Podcast: Off on a rant

This is actually the first of two – both are already finished, but we’ll see how quickly I post the second, since there are incidentals that go along with the audio. This one, however, requires no illustrations and was largely done so I could do the second without rabid frothing sidetracking – that means this one is entirely rabid frothing sidetracking by itself. What fun!

If you’re looking for photo tips or encounters, you’re out of luck. If you’re looking for deep philosophical insights, go fish. If you’re looking for bad language and pet peeves, however, I got you covered, fam (whatever the fuck “fam” is supposed to mean – I don’t use these except as open mockery of dumbass trends.) And so without further ado (whatever the fuck “ado” is supposed to mean, but I can assure you none was harmed in the making of this podcast,) we proceed:

Walkabout podcast – Off on a rant

By the way, a couple of things that I forgot:

  • North Carolina drivers typically only use a turn-signal to try and excuse them cutting you off – apparently, to them that blinking light makes it permissible to perform an unsafe lane change and shove directly in front of you because they never bothered to pay attention to the last two kilometers of “Lane Ends” warnings. If it helps: when the lane is not adequately clear, you wait until it is. Sorry, but you’re not that important.
  • I live among three college towns, and try desperately not to ever drive among campus. Why? Because for some reason, students are encouraged to cross the roads any damn time and place they see fit, and traffic stops dead every time this occurs. Students are not automatic red lights for drivers – if a car is coming, it is actually illegal (in every state that I’ve seen) to walk in front of it. It’s got to do with stopping distances and the chance that the driver is looking in another direction. And you see, there’s this crazy thing about “right of way” – even if you have the law on your side, there’s not a court in the universe that’s going to rule in your favor hard enough to bring you back to life, or heal your shattered skull or mangled spine. It’s weird that way. And I’m terribly sorry that someone’s going to be late for class because they got up too damn late (and we all know why) – what, the college docks pay for that, right? Gives written warnings? Students lose their class over it? You can see how sympathetic I am to students (who are, you know, supposed to be better educated…)
  • I really am going to get a large-print decal across the top of my windshield that says, “Get in your fucking lane!” It’s that goddamn prevalent around here.
  • Anyway, that’s my therapy for this week. Join us next week for my views on clamshell packaging, and product glues that are stronger than the materials they’re gluing…

    Auf wiedersehen, August!

    osprey silhouette in bad light with image stabilization
    So for August, we’ll have two month-end abstracts, and you can pick your favorite. Both were from central New York, a day-and-a-half and about five meters apart – well, my shooting position at least. The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) above was cruising past in the distance after sunset, with the light low enough that the shutter speed was too slow, yet the lens stabilizer did its best, producing several overlaid images. And no, I did not convert this to monochrome – the sky really was that colorless, at least in this particular section.

    Below, a bit more color, even if it’s a little too similar to other month-end offerings that I’ve posted. I actually shot a couple of frames during the trip solely for their abstract value, but really didn’t like them very much, so we’re falling back on this one. I don’t consider it weak as such, just not as creative or different as I should be producing. Ah well.

    raind-laden lily pads on Cayuga Lake
    Aw, now, hang on a second. I think this one needs the channel/contrast treatment. Let’s see, let’s see…

    same image in high-contrast monochrome
    Yeah, that’s not too shabby. Or at least I don’t think so…

    Seriously, what?

    great egret Ardea alba from below
    I just realized that, a year ago, I posted a pic of a great blue heron seen from the underside as it perched in a tree above my head, and I had the image above sitting in the blog folder waiting on my chance to make a post, so I couldn’t let this go by. Is this the start of an annual routine? Well, I guess we’ll just have to see how often such a thing occurs…

    This is instead a great egret (Ardea alba,) a shade smaller than the great blue, but not noticeably, and once again, on the shores of Jordan Lake – just, like, kilometers away from the spot where I captured the heron. But this one was being unbelievably cooperative after it landed in the tree over my head, so I took full advantage of it – more pics will be forthcoming. Right now I have to post this to make the anniversary, or I’m in deep trouble. Somehow.

    Storytime 35

    likely little brown bat Myotis lucifugus perched on tree
    One day four years back, I was checking out the neighborhood pond and noticed something slightly odd about a tree at the head of one portion of the trail; it seemed to have some dry leaves adhering directly to the trunk, which of course is not where you typically see leaves hanging. Had it been anywhere else, I likely would have passed it by without even noticing, but this was right at eye level and warranted a closer look. As you can see, it wasn’t leaves at all, but a bat clinging to the trunk at midday – identification is tricky when working from the limited photos that I obtained without disturbing the critter, but I suspect this is a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus.)

    This find was curious, because the area plays host to plenty of bats, but they do not generally roost in exposed places like this, and I have never seen one at such a low height since. The risk of rabies is high enough that I did not disturb it, even though I’ve had my shots (no, really – I used to work in animal shelters and rehabilitating wildlife, so it was recommended,) and since the behavior was atypical, that was potentially another indication because infected animals often act differently. I did several natural-light shots from different vantages and left it alone.

    I actually like bats – they’re delightfully creepy-looking, but distinctive in nature and fun to watch on summer evenings as they wheel over the pond or street in search of insects. The Girlfriend does not share my enthusiasm, especially not when I engage in a favorite past-time, which is tossing small stones into the air just as they’re approaching to watch them follow the descending object down in a tight spiral, eventually determining (by sound, it seems) that it is not actually a nutritious insect – at this point they are often just over head height. One night out in the open lawn near the pond and not even trying to draw one nearer, one passed so close by my ear that I heard its soft chittering in passing.

    From time to time I endeavor to get a photo of one in flight, which understandably is a challenging pursuit. I’ve succeeded a couple of times, without producing anything impressive; one time can be found here, while another can be seen below, taken under a highway overpass in Florida when I was experimenting with B&W film.

    unidentified bat caught by flash
    To capture this one, I set up under a bridge that was a known haunt, and you could even smell their presence since guano has a distinctive odor. It was ridiculously dark, so I locked the shutter open and tracked the movements of the bats with a low-powered flashlight, triggering the flash unit when one passed within the camera’s field of view; I actually caught two in this frame. Focus is just a shot in the dark, as it were, so this didn’t turn out as badly as it could’ve.

    My most memorable experience came at dusk, decades back, while my cousin and I were tossing a Frisbee back and forth. The light had dropped almost too low when he sent a smooth and flat toss my way, and about halfway to me, a bat fell in behind the Frisbee and followed it closely, giving the disk the appearance of towing a pair of fluttering leaves in its wake. I just watched it pass open-mouthed, since the Frisbee spanned about the same as the bat’s wings, which would make it weigh roughly four times the mammal’s own mass; what the bat could possibly have been thinking I can’t imagine. And as I type this, I’m wondering why I’ve never gone out since with a Frisbee and a video camera to try and repeat this experience. Looks like I’ve got something to try tonight…

    Three moons

    Just over half moon
    Just posting three photos from a recent trip (which I’ll cover in detail a little later on.) I thought the comparison was worth seeing. They are from August 8th, 10th, and 14th.

    waxing gibbous moon
    These are fairly good illustrations of why shooting a moon that is less than full can look a lot more dynamic. You get great shadows and textures from a slightly oblique sun angle, and the results just seem more real.

    The last shot appears a little less sharp than the others, which may be true, due to handholding the camera while the moon was dimmer down towards the horizon during moonrise, or possibly due to thicker atmosphere and humidity – there’s a faint cloud shadow along the top. But then again, it’s the shadows of the craters and rills that make sharper edges too, so it’s likely a combination. The first, with the blue sky, was handheld too, but at least higher in a clear sky.

    full moon during moonrise

    A pattern I haven’t determined yet

    Out last night poking around in the backyard, for the first time in days, I came across a green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) – gratifying, because I’ve been trying to convince them to hang around in the region, but curious nonetheless because I haven’t seen one here since early spring; I thought the Copes grey treefrogs had pretty much taken over. I didn’t have the camera in hand when I initially spotted it, and ended up coming back over 30 minutes later, by which time it had shifted a bit but had not scampered off someplace. First though, I had to fire off a shot of the other visitors, who had heard me coming out but not gone too far off – not quite as accommodating as a bit earlier, but still too curious to flee.

    white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus watching warily in the dark
    Since you didn’t bother clicking on that link (did you?) these are white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) looking back into the flash from the darkness – there were four of them, but only two looking at me when the shutter tripped. Sorry, the focus could be better, but I was doing it manually by the light of the headlamp and only the eyes existed in the viewfinder to even lock onto, so give me credit for that at least. However, these are not my main subject, just an incidental. Here’s my primary objective:

    green treefrog Hyla cinerea perched on leaf
    Now, that’s okay, but I’ve got a post in the works about doing more with macro work than that, so let’s go for another perspective for more drama.

    green treefrog hanging almost hidden behind leaf
    I liked the toes peeking around, and the idea that the frog was almost hidden from view, from a given angle, so had to go on the other side of the fence to get the view I was after.

    Since I was shooting among several low-hanging branches, I also had to play around a bit with flash angles and moving leaves out of the way to get clean lighting. One of the shots that I had initially felt was a miss, however, turned out on closer inspection to be pretty dramatic in its own right, the muted light giving it a much moodier tone.

    green treefrog Hyla cinerea creeping on the neighbors
    Says a lot now, doesn’t it? And if you look close, you can see how this was accomplished (wholly unintentionally, I must admit): look at the eye to see the reflection of a half-blocked flash, which should be a nice circle. Hey, I’ll take it.

    I wish I knew what dictated the appearance and disappearance of this species; the only thing I can say that was different was that last night was noticeably cooler than it had been for months. I’m not convinced that this makes any sense because the nearby pond, which is only a few hundred meters away and thus remains in the same climate, has hosted the greens all summer long. Perhaps they simply don’t compete well with the greys, but I am quite sure the greys are not gone for good here either, so that’s not a working hypothesis. We’ll just have to keep observing and see what happens.

    Storytime 34

    planetary conjunction or something, I don't know
    I’m not even going to tell you what you’re looking at here; I’m simply going to let you puzzle it out on your own, given the visual clues within. Then you can tell me the story behind it.

    Oh, all right – since you’ve read all this way, which certainly puts you ahead of most webnauts anymore, I suppose I can fill you in. Except, not entirely, because I no longer remember the entire story behind this image – I think I was trying to fulfill a photographic challenge with the bare topic of “light.” The basic premise was, I was experimenting many years back with a digital camera, trying to see what kind of effects I could produce, and this one came out (after much experimentation, which is where digital photography really gains an advantage) more-or-less how I wanted it to. Well, it did if you’re seeing some kind of planetary composition. But if you’re seeing a white balloon and a racquetball, then you’re seeing accurately, but not at all what I was trying to accomplish.

    Here’s the layout. The big white curve off to the left is a white balloon, splashed with a little cornstarch to provide a ‘texture’ of sorts. It is lit from behind with a flash unit, within a dark room. The blue sphere is, as I said, a racquetball, perched on the top of a lightstand – I am aiming straight down from the top to disguise this support. The entire floor beneath this setup is shrouded under a black cloth, and on a separate little stand of some kind sits a small slave flash unit, one that goes off when it detects the light from another flash. To reduce and properly shape the light emitted by that, it is firing through a small hole in a piece of cardboard, and these are both positioned to barely appear past the curve of the racquetball. The other little bright bugaboos that you see are merely lens effects. Pretty simple setup, really.

    I’m wondering now why it didn’t occur to me to use the cornstarch to put some blotches and swirls on the racquetball and try and make a cloud cover for that ‘planet.’ Man, I hate when I think of ideas, like, fifteen years too late…

    August just has a bunch of holidays

    Unfortunately, despite this number, I neglected to tell you about them ahead of time, for which you may kick me in the shin when you see me next. But until that assault, let’s take a look at some of the holidays we just passed, shall we?

    First off, August 8th through the 15th was Go Without Internet Week – don’t ask me why it ran from a Thursday to a Thursday, because I sure as hell wouldn’t have set it up that way. I was still able to celebrate it quite handily because I couldn’t get a connection wherever I was. The posts that appeared then were scheduled ahead of time, because I at least anticipated the holiday, as well as the inordinate number of people who would openly ignore it and wonder why I wasn’t. Ha! That’s how you play the game right!

    Friday, August 9th was Get Stuck On A Roller Coaster Day, which we celebrated about 2/3 of the way up the first hill on Millennium Force in Cedar Point in Ohio. Nice view up there, even if it had to be enjoyed at a 45° angle.

    Saturday, August 10th was Stuff Wood Mulch Into Your Pants Day. Honestly, I don’t know who comes up with these, but they must have felt it was important, so far be it from me to eschew such traditions. While doing this manually is of course acceptable, we decided to go more elaborate and use a zip line to accomplish this. More later.

    Sunday, August 11th was Story Game Day. I’ve already explained what this is.

    Monday, August 12th was Stay Overnight In A Gatsby Mansion Day. I actually celebrated this for a few days, courtesy of Jay himself, so many thanks to him. He. Whatever.

    Tuesday, August 13th was Lake Guns Day, and I’ve explained this before too. Early that morning, I’m fairly certain I heard them again, twice, for the first time in decades. There’s a reason that I featured the previous Storytime image, even if I was already out of the region when it posted.

    Thursday, August 15th was Drive Through Horrendous Tornado Conditions But Keep Going Because The Trip Is Already Taking Too Goddamn Long Day. Not the easiest holiday to observe, but we were all over it.

    Sunday, August 18th was International Curse At Green Birds Day. I let my brother handle this one and he was quite adept at it, but he’s a big fan of all the cursing holidays, even more than I am (if you can believe that.)

    I think that covers it, but if there are any holidays that I missed in there, let me know. I’ll be back in a little bit with more wildly inspirational and uplifting content, and perhaps even a pic or two.

    Storytime 33

    "silver bridge" across northern tip of Cayuga Lake in fog
    Today, we have a reminiscence of a reminiscence – or something like that. What you see here is “Silver Bridge” on the railroad spur that crosses Cayuga Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in central New York, which is where I grew up. Or passed my adolescence, anyway – we won’t discuss how little I’ve actually grown up. It’s known as Silver Bridge, not because it was a key part of the silver trade, or crossed the Silver River or anything like that, but because it once was silver-grey, back when people were painting it routinely – yes, I know, we were creative and clever folk up there.

    This is a reminiscence of a reminiscence because it was taken 13 year ago, back when I visited the area again after having been away for a long time – like 16 years. God I’m old. One morning the fog was brilliantly thick and I headed down to the lake to see what I couldn’t see. I had crossed this bridge on foot literally countless times – possibly in the few hundreds – mostly on fishing trips with my dad, but occasionally on snorkeling expeditions and more than a few times in search of wildlife, once I determined that fishing bored me to tears. Even now, I couldn’t care less about eating any given fish filet, and mostly stick to shellfish and octopods for my seafood choices.

    I distinctly remember, probably about 12-14 years of age, getting caught in a summer squall right as we were crossing this bridge, wicked high winds and a stinging rain that had picked up velocity crossing the open expanse of the lake, a particularly traumatic experience given that is was an unrestricted drop down to the water about seven meters below, right outside the edge of those ties. The local mooks (meaning, not me) would clamber up the broad face of those uprights that you see here to hurl themselves into the water from the very top of the bridge, because this was rural NY and the bars didn’t open until later in the evening and there wasn’t much else to do, especially if you’d been educated in the local schools. Do you get the impression that I wasn’t heartbroken at leaving?

    Still, in the summer it was (and I suppose remains) a scenic and pleasantly mellow region, and while it couldn’t hold a candle to what could be found in Florida, it still was a much better swimming and snorkeling area than where I am in North Carolina right now. And I’ve never done the locale justice, photographically, because I wasn’t too serious about photography when I left and have spent only brief, sporadic visits since then, never with the intent of just chasing pics – except for this particular morning.

    Just because, part 31

    very small likely Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis perched on fence post
    Another quickie, as threatened. Given that I found this itty-bitty treefrog sitting on the upper rim of the same rainbarrel that had produced a previous photo subject, I’m going to hazard a guess that it emerged from the same source, the rainbarrel itself, where a host of tadpoles had been living. Since it’s slightly further along in development than the previous, it might even be the exact same one, but I have no way of knowing (though I’d really like to and am wide open for suggestions on distinguishing them.) So we’re going to go with Copes grey treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) for this one, just days past its leaving the water and tadpole stage behind. As I loomed in close with the macro rig, it leapt away, so I retrieved it and placed it atop the nearby fence, where it remained for a minute or so, though it still tried turning away from me. Hey, I was the guy that provided the egress from the barrel in the first place! Ungrateful little spud…

    Literally the size of your thumbnail, since you’re wondering, though the wood texture might have provided at least a clue.