Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hoppy Birdy

Besides your garden variety plants, Shields' Greenhouse near Spraggs, PA, is home to several peafowl.  Meet Merlin, the cock of the walk.  His owner describes him as being more dog than bird.  Here's Merlin begging for some Scooby treats:

And jumping for one:

Jumping again:

And jumping again:

Wikipedia trivia: The name for a group of peafowl is a pride or an ostentation.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Shields' Greenhouses at Spraggs, PA, features a hidden menagerie of exotic fowl.  With the owner's permission, I went up to his barn to check out the emus and peafowl.  Perhaps I'll come up with a decent shot of one of those, but for now let me introduce you to one of the roosters.

I believe it's a Plymouth Rock (a.k.a., a Barred Rock) rooster.  I've been told that this is actually a Dominique rooster.  The difference is in the comb:  A Dominique has a "rose" comb, while a Plymouth has a "single" comb. 

These shots were post-processed as impasto landscape/small brush paintings via Alien Skin's SnapArt filters.

You need to click on and expand these images in order to view them properly.

Chanticleer is not a particularly appropriate name for an American Plymouth Rock rooster.  I'm invoking poetic license.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tiger Swallowtails

Visited Shields' Greenhouse near Spraggs, PA, on Sunday.

Here are a few pictures of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that I snapped:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Behind the Bridge

The hill behind the Dent's Run covered bridge turns out to be quite scenic in its own right:

This is a nice composition, with the diagonal cloud pattern in counterpoint to the curve of the hill.

Well, I think it's cool anyway.  My own "rule of thirds," if you will.

I'd planned on presenting an improved version of the photograph here (i.e., brightening the grass, etc.), but Google Drive has once again let me down. I thought that I had saved the Photoshop file to it from home this morning.  I just can't depend upon it to be reliable.


Perhaps not as dramatic as in my mind's eye, here is the version I was hoping to post earlier:

You probably don't see any difference, but I know it's there, and I feel much better now, thank you. 

[Much Later]

After hitting Scott Kelby's The Adobe Photoshop Book, I touched up the sky a bit more.  I am very pleased:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A bridge not too far away

The Dents Run Covered Bridge is the last of its kind in Monongalia County.  And would it surprise you if you learned that it's also listed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Monongalia County, West Virginia site?

Frankly, Dents Run hardly looks like a stream that needs a covered bridge.  These days it might have warranted a single corrugated pipe.

The picture below is ended up darker than I had imaged it on my screen.  Without having the original handy, I 'Shopped the brightness in the Jpeg version.  It will do for now.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Willey House

Almost across from the Alexander L. Wade house on Wagner Street is yet another house that's on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Monongalia County, West Virginia.  This is the Waitman T. Willey house.

Willey built this house in 1840.  He later went on to serve as one of the first senators in the newly created state of West Virginia in 1863.

This picture was an experiment.  I had originally had the idea of re-shooting the Wade house with my Canon "nifty" 50mm f/1.8 lens.  My plan was to try another "golden hour" sunset shot with the lens wide open at f/1.8.  But the nifty 50 is a prime lens, so there's no zoom capability.  I couldn't find a good distant location to frame the image -- too many trees.  So I turned my sights on the Willey house.  This was still a challenge to frame, but I think I managed.

Sunset on Sunday, May 19, when I took the picture, was around 8:10 p.m.  This shot was taken at approximately 8:06.  The sky was overcast; it even started to sprinkle a bit on my walk home.  I adjusted the curves slightly in PhotoShop to bring out more of the white on the portico.  By the way, that's not blurring or distortion on the portico siding.  Someone really went heavy with the paint.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Where's the EXIF?!

For all of the time that I've used Google's Blogger, I never realized that I was losing so much EXIF information on the pictures that I've posted.

Take the front view of the Wade House picture (please!) posted on May 15.

On the left is a screen grab of the original Jpeg properties.  On the right is a grab of the same properties after pulling the picture back down from the blog page.  Even the Date taken information has been removed!

No doubt that at some time I must have agreed to a Google  EULA which told me I was going to have all of this information stripped.  Nothing in the Policies and Terms of Service, however.

" ...You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anyone or anything.

But the plans were on display...

On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.

That's the display department.

With a torch.

Ah, well the lights had probably gone.

So had the stairs.

But look you found the notice didn't you?

"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of The Leopard."
-- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Wade House

For some reason, I browsed onto a National Register of Historic Places listings in Monongalia County, West Virginia web site.  While checking it out, I found a place listed that's just a couple of blocks from where I live.  Known as the Alexander Wade House, it's a "simple" Greek Revival that was build in 1860.  The original builder/owner was a Judge Edward C. Bunker. It was sold to Alexander Wade in 1872.

Alexander L. Wade (February 1, 1832 – May 2, 1904) was an American educator who developed a system of grade promotional exams and graduations for West Virginia schools that allowed rural children to participate more efficiently. He wrote and spoke on this educational system, and the system was adopted widely in the United States.

Here are views of the front and back of the house.  The smaller building on the side was originally constructed as a summer kitchen.

This was photographed in the evening (not quite at the golden hour), so the colors are warm but the shadows are deep.  Some typical wide-angle lens distortion, particularly on the first shot.  Oh well.

I'll have to make a mental note to photograph this place in the fall when the leaves are turning.

Picture a Place

I've been using Adobe Lightroom 4 for about a year now, but there's so much about it that I've yet to learn.  Something new that I've just begun to investigate is the Map module, which appears as one of the tabs at the top.  An Adobe training video,  Mapping your Photos in Lightroom 4, explained a number of things that I didn't know.  For example, you can select a number of vacation photos and manually link them to a Google Earth map just by putting in the location in the search string and then dragging the pictures onto the map.

There's also a plug-in app for Lightroom that's called GeoEncode.  This plug-in takes the tracking information generated by the MotionX-GPS iPhone app and synchronizes it with the time stamps on a group of pictures that I took on a bike ride, for example.  Allowing for a margin of error, it will take the pictures and lay them out in sequence over the track that I recorded.  I've just done it for a couple of tracks, but the results are impressive.

It's kind of ironic that the pictures I take with my relatively inexpensive iPhone come with geotracking already attached, whereas my Canon T2i does not have built-in tracking.  As far as I know, the Canon EOS 6D is the only model that currently features geotracking.

Perhaps all of this sounds like an Application Without a Purpose (tm), but I've found that it's really neat to be able to view pictures in relation to the geographic coordinate in which they were taken.  It lends additional meaning to photo archives.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Periwinkle and Azalea (no words needed)

In the Court of the Purple King

Looking down in the mouth:

One could accuse me of having an over-active imagination, but this picture of an Iris bloom reminded me of a King Crimson album cover.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Neighborhood Walk

An Allium (Alliaceae sp.) on Wilson Avenue below the "cow house."

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) growing near my front porch.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Upright Ferns

Some of the ferns that were making their appearance along the rail trail on Saturday were visually interesting. The problem was in striking a balance between fine detail and getting good composition.  For the most part, this meant a departure from the usual horizontal layout that I've preferred to shoot.  As you can see below, horizontal would not have worked:

This fern seems to be a different species from the one above.  It's slightly past the fiddlehead stage, but it still has this whitish fuzz holding the fronds together.  Very alien looking.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Beaver Signs

No, not that kind of a sign...

More like this fresh sign along the Monongahela river:

There's little in this picture to give one a sense of scale, but that is a fairly large tree, approximately ten inches across. I'd hate to imagine the size of beaver that could drag this tree into the water.

During the last ice age, the giant beaver (Trogontherium cuvieri) grew to be as large as a black bear. A saber-toothed beaver is not something you'd want to tangle with.

Opekiska Coke Ovens

Approximately half way on the rail trail between Little Falls and the Opekiska Lock & Dam lies a row of ancient looking coke ovens.  The light on Saturday morning was good, and I had switched from my usual macro lens to an EFS 17-55mm lens that allows for fairly wide-angle shooting.

I did a bit of searching around on the Google, and I found a Google Doc of The Report of the State Board of Regents of West Virginia for the Two Years Ending June 30, 1916.  Here is a screen grab of page 91:

I didn't count the number of beehive ovens that I saw, but 25 seems to be about the right number.  Here are the Opekiska beehive coke ovens 100 years later.  It's easy to believe that the tree growing up in the middle of the second picture is almost that old.  You can see that it's been deformed from pressing up against the brick work. has a good explanation of the the beehive coking process, mentioning the Pittsburgh seam cited above.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May flowers, sans showers

Today's bike ride was a short, ten-mile round trip between Little Falls and the Opekiska Lock & Dam.  The temperature at 10:00 a.m. was a cool 60 F.

I wish I could get excited about the pictures that I took.

These Bluets (Hustonia caerulea) were the only dense grouping of these flowers that I saw.  This bunch was on the road bank leading down to Little Falls.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) were in abundance in shady areas along side of the trail.

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), according to my Field Guide, but plain old dogwood to me:

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifilia) have always been a challenge to shoot.  Because of their vertical spikes, they are difficult to frame and get entirely in focus.  I think I did better with this one:

I almost missed catching a May-Apple (Podophyllum peltatum) in bloom.  Oddly, they were few and far between along the stretch that I was biking.  This one was almost up to the Lock & Dam:

I have more shots to process, so I should have a few more posts in  the coming days.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Woodburn Hall, June 8, 2012

This was taken nearly 11 months ago,but I wanted to apply some Adobe Camera Raw techniques that I've been honing.

But wait... there's less!  There also used to be a lawn sprinkler going in the bottom of this picture, but thanks to PhotoShop's Clone-Stamp tool, the water stream is gone.  As is a bit of linear distortion resulting from the use of a wide-angle lens.

It might be interesting to see what this looked like straight out of the camera: