The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Trip To Virginia


If you are on the road for travel this holiday – be on the watch for birds of prey.  With the leaves off of the trees, it is easy to spot the hawks sitting high watching for prey in open fields or along the roadside. 


Last week I drove from our home to my hometown in Virginia.  Since I was driving and had to keep an eye on the traffic, I did not get to "hawk watch" as well as I can when I am the passenger.  This time of year you can see them along the road – sitting high in the bare trees.  Even just driving around your local areas – they are there to be seen.  In the past month as I drove my daughter to her weekly class in Hampton, we spotted a hawk (I believe it was a Red-Tailed Hawk) on the power lines near the Atlanta Speedway.  It was perched in nearly the same spot more than once – looking down and out over a clear area. 


The hawks prey includes smaller birds – sparrows, American Robins, starlings, and doves to name a few.  The size of the prey depends on the size of the hawk doing the hunting.  Hawks will also eat rodents – chipmunks, tree squirrels, and mice.  Just the other day I was standing near our new bird feeder and thinking about the circle of life it represents.  Around the post at the ground I saw sunflower seedlings beginning to sprout – I knew they would not make it since it is December.  But, in the spring we just might see a sunflower or two from the dropped seeds.  Those seedlings are choice food for slugs, snails, and chipmunks.  Just as the birds, chipmunks, and squirrels love to eat the seeds and maybe even the seedlings of the sunflowers – the feeder is feeding another creature – the predator.  Hawks love backyard bird feeders.  The feeder brings out the smaller birds and rodents.  Hawks sit on their high perch watching and waiting.  When the right time happens, they swoop down and grab their prey and take it off to another perch.  Think about it – most of the backyard feeders are placed where we (people) can get a good view of the birds.  If we are getting a good view – so is the hawk.  When I toss out old carrots, apples, and such for the bunnies, chipmunks, deer, and what ever else happens by, I toss th em near the edge of the woods thinking I am giving the animals a bit of a chance with some "cover."   The food chain of the backyard feeder – seeds can become seedlings, then plants or food for animals – the birds and rodents can eat seeds or plants or become food for the hawks.


As we traveled across most of 4 states, I saw 5 hawks – a couple in flight.  If those had been perched, I may not have noticed them.  If you ever drive on Interstate 85 north of Durham, you can spot a sight.  Years ago there used to be a large nest, not made of small twigs and grass – but made of branches from trees.  This nest was at the top of a powerline pole as you crossed Falls Lake.  I can't tell you when – but at some point the powerline was run onto different poles.  Now there are two tall pol es there with a building platform at the top.  One of these poles has a huge nest on the platform.  The nest had to be built by an osprey or an eagle.  I have never seen a bird at this nest or any of the other times I have traveled by the structure.  I Googled to see if I could find any information on the nest – I have not found anything about it. 


We hear so much about the drought locally.  The drought reaches to North Carolina and Virginia.  Although Virginia has had some rain and their lakes don't look to low – in North Carolina it is another story.  The Falls Lake mentioned above looks like acres of mud flats with a small creek running through it.  The lake areas in South Carolina around Lake Hartwell were also very low and some looked to be only a small stream where there had once been a cove.


I did not stop to take photos of any of this.  I did take photos while on the short trip. 


I traveled to the property my grandparent's home is on and the property where my great-great grandparents home once stood.  The only thing at the old homeplace now is the ruins of the kitchen.  Near these ruins there would be many daffodils blooming in the early spring and a nice little patch of asparagus.  The property is very familiar to me and yet very different.  I remember the trails and the way down the hill to the lake.  Where my granddaddy's garden once grew there are many small trees – it does not look like a garden was ever there.  The old well where I used to get a cold drink on a hot day is gone.  My grandmother had the w ell filled in – she was worried that someone would allow their children to roam free on the property.  I remember one day standing in the little well house, getting a drink from the bucket.  I looked up and saw a huge black snake lying on the ledge near the roof.  I remember my grandfather plowing the garden by himself, by hand.  He would grow tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, turnips, cucumbers and squash.  I would stand in the garden and pick cherry tomatoes from the plants – they were delicious.


My grandfather's bean poles are left leaning against the old pear tree.  The tree looks like it has not had a pear on it for years.  The bean poles have not been used for years either.  The fence he had surrounding the garden area is falling down and green with moss and lichens.  I see the gate left open and remember the time the horse cut the corner at the gate a little sharply and a nail scraped my leg as I rode through it.  The old stable area is quiet, but it looks like something is using it for a home.  There is a hole chewed in the back wall and a place dug under a board.  The hen house is dark and silent.  The old apple and persimmon trees look like the pear tree – a long time since anything grew on them.  Here and there you can see old stobs of small trees that a beaver has cut off and taken away to help build its dam.  I remember seeing the beavers slap their tails on the water as a warning when my grandfather and I would walk down the hill.


As my aunt and I continue our walk, we head down the path to the lake.  I remember going down this path with my grandfather many times.  I remember him pointing out the chinquapin bush to me as we would pass.  He and I would fish there many days.  He would tell me that if I dug the worms, he would take me down the hill to fish.  I gladly dug the worms.  He always baited my hook.  In a stump, down near the water, there is a roll of barbed wire.  My grandfather must have left it there many years ago.  The water level in this lake is a little low.  My aunt and I can see deer tracks coming down the hill through the leaves.  At the bottom of the hill there is a small place where the deer have been sliding in the mud as they make their way to the edge for a drink.  Since the weather has been mild, there are many ferns showing bright green in the brown leaves that litter the ground.  I took a few pictures there that day.  When I go back, I will take some more.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Meteor Showers

The Geminid meteor shower is coming!  One of the best meteor showers of the year peaks in the early morning of December 14th.   You have the Perseids in August, the Leonids in November – now it is December and here come the Geminids.  Meteor showers get their name from the constellations they seem to come out of.  Perseids come from near the constellation Perseus – kind of in between Perseus and Cassiopeia, but closer to Perseus.  The Leonids seem to radiate from the constellation Leo.  So – following that train of thought, the Geminids are found shooting out from the constellation Gemini.  All three of these famous meteor showers happen around the middl e of the month they are associated with – so remember next August – the Perseids can really be spectacular.  I remember one year laying on a lawn chair to watch Earthgrazer meteors streak across the sky.  An Earthgrazer is a meteor that skims along the Earth's atmosphere like a stone skipping on a pond.  They are big, bright, and very pretty.  Earthgrazers appear with the meteor shower is near the horizon.  This shoots the meteors more horizontally rather than coming down at a more vertical trajectory.


Head outside Thursday night after 10 p.m. and look toward the constellation Gemini.  If you can't find Gemini – look for Orion.  Almost anyone can find Orion's belt – Gemini is not as easy to spot. Gemini is close to Orion.  After midnight the number of meteors seen per hour will increase until dawn Friday morning.


There are a lot of fun websites about meteors and space things.  There is one place where you can find the "near Earth objects."  That can get a little freaky to read what is coming close and when.


Here are some links of interest.  The first one is a story on this year's Geminids.  You can sign up with NASA for email alerts for anything space related.  For the next couple nights – you can go outside to spot the space station flying over.

Info on the Geminids next week

Go here – click on your state – click on the city (or closest to you) this will show when the International Space Station is flying over.  I missed it early last evening -- I have another couple chances -- today and Thursday.

Go here to find out about the latest on Sun spots, near Earth asteroids, and see some really cool photo galleries of space related objects and clouds.


Now if I can get everyone in the neighborhood to turn off their outside lights!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

People, People, People

Now that you are visiting with so many friends and family during the holidays – wouldn't it be nice to take some really great photos of them?


Many people who love the hobby of photography shy away from taking photos of people.  It is a challenge to get a good shot of some – especially those who don't want to be photographed.  When I was little, we visited my great grandmother's house Christmas Day.  My grandmother's brother had one of those old movie cameras with the big, bright, brilliant light on it.  Did I say it was bright?   I remember seeing that light coming from the kitchen and heading toward the living room (where all the people were sitting around talking).  As the light approached, many (mostly women) would scatter, running from the movie camera, unwilling to be immortalized on film.


If you are trying to get a good photo of a small child or baby – give them something to hold on to or look at.  Have them busy with something and then take photos of them.  One of the best ways to "get them busy" is to have a young child read or look at a book.  You can get some great facial expressions from them when they are involved with a book.  Even younger children can hold a favorite toy or just a piece of fruit.  If you hand a young child an apple and they happen to stick it in their mouth – no big deal – and it could make a cute photo.   If you have more than one child – give them something to do as a group.  One could read to the others.  Try to keep their faces close.  If they are too spread apart the photo could lose interest.   At Christmas it is nice to have decorations handy for props.  Plug in a string of tree lights and place them in the lap of a child or children.  Snap away!  Another fun time to take photos with children is while decorating or eating Christmas cookies. 


When taking photos of adults – the same kinds of strategies can apply.  If you give them something to do, they will appear more natural and not "posed" or stiff.  If there is nothing handy to physically give them something to do – get them engaged in a conversation about something they find interesting.  This will also help loosen them up for more natural photos. 


Use your portrait setting on the camera.  This will make your subject in sharp focus while the background will be blurred.  But, just because it is blurred, don't forget to look at the background.  You may have the best family portrait of the whole year – but if the background is distracting – you won't be pleased for long.  There is only so much you can do in Photoshop.   If everyone is visiting and they are wearing clothing that doesn't look great jumbled all together in one big family photo – switch to black and white (you can use just about any photo-editing software to convert color images to black and white later).  In black and white, no one knows Aunt Mary is wearing bright pink and Aunt Jane has on an orange sweater with brown stripes – even if they are sitting right next to each other.  Think about lighting – side light from a window is wonderful for indoor people shots.   Lighting still an issue, then turn on all the lights you can find.  If you still need to use flash – maybe just fill flash – make sure there are no mirrors or reflective surfaces in the photo to shine the glare back at the camera.  Take photos at eye level – but that does not mean every single one – have some of people sitting, leaning forward just a little, and looking up – slightly – this is a good pose for just a plain ol' sitting & smiling photo.  If you are taking photos of kids – fill the frame with their faces.  Remember that placing the subject off center in th e photo creates more interest.  If you have them looking in a certain direction – be sure to give them "space" in the frame to look into.  When filling the frame with a face -- beware of the giant nose that a wide angle lens can create and know your minimum focus distance.  If you are gettimg too much of the "big nose" back up a little and use the zoom.


The best way to ensure you will have some good photos – take a lot of them!  Digital makes it easy.  I remember when I was using film.  It would take a couple rolls of film to get just a couple good shots of the kids – together and alone.  Now I can take however many I can fit onto the memory cards (and I have extra memory cards and batteries!).  Also don't rush yourself – take your time to see the composition of the photo that you want.   Don't forget to add variety to your photos – that is why I say take photos at eye level (but not all the time).  Having shots from different angles adds interest.


I have cute photos of my kids.  I also have some not so cute – but we won't go there.  There are quite a few good ones of my son (about 2 or 3) sitting on the kitchen counter while he was "helping" me mix up batter for a cake or brownies.  There is one photo of my daughter that I just love.  I had received a delivery of a large piece of fabric one day.  She helped me open the package.  At the time I believe she was also about 2 or 3.  We took out the large piece and threw it into the air in the living room – like a parachute.  It came down on us – we did this a few times and she was laughin g a lot.  My camera was close – so I grabbed it and went under the fabric.  When the fabric went up again – I had the camera right there for a great face shot.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving -- how about a couple recipes....
Grandmother Wood's Poundcake
3 sticks butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
Cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Mix together salt, baking powder and flour.  Add the flour mixture alternately with milk ending with flour.  Mix in the flavoring.  Pour into a greased and floured tube pan.  Bake in a preheated (325º) oven for 90 minutes.  The cake is done when it springs back when lightly touched and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Let stand for 10 minutes when you remove it from the oven.  Remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack.
Grandma Lucille's Famous Baked Beans
1 (52 oz.) can of pork and beans
1 (31 oz.) can of pork and beans
1 bottle (32 oz.) King Syrup
If you can't find King Syrup -- the dark Karo syrup will work.  Pour the liquid out of the 31 oz. can of beans and half of the liquid out of the 52 oz. can.  Combine the cans of beans with about 2/3 of a bottle of syrup in a baking dish.  Top the beans with strips of bacon.  Bake in a 350º oven until thick and bubbly -- aproximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
I have a pound cake in the oven right now and the beans will be cooked later today.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Trading Blooms for Bulldozers?

After trying to fit it into my schedule during the past couple weeks, I finally made it to Line Creek for the fall foliage a couple days ago. 


Driving west on Highway 54 – as I approached the turn for the nature area – I was amazed at the amount of construction (or is it destruction?) going on at the entrance to the drive to the nature area.  In fact, I did not turn in to the old Days Inn parking lot as I usually do.  I made a U-turn and went in at an unmarked spot.  In a place with signage marking so many stores and shops, you have to know where you are heading to find the nature area, but if you are looking for Best Buy it is easy to find.  With the new "detour" I had to take, if you had never been there before, you would not be able to find it.  I had to be very careful that the large earthmovers and dump trucks were not coming my way as I drove over humps and bumps they had cre ated in the small dirt lane.  Speaking of dump trucks – the blue one on my bumper as I sat at the light waiting to make the U was not making me nervous – I think that was the intent.  Why is this needed?  Well, it is not "needed," is it? 


The drive back through the trees made me feel like I was leaving the commotion behind.  I parked the car and got out.  As soon as I got out of the car, I realized that the noise of the heavy machinery would continue with me.  I walked down the pathway toward the duck pond and could not believe how close the "progress" came to the other side of the pond.  Is this really what the people of Peachtree City and Fayette County want?  The next thing you know we will really become the "Gwinnett of South Atlanta."


I headed down the path to the creek.  It was a beautiful day – warm with, sun and a few clouds here and there.  Who could tell it was the middle of November?  It was not the ideal time of day to head out for photos.  I arrived just past lunch time.  I would have preferred to be there at 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. but I did what I could.  When I heard the weather forecast for the coming days – rain perhaps (if only) and wind – I figured the leaves might fall much faster and I would miss some of the beautiful color.  Walking along the trail by the creek I was happy to see such brilliant color – t here were oranges, reds, yellows, and rich golds on the trees.  There was a certain spot I was heading toward.  This spot is where I have taken photos of the bare trees in February, green-leaved trees in June and July, and now I wanted the same view with the colors of fall.  The level of water did not seem any less than the last time I was there in July.  I was pleasantly surprised since I was expecting barely a trickle.  In some places it was barely a trickle – but it had been that way months ago.  The sun came and went behind the clouds as I took plenty of photos standing (and sitting) on the rocks that had been covered by water in February.  I walked down the rocks to get a sh ot of a leaning tree in the distance.  You know, I forgot to take along my Croc kneepads!  I remembered them as I kneeled on the rocks.  To get the shot in a different perspective, I sat on the rock so I could peep through the viewfinder.  As I sat there I heard a rustling in the leaves on the Coweta side of the creek.  The rustling kept getting louder and closer!  I had visions of a fox or coyote.  I decided to keep my seat and be very still.  Just then a chipmunk jetted out of the woods and skittered across the rocks to the Fayette side of the creek only to disappear into the woods again.  Did the construction on Highway 54 colla pse any tunnels of chipmunks?  Were there squirrels' nests in the trees that were pushed over?


At the edge of the woods an unusual color for this time of year caught my eye – a pretty blue flower.  I got closer and noticed a bright yellow butterfly on a bloom.  The butterfly was to fast for me – I could not tell exactly what it was – perhaps a Cloudless Sulphur or Southern Dogface.  The plant blooming was a Stiff Gentian (Gentiana quinquefolia) or also known as Agueweed.  This plant blooms purple or pale blue.  It is an 'endangered' species in Maryland and Connecticut and 'threatened' in Vermont and Michigan.  I think of the "improvements" happening close to the creek and wonder how long before it is threatened in Georgia.  Standing there near the plants you can barely hear the equipment tearing up the ground and leveling everything in their path.  Did they shove red clay over any blue blooms of the Stiff Gentian?  Couldn't Fayette County use more blooming wildflowers than retail space?


Last night I was showing the fall foliage photos to a student.  I contrasted a certain photo of the creek with one taken of a similar view last February.  I was showing the bare trees versus the fall colors.  The first thing she noticed was the difference in the water level.  The blooming wildflower made me remember the beautiful blooms I had seen along the roadsides all during fall – the pinks, yellows, purples.  Now I see this beautiful blue wildflower.  All of these blooms when we are experiencing the worst drought in years – how could it be?  These must be incredibly hardy plants.   They can stand up to almost anything – anything except a bulldozer.


Line Creek is a beautiful place.  A nice trail is there along the creek.  There you can find many types of trees, vines, wildflowers, plants, animals, – in the creek; fish, and yep – mollusks.  I know we are all tired of hearing about mussels – with the drought and the releasing of water from Buford Dam to help keep them alive.  I can understand the weariness of it – but what about the decline based on sediment and runoff from the deforestation for the sole purpose of construction of retail space?  Is it worth it?  Freshwater mussels in Georgia have declined – they are sensitive to pollution, sedimentation, and other human-induced habitat alterations.  Are the people of Fayette County trading serenity and blooms for bulldozers and parking lots in the Line Creek area of Peachtree City?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Don't Buy Paint on a Sunday Afternoon

Don't buy paint on a Sunday afternoon. 


I bought some paint last Sunday.  After I got home – I painted a few test streaks on the wall where I am interested in having this color.  It looked very light to me.  But, hey – it was wet.  I decide to walk off for a while and let it dry.  Surely when it dries it would match the paint chip, right?


It dried – it still looked light – but I went on to paint some test colors in other rooms.


Monday morning I place the chip on the wall in the kitchen – the darker gold color I chose for that room is a perfect match to the chip.  The color is nice too.  It is a little darker than what had been in the kitchen.  I like it.  My husband likes it.  I plan to finish the kitchen and sitting area in the darker gold this week.  The "real name" of this color is Carolina Inn Crossroads Gold.  The dining room test color (Carolina Inn Lobby Yellow) is an exact match as well and a nice color.  I plan to use it on two accent walls in the li ving room as well as the dining room. 


Upstairs the sewing room and "daybed room" (I call it that – technically it is our guest room.  In the near future I plan to have the sewing room as a guest room – slash – sewing room – slash – library.  Both of these rooms have a fresh coat of Paris Mint on them.  The color matches exactly to the color chip.  By the way, I love these new paint chips with the square cut out – it really makes matching or just checking the color and how it matches with other colors and fabric much easier!  There are two other rooms upstairs that need a coat of Paris Mint.  That will come soon.  The hall bathroom is a wash of some kind of green that I did hastily one day.  Soon this room will have a fresh coat of white on the walls.  It may take a couple coats to cover that green mess I used to like.


So, upstairs is "going green" and the kitchen/dining room is awash in gold, both light and dark.  The breakfast room (which was my morning room – now my daughter's school room) will go green.  I chose Belle Grove Moss for this room.  It was on the chip card with Paris Mint – a little darker – I like it.  Also I like this Belle Grove Moss for the powder room.  The powder room is now a crimson color that is nice – but I am ready for a change.  These greens and golds (all except for Paris Mint are National Trust for Historic Preservation colors) come from a piece of fabric I purchased a few months ago.  This fabric is my road map for the colors in the house – the new paint and still to find new furniture.  I see, I see, (looking in my crystal ball here – or is it a Magic 8 Ball?) a trip to the furniture store in my future.  The ball says, "Ask again later."


The chip for Belle Grove Moss does not match – the next day – it is dry – it is too light.


We are redoing the hallway bathroom upstairs; new vanity, new sink/top, tile, the works – so of course we have to head to Lowe's (how many times have I been to Lowe's in the last two weeks???).  When we are getting ready to go, I grab the paint chip card and the gallon of not-really Belle Grove Moss.  I stood in line at the return desk at Lowe's for a long time, long enough to see the girl behind the counter count, and scan about a million little copper pieces of pipe that this guy was returning – three times!  My husband had traveled throughout the store, found what he needed, and was heading back in my direction.  The look on his face was utter surprise that I was still in line and had, in fact, not moved an inc h since we came in the door.  He volunteered to take my place in line while I went to the paint counter to have them make a new gallon of for-sure Belle Grove Moss.  Finally, my husband was being assisted – I saw him move over to the side – so I walked up across the aisle and asked what was going on.  He said, "I found out you can't return custom colors."  And he laughed – I laughed – this was not the "custom color" I had been looking for – that was why it was being returned.  The paint guy had to see it and check it out.  The same paint guy who was busy making my new gallon.  Once he got the paint and checked the gallon I was returning with the gallon that he had just mixed – yo u could see a major difference.  The gallon I returned was too light.  OK, so you – just as I did – wonder how that did happen.  That paint mixer is pretty automated – you put in numbers, or letters, or something and the different colors squirt out to make the "custom color" you asked for.  Well – I bought that gallon on a Sunday afternoon – a lot of people paint on the weekends.  A lot of paint is sold on the weekend.  I bought mine near the end of the weekend – the tints some times run out – and some times the person mixing may or may not pay attention to that.  If he/she is not paying attention – you can get the most custom of all colors!  I did get one of those one-of-a- kind colors.  Lowe's marked the can $7.  It became a bargain.  So if you bought a can of not-really Belle Grove Moss at Lowe's, it is a nice green.  It was just not the green I was looking for.

Monday, October 29, 2007

To see photos from field shoots

Here is a link to the page at my website with a few photos from recent club shoots -- there are some from Oakland Cemetery and Fowler Auto Parts.

Fowler's Auto Parts

Fowler's Auto Parts in Griffin is a hidden treasure of photographic opportunities.

Last Saturday the Fayette Photo Club met at Mr. Fowler's place. It was easy to find but you would never think from the highway that there is an auto junkyard of this size behind the white fence. When I arrived my first thought was where do I park? There is not a specific parking space except for those taken up by vehicles that will never move again (unless a tow truck is involved). There are rows and rows of these vehicles.

I am not good with years of cars but I can tell you I can't remember the last time I saw a Biscayne motoring down the highway. I saw a Biscayne Saturday but it wasn't motoring anywhere and did not look like it had been for quite a while. One car without and engine or much of a front end at all had written on the windshield (1945 Sudan).

What ever that is?? Sedan maybe?? There were old rusted cars from the 1960's and earlier and newer cars mixed together in rows. There was a Pacer there I had not seen a Pacer since the last time I watched the movie "Wayne's World." The rust spots spots?? some cars were nothing but rust and the cracked windows were interesting subjects to photograph.

The auto names were also interesting to me. I have one photo of the model name "Chevelle" with the last "E" hanging off at an angle. The rust design behind the name makes it interesting too. I brought along my gold reflector and made use of it a couple times.

We arrived at 3 p.m. and the sun was very bright. There was not a cloud is a brilliant blue sky. Saturday was definitely a day for the polarizing filter and lens hood. Even with the lens hood I shielded the lens with my hand a few times to prevent flare.

Some of the auto names and other features I was interested in were in a shadow compared to other parts of the vehicle in bright sun. I set the camera on the tripod clicked on the timer and stepped away with the reflector to shine a little "gold glow" on the spot I wanted highlighted in the photo.

All of the photos that day were taken in color the colors of the rusty cars and bright chrome were very photographic. I always take photos in color but then change them to black and white with my photo-editing software. The photos of the junk cars are just as interesting in black and white as they are in color. I can't decide with some of the photos if I like them better in color or not. An afternoon spent at Fowler's could give you an opportunity to complete a study of photos of cracked windows/windshields, flat tires, rust, old (and new) auto names --- you name it!

The "junkyard dog" was a friendly, blue-eyed, tail wagger. Not long after we arrived I was standing at the top of a row of cars setting up the camera for a long view shot of all the cars down that row. Off in the distance I see something running toward me.

As I am pressing the shutter button I notice it is a dog this dog is in two of my photos running toward me. All of those wild stories of junkyard dogs come flooding to my mind. This one is wagging his (or her I did not check) tail so much I hold on to the tripod and pet the dog on the head. Satisfied with sniffing me and getting a head pat the dog moved on to the next person.

I did not see the dog much again that afternoon but while wandering through the field I noticed by the souvenirs left behind something else lived there something larger than the dog.

After I negligently placed a tripod leg in a fire ant mound, it was one of those can I take the photo faster than those critters can hike up the leg to get to me I forgot about what had left those other mounds. I forgot until I heard a sound that made me think of Jurassic Park you know that sound like one of the dinosaurs is out of the pen? Well, this velociraptor turned out to be a shiny black cow.

As I stood out in the field of cars I watched the cow mosey along looking around in a very la-de-da sort of way.

One of the photo club members was out of town last Saturday. She was sorry that she was going to miss this outing. I told her when she returned that I would go with her to Fowler's so she could wander about and take interesting photos of vehicles that have not seen a road for years.

Now that I have been I think I have a couple ideas of things I really want to focus on the next trip there.

I might even take the junkyard dog a treat.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Zinnias, Skippers, and the Drought

I can't remember the last time I watered the flowers in the yard – I know it has been quite a while.  The water restrictions and the drought really threw a wrench in the garden this year.  We have been doing the bucket in the shower thing for a while now and we are getting quite a bit of water to keep some plants watered – the ferns on the front porch, new pansies, etc.  I bought this wonderful ginger lily at a local place (Turnipseed).  I could not wait for August for it to bloom.  Well, at this point I am happy it is still green. The zinnias I planted from seeds last spring are almost taller than I am and blooming like crazy.  I am so surprised and how well they are coping.  At the beginning of summer, I had some flowers in pots on the deck.  The deck gets afternoon sun – all afternoon – until the sun goes down.  It gets hot on the deck – I mean hot – like melt you flip flops hot.  So, my flowers in pots on the deck kind of baked and died and since I figured the drought was around for a while I did not buy any replacements.  What do you think I see – BLOOMING – from one of the pots? (a pot that held crispy remnants of marigolds)  A hot pink zinnia!!!  All I can think is it is a happy volunteer and I am pleased to see it.


Zinnias come in many varieties.  One example of a zinnia is the typical single petal – meaning just one row of the "ray flowers" making up the outside edge of the whole flower.  A few blogs ago I mentioned the kind of flower a zinnia is – a composite flower.  A composite, remember, has ray flowers and those in the center area are called disc flowers – two types of flowers in one bloom!  Here is a link to show photos of various types of zinnia blooms  I am not promoting purchase from this website – I chose it because it shows the many varieties on one page.  The variety called "State Fair" on this page looks similar to those I grew from seeds in my yard this summer.  The "Profusion Cherry" looks like the volunteer plants in the pot on my deck.  You know, I remember seeing those plants growing in the pot – thinking I needed to pull up those weeds before they went to seed.  Well, since they turned out to be such cute zinnias, I am glad I did not pull them up!  I really thought they were volunteer petunias – I have those appear occasionally in pots and in the back yard.  The info on the State Fair plants say that they grow 36 inches – s ome of mine are at least 48 inches tall or more.  The zinnias have handled the heat and drought much better than my butterfly bushes (which are known to tolerate heat and drought well).


The butterflies love the zinnias.  Daily I see three or more Gulf Fritillaries flying around them.  Another butterfly I see often in the backyard – all summer long – is the Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus).  Here is a link to see a photo of a Fiery Skipper  Sometimes you can spot them just sunning on a leaf – they will spread their wings and be very still.  They are fast and zip around from bloom to bloom.  When they fly by me in the garden I can hear their wings beating – it has a slight semblance to the sound you get from clipping a playing card to a bike wheel – only not quite as loud.   Another type of skipper I have seen in my yard frequently – and I saw one at Lowe's a couple weeks ago – is the Long-Tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus).  This skipper looks like it sounds – it has a long tail.  Actually, the wings form what appears to be a tail.  These little skippers don't look all that pretty; they appear brownish, until you see one in the sun and then the iridescent blue-green qualities of their body and wings.  These are slightly larger than the Fiery Skipper.  Here is a great link to see the Long-Tailed Skipper and its beautiful blue/green color


Another creature to look for on the zinnias is the crab spider – they will live on the bloom and their body color will match the bloom for camouflage.   Next year – since I have been so impressed with the performance of the zinnias – I will plant more seeds!


Friday, October 19, 2007

Ribbons, Leaves, and Pink Lemonade

The results of the photo contest at the fair are in. This is the third year that I have entered photos in the contest. The first two years I brought home two ribbons each year (a first, third, fifth and sixth). This year I brought home four ribbons (two thirds, a fifth and sixth). It is interesting when I look back at these and realize that out of eight ribbons over three years, only one has been for a color photo. This analysis would make someone think I am pretty good at color, but way better at black and white. I have never thought that I was any better at one or the other. I do like black and white photography quite a bit. Maybe I will concentrate on it more.

This makes me think more about the photos I took at Oakland Cemetery a couple weeks ago. I could not decide if I preferred a shot in color or black and white and some the black and white versions of my shots did win out hands down.

This is not a great time of year to not be "into" color though. The leaves are about to hit their peak for the season. This year is certainly not one of the best, but the colors I am seeing from the woods are enticing to say the least.

I have been watching the sumac at the edge of the woods in our yard. The leaves are turning that vibrant crimson color. In my yard I have many Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) shrubs growing at the edge of the wooded area. The foliage is pretty in summer when i t is green, but in the fall it turns a beautiful red.

The other variety common to this area is Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina). Sumac is part of the cashew family, yes, those delicious little nuts! Let's not confuse this Sumac with Poison Sumac. Native Americans used the fruit of Sumacs (Staghorn and Smooth) to make a pink lemonade of sorts. The fruit is collected, soaked and washed in cold water; this liquid is strained and sweetened to make the drink. No, I have not tried it.

Native Americans also have used the leaves and berries of the Smooth and Staghorn sumac mixed with tobacco as a smoking mixture. Sumac provides a tannin that will produce white or light-colored leather that is soft and supple. The roots of the Smooth Sumac yield a yellow dye.

I have some beautiful fall photos of the Sumac in my yard, the red leaves against the bright blue fall sky, a very striking photo. Hopefully I will get some others in the next couple weeks. I plan to take some at home and at the Line Creek Nature Area in Peachtree City, and any place else I spy some decent colored leaves. One way to really make the sky brilliant blue with the leaf color is to use a circular polarizing filter. Not only does the filter enhance the sky color, it will help with any glare on the leaves. Cutting the glare on the leaves gives you a more vibrant photo. Another good filter for fall is a warming filter, this enhances the warm tones of the leaves, that filter makes the orange pop.

I am also seeing glimpses of bright yellow in the trees that are still green. This is a wild grape vine turning color. I have been told that the leaves of the wild muscadines do not turn yellow, so I am not sure what kind these are.

There are many state parks in Georgia to go see the colors of fall. The website for the park info is On the homepage at the top is "Leaf Watch 2007." Check out that link to see what is happening in the state parks as far as color. The state parks tab at the top of the page will take you to a listing of all in the state, info on each park along with a map and directions to them. The predictions for fall color have been dismal since we are in the grip of one of the worst droughts in years, decades. But I am hopeful, especially when I see those red sumac and golden grape leaves, there is something out there to see and photograph.

Side note: "Where did pink lemonade come from?" In my poking around for info for this blog, I found info on pink lemonade. One, or twelve, websites I visited about sumac likened the Native American drink to pink lemonade. Think about it --- are there any pink lemons? Wikipedia gives an interesting account to some 17 year old named Billie in the late 1800's. He was preparing a large batch of lemonade and a pair of red tights fell into the water by accident, giving the pinkish hue. The circus was opening, the crowd had already arrived, so no time left to make a fresh batch. I don't know about that story and who would want to drink lemonade that had tights soaking in it? I actually found a notice from the September 18, 1912 edition of the New York Times:


The death of Henry E. Allott will be mourned by the boys of the older generation. For he was the man whose red-coated cinnamon candies, dropped in a tub of lemonade, thereafter made the pink beverage popular wherever the traveling animals and chariots, the steam calliope, the band, the horseback ladies and funny clowns driving donkey wagons would draw up in front of the big tent after a parade. P. T. Barnum's show could not have evolved to the greatest show on earth without Henry E. Allott's pink lemonade."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Trip to the National Archives

A couple weeks ago I attended a meeting at the National Archives southeast location near the campus of Clayton State University in Morrow.  The archives is home to many photographs and documents that are of interest to historians and genealogists.  After this visit (for a non-related topic) I contacted the archives using the link at their website.  The website had genealogy workshop information and I was interested in what was coming up – like I have time to do anything else!  When I emailed I also mentioned my photography skills, website, and asked if they were intereste d in having any photography workshops.  This email led to a meeting, and more.  The archives is hosting a holiday shopping day on Wednesday, November 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  The shopping day will include many items – books, preservation supplies, copies of documents and more.  There will be a demo of 'ordering online' – an online feature for ordering reproductions of National Archives microfilm and other records.

The southeast region location is home to 24 million World War I draft cards.  Here is a link to some famous names found in that collection: 

In this list you will find Louis Armstrong, Ty Cobb, Douglas Fairbanks, Oscar Hammerstein, Duncan Hines, Harry Houdini, JC Penney, Babe Ruth and more.  Clicking on a link (the name) will show an image of the actual draft card, front and back.  The card for Harry Handcuff Houdini (yes it says his middle name is Handcuff) shows his occupation as an "actor manager film factory."  He was living in New York City and working in Hoboken, New Jersey.  His wife is named Beatrice Houdini – no interesting middle name for her.  Handcuff, as his friends would call him (no – not true – but it is funny), had blue eyes, black hair and was of medium height and build.  A very interesting thing to note that is written on his card – especially from someone known to get out of handcuffs, straight jackets and other types of confinement – he had a weak left hand.  Sinclair Lewis had to have a second card prepared for him – it seemed typed up by his publisher.  Mr. Lewis had red hair, gray eyes, and was a member of the Socialist Party (this part is not on the card, I just happen to know it).  Knowing his political affiliation it makes me wonder what had been on the first draft card and why it had to be replaced.  Oh, and Babe Ruth – his place of employment was Fenway Park and he listed his build as medium – ummm, I think I would have put him in the stout category – but maybe in June of 1917 he was still a medium.

There is an interesting exhibit of photos at the archives right now through November 17.  This exhibit is titled "The Great Nation Will Endure":  Photographs of the Great Depression.  The exhibit contains over 150 images taken between 1935 and 1942.  Some of the photographers on display are Dorothea Lange, Jack Delano, Gordon Parks, and Marion Post Wolcott.  As I toured this exhibit with Mary Tomlin, Public Programs Specialist, we talked about the despair seen on the faces of the people in the photos, their clothing, unclean conditions and how thin they were.  She led me to the one photo showing a person smiling.  It was a man, shirtless, sitting, and smiling at the camera.  A fresh tattoo on his arm showed his Social Security Number. 

On November 28, the shopping day, I will have a short workshop on how to make your Christmas Tree a "Family Tree."  For the past 6 years my Christmas Tree has been decorated with photos of family only.  The first year it was a big job – collecting the photos I wanted to use, scanning or photographing them to get them on the computer, sizing and printing to fit all the little frames I kept buying at Hobby Lobby – whew!  Now, each year I usually add a few photos as I find and collect more.  I think some of the oldest photos on the tree may be of my husband's great, great grandparents (the grandfather in the photo was an officer in the Civil War).  Another old photo is one of my great, great grandfathers –&n bsp;he received a land grant for service during the War of 1812.  The photos show family members, home places, and reunions all the way up to my children with their cousins at a rehearsal dinner a couple years ago.  I have the photos numbered on the back and a hand-written list of who is in what photo and what year it was taken (some of those years are very approximate).  When I met with Mary at the archives building last week – she had a great idea of adding photos of documents to the tree as well.  I found online the World War I draft cards for a couple ancestors and the World War II cards for others – those may be some of the first documents I add to my tree. 

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Yip Yip Yip -- a Coyote!


This morning I woke up to the sound of coyotes yipping – and it did not sound like it was that far away.  Rosebud (our Australian Shepherd) sat up and peeped at me in the not-so-dark bedroom.  She seemed send me a telepathic message of "I'm not going out there!"  The only thing I could think about when I heard them, so close, was the little dog that lives across the street from us – outside – tied to a dog house.  I plan to make a point to talk to the owners.  We lived in California for a while – the coyotes out there would walk down the neighborhood streets.  They would take pets from yards in the blink of an eye.  I also saw a bobcat and a mountain lion while I lived out there – in Orange County – a highly populated area.  The mountain lion I spotted was sitting on a hillside, watching a park where kids were playing and my son's Little League baseball team was having a practice.  A few years ago I heard a news story about a woman attacked by a mountain lion and killed at a park where I would hike with my family and Cub Scouts.  The park was located behind the Ralph's grocery store where I shopped!  Wildlife is out there – everywhere – and you need to be on the lookout.


I am not one of these people that move to a more rural area – or even suburban these days – and wish to banish all the wildlife that poses a threat.  When you move to an area – you need to understand – the wildlife was there first.  It is not just the plants and trees that make an area what it is – it is the life that is there.  I toss out old salad stuff and apples to the rabbits that live in the woods behind my house.  The same rabbits that I watched eat my liriope and Indian Hawthorn one winter.  We bought netting to cover the new shrubs to try to save them.  The rabbits then leaned onto the netting to get to the leaves!  So we bo ught rabbit pellets at the local feed store – that helped a little – but I think they preferred the plants to the pellets.  The next summer – the netting we bought to keep the rabbits out of the bushes caught a snake on the patio.  One day when I was checking the chemicals in the hot tub – and I was walking all around it – I spotted a snake tangled in netting – very close to my foot.  Actually I thought the snake was dead.  It had been very hot and I figured the snake had been tangled and without water so long it had died.  So I came into the house – left it where it was – to wait for my husband to get home from golf so he could deal with it.  When he got home I took him to the patio to show him and the snake had moved and then it continued to move.  Most people would have not tried to save the snake.  But my husband did.  He spent most of the afternoon cutting the snake loose from the huge tangled mess that it was.  As he got closer and closer to the head – I got more and more nervous.  How to cut the head free without having that thing bite his hand?  When there was not much besides the tangle at the head left I convinced him to wait while I called animal control.  Thank goodness they are close – and were not busy.  The animal control officer was able to come over to help.  She had a clamp-arm-kind-of-thing t hat she held the snake's head with while my husband finished clipping the last bits of the netting from around the neck (does a snake have a neck??).  As soon as the snake was free it made for my pond!  Before it could get to the pond the animal control officer grabbed it with the clamp and walked it down to the woods – away from my pond and backyard area.  I knew it would come back at some time – so when I am out in the backyard – I am always on the lookout for it.  Are you ever in the yard and smell that cucumber scent?  That smell always makes me think a snake is nearby.   A couple weeks ago I saw a large snake that looked very familiar in the yard.  I wondered if it was the same one. 


A couple years after we moved here – and my husband was out of town – I was walking through the house at about 11 p.m. turning off lights and getting ready for bed.  The kids had already gone to bed hours before this.  As I approached the kitchen I saw one of my daughter's rubber snakes lying in the floor in front of the refrigerator.  (She always had a snake around – and when we visited museums or zoos she always had to get a new snake as a souvenir)  I walked toward the snake and then I realized the head was up off of the floor.  None of her snakes were like that.  Then it flicked its tongue!  I reached for the phone to call a neig hbor who lived across the street.  Thank goodness they were up.  She sent her husband over to help me out.  While I was on the phone with her I watched the snake slide behind the basket I have beside the refrigerator.  When my neighbor arrived he asked me where was the snake and my broom and dustpan.  I handed the broom and dustpan to him and then I cautiously moved the basket.  I kept hoping the snake would not go under or behind the refrigerator.  It did not.  He swept the snake into the dustpan and headed for the front door – I ran ahead and opened it for him.  He tossed the snake out into the yard.  I thanked him – and then he walked, barefoot, down through the yard where he had tossed the snake minutes before. 


Living where I do there are times when I have to deal with nature.  (Don't ask about the time the mouse had babies in the basement.  Our wonderful cat brought a couple upstairs to "play" with – she even let one loose under the Christmas tree!)  I would not want to kill off everything around me that caused a problem for me at some time.  The plants and animals make this place what it is.  A few days ago I was driving to the grocery store – I had to stop to let three turkeys cross the road (sometimes I have to stop while the deer cross in front of me).  As I drove on down the road a little farther, I saw a box turtle almost at the edge.  If the turtle had been just beginning its crossing of the road – I would have stopped and help it along.  I hate to see them hit by a car.  The lizards that sneak into the house, the rabbits that eat my plants, or the swallows that build those muddy nests under my deck and make a mess on the patio – they all have a place and a purpose.  The coyotes have a place and a purpose as well – they do help balance the wildlife in an area.  Coyotes have a great knack to adapt to new surroundings.  The geographic range for the coyote spans the entire North American continent from Alaska down to Central America.  They are here and people need to deal with them.  For the most part, they are shy and timid.  If you suspect coyotes in your area – do not allow pets to roam free.  Take your pets in at night since this is the time of day that coyotes hunt.  If the pet has to remain outside – keep it inside of a fence.  Don't leave pet food out all the time. 


Now photo news – I have added a page to my website showing a few of the photos I took at Oakland last weekend.  One of the club members let me know that I have some ribbons on my photos at the Georgia National Fair – I don't have details yet on what placed what.  Later this week I will be meeting with someone at the National Archives to discuss the possibility of me doing a workshop or two for them.  How cool is that?


And – personally – we are about to begin a LARGE renovation project at our home – it involves two floors and many rooms and – well – I think I need to buy that large economy-size bottle of Tylenol!  Wish us luck!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oakland Cemetery

When I was a little girl – my dad and granddad would get up in the dark – THE DARK – to drive off some place to go fishing.  I could not believe it – who in their right mind gets up in the dark unless it is to go to a job?  (And I have thoughts about getting up super early for jobs too – but I'll keep those to myself)  Well – this morning I arose before sunrise and was on the road while it was still dark.  We were on the way to a friend's house to pick her up and head to Oakland Cemetery for a field trip shoot.  Yes I said "we" – my husband was along for the fun of it – a nice bonus and he was driving!

Oakland Cemetery is very near Zoo Atlanta – you take the same exit on I-20 to get to both places.  When you exit the highway onto Boulevard, instead of turning in the direction of the zoo – you go in the opposite direction.  Take a left on Memorial Drive.  Make a right onto Oakland Avenue.  You will see the brick entrance for the cemetery on the right.  The cemetery is not incredibly "car friendly."  The roadways are narro w and the brick-lined ditches can dip down on either side of the road.  When we entered this morning the gentleman at the booth asked if we were with the photo group – one of our members had already arrived!  He also instructed us to pull over as far as we could to park.  There is a small gift shop/visitor's center area there.  It was not open today.  It looked like it would be fun to browse sometime though.


There is so much to see there I can't think of where to begin.  OK – as soon as I stepped out of the car I saw signs showing you where to head to see the resting place for Margaret Mitchell.  I also noticed headstones in many shapes and sizes.  There were huge (and some not so huge) mausolea in a variety of styles in just about any direction.  Some of these permanent residences have all the best – including stained glass from Tiffany.  The mausolea and other stones were decorated with a variety of symbols.  Inverted torches – simply a funerary symbol – means that the life is gone but the soul (the fire still burning) lives on in eternity.   If you see an inverted torch with no flame that means just that the lifetime is over.  On the same monument where I saw the crossed, inverted torches – I saw a death's head.  This is a skull, head, or face that is winged.  There are many forms of this symbol found internationally.  I saw a lot of urns and found that to be curious – cremation was not popular (or was it done at all???) in the nineteenth century.  The draped urn was a popular ornament for a grave in the late 1800's.  Rarely (if at all) during that time did they ever contain ashes – yet they are there on many stones and other monuments.  I see on the Oakland website that there ar e some urns at the cemetery 6 feet high – bronze – made at the Gorham Factory in New York.  I mentioned a draped urn – some stones we carved with just a drape – no urn – over the stone or monument.  Another symbol spotted was a crown with a cross – this is a Christian symbol or it can also be tied to the Knights Templar.  I saw carved on two headstones a hand pointing up – also many of the statues there had a hand in the air and a finger pointing to the sky.  This is an indication that the soul has risen to heaven.  Treestones can be found around the grounds – treestones (headstones that look like a log or part of a tree trunk) were popular from the 1880's through the turn of the century.  Treestones can also mark the grave of a member of Woodsmen of the World.  Treestones were also available in the Sears & Roebuck catalog. Flower carvings adorn many stones in the cemetery – I spotted Easter Lily, Passion Flower and too many roses to count.  There were many crosses also – flower-adorned crosses, crosses with vines, crosses in the hands of statues, Maltese crosses, etc.  Angels were all over – big, small, and in between.


All the years I have lived in the Atlanta area, I never have visited the Oakland Cemetery.  It is a marvelous place!  You cannot expect to see all of Oakland during any one visit.  I plan to return for a walking tour.  The cemetery is 88 acres – and in the city of Atlanta!  On the grounds of Oakland is the second highest point in the city – 1070 feet above sea level.  Many well-known people are buried there among the 70,000.  I have already mentioned Margaret Mitchell.  Bobby Jones and Maynard Jackson are just two more of the notables who reside at Oakland.   Next Sunday the cemetery is celebrating Victorian times from noon to 6p.m.  October 26 & 27 there will be after dark tours for a Halloween treat you won't forget.  You can find out just about anything you would want to know about Oakland prior to going there by visiting their website


Oh and the getting up early thing – I do it more than I care to admit (especially in winter with those darn short days).  I love to get up before sunrise when we are at the beach – walk down to the sand and wait for the sun to come up (with my camera of course).  There are always a handful of people and a couple dogs up and out at that time of day.


The Oakland Cemetery shoot was a group activity for the Fayette Photo Club.  The Club meets twice a month and plans shoots like this occasionally.  The next planned shoot is to another graveyard of sorts – and auto graveyard!  If you are interested in this shoot, the club or both – email me.  On the contact page at my website site I have a link to send me an email. 

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