Monday, January 16, 2006

The Week in Review

In the space of 2-1/2 weeks the leaves on our red maples have gone from blighted, faded crimson to this. I took this shot after I picked my jaw up off the ground.

From manatees to mosaics to a mysterious glow in the toilet....

Our colds seem to be finally gone -- not severe as colds go, but draining enough that we hit the sack when we could. We were also saving up our energy for this past weekend's Manatee Festival: arts, crafts, and music in the city of Crystal River, along with pontoon boat tours of Kings Bay for manatee sightings. I teach on Saturdays, so Mary and I had attended the festival on Sunday, which was just as well -- Saturday had come with winds impressive enough to have canceled the boat tours. We were lucky enough to see several manatees -- a first for both of us -- but I couldn't capture any on pixel.

More on the event is here. Manatee appearance, behavior, and lifespan are described in this article.

Kings Bay, where this was taken, became a manatee sanctuary in November 1980. In September 1991 Citrus County officially adopted the Manatee Protection Plan, becoming the first county in Florida to comply with the state's mandate to create protection plans in areas of critical manatee habitat. Speed zones, put in place in January 1992, were part of those plans. (Source: St. Petersburg Times, Manatee Timeline.) Here, cormorants hold the speed sign down.

I was aiming for the ducks but this pelican swooped in and made this my lucky shot of the day.

I noticed this as we were waiting to take the boat tour. At first I wondered if it was a satellite dish, but then I saw all the twigs. These humanmade structures stand near (and higher than) power poles, which ospreys would otherwise use for nesting sites. This article has more on the nest platforms.

(More photos from the festival are here.)

Before heading home we stopped at the mall -- Mary to get blankets for window insulation and I to get a new printer. Some time ago I had run Ad-Aware to get rid of Virtual Bouncer -- which it did quite handily -- but it also put my computer on the outs with my old, Windows 95-compatible printer. Those two weren't supposed to be able to talk to each other but somehow they had managed. I knew, though, that their friendship existed on borrowed time.

No more. For weeks the only way I could print anything was to burn the document on a CD, slip the CD into my old Win95 computer (whose modem is dead and which can't burn CDs), and then print from my outmoded computer connected to my now-outmoded printer.

That routine got old fast. I finally gave in to the new hardware, especially since I was experiencing small but annoying secondary problems associated with the document transfers.

When I awoke the morning of this photograph I thought it had rained.

"That's not rain," Mary said. "That's dew."

Even as we enter our dry season the humidity at night can get up to 100% with nothing falling. Our patio showed no signs of moisture, but the first thing I'd noticed from our southeast-facing window were the drops hanging off our compost barrel frames. They were scintillating.

I took this at 9:18:59 AM (EST) using my darkest setting, a 1/1000-second exposure at f/8. It marked my passing the 2,000-picture mark since purchasing my camera (this particular shot is number 2011). That translated into a bit over 18 photos a day on average, beginning from the last week of September 2005.

Over on Flickr I was invited to join a new group called Making Mosaics.

A canteloupe flower rests in the center. Clockwise from upper left: sunset clouds, footprint in sand, rust, clouds with sunbeams, dirt, ocean wave, moon, and pond. They are set against a wasp nest background.

I wanted to try out a mosaic using something other than squares. I created the octagon in PowerPoint, then brought it into Microsoft Photo Editor and made all but the originally black outline transparent. I set Microsoft Paint 5.0 to transparent, then brought in each photo I wanted, positioned the octagon where I wanted it, and copied that section. (One can choose a photograph to fill a shape in PowerPoint, but PowerPoint then assigns the entire image to the fill.)

After I had filled and copied all the octagons I trimmed them manually in Paint, assembled them, and set them against the wasp nest. I took another copy of the octagon, changed its color, and positioned it over the originally black forms, slightly offset to create some shading. I did the final crop in Photo Editor. Both Paint and Photo Editor had come bundled with my computer. (I don't have Photoshop but use a combination of so-called "primitive" programs.)

The main difference in my technique here is that I've overlapped the tiles. The background is assembled from "Fallen Leaf." Tiles include images from (top to bottom and left to right):
"Autumn Tree 2"; "Late Afternoon Pine"; "Late Afternoon Trees"; a single-leaf shot from the same tree photographed in "Fall Foliage"; "Pine Cone"; "Red Maple Leaf"; "Come Into My Treehouse!"; a photo of a Japanese cork tree, taken at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and used in a collage here; and "Arboreal Profiling".

Last but not least, there was our toilet episode.

We have quarter-century-old toilets that Mary inspects regularly for algae build-up, excess scale, and other phenomena that make flushing an adventure. Certain house rules are in place: we "let it mellow if it's yellow" but we don't overwhelm the bowl with paper. We often use gray water (e.g., left over from showers) to flush, but we take care not to let the flow overwhelm our drainage holes because dead skin cells make good algae food. And "if it's brown, flush it down" has its own subset of dicta, the least complicated of which is pouring a glug of vinegar into the bowl afterwards to discourage the scale.

Violating these rules can have dire consequences, though we discovered that checking for compliance comes with its own mishaps. Which is why Mary met me in the hallway a few days ago and said, contritely, "This could be either good news or bad news." Good news because the toilet hadn't backed up. Bad news because she seemed to have lost our little flashlight.

We searched our small, cluttered bathroom and came up empty-handed. "That was your flashlight," she said. "You've had it for a long time."

"It's a thing," I assured her. "It has absolutely no sentimental value to me; we can get a new one." There are models I like better that I can buy at the supermarket anyway. The lost flashlight had come in a mesh case that fit it rather loosely. That had been the problem, because Mary had been holding the case and not the flashlight itself. I added, "At least the toilet flushes."

I returned to my studio. Mary turned out the bathroom light and called me back almost immediately. In the darkened room we watched an eerie glow emanate from beyond the bottom of the bowl.

I did what any sensible woman would do. I crowed with laughter until the tears came, then bolted to get the camera. (Positioning a tripod around a toilet seat is tricky.) The flashlight has since been rescued and washed. We had left it on to aid drying in case moisture reached any of its internal parts.


Blogger Brenda Clews said...

Oh, I remember Vancouver, where by the end of January, early Spring begins; here, in Toronto we have until April before we can expect Winter to be fully over. Sigh.

And I do so love the way you collage and frame photographs. They leave photography proper or purely at that point and become digital art.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful photo! I love the lighting behind the leaves.

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:46 AM  

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