Monday, November 5, 2018

Falling Behind

It was time to set out clocks back on Saturday night.  That's all that I have to say about that.

The weekend was the first respite from rainy weather that I've had since -- well -- forever.  After running my usual Saturday errands, I packed up some camera gear and headed up to Cooper's Rock state forest.  About a thousand other people had the same idea.

Here's the view from the overlook:


It was cold and blustery there, but I got off a few nice shots of the Cheat River canyon. There's a nice play of light and shadow in this picture.   As you can see, the fall foliage was less than spectacular.  I heard something about this being a trend now, a symptom of climate change.

I tried the road to the Henry Clay iron furnace.   There were a few moments where I stopped the car long enough to take advantage of the sun playing peek-a-boo with the forest.


I broke with the rule of thirds on that shot, using instead the curve of the golden mean to place the end of the road as it disappeared into the woods.

From there, I crossed the interstate and checked out the trout pond, which is still technically part of Cooper's Rock.  The clouds were breaking in that direction.  Curse the wind for disturbing the water at the inlet, marring what would otherwise have been a nice reflective photo.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Pictures at an Exhibition

Queue Mussorgsky.

Through an academic contact in the Biology department at WVU, the folks in Entomology asked if I would share some of my insect pictures for their Insect Zoo Halloween Event.


Did I have any pictures?  I went through a couple of year's worth and stuffed more than 50 in my OneDrive for Business account so that they'd have something from which to pick.   For all of that, they only chose to use seven that they felt were in keeping with the theme.


I was somewhat disappointed that the pictures weren't bigger, but they felt constrained by the resolution of the images.  Happily for me, a favorite mantis picture could be enlarged quite well.
On the right is a spiny backed orb weaver that I found near a Myaka river tributary in Florida..


On the left, above, is a jumping spider perched on the faucet of my basement sink.  To the right is a blood-sucking Tsetse fly I shot in the biology lab a few years back.  For this shot, the fly was chilled on ice to render it torpid, while it sat warming up on a piece of cork.


Above is the nymph of an ambush bug.  Somewhat like a spider, they suck out the body fluids of their insect victims.  This was my most difficult shot because the plant it's on was moving from the breeze.


Above is an annual cicada.  I had labelled it as a dog day cicada.  I think this is a photo stack.  I also think that this cicada did not appreciate being restrained with a pin through its ass.


Last is a periodic cicada breaking out of its final nymph stage.  Makes me think of the intro sequence to True Blood (see 1:10 mark).  On the blue card is the bio they asked me to write.  Looks as if it could pass as a paragraph in my obituary.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Back to the Future

Last week I was at a Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, where I walked my legs off the entire time.   Naturally, I thought that I should bring my camera along, but I gave it very little use.

The Universal Studios affiliated hotel that I stayed in was called Cabana Bay, which had an interesting Retro-futuristic architecture both inside and out.  My room was at the farthest end of the hotel, about a quarter mile from the lobby.

The hallways were also in that retro-futuristic style, and they were  l o n g !



This was an iPhone picture that I took.  I fully and truly expected to see these twins at the end of the hall at some point:


The outside of the hotel was impressive, and now I'm kicking myself for not taking a full wide-angle shot of it.  The one that I did take shows just a small portion of it:


To the left is the bus stop, where we boarded the shuttle to the conference center.  The four antique cars appeared to be a regular fixture.  Left-to-to right, you have a yellow Chrysler Imperial, a black Ford Thunderbird convertible, a woodgrained Ford Country Squire station wagon, and a blue-green Chevrolet Impala.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

I want to be like Georgia O'Keeffe

I want to live alone in the desert
I want to be like Georgia O'Keefe
I want to live on the Upper East Side
And never go down in the street

Splendid Isolation
I don't need no one
Splendid Isolation


These are lyrics from the song Splendid Isolation by Warren Zevon.

There's something about this picture that I took yesterday that reminds me a bit of Georgia O'Keeffe's art:


It's part of the "Mocha Moon" Hibiscus, a very large and stunningly beautiful flower.  I've been driving by this medium-sized shrub every day for the past month or two, and yesterday I finally stopped to take a picture of it.

I rotated the image a bit to angle the pistil in the right direction, and I used the "golden spiral" as my cropping template.

Return of the King

For several decades, the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has been steadily declining in number to the point where it was flirting with endangered status.

This year, for the first time in many years, I have been able to catch the monarch in its various guises.  Close to where I work near the riverfront, there was a stand of milkweed growing in front of the Table 9 restaurant.  Until recently, at least, whoever tended the flowers planted there had ignored the patch of milkweeds growing among the planted flowers.

From an ecological standpoint, its amazing what is drawn to the milkweed.  Below, you can see the business end of the caterpillar munching down among what look to be aphids. 


This shot is actually upside-down from the actual orientation.  It just looked too odd when looking at it that way.

In recent weeks, a new generation of monarch eggs had hatched, and I could see about a dozen or so caterpillars munching away.  Suddenly, however, it looked as if someone might have sprayed herbicide on the milkweed plants, because they all withered almost over night.   I feared for the caterpillars.

Fortunately, it looks like the majority have survived.  Most of the chrysalises that I saw were hanging from the concrete window sill in front of Table 9.  Nice, but not a pretty picture.  One caterpillar, however, ventured up into a stand of Chinese silver grass.


I'd actually shot this chrysalis over several days, experimenting with exposures.  The shot above, while looking like a nighttime picture, was taken in morning light.  I used a ring flash and stopped the aperture way down to get this shot.  Unlike the other shots in natural light, this one succeeded admirably in reproducing the stunning golden beads that form a crescent near the top.

I hope I'll be able to catch these pupae as they are close to hatching.   But for now I'll take you back in time to show you the "mother."  I caught this one on the exact same plant that the caterpillar was on in the first picture.  Although I couldn't see the egg, it looks like she's depositing one on the underside of the leaf.


Here's one back from July 31st, sucking on a milkweed flower:


Cheap thrills for nerd boy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Long Ago and Far Away

Back in the late 60s, my photography was limited to a cheap Polaroid Model 20 "Swinger."   Its $19.95 price tag in the 60s is equivalent to $155 in 2017.  This was the first Polaroid "roll film" to develop outside the camera.  I remember having to use a smelly little fixer wand to smear some sort of preservative across the black & white shots.  Now, in 2018, I'm finding a lot of nasty little sepia streaks on the snapshots where I missed applying the fixer.

Since there was no date on the film, I can only guess at the year that this shot was taken.  My guess is that it's from 1969, when I was still living downtown in the village of Bath, NY.  A year or two later, my family moved up to the top of Mossy Bank, where we had built a ranch-style house on land originally belonging to my grandfather, John (Ivan) Rusak.


You can see my nerdy self, holding a rock hammer.  The hammer is a hint that I was a high school freshman at the time, because that's the year that I took earth science.  There are a couple of other Polaroid shots waiting to dry below my butt.

I'm on the cliff face below the overlook at Mossy Bank park, sitting in front of a small cave that used to be visible from the village below.  I'm not sure if that little cave is still there any more.

The band of softer rock behind me was a bed of fossil calamite casts, which have a vertical ribbing and a bamboo-like appearance.  As fossils go, these were pretty boring, but if you wanted to find any, this was the place to look.

By the way, the man-size granite boulder on the Mossy Bank Park web page...
used to be at the pond across the road from my house.  It looks like they've engraved it and moved it up to the park, itself.  It's a glacial erratic, rolled and rounded by a continental glacier that swept over the area, probably during the last ice age.  That cliff where I sat for the picture was also created when a glacier plowed up against it.

I'm still an earth science nerd.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Good Angels/Bad Angels

I was a "volunteer" for Team Connect, which helps incoming students get connected to basic IT services on moving-in day last Saturday.

I surreptitiously snapped this picture of my co-worker, Andrew Ballard, from my iPad.  I liked the positioning of the background people behind his shoulders.  They look like they're whispering in his ears.


Variation on a theme: