Monday, December 22, 2008

This is an image of a postcard I have hanging in my living room. The image on the postcard was taken by a true gentlemen by the name of Roy Bishop. I had a great pleasure of meeting Roy in June of 2004, when I, along with with several friends, traveled to Nova Scotia to view the Transit of Venus. Alas, we saw only clouds, but thanks in large part to Roy's hospitality we had a great time never-the-less.

The postcard shows a rainbow over a farmhouse. But not just any farmhouse. This farmhouse is the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton. It was Newton who first figured out how the colors of the rainbow manifest themselves, via his experiments with prisms. Pretty cool.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The standard mode of transport of the old west, and for a large part of recorded history. today it is almost purely recreational in the west, as it is for this outing in Monument Valley.

This is the same buttonbush plant as used for the job theme image, which should give you an idea of the scale. The black spots on the flower are tiny worms. 

Two views of the coastline at Point Reyes National Seashore looking north (top image) and south from essentially the same spot. It was very foggy that day and you can see the effect of the fog in these images as haze in the distance. 

As we cruised out around the point into the pacific ocean (as shown in the water theme image) we were treated to this scene.  pelicans and magnificent frigate birds use these rocks for roosts, as yo can tell from the whitewash. If you look closely birds can be seen roosting on the leftmost rock, and more are flying in. Here is a larger version of the image for your viewing pleasure.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Arch at Land's End at the tip of the Baja peninsula, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This image was made on the sunset cruise described in the camera theme post.

One of the iconic views of the American southwest. You almost expect to see John Wayne to come riding into the scene. This image was made on my second trip to Monument Valley. 

My first trip was two years prior. My brother and I took my dad on a tour of northeast Arizona, visiting Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest/Painted Desert NP, Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon. My dad is a big western movie fan and loves to travel. He  has been all over the world and these days travels with my godfather (my mom hates to travel), who also joined us on that trip. (They are going to Hawaii after Christmas.) But dad had never been to the American southwest.

The trip with dad was in September 2006. It was to have been in April but while I was vacationing in the Florida Keys in February of that year, I got a call from dad. He was very apologetic but we where going to have to postpone our trip. He had visited the doctor that day and the doctor told him to "go home and do nothing". And scheduled him for bypass surgery. Obviously, the surgery was a success. And the trip was postponed a mere six months, although this was probably a bit too soon, as dad experienced shortness of breath throughout the trip. It was a great trip never-the-less.

And our visit to Monument Valley was during a dust storm. Very cool. But the second day the lock mechanism on our rental car broke, we couldn't get in, and the nearest AAA guy was three hours away. Not so cool.

By nature, using wind, water, ice, and time to sculpt Canyon de Chelly.

The White House Ruins at Canyon de Chelly. The name "White House" was conferred upon them because there was a white wash applied to the brick face. Alas, it has mostly weathered away.  Wear and tear by human visitors also took its toll and now the ruins are fenced off. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

After visiting Canyon de Chelly we continued on to Monument Valley. This is the right mitten in the early morning twilight. It was windy and cold. And we loved every minute of it.

Here are three examples of rock art in Canyon de Chelly. (Another example can be found in the Fingers theme.)

These images themselves aren't exceptional. But the content they depict is fascinating. Hundreds or even thousands of years ago someone not unlike me stood in much the spots I did and made these images in the rock wall. These artists and I are separated by time and culture. But here I am doing much the same thing. Posting my images on my culture's wall. Although I expect mine will be much more transient.

I'd love to be able to go back in time, meet these artists, and talk shop. Arguing the merits of chisel and rock versus Photoshop and blogs. I'm sure we'd get along just fine.

After we made it across the stream at the White House Ruins, chronicled in the Obstacle theme post, we had this incident. We were still under the mistaken impression that our rental car had four wheel drive. It did not. And that would be our downfall, and end our excursion into Canyon de Chelly.

There was a stretch in the canyon of several hundred meters of sand. We made it about a hundred or so meters in. And the SUV bottomed out. The vehicle was actually resting on the sand. We tried to dig the tires out, but the tires wound up spinning in air. We gathered scraps of drift wood and attempted to wedge it under the tires. The spinning tires made a very effective log launcher.

Several other tourist vehicles drove past ours. The tourists smiled and waved. And the drivers kept on driving. But as noted in the obstacle post, our Navajo guide was friends with some of the canyon residents. Fortunately for us his friends drove by. And they had chains. And they were willing to tow us out. Our guide later explained that the other tour drivers were reluctant to help because if anything went wrong they could be held liable. But since he was friends with these folks they would help us.

And now I have a fun story to embarrass my co-worker with. And a blog post.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rock art in Canyon de Chelly. People have lived in the canyon for at least 4500 years. And they have left many artworks carved in or painted on the rock walls there.

I've not been able to discover which group and from which period this art is from. The best reference I have puts it during the Pueblo period which was from 750 - 1300 CE. So I'll go with that. The Navajo who live there now refer to these people as the Anasazi, which literally means "ancestors of our enemies" but in common vernacular means "ancient ones".

I've also learned that the negative hand print is relatively rare. Rarer still is the reclining flute player, of which there but three examples in the canyon (there are more flute player images, but only three reclining). It is also not clear if the flue player is Kokopelli.  Kokopelli is a figure in Hopi lore and the Hopi did visit the canyon. But not all flute players are Kokopelli.

The hand print is thought to be the signature of the artist. Perhaps the multiple hand prints means that there were multiple artists over time. 

366 Theme 309: Self Portrait

Yours truly at Canyon de Chelly.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An image from the Desert Botanical Gardens without any birds. Imagine that.

But if you need a bird/cactus fix click.

Continuing the "birds at the botanical gardens" series, look closely a this image to find two verdin on this cholla cactus (click on the image for a larger version). 

Most people would walk right by never noticing the small grey birds with the yellow heads. Nor would they spot the nest they've made (the mass of twigs in the center, one bird is poking its head out of it). It's their secret hideaway. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another image made at the Desert Botanical Gardens, of another bird that only occasionally stays still. 

I don't know the specific species of this bird, but hummingbirds depend on sugar rich nectar for up to 90% of their diet. Insects (small!) and pollen make up the remainder.

Hummingbirds aren't really all that difficult to photo as they are territorial and they hover. As a consequence of territoriality they tend to return to the same roost spots and can become tolerant of humans. At the Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park (approximately an hour east of Phoenix) I made images of a hummingbird nest in a potted plant outside the park gift shop, as mamma hummingbird sat contentedly watching the people walk by. I wonder if she knew the humans would deter predators?

I imaged this cactus wren at the Desert Botanical Gardens. 

I imaged this cactus wren at the Desert Botanical Gardens.

I imaged this cactus wren at the Desert Botanical Gardens, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Over and over. And it never stopped moving. Here it is chasing after insects, running along the branch. Up, down, back, forth, head bobbing, wings fluttering. The only time it seemed to stand still was when it was behind the branch. I got one keeper out of the bunch. And this one.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

While in Cabo we took a sunset cruise. Our hostess came around and using our cameras took pictures of us passengers. Here she is taking a picture of my brother and his wife. In the camera viewfinder you can see them and in the background off the bow of the boat the Arch at Lands End.

While there was a crew of half a dozen on the boat, our hostess did pretty much everything but drive. In addition to picture taking she entertained the kids on board, making tiny shirts out of dollar bills ("want to buy a souvenir shirt for a dollar?" My sister almost said no!); she danced with the passengers; she sat on our laps and fed us tequila; she put out the food (chips and salsa); and she climbed the mast to rig the sales. She was lively and had a great sense of humor, even when she was telling jokes she must have told hundreds of times. 

The cruise was fun for all of us, except maybe for dad. He gets seasick just looking at boats. While we were under sail he was fine. But once we stopped and just bobbed on the waves he began to get uncomfortable. But he made it. And we got some gorgeous views of the sunset over the Pacific ocean. And I few keeper images.

I am not a morning person, yet in Cabo I woke up every morning save one to shoot sunrise. I had the advantage of three time zones, me being from the east coast and Cabo being on Mountain time but on a different day light savings/standard time schedule form the US. 

did I mention that I'm not a morning person? I hate mornings and it was still a struggle to get up. Fortunately I did not have to go far. All of my sunrise images were taken from the deck of our rooms. I believe I mentioned in a prior post that my sister has a time share here. And I'll be going back again this April. And I expect to shoot another thousand images. Many of the sunrise. From this same deck.

I also expect to be napping on the deck everyday. Just like last time. I can't wait!

 A nice morning paddle with the dog.  Another Cabo image.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This is a picture of the first photo I ever had published, in the magazine it was published in. And I got paid $50! Well sort of. I got a $50 credit with Sky Publishing. The photo was published in the March/April issue of the short lived bimonthly magazine Night Sky which, not surprisingly to those paying attention, was published by Sky Publishing. (If you are wondering how a picture taken on July 29th was in the March/April issue, it's simple: I have a time machine.*)

Sky Publishing's flagship magazine is/was Sky & Telescope (I say is/was as Sky Publishing is no more, having been purchased by New Track Media, but Sky & Telescope is still going strong). Sky & Tel (as it is affectionately known) is geared toward the more experienced amateur astronomer. Night Sky was aimed more at newcomers to the hobby.

I submitted my image to Sky & Tel and they accepted it, for Night Sky. Several months later Night Sky was gone. I do not believe there was a causal relationship.

The original image can be found here. I used the same technique to make my time theme image.

(* or it was taken in 2005 and published in 2006. Unfortunately, my time machine only goes forward.)

This image shows several of the buildings at Fort Hancock. And in back of the buildings is the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. So there are several levels of history here.

As mentioned in the previous post, the first fort was built on Sandy Hook during the War of 1812. Fort Hancock was established in 1899 and was decommissioned in 1974. These days the buildings are used as museums, oceanographical research labs, the aforementioned Sandy Hook Bird Observatory, support buildings for the park, and some of the officers quarters are used as homes.

The lighthouse at Sandy Hook was built in 1764 and has been in continuous operation since. It is the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States.

And there is a bit of personal history here as well (in addition to that mentioned in the prior post). My father was in the army during the Korean War. And he had the "misfortune" to be stationed at Cape Cod and here at Fort Hancock. I suppose there are worse places to spend a war. 

A Nike Ajax missile on the side of the road in the Sandy Hook unit of Gateway National Recreation Area.

Sandy Hook is known for its Lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse in the USA; for its beaches, including the largest clothing optional beach on the Atlantic coast; for the over 300 species of birds which can be found there (NJ Audubon Society has a bird observatory on the hook); and for being a military base Fort Hancock.

Today the only active military presence is the US Coast Guard, which occupies the very tip of the hook. The first fort was built during the War of 1812 and it went out of service in 1974. 

The Nike missiles are a relic of the cold war era and were operational starting in 1954 and decommissioned in 1974. The missile site is in a state of neglect and disrepair these days, but the park is planning to restore the area as a historical site.

I grew up less than five miles from here, and would occasionally ride my bike out to Sandy Hook. As I boy scout I went camping here. And a friend of mine's dad was in the military and we got to use the military beach and avoid the crowds. And all that time there were missiles poised to go off at a moments notice. (There were more next to my high school, on top of a hill overlooking the bay. That area is now a park as well, Hartshorne Woods.) 

It seems I had a very well defended childhood. And I haven't even mentioned the Earle Naval Weapons station, which was one town over in the other direction.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A typical day at the beach ...