Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Print of the Week

poison dart frog

A poison dart frog at the Loveland Aquarium near Salt Lake City, Utah from last January. I love their bright colors - you don't see too many bright blue animals. Of course, that's to warn predators that it's poisonous.

One of the things I like about making large prints is that it encourages you to look at details that you might not see otherwise. Until now I hadn't noticed that there was an insect (soon to be frog food) on the top of the rock, which explained why it was in that position.

Aquariums and zoos are a mixed blessing for photography. On one hand you are obviously much more likely to see animals than you would in the wild. On the other hand, you have bars and fences, dirty glass and reflections, crowds of people, and artificial and unnatural settings and backgrounds. Not to mention the uneasiness over the whole idea of captive animals. Hopefully they inspire people to value nature a little more.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Saturday Morning

coffee beans

I grind the beans, enjoying the aroma and the physicality of the hand grinder. The espresso trickles out, dark and rich. The milk steams noisily.

I turn on the stereo. (Does anyone even call it that anymore?) I put on Ages Past, a group of local kids, guitar and percussion. It’s the right rhythms and melodies to accompany my mood this morning. Their only album is short but the repetition is a comforting familiarity.

I pick up a couple of books I’m currently slowly savoring, Stephen Legault’s Earth and Sky about the Rocky Mountain Front, and Trevor Herriot and Branimir Gjetvaj’s new Islands of Grass. They are full of wonderful photographs, mostly landscapes, which I love but seldom photograph myself, finding them difficult to capture well.

I sip the coffee and enjoy the complex flavors. Interesting how we enjoy coffee and wine, both complex acquired tastes.

Outside in the cold and snow the nuthatches are out and about, creeping along the tree trunk and branches and taking advantage of the bird feeder. A red headed house finch also stops by, brightening the day.

Both books are saddening. Despite the wonders of nature and landscape that they depict, they are also about how it’s disappearing at the hands of humans. It's tempting to be sad. I hold no illusions - humans will trash this planet, the only question is how quickly. Hell, the coffee I'm enjoying is a part of that destruction - forest cut down to grow it, oil used to transport it. But take that train of thought to its logical conclusion and the best thing you could do for the planet is to leave it. I turn my thoughts away and go back to enjoying the coffee and the books.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Foggy Winter Sunrise

With temperatures around -20c and the river still open, there was lots of fog yesterday morning on the way to work. The combination of fog and frost and sunrise color were too much to resist. I had a better camera with me but my iPhone was easier to stick in my pocket so that's what I used. I only had big mitts so I had to take photos quickly with bare hands, before they got too cold.

foggy winter sunrise

foggy winter sunrise

foggy winter sunrise

Monday, November 13, 2017

Bird Feeders

We've had quite a few birds at our bird feeders. Mostly chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches, but also the occasional downy woodpecker. And a few magpies crashing the party. I always enjoy watching the birds - one of the few active signs of life in our winters.

I went out to fill up the bird feeders the other day and the nuthatches calmly let me approach to within a few feet. I watched them for a few minutes and they seemed quite content to have me close so I went back inside and got my camera. Of course, when I came out with the camera they immediately flew away. I waited patiently but they didn't return while I stood there.

Similarly, they usually don't mind if I watch them through the window, but if I try to take photos through the window they often fly away. Unfortunately, even when they do stay put, it's hard to get good photos through dirty windows. Here are a couple of not very good shots.

Downy woodpecker

Red-breasted Nuthatch

There have been a few birds of another kind that I haven't identified for sure. They might be White-breasted Nuthatches.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


Sitting at my desk yesterday morning, working on the computer, the sun was coming up and there was some color in the sky so I raised my blinds. Then I noticed there was condensation on the window forming an interesting pattern with the sunrise behind.

Drops of water condensed on a window at sunrise.

I uploaded larger than usual versions because I think the small details are part of the attraction. (click on them to view on Flickr and then click again to zoom in)

The photos are quite abstract, which I know isn't everyone's favorite. Hopefully some of you will find them interesting.

Here's a less abstract one, this is closer to what your eyes could see. Zooming in you can see the trees reflected in each drop.

Drops of water condensed on a window at sunrise.

Another one where you can see the trees in each drop, especially in the top left.

Drops of water condensed on a window at sunrise.

Sometimes the camera had trouble focusing since I was shooting into the sun. But even that could give interesting results. (Good bokeh, as photographers would say.)

Drops of water condensed on a window at sunrise.

Here's the sun shining through one drop.

Drops of water condensed on a window at sunrise.

At the more abstract end of things, but still with recognizable trees:

Drops of water condensed on a window at sunrise.

Another abstract one, other than recognizable drops this time.

Drops of water condensed on a window at sunrise.

I love the liquid looking texture to the photographs. Obviously, it was liquid, but that doesn't always come across in a photograph.

Drops of water condensed on a window at sunrise.

It was a tricky thing to photograph and what my eyes saw wasn't necessarily what the camera captured. Slight changes in focus or camera position could yield quite different results. I tried with my RX10m3 which can focus within a centimeter or two (something insects don't like, but fine for inanimate objects) Then I tried with my Nikon 7200 with both my zoom lens and my macro lens. And finally I tried with my iPhone 7+ and the Kamerar closeup lens. I thought one of them would be a clear winner but they all produced different but good results. My final picks were pretty much evenly divided between the three cameras. Can you guess which is which? (If you click on them to view, the camera is given under the photo.)

See all 13 photos

Monday, November 06, 2017

Print of the Week


A fountain at the mission in Carmel, California (near San Francisco). It's always hard to tell how shots like this will come out. A lot of photographers like to use a slow shutter speed to blur and smooth the water, but I often like to freeze the motion like in this shot. It's interesting because it's not a view you can get with your own eyes. You'd think this would make a good black and white since there's not a lot of color. But I like it better with the slight color to make the fountain stand out more.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Fresh Bread

There's nothing like fresh bread, hot out of the oven. If I could share the delightful smell, I would. I don't make it so much in the summer - too much else to do outside - but in the winter I usually make a loaf once a week. It takes a little effort and a span of time, but I like the familiar ritual. It's a good break from staring at the computer. And the effort makes you appreciate it more.

My recipe has evolved over time - it currently includes a mix of organic local flour (red fife, 7 grain, and whole wheat), plus oatmeal, flax seed, ground flax, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia, corn meal, and hemp hearts. It's not for those of you who prefer light fluffy white bread! But I find it tasty and filling. It's what I usually eat for my lunch at work, either with cream cheese and green peppers, or occasionally with peanut butter.