The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Monday, May 26, 2008

Snake and Eggs

This morning I decided to step out front to look around for a good photo opportunity. Yesterday I spent a few minutes on the front porch concentrating on a small green spider in its web. I wanted to see if the sunlight on the web would be an interesting photo. It was not.

The orange lily beside the front step was very pretty in the bright sunshine. I took a couple photos of it. As I was taking these photos – I noticed the noise that the cardinals were making in the Japanese maple. When we moved here 10 years ago, I planted a Japanese maple in the little area in front of our porch. It is about ten feet from the porch and the branches now reach the height of the roof. Just about every spring, a cardinal couple has a nest in it.

I kept trying to get a clear photo of them as they hopped around making so much noise. I thought they were squawking at me. As I looked up into the tree – near the top – where the nest is – I saw a snake at the nest! In a moment I needed to decide what to do. Do I interfere? Do I leave the snake alone? Then I remembered the extension pole In the garage – so I interfered.

I thought all I would have to do is poke the snake and it would move along --- wrong. I poked and poked and poked and it seemed to grip around the tree limb tighter and stayed in the nest. I had to try to becareful to not knock the nest from the tree. Finally I wedged the pole between it and the tree and it started to move down in the tree. It moved down and acted like it was coming on out, then it stopped and started to turn around again. So I poked it some more --- and it began to wrap around the leafy branch tighter. This was when I grabbed the camera to get a shot of the snake wrapped in the leaves.

After I had a couple shots, I wiggled the branch and poked some more. The snake head started out of the leaves and hung down about a foot below the branch; it's tongue was darting in and out. I took that opportunity to slide the snake off of the branch.

It fell down into a holly bush near the side of the house. All this time the cardinals are still making quite a bit of noise and hopping around all in the tree. I sat on the bench on the front porch to wait to see where the snake would go. Before I saw the snake do anything I heard different sounds from the birds. They also seemed to be calming down. I wondered if the nest had eggs (or HAD eggs) or baby birds? I had not heard baby birds chirping in it yet this year.

I got up from the bench and walked out the sidewalk to look up into the tree again. I saw the female cardinal stepping into the nest. She was quieter still, but still making almost a barking noise, as was the male. It was then I noticed the snake moving from the holly bush to the one next to it. I grabbed the camera again to take a quick (and not great) photo of it making a getaway. After it went under the second holly bush, I lost track of it.

The whole time this is going on, our dog, Rosebud, was quite irritated that I was carrying on something very interesting outside and she was not included! After I lost track of the snake, I decided to bring the dog out, keeping her away from the area I last saw the snake. When I was coming back in with the dog, I looked up into the tree again at the nest to see the female cardinal sitting on her nest calmly and quietly. I was thinking, hoping, there were some eggs left in the nest.

I think this snake "lives" somewhere near the front porch. I have found a skin (large), intact, right by the front step before. The dog always sniffs like crazy around there. But I do see chipmunks running all over in the same area. Who knows?

Oh, and after I ran the snake off from the birds' nest, I came in and made myself an egg sandwich for breakfast.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


For the past couple weeks I have been working off and on in the backyard – getting it up to par for summer. And getting it ready for a workshop here at the house on June 7. It has been an extra bit of work since over the winter I never cleared out what should have been. The butterfly bushes that I so severely cut down winter before last never grew much last year due to the heat and drought. I have not pruned them since – so they are pretty shaggy. There are also many 'volunteer' sweetgum trees all over that need removing. Oh – and those blackberries – they are everywhere! And yes, the lemon balm and lamb's ears are everywhere too – and I have even been pulling some of it up. Last year I had a beautiful volunteer morning glory grow near the pond and cover a chair on the patio. I hope it comes back!

The pink and white mixed dianthus plants that I planted under the deck a few years ago are growing strong. Those little flowers are very pretty and make interesting subjects for macro photos. This year I added a red dianthus plant in that area. The oxeye daisies that are nothing more than rescues are blooming like crazy – and coming up in the rocks – but I am leaving most of them. In the bed where I have an oakleaf and regular blue hydrangea – there is a very vibrant, orange Asiatic lily full of buds and blooms. The daylilies are just beginning to bloom – the yellow ones. I have dark red, purple, white, and this year I added pink to the collection. I see lots of buds on all of them. I replaced an old rose bush with a heartier rose and I am contemplating replacing my false indigo with a similar rose bush. The clemantis is growing up the side of the deck; so far I only see one big bud on the vine. Last year – due to the heat and the drought – I did not plant a lot and I have noticed a few perennials did not come back. One of my lavender plants and a mallow are missing in action. The phlox is back – but not looking very strong. On the fence I have a couple hanging pots. Last year I had purslane, or portulaca, in them – one pot had orange and one had hot pink. This year all I could find was the hot pink variety. You cannot beat this little flower for putting up with hot, dry conditions. There are a couple places in the beds that are not great for digging – roots and rocks prevent any good holes for perennials or bushes. In these places, I sprinkle zinnia seeds. The little skipper butterflies will flock to zinnias in the late summer. Another interesting feature of zinnias – those little crab spiders hang out on them and they mimic the color of the flower.

I have not planted any tomatoes – I am tempted. The reason I did not – tomato worms! Those worms really gross me out – so no tomatoes. My oregano, chives, and rosemary are doing very well! In a couple pots on the deck I have planted basil seeds and they are coming up thick – I need to thin them out. I have also planted some sunflower seeds in various pots. The squirrels/chipmunks have really torn up on large pot and dirt is kicked out all over the deck on a daily basis! I guess I can't expect any different since I feed them sunflower seeds all winter.&nb sp; Yesterday I checked the ground-level water dishes that I have out for the chipmunks, squirrels, and birds. They are all in good condition. Last week I found a tiny blue egg on the ground. I placed it in a pot in the yard so I would not step on it. This week it is gone.

There is a little turtle in the pond! There is also a snake (not so little) in the pond – and less fish – and no tadpoles! Yesterday while I was out working in the yard I saw a tiny bullfrog on a lily pad – it looks just like a larger one that I see there occasionally. I think the turtle is a red-eared slider or river cooter – I cannot get a good enough look to see. It is small – it would fit into my hand. As soon as I step on the deck and get close enough to see over the edge – it dives under the water. I see this little turtle and wonder – how did it get here, how did it find my little pond – and I hope it does not tear up the liner! The baby fish are growing. It is much easier to see them from up on the deck now.

The dragonflies are back in force. Yesterday I saw one giant dragonfly – but it did not hang around. The blue dashers are around the pond all summer. They fly around and light on the cannas or the rusty heron statue near the edge of the water. There are a few damsel flies sticking around too. This spring I have added some pickerel weed, lizard's tail, cannas, and iris near the edge of the pond – actually the iris is in the pond. The white water lily has been blooming for a little over a week. I have not noticed any buds from the pink one yet.

The hummingbirds have been busy for weeks now. While I was out looking for anything interesting for the yard – I spotted a little bright yellow and red hummingbird feeder – so I added another in the yard yesterday. The one I always have had is on the upper area of the deck. The new one is on a garden hook near one of the butterfly bushes. At a local art show – last weekend – I picked up a large, rusty metal sculpture of a flower. I added a hanging strand of glass, marbles, and copper wire to it yesterday.

All of the work in the yard will pay off later when I want to take some interesting shots. It is easy to practice when you have good subject matter close at hand. Just as in the winter months – I would buy cut flowers at the grocery store – now I can just walk down the deck steps and have a myriad of choices. The biggest problem to deal with here is the harsh sunlight. That is when an umbrella comes in handy – or get out early or late in the day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Beaver Lodge

Monday I spotted a beaver lodge.  It must have been there for quite a while – the sticks appear very weathered.  Many months ago – I believe it was on the sneezeweed hunt – I spied a wetland area very near the Atlanta Motor Speedway.  It is located on both sides of the road just about where Lower Woolsey Road turns into Bruton Smith Parkway.  On the northeast side (speedway side) of the road is where you will find the beaver lodge. 


The water here is very murky and green – a sign of the season.  I don't know why, but when I look at the photos I took of the scene I am reminded of a page from a book about Lewis and Clark.  It is hard to imagine the commotion that goes on near this wetland area when it is "race week."  It looks so far removed from civilization.


When I saw the lodge on Monday I had just stopped to take some wide-angle shots of the landscape there.  You have to pull off onto the side of the road – but there is not a problem – there is no traffic there to speak of – at all.  In fact, it is kind of creepy quiet.  I think the whole time I was there yesterday I saw four cars.  You have a wide shoulder to park on and it is two lanes in each direction – so I think it is about as safe as you could be parking on the side of the road.


On Monday the only lens I had with me was the Lensbaby.  OK – take note, even when you think you won't want another lens with you – take it.  I wish I had on Monday.  The shots I took on Monday were OK – but nothing great.  I made plans to return as soon as I could – Wednesday.   Of course, Monday was pretty bright, sunny, and harsh – sooo…


Wednesday morning was wonderful – overcast and threatening rain.  I knew the time of day I was planning to head over to the lodge – if it had been sunny – it would not have been good.  I still want to head back over there either very, very early in the morning or late in the day.  The biggest disappointment to me on Wednesday was the lifeless, gray sky – but that is what you get with overcast clouds.  When I was heading out, I almost took the circular polarizer off of the lens.  Then I decided against it – and on the way over – the sun kept poking out.  I was glad I had it – although it turns out I did not need it. 


On the drive over I spotted a few other scenes I would have liked to take a couple shots of.  One corner where I turn there are always a bunch of cows.  Yesterday there looked like more there than I had seen before.  I decided to stop there on the way back.  Guess what – on the way back they were all gone!  Cows!


I also spotted an old house – ruins of one actually.  I have always wanted to take photos of this place – but been a little apprehensive about stopping.  On the way back home yesterday, I did stop and took quite a few shots of the building and vines that are beginning to grow on it this spring.  The old, weathered wood and the springy, green vines with tendrils reaching out for something to grab made a nice contrast.  Here is where the circular polarizer came in handy.  The little bit of glare on the leaves of the vine was taken care of with just a little bit of a twist on that filter.  Those leaves are so shiny, even on a cloudy day, they had right much of a "glare factor."


Since I took the photos of the beaver lodge – I have looked up a little about them.  The lodge consists of two rooms – one is kind of like the beaver's mud room – they come into that room to dry off and clean up before going into the room where they live and sleep.  One thing I did not notice when I was shooting the photos (but saw this when I was processing the shots on the laptop) – there is a small line of turtles on a log just a little bit away from the lodge.  I guess the beaver doesn't mind the turtles too close to its home. 


I remember seeing beavers on the lake at my grandparent's house when I was little.  My granddaddy and I would walk down the hill just to where we could see the water.  We could watch them swim in the lake and see the beaver lodge.  All along the woods we saw small sapling trees chewed and gnawed off and missing.  Sometimes we saw the little trees, stripped bare of bark, left laying on the ground, discarded for some reason.  These were used to build the beaver structures.  If we walked down the hill to the lake a little too quickly – not noticing the beaver swimming in the lake – the beaver would notice us.  It would smack the water hard with its fla t tail making a loud sound and dive under the water.  I did not see a beaver on Monday, or yesterday, and I did not hear that loud smack either.


All of the photos I talk about today can be seen at my Flickr site:


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Dogwood Gallery & Framer

The Dogwood Gallery has been open in Tyrone for about 8 months.  If you are familiar with the area, the gallery is just behind The Legacy Theater on Senoia Road.  I knew of the gallery – but had not made a point to stop in or make contact.  Recently I did make time and I am glad that I did.


When I looked at the Dogwood Gallery & Framer website, I saw quite a few familiar names in the list of artists.  I contacted Greg Blair to see if he would be interested in my work.  I noticed that he had a show coming up, "Viewpoint: Variations on Landscapes."  The show is scheduled for May 17 through June 14 and includes work from Georgette Liberatore, Martin Pate, David Boyd Jr., and many more.  The "many more" part includes me! 


After I contacted Greg, he wanted to see a print of something from my website and look over my portfolio.  I loved the gallery as soon as I walked in.  The floor cloths at the entrances are very pretty -- but the whole place is very much what a gallery should be.  The walls are stark white -- no competition with any of the artwork.  The upper area of wall and ceilings are flat black.  The floor is just a plain wood floor.  There is nothing overly interesting about the space, except for the art that is there.  What little bit of furnishings there are plain, mission style.  Nothing steals the show from the art.  It is perfect.  At the rear of the main room is the framing area.  Greg does an excellent job framing art.  And why not?  He is an artist!  In the other room -- sort of a work room -- the re is more art displayed.  Greg says that people gravitate to that area.  It reminds me of when you have a party -- guests end up hanging out in the kitchen.  This little work area of the gallery is the "kitchen" and it is just a fun place to hang out.


So, yep – I will have a couple black and white photos hanging in the show.  Also there will be a few of my matted prints available.  The opening reception is this Saturday evening from 6pm to 9pm.  Come out to the gallery to see what a great space it is – and – if I have not already met you – this would be a great time!


Here is a link to the Dogwood Gallery & Framer website:


Friday, May 9, 2008

Vote for Your Friend's Design

Your friend submitted a bag design in the Kroger(R) Design a Reusable Shopping Bag contest.

I just designed a reusable shopping bag at the Kroger website. Vote for my bag -- or go design your own!

(hey -- if you do design your own -- still vote for mine)

View design and vote

Message sent from The Barefoot Photographer Designs a Bag

Print Sizes and Framing

How do you decide how large to print a photo?  Recently I was listening to a podcast by Brooks Jensen on print size.  It really made me think.  Are people getting carried away with large prints?   His point was that just because you can print it large, should you.  He also equated the large print photo to typing in all caps in an email.  I had never thought about it that way.  But I can see his point.


For a long time, to me, the photograph meant a 3.5x5 or 4x6 with the occasional 5x7 and 8x10 tossed in.  Since I went digital I have started printing 8x10 as my standard size for photos. But keep in mind, I do not print every photo I take.  I keep 8x10s in books to show and use during classes, to enter in contests, and to frame.  The size is a good one for me – I like it large enough to see the details of the print. 


Lately I have also gotten into printing square photos.  I like these at 5x5 or 8x8.  One of my favorite ways to frame these is with the bottom weighted.  I print the photo near the end of a sheet of photo paper.  The sheet is 11x17 and I place the 5x5 image a couple inches away from one end.  I then trim the photo sheet to fit into an 11x14 frame.  The same thing can be done with an 8x8 photo – but I would use a 13x19 photo sheet and a 12x16 frame.  It is handy having a printer that can handle larger than an 8.5x11 sheet of paper. 


If you can keep your frames needed to standard sizes, you will really save a lot in framing costs.  Keeping frames the same or similar in color and mixing them up on a wall is also a fun way to use pre-made, standard-size frames.  On a wall in my living room I have a series of black and white photos.  These are all framed in black frames with white mats – but none of the frames are the same moldings. 


Another great way to keep framing costs down is to look for art at local discount stores.  Especially check the clearance areas.  Don't pay any attention to the art in the frame – look at the frame!  Most are a real bargain for the clearance price.  Many times you will like the mat too.  So for a bargain price – you are the getting frame, mat, glass, and hanger.  All you need to do is go home – take out the mass market piece of art that is in there and replace it with your priceless, photo-genius print (you may even want to change its orientation from landscape to portrait or vice versa).  And, of course, when Michael's or Hobby L obby is having a 50% off frame sale; stock up!


A long time ago, when I was just getting into selling prints, the guy who gave me the shove told me that selling any print over an 11x14 or 12x16 would be difficult.  His logic was that most people did not have large spaces of wall to fill.  When someone did have large wall space to fill – they are more likely going to go for painted art, not a photo.  The photos that people buy will be more accents to their art.  So imagine an 11x14 photo, by the time you mat and frame it – it is getting on up there in size.  At the least the mat would be two inches on all sides, maybe more – some people like a larger mat.  Some frames are bigger than others.  So just think that in the least we would add 4 or 5 inches to each side of that 11x14 photo.  Now think about this, size wise, how many 5x7s or 8x10s you could sell to people and the places they would have to fit the smaller size photos.    I have sold quite a few larger size prints – but they were for commercial properties.  Even in my own home, where I have space, instead of one or two large prints I prefer a grouping of smaller ones. 


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Damsel in Distress

Yesterday I stepped out onto the deck to peep at the pond.  I am on "tadpole watch."  No tadpoles – yet.  Every night I hear at least two – last night it sounded like three or four frogs 'singing' in the backyard.  There was something yesterday – I am not sure what – I don't think it was a frog – it looked like a turtle!  Do I have a turtle in the pond?  Where did the turtle come from and how did it find my little pond?  I did notice that the water level in the pond was very low.  The lowest it has been in a while.  So I decided to put a little into it.  This may or may not be against the water restrictions – if it is I certainly did it during the time period allowed and it was for no longer than 25 minutes.


While I was out there I just took a few minutes to sit by the pond and look it over.  My pond is not a pretty pond.  I don't want it to look like a kiddie pool that just happens to have fish in it.  I like my pond to look like a real pond.  This means it has gunk in it and the gunk is where a lot of things live that keep the pond's ecosystem going.  The gunk is also probably where the frogs' eggs are that haven't hatched yet.  There is also a thing that sort of resembles a beaver dam (small one) in the middle where all the lily pads and the underwater plants have grown like weeds.  Are they weeds?  Maybe the water lilies do so well because the pond is gunky?  I am thinking next winter I may cut that thing down a little – but again pond creatures live there.  If I take chunks out – I will be pulling living creatures out of the pond.  There must be – well who knows how many – snails in there!


As I sit on the patio, I am noticing the little yellow floating hearts that have spread all over the pond.  Not blooming yet – but when they do they will be yellow.  This is a plant – kind of like a water lily – but not really.  The leaves/pads are small, delicate, and heart shaped.  When it blooms, its vibrant yellow flower rises above the water line.  I have two water lilies.  One is the one that has been in the pond from the beginning – it is the usual white flower with the eye-popping yellow center and speckled pads.  These pads get slightly larger than my hand.  They are pretty and spreading all over the pond.  The other lily is a beautiful pink.  It is relatively new – this will be its third year.  Last year was the first bloom.  It is so pretty and such a color – it looks fake.  The pads with this plant are darker in color than the white lily and a bit smaller.  I can't wait for it to bloom this year so I can get some photos!


Watching the lily pads, I see wasps and bees come, land, and get a sip of water.  The blue dasher dragonflies are buzzing around the pond.  I watch as one grabs some little flying insect from the air and returns to its perch on my rusting heron statue by the edge of the rocks.  There are two; and I think they may be fighting to establish territory.   I also start noticing the delicate damsel flies clinging to lily pads and other plants near the pond.  I am wondering if these are some from eggs laid in the pond and are just coming out on such a warm day.  It is breezy and the wind over the pon d (and it does not take much of a breeze) blows a damsel fly into the water.  I watch as it is slowly floats near another lily pad.  I think it will be fine – it will hit the new pad and get out.  But, just as it nears the pad the little wings go crazy and it buzzes across the water, unable to break the surface tension, and away from the lily pads.  The damsel fly (it appears to be a common spreadwing) is out in the middle of nothing and now a wing is in the water.  There are times like these you have a dilemma.  If I had been in the house – I wouldn't have seen this and the damsel fly is left on its own.  Since I am here, seeing it – should I interfere with nature?  This is not the first time the pond has presented me with such a question.  A few years ago I fished out a common green darner dragonfly.  I carefully placed it on a rock so its wings could dry and then ran into the house to get my camera.  I have some great macros of that dragonfly.   There was another time – I was not outside and I think a frog grabbed a mockingbird that was too much to handle.  When I went outside I had to dip a dead mockingbird out of the pond. 


So what to do about the damsel fly?  Well I had to get it out – so I dipped a little garden rake into the water so it could cling to it and sat the rake on the rocks.  I did not rush in to get the camera.  I did not want photos of this fly clinging to the tines of a plastic rake and I did not want to shake it off or try some how to get it onto a better surface for photos.  When I got up to go in the house – it was still on the rake.  Something might have eaten it by now – but I did not sit there and let it drown. 


Blog Top Sites

Arts Blogs