Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One World, One Vision

I've been a very casual follower of the Eurovision contests.  One of the favorites this year was Ukraine's entry, a singer/songwriter of Ukrainian and Congolese descent named Gaita-Lurdes Essami. Sadly, it doesn't come as a surprise to read that the hard-right contingency in Ukraine would say that “Gaitana is not an organic representative of the Ukrainian culture.”  He probably wants to see her birth certificate. 

Her official Eurovision contest video is a production titled "Be My Guest."  Interestingly, it's sung in English, but that seems to be the trend. 

In the final voting, Gaita (65 votes) lost out to Sweden's entry, Loreen, who had 372 votes.

Little Bombers

Goatsbeard spiraea (Arancus dioicus) flowers were blooming big-time along the bike trail last weekend.  I was saddled with only my EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens, so I wasn't in a mindset to step back and document the entire plant.  Check out Wikipedia if you want to get a proper look.

I only took one picture, and it was a closeup of the blooms, naturally.

At this point of my bike ride, I was heating up, and my glasses were somewhat foggy and smudged with perspiration. I didn't notice all of the flea beetles (dark spots) feasting among the blooms. Talk about a photobomb.

A bloom like this has a complex geometry, so it was really hard to get it all in focus.  One of the sections that had a good exposure is in the upper-left, where this little stinker is perched:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Broad-leaf Waterleaf

I identified a new plant on my bike ride on Saturday (see Summer Re-runs).  Included for your delectation are two shots of the redundantly named Broad-leaf waterleaf (Hydrophyllum canadense).

The first shot shows the leaves, which look very much like those of the maple tree.

This second shot is a closeup of the blooms, which are just opening. You can better see their feathery appearance.

It's a native plant, and you can see its distribution map at the US Wildflower site.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Reruns

Yesterday's bike ride along the Mon River rail trail was in many ways the same-old, same-old.  I'd taken an oft-repeated track, and I photographed some of the same old blooms, repeats from this year as well as past years.  Although I've made little progress in my biking stamina, I feel that I've improved somewhat in my photography.  Witness these results:

The Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides) has been the most challenging for me to get a decent shot.  This one (above) is the closest I've ever come to perfection.  I particularly like the fractal-like curvature of the unopened buds. 

For once, I've managed to get some additional depth-of-field and a decent focus.  One of these days I'm going to master the intricacies of auto-focus, but the vast majority of my shots have been manually focused.

Last year, I had labeled the bloom above a Thimbleberry.  That may still be acceptable, but I've decided upon Purple-flowered raspberry (Rubus odoratus) as the more correct name.  Again, I'm much happier with the crisp detail. No doubt part of the success is due to the stillness of the air yesterday, which later became beastly hot.

Last of all is the Virginia spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) that I saw a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't want to disturb (any more than I'd already disturbed) a large garter snake.  I have several years worth of spiderwort pictures, but something about this flower always draws me back.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

This One is Pink

Dianthus armeria (Deptford Pink) is an alien species that is naturalized in most of North America.  It is now found in the wild in all but three states:  Arizona (thanks to that state's strict immigration laws), Alaska, or North Dakota.  These are starting to appear in grassy areas along the Mon River bike trail.

Wikipedia says the flowers are 8–15 mm diameter, with five petals, bright reddish-pink; they are produced in small clusters at the top of the stems from early to late summer

Friday, May 25, 2012

Praying Mantis

When I was younger, much younger, this is what I imagined a Praying Mantis should be.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Et tu, Jack?

One of the plants I saw on my ride down the rail trail from Masontown to Morgantown last Saturday had me puzzled.  While it looked vaguely like a Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllu), I was certain that this was something different.

Compare it, for example, to this picture that I took a month earlier.

I sent this picture to the Herbarium Curator at WVU, and she informed me that this is also a Jack-in-the-Pulpit:
Arisaema triphyllum is highly variable, leading to the recognition of several subspecies (sometimes treated as species). The differences you see (size, color, shape, etc.) may be due to site/climate, plant age/sex, and ploidy level (chromosome number), as well as genetic factors.
Sneaky little buggers.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Little Out of Bounds

On Saturday, May 19, I was biking down the rail trail from Masontown.  Much to my surprise, I saw a small patch of irises growing on the edge of some swampy ground beside the trail.  I couldn't get too close, but this is what I got:

According to my old Field Guide to Wildflowers (1968 edition), it's a Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor).  The cool thing about this iris is that it's a native species, unlike the Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus).  Even cooler is that it's just a little bit -- but not too much -- out of its range.  If you look at the range map at this US Forest Service page, it shows up all around us, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.  This one apparently does not strictly adhere to political boundaries.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Simplicity is Complicated

The other day, a co-worker asked if I'd be able to modify the A&W root beer logo with some custom text in place of the "Since 1919 Root Beer" text along the top and bottom.

I used Adobe Illustrator and simply added a layer over the original graphic, where I masked out the text and replaced it with what he wanted.  End of story.

Except... afterwards, I began to wonder how one might do the logo entirely in Illustrator.  Those two arcs behind the A&W -- in orange and brown -- turned out to be really tricky.

My idea was to use various oval shapes and create the arcs by overlaying two ovals and then using the Pathfinder "Minus Front" to leave just the crescents.  That worked okay, but when it came time to match up and overlay the orange and brown crescents, I saw the conundrum:

While I had achieved a nice 3-D ring effect, I really needed to be able to overlay only the top half of the brown crescent.  In the actual logo, the bottom portion of the orange crescent overlays the brown portion.  Try as I might, I couldn't achieve a simple, elegant solution.  One inelegant solution is to create a duplicate section of just the bottom portion of the orange crescent.  I could then place that layer over the brown crescent.  Because of issue with stroke and fill, however, inelegant also became technically awkward.

What I finally ended up doing was create a custom-shaped crescent arc and then mirror that in its corresponding color.  This allowed me to maintain the white strokes, which work so well to accent the opposing arcs.

I layered those arcs over a slightly larger white oval, and I got that tricky part looking pretty darn close to the original design.

The golden brown "plaque" behind the rest of the logo  is basically an oval united with a rounded square.  I had to coax and fudge the paths of the square to give it a slightly rounded appearance.

The lettering for the "A&W" was a lost cause.  I simply did not have a matching font set that came close.  I ended up using a Palatino Linotype bold italic to get something that I liked instead.  One layer of brown text over a layer of golden brown, offset slightly.   I couldn't even come close to matching the glyph for the ampersand.  That ended up coming from the Brush Script Std Medium font set.  It was placed as the top-most layer.

It's a hack job, but that will do, pig.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Aliens Among Us

I'm saddened to read that the Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is a non-native.  According to Wikipedia, it is a widespread flowering plant native to Europe and the temperate regions of Asia.  I shot this one right next to the Hildebrant lock & dam, but these things are pretty much everywhere out in the open.  They're so common that I've been reluctant to bother photographing them.  Don't know why, because they're still quite pretty.

Something I didn't know until I read the Wiki entry is that the unopened flower buds can be marinated and used in a similar way to capers.

Another non-native flower that I like is the Goatsbeard (Tragopogon pratensis).  Unlike the common daisy, I've shot the Goatsbeard before.  Actually, I just wounded it and gave up on tracking it down.   It's also known by the nicer name of Meadow Salsify.  According to Wikipedia, its roots and buds are also edible.

Googling "salsify" is very productive.  If you really want to go nuts trying to eat it, check out Vintage Recipes for salsify dishes.

Google Drive Stalls

Today I would have like to have featured a couple of non-native flower species, but alas, I was a fool to trust in Google Drive.  It's free and it's Beta, and I got just what I paid for.  Like its Dropbox competitor, Google Drive is supposed to provide you with a few gigabytes of cloud storage for your files, which you can then access from another desktop or mobile device.

When I got up this morning, I saved a couple of Photoshop files into the Photoshop directory that I created on my Drive.  God only knows where they are, but they aren't in my Drive space.  On the chance that I was approaching my storage limit, I ruthlessly cleaned the files out of the account.  That didn't seem to help.

I'm reading a section on common errors in Google Drive, and it says that synching can get stuck, and that I should restart Drive.  Maybe that's the case, but there are no indicators that I can see.  While I'm writing this, I logged into my home PC via LogMeIn.  I just dragged the two "stuck" files from the Google Drive folder and put them into my Dropbox folder.    Let's see how long this takes... (8:35 a.m.)

8:42... Oh, look, one of them is here...

Post Script:  restarting the Google Drive process on my home machine seems to have fixed the problem for now, but neither have I tried my luck with any large files again.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Seven-spot I Did Spot With My Eye

While photographing some wild irises by the Opekiska lock & dam, my eye did see a seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) bopping around on a plant.  The little bugger was constantly on the move, but I managed to get off a couple of quick hand-held shots, one of which turned out pretty much dead-on.

Interestingly, this ladybug is a non-native species, having been introduced numerous times for pest control.  They love munching on aphids. According to Wikipedia, this ladybug has been designated the official state insect of six different states (Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee).  Irish ladybugs need not apply.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides) forever remains a challenge for me to capture on camera.   The only place I've found it growing has been one soggy spot right on the water's edge of the Monongahela river.  It's a low-growing plant in a shady spot.

I wanted as much depth of field as possible with my macro lens, so it forced me to shoot at the slowest possible speed.  This shot was taken at f/7.0, 200 iso, at 1/50th of a second.  I scrounged a piece of bark to kneel on and held the camera as steady as I could, which is challenging to do when you've just been biking.

The top and left of the picture (see below) were still out of focus, so I cropped it out of the picture as much as I could.  The results are not unpleasing.  If you have a sharp eye, you may have noticed the photo-bomber in the lower-right corner of the picture:  some winged insect is hiding behind the unopened buds.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Order of the Garter

On today's bike ride along the Mon river rail trail, I saw lots of flowers and wildlife. I'm in the habit of watching where I place my feet, which was a good thing for me as well as this large garter snake.

I was going to shoot some spiderwort flowers -- the first that I'd seen this year. This snake decided to stay right where it was, however. It was a respectable twenty inches by my reckoning. In looking more closely at my pictures, I think I can see why it stayed put. That's a rather prominent bulge in its abdomen (see the area of large spots, below). Methinks this Fellow of the Garter may have recently dined.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Rose by Another Name

It's that time of year in Morgantown and the surrounding areas where the rhododendrons are peaking.  According to Wikipedia, the name rhododendron comes from Ancient Greek ῥόδον rhódon "rose" and δένδρον déndron "tree."   So, rose tree it is, but it has no scent and thankfully no thorns.

Above: a cluster of blooms shot with an old first model Canon EF50mm f/1.8 ("nifty fifty") lens.

Our West Virginia variety (and state flower) is Rhododendron maximum.  When you see these things everywhere -- and I mean everywhere -- they begin to fade back into the scenery, which is a shame.  Sometimes you need to stop and look at a single bloom in the forest of rose trees.  That's where I come in;  I carry a macro lens.

Above:  closeup of a single rhododendron bloom shot with a Canon EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

In a field of beauties, sometimes it's better (IMHO) to focus in and admire an individual.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Garlic Chicken

It's not surprising to read a report that says garlic compound fights source of food-borne illness better than antibiotics.

Diallyl sulfide, one of the active ingredients in garlic, is said to be 100 times more effective than the antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin in penetrating the slimy biofilm surrounding chicken meat.

The discovery opens the door to new treatments for raw and processed meats and food preparation surfaces.

Bramble On

It was intimidating to try to pin a specific species to this Rubus genus, shot on Sunday, April 29.  Best guess is that it's a future blackberry.

Not sure how long these coordinates will be cached, but if you go here, look for the hairpin bend on the river trail across from Booth.