On this date 4

turkey vulture Cathartes aura and black vulture Coragyps atratus perched together in tree
Today’s feature comes from 2013, and is somewhat appropriate because these two are waiting to feast on the decaying remains of the blog.

Okay, it’s not that bad – it’s just a typical winter slump, and overall a bad time to chase photos for myriad reasons, free time, weather, and fighting to get over a sinus infection among them. But in comparison, I already have more posts for this month than the month this was actually taken, so I’m not going to feel too bad about it. What we have here are a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) on the left, and a black vulture (Coragyps atratus) on the right; same Family, which is Cathartidae, but different Genus between them. That said, there’s the more obvious appearance difference when seen perched like here, but other details that are more visible when aloft, since the heads become very hard to distinguish at any distance. The turkey vultures have silvery-grey undersides to their flight feathers, which amounts to the ‘trailing edge’ or back half of the wings, while the black vultures have such brighter coloration only on the six feathers at the wingtips, giving them a pale ‘palm.’ Also, the turkey vulture has a more distinct tail that the black, with a visible length in contrast to the little rounded ‘bump’ of the black vulture’s tail. Once you get used to seeing the differences, they’re obvious at the first good ventral view.

I’m almost certain these were perched in a tree not far from the old house, hanging out as the thermals died down. Vultures are soarers – obviously, because that’s how we all know them, wheeling in circles with little or no flapping – and they count on strong updrafts to help them fly without expending much energy. When the day isn’t gusty or producing updrafts, they more often simply maintain a perch and conserve energy until things change. I took the opportunity when I spotted these to record the visible differences between the two species, up close anyway – I can’t recall if I have both species in the same frame in flight, so you could see the wing and tail distinctions, but I suspect not. Maybe someday.

One more thing while we’re here, and I think I’ve mentioned this before but this topic can never be repeated enough. I used to rehabilitate injured raptors, and while most of the hawks and owls presented formidable opposition to handling with both their beaks and their talons, vultures tended not to wield either in this manner; their beaks were sharp enough but they simply had the habits and inclination to use those sharp edges only on dead things. However, their defense method was in many ways much more dire, because a threatened vulture will vomit on its foe, and this is just as horrendous as you imagine it, if not worse. I had a seasoned animal health tech apologize quickly and flee the room when it occurred, even though I’d recognized the hurking gestures from the vulture in my grasp and aimed its head towards the trash can. Thankfully, my rehab trainers had adequately warned me about such fates and I never got directly ‘assaulted’ in this manner, but still, the aroma of regurgitated carrion is not exactly piquant. One out of five stars; cannot recommend.

‘Contrived’ is an ugly word

Hey hey hey, and ‘wahoo’ even! Today is Retro-Amphibian Day, also known by its European moniker, Dig Out An Old Photo ‘Cause Yain’t Postin’ Shit Day, and so, slave to tradition that I am, I present this image from a little over six months ago, saved in the blog folder for this exact purpose.

unidentified juvenile amphibian sprawled across grass tips
Along an overflow channel for the nearby pond, I was belly-down in the grass with the headlamp late one night, checking out the critters in the water, and found this tiny little spud very close by, once again making me self-conscious about how I moved. No more than 15mm nose to butt, it was too small to be spotted casually, and even a careful examination of where I placed my feet could easily have missed it. I shuffled a lot after that, very slowly, hoping to spook any others before I accidentally smooshed them.

Naturally, I had little control over how and where my model here was going to pose, and so could do nothing about the ragged brown tips of the mowed grass, which detract a bit in my opinion. [Quick aside: I’ve long considered ‘mown’ a word, as in, what grass is after mowing, but my computer’s spellcheck tells me I’m wrong, and Merriam-Webster is taking the same side. However, spellcheck also thinks ‘int’ is a real word, a typo that gets past me every once in a while, so as far as I’m concerned, if you like ‘mown’ better, insert it as necessary. It may be a Northern thing.] The toe-pads tell me this is likely a treefrog, and the immediate area is a big favorite of the Copes grey treefrogs, so that’s the way I’m leaning, especially since the evidence so far is that the species doesn’t develop any distinctive identifying characteristics until a little older than this. My confidence in this ID, however, is less than 50% – but that’s still higher than for anything else at the moment.

Anyway, I thought we needed a little greenery right now, and lucky for all of us the holiday happened along, eh?

On this date 3

sapling against foggy lake
This week we jump back six years, when the day dawned wonderfully foggy and I scampered out to make the best of it. This was back at the old place, and the options were fairly thin there, especially in the narrow timeframe that fog often provides; you may have an hour, but often less, to do something with it, so finding a photogenic area better happen quick or the conditions will clear before you get there. In this case, there was a reservoir lake not too far away, very limited vantages but better than my immediate surroundings, so I rushed down there.

No herons, ducks, or other whatsits were providing any foreground interest, so I selected this evergreen sapling sprouting from a large boulder just offshore and framed it within the open space – it wasn’t elaborate, but hey, it was January, so I was lucky to have anything to shoot. I know, I know, after offering advice on what to do in the winter too, but it’s situations like this that fostered some of that advice in the first place, such as finding something nearby that worked with foggy conditions to keep in mind when such conditions arrived. I’d been looking out for photogenic lone trees in fields, old barns, old cemeteries, things along those lines, but had nothing within easy reach. Even the horse farms nearby, occasionally good for some figures in a field, were overnighting their livestock indoors in January.

same image with brightness tweakI’d left the exposure as normal to use the gloom, but it meant that what I captured was almost certainly a bit darker than what it actually looked like – the fog evened out both the sky and the reflections in the lake, so the meter read all of that and rendered it in mid-tones, that ol’ 18% grey that exposure meters are calibrated for. To the right is more likely what it actually looked like at 9 AM (though it’s merely the same image tweaked a bit brighter). It’s hard to describe this accurately, but bear with me. On a sunny day, the skies would have been brighter, but so would all of the rest of the frame, and the shutter speed would have shortened commensurately. Meanwhile, shadows would have been deeper, the distant trees themselves actually darker because they wouldn’t have been shrouded in fog, while the northern sky would have been blue, so the camera meter would have had a more average range to work with and would not have darkened the scene much, if at all, in attempting to expose for an average scene, as opposed to the largely light-grey scene that I had that morning. Make sense? Maybe it’d be better if I illustrate it more directly.

same location in radically different conditionsSame location a little over two years earlier, slightly different shooting position (like I said, the available perspectives were few,) and a little more foliage. More colors, more difference between the brightest and darkest areas, or ‘dynamic range.’ While overall this scene is notably brighter (the difference in exposure from the original at top is 1.66 stops, not quite four times as bright,) the average light coming from all areas is closer to a good middle, rather than everything being medium bright grey in the fog shot because the fog even eliminated almost all of the darkest shadows. Had I included more of the sky-reflecting water in this frame, like above, the exposure would have changed a little because of the additional brightness, but bear in mind that water reflections are always darker than the original because of polarization, something visible even in both examples of the fog shot.

One more thing to point out, for giggles: if you look closely at the overhanging tree close to my vantage, you’ll find fishing bobbers – they’re most visible in the larger image, but still here in the smaller daytime shot too. One of them is possibly the same in each. This is a common sight in any area that might appear to be good fishing; it seems the skill to cast a line away from overhanging trees isn’t well-developed in enough fisherfolk.

(And neither is the skill to take their fucking trash with them, but that’s a subject of another post.)

But almost

It’s a little after 2 AM right now.

Unexpected changes to my work schedule not only had me working yesterday on my day off, but have me going in at 7 AM today, and this has further altered an already weird sleep schedule – I’ve had a few hours, but not enough, and I had just finished some writing and was about to head back to bed. And then I heard the thunder.

First time in months. It’s been unseasonably warm out there, warm enough for no jacket at all, and while I knew I shouldn’t, I still checked outside to see the conditions with the idea of chasing some lightning pics if possible. It wasn’t – it’s pouring out there, and while I can handle that aspect of it with shelter and rain covers, rain will obscure any lightning except that right on top of you, when you shouldn’t be out shooting anyway. So instead of going to bed I’m writing a quick post ;-)

For years, like many people, I treated my job as important, and if something photography-related, or even just indulgent, would interfere with my work schedule or adequate sleep so I wasn’t dragging while in work, I’d forego it. But as it’s been said before, no one ever laments that they should’ve spent more time at the job, and even with no sleep, if I’d gotten some decent lightning pics, I’d be happy – grumpy from being tired perhaps, but still happy (I’ll let you figure that one out.) So while I still take my job seriously, dog knows why since it ain’t doing much for me, I’m gonna take the photo ops that arise, because in the end, I’d rather have those.

I’m sorry, on multiple levels, that I don’t have any pics to illustrate this.

It’s called a springboard

From time to time I mention George Hrab’s Geologic podcast, as well as it being linked over there in the sidebar. I also make a regular contribution, which entitles me to receiving a weekly newsletter, of which I rarely read when they arrive but put off for later – sometimes, a lot later. The one that spawned this particular post dates from November 1st, but it contained an interesting set of questions (or one conditional question) that is fairly intriguing, so I’m shamelessly repeating it here.

The question is simple: What was the hardest you’ve ever laughed? But then he breaks it down into four categories:

Intended laughter – Like a comedy routine, specifically made to provoke the response;

Unintended laughter – Something spontaneous that happened without trying to provoke laughter;

church laughter – No, not at the silliness that gets forwarded therein all too often, but basically laughing someplace where it’s really frowned upon to be laughing;

Atmospheric laughter – Where it’s fostered and/or exacerbated by the response of those around you, like when a group of kids get the giggles.

And it occurred to me, sadly, that I couldn’t bring too many of these to mind, which is almost disturbing because I consider myself in possession of an active sense of humor – but then again, doesn’t everyone? And I know there have been times in the past that I’ve totally lost my composure in laughter, but recalling specific instances has been hard, and none of them seem too recent either. Regardless, let’s have a go.

Intended laughter – This one’s fairly easy. While Eddie Izzard is pretty consistent in being able to provoke laughter from me, the award must go to Billy Connolly, in a standup routine hosted by Whoopi Goldberg many, many years back. In it, he describes passing gas on an airplane in a devastatingly unique way, a painful simile, that never fails to start things cascading. I need to find this clip*.

Unintended laughter – Okay, bear with me for a moment, it takes some setup. Back in the nineties I had a pet ball python with a wire cage and a smaller terrarium within that would serve for feeding live mice to the snake: pop both the snake and the mouse within, so the mouse couldn’t escape, and let them be. One time, the mouse escaped within a second before I even got the top closed on the terrarium, and vanished, able to get out of the wire cage easily enough. I looked, but never saw any sign of it again. I had three cats back then, so I figured it was only a matter of time before the mouse was captured anyway.

Fast forward several hours, when I was meeting my cousin in his office to bring him part of his Halloween costume – he needed some hiking boots and didn’t have any, so he was borrowing mine, which I’d dug out of the closet just before heading over there. He tried on the first to see how it fit (we were the same shoe size, so it should have been fine,) but said it was far too tight. I protested, confused, but he said, “No, I think there’s something in there,” and jammed his hand down within. You can, of course, see this coming, because there’s no way to tell this story with the same amount of surprise we both had.

The mouse, apparently unharmed, ran straight up his arm to shoulder height and then vaulted off directly in front of his face, landing on the floor somewhere. The event itself and the recoil of utter shock and a little loathing from my cousin sent me into breathless paroxysms, worsened by the fact that he found absolutely no humor in it whatsoever (and his sense of humor was/is, if anything, more active than mine.) I spent at least a solid minute leaning helplessly against the door of his office while the mouse sat at my feet, right in the corner where the door met the wall, and I could do nothing about it. I don’t think he ever accepted my claims that I had no idea the mouse was there, but seriously, the boots were among a jumble of other shoes in the back of a closet some meters away from the snake cage, hours after it had escaped, so I doubt I can be blamed for not foreseeing this.

church laughter – Not a church, but study hall in high school, under a teacher that felt study hall should be used for studying and remain quiet; very subdued conversing was allowed, library consultation as it were, but no typical teen behavior. My friend, sitting in front of me and well known for being a cutup, turned around with a serious look on his face and raised his finger as if making a fierce point in a lecture. Knowing how out-of-character this was for him, I followed suit by letting my mouth drop open in stupid awe and fixating cross-eyed on the finger directly in front of me. Rising to the bait, he shifted his finger sideways to draw my attention along, and I obliged – in the opposite direction, at precisely the same speed and distance. The sheer spontaneity of it sent us both over the top, snorting and choking in a desperate attempt not to draw the teacher’s attention, which of course made it worse. Naturally, we would attempt several times to repeat this and never could match the perfection of it.

Atmospheric laughter – I’m not sure I could pin down any one instance as the best or hardest laughter, but environmentally, I would have to admit that our various story game sessions were responsible for more examples than anything else. I explain in great detail here, but in short, it’s a writing exercise where stories are begun and then passed around to be continued by others, who can only see the immediately preceding portion. Continuity takes a beating, and in the hands of creative people, the end results are devastating – these must, naturally, be read aloud without rehearsal by the originator of the story. It is entirely possible that the linked story about Paranoia and the meteorite counts as my hardest laughter – it certainly ranks in the top five – while I distinctly remember my cousin (the same as above) handing me his own story because he couldn’t finish reading it on his own; it involved a Star Trek team beaming anachronistically into the room – twice.

I have to mention one more related aspect. One of our circle of friends, I will call him “Dan,” has/had a tendency to completely lose his composure at random times, when something struck him as so off-the-wall that he could only go into the deepest of hysterics, a distinct paroxysm of gasping, red-face, tears, and inarticulate soft wailing sounds as he literally collapsed wherever he was, which one time was the middle of a fast food entry drive (I had to stand over him to watch for cars.) Notable about this was that, while others around could certainly see the humor of whatever had set him off, they could never understand why it struck him as that funny. In one memorable instance, something that I said which, out of context, was certainly bizarre, set him off, and I watched his seizures as a curious and impassive observer, simply unable to register the particular aspect that he found so hysterical. After a few moments, I said, “Dan,” eliciting no response, and several seconds later repeated it. After the third time, he managed to dramatically choke out, in a tortured rasp reminiscent of dying villains, “… stop… saying… my… name…,” the delivery of which, and the knowledge that I had been inadvertently contributing to the seizure, was enough to then send me over the edge.

All of these have been a while back now, and I can’t recall anything in recent memory that’s really tickled me that seriously. I would love to correct this but I don’t think you can make such things happen – the best ones are spontaneous. But I’ll keep you apprised. And I’d be more than happy to solicit anyone else’s stories, if I thought there was anyone reading…

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*Ah, well now, look here – who’s ya boy? Starts at the key bit, but the entire routine is classic.

Tagginses! We hates it forever!

Yes indeed, that means I can spoof Tolkien as well as Python, but it also means it’s time for the annual tag roundup, brought to you by no sponsor whatsoever; when you think “tags,” think nothing!

The number of single-use blog tags continues to explode, like bacteria in a restaurant icemaker, and in the same manner, they lead mostly to shit. Nothing needs to be added to an intro like that, so away we go!

unsolicited tail pics – Also, “I would definitely teach you how to pick on philosophers and religious folk though.” But it leads to a video from zefrank, so make of that what you will.

kill Baby Yoda with a rusty gaffi stick – Now.

I wanna shewt sometin’ – Also, “heeyuk yuk,” and, “a little better than the broad side of a barn.” North Carolina does have its stereotypes, and too many of them are perfectly accurate.

but like what if trees could fly – what would they land in? – Seemed appropriate.

I have a big python – Probably goes without saying I suppose, but alongside that is, “snakes are good mmm’kay?,” just to show off my knowledge of the classics.

like a bathtub draining – Nice and echoey.

out of my way tourists! – Also, “Girlzilla,” and, “which person was ‘shopped in?” You’re gonna see a lot of Storytime posts in the lineup, to be honest, but they deserved the custom tags more often.

you probably already stood in line for hours and fought people for these – And not to be outdone, “everyone say ‘freeze!’,” “not one of these was Photoshopped,” and, “switching to male model,” even though it’s a tossup whether that or nature photographer will bring me more money. Those all lead to

could be worse – could be puns – And, “forgot to add the shirt logo though.” There will be another high-effort-for-idle-commentary post coming before too long, because it’s winter, but I really did have fun with it.

lots of color options for this year’s model – Probably with names like, “Majorcan Austere Crinoline” or something…

some minds you should never peek into – Also, “god I need a life.” That’s adequate warning.

adding ‘arthropod embalmer’ to my resume – And, “stop telling me to get a life.” We seem to have a theme going…

somebody’s laser pointer I bet – Truth be told, I’m still curious about this one.

a minute later they all crashed to the floor – And, “actually I missed it for years,” “so a rosé?” and, “tip jar over there to the right.”

Right said Fred – Okay, a confession: I can’t for the life of me recall what I was referencing with this, or why. Please help.

I know when to go out – Coupled with, “don’t believe in modren art.” Don’t make me explain these references.*

vast tracts of hand – An older one, but as I said, I can do Python references too.

You want a print for your gynecologist? – With, “not many people ever asked me to remove their bra,” and, “no popcorn on the g-string.” Almost certainly a case where the tags are more interesting than the story…

shake hands with a nature photographer at your own risk – Not that you would anyway.

I ain’t mispel nuthin’ – Links back to last year’s tag post, and also features, buried in that horrendous stack of tags at the bottom (included to use them twice in the history and thus not appear again in the list of single-use tags,) “the magic word for a free print is ‘conscientiously’.” Had anyone ever let me know they found it, they would have had a free print of their choice, but it hasn’t happened yet. Am I doing that again this year? Mayyybe… BUT – I’m also including the tags from the very first tag roundup, and likely the misspellings too, so the list down there is horrendous. Good luck!

I’m onto them – And then, “there’s someone from Witness Protection at the door.” Still here, though.

the neighbors gonna be wondering again what the hell I’m doing – No lie; I’m pretty sure they think I’m eccentric at least.

shaking my cane – Along with, “aren’t genes wonderful?,” “Geritol,” “crotchety,” and not to be left out, “get off my lawn.” With all that you should figure out the subject matter, and I suspect this is Buggato’s favorite post – you’d get that impression, anyway. But it’s also a holiday, so it’s segue time! Let’s take a look at all of the holidays we celebrated in 2019!

January 23rd Does Not Exist Day, January 23 (duh)
Get Around To Doing Something Because It’s Been A Year And There’s Nothing To Shoot Anyway Day, February 21
International Reflections on Mortality Day, March 22 (deja vu)
National Teaser Day, April 29
Nail The Pan Day, May 7
Do Some Creative Editing Day, June 2
At Least It’s Not All Cocked Up Day, July 30
Go Without Internet Week, August 8-15
Get Stuck On A Roller Coaster Day, August 9
Stuff Wood Mulch Into Your Pants Day, August 10
Story Game Day, August 11
Stay Overnight In A Gatsby Mansion Day, August 12
Lake Guns Day, August 13
Drive Through Horrendous Tornado Conditions But Keep Going Because The Trip Is Already Taking Too Goddamn Long Day, August 15
International Curse At Green Birds Day, August 18 (all of August’s holidays together under one post, and all regarding a trip I took, as if you couldn’t figure that one out. But if you want more info, the podcast here – well, and here – will fill you in.)
Beware of Strangers Barings Gifs Day, September 24
National Green Lynx Spider Day, October 4
Respect Your Elders Week, November 25 – December 1. Amazing how this fell right on Buggato’s birthday…
Get Awakened Twice Before The Alarm Goes Off Day, December 22

the author in an entirely appropriate shirtIn the post for September’s holiday, I mentioned that I had to get a shirt like that seen in the first gif (pronounced “œýø燔,) and indeed I did, for christmas – The Girlfriend spoils me. Now, are we gonna see my own gif appearing here at some point? Only time (and my variable level of self-debasement) will tell. Right now, consider yourself privileged to have even seen this…

For the record, this is now the sixth year of doing the tag roundup, believe it or not. If you want to see previous years, you can click below:

2015: Tagged
2016: Tagged again
2017: Papa’s got a brand new tag
2018: So what did 2017 hold?
2019: Do not read tag under penalty of law

blog word count graphNow a few numbers, so my supervisors know I’ve been earning the abundant remuneration that I receive over all this. We had 201 posts for the year, a little short of the record – coming in third, in fact, behind 2015 (218) and 2017 (215.) I recently added a plugin for WordPress that lets me compare word count for the first time, and this year fell someplace in the middle with 164,000+ words – again, 2015 led the way with 188,000+. But somewhere in the past few months I broke the 1.5 million word mark for posts on this blog – that’s like ten or more good length novels. Frightening, isn’t it?

For photo uploads, however, we have a new record this year: 747, beating out 2015’s mere 706. May alone saw 173 (and an ambitious video) hit the server, with another 133 in October. So yeah, I can live with that – even if some of them were, shall we say, a tad frivolous.

I’m not going back and picking what I consider the highlights of the year this time, but the Favorites page has been updated not too long ago, so that serves for now. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for photos, I can say that May and October not only were the most productive, they probably contain the best overall pics.

So I think that’s plenty long enough, and will give you stuff to avoid check out for a couple of hours at least. Have no doubts that we will be revisiting the tags again next year, because why stop if it hasn’t gotten any less lame or nauseating? That’s my motto, anyway. This assuredly gives us the best approach to 2020 that I’ve heard yet.

Cheers!

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* Oh all right. At the risk of irritating those who were all over it (hi Kev!), I’ll explain. “I know when to go out,” and “Don’t believe in modren art” are naturally both references to Modern Love by David Bowie, and credit to Venture Brothers for throwing in the same reference once. But wait! I misspelled “modern” – twice actually! And that was intentional too, because it’s a reference to Mr Roboto by Styx – lead singer Dennis DeYoung can not only be heard to pronounce it that way, it’s in the lyrics – though the “R” is reversed there. I didn’t bother to figure out how to do that, plus it would have made it much more obvious that it was intentional and fewer people would have been mentally correcting me. No one actually corrected me anyway, but that would have required readers…

On this date 2



This one has actually appeared before, a long time ago, but not as long ago as it was taken, which was in 2007. It was a momentary experiment, and it came out a bit cooler than I expected or dreamed, not exactly justifying the risk I took, but close. If you like drama or want to guess on your own, go to that link, because in the next paragraph I’m going to skip all that and simply explain what it is.

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Seriously, spoilers ahead.

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Okay, fine. During a heavy downpour, I took out the Canon Pro 90 IS, charged the on-camera flash, and simply stuck it out from under the roof overhang directly into the rain and fired off a frame straight up into the air, counting on the flash to do… something. I then immediately drew it back in, having been in the rain for not two seconds, and dried it off thoroughly, but still, it wouldn’t have taken much for some water to have seeped into a seam or crack somewhere and shorted some electronics, so not the smartest or most cautious of moves on my part. Nowadays I have a rain guard which would work peachy in such conditions, so maybe I’ll have to revisit this. It was the flash duration that provided the effect, especially the streaking, and I would be curious to see how a much-more-powerful flash like the Metz 40 MZ-3i changed this. Meanwhile, if you want to see a larger version, just click on the pic.

Also on this date but only three years ago in 2017, I took most of the photos for this post – all but the fog shots, which were taken the same day as the post itself. Clearly, a bit of difference in conditions between the two, and indeed today as well – or so I’m told. I’m writing this a day in advance, so I’m going off the forecast, which tells me it’s going to be clear and, eventually, fairly warm. Still winter, though.

Only took two years

So, I’m not sure how this one slipped by, to be honest, because I’m usually pretty good about making sure all supporting links are in place. But two years ago I did a new page in the Tips & Tricks gallery of the main site, about cropping, complete with video – no small project, that, and followed up with a podcast regarding the trials and tribulations (does anyone ever say “tribulations” without having “trials” in front of it?) of creating that video and doing the voiceover.

And just a few minutes ago, I noticed that there was no link on the main page of the Tips & Tricks gallery to the damn thing. Oh, it’s there now – I corrected that mistake within minutes. But how did I not only miss putting it in immediately, I never noticed the omission at any point since, until now?

It might have had something to do with being in the middle of radical site additions, creating 56 additional new pages that would go public a short while after the cropping page did, and if you think checking all of those links and dependencies is a quick job, you should avoid web design altogether. And of course, eliminating typos, and confirming species names, and ensuring the formatting is consistent… there’s a reason that I don’t do updates too often.

But still… two years

The bookends of 2019

In past years I’ve done various exercises like (what I considered) my best photos of the month, or a featured unused image, and jazz like that, so this year I decided to do something a little different for the year-end stuff (or should it be the year-beginning stuff? This is far too confusing for me.) To that end, or beginning, we shall be featuring the first and last images taken within this arbitrary time period, within each of my sorting folders. I know you’re as excited as I am, but no skipping ahead now. Will it be revealing? Will it be poignant? Will it foster introspection and personal growth? Shit, no – don’t be daft. But it’s winter content, so be still. And admittedly, some of these you’ve seen before, but never realized they were this special milestone. Kilometersign. Whatever.

Enough stalling. Let’s dive in.

Aquatic

unidentified catfish in botanical garden
Above, the first aquatic image was taken on April 26th of last year, though that shouldn’t be too surprising since I don’t go ice fishing or anything, but if it’s not blindingly obvious, this is a pair of catfish coming up to the surface in a botanical garden since people near me were feeding the waterfowl, and there’s often a race between the ducks, the catfish, and the turtles to see who actually gets the food. While below, the last image was taken December 13th while doing the shell-and-dead-turtle pics, intended to illustrate the nature of fine quartz sand. I should probably note here that some of my images are intended for stock and illustrative purposes and do not hew too close to fartistic standards, even less so than what you normally see here.

quartz sand with a bit of shell

Arthropods 6

smaller water strider genus Microvelia cleaning proboscis
Yes, Arthropods 6 – I limit the number of images in my folders to around 4,000, to make sorting and finding easier, and that means that I (presently) have six Arthropod folders and I’m 1,800 deep in that one. The above image of a smaller water strider of the genus Microvelia was taken on February 24th, so actually pretty good for a bug photo since our season generally starts later than that, though if I tried I could probably dig out a spider much earlier because they’re pretty cold hardy – new project for January I guess. The watermark comes from the fact that I uploaded it to BugGuide.net to get an identification.

While below, one you’ve seen recently (or should’ve, at least.) Taken on December 26th, an unidentified midge poses against sunset. And I should add that, while this is not the absolute last arthropod image taken for the year, it is the last arthropod – I have a few frames of the same insect that had a less-pleasing exposure, plus I’ve already sized this for the blog and see no reason to upload one that’s almost identical.

unidentified 'midge' against sunset sky

Beach

pre-dawn beach off Pawley's Island, South Carolina
It should come as no surprise that we had to wait until May 7th for the first beach photo; I’ve done winter trips to the beach before, because we’ll get fairly warm spells even in February, but with The Girlfriend and I, we’re going when the water’s warm enough to enjoy. The above was predawn out at Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, and the exposure is for the foreground to prevent the grasses from going to pure silhouette. This is the kind of image that too many photographers decide to treat with a technique called ‘high dynamic range,’ which is a fancy way of saying ‘Photoshop’ because photos, by nature, have a low dynamic range, so you have to paste two or more of them together to get good exposure on both the sky and the foreground in such light conditions. To me, that’s a fake image, and I might do it on rare occasions to create a fartistic composite or to illustrate something, but it remains fake. Later on in the morning the conditions got much more attractive and manageable in a single frame.

Below, the last beach photo came on September 29th, this time during the second beach trip of the year, to Oak Island, North Carolina. I have countless other frames taken from the same spot, but concentrating on the pelicans and not showing beachy stuff. My standards for classification may be somewhat arbitrary, but for the most part, to be in the Beach folder it should seem to say, “beach.”

sunrise from Yaupon Beach Fishing Pier, Oak Island NC

Birds 2

herring gull Larus argentatus wheeling overhead
Above, this herring gull (Larus argentatus) wheeled overhead during one of the first productive outings of the year on February 5th, while the Indurate Mr Bugg and I were attempting (vainly) to spot bald eagles. There were certainly better bird photos to be had that day, but they were not the first.

Below, right at the tail end of the most recent outing (which makes it December 26th,) I tracked a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) as it cruised past in deepening twilight after sunset. I like how the ripples of the lake are visible behind the wingtips, since it was flapping at the time and the shutter speed was just slow enough to capture a hint of movement, also visible in the linear blur of the shoreline.

And as a side note, there are 1550 images in the folder between these two photos. That’s all this past year.

great blue heron Ardea herodias at twilight

Invertebrates

unidentified aquatic eggs from underside of leaf
Again, not exactly the first invertebrate photo, but within the sequence of the same subject, seconds apart, and already uploaded for previous use, so there. Unidentified, but very likely snail eggs on the underside of a leaf from the backyard pond, and dating from February 24th.

Below, the last invertebrate photo is of a couple of snails cutting trails through the silt on some rocks in the Eno River, taken November 5th from above the surface, so a little distorted. An earlier, related shot was one of the end-of-month abstracts for November.

unidentified snails cutting trails in silt on rocks in Eno River

Lakes/Streams/Waterfalls

rough ice patterns on pond
Above, ice patterns on the nearby pond from January 31st, the end-of-month abstract then. While below, yet another from the same December 26th outing (and you’re going to see still more,) a post-sunset shot capturing the barest of pinks from the sky out on Jordan Lake – the heron shot further up would occur a mere 31 seconds later in the opposite direction.

post-sunset over Jordan Lake

Leaves/Plants/Trees 3

blue and yellow pansies - I think
Above, from a January 27th student outing, a tended flower patch at a park during a painfully slow month, posted back then as proof (to me as well) that my camera still worked. While below, some stark backlighting causes the fall foliage of a tiny pondside sapling to glow brilliantly on November 28th, while it still seems to be throwing out some new leaves at the top.

unidentified tree in fall yellow at side of pond

Mammals/Carnivores

beaver evidence well above ground level
February 5th provided us with the image above, evidence of mammals (in this case beavers) rather than a direct photo of any; disturbingly, this accounts for too many images in the folder, although most of the mammals in the area are primarily nocturnal and much harder to snag. But it still tells me that I should be working harder on this end.

And the last doesn’t counteract this at all, being a mere eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) that provided a semi-interesting silhouette on December 16th. Sheesh.

eastern grey squirrel Sciurus carolinensis silhouetted on tree stump

Mountains

tree and mountain overlook in Virginia
So, here’s the deal: I did no mountain trips at all this past year, and not even any decent hills, but coming back down from the New York trip, my brother and I ran along a significant section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mostly through horrendous rainstorms, and coming out the other side of the front we had reasonably clear weather so he wanted to stop at a scenic overlook. Thus, both the first and the last mountain photos of the year came on August 15th, a whole three-and-a-half minutes apart, taken while I warily eyed the storm clouds still visible behind the peaks very close behind us; had they even started to boil over the top, we were going to be in the car and moving within seconds.

I have to admit, the top photo has a very surreal look to the background peaks, due to both the high humidity (though the rain hadn’t yet reached this area) and the exposure set for the foreground, and if it weren’t for the layers of increasing haze leading up to the peaks, you might have thought it looked more fake than real – perhaps you still do.

overview of Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia from roadside

Reptiles/Amphibians 2

unidentified egg case, probably amphibian
We’re back to the February 5th outing again, this time looking at a small egg case in a tidal pond, earlier than I thought any would appear. I’m almost certain this is from some amphibian, but couldn’t tell you for sure, so it remains possible that I screwed up the entire post.

While on December 16th, later than I would have imagined, a (probable) musk turtle forms a focal point on a faintly abstract composition – it didn’t let us get much closer than this (and this frame was shot at 200mm.)

probably musk turtle in crowded drainage channel

Scenic/Abstract 2

dewdrops underneath feather
Both of these images have appeared before on the ol’ bloggaloo, both from familiar and notorious days. Above, from February 5th, a lone feather is patterned not by its former owner but by dewdrops (or potentially even former frost) suspended from its underside, a tiny curiosity that could have easily been missed completely.

While below, a shot on December 26th that became one of the two end-of-month abstract entries, or was this one the end-of-year entry? Your call.

sunset colors in water reflections

Science/Miscellaneous 2

ice patterns from frozen flood zone
The Science/Miscellaneous folder is of course a catch-all, holding most of the things that aren’t specifically delineated elsewhere, and collects everything from weather compositions like snow and lightning to stuff I’m interested in that isn’t part of the normal nature photography genre, like airshows and people excavating a seaturtle nest. To that end, it holds 849 images from this year. Above, we have an abstract pattern of ice suspended from dried grasses, evidence of a freeze after flooding rains at the nearby pond, from January 31st.

But alas, below we have something far too similar to what we’ve already seen, solely because the cloud patterns also fit into the category. One of the nicer things about digital is how any image can easily be put into multiple folders, able to be found depending on what particular genre it might fit. In the slide folders sitting within the file cabinet behind me, I would usually have to decide on one in particular because the slide couldn’t be split into multiple copies, unless I had the presence of mind to shoot multiple frames of the same composition (which did indeed happen, insurance against one being damaged or unreturned by an editor.) Again, December 26th.

unidentified midge against sunset clouds

Space

Lunar eclipse in progression
I was fairly certain that we were going to have a couple of frames that were too close together in nature, because there’s not a lot of subjects within the topic of “space” that I can actually shoot, and this is indeed the case, but at least the first is pretty distinct: it’s a frame of the total lunar eclipse in progress, posted with minimal delay on January 20th, though for some reason the timestamp says the 21st – apparently the camera clock was off. I can say that confidently because the lunar hijinks are a pretty universal clock all by themselves.

Below, during the sequence of capturing sunrise on Tycho’s peak, I fired off a last frame just as the moon was starting to go behind the trees, producing new lunar mares from the wildly out-of-focus leaves – this was December 5th. A couple weeks earlier I had captured the thinnest crescent yet for me, and tried to do it again before the end of the year, but the humidity didn’t cooperate and the one morning that I could accomplish this dawned a bit too hazy to see something that subtle.

gibbous moon with intervening leaves

Sunrise/Sunset

sunset over pond behind new buds on tree
For the final category within my folders, we have the image above from March 30th, as the new buds had started to sprout from the trees alongside the nearby pond. I have to admit it’s been a lot handier to have something to work with nearby when sunset rolls around, but the bare truth is, I’m often unavailable when it does, so I’ve still missed what might have been some captivating photos – just, not due to a lack of foreground interest.

Remember what I said about the increase in this folder, though? There are 730 images between the one above and the (unfortunately too familiar) one below, so this year alone wasn’t too shabby, despite the lackluster ending frame from December 26th.

post-sunset over Jordan Lake
Annnndddd there you have it: the beginnings and ends of the year’s efforts, unless you go into the Personal and Projects folders which are not part of the ‘sellable stock’ images – you’re not missing anything there. Tallying up all of the folders, in 2019 I added 6,962 images to the stock, not nearly as many as I shot of course, but a respectable number nonetheless for someone who isn’t doing this as a full-time job. The largest contribution came to the Birds 2 folder with 1550 images added, while the smallest was within the Mountains folder with, ahem, 13. Which still beats the previous year since I added none then. And it’s disturbing to me that the earliest stock image came in at January 27th – I will do better this year.

Don’t fret – there’s more retrospective stuff coming along, including that post you’ve been anticipating all year long! Just give me a little more time (this one took long enough.)

On this date 1

This year we have a new regular post: ‘On this date,’ which I’d considered calling, ‘On this date in history,’ but I decided to shorten the title a little. The premise is, each week I will feature a photo taken on the same date in some past year. I could have made it, for instance, ‘On this date 2010’ but I’m quite sure I would have repeats of titles since I haven’t been shooting for 52 years, much less be able to track dates on most of the slide stuff, and I don’t want to put the entire date in the title (and even then might have repeats,) so we’re simply going sequentially.

There’s also the idea that I may not post on the same day of the week, depending on what I find – I have not planned out the entire year of photos and may paint myself into a corner by sticking to Wednesdays, so suffice to say I’ll find something for each week, whether it be Thursday or Saturday or whatever. As it was, the first of the year was tricky enough – I’ve only found two so far. The winter months are going to be a little demanding, because I have never shot much then given the scarcity of subjects. So we’ll see, won’t we?

That’s enough introduction. Today we have a shot from 10 years ago, as a (nearly) full moon rode high in the sky.

almost full moon along holiday lights on railing
I danced around in my driveway to compose it with the holiday lights strung along my balcony railing, and had to play a little to even get them in the pic – not because of their position, but their brightness instead. The moon is illuminated by sunlight so setting a proper moon exposure is largely like shooting in full daylight, while holiday lights aren’t that bright, and the railing they were on darker still – I’m fairy certain I illuminated it with a handheld flashlight during exposure, or fired off the partially-blocked flash, just to bring out a little detail, and liked the subtle effect here. The railing was a bit closer to me than the moon, so it remained out of focus, and there was no way to increase depth-of-field enough to get both sharp.

Inspired by this and the clarity of the night, I went out just afterward to chase some more subjects using that moonlight. And this just about covers all the photos I’ve taken on the first of the year, or at least that I can determine.