Beautiful, Interesting and Ooo Shiny! Images From Various Places

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Happy New Year! Have a Free eBook Sampler!

Field & Hay

Location: USA
Camera Info: Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 5.6 • 1/800 sec

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” – William Edwards Hickson

So here it is, another year gone by. And I’m trying again! The only comment I have about the past year is: depression sucks. Sorry!

Even if I haven’t kept up with the blog, I HAVE kept writing. Just this past November, my writers’ group published our first anthology, “Stories From the Heartland.” It’s available on Amazon for anyone who wants a copy! Recognize the cover image? 🙂 The book consists of 55 stories from 20 central Indiana authors. I have four entries in it myself, one of which was a story previously told on this blog. Can you guess which one?

But wait, I said something about FREE, didn’t I? 😉 We’ve also uploaded a 7-story excerpt of the book to Noisetrade for free downloads. So hop over there and grab your copy! And if you like the sampler, consider getting the entire book!

Meanwhile, I will try my best to get this blog back to a semi-regular posting schedule so you folks can enjoy more stories and pictures from around the world! Here’s to a better and more productive 2015!

Did you make any resolutions this year? What are they?


The 12 Odd Facts of Christmas

Cardinal Eating

Location: USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/800 sec

Ok, folks, I give up! I was trying to work on our 2nd annual Christmas video for your viewing pleasure, but it’s taking longer than expected this year. Instead of keeping you waiting, here’s some fun Christmas trivia! Maybe if you act smart at your family Christmas party this year, your aunt Betty won’t be so tempted to pinch your cheeks and tell you she can’t believe how much you’ve grown… or something like that. 😉

  • According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are 2,106 million children under age 18 in the world. If there are on average 2.5 children per household, Santa would have to make 842 million stops on Christmas Eve, traveling 221 million miles. To get there in 24 hours, Santa would need to travel between houses in 2/10,000 second (for the “not-so-nerdy”, that’s about 4 million mph, or 3000 times the speed of sound). At that speed, Santa and his reindeer would burst into flames instantaneously. (Reindeer steaks, anyone?)
  • Of the presents received by kids worldwide, one in 10 will be broken by the New Year, only 40% will make it to March and just a quarter will be intact by next Christmas.
  • From the UK: Three people die each year testing if a 9v battery works on their tongue. (WHY???)
  • Mistletoe (Viscum album) is from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, which means “little dung twig” because the plant spreads though bird droppings. (And that’s EXACTLY what I’d like to be kissing under! ‘~’ )
  • UK: Since 1997, 101 people have had to have broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet. (I wonder how many were Legos? Ow!)
  • In Poland, spiders or spider webs are common Christmas tree decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. (I don’t care if they made him a yert! Spiders are still evil, in my opinion.)
  • According to Facebook data, most breakups occur two weeks before Christmas. Yet Christmas Day is the least popular day for breakups.
  • UK: 19 people have died in the last 3 years believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate. (Wait… what?)
  • The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
  • “Jingle Bells” was originally written in 1857 for a Thanksgiving celebration. (Seems legit.)
  • Norwegian scientists have hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system. (I don’t even want to imagine how that one works!)
  • In Canada, Santa Claus has his own personal zip code, H0H 0H0. Each letter that includes a return address receives a reply from Santa in the language the letter was written in, including Braille (with help from some 11,000 “Postal Elves”)!

Rather than link every fact on the list, I’ll just give you my sources here: Random History, Venere, Chicago Now, We Interrupt, Nice Fun, Guy Sports (Christmas Safety Warnings).

Bring on the knowledge junkies! What other fun Christmas trivia do you know? Let’s hear it!

A Poem For the Children

IMG_4841

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 5.6 • 1/10 sec (and quite a bit of editing)

Well, I was planning on writing a funny blog this week, but in honor of the events that happened this past Friday in Newtown, CT and Chengping, China, I will just leave you with this. I found this poem floating around Facebook, attributed to Cameo Smith of Mt. Wolf, PA. Please let me know if the credits are incorrect.

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air;
they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say;
they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
“This is heaven,” declared a small boy, “We’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their Savior; the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name;
and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring.
Those children all flew into the arms of their King;
and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below;
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”
“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools!”
“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
“Come now my children, let me show you around.”
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran;
all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
“In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Please take some time to pray for all those affected by this week’s tragedies.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving & see you next week!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?


Reflections on Thankfulness

Location: USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 5.6 • 1/50 sec

In the aftermath of a great explosion that rocked one of our neighborhoods in Indianapolis, many have been forced out of their homes and a candlelight vigil was held for the deceased. Yet along with the stories of loss, I’ve seen many (including friends who were affected) posting on Facebook about all they are thankful for. For example, a friend was thankful for her phone, which she used to find a place to stay at midnight after evacuating her house. Since Thanksgiving is almost here, I thought it would be a good time to do the same. I’m thankful that…

  • I’m alive.
  • I have a good job in this economy.
  • My neighbors aren’t freaks.
  • I have family & a fiance who love me.
  • Election ads are over for another four years.
  • Jesus lives!
  • Arby’s and Chick-Fil-A have peppermint milk shakes.
  • The USA still has freedom of religion.
  • Somebody, a long time ago, invented bacon.
  • I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel the world.
  • Unlike cats, we have opposable thumbs.
  • My prayer group rocks!
  • I got to go to college – and get TWO majors.
  • Gmail lets you “undo” sending emails when you notice a typo right after hitting “Send.”
  • Smiles are a universal language.
  • The day the music died has never come.
  • Water makes up most of the world, because without it we’d die.
  • I’m relatively healthy.
  • Toilet paper exists, because…. yeah.
  • It’s almost my birthday!!

What would you add to the list?


Crazy Acts of Death-Defiance

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 5.6 • 1/800 sec

 What’s the craziest thing you have attempted to do? Did you succeed? A couple years ago, I challenged myself to go ziplining with some other crazy adventurers in Thailand. I enjoyed the challenge, but apparently not as much as our guides (pictured above)! I was excited when I could cross a cable without holding on to my harness, but no way was I going to try upside down.

I’m sure we all have our limits when it comes to what kind of adventures we will tackle, which makes this week’s news all the more amazing. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all week, you’ve probably heard about Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting jump from Red Bull Stratos. I was one of the lucky 8 million people who watched it live on YouTube. Aside from morbid curiosity (my dad and I were betting each other on if he would survive or not), I think there was another reason so many people tuned in to watch. We wanted to see someone do someone we wouldn’t dare attempt ourselves.

Are there any other great feats of courage (or stupidity, depending on your perspective) that you remember witnessing? History is full of them, so here are a few of my favorites (most of which, I am too young to remember in person):

  • Alain Robert – “The French Spiderman” likes to climb buildings – really, really tall ones.
  • David Blaine – Magician who also broke the world record for holding his breath underwater – for over 17 minutes!
  • Evil Knievel – Known for leaping over large distances in a single bound… on his motorcycle
  • Gary Connery – Skydived without a parachute – and lived!
  • Harry Houdini – Magician and master escape artist, he was most known for the Chinese Water Torture Cell stunt
  • Jackie Chan – Actor who does all his own stunts, including a 21-story slide down the side of a building
  • Martin Strel – Expedition swimmer who tacked the 3000+-mile Amazon River – and all that swam in it
  • Philippe Petit – Tightrope walker who crossed between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. How he got access to them was an even more challenging feat.
  • William Trubridge – Holds the record for the deepest free dive, swimming 380 feet straight down
  • Yves Rossy – AKA “JetMan”  or “Fusion Man”, crossed the English Channel with just those rockets on his back

If you could be known for some crazy stunt, what would you attempt?


Forgiveness in Colorado

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 11.0 • 1/100 sec

 It’s not too often the Shine4Him Photo blog ventures into social commentary, but I think this week’s photo deserves it (phrases taken from Exodus 3:5 and Psalm 100:4, painted on a church wall in India). So does the recent happenings in Aurora, CO in the USA.

In the week following this tragedy, there have been many stories emerge of heroism, sacrifice, and love. Tragedies tend to bring out the deepest emotions and people’s true selves. Anyone can claim what they think they would do in a situation, but we never know for sure until something forces us to act without thinking. That’s what the men who died saving their girlfriends were doing. Somewhere, they learned that was the noble thing to do, and when the moment came, they acted. Now the world is grateful, even through many tears.

Then there is Pierce O’Farrill, one of the other victims of the shooting. Despite having been shot three times, the moment he was released from the hospital, he told the press that he had forgiven the shooter. Again, this goes against the grain of what seems normal. No one blames the families who are angry at Holmes. I doubt few would be upset when justice is served. But what about this guy?

Forgiveness, in itself, is very freeing. For years, research has proven that bitterness only tears apart the person who carries it, and forgiveness allows the person to give up the “victim” title and move on with their lives. Personally, I hope everyone involved can eventually come to that point, though it will likely take years. And please note that forgiveness is not exoneration. I’m sure even O’Farrill would agree that the courts need to do their job. But this immediate forgiveness, and even a willingness to talk to and pray for the shooter? Now that’s something different.

O’Farrill links his actions to his faith in Jesus Christ. It takes more than just being a good person to forgive like that, I’ve found. It takes power beyond ourselves. But through the years, many have discovered the power that Jesus provides to forgive those who hurt them. Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom also had to lean on her faith to forgive the man who tortured her and her sister. But both of these people have made the same amazing discovery – that forgiveness gives us a glimpse of the true nature of God, and in that, we can be thankful.

Have you ever struggled to forgive someone who hurt you? Where do you find the strength to move on?


Surprise! Surprise!

Location: USA
Camera Info:  Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.7 • 1/50 sec

It’s a special week and here at the Shine4Him Photo blog, I’m always up for an excuse to party! Take a wild guess who’s ring this is.

Guessed yet?

Ok, it’s mine!  That’s right, this world-hopping photography freak is now engaged!!! Andy is just as much of a travel addict as I am, so the adventures will continue I’m sure. And while he’s not a photography freak, he’s got his own freak-ness (is that a word? It is now!) that always keeps things fun. So this week I’ll treat to to our engagement story, and next week we’ll hop back on our mental airplanes and go explore the world some more.

Andy and I went to the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) to see an exhibit I had been wanting to go to. It was Community Day, so they also had lots of fun activities, including an art scavenger hunt. We completed the program and went back to the front desk, and the lady there handed me another page, claiming they had one more new exhibit that didn’t make it in the booklet. She said once we finished, we could turn it in for a prize. (All this was scripted, I found out later.) We went up to the last piece of art, and when I was looking around it, Andy pointed out a piece of paper that “someone” had left behind. He handed it to me to read. It was a love poem that he had written. When I finished reading and looked up, he was already down on one knee. I was so surprised I just cried and couldn’t talk at first. But all the volunteers & security were there watching, because they were all in on it! 😀

What’s the best marriage advice you’ve ever been given? Let’s hear it! 


A Moment in Time

Location: USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 5.0 • 1/60 sec

In another installment of “what you may not know from a photo,” I wanted to feature something very close to home. This is my aunt Sally and her husband Gary. What you may not know about this photo is that it was taken less than 24 hours before she died.

Sally fought a five-year battle with breast cancer, but finally was told there were no more treatments available. She quickly made plans to spend some time with her family and get some important things done. One of her last wishes was to have some current family photos. She left behind her mother, husband, three boys, extended family and about 5-600 people who attended her funeral (more than the funeral home was prepared for!).

We went back and forth about taking the photos the day we did. We talked about doing them the next day if she was feeling better. She was exhausted and on oxygen, and it took nearly six hours to get her ready and over to the studio. Between each photo we had to let her take more oxygen while we set up the other people in the picture. It was a long day, but we’re so glad we went ahead and took the photos when we did. It just goes to show that you never know how important one action can be until the moment is gone.

   

Is there a kindness you can do for someone you care about? What is it? Now, go do it!


The Thing No One Wants to Talk About

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/240 sec

I don’t know how I got here. I can’t remember much of the past few hours at all. This afternoon, I went to the market with my friends, and one of the merchants offered us free samples of his latest dish. Not long after trying it, I felt really tired, so I sat down on a bench while my friends continued shopping nearby. That’s the last I remember. Now I’m in a dimly lit room with no windows, and a door locked from the outside. I’ve tried calling for help several times, but no one answers.

Soon, an older man and woman enter the room. I try to get them to help me, but they just look at me coldly. The woman accuses me of stealing food at the market, and tells me I must work to pay her back. I refuse and try to run past her, but the man grabs me and hits me until I stop fighting. He drops me to the floor, where I sit there crying, unable to move because of the pain.

That first night in the brothel still haunts my dreams. I had three “customers” visit me, and each one was meaner than the one before. They didn’t care that I was only a child, or that I was trapped in a tiny room while my family searched for me in vain. All they wanted was what I could give them, no matter how unwillingly.

(This fictional story was adapted from the testimony of a young woman in India, who was rescued after being enslaved since she was 12 years old).

It’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month, so I wanted to focus on that tough topic this week. As most of America gears up for the Super Bowl on Feb 5th, traffickers are also preparing for one of their busiest weeks of the year. Children and young girls are brought into the city from Asia, Europe, and the Americas to give visitors more “entertainment” during their stay. Local law enforcement and many ministries are working to prevent these things from happening and rescue these modern-day slaves, but it’s everyday people who can raise awareness and protect their children and others’ the best. Turning a blind eye to the problem will only allow it to continue unhindered.

So what is your part in ending modern-day slavery?


Nicole’s Top 10 (and then some!)

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 6.3 • 1/100 sec

Happy New Year! As we get ready to start the next year, make (and break) resolutions, and throw wild parties that involve streamers and kazoos, it’s often time to look back as well. We look at all the things we’ve learned the past year and wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?” Ok, so maybe not all our memories give us warm fuzzies. But I hope most of them do!

We’re celebrating over here as well, because on January 1st, the Shine4Him Photography blog will be one year old! In honor of that, and of the New Year, I thought it would be fun to take a look back over the past year’s top posts. I chose these due to the number of comments (including Facebook and FORUS Athletics posts), how often they were searched in Google (yes, I can figure that stuff out. Creepy, huh?), as well as how much fun I had writing them. So, without further ado, let’s take a step back in time.

Expect more fun times in the year to come! This spring, I will also be adding another country to the lineup: Poland! I bet you can’t wait!

What was your favorite blog post this year?


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Enjoy the video and we’ll be back next week with more fun photos.

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” (Hamilton Wright Mabie)


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! We’re taking a break this week to celebrate the holiday, so do the same and tell someone why you care!

What are you most thankful for this week?


Random Acts of Kindness

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/500 sec

I love flowers. They’re beautiful and can brighten my day – especially when I get one by surprise! One day, after a long day at work, I went out to my car and discovered a rose hiding on my car. 😀 This wasn’t the only time I was the “victim” of a random act of kindness. I was once part of a large group at a restaurant, and some stranger paid for our entire table. Then, one time I had a flat tire. A few people were helping me change it, and one lady noticed my tires were old and needed replacement. I had been saving up to do that, but was still $100 short of what I needed. To my surprise, the woman handed me a check and told me to get new tires.

It’s fun to pass on the kindness. My family likes to pick a single person in a restaurant or get a car behind us in a drive-thru and anonymously pay their bill. A friend of mine got the idea to take flowers to forgotten service people, like gas station attendants. She also joined me in putting flowers on cars at our hospital’s emergency room parking lot. Another friend likes to go downtown to visit the homeless, armed with a pair of toenail clippers.

In a day where most of the news is filled with people hurting others, the strong taking advantage of the weak, and all kinds of disasters and greed, it’s nice to hear stories of kindness from time to time. Personally, I think it’s even more fun to be part of those stories.

What about you? Have you committed an act of random kindness or had one done to you? What happened?


Indiana State Fair – Tales of Happenstance

Location: Indiana, USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 5.6 • 1/40 sec
(Note: This photo is from a previous concert at the fair)

I’ve always been fascinated by stories of people who avoided tragedy by not being where they should have been. For example, the man who was late to work at the World Trade Center because he stopped to get a band-aid to cover the blister caused by his new shoes. After the tragedy at the Indiana State Fair this past weekend, I am already hearing similar stories of “happenstance” – circumstances that happened to keep people away from those front rows at the stage. One of them was my boyfriend’s.

The stage at the Indiana State Fair

I was planning on going to the Fair with my parents, as was our family tradition. However, a week ago, my dad was in a car accident. No one was hurt, but the car was totaled. He also threw out his back the next day for a separate reason. Because of this, I had to change my plans and ask my boyfriend Andy to take me to the fair last Saturday. We were on a ride at the midway when the storm hit, so we ran and hid safely in a building until everything was over. Only later did I find out that he had planned to go to the concert that night, but had chosen to spend time with me instead. His ticket would have put him in the front row.

Another story comes from the band itself. Right before the stage collapse, the organizers made an announcement that they were considering evacuating (the storm was not supposed to hit for another 15 min). The Sugarland duo wanted to go onstage to look at the weather themselves, but their manager stopped them for a last-minute prayer circle.

In the crowd, a lady and her friend were in one of the front rows, but didn’t like the look of the approaching storm. Following the announcement, they made an on-the-spot decision to walk back to the grandstands for more shelter. They were only a few rows away when the stage started to fall. They were unhurt, but the chairs they had been sitting in were under the stage. They went back to help others who were injured.

When has an annoying delay or change of plans become a blessing in disguise?


Surprising Hidden Crosses Around the World

Location: Japan
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/1000 sec

In celebration of all the ice and snow outside my house, I’m thinking warm thoughts this week. A sunny beach in Japan is just the ticket! Yet, I was surprised to find this simple cross so prominently displayed in a nation that’s primarily Shinto, Buddhist, and secular. It’s not the only time I’ve heard of crosses in strange places, however. Here’s a few of my favorites:

  • A cross hidden in a Buddhist statue, also from Japan. Usually this country is not known for persecuting Christians, but there have been times in its history when this occurred. Hidden symbols such as this one are more common in other nations, where religious freedom has not been realized.
  • In the USA, the crosses are not so hidden. If you have traveled down I-70 through Illinois, you may have passed a nearly 200-foot giant white cross in Effingham. Another builder has made similar (though smaller) crosses throughout Tennessee next to adult bookstores, likely to deter potential customers. Finally, a former Marine and Methodist minister, Bernard Coffendaffer, built a series of three crosses along highways in 29 states. After his death, they were adopted by local people and churches for regular maintenance.
  • Two of my favorite stories are conspiracy theories. One involves the Burj al Arab (Tower of the Arabs) hotel, the largest building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The British architects were accused of intentionally making it the shape of a cross, though it was supposed to look like a sailboat. Several rumors have circled around this controversy. Since you can only see the cross by looking at the building from the water, I heard photos from that angle were not allowed (though there are plenty available online). Also, some claimed that license plates featuring a drawing of the hotel were banned. This rumor was never verified. So is this really the world’s largest Christian cross, as some claim? Or is it just another theory designed to stir people up? I would love to hear your thoughts!
  • The last “hidden cross” I found is a tourist attraction in Berlin, Germany. The Fernsehturm (TV Tower) was built in 1965-1969 as the tallest structure in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR).  The socialist authorities that build the tower wanted it to be a symbol of the GDR’s strength during the Cold War. However, the atheistic leaders were surprised to discover that every day as the sun hit the tower’s pinnacle, a sparkling cross would appear. Even when the dome was treated with special paints and chemicals, they could not get it to go away. West Berliners nicknamed it Rache des Papstes (the Pope’s Revenge).

Ok, now it’s your turn! Have you ever discovered a hidden symbol that gave you hope? What about laughter? Did you see Jesus in a potato chip? Share your story in the comments.