When a tiny shaft of early morning sunlight struck one of the Winsome rosebuds in my backyard, I knew I had only a precious couple of minutes to capture the light on that rose. Winsome, one of my two Ron Smith memorial roses, is a pink miniature tree rose with small flowers and a very slight bluish cast. When my friend Honora was visiting a few days ago, she gave it a much needed manicure because, as she put it when I commented on her sudden flurry of garden cleanup, “it’s what I do.” (And, I thank you, and my garden thanks you for that, Honora.) The shaft of gorgeous light was gone in less than two minutes but I did capture a few shots that show the flower emerging from the darkness into the light and I found one shot in particular that I especially liked. Then, I played with the image in Color Efex Pro 4, applying the bleached portrait filter and I loved how the filter brought out the veins and detail in the petals and leaves and softened the color a bit. When I applied the Chrome Filter in the black and white module of Perfect Effects 8 to the same shot, I got another result that I liked as well.
This trio of purple echinacea flowers, growing in Honora’s garden in Santa Rosa, reminds me of a 17th Century Flemish still-life painting with its dark background, decaying petals, and a house fly intruding into the scene. It’s obviously not as elegant, complex, or detailed but many Northern Renaissance still-lifes symbolized the brevity and the ephemeral nature of life using plates of decaying fruit and bouquets of wilted flowers often covered with flies. I thought it was interesting that the fly was drawn to the one dying flower.
I realize these shots are almost identical to one I posted a few days ago, but if I keep practicing with this 80-400mm lens, eventually I’ll feel comfortable with it. I tried getting shots of the hummer twice but it flew off before I could get the lens to focus on the bird. The third time proved the charm when I plopped down in front of the fountain and waited until the hummer returned. It was only a minute or so and the bird cooperated and posed for me and I even managed to keep the lens in focus for most of the shots.
When I went into Trader Joe’s on Tuesday afternoon, I was greeted by a huge display of gladioli, traditionally, the August birth flower. What drew me to these spiked beauties was not that the gladiolus is my birth flower but that Trader Joe’s was selling a bunch of 5 stems for $1.99! I love having fresh flowers in the house and because my roses are not currently producing many blooms, I bought three bunches. I now have a stunning, three foot tall bouquet of fire engine red gladioli.
I couldn’t decide how to take a decent photograph of the entire bouquet so I used my macro lens and went in close on one of the flowers. This reminds me a little of a Georgia O’Keefe painting. I edited the shot in Perfect Effects 8.
Focal Length 105mm, ISO 500, f/20, 1/2s
For several years, I’ve grown chives in a large strawberry pot along with other herbs. The chives come back year after year without my having to replant them. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed them blooming in the strawberry pot. I’m sure they have but I guess I didn’t pay attention. This year, when the buds opened, they were white, not the purple that I expected them to be. Whenever I’ve grown chives in past years, the flowers were purple, in kind of a globe shape. These white flowers atop tall stalks are very different from that.
After taking some shots of the blooms, one a macro taken at 4PM in the bright sun, and one with the 80-400 in late morning sun, I wondered about the white flowers and why they looked different from other chives I’ve grown. It turns out that what I planted a few years ago were Chinese chives known as kow choi, also called garlic chives. They are not regular chives but they are both in the allium family. How could I not have noticed that these chives were different: a large flat tube instead of a small round one; floppy leaves, not really upright; and a pronounced garlicky flavor, not an oniony flavor? So much for having a discretionary palate. It’s no wonder my culinary skills are marginal!
Focal Length 105mm, ISO 1000, f/45, 1/100s
Focal Length 400mm, ISO 500, f/13, 1/320s
After I looked at the photos I took of this male lesser goldfinch drinking at the fountain, I realized his head was covered with pin feathers. The white keratin sheaths stand out from his black head, more noticeably on the first shot. I had never thought about other kinds of birds, besides parrots, having pin feathers after a molt, but of course they would. When a bird molts and new feathers emerge, the new feathers are covered with a keratin sheath that protects the new feather until it matures enough to slough off. One of the reason birds preen themselves and each other, is to remove the keratin sheath from their feathers.
Both shots: Focal Length 400mm, ISO 640, f/5.6, 1/125
Well, it’s probably the same hummer. There seem to be no more than 3 hummers in the yard and one, presumably this one, the male, dominates the fountain and the feeders and seems to be in control of his territory. I captured this shot after he had bathed in the fountain and retreated to the nearby shrubs to preen.
Focal Length 400mm, ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/200, flash
Faith joined Noelle, her Mom and my personal trainer, and me at our session Friday morning for the first, and possibly the last, time. This rambunctious four year old tried as hard as she could to be good after promising that she would stay out of our way and watch a video while her mother coached me through a workout. Faith grew up around a gym and is athletic and very agile. She is not the kind of child that can sit still and watch videos for long so the video was quickly abandoned for some of the more entertaining gym equipment. A few admonitions from Mom subdued Faith briefly but she could contain herself only so long and it was just a matter of time before something happened.
As I kneeled on the mat clutching a 15 pound kettle bell with my right hand and repeatedly lifting it in a rowing exercise, a ball suddenly rolled onto the mat and bounced off the kettle bell. It was a small, lightweight inflatable ball and it did no harm but that was the last straw for Noelle who has incredible patience and does not raise her voice but is definitely in charge of her children. A couple of sharp words from Noelle and a directive that Faith issue an apology to me were met by Faith hanging her head in embarrassment and a few tears spilled onto her mother’s shoulder. It was several minutes before Faith managed to utter a barely audible “I’m sorry.” Of course I accepted it immediately and told her that I knew she didn’t mean to do it. It was a very minor incident and it was hard for me not to burst out laughing during the entire event but I didn’t want to make Noelle’s job more difficult or embarrass Faith any more than she already was.
Faith is used to me and my camera so after my workout session, I asked if I could take some photos. She was reticent at first, still a bit embarrassed by the earlier incident but finally she looked up and smiled. I think this shot is adorable and reflects her impish nature. When we parted ways, she shouted “Bye Carol!” We are once again friends.
I call this post “Tootsie Pop” because I edited it in Perfect Effects 8 using a preset filter with that name but I think it might be a good nickname for Faith.
Focal Length 70mm; ISO 500; f/2.8; 1/160
Driving home from Santa Rosa Thursday, I answered what can only be described as the “call of the wild” and turned off Hwy. 12 at Glen Ellen and drove up to Jack London State Park. The last time I visited there was 1969 and I think I read “The Call of the Wild” when I was in junior high school, long before then. After exploring the museum that is housed in the huge rock home that Jack’s widow built after his death, and saw the many artifacts and books from Jack’s adventurous life, I walked a half mile through the woods to “Wolf House.” Wolf House was destroyed by fire in 1911 before Jack and his wife could move in and he died before they could rebuild it but the ruins have been preserved for more than a century.
I loved walking through the woods that are filled with oaks and redwoods. I was careful to avoid the poison oak that was everywhere along the trail (leaves of three, let it be). I’ve only had poison oak once in my life and that was one time too many for me. After my ridiculous bout with hives while I was in Oregon last week, I didn’t want to complicate my life with an outbreak of poison oak. And, despite my concern over the poison oak, I couldn’t resist capturing those leaf triplets. I was more taken with the magnificent redwoods, the mighty oaks, and the poisonous plants than I was with the Wolf House. However, I did like the last shot posted here. The stairs seem to beckon one into the structure which is now just a huge stone shell.
Wednesday afternoon, Honora and I took a drive around areas of Santa Rosa I haven’t seen in more than 40 years. We drove along rural oak lined Mark West Springs Road on the outskirts of town to the old Mark West Springs Lodge with its quaint grape vine arbor than still spans the roadway with bright green grape leaves and a few small clusters of grapes. The Lodge has been closed for years and has fallen into disrepair but I was intrigued by the arbor and discovered a coiled tendril that looks more like a wad of rusted wire than a natural piece of grape vine.
I edited this shot in Perfect Effects 8 and added a grunge filter and a vintage filter called Dirty Bird that makes the tendril appear even more like a piece of rusty metal and adds a texture that appears to create a faux wall behind it.
Here are some random leftover shots from my trip to Oregon.
This gray squirrel toyed with me, running from tree to tree but making sure I followed as he looked back at me from his high perch.
I loved the look of this gaillardia, or blanket flower, in a planter we saw on a walk in the quaint little village of Sisters, Oregon.
New bird houses for sale at an antique store in Sisters.
Pines in the morning sun in the RV Park in La Pine.
A golden-mantled ground squirrel at Newberry Crater. We always called them chipmunks but I learned that chipmunks, (including Alvin, I assume) live only on the east coast.
Purple scabiosa, or pincushion flower, is lovely in a planter at East Lake Resort.
A rufous hummingbird perched atop a feeder it is guarding from rival hummers at East Lake Resort.
While I was away, I turned off the fountain so it wouldn’t dry out and burn up the pump. The hummers have been without their accustomed morning bath for a week. Monday morning, before I made my first Americano, I noticed a hummingbird flitting near the fountain after I turned it on again. It was still dark and shady by the fountain before 7AM so I attached the speed light and upped the ISO. I shot this from about 6 feet away as the hummer decided whether to land and bathe. Its green feathers appear kind of a brassy gold from the flash. The color also reflects this hummer’s personality, kind of in-your-face and brassy, if I may anthropomorphize a bit. Oh, wait, is it considered anthropomorphism to attribute a non human characteristic to another non human thing? Hmmmmm. I wonder. A few years ago, I participated in an on-line psittacine support group … no, not some arcane addiction but a group for parrot owners with behavior issues…the parrots, not the owners. In response to one of my posts, someone commented that my parrot, Bobo, seemed to have me “buffaloed” and another responder chastised that person severely for the anthropomorphic comment. The exchange amused me greatly and made me wonder when buffaloes had become human.
I only had to make a few adjustments in Lightroom to this shot and I didn’t even have to crop it because I was so close to my subject.
Focal Length 400mm; ISO 640; f/5.6; shutter speed 1/200
The day before I left Oregon, I walked around the RV park and discovered a pygmy nuthatch nest high up, in the side of a pine tree. The parents were ferrying bugs continually while I watched. The next morning I checked on them again and got a few more shots. In the last two, one of the chicks is visible in the nest cavity and it seems to be crying out for more as the parent flies off to get more grub! I was so intent on focusing on the nest cavity that I didn’t follow the parent as it flew off. Someday, I will get a flying bird in focus!
We finally had beautiful weather so on Friday, the last full day of my visit to Oregon, we visited the Fall River, including its origin where it bubbles out of a spring and culminates in a beautiful waterfall then eventually merges with the Deschutes River. Thank you, Arthur, Susan, and Mady for making me feel welcome and feeding and housing me despite my propensity for jinxing every day of my visit.
Friday was Arthur’s birthday and after days of bad luck and bad weather, the morning dawned with new hope. One of the continuing problems that actually began before my arrival and was not attributed to me, thankfully, was an incompatible trailer hitch on the new fifth wheel trailer. After days of worry and visits to the RV center, Friday morning, Arthur’s birthday present was the reassuring ker-chunk of the hitch connecting properly to its mate in the bed of the truck. Here is one happy camper.
The hail was still on the ground when we awoke Thursday morning. Arthur, a fabulous cook——both my brothers, unlike me, are creative, talented cooks——decided to make a Dutch Baby for breakfast. A Dutch Baby is kind of like a giant popover, filled with butter, fruit, lemon and powdered sugar and it is delicious. Baking the Dutch Baby in the unfamiliar oven in his new Fifth Wheel trailer proved a bit frustrating and when the smoke alarm started to blare (well at least it works) it freaked Mady who retreated underneath the trailer next door. Of course both Arthur and Sue looked at me and it’s now no doubt that I seemed to have jinxed the trip. Despite a slightly charred bottom on the Dutch Baby, with its rum and cinnamon laced peach filling it made for a delightful and delicious breakfast to start the chilly day. Then, jinx that I am, it was no surprise that as I cut into the pancake for a bite, the fork broke.
I found an ironic welcome sign at the RV Center where my brother bought his new trailer; the fence and barbed wire scream “keep out!” while the words shout just the opposite. Have I brought bad karma to Oregon? Am I NOT welcome in Oregon? I am beginning to wonder because we had more violent storms on Wednesday and my face, head, and neck are covered with hives, the result, I think, from some mosquito bites I got on Monday. Hmmm. It makes me wonder.
The stormy weather arrived again mid afternoon with torrents of rain, bolts of lightening, blasts of thunder, and buckets of hail. Mady retreated, shivering uncontrollably, to the sofa and to help mitigate our own terror, we retreated into the trailer with a bottle of zinfandel, kindly supplied by a fellow traveler in the park who is a friend of my brother’s from Redding and who bottles his own wine. Trailer life can be interesting.
Before the storm, I photographed Arthur unsuccessfully portraying Mr. Universe and Mady watching him attempting to lift the trailer. And, I couldn’t resist capturing the quintessential trailer trash fixture, a string of tacky party lights on my brother’s trailer.
We drove home from Bend Tuesday afternoon in a blinding rainstorm with lightening, thunder, and hail. I think Arthur and Susan may hesitate to invite me back next year because I seem to have brought bad karma…at least bad weather… to Oregon. We found piles of hailstones by the door to the RV when we got home. After dinner when the storm had passed and the sun was setting, Arthur and I walked Mady down to the Little Deschutes River that runs near the RV park. This delightful scene presented itself to us as we approached the river.