DAMS AND ICE AS JANUARY SQUARES ENDS – Marilyn Armstong

DAMS AND ICE – JANUARY AT ITS END


It has been a warm January, the warmest since 1932 and the third warmest since the beginning of the 20th century. Today was the first day that was colder than average in a couple of weeks. Tomorrow? Who knows?

We had a dental appointment and that office is right next to the Mumford River dam, so on the way out of the office, I stopped for a few pictures. There was ice in the small canal, but the big waterfall was as full as I’ve ever seen it for this time of year.

This is a thinly iced small canal that ran from the Mumford  River to Bernat Mills across the road. The mill burned down 9 years ago, but the remnants — chimney and front section — have been saved for the memories.

Chilly Mumford Dam with the sign for our Christmas events still waiting to be removed.

And so on a cold but not bitter day at the very end of January, here is the river and it runs to the Blackstone and then down to Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

OUT THE WINDOW TO THE LIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

INTO THE LIGHT THOUGH THE DAY WAS GRAY


I don’t have any space pictures. I wish I did. But I do have some pictures from today and this gray day as my orchid is getting ready to bloom.

Fat buds on my purple orchids. If the sun comes out (they promised tomorrow), they may bloom

I need to admit that I’d have more pictures if I hadn’t accidentally pressed a button somewhere on my newish camera. Now, I haven’t used this camera very much, probably because I haven’t been outside much. It hasn’t been very photogenic outside. We had one small snow at the beginning of December and nothing but a dusting since then. So mostly, I’ve been taking bird pictures and for that, I used my Olympus with a long lens.

Today, though, I wanted to take pictures of the fat buds on my orchid. I decided to use this camera and I took it into the dining room. Which is when I realized the Christmas cactus was back in bloom. The flowers were hidden under the leaves of the aloe vera and since I also have a red table covering, I hadn’t realized that some of that red was flowers.

I took out my camera to take pictures, but it wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t take a simple shot. Like most new cameras, the Panasonic DC ZS-80, it has a menu system with more choices for options I will never use — and couldn’t because I’m not even sure what they do.

I eventually found what I was looking for: the button that deletes all the settings that may have been set, including those you may have set by accident. It turns out that one of the things I had done was to set it on permanent movie mode and merely pressing the movie button didn’t unset it. And there were a few more settings that needed changing involving histograms and levels and red-eye settings. I never set them because I never used the menu. I just set it to Program or iAuto and took a few pictures. I don’t think I’ve taken as many as two dozen pictures with it.

Which is probably why I decided to use it today. Guilt.

I have this problem with almost all my cameras. Each one has its own super complicated menu that includes settings no one uses. After making the menu impossible to understand, they then charge additional money for the “upgrade.”

One more Goldfinch

Complexity is not an upgrade unless it gives you something you want and can use. I think these super complicated menus have led many of us to despair. It’s why many of us gave up all but basic settings. We use iAuto and make other changes with software.

All of this reminded me why Garry so loved my Leica. It is the only camera we own that has a menu written in simple English. And, if you set it in Auto it tells you “Just point the camera. I’ll take care of the rest.” No kidding. It reassures you!

What’s the point of a camera with a menu so absurdly complicated? Why do they add so many settings you have to hold the manual (assuming you have a manual) in one hand and the camera in the other while wearing your reading glasses?

I also forgot that this camera is slower than the one I normally use and by the time I got through figuring out how to reset the camera to default, it wasn’t afternoon. It was getting dark.

GREAT LIGHT FOR AN ALL BLACK DOG – Marilyn Armstrong

Great light for an all-black dog 


With two black Scotties in the house, getting a good picture of them is really difficult. If there’s too much sun, the sunlit parts look like white patches. If there isn’t enough light, all you see is a fuzzy lump. We recently got Gibbs groomed and he looks very dapper. They trimmed him tightly — not like a show dog but like a dog you are trying to keep clean during a long, muddy winter.

Good light for solid black fur is bright, but not sunny. A day with a flat gray sky with the pictures taken just before the sun came around to the western side of the house. I think this is as good as it gets from the point of view of light for this picture.

Gibbs really looks like the Wolfman. Poor Larry Talbot!

Gibbs has the most soulful eyes.

With the snow and rain coming in waves and the temperature going from bitterly cold to almost spring in as little as three hours — it jumped 40 degrees today between 8 in the morning and noon — gooey mud is a big issue. So are ticks and fleas because we haven’t had weather consistently cold enough to put them into cold storage.

I figured I’d better take pictures while he still looked good. In another week, he’ll look all grubby again.

ANGRY BIRDS, WINTRY LIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

Angry birds, wintry light

Hairy Woodpeckers are the larger of two similar-looking woodpeckers. They aren’t actually related, but somehow, the Downy has copied the feathering and coloration of the Hairy Woodpecker, probably because the Hairy has a notoriously bad temper. The Downy has an equally bad temper, but he’s much smaller. By copying the bigger bird, on a quick look, they look the same.

It’s hard to see the difference unless they are near enough to one another to see the size difference which, despite them often sharing the same piece of forest, they rarely do.

Angry bird 1

Angry bird 2

Angry bird 3

Angry bird 4

Angry bird 5

Angry bird 6

Today I got lucky and for a few seconds (I didn’t get a picture, but I almost got a picture)  they shared the opposite sides of the big feeder. Suddenly, it was easy to tell the difference. The Hairy is obviously bigger. Bigger body, longer beak. They only shared space for a few seconds, then the Downy decided it was time to move on. The Hairy hung around long enough for me to get some pictures and for once, I was sure I knew which bird I was photographing.

Is it me or does this look like one of the original angry birds? Hairy Woodpeckers have a notoriously bad temper. They are permanently in a bad mood. I think it’s because they spend their entire lives banging their head against hardwood trees.

WINTERLIGHT IS WHITE, BUT BIRDS ARE NOT – Marilyn Armstrong

White winter light and birds of color

These were taken yesterday when it was even colder than today. Considering that early this morning it was several degrees below zero, “even colder” means something.

How do the poor little birds keep their tiny feet from freezing? You’d think they would grow feather stockings or little feathery boots on their tiny feet. I want to take them all in and warm them up!

Flapping wings and changing feathers. One of these Goldfinches looks like he has a black eye, but it’s just a black feather that’s a little out of place.

A Black-eyed Goldfinch and the feathery other …

I look at their tiny little feet and I feel immediately cold. How do they keep from freezing in this deep winter weather?

Junco and stone toad

Two Goldfinches on the finch feeder

Are these little birds ever warm during the winter months? And finally, one special photograph …

Chipper Sparrow in a graphic style

ONE MORE SUNSET #16 – Marilyn Armstrong

ONE MORE SUNSET

Yes, I know my numbers are out of order. That’s the price we pay for trying to work with material coming from the other side of the world. Posts show up late, sometimes a couple of days late and since I can’t control when they wind up in my “inbox,” I just do the best I can. Hope no one minds!

The west-facing road that passes our house and travels from route 146A all the way to Johnston, Rhode Island, a big area for antiques. I don’t go there because I’ll buy something. I don’t go to antique stores, book stores, or art galleries. These are places I find irresistible. Not only do I not have extra money to spend, but I need more antiques like I need a hole in my head.

Along this little road are at least three small towns, all located on a waterway. There is a lot of water around here and it all flows south towards the Atlantic Ocean and exits via Narragansett Bay. Which is, of course,  the outlet of the Blackstone River and almost every other river and stream in the Blackstone Valley.

On the road to Rhode Island

In case you didn’t know, the Blackstone Valley runs through two states. It begins at the head of the Worcester Hills in Massachusetts and continues through Rhode Island until it runs into the ocean. Along its route are more rivers most of which are tributaries of the Blackstone. Also interesting are the ponds, lakes, streams, and rivulets, often unnamed. Just more water.

Route 98 runs through inhabited areas. Lots of small farms and tiny groups of homes too small for maps to name them as a village, though most places have a name. A few have no names. They are simply a crossroads with a shop and a couple of houses. But of course, we have towns that look like that too.

BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON #17 – Marilyn Armstrong

By the light of the moon

The sky is grey with snow expected, but it might be rain. it’s supposed to get cold. January is normally our coldest month, except it has been springtime warm. I don’t have any flowers blooming, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people with better gardens are seeing very early buds. I also think the birds are breeding. Many of the ladies have a big belly in which I think there are eggs. I worry about a sudden cold snap, but I can’t do anything about the weather except to keep the feeders full.

Whatever has been predicted, you don’t know what will happen until you get up in the morning and look out the window. As far as light goes, I have long thought that ALL photography is about light. Just saying.

Given all of that, time to hit the archives!

Full Harvest Moon – Sept. 2016

Super Moon Dec. 2016

Sept. 2016 – Full Harvest Moon

It’s pretty hard to get a good shot of the sky from our property. The Super Moon was taken in a parking lot after a movie, but the others are from our deck.

 

MORE RED FINCH AND FRIENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Since I couldn’t square up most of these pictures, I thought I’d just post them because I like them. Red birds always get a lot more attention than other birds. They are so striking. We had a Cardinal visit the other day. It must be the same Cardinal because they are so territorial, we can’t have two living in the same area. He was a much duller red a couple of weeks ago. Now, he is brilliantly red. I wish he had held still and let me take his picture, but he was in a shy mood and flew off.

The red finches are surprisingly friendly. You can see where you might think of them as potential pets. They are all kinds of adorable.

Three feathered friends on a feeder

Fine day on a feeder

When the food is good, the birds like to hang around

Three birds and it is lunchtime

Today, all three feeders were occupied by Goldfinches. They simply took possession of and held onto it. They come in flocks and I swear they sleep on the feeders to keep other birds away.

 

ALL ABOUT A DOWNY WOODPECKER AND HER NUTHATCH LUNCHMATE – Marilyn Armstrong

I had a really big set of photos from last week. I’d processed maybe 10 of them, then I took some more and worked on them. But I knew there were a bunch of pictures in there with which I’d not done anything. I’d shot these pictures quickly and taken a long sequence of a lovely lady Downy Woodpecker sharing the feeder alone or with a Nuthatch.

Last night, I put a bunch of them together. This is a lady Downy because she doesn’t have a red patch on her head.

Downy and Nuthatch

Just hanging out

Seedeaters!

Very plump or full of eggs?

It’s good to keep them al so well-fed.

BIRDS DU JOUR AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

I have good days and bad ones for bird photography. Some days, the birds decide I’m okay, so I get pictures. Other days, they decide my camera is a gun and I’m going to shoot them. The last couple of days have been pretty good. Also, I improved the food. The same food I used to feed them. There is no high-quality cheap birdseed. Sometimes you get lucky (there’s a sale somewhere), but usually, it costs a lot more than seems reasonable.

Nuthatch and Frog

This picture of the Nuthatch and the Frog was a bit dark, but not out of focus. I thought it would look good in monochrome. Then I added a bit of graphic treatment to brighten it up. I really like the way it came out!

Vertical Goldfinch

Goldfinch in the air and another on the feeder

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker sharing a bit of lunch

Freefall for a Goldfinch. These little birds like to play and do some exciting, fun flying

Fluttering Goldfinches and a Rose-breasted Titmouse

Of all of the birds, the most fun to watch are the little birds: the Chickadees and various finches. They don’t take off from the feeder. They fall off, only opening their wings just before they hit the ground. They also fall out of the trees and are inches from crashing when they finally open their wings. Owen says they used to roll off his barn roof and fall until right before they hit the ground.

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker

It can’t be accidental, either. They obviously have fun flying, so when they aren’t raiding a feeder, they like freefalling from trees and railings. Do they have to dare each other? Are there prizes for those who get closest to the ground?

Photobombing woodpecker?

The previous picture was funny. There were two Goldfinches on the finch feeder, but this nosy Downy Woodpecker wanted to see if maybe there was something delicious for her to eat. Mind you the holes in this feeder are too small for a bird of her size. I’m pretty sure it’s a girl because she has no red patch on her head and she also looks like she’s carrying around a few eggs.

Portrait of a hungry Goldfinch

SUNNY MIDDAY, A RED FINCH AND FRIENDS #13 – Marilyn Armstrong

RED FINCH AND FRIENDS

The finches have been conspicuous in their absence. I suspected it was because they didn’t like the food — or couldn’t eat it — so I changed food. And suddenly, we’ve had lots of Goldfinch and today, for the first time (well, second really), a red one came and hung around long enough for me to get some pictures.

I could not make all the pictures square. Many of them were too wide and short. But there were a couple that I could nicely square up.

Red Finch, Tufted Titmouse and Rose-breasted Nuthatch sharing a feeder

I admit it. I can’t tell the difference between a Purple Finch (who is red) and a House Finch (also red). They are the same size and basically the same color and on top of that, they hang out together.

Red Finch and a Rose-breasted Nuthatch

There is a difference in the beaks and the Purple Finch is supposed to be more raspberry than true red, but they look pretty much identical. Even comparing pictures I’ve taken of both, I still can’t see a real difference.

Red Finch all by himself

SQUARING THE LAMPLIGHT – FILM NOIR IN BOSTON #11 – Marilyn Armstrong

Squaring the Lamplight

Since Becky already named this, I thought it was a good time to use a photo I have always loved, but definitely needed a redo. This was taken under the streetlights on the sidewalk next to Boston Symphony Hall. It was December and we were there for the Christmas Concert.

The shadows and grain of the photograph made me immediately think of film noir and its dark shadowed moods. If you use your imagination, you can imagine stories about this one.

In the shadows under the streetlight in the heart of Boston