Ink – spiration

I work at a large T-shirt manufacturing company. We screen print our own line of tees that are sold all over the world. While I spend my days working with the design team in what we affectionately call the “art cave” the action happens out in the shop. I have always been inspired by the colors of the ink and the industrial finishes of the machinery. One day while the print team was at lunch, I took a walk through the shop with my camera looking for color.

Orange smear

Ink on aluminum

Lights on for safety

Glitter Heart Screen

Aluminum Frame

Mesh Counts

Splatter

Adjustments

Press Station

Clean up

Ink Mixers

Color Choices

I have a practice of trying to shoot at least a little every single day. Some days there are no birds or deer or flowers in my path. Sometimes I have to find beauty where I am. I shot these on a grey winter day.

What inspires you when the flowers are all hidden away?

A Prelude to Fall

I’m on a plane flying home from a business trip to Michigan. The signs of the fall are already apparent there and the colors are in the early stages of changing. Before I left I saw a couple of trees just starting the transition. After the warmest summer that the Ozarks has ever experienced there were concerns that there would be no color at all, but the gentle rains after Isaac may have saved the season.

Although Isaac brought less rain and wind than anticipate, he also brought my very first macro photo ops after a long, brown summer,
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I have no idea what this is – it was on the ground and it wasn’t brown.

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In a pinch, even a greened up weed will suffice as inspiration.

In between showers I would pop outside and look to see what had changed. I love rain or dewdrops on leaves.
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If you look very closely and let your imagination fill in the details, I am visible reflected in the bottom center water drop. I’m gonna have to try to do that for real soon 🙂

On July 4th I posted a lament to cancelled fireworks and focused on some lilies that seemed to thrive in a hidden garden at my neighbor’s place. As promised the lilies have gone to seed and the seeds look just like blackberries.
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This subterfuge confuses birds to pick them and drop them elsewhere once they discover that they are not tasty berries. I need them to carry some my way.

Another lily that peaked after Isaac was the local favorite, the Naked Lady – not sure why they call it that, but I got a chance to shoot some macro between showers.
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Before the leaves change colors, a lot of the local wildlife gets a makeover for fall. This young fawn has lost her spots and is starting to go from a rusty brown to a more grey brown that matches the color of the barren winter trees. The tourists are also changing from motorcycles to minivans.
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Even the cardinals are starting to spruce things up – This is one of the birds I posted images of a few weeks ago when he was impersonating a scraggly parrot. His transformation for fall is almost complete and he’s looking pretty dapper.
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I don’t know what these are but they are gorgeous, I shot them at the Ponca Elk Education Center last weekend.

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The Hummers at my place are fattening up and getting a bit cocky with me. This guy is roosting in my crepe myrtle, totally unconcerned with my proximity to him
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In fact – I get a raspberry from him – he’s taunting me, I just know it.

Even the rain doesn’t dissuade this guy from watching over what has become his own personal feeder.
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Lest I live under the illusion that I am a hummingbird whisperer and that my birds have accepted me into the flock – here are a couple that I shot at the Ponca Elk Education Center.
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Apparently they are more concerned with stocking up on calories for the long journey south than they are with stalkers like me going in for the shot.

The color’s out there, and its about to explode – now is the time to take that camera absolutely everywhere! What’s the color like in your neck of the woods?

The Boys are Back – a Third Chance for Elk in Arkansas

At the dawn of the 19th century, settlers in Arkansas found themselves in a land of amazing biodiversity. Vast herds of elk roamed the hills and hollows of the Ozarks. Those settlers saw the ancient forests as expendable resources. They harvested the timber and exported it to their neighbors to the north and they hunted the great eastern elk into extinction. By 1840 there were no elk left in the Ozarks.

For almost a century the sound of the bugle was gone from the meadows along the Buffalo River. In 1933 11 Rocky Mountain Elk were transplanted to Arkansas. They thrived in the same meadows where they had lived since before the coming of the white man. The Wapiti were once again roaming in those ancient meadows. Those 11 transplanted elk grew into a sustainable herd of over 200 animals.

By 1955 the elk had completely disappeared once again. The destruction of their habitat and poaching lead to the complete devastation of the restored herd.

In 1981 the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission attempted a second restoration. Over the next 4 years 112 elk were gradually transplanted into Newton County along the banks of the Buffalo.

Today a healthy and monitored herd of over 500 populate 5 counties. Almost a hundred live in the Boxley Valley alone.

Here are some shots I took this weekend of bulls in Boxley Valley, near the Buffalo River.

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This is George – at least that’s what I call him. I have seen him in this same spot before. His antlers are a bit crooked, but they look better than they did last year. Bulls shed their antlers every winter so this years growth looks a bit more symmetrical that they were when I saw him last. He also is a bit knock kneed on his rear legs. He seems to like it here in front of the creek. He grazes and poses for the early morning photogs and spotters who fill the valley. From the look of his antlers I would guess that he is 3-4 years old.

 

 

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This is a great old fellow. He is simply enormous, but he seems to lack the bulk of a younger bull. Most bulls live about 6 years, the oldest known bull in Arkansas was 15. Their antlers start to decline in size around 10 or 12 years of age, so I’m guessing he’s somewhere north of 10.

 

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He’s over 5 feet tall at the shoulders so the depth of the grass in this meadow is pretty amazing, almost like it was designed to feed animals of this size.

 

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He had three females in his harem. The cow behind him had wandered off so he circled around her and guided her back to a safe spot near the treeline.

 

 

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This is a pair of youngsters I spotted alongside the road. They have the antlers of a 2-year-old. Spindly without definite points. They were off alone away from the females – bachelors. Elk are very social and males like this tend to live in small groups away from the cows and calves.

 

 

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This isn’t a great shot – it was into the sun and a pretty far distance off, but I include it to show the size of a bull towards the end of his prime. I got the chance to hear him bugle for the ladies in the meadow about a quarter-mile away.

 

It’s good to see bulls of all ages in the herd. Some of the cows have tracking collars and great care is taken to prevent poaching. The herds placement was established with the assistance of the locals, so they are not seen as pests, but rather as a part of the environment.

It looks like the Natural State got it right this time, third time’s a charm.

Boys Will be Boys – The Youngsters at Boxley Put on a Show

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This morning I got up bright and early – 4:30am – to head over to the Boxley Valley near the Buffalo River. A friend and I decided to make a run over to see if we could get a look at some elk. We arrived at the valley right before sunrise and began to scout out locations. We saw a pair grazing in a roadside ditch. It was still just a bit to dark to get any good photos so I parked my jeep about a 100 feet away and hiked towards the pair of young bulls. As cars passed by, I just hoped they would stay close until the sun came up. One at a time they wandered across the road, over a fence, and down into a meadow. I thought for sure that we had missed out, but hiked over towards the spot where I had seen them leap over. From the roadbed I was actually above the meadow and got a chance to see them both clearly visible above the wall of foliage along the fence.

The most amazing thing happened next. They carefully, even gently, began to spar with each other. There was no crash of antlers or huffed snorts, it was more of a quiet ballet.

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Occasionally the pair would stop, and look our way. Then they would look back at each other and continue the dance.

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Dodge, thrust, parry, block – and then another glance, perhaps to see if we were still watching.

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Back and forth, round and round, stop and glance – this went on for about 20 minutes.

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Then they were finished, the show was over, time to take a bow.

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They both headed off towards the cover of the woods.

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The first bull went on through, the second lingered, almost like taking a curtain call.

I photographed lots of elk today, but I was most enchanted by the young bulls I spotted before sunrise. I’m not sure what they were doing, were they practicing for a future rut? Were they raised together in a nursery group? Did they see my camera and decide to put on a show? Either way it was worth it, now I think I’ll go take a nap.

This blog is just amazing, it’s built from the memoir of photojournalist Gene Barnes who worked for NBC in the 50s and 60s. This post shows an amazing set of towers but also gives a sense of Gene’s working method.

I, Witness

BUILDER OF THE WATTS TOWERS

Simon “Sam” Rodia
Watts, California – 1954

Rodia darted over and stood threateningly in front of me, shaking his finger, speaking excitedly in broken English. “You, you think you poody. You no poody. You think you poody, but you’re not. Sure, you poody on the outside. Inside you stink like hell!”

We wanted Sam to cooperate while we shot a story on his towers. Sam wasn’t buying it. We tried to cajole Sam into climbing up just a few feet and act like he was working on the tower. Sam steadfastly refused, ranting “No. No. No.” Then he’d storm off to a shed which served as his living quarters.

After a while he would emerge and ignore us. He was beset by his own tribe of devils — he was nuts. We’d try again and Sam would become enraged and storm back into the shed…

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Everyone Loves a Parade – Mardi Gras in Eureka Springs

I have done a lot of posts about birds lately so I thought I would change things up. These are a series of shots from last winter taken with what was then a brand new lens – it’s now one of my favorites.

I live in a small village in the Ozarks called Eureka Springs and we love parades! Christmas, St Patty’s, Art’s Festival, VWs, Corvettes, Antique Cars, Diversity, Folk Music and more. Most of our parades are a part of the party we throw for our visitors. We host festivals on dozens of weekends throughout the year. Come see us during VW weekend and we’ll throw a party with a parade and you can be in it! But there’s one party we throw that is unabashedly about us.

In the dead of winter we crown royalty from among our own citizenry and host a week of parties culminated by the annual Eureka Gras Mardi Gras Parade. It’s one of my favorites. Instead of a visitor in a Model T, I get to see our own folk decked out in their best finery with beads-a-plenty. We’re not New Orleans – but that’s OK. Everyone’s welcome, even if you aren’t a Eurekan.

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There’s something uber fancy about adding some beads to any ensemble

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Adding an ostrich feather sets just the right mood.

This year I decided to make myself us only one lens.  No bag, just my camera and a single lens and a strap. I had just gotten a Leica 25mm 1.4 portrait lens and decided it was the one to try out. I shoot a mirrorless M4/3 system so the focal length is equal to double the number so this lens is the equivalent of a “fast 50”.

I love this lens and I love the freedom to just shoot. It was so nice to dive in and out of the crowd and not worry about my equipment. With our parades no one cares if you just jump in so I did and got as close as I could to those in the middle of the action.

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I think this guy might have been a Grand Marshall – I don’t think he got the memo about the dress code.

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I did not realize that I knew this lady until I posted the image on Facebook.

Of course it’s fun to shoot the crowd in between floats. The noise and the crowds make this parade a joy to be a part of and the faces of those in the parade echo those of us who were just watching.

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This is Judy – We both have birthdays near Mardi Gras so it’s just another party.

One of the things I love about this lens is the way it can isolate the subject. Casual portraits are pretty easy to pull off. I love the control I have over the DOF.

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This is my neighbor Lynne – all beads and grins.

As the royal court approaches the beads really start to fly. I was actually hit in the face several times – too busy trying to get the shot to go for the beads.

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A member of the Court tosses beads into crowd.

The next three shots are from a series of a woman who was originally from New Orleans – the gusto she had for the enterprise of tossing beads into the crowd were amazing – these were my favorite shots of the day – Duchess Pamela.

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Wave

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Wind-up

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Follow-through

This Duke can’t quite get the beads free to toss.

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Tangled

This gentleman owns the local Indian restaurant. I love his smile.

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Turbaned Duke

This lens lets you pick a face out of the crowd. This is my friend and co-worker Sharon.

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Beadmobile – the crowd’s looking up because beads are flying down.

This young man was all about the beads – he was focused on grabbing as many as possible.

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This young man was in the crowd with us – his face painting is awesome.

Some of the floats were quite tall so you get a chance to play with the perspective – the King towers above the crowd.

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Here comes the King!

In between the royal floats there were these fellows on bicycles. I love how this lens let me capture the streamers in motion.

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Steampunk Bicyclists follow the royal procession.

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I’m thinking this is a great idea for those who just don’t want to commit to a full sleeve full time.

These kids we part of the Queen’s court – they did the bead tossing for her.

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The Queen’s Helpers hoist beads into the air.

Of course we needed someone to control the crowds and keep the peace.

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A bedazzled officer on crowd control

I typically try to avoid shooting into an overcast sky – but on this day the colors were so bright I shot up to get Alice letting loose.

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Looks like Alice has gone down the rabbit hole and come back with lots of beads.

As the parade ended I got a chance to see some more locals adorned for the day’s events.

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This little guy was worn out. Amazing he could sleep over the brass bands.

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A beaded chapeau

I love the way this lens made me get close. There were moments when I wasn’t just watching the parade, I was in it. Now I don’t consider myself a street photographer – but I do love a parade.

iOS 6 – My Life is at Least 6% Better!

Today at 12:01 Central Time iOS 6 went live.

I’ll admit it, I’m an early adopter. I was one of those fools in line when the first iPhone was released. I didn’t camp out all night but I was right there with the campers mid-morning. I got my first iPhone the day before a road trip for work. To the amazement of anyone I could get to pay attention to me, I was able to set up my email on the interstate between Memphis and Birmingham. I checked on the movies playing near our hotel, I was the official weatherman. I had the whole freaking Internet in the palm of my hand. My life would never be the same.

For the next couple of years I was the official information friend. What’s the number of the local restaurant? How late is the library open? What movies are playing this week? What is the Kelley Blue Book value in that used Jeep we saw? I could answer any questions with a few seconds of thumb typing.

Now all my friends have iPhones. We all have access to every bit of info out there instantly. They may all be on board, but I’m convinced I’m still the most excited about updates and new features – a bonifide geek.

So what’s new that I’m already enjoying while you are debating taking the time to download?

Siri is now your bitch – ask her to open apps, find a restaurant, update your Facebook status. Hopefully she has finally figured out the meaning of life.

Speaking of Facebook – it’s everywhere, integrated into lots of apps. Upload from your photo album without opening the FB app. Now you can connect without even bothering to connect.

Turn-by-turn directions with traffic – of course I live in a village of 2200 people, traffic is not much of an issue.

Of course their are lots of cool nuanced changes to Safari, FaceTime, Mail, and every other native app. These are all nice and helpful.

My favorite new feature is in the camera though. Now I am not one to ditch my “real” camera for a smartphone, but the upgrade now features a panorama – now I can take you on a wide-angle, fish-eyed tour of the Stone House and the Bird Feeder Buffet!

This is what I get to see everyday at the end of my driveway…

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Note – when taking panorama shots with happy dogs you may find the same dog pictured several times. It took 3 tries to get the center terrier to be in the shot only once. Also, my Jeep is actually facing the house, but in the land of panorama it’s rotated 90 degrees.

This is my hallway. My walls are all inch thick beadboard and the logs in the center are actually slabs I installed like tiles to repair a 4’x8′ opening the previous owner cut in the bedroom wall. All these trees died in my yard. Cutting the slabs and gluing them in place took an entire winter. I can be a bit OCD at times.

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This is my wrap-around porch. I’m standing in the corner. This is why I bought this house. I can eat supper out here 6 months of the year. I have ceiling fans and a fire pit so I’m covered no matter the weather. All those trees out there are mine. I can see Missouri from my porch.

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This is the Bird Buffet – this is a patio that I had built a few years ago. It’s off an old sleeping porch that I now use as a mudroom and photographer hiding spot.

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Sure it’s just a novelty and these are not shots that I would offer as my best stuff, but it is pretty darn cool! iOS 6 has been available for less that 8 hours and I’m already posting about it from my updated iPad using photos taken from my updated iPhone. Technology is amazing. Life is good.