Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Walk in 2010

I went walking this morning/afternoon. It was considerably warmer than it's been lately, and it was overcast and hazy; a good day for a walk. Here's what I saw.

The view across Possum Hollow Rd. from the end of the driveway.

Reflections in the north Duck Pond.

The spring house and Dykeman Pond, the southern Duck Pond. I've discovered that I misnamed the stream that issues from here and runs through downtown Shippensburg. It's not Burd Run but rather Middle Spring Creek; Burd Run is farther north and out of the downtown area altogether. I finally found a map that actually names bodies of water that small (Google Maps, but on the "terrain" setting).

I finally got a shot of the Belted Kingfisher. Not the best quality, but infinitely better than I've managed to get before.

The home stretch; this is the mountain we live on.

And that was the last walk for 2010. Happy New Year everyone! Here's hoping 2011 is a much better year.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Good Art Isn't "Easy"

We seem to have a problem reacting to art in the US. Far too many people seem to think that art needs to be pretty and easy to digest; in effect, it's just another form of entertainment. Hence the preponderance in the "arts industry" of stuff like Thomas Kinkade's paintings, Britney Spears and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, and other such pretty-but-shallow "products" on the market.

Unfortunately, what that means is that work with depth and complexity is most often ignored or dismissed as elitist, pretentious, ugly, "not art", and, worst of all, "immoral". The Abstract Expressionists (yes, that's Jackson Pollock's No. 4 to the left) were dismissed as childish wannabes who hadn't taken the time or effort to learn "how to draw". Why? Because they weren't representational paintings, showing recognizable objects in recognizable surroundings. Apparently these critics weren't aware that all the painters they criticized had gone to art school and could draw like DaVinci and Michaelangelo.

The problem is that Abstract Expressionism isn't easy to digest; it takes time and effort and concentration to absorb and understand. The same holds true for the other stylistic schools of modern art, like Cubism, Minimalism and Serialism (in music), Surrealism (in all the arts, from literature to painting to music to film), and other modernist movements. This has been true down through the ages: anything new requires an enhanced level of effort and concentration to "get" the advances in artistic technique. The Impressionists were condemned as myopic; Corot's landscapes were considered the phantasms of a deranged mind; Mozart's music (of all things!) was criticized as dissonant; Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring caused a riot at its debut. It's a lesson we only seem to learn in hindsight, after the passage of much time; now the Impressionists, Corot, Mozart, and Stravinsky are all part of the artistic mainstream.

But some people are able to put aside emotional attachment to the status quo and look at, listen to, read, watch new things with an open mind. They focus, concentrate, and put some effort into trying to understand just what it is that's going on in all this "new stuff". And it's because of them that the avant garde survives the passage of time, is accepted, and becomes the mainstream of the future. We now listen to Mozart and Beethoven, read Dickens and Poe, and enjoy Monet and Gaugin because somebody was open enough to "get" them and keep them alive long enough to be accepted.

One of my favorite pieces of music is George Crumb's Black Angels. Composed in 1970 and informed by the turbulent times of its composition, Black Angels is not necessarily an easy piece to listen to. But according to Crumb, it's not meant to be "easy listening" music. He said in an interview in 1990: "Things were turned upside down. There were terrifying things in the air... they found their way into Black Angels." It's dark and dissonant, but it's also ethereal and, in the end, redemptive. Again according to Crumb: "Black Angels was conceived as a kind of parable on our troubled world. The work portrays a voyage of the soul. The three stages of the journey are Departure (fall from grace), Absence (spiritual annihilation), and Return (redemption)."

Black Angels resonates now as much as it did in 1970 because the times are once again as turbulent as those in which it was conceived. And it's still controversial; it's not "pretty", it's not "easy", you need to pay attention while listening to it. A diet of Britney Spears and Justin Bieber is not going to help you understand this piece, but in the end it means so much more than their short-lived ditties will ever mean, and will still be performed and listened to long after their songs have disappeared into the cyber-ether. Listen for yourself:

And just to put it all into perspective... This piece of music was once dismissed as dissonant and presumptuous:

And this painting and other works by this painter were dismissed as the fantasies of a disturbed mind:

Which only goes to show how wrong public opinion can be!

Text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Catch of the Day

An immature Sharp-shinned Hawk in the Duck Pond park. He landed first in a tree right next to me, but when he discovered my presence he very quickly retreated across the way. It was a good move as it gave me better shots. This is the best of the lot.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, December 25, 2010


For Christians this is the celebration of the birth of the man they refer to as the Prince of Peace. In the old pre-Christian European cultures the Winter Solstice was a time when rivalries and warfare were put off in a time of truce. So what better way to commemorate Christmas than to celebrate peace.

First, here's a classic, John McCutcheon's famous "Christmas in the Trenches", a song about the Christmas Truce of 1914, at the start of WWI. You can read about this incident in my Christmas blog post from last year. And below is the video I posted last year, here again for your listening pleasure, including his story of some old German soldiers who came to hear him perform the song at a Danish folk festival.

And finally, here's another bit of music: "A Christmas Blessing: Peace", written by composer and choral director Gregg Smith and performed by his Gregg Smith Singers from their CD Christmas Carolling through the Ages. Have a most merry Christmas!

Photo & text © 2008 & 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, December 24, 2010

Silent Night

This year's Christmas video, featuring a bunch of my best available light nighttime shots set to the traditional carol "Silent Night", here performed by the Irish choral group Anúna. This continues my Winter Solstice theme of celebrating light in darkness.

Enjoy your Winter Holidays, by whatever name you call them and however you celebrate them!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger
[Note: There'll be one more Winter Holiday post tomorrow; don't touch that dial!]

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sight & Sound - Candlelight Carol

Music: "Candlelight Carol" by John Rutter, performed by the Trinity Church choir of Newport, RI

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I'm still trying to get decent bird shots here; I guess the Shippensburg birds don't know me well enough yet to feel comfortable sitting still for a portrait. Today the Kingfisher again successfully avoided me, and some winter Sparrows (two Chipping Sparrows and I think a Savannah Sparrow) who wouldn't sit still were as elusive as a bunch of Dark-eyed Juncos (Slate-colored) who also had bad cases of ants-in-the-pants. But I did finally get a shot of one of the Great Blue Herons. He was way back in one of the cattail marshes along the Dykeman Walking Trail, but he was close enough that with a little manual focus fiddling I managed to get a decent shot.

So here you are - my first bird shot in Pennsylvania!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrate the Light in the Dark of Winter!

O Winter! ruler of the inverted year, . . .
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturb'd Retirement, and the hours
Of long uninterrupted evening, know.
William Cowper

Given my circumstances this year, this year's Solstice celebration is a "best of" past years' celebrations. I especially wanted to repeat the slideshow with Tim Story soundtrack I made for last year, and the wonderful original promo video for Jethro Tull's "Ring Out Solstice Bells". Have a joyous Yule, and celebrate the light returning in whatever way you like best!

Photos & artwork © 2009 & 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sight & Sound - In the Bleak Midwinter

Marsh - Dykeman Walking Trail, Shippensburg, PA

Music: "In the Bleak Midwinter"* performed by Loreena McKennitt

*(lyrics by Christina Rossetti set to the tune Cranham by Gustav Holst)

Photo © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Around the House, Part II

After posting my black & white studies of things around the house yesterday, I got to fooling around some more in Photoshop™ with the original photos, this time in color. There were some interesting results.

The first two shots here are fairly tame, just my old standard oil on canvas look. The bookshelf shot (bottom) was a natural for the Impressionist treatment, but that night table shot cried out for a little more dramatic treatment of the lighting to achieve a de la Tour type of effect, so I added a little brightening and then amped up the contrast. It seems to have worked out well.

Yesterday Baino commented that the shot of the old dolls gave her the creeps. I think what I did to that shot last night makes them even scarier! The shot on the left isn't so bad; all I did was amp up the color saturation some and apply some "posterize" effect to create the look of an illustration in an early 20th Century book. But using that posterized version as a basis for further exploration created some real creepiness. First I applied a conté crayon filter (middle shot)to create a rough black & white textured effect that would look really well as an illustration to one of Poe's child-bride-dying-of-consumption poems. And using the same color posterized version, I applied a fiber paper filter (right shot) that made her them look like Chuckie's wife and infant daughter! Okay, Hels, is that creepy enough for you? heh, heh!

The last is the bathroom shelf shot. I tried a bunch of things with this and it just didn't work. After I discovered how well the posterize filter worked with the dolls, I tried it with this one, too. After that I applied a sandstone texture from the texturizer filter because it tends to make "painted" images look like watercolors on the usual watercolor paper. That worked well, but I wanted to see what the other textures would do; I hit the jackpot with the craquelure texture. Normally you use this one to create that cracked surface of an old oil painting (called "crazing" in the art world), but cranked up a bit and applied to this posterized image it made it look like paint had been applied heavily with a pallet knife, or as if this was a painting on wood that had been outside for years and got cratered and cracked by weathering. Great effect!

And that's what kind of fun you can have with Photoshop™!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Around the House

More black & white studies of household items, still lifes (of a sort) rather than individual pieces this time. The dolls are hidden away in a little niche, and it was their presence and odd location that kicked off this little exploration. Well, that and Saturday morning housecleaning; these are what I see while I'm vacuuming my little "suite" in the basement of my brother's and sister-in-law's house.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stories in the Snow

We got a dusting of snow yesterday (maybe half an inch), and today while walking on the nature trail and around the Duck Ponds I noticed that while mine were the only human tracks in the snow around the north pond, there were plenty of other critters who had been wandering around. I guess the water attracts not just the ducks but plenty of other thirsty folk.

Below are some fox tracks (left) and rabbit tracks (right), but luckily for the rabbit the sets of tracks were on opposite ends of the park. There are both Gray and Red foxes in these parts, but I can't tell the difference by the tracks. And the rabbit is an Eastern Cottontail.

Of course, around the pond itself the most prolific tracks were those of the resident Mallards, although there were also some fox tracks there as well. I could well imagine the sly fox circling the pond checking to see if there was a way to get some duck breakfast without getting too wet and cold!

When I crossed one of the bridges farther downstream from the pond I apparently claimed the attention of a Great Blue Heron up by the pond, who then flew off complaining loudly. When I got up to the path around the pond I found the Heron's tracks right next to the water. I guess I disturbed his fishing.

On the same wooden bridge where I found the rabbit tracks I found these mouse tracks. They may look large here in the photo, but they really weren't more than and inch long in total.

And outside the park on the other side of the railroad embankment, I found these Gray Squirrel tracks on that junky old iron-railed bridge I showed you last week. Actually, there were squirrel tracks all over the place, but this was the clearer set.

See what you can learn from looking at the snow?

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Ludwig!

Yes, it's that time of year again; December 16 is Ludwig van Beethoven's birthday! As a long-time classical music listener and lover of Beethoven's music since I first heard it, this is a day I celebrate every year. And I'm not the only one; Schroeder of Peanuts fame is also a huge Beethoven fan, and every December 16 he celebrates on the strip. This one from 1970 is a classic.

And of course no birthday commemoration of The Maestro should ever go without a bit of his music. Taking a hint from the graphic I found online and posted at the top of this post, here's Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata, played in this instance by Alfred Brendel, probably one of the greatest interpreters of Beethoven's piano music. Enjoy! And join me in a toast to one of western music's greatest masters!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Everyday Abstract

It's still too cold and windy to go traipsing about outdoors for photos; aside from personal discomfort, that kind of cold also drains power out of batteries far faster than plain old use does. So I looked around for things around me that grabbed my attention. I've done abstract studies of everyday objects before; this just happens to be a new set of subjects. And of course I've always considered black and white to be the ideal format for abstraction.

Cut crystal vase

Table lamp


© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sight & Sound - Études

Theme - a macro shot of a patch of wallpaper - and variations - Photoshop™ manipulations tweaked in the process of learning and getting the most out of the photo processing program. All done in the spirit of Frédéric Chopin.

Papier peint - The original shot of the patch of wallpaper.

Terrain lunaire - This black and white treatment turns it into something that looks like the Lunar terrain.

Vue satellite de la terre - Enhancing the individual colors (green, blue, cyan, and white) and tweaking the saturation very slightly makes this look like the satellite view in Google Maps.

Cristal microscopique - Amping up the saturation a lot and the tweaking the contrast a little creates the feel of something crystalline seen in a microscope.

And speaking of Chopin... Here's his Étude opus 25 no. 11, the "Winter Wind" étude, played here by Valentina Lisitsa

Photos © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Postcards, Sort Of

It's raining today, and not particularly good weather for hiking, so I decided to play with some photos from since I moved here to Pennsylvania and make them look like the old linen postcards. I think I've even managed to replicate the typeface they used on older, early 20th Century postcards. So here they are.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sight & Sound - First Snow

It wasn't forecast (we were just supposed to get occasional flurries this morning), but it snowed steadily for half an hour to 45 minutes around 11 am today, and we got the dusting shown in the following photos. It's not much, but it's our first snow of the Winter, something that always makes my eyes shine and my heart go pitter-patter!

An old bird's nest dusted with our first snow.

My brother ans sister-in-law's house always looks good, but snow makes it look better.

Photos © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Theme Thursday - Test

Hmmmmm... I don't really have any photos that have anything to do with tests or testing, so I've had to resort to Google Images, acting on a few things that popped into my head.

There's always the good old TV test pattern, for those of us old enough to remember such a thing.

"This is just a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System..."

Of course the ultimate psycho-philosophical test is: Who are you?

When we're put to the test, we're definitely - Under Pressure!
(Queen made the best videos! And I still miss Freddie.)

Sorry I couldn't come up with my own photos for this week's theme. I hope my creative imagination made up for the lack!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


I went back to the Dykeman Walking Trail and the Duck Ponds today, just to see if I could catch up to the birds who were staying out of my range the other day. Alas, no such luck! The Belted Kingfisher succeeded in staying out of my range again, as did other birds. I even flushed a pair of Great Blue Herons by the north duck pond, and several times at that, without ever getting a shot. Oh well, at least I know they're there.

Today I started at the ballpark end and ended up at the Duck Ponds. I was paying a lot of attention to water and bridges, as you'll see. This first set of shots was taken north of the railroad embankment, near the ball fields and in the marsh and woods between them and the railroad.

Burd Run passing under a bridge and through some Duckweed.

As you can see, water in the cattail marsh is frozen. It's chilly here!

An old truck bridge (there used to be a gravel quarry where the ball fields are now) over a branch of Burd Run.

And the following shots were all taken in the Duck Ponds park. That Belted Kingfisher had me running back and forth chasing her (it's a female) for a picture, and then I flushed the two Great Blue Herons, so I covered a lot more territory this time, plus saw some scenes I missed before. I also went across Dykeman Road to visit the south pond and found it really pretty boring and not photogenic at all. Oh well...

A birdhouse in the marsh next to the north pond, and the bridge I showed you the other day.

Burd Run coming down from Dykeman Road.

This old sign was semi-hidden in the brush beside the trail.

And yes, the Mallards are still hanging out in the Duck Ponds.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger