Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 2 of 2)

Welcome to the 6th post for this month which successfully puts another check in the monthly post commitment and thankfully this one comes earlier than usual.  As you probably know I am usually rushing to get these babies done before day 30ish comes to a close.  Not this month, but that is primarily due to focusing on getting these done in order to spent the rest of the month (and some into the next month as well) focusing on a big personal event that is scheduled for September 11th.  Not really talking about it at the moment to keep from jinxing myself so we’ll just let that go for now.  On a side note, thanks to the ass Don Henley finding the need to come out in favor of the PROTECT IP Act (and using invalidated studies and hyperbole fear as a basis – must be learning from Gore), today marks the first day of never giving a penny to anything that funds the Eagles or Don Henley in any form.  This of course includes additional albums/CDs/DVDs to those already sitting in our shelves and god forbid anymore $75 tickets to their concerts.  Just my little way of helping make Donny-boy’s fake claims as real as I can – say, won’t you join me?

Enough ranting, you are hear for one and only one reason.. to fill the empty void when you found out there were even more phoadtography pictures from our Indy trip!  So, picking up where part one left off (link) I give you this sign found on a building as we were driving through a city.

Talk about a bad signage planning.  Reading this to someone would put them in a quandary.  Those Damn Pentecostals! or those Pentecostals are one Damn Ass Company.  If their lucky they would have seen the name of the city (Damasco) as they drove through.

As we drove into Indianapolis we spotted this hotel rising up above the trees.  From a design perspective it was pretty stunning and blended nicely with the environment.  Turns out our hotel was right near this Marriott and could have used it to navigate directly where we needed to be.  The construction around Indy had us uncertain we were on the right road and quite frankly the neighborhoods we were passing through had us a little concerned.  It all turned out okay, but simply heading for this landmark would have probably worked better.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the Indy Phoadtography Collection

Continue reading Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 2 of 2)

Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager

Can you tell I’m !#%!@@#$@ cooped up in the house this weekend with a hell spawned cold?  If memory serves (and it is on the fritz at the moment) this is the third post in three days.  Blogging at least keeps my mind off of the missed training runs this has caused which couldn’t happen at a more inconvenient time… but more on that in less than a month.  To be honest, today’s post is really more about a half check than a full check on the Life Birding List.  Linda and I headed out to a photo shoot at Wildcat Den about 30-40 minutes outside of Davenport in Muscatine County, Iowa.  We were in Davenport for our 3 day concert extravaganza (yes, that will be a future post topic) and figured it would be a good opportunity to take some shots at the State Park.  So we strapped on the backpacks, cleared out the memory cards and grabbed the cameras.  Needless to say with opportunities for wildlife, The Beast was in tow.

For the first hour there was not much action in the feathered category.  I decided to focus on some large butterflies while Linda busied herself with some water landscape shots.  From there we moved deeper into the State Park when Linda (so she says) pointed out a reddish bird sitting in the dense trees.  Having learned from previous mistakes, I dropped the tripod down and did my best to get a preliminary shot so I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed.  Once I had sufficient attempts  from afar, I slowly moved in to try and better the shot.  Out of all of them, this is probably the best one.

Hit the jump to see more pictures of this distinctive bird  … prepare yourself, some are a little scary

Continue reading Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager

Book Recollection: National Audobon Society Guide To Nature Photography

Ever start reading a book and come to the conclusion you might never actually finish it.  That is the exact situation I was in with today’s book recollection post.  Over three months ago I started reading National Audobon Society Guide to Nature Photography written by Tim Fitzharris.  Having perused the pictures in this particular book there was high expectations that the narrative would equal the stunning photos. And by stunning, I mean absolutely beautiful.  Turns out a number of Tim’s photos were actually scanned in from film with the added bonus of over 200 new digital photos (at least I think the new ones were all digital).  For those with access to the book, tops in my list was the image of a Marabou stork and African fish eagle fighting over a flamingo carcass.  That is now my benchmark for any photo session.  Another nice feature was he included the camera details for each of these shots providing some insights into how they were achieved.

As a quick background, this book was published by the National Audobon Society.  Interesting enough, their mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.  It was first published in 1990with a revision in 2003.  This particular copy was a second printing 2011.  Supposedly this was updated for the digital age, but there are still missed references to the film days and the digital age has actually evolved a couple of levels since 2003 (for instance a gig card for a day’s shoot is looooong gone).  So what trumped all these great pictures?  The honest truth was the Tim’s writing style.  He deserves every credit he has ever received for his images, but his writing style tends to overplay the profession.   It is hard to identify exactly what it is about the narrative that annoyed me so much and therefore hard to really describe the issue here.  Instead, let me take a quote and let you form your own opinions.

“… No matter the result of your picture-taking efforts, the act itself serves as an example to family members, friends and even the larger community of a philosophy that marries abstraction with the elemental dictums of survival.”

Did you know the perfect line of system code (in Forth of course) eschews the very fiber that separates society from barbarianism and insure that humanity will always demonstrate the higher thought process once attributed only to the deities of religion?  I didn’t think you did .. ha.

You get my drift.  After about 10 pages of that I had to put it down before I witnessed the re-evolution of dinner, making the progression through the 207 pages quite difficult.  Eventually, the last page was turned.  Again, the pictures were quite impressive and there were some takeaways so it was not a waste by any means – although not a great return of tip per time read.  The scary thing is we already purchased a sister book from Tim focused on Landscape Photography.  We’ll just let that sit for awhile.

Hit the jump to see my takeaways.

Continue reading Book Recollection: National Audobon Society Guide To Nature Photography

“You Know … I Can’t Do Basic Math”

Cough howdy cough sneaze folks!  I have fallen victim to a summer plague given to me by a certain someone who will go namelindess.  As a result, most of my nights have been spent laying on the couch turning my brain to mush with reality TV – apparently this is the only programming on TV these days.  This has been extremely frustrating seeing as how it has prevented me from some important training runs.  The good news is my steady diet of vitamin C coupled with heavy doses of NyQuil have finally gained the upper hand.  Unfortunately, this hell spawn has reduced me to a short post today (besides, my posts of late have tended to be a little verbose so it is probably for the best).

Tonight’s post is as fresh as it gets folks.  This didn’t happen a year ago like my vacation posts, or even a month ago.  Nope, this entry is based on an experience that happened a mere 4 hours ago.  It isn’t so much one aspect of the event that caused my quandary as it is the contradictory logic involved.  Let’s get to the details shall we?  Linda likes to refer to me as Mr. PVC (actually that is probably one of the nicer monikers she uses).  This is due to the fact I tend to head straight for the white plastic whenever I need to translate a crazy idea into something tangible.  Take for example the Halloween decoration (link) or the latest example of the new bird feeder (link).  She nixed my idea of building our house out of the versatile product.  Needless to say, another project is at hand which involves the need to interchange certain parts.  A few hours in the PVC aisle solved the problem which included the three piece coupling pictured above.  A late design change (after a prototype flaw) required me to purchase 5 more of these couplings to perfect the design.  Not wanting to get confused with the half million (just a slight exaggeration) different coupling options available, I decided to take one of them into the store with me.

After work today, I decided to stop by the local Lowe’s store and finish the material purchases.  Conditioned by the annoying Walmart and Best Buy greeting system coupled with Sam’s Club’s “everyone that leaves the store is a thief” model has made me overly sensitive to causing a shoplifting accusation.  Big thanks to those three stores for making an honest person worry about this – all they need to do is add a TSA patdown when you come in and I’ll be turning Amish.  Holding my little coupler openly in my hand (picture above is almost lifesize), I waited in line at the return desk to get a sticker or something to indicate that I had already purchased it.  My turn came up and I held out my coupler and asked him if they needed to mark it.  The clerk looked at me and said “Oh no, we don’t sticker anything, just go right ahead”.  Ummm okay, that is both refreshing and concerning at the same time.  Hey, this company trusts me … or is it Hey, we have a sucker on the hook.  I decided to give them some credit and went with the former assessment.  Fifteen minutes later I had built the 5 new connectors and headed to the register.  I placed the couplers on the counter and made it clear to the clerk there were actually 10 end parts and 5 middle parts so again, no one thought I was trying to sneak something by them.  At the same time I showed her the one I had brought in and told her I brought that one in with me and put it in my front shirt pocket.  She didn’t hesitate a second and proceeded to ring up the 5 new couplers.  Wow, Lowe’s appears to have a well understood “trust the customer” policy.  There was probably a goofy grin on my face the whole time she was ringing up the items…. and then she hit the total button.

Hit the jump to read the rest about the rest of the experience.

Continue reading “You Know … I Can’t Do Basic Math”

Time to Print Another U.B. Shirt

Does anyone recall that wonderful day last year when yours truly was gloating about success at the local photography contest.  This major award (ummm, okay, it was just an honorable mention, but can you say F*R*A*G*EE*L*EE ).   This of course was followed soon by a devastating moment in my photographic history when my wife entered her GRluEAckT shot of a bee approaching a sunflower into another (smaller venue) local fair.  The outcome of that was a Best in Show for her efforts.  Although I did pretty well there as well, I had to accept my fate and put on the Umbrella B*tch shirt for the year.  Well, that was one long year folks and it was time to put it all on the line again.  First off was the HOI Fair (the larger venue I scored on the year before).  Sadly, we were both shut out at that event (everybody say “AHHHHHH”).  All was not lost for the Knox County Fair was soon to follow, but I was considered the underdog based on last year’s results.

Last week we headed out to the fair to see how our pictures did.  The fate of Umbrella B*tch was hinging on this event so we were both a little nervous.  Unfortunately for us, an awesome picture of a fox took the Best in Show.  Our hats off to that photographer for a fantastic job.   We definitely do not mind losing to quality (now that out of focus B&W at the HOI… well, that’s a different story).    So now the HOI event was taken out of the decision process and the Best in Show was nixed.  The good news is we ended up doing quite well in a number of categories.  In fact, Linda and I each took two first places.

Linda scored with her Zion (I think that is where it was taken) water silk and her portrait she took at her niece’s wedding reception.  Ironically, she really didn’t think that shot was that great, but I really like the composition and you can’t tell it in this shot, but there is some grain to it that goes well with the period shot.  Apparently the judges agreed with me.  I took first for my winter cardinal shot and a macro shot I took of a praying mantis.  That cardinal shot finally gets some appreciation ( it is probably one of my favorite shots with the red of the bird contrasting nicely with the snow around it).  Linda paid back the favor on the praying mantis.  I was unsure about entering that macro, but Linda really liked it and forced me to enter it – I owe her a thanks.  With each of us getting two first places finishes, that U.B. decision criteria was thrown out too.

Hit the link to read to see how the 2011 U.B. decision process plays out

Continue reading Time to Print Another U.B. Shirt

Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 1 of 2)

Recently Linda and I were able to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  We are still planning our real celebration vacation (later in the year) but we decided it would be fun to just get away for a few days and relax a little.  This was a little hampered due to the Bix 7 race which was set for the end of the month but figured the taper down week would work perfectly – catch 2 shorter training runs on the road and I’d be good to go.  The next issue at hand was deciding where to go.  My constant hints of Vegas were eventually trumped by a trip to the Indianapolis Zoo followed by a stay at French Lick Indiana.  This way we could pack the cameras and catch a few state parks along the way … oh, and French Lick has a casino as well.  More importantly, what does any road trip provide the opportunity for?  Did you say PHOADTOGRAPHY?!?  How right you are.  A quick note, this time I stepped up my game a little and shot entirely on manual mode.  It makes it a little more challenging when you are trying to get the aperture and shutter speed right for the proper exposure while cruising down the highway at 65… well more like 75+ if Linda is driving.  So yes, there are some less than crisp shots, but overall I am pretty happy with the results.  (in honesty, it was additional training to making the switch from bird on a stick to a bird in flight which is damn hard in the field)

Enough banter.. show us the shots

We were heading into Indianapolis and decided to top off the tank.  You never know what the gas prices might be as you near the bigger cities, however, for some reason Peoria is always on the high end of the gas anyway.  As we were heading back onto the highway I noticed this sign which summed up this leg of the trip perfectly.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the great (okay, that may be subjective) pictures from the road.

Continue reading Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 1 of 2)