Monday, February 28, 2011

Tiny blossoms of Mahonia signal spring in my garden... February 2011

Mahonia blossoms
Along about mid-February every year, I have to go out in the garden and see what is happening... and ever since I planted a Mahonia bush on the north side of my house, these tiny yellow blossoms are one of the first signs that winter is over!

This image was taken with my 105mm macro lens and ALL THREE Kenko extension tubes stacked together (36mm, 20mm and 12mm)... which explains the soft focus and extremely shallow depth of field. If you are unfamiliar with Mahonia, the blossoms are each about the size of a green pea and will soon have bees buzzing about to gather nectar.

If you are unfamiliar with Mahonia, the plant has very stiff leaves with spiny tips (holly leaf shape) which make it hard to get close in to photograph the bees. Every year I try so I'm sure you will see at least one post later in the spring to show this year's attempt at capturing them busy at work.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Julia Butterfly under any name is gorgeous...

Julia Butterfly
Going back to images from our December visit to the Butterfly Conservatory of the National Museum of American History in New York (Manhattan), NY today, I realized I'd never posted this one. When I went looking for the ID of this butterfly, I found lots of references to it as Julia Butterfly (some even as Orange Julia). It wasn't until I looked at the Wikipedia entry on this beauty that I found the scientific name Dryas iulia correctly spelled. Wikipedia also noted that the scientific name is "often incorrectly spelled julia" which is most probably why we commonly know it as Julia Heliconian or Julia Butterfly.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Scenic vista along I-270 north of Washington, DC - February 18, 2011

view from I-270 scenic lookout near Urbana, MD
My cousin Jane, our friend Susie and myself decided to drive up to Foxcross Pottery (home and studio of a potter friend) recently and make a day of it... stopping wherever the spirit moved us to take photographs, have lunch and explore the countryside around both Shepherdstown, WV and Sharpsburg, MD.

Not too far from Washington, DC on I-270 before getting to the town of Frederick, MD is a scenic overlook which gives an almost 360° view of the countryside. It was a fairly hazy day and I wasn't happy with most of the images I took... this one pleased me, though, so I hope you enjoy it.

If you'd like to read a bit more about Foxcross Pottery and see a collage of images from our visit there, please see my other blog.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Great Eggfly Butterfly ... Butterfly Conservatory...

great eggfly butterfly
The Great Eggfly Butterfly, Hypolimnas bolina, is also called the Blue Moon Butterfly and lives in the South Pacific islands, Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, and southeast Asia. It also lives in the Butterfly Conservatory of the American Museum of Natural History which is where this photo was taken in December, 2010. The upper side of the wings of the female is dark brown and the female does not have the spots (white circles) that the male, seen here, does.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Balancing act while wondering... Which way to the food?

squirrel balancing act
This silly squirrel is another one of the rascals who is constantly trying to crack the code to get into the squirrel proof (mostly) feeders I have... the image was taken through my kitchen window, a frequent pastime for me in winter when it's cold outside. For someone who grew up in Wyoming and Montana braving temperatures way below zero at times, I've become awfully cold sensitive!

About the squirrel... he is perched on one of the arms of the two-armed post on which two different style feeders hang. (both supposedly squirrel proof) I imagine him to be contemplating which one of the two feeders he is going to approach first!

I'm now deeper than ever in learning new software... January 29 found me in a marathon ALL DAY Lightroom 3 class (from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm) and this past Saturday (February 5) found me back in the same classroom for a Photoshop CS5 'level 1' class although I left early due to a slight schedule conflict. I'll be in the level 2 class for Photoshop in another few weeks (again, all day Saturday). One thing I learned in the Lightroom class was how to add the copyright text to my images. This post (and the previous post) now have that information. (I'll be experimenting with alternative ways to include the copyright information as I go along... this is my first effort!)

If you want to watch a slide show of squirrels trying to crack the code to my "Squirrel-proof" feeders, use the link in the News Items box at top right.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sparrow frenzy at the back yard feeder... December 2010

English (house) Sparrow feeding frenzy
Just to remind you (in case you think I've lost my mind which is entirely possible given the events of the last few days), when I put a date in the title of a post, it refers to the date the image was captured, not the date of the post. This image is from a sunny day in December of last year when the birds were going a little bit crazy for the food in my feeders. It is also the first image that I've posted where I did quite a bit of post-processing using many of the tricks I learned in my Lightroom class (more on this below).

As for the events of the past few days that have contributed to my absence (as far as visiting YOUR blogs), I took a Lightroom 3 class this past Saturday and have been struggling since then to master a few simple things that are FAR from intuitively obvious.

This is where the internet is a MARVELOUS tool... because one of the things I've been struggling with is publishing images to Picasa/Facebook/Flickr (and maybe others in future) straight out of Lightroom. Let me tell you about the Facebook fiasco... the Publishing Service for Facebook that comes WITH Lightroom 3 has sent my browser into never-never-land more times than I can count... in trying to troubleshoot the problem, I clicked the Plug-in Exchange button (not having a CLUE what it did) in the setup dialog for setting up the various Publishing Services in Lightroom. Voilà! That button took me to Adobe's Lightroom page where I could search for plug-ins for publishing to various web services. And I found a third party developer's plug-in for Picasa... the developer has already received a donation from me to support his efforts for Picasa. (and I suspect he will be receiving one for his Export to Facebook plug-in although I haven't set that service up yet because I wanted to send some images to Picasa first so I could blog this one today!)

And in case you are wondering... why Lightroom? I've used iPhoto on a Mac since first starting to use a digital camera almost five years ago. As much as I LOVE my Mac and the ease of use of iPhoto, I hate the way iPhoto 'hides' deep in the iPhoto library, images representing my originals AND another copy of the SAME image representing any editing changes thus increasing overhead as far as storing multiple copies of the same photo. And, IF I want to use Photoshop (either Elements or the full version of Photoshop) to further edit an image that I've put into iPhoto, I have to EITHER export it OR go find it (there are ways) where it is buried in the library and put a copy somewhere outside of the iPhoto library where Photoshop software can 'see' the image.

As you might expect, after awhile working with iPhoto gets awfully old and tiring and it is also limited as to the editing changes one can make if one starts to get REALLY serious about post-processing. So, I'm trying to learn Lightroom and hope to eventually stop using iPhoto altogether. The learning curve is quite steep!