Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Google+ Hangouts a Boon to Photographers

Since the inception of social media, photographers have been using them with varying levels of success. Photographers of high repute have had no difficulty maintaining their notoriety, while numerous previously-unknown photographers have vaulted themselves high into the webosphere by successfully manning social media.

For the better part of a year, I have been a Google+ user. I have uploaded photos and posted links to my blog, mostly with the feeling that I was sending them off into the great void that the interwebs can be, occasionally receiving a +1 or comment, but more often than not, just emptiness. Until recently.

Google+ is still evolving, working to take what form and place it eventually will. Recently, the Google+ programmers have implemented a feature called "Hangouts," in which users can start and curate hangouts on any theme of topic, and to which anyone aware of its existence can contribute. Such themes are made more easily discoverable with the Trending indicator on user's Stream page. To contribute, a user must only upload a photograph, then tag it with either a "#" or "+" whichever is appropriate. Etiquette often purports that users employing the Hangout should drop the Curator's name in the text portion of the post, thus crediting them for taking the time and effort to initiate the Hangout.

Among those to effectively implement the Hangouts feature are photographers, creating an avenue of discourse and interaction among those of like interests. This allows less notorious photographers a manner in which they can get work discovered and judged on the merits of that singular photograph, rather than the recognition of his name. Some of my favorites so far are +Macro Monday (top right), +Tree Tuesday (left), and +Sacred Sunday.

Whatever your interest, you can likely find a niche, but if not you can certainly start your own Hangout, because there are probably other like-minded photographers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly on a Purple Coneflower

When looking for information about the Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly, after taking a photo of this one on an Eastern Purple Coneflower, I found a pretty interesting fact about this rather common butterfly. It secretes a substance that ants really favor, so in return the ants will protect the larva of the Eastern Tailed Blue from predators. But those of you who curate flower of vegetable gardens should watch out, because she will lay her eggs on the leaves or buds of your plants so that newly-hatched caterpillars will have something to feast on.

Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly :: Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8 Macro, f/11 @ 1/80s, ISO 400

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bee Pollinating a Purple Coneflower

On a stifling summer afternoon, which invites only lethargy, the bees were regarding their stewardly duty of pollinating the local flora. With purple coneflowers and knockout roses in abundance, there was plenty for nature's helpmates to tend to.

Bee Pollinating a Purple Coneflower :: Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8 Macro, f/8 @ 1/500s, ISO 400
Since getting this Tokina 35mm Macro lens in December, I've really enjoyed it. But one thing makes me anxious, the very close working distance required to take photos like this one, usually less that two inches. And between my unsteady hand, the slightly shifting breeze, and the movement of the bees, it requires taking dozens of photos to get one with just the right critical focus. Which requires spending a lot of time in close proximity to critters with stingers. They've been gracious thus far, but I imagine I'll eventually get stung, and I do hate being stung. I think my next lens purchase needs to be the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Acanthocephela Declivis, A Giant Leaf-Footed Bug

Acanthocephela declivis is a bug of many names. In searching for information about this insect, I found it to be known as: pumpkin bug, giant leaf-footed bug, giant spine-headed bug, and a "bad dude." They are known to feed on gourds, melons, and tomatoes, so gardeners beware. They are also reported to emit a very bad odor that can be smelled from a couple feet away. Apparently, this species is the least commonly found of the three species that make up the genus.

Giant Leaf-Footed Bug :: Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8 Macro, f/8 @ 1/60s, ISO 400
Giant Leaf-Footed Bug :: Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8 Macro, f/8 @ 1/15s, ISO 400
And they almost got a little less commonly found still, when my golden retriever, Darby, spied what I was photographing and, at the time, videoing, and thought it looked like a tasty, crunchy mid-afternoon snack.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Misty Morning in a Fultondale Wood

On a misty, rainy morning in June, a neighbor allowed me access to the woods behind his home for the purpose of photographing this scene. On most days, it's a nice enough scene, but on this day, the climactic conditions come together to make it particularly appreciable. My favorite part of this photograph is its low-key nature that perfectly reflects the mood of the morning.

When I walked out my front door to walk up the street to the neighbor's house, there was a light drizzle, but little more. But as soon as I set up my tripod and got everything ready, the bottom seemed to fall out of the clouds. I wasn't worried about the lens as much, because the EF 24-105mm f/4 L is largely weather-sealed, but the camera, a mere Rebel T2i, is not. Nor is most of the other equipment that was in the bag (also not weather-proof). But I kept shooting nonetheless, because the lighting was just right, and in the end, everything turned out alright - particularly the photograph. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Flowers from the White Trail, Moss Rock Preserve

For my third visit to Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover, Alabama, I set out on an out-and-back along the White Trail from the trailhead across from The Preserve. With Darby along for the hike, we planned to get in a mild three-to-four mile hike. Our turnaround point was to be the Frog Pound, which as it turned out was little more than a muddy bog due to seasonably dry conditions. After passing Boulder Field, our next major landmark was Tunnel Falls, more aptly found to be Tunnel Trickle on this occasion. But despite, the arid conditions, there were a good number of flowers about.

These are a couple that I photographed using the "Macro" (1:2 Reproduction) functionality of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L lens I have recently acquired. These were taken handheld, made possible only because of the Image Stabilization on the lens; even still I would have been better off with a tripod or monopod, because with macro it's easy to miss that critical focus point with the slightest movement of man or plant. And had I not missed focus on several other photos, I would be able to offer more photographs exhibiting the colorful, though not exotic, flowers hikers can look forward to.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cuddled Up at Moss Rock Preserve

While I was hot and sweaty from hiking, and had been fighting insects and briars, others were spending their afternoon at Moss Rock Preserve in a much cozier manner...cuddled up in a hammock.

Moss Rock Preserve, Hoover, Alabama :: Canon Rebel T2i, EF 24-105mm f/4 L

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fultondale Auto Salon

For most of my eight years in the area, this building has appeared to be largely unused or used only for storage. Over the last few months, a new-and-used market has opened within the buildings the other storefronts attached to this building. The Fultondale Auto Salon has not been here for a while but evidence of its existence will probably remain for some time to come.

Fultondale, Alabama :: Canon Rebel T2i, EF 24-105mm f/4 L @ 35mm, 1/400s @ f/8, ISO 200

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rock'n Turkey Creek for the Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System

The Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System is a network of existing and proposed trail systems purported and supported by the Freshwater Land Trust and other similar organizations. On Saturday, Jun 9, an event was held in Palmerdale, called Rock'n Turkey Creek, to raise money for the Turkey Creek Corridor of the trail systems, which boasts the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, along with several existing and proposed trails. 

It was my great honor to have the hosts of this 1950s-styled event to use one of my photographs of Turkey Creek Falls on their promotional material for Rock'n Turkey Creek.

A compilation of three bracketed photos, using HDR techniques, this long-exposure photograph was taken with the aid of welding glass used as a neutral density filter, to reduce the amount of light to reach the sensor. Along with other photographs of Turkey Creek, this photograph can be found in my galleries, here.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bent Boards and Rusted Roofs :: Rural Farmstead in a Sub-Urban Setting

Because of the urban sprawl that is the Birmingham area, with its large hinterlands, northern Jefferson County is a not incongruous melding of sub-urban and rural settings. In many instances, it's as though neighborhoods sprung, unwittingly, amongst farmsteads. This property is such a place, hosting a modern home in addition to dilapidated barns and outbuildings.

Canon Rebel T2i, EF 24-105mm f/4 L @ 50mm, 1/200s @ f/4, ISO 200
I hesitate to mention the exact location of these photographs since I did not have permission to be on the premises photographing the buildings. I went with the intention of getting permission, but the landowners weren't home, and my feet carried me across the field nevertheless.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Divine Reality for Sale in Birmingham

Ever since I moved to Birmingham, I have been intrigued by a building that proclaims itself the Assembly of Divine Reality. Its sign is decorated symbols of Judaism and Christianity. I have scoured the interwebs for information about the organization but turned up very little. Most of that "very little" is espoused by disgruntled, former members of the congregation, and their words about this purported cult are not flowery or kind. They write of fear and deception and dictatorial-type control of members. Nevertheless, "divine reality" is for sale or lease in Birmingham, which amuses me to a moderate degree.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hanging with Oscar and Nigel at Black Creek Park

A couple weeks back, I went to Black Creek Park in Fultondale to photograph a scene I had espied while running there. So I set up and took a number of shots, though it turned out that I was a little late to really catch the flowers in bloom, and the photograph wasn't what I hoped it might be. 

But as I moved along the creek's banks to see if anything else caught my fancy, I was accosted by a small band of boys, bearing a net, who were looking for fish. I told them where they were most likely to find fish, though I didn't dishearten them with the news that their net was too large to hold the creek's small specimen. Off they went, in the opposite direction as myself.

I then set up shop in the middle of the creek in the vain attempt to photograph another boring scene, when in my viewfinder, I saw the boys returning my direction, net empty. While a couple of them stayed back, two fellows, Nigel and Oscar, headed directly to me, inquisitive about what I was doing standing in the middle of the creek with camera and tripod. They ventured to wander out mid-stream as well, and I did not warn them quickly enough about the slippery rocks along the creekbed. Their clothes that were already dirty became wet too. After another minute or two of conversation, they asked if I would take their picture, so I accommodated them, then headed home to let Darby in and eat dinner.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Inaugural "Run for Their Lives" 5K in Fultondale, Alabama

The North Jefferson Women's Center hosted its inaugural "Run for Their Lives" 5K and 1 mile Fun Run on Saturday, June 2, at Black Creek Park in Fultondale. I was one of about a hundred or so participates to run the events, a turnout that I think the hosts were pleased with. The North Jefferson Women's Center is one of only a couple of crisis pregnancy centers in the Birmingham area, and is "committed to providing compassionate counsel, accurate information, and practical help to women, men, and families facing unplanned pregnancies in a safe, non-judgmental and caring environment."

Lined up and listening to instructions at the "Run for Their Lives" at Black Creek Park
Now as for the race, it ended up being a cluster of follies for me. I was determined to set a PR, which I did; I was hoping to finish with a sub-7:00 pace, but came in at a 7:08 pace. Now my actual finish time and my official finish time have a disparity of about 80 seconds, because I managed to miss the Finish chute, which wasn't well marked, and continue on my way until I hit 3.10 miles according to my watch and realized something was amiss; so actually, I finished in 22:08, but not officially. But the foolishness doesn't end there. 

Despite being 30 years old, I managed to finish first among those aged 60+. Because I forgot to fill out my age on the registration sheet, the computer marked me as 99, by default. The real shame of it is that had I put down my age, I would have finished first in my actual age group and walked away with a medal. Unofficially, I finished fifth overall, but because of missing the finish line, my official finish was sixth. Like I said, a cluster of follies.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Panorama from Fountains at Centennial Olympic Park

These fountains shaped as the Olympic rings in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta draw children like honey draws flies. Later in this day as the temperature rose, and with less camera gear attached to me, I too may have been tempted to succumb to its allure.

Six-Shot Panorama :: Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 12-24mm f/4