Half-Life Still Life (January 2017)

Half-life is a term used to describe the time required for a quantity to reduce half of its value, and the term is commonly used in nuclear physics to define radioactive decay.

Several years ago, my friend Elizabeth, knowing that I am fascinated with glass objects, introduced me to an interesting vase. The type of glass used to make this object is called uranium glass, because a small amount of uranium, typically in the form of an oxide, is added to the glass mix before melting. The uranium gives the glass a pale yellowish-green colouration. In the 1920s this colour led to the nickname Vaseline glass because it resembled the colour of petroleum jelly from that time.

Uranium glass is a subset of a type of glass called Depression Era Glass. Depression Era Glass, or simply Depression Glass, was popular and inexpensive during the depression period and was made into common houseware articles such as vases, cups, saucers, plates, and candy bowls. Using a sensitive Geiger counter, uranium glass would register slightly higher than normal background radiation. Most pieces of this type of glass are harmless and only slightly radioactive. When asked if ingesting uranium glass would cause radioactive poisoning, one scientist replied that the shards of glass would kill you before your body even noticed the radiation.

All very interesting – but what fascinated me was the way that the uranium in the glass fluoresces under ultraviolet light. With that bit of knowledge, Elizabeth and I, with portable UV lights in hand, haunted the antique shops in the Ottawa area looking for reasonably priced uranium glass objects. In addition to Elizabeth’s vase, we discovered a small plate, a cup and saucer, an ice cream dish and a candy bowl. I found several inexpensive UV fluorescent lights and after some experimentation, I started taking photos using the light from the fluorescing glass. Using some paints and dyes, which phosphoresces under UV light, I added some painted objects to the glass scenes.

These photos are the result of that experimentation.

I took these two photos as a comparison of a hand-painted dried rose under normal light and UV light.

Plucking & Bowing

One thing I have wanted to do is to take still life photos of musical instruments. I have done a few of these in the past, but have never been completely satisfied with the results. Someone I know, who enjoys collecting and playing string instruments, mentioned to me that he would like to replace the pictures in his office with photos of musical instruments. I suggested that he used his instruments and from that brief conversation a new photography project was born.

He had no specific instructions on how he wants the instruments photographed, so that gave me much leeway to experiment.

One thing I noticed about the instruments was the feeling that some of them “talked” to me, while others were just nice to look at and photograph. Here are the results so far — and I still have others to do in the future.

Just Some Recent Photos … Nothing Special

Between the ultimate freezing cold weather and the snow, I’ve either been hunkering down inside, or downhill skiing. But every once in a while I snap a few photos, and I’m finally getting around to editing them. So here are some snaps from January and February.


Caution – It Bites!

I own a fur hat and when it is sunny, I also wear sunglasses. About a month ago, I was visiting someone and when I went into this person’s office building, I took the sunglasses off and stuck them on the top of the hat. When I took the hat off and put it on the coffee table of the person I was visiting, he looked at the hat wearing the glasses and told me it looked creepy.

So that comment has been rambling around in my head for about a month, and yesterday a photo idea popped into my head. This is the result …


So, my fur hat with glasses, feet and a beak. If you think the eyes are creepy, they were lifted from another photo I took years ago of a very young girl who had the most beautiful big, round eyes.

Enjoy … and please, no feeding the animal!

Immoveable Art

This week’s photos are brought to you by the letter “S”, for “Statues & Sculptures”.
(Weekly Photo – Week #19, May 7, 2014)

I like taking photos of statues for several reasons, such as …

  • They stand still when you take their photo,
  • They are usually significant as either a work of art or a time in history,
  • And … well, they are just neat!

So here is a wee gallery of some of my favourite statues, some local and others distance, some from my past and some recent … enjoy.

The Joker Is Wild

This week’s photos are brought to you by the letter “J”, for “joker”.
(Weekly Photo – Week #10, March 5, 2014)

“I believe whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you … stranger.” (Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight)

I was never a big fan of the Batman movies until a friend introduced me to the Christian Bale “Batman” series (and now I have all three movies in my DVD library). Of these three movies I think my favourite is “The Dark Knight” with Heath Ledger playing the role of the Joker.

It occurred to me that I have some photos of jokers, although mine are much tamer than what was portrayed in “The Dark Knight”.

I came across these three jokers while strolling along the Daytona Beach Boardwalk, and I was immediately attracted to the bright colours and size (each head is about 5 feet from chin to the top of the forehead). Perched on the front of an arcade, they smile down at you while enticing you to come inside and play games (and spend money). Jokers, just doing their job?

This next guy is a wee bit smaller, and even friendlier looking. He is about three inches high and is made of wool. This joker was hand‑made by the mother of a close friend, when my friend was also a wee thing.

Picture of the Week 2014 – Round 1-J-DSC_3871-1909_

And this Joker is part of a larger royal family.

Picture of the Week 2014 – Round 1-J-DSC_3844-1910_

Years ago my friend and I used this Joker and family as part of the Christmas decorations for my home. And now it has become a tradition. Every year they come out of their non‑Christmas home (a large, round, cookie tin) and become part of the Christmas cheer in my home. It occurred to me recently that we have no pictorial record of this royal family, so I took it upon myself to take a photo of the family together and the members individually.

Silicon Beauty

This week’s photos are brought to you by the letter “G” for “glass”.
(Weekly Photo – Week #07, February 12, 2014)

Saying that a glass is half‑full or half‑empty is another way of stating the positive or negative, or the difference between optimism and pessimism. A cynical person might refer to these sayings as irresponsible hopefulness or practical reasonableness. As for me, I search for the person who sees an empty glass lying in the dry sand of a desert, and states, “That glass has a lot of potential to hold water.”

Last week’s photos focused (no pun intended) on Fresnel lenses, yet another use of glass. In this week’s photos I present a few photos of glass items that I have had an opportunity to photograph. For as long as I remember, I have been fascinated with glass and glass objects. As a young child, and without my parents’ knowledge, I would melt glass tubes with the heat of our gas stove and then stretch and bend the glass – just to see what I could do with this fascinating material. I went a step further and took a three‑day course on glass blowing (to discover that this was certainly not my forte, but fun all the same).

In the past, I have had a large collection of glass bottles and other glass objects, and eventually gave up much of these as collectors of dust – yet I still have a few pieces, which I cherish.

Several years ago, I started taking photographs of glass objects only to discover that these are among the most difficult objects to photograph! The properties of glass objects that make them so wonderful to look at, are also the properties that are the most difficult to photograph. If the scene is not set up properly, the glass objects reflect everything, including the lights, camera and photographer. Unless the lighting is correct, the glass objects look flat in the final images.

One of my goals is to master the art of taking photographs of glass objects. Another goal, not related to photography, is to visit the world’s largest glass museum in Corning, New York. That should make for a great motor biking trip next summer.