Here’s a quick shot of a common houseplant - a Peace Lily. Taken with a plastic lensbaby muse on Tri-X developed in Rodinal.
Category: "Around The House"
Kalamazoo was in the sweet spot for an ice storm on February 21st this year - just to the north heavy snow fell and just to the south it rained. But here we had a heavy freezing rain that left well over 100,000 homes without electricity. Mine was one of them. Between the oven and the fireplace and a propane heater borrowed from a friend I was able to keep the house warm enough to avoid freezing pipes, if not crabby cats pissed off over being left in the cold - inside.
Here are a few macro snapshots of the ice, taken around my house.
All photos taken with a Pentax K-7 and D-FA 2100mm macro lens.
With Worldwide Pinhole Day just a few weeks away, I decided to look at some new options for pinhold photography. Up till now I’ve been using a converted Kinoflex twin lens reflect camera, which was converted to a pinhole with a micro-drill. It is very nice and the TLR finder makes composing a breeze. However, the pinhole in this camera is not very small - based on exposure experience I estimate it to be in the f90 to f128 range.
There are loads of pinhole options on ebay these days, from holgas to dslr body caps to beautiful hand made wooden cameras. For me, having some sort of a finder is essential - I get too fussy about composition to just guess what is going to wind up in the frame. Many of the cameras out there have no finder, and that ruled them out for me.
While I was poking around, I found a nice pinhole body cap for the Pentax 6x7/ 67 /67II family of cameras. I gave this a test drive yesterday - here is the first shot I took with the camera, a 32 minute exposure:
The documentation says the aperture is f244, which would be about 8 stops from f16. To estimate the exposure I used a light meter to take a reading at f16, which showed a shutter speed of 15 seconds. I then doubled the shutter speed 7 times - 30s, 1m, 2m, 4m, 8m, 16m, 32m, each doubling being one stop. I decided to call it quits at 7 stops - if I went the full 8 stops we’d have an hour long exposure. I wasn’t sure if the battery on the 6x7 would hold the mirror and shutter open that long. The negative was definitely thin, but scannable. Film used was Agfa APX 100 developed in Rodinal, 1:50 for 17 minutes.
There is nothing particularly interesting about the radiator, but I like the tonality. This and the other test images look fairly sharp, for pinholes, which is what I was hoping for. With the pinhole on the camera the finder is way too dark to do any composition, but the standard Takumar 105mm f2.4 lens is pretty close in angle of veiw to the pinhole, just a little narrower, so composing with the lens and swapping it out for the pinhole works fine.
I’m looking forward to running this through it’s paces a little more in the next few weeks! While I bought my pinhole body cap on ebay, it came from the folks at pinholeedum.com.
I live in the city and have a small urban yard. It’s not much for attracting wildlife, but it is sometimes surprising to see what can pass through this little space. Over the last few years I’ve been trying to cultivate wildflowers in a strip along the edge of the yard. The project has resulted in a mixture of domestic and wild plants, some native and many not.
Here we have phlox, grey coneflower, day lilies and queen of the prairie alongside peonies, tulips, and spearmint. Some tall grasses pop up here and there. Asters bloom in the spring and autumn, some white, some blue. Each year I mow a little less of the lawn and leave a few inches more to go wild. The grass grows high and in a few weeks the coneflower, asters or phlox appear and get started.
This year I stopped mowing back a bull thistle plant. The plant always managed to send out spiny leaves that were low enough to avoid the mower’s blade, but it was never able to send forth its flowering stems. After several years of being mowed back it finally got its chance to bloom, and it sent out an array of thorny stems and branches that soon bore lots of flower heads.
The flowers weren’t particularly attractive to my eye, but they brought in interesting visitors. I saw several swallowtail butterflies visiting the plant while it was in bloom, but as the first flowers faded a pair of goldfinches showed up regularly to eat the seeds and harvest the silk for their nest.
I first noticed this one day around noon. I had just gotten into my car and glanced over at the thistle to see a female goldfinch with a mouthful of downy thistle seeds. She looked like she had silky white whiskers. Over the next few weeks the pee-weep pee-weep became commonplace, as the pair would land on the thistle to feast on its seeds and gather the down.
In addition to letting the thistle grow, I stopped feeding the birds for the summer. The birdseed that had fallen from the feeders over the winter sprouted and started to grow. Early in the summer we had many stalks of wheat, that turned brown and died up by midsummer. Only after it was dry would the squirrels nip off the seed head and eat the wheat kernels. Lots of sunflowers also rose up, and these too where a favorite of the finches and other birds.
Looking at Stoke’s Guide to Bird Behavior, I see that the goldfinch nests and breeds rather later in the summer, and that nest building starts in July and runs through August. The timing of the bull thistle’s flowers and subsequent seed heads and down is perfect for the finches.
In early September I cut down the now dried up and dead thistle. The finches weren’t visiting it anymore, and the dried up stalks were pretty ugly. I put out a feeder filled with Niger thistle seed, and set the dried husk of the bull thistle onto the top of the compost pile, where the birds could still visit it if they needed any more down.
Next year, if a bull thistle shows up, I think I’ll let it grow.
It’s a tradition, I guess. If one person alone can have a tradition. Each spring I try to get a photo of a honey bee in a crocus flower. Sometimes it works out… sometimes not.
This spring presented me with a narrow window of opportunity. This spring is robust and early, and the crocuses bloomed all at once in mid March, in response to several days of mild weather. But as the flowers were out in their peak, a cold snap, heavy frost, and a bit of wet snow wiped them out. They came and they went all in a matter of days.
I spent only one session out in the lawn, chasing honey bees. This shot is passable, but not great:
And along came a fly, and perhaps I did a bit better, capturing it in all its putrid glory:
Well, that officially kicks off the insect phtography season for another year… The dragonflies can’t be far off.
I’m sitting in my home office on a late summer evening. Outside the crickets crick and the katydids katydid.
I spend a lot of time in this small room – just 10 by 15 feet in dimension. It has five doors, two large windows, one built in bookcase, and a chimney stack running through it. Add to that the desk, tables, three bookcases, sleeper sofa, and cat play tower that I’ve brought in – and you can see that the space get’s pretty cramped.
Years ago, before computers, I fancied that I would turn this room into a gentleman’s library, and painted it what I thought would be a deep forest green. I figured I’d toss in some lush rugs, a few winged back chairs, and loads of books, and spend countless evenings reading here. But the forest green turned out to be more of a jungle green, and I unexpectedly needed a place to hold computers, and so soon the ‘Green Room’ as I called it became my rather crowded home office.
And so I hang out here, and my cats hang out with me. Lately they’ve taken a fancy to sleeping on the last remaining CRT monitor – a pocket of warmth that they seek out, even in late summer.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Dragonflies and Damselflies I’ve run into so far this spring.
True to their reputation as being the first spring dragonfly, Dot Tailed Whitefaces now dominate. This is their day in the sun, and they are making the most of it. They are now abundant in the Allegan State Game Area, and seemed to be equally abundant in the Barry State Game Area.
Many of these dragonflies have the glassy shiny wings of new hatchlings. I have yet to see any old-timers with torn and tattered wings, but am starting to finally encounter members of this species with their full adult markings – specifically, all black abdomen except for a single yellow dot.
I’ve encountered many mating pairs and expect more subjects throughout the early to mid summer.
The next dragonfly species to emerge is the common whitetail. I spotted one immature individual last week -sorry, no photo - but have yet to see others.
Several different species of damselflies are out, not uncommon but not abundant. I’ve seen – but not identified – several spreadwings and common blue damselflies. Here’s a photo of what I believe to be a Sedge Sprite.
The weeks ahead should bring an explosion in different species…
UPDATE: A couple of hours after writing this post, an immature male Common Whitetail appeared in my yard. It’s a rarity to see dragonflies in my very urban, very small side yard, so it was a real treat that this individual showed up.
Here’s a photo:
After a few weeks without heavy rain, things are starting to look like they usually do at the end of July. The fields are tinged with brown, the water in the marsh is receding, and the red dragons rule. Driving down dirt roads, I see a swirling vortex of dust rising up from behind the car. For weeks now the rear window has been covered with brown powder, and when I glance in the mirror I’m only looking back through a dark glass.
Things in the Allegan Forest are a bit different this year as well. I realized this last week that there has been virtually no gunfire in the woods this summer – a real change from past years. This is also a mowing year in the game area – several of my favorite fields that were last mowed three or four years ago, were mowed again this summer. Several fields off 44th Ave, plus the large fields north of the river off 125th Street have been cut. Of the places I regularly visit, only the fields off 48th Avenue remain untouched.
It will be more than a week till I return, and by then even those places may be mowed.
Anyhow, this last week I made a few desultory ventures out photographing. All things being equal, I probably should have staying in and worked on myriad other projects, but I wanted to capture the summer while it was still here.
A couple of trips to the Allegan forest were highly productive. I really worked the red meadowhawks – which I reckon now are about one third White Faced Meadowhawks with the balance being Cherry Faced, Ruby, and even a few Autumn Meadowhawks. The shot above, which was subject to some digital manipulation, is one of the more interesting dragonfly shots I’ve taken this year. I call it Jachim, Boaz, and the Red Dragon. Why not?
I also managed to get a final, goodbye shot of a Blue Dasher, below, which isn’t half bad.
Around the house, I found three or four cicada exuviae around the house this week. In one case the living cicada was on the wall of my garage, next to its abandoned larval exoskeleton. I caught it and put it on a tree, where it quickly raced towards the top – after a very frantic round of shooting (and repositioning the insect a few times) I finally called it quits when the memory card was full.
Overall, a good week and a good start to August. More photos: