I was out doing barn chores this morning when my nose was suddenly assaulted by the strong pungent smell of fabric softener. That’s right, fabric softener. How on earth a fake floral scent can waft through the air and completely override the earthy smell of horse poop, hay and damp horseflesh is beyond me. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Like clockwork, every two or three mornings my neighbor does her laundry, and I guess her washing machine doesn’t work very well because she thinks she needs to coat her clothing and a half-mile radius of the neighborhood with a “flower on steroids” chemical stink.
I simply don’t understand this mindset, but it appears clever marketing has won the war to convince the general pubic that we wreak. We’ve been brainwashed to think our house stinks, our clean clothes stink and even our clean bodies stink. I mean, why else would we feel the need to spritz ourselves with perfume after slathering ourselves with heavily scented body wash, throw perfectly clean clothes into a dryer with sheets that are chemically loaded with phony perfumes and “clean” our houses with chemicals that tout hyper-powerful scents ?
I think this is going to become what the war on invasive smoke was to the last two decades. Sure, you have every right to smell like a floral polecat in the privacy of your own home, but when your fake chemical stink starts to seep into my open windows and linger over my back yard and barnyard then it’s not just YOUR problem anymore. These products are known to make people and animals sick. They’re made to adhere to our skin and clothing and penetrate the surface of inanimate objects, where they can linger for days. Don’t people see the connection between chronic illness and the crap we’re breathing and cleaning and bathing with day in and day out? Enough already! Please, folks. Spend a few pennies more and buy unscented, chemical-free dryer sheets or vent your dryers into your own damn basement … I’m sick and tired of the chemical assault every wash day.
I got out to shoot twice yesterday, a rarity for me. At 4:00 PM. I was vacuuming like a crazy lady, trying desperately to get a few last minute chores done before the evening routine of feeding animals and people got underway. But I kept glancing out the front window at the setting sun. I’ve chosen to miss shooting some nice sunsets only because our house sits in a valley where I don’t really get to see the sun set until it’s too late to do anything about it. I know, I know …. a good photographer would be in place well ahead of time, ready to capture that perfect shot. But I’m not that photographer. It’s pretty darn hard to feed a handful of hungry critters and get a meal started if I’m out shooting at that time of day. So instead of making a full commitment and getting out there where I need to be ahead of time, I play the Race Game.
The Race Game involves keeping one eye on the sky for an hour or so before I’d need to dash out if I want to try to catch a nice sunset. I have a small Rolodex of sites that will offer a pretty decent view and that I can reach from my house in about five to fifteen minutes. The trick is not cutting myself short on time, which I’m apt to do. It’s amazing how fast the sky can change. A sky that looks like it’s going to be great when viewed from my living room can easily tank by the time I arrive at my chosen spot. This photo was one of those times. The sky was probably stellar ten minutes before I arrived. I saw glimpses of it, but before I could get there the wind moved the clouds off the map. This cemetery is one of few places nearby that offers an unobstructed view of the horizon, but as I quickly discovered, it’s bitterly cold and windy. So I shot a dozen frames or so and headed back home. I’m not displeased with the results, but I’m not thrilled either. I guess this will have to be filed under the category of Ones That Got Away.
No, that’s not a bird or a plane.
It’s a bat!
First of all, I didn’t adjust the color in any of these photos! They were taken on an unseasonably warm, beautiful day that evolved into a stunning, glowing sky as the sun began to sink over the treeline. I was out playing a little end of the day Frisbee with the dogs when I noticed what I thought was a barn swallow darting about in the evening sky. It stood out against the warm tones of the clouds as it swooped lower and closer, almost dive-bombing straight for us! Seconds later another “bird” appeared and I suddenly realized they were not birds at all, but bats darting to and fro! They flew fast and furious, honing in on insects too small for the naked eye to see. Several times they dove low to the ground, nearly colliding with me! Normally I’m not afraid of bats, but it was a bit unnerving to see how close they’d come to hitting me before pulling up or swerving to one side at the last second. I didn’t think I’d be able to catch their antics with my camera, but I decided to give it a try. If nothing else the sunset was stunning and the bats literally glowed from the reflection of the pink-orange sky. I watched the bats feed until the fiery sun sank below the horizon and I lost them against the darkening backdrop of the woods.
I don’t know what kind of bats these were, but I’m hoping they were Brown Bats. The Brown Bat population has been ravaged by white nose disease and nearly decimated in our area. I’ve seen several bats around the farm this summer, but none quite this bold or engaging. I hope they’ll be back again come spring!
This might be the theme of the tune I’ll be singing over the next few days. Or so they tell us. We’re in the path of Irene and supposed to take a direct hit. But I think she’s going to lose some of her punch by the time she reaches us. I hope. That said, I’ve spent the last 24-hours working my tail off to make sure we have as much stuff stored or anchored down as possible. That’s no an easy task on a farm. And you can bet I’ll worry about the horses no matter how many precautions we take.
I was hoping to get back and take more pictures of the tobacco drying in the barns, but I’m not even sure if they’ll take a chance and leave this year’s crop hanging up to dry. I know they’ve been working overtime to get as much tobacco harvested as possible before we get the monsoon rains that will accompany Irene. So this might be all the luck I’ll have with this subject. Oh well. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year?
So I can’t believe I passed on going to shoot my favorite horse pulls of the summer. Yup, the Hamburg Fair pulls have come and gone and I didn’t go. Too hot, too muggy and too many chores got in the way. Hopefully, I’ll get there next year.
To make up for the loss I planned on getting out at dusk to do a bit more test shooting. My gear was ready, the car was gassed, I made dinner early …. all I had to do was hop in my vehicle and cruise down toward the river. I didn’t think it was going to be a spectacular sunset, but right up until I was five minutes from my destination the sky had a nice golden glow to it. Then some nasty clouds rolled in and the light went totally kaput.
I drove around for awhile and looked at all the stuff I wanted to shoot, but I knew it was futile to even try. But I also knew that if I stuck around a bit longer the clouds might disperse or the sun might drop below them, giving me a few minutes of good light. My patience and persistence finally paid off and I captured a few nice frames before the sun dropped over the horizon.
I’ve taken several pictures of this tree, but this was one of the nicer shots that I got after we had about three and a half feet of snow on the ground. Getting to the spot where I took this picture was a workout in itself: a steep uphill climb through butt-deep snow drifts while carrying a camera and tripod was a little nutty, not to mention the fact that (as usual) I was trying to beat the sunset. Oh, and it was single-digit, bone-chilling cold.
I used PS5 HDR toning to process this because it helps make the margins of the clouds pop a bit more. So far I’ve played with the HDR toning settings a lot more than the basic HDR program. That’s because I don’t take a lot of bracketed photos, which you need for the HDR program. HDR toning uses just one photo and the results are a bit less extreme, but that suits me just fine for right now. Perhaps if it wasn’t so darn cold I might have been more inclined to tinker with my camera settings and take some bracketed photos, but I could hardly manage to take the few pictures that I got.
Color-wise, I left things exactly as I saw them. I don’t like to punch color or vibrancy up unless I really have to, and in this case there was enough contrast in the sky to keep things interesting without playing Mother Nature. The wind was howling, making the sky change from moment to moment and it was one of those times when I found myself questioning my sanity and wondering why I was out there … until I saw the results. Sadly, there isn’t much interesting to shoot up on that ridge. The lone pine tree is nice, but unless there’s something brewing in the sky, it’s rather ho-hum.
Below: The trail back down.
Jan 30, 2011 5:47 PM EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 100, 19mm, 1/4 sec, f/25
Lens: Tamron SP 10-24mm 1:3.5-4.5
PS5: HDR toning
Lightroom3: brightness/contrast adj.
5:49 PM. EST.
ISO: 100, 11mm, 1/4 sec, f/16
Jan 27, 2011. 5:07 PM. EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 125, 85mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.0
Lens: Canon EF 85mm, f/1.8 USM
Lightroom3: Minor brightness/contrast adj.
This is another one of my favorite photos from last fall. I would love to get a chance to shoot this scene over again under the exact same conditions. When I took this picture I was rushing and trying to work with some pretty challenging elements. First of all, the lighting was tricky and it was changing fast, but I was also trying to capture some of the stunning foliage as well as get the boat and dock into this particular photo. Unfortunately, this would have been the perfect setting if it hadn’t been for the power lines and poles that littered the background. I didn’t have a good view of the scene until I was right on top of it and I was so dismayed when I saw the power lines. I knew they were going to show up in just about every picture I took. (Here, you only see a few poles, but they ran all along the far left side of the pond, then up, over and across the opposite rise. I used the tree to block as many of the poles and lines as I could in this photo.) And on top of everything else, at the time I thought I might have been trespassing on private land. I hadn’t seen any signs posted, but I was worried that someone from a house on the edge of the property might come out and holler at me. I’d parked on the side of the road and cut through a stand of trees to get to the field in front of the pond. I don’t know. call me paranoid, but it just felt like maybe I was on private property. So I rushed. I know I didn’t take the time I should have taken to get really GREAT shots. But I had the right idea and frankly, if going back through my catalog has shown anything it’s that sometimes the more time I have to take a photo and the harder I try, the less impressive my results are. I think I’m one of those people who does my best work when I just shoot what I think looks good and not always worry so much about getting everything “right.” OK, so perfectly focused pictures would be a good thing, but you get my drift … 😉
Oct 13, 2010. 6:00 PM. EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 400, 17mm, 1/25 sec, f/25.
Lens: Tamron 17-24mm
Lightroom3: Minor Brightness/contrast adj.
Our flag needs to be retired. I can’t remember how old it is, but I think it’s under five years. It’s posted in a spot that get’s almost full sun and as a result it’s become very threadbare. Ideally, I’d really like to get a large flag pole to post our flag from rather than the staff we have mounted on the edge of the garage. Aside from the fact that I can see our flag from the road and our kitchen, it tends to get hung up on things and twisted very easily. I can think of several better places to fly a flag.
My paternal grandparents lived on the shore of Lake Ontario. Their house sat way up high above the lake and was set about a football field back from the rocky ledge above the water. Their lawn was a work of art; lush, vivid green, always trimmed just so. It looked like something you’d see in a magazine. You would look out their back porch window and see this huge expanse of perfect turf that just begged to be used for cartwheels, somersaults and all sorts of silly acrobatics. The lawn was punctuated at the far back edge by a tall, white flag pole and a sidewalk that ran along the edge of several back yards.
Wait. I might be getting that all wrong. The lawn and sidewalk were there, but the flag pole might have been in someone else’s yard. Crap. It was SO long ago. It’s been almost forty-five years since I’ve been there in person.
I do remember my sister and I would go out to play in the back yard thinking that the lawn was so lush and green that it would provide a softer landing for our gymnastics. (It didn’t.) We’d drag our father out to the edge of the lawn where the sidewalk began and make him be our official relay race starter. He’d tease us, counting, “One. Two. Three ….. FIVE!” and we’d run ten paces before squealing a protest over the false start. Finally we’d be off and flying down the sidewalk, arms pumping, hair streaming out behind us. Wait. I had a pixie haircut. My sister’s blonde locks would be streaming out behind her. Sort of. And she didn’t pump her arms. In fact, my sister would be doing really well if she didn’t trip and fall after five steps or somewhere along the line. She wasn’t known for her coordination. But at some point we’d tag the flag pole. I remember that played a pivotal point. Sadly, I don’t recall if the pole was what we ran to before turning to streak for the finish line, or if the flag pole WAS the finish. Either way, I know there was a flag pole in the story somewhere …
Believe it or not, I was a Girl Scout. Yup, I was. And as young girls back then were known to do, I took that responsibility pretty darn seriously. I went to Girl Scout camp two summers in a row then, believe it or not, the day after my high school graduation I mysteriously found myself seated on a bus, headed to a remote corner of Letchworth State Park. Disliking my current boyfriend, my mother had pulled strings and without my prior knowledge or consent, signed me up to be a Girl Scout counselor at Camp Pinewood. How’s that for a high school graduation present, hm? That was pretty brazen of Mom, given that I didn’t even like children!
Needless to say I’ve either watched or been part of several flag ceremonies, but I’m going to have to have my own come spring.
Oct 9, 2010. 5:39 PM, EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 200, 135mm, 1/60 sec, f/5.6
Lens: Canon EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Lightroom3: Minor brightness/contrast adj.
He looks kind of stately (or stupid) sitting up there on top of 3.5 feet of frozen snow and ice. It was weird to see the dogs standing next to the top of my forsythia bushes. Normally, I need to use a ladder to trim the tops of them. Maybe I should do that now, while the gettin’ is good?
Feb 4, 2011. 4:32 PM EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO:100, 26mm, 1/60 sec, f/5.0
Lens: Canon EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Lightroom 3: Minor brightness/contrast adjustment. (Sorry, but nothing can fix a poorly focused picture … which this is. *shrug* Oh well. I like it anyway. Maybe next time I’ll actually try checking my settings before I fire off a dozen or so pictures. Duh!)