Archive for the ‘Life in the USA’ Category

My 2016 in Photos

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Jan2016-4334-Edit

I tried to be more purposeful in my photography this year, both in topic and technique, with a mix of tripod and hand held. The photographic year started in January, with a new, and much longer, telephoto lens, that gave me more photographic reach than I’ve ever had.  Along with the winter moon, the new glass helped me capture and identify a lot of the wildlife around the Hollow, including ducks, geese, herons, hawks, bluebirds, grosbeaks, warblers, turkeys, deer, and a red fox.

Great Blue Heron

I’ve already blogged about using my new telephoto to capture shots of the wood ducks on our pond, and a couple of previous blog entries explain my week’s vacation shooting the 17 year cicada.   My camera also helped me explore the vernal pools that characterize the 5 flat acres along the northern edge of the Hollow. In March and April, several small pools come alive with noisy amphibians and busy aquatic insects. While my in situ work wasn’t exactly ready for National Geographic, crawling around the muck in rubber boots,  I at least managed to document the existence of fairy shrimp and blue-spotted salamander.

Tadpole

Most of the shots you’ve seen of small amphibians and aquatic insects in books and nature documentaries were taken under studio conditions in a tank (surprise).  I collected a couple jars of salamander eggs, tadpoles and some caddis fly larvae. I set up a small plastic dish on a table, creating a makeshift studio to get some close-ups of these interesting little underwater creatures.

Caddis Fly Larva

People are interesting, too. I took my camera to three different sporting events this year, starting indoors in March when the Holmes County Training Center Bucks played the Community All Stars.

Bucks v All Stars 2016

In May, I spent a very wet afternoon shooting calf roping at a rodeo in Sugar Creek. The weather was terrible, but all the mud and water made for a lot of photographic drama. This was my first chance to try my new telephoto at a sporting event, and I thought it did a great job of focusing on the equine action.

Calf Roping 2

In September, I went to the 25th Ohio Cup Vintage Base Ball Festival, at Muffin Field in Ohio Village (Columbus), this time shooting my lighter and less awkward 70-200 F4.  Local amateur sporting events are great places to shoot—they usually let you have the run of the place, and there aren’t a lot of crowds to get into your way.

Muffin Field

Columbus is also the home to one of the best state fairs in the country, and I had a pair of photos accepted into the fine arts exhibit.   Elizabeth and I went to the Ohio state fair grounds to see the art, and then spent the rest of the afternoon looking at cows, pigs, and people.

Amanda the Cow

Most of what I photographed this year was relatively close to home, but I ended up with an afternoon and several evenings to kill on a business trip to London. I brought my pocketable Sony RX100M4, and had a chance to grab some views of Canary Wharf from a burgeoning new neighborhood around the O2, which was a drab and muddy part of London when I biked through in 2009.

Canary Wharf

I brought my small camera along on a late November business trip to Vegas, where a co-worker and I took a short trip into the desert to visit Seven Magic Mountains, a surprisingly intriguing temporary art exhibition.

Seven Magic Mountains

Always a sucker for signage, I managed to take a 1 hour tour of the Neon Museum.

DSC06360

I did one paid-for shoot in 2016, driving out to Pittsburgh to spend a very interesting late afternoon wandering around a former industrial site in a photo event organized by Matthew Christopher, whose Abandoned America Workshops are always interesting. Most of the obsolete Carrie Furnaces installation has been razed, but a pair of blast furnaces from the Homestead Steel Works are still standing.  It was a fascinating place to visit, and unlike most of what I photographed this year, at least everything was standing still, making for a more contemplative, tripod-oriented photographic session. 

Blast Furnace

I also organized a fall foliage session in Amish Country for my camera club. We started the day at The Farm at Walnut Creek, taking horse drawn wagon rides through a gauntlet of exotic ruminants, all looking for a handout.

 Cow Tongue

After The Farm, the various club members split up, exploring southern Holmes county on their own, and visiting some of the sites and suggestions that I’d mapped out earlier that month, a variety of 1-room schools, old farm houses, and country churches.

Doughty Valley School

It was a more colorful fall season than last year, with the oaks showing much more red this year than they did last year.

Pond Reflections

2016 was also an interesting chance to try a couple of practical photographic exercises. A neighbor put their house up for sale, and asked if I would take pictures for the realtor’s web site.

NylaInterior-3919

Another neighbor asked me to take head shots for her LinkedIn page (I’m not taking sole credit for her successful job search), and I spent several hours, at three different locations, doing a senior photo shoot.

MattJuly2016-2450

At least through the various lenses of my several cameras, its been a great year.

Ouch

Tree Swallows

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Mar2016-6360

Not all of the birds hanging out in the marshland near Killbuck are aquatic.  As spring approaches, the marsh always has swarms of little birds, swooping around, eating invisible insects.  They seemed to be perching on some dead trees pretty far out in the water, so I couldn’t get a good look at them, but I came back on March 26, and found some that were within telephoto range of the pickup truck.

Mar2016-6365

They turn out to be Tree Swallows. Once I found a place in range of a sunlit roost, I parked the pickup, and propped the telephoto on the open window to watch.  Appearing mostly black in flight, I hadn’t appreciated how brilliant iridescent blue they  are.  The first one landed on the branch, spent some time resting, and then checked out the knothole, which is their favorite natural nesting site.  If I understand the lifecycle correctly, unlike ducks and geese, the males and female migrate separately, with the males arriving in the breeding grounds before the female, so the male can choose a nesting site. 

Mar2016-6366

A little bit later, a second swallow arrived. Both were brilliant blue, as were all the ones I could see, so either the brown females hadn’t arrived yet, or they were just shy around photographers.   I’m guessing that the females were still in an outlet mall in North Carolina.

Mar2016-6373

The first male seemed pretty attached to his knot hole, and it wasn’t at all apparent to me if there actually were enough knot holes to go around.  The originally swallow didn’t seem too keen on sharing a perch, at least not with another male.

Mar2016-6382

As recorded by my DSLR, they stood on the broken branch and glared and postured at each other for over 6 minutes.

Mar2016-6384

Finally, the interloper, either bored, frustrated, or hungry flew off.

Mar2016-6391

After spending some more time exploring his knot hole, the first swallow flew off to get some more of the 2000 bugs he needs every day to keep his wings pumping.  I don’t know how he defends his territory when he’s out slurping up insects.

Barrel Racing

Friday, September 5th, 2014

 

Aug2014-5235

Elizabeth tells me that every girl in Texas wants to be a barrel racer.

Aug2014_BarrelRacing

It had more competitors than any other event at this year’s Holmes County fair rodeo.

Aug2014-5220

Calf Roping

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Calf Roping

The Calf Roping was the best part of the rodeo at this year’s Holmes County fair.  There were a lot of contestants in an event that demands multiple cowboy skills.

Calf Roping

He’s got to lasso the calf from the saddle of a galloping quarter horse, which has to be well trained enough to instantly stop on a signal from the rider.

Calf Roping

and keep enough pressure on the lariat to keep the calf relatively constrained, but without pulling it over.

Calf Roping

Once the cowboy reaches the upright calf, he has to wrestle him down to the ground.

Calf Roping

Most of the contestants carried their piggen’ string in their teeth.

Calf Roping

Assisted by the horse, which is backing up to keep the lariat tight, the cowboy quickly ties together three of the calf’s legs. 

Calf Roping

Once he’s finished tying off the calf, the contestant signals with his arms to stop the clock.

Aug2014-5147

The cowboy has to remount his horse and wait for 6 seconds to demonstrate to the judges that the calf is completely immobilized.

Calf Roping

And then another calf shoots out the chute.

Bareback Broncs

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Aug2014-5116

I thought this Bareback Bronc rider at the Holmes County fair got off to a bad start with a very lively horse. And then the horse fell over.

RodeoRollover

After a short wrestling match on the ground, the rider managed to hold on when the horse got back up.

Saddle Bronc

He ended up using two hands, so he was disqualified, but it seemed like a morale victory, and the crowd gave him a good round of applause.

Bareback Bronc

As rodeos go, this one was on the small side, with only a couple competitors in the Bareback Bronc  event. This guy in the orange chaps ended up with a higher score.

Bareback Bronc

I’ve got some more rodeo shots to blog, but the light was best for this first event, fading pretty quickly.  Hopefully, next year’s fair will be held in the new fairgrounds, on higher ground, and hopefully with better light.

Warm Days for Cold Blooded Beasts

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

It seems like every reptile and amphibian in the valley has been out this weekend, and most of them spend their evenings singing at the top of their lungs.

I took my iPad and a microphone out to the edge of the swamp last night and recorded the frogs singing (click to hear it–you wont’ want to miss this).  Peaking at over 85 decibels, it was pretty impressive, with the peepers making most of the noise, and some wood frogs, and maybe leopard frogs mixed in.  I went back to the swamp this afternoon to see if I could get some pictures, but all the action was on the other side of the road, in a flooded cornfield, which was full of American toads (above), singing an entirely different song, with a bit of mating mixed in.

Gartner Snake

Much quieter than the amphibians, the snakes were also out in force this weekend.  Elizabeth and I each saw a couple gartner snakes.  I ran into the little fellow above just below our waterfall, and he didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to get away, so we decided to do a photoshoot.