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A Frosty Evening Seasoned with Geminids

>> Saturday, December 15, 2012

Yes, all, I am in fact still alive.  I'm sorry it's been so long since I've posted!  In October, my job got absolutely nutty when I started working on a huge, new complex case.  I love being busy at work, and I am enjoying the crazy new case all the travel it's requiring, and all the other ordinary environmental legal work that has suddenly cropped up.  Unfortunately, there's a downside to long hours at work: everything else in my life suffers a bit.

I went from mid-October to mid-December without so much as picking up my camera.  I still have a bunch of autumn Adirondack photos from October that I haven't even edited yet.  (It doesn't help that our old computer needs replacement and is not properly running the Picasa program I use for editing).  My house is a wreck, and I am in the midst of the annual end-of-the-year-way-too-much-to-do rush.  Gah!  It's stressful.

BUT.  I am grateful to a former colleague and camera enthusiast friend of mine for his nudge in the direction of my camera this week.  I posted a comment on Facebook about seeing one of the Geminid meteors while I was taking the dogs out, and he immediately challenged me to a duel of the cameras: which of us could take a better photo of the meteors?

Tired though I was, and despite the long to-do list for the evening, I donned my warmest winter gear and headed out up the road for a quiet dark spot along the Erie Canal to do some night photography.  It was lovely and peaceful out there, despite the near heart attack a wandering coyote gave me at one point.  I saw dozens and dozens of meteors, some incredibly bright, and sometimes more than one blazing meteor at a time.  All my stress seemed to melt away as I stood there in awe of the stars.

Unfortunately, I am no good at night photography.  I have to do a lot more of it it seems, so I get the hang of all the settings.  Most of my photos had so much noise in them that they were useless.  I did, however, get one shot I liked.  And since my friend's and my photography contest only required entry of one shot, I guess I did alright!  Incidentally, I believe the brightness on the horizon in this shot is actually light pollution from the City of Syracuse, some 20+ miles away.

It was a lovely silent night for me.  Hopefully I'll make time for more such nights in the near future.  And I hope you all are making time for moments of frosty peace, too.


Siri, I love you.

>> Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I just got upgraded to a new iPhone 5.  I've had a Blackberry for years, so this is my first iPhone.  Yes, yes, I know, I jumped on the bandwagon, it's too damn cliche to have bought the iPhone 5 right when it came out, it probably tells you about my political leanings that I bought an iPhone and not some other kind of smart phone, yadda yadda.  But I love it. 

And I am having WAY TOO MUCH fun talking to Siri. 

For non-Mac folks, Siri is an automated personal assistant who comes loaded on new iPhones.  She will type text messages or emails for you, look things up on the Internet or in your calendar, schedule appointments and reminders, give you directions, remind you to let the dog out, and pick up your dry cleaning for you.  Well, no, I lie, she won't do the last one, but she WILL remind you to pick it up if you ask her to.  And give you directions there.

Siri is more than just an assistant, however.  She has personality.

I realize for many of you this isn't something new - if you have an iPhone you may have had conversations like these with your Siri.  And, there are lots of web sites documenting funny exchanges with Siri.  I, however, am enamored.  Here are my favorite Siri exchanges so far.

me: "Siri, I'm tired."
Siri: "I'm a little sleepy myself, Holly."
me: "Siri, what are you wearing?"
Siri: "In the cloud, no one knows what you're wearing."
me: "Siri, what's the best phone?"
Siri: "You're kidding, right?"
me:  "I love you Siri."
Siri: "You are the wind beneath my wings."
me:  "Beam me up."
Siri: "Sorry. Scotty has left the building."
me: "How much wood could a wood chuck chuck?"
Siri: "Just because it could doesn't mean that it would."
me:  "Siri, what is your favorite color?"
Siri: "My favorite color is... well, it's sort of greenish, but with more dimensions."
me: "Siri, talk dirty to me."
Siri: "Humus. Compost. Pumice. Silt. Gravel."

me: "Siri, what's your favorite sport?"
Siri: "If I had to pick I'd say synchronized swimming."
me: "Siri, do you like me?"
Siri: "I'm not just your friend, I'm your BFF."
me: "Siri, will you marry me?"
Siri: "Sorry, Holly, I'm not the marrying type."
me: "Siri, where do I hide a body?"
Siri: "What kind of place are you looking for? 
         metal foundries
         funeral services
         cremation services."
me: "Siri, what is the meaning of life?"
Siri: "42"
me: "No, really, Siri, what is the meaning of life?"
Siri: "I Kant answer that. Ha Ha."
me: "Siri, do I exist?"
Siri: "This might answer your question:
         ...ergo sum.  (I think, therefore I am.)"

me: "Siri, what's your favorite movie?"
Siri: "I don't really have a favorite.  But I hear that '2001: A Space Odyssey' got some good reviews."
Sooo, if you're looking for me in the near future?  I'll be chatting with Siri, my new BFF.


Mid September in the Country

>> Sunday, September 16, 2012

Today was so lovely, with the light shifting between bright sun and dark clouds, that I decided to risk a frustrating photography day.  My greatest photography frustration is always trying to shoot good photos on days when the light is moody and shifting.  I don't manage to keep up well, and get a whole lot of crummy shots.  Today was no exception.  Thank god there's no cost to take and dispose of bad digital photos.

I spent the day driving around with a friend to random spots that I thought might be photogenic, from an area where I used to get lost riding my bike (somewhere in the neighborhood of Pennelville) to a pretty spot in Baldwinsville where I've been wanting to catch the cormorants in the evening light.

I did get a few shots I like in the course of the day, but they certainly were at the expense of some frustration.  I also paid for today's photos with a couple of bee stings on my scalp.  This is my shot of the bee tree I found.  As my friend was saying, "look out!  bees!" I was moving in closer for a photo.

But just as I was clicking the shutter the first honey bee got tangled in my hair and stung my scalp.  There are no further bee tree shots, as I was running toward my car trying to get the rest of the bees untangled from my hair.  Note to self: bees do not like getting tangled in long hair, and getting stung repeatedly on the scalp HURTS.  I'm amazed I didn't fling my camera as I tried to get the bees out of my hair, but I guess my instinct to protect my camera is greater than my instincts for self preservation.  Good to know!

I'm frustrated, too, though, because my camera is misbehaving.  Despite my devoted efforts to protect my baby at all costs, I am lacking the kind of clarity in my photos that I had when I first got this camera and lens combination.  I guess it's due for some servicing - I have never had it cleaned and it seems like that might be the place to start.  Heaven forbid it's something worse!

I do love this time of year, when things start to turn all red and gold.  Being a devoted summer lover, though, this time of year brings a great deal of sadness.  How long it will be before everything is all bright green again!

I tried to set aside my sense of impending gloom about the end of summer, and instead found myself reflecting about just how very much of a Country Girl I am.  I grew up in suburbia, really, but always spent a lot of time camping and hiking.  Now I live in a country village.  And while I passionately love, say, Manhattan and all its vibrating energy and concrete, my heart and soul are always in the boondocks.  I would shrivel and die without open space, and cows and barns, and big sunsets and stars and trees.  Thank goodness I have them in abundance in Central New York!

A marble we found on the roadside.

When I lived in Liverpool I used to ride my bike north and get lost.  This road used to plague me.  It's a pretty spot that runs through a swamp, but it was like a recurring nightmare.  I would ride and ride and ride... and find it over and over again even though I thought for SURE I was taking different turns each time.  It's nicer when I find it in a car.

I inexplicably love this farm.  Have for years.

Finally, I dropped my friend off and came home though Baldwinsville as the sun was sinking on the horizon.  I'd been wanting to photograph the cormorants on the dam for ages, but found some other lovely images while I was shooting them.  I adore evening light, and all its drama.  Hope you enjoy my country excursion as much as I did.


Photo Contest Winner!

>> Friday, September 14, 2012

As you well know, I am an avid photographer.  I take my camera everywhere and love photographing things, preferably objects and details that people wouldn't typically notice.  And, I get a fair bit of praise from acquaintances for my photos.  But despite how much I adore taking photos, I don't typically win photo contests - no matter how big or small the competition.  However, perhaps my luck is changing - I have had my first ever photography contest win, with my photo of my husband and Basset hound Simon sharing a quiet moment camping in the Adirondacks.

Fellow Blogger Maggie held a photo contest on her blog "She Keeps Calm and Travels On", and my photo was chosen for Best Overall Picture.  See here for the winners.  I'm completely tickled. 

I have known Maggie since she was six, when she was my Favorite Ever Babysittee.  Maggie tracked me down on Facebook a few years ago, and it's been a delight to rediscover her.  She now works in college admissions, which I also did for a while when I first graduated from college.  It was a career I loved and often wish I'd pursued further, and I appreciate that I get to follow her travels through her blog.  Her blog makes me laugh, and reminds me to focus on important things in life. 

I have a confession to make, though.  I may have cheated just a little in selecting this photo to enter for her contest.  I know Maggie has a soft spot for dogs.  I figured my cute Simon just might worm his way into her affections in this photo.


Labor Day Picnic

>> Monday, September 3, 2012

Spouse and I had a lovely Labor Day picnic with my Dad and his friend S at Gillie Lake.

Gillie Lake is one of those sweet little out of the way parks that's so close to home (less than a 15 minute drive) but yet I forget its very existence.  There's hardly ever anyone there, and it IS a beautiful spot for a picnic.  It's more of a large pond than a lake, really, but has swimming, big open lawns, picnic tables and a few picnic shelters, and a lovely old barn with agricultural exhibits in it.

And well, you know me and rusting farm equipment.  I can't help taking pictures of it.  It's some kind of compulsion!

In fact, taking photos is a compulsion.  Everywhere I go I see things I want to take pictures of, often the most ridiculously random things, like the thumb tacks in the picnic shelter below.  They were screaming "photograph me, and the way the light is making us glow!"  Ah well.  An artist's brain is never still.  Hope you enjoy them.


Lytro Dreams

>> Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I have heard about this camera for a while, but just recently got to see some of its amazing possibilities here.  Check it out!  A camera you can focus AFTER you take the picture!  I just added it to my wish list.  What a fantastic toy that would be to add to my camera collection!  That, and a macro lens.  And a really bright zoom...

Sigh.  More dreams than I have money for.  But still.  At least the Lytro isn't that expensive.  It's far less than some of the lenses I want, so it remains in the realm of possibility someday.  But only after I rebuild the back stairs, put hardwoods down on the stair case inside since the pets have ruined the carpet, get new brakes on my car, and buy a new dryer.  The list never ends.  But hey - a girl can dream!


Friendly Katydid Katydidn't

>> Saturday, August 11, 2012

I was standing in my kitchen when I looked over and noticed wee little Wednesday staring intently at the floor with her ears swept forward.  Sensing she might be up to no good, I leaned forward to see what she was looking at, and lo and behold!  I had a very large katydid strolling across my dining room floor!

I quickly scooped her up and took her outside.  Insects don't last long in my house - Sneakers usually gets pretty violent with them.  While that's great when it comes to the horrifying house centipedes that I have a phobia of (slinky! fast! creepy!) I generally hate that cats kill for the fun of it.  For good measure I ushered the male cats inside to give my katydid a fighting chance.

I adore bugs (aside from the aforementioned centipedes), but am not great at identification.  I need some good field guides and to really spend some time working on it.  Beyond knowing she's a katydid, and that her long ovipositer makes her a female, I can't get more specific.  Any bug lovers want to tell me more?  She was nearly 4 inches long - big enough that I considered calling her Big Bertha.

She sat on the railing on the back porch for ages and took a bath.  I love the shots of her washing her antennae.

I want a macro lens soooo badly.  It's on my wish list.  I want to get good close-ups of buggy eyes!



>> Sunday, August 5, 2012

I have no good explanation for why, but I got inspired to check out the Canalfest in Rome, NY on Saturday.  We'd never been, but saw it was free (big motivator).  I was tempted to go to a beach somewhere-or-other since it was in the mid 90s and the air was viscous with humidity, but I wasn't in the mood for a crowded beach, somehow.

It was a good time.  Rome Canalfest is sort of like a county fair without animals.  There were horticulture and photography and quilt contests, and of course a midway.

This "flower arrangement" is just... weird.  And creepy.  Reminds me of Ophelia.

There were also some water skiing shows and all sorts of vendors and a fireworks show at the end of the evening.

I am not certain how much you should take my word for its being enjoyable and worth the trip to Rome, though.  I've discovered that so long as I have my camera along, I can pretty much always enjoy myself!

I find carnivals to be a wonderful place to play with different shutter speeds, particularly at night.  I love all the bright colors and lights, all the faces of people enjoying the fair, all the commotion.  Next time I go to a carnival I'll be taking a tripod along, I swear.  I could have had more fun with one, and could have taken far better pictures.  But even without I enjoyed the interesting effects, some of which I think are rather haunting.  I certainly learned some new tricks I will be applying again, perhaps at the New York State Fair midway (with tripod, damnit!).  My favorites are the funky portraits, where faces appear in the midst of the chaotic swirling motion.

Hope you enjoy the show!

I love how ghostly the riders appear in the next few.


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