Sunday, August 29, 2010


"There's a little black spot on the sun today ..." 
-- The Police

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

(From my recent weekend in the Adirondacks.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Plant List

I went on a plant geek field trip on Saturday to a savannah in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. The trip leader, Russell Juelg of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance encouraged each participant to keep a plant list.

Here's mine.

(Well, part of it anyway.)

Chrysopsis falcata (Sickle-leaved Aster)

Juncus caesariensis (NJ Rush)

Platanthera blephariglottis (White Fringed Orchid)
((A wee bit past prime.))

Lobelia nuttallii (Nuttall's Lobelia)

Drosera intermedia (Spatulate-leaved Sundew)

Vaccinium macrocarpon (Cranberry)

Wolf Spider
(Not a plant.)

Rhexia virginica (Meadow Beauty)

Aster nemralis (Bog Aster)

Polygala brevifolia (Short-leaved Milkwort)

Eastern Tailed-Blue
(A Flying Flower?)

Hypericum canadense (Canada St. John's-wort)

Schizaea pusilla (Curly Grass Fern)

Drosera intermedia (Spatulate-leaved Sundew)
((Yeah, a repeat, but I like carnivores.))

Sagittaria latifolia (Common Arrowhead)

Leopard Frog
(Another non-plant)
((If you look closely you can see my reflection in its eye.))

Ludwigia hirtella
(I don't know the common name.)
Update: Hairy Ludwigia

Lycopus amplectens (Sessile-leaved Bugleweed)

Sclerolepis ? (Bog Buttons)
((I don't have a specific epithet  for this one, as all my references expect the flower to be pink.))
Update: Sclerolepis Uniflora

Pearl Crescent
(Another butterfly.)
((You knew that, right?))

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)

Hypericum spathulatum (Shrubby St. John's-wort)

Hypericum  virginicum (Marsh St. Joh's-wort)

Utricularia cornuta (Horned Bladderwort)

We saw lots of other stuff but I was unable to get good images. :-(

Maybe next time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Shooting The Moon

"Shoot The Moon: To attempt the near-impossible." 
-- Urban Dictionary

I've attempted to photograph the International Space Station (ISS) as it passes in front of the Sun or Moon on at least four occasions.

I've been "successful" twice.

Successful is in scare quotes as while I've made images with the ISS in them, the first time no one would know that for looking at them. For the one and only solar transit I attempted to photograph, the ISS is there, but only as a blurred smudge. Bummer.*

I tried again yesterday as the ISS transited the Moon. And I finally obtained images worth showing. Not great images by any means. But images such when I say you can see the ISS people will generally believe me.

See it? (As always, click on the images to bigafy.) It is right there just below Mare Tranquillitatis, to the left of Mare Fecunditatis, and above Mare Nectaris. (That is, in that light area surrounded by dark areas one third of the way from the right edge and just about halfway from top to bottom. Yeah, it is a squarish black dot.)

I did say "generally".

Here is a second shot using the same camera, a Canon 50D with a 100-400mm lens at 400mm, with a 2x doubler, for a focal length of 800mm.

See how it moved? The black spot, err, ISS is now near the crater Copernicus (the bright spot a bit above the center line and toward the left edge).

The sharp eyed among you may have noticed another black dot in the upper center of the image. A bird perhaps?

I was using two cameras and I managed to get it with my second camera as well, a Canon 20D using a Quester 700 mirror lens, with a focal length of 700mm.

Curiously, the ISS is almost at the same spot as in the first image.

Both cameras were at ISO 800 with a shutter speed of 1/500 sec. The 50D was at f/11 and the 20D at f/8, the maximum aperture for both.

The space station took all of 1.01 seconds to cross the face of the Moon. And it was not visible except when silhouetted. So we, I was there with seven friends, five of us who were attempting to image the event, aimed our cameras at the moon and started firing away when the time signal on our shortwave radio hit the time the transit was to start. We all captured at least one image. I had both cameras set to multi-shot and used wired remotes to trigger the shutter. I fired off sixty-six shots (49 with the 50D and 17 with the 20D).

And managed three with the ISS in them.

Yep, successful.

No scare quotes.

* To read the story of that outing and see what a real photographer can do, click here. Be sure to read the very last sentence (in the "Other Observers" section just before the exposure data.) To read Jerry's story of last night's festivities, and see his image (much better than mine) click here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One Month Ago Today

Sunset in the South Seas.

(Has it been that long already?)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Flowers

Can you name them all?


The answers, not in order of appearance, are:

Monkey Flower
Green Woodland Orchid
Virginia Knotweed
Common Dayflower
Appalachian Ironweed
Cardinal Flower

Good luck!
A Storm of Birds

Each year about this time a spectacular event occurs.

(click any image to bigafy)

Purple martins prepare to migrate south to Brazil for the winter, amassing in incredible numbers, with tens of thousands of birds gathering along the Maurice River in southern New Jersey. The numbers vary year to year, but between 65,000 to 100,000 birds congregate here each August.

The birds come to roost in the reeds along the river, gathering just after sunset. (Thus the purple sunset sky in these images.) ((Kind of appropriate, huh?)) The birds fly in from all directions, with thousands upon thousands flying directly overhead. Wondrous.

The photos do not do the phenomena justice. It sounds cliche, but it really is one of those things you have to see to truly appreciate. The lens I was using has a 12° field of view. So multiply by thirty to get the full sky view. Yep, that's a lot of birds.


And if you are in New Jersey you can see it. Next weekend (August 13 and 14, 2010), Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries is hosting the annual Purple Martin Festival in Cumberland County New Jersey. If you can, you should go.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Going to See a Girl about a Horse

The girl is Maya. The horse is Dudley.

I've known Maya for some years now and have seen her become an accomplished rider (and math wiz!)

This was my first acquaintance with Dudley.

Maya and Dudley recently spent four days at the Burlington County Farm Fair where they gave rides to kids big and small (although, despite my encouragement, some were too chicken to ride).

I went to the fair to see Maya (her mom had clued me in that she would be there, and asked me to take some pictures). And I brought a friend along, mainly to have her meet Dudley and satisfy a birthday wish.

They also participated in several competitions, having won a multi-club meet that morning, representing the Burlington County 4H Club. Maya's been winning competitions for seven years now, the last two teamed with Dudley.

Despite having to perform in the very hot and humid conditions at the fair (and sleeping under the horse tent!) both Maya and Dudley were very patient in answering questions and allowing petting respectively.

Including questions on dental hygiene ...

... and hay consumption.

But eventually it became time for Dudley to return to his stall for a scrubbing, a snack, and then sleep.

So after our quality equine face time we said our goodbyes and wandered off to explore the rest of the fair.

There were food stands (yummy mango water ice!), craft tents, rides, old tractors, and plenty of other animals to pet. And some very photogenic crepuscular rays, several of which stretched from horizon to horizon (where's my wide angle lens when I need it?).