Traveling with Arthur — to Cedar Falls

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The trail to Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills State Park was another easy one to travel although there were more steps than the Ash Cave lower trail. And we were actually walking on a dirt path instead of a concrete one for most of the way.

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Interestingly enough, we were informed that there are actually no cedar trees in this park, although there are a lot of evergreens that I think were primarily hemlocks. Not sure where the name for Cedar Falls came from. An amateur botanist or two, no doubt.

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But there is a nice trail of water creating reflective still pools and gurgling along the trail to or, I suppose more technically correct, from Cedar Falls.

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Arthur was trying to figure out how to get a cool drink from his perch above the stream.

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It’s a beautiful and serene place to walk.

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Because of all the spring rain the falls were fully cascading. Mark remembered there was only a trickle here during our last visit several years ago.

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Cedar Falls is a popular attraction at Hocking Hills, and even on a Monday in April we found several people there. New friends for Arthur.

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I tried to get pictures of the water flowing smoothly, which you do by setting a slow shutter speed, which also creates blurred photos if you don’t have a tripod. Mine was in the car where it did me absolutely no good.

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So I did the best I could. This is something I will work on later, with my tripod.

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On the way back the trail ended at a crevice in stone. The children of a family of five who had already passed through were happy to tell us we could get through if we squeezed through the crevice, climbed down some boulders, and hopped across some stones in the creek.

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Arthur missed the part about skipping across the stones, as evidenced by the lower half of each leg.

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We saw this sign on the other side of the creek as we continued on our way.
Oops.
You can see the remnants of what might have been a bridge in the rubble in the background.

No harm, no fowl.
Just two grown adults and a little white dog.

When shadows are long

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The shadows are long at the start of day

when the earth moves to greet the sun once more.

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At the edge of the night filled with dreams and desire

the rays of the sun strike through

and light up the earth

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and shine through the leaves

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and shoot past the trees.

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The shadows are long when day first begins.

By noon they will be gone.

After Mardi Gras

Our youngest son, Mark Joseph, is working at a small design firm in New Orleans as a co-op this semester. Just in time for Mardi Gras, the Superbowl, and the Jazz Festival. Last weekend we visited him after Mardi Gras.

But I had heard the stories and always wondered what it would be like to be in New Orleans for Carnivale. It was nice having our own private foreign correspondent covering the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans while we watched from a safe distance and in the comfort of our own home miles away.

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Mark Joseph is barely visible exiting the house where he lives in New Orleans

In New Orleans, the Mardi Gras celebrations begin at least a month in advance of Fat Tuesday with weekend parades that ratchet up to daily parades as the big day approaches. The parades are a big deal there and organizations and “crews” start preparing for next year’s event before the debris from this year’s has been swept away.

As the parades wind through downtown, the French Quarter, uptown, and the suburbs, streets are lined with revelers anxious to catch beaded necklaces or other items thrown from the people on the floats and in the parades.

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Zulu parade through New Orleans – February 12, 2013 – courtesy of Mark Joseph Grote

The Zulu (social aid and pleasure club) parade is one of the most popular.

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“Of all the throws to rain down from the many floats in the parades during carnival, the Zulu coconut or “Golden Nugget” is the most sought after. The earliest reference to the coconut appears to be about 1910 when the coconuts were given from the floats in their natural “hairy” state. Some years later there is a reference to Lloyd Lucus, “the sign painter,” scraping and painting the coconuts. This, in all likelihood, was the forerunner to the beautifully decorated coconuts we see today,” (http://www.kreweofzulu.com/history).

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Mark Joseph was thrilled to catch one of Zulu’s coconuts. These are the prizes of parade-goers.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Joseph Grote

Another very popular parade is the Muses parade where they throw decorated shoes out to the crowd. Technically, Mark Joseph didn’t actually “catch” this shoe, proving once again it is all about who you know. When we visited Mark Joseph this past weekend, we enjoyed having dinner with the creator of this shoe who told us she has already begun work on next year’s shoes.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Joseph Grote

I didn’t catch the name of this parade, but felt it deserved notice. I’m not sure what, if anything, these guys were throwing to the crowd. Remote controllers perhaps?

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Photo courtesy of Mark Joseph Grote

All this revelry and throwing of things does lead to something of a mess after the parade passes by, but we have it on the best authority, that in a manner similar to the autumn leaves of Camelot, the bits of paper are whisked away at night.

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Some beads, however, are left dangling from tree limbs,

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whether accidentally

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or intentionally thrown there.

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Sometimes there’s simply no denying the intentionality of the bead decorations around poles,

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or on gates.

They add to the effect of other left-over decortations that brighten the houses, doorways, and balconies of New Orleans after Mardi Gras.

See more posts about New Orleans.

Audubon BirdCam – Take-1

I was excited when Mark surprised me with an Audubon BirdCam for Christmas. Now I could see what was going on outside when I wasn’t watching.

As you may know, beginning December 2, the months of December and January were difficult months for me as I tried to help manage our parents’ illnesses and moves to other living facilities. I was gone a lot, stopping home for brief pit stops, a change of clothes, a good night’s sleep. Under normal circumstances, given an exciting gift like the BirdCam, I would have immediately rushed outside and set it up. But these weren’t normal circumstances, so you’ll understand that I didn’t get my BirdCam set up outside until January 3rd.

Under normal circumstances, I would have been checking the BirdCam for new photos daily. As it was, I left it up outside and didn’t give it a second thought until February 11th, when I went out to retrieve the stunning photos of  birds that I was sure my new BirdCam had recorded in my absence.

I thought I’d share my first results using the BirdCam with you in the slide show below.

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One thing you will notice right away is that the BirdCam did an excellent job of recording Mark, in various states of dress, filling the bird feeders throughout the weeks. You might also notice he was accompanied by Arthur at times who kept watch. You can see other wildlife, even an occasional bird or two, the best shots being of the squirrel that attempted to sneak its way up the pole. And you undoubtedly noticed the fine up close shot the BirdCam got of my red purse when I retrieved the photos.

Here is a cropped and enlarged photo of what may be a hawk in flight—the pride and joy of my first attempt with the BirdCam.

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Clearly, the BirdCam is not idiot-proof and I suspect I could profit from taking a close look at the instruction manual.

However, if I ever need to see what Mark is up to outside, I have the equipment to do it.

A beautiful place to rest – Spring Grove Cemetery

“If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”
  Khalil Gibran ~ On Death

Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati is one of the largest nonprofit cemeteries in the United States.

It is a National Historic Landmark with graves of both revolutionary war and civil war soldiers.

“When the hours of Day are numbered,
And the voices of the Night
Wake the better soul, that slumbered,
To a holy, calm delight. . .”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Footsteps of Angels

Spring Grove is a beautiful cemetery and is famous for its lawn plan, unconventional at the time of its creation, but now a model for many other cemeteries.

The designer, Strauch, “believed in developing the landscape to harmonize with nature. He re-routed roads to follow the natural shapes of Spring Grove’s hills and valleys.

He built lakes, islands, footbridges, protected woodland areas,

and brought hundreds of trees and plants from other parts of the world,” (Spring Grove Cemetery).

“Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy! ”  John Keats ~  Ode to a Nightingale

The varied landscaping transports you from what might be a mysterious Louisiana swampland

to a stately Georgian plantation.

“Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Immortality.” Emily Dickenson

Gravemarkers range from the elaborate—

buildings made of marble and stone,

this one boasting flying buttresses—

to the simple.

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so . . .”  John Donne

“I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.”   W. B. Yeats ~ An Irish Airman Foresees his Death

“Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.”  Christina Rossetti ~ Remember

Mother Nature’s October paintbox

Our house is positioned to the left of this photo before the bend.

As we returned home from a long weekend in St. Louis, I saw that Mother Nature had been playing with her October paintbox.

She left vibrant colors that beckoned me through the window,

A view of the angel and woodland gardens through the garage door.

calling  for me to come outside and admire her work,

her entire color palette of greens, yellows, golds, orange, and reds, visible just a few steps away.

She left a soft highlight here,

the world on fire there,

a bright brush of yellow against the blue of the sky,

another here with dabs of orange and red.

I imagine Mother Nature smiles as she wields her brush. “Yes, this is good,” she whispers for no one to hear.

A stroke of bright red along a singular branch, and she laughs out loud as she continues along, the world her canvas.

Making the moon shine — a photography question

We returned home from a family birthday celebration on Saturday to find the Harvest Moon glowing in the night sky. I got my tri-pod and made every effort to record what I was seeing with my eyes. Like in this picture, I saw the dark silhouette of the trees the moon was rising through and some clouds in the sky.

Yet I also saw the detail on the moon like you can see in this photo. I couldn’t get my camera to record them both at the same time. When I looked it up online, I saw the suggestion that you take two photos and use Photoshop to put the good moon on top of the good landscape.

Let me start by saying that this photo has a lot of things wrong with it, not the least of which is that there are branches across the moon that don’t line up with the trees I captured. So the first step if you’re trying this, is to make sure the moon is not obstructed in any way. If I were really good at Photoshop, I could possibly have corrected that problem, but alas, I’m not.

Anyway, this is the shot I was hoping to get, but not able to. Do you know any other non-Photoshop way of taking a photo like this?

When I woke up at 4:00 a.m., I saw a bright light in the sky flooding in from our bedroom window, which is on the opposite side of our house from where this photo was taken earlier in the evening. The moon had traveled around and was now visible in a different place in the sky. That set me to thinking about the moon going around the earth, and the earth going around on its axis, and then moving around the sun. And how fast all these things are really happening. And what might happen if the motion slowed down. Not something you want to be thinking about awake alone at 4:00 a.m.

Regardless of my lack of Photoshopping skills, and my mind’s tendency to wander, isn’t that a magnificent harvest moon?

Shine on.

A short ride on the Ohio River at dusk

Last night we went on a BB Riverboat cruise on the Ohio River with Scoot and Shoot from the West Chester Photo Club. The minute I stepped on the boat and looked around, I noticed the clouds—they were putting on a show.

It was just before dusk, and to our west, off the back of the boat, the Roebling Bridge and Paul Brown Stadium were becoming silhouettes against the evening sky.

We were on the Newport, Kentucky side of the river looking across at the Great American Ballpark and the Great American Building’s princess tiara in downtown Cincinnati.

Mark made himself comfortable on the third floor deck, while I shot around for a little while.

The sun started to set behind us, over the Roebling Bridge,

casting its rays up to Mount Adams that sparkled back in reply.

We passed stately church of the Immaculata, a beacon of light and hope from its high perch up on Mount Adams.

The sun behind us began to color the sky,

creating a soft pastel backdrop behind the Cincinnati skyline across the river from where we were

on the Belle of Cincinnati.

The nearly full moon rose to light the night sky.

Little lights along the hillside road reflected in streamers out across the water.

The curtain of clouds opened to reveal the hilltop buildings as we passed by.

Ahead turbulent clouds serpentined over our path,

yet behind us the sky remained soft and tranquil.

The lights from a little church begged for my star filter,

as I captured the light that shined in the darkness.

Sending you the wish that you may always find a light in the dark.

Blurring and freezing — Shutter speed and capturing motion – Photography 101

I wanted to practice using my camera’s shutter speed to capture motion, and I thought King’s Island Amusement Park was the perfect place to do it.

Panning – ISO 100 / f/8 / 1/30

I attempted to use a technique called panning on this photo. I used a slow shutter speed (1/30) and physically moved my camera with the object I was trying to capture. So as the merry-go-round went around, I turned my head and camera at approximately the same speed as the horse I was shooting. The background blurs, but the horse is in focus, sort of.

ISO 100 / f/9 / 1/13

This has an even slower shutter speed at 1/13. It just means the time that the aperture was open was longer, allowing more light in, but also capturing movement.

ISO 100 / f/22 / 1/8

In this case, I was trying to capture the motion by allowing it to blur at a slow shutter speed of 1/8.

ISO 100 / f/22 / 1/8

This one has even more blur, not because I changed the settings, but because the Scrambler was going around faster. You can see that the people in the background are pretty well in focus because they are mostly standing still.

ISO 800 / f/5.6 / 1/4000

These swings are actually moving around, but I froze the motion by using a very fast shutter speed at 1/4000. Because this speed didn’t allow very much time for light to enter the camera, I opened the aperture up to f/5.6, and changed the sensitivity of the receptor (ISO) to 800. The higher the ISO number, the less exposure to light the receptor needs. You might remember buying 100, 200 or 400 ISO film before digital cameras became so popular.

ISO 100 / f/16 /1/60

I wanted more motion or blur, so I changed the shutter speed to 1/60, which is a lot longer speed than the above photo was taken with. I had to change the ISO and f-stop accordingly, or the picture would have gotten too much light, turned out very dark, and been over exposed.

ISO 1600 / f/9 / 1/800

I froze the motion of this fast roller coaster called the Vortex, by using a fast shutter speed of 1/800.

ISO 100 / f/29 / 1/30

And I blurred the motion of the cars going around the loop by using a slow shutter speed of 1/30. Again, I had to reduce the sensitivity of the ISO, and close the aperture to a 1/29 so as not to get too much light into the camera.

ISO 1600 / f/14 / 1/800

I froze the motion here, but this photo also points out a problem I was having with the exposure. The camera has to be able to measure how much light is out there so it can know how to adjust the settings. If I change the shutter speed, the camera automatically adjusts the f-stop so that the picture has the right exposure. (I could adjust everything manually if I wanted to, but why?) The camera measures the amount of light by metering. I’m going to talk more about this later. The problem I was having was that the sky was so very bright, the people on the car did not come out clearly or with much detail.

You can really see the problem with this photo. The sky is so light, it caused the meter to read the scene as a very light location. You can see detail in the clouds, but the leaves and ride came out almost black. The camera didn’t have enough time to gather the information from these darker objects.

In this picture the people are a lot more detailed because the surrounding area is about the same brightness as they are. It has to do with the way the camera meters the light and I’m learning how to better control this. More later.

ISO 1600 / f/18 / 1/500

Another frozen shot with a fast shutter speed. I did a better job of metering the light on this one so that the people in the car are visible. Can you see how this roller coaster doesn’t have actual cars to contain the passengers? Each person has their own little seat with a small toadstool in front.

Not in a million years.

ISO 1600 / f/13 / 1/500

This is as close as I will likely ever get to this big boy.

I enjoy the roller coasters very much from my viewpoint on the ground.

You can read more posts about photography at my Photography 101 page under my Series tab.

The big birds were out today – Birds of prey at the VOA

We no sooner set foot on the path around the lake at the VOA when a big hawk swooped out of a tree, flew close to the ground, and then soared away.

I was juggling my camera trying to get a shot, but the settings were wrong from yesterday’s trip to an amusement park, and I wasn’t able to get anything worth showing.

Not to worry.

I quickly spotted another hawk in a tree,

who stood his ground at first,

but soon decided to put some distance between him and us.

I suspect he was intimidated by our killer dog Arthur.

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I believe this is a red-tailed hawk, primarily because it looks like the pictures on the Cornell Lab’s All About Birds Red-tailed hawk page. Also because the odds are in my favor because, according to  Cornell, the red-tailed hawk is probably the most common hawk in North America. Also the behavior was right as the red-tailed hawk soars above open fields, slowing turning in circles. They have broad, rounded wings.

But one of the women in the park thought it was a peregrine falcon and said that they are becoming common here now.

Which is one of the reasons why, although I still think the first bird is the hawk, I think this bird that flew across our path as we were leaving was a peregrine falcon. It’s color was darker than the hawk. It’s wings were not as rounded. And its tail was longer, and straighter.

This looks a lot like the silhouette of the peregrine falcon in my Peterson Field Guide, and the photos of the peregrine falcon from All About Birds.

We weren’t done yet.

As we were driving away, I spotted this bird in a tree outside the park.

I thought it was another red-tailed hawk. There were several hawks soaring in circles in the general vicinity of the park. But I suppose you could argue that it was the same one we saw earlier.

I was a little uncertain about the identification because when the bird ruffled his feathers, the tail looked more square and not as curved as the one we had seen before.

I wanted to show you this lightened version so you could see the dark band on the belly. I think this is a characteristic of the red-tailed hawk.

I hoped to capture this bird in flight, but he was fairly incorrigible and wouldn’t be scared away by my shouting, Mark moving the car closer, or beeping the horn. Mark eventually opened the car door and closed it and the hawk took off. Sadly, my photography skills fell short. Not much help here.

This bird-watching stuff is not as simple as it looks.