My Mother’s Favorite

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What’s so special about dogwoods? I grew up in Las Vegas and I remember my mother making a sprig of wood pulp dogwoods when I was a kid. It sat on the top of our TV. She always told me how lovely they were – her favorite flower. Me, I thought they were boring. Just a white flower with 4 petals, nothing special. That lonely sprig in a vase on the TV did little to convince me that they merited the awe in my mother’s voice as she recalled her childhood among them in the woods of Virginia. Just another thing my mom and I disagreed on.

About 10 years ago I relocated to the Ozarks. The first spring was amazing to me – the variety of wildflowers, the shades of green, the wildlife, the water – and the dogwoods.

A canopy of delicate blossoms afloat in the understory of the forest – serenely suspended between heaven and earth. Glorious – and another thing my mom was right about.

Wish I had the chance to share these with her.

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This one’s for you mom – miss you…

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Saturday in the Park – hotter than the 4th of July

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This weekend the real heat of summer settled over the Ozarks. We hit triple digits and in this humidity that an be brutal. I met a friend at a local lake – she was introducing some friends to kayaking. I knew I couldn’t take the heat on the water so I stayed on the docks and played with some newer gear.

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This is a shot of the docks taken with my Lensbaby set up, shown at the top of the blog. It’s a tilt-shift system – meaning that you tilt the lens so that it is no longer parallel to the sensor, this gives you a slice of focus that is tilted away from the sensor. This look is used a lot in those photos that look like dioramas or miniatures. I think that look is cool and I’ll probably try it at some point but for now I am interested in experimenting with the shift. I’m not interested in sacrificing composition for a novelty effect.

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These shots let you see how the focus is off center – the second one really shows how the focus is tilted when you look at the license plate.

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This is a stack of John boats and canoes on the shore. I made the grass near the canoe my focus, letting everything blur towards the edges.

Of course I cannot go anywhere without trying to practice capturing images of flying things and the Lensbaby is just not the tool for that –

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Song sparrow

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Resting dragonfly

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Nectar filled blooms

I’m always game to try new things photographically – it pushes you to master a new skill set. I’m just a noob when it comes to tilt-shift, but I’m intrigued and curious about the potential. I think that’s a good thing for an artist.

As I hit the road for the drive home though, the tilt-shift is packed away – my long zoom is in place in case I get a shot at Bambi.

Katydids or didn’ts

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I saw this fella on the hood of my Jeep a couple of weeks ago. He hung on through my 15 mile commute, he seemed to be there for a couple of days – at least I thought it was the same guy, they all look alike to me.

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Then suddenly he was gone. Early last week he (or his twin) was back, clinging to the windshield for dear life – but with new and improved wings.

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After posing for a few shots he took off and I followed him up and over the jeep soft top.

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At this point he changed directions and came at me.

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He jumped onto my hand – which freaked me out a bit so I brushed him onto the ground. Immediately I felt bad, after all I was his ride. I thought I would pick him up an put him back on the Jeep. Bad idea – he made the loudest noise! I ditched him there in the parking lot.

Random Stream of Consciousness – with pictures.

Random musings in no particular order…
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Have you noticed how many people post photos of their bare feet on Facebook? Odd. Feet are typically not your most attractive feature and if you post it as your profile photo every time you comment, post, or even play Words with Friends your friends are confronted with your funny looking feet. This is as close to bare feet that you will see from me online. My boss thinks they look like “bear feet”. I took this photo because I thought it was silly to wear leather five fingers while standing on a fake fur rug.

Squeegee
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This is one of my Jack Russell Terriers – Squeegee. She rarely lets me take her photo. I was trying out a new zoom one day and got this shot of her. I cropped in on her eye and saw my reflection as well as my whole front yard I her eyes. Spooky.

Weeds
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I often walk around looking for something to take photos of. Sometimes I find weeds. I think dandelions are fascinating. The daisies are coming up through cracks in the sidewalk. I love their symmetry. I think the leftover stem of the dandelion looks like a primitive golf ball.

Sparkles
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I have been putting together a kit for shooting macro for a couple of years now. I know that you probably expect to see bugs eyes or flower centers when you think “macro” – I like to use my gear for getting close to just about anything. The second shot is my Mom’s class ring. I shot this with an antique bellows – when you shoot tight with shiny things in the background you get those cool circles – in all honesty, I was more interested in making those circles that the objects I was shooting.

Feathers
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Feathers are amazing. Luminous, textured, shaping. We all know what a chicken looks like with no feathers. Birds are not so majestic naked. Sometimes I think people would look better with feathers. Kind of smooths things out.

Characters
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Characters – Eureka Springs is full of them. We have lots of parades and festivals – these are events that characters just cannot resist. The woman in the clown make-up is a staple of this scene. I could probably pass her on the street without her makeup and never know her even though I have taken dozens of shots of her. The last shot is my pal Judy, we like to take shots of each other taking shots of each other.

Velcro

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This is Velcro, she’s a 14 year old Rat Terrier mix. I rescued her about 8 years ago. She likes to dig – a lot. When I first brought her home I twisted my ankle in one of her many holes while walking across the lawn, so had some top soil trucked in to level things out. It took less than a month before she destroyed the lawn again. I have re-leveled the lawn at least a dozen times. I am at the point that I have decided to let her dig to her hearts content until she crosses the Rainbow Bridge. Then I’ll fix the lawn. The upside? No grubs, no moles, no wasps.

Baby animals

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I read once that all mammals experience a serotonin release when they look at other baby mammals. I think that’s true and I think it answers the question as to why we would willingly bring home an animal that will poop in our house and eat our favorite shoes. Baby animals are like crack. They make us feel good. I’m hoping that this good feeling makes for a good place to sign off. Look closely into the kittens eyes. You’ll feel great.

Oh Deer!

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Pssst! Hey you – you in the red Jeep…..can I get a lift?

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I need to get over to Holiday Island – got a tee time in 30 minutes!

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C’mon, by the time I get over there on foot I’ll be beat – be a pal.

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The golf course it the best – lots of free parking!

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Air Conditioned comfort in the clubhouse!

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Lots of cart rentals available!

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See how close to the pin you can get on the 9th hole!

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After your round you can dance in the clubhouse til dawn!

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Waddaya waitin’ for – let’s go!

Pink Sky at Night – an Ozark Delight

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These longer days give me lots of time to shoot in the evenings. Friday I was out on a country road and looked to the west to see the sky looking like it was on fire. I focused on the field grass just in front of the fence to capture this image.

It was about 8:00 so I knew I had a short window to drive to a spot with a good vantage point – a downside of living in the Ozarks is that the hills and hollows can block sunrises and sets from view. I went to an overlook built by the local Rotary – I looks out across all of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I got there as the sky really started to explode with color.

Long Zoom – The 1886 Crescent Hotel at sunset.

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Kit Zoom – with ambient light from the street lamp.

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My portrait prime – last useable shot of the night.

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As I headed out the color lingered, too dark to capture – but lighting my way home. I live in paradise.

Butterfly – Flutter By

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I always learn something when I spend time with Mary Jane.

If you’ve read any of my blog you’ll know she’s my nearly 99-year-old neighbor. She has a place a little less than a mile from me on our country road.

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She loves her garden. She spends hours caring for it. It doesn’t look like your typical garden. The first time I saw it I thought it was an acre of weeds. I offered to mow it for her and she told me that she didn’t trust me to leave the good parts. She prefers to trim her garden with some folding hand shears while sitting on an overturned milk crate.

The truth is that Mary Jane has an exhaustive knowledge of Ozark plant life. She knows what you can eat, what soothes your skin, what makes a good tea, and what can kill you. She knows what will have a beautiful blossom and what will attract or repel insects. Every year she moves in and out of the greenery with her shears, thinning and opening the space.

When something special happens in the her garden, Mary Jane will give me a call and I will come over with my camera. One of our rites of spring is the arrival of the swallowtails to feed on the sweet rocket. She will cut enough away to make a path to walk through and it makes shooting easy.

One Saturday in April I got the call. I packed my long zoom and my macro lens and headed out. I started with the log zoom. I could easily get within 10 feet and my bird lens was just the ticket. The swallowtails were so busy feeding that you could just find a spot and focus while waiting for a one to light.

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A tiger swallowtail feeding on mottled sweet rocket blossoms.

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A tiger swallowtail with a spicebush swallowtail in the distance.

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Spicebush swallowtail in the rocket.

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The swallowtail is the only butterfly that flutters while it feeds, this can make it a challenge to photograph them.

After about a half hour shooting I noticed that Buffy, one of Mary Jane’s cats had followed me and was watching the scene. I decided to put away to zoom and see if I could get close to him. I took out the Macro – it can take a fair portrait.

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I was glad that I had changed lenses when I spotted this guy. He let me get incredibly close.

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The zebra swallowtail was not bothered by me in the least. He moved methodically from flower to flower.

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I didn’t notice the ladybug on the right while I was shooting.

Sometimes I can get so wrapped up in catching the shot of the insect that I forget how really special the sweet rocket is. The structure of this flower is really beautiful.

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Tiger, another of Mary Jane’s cats, couldn’t have been more bored with it all.

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This sweet rocket butterfly garden lasted only a few days. Another of the Ozark’s micro seasons. I thought the swallowtails were gone until next year. About a week later I got another call from Mary Jane. It was about noon, but I was at work and couldn’t get there for a few hours. Once I got there I had about an hour to shoot before dusk. The swallowtails were back, this time at the mock orange bush, something Mary Jane planted to draw butterflies. She sees a garden as more than plants, it’s what the plants bring.

This night I had to use the long zoom. The mock orange was taller than me and these tiger swallowtails were easily spooked. Shooting upwards let me get some of the evening sky into some of the shots.

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As the sun got lower the number of swallowtails really tapered off.

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Towards the end of the evening the butterflies were in the interior of the mock orange.

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As the sun set we stood in the garden and Mary Jane pointed out what she would thin next, what was coming up, and what was blooming now. If I’m completely honest, I still couldn’t see it, it looked like weeds to me. I don’t have the vision.

I looked back at the mock orange and asked Mary Jane if she knew where the butterflies went after sunset. She said they went to sleep.