A Nest In the Rocks

I try to take at least one walk around my neighborhood each day. I do it for exercise but I also enjoy observing all of the little intricacies of daily life for the few hundred people and animals that live around my street. For several days now I have noticed a couple of birds hanging out in the same area by a retention pond. Every time I walk by they throw a terrible fit. But they never fly away.

So yesterday I took my camera on the walk and stopped to see if I could get some pictures. I knelt down to take the picture and the bird went crazy. It made a lot of noise, turned its back on me and spread its feathers. When that failed to scare me away it made attempts at charging me while yelling spreading its wings.

My wife was along and commented that there must be a nest nearby. I couldn’t understand why it was making such a ruckus when I was still standing on the sidewalk. Then my wife pointed and asked “are those eggs?” Sure enough, right there in the rocks next to the sidewalk were four eggs. I had been standing about six inches from them. They were a black and cream spotted egg and they blended in really well with the rocks and dirt.

No wonder the bird was angry. But really, it was poor planning on her part. I’m not very good at identifying birds off the top of my head. I was, however, able to do a bit of research and discovered this is a pair of Killdeer. Killdeer are a type of Plover. I’ll be checking on the eggs now when I walk by. Hopefully some dog or other animal doesn’t get to them before they can hatch.

Raspberry Leaf

I was surprised to wake up Saturday morning and find it had rained during the night. It was a light rain as evidenced by the not quite soaked chair cushions and outdoor rug. But it was enough to leave droplets on the raspberry leaves that are starting to grow up in one of my garden pots.

Each leaf is unique with its own patterns and colors. I spent some time working my way around the small cluster of canes, finding leaves that were well shaped and facing the right direction. I worked with the composition of the subjects to see if I liked them centered or offset, clustered or single. Then I had to think about where the light was and if the image had enough in it. It was only 7:00am so there were plenty of shadows amongst the leaves to contend with.

I made several images that I really liked. But in the end I chose the one below for this post because of its simplicity, color and angle. I love being able to find such beautiful subjects right in my own back yard.

A study In Light

Sometimes I just look up and see an image that I want to make with my camera. The other morning the sun was coming through the window and shining on a mechanical desk. The desk has a hand crank that moves it up and down. I thought the shape of the crank handle was cool so I started taking some exploratory photographs at different angles.

At one angle I noticed the shadow the handle made and decided to follow that theme. I put a sketch pad down on the floor and tipped the desk over into the light. My final image is no masterpiece. But it is an interesting study in shape, light and the absence of light.

 

A Handful Worth Keeping

It’s funny how you can take a hundred pictures and only get one or two that are good enough to keep. The subject may have moved, the camera may have moved, the camera settings were wrong, the light was bad, the framing was crooked, the background was too busy. There are so many factors and variables.

But it’s worth it for those few good images. The ones you look at and realize they could have only been produced by persistent effort. That’s what happened this morning when I had an impromptu photo shoot with my dog Shadow.

The sun was just coming up when I looked down our hallway and noticed a beautiful soft light on the wall. It looked perfect for some nice photography. I knew the light was changing even as I looked at it so I needed to start shooting right away before it left. What I needed was something to photograph. My dog was lying on the couch being lazy so I decided to put her to work.

I called her over to where the nice light was and had her sit. She is usually well behaved and does what she’s told and this time was no different. Even so, I think she badly wanted to run over to me when she saw me crouched on the floor in weird positions with a camera in my face.

Shadow was actually so well behaved she was a little boring. A few times she turned her head or sniffed the air and those were a little more interesting shots. Thankfully she’s cute enough that even the boring shots are fun. It only took a few minutes for the good light to go away. I moved Shadow to a new location and took a few more pictures but by then the moment was over.

Out of all the pictures I took there were only a handful that I thought were worth keeping. But I enjoyed exploring what works with the dog. If I had more time to think before shooting I would have gotten different angles, worked with the depth of field a bit and explored some more ways to manipulate the light. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow morning.

First Day of Spring 2018

Today is the official first day of spring 2018. I’m always excited when the seasons change. There’s a sense of newness and refreshment. The change from spring to summer promises more time outside, vacations and cold drinks. Going from summer into fall gives hope of escaping the heat, celebrations and enjoyment of the harvest time and the changing colors of nature. The transition to the cold depths of winter then warrants hunkering down and focusing on the cerebral projects that were put on hold during the warmer seasons.

Dandelion

But my favorite seasonal shift is spring when the ice starts to melt and new life seems to pop up everywhere. Trees leaf out and bulbs push their way through the soil. Birds sing louder and  can be heard more often. Spring releases you from a sort of prison of the mind.

For me, along with the warming weather comes the desire to build something, anything. I usually get ahead of myself and start more projects than I can finish. But I’d rather start them and not finish than let my version of spring fever pass without acting on it.

It also never fails that spring makes me want to start growing a garden. It’s like some weird desire to help the natural world green up faster. Of course once that greening starts it’s like a reverse wild fire sending plants up everywhere, even where they’re not wanted. Then, for the rest of the season there’s a battle to keep the wanted plants from dying and the unwanted weeds from existing.

One of my favorite parts of spring is the vibrant glut of color. In contrast to the beautiful browns, oranges and earthy reds of fall, spring shines with emerald greens, blood reds and fiery yellows. I love finding patches of wildflowers growing in unlikely places. But I like wandering through garden centers and nurseries almost as much.

Every year I try to capture the joy of spring with its beauty, colors and promise. Sometimes that’s through writing and poetry. But another way that I find enjoyable is through photography. I’ve taken hundreds if not thousands of pictures of God’s creation but I always end up taking more. There’s always something unique to discover, even in the common plants and flowers that most people pass by every day.

Leave it to Beaver

I set out early yesterday morning to photograph two things: A bridge and a beaver. I knew the bridge was likely to be there. But I wasn’t so sure about the beaver. They’ve proven somewhat tricky for me just to see let alone capture on camera.

Last week I was watching some birds with my back to the canal I was near when I heard a loud splash close behind me. I spun around and scrambled to get my camera up to my face. Unfortunately, I had my wide angle lens on and by the time I remembered to get the cap off, all I could see was a tiny brown speck way out in the water.

Yesterday was almost as disappointing. I spent a little time photographing the bridge but was getting a little tired (I’ve been under the weather since last week). I decided to start heading back to the car. After crossing back over the bridge I happened to glance over my left shoulder and caught a glimpse of what at first appeared to be a log. But the next instant I knew it was the beaver.

 

A few pictures of a bridge.

I wanted to climb down by the water but figured it would take too long and might scare off the little rodent. So I ran back onto the bridge and peered over the edge. I saw the beaver go under the bridge but as I watched, I couldn’t see him come out on the other side.

I stood there scanning the tangled canal bank for a couple of minutes figuring Mr. Beaver had probably submerged to carry out some business. Sure enough, I eventually saw a small break in the surface of the water about a hundred feet downstream.

I thought it was going to be a far-away photo at best but was surprised to see the little snout that was poking above the water coming closer. And he kept coming. He was staring right at me as he slowly battled the current and approached to about ten feet of the bridge.

Of course this entire time I was trying to get a clear picture of the little guy. I was wishing I could have been down at the water’s edge but after thinking about it, looking down from the bridge allowed me to see part of his body and tail. If I had taken pictures at a lower angle I would have only seen the snout and glare on the water.

 

 

I was happy to have achieved both of my morning’s goals. None of the pictures were spectacular or particularly interesting but I count it a win just to have recorded my elusive subject this time.

You Have To Walk The Streets

Last weekend I got up early, grabbed my camera and headed down to a local canal-front trail to take some photographs. I was only planning on being gone for about forty-five minutes. However, when I got back to my car, I discovered I had somehow lost my keys. After searching around my car and peering in through the windows, I determined that I must have lost them along the trail. I walked back along the trail. This time, instead of looking for wildlife and interesting geometries, I was scanning the dirt along the trail.

 

A few images from my walk:

By the time I got back to my car (again) I had already walked two miles. I looked at my phone and realized it would be another three miles to walk home and get a spare key. I’ve never been one to sit around and bemoan my situation. So I started walking.

Now the route I took to get home was one I had driven hundreds of times. It’s made up of several major roads and a parkway. As I walked, I was amazed at what I was noticing. For one thing, I wasn’t sure if the entire route was walkable. When you take driving for granted you don’t notice how accessible your route is for other modes of transportation. It turns out, it was very walkable. There was even an interchange that had a small footbridge over it that I had never noticed.

When you walk, everything is slowed down. Instead of looking straight ahead while driving 45 mph, I had time to look down side streets and notice the businesses I never knew existed. I saw entrances to trails that couldn’t be seen from a car. There were new vantage points for taking interesting photographs. I even found a dirt lot with hand-cast concrete planters shaped around found items like wheelbarrows and grocery shopping carts.

I learned two lessons from my one hour, one mile turned three hour, five mile journey. First, don’t lose your keys. Second, to really notice your surroundings you have to slow down and engage those surroundings. Park the car and walk places you normally wouldn’t. You’ll be able to see things in a way a car just won’t allow.