2017—Ghost Of Halloween Past

When I took this photograph at a roadside cemetery in Vermont, I visualized a ghost draped in rags and chains, sort of like Dickens’ ghost of Christmas past, roaming among the gloomy, mist shrouded headstones. I thought it would make a perfect post for Halloween. The trouble was, I took the shot on a clear, sunny morning. There was no mist and of course no ghost. To create this image I first changed it to black and white and darkened it to simulate night.  Then I added several layers of mist from photographs I’d taken at Echo Lake the day before, leaving some of the misty spots brighter to indicate an otherworldly presence near some of the tombstones.  I don’t have many photographs of people that would have worked in this scenario and certainly none in rags and chains.  I did, however, have a photograph of a person I took at this year’s California Foundation for Birds of Prey open house that had the exact posture I was seeking.  I decided the rags and chains weren’t necessary.  The ghost-like presence looks like a lost soul wandering aimlessly so I think it works.

Enjoy a ghoulish Halloween!

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2017—Quechee Gorge

The Quechee Gorge Bridge which spans Vermont’s Ottauquechee River trembles with the passing of every vehicle.  Taking photographs from it was quite challenging, even with vibration reduction on our lenses.  And then, it started to rain.  When we approached the bridge, I saw a sign (second image).  As I headed toward the span, it gave me pause until I realized it was a warning for those stalwart enough to venture down into the gorge from the trailhead that started near the sign.

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2017—Watch Your Step

Calvin Coolidge was born, raised, inaugurated as President of the United States, and buried in Plymouth Notch, VT.   The historic buildings remain virtually unchanged in this tiny village which is now a historic place.  We were fascinated by the door to this building which has no steps leading from it.  We wondered if there was no need for steps because people just stepped into their carriages from the doorway.  It doesn’t appear that any steps have rotted away.  I guess in Vermont, you just need to watch your step.

Watch that step.jpg

2017—The Kids

Three kids, to be exact, all of them in perpetual motion—two human and one caprine.   Dixie, the pygmy goat, followed us around the yard and photo-bombed us more than once as Faith and Matt were trying to please their mother by posing for me.  Their smiles were sometimes a bit strained but when they got the chance to fool around a little, they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  I think Dixie wanted to jump into the wagon with Matt but made the best of it by just hanging close by.  I finally got one shot without Dixie, but I couldn’t get Faith to sit still!

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2017—Faith And Mom

It’s hard for me to believe that I have been taking photographs of Faith, my personal trainer Noelle’s daughter, since she was six months old.  This past July, Faith turned seven.  I usually take Faith’s photos in time for her birthday party invitation but this year,  between my busy schedule and theirs, we were almost four months late.  We squeezed in a brief photography session Tuesday afternoon for barely an hour between school letting out early and gymnastics practice later in the afternoon. Most of the photographs I took of Faith, her brother Matt, and some with Noelle were posed.  This one wasn’t.

Faith and Mom.jpg

2017—The Slightest Turn

I am always amazed at how quickly the glorious colors of a hummingbird’s gorget change from gem-like brilliance to almost black in an instant.   And, they don’t need direct sunlight or even flash to highlight the colors.   Homer visited the feeders late Tuesday afternoon.   He stayed about 50 seconds, just long enough to satisfy my need for a hummingbird photograph or two.  Even without the flash in the shadows of late afternoon, I managed a couple of shots of his glorious gorget but as he turned almost imperceptibly away from me, the colors faded away to black.  The background colors are also different because I moved a bit to avoid getting the feeder in the shot.  In the first shot, I had to remove a corner of the feeder, using Photoshop Content Aware fill.  In the second, after moving a few inches, I avoided the feeder altogether and got a better background color, just not enough color on Homer.

Homer Again

Homer Again 2

2017—A Different View

I struggled a little with landscapes in Vermont.  But, thinking outside the box led me to this view of the Poultney River near Middletown Springs, VT.  Viewing the scene through the Monochrome Picture setting in the camera allowed me to visualize it without the color.  At this spot, there were no vivid autumn colors so the contrast between light and shadow is what makes the photograph.

Poultney River VT.jpg

2017—Steeple Chasing

We spent about 30 minutes photographing the steeple of the Middletown Springs Community Church while the sun dipped behind the mountains.    The light playing on the trees changed dramatically as the sun disappeared and each photograph I captured of the steeple looks different.  When I changed the Picture Control from Standard to Vivid when the sun no longer shone directly onto the autumn colors, the colors were much more saturated and the white steeple seemed to leap off the page.  I loved the resulting image I saw in the viewfinder and decided at that time it was my favorite depiction of the steeple.  But, later, when I reviewed all the images on the computer, I felt the photographs with some sunlight were more appealing, like the one I posted yesterday.  However, as I review the images all again, ten days later, I am drawn to the saturation of the colors and the boldness of the white steeple in the photograph with no direct sunlight.  There is no doubt the subject of this photograph is the steeple.  The gorgeous autumn colors play a supporting role, not a competing role.   I think my initial reaction to the photograph was correct.  It is my favorite way of portraying this steeple.

As a point of clarification, even though I changed the Picture Control on my camera to Vivid from Standard, because I shoot RAW, the actual RAW image does not contain the Vivid markers.  Those are applied only to jpeg images and to the image viewed on the LCD on the back of the camera.  In order to return the photograph to what I actually saw, I had to make those changes in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

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2017—And Here’s The Steeple

Open the doors and see all the people.  Vermont is beautiful.  It is very quaint and to me, it is quintissential New England.  Everywhere we went I felt like we were in a Norman Rockwell painting.  It is no wonder.   I discovered after I got home that Norman Rockwell lived and painted in Arlington, VT from 1939 to 1953.     Vermont is filled with churches, and many of them have steeples.  The one photograph I knew I wanted to get was this one: a lone church spire poking through the fiery autumn leaves.   But, where is it?  Most churches are in the middle of towns but how do you hide the town in the photograph?

The church itself is in Middletown Springs, Vermont.  It is in the middle of the busy town square.  But, Moose knew about this spot and took us there late one afternoon.  It offers a view of the steeple amidst the colored autumn leaves but the town and its other buildings are completely obscured by the trees and hills.  I was amazed and thrilled to see this view of the church steeple from our high vantage point which is a well-guarded secret, and it made the perfect photographic opportunity for us.

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2017—Lay Ee Odl Lay Ee Odl Lay Hee Hoo

If you’re having trouble deciphering the title of this blog, just think of the musical The Sound of Music and of the Rogers and Hammerstein song, The Lonely Goatherd and you should be able to figure it out.  This song is relevant because the other day, my friend Bruce and I drove up to the Tahoe National Forest in search of what was left of the Sierra’s fall colors and to find arboglyphs carved into aspens by Basque sheepherders, some as far back as 100 years.  We found both.  However, as Rogers and Hammerstein yodeled about the loneliness of the goatherds in Austria, the sheepherders in the Sierra Nevada Mountains took to illustrating their loneliness by carving their longings onto trees.  While the arboglyphs are fascinating, many of them  are, to put it bluntly, pornographic.  Their salaciousness and the fact that it is difficult to capture the entire glyph on what amounts to a cylinder (tree trunk) means that I won’t be posting many of the arboglyphs.

According to studies being done of the trees, the woman depicted in the first arboglyph photograph below was apparently not someone back home in the Pyrenees, but rather a local who was a frequent visitor to the camps during the early 1900’s.  She appeared on several trees but this is the only G-rated depiction of her that we saw.   There is considerable documentation about the arboglyphs and  areas with arboglyphs are  marked by blue tags, indicating a grove of trees with trees being studied.   The bark on the older aspens in the groves is beginning to deteriorate and the trees are beginning to die so the urgency to study them is increasing.  Click here to read more about them.

The second photograph shows a sheepherder’s name carved vertically into the trunk.  The date, 1912 is partially visible at the bottom.  The third photograph generated much discussion.  Is it an arboglyph or did a bear hug the tree and scratch it with its claws?  After seeing what appeared to be huge scratches on more than one tree, I wasn’t quite as comfortable wandering in this remote area of the high Sierras with no cell phone service.


lady face arboglyph

name arboglyph

Bear Track arboglyph


2017—Homer’s Home

There were three hummers dancing around the feeders Thursday afternoon and one was definitely Homer.  He seems to have been unseated from his old perch by Homer, Jr., but he apparently found another observation post.  I wasn’t using flash for this shot but the the overcast skies saturated the colors and his gorget was full and brilliant without flash so I knew it was Homer.   These shots demonstrate how different the gorget appears depending on how the light strikes it.  I took these shots just a fraction of a second apart and in the first, most of the gorget appears black, but when he turned slightly toward the camera, it glows.  Both shots have the identical time stamp.

Nikon D500, 300mm f/4, 1.4x teleconverter
ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/500 (first shot)  and 1/400 (second shot) shutter speed, exposure compensation -1.3



AH-Homer 2


2017—Back To The Hummers

Homer, Jr. was guarding his territory from other hummers when I was out testing the new 24-70mm lens with the Nikon D5 Tuesday afternoon.  Of course I was prepared for the possibility of a hummingbird photo op so I had the Nikon D500, 300mm f/4 lens and the 1.4x teleconverter on the chair next to where I was sitting in the yard.  I decided to try without flash.   It is amazing to me that the gorget often glows almost from within.  Because Homer is a juvenile, his gorget has not filled in completely but as he flitted in front of the feeder, a few of the brilliant magenta feathers lit up without the aid of a flash.  And, without flash, the background is not as black.

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2017—Remains Of The Rose

For the past five years, my favorite, workhorse lens has been my Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.  It is still an excellent, tack sharp lens, but on my last trip, I realized it needed some TLC so when I got home, I sent it to Nikon to be brought back to specs.  In the past year or so, Nikon introduced a new 24-70mm lens with a vibration reduction feature, something my old lens does not have and with reports that it is even sharper than my old lens.  So, I bought the new lens and will sell the old one when it comes back from Nikon.   On  Tuesday afternoon, I wandered around my yard taking images with the new lens.   This Winsome blossom, with all of the petals on one side missing, caught my attention.  While I was photographing it, what I think to be a paper wasp was drawn to it briefly.  I’m not sure I’m happy about a paper wasp in the vicinity, but so far, the lens is living up to my expectations.

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2017—Green-eyed Lady, Lovely Lady

My purple salvia plants continue to attract birds and bees and Monday afternoon, even a female Cabbage White (pieris rapae).  I seem to be in a rut with fifty-year old top-ten hits coming to mind when I take a photograph of bugs, no less.  Yesterday’s was the Beatles, today’s, Sugarloaf’s Green-Eyed Lady which immediately came to my mind when I looked through the viewfinder to see the alien-looking green eyeball of this small white butterfly.  I double-checked and discovered that the Cabbage White female has yellowish underwings with black speckles just like in this photograph so the title of the blog fits…well, maybe not the ‘lovely lady” part.

Camera: D500
Lens: 105 mm (micro)
ISO: 100
Aperture: 9
Shutter: 1/640
Exp. Comp.: -0.7

Green-eyed Lady.jpg

2017—Can’t See The Forest For The Trees

There were pockets of stunning fall color in Vermont last week but, as we overheard some locals talking at breakfast yesterday, the lack of frost has kept the intense reds  from developing this year.  Still there was beauty to be seen.  And the trees were so gorgeous we didn’t mind that the entire forest wasn’t deep red because the yellows and oranges made up for the lack of red.

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2016—Fly Fishing On The Battenkill

On the way to Manchester, VT, home of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, we stopped on a bridge that crossed the Battenkill River to admire the view.   The Battenkill River is one of Vermont’s premier fly fishing rivers.   We saw no fly fishermen on the river that morning but when I texted my brother, who is a fly fisherman, about the presence of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, he told me that my Dad, who was also an avid a fly fisherman, had a role in establishing the museum when he was involved with the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturer’s Association in 1968.  Unfortunately, priorities prevented our visiting the museum on this trip.  The priority you ask?  Breakfast at “Up for Breakfast” in Manchester.  I used the Vivid setting on my camera along with a polarizer on the lens to capture the gorgeous fall colors.

Battenkill River.jpg