Friday, December 21, 2012

End of Days

With the impending apocalypse, I thought I check with the dear folks at The Rapture Index to get their take on it.  The site was updated just last Monday, on Dec. 17.  We're at an all-time high rapture index of 187!

So that you don't miss the sordid details (My comments are in red):

01 False Christ:  This one is missing.  I would expect something on Obama, but maybe it got deleted. 
02 Occult:
    There has been two major news events involving witchcraft
    and murder. Are using poor grammar another sign of the apocalypse?
03 Satanism:
    News reports claim there is a surge in demand for exorcists.
    I see career opportunity here
04 Unemployment:
   Unemployment drops to 8.6 percent. 
   Apparently the anti-Christ is doing *something* right
05 Inflation:
    Commodity prices have declined.  See above note  
06 Interest Rates:
    The crisis in Europe has driven down rates. 
07 The Economy
    The debt crisis in Europe is spreading around the world. 
08 Oil Supply/Price
    Gasoline prices post biggest fall in nearly 4 years. See above?
11 Leadership
    Several key areas of prophecy have become over dependent
    on future events. 
12 Drug abuse:
    Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of 
    marijuana. They're getting the jump on rapture
14 Supernatural:
    There has been an increase in the number UFO sightings.
    This probably has nothing to do with the Geminid meteor shower last week.
15 Moral Standards
    A new poll finds that more couples are living together outside 
    of marriage. 
    Cohabitators, homosexuals and fornicators are the new Axis of Evil TM
17 Crime Rate
   Sandy Hook Elementary School suffers the worst ever shooting. 
   They've had previous shootings? 
18 Ecumenism:
   A key Italian political leader proposed the creation a 
   "palace of religions" in Rome. 
   After all, Christian unity and cooperation are a sure sign that things are about to go south
19 Globalism:
    Economic hardship in Europe has hurt globalism cause. 
    When life gives you lemons....
21 Anti-Semitism
    Even though terrorists in Gaza started the current conflict, 
    Israel is the one being blamed for the civilian deaths. 
    If you accuse Israel of killing people in air strikes you are being antisemitic?
23 Gog (Russia)
   Putin takes lead role in a test Russia's strategic nuclear 
   arsenal, the most comprehensive in 20 years. ...and these people should know.
28 Arms Proliferation
    US global arms sales reach record $66.3B
29 Liberalism:
    The News Media has reached record levels of bias in their 
    coverage of the 2012 political season. 
    Not even Fox News can count-balance this terrible trend.
30 The Peace Process:
     Israel and the Palestinians are not talking to each other. 
     At least they've agreed to exchange rocket fire.      
31 Kings of the East:
    China and Japan agree to directly trade of their currencies.  
33 Beast Government 
    Pinellas County, Fla., students are paying for lunch by 
    waving of their hand over a palm scanner. Just 3 words: Oh. My. God!  
36 Volcanoes:
    Around the world, several volcanoes have been active 
    I wonder which of the 20 currently active volcanoes was the tip-off?
37 Earthquakes:
    Two strong quakes kill 240 people in Iran.
    That's almost as bad as the one in Dec. 26, 2003. 
    I wonder if any of them had to do with school prayer? 
The next four have NOTHING to do with the global warming hoax, and EVERYTHING to do with bringing on the apocalypse  
38 Wild Weather:
   A "Derecho" wind storm has caused major damage in the Northest. 
41 Drought: 
    Record Heat is drying out the central U.S. 
44 Food Supply
    High temps in the Midwest has driven up corn prises.
45 Floods
    Massive flooding strikes southern Russia.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

God swill

Mike Huckabee didn't really say this, but I think it's probably what he meant:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Woodburn

Woodburn Hall (blue lights) on WVU's downtown campus is shown in this night photo (30 sec exposure; f/9; ISO 100) taken from the middle of the Westover bridge. The Monongahela river is in the foreground.

Because of the 30-second exposure time, most of the pictures in this group of shots had motion blur around the lights.  That was caused by vibrations from passing vehicles on the bridge span.  This one shot was the exception.

In the past, Woodburn Hall used to be outlined with white Christmas lights.  After a recent renovation, however, those lights have been replaced by a more secular blue & gold (WVU school colors) theme.  I preferred the old lights, but I think the jury is still out.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Moon Madness

Yesterday's moon shots were successful, but it's amazing at what a more seasoned PhotoShop user can do to improve upon a "decent" shot.  Here is what he taught me today.

PhotoShop has some basic sharpening tools, and I used them to a small degree.  What I didn't know was that a completely different technique could also be used to achieve a sharpening effect.  The alternative approach works with a copy of the original, which then has a High Pass filter applied.  The art to this technique is knowing how much Radius to give the filter.  This one was given around three pixels.  The result is a grey wash.  But if you use a Hard Light layer option on that High Pass processed layer, the result is striking -- way better (or at least easier) than traditional sharpening.

A Mark Twain quote comes to mind:
The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
I guess the same thing can be said about the right PhotoShop technique too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Moon Shot

It was a clear, crisp evening, with a full moon and the promise of a hard frost by morning. 

My first attempt at photographing the moon was a dismal failure.  I went for aperture priority mode and ended up with overexposed shots at a variety of apertures and long exposure times.  A quick googling told me to shoot at ISO 100, f/16, 1/125 sec exposure.  Because of my camera sensor's aspect ratio of 1.6, the 200mm focal length of my telephoto lens gives me an actual focal length of 320mm.  Not quite a telescope, but as you can see, it's decent resolution.

That was my ticket to the moon.  Here are a couple of different shots with varying attempts at post-processing:

In the first shot, I used a combination of Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro (B&W conversion) at about 50% opacity to give it a touch of color.

This next shot is just straight Silver Efex Pro with a Plus 1N push:

It's your call as to which (if any) you like.  I'm leaning toward the first.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Valley Falls in the Fall

Revisiting some shots I took last October that I had previously just skimmed.  Fall colors were still a week or two from their peak.  I used Nik Software Color Efex to emulate Kodak Ultra Color 100UC film.  It added a little punch to the greens.

In the lower mid-left, you can see a lone guy with a camera standing on the rocks.  At 1/4 sec, f/22, ISO 100, the falling water is starting to show that silky appearance.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Forks of Cheat

Forks of Cheat Baptist church, near the village of Stewartstown in West Virginia. Rendered as a color pencil drawing in SnapArt.

The church was built in 1775, and it is surrounded by a cemetery. Located very near the Pennsylvania line in the area between the Cheat and Monongahela rivers known as Forks of Cheat.  According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, it is the oldest church with continuous records west of the Alleghenies in the state.

Afterword:  Here's the same shot, processed "normally."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Damn Little about Mill on Big Sandy

Saturday was a nice day, in the mid- to high-fifties.  There was some cloud cover, however, and the sunshine wasn't what I had hope it it would be.  I took a ride on I-68 east to Bruceton Mills, WV, to try out a Fader variable neutral density filter that I had gotten on Amazon.  The neutral density cuts down on the amount of light coming through the lens, allowing one to use a much slower shutter speed than one normally could.  The slow shutter is particularly nice for blurring falling water.

This was shot at 1/5 sec; f/4.0; ISO 100.  Although this is not necessarily a great picture, it bodes well for future efforts.  Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water house on a bright Spring day is definitely going on my bucket list.

From the Wikipedia entry:
Bruceton Mills is a town in Preston County, West Virginia, United States along Big Sandy Creek. The population was 74 at the 2000 census. An early settler, John M. Hoffman, named this community for his stepfather, George Bruce, who claimed direct descendance from Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland.
It's kind of sad that there's not much on the Web about the history of the dam. There was obviously some milling activity there some time in the past, but little information is available.

The electronic West Virginia Encylopedia does mention that Bruceton Mill on the Big Sandy Creek was among the largest of Preston County's 50 grist mills. There were at least five mills on this site after the first one was built in 1792.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I see dead people

Revisited some pictures from Prickett's Fort that I took back on October 19.  This cemetery is a private burial ground adjacent to Prickett's Fort State Park.  It was established in 1774 and has been in continuous use. According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, Morgantown founder Col. Zackquill Morgan is also buried here.

I tried to create an Orton effect in PhotoShop, but the results are mediocre.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dreaming of a White (Hallo)Weenie

This is an iPhone view of Morgantown this morning at 8:00 from the 5th floor of One Waterfront Place.  Surprisingly for me, there seems to be less snow in this view than if I'd shot a little bit more to the right.  Here, the roads look clear, whereas the South Park area to the right has slushy snow covering the roads.  It is slippery.  County schools are closed, but the University remains open for business.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Forte

Prickett's Fort again.  The window in the center of this log cabin/smithy was featured in the previous posting.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Window to the Past

Friday afternoon (yesterday) was a gorgeous sunny day.  I took the last couple of hours off from work as vacation and drove to Prickett's Fort, camera in-hand.

This shot was taken from the front of a log cabin workshop, looking out of the back:

The building below doesn't look like it's from the same period as the rest of the fort reconstruction.  This was shot at my lens' widest angle, but I wish that I had framed it better.  Colors are striking, but the polarizing filter that I was using caused the sky to lighten noticeably in the upper-right of the picture.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Misty Morgantown

Duh!   Duh!

That's the sound of a dense fog horn.

I thought I would get an interesting shot of town from the 7th floor of my building.  At the time, there were just patches of fog with sun shining through.  By the time I actually got up there and set up, however, you could hardly see a thing.  So I shot anyway.

In the center-right, you can see cars on Beechurst Avenue with their headlights on.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Valley Falls State Park

The leaves are starting to turn, and the sun was out on Saturday morning, so I took a photo excursion to Valley Falls State Park, near Fairmont, WV.

I used the slowest shutter speed that I could (1/8 sec) with a polarizing filter.  You really need a neutral density filter to get those stunning water flow shots, however.

I fell in love with the big tree in the upper left of the picture.  Something about it just looked perfect.  Here's a closer crop to show off more of that tree.  Less rapids, but the composition is more pleasing, IMHO.

Here's a view pointing downstream from the rapids, rendered as a landscape oil painting with SnapArt.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Love is a Rose (and you'd better not pick it)

We had our first frost yesterday morning, but it didn't seem to deter this rose that I saw on my evening walk.  I wasn't feeling very creative here; hindsight tells me that I should have shot this from a lower angle.  I also had to filter a bit for color fringe along the left side of the petals.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Our Town

Morgantown after lunch. Just picked up a new lens at the post office, and these are the first shots from it.  Taken without a tripod (joys of image stabilization).  This is two pictures stitched together.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Checking for Pods

I shot these juvenile large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on pod a couple of weeks ago, on Sunday, September 23.  Luckily I wasn't also in my pajamas.

They don't look any better close-up, either:

Daily Kos blogged about them too, recently.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Goodbye Bubo

Not my usual macro subject (i.e., flowers).  I took this one to put up on eBay, but I'm happy with the lighting effect on this silver proof coin in a plastic mount.  A small incandescent, low from the side really helped to contrast the mirror finish on the coin.

This Ukrainian 10 hryvnia coin depicts a Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo).  It is one out of only 3,000 coins of this denomination minted.

This is probably my good-bye to a coin that I've had for the past ten years.  What I make from its sale will go towards a Canon lens that I now have the hots for.

Update Oct. 17:  can't believe it didn't sell.  There's no accounting for taste, I guess.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two 4 Tuesday

This is a mediocre shot of what I think is a Bluestem goldenrod (solidago caesia) growing near Farmington, PA.  Like a troll, this was growing almost beneath a little foot bridge.  Notice the long leaves and how the flowers on this goldenrod are growing in bunches along the stem.

This second shot is of a bunch of New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae), not that I've done anything to help you in identifying these.

Snap Art was used to give these an Impasto-style Impressionist appearance.  The rendering process left my computer feeling profoundly depressed.  It's thinking of cutting off one of its speakers and sending it to the pretty little laptop across the street.

Monday, September 24, 2012

On Touchstone and the Noon kie oo nah yeah

I spent the weekend at the Touchstone Center for Crafts near Farmington, PA, trying to learn a bit more about photography.  It was a pleasant time of year to be in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands.  The class was taught by Daniel Salitrik, who's more or less my contemporary, but who has been serious about photography his entire life.

My three classmates presented a mixed bag:  an artist/painter from the corporate side of advertising, a business professor with a background in fine arts, and a hospital employee who likes to shoot weddings and flowers.

I stepped out of my comfort zone to experiment with shooting people in some other classes, trying to vary the shooting speed in order to capture motion.  Results were not impressive.  It was good, however, to see and critique people shots with this kind of group.

So while others were telling stories of people in pictures, I found some sunlit spots in the forest that held my own interest.  These two variations of the same shot are perhaps my personal favorites.  Meet the Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens), growing amid some moss.  While this is the beginning of Fall, this subject looks more like a Christmas theme.  The only thing missing is snow.

I first thought that the plant and berry were Wintergreen, but I knew that Wintergreen is a solitary plant, whereas this plant trailed along the ground.  An interesting Wikipedia factoid about the Partridge Berry is that it is native to both United States and Japan.  That's quite a separation.  If you're still at a loss as to my title for this piece, the Wikipedia entry cited above says that "Noon kie oo nah yeah" is the Mohawk Indian name for this plant.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Don't Take Your Love to Town

This shot of Ruby Memorial Hospital was taken yesterday, while I was waiting for my wife to have an MRI scan.

It was taken through a Canon 20-35mm wide angle lens, and you can see the converging building sides caused by lens distortion.  A polarizing filter emphasizes the blue sky.  A part of the architectural design that I never appreciated before is how the center glass facade reflects the sides of the building in the foreground, making it appear as if you are looking through the glass.

If you're puzzled by the title of this piece, you may not be familiar with this old First Edition song.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Brush with Painting

I decided to take up the brush and see if I could do justice to a couple of my wildflower shots.

 Above is my attempt at a watercolor of one of my favorite Forget-me-not flower shots.

Below is a colorized pen and ink rendering of a sweet goldenrod.

I must confess that I'm a lousy artist, and I could never pull off anything like the above.  These are actually early experiments with an Alien Skin plug-in canned Snap Art.  It goes far beyond the filter capabilities that come with Adobe PhotoShop.  You can play with art styles, media (i.e., oil, pastel, watercolor), and materials (i.e., canvas, wood, paper, etc.).

It makes me feel like an artist (with apologies to true artists, everywhere).

Friday, September 7, 2012

Prickly Lettuce

Edith Prickly
Meet the Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola).  I'm not sure if it bears any relationship to Edith Prickly; perhaps it's named for her.

According to the Wikipedia entry, prickly lettuce is the closest wild relative of cultivated lettuce, with pretty much world-wide distribution.  From this fact, I would deduce that it is another non-native to these here parts.

This is another case where I should have photographed more of the plant -- like getting the leaves.  After a bit of Googling around, I see that this plant also resembles another variety of wild lettuce.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Spotted St. Johnswort

Pictures aren't very good, but I hate to pass on the opportunity to record a new find.  Meet the Spotted St. Johnswort (Hypericum punctatum).   I saw only this one little stand of plants, but they closely match the pictures and descriptions I found at the MissouriPlants site.

I did not notice the little black spots on the leaves, which are what give this version of St. Johnswort its name. One thing in favor of this ID, though is that Common St. Johnswort has dark dots on the petals. This one doesn't:

The Spotted St. Johnswort is a native plant.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sweet Goldendrod

One of my current challenges is to get a decent shot of some goldenrod.  It's not as easy as it might seem because the plants are often in motion with the slightest breeze, and because there's so much to their depth-of-field.

The Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora) specimen below is the best that I've managed so far.   It's temptingly close to perfection, but it still falls short.   This was with the help of a small tripod, which allowed me to sit on the ground in some poison ivy.  It was a somewhat overcast day, do I couldn't push the depth-of-field too far and still maintain an acceptable shutter speed.

I used Adobe Lightroom to dodge some oversaturated areas, and I put in a slight vignette effect.

Yesterday was #textureblendphotography day on GooglePlus, so I looked for something that might qualify for that theme.  Ultimately, I chose this variation on the Sweet Goldenrod, running it through PhotoShop's texturizing filter with a "sandstone" setting.

The results are nice, rendering the image as sort of  a Japanese silk painting.  I might have to go back and tone down some of the vertical highlights, though.

A final thought (yeah, right) is the dilemma I have when composing a shot like this.  I was able to give it a pleasing layout for a screen image.  However, when it came to cropping and sizing this for a standard photo paper format, such as 5x7 or 8x10, the results compromised the rule of thirds and diminished the results.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Misty Morning Blue

Meet the Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), which is growing in random places along the Mon River rail trail between Little Falls and Opekiska L&D.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, the Blue Mistflower is a native North American wildflower and a member of the aster family.

I've been reading The Digital Photography Book, by Scott Kelby, and it reminds me to get down low among the flowers while photographing them.  Artistically, the side-on view is a lot more interesting than the top-down view.  Something that Kelby does not mention, however, is to be careful of where you are laying on the ground.  I paid for this shot and a few others like it with poison ivy on both legs.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lovely Lobelia

The Great Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) along the Mon River rail trail between Little Falls and Opekiska L&D. 

Incidental bugs of unknown pedigree.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Natural Art

Yesterday's bike ride from Little Falls to Opekisa Lock & Dam (and back again) had lots of photo opportunities... and lots of unknowns.

I hunted through probably a hundred Google images to come up with an ID for this bug:

It's an Ailanthus webworm (Atteva aurea).  The Wikipedia entry for this indicates that it's an import from the South.  The pattern on the bug reminds me of an art pattern that I cannot recall. Chalk it up to CRS (can't remember sh*t) syndrome. Maybe it will come to me later.

And I still have not been able to identify this flowering shrub, which it was feeding on.  The plant is about three-feet high, and it seems to prefer growing in wet soil close to the river.

Update: I have a name for the flowering shrub.  It's a Japanese knotweed (polygonum cuspidatum).  It's a real stinker, too, listed as one of the world's 100 worst invasive species.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Fair Damselfly

At the tail end of my Sunday bike ride I did spy this damselfly upon the grass.  My best guess (sorry, I'm not much of an entomologist) is that it might be a Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile).  This is the most cooperative damselfly I've ever photographed.   It would scoot off and then return back to this same blade of grass, striking the same pose.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vulgar Beauty

The Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) is a common invasive species that has been in bloom recently.

Presented for your delectation is a macro study of this "vulgar" weed.

The spiny base of the flowering head is covered with some sort of fuzz.  The leaves of the plant are covered with fine hairs, and these apparently extend to the spiny flower head.

The flowering part is a vibrant purple color.  According to Montana, it's belongs to the Aster family.  Read the article, and you'll learn that the plant is "edible."

Putting it all together.  I'd rather see one than eat one.   ;-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bearsfoot on the rail trail

Meet the Bearsfoot (Polymnia uvedalia).  It's growing all over the place along the Mon River rail trail (at least between Uffington and Opekiska Lock & Dam.  Here's one of many links to its description.

If you were to Google the name, most of the links would point you to sites that discuss the medicinal properties of this herb.  Among other things, its extract was used for hair tonics.

Insects really seem to like this plant.  Below is a Bearsfoot with a couple of Pennsylvania leatherwing beetles (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus).  I think the one on top is trying to help the one on the bottom climb up over the bloom.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Belle Fleur

Meet the Tall Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum), a.k.a., American Bellflower.  Interestingly, it's not a bell-shaped flower, being instead rather flat.  According to Wildflowers of the United States, tall Bellflower appears to have 5 blue petals, but those are actually lobes of the corolla rather than real petals.

This specimen was growing along the rail trail between Opekiska Lock & Dam and the Uffington Marina.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Suck it Up

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) slurping it down at the Butterfly Bush Nectar Bar.  A nice shot showing the extended proboscis.

This was taken on Tuesday, in front of my neighbor's yard.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monarch on its Bush

Monarch butterfly on a butterfly bush (Buddleja sp.).

We had a power outage this morning, which extended from my workplace all the way to my home on the edge of south park.  Power didn't return until sometime after 1:00 p.m. 

I thought I'd drag my camera out of mothballs (so to speak).  On a lark, I thought I'd try the Canon EF-S 70-200mm f/4L telephoto lens on an extension tube again.  This monarch butterfly in front of my neighbor's yard was the only salvageable shot, I'm afraid.  Besides the difficulties in focusing on a moving macro target, I had also neglected to attach the sun shade tube.  Lens flare was a real problem.