Now, this one you not only can get to without a lot of effort, if you do an image search on “Watkins Glen,” you’ll likely find more than a few images taken from almost exactly this spot. Or as close to it as I can determine, anyway – while I’m familiar enough with the area to know where the bridge in the image is, it’s not something that I’ve been able to spot while skimming all the various years of images from Google Earth.
[You did know that you can change the year of the image in Google Earth, right? Just look in the lower left corner of the photo window for a year in a little box, and click on it – this will open up a timeline slider with all of the images of that location. Many are really low resolution, and most are no older than the early 1990s, but a few locations can go much older than that; Niagara Falls is the oldest that I’ve found in my casual perusing, so feel free to see if you can get older than that someplace.]
Anyway, as intimated some minutes ago, this is Watkins Glen, New York, specifically Watkins Glen State Park, or at least a tiny portion thereof. It’s a really cool river gorge formed after the glaciers scoured over central NY and the rainwater suddenly had a new basin to fill, in this case Seneca Lake (though it wouldn’t bear that name for a couple years – 10,000 or more – afterward.) The walking paths up along the river aren’t too strenuous at all, courtesy of the bedrock in the area making natural levels throughout, but it’s pretty narrow compared to how deep it is, thus why it’s so hard to find specific details: they’re shrouded in the shadows and trees surrounding the gorge. This also means that even brilliantly sunny days (like the one shown here) won’t be too harsh light within the gorge, and generally pretty comfortable temperatures even in high summer.
But this is one of those scenic locations that can demonstrate a common trait for photographers:you’ll usually see much better photos from someone else. A lot of such places are best in very specific conditions, which may not at all be the conditions that you have while visiting, so it’s not just the locations that provide the great images, but the weather and time of day and time of year and specific vantage and so on. Some photographers visit the same places over and over trying for the right combinations before they nail that one breathtaking shot, and just looking at mine above, it’s easy to see that only at certain short times of the day does the light fall into the gorge, and foliage is a key factor, and of course how many people are around. So the locations are a start, but rarely ever the only factor in great images.
[By the way, if you click on that link above for Watkins Glen State Park, both images used on that page are the exact same location that I’m showing here, just framed differently: the lowest part of the cascade here is the ‘single’ cascade in their header photo, while I wasn’t back far enough to show the stone steps leading towards this bridge that they framed out. Then further down their page you see something very similar to this. Notice, however, that they gave no credit to the photographer(s)…]
The Profiles post yesterday was, as noted, taken that day, on another outing to Jordan Lake to see what was happening. The goal has been to spot any activity of eagles, osprey, or herons, possibly to do some video tests with equipment modifications, but so far I’ve seen no sign of any of them, save for some heron footprints in the sand on the shoreline. However, the smaller bird activity has been quite energetic, though shrouded in thicker wooded sections for the most part. Even though the trees are bare (with very few evergreens in the immediate area,) they’re thick enough to keep blocking my view.
Soon after leaving the car and while still alongside the parking lot, I heard numerous calls from a quite noisy specimen, which I recognized by ear as a red-headed woodpecker since I listened to them for hours at a time last year. This one was almost right against the sun from my position, but I was able to slip around and get a slightly better view, all the time listening to its nonstop calling.
No surprise, this was one of last year’s broods, now starting to develop the red head of the breeding adults – I would have thought it would be entirely red by now, but this is the first chance I’ve had to observe them over a period of time. Why, exactly, it was making such a racket, alone among all of the birds there, I couldn’t say; I would have surmised that it was advertising for a mate or marking territory, but its behavior was simply foraging, and I’ve seen them remaining completely silent while doing so.
There were plenty of songbirds like sparrows and wrens, mostly remaining both too distant and too active to get decent photos of, but I also saw both red-bellied woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers, as well as a grackle, a little surprising since I’ve never spotted them in the area – they seem much more coastally oriented. And a dead bird nearly atop the leaves that looked like a loon, but it was decaying enough that I wasn’t going in for the full examination, though that’s another I’ve seen little of around here.
All of this was in the woods alongside the parking lot – I didn’t even have to get under the trees to see these. And while I did hike down to the area where I’d watched the fledging and all that activity last year, it was dead quiet right now, nothing to be seen or heard – everybody was up by the parking lot. I expect that to change soon as nesting season kicks in, but it’s still only January in the mid-Atlantic, a little early yet.
So the only thing to remain within decent photographic conditions for a few moments was another redhead.
This is full frame at 600mm, just to give an idea of both the distance and the conditions – all that blurring you see are intervening branches and vines. But I had enough of a gap, with some shifting around, to make the crop worthwhile:
It’s hard to tell with both the lighting and the blurring foreground elements, but the wings here still look a bit grey, rather than black as the adults are, but I couldn’t make out the grey feathers on the face until I unloaded the card back home. Another yearling, and potentially one of those I was chasing last year, but I couldn’t even give a wild guess about the probability of that, save that this was only a few hundred meters away.
The rains are starting up again, so this is likely to be it for a few days at least. Not a hugely productive outing, but at least I snagged a handful of frames.
I have a confession to make: I shot nothing even remotely resembling an abstract this month. We’re going with archive images to see January off on its ice floe.
Annnndd this isn’t really all that abstract, though I like it anyway. It comes from way back in 2004, I believe in Duke Forest, but someone may recognize that sun from somewhere else, and I’ll be happy to correct it. Credit to the camera for not reading the bright sunlight and compensating the rest of the image down to a mere silhouette, but this is testament to the use of center-weighted metering on occasion.
But we can do better than that.
Is that a bit more eye-bending? It’s a good indication of conditions here at times in North Carolina, because this is simply morning condensation on my car, streaking in places to let the reflection of the scattered clouds come through. I don’t think you could call this anything but ‘abstract.’
Though in my guilt, we’ll have one more.
Many years before this image, I was driving home in central NY after a heavy snowstorm and saw someone’s holiday lights along their roofline under a thick blanket of snow, producing this diffuse colorful glow – no camera on hand of course, and the conditions for such would disappear quickly because the lights would melt the snow in short order. Fast forward several years yet still 15 years ago now (dog I’m old,) and we had a decent snowfall while I still had the holiday lights up on my railing. I was careful to leave them turned off until a good covering had amassed, then turn them on for this photo (well, a whole sequence of them.) I’m pleased that even the texture of the snow up close came out. And yes, it’s the same railing (and probably the same lights) as this shot, yet not the same year. No, I’m not agoraphobic…
Hey, we went over a month this time, and it’s been a year since the topic should have died yet we only have four extra episodes, so don’t go complaining.
This Profiles we find Justus demonstrating why birds should never daydream, at least while flying – we swear we saw a Batman visual sound effect flash for a moment when this happened (it was, “Kabash!“) Up until this point at least, Justus was a leading action star in his native Turkey, and even though everyone knows it’s all stuntbirds doing the rough stuff, this image probably isn’t going to help his career any. The promotional posters of his bare, carunculated, magenta head were actually what started the trend of guys shaving their domes to look sexy, because baldness is much more virile when it’s intentional – don’t ask us how that works, we haven’t the faintest. If we shaved our heads, they’re just more acreage for zits, you know? Justus was considering a change of genre anyway, aiming for more dramatic roles like the inevitable remake of Freddy Got Fingered, because if you’re going to demonstrate no efforts at writing something original, you might as well use something that wasn’t written in the first place – we’re pretty sure that movie came from someone digging through the layers of old posters on bulletin boards in ‘hip’ coffee shops. No, we never saw it – we just saw the trailers, and they were enough. But back to Justus, who has been expanding his acting chops from “intense” to “brooding” and even “chagrined,” because drama demands so much more – we’re not talking about Tom Cruise here, even subconsciously. His acting coach (Justus’, not Tom’s, but we probably didn’t need to say that) insists that he’s almost got it down to perfection, and will just need a few more visits to really hone his art, though the coach used to be a chiropractor so we know where this is going – the coach’s yacht is bigger than Justus’. Will this genre change work for him like it did Johnny Depp, or will it be more like Johnny Depp? Only time will tell, and then only for writing credit. Justus admits that he doesn’t have a favorite food, but does have a favorite bowel movement, and we cut it off right there – hard as it may be to believe, we have some class.
Wow, the last four Profiles have been birds, haven’t they? We’ll have to correct that. Didn’t that single sentence fill you full of dread? We live for this.
* * *
I just have to add that this image was obtained today, and while it’s simply a vulture sunning itself, it suggested so much that I ended up doing a small edit to carry the idea better:
I’ve had this one sitting in the blog folder for a while, and since it’s Freethinker’s Day, I decided to tackle it (especially since photographs still aren’t happening too often.) If I don’t finish this, I’ll set it aside for Freethought Day instead and just change this paragraph.
The U.S. really has an inordinate number of religious politicians – or at least, those that claim to be. Obviously, they wouldn’t be doing this unless it provided some benefit to them, because it really has no bearing whatsoever on their jobs, and to be blunt, they actually take oaths to uphold the Constitution which expressly forbids them from any form of legislature along such lines, the old ‘separation of church and state’ jazz. But even without such restrictions, their job, their focus, is supposed to be on the community at large, everyone, not just select portions no matter what their number. And there are more than enough things for them to do than parroting very specific bits of scripture or worrying about the state of our souls – the whole ‘free country’ thing means we can do that for ourselves.
[You will notice that, while there are religious exemption laws for things like vaccinations and education, there isn’t any such thing for marriage or abortion laws. Funny that.]
So clearly, what we’re seeing is pandering, the attempt to influence the voters that really don’t understand what a politician is supposed to do and instead have a kneejerk reaction to the bare label of ‘religious’ or ‘christian,’ which in their eyes means something good must come of it.
The amusing thing is that it takes no effort whatsoever to determine that the vast majority of these ‘religious’ politicians demonstrate absolutely no traits of believers; too many of them act in ways distinctly against the precepts of christianity (naturally, it has to be christianity too – remember the huge fuss over the idea that Barack Obama was rumored to be muslim, like that had the slightest bearing on anything?) Lying, theft, and adultery are in evidence far too often, which would presumably determine who wasn’t really a follower of christ, but then we also have the bare traits of being bought by corporate interests, rerouting campaign and office funds for personal and family use, nepotism, cronyism, and a host of other things not specifically against any deadly sins, but not at all what anyone imagines to define ‘good.’ These aren’t hard to find.
Even the idea that someone professes their belief as if it’s important is not just ignorant of their office, but rather crass, like bringing up their car, their spouse’s measurements, or their high-school sports achievements – pretty much a sign of insecurity in trying to impress people. And seriously, claiming to be any religion is about the lowest bar that can be set, because no religion that I can think of actually has any standards to be met before the label can be claimed. For the clout that this seems to have with so many people, you’d think that one would have to accomplish something to lay claim, but no – just announce it, you’re golden. We have to pass tests just to be allowed to drive, but god apparently has lower standards than that, and far too many religious voters certainly do.
There is even an abysmal history of those caught in egregious violations, not just of their religious precepts, but the requirements of their office, who are then ‘forgiven’ and permitted to carry on; somehow, this violation of trust and duty is not at all the insult to the voters who believed in the religious claims, what we might imagine worthy of immediate contempt at least; instead, this is too often treated as a simple mistake, like forgetting to take the chicken out to thaw. Because, of course, no one could possibly lie about being religious and by extension good.
Do good people take advantage of the terminally, inexcusably gullible? Kind of stretches the definition of ‘good,’ one would think. But a lot of politicians have no problem with it, and far too many people fail to spot the sucker bet that it is, walking right into it and congratulating themselves for their blindness rather than seeing religious claims as the biggest red flag there is in politics. Personally, I would sooner vote for a politician with a criminal record than one that parades their piety, even slightly, because the latter is definitely aiming at the idiot vote, and it’s hard to even imagine that there’s a useful purpose to this.
I should have done this one two weeks back, when it would only have been six years and three days after it was originally taken, but oh well. This was from January 2017, and there was still a smidgen of snow on the ground even though the morning’s temperatures were pretty nice for January – this is hinted at with the fog, but granted, the image here is also altered a bit from the original. This is just the red channel, which produced the nice thin results that I liked, though the original wasn’t terribly far away from this.
This is within Mason Farm Biological Reserve, and the placemark/coordinates are pinned to the prominent tree in the frame, not where I was standing – for that, go pretty much due west to the visible gravel drive. Mason Farm has been featured here numerous times, though it doesn’t tend to display a lot of wildlife, so the images from there lean a lot more towards the fartsy end. That particular morning dawned with a very thick fog and I raced out to find something to do with it, arriving (probably some 20 minutes after I went out the door) while there was still enough fog left to use. This is partially because all of the fields within the reserve are surrounded by woods and so the air circulates a lot less. Had I known a spot as close as this with more untrammeled snow on the fields, I would have gone there, but the region isn’t good for natural areas that don’t see people walking through them almost immediately after a snowfall.
I am, in fact, still on the lookout for places close by that look good in fog, that I can get to quickly when the conditions arise, but that’s been going on over eight years now and I haven’t found a good one yet, so…
Meanwhile, we still haven’t had more than seven flakes of snow this winter (I counted them,) but I have a suspicion we’ll get at least one decent snow storm before spring. We’ll see if this plays out.
It’s probably not too far from what I would have captured if I tried, admittedly, and the intention was to try, just a little later on. This came Friday night, when I stepped out to check conditions and decided to shoot the first-quarter (“half”) moon real quick. This is not the first-quarter moon either, but the [ahem] ‘dagger’ in Orion, those “three” stars that can be made out below the belt, spanning the entire frame here.
You may well know that comet C/2022 E3 ZTF is becoming more visible by the day, er, night, and it’s a good target to try amateur astrophotography with – with a telescope. Not so much with a telephoto lens, and this shows us why. This was a one-second exposure at ISO 6400, f5.6, 350mm with the 2x converter. I probably should have left the teleconverter off and just gone with 600mm, but I was doing detailed photos of the moon and the converter helped there, then I re-aimed towards Orion to see what I could achieve, and had to zoom back out a little to get all of Orion’s Shame in view. Even at 1-second, the movement is blurring the stars a little, though granted, Orion on the plane of the ecliptic is moving a lot more than the comet, pretty close to Polaris, would have been. Still, to get a really nice shot, I would have had to use a much longer shutter speed, and so tracking the motion of the Earth would have been much better. While out there, I took a quick look for the comet, though the real session would have come later on after I traveled to a much-darker sky location; basically, I might have found it, but the distinctive coma wasn’t at all visible, so I knew a long exposure would be necessary.
That’s a story in itself. I have a mildly-capable reflecting telescope, with a tracking motor, but I suspect the camera rig on the eyepiece would be too much weight for the motor, so I’ve been trying to get a modified webcam to work with it. I mentioned before about the software woes, and just tried again tonight to go a different route, with absolutely no results at all. The saga of these endeavors is getting pretty damn long, but as yet, I’m unwilling to drop the money on one of the ‘proper’ eyepiece cameras, which start at $150 and work up through at least ten times that amount; I can’t justify that without much better skies here. I have an inexpensive one already, and initial tests of that were not impressive at all. Which is not to say the webcam route will be better, but at least I know the sensor in that is reasonably sharp and color-neutral.
So, will I ever get an image of the comet? I wouldn’t count on it, but I haven’t given up yet. Meanwhile, I have to note that as I stepped out and hadn’t even gotten to a view of the northern sky yet, a lovely long-tailed meteor crossed half of the sky, heading close to due north, and lasting almost two seconds – exactly the kind of thing that I’ve been trying to capture on film/sensor for years now. Dammitall.
Tomorrow is, honest and for true, Freethinkers Day, and as god as my witness (a ha ha ha ha haaa!,) I don’t really know what to post about it.
I mean, I don’t really even like the label: freethinker, as opposed to, what, a paid thinker? The idea is that a freethinker is not hampered by religious dogma or cultural restrictions, but in reality, nobody tells you, or can tell you, how to think – the best we can say about that is a freethinker might feel less concerned about the consequences of voicing what they think. Which we should be doing anyway. And this is where the holiday falls flat to me, in that there isn’t one day we should be doing this, but every day. The existence of a holiday openly implies that we should feel restricted the rest of the year.
Maybe it’s intended to raise awareness of freethought, to show that’s it’s okay to speak out in favor of rationality, which is fine, but again, for my own sake it takes place constantly, and I have more than a few posts here about this (see:slacktivism.) Plus just the idea of ‘raising awareness’ is almost hackneyed now. We even have to be careful what we encourage, because no one thinks they’re irrational, while no one can be entirely rational either. It’s like saying, “Be smart.” Probably most people would respond, “Well, I am smart, so done deal,” at least internally – what it often takes is highlighting particular examples of topics, conclusions, or even just cultural norms that don’t demonstrate a rational approach. Which isn’t a bad idea for the day at least, and perhaps I’ll be back tomorrow with something (I have nothing planned now, so I’ll have to find something.)
We could also potentially use the day to introduce people to the ideology of freethought, or to showcase some of the more influential freethinkers throughout history, among them Thomas Paine, who was born on tomorrow’s date in 1737 (what are the chances?) and whose seminal work Common Sense was instrumental in the formation of the US – far more so than any and all religious influences, despite spurious claims of being founded as a ‘christian nation.’
It’s pleasing to see that, despite the best efforts of various vapor-brained nitwits, religion is on the decline in this country. Long overdue of course, but it’s only a symptom anyway, which is why I espouse critical thinking instead – which is not as evidently growing, especially if we look at our political system circus and some of the more visible forms of activism. It’s not just about eradicating religion, and indeed never was – it’s about making sense, which often means denying emotional reactions in favor of careful consideration. Religion is only one example of doing things only because someone else does – there are a lot more out there.
I’ll leave you with this, a recent discovery, though a friend (I have them, hush) indicated that I’m a bit behind. Jim Jeffries has an amusing yet insightful routine:
It’s that time all my readers have been waiting for (if I had any, though if I did, they wouldn’t): the annual tag roundup! Yes, again – we’ll keep doing this until I run out of good puns for the title. Go on – I fed you that one.
In the Walkabout Universe, tags are not just categories of topics or commonality, they’re also brief sardonic commentary on the posts, icing on the urinal cake, as it were. To this end, we end up with a lot of one-time-only tags herein, because I’m the kind of guy that often mutters some rejoinder at the ends of conversations (I was raised on M*A*S*H and Alan Alda, so…)
But let’s take a look at what you might have missed, had you not been checking routinely already and if you’re actually reading in the first place.
Stone’enge – A subtle reference to the same movie that the title makes, but you’re well-versed in the classics so this won’t escape you
What the fuck’s up Doc? – As well as, ‘don’t look at the fuckin’ leaves.’ Only one of these is actually mine. I tried looking up the word he uses multiple times in there but none of my variations of, “sasepatose,” elicited a match
Boy, not the most inspired list of holidays there, but still better than the National Day of Prayer. Well, sure, fine, that’s a pretty low bar to clear, but at least I… oh, never mind. Let’s move on to the actual counts for 2022.
We can see that 2022 backed away from the count for 2021, itself behind 2020, making us take a strong third in the lineup. Not surprising, given how little traveling was done, and truth be told, the numbers just can’t keep increasing without, at least, some kind of economic incentive. For instance, if each reader gave just one dollar right now, I could get a cup of tea. Just not from Starbucks.
You already know that we hit 2,500 posts in late December, and while this year also fell behind last year a bit, not by too much really, and still well ahead of 2020. All of that still the quality content that you’ve come to expect.
Good gracious, while not seeming to drop out of the trend too far, 2022 takes seventh place in the lineup of word count – that’s enough to keep us out of the qualifiers this year! This is gonna be a tough nut to hoe for our crack team of writers (who just wrote that line, so…)
Overall, the blog contains about 2.1 million words – I mean, not different words, there are probably a handful of repeats in there but, you know, they still had to be typed. According to the WordPress plugin, it should take 11 1/2 hours to read through this year, not counting bathroom breaks. Perfect for waiting on the doctor and flights and so on.
So what do all these numbers mean? Not a damn thing. We’re just a species that likes comparing shit like this, some inherent competitive urges.
I also have to point out that while only two podcasts were produced this year, there were 14 of my own videos uploaded, which is no small amount of effort there, and some of them had behavior that I was quite pleased to get – as I mentioned in the last podcast, I had a pretty decent amount of luck this year. is this the start of a new trend? We’ll just have to wait and find out I guess, but I’ll do what I can to help it along. I mean, we already have a fabulous clip posted for 2023.
So that’s our recap for 2022. Be sure to catch us again this time next year for more nonsense and whinging!
I’m still not sure if the Google Earth Placemark links are actually working – they’re not for me – but if they are for you, this one will be slightly different than the latitude/longtitude coordinates listed, and neither of those actually shows where I was standing, but the coordinates show where these birds were at least. This is a great egret (Ardea alba) arriving on the nest with its fledglings, and was taken in the Venice Audubon Society Rookery in Venice, Florida, a must-visit locale if you have the faintest interest in photographing birds. The place is simply unreal: a tiny island on a small pond in the heart of Venice that is a roosting and nesting site for dozens, if not hundreds, of birds. They’re so close together that there are constant territorial warnings among the birds simply from flying to their nests, and The Girlfriend and I witnessed a night heron stealing material from another nest while the owners were away – notably, the thief didn’t even have to fly in to do this, but simply walked out on a limb from its own nesting location within the canopy. We when arrived at sunrise, the eruption of birds from the trees of the island looked like billowing smoke and convinced me that the foliage camouflaged a vertical shaft into the earth where thousands of birds were mass-produced. You think I’m exaggerating…
This also exemplifies the true, original meaning of ‘tripod holes,’ since when you go (and you will,) you’ll be standing where hundreds of other photographers have stood, this being one of the premier bird photography spots in the country. Unlike scenic locations, however, you’ll likely capture something unique, as long as you have a little patience and are quick on the shutter. The Girlfriend, not really a dedicated photographer, nonetheless captured a lovely portrait of a heron gliding across the pond, still framed here on the walls of Walkabout Studios, using my digital camera and 75-300 lens when I’d switched to slide film. Later on as we returned to our motel room to get ready for breakfast, we had the TV on and suddenly found ourselves looking at the very place we’d just been, instantly recognizable, on a program talking about the Florida Birding Trail.
It’s been a while since we’ve been there, and we really have to return…