Friday, February 25, 2011

Spider Web Wonderland

We woke Tuesday morning to find literally hundreds of spider webs throughout the yard. We live in the woods, so there are always webs, but this was beyond anything we've seen before. They were everywhere! All different sizes and most were of an odd, "bowl" shaped design, that I've not noticed before. There was a heavy fog, and I thought the lighting would make it a bit easier to capture them - but it was still hard work. By the time I came home in the evening, there was no trace of them.  Wednesday morning was rather foggy and I ran out, camera in hand, with hopes of a second chance ... but they hadn't repeated their displays.

This one was quite large, yet housed the tiniest spider!

And under the "One of these things is not like the others", is this cute little guy who seemed quite curious about what I was doing ...

Happy Friday, everyone! :D

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Life is a Photo-Adventure

This post is a bit lenghthier than I usually prefer, but some stories just take longer to tell.

We took off work a bit early last Friday, loaded up the boat (and the Tugboat) and headed out for a "one-star meal, at a five-star location" with my brother, Win, and his girlfriend, Heather... hot dogs on Key Waden. This refers to an inside joke of my brothers' ... when they come to our house for Ray's cooking, they refer to is as a "five-star meal at a one-star price" (he referred to my cooking, a meatloaf, as "depression era food", but that's another story, lol). We actually bumped this evenings rating to a three-star meal, because we added cheeseburgers with lettuce and tomato to the mix (the fact that we forgot to bring the cheese, or use the lettuce and tomato is besides the point - it's the thought that counts, right? Right!) ...

Tugboat ... "Are we there yet?"

Come Sit by the Fire

In my quest to get off "auto" (not that I'm knocking auto), I'm starting to selectively use Aperture Priority and my new "sport" pistol-grip, carbon-fiber tripod ... with very pleasing results!

I suggest viewing these full size - just click on the photo

The Sunset is always brighter on the other side of the Fence
I say f/6.3 ... camera says 1/250, ISO-250

I love this silhouette
I say f/20 ... camera says 30s, ISO-250

Marco Island in the fading Sunset (I love the violet hues)
I say f/9 ... camera says 20s, ISO-250

Lights of Marco
I say f/10 ... camera says 30s, ISO-250

Moon Rise
I say f/8 ... camera says 30s, ISO-250

Glow from Naples
I say f/3.5 ... camera says 25s, ISO-250

Marvelous Night for a Moon Dance
I say f/32 ... camera says 30s, ISO-250

Burgers & dogs Cooked over an open Fire (this added that third star!)
f/4 ... camera says 1/15s, ISO-720

Back to Auto, due to taking this shot from a moving boat (no time for practice shots and thoughtful consideration). I took four shots and got it on the last one. I'm super pleased with the capture.
Cove Inn - Naples Bay
f4.8, 0.6s, ISO-1600
I'm slowly getting a grasp of the relationships between Aperture, Speed, ISO and Exposure Value and have that feeling of anticipation that, with more practice and study, an epiphany is on my horizon, lol.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Last Look (Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary)

A few last looks from our recent trip to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary ...

Baby Eastern Lubber (a type of Grasshopper ... that gets huge!)

Common Grackle
Bird Watchers

Park members set tri-pods out, pre-focused on the slower moving wildlife

Great Egret Fishing

Great Egret (my favorite shot from this adventure)

Strangler Fig (they don't actually strangle, but can grow into large
canopies, shading out and thus eventually kill trees and plants below)

Cypress Knee

Alligator (those little ones in the tank - posted prev - will someday join this guy)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Leading Lines & Reflections (More from Corkscrew Sanctuary)

I've been taking some photo classes (and reading a lot on the subject of photography). It's funny how certain knowledge, when first learned, seems a distraction; but in hindsight, you realize some of your better shots were due to following some of these rules, despite not (consciously) knowing they even existed. This knowledge slowly changes your perception, and with a bit of practice, better shots start to come more naturally.

LEADING LINES ... the first two pics here are (I think) good examples of such. Which is to say, if there are lines in your frame, try to line them up so they aim toward a point of interest (so they add, rather than detract, from your composition). Neither of these was planned (posed), I simply looked and saw that my friends just happened to be standing in position with leading lines ...

I took three shots of this first pic, moving my position for each, and the third (pictured) was the one I was most pleased with. By moving to the right and squatting down, I was able to "point" the leading lines right at Vicki's waist (and also keep them close enough to the lower/horizontal 1/3 line to be considered a well balanced picture - at least in my amateur opinion).

My Friend & fellow Shutter-Bug Adventurer, Vicki

Talk about Leading Lines ...  the railings and the shadows of the railings all lead you right to what I'm looking at (and the sky is at the top 1/3 horizon line). Maybe not the most compelling pictures to everyone, but I like them :)

Vicki, Jim & Ray

REFLECTIONS ... are one of my top favorite topics for photography! I was instantly drawn to how this little guy's eye was perfectly reflected. Which brings to mind another handy tip ... if your subject has an eye - then, no matter what else, make sure the eye is in focus! A blurry eye gives the sense that the whole picture is out of focus. A sharp eye leaves a viewer feeling satisfied that anything out of focus, was intentional (it also adds a sense of depth).

I've got my eyes on you ...
The reflection in the following pic is what drew me to this image in the first place, which is how I decided it should be presented. I was tickled when I showed it to Ray - without any explanation - and saw him do a puzzled double-take ...

This one messes with your mind, doesn't it?

I like that reflections can reveal more than the central focus (besides the base of the Cypress Tree, you get to see more of the surrounding trees and the sky above) ...

Cypress Tree base & Reflection
These two last pics (for this post anyhow), are for two special loves .... first, my Auntie Mary, who thanked me for "bringing her to the swamp" (via my previous post), which she was never a big fan of, but "loves the beautiful birds that live there" ...

Yellow-crowned Night Heron
And the second is for my mother-in-law, Rosi. Both her and "Ray-Ray" mentioned fond memories of going here many years ago with Oma (her mother, Ray's Grandmother; a truly fabulous woman, whom we all miss very much) ...

Lettuce Lake
Happiness to all :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Trip to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

We went on an excursion this morning with our friends, Jim and Vickie, to Corkscew Swamp Sanctuary.

It's a beautiful preserve, owned and managed by the National Audobon Society, who first started sending seasonal wardens there in 1912 to help protect plume birds, then hunted enmass (almost to extinction) solely for their feathers. It offers a raised boardwalk that meanders 2.25 miles through Pinelands, Freshwater Marshes, Prairies, and Harwood Hammocks, as well as the largest remaining virgin Cypress Strand in the Country. It's also unique in that these terrains all border in a relatively small area (the parks entire land-holding is 11,000 acres).

The morning started off cold, windy and rainy (monocromatic) but the Sun finally made it out about halfway through our trip, which brought some much welcome warmth and color ...

Baby Alligator (in tank at the Welcome Center)

Looking up through the winter-bare Cypress

Cool Moss on Boardwalk
editorial correction: It's not moss, it's Lichens - specifically "Cladonia Leporina"
(aka: Match-Sticks or British Soldiers)

The green coating on the water is actually types of fern
called Small Duckweed & Salvinia (it's not algae)

N - O
(can you see it?)

Anhinga aka: Water-Turkey or Snake-Bird ... Their feathers don't have oils
that keep most birds dry and warm. It makes them excellent divers;
but they must dry their feathers after each swim.

I'm not sure why it's been so many years since we last visited this wonderful place, but we're looking forward to going back early summer (hopefully before the skeets arive!). I've got a few more pics to share on another post, so ... "To Be Continued"  :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Super Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

95% of the crowd was Pro Steelers (Ouch!)
What a busy week! We co-hosted a Super Bowl party at our house this past weekend ... Hog Roast with about 50 people. Lots of work (group effort), and it was well worth it. Great time! Though we really could've used a day off to recouperate! 

"The Box"
The design of this homemade box is simple and, therefore, ingenious! A metal box slides into this outter housing. A grate is placed on the bottom that the hog lays on. Then top, which is lined with steel, is put in place and the coals lit on top of it. The box retains all the heat - like an oven.

When the Hog is halfway through cooking, they lift the grate out, put another grate on top (like a sandwich), and they flip it!

It's gets basted, closed back up and when it's done (here's the best part) ... the "Cracklins" (skin)! This is pure crunchy deliciousness! (Yes, I know its a future heart-attack, but most things that are really good are not necessarily good for you! lol)

 Entertainment while the Hog is cooking? Games of Corn Hole.

The Cook & our Co-Hostess :)
Silly name, fun game. Played in teams of two (or just singles). Each player/team has 4 corn-filled sacks (thus the name), thrown one at a time at the board across from you, in turns. You get 1 pt for each bag you land on the board, 3 pts if you get it in the hole ... knock a bag off - even if it's yours, and it's no longer a point. Likewise, matched moves cancel eachother out (if you and your opponent each get a bag on the board, the two cancel each other out). First team/player to 21 wins.
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