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.