Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
I happened to have a chat with a coworker today about taking pictures of birds and other small, skittish creatures. I have a 70-300mm zoom with image stabilization that should be quite good for that but it has one annoying limitation and a quite serious flaw. The annoying limitation is its lack of close focusing. Even at 300mm, to get a full frame image of a bird, you have to get fairly close. Having to add an extension tube to focus that close is an issue. The serious flaw is that the way Canon designed this lens, the internal connector that controls the aperture becomes damaged or disconnected and on occasion the lens fails to operate properly and no picture is taken. Because of that, I cannot recommend this lens. What I’d really like is Canon’s 400mm f/5.6 (well, I’d like the f/2.8 but who are we kidding?).
Anyway, I happened to go out a little later and was able to get this Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) in the bushes with my lowly 100mm f/2.8 macro. Not bad.
Cathy and I drove down to Richmond this afternoon for our friend Emily’s photo exhibit in an art gallery there. Many of the galleries in Richmond have openings on the first Friday of each month so it’s a bit of a thing. It didn’t seem like there was as much action as there had been on previous First Fridays but that didn’t seem to hurt Emily too much. Her show was pretty well visited for the entire three hours of the official opening. Cathy and I really enjoyed seeing her work and of course also seeing her, her mom, and many of her friends.
We walked west on Broad Street as far as Boulevard, going into a few other galleries. The skirt of this gown is made from tea bags. It is one of two in a shop window and I couldn’t resist taking pictures. I took other pictures throughout the evening, of course, mostly of folks at Emily’s show. We drove back home again that evening so it was a long day, but well worth the drive.
Lizzy and Josh
It’s December and that means all sorts of Christmas parties (or, if work-related, holiday parties, but that’s a post for another time). The first Christmas party of the season was with our church family. It was hosted by our pastor and his wife (and their kids, I suppose) and it was a full house. I honestly don’t know how many of us were there but it was a good crowd. Of course, being a pot luck, there was way more food than we could eat, although I guess some folks didn’t get to try things that ran our early. For me, the highlight was little smokies wrapped in bacon and then sprinkled with brown sugar and baked. Man, were those good (thanks, Joanna and Juan). There was an excellent cake, as well, made by Brigitte with candied cranberries on top. While the cake was excellent, to me the cranberries were the best part.
Naturally I took pictures and this is one I really like, a couple of wonderful young folk named Lizzy and Josh. I enjoyed sitting with them a while and chatting and I’m glad this pictures turned out so well.
Our youth group met in an international market this evening before returning to our regular location for pizza and the bulk of the meeting. At the store, we looked at seafood. I took a few pictures (I know, can you believe it?) including this one of bok choy or Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis). I bought a Spanish mackerel, filleted (my post for tomorrow will feature that, actually) and some oyster mushrooms. There was also a bin with turtles in it. I thought of posting a picture of them, but too many people would have thought of them as pets and we were in a grocery store.
Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus)
In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I was in an international market. In general, while I get many of my staples in Safeway or Giant, I much prefer the international markets for meats, produce, and seafood. There is a small Brazilian market where I go for chouriço and morcilla as well as some cheeses. There are a bunch of Asian markets where the produce is generally fresher and always more varied than the big chains. That’s where the bok choy picture from yesterday was taken. Today’s picture is of something from the same store but taken this evening as I fixed myself dinner of Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus), lightly breaded and cooked in butter. Really good.
Santa On A Bike
I was coming home from our weekly men’s meeting this evening and saw that a significant number of houses have been decorated for Christmas. I drove through the neighborhood and took pictures of a bunch of the decorations. Some are simple, with all white lights, others have lights on forms in the shape of animals or people, including one lit up nativity scene. Still others have inflatable figures, such as this one of Santa driving away from the house on a motorcycle. As you can see, he’s left some presents under the tree and the family dog is faithfully standing guard (but knows that Santa is a welcome visitor). This is a nice counterpoint to last week’s Duck on a Bike.
African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha)
It’s nice, in the colder months when nothing is blooming outside, to have a few houseplants that provide color in a more-monochrome time of year. African violets (generally cultivars derived from Saintpaulia ionantha) are a good choice. They are quite easy to grow, you can have a bunch in a relatively small space, and they produce beautiful, if small, flowers of white, pink, purple, and blue. This one, with a mottled purple flower, is a good example. Watered once or twice a week, it’s quite happy in our kitchen with a west-facing window.
Where clouds are made up of especially tiny ice crystals or water droplets, they can cause light to be diffracted, creating this rainbow-like effect in the clouds. I saw one to the left of the sun as I was driving up interstate 95 from the capital beltway and then when I got onto Maryland 200 (the Inter-county Connector) I saw this on to the right of the sun. I was able to pull over and take a couple pictures of it before it faded away. I love clouds and take pictures of them fairly often but don’t figure most people will be as interested as I am, so only post them here when they are involved in sunsets or particularly unusual (like the Fallstreak hole I photographed in November, 2013). This isn’t nearly as rare as that, but I still like it when I see it.
Kasia, Troy, and Katie
The group I work with had its annual holiday party today. It’s not exactly the sort of party portrayed in some movies or television shows, with dancing and revelry. It’s just a bunch of folks (about 150) getting together for a meal, a silent auction to raise a bit of money for a local charity, and a time of mostly quiet socializing. I was one of two photographers today with the other being the “official” photographer. That freed me up to take a few candids and not really stress.
Being a technical person, I’m technically not a member of this group but this is the group we largely support. I work with quite a few different teams within this group although there are a lot that I don’t know at all. I’ve worked with these three for quite some time and probably know them better than all but a few others here. They all hate to have their picture taken but they were kind enough to let me take a few.
Elias Evangelical Lutheran Church
We drove up to Pennsylvania today with some other family members to get Christmas trees. For a while dad was planting trees at the farm every few years and we’d often cut trees from among those but new trees haven’t been planted for at least ten and probably closer to 20 years so all of those are much too big to be of any use. Still, we go there as a sort of tradition, knowing we’ll only stay a short while. Some years we have had snow and a few years there was enough that we had to part at the entrance and then walk in. The last few years have been clear and mild. Today it was cold but there was no snow. There was a thin layer of ice on the pond and it was making the most amazing pinging noise as the sun heated it slightly. At first we were sure it was a bird making that noise but it was the ice.
We cut our trees at a local tree farm and then drove down to Emmitsburg for lunch. I took a little time to take some pictures of Elias Evangelical Lutheran Church on North Avenue, a block from Main Street, where we parked. The trick here was to get a picture without telephone and power lines crossing in front of the church.
As mentioned in the previous post, we went to Pennsylvania to cut Christmas trees today. After a brief (but less brief and more eventful than expected) visit to the farm, we went to a local tree farm to cut a few trees. For quite a few years we’ve gone to a farm in Cashtown, west of Gettysburg. It’s nice to go to the same place year after year but we received word from them that they were not going to be open this season. We don’t know if that’s a permanent closing or if it’s for this year only. In any case, they recommended another farm that’s actually closer, so we went there.
We had lunch at the Ott House in Emmitsburg, as we’ve done for about four years (prior to that we’d go somewhere different every year). Mom had seen a piece in the newspaper about a church that was in bad enough shape that it couldn’t really be repaired but that is old and historic enough that it shouldn’t be torn down. Of course, if it isn’t repaired, it will come down eventually under its own weight. Anyway, we decided to try to find it and (as you’ve probably guessed by now) we did. The sun was behind the church, which made lighting difficult, and again, there were power lines to contend with, but I’m pretty happy with this shot.
I’ve already posted two pictures from our brief trip to Pennsylvania today, although both of them were taken in Maryland on the way home. I showed this picture to Dorothy and she agreed that it was worth posting, so here’s the third picture from today. This one was taken before the two church pictures so I’m posting them in the wrong order, but that’s life (“that’s what all the people say”).
We cut our Christmas trees at a place called Shower’s Tree Farm (http://www.showerstreefarm.com/). In addition to a fairly large field of Christmas trees, they have apples, which isn’t surprising in this part of the state (the home of Musselman’s (now part of Knouse Foods) and the National Apple Museum. The trees were all bare but some of them had quite a few apples on the ground around them and that, obviously, is what this picture features.
I was looking around for things to photograph this evening. The first thing I photographed was soap bubbles in a roasting pan soaking in the sink. They turned out alright but they were not exactly riveting. Cathy had been washing this tea set that she’s had since she was a little girl. It was set out on a tea towel. I moved them to a cutting board and took a few pictures, of which this is one. It’s a dainty, little tea set with cups that are only about an inch across.
Oil On Wet Pavement
I went over to one of the other buildings on campus early this afternoon for a meeting. As I sometimes (often) do, I brought my camera with me in case there were any opportunities for photographs. As I walked over, it was overcast and dreary, but that’s sometimes good photographically. By the time I left the meeting, only an hour later it was sunny and clear. The pavement was still wet from the rain overnight and there was a little oil or gasoline spilled on the pavement. That’s what this photograph is of.
Cathy and I went to work together today because our second car is on loan temporarily. That did complicate the evening a little because I have my men’s group on Tuesday evenings and Cathy has indoor soccer. When we have two cars, I come home, fix myself dinner, and then head back into town for the meeting. This evening Cathy dropped me off and I walked to the Plaza to pick up something to eat. I took a few pictures, mostly of the Christmas lights and then went into Five Guys to buy a burger. While I was waiting for that to be made, I took this with the camera sitting on a table. It’s a 1/2 second exposure at f/9.9.
Cathy spent much of the evening today wrapping Christmas presents so we could get them in the mail in time for them to arrive before Christmas. Many years she’d be doing this next week, so it’s pretty great that she got them done. I’m not judging, mind you. I barely helped do it, although I did wrap one or two of the presents. I’m a terrible procrastinator. Anyway, she got four (I think) separate boxes packed and ready to mail. Happy Christmas, everyone!
It’s gotten cold suddenly and today was quite cold. I went out for a little while to take pictures and by the time I came back in, my right hand was quite numb from the cold (I can put my left hand into my pocket but I hold the camera with my right hand). I took pictures of a sycamore leaf in the woods and then walked down to the pond next to my building. It’s only just gotten cold so there was still open water but there was ice along the edge. In what had recently been mud by the stream were raccoon footprints.
As I mentioned yesterday, it’s gotten cold. Today I wore a sweater and if you know me at all, you know that means it was below 20°F (about -7°C), which is when I usually will put a jacket on even if I won’t be outside long. Anyway, I also had a glove for my camera hand. That made my foray into the woods much more comfortable than yesterday’s. I walked through the woods and across the creek in the empty lot next to my building. Up on the higher ground across the creek there was a large, flat, open area with small puddles, all frozen. In what was formerly mud, there were these fingers of ice crystal that I thought were pretty awesome.
Ice on Colorado Spruce
Dorothy drove from school to Lancaster, Pennsylvania yesterday, getting most of the way home without having to deal with the winter weather that we had today. This morning it started sleeting about the time I got up and came down for a good three or four hours before petering out. There was a nice coating of ice on everything but it didn’t last, having warmed up into the 40s by the afternoon. Dorothy left Lancaster around 2:00 and with the exception of a little back road driving getting to interstate 83, she didn’t have any problem getting here. But for the little time it lasted, the ice was very pretty.
White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
I fixed some coffee and was making breakfast when Cathy came down and saw this white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in our back yard. It appears to be a young one, not fully grown but I don’t really know enough about deer to say for sure. It was just lying there and would look at me, then turn to the side. I went outside and took a few more pictures before it got up and trotted to the back corner of the yard, where it stayed for a while. When I checked back 20 minutes later it was gone.
Tree and Crèche
After work today I did some shopping while Cathy went to her weekly Pilates class. Then I came back and picked her up and we went to her mom’s house to help get some Christmas decorations up. We had put up the tree earlier but didn’t have time to decorate it. I also got out the large crèche which was stored on the top shelf in the basement. Getting a picture with the lights on the tree showing and the rest of the image lit properly is a challenge but I’m pretty please with this one.
I had meant to get out of the office today. It’s not as cold as it was and it was mostly clear today but I was quite busy and didn’t get a chance. As the sun was going down late in the afternoon it lit up the trees outside my office and I watched the bird moving about. There were quite a few starlings in the tree tops and every now and then a large group of them would fly off or another large group would join them from somewhere else. This picture is just of trees with a few large, older trees that are growing just beyond the parking lot and then the smaller trees beyond in what was a field when I started working here.
Sunrise With Moon
At a little after 7:00 this morning I noticed that the color of the morning light was on the orange/pink side and I grabbed my camera and went out front to take a few pictures. This is the best time of year for sunrise photographs, not least because the sunrise is about as late as it gets so I’m more liable to be up and about. On the other hand, I generally have very little time to get the color so I grab my camera and run out without bothering with shoes, which I rarely wear when I’m inside. It’s not as cold as it was last week, fortunately, or that might have been painful.
I got a few pictures of the lower, eastern sky, where the most color was (and it was fading fast). I turned and took this one to the southeast, where the crescent moon was floating among the colored clouds. In some ways it isn’t as good a picture as the others but I thought the moon makes it unusual enough to warrant it’s appearance here.
Yesterday I got a sunrise photo at about 7:15 AM. Today, we see a sunset at 4:45 PM. These are about the extremes for our latitude, yesterday and today being about the shortest days of the year. As of now, the sunrise will get earlier and the sunset later. I was coming home the round about way today, having had an errand in Olney, so I stopped at the commuter parking lot at the ICC and went to the top of the hill to get this picture of the sun setting behind the trees in the distance.
Dorothy and D’Argo
Cathy and Dorothy went over this afternoon to pick up D’Argo from Steve and Maya’s. They were going to the hospital to have their first child and we will have the dog for a little while, certainly until they are home again and settled down a bit. As I write this, late on Saturday morning, there is still no word on the baby’s arrival, but we should hear any time now.
As you can see, Dorothy is enjoying having a dog.
Olivia, Alyssa, Ellie, and Hope with Sugar
For a number of reasons, not least of which was a scheduling conflict at our normal location for church tomorrow and the fact that most people want to be with their families on Christmas day, we had a Christmas Eve service today instead. It was a fairly small, informal affair, with only about 20 people in all including more children than adults. After the service, I took this picture and if I have their names right, they are Olivia, Alyssa, and Ellie behind Hope and Sugar (the dog).
Every year is different. That’s good, in the sense that we want a little variety in our lives. If every day were just like the last, we’d get bored (some of us sooner than others). That’s why so many people love the changing seasons. Autumn and spring, times of transition, are especially beautiful. But even with the change, there is a sameness the overlays it all. Every year has the same four seasons and that repetition is quite comforting. We know what to expect next, at least in broad terms, even if the details are different.
Every year, the details are different. We all know that but we’re still surprised by it, from time to time. Last year was different to all the others (at least all my others) because Albert wasn’t there. This year was different for a totally different reason. Ralph’s son and daughter-in-law (Stephen and Maya) had a son yesterday. What a wonderful combined Christmas and Hanukkah present. They named him Kaien (pretty much rhymes with Ryan) but gave him the middle name Albert. That was a very sweet thing for them to do and a very nice present for all of us.
Geese on Lake Frank
We had a quiet day after the busy day yesterday. Busy is good but it’s especially good when followed by not-busy. Cathy and I have Stephen and Maya’s dog, Dargo, and we took him for a longish walk today (about 3 miles). We walked along the near side of Lake Frank and I took a few pictures. I got two of a kingfisher, although I couldn’t get anywhere near close enough to make that picture worth sharing. I was able to get closer to these geese, although still only close enough for a group shot. Any closer and they would have moved away.
I’m on vacation this week. Staycation, actually. Not going anywhere, just taking off work. It’s become something of a tradition for me. With Dorothy home from school, it’s extra special. So, I don’t have to get up early to go to work. But I woke up early anyway. I managed to get back to sleep at 5:30 and again at 6:15 but the third time I woke up I decided to get up. I’m glad I did because just before 7:30 the sky lit up with a beautiful orange glow. It was raining very lightly but the clouds were thin enough that the sun was having a wonderful effect on them. This is what it looked like outside my front door this morning.
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
I love days when I get sunrise pictures. Sunset pictures are nice but I can’t rely on their being a good sunset. Once I have pictures of the sunrise, though, I don’t have to worry about getting a picture later in the day. If there turns out to be no sunset, they I’ve missed the daylight. But if there’s no sunrise to photograph, I still have the whole day ahead of me.
So, after getting a nice sunrise pictures this morning, I was happy to take some pictures of birds in the back yard. This is an American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) on black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) along the edge of the back patio. Goldfinches lose their bright yellow color in the winter, but they’re still pretty little birds. I really enjoyed watching them sit on the thin stems.
Green Tiger Barb (Puntius tetrazona)
For quite a few weeks I’ve been meaning to go to the fish store and get a few more fish for my smaller aquarium. The 30 gallon tank has a fairly large angel fish (Pterophyllum scalare) and a kuhli loach (Pangio kuhlii) who spends much of the time hiding under a rock. I bought some Chinese algae eaters (Gyrinocheilos aymonieri) and a bunch of these green tiger barbs (Puntius tetrazona). I really like their color and it’s nice to have the tank with more than just a couple fish in it.
Maya, Steve, and Kaien
Happy birthday, Maya. I know you’re exhausted but look at this little boy. What a dear little thing he is. To everyone else reading this, let me introduce to you Kaien (pronounced basically like Ryan with a K) or Kai, if you prefer (like Sky without the S). He was born on Saturday, December 24, and we visited this evening and I know you’re going to be shocked but I took a few pictures. This is one of my favorites. I probably say this every time I see a newborn but it always surprises me again how small they are. Anyway, welcome to the family, Kai. We’re a bit of an odd bunch, but you don’t get to pick your family. Sorry about that.
Dorothy’s tastes have expanded quite a lot since she was a little girl. When she was seven we were in Italy and all she would eat was pasta with butter. If we had gone to Japan, she’s have stuck to rice. Now, she likes sushi and asked if we could go for sushi one evening while she’s home. So, we went to Niwano Hana in Rockville and had a good assortment. Cathy ordered sweet potato rolls (nearest to the camera) and Almendras rolls (shrimp tempura with almond and avocado, the four in the middle). Dorothy got Alaskan rolls (smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber) and Volcano roll (shrimp & crab stick tempura, avocado, cucumber, smelt-egg, ao-nori flake, spicy mayo, the mountain on the left). I had Salmango rolls (avocado, tobiko, salmon and mango) and Rainbow rolls (and assortment including tuna, white fish, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, crab stick, cucumber), which are the two rows farthest from the camera.
Hannah, Rachel, and Lyla
Well, it’s the end of another year. For what started out as Project 365, with one picture a day for a year, posted on Facebook, I’ve now finished six years, 2,192 consecutive days of at least one photo a day. I just looked back at the posts from December 31, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Of those five posts, three of them were taken in the family room of our good friend, Stuart and Donna. They were also all taken right before the stroke of midnight. This year’s photo was taken in their kitchen about 40 minutes before the end of the year. It features Hannah, Rachel, and Lyla.
In all I took only 18,270 photographs this year, the first year under 20,000 with this camera, but that brings the total for the camera to 134,953. I had one day this year when I only took one photograph but I’ve managed to take at least one every day. The most I took in a day was only 792, which is a pretty low maximum. We didn’t take any extended sightseeing vacations this year and I had no weddings to photograph, which played a part if the lower numbers. But I’m still at it. Anyway, see you next year.