Project: A Little Bit of Vegas

We were lucky enough to spend our New Year’s holiday in Vegas this year – one of our favorite destination spots.  Red Rock gave us complimentary stays that we couldn’t pass up so we packed our suit cases with our warmest clothes and headed out to enjoy the sun and sights.  Oh, and we hauled out our camera equipment to catch the bird viewing sites and local State Parks.  When we left home it was heading into the teens around here and when we landed in Vegas it was a balmy…. what the ?!? 30 degrees.  The high was only getting into the low 50’s – guess no pool for us hehehehe.  I’ll leave the results of the shoots for another post, but all was good on the other fronts – just stayed in a little bit more than usual.  Today’s project post idea was inspired by a decoration at the New Year’s Eve party we attended.  So without further hesitation I bring you project “A Little Bit of Vegas” … on my mind.

Project: A Little Bit of Vegas

Disclaimer:  I do not recommend you try this project yourself do to the dangers involved!

The decoration we saw consisted of a battery operated light at the bottom of a vase filled with those water retaining gel pieces.  This resulted in a nice glow effect that looked quite pretty.  Now this is an idea I could embrace and extend on.  The first element of change was to make the light battery powered so I could put it up in the ledge below our dormer windows in the great room.  I also needed to replace the gel fill with glass beads since it would not be easy to change once it was put up there – figured the gel would dry out eventually.

Hit the jump to see how this project came together!

Continue reading Project: A Little Bit of Vegas

Adding Another Teal to the Collection

Congratulations, we are in BONUS time this month thanks to getting on top of the posts earlier than usual. I’m off today and relaxing a bit after spending the morning taking down on the exterior Christmas decorations – before you comment that it is a little late for that, I technically had them turned off as of the 12th which is my Christmas is officially over date. The two big snows of the year still have not dissipated much so it was quite the task to get this done – need to get all the extension cords thawed out so they can actually be looped. I also decided to shovel off Serenity (link here) in effort to keep the stress off the span. That was work just getting down and back on the big hills – next time taking the snowboard! Enough bantering, on with the featured bird of the day.

Figured I would go ahead and make another check in the Bird List today thanks to a surprise capture while up at Chain O’ Lakes State Park. This has become one of my favorite parks not only for the multitude of birds shot up there, but the trails are also long and hilly – perfect for the 1/2 marathon training which is usually in flight whenever we get the opportunity to head up there (typically for dog shows). While looking through the bounty from that trip I noticed this image and decided to investigate a little more.

Blue-Winged Teal

These were taken at one of the back (often mucky) marshes off the main campground road. We always make a point to hit this particular spot since it seems to always have some interesting wildlife hanging out – deer, ducks, snak… umm forget that last part.  The wildlife tends to keep at the back edge of the pond making it pretty difficult to get anything beyond bird list shots.  These were heavily zoomed in just so you could make out the bird at the cost of quality.  The feature that immediately caught my eye was the long white stripe.

Blue-Winged Teal

Hit the jump to find out what this bird is and read up a little bit on its background.

Continue reading Adding Another Teal to the Collection

Orange You Glad You Snapped

Kind of on a bird roll at the moment so figured I’d go ahead and crank one out while I had a few minutes to spare. Today’s bird was originally featured back during the Project Chekov days (link here). Back then I was actually focused on the male species of the Baltimore Oriole and if you will allow me the courtesy to say … utilizing some fairly crappy shots. Those were desperate times and if you recall what the project was all about (26 birds in 26 days in alphabetical order) beggars can’t be choosers. These shots of the less flashy gender are thankfully a little better.
Female Baltimore Oriole

As revealed by the line and loop, these shots were taken at one of my bird feeders. That feeder typically serves quite the collection of Golden Finches, Chickadees, Nuthatches and Cardinals. Every day I take a glance out the window to see if there are any new feathers taking a moment to fuel up (the feeders are positioned right outside my master bedroom so I can wake up and immediately see my feathered friends – it’s the little things in life that keeps me going). This particular specimen caught my attention. My eyes tried to dismiss it as a Finch, but the brian (sorry, running joke based on the large number of emails that come addressed as such) … correcting .. but the brain kept nagging at me. Not sure what the problem was at the time, I obeyed my birding principles and grabbed the Beast.

Female Baltimore Oriole

With it in the tin, I put the camera down and went about my business… for a year (he types apologetically). At least they eventually made their way to the digital darkroom. It became immediately apparent that this was no Finch based on the stature alone coming in at almost the twice the size of those small in size creatures. The yellow was off as well with this specimen having a darker/oranger (my blog, I get to make up words whenever I want to) variant of the bright yellow the Golden’s boast. A quick look at the references didn’t come up with a definitive match but had some leanings to a Meadowlark, which sports a similar dagger of a beak.

Hit the jump to see and read more about this sunshine bird.

Continue reading Orange You Glad You Snapped

A Blue Devil

A while back my brother asked me an innocent question that has stuck with me ever since.  That question was “are there any common (translated local) birds you haven’t been able to photograph yet?”.  At the time I think I said there were a few especially in the smaller bird category since I have trouble distinguishing the Sparrows from each other and some of those Wrens are just so damn hyper I can’t get a bead on them.  Frequently, I come back to that question when I’m looking through a bird reference our even while out in the field and trying to decide if I want to make the effort to shoot what appears to be a common bird – “do I have that checked off the list or not?”  There is usually some doubt after the internal debate since I don’t actually carry my list with me.  Turns out there is one bird that fits this category and that is this one.
Blue Jay

Yep, the uber common Blue Jay that inhabits almost anywhere you look here in the Midwest.  I was going through my backlog and saw this set of shots taken in our woods one particularly dreary day.  I was about to skip over the shots when I remembered the question.  Might as well check just in case.  To my surprise I did not have it checked off (remember that I do not officially give myself the mark until the shots appear on the blog).  Apparently I had overlooked this common bird!

Blue Jay

Hit the jump to read more about the notorious Blue Jay

Continue reading A Blue Devil

Project Posey: Janus

Okay everyone, the Posey Project is coming down to the final designs before mass production. For those that haven’t been following my Halloween Project here is a group shot of all my design iterations. Each version introduced new design options that will be evaluated and a decision made on whether it will make it to the final design for the 2015 Haunted Trail. The four on the left have already been discussed in detail on the Blog

Posey Project V6.0

In case you missed those, here is a quick index of their posts – note, Posey V1.0 had already been put away with the rest of the trail decorations so it isn’t pictured above.

Posey V1.0 – Not Shown (link here)

Posey V2.0 (link here)

Posey V3.1 (link here)

Posey V4.0 (link here)

Posey V5.0 (link here)

Today’s post features the option on the far right which I appropriately refer to as V6.0 of Posey which is modeled off of the previous V5.0 twist coupler design. As you would expect (and likely see), this one had its share of new design features as well.

Hit the jump to read all about this latest version of Posey

Continue reading Project Posey: Janus

There’s Love in the Marsh

Drum roll please… no really, let’s hear it … drum roll…. Welcome to the first bird post of 2015 .. explosions, streamer, ticker tapes, applause and drunken anarchy in the streets. Or, maybe not.  Well, at least not the anarchy part since this isn’t a new bird to the blog.  We featured the Mute Swan previously in a two parter back in February ’14 (link here and here).
Mute Swans at Banner Marsh

The previous posts were from the Banner Marsh in Banner IL.  This shoot is also from Banner and for all I know are the exact same Swans.  They don’t wear clothes so it is really hard to tell them apart.  When I have to go through the painful process of talking about my hobbies and interests (a common activity as a result of numerous reorgs at work as of late) I always mention that my favorite part of photography is when I can get wildlife behavior in the tin.  Stoic shots are nice to have in the portfolio, but I personally prefer shots that have some form of emotion or expression that tells a little bit more.  Today’s featured shots do just that.  We were out at Banner on a rather cool day when things in the water began to heat up.  The Swan above came strolling by and spotted something of interest.  Up went the charm wings as it moved in for a closer look.

P

Hit the jump to see what all the excitement was on the marsh

Continue reading There’s Love in the Marsh

Project Posey: A Coupler of Enhancements

Hi all, it’s a new year but we have some unfinished business from a year ago….last Wednesday – sorry, old joke but I went with it since I actually heard it no less than three times while out in Vegas last week – maybe it’s making a comeback (likely not).  As you can tell from the title, in today’s post we focus on an upgrade to Project Posey – specifically, version 5.0 which brings with it a major design change thanks to an idea that came while hanging out one day in the PVC aisle at Menards  (almost for an entire day hehehe).  Here is a shot of the finished product, but I’ll take you through the key details.
Posey Version 5.0

There were a few issues with the previous designs that I was hoping to address.  The first of these was how to allow for changing the joint to any angle I wanted and still making the connection point strong enough to bear the weight of the configuration.  Up to now I’ve had to either lock the joint in a specific angle (as in V1.0) or leave the pipes free to move in the couplers but then they tended to give out on certain poses.  The other issue was to improve the storage aspect – the Posey’s were getting up in size and started taking up too much space in the storage area – The locked in version required me to basically rebuild them each season and the loose version required me to pop the pipes out of the couplers which basically started wearing down the connections making them even weaker.  Both of these issues ended up being addressed by a new twist coupler.

Posey Version 5.0

Hit the jump to see how this upgraded version comes together.

Continue reading Project Posey: A Coupler of Enhancements

Looking Back on 2014

What seemed like a whirlwind 2014 is officially over which means it is time to reflect on the year’s blogging efforts.  LifeIntrigued has now officially turned 8 years old, which is about 7 years longer than I ever expected to keep going with it.  The intent has morphed a bit since the early years having put more emphasis on photography and projects in the latter years – the early years focused heavily on day to day observations as I navigated this thing called life.  I’ve tried to keep the posting varied over the year mixing in projects, insects, recollections and such among the numerous bird posts.  Admittedly, I use my valued readers as free critique on my photography growth so very appreciative of all your comments this year.  For the fourth year in a row I hit my 6 posts per month even adding a ton of extra posts last January due to Project Chekov (link here).   It really hasn’t gotten much easier after all these years, but that is probably self induced with all the images that are worked up for all the posts – what is getting faster is my digital darkroom workflow as I get more accustomed to the tools and pretty  much know the look I’m going long before the work begins – oh, that sub goal of at least one image per post was shredded for another year – pummeled, stomped on, tossed around the room and ax kicked to the ground into total submission.  This year I’ll up that goal to at least 2 images for every non-general post! (I know, I know, even that should be an easy hit but it is good to have a goal you can own for the year to make up for any that might have slipped a bit.

Hoping this year brings the completion of Project Auuuunold – so close I can almost taste it.  No idea what I am going to do with all my free time once that project is wrapped up.  Book recollections were once again an underperformer this season but I think the project output makes up for that deficiency.  I am pretty proud of my Valentine’s project (link here) and Project Posey (link here) is close to becoming an obsession hehehe). Birding is still a passion of mine and looking forward to some trips planned for this year which should yield even more new checks in the birding list.  I’ve pretty much captured all the local birds in the area so travel is about the only way to shoot the new ones – luckily we have an RV now so that will come in handy for photo shoot outings.  I’ve always maintained that I only work out and run to make myself fit enough to go in search of birds in any terrain required.  Always enjoy it more when Linda can come with me to enjoy the process (and be my voice of reason when the thrill of the hunt starts impeding logic)

There is one element that makes this blog worth it and it’s YOU.  The time you commit to reading my meanderings and the extra time you take to provide your comments is greatly appreciated and invaluable to the progression of the site.  It is because of this commitment I push myself to give you the best quality of images and as polished a product I can muster each and every time – it also helps to distract from the pain of training since a lot of that time is spent planning out the next post.  Pretty sure I have enough left in the tank for at least another year and even some more ideas on how to liven up the blog a bit – one of those will hopefully be due to increased exposure as I’ve finally started to spread the word about my little corner on the information Highway.

And now, the annual stats for the year’s worth of blogging.

Hit the jump to see the 2014 stats! UPDATED 1/6/15 due to some late comments!

Continue reading Looking Back on 2014