Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November is Beautiful: Brrrrr

The cold has come in. I didn't spend much time outside taking photos. I was trying to capture the cold and the leaden skies. And yes, it snowed overnight.

Monday, November 10, 2014

November is Beautiful: Before the Polar Vortex

A polar vortex and the remains of Typhoon Nuri are supposed to bring winter to us early this year. The past few days have been lovely for November - warmish and sunny.

Saturday Nov. 8th - I went to the local farmer's market with my friend Rahil. I didn't even know the farmer's market was still going on. With SCA travel, a Saturday Farmer's Market is a rare event in my life right now. 

Sunday Nov. 9th - Loose Park 
A beautiful autumn day. Great afternoon sunshine. Temperatures in the 60's. Every other group of people out there were getting photos taken. It is a great place for photos. 

Monday Nov. 10th - Nall Park 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November is Beautiful: Senescence

My photographic journey today didn't take me anywhere exotic or new, instead I traveled to my "backyard" (the common area behind my apartment). In a bramble of shrubs and small trees, the patterns of the senescing leaves caught my eyes. Leaves senesce when the tree pulls back the nutrients from the leaves and down into the roots. In the process the chlorophyll is broken down, leaving only the orange, red, purple, and gold pigments (the anthocyanins and carotenoids) responsible for fall color. 

The leaves are not from the showy fall trees, but from species with more modest fall colors. 





Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November is Beautiful: Nov. 5th

I struggle with November, despite having a Birthday at the end of the month. The decreasing light, the increasing cold, the deadening of the vegetation, and the graying of the skies depresses me. The glorious reds, oranges, and golds of October blow away on the wind. I begin to want to hibernate, to curl up under a pile of blankets and sleep the gray, cold, dead days away.

The struggle has been hard enough in the past, when I have had work that I have had to go to. I worry that this year, while I am still seeking employment, that the desire to stay in and sleep will only be stronger, as I don't have a reason to leave the house each and every day.  I also know, that the less I leave the house, the less sunshine I get, the greater the desire to hibernate becomes.

Since I realize that this could be a problem, I have decided to start a new project I am calling "November is Beautiful".  The goals of this project are three -fold
(1) Continue practicing my photography
(2) To get myself out of the house during daylight hours to soak up as much daylight as possible (and to thumb my nose at the cold...I hate cold).
(3) To practice seeing beauty around me. I know the beauty of November can be subtle compared to that of May or September. It tends to be the beauty of rest, of senescence, of death, of decay. The beauty of the ending of the cycle that is necessary for rebirth in the spring.

So today, I went to Lawrence, KS to have lunch with a friend from grad school. The idea for the November is Beautiful Project came on my drive out there. On the way home I stopped along the Kansas River to capture pictures that represent the beauty of Eastern Kansas in Early November.

Here are some of my favorites:

The senescing flowering stalk containing the seeds of the next generation. 

Shades of brown and gray. 

Not all is death and decay in November. This basal rosette of the biennial  hairy mullein will overwinter to produce a flowering stalk in the spring. 

I stopped to capture the golden yellow of the maple leaves, then realized that I could try to capture the wind in the photo. I think this was a more successful attempt than the pond shore at the park in St. Louis. 

Sunbeam on a fallen branch

The blue skies, the sun, the wind, the golden seed heads. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


To improve my photography, I am trying to be more contentious about how I want the photos to look before I start snapping the shots. I am thinking of this as moving away from being reactive to being proactive. Thinking more like an artist than a photojournalist. I do realize that those two approaches are not mutually exclusive but thinking about this way has helped me be more intentional. I am also trying to be more patient as I take the photos  - taking more time with framing before pushing the button, taking several even dozens of photos of the same subject with slight differences in angle, framing, focus, and exposure. 

The fruits of this exercise this past week.

(1) The red leaf. I was taking pictures of my friend Nancee and her family putting up their Halloween decorations. On the Bradford Pear tree in her front yard was a red leaf that was perfectly catching the light so that it seemed to glow from within. I ended up taking about 2 dozens photos of this one single leaf. In some of them, the focus is off. In others, the background leafs are more prominent. This one is my favorite. I love the dark abstract looking background with the flashes of blue sky and yellow leaves mixed in with the darker green foliage. I love that the leaf isn't perfect - that someone has been chomping on the upper right edge. I am very happy with the positioning of the leaf in the frame. All of this frames what I was intending to capture - the glowing red color and the pattern of the veins.

All in all - this photo just makes me happy every time I look at it.

A few days later, I went walking in the park with my friend Erin. I took my camera because I wanted to take photos. I resisted the urge to start snapping photos until we had walked a couple of times around the path circling the park. Instead, on the first two circuits, I thought about what I wanted to shoot and what my goals with shooting were. Two aspects of the afternoon I wanted to capture was the great autumn afternoon sunlight and the wind.

(2) Capturing sun and shadow - and creating a magical looking woods. This part had great big old oak trees. The Department of Conservation has been clearing the underbrush out in, what I assume, is an attempt to create a woodland savanna habitat. In this photos I wanted to capture the long shadows created by the trees, as well as the beautiful light. This photos has been photo-edited to reduce the blue in the shadows and to increase the golden tone of the photo.

(3) Capturing the wind - The fountain. I was able to catch the spray of the fountain blowing in the wind. 

(4) Capturing the wind -The shore line.
In this photo I was really was trying to capture the flowers on the shore blowing in the wind as well as the water lapping up on the shore.

Here is the original photo, unedited. It is ok, but it didn't really capture the motion I had hoped it would.

I thought perhaps cropping out some of the extra shoreline and water that were not exhibiting the motions would help (as well as editing the colors), but I still wasn't happy with the results. I just wasn't getting the sense of motion I was hoping for in the overall photo. This puzzled me, as both the vegetation and water show motion on their own.

It wasn't until I cropped the photo a different way that I realized the issue. The water is being pushed up against the shore at a different angle than the vegetation is blowing. The two motions are actually opposing each other, resulting in a rather overall static feel, as opposed to the motion and flow I was trying to capture. This really became apparent when I pushed the color saturation towards the extreme. I love how this image ended up, it just didn't express the idea I had in my mind.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

In the Evolution Files

The thing about Facebook, one of them anyway, is that you see things that sometimes you just can't let go. In this case, a friend commented on a post of someone I am not friends with. So I can see the original post and the comments, but I cannot comment or share the post itself. Most of the time, this is fine. Whatever. It doesn't matter.

Then there are times when what you see just makes your head explode. The words written, the ideas conveyed are just SO.WRONG. that the need to share comments on the wrongness of it all just cannot be contained.

This happened today.
As an educator
As a biologist
As an "evolutionist" ... I must comment.

Luckily, I have skills. Perhaps not mad computer skills, but enough, in this case. to get the job done.

So what is this post that made my head explode. .

It was a link to this wonderful picture of a beautiful bird. . .

The person, whose name isn't important, who shared it to his Facebook Page wrote this.

"Take one good look at the way each feather lays upon the other, perfectly, symetrical, and the coloring is magnificent...and evolutionists tell us we are supposed to believe that some bird, millions of years ago, decided it needed to flap its wings hundreds of times per minute, and have the most strikingly beautiful colored feathers, and a pencil lead thin beak, and all of that just came about because the bird of origin willed itself that way?
Um, think again Darwin students....even he admitted fault in his theory, prior to his death.
Here's a theory: God designed this bird this way...now let's go play football."

(My brain is screaming - That is not how this works! That's not how any of this works!!!!)

This comment caused my head to explode because it shows a complete, utter, astounding, and perhaps willful ignorance of how evolution actually works.

And it boils down to this

No organism, plant, animal, microbe, or other, has ever willed a trait into existence. Darwin does not suggest this to be the case. No one in evolutionary biology has ever stated this. IT DOES NOT HAPPEN.

Some other minor issues
1. We aren't 100% sure what feathers were originally used for. Perhaps it was flight. Perhaps is was for thermoregulation. Here is an interesting article about the evolution of feathers from National Geographic Magazine.

2. Darwin never doubted that natural selection was responsible for evolutionary change. Rather, he questioned how the mechanismsof inheritance worked relative to natural selection. REGARDLESS....there has been over 150 years of evolutionary biology SINCE Darwin published "On Origin of Species".  The questions of how inheritance meshed with natural selection were worked out during a period referred to as The Modern Synthesis.

If you want to know more about how evolution REALLY works - the University of California at Berkeley has a great resource called Evolution 101. It's a site I have used in several of my college level classes and I highly recommend it.


Trumpet Flower

Yesterday I went to the St. Louis Botanical Gardens with my friend Nancee. It was a brisk Autumn day. When we walked into the warm humidity of the Climatron, my camera lens kept fogging up. This picture of a large trumpet shaped flower (and no I foolishly didn't get the name of the plant) was taken in the deep shade with a foggy lens. I really loved the romantic, misty effect that resulted. 

Here is the original photo.

Here is the photo after minor tweaks to the color, brightness, and contrast. 

That was so much fun, that I decided to play around some more. 

In this photo, I increased the red in the shadows. 

Then I decided to make the whole photo purple. 

Finally, I inverted the colors. After more tweaks with color balance, brightness and contrast, I had a beautiful frost flower. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Throughout the Day

Yesterday I was studying the affect of different natural light conditions on my photographs by taking photos of the same scene several times throughout the day.

8:30 am 

12:20 pm

3:30 pm

Also, you realize you need to dust when take close up photos with a good camera.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkins of Cave Springs

This morning I went to Cave Spring Historic Site in Kansas City. I was expecting a beautiful morning of shooting nature shoots, pictures of the cave and the ruins. To my delight, there were hundreds of jack-o-lanterns left over from Saturday's Pumpkins on Parade. This unique photo opportunity made my morning even more fun and wonderful than I had expected.

The creativity of the children who made these jack-o-lanterns was impressive, and there were so many amazing photos to take. So, I warn you, there are a lot of pumpkin pictures here. After the first edit, I still had over 140 photos. Here are my favorites.