“A mys-ter-y . . . A mys-ter-y . . . Jewels are gone, Something is wrong! A mys-ter-y . . .” In my mind, I hear young voices singing those words to a melody of their own making. Years ago, my children made up a play in honor of Grandma’s birthday. The “Mystery” song is the only part that I remember, but my daughter tells me that the Build-a-Bears turned out to be the master criminals.
From the time I made the acquaintance of the Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew and her chums, and Frank and Joe Hardy, I have been a fan of mysteries. At some point, I graduated to Trixie Belden (if that was graduation) and the Three Investigators. Then I discovered my mother’s extensive collection of Agatha Christie paperbacks. How many happy hours have I spent, curled up in a chair in my parents’ living room, as Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot solved yet another murder!
While I’ve visited 221-B Baker Street through the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, I prefer G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown or Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey to Sherlock Holmes. Later, a British friend introduced me to Ellis Peters’ medieval mystery world, where Brother Cadfael solves crimes while Maude and Stephen fight over the English throne. Aside from reading mysteries, I’ve devoted many an evening to watching televised mysteries — mostly on PBS — with Morse and Lewis following leads in Oxford, or Swedish detective Wallander struggling to find a solution before he has a breakdown. I’m no good at figuring out who did it, but I like to follow the twists and turns of mystery plots. Nearly always, I am surprised when the villain is unmasked.
But reading mysteries is quite different from taking a picture that represents the concept of “Mystery,” as per Photo 101’s directions. My photo-editing skills are limited, so, instead of trying to transform an ordinary photo, I went looking for a subject that was suitably mysterious. The cloudy sky made me remember some mysterious-looking pictures that I had taken on a foggy day at the aptly named Graveyard Fields. I did not return to Graveyard Fields in my search for mysterious scenes, however, but, headed east to Craggy Pinnacle, hoping for fog. On more than one occasion, Craggy Pinnacle has been shrouded in fog — to the extent that I didn’t even try to take pictures.
There may have been fog at Craggy Pinnacle, but we didn’t get to see it. At mile marker 367.5, a barrier prevented us from driving farther east on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Roadwork? Bad weather in the forecast? We could only speculate as to why the park service had closed the road. It was a mystery.
It was too late to turn around and head west to Graveyard Fields, so we settled for a stroll along the closed road, dodging a few cyclists and skateboard enthusiasts who were benefiting from the absence of cars on that stretch of the parkway. (Now I wish I’d taken a picture of one of the skateboarders, but I didn’t think about what a cool shot I could have gotten until much later.)
Life seldom unfolds as neatly as it does in a mystery. My husband’s phone rang just as we were starting our walk: it was our oldest daughter, calling to catch us up on the last couple of weeks of her life. We had a good connection, so he put her on speaker phone as we shivered in the wind and walked down the road. It wasn’t the best of conversations or the best of walks, but it was good to hear from her. After 20 minutes, even my son, who was balancing atop the wooden guardrail as we walked, was begging to go back to the car. (I made him get off the guardrail when it looked as if a fall could hurt him.)
Back at home, my younger daughter, who was busy with schoolwork, failed to see the mystery in my photos of bare branches against the sky. I finally gave in and took a couple of photographs using her idea for “mystery”: an unwrapped present. Thanks to a craft fair we’d gone to the day before, I had a wrapped gift box on hand. By the time I’d taken the pictures, everyone in the house had become involved in the “Mystery” photo shoot.
Here is the unwrapped present, with no special lighting or effects. For the second photo, my husband worked out where the light should come from and held the flashlight. The second photo looks more mysterious, but I like the simplicity of the first photo.
We should have spent more time experimenting with different angles on the present and other ways to use the light, but we were in a hurry to play a geography game with my son before a show came on television. The geography bee is coming up in a couple of weeks, and the games help him learn, but I was relieved when we finished just before 9 o’clock. Anyone want to guess what show I wanted to see on PBS? Ten points to the person who said, “Masterpiece Mystery”!
All photographs taken November 2014 by Sandra Fleming using a Nikon Coolpix L320. Text and photos copyrighted © 2014 by Sandra Fleming.