took 4 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Sawed Rust”.

I took 3 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Wall Walker”.

I took 4 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Wooden Waterway”.

Moving Subjects

I took 36 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Cumulus Pontoon”.

I took 18 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Egg Tentacles”.

I took 21 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Pale Mountain Moon”.

I took 30 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Steller Beach”.

I took 13 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Triple Starbursts”.

I took 17 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Urban Salmon”.

I took 11 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Victoria Legislative Lights”. By the way, this photo is under moving subjects because I was riding in a bus at the time I shot the photos.

Photographer’s Note

It is important to remember that different subjects often require different amounts of Photo Saturation. In some cases, the photographer may have a lot of time to shoot a subject from different angles and vantage points. In other cases, you may only be able to snap a single photo. This last situation is especially true when dealing with moving subjects such as animals or small children. Do your best in each circumstance and stay adaptable. If you have the time use your Photo Saturation techniques to practice some of the other Rules of Photography. If not, just use your instincts to shoot the best possible photo of the subject that you can.

Homework

This assignment will be an odd one. I want you to shoot 30 images or more photos of only 2 different subjects. I suggest using static subjects for this round of homework. Statues or monuments work well for this project, but you can find other things too like architecture. Make sure that you look for unique subjects with lots of interesting angles because you will be shooting each subject a lot! Work until you get the very best portrait of that subject. Have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: The Beauty of Alaska

Blue_Fluke-AC4x6Matt and I had extraordinary vacation this year. For our five-year wedding anniversary, we took a seven-day cruise through Alaska’s Inner Passage. We began our journey by flying into Seattle, Washington on August 17. Since our cruise was scheduled to begin the next day, we decided to spend the afternoon and evening exploring Pikes Place market, riding the wharf Ferris wheel, and eating at one of my favorite Seattle restaurants: The Crab Pot. Unfortunately, Hemp Fest was going on while we were touring the city, so we had to take some roundabout paths to avoid all of the drug dealers and their usual patrons on our trips along the piers. Thanks to the help of our intrepid hotel concierge, we survived the ordeal and enjoyed our day’s brief sightseeing excursion.

Sunday, August 18, found us sleeping in, packing, and boarding the hotel shuttle bound for our ship the Golden Princess at noon. Within an hour we were on board our temporary floating home and enjoying the view of the Seattle harbor over the ship’s railing on Deck 14. The ship itself was absolutely beautiful and delightful. It featured 18 decks complete with three dining rooms, two specialty restaurants, a theater, a nightclub, a casino, an art gallery, several shops, multiple bars and lounges, four pools, a spa, a library, a wedding chapel, a video arcade, adults-only areas, teen-only areas, children-only areas, and lots of sleeping cabins. Our particular cabin was in the upper forward part of the ship near the spa and pool areas, which came in handy for whale-watching and dining trips.

Our first day aboard ship was spent entirely at sea. That morning proved especially rough for me since I apparently do get seasick fairly easily. Breakfast proved the worst part of my ordeal and so my saintly husband went to the medical bay in search of medicine, while I stared cross-eyed at my plate. After swallowing a couple of pills to relieve my motion sickness and strapping acupuncture bands around my wrists for good measure, I was fine for the rest of the day. Our evening proved quite enjoyable. My husband and I went to a formal dinner and were treated afterwards to a wonderful magic show, followed by the dance performance of two former members of the Russian ballet.

The morning of August 20 dawned bright but cold as our ship pulled into the harbor at Ketchikan, Alaska. I was on deck 14 with my camera to see the first rays of sun break the mists of the mountains upon our arrival. It was simply an extraordinary site and yet it paled in comparison to the beauty that awaited us on shore. Matt’s and my first excursion in Alaska was a visit to the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary just outside the city. While touring the forest of moss-draped alder and spruce, our tour group came across the remarkable site of a mother black bear and her two cubs hunting salmon in the stream. The salmon were swimming upstream to spawn and the bears, ravens, and seagulls were all watching their fill of fish. Our trip through the sanctuary was topped off by having the chance to feed a local herd of caribou and see a master totem pole carver at work. After a few hours of gift shopping in town, my husband and I climbed back aboard the ship and made ready to sail to Juneau.

Our voyage to Juneau, Alaska cut through the heart of beautiful Tracy Arm Fjord. I was on deck 14 and 15 for hours in the bitter cold shooting photos of glaciers, icebergs, snowcapped mountains, green sea, and waterfalls. Those who know me understand how much I loathe being cold; however, my personal discomfort was well worth the result. Once we arrived in Juneau, Matt and I took a mile hike to see Mendenhall Glacier and its neighboring waterfall before hopping a bus back to the harbor and boarding a tour boat in search of whales. We saw not one but five humpback whales feeding in the waters. Four of the humpbacks were feeding together – a very rare habit for that particular species of whale. We also saw Steller sea lions basking in the sun. The surprise highlight of the trip; however, was the moment two bald eagles locked talons just outside the windows of our boat. Unfortunately, I did not get a clear photograph of the exchange, but the image of those two magnificent birds freefalling toward the ocean will remain in my mind for many years to come.

While our excursions in Ketchikan and Juneau proved surprisingly sunny, Skagway by odd contrast was very foggy. Consequently, our bus tour of Skagway and part of the Klondike Highway was shrouded in mist and gave the inuksuks built on the mountain tops a truly mystical appearance. Of the towns we visited, Skagway is by far the smallest. While Juneau sports 35,000 people and Ketchikan supports a few thousand, Skagway is home to only about 700 people during the winter. With the town lacks in population, it makes up for in rich history. Skagway was one of the main gateway cities for people coming from the lower 48 states in search of gold during the Klondike Gold Rush. During the height of the rush, the town topped 20,000 people–mostly living in tents. Despite the cleanliness of its buildings, there is still a rough-and-tumble spirit about the place left over from those earlier times. You can see it in the rock paintings that town artists use to welcome the cruise ships every summer. I suppose a town so dwarfed by the great wilderness would have to have a bit of a gritty streak to survive.

Our last stop before heading home was Victoria Island, British Columbia, Canada. We had little time to truly see the island since our ship docked at 7 o’clock in the evening on August 24. Matt and I ran through the Butchart Gardens as quickly as we could, so that we could see as much of the colorful flowers and plants in the waning daylight as possible. While the garden is lit at night, there really are not enough lamps to properly see the gardens after sunset. I am sad to admit that our tour of the garden was a bit of a bust, but our moods brightened considerably when the garden staff put on an exceptional fireworks display.

We were back on the ship and sailing home to Seattle for the next full day. Once we disembarked in Seattle, Matt and I checked into our hotel room and then spent the rest of our day touring museums, viewing the city from atop the Space Needle, and walking through the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture gardens. Finally, a plane ride, a quick stay at my aunt and uncle’s house, and a car drive brought Matt and I home to West Texas. While Alaska was absolutely gorgeous and I would love to go back, there is one thing that Texas just seems to do bigger than that huge state: gloriously-colored sunrises.

Obviously there are many more photos to come, but I hope this journal gives you all a good taste of the beauty and adventure we encountered during vacation. Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

SCRAWLS: Book Excerpt from First Fruits: 31 Flashes of Biblical Perspective

PastaIlluminationACS4x6Today I wanted to share with you a very personal passage from my book First Fruits: 31 Flashes of Biblical Perspective. I know many people who struggle with some form of disability. I am one of them. For anyone who struggles with some form of mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual handicap, I want you to know that you are not alone. I am right there with you fighting to overcome my weaknesses each and every single day. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fall flat on my back. Always I keep trying because sitting and sulking solves nothing. That is why I wrote the following:

Photograph’s Description

Although this might look like a photo of fiber optic cable or some odd sea anemone, this is actually a portrait of angel hair spaghetti pasta when lit from the side by the evening sun. Shot in Pecos, Texas, in November 2010.

Artist’s Commentary

The emotional analysis of “Pasta Illumination”:

The blackness of the photo’s depths can represent a spot of emptiness in my soul, which can be interpreted two ways. The first is the crushing emptiness I felt before I met Jesus Christ. The second is the black frustration I felt as a child due to dyslexia.

I am a deeply spiritual person who is hopeful yet skeptical by nature. I discovered Jesus when I was very young and accepted that he died on the cross to save me from my own imperfections because I instinctively knew he was the only thing that could fill a void deep in my being. Over twenty years later, I have continued my relationship with him because he is the only god I have ever known to willingly prove his love for me by both an extreme like death and by little things he does every day. He is also the only person I have ever known to never lie to me and always have my best interests well in hand. He has never once given me bad advice.

It took me many years to understand that he would always be with me and yet would still love me enough to let me make my own decisions—good and bad. It also took me years to understand that the dyslexia God “cursed” me with as an infant is the single reason why I am so creative. My brain, as it turns out, was rewired before birth to make sure I would love art to the extreme while being uniquely cross-wired in my thinking so that I could still analyze my work.

The bright spires of light coming out of the total darkness represent hope and joy—the joy from knowing that I am loved just as I am, the hope that my creativity and my life will encourage others as they seek their own purposes in this life. Of course, darkness still lurks in the form of moments of doubt and frustration, but those are mere spots compared to the void I once felt. After all, if I hold onto the light that I have discovered, it drives away the darkness every time.

Suggested Scriptures

John 9


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia Christine Sears and/or Alycia C. Cooke with love and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts on this particular topic and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

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