May 2021

POTD: Little Landscape #43

Little Landscape #43
Bozeman, Montana

This is a new direction for my Little Landscape series. While walking on the beach on a recent trip to the Oregon coast, the Fashion Queen showed me a little fragment of a mussel shell that she picked up and pointed out that the color patterns looked like a landscape painting. She was right and that lead to us both wandering around on the beach looking for more good examples of the same. Before long we had a good handful of shells with “paintings” on them. I’m gradually photographing them and will post some of the results from time to time. I think the shell landscapes have a lot in common with many of J.M.W. Turner’s paintings such as this one:

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POTD: The Peanut Butter Challenge

The Peanut Butter Challenge
Bozeman, Montana

I read somewhere that a good way to attract certain songbirds was to smear peanut butter between the scales of a pine cone and hang it from a tree. So I tried that. To keep magpies and other large birds from devouring the treat, I purposely hung the cone from a flimsy end branch of the cottonwood tree next to our house and several feet away from the nearby fence. So far we’ve not seen any of the birds we were hoping to see but it has attracted a lot of attention from robins, crows, ravens, and especially magpies.

It looked like that was going to work for a while but several determined magpies studied the arrangement for a long time and tried several different ways of getting at the peanut butter until they finally figured out a way to get at it. They take a flying leap from the fence or a nearby tree branch, hit the pine cone with their feet while at the same time quickly taking a peck at the peanut butter. The energy they can get from the little bit of peanut butter that ends up on their beaks each time hardly seems worth the energy it takes to get at it. But they keep doing it over and over again so must feel it’s worth it. I imagine one of these days one of them will figure out that they should just attack the string until they cut it and the pine cone falls to the ground. Then they will be in for a real feast.

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POTD: Super Flower Blood Moon

Super Flower Blood Moon
Bozeman, Montana

Since I got up early, early morning to see the eclipse yesterday, I figured I might as well take a photo of it. (Besides, how could I miss the opportunity to title a post Super Flower Blood Moon, what a name!)

I wasn’t even sure I would be able to see the eclipse because the clouds had been streaming through our area for several days and it was often totally overcast. But as luck would have it there were just broken clouds moving fast across the moon during most of the eclipse. It made for some moody, if not particularly sharp, photos. (That I was shooting handheld with relatively long exposure times also had something to do with the lack of sharpness I suspect.) Also as luck would have it though, just as the eclipse was about to reach totality, a huge bank of clouds passed in front of it, obscuring the view for the rest of the event.

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POTD: Approximately Normal

Approximately Normal
Bighorn Canyon, Montana

Trace the shape of the  hill in the foreground and what do you see? I see a curve approximating a normal probability distribution, a.k.a. Gaussian distribution, a.k.a. “bell-shaped curve” for those of you who remember grading on the curve. (Do they still do that?) This one doesn’t look much like it’s bell-shaped though. It’s flatter than the standard normal distribution (mean=0, standard deviation=1.0) from which the bell-shaped moniker was derived. This one appears to have a standard deviation of about 2.5 based on my crude guessing. What does all this mean? Nothing really except, to borrow an old adage, “you can take the boy out of statistics but you can’t take the statistics out of the boy.” Or at least it will take more than 14 years of retirement from the field of statistics for that to happen.

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POTD: Working With What You Have

Working With What You Have
Death Valley, California

I shot these images of turkey vultures when I was out for a short walk from our campsite in Death Valley one morning. I was really just out there to greet the dawn so to speak and did not carry my big camera and telephoto lens with me as I wasn’t expecting much in the way of photo-ops at the time. But as is my habit, I did take my little Sony RX100 M6 with me “just in case.” When I came across these vultures getting ready for their day, it was too far away to go back for the serious gear but I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass so I decided to do what I could with the little Sony.

The Sony is not a cheap camera by any means and it does have a moderate telephoto reach as well as auto-tracking focus like the big-boy cameras do. But still, I was not expecting much. To my surprise though I got some pretty good results. At one point I decided to see how close I could get to them for a portrait shot. I caught this vulture just as it was taking off. I only had to crop it a little to get what you see here. I was quite impressed by how clear and sharp it and a number of the other shots that morning are.

There’s an old photography adage (often attributed to Ansel Adams, but then a lot is attributed to him simply because he is a name people will know) that when asked “What’s the best camera to use,” the wise expert relied “The one you have with you.” That’s what I did in this case and was lucky to get some decent results for my efforts.

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POTD: Showing Your Colors

Showing Your Colors
Death Valley, California

After processing a few turkey vulture shots in black and white, I finally concluded that color was a better choice. I probably should have realized that sooner but old habits die hard (i.e., black and white is always my default starting point for my photography).

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