The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

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. 

Monday, September 24, 2007

More Roadside Flowers, Spiders, and Fritillaries

On our Monday trek to Hampton today I noticed a vibrant pink flower blooming on a tall, leggy-looking plant.  After consulting the field guide, I have identified this one as a Meadow Beauty – and it looks to be Rhexia mariana, Maryland Meadowbeauty.  Also spotted new this week (it was probably there last week and I did not notice it) is Camphor Weed, Heterotheca subaxillaris.  The Camphor Weed is along the roadside mixed in among the Goldenrod and other plants.  The Meadow Beauty was in a few places.  One large patch I spied on t he right of Highway 92 (as I headed south) just before the turn onto Hampton Road.  Once into Clayton County I spotted it on Lower Woolsey Road in a few places.  One place that it was easy to see was the right side of Lower Woolsey Road near the left turn that takes you just behind the Atlanta Speedway.  Those patches were not large – but it was not hard to see those bright, bubble-gum pink blooms along the roadway.  The beautiful field of Sneezeweed (across the road from the speedway ) that I photographed last week is gone.  The large mower-tractor-thing is still sitting in the field – but all the flowers are gone.  Oh well.  There is still another "field of blooms" near there (to the right on Lower Woolsey Road just past the turn for the speedway) – maybe I will get there tomorrow.  Those fair weather cumulus clouds were there today – with an aqua sky – hopefully if I take along the camera the same will be there tomorrow.


This afternoon the backyard was a good place to spend a few minutes.  The giant zinnias I planted back in May are huge and blooming in a variety of colors.  There are blooms in light and bright pink, creamy white, orange and red.  A couple of the blooms are larger than my fist.  One older orange bloom was resting on the rocks that line the bed areas inside the fence.  The faded orange of the bloom against the steely bluish rock was pretty.  I snapped a photo of that.  There was a new bloom – bright pink.  When I adjusted the depth of field to blur the background of green leaves – the pink j umped out.  The blurred green with the bright pink/fuchsia flower with lemon yellow disc flowers – this made a marvelously colorful photo.  When writing this I had to look up what those little yellow parts of the zinnia are called.  A zinnia is a composite flower (others in this family are sunflowers, chrysanthemum, and good ol' sneezeweed to name a few).   Think of how the head of a zinnia looks – the petals around the edge are called the "ray flowers" the yellow tiny flowers that compose the center or edge the center of the zinnia are called the "disc flowers."  For a good photo and written description of composite flowers – and especially a zinnia go to http://www.backyardnatu and scroll about halfway down the page.


Aside from the zinnias – there were a couple Black and Yellow Argiope spiders on one of my purple butterfly bushes.  This bush is also home to the egg sac.  While I was busy getting a good shot of one of these and her web I noticed a butterfly getting dangerously close.  The Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, is seen often in the yard on the zinnias and the butterfly bushes.  Before it flew away to another yard I got a couple shots of it on a pink zinnia.  Here is a link showing two Gulf Fritillaries on a Mexican Sunflower – and you can spot the disc and the ray flowers on the bloom.


Update on the link to the skink info on the blog dated September 8.  Someone emailed me that the link for the skink I provided was no longer working.  I hope this one is! (I just tried this one and it works – you need to scroll down when you get the page up.  It looks like a blank page until you do.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Native Plants Along the Roadside

As you drive along do you notice the blooming native plants?  I like to look at what is blooming.  In the spring you will see orange daylilies and oxeye daisies lining the ditches.  What I have seen blooming along the side of the road this week has made me start carrying the camera around with me.  There is a tall purple flower that I see near wet areas – it is Ironweed, Vernonia altissima.  Another tall purple flowering plant for this time of year is Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium maculatum.  There are a few yellow flowers I have seen – one is in part shade – near the edges of woodland areas -- Woodland Sunflower, Helianthus divaricatus.   These are tall and wiry stemmed plants.  There is another – you see it all along the side of the road and in cow pastures -- Helenium autumnale, Common Sneezeweed or Fall Sneezeweed.  Sneezeweed doesn't make you sneeze.  Well, I guess it sort of does – the name comes from its usage – the leaves of the plant were dried to make snuff that was inhaled for the purpose to cause you to sneeze and rid your body of what ailed it. Sneezeweed is also called Bitter weed.  If cows dine on Bitterweed, their milk will taste bitter.  I have never heard if the cows think it tastes bitter or even if they like to eat it.  You would think something called Bitterweed would not be something good to eat.  The Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis has just started to bloom.  Most of the really tall plants have not – but you can see the yellow peeping from the buds.  Goldenrod gets blamed for a lot of allergy symptoms this time of year.  It is not the culprit.  The pollen from Goldenrod is too large to really cause a problem.  There is another plant blooming now – it hardly gets noticed – Ragweed.   Ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia is in the aster family – just as Goldenrod.  Ragweed is a tall plant – six feet.  The blooms are six-inch clusters of tiny, greenish, bell-shaped flowers.  The stems are coarse, hairy and branched.  Your stuffy nose and itchy eyes are more than likely the result of Ragweed pollen flying about.


Twice a week I take my daughter to classes in Hampton.  We drive right by the Atlanta Speedway.  There are a couple fields there (right across the road from the racetrack) that are covered with Sneezeweed.  The field is a blanket of yellow.  Yesterday I put the camera in the car with full intent of driving over to take some shots of the fields.  By the time I arrived the sun was too high – and not in a good spot for me at all.  I snapped a few shots – but they were not good and have already be en deleted.  Perhaps I will get back over there early enough to get a good shot – or head over late in the day.   The day I was there – and the sun was not in the right place – the clouds were almost nonexistent.  It would be a much nicer photo with those light, fluffy, fair weather cumulus clouds in a bright blue sky.  The yellow field, blue sky, and white clouds would make a perfect landscape photo.  There is a section of road very near to me with a great crop of Goldenrod on the side about to bloom.  When it finally does bloom – again I am hoping for some good cloud days to add to the photos!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Yesterday – for most of the day – was a good cloud day.  I did not get to take a photo of them.  Rats!  I was on the road taking photos to the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Georgia.  It is a nice drive down 75 to Perry (a little south of Macon).  The Middle Georgia Camera Club (Macon, Georgia) handles the photo contest.  They are very nice and fun to chat with.  It is a big job logging in hundreds of photos from people all over the state.  The dates for the fair are October 4 through 14.  You can find out all about it at the website:


I love to look at clouds – they are pretty!  Well – most of them are.  Since Humberto was moving through Georgia yesterday the clouds were pretty and numerous.  There were also some storms late yesterday – great clouds formations – but a lot of lightning, wind and rain!  Those big white fluffy clouds are my favorite.  They are called fair weather cumulus clouds – to me they are puffy cotton or a pile of mashed potatoes.  Their flat bases are one of their best features.  It looks like there is an invisible glass plate underneath them.  When you have an expansive view – the plate looks like it goes on to infinity hold up these whipped cream clouds.  These light, fluffy, happy clouds can – and sometimes do – turn into storm clouds.   The thermals and moisture in the air that create the fair weather cumulus will sometimes be so great the development continues into a cumulonimbus cloud.  Individually these are thunderstorms – in a group they are called a squall line.  Late yesterday afternoon – in the Atlanta area – we experienced a squall line.


Those fair weather cumulus clouds are beautiful with a vibrant blue sky.  On a day like that – and the sun is usually bright – a polarizing filter comes in handy.  That filter will help keep the sky the vibrant blue in your photo.   Color photos of clouds are wonderful – the bright blue, the clean white – but sometimes I like the look of a black and white cloud photo.  The striking contrast of the white cloud against the darker sky – in monochrome – is a beautiful scene.  Your eye knows the colors it should be.  When you remove the color from the composition – your eye begins to fully examine the cloud – seeing the shape. 


There is some uninterrupted space (undeveloped land) near my home.  Can you believe it???  When I see those bright, fluffy clouds in the gorgeous blue sky – I grab the wide angle lens (I have a 14mm Tamron f2.8) and head over there.  The area is a wetland that was in the works and seems to have been forgotten – but it gives me a nice, flat, open space with trees in the distance.  I can get a wide shot of the land, trees, and sky there.  When the trees begin to show fall colors – I am hoping for a sky like yesterday (before the storms) to capture a nice fall scene.


If you ever get a wild idea to actually look up the name of a cloud you photograph – or just like to observe.  The NOAA has a great photo library – here is a link to the cloud photos:

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Skink in the House

So after the hawk story – the same day – a little later I am walking through the bedroom to put something in my closet. As I turn around to head out of the bedroom – across the room, in the floor – something catches my eye…

There is a skink in the bedroom! You know – one of those cute little five-lined dark lizards with the bright blue tail. Well there is one – in the bedroom floor – about eight inches in length (including the tail). The tail is really about half the size – so the body is only about 4 inches. And I make note that the tail is still attached because in my house – more than likely the cat finds these creatures before I ever know they are here. She will swat at them and put her foot on them – sometimes the tail – and usually what I find is a lizardless tail in the floor and wonder where the rest of it is. AND usually this is in the basement – not my bedroom! I get the all over body shiver when I think about slipping my foot into my Crocs only to find a lizard already there!

OK – so time to think – how can I get something this size out of the house the easiest way? Just last weekend I culled the massive book pile that lives under my side of the bed. A few weeks ago I cleaned out my closet. I am thinking if it heads in either direction I am sunk because there are so many places for this little guy to hide – I would have to take EVERYTHING out to find him! (Yes, I said I cleaned and culled -- but I still have a lot of stuff) Then I remember my daughter has a nice (I made it) butterfly net in the basement. We have used this for skinks in the past – you know catch inside and release OUTSIDE. So I ask her to go get it for me while I keep in eye on the current trespasser. Don't ask about the butterfly net and what she caught with it – it was educational and she is now a vegetarian – so never mind….

With butterfly net in hand I am standing in the doorway of the bedroom wondering what is the best approach. I decide to climb on the bed to try a swoop down from overhead – and it works! It works well until the skink notices the coat hanger that holds the net had a kink in it so it doesn't lay flat to the floor – so the skink escapes due to the kink. It runs under the bed to hide forever in the stacks of books. Oh no! I won't be able to reach for a book or magazine again! I lean the net against the wall in the hallway and head off to make some tea and think of what to do.

As I head back through the bedroom a few minutes later I remember how the cat loves for me to open the blinds so she can lay in the sunshine. Many times I have opened the blinds for her and spied a skink outside the window on the bricks, basking in the sun. Soooo, I think the little guy under the bed must be chilly with the air conditioning blowing – a little sun might be what he is looking for! I raise the blinds about a foot and leave the room. Thirty minutes later – there he is – smack in the middle of a sunspot and all spread out. Again, I grab the trusty butterfly net and creep onto the bed. He saw me coming this time and ran under one of my husband's shoes. I keep the net close with one hand and lift the shoe with the other hand. He scurried up against the old trunk I have in the bedroom – he is slam up against it! So I put the net right in front of him and drop the shoe right behind him. When that shoe hit the floor – he ran so fast – right into the net! YAY! The next minute he was outside under a bush.

We have had skinks in the house before – twice I have found them after the cat did – tail still attached but they had bite marks on their bodies. It has happened in late September both times. The first time I thought the lizard would die – but I put him in an old aquarium with "Reptile Chips" and all the accoutrements courtesy of a trip to PetSmart. The skink healed and lived a happy winter in the aquarium growing fat on crickets from the same PetSmart. When spring arrived, outside he went. The very next September the same thing happened – I was beginning to think I was being conned for a warm place to stay and all the crickets they could eat. I mean really, all they had to was let the cat bite them a little. But last year – no skink wintered over in the basement. I still have the set up: aquarium, light, screened top, water dish, etc. ready if I need them. So far this year – besides the live one in the bedroom – I have only found a tail in the basement. As I sit here now – in the basement – my feet under my workstation – barefoot – I am creeping myself out that a skink might skitter across them at any moment.

Here is a link to see a photo of a skink and read a little information about them.

I have run across one of the males (tannish in color). The young males and females are the pretty dark color with lines and the blue tail. In the yard and around the pond I see them frequently. The very young, very tiny skinks are very cute. The blue of their tails is incredibly bright! They are really very pretty and with the blue tail they are quite a gem of a lizard.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Red-Tailed Hawk

As I am standing in the kitchen this morning – preparing my breakfast – I look out the window. Off in the distance I see a large bird fly high up into a pine tree. My first thought is "where are the binoculars?" When I remembered where they are – I got them. Peeking through the blinds I spot a large hawk in the tree. It is hard to see through the blinds so I decide to step out onto the deck to get a better look. The first thing I noticed was the coolness of the morning. (Temperatures in the 60's!) Then I find the hawk just in time to spy it drop something from the high perch. The hawk dove down toward the object. What was it? A chipmunk? Another bird? I decide to stand out on the deck a few moments to see where it will fly next. I am expecting it to fly back up into the tall pine. Then I see this large bird headed in my direction! It flies from across the street right past me on the deck. Clutched in its talons are a pine cone and a few pine needles. Is that what it was after? It can't be. All I can surmise is the intended target was missed and it grabbed this instead. As it flew past my deck and toward the wooded area of my backyard, it dropped the debris. It flew up to one of the highest points at the roadside edge of the trees. All I can think of now is that the chipmunks and squirrels better be quick and stay under the bushes this morning!

The hawk I spotted was a Red-Tailed Hawk (buteo jamaicensis). Buteo is the Latin word for falcon. Jamaicensis is Latin for belonging to Jamaica. The range of this hawk is from Alaska down to Jamaica and other West Indies islands. This hawk is seen often in winter as you drive along the interstate. You can spot them in the bare trees. They choose a high perch at the edge of woodland. This allows them to look out over fields and open areas searching for prey. The coloring of the hawk is a mottled brown with cream head, wings, and back. The red (a rusty red) can be seen on the upper side of the tail. From below the tail is paler. The hawk is large, measuring about 18 to 26 inches from the tip of the beak to the tip of the tail. Its wing span is from 43 to 57 inches. The female is larger than the male. This hawk in one of the most common in the United States and is commonly known as a "chickenhawk." OK – now who just thought of that cartoon??

So where was my camera during all of this – in the house. It would have been nice to have it ready as the hawk flew across the back yard. If the hawk had landed in the trees facing the deck – yes I would have taken a shot – I would have been closer to its level from the deck. But since it was on the opposite side, my only choice would be standing far below and hoping to get something above – and, well – that shot would not be that good. My memory of watching the flight, the pine needles sticking out of its grasp, will have to suffice.

Spider Update: The spider in the photo on the blog "Charlotte" is missing. I find the two smaller ones near where her web was – but she is not there. What I do find close to her web is an egg sac, it has the color and look of a paper bag. It is the size of a large walnut. While I was in the backyard yesterday looking around I almost stepped on a baby toad. It was smaller than my pinky fingernail. There are still some tadpoles in the pond. Those may not morph into a frog until next year.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Photo Critique

It is hard to believe that it is after 11 a.m. and the temperature is still below 80º! In fact – it is only 73º in Peachtree City! Can fall be far behind? Is it time to put away the white shoes and pants? Can it be time to think about a nice cup of hot cider?

There is a contest coming up that I have entered the last two years: The Georgia National Fair, fine arts division – photography. Last year I entered a couple paintings – one made it past the jury! This year – my little painting that I love so much did not make it past the jury. That's all I have to say about that. They send me pamphlets detailing the guidelines for entering: category descriptions – size and matting instructions. The postmark deadline was yesterday. I spent the past week or so printing photos, spreading them out, looking them over and asking my husband for his top picks in the categories. Choosing photos for a contest can be an easy thing to do if you remember some basics on critiquing – and in this case – you are the critic – of your own work.

What do you like about the photo? What do you not like? Did the photographer make the best choice?
Is the photo properly exposed? Are there any blown out highlighted areas or too dark shadow areas? Not all blown out areas are wrong – some lend an artistic touch to a photo. See what works in the photo and what does not.
What is in focus? Is anything in focus? Is the main subject as sharp as it should be? As with exposure – sometimes a soft focus is a desired effect and is more artistic. What works in the photo? Does any lack of focus detract from the subject?
Is the color in the photo good? If the photographer chose color over black and white – was this a good choice? Does the choice to use color contribute to the look of the photo? If black & white, is used – was this the best choice? Does lack of color add to the visual appeal of the photo?
Does the photo draw your attention to the subject? Is there a clear subject? Are there elements of the photo that are distracting and should be cropped out? Did the photographer use the "rule of thirds" properly – if that was the goal? If the photographer did not use the "rule of thirds," does the photo work well? Are there are open spaces or gaps in the photo? Think about the letters S, O, L & Z. Can you spot those letters in the photo? Maybe you see an "S" in a winding road? Is there an "O" hiding in the bloom of a flower? Having those letters as "hidden pictures" in a photo gives it interest to the eye. Interest draws the viewer in.
Did the photographer use everything to get the proper photo? Does the photo draw you in? Is there a direction of attention, or path, through the photo? Is the photo commonplace and trite or fresh?

The last thing to think about when choosing a photo for a contest or a show is again to choose one with the "wow factor." Try to pick the photo that you feel will cause someone to stop and take notice. Try to imagine your photo sticking out (in a good way) among hundreds in the same group!

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