Effortless and Organic: Volunteer Sunflowers

Latest Pix, Life Captured: Every Day Observations, Photo Challenges
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Pollen covered Honey Bee on Sunflower            Nikon D5100 35mm, F 6.3, 1/500 sec

Perhaps, like our family, you have a backyard bird feeder, frequented by numerous birds and squirrels.  If so, you know they are messy eaters.  Effortlessly, seeds are strewn about the area below the feeder. Spring and summer brings a circle of thin, grass-like shoots.  But this year, after we had to take down a tree in the yard, the area became quite sunny.  I was thrilled to have a few volunteer sunflowers spring up.  They attract the honey bees and make for fun photo opportunities. This post is my contribution to Patrick Jennings’ Pic and a Word Challenge: Organic.

This portfolio contains a few more of my images of the volunteer sunflowers.

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Cool Cat

Latest Pix, Life Captured, Photo Challenges
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Cool Cat curled in a coil of garden hose                    35mm, f6/3. 1/80

I was out in the vegetable garden looking for photo opportunities to add to the Garden Portfolio when our long haired orange tabby made himself comfortable in the coiled garden hose.  A “purr-fect” shot for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge: any Animal

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Ducks on the Dock

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges
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Mr. & Mrs. Mallard resting in the shadow of a dock piling                 Nikon D5100 35mm, f-11, 1/125

The late afternoon Spring sun casts long shadows across a dock at the Cooper River Marina, home to our 1986 Catalina 22, “Seanachai”.  This pair of mallard ducks found a bit of cool respite in a strip of shade.  Ducks are very light sleepers, resting their heads on their backs and tucking their beaks into their feathered wings for a bit of extra warmth, but with sharp eyes popping open at the slightest threat to their safety.  The original image was shot in color and desaturated to contribute to Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge “words that end in ock”

 

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Pair of Mallard Ducks resting in shade

 

A Fellow To Fell A Tree

Latest Pix, Life Captured: Every Day Observations, Photo Challenges

A diseased tree was leaning over our house. We contacted Jason Kelly, a certified  arborist who determined the 50ft. water oak needed to come down.  So, up he went and methodically felled the tree over the course of one very fascinating afternoon–giving me the opportunity to meet two challenges in one!  Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Leaves or Trees and the Jen H’s Daily Post Challenge: Story

Wearing helmet with face shield and ear protection, a chainsaw, hand saw and other equipment attached to his harness, the arborist, using climbing spurs and rope, scales a high limb.

Wearing helmet with face shield and ear protection, a chainsaw, hand saw and other equipment attached to his harness, the arborist, using climbing spurs and rope, scales a high limb.

After tying off the limb to a pulley rope, he removes the top branches with chainsaw.

After tying off the limb to a pulley rope, he removes the top branches with chainsaw.

He guides one of the cut upper branches down while standing in the basket of his 40 ft. boom lift.

He guides one of the cut upper branches down while standing in the basket of his 40 ft. boom lift.

Arborist and "skywalker" balanced on a branch some 40 feet in the air.

Arborist and “skywalker” balanced on a branch some 40 feet in the air.

Arborist uses a pulley and rope system to guide heavy branches down safely.

Using a pulley and rope system, he guides heavy branches down safely.

Assistant removes the wedge shaped notch after the arborist makes the notch cut.

Assistant removes the wedge shaped notch after the arborist makes the notch cut.

Assistants hold a guide line and keep the cable TV wires out of the fall zone as the final fell cut is made.

Assistants hold a guide line and keep the cable TV wires out of the fall zone as the final fell cut is made.

The felled tree trunk comes to rest as planned-- on a log placed in the fall zone.

The felled tree trunk comes to rest as planned–on a log placed in the fall zone.

Certified Arborist Jason Kelly of Skywalker Tree Company

Certified Arborist Jason Kelly of Skywalker Tree Company

Building with Squares and Circles

Life Captured: Every Day Observations, Photo Challenges

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Among of our favorite toys are building blocks. According to Karen Hewitt, a toy designer and founder of the Learning Materials Workshop of Burlington, Vermont, the timeless, simple shapes lend themselves to endless opportunities for education through play.  We stack them up and knock them down, we build walls and bridges, we learn about shape and color, about building and rebuilding.

There’s a new toddler in our lives; our fourth grandchild. It’s been a while since the box of blocks was opened, so I decided they needed a bath.  I filled up the kitchen sink with some mild soap and water and plunged in the brightly colored cuboids, cylinders and triangular prisms together with some classic Lincoln Logs.  Did you know those interlocking logs were originally designed by John Lloyd Wright, son of the architect Frank Loyd Wright?  I didn’t.

Anyway, the sight of those building blocks bobbing amid the bubbles inspired me to bring out the camera.  And in that mysterious way that inspiration works, the next day I saw a link to the Life of B photo challenge A Month of Squares. So I decided to play along.

A Great Ocean Tank of Fish

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges
Boy looking at fish in Great Ocean Tank of SC Aquarium

Nick imagines what it would be like to visit the deepest oceans, filled with exotic fish.

In 1983 Charleston SC Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. visited the Shedd Aquarium near Chicago, and an idea was born. He made a deal to purchase a contaminated strip of land on the Charleston waterfront, secured Superfund money from the federal government to help clean up the area and built the South Carolina Aquarium. It’s a stunning piece of architecture when viewed from the Charleston Harbor as we often do, Aboard Seanachai.

Nick, pictured above, has great plans to explore the deepest ocean reefs and discover exotic undersea creatures. For him, a visit to the SC Aquarium is a trip to wonderland.   This photo is my contribution for Travel with Intent’s Blog, One Word Sunday Challenge “Fish

Completed in 2000, there’s much to see at the SC Aquarium, which was designed to showcase plants and animals found in each of five regions of the state.

But the centerpiece is the Great Ocean Tank. Forty-two feet below the surface at its deepest point, it’s the deepest public aquarium in North America. The 18-inch thick windows are acrylic—strong enough to keep back the pressure of 365,000 gallons of water, without distorting the images of the fish. A multi-layered filtration system “turns over the water” in only 90 minutes.

It showcases three distinct areas of the Atlantic Ocean, the deep/open ocean, the shallow rocky reef and the deep rocky reef. About 550 animals of 40 different species swim in the tank. The only animal in the tank that’s not a fish is Caretta, a 30-year-old loggerhead sea turtle.

Caretta, loggerhead turtle in the Great Ocean Tank at the SC Aquarium

Caretta, a loggerhead turtle and the only “non fish” in the Great Ocean Tank

SC Aquarium Charleston, SC

View of SC Aquarium from Charleston Harbor – as seen “Aboard Seanachai”

The Lookout’s View

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges

Here’s my entry for Nancy Merrill’s Photo A Week Challenge “Look Up”

As we prepare for the Spring sailing season, I’ve had some time to look through some older images.  This one is from October 2016 when my husband and I made a weekend cruise aboard our Catalina 22, Seanachai.   Part of the passage took us through Wappoo Creek and I experienced the opening of the Burnet R. Maybank drawbridge from a new perspective.  We posted a YouTube video of the first leg of the trip, including the opening of the bridge.

Burnet R. Maybank bascule bridge opens

Burnet R. Maybank bascule bridge opens for boat traffic.                   35mm, f6.3, 1/250

At it’s center, the bridge has a clearance of 33 feet.  The masthead to the waterline of our boat is just over 29 feet.  Technically, we could motor under the bridge, and we did–about three months later–as captured in the photo below.  The captain’s steady hand guided us under the center of the bridge, while I looked up.

Sailboat masthead clearing under bridge

Masthead clearance less than 3 feet under a closed Brunet R. Maybank bascule bridge! 55mm, f 6.3, 1/1000

Snowflakes in the Spanish Moss

Latest Pix, Life Captured, Photo Challenges
Snowfall among Southern oak trees, Spanish moss

55mm, f 7.1, 1/200, iso 2000

At the start of 2018, the Southeast coastal area experienced a rare snowfall, turning our landscape into a peculiar panorama where snowflakes in the Spanish moss looked like thick icicles dripping from from the branches of our great oaks.  This photo is my first contribution for Becca’s Sunday Trees challenge.

Fortunately for the tropical Spanish moss, our snow event was short lived.  After six days all traces of ice and snow melted away and we enjoyed the balmy 55º typical of our January highs.

Neither lichen nor moss, Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is one of the signature plants of the Antebellum South, (although it may be found from Virginia to Argentina).  It’s an epiphyte, meaning that it uses trees for support.  It absorbs nutrients and water through its leaves from the air and rainfall.  You see it most often along the coastal areas, because it needs high humidity and mild winter temperatures to survive.

Mysterious and ubiquitous, the plant is a favorite of storytellers throughout the area.  Among the legends is this poem (author unknown):

There an old, old legend, that’s whispered by Southern folks,

About the lacy Spanish moss that garlands the great oaks.

A lovely princess and her love, upon her wedding day,

Were struck down by a savage foe amidst a bitter fray.

United in death they were buried, so the legends go,

‘Neath an oak’s strong friendly arms, protected from their foe.

There, as was the custom, they cut the bride’s long hair with love,

And hung its shining blackness on the spreading oak above.

Untouched, undisturbed it hung there, for all the world to see,

And with the years the locks turned gray and spread from tree to tree.

Carolina Snow Birds

Latest Pix, Life Captured, Photo Challenges
Two small birds in a backyard bird feeder during snowfall

f 6.3, 1/320, Nikon D5100, AF-S Nikkor 55-200 @ 200

We certainly have our share of snowbirds in South Carolina.  But those who thought they’d escape the cold blast of Arctic weather by slipping into Dixie were in for a big surprise January 3.  According to the National Weather Service, the precipitation brought by the 2018 Winter storm “Grayson”  was the heaviest one day snowfall in the city of Charleston since 1989.  Freezing temperatures kept our streets treacherous for six days, cancelled more than 75 flights into and out of the airport, and kept our kids home from school well beyond the holiday break.

These little birds chose the frosty ledge of our backyard bird feeder to rest during the snowfall.  It’s my favorite image captured during the record winter storm.  And it’s my contribution to the One Word Photo Challenge “Weekly Weather Jan. 7: Pick your Own”

 

Talking Machines

Latest Pix, Photo Challenges

Sound box from a 1940s era portable Birch windup gramophone

Know what this is? It’s called a reproducer or a sound box. Found at the end of the tone arm of a portable gramophone, it holds a steel needle at approximately 60 degrees to the shellac surface of a recorded disc. Once the main spring is wound-up, a turntable gently spins at 78 rotations per minute.   If you close your eyes, perhaps you can imagine how astonishing it was to hear the very popular Billy Murray sing “Pretty Baby”.

It’s 1916, and for the first time, Americans can take recorded music anywhere they want to go.  They’re called “Talking Machines.” State of the art technology, 100 years ago.

Today there are savvy youngsters who have never seen an 8-track tape player, boom box, Sony Walkman, Discman or Rio. Even the iPod is 16 years old.

Now we talk to a machine and it retrieves the music we want from a nebulous place called “the cloud.” I can’t begin to imagine where the next 100 years will take us.

Perhaps you’d like to slow down, step back and remember how it was. These vintage Talking Machines are still out there, ready to be recycled.  That makes this photo my take on the Tuesday fpj-photo-challenge: Recycle

Did you ever hear the story of how the first talking machines changed the way we listen to music?

Floating Oddity

Aboard Seanachai, Latest Pix, Life Captured, Photo Challenges
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“Lady in the Lake”  by Mark Cline                     35mm   f 5.6  1/250

When you embark on a 5-night, 6-day sailing adventure along the Gulf Coast of Florida, you expect to see the sugar sand beaches and blue green water of the Gulf of Mexico.  What you don’t expect to find is the likeness of a 108-foot woman skinny dipping in a marina.  She’s my entry for Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge this week.

In 2012, George Barber, billionaire art patron and owner of the marina, commissioned Mark Cline, a self-taught sculptor, to design this unusual floating lady.  Already well known for the whimsical creations formed in his Enchanted Castle Studios, the Virginia artist built the fiberglass sculpture, inserted giant styrofoam blocks inside her head and knees and  gently splashed her in a pond at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, AL.  Later, she was trucked down the the Alabama gulf coast and placed in the corner of the Barber Marina, where she could greet all the visiting crews.  Mark Cline christened her “Country Girl Skinny Dipping,” but locals call her “Lady in the Lake.”

My husband and I had a chance to see her when we took our Catalina 22 “Seanachai” on the 20th Annual C-22 Northern Gulf Coast Cruise (NGCC).  A YouTube video series highlights our adventures, this episode includes our visit to Barber Marina.

Sailing Vessel "Seanachai" at Barber Marina

Seanachai “The Storyteller” at Barber Marina, Elberta AL May 10, 2017

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A Cultivated Wood

Latest Pix, Life Captured, Photo Challenges
Waterfall at Poinsett State Park

Waterfall at Poinsett State Park                              35mm      f7.1      1/50

This image of a waterfall nestled in the cultivated woods of Poinsett State Park is my entry for Frank Jansen Photography’s Tuesday Photo Challenge-Woods.

According to archaeologists, people have lived in the “high hills” area of South Carolina for at least 10,000 years. The landmasses, water features, flora and fauna preserved in our State Parks are mere inkling of how the country looked for centuries.

Poinsett State Park in Sumter County, SC exists in an area called “the mountains of the Midlands.”  More than 11 miles of hiking trails traverse a mixed terrain that includes 100ft bluffs and black water swampland, where you’ll find a blend of Upstate mountain laurel shrubs, Lowcountry Spanish moss draped over hardwoods and tall stands of Southern yellow pines. You may encounter red-tailed hawk, deer, snakes, turtles and possibly an American alligator.

Evidence shows Native Americans from the Santee, Wateree and Catawba tribes hunted in these woods. In 1753, Matthew Singleton petitioned South Carolina for 300 acres with the understanding he would improve the property by clearing fields, building houses and mills. Remnants of the mill still exist.

It’s believed someone named Levi built a dam to create a pond on Shank’s Creek in order to cultivate rice.   The 10-acre lake in the park is named “Old Levi Mill Pond” in his memory.

During the 1800s, the area around the property became known as the “Capital of the Lumber Industry” in South Carolina. According to the SC Forestry Commission, such was the production that by the end of World War I, most of SC’s virgin timber was gone.

In 1934, Sumter County purchased 1,000 acres, dedicating it to the public as a recreation and game refuge. Subsequently, the County donated the land to the State of South Carolina.

In an effort to address the unemployment of the Great Depression, and conserve timber resources, President Franklin D. Roosevelt conceived a “New Deal” program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was responsible for the construction of many state and national parks, including 17 State Parks in South Carolina. The CCC employed young men and World War I veterans. The men learned a wide array of skills in addition to their wages.

From 1934 to 1938 the CCC built recreational and support facilities and trails in this Park.   Company 421, one of three CCC companies who helped with construction, named the park after the South Carolina congressman, physician and amateur botanist, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was also an envoy to Mexico from 1822-23. (That’s where he found the red plant known in Mexico as the Christmas Eve flower. Due to his promotion of the plant in the US, it became known as the poinsettia.)

The CCC companies used coquina, a local rock made of ancient sand and shells to build a 75ft. spillway and the waterfall (pictured above).  A number of the buildings constructed by the CCC are still in use today, including the ranger station.

Poinsett State Park Ranger Station reflected in Old Levi Pond Lake.

Poinsett State Park Ranger Station reflected in Old Levi Pond Lake.                      35mm   f6.3   1/100

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Almost There

Latest Pix, Life Captured, Photo Challenges
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35 mm,  f/ 4.5, 1/200   desaturated colors, add’l filter (81)

This bumblebee is making her way to a cluster of tomato blossoms.  The pollen baskets on the tibia of her hind legs are almost full, but she is going back for another batch. According to bumblebee.org, pollen is loaded at the bottom of the pollen basket, so the pollen that has been pushed towards the top is from flowers the bumblebee visited earliest. Only female bumblebees have pollen baskets (corbicula). A full pollen basket can contain as much as one million pollen grains.

Not quite black and white, this desaturated image is “almost there” too.  I got this effect through Adobe Photoshop Elements Editor by completely dropping the saturation of each color–except yellow, which I reduced by about half, then tinted the entire image with a warming filter (81).

It’s my contribution for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge “Anything that Flies

 

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Just out

From the Garden, Life Captured: Every Day Observations, Photo Challenges

 

Dogday Cicada emerging from its exoskeleton

Dogday Cicada emerging from its exoskeleton                                       f/5.0 1/400, ISO 560, 35mm

I spend quite a lot of time photographing in our garden throughout the spring and summer. Let me first say, I have ALWAYS been creeped out by bugs. But if you spend enough time in a vegetable garden, you’re likely to encounter quiet a few.  So, while keeping a safe camera lens distance from them, I like to capture their images and I research what I found.

I  was astonished to catch this moment.  It’s a Dogday cicada just coming out of its nymph shell.  

Duck, Duck, Quack!

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges
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Mallard Drake on Marina Dock                                                         f/6.3  1/500, ISO 250, 35mm

After a spring daysail aboard Seanachai, we came upon this mallard drake standing at the edge of the marina dock. Camera at the ready, I took a few steps toward him.  Truthfully, I expected he would fly away at any moment. Instead, I was able to get close enough to cast a shadow over him, which toned down the highlights from the setting sun, and revealed the detail in his feathers.  For several minutes he stood his ground, looked me right in the lens, and commenced to recite some sort of duck manifesto while I happily snapped this image–my entry for Cee’s Fun Foto Challege: Duck Duck Goose.

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close enough to cast a shadow!

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Imaginary Quest

Digital Art Projects, Photo Challenges
JRR Tolkien's Elfish Princess Arwen and Thorin Oakenshield imagined in Middle Earth

JRR Tolkien’s Elfish Princess Arwen and Thorin Oakenshield imagined in Middle Earth

Halloween is just around the corner.  For those who participate in the alter-ego tradition of dressing up in costume, it’s a wonderful time to use our imaginations.  This couple suited up for the holiday as characters from JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novels.

This digital art project creates a vision of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth and the quest of the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield and an elfish princess.  It’s my entry for the Daily Post photo challenge Quest.  Here’s the original snapshot…

Original snapshot of Tolkien characters Elfish Princess Arwen and Thorin Oakenshield

Original snapshot of Tolkien characters Elfish Princess Arwen and Thorin Oakenshield

Complementing Purple

Photo Challenges
Basket of Colored Easter Eggs in purple shredded cellophane

Basket of Easter Eggs                                                                 f/6.3, 1/60s, ISO 450, 35mm

My selection for this week’s CFFC challenge featuring the color purple brings me to a consideration of color theory and the color wheel.  I think the complementary color of the table (yellow) makes the purples in this basket ‘pop’.

Did you know that Sir Isaac Newton, the 17th Century English physicist and mathematician, was also the inventor of the color wheel?  I didn’t.

Sure, I remember the story about an apple falling from a tree which led Newton to “discover” gravity.  I leave it to Steve Connor of the UK Independent  to detail the veracity of the anecdote.  But there’s so much more about the scientist I didn’t know.

For instance, according to biographers, Newton was born into a farming family on what was Christmas Day 1642, just three months after his father died.  His mother remarried two years later, but the young boy was sent to live with his grandparents and felt orphaned.  His early school reports described him as ‘idle’ and ‘inattentive’.   Apparently, however, a grammar school headmaster perceived his talent and encouraged him to remain in school. Eventually he entered Trinity College Cambridge, with the aim of earning a law degree.  After being introduced to philosophy and the mechanics of astronomy and optics, he later settled on the study of mathematics.

In 1665, a  terrible recurrence of Bubonic Plague spread across London, killing 15% of the population and closing the University until 1667.  Newton, just 25 years old, went home to Lincolnshire. In the next two years, his independent studies led him to extraordinary advances in mathematics, optics, physics and astronomy.

It was during this period that he argued that white light is really a mixture of many different types of rays, each producing a different spectral color.  He arranged the colors in a wheel, primaries (red, yellow and blue) opposite their complementaries (green, purple and orange)–demonstrating each complementary enhances the other’s effect through optical contrast.

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.                                                        – Sir Isaac Newton

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Framed Through the Rigging

Aboard Seanachai, Photo Challenges
Black and white image of a sailboat viewed through the frame of another boat's rigging, Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, Charleston, SC

Through the Rigging                                                               f7.1, ISO 100, 1/400s, 35mm

The San Francisco, CA firm Donald MacDonald Architects,  was charged with creating a design for a new bridge across the Cooper River near Charleston, SC.  The goal, they said, was to create a timeless landmark that pays homage to the historic city and compliments the harbor and waterfront park.  Across the landscape, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge “evokes a sail motif over the river.”  It opened to the public in July 2005.

A sailboat framed through the rigging of our C-22 Seanachai, with the landmark bridge behind emphasizes the architect’s theme and is my entry for this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge: Frame

Bird in the hand

Latest Pix, Photo Challenges
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Fledgling Robin                                                                                       f6.3, 1/60s, ISO 280, 35mm

This fledgling robin was found out of its nest in a Greenville, SC neighborhood.  A fledgling bird is about two weeks old, fully feathered and able to grip a finger or perch.

The homeowner was mowing when she noticed the young bird in the grass.  Nearby, she could hear the call of the adult robins.  After this brief photo-op, the chick was carefully placed out of the reach of curious cats, where it’s parents could continue to feed it.   Within a couple of weeks, the youngster flew off to roost with the other robins.

According to an article by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, the homeowner did exactly the right thing. Often young birds are mistaken for orphans and humans try to save them, but it’s really better to simply place them out of harms way. I’m just glad I was there to capture the moment for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, Feathers.

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Punch Buggy Pig; no punch backs.

Photo Challenges

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Do you play this game on the roadways?  Here’s how we play: See a Volkswagen Beetle and be the first to say “Punch Buggy (name the color); no punch backs.”  Being the first allows you to give the person next to you a gentle punch in the arm–and they can’t punch back.  It’s always great fun for siblings in the back seat; for parents who settle the disputes, maybe not so much.  Official rules are available here.

I took this shot while exploring in the neighborhood one October morning about three years ago. I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to share it.  What better than Cee’s Odd Ball photo challenge!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Morning

Photo Challenges
commuter bus

Commuter steps into early morning bus.

This image of early morning bus commuters is my entry for this week’s challenge.  It also appears in an earlier post.

I got up before dawn on a cold February morning to stake out this shot.  I was interested in the experiences of people who take the bus to work in our suburban town.  Public transportation is often lauded as the antidote to traffic congestion, although it may not be the most efficient.

For example, Keisha rides the bus because her car broke down.  In order to get to work on time, she catches the same 6:53 AM bus as the commuters pictured here.  If Keisha could drive to her job, she’d be there in 20 minutes. Taking the bus adds over 40 minutes to the trip and requires that she walk nearly two miles to and from the bus stops, on roads with no pedestrian walkways. What a way to start your day!

 

Cee’s Black and White Challenge: Food

From the Garden, Photo Challenges

Sweet Georgia Onions

While working on a project to document the process and progress of our urban container garden when I came upon this challenge from Cee’s Photography.  The challenge is to capture a food item in black and white.  Like many photographers, there was time when I only shot film, and primarily black and white film.  Today, I’m shooting RAW with Nikon D5100; Nikkor lens: 35mm 1:1.8. There are many ways to convert a color digital image to black and white. I converted this image by completely reducing the saturation of the RAW file before importing into Ps Elements.

The image depicts the ‘first fruits’ of our Bonnie Plants Sweet Georgia Onions harvested on May 7.  We planted 24 onion ‘starts’ on in one Earth Box on February 22. The Earth Box is a 29″ L x 11″ H x14″ W/D plastic planter invented by Blake Whisenant, which uses a ‘bottoms up’ watering method. The yield ranges from golf to tennis ball-sized onions. While they are ready to eat right now, most will cure for about a week while the papery outer skins dry, the roots shrivel and the green necks begin to dry.   They can keep for weeks, but it’s not likely they’ll be around that long–deeelish!

Thanks for another good challenge, Cee!