The ugliness of war has, I'm sure, touched every American family. My own family has felt the loss. I lost family members in World War 2, before I was even born. I served in Viet Nam and lost many friends...not just guys that I served with, but kids that I went to school with...kids that left home in the prime of life and never returned. So, with that background, that insight of personal involvement, I can only see war as a terrible waste. I look at it as: The reason that we don't have a cure for cancer and AIDS is because the guy who might have figured it all out died, screaming, when he was 18 years old...died for reasons he wasn't privy to , reasons he was never told and probably wouldn't have understood even if someone decided he was important enough to know what he was being asked to die for. Those who trivialize war or glorify it, like the Hollywood movie makers, should be sent back for some serious schooling. There's no glory in war, it's only pain and suffering...death and destruction...the loss of your humanity. There are no winners, there's only those who survive and those who don't. Today, we honor those who didn't...
The only downside to my little rant is that war is sometimes necessary...that's the plain truth...but it's a terrible thing, too terrible to contemplate other than as a last resort. I think our government, since the '50's has been too quick to wage war but not willing to go all the way with it. Those that we honor today went all the way. They weren't politicians, they were soldiers...they went where they were told, they did what they had to do and they paid the ultimate price! There's an old saying about...hate the war, love the warrior...I do. I think these people deserve far more respect than they get...I think they truly are America's Finest.
Wendy posted earlier that she hadn't been able to post comments on anyone's blog because of technical problems with the site. I'm having the same problems...I was able to comment on her blog but not on the others that I follow. I hope they get it straightened out soon...and by the way, Paula, I really liked your poem...you have quite the way with words!
I went out this afternoon but didn't shoot anything...I decided to just come home and shoot some more blue poster board...wanted to use black but didn't have any. Guess I'll have to replenish my stock...might get more blue too, this one is getting funky!
Two lights this time, with shoot-through umbrellas
I've been moaning and groaning about the lack of wildflowers. It's been a somewhat lackluster season...we didn't get the rains that we needed for a prolific season and we had some hard freezes late in the winter that didn't, I'm sure, help matters. I think the wildflower drive I took with friends last month was perfectly timed...I think we hit the peak of the season and it's been down hill from there. I had resigned myself to considering the season over. Nevertheless, I decided to hit some of the county roads this afternoon to see what I could find. Hey, there are still lots of flowers out there if you do a little scouting around!
Who knows...maybe I'll bring some home tomorrow and see how they look with a blue background!
Blue vase on blue background that is. This afternoon was just as bad, weather wise, as yesterday...windy, hazy and lots of dust blowing around. I decided to follow yesterday's plan and just shoot something in the house. These Brown-eyed Susans got sprayed with Round Up the other day and their time is short so I just pulled a few out of the ditch to give them a last chance to be appreciated. I cropped this out of the larger image below.
Here's how to do the solid color seamless backgrounds. Poster board is cheap and it works well with small subjects. This was lit with two flashes, shot into reflective umbrellas to give lots of soft, even light. There's a 20% chance of rain tomorrow...so there's at least a 20% chance of another indoor shot!
I went out this afternoon to see if I could find some inspiration but it was cloudy, damp and Windy...with a capitol W! I saw some sunflowers that captured my interest but they were blowing around so badly that I knew a closeup was out of the question. I figured I would just cut one and bring it back to the "studio". My studio is pretty mobile...in other words, it's whatever room I'm allowed to set up a light or two in. This evening, the studio happened to be in the room my wife prefers to call the kitchen...it really doesn't matter, it's all about the light! This was shot with a single flash, bounced into an umbrella. The blue sky in the background was a piece of poster board.
Just ask this guy! This is Andles, he's my neighbor's dog but he comes to visit me every day. He's about 6 months old and he's a Lab/Great Pyrenees mix. He and Chica have quite a bond. Andles is an inside dog but gets out for his "exercise" several times a day. He comes to visit us whenever he gets the chance.
This guy would also attest to my sterling qualities as a host...as long as I keep the feeders stocked!
This demure little creature is a bit more aloof than her brightly colored mate...you know how the girls are, just gotta play hard to get...but she comes around.
I like to watch the Pelicans when they are fishing...they fly over the water 40 or 50 feet in the air and when they spot a fish, they nose over, into a dive and home in.
As they get closer to the water, they make the final adjustments to their trajectory and then...
SPLASH! Sometimes they get the fish and sometimes they just get wet.
Meanwhile, Seadrift was pushing a couple of LPG barges North. The Seadrift is a 1500 horsepower towboat owned by Marquette Transportation in Paducah KY. 1500 is pretty strong but some of Marquette's big river boats have 8500 to 9000...that's a lot of ponies! I'd hate to pay the fuel bill!
Hey people...gas is 3.89 a gallon! This guy is getting the jump on a "new" trend. We drove over to Lamar this afternoon. Lamar sits on Lamar Peninsula (oddly enough) just across Copano Bay from Rockport. Goose Island State Park is there...and that's the home of the Big Tree. It's the largest live oak tree recorded in the state of Texas and it's quite impressive. I've tried many times to get a good picture of the grand old oak but have never been able to capture a shot that really satisfied me...I tried again today but didn't succeed. While we were there this guy came driving by. Things are pretty laid back in Lamar...this guy wasn't out of place in the least.
I ventured out today to see what I could find...it didn't take me long to find out that I'd forgotten my glasses and since I'm blind as a bat without them when trying to see anything up close, I just decided to go on home and try again tomorrow. I managed a shot of "Zella" and that was the sum total for the day.
When I was a kid, we only had OUTDOOR fireworks. I'm pretty sure that even if we'd had a spiffy roadside store that specialized in the indoor kind, my mother wouldn't have let me pop 'em in the house! She was a great mom but she could be quite narrow-minded about some things! Happy Mother's Day, Mom...I miss you!!!
The Cardinal was back at the feeder today...this time he brought the better half.
Another hungry traveler
It was time to change out the nectar in the feeders for the hummers...wouldn't you know it? ...out of sugar. It was off to town again and, as well as sugar, I bought some of the store bought, ready-made stuff. I can't tell that the birds like it any better...but it DOES make for a more colorful photo!
An early Mother's Day wish for all you moms out there.... May God bless you and I hope you get to spend time with your kids.
I was in town earlier today and got the sudden inspiration for a new bird feeder. I bought one and a sack of seed and as soon as I got it home, filled it up and hung it in a tree. Sugar had to supervise...she's the official guardian of the place...She doesn't like cats, meter readers, postmen or anyone driving a white vehicle. She likes me and kids... and Bar-S brand weenies...so we're cool!
About five minutes after I hung the feeder, I had a male Cardinal hanging around...how's that for instant gratification? I slipped back into the house, got my camera and flash and went out and kicked back on the porch. He came back in just a few minutes and wasn't too skittish...the flash didn't seem to bother him at all.
I'm an old West Texas boy...born in Pecos, we lived along the Western Division of the Texas and Pacific Railroad. I think my fondest memories and the place I consider, in my mind, my home town would be Van Horn, Texas...maybe because that's the last place we lived as a family. My dad passed away while we were living there, my sister left home for college while we were there and my life changed forever. Van Horn was a great place for a kid to grow up...mountains and high desert and a small town atmosphere where there were no strangers...you knew everyone and they knew you. One thing I didn't like about the place was that bodies of water bigger than a stock tank were nonexistent. The lure of the water was a large part of the reason I live in my present location. When I first moved to the gulf coast, I wanted a boat and I eventually got one. I've owned several over the years, up to a 30 foot cabin cruiser. I was at Cove Harbor today and I reminded myself again why I no longer own one. The old saying is all too true: "A boat is a hole in the water that you fill with money". What they don't tell you is that you can never fill that hole! I looked at these boats in the yard and, to me, it pretty well summed up the whole boat owning experience. You enjoy it for a while, then you spend the rest of your time and the rest of your money working on the darned thing. Still...every once in a while...I get that urge to jump back into it...A cold shower and a look at my bank account usually snaps me out of it.
In Spring, a young man's fancy turns to love. Is that what's happening here? Is this part of a beautiful courtship...or is it just a fishing trip? I like to think it's the former but I don't really know. It was still pretty chilly this morning in the wake of our little frontal passage but by the afternoon, Spring had returned with temperatures in the 70's a light breeze and cloudless blue skies. It was a perfect afternoon to watch the birds. I had to shoot through the weeds again to catch these two but maybe that kept them from being too wary of me. I guess I wasn't stealthy enough though and they both took flight soon after this photo.
Wow, just when I was starting to get used to the increasing heat, here comes Old Man Winter...well not really winter but temps in the 50's is close enough for this South Texas boy...C'mon now...it's MAY!
Well, Osama is dead...can't say I'm too broken up about it! I suppose it's not the act of a good Christian to rejoice in another person's death but...I can be a real Old Testament guy in this case! The president said that justice was served. I can agree with that but for justice to be really served Mr. Bin Laden would have to be resurrected and killed again...three or four thousand times. Oh well, not my place to get crazy and go into a rant...he's dead and God's judgement will be the end of it. Oh yeah, the picture is from the garden at Fulton Mansion. The weather was not kind to the garden this winter and the long dry spell isn't doing it any good either but these lillies were beautiful!
As I said in yesterday's post, the hummers are coming to my feeders and that'll keep me busy for a while trying to capture the perfect hummingbird shot. I probably didn't think things through too well when I hung the feeders...they're in a big oak tree in the shade so when it's full daylight, they're in strong shadow. I used flash to try to get a good exposure on the bird but that caused the lighter areas to wash out pretty badly. Sounds like a job for HDR, I thought. I explained the HDR technique in a post quite a while back and I told you it was a "blend of multiple exposures shot at different exposure values and was shot from a tripod to get shots of identical composition...but what if your subject is moving? The winds have been high and my feeders are swinging around quite a bit...so...no HDR, right? There is a way to make an HDR from a single photo! I took the somewhat washed out shot above, converted the raw file to jpeg then saved the file with no further changes. I reopened the raw file, cranked in two stops of negative exposure compensation, converted it to jpeg and saved the file...I opened the raw a third time and repeated the process with two stops of positive compensation then merged all three jpegs into an HDR. Voila...no more washout and no alignment problems,