Well… I guess five months is long enough for my unplanned, unannounced, more-or-less unintentional blogging break of indeterminate length, so I thought I would jump back in with evidence of early spring making its way into my gardens. It seems like it’s been a long winter – more for others than those of us living in the south – but even us “southerners” have pretty much had our fill. Many of us – me included – are surely tired of hearing our furnaces come on and stay on, while we imagine the folks at several local gas distributers and remarketers clapping their hands and counting their 2010 bonus cash.
Yeah, I know it’s probably not like that … or is it?
Anyway, I sat on the cold ground yesterday afternoon and snapped a few close-up photos … all of the following are early hydrangea buds that have just started making their appearance over the past few days. I’m sure there will be many, many more buds and photos to come … as soon as spring takes hold and stays awhile.
From upstate New York, in the Lake Champlain and Plattsburgh area:
Red, White, and Blue
Happy Fourth of July!
Earlier this week, I was working on some of my typical spring photographs – buds and blooms from throughout my garden – when I took a short break, went outside, and immediately felt like I was being watched. Well, I was being watched, by the nemesis whose reappearance every spring has me overplanting my pond, surrounding it with pots and wire trellises, and taking frequent headcounts of my poor carp that just want to be left to swim and eat in peace. It’s a blue heron, either the same one or certainly a relative of those that have been visiting my neighborhood – so I’ve been told – for at least a decade. “Blue heron” is surely a fine name for a big bird, but I prefer “Pond Monster” – a better reflection of our relationship.
It flew off my roof before I could get my camera out; in these shots, it’s perched on the front peak of my neighbors house.
Click the picture for a wider version; something about those eyes…. you know you’re being evaluated as potential snack when those things turn toward you.
This isn’t a great shot, but it’s the only one I’ve ever gotten of the bird in flight. That wingspan has to be six to eight feet, maybe more. Can you say pterodactyl? Those dangling “fingers” are a nice touch, eh?
I have posted a set of photos of some of my Christmas decorations on my Flickr account.
View the Christmas 2008 set, or
Click here to view the Flickr slideshow of my Christmas photos, or
Look at them here:
Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
(Cross-posted to afewgoodlenses.com.)
I have posted a set of photos from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, orchids only, to my Flickr account, and updated the sidebar links to display the new slideshow.
You can also:
View the complete Atlanta Botanical Collection, or
Click here to view the Flickr slideshow of the orchid photos,
or just look at them here:
Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
(Cross-posted to afewgoodlenses.com.)
Have you ever spent two hours on a Saturday afternoon chasing a snail around your back yard?
I thought not….
Well … I have. A few weekends ago I splurged on a new lens for my Sony A100 camera …
… and as I was crawling around my back yard trying to figure out how to use it properly, I spotted this tiny creature resting on a dried up leaf….
It started to move …
… and you’d be surprised how fast a snail seems to travel at this magnification.
The focus on these shots is not great, and I’ve learned a lot more about using the lens since that first day, but I got a big kick out of how close I could get to something that was smaller than a small shirt button and still capture very good detail.
The poor thing must have been camera shy, something I can certainly relate to, so I was careful not to use any flash but it tried to race off the leaf anyway …
… yet the only way out of sight was through a whole in the leaf …
… where it got stuck …
… so I set the camera aside, split the leaf to release it’s head, and off it went, disappearing into the forest…. I mean, uh, pine bark.
The lens is fantastic, definitely the best purchase I’ve made for the camera. I’ve gotten a lot better at predicting how it will react to light and focus at these close distances, so you can expect a huge quantity of photos of very small things — especially buds and bugs — to start appearing here and on my Flickr account pretty soon. I’ve also got a massive set of closeup shots from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, taken over several weekends, that impress even me — and that’s pretty hard to do….
From our friends over at YouTube, here’s Paul McCartney and Wings singing that classic, "Snail on the Run." (It may sound like they’re saying "Band" — but they’re not.) Is the song stuck in your head yet?
For the past several weekends, I’ve spent my Saturday or Sunday afternoons at Zoo Atlanta, which is located a few blocks from my home in Grant Park. As usual, I took a large number of photographs, ending out with nearly a thousand that I culled to a few hundred then uploaded some of my favorites to this collection on Flickr.
I learned a little about the history of the zoo while working on my Oakland Cemetery research, and discovered that Zoo Atlanta was one of many American zoos founded during the American Victorian era. Following the Europeans — for whom, as A. N. Wilson describes in The Victorians, zoos were a cultural and scientific fascination — Americans also located their zoos in or near Victorian garden parks that became so prevalent in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s.
According to Franklin M. Garrett’s Atlanta And Environs: A Chronicle of it’s People and Events, Zoo Atlanta came to be after an Atlanta lumberman, George Gress, purchased some animals at auction from a defunct circus in 1889. Gress offered the animals to the city of Atlanta, a "costly collection of wild animals" consisting of "one hyena, two African lionesses, two silver lions, one black bear, two wildcats, one jaguar, one gazelle, one coon, one elk, one Mexican hog, two deer, one camel, one dromedary, two monkeys, [and] two serpents."
Garrett describes the early decades of the zoo as "not particularly distinguished" until 1935 — when Asa G. Candler, Jr. "made a tender to the city of his valuable private collection … of wild animals and birds which he housed in specially built cages and quarters on his Briarcliff Road estate." Zoo Atlanta’s history page describes this incident also, and both Garrett and the Zoo explain how the Candler’s donation resolved the imaginable (or unimaginable!) problem of neighborhood complaints about the noise and smells from the philanthropist’s collection, as well as the dilemma of the occasional escaping baboon. The transfer of nearly 100 birds and 84 other animals from Candler’s estate to Grant Park nearly doubled the size of the zoo, ushering in one of it’s periods of great popularity as a city attraction.
This early history — especially the connection between the birth of Zoo Atlanta and the American Victorian period — is certainly one of the reasons why I think it would have been an tragedy if the zoo had been relocated out of Grant Park, something that was being considered in 2007. A great part of the significance of Zoo Atlanta is its history, and what we would certainly consider today as an unusual physical space: the presence of a sizeable zoo in the middle of a city, surrounded by a massive park, next to the Atlanta Cyclorama, and nestled among the Victorian homes of the Grant Park neighborhood. While I’m sure the relocated zoo would have ultimately been spectacular, it could never have been like Zoo Atlanta, and the connection between the place and its history would have been forever lost. We should not be so willing to dissolve the bonds between the physical spaces we treasure, and the community and its history.
Now, to a few of the pictures….
The adult gorillas always strike me as so serious and intelligent looking. I swear, if the look in my eyes is ever as thoughtful as this gorilla, I’d be impressed with myself. This is my favorite shot of the gorilla; click the picture (and any of the pictures below) for a larger view.
The orangutans, on the other hand, alternate constantly among so many different expressions. I’m convinced that this one must have just pulled a prank on one of the others, and as you watch them play and interact with each other, you can’t help but notice the obvious relationships among them, and those relationships are seldom subtle and almost never deferential. The rest of the gorilla and orangutan pictures that I took on my three outings are here.
This was the first time in my recent frequent trips to the zoo that I’d seen the giraffes. I loved taking their pictures. I felt fortunate to get this shot, with this sort of composition, that I like to call "three-headed giraffe." It’s three separate giraffes (of course!) but the flattening effect of the photo does make you look twice, doesn’t it? The other giraffe pictures are here.
It was a lazy day for the lemurs; it’s actually a little tough to get a shot like this, since they’re usually either tucked away in some corner of their space, or racing up and down the tree trunks and branches, or out of site in the lower sections of the exhibit.
I watched this pair of sleeping lemurs for a long time … half an hour or more maybe … and snapped several shots like this. What a great way to take a nap!
Meerkats are relatively new to the zoo, and they’re very photogenic. Well, that’s probably not that important — to the meerkats anyway — but they are fascinating to watch; and like the otters and lemurs, they’re constantly busy (at least when they’re not sleeping) and as you watch for a while, you can’t help but begin to notice how they relate to and interact with each other. The rest of the lemur and meerkat pictures — and the otter pictures — are here.
I don’t know what kind of birds these are (I call them toucans, yet I doubt that’s what they are), but the iridescent dark blue is amazing. My pictures from the outdoor aviary, along with some pictures of flamingos, are here.
Does this remind you of anyone? I hope not!
A better view, here:
The rest of the elephant pictures, with a few of some color-coordinated rhinos, are here.
No zoo would be complete without a goodly bunch of animals that make lots of people squirm, and Zoo Atlanta’s reptile house is no exception. This is one of my favorite shots, in terms of color, intensity, and overall squirminess. The rest of the reptile shots are here.
My recent extended visits have given me a new appreciation of the zoo, and have increased my curiosity about the history of zoos and their cultural significance. Here are links to two books on zoos and their history, and one on our relationship with animals and nature, about to become part of my library:
Zoo: A History of Zoological Gardens in the West by Eric Baratay and Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier
Animal Attractions: Nature on Display in American Zoos by Elizabeth Hanson
Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, edited by William Cronon
More on the books when I read them. Thanks for stopping by; I hope you enjoyed this article and my photos from the Zoo!
Here’s a little (!!) something you don’t expect to see perched on your roof when you get home from work:
Why is there never a cat around when you need one?
A collection of photos of Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery that I’ve taken over the past few weeks is here:
Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery
I’ve organized the photos into loosely-related sets by some unidentifiable criteria for now. Eventually I’ll expand the sets and separate the photos by cemetery section; but I have to take quite a few more first. My earlier article is here, and many thanks to those who stopped by to read it and to those who’ve left comments.
I also updated the sidebar with links to slideshows, by set.
The cemetery was on someone else’s mind this week also. Take a look at this fine article — Living Among the Dead — at Georgia On My Mind.
Bye for now!
As I mentioned last week, I’m going to be studying Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery for my Exploring Place: History class. I had planned to do something similar for a couple of my past classes, but ended out choosing other topics that at the time were more in tune with the course material. Now, however, with the class focused on the significance of a historical or community place, research on Oakland was an excellent fit. I’ll be doing a three-part paper, with one part focusing on the cemetery’s history, one part discussing the cemetery’s art, symbolism, and architecture, and one part assessing the meaning of the its role as a significant place in the community.
Until two weekends ago — despite living less than a mile away from the cemetery for just about three years — I had not been on the property, and had only once or twice peeked over the brick walls that surround the entire 88 acres.
The walls themselves are about five feet high, higher in some places or at least so constructed to contour with hills on the property that they seem higher. As soon as you pass through the gate, you can’t help but get the feeling — as the streets, cars, and pedestrians all disappear from view — that you’ve left your whole world outside. And despite the freight trains just beyond the walls, and the occasional Marta train passing through the air nearby, silence follows you in.
As you walk forward, you pass a guardhouse (I should get a picture of that), and you’re usually greeted if not by a person then at least by the muffled sounds of a radio transmission: a baseball game or a bit of music. You imagine, even though you don’t see it, that it’s an old radio, one of the first ones ever made, and you somehow know exactly what it looks like. By the time you walk a few more feet to the Welcome to Oakland sign, you’re very nearly disoriented: there’s something slightly disconcerting about passing dozens of headstones and a few mausoleums then coming in contact with a welcome sign. Yet that’s one of the most fascinating things about being there: the slightly edgy sense that you’re disconnected from the place as you visit it, and the sense that memory, history, architecture, art, beauty, sadness, and grief are all juxtaposed there — and that once you see it, you can’t possibly forget what you’ve seen.
I really had no idea what to expect, and that’s what has hit me from attending just one guided tour and from my three solitary visits to take pictures: I had no idea what to expect. I’m not sure I know what else to expect, either; which, in case you haven’t figured it out, is my reason for writing this piece.
On my very first visit there, I paid for my spot on the tour, then sat outside the visitor center, since I was a few minutes early. I turned my head to the left….
… and I suspect that for the rest of my life, this image will coincide with the word "gray" whenever I see it, say it, hear it, or write it. Who is this "Gray" who’s buried beneath this stone’s frozen grief? I have no idea; but believe me, by the time I’m done, I’ll know.
The tour guide took us through nearly the entire property; I had thought it might take an hour or so, but took well over two. By the time we were finished, I had a pretty good sense of the layout of the grounds and about the key historical figures who are buried or entombed there, and left with at least a smattering of knowledge about how the the cemetery fit into Atlanta’s history. The rest of my research will take place around a half-dozen more tours, each of which focuses on one aspect of the cemetery and its history, or on its architecture and symbolism.
It’s hard to imagine what I’ll think of this place by the time I’m done. There’s so much more than any one thing to think about that it’s almost overwhelming, and I feel like I’ll become (if I’ve not already become) immersed in it and obsessed with it. It has objective significance as a place of history; it has subjective significance as a place of emotion and memory. It’s crowded and hard to navigate in some areas; in others — like where 17,000 unidentified people are buried in an area called Potter’s field — the space is so wide and open it leaves you breathless. The sights and scenes are sometimes difficult to photograph, yet at the same time thrilling to photograph — as you watch how the magnolias and oaks, green lawns, stone, and light all interact, changing by the second, becoming especially beautiful as the sun sets and evening folds in. It’s life and death, moving and still.
There’s so much to see, so much to contemplate and wonder about. I still have tons yet to learn, and of course in addition to the tours I have a foot-high stack of books and articles to wade through. So for now, I can only write from what I feel about it, from my reaction to what I’ve seen so far, and from the images I’ve accumulated with my camera and inside my head.
As you might expect from a cemetery in the South, there are monuments to the Civil War, Confederate soldiers, and the Confederacy, such as this one:
And there’s this one, the "Lion of Atlanta" that memorializes the thousands of unknown southern soldiers — and parts of soldiers – buried in one section of the cemetery:
But there are also angels:
and sights very beautiful:
and sights that are almost too difficult to contemplate or see…
… all reminding you that — after all — it’s a cemetery … where the living and the dead, where the present and the past, where our love of life and our acceptance of how short it is … all, somehow, converge.
I’ve wanted to get some pictures from my August trip to visit my family out on Flickr for a while now, and finally got it done. I took about 500 altogether (digital cameras do make you take a lot of pictures, don’t they?) but sifted through them all, made some adjustments using Adobe Lightroom, and uploaded a representative sample over the past couple of evenings. The complete collection is here: Upstate New York Summer 2007. I’ve also updated “My Flickr Slideshows” in the sidebar with slideshow links to each set.
The first set consists of a few pictures from Chazy Orchards. The number of apples on the trees was enormous; either I had never noticed that before when I was visiting, or it’s a banner year for apples. You might enjoy reading more about the orchards, and their history.
Photo set link: Chazy Orchards
I always enjoy photographing rural scenes, especially in late summer when everything is still very lush and green, but the light has started to tip a little darker toward fall. The Farms and Barns set contains the ones I liked best.
Photo set link: Farms and Barns
Lake Champlain separates the state of New York from Vermont, running over 100 miles and connecting to Lake George about halfway down the states. While I’m not much of a boater, I do appreciate the boats (and the seagulls and the ducks and the lake itself), and spent quite a bit of my time taking pictures from the shores.
Photo set link: Lake Champlain
I was born in Plattsburgh, New York and grew up in a small town nearby. The area has its claim to various historical events, which you can read a little about here and here. I didn’t get as much time as I might have liked to prowl the downtown area and take some shots, but in this set you will see several historical monuments (the McDonough Monument and a statue of Samuel de Champlain, which looks out on the lake), as well as a few other local buildings and scenes.
Photo set link: Plattsburgh Monuments and Buildings
The Point au Roche Interpretive Center is part of Point au Roche State Park, dedicated to conservation and wildlife preservation, and was a new discovery for me. I got very involved in just wandering around the area and snapping whatever caught my eye.
Photo set link: Point Au Roche Interpretive Center
I just happened to be near a railroad crossing when this train was ambling by. If it hadn’t been dark red, I might have paid less attention … but the red photographed quite well, especially on a somewhat dark and cloudy day.
Photo set link: Trains
My hometown is less than an hour’s drive from the Whiteface Mountain and Lake Placid region. I spent so much time wandering near the mountain that I didn’t get as many shots of the Lake Placid village as I would have liked; there’s a whole lot more to it than just those few shots! More information on official sites for both, here and here.
Photo set link: Whiteface Mountain and Lake Placid
Next up, in a few days, will be a collection of the pictures I took back here in Atlanta, at Oakland Cemetery, as part of the research for my Exploring Place: History class. Stay tuned!
So… I’ve been thinking over the past few weeks that I might try my hand at selling photos online, on one of the stock photo agencies. Since I’ve long believed that the best way to learn something was through total immolation … oh, I mean, immersion… I went ahead and filled out an application at iStockphoto and sent in my three (carefully (?)) selected photos.
I have to admit that when I found out that all three of the images were rejected, I had the same reaction of aggravated disappointment that I know I’m not the first person to feel. But it passed pretty quickly as I started thinking about what the reviewers had to say, and even more quickly after I buzzed around some blogs and realized that not only were rejections common, but rejections are meted out by iStockphoto (and other sites, I’m sure) with the same exact boilerplate text for everybody. So my pics were just among the thousands and thousands reviewed, where I imagine the reviewers click a checkbox on a screen to generate repeating rejection notices. No problem; if that’s the business model, it’s the business model — though frankly I think it might benefit the stock sites and the art of photography as a whole if they treated it as an opportunity to share real knowledge as opposed to knocking photos out of an assembly line.
On the other hand, I will say this: as I read what other photographers wrote about their rejections (no links here, sorry; I don’t want to start something), I came to believe that a lot of people are burning up a whole lot of their creative energy getting all spiky over their rejections. It’s really of no consequence that any one agency rejects any one photograph (or ten photographs or a hundred photographs): it seems to me that rejections are something that someone can either learn from or simply disregard and move on, and neither choice is more valid than the other. But whatever choice is made, should be made quickly.
Anyway, I tried to decide what these rejected photos taught me, based on the iStockphoto form-letter. Here are some of my thoughts; the pictures follow and you can click on any image to view the full-sized original (I just learned how to do that! wheeeee!).
The white orchid was rejected because it’s a flower. I knew they didn’t want any more flowers (see their needed photos list here). I had previously read the list, but it just didn’t occur to me that I shouldn’t submit such a photo with my application. Well, now I know; that was an easy one.
This next one was rejected for two reasons: the focus needed to be improved, and the photo “lacked impact” so was not suitable as stock. In other words, they considered it blurry and boring. I guess I could say it’s intended to be a depth-of-field shot, so where the focus should dissolve is largely a subjective opinion … and yet I can see that even as a depth-of-field shot, it would have been better if the architectural piece I’m focusing on was sharp from top to bottom. I know one of my consistent technical challenges is taking straight pictures, both on horizontal and vertical planes; I’m constantly straightening and cropping my pics when I get back from a shoot. Maybe my posture’s bad; if so, I have to learn to compensate (or, hell, just stand up straight!).
As to lacking impact and not stock, presumably they know their market so I accept that. But permit me this one snark: if they think this photo isn’t suitable as stock, they haven’t spent enough time searching their own website. And I still like the out-of-focus eagle in the background.
This last photo was rejected on the grounds that the lighting could be improved. Unfortunately, the response only suggests different ways of dealing with lighting in general, and offers no specifics as to what the reviewer considered wrong with this lighting. Since they are no blown highlights, and the lighting isn’t harsh or out of balance, I’m guessing they considered it too dark overall. Okay, that’s fine … although, realistically, Santa does deliver most of his goodies at night, doesn’t he? In any case, I’ll take this as advice to pay more conscious attention to my lighting when shooting or during post-shoot processing.
Having said all that, what shall I do now? The only rational and creative thing: yesterday I opened an account on Fotolia and have submitted 34 photos (Fotolia doesn’t have a gated application process), all of which are waiting for approval (well, okay, approval or rejection). And tonight I resubmitted three new samples to Istockphoto. Yay, for getting back up on that horse and doing it all over again!
In closing, I wanted to mention two articles I came across while doing some research on the stock agencies. The first is Photography’s Vanishing Middle Class, from the very fine Strobist blog. The second is from Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection, and is called Why Corbis’ New SnapVillage Stock Photography Agency is a Bad Deal for Photographers. These two articles — along with their very well-written comments — touch on so many cultural, social, and market issues that have been made more volatile by the rapid transfusion of digital photography into society, that I can hardly wait to write a detailed analysis of the two.
There have been some nice developments since I wrote this entry. Fotolia accepted 31 of the 34 photos I submitted, so that means I’m officially in the business!
You can see my photos here.
As another important lesson learned, Fotolia accepted two of the photos (Santa and the architectural shot) above that iStockphoto rejected — a probability I had read about in my research that has proven to be true. Like iStockphoto, they declined the white orchid because they don’t need any more flowers; see their list of needs here.
While looking for some information on how to export photos directly from Adobe Lightroom to Flickr, I landed on Andy’s My Enlightenment blog. In addition to featuring some beautifully illuminated photos there and on his Flickr account, Andy also had a couple of posts that included an embedded Flickr slideshow. Off on a different search now, I found a tool called “flickrSLiDR” on the Great Flickr Tools Collection, that turns out to be the same one Andy is using.
The tool is available here and it described in more detail by its creator, Paul Stamatiou, on his site, here.
Below is a slideshow of my photographs from the Atlanta History Center. You can move the mouse toward the top of the slideshow to control the display and speed, and toward the bottom to select individual photos from the set. Or, click on any photo to stop the slideshow and get links to my Flick account.
I seriously love the way this thing works!!
Created with Paul’s flickrSLiDR.
… it sounds an awful lot like a gun going off! Trust me! Don’t try this at home:
Apparently this is what happens when you sit down to write a quick blog post after setting some eggs to boiling, the blog post takes longer than you thought, and you forget about the eggs … they wait about forty minutes then remind you to PAY ATTENTION! Or set a timer next time….
Lunch will be delayed indefinitely….
I’ve set up a collection of photos from two trips to the Atlanta History Center last week. You can learn more about each of the subjects I photographed here:
About the Atlanta History Center
Centennial Olympic Games Museum
Tullie Smith Farm
This is the first time I’ve used a Flickr collection, and it seems like they’re a decent way to organize blocks of photos, especially since I tend to take quite a few and post a lot (too many? certainly not!) on the site. I also moved my existing sets into collections; the collections page is here. It would be nice, I think, if Flickr let you pick the images that appear when you direct someone to your photos, and also set a sequence for the collections. Maybe I should send them a suggestion!
I’ve put a new collection of photographs out on Flickr, as the 2007 Middle Spring Buds Collection. You can also view them as a slideshow. Bonus snaps include a few ladybugs, a robin, and a HUGE frog that hangs out in my backyard pond.
I also created a set of snapshots of my house and back courtyard. View as a slideshow, here.
This evening, I replaced the site banner with a new picture I took in my back yard. The old banner, below, was a crop of an orchid from my Atlanta Botanical Gardens pictures, which you can find in my Flickr collection.
The flower buds in the new banner image are close-ups of some pink Kalanchoe that I planted in pots and placed on the steps leading to my back yard. I’ve taken so many pictures, especially close-ups, of flowers and buds back there that I barely have time to look through them all. I cropped five for possible use as a new banner, and settled on the Kalanchoe because, if you look closely at the bloom that’s the focal point of the picture, it looks like there’s a tiny face in there … the face of a garden sprite, I have no doubt.
Two of the other candidates were these yellow and black ladybugs. Considering how small they are, the pictures came out quite sharp, showing decent detail of the black spots on their yellow wings, and even — in the second picture — the eyes and mouth. Well, I guess that’s what they are, anyway.
I like this picture quite a bit; I took it in March just as my Japanese Maple was putting out some new leaves. It seems evocative of spring, I think, especially with the slightly blurry nature of the leaf’s edges and the way it caught the sunlight. This wasn’t an accident, of course; it was total creativity. Totally….
This fine fellow appeared at the edge of my pond shortly after I moved into my house three years ago, and he’s been back every spring since. I’m not sure where he goes all winter long, and I was pretty lucky to get this shot that shows the detail as well as it does — especially the look in his eyes. You can’t really tell from the image, but his body is about the size of a man’s large fist.
He’s not easily intimidated by my presence, not even a little bit. Late last summer, he was resting so still in the ivy behind my pond that I thought he was dead and picked up a six-inch long stick to poke him with — you know, as a test. He flipped around, grabbed the stick out of my hand with his mouth — jumped with it still in his mouth, into the pond. I almost expected him to surface with the stick and throw it at me….