Thursday, June 30, 2011

Birds in my Garden

I planted several flowers with the intention of attracting wildlife, specifically, birds and insects.  I have a red honeysuckle, hardy geraniums, lavender, purple coneflowers, verbena, zinnias, Thai basil, sweet basil, sage, buddleja, hydrangea Lacecap, lobelia, lots of daylillies and hostas.  Hummingbirds are attracted to the honeysuckle and the red to blue color petunias.  Gold finch are attracted to the seeds from the purple coneflower.  All the rest attract butterflies and bees/parasitic wasps.

The buddleja aka Butterfly Bush attracts the most butterflies by far with the zinnias running a close second.  The honeysuckle-Alabama Crimson attracts the hummingbirds.  I also have in the garden two bird baths and a hanging sack of black thistle seeds.  The bird baths attract all kinds of birds, some prefer the bath on the ground rather than the one standing 3ft tall.  The baths must be washed and scrubed once per week to remove the dirt.  I also placed a dripping watering device about four inches above the surface of the water on the tall bath to add water daily and to make a sound that the birds may hear the splash.  I placed the standing bath and hung the sack of thistle seeds within three feet of my breakfast room window and the show is almost nonstop.  The black thistle has two gold finch clinging to the sack almost constantly.  You just have to love the color of those birds.  There are house finches in the bird bath that look as though someone dipped them them head first into raspberry juice.

I have photographs of the currently flowering plants just below.  Tell me how you attract wildlife to your garden.
Day Lilly-Hemerocallis
Day Lilly Double-Hemerocallis

Hardy Geranium - Cranesbill
Honeysuckle- Lonicera sempervirens 'Alabama Crimson'

Hydrangea Lacecap

Some kind of bee on Thai Basil
Swallowtail Butterfly on Zinnia

Swallowtail Butterfly on Verbena
My neighbor's aggressive Campsis Radicans-Orange

Monday, June 27, 2011

Robin's Nest Near My Window 2

The eggs have hatched.  The chicks are being fed worms constantly throughout the day.  As my luck would have it, my lens broke about 10 days ago and I have not been able to capture one image, since.  My new lens arrived Fri but I have been busy and still unable to photograph the robins.

I went outside this evening to grill some dinner and water the plants on the patio.  I also carried out my camera, just in case I got lucky.  The mother robin usually flies away as soon as it hears my sliding door open.  This time was no exception.  I placed the camera on a table and checked the weight of the potted plants to estimate their need for water.

I turned on the faucet for the garden hose and proceeded to water the hanging basket nearest my breakfast room window and within 2 feet of the robin's nest.  I could see little beaks upraised in the nest.  I was already too late to photograph the eggs in the nest.   One of the parents was approximately 10 ft behind me chirping loudly seeming to let me know I am too close to their nest and chicks.  The robins are not aggressive however, and only chirp loudly from a safe distance.

The parent robins will not approach the nest as long as I was within 20 ft and clearly visible.  I then pulled one of the chairs from the table and chair set within 7 feet of the post and decided to sit still and wait.  One of the parents returned with a worm dangling from its beak and perched on the horizontal support for the hanging basket attached to the same post on which the nest is built.  This may be an acceptable image but I hadn't the camera in my hands, the setting sun was hidden behind clouds and I wasn't ready to capture it.  I needed to move my position a bit for a better composition, besides.  I decided not to keep the chicks from their dinner.   I moved the chair before I returned to the house, so I wouldn't need to move it when I returned.

I hope to capture some acceptable images before the chicks fly away.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Remembering My Neighbor in Greeting Cards

For the last few weeks, I have been designing and writing greeting cards to sell in my store at Greeting Card Universe.  At my previous house in Philadelphia, I had a neighbor whom I remember saying quite often, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."  He often observed me changing the oil in my car or tuning the engine.  He, on the other hand, sat in the blazing sun on my side of the shared patio with beads of perspiration running down his bald head.  He enjoyed the hot sun and said it reminded him of the old country, meaning Africa, him being African-American.  With those thoughts in mind, I started a line of greeting cards using colloquialisms I might hear him uttering.

I have a few here that are in my store presently:
The sentiment inside reads:
Congratulations on your engagement!
Strong black coffee may be what you need right now.
The sentiment inside reads:
Translated from Latin "Time Flies"
Happy Birthday Friend,
stop doing that insignificant crap,
you're getting older by the second.

If you please, I would love to have you assistance.  My children and wife all tell me I am not funny.  If you could leave your opinions and suggestions for edits, please do.  It will help me enormously.

Thank you

Related Links
How to Create Greeting Cards
Victorian Translations
GCU 101
Salon of Art

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Soltice 2011

Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, a natural phenomenon that happens twice in the Earth orbit around Sol, the sun.  It happens once in each hemisphere, northern and southern.  A bit of research on the web will yield tons of sites with information about the Summer Solstice.

Many early civilizations built structures to mark different celestial events.  One of the many and probably the most famous is Stonehenge, in modern England.  There are
others, such as Newgrange in Ireland that pre-date Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramid of Giza.  (Newgrange, Neolithic mound, marks the Winter Solstice with the rising sun casting light down a long corridor.)

Arise before the dawn tomorrow and with camera in hand photograph your experience of Summer Solstice, 2011.

Related links

How to celebrate the summer soltice in Ireland
Philadelphia solstice celebration 2011
Drumming Circle in Cincinnatti
Central Park, NY celebration 2011

Swedish Midsummer Festival in Battery Park, NYC

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Woman Equality - Shirtless in Public

I am in pre-production for a personal/editorial photography project.  Here it is in a nut shell-

Women do not have the same rights as men when it comes to being shirtless in public, at least, here in the USA.  My project is to photograph women, not just glamour models, in situations in which you might normally see a man shirtless.  For example, nailing shingles on a roof.  I am also planning to place my project on the website where I hope to raise the funding I need to complete the project.  My project has already been pre-approved by the website.  Currently, I am working out a budget and contacting people for locations and getting pricing for props.  Once I have a budget and gotten some preliminary commitments from models, photography assistants and such, I will put my project on Kickstarter.  Once the project is posted, I will have a limited time to get pledged support.  If the project is fully funded, I will get the money.  If it is not fully funded, the project will either need to be reworked and posted on the site again or it is history.  I plan on having all the photography completed before the weather gets unbearable to pose shirtless outdoors.  I also hope to have for sale calendars and magazine type publications available for Christmas 2011.

I will keep you abreast here of my progress.  I am excited to say the least.

TopFree Equal Rights Association

Monday, June 13, 2011

Handheld Printer- Soon

Handheld printer coming soon!

It can easily be held in one hand.  I prints on almost anything, paper, wood, fabric.  It has a built-in 5 megapixal camera.  You must check this out.  Scheduled for release later 2011.

Related Links

Commercial/Industrial Handjet Printer
Graffiti Writer

Friday, June 10, 2011

Photographing a Robin's Nest Near My Window 1

I have a post near my breakfast room window.  I placed it there for support of a clematis.  The post was an used 3" x 6" that was once the platform of an outdoor advertising poster panel.  It was 24' long and I used a circular saw to cross cut it.  The blade could not cut clear through in one pass so I cut each side going around the post.  The cut was not square to the side, it had a peak in the center and slopes on all sides.  Come to think of it, I may have done that on purpose so the rain would drain off and not puddle on the top of the post.  In any event, I planted the post 2' deep and its elevation is approximately 7' above ground level.  I had some 2" x 4" green plastic coated wire fencing and I surrounded the post with that.  The fencing does not touch the post and stands away from the post about 3" on all sides.  I stabilized the fencing with wire I ran around the post and then back to the fencing on opposite sides, forming an X if viewed from above.  The fencing extends above the post by a few feet allowing the clematis to climb as high as possible.

Last year, a robin tried to build a nest atop the post.  Because of the post being peaked the nest began to slide off.  I tried to stabilize the nest with string but it didn't stay and the robin abandoned the nest.  Robins generally have two or three broods per season.  Soon a robin began to build a new nest in the same place.  This time the nest seemed to be stable and I began thinking of photographing the bird activity through my window.  I raised the blinds in the window and kept them in that position for ease of access.  Standing comfortably inside the bay window I was able to place the camera lens against the glass.  Because I was only two feet away, the robin and nest almost filled the viewfinder.

Without the camera, I
began to sneak up on the robin hoping it would become comfortable with my presence.  Many times we would stare eye to eye and as long as I didn't move shapely it didn't fly.  Fly it did.  I began to think of some kind of blind I could fashion so that only the camera lens would be visible by the bird.  I thought of mirrored film to affix to the window but my spouse vetoed that idea.  I thought of paper with just a lens sized hole.  Again vetoed.  I now had rules in which it was necessary to work.  I am most creative when I am limited by rules.  Here is my solution.

I would set the camera on a tripod in the window with the lens against the glass, remote release attached.  This solution would create an environment  with no movements to startle the robin.  My next step was to find a remote release.  I searched in my camera equipment for my old bulb release with a 15' tube.  Alas, my digital camera has no release connection.  Any remote would need to be electronic.  I didn't have time to send via mail for an electronic remote release.

I continued to sneak up on the robin.  The robin flew each time.  I disturbed the robin too often and the nest was abandoned, again.

This spring as I cleaned up my yard, with my daughter's impending wedding scheduled for the end of May 2011, I trimmed back the honeysuckle(Lonicera) and the rosa Z├ęphirine-Drouhin on the side of the house, not within view of any windows.  There I found a robin's nest on the rose trellis.  There were no signs of eggs but the nest was intact and just about 4' above ground level.  Thinking of creating greeting cards from my photographs, I placed some rose petals in the nest and some Geraniaceae flowers around the nest.  Not quite as exciting as the anticipation the year before but what surprised me is that I never even saw the nest or any bird activity on that trellis at all last year.

Greeting Card Universe

I never did get any quality images of the robin, eggs or hatchlings.  This year, I hope to show enough patience to allow this robin time to lay eggs before I begin to experiment with the camera in the window.  I eagerly anticipate the wide open mouths of the hatchlings in my viewfinder.

Related Links
Greeting Card Universe
Attracting Nesting Robins
Robin Nesting Shelf Plans

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Camera Basics: Practice makes perfect, even with photography

If you want to progress with your photography, you must set aside time to use your camera and create
images.  In order to get better, you must practice, practice, practice.  Practice will allow you to better understand your equipment.  In the case of photography you will learn the limitations and capabilities of your camera, flash, tripod and with digital cameras, your photo editing software.  Once you learn the laws governing your equipment it will free your thoughts to be creative.  Learn the rules and forget them, your operation of the camera will become instinctive.  That will only happen through practice, because practice makes perfect.

Start with your camera.  Digital cameras are so complex you need to experiment with your camera and learn every aspect of its functions.  First read the instruction manual.  Read with camera in hand.  Stop after each paragraph and turn the dial, push the buttons and begin to become familiar with using our camera.

Begin with the seemingly simple tasks.  What source of power does the camera use?  Does it use a battery pack, disposable batteries, or is it rechargeable using a power cord?  Where is the battery compartment and door?  Charge the batteries for the recommended time and place the batteries/pack into the camera.

What type memory media does you camera use, CF, SD, SDHC...?  Where is the slot for the media?  How do you insert the card, extract the card?  How do you reformat the card?  Are you using the optimum media card for your camera for the way you use your camera?  Is a class 10 card enough or do you need a card with 30MB/s or maybe a 45 MB/s write rate?

This is only the beginning the simple tasks!  Take it one step at a time.  One step towards being comfortable using your camera.  One step towards using it instinctively.

Once you have a charged battery and a reformatted media card is in the camera, go capture some images with your camera.  For me, the most rewarding process in photography was in the darkroom watching the latent image appear on the surface of photo paper, just under the surface of the developer.  Once you see your image you will be rewarded and the learning process continues.

There is much more to learn about your camera, that will be followed by your other equipment.  Learning to become a better photographer will be a long journey.  As Lao-tzu (c 604-531 BC) said so many years ago, "A journey of a thousand miles began with a single step."   There is also an old English proverb, You must crawl before you walk.  So, start your journey by crawling then take your first step.  Please remember that practice makes perfect, even in photography.  Go forth and practice.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

... the Kingdom of the Father...

My daughter was married the last Sat in May.  Sitting through the wedding ceremony in the church I began to think that beauty all around us.  "In the Gospel of Thomas (Saying 113) Jesus' disciples ask him, 'When will the Kingdom come?'  He replies, 'It will not come by waiting for it,  It will not be a matter of saying, "'Here it is'" or "'There it is.'"  Rather, "...the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it"

We all need to see the beauty that is everywhere.  It is a photographers responsibility to expose others to our findings.  Art is like mythology and tries to explain what can not be explained.

‎"It is the function of art to carry us beyond speech to experience ..." - Joseph Campbell, Sake & Satori, p. 287

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Moon - Meteor Showers

As much as the full moon has power over me, shooting stars also draw me out to observe the night sky.  As a matter of fact a full moon is not your friend when watching for meteors.  The light of the moon can be as detrimental as lights from a large urban area.   A new moon is best for meteor watching.  I am not saying you should not try to view a meteor shower if there is anything but a new moon but the lack of light from a new moon is optimum.  The other function in the light equation is distance from a large urban area.  Somewhere on the ocean or in Flagstaff, AZ, or Sark Island 80 miles off the coast of England are good places to view a meteor shower because of the lack of light pollution.  Below are links to other good spots around the world.

Why are there meteor showers in the first place?  I will try to explain.  Each year the Earth circles the sun in one full orbit.  Traveling through Earth's orbit path have been other celestial bodies, each depositing bits and pieces in their wake.  As the Earth enters these intersections in its orbit the bits and pieces left behind strike Earth's atmosphere and burn as they are pulled down on a collision course with the its surface.  Most of the bits are as small as or smaller than a grain of sand and burn up before nearing Earth's surface.  Larger pieces burn brighter and for a longer period of time and may make contact with Earth's surface.  However, two thirds of the Earth is covered with water, meteorites, as they are called when they reach Earth, are difficult to find.  There are meteorite hunters that try and try hard to find them.  I am not so interested in meteorites but the light show the meteors provide.

There are eleven annual meteor showers.  They are spread out over the entire year.  There are four major showers each with a higher frequency of meteors.  As it happens this year, 2011, there is only one that occurs during a new moon and that is the Geminids in mid-December.  The Geminids is the most reliable shower of the year.  The weather is cold here and winter attire and a thermos of hot drink are my recommendations.

Another reliable shower is the Perseids in August.  Unfortunately for me, the summer is hot and humid producing haze or clouds and possible thundershowers that time of year.  There is also the matter of mosquitos for which to prepare.

No matter when you decide to view a meteor shower, the best time of day is just before sunrise.  That is because of Earth's rotation and its orbital path approaching the debris left behind by the celestial bodies.

Digital cameras aren't the best choice for exposures over 3 minutes.  Either keep the exposure under that or use a film camera.

2011 Meteor Shower Schedule
Guide to Viewing Meteor Showers
Photographing Meteor Showers
Popular Photography-How to Photograph the Perseids
Large Meteor Photographed in Pennsylvania 2009
Meteorite Hunters
Sark Island
International Dark-Sky Association Members' Favorite Spots