A caption for the robins

I posted one of my photos of the robins on a Nikon forum on DPreview.com, and one of other forum participants, Robin Cassidy, offered a caption:

I had to laugh – but after another two or three snows, it may not seem as funny…

Can Spring be far away?

We’ve been doing the first of several phases of home remodeling during the past two and a half weeks, replacing our 30-year old woodpecker-, water-, and insect-damaged siding and trim with new materials which will hopefully see us through the next 30 years or so. Part of that project was adding gutters to the south side of our house, which never had gutters in the past. The work had been taking place in the midst of and in between some of the worst snow storms so far this year, but as it happened, the day after the gutters were installed, the sun came out, and the snow on our south-facing roof immediately began to melt and flow into the new gutters.

This seemingly minor event led to an experience of wonder and awe for me. As I opened the shades of our second-floor bedroom yesterday, I saw a continuous flow of robins, flying up from the trees down the hillside below to land on our new gutters, where they were able to get a drink from the snow melt. Each robin would perch on the edge of the gutter for only a minute or so, then fly back to a perch in one of our wild cherry, locust, cedar, and holly trees, only to be immediately replaced by another robin. At times in the last two days I’ve seen a dozen or more robins on the gutter below our bedroom window, and if I look up, I can usually see the tails of several more birds perched on the gutter of the top roof of the house. Here are a couple of photos I took this evening:

(Please click on the images or right-click and choose “Open image in a new window” to see them at a larger size)

Just last Sunday, Punxsatawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter for us, but I’m hoping that the arrival of the robins on our rooftop means that he’s wrong. The robins are a lot more enjoyable to watch, anyway.

 

Christmas wishes 2013

Almost all the cards are now in the mail, so I thought I’d post this year’s Christmas card here as well. Best wishes to all of you at this special time.

The inside greeting reads “Wishing you a new blessing every day.”

Special Light

It’s a frustrating and rewarding fact of life for photographers: no matter how long you study and practice, no matter how many times you upgrade to better equipment, nothing can substitute for having really great light. And for landscape photographers, great light usually depends on a combination of location, patience, and luck.

We were recently on a 12-day cruise of the Mediterranean, focussed primarily on the Greek Isles. We saw a lot of fascinating places, but unfortunately, we saw most of them under clear skies and mid-day sun, which is good for photojournalism, but doesn’t really make for the best photos. The exception was the second evening of the trip, as we sailed out of Venice at sunset to start across the Adriatic towards Croatia. For about an hour, we were treated to some of the best light I’ve had a chance to shoot in, and some really unusual views of Venice, from the vantage point of our cabin balcony as we cruised between the islands into the lagoon and then out to the open sea.

Here are just a few of my shots from that hour:

All these images are viewable in a large size by right-clicking on the image and then choosing “Open image in a new page.”

You can see some more of my images from Venice, as well as a growing set from the rest of the trip, on my Flickr page. I’m looking forward to my next happy opportunity to shoot again in such a wonderful location with such light.

Best wishes, Kelly and Zack

My nephew Zack married Kelly yesterday. I took lots of photos, of course, but I wasn’t the official event photographer, and I will save most of those for family and friends. A couple of items, though, are directly related to my themes here, so I will share those. As she always does for family, Anita made a handmade card to express our best wishes to the couple. Here’s her card, along with my envelope:

The card is done with stamping, embossing and die cuts, and is, I think, a new design for her. The envelope was done with a felt-tip brush marker matching the ink used for the ampersand of the card design; the coral color was from their wedding theme colors, selected to emphasize the beach location.

After we arrived on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Kelly brought me a chalkboard and asked me to write a greeting for their guests at the reception. This was just a quick off-hand design, but I was fairly happy with the way it came out:

Since I was working on-site with no tools, we improvised to deal with the changing weather (rain was forecast, although it didn’t happen) by spraying the board with hairspray to keep it from smearing and give it a bit of waterproofing. The anchor design and the style of lettering in the word “Welcome” were chosen to match parts of the wedding program.

It was a beautiful wedding and a great party. The family is still basking in the afterglow, and I was glad to be able to be a part of it all.

Best wishes, Kelly and Zack!

Life goes on

I’ve talked before about all the damage we had here from Superstorm Sandy and the following snowstorm; we must have eventually lost about 100 trees. We’ve had a crew of tree experts here two times now, cutting down broken and fallen trees, and chipping and removing stumps, so the look of our property has changed drastically. But now that spring has arrived, we are finally getting patches of green here and there and at least some small signs that life goes on, and everything will eventually recover.

Here’s a sample of where we are in this recovery process:

(Nikon D800 and 85mm f/1.4 lens at ISO 200, f/11, and 1/100 sec.)

Click here to open the image in a larger size in a new window.

We’re hopeful that we’ll get enough volunteer greenery to hide most of our remaining fallen trees by June. At least we have more room for parking now, and maybe a new storage shed for the lawn and garden gear.

Wailin’

I’m just starting to shoot people shots with my new 85mm portrait lens, and I was practicing this past Sunday by shooting a rehearsal of our Joyful Noise praise band as they prepare for an upcoming concert. The best shot turned out to be this one of Tom, who was wailing away on the harmonica. I decided to process it in black and white, to hopefully give it a little of a “blues club” feel. I tried a couple of versions, but this is my current favorite, done with Photoshop and the Nik Silver Effects Pro plugin.

Wailin'

Shot on the D800 with the 85mm f/1.4g lens at ISO 100, f/1.8, and 1/60 sec., using an SB-800 flash mounted on-camera with mini-softbox. Right-click and choose “Open Image in New Window,” and you can see it at a much larger resolution.

[Aside: I just bought the Nik plug-in suite, as Google has recently acquired Nik, and is selling the software for a bargain price. You can get information here . Note that additional discounts are available.]

If you’re in the area, the concert will be Sunday, April 7, at 4:00 PM, at the First United Methodist Church, Freehold, NJ. We’ll be celebrating the installation of a new sound and video system for the sanctuary.

Memories

I’ve been testing a new lens this week (a Nikon 85mm f/1.4g, for those who may care), and this was one of the test shots. Each item has some memories attached to it – my old trumpet that I played in college and for many years afterwards, photos of Mom, Dad, and Grandma R., an Uncle Sam mechanical bank we once gave to Granddad Bourne for Christmas, one of a set of ceramic mariachi musicians Christina brought back to me from Mexico, and a “Lilies of the Field” print we bought from Michael Podesta when we met him at a craft show.

The image was processed in Lightroom 4 with some effects to give it more of an aged photo look.

Winter afternoon on Crow Hill

The winter has been mostly dreary and cold since we returned from our Christmas travels, and I haven’t been doing much photography. But a couple of days ago, we had a touch of passing sunshine, and I decided I’d take a photo walk around the neighborhood with the D800 and my Tamron 17-35mm zoom. Nothing much was catching my eye, even though the walk was about three miles, but when I got home and did some post-processing, I really liked the way this shot came out after a conversion to black and white:

I think this just says that I need to make the effort to get out and shoot more. A good resolution for the new year.