Tripod holes 12

baby American alligator Alligator mississippiensis alongside mother's tail, Shark Valley Florida
N 25°44’40.24″ W 80°45’59.67″ Google Earth Location

The location of today’s image is, well, within a few hundred meters of exact, let’s say. It was taken in Shark Valley, a visitor access point on Tamiami Trail (Rt 41) to the sprawling Everglades National Park, on a walking path that ran alongside a looonng, straight channel, and there are no landmarks along it, anywhere, to place even an approximate position. I just know I was a decent hike away from the parking area, at least a kilometer, but beyond that I couldn’t say, and wouldn’t recognize the precise point even if I walked it again while it looked identical to when I was there, which was 23 years ago this month.

Notably, this was not only very close to the walking trail, there was nothing preventing me from stepping forward and picking up this little guy, which is a very young American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis.) Well, okay, nothing except the mother curled around it, and my common sense which told me that this would be the stupidest thing I could try. I was actually a decent distance away using the Sigma 170-500 on the tripod, remaining as unobtrusive as possible and keeping a wary eye on the mother, but they had chosen an open spot way too close to the trail for their nap. Several other babies within the brood had popped into the water at my approach, but this one at least was being as mellow as the mother, who gave no sign that she even knew I was there, perhaps to lull me into a false, stupid-tourist sense of security. I wasn’t biting, and so, neither was she.

They are remarkably cute at this age, and I really need to return and capture video, because still photos can’t convey the little sounds they make, like newborn puppies. This was my second encounter with babies, the first being at Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, on the same route some seventy kilometers to the west, a year or two before – again, way too close to the path. It would be nice if I could count on finding them at either location on returning, but I suspect both instances were blind luck. Still, I’m going to try again, soon*

* Don’t ask me for a specific definition of this word. Before the next transit of Venus, at least.

Alas, not this year

Zefrank is back with his Animal Awards (actually I’m not sure this isn’t the first, but he still returned, from wherever he goes when he’s not actively posting videos, and we’re torturing idioms now I believe,) and while I didn’t win the award for “Nature Photographer I Want To Party With,” I have to respect his choice. So without any standup monologue to drag things out (besides this, I mean,) we have the latest vid:

Now, you are on a blog, which means it’s perfectly okay to redirect attention back to the owner – expected, even – and who would I be if I shirked that responsibility? Someone else, most likely, probably someone with a life and much less ego. But while watching that, I not only recognized the peculiar trait of the sharpshooter leafhoppers, I recognized a previous capture that had never been identified.

This ended up taking more than 90 minutes. I wasn’t sure if I’d featured the image on the blog before, but I was fairly certain that it had been prepped for web display at least. Thus I was searching the blog folders as well as the ‘Archive’ folder used for larger versions, and even into the main stock folders when those were coming up empty. Well, certainly not empty, but devoid of the image in question wherever I was looking, anyway. The original image would certainly reside in stock but could still be ridiculously time-consuming, since the Arthropod folders alone contain over 24,000 images, and the one in question wouldn’t be cropped tighter so the subject might be quite small in the frame. It did not help that I was misremembering (old, you know) the approximate time period in which it had been shot. But eventually it was run to ground and is now presented here. All that, for a literally shitty bug:

possible Chrysomelidae larva encased in feces
I know what you’re thinking: “Boy, what kind of weirdo photographs bug shit?” but know that it was moving when I spotted it, so there was reason to believe it was more than bug shit. Asshole.

Anyway, this would appear to be in the Family Chrysomelidae, probably Sub-Family Cryptocephalinae, the case-bearing leaf beetles. It almost appears to be bearing both other arthropods and perhaps eggs, which is possible I guess – the original image at full resolution still isn’t conclusive, and that’s now more time devoted to this singular image. Sheesh.

Meanwhile, the sharpshooter thing was covered some time back, but began long before that when I spotted a leafhopper in the NC Botanical Garden that appeared to have an anti-collision light. No, seriously, the millisecond appearance of the droplet at the hind end was catching more light than I believed possible in the shadowed conditions, and it was flashing. Just a trick of the light, unless some of the plants in the garden are more radioactive than normal. Yes, they have banana plants in there, but no, this wasn’t on any of them – good thinking, though.

time-exposure of broad-headed sharpshooters Oncometopia orbona flinging excrement
Those efforts were almost a decade ago, and I’ve been meaning to tackle them again to see if I could improve on the results, especially given that I can do video now. Unfortunately, even though my motivation is peaked at the moment, the sharpshooters won’t appear for a few months yet. And don’t think you’re clever by suggesting I get some practice in anyway, because I already thought of that, and am knocking down the tea as I type. Be sure to check back!

Out there right now

It’s 1:00 AM, 15°c right now, and raining, which means it’s just enough for the frogs to be happy, and I provide proof:

impudent green treefrog Dryophytes cinereus among azalea leaves
When first spotted in the headlamp, this green treefrog (Dryophytes cinereus) was in a better pose, but I didn’t have the camera in hand then and so we get this one after I returned twice more trying for a better shot. If you look close at the at one finger, you might believe that the frog was offering commentary, and it wouldn’t be the first time. It still makes me wince – not from the impudence which I’m well used to, but the idea that mine won’t bend that way without distressing sounds, from the joints and from me.

Atop the greenhouse, another viewed my perambulations with a jaundiced eye. Or maybe not – do you think I read too much into these?

juvenile green treefrog Dryophytes cinereus atop greenhouse
Don’t ask me why I notice things like this, but the frog is maintaining a more level position while perched on the sloping greenhouse roof, and it occurs to me that, despite seeing them clinging in countless vertical positions, when they turn to face horizontally in any way they seem to get close to level. I would surmise that awareness of gravity helps them calculate their trajectories when jumping, but that’s the best I can offer at the moment. Nonetheless, it seems to happen even in the absence of visual cues.

Given the size, coloration (which isn’t too much of a indication, since it can change for individuals,) and location on the greenhouse, I’m assuming that this is the same individual as our spring herald – who may be getting annoyed at this point because we’ve dropped below freezing in the intervening time, and will likely do so again in the next few mornings. Still, no snow, so no complaints here. Well, about the weather, anyway…

yellow pansies Viola x wittrockiana showing raindrops
And the pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) that The Girlfriend planted in late December, after faltering a little in the last Indian Winter, have bounced back and provide a splash of color for the season with some drop caps for the evening/morning. They all gave me just a little to shoot while waiting for the better conditions.

Resting on my laurels

Well, it’s safe to say that I’m not reporting from a National Wildlife Refuge right now, despite the anniversary – it’s cold and not worth a special trip at all. I’ll make up for it some time this summer.

But for the sake of it, we’ll have a couple of photos from wildlife refuges, or actually just one refuge, which is Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, immediately adjacent to Cape Canaveral. Right now I’m trying to tally in my head how many refuges I’ve been to, and I think it’s eight – not anywhere near enough.

You might recognize this photo:

tricolored heron Egretta tricolor fishing in shallows showing feet and reflection
This appears in the header of the home page, but deserves a closer look. I’m fairly certain it was taken not long after I’d decided on the domain name, and when I saw both the heron’s reflection and its feet showing through, I knew it was an appropriate illustration of the theme. It never made it onto any of the business card designs (I have over a dozen,) because there’s not enough blank space around it, and it would thus be cluttered with the lettering. By the way, this is a tri-colored heron (Egretta tricolor,) which I don’t think I’ve ever seen around here, just coastally – maybe once or twice out at the Outer Banks, a few times in South Carolina, and otherwise in Georgia and Florida. They tend to like wetlands rather than beaches, and that describes Merritt Island distinctly. You can see here how shallow the water is, as it remains throughout most of the refuge, and if there were just one that I had to recommend to photographers (don’t you like how we set these nonexistent game-show challenges to ourselves?) it would be Merritt Island, with JN ‘Ding’ Darling on Sanibel Island not far behind.

And the other:

flock of roseate spoonbills Platalea ajaja in Merritt Island NWR, Florida
On this date two years ago, I featured a pair of roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) and said it was possibly the only time that I’d photographed them to date, which only shows that I should have looked into the database or at least made a quick pass through the slide cabinet, because I’ve photographed them on half a dozen different occasions, this being one of them – I’d even prepared this one for inclusion in a potential package to a client (the package sold, but without the spoonbills, though I think they took the tri-colored heron above.)

Despite not remembering that I had these, I thought the lighting seemed familiar, and I confirmed that they were in sequence with other images known to have been from a particular trip to Merritt Island, but those slides have no date stamp. I’m thinking probably 2002 or 2003, when I met another photographer there and the only time I’ve visited in overcast conditions. Or so I claim now – we’ll see what comes up in two years.

Anyway, here’s hoping that you had your chance to visit a refuge, or celebrate in some (more) appropriate way.

Tripod holes 11

golden silk orbweaver Trichonephila clavipes in Creef's Cut, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
N 35°51’43.29″ W 75°51’25.61″ Google Earth Location

Yeah, really inducing people to plan their own trips out to this location just to see species like this, aren’t I? Call me “Mr Incentive!” I originally had something else scheduled to go up here, but replaced it with this one for a particular reason and bumped the other back to next week. You see, Tuesday March 14th is the 120th anniversary of the first National Wildlife Refuge in the US – that would be Pelican Island NWR on the Atlantic coast of Florida. I may attempt to get out to one myself that day, but as I said last year, the nearest is still about 3 hours away, so not sure about that yet. Which brings us to this photo, because it was in consideration for the Tripod Holes topic when I remembered that this was actually taken within a National Wildlife Refuge – to wit, Alligator River NWR in North Carolina. And now as I type this, I recall that so is the one that I bumped to next week, but that’s okay, we’ll bracket the holiday. The next one will be cuter, but that really doesn’t say much, does it?

This is a golden-web spider, or golden silk orbweaver, or really, every variation of those that you can think of as well as banana spider and killthatfuckingthingwithfire – the scientific name is Trichonephila clavipes, at least. And it is big, the leg-spread spanning a little less than my palm if I recall, the web not quite a meter across. Until last year, I had not seen any as far north as NC, but have now found them in three locations – all more towards the coast, but if you’re not having any trouble sleeping at nights, know that it’s only a matter of time before they move further inland. Or maybe not, since they definitely seem to prefer marshy areas.

NC doesn’t have too many species that I would consider, “exotic,” for whatever definition that you prefer, but this is now one of them, large enough and funky-looking enough to carry it well out of the ordinary. And even as I leaned in close with the macro lens, practically brushing against the web, it never twitched, and I never expected it to; no spider species is aggressive to humans, and rarely even get defensive except to scamper away. I fully comprehend arachnophobia, having possessed it myself for much of my life, but it’s actually something that can be overcome, with exposure and knowledge about the species and even handling. Then, they become damn cool things to find and examine. So yeah, go ahead and plan that trip, and start the process!

Judge not, lest

It’s no secret that I think very little of spectator sports, unable to get involved in watching someone else throwing a ball around, and the concept of an athlete’s ‘personal best’ is remarkably silly – “I set a new record against myself,” yeah, w00t. I also couldn’t care less about people’s daily meals or restaurant experiences and don’t go to those types of blogs.

But then, I get involved in stuff like this.

wedding couple exiting reception hall with guest in the way
At the very first wedding that I photographed, done as a favor, the happy couple was exiting the reception hall as they do, and I’d taken up position on the opposite side of the waiting car, to have a good view of things. This seemed fine up until another guest stepped into the frame at the crucial moment, resulting in this image. Worse, no subsequent frames were any better, as people continued to shift around and the couple ducked into the car. Shit.

Some months later, I was reviewing the scans and began to wonder if this one could be ‘fixed,’ and so, set to work with the ol’ Photoshop machine puttering away. The eventual result was this:

heavily edited version of previous photo
I’m pleased with the result, though it was strictly an exercise – the amount of work that went into this is not something that I’d typically undergo, and not worth the effort or potential income. Better to ensure that you get the right photo right off the bat (shit, that’s a sports reference, isn’t it?), which is why wedding photographers charge more than Your Cousin Larry. But I kept this as a demonstration of my skills, and we’re going into it in mild detail here because blogs are an exercise in thinly-veiled narcissism.

The color tweak and the perspective correction helped a lot, but are trivial compared to the rest. It’s easy to forget that this is merely a two-dimensional representation: removing someone from the photo doesn’t mean that you can see what was behind them. Seems obvious when said, but it’s a crucial part of editing images. You don’t remove someone, you replace them with appropriate details.

original image with blank where unwanted details were
The question was, were there enough appropriate details within the frame to work with? And I can tell you, everything except the groom’s hand, I believe, came from this frame alone. While the guest in front is obvious, less so was the head of a child above/behind him that I knew I wasn’t going to fill in, so they were removed too. And so, what were they replaced with?

  • Brickwork on the steps was copied over, but you’ll notice that there’s a perspective thing going on, the alignment of the mortar lines changes from left to right, so patching these in had to be specific – mostly, the front faces were used and the top mortar lines hand-painted in.
  • The bottom of the column is merely the top, inverted and resized.
  • The bottommost sidelight pane along the door is merely the second one copied over, and even the bottom of the one above it came from the topmost. The wood panel and plant beneath them are reversed from the opposite side.
  • Individual bubbles were dubbed out or copied over to be ‘random.’ Since they show the background colors to a small extent, they had to come from similar backgrounds; the ones in front of the white column actually came from the bride’s dress.
  • The sweater of the woman on the extreme right was copied over in tiny patches from what little could be seen, though the edge of her hand was simply hand-painted in.
  • The same can be said for the groom’s leg and foot, and the floor mat. More bubbles dubbed in over top. The guest behind the column was simply removed, easy enough to copy the siding pattern.
  • Finally, the remaining ‘shoulder’ of the intervening guest (left in because creating the entire background there was problematic,) couldn’t just be left as it was, because it was originally his back and the shadows were wrong/nonexistent. The slopes of the shoulder had to be recreated with careful shadowing with the Burn Tool.
  • Not anywhere near as labor intensive as a restoration, but still a lot of fiddling around that turned out fairly well, in my opinion. Then again, I do bug portraits, so what’s my opinion worth?

    *      *      *

    I’ll add in a couple of pointers, just for the sake of it. When doing editing work that involves cutting-and-pasting elements of any kind, Feathering the edges of the selection is very important – sharp edges betray pasted portions quickly, and it’s rare that specific details within any frame are that sharp anyway. The amount depends on the resolution that you’re working in, but a minimum of 5 pixels at least.

    And if you’re shooting photos where bubbles are being blown around, fire off a sequence of frames if you can. Those damn things get everywhere unpredictably, and can obscure faces or other details and even diffract the flash lighting. This naturally becomes a challenge when you’re in darker conditions and have to rely on strong flash power, which then has to recharge between shots. Man, what was wrong with rice?

    Ah, cool!

    A small package arrived today:

    Ukrposhta stamps "Moscow Done" "Russian warship, go fuck yourself"  Ukrainian postage stamps
    A little less than a month to arrive, I believe. They’d originally e-mailed me and said that due to demand, there would be a delay and they’d forward a tracking number when it shipped, then I never heard anything further. Yet here we are.

    In case this is confusing, the initial post about it is here. Order yours today!

    Mixed luck

    Widely mixed, even.

    So Buggato and I had another outing yesterday, once again to Jordan Lake because, while plants are indeed budding out around here, full bloom is a ways off; meanwhile, we’re keeping an eye on bird activity at the lake. And in some cases, it was active.

    flock of tightly-packed double-crested cormorants Nannopterum Auritum in flight
    While seeing double-crested cormorants (Nannopterum auritum) is fairly easy down there, yesterday they were out in force, and flocking right overhead in numerous cases – we saw hundreds. I wasn’t too fired up about snagging photos because I have more than a few of the species, in flight and perched and quite close, but I collected a few frames anyway, including several as they flew past in what almost amounted to a cloud – I had the long lens attached so no wide angle shots for this one. If I really wanted to be ‘prepared,’ I’d have a second body with the 18-135 attached along as well, but I’m already carrying too much weight and this would also necessitate using neck straps, which I passionately abhor. If you really want the impression, multiply this image here by a couple dozen and composite them together in a giant frame.

    We were, naturally, keeping a close eye out for eagles, which did indeed make appearances, but almost always at a significant distance – the closest was directly over the road as we approached our parking spot in the car, perhaps a hundred meters away (which is plenty close enough,) but being in a car in the middle of the road we could do nothing about it, and that one failed to reappear later on. They know.

    However, while watching one at least three times as distant wheeling around, I managed to snag a pretty nice shot anyway.

    adult bald eagle Haliaeetus Leucocephalus wheeling in sky with captured fish
    This is at full resolution from the 600mm lens, so very distant indeed, but the pose and lighting were perfect, and show the captured fish distinctly. This was curious to me, however, because the eagle had been wheeling out there for several passes and I’d never seen the capture, so it was carrying a fish around in circles for a while. Normally, they immediately head to a safe place to eat it, usually well out of sight, or deposit it at the nest for the young-uns, but it’s still a little too early for hatchling season around here. Showing off its hunting prowess for a potential mate? Perhaps, though no other eagle was visible at all, so there’s no additional support for that conjecture. Maybe it simply didn’t like wet food…

    The day, by the way, was quite warm but ridiculously windy, enough so that we remained very wary while among the various dead trees in the area – it was the kind of conditions to bring them down, and while that might be a fitting demise for a nature photographer, I personally am aiming for being savaged by an angry wombat when I’m 100 or so; the close-up photos of a gaping gullet would bring me posthumous fame at least. Overall, however, the birds weren’t performing well enough to make it a decent session, but we were also out there for both the sunset and the moonrise, so we waited out the fading light.

    Sunset, as predicted, was boring – a completely cloudless sky and only moderate humidity meant a yellow sun and very sparse sky color, but right after it went down I did a few frames on the lake just for the sake of having something.

    kayakers, sailboat, and swarming midges on Jordan Lake at sunset
    A few kayakers and a sailboat coincided within view against the spot where the sun had disappeared, the best I was finding, so I tripped a few frames, capturing a huge backlit swarm of insects, likely midges, while doing so – that’s all the speckling against the trees, and of course they’re several times closer than the kayakers were. The wind was greatly reduced by this point yet not totally subsided, and I would have thought that would reduce the swarming behavior too, but oh well.

    On the opposite horizon, the haze was looking a little thick, and I wondered about the conditions for the rising moon, but I put some of this down to shadows at sunset. It seemed a tad late in coming, but eventually the moon peeked over the trees, the brilliant color of a glowing ember and not obscured at all.

    full moon rising over trees with heavy distortion
    The humidity provided lots of distortion, however, including a separated greenish cap, but at no point did even a thin band of clouds give the moon something to pass behind. The clarity of the lunar mares was significant, and we fired off countless frames as the moon rose, brightened, and changed color.

    The traffic into the nearby airport (Raleigh-Durham/RDU) was almost nonstop all afternoon, and the lake lay within the approach paths, so I was holding out hope that we might pull something off, something that I’ve been after for better than 25 years. Yet as the moon rose, the traffic virtually stopped, and I was worried that the opportunity wouldn’t present itself. Patience paid off however, and I accomplished this goal not just once, but twice.

    airliner passing against golden full moon
    Not just silhouetted against the moon, but with distinct clarity, showing the distortion from the jetwash along the right edge as well. And with the gear down for landing. Finally!

    [In my defense, I haven’t been obsessive about this endeavor, going out every clear night with a full moon and watching for air traffic, but it’s been a goal every time I have been out photographing the moon, ever since my first attempts back sometime in ’96 or ’97. As easy as it seems like it might be, provided you’re close enough to decent air traffic, the path to cross the moon is actually very narrow, and the moon is constantly moving itself – we watched two other plans pass above and below the moon while out there. I’ll also point out that, due to not paying close enough attention, I just barely missed my opportunity last year right before the (first) total lunar eclipse.]

    A little later on, the moon was still brightening and changing color, though at this point it was surprisingly a little greenish.

    full moon with distortion and greenish cast
    Whether this was due to the humidity, airborne particulates, or the camera settings, I can’t say – I was doing several frames with the low, middle, and high contrast/saturation settings for comparison, but I don’t see why these should have imparted a color cast, and I was using sunlight white-balance as usual, which should have captured it as-is. But for additional comparison, I include a full-resolution crop of the same image.

    full moon at full resolution
    Some of those edge effects are atmospheric distortion, some of those are the moon being not perfectly full and thus that side dropping into shadow. But mostly what this is here for is to compare against the eagle shot above, because they were both shot at the same magnification/focal length, so you can look at the moon against the sky some night and realize that the eagle was perhaps half that in wingpspread. And no, I’m not likely to get an eagle against the moon anytime soon, because they don’t fly at night, but maybe someday I’ll pin one against a gibbous moon in early morning or late afternoon; if the same pattern holds, I’ll be in my eighties then, yet still some years away from the wombat incident.

    I’ll close with another frame in the opposite direction again, back towards the deepening twilight well after sunset.

    Venus and Jupiter visible in twilight after sunset above Jordan Lake
    That speck towards upper left is Venus, and almost straight below it, a lot more subtle, is Jupiter – no stars were yet showing. Seven days ago Venus and Jupiter were just a finger-width apart, but of course we were seeing heavy rains here at that time. This was about the best color that the sky produced last night, so sunset was a bust, but we had enough successes overall for the session.

    The real Carter

    This is what comes from procrastinating. I’ve had “Jimmy Carter” as a topic in my list of potential posts for years, waiting for me to get motivated to do a little more research to clarify details, because I felt that his presidency had been badly misrepresented in the media since before he even left office, and now that he’s entered hospice, articles (mostly along the same lines, thankfully) are sprouting up here and there; now such a post looks like opportunism, which I hate even the suggestion of. However, one such article provided me with a slight change in approach, and here we are.

    First off, I was there – melodrama aside, I’m old enough to remember his tenure in office firsthand, and was in fact right at that age when I would be soon able to vote; it was the 1980 election that actually cemented in my mind how utterly pointless this was in the face of our asinine and manipulative electoral christian daycare college system, but that’s a topic for another post. But this also means that I got to see the rather skewed take on things that occurred in the media (including Wikipedia) after Carter left office, which has been going on in the 40-odd years since – that’s one of the (many) reasons why I don’t pay much attention to media, as well. We’re tracing some of the roots of my skepticism as we go along.

    The article in question is The Surprising Greatness of Jimmy Carter at Washington Monthly, which is a reflection of how we might get influenced in stupid ways, because it’s surprising only if you have the typical media representation of him, or focus solely on the superficial aspects of a few events during his term. The one that most people remember vividly, explained just a little within the article, is the Iranian hostage crisis, where militant students seized the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage; this lasted quite a long time, and during that period a US military force attempted to enter Tehran and rescue the hostages, bringing the word “fiasco” into public consciousness again when it failed. Public-image wise, perhaps that word is appropriate – certainly it can apply to Carter’s own approval ratings – but from a military exercise standpoint, we have had far worse, hundreds of times over – at least the civilian death count was one in this case. [Note: Had the mission gone largely as planned, the civilian death toll would undoubtedly have been much higher, which would have been completely ignored because it was “successful.”] Long story short: it was a remarkably risky and ill-advised mission, well outside of capabilities at the time, that had a ridiculous number of failure points that would ruin the mission. It had already failed and was scrubbed before a simple mistake caused the collision of two aircraft and a fatal fire. Carter publicly took full responsibility for this and received most of the blame, but a moment’s thought determines quite easily that this wasn’t his plan, his logistics, or his training; for that, we must look to the various military experts that assured him the mission could be accomplished.

    Now we get to a little background. The utter shitshow that was US involvement in Vietnam had ‘closed’ only a few years before, tied in very closely with Watergate and a distinct (yet nonetheless appropriate) distrust of elected officials. Carter entered office with a clear plan, visible throughout most of his policy decisions: focus on solving our own country’s problems; lessen our interventions in foreign politics, with “diplomacy” as the keyword; focus on the actual intended functions of politicians in the first place; and try to establish a process of investing in our future. When it came to the Iranian affair, the gung-ho attitude has always been, “Let’s go in and blast them to hell” – which takes very little thought to recognize would be a huge international incident, resulting in countless civilian lives lost, and would rightfully have been considered invading a foreign country; it’s thinking with your dick, nothing more. Even more specifically, it reflects the idea of “our boys” being somehow more valuable than “them,” for any given value of them, which has been the impetus behind most wars, major and minor. Military might almost never solves any problems, it just shifts the focus, and Carter knew that. Resorting to a military endeavor, aimed for as low a body count as possible, was his reluctant admission that diplomacy wasn’t going to work in the face of Iranian zealotry – notice that it was students that took the hostages, never the clearest-thinking group in any society. (Also notice that I never specified, “muslim,” because islam was only a minor factor in the equation – narrow minds coupled with emotional baggage were the primary culprits, which happens all over the place, not-so-subtle hint there.)

    By the way, this isn’t just me editorializing, because evidence of all of these factors is clearly on record, including within Carter’s own diaries. What was a surprise to me, within the article, was that in the months preceding the hostage situation, Carter fought against harboring the deposed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, fearing it would trigger an adverse response from Iran – which it did, in spades. In several different cases, Carter caved to advice from his cabinet, against his better judgment, and took the blame when it turned out to be shitty advice.

    Which leads us to another aspect: Carter was a statesman, which we see almost nothing of anymore. As Chief Executive, it was his responsibility overall, regardless of who it came from beneath him, because he was responsible for those beneath him. It’s a trait of actual leadership, one that we see very rarely anymore even from any aspect of corporate business, much less from our politicians (try to imagine Florida Man taking responsibility for any negative outcomes, much less giving credit where it’s properly due.) The only thing that I can fault Carter for in these circumstances was not immediately firing those cabinet-members or advisors that encouraged these courses of action, and I won’t (publicly) speculate on why – that would be attempting to psychoanalyze someone based on superficial impressions.

    There’s a point in that linked article that was key, to me at least, and yet the writers seemed completely oblivious to it. The article is an interview with two authors of works on Carter’s legacy, and in there Jonathan Alter says, of Carter:

    Where it hurt him, Kai, I think, is when he let that effort to try to get to the right answer crowd out the politics. He didn’t think of himself as a politician, and that really hurt him.

    Getting to the right answer is what a politician is supposed to do – it’s the only reason to have the government structure that we do in the first place. That ‘politics’ is now considered to be playing a manipulative and self-promoting game is the key failure here, and one that too few people recognize. Carter was the last president that we had that knew, and demonstrated, what he was in office to do.

    Again, not mere speculation or editorializing: Carter’s actions since leaving office have been overwhelmingly positive as well as humanitarian, a lifetime of accomplishments that defies comprehension, demonstrating that his focus remained firmly in place. He’s made countless diplomatic visits to other countries in the interests of peace and improved relations, among them Egypt, Israel, North Korea, South Africa, Sudan, and Darfur. The Carter Center, which he and his wife founded, partnered with the World Health Organization to combat malaria and virtually eradicate Guinea worm disease. He’s been recognized by several major awards, among them the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights and the Nobel Peace Prize. His and his wife’s volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity wasn’t just administrative; he was personally building houses into his eighties at least.

    The disingenuous might argue that this was all a case of conspicuous altruism, yet there remains very few people aware of the scope of his accomplishments, while media appearances were few and far between. The typical ‘lecture circuit’ of post-presidents in the US, commanding tens of thousands of dollars in fees per appearance, is almost non-existent in Carter’s history, and those that did occur were aimed towards his humanitarian goals. The authors within the interview, with the task of educating the public about Carter’s actions and attitudes in office (which would have greatly improved Carter’s own approval within the media and the population in general) were granted a strictly-enforced one hour of his time before he turned back to his duties. This from a man three decades past typical retirement age.

    It’s easy to consider the Carter years as marred by numerous issues – it’s quite a bit harder to find those that he actually caused, much less that he had any control over. In the face of an energy crisis, he not only took actions to alleviate this, he fostered an attitude and policies of reducing our energy needs and turning away from petroleum – better than 40 years ago. His administration was notably unburdened by scandals, indictments, investigations, resignations, and above all, deaths from any of his actions, foreign or domestic. Feel free to tally up any US President to see how they compare in those regards alone – none will compare at all to Carter’s efforts following his tenure as President. He deserves a lot more respect than he’s been given, and a lot less attention paid to inept and superficial media representation. And above all, we really need to understand what our politicians are there to accomplish.

    Tripod holes 10

    upward interior view of Tybee Island Lighthouse, Georgia
    N 32° 1’19.99″ W 80°50’44.34″ Altitude ~40 meters Google Earth Location

    For this one, the altitude is crucial, because you won’t achieve this perspective at ground level (which is notably close to sea level.) This is a view looking almost straight up into the lens and lamp housing of the Tybee Island Lighthouse on (wait for it) Tybee Island, Georgia, and was taken from just underneath – I don’t think access into the lamp room was permitted. What I liked most about this shot is how the fresnel lenses of the light worked, and despite aiming nearly vertical, the surrounding horizon is visible because of the lens distortion. This focuses the light to travel out to sea as far as possible, because it keeps the ships in the area from running into the lighthouse itself. You’d think if that was such a risk they’d build the damn thing further from the water, you know?

    lighthouse on Tybee Island, GAThis main image might seem confusing when you see the lighthouse from the outside, because it looks almost globular here, yet exterior shots show straight, cylindrical sides. While there is a little wide-angle distortion in my image (shot at 21mm focal length,) it’s not that distinct – but the lens assembly is separate from the exterior housing and in indeed closer to globular – more like a squat pear shape, really, but the top is pretty small. If you look, you can see the white frames of the exterior housing through the lenses here. Even more interesting, the roof of the structure should extend out at least to the outer ring of the lens assembly and darken it, shadowing most of the frame, but the fresnel lens distortion prevent it from being seen at all.

    By the way, that illuminated light is not the actual lighthouse bulb that keeps the marauding ships at bay – that’s the larger glass structure immediately to its left, and it’s safe to say this image would be significantly different if that one were illuminated. I’d probably still be seeing spots…

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