Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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What to send?

The library here hosts a photography contest every fall. Residents of our township submit up to three 8×10 images which are numbered and affixed to big display boards.

#1

We have the month of September to submit photos. Then they are on display at the library through the end of October.

#2

People get to vote on their favorite. There’s an adult and a kids division.

#3

The only rule is that the images have to have been taken in our township.

#4

I love looking at all the pictures. Lots of times I think, “darn! I’ve seen that exact image and always thought I should stop and take a picture!”

#5

The first year I submitted three images, things I thought were artsy, interesting, technically good.

#6

I realized right away when I saw which images won that the people voting are not judging skills, but rather are voting with their hearts on things that touched them.

#7

So I changed my strategy and tried to see my photos from a casual observer’s point of view.

#8

What would catch someone’s eye? Make them smile or even laugh?

#9

What image would make them come back and look again?

#10

All of these photos are from around my yard. You’ve seen most of them before. I have to pick three.

#11

What’s your vote?


29 Comments

A Shiawassee walk in the park

My sister is visiting from out of town and we’ve been busy exploring. I took her to Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge one very early morning a couple weeks ago.

A pretty pink early morning light gilded everything.

I hadn’t been there in mid-summer before, preferring migration season, when the cranes are coming and going, but you never know what you’ll see on any given day. We arrived at the park before the sun was up, and it seemed pretty quiet.

Almost boring.

Here comes the sun.

I was feeling kind of disappointed that nothing seemed to be flying when suddenly the sound of wings came up from our right, moved directly overhead and then off into the distance to our left.

All those little black dots are birds.

I don’t know what kind of birds they were, they were just black silhouettes, but thousands of smallish dark shapes flew by, heading out for breakfast and their day in the sun.

It was pretty cool.

A chilly start to our bird-watching day.

Then we hopped back in the car and started down Wildlife Drive where, once again, I didn’t initially see anything interesting Though there was this beautiful field of something, glowing in the early light.

This reminded me of the tulip fields in Holland though of course it wasn’t.

And as I was standing outside of the car taking that photo these guys rose up with a ruckus from the ditch right next to me.

It’s hard to have a peaceful morning when people keep stopping to stare at us.”

And a little further up the road we disturbed this blue heron. I loved his long legs as he took off.

Lift off!

He was less than thrilled with us…

“Darn humans anyway.”

…so we moved on down the road.

No one out there but us and the wildlife.

At the next corner I saw an adorable duck. So of course we stopped.

There’s a duck under there. Somewhere.

Turns out he was some kind of diving duck, and the best image I grabbed of him wasn’t him at all.

And then right after the duck was a juvenile eagle hanging out in a tree.

“I’m not going to look at you, ladies.”

The light wasn’t really right to get a great shot of him, so I started looking around at what else was waiting to be photographed and found my artsy-fartsy image of the day.

The morning’s art piece.

I don’t know why the line of dead trees caught my eye, but something about it demanded to be captured. So I did.

Then we ran across something of a bird flasher. He seemed intent on showing off everything he had. Or maybe he was just drying off from a morning swim.

“Geeze, ladies, if you don’t want to see, don’t look.”

And while we were watching him my sister saw a bit of gold flitting around in a stand of thistle.

Hanging upside down to get the best thistle seed fresh from the blossom.

I spent a long time getting an image of him eating out in nature what I usually see goldfinches eating from my feeder at home.

These ducks were swimming as if they had some sort of mission to achieve somewhere else. I have no idea what kind of duck they are. Looking in my Michigan bird book I wonder if maybe they are female wood ducks? Or maybe juveniles.

“We might have red eyes, but we’re not hung over.”

And this family of ducks were adorable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them before either.

I think mama is on the right and the other 3 are babies.

But the bird that made me smile the widest was this guy. We’d been watching, through binoculars, a couple of bald eagles perched in a tree very far away when I happened to glance to my left and saw this:

“Just minding my own business, nothing to see here.”

There was an adult bald eagle in the top of a tree much closer to us. Still far away, but much closer than those eagles across the field.

Heavily cropped image.

We spent a long time taking shots of him, as I was struggling with my focus all day. I kept trying, manually adjusting, trying to find a place to prop my long lens because I was worried about camera shake.

“Keeping a watch on you ladies is a full time job!”

My glasses were fogging up and sliding off my nose which irritated me so I put them on top of my head and then realized I couldn’t tell if anything was in focus without them. I decided to trust the lens.

Eventually I figured, what the heck, I’d try to move closer to him. I walked, under cover of the tree line toward him, moving slowly and as quietly as I could given the gravel road. I couldn’t tell if he was watching me.

“Really lady. I’m an eagle. I’m where the term eagle eyes comes from.”

I caught a bit of him through the trees then tried to move out into the open to get an unobscured shot. But he wasn’t having any of it, and that was the end of that.

I’m outta here.”

But man that was fun.

We were nearing the end of Wildlife Drive, but there was still a bit more to see. We’d noticed monarch butterflies all morning, flitting among the milkweed, wings glowing in the early morning sun.

Nom nom nom.

And now that the sun was higher warming the air we noticed even more.

I loved the colors in this shot, the butterfly and the background too.

Having not learned my lesson with the egrets, the heron, the diving duck, and the eagle, I tried to move around the butterfly to get a better angle.

“I’m outta here.”

But he wasn’t having it and that was the end of that.

Ah well.

Turns out there was so much to see along the road that had initially looked empty, and just before we left the Refuge we saw one more image that made us smile.

” Hey look Clyde, there’s another car full of camera happy fools. I swear we should start charging a fee.

I know it’s not easy being green, but these guys seemed pretty comfortable in their own skins. Or should I say shells. At least they didn’t take off when I took their picture. Maybe because I shot it from the car window.

I can learn, contrary to what Katie always used to say, yes I can.


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Two opportunists or just one con-bird?

I was back out at Kensington this week, on a dreary and damp Wednesday morning. The birds were overjoyed to see us. And of course I have loads of images. Some are quite good.

But my question today is about one particular little bird. Or perhaps two.

We were still very near the nature center when a rose-breasted grosbeak demanded a treat. This is the first year I’ve ever seen a grosbeak come in for a hand held treat. But these days I often see, on Facebook, a picture of one enjoying himself. It kind of looks like the same bird I’ve fed out there.

And I wonder if there is only one that comes in to eat our treats, or if the entire rose-breasted population has figured out the secret.

So here’s the bird that ate from our hand near the nature center.

And here’s the bird that flew down from a high branch of a dead tree to get the last of the snacks just before we left for the day.

What do you think? Is it the same bird? Or did we have two hungry birds begging for attention?

Inquiring birders want to know.


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Father and son

Now look here, son, you’re almost an adult. You’re as big as me and your head is starting to turn red! It’s time for you to learn how to feed yourself.

Hey! None of that flapping your wings for supper stuff. Look over there, see the woman with peanuts in her hand?

Are you listening to me, boy? Pay attention!

Look, that’s not going to get you anywhere with the humans around here . You have to have more finesse!

Now watch me, I’m gonna go schmooze a snack. For myself.

The kid’s gotta learn to get his own food sooner or later.

Dad?

DAAAAADDDDD!!!!!


32 Comments

Starry starry night

I’m taking an online Milky Way photography course. There are many modulus, lots of basics, but lots of details too. Our homework this ‘new moon cycle’ was to take a single image of the Milky Way. I’ve been trying to get somewhere dark on a night when there are clear skies.

March 12 at Katie’s park. Clouds AND too much light! (Bortle 5)

It hasn’t been easy. There is so much light pollution where I, and most of us, live. You can check out the amount of light in your area using a light pollution map. There are 9 levels of light pollution, from a bortle 1 (darkest) to bortle 9 (the most light).

Friday late afternoon I drove a couple of hours up into the thumb of Michigan, with a specific destination in mind. Though we were under heavy cloud cover the weather people said the sky would clear by 9 p.m. and stay that way up till 3 a.m. The Milky Way wasn’t scheduled to rise until 3 a.m. But I was running out of nights when there would be no moon, so I decided to hope and headed north.

I reserved a hotel in Bad Axe, and thought I’d shoot in the Dark Sky park which has an elevated platform and pretty close to 360 degrees of sky and was located ten miles away in Port Crescent. Imagine my despair when, after checking into the hotel, I arrived at the park to explore before sunset and found it closed for the season! OH NO!!!

March 27. Too much light, and so cold my fingers froze after only 7 shots. (Bortle 4)

I drove up and down the thumb coast looking for another location as the sun began to sink. I slowly came to the realization that any open access to the beach was going to have me pointing my camera in the wrong direction. I needed to be able to see the horizon in the southeast. I’d be looking north or west on the western side of the thumb.

Downtown Port Austin. Too much light, and looking northwest.

So I drove over to the eastern shore, remembering two spits of land at Grindstone City that Katie and I had explored three years ago while camping up there. I needed to see if I’d feel safe there alone at night.

April 1. This looks promising. (Bortle 3)

Turns out one of the spits of land is a boat ramp, and the houses at the top of the ramp didn’t appear to be inhabited in this offseason of cold and wind. I didn’t see a street light either. I figured it was my best chance. I drove back to the hotel for a nap, setting my alarm for 2 a.m.

But at 2, when my phone started chiming I was so nice and warm in a comfortable bed I considered just rolling over and letting sleep claim me again. After all, the clouds were supposed to be moving in and what were the odds I see the Milky Way anyway? Plus it was a half hour drive to a dark boat ramp. Kind of scary. Maybe I’d just stay in bed.

But that would be a waste of careful (and not so careful) planning. It was my last night of clear skies before the moon put in an appearance. My last chance this moon cycle to try. So I convinced myself to at least get in the car and drive up there. And I gave myself permission to not get out of the car if it didn’t feel right.

On the drive I could see stars overhead. I never saw another car the entire trip. Arriving at the boat ramp it felt comfortable. Twenty-eight degrees, no wind, I could set my tripod up right next to the car, facing out over a small bay and Lake Huron.

I decided to sit in the car and let my eyes adjust. Also to make sure that I was alone out there. So I turned off the headlights and waited for the dash lights to dim They stayed on. And on. I thought maybe if I locked the car doors they’d turn off. So I clicked the button and the doors locked and the dash lights still stayed on. I sat there waiting and they shone brightly back at me.

Well darn.

Maybe I’d just get out and set up the camera and wait for my eyes to adjust out there. I pulled the interior door handle to release the lock and the car alarm went off. Well double darn. Here I am trying to be inconspicuous and the dash light won’t turn off and now the headlights are blinking and the horn is blaring and I’m fumbling trying to get it all to just stop!

Deliberately overexposed to check star focus. Is that the Milky Way near the tree?

I finally click the right thing and the horn stops, and I sort of fall out of the car, slam the door and begin setting up the tripod. But one of the top sections of the tripod isn’t tight, and the camera flops around and in the dark I can’t figure out what I have to turn to stop the flopping.

I take a deep breath and tighten up everything I can figure out to tighten and wonder why nothing seemed loose in the hotel room. I take a test shot, deliberately overexposed, to help me check the focus of the stars. I think I see the Milky Way in that shot, but frankly, it’s hard to tell.

Whatever, there are stars so I’m happy.

I take several (ok, 50+) images, moving around a little bit, but finding that if I move away from the car I’m in even more light from the streetlight over on the other spit of land, and hope that maybe at least one of them is exposed correctly while also in focus without tripod tremor. (At one point my camera slowly sank to the right because something still wasn’t tight!)

I never felt nervous, never got cold, and I lost all track of time. I packed it up around 4 a.m. I was pretty much taking pictures of the same tree the entire time, but I was never bored. That’s what getting lost in the stars does for me.

April 2, 3:00 a.m. Lots of light everywhere. Not even sure that’s the Milky Way, but it was pretty!

I wish I could do more of this, but it’s just so hard to find a place that’s dark enough but where I still feel safe. I’m going to start planning for the next new moon cycle. Where to go, where to go…

And a side benefit? There were lots of barns around Bad Axe. Lots and lots of barns.

Stay tuned.


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Eagle search part 2

Before we were so beautifully interrupted by the cardinal seige, I was conteplating the continuation of an eagle search. I’d already been to the Great Lakes National Cemetary where I’d seen, from far away, the resident eagle and his nest. But it was still early and a beautiful day, maybe another eagle was waiting to be discovered at my favorite park.

What is this, you ask?

Should I go look for it? Well of course I should.

So after some more mental arguing about other things I could be doing, mostly involving housework, I jumped back in the car and headed south to Kensington where eagles had been sighted at the heron rookery.

“Don’t bug me lady, some nice people left me some lunch and I’m hungry!”

Not that I thought I’d be so lucky to find one there in the early afternoon. But it’s my favorite park and how could I go wrong, I knew I’d find something!

“I don’t know why you people get so excited over an eagle. I’ve got much better colors.”

I took my time driving through the park, pulled up leisurely in a parking spot at the nature center. Even sat there awhile and looked at the eagle pictures I already had in my camera.

Then I looked up and spotted a big bump in the top of a tree. And me quite a ways away, with the wrong lens on the camera. Talk about unprepared.

“Geeze lady, an experienced photographer pays better attention to the details!”

I hustled over there, stopped at the first bench on the boardwalk and switched my lens, hoping he’d stick around long enough for me to get a shot, even if it wasn’t optimum.

“Ahem. Were you looking for ME?”

He did. And he watched me the whole time too.

“You do realize your camera is focused on the branches, not me…right?”

And apparently, when I took too long, he decided he’d had enough and he flew away…

“I’m outta here.”

…way over to a dead tree on the other side of the lake. With his back to those of us still photographing from the boardwalk.

“There’s more privacy over here and the light is better anyway.”

I stayed and talked with another photographer while we waited to see where he’d go next. We hoped he’d come back to the rookery, but he decided to take a trip over to the back side of the lake where he was a tiny spot in the sky, lazily circling, checking out lunch prospects.

Hey lady! Pay attention! I’m being especially adorable down here!”

So I walked a bit on the trails, but they were covered in slippery ice and I was wearing old sneakers, so I didn’t stay long. I did manage to get some shots of some other, very cute, birds while I was there, and I’m sharing most of them here.

“People overlook us doves all the time, their loss, I always say.”

But..wait…did I show you the blue jays? Or the swans? No? Well, you have to see those. I guess another birdy type post is in order.

You can’t see too many birds…right?

Right.

“I did my head feathers special for this photo shoot too…darn people always want to take pictures of the big birds…”


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Fun, interesting, or stupendous things that may or may not have gotten done these past two years.

Back in 2019, instead of making a list of resolutions, I made a list of stuff I thought would be fun to do. I even ended up doing quite a few some of them.

So in 2020 I moved a few of the not done 2019 things to a new and improved list, and added a few more fun ideas, thinking about all sorts of exciting adventures and explorations.

And then covid.

2020 was brutal and I rarely looked at the list, though I did manage to do a couple of the fun things. But at the end of 2020, with the loss of my brother-in-law to covid, and so much overwhelming bad stuff happening, I never even made a 2021 list.

The 2020 list has been on my bulletin board ever since, reminding me that there are still interesting, fun and stupendous things to do, I just needed to figure out how to do them.

Here’s what was on that list, hanging on the bulletin board for the past two years and how it all turned out:

*Camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. — DONE the summer of 2021, two separate trips!

*Travel to Florida to meet the baby sheltie boys.–Not done, and they aren’t babies anymore.

*Purchase a set of extension tubes for my camera and explore macro photography. –DONE in 2020

*Make more vegetarian or vegan meals, goal being a least one per week. — Fizzled out

*Take a drawing class. — Not done.

*Spend several weeks in Alabama and invite friends to join me. –Well, I spent a couple weeks in 2021 there, but covid prohibited inviting anyone to come along.

*Walk in at least 3 5K races. — I think I did a total of 2 over the past two years. Both were virtual but fun.

*Improve my night photography skills. — I had an awesome time this past August shooting a meteour shower. I still have lots to learn.

*Spend a week in the Southwest.. –We were there in February of 2020, before we knew about covid.

*Ride my bike on some rails-to-trails around here. — Not done, and I have no idea why not.

*Take Katie camping at least twice this summer. — I tried once, in 2020, but she wasn’t having fun. We are probably limited to camping in the back yard these days.

So. Which of these should I include in my list of stupendous things to do in 2022? Or…should I abandon all of them and come up with some wonderful but wildly different fun stuff to do?

I feel like most of this can be done even in times of covid. But some of it feels stale too.

What would you keep, what would you add? What would you toss?

Inquiring minds (mine) want to know!

Some of your stupendous plans better include me and my park, mama!


42 Comments

Princess Katie does Walktober with the Queen

Katie here. Things have been kind of boring in my world lately – as you may have noticed I haven’t gone on any adventures in forever. So this year’s Walktober seemed the perfect opportunity for me to kick it up a notch. Or ten.

The moms put us up here ’cause some really big dogs were coming. And because we are cute.

So I instructed mama to invite my friend Queen Abby (and her mom) to accompany me on my Walktober adventure. Abby was pretty excited about going on an adventure too. We think alike, Abby and me, mostly by ignoring each other. It works for us.

“Hey Katie, let’s not look at them when they take pictures of us, OK?”

Anyway, we met at Hudson Mills Metro Park down in Dexter which is near Ann Arbor Michigan. That way neither or our servants moms had to drive too far.

Queen Abby refused to smile, stating she was too regal to stoop to the paparazzi’s level.

It was a pretty day, though it started out foggy. But I don’t mind that, foggy means cool, and cool is, well cool to us shelties. We wait all year for the temperatures to drop so we can show off our beautiful but heavy coats for everyone to see

OK, maybe a little smile.

But I digress. I’m here to show you all the fall color, right? Hmmmm….down here in lower Michigan there’s isn’t that much color quite yet.

Mama says the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is at peak color right now. She’s not up there. I think she’s sad about that, but she sure wasn’t sad about going on an adventure with me!

A little bit of color against a beautiful blue sky.

Abby and I even put up with all the photos the moms wanted to take. As long as they didn’t want us to sit too close together we were willing.

Not going to look at you, mama.

And we managed to find some color under a couple of trees so that the moms felt like this walk qualified for a Walktober.

We paused to rest at this spot that was right next to a disc golf tee, so we got to see lots of guys throwing stuff. I thought that was facinating.

We had a wonderful time. The moms were very careful to let us rest as much as we wanted. After all, both I and the Queen are seniors now.

We sat in this pavilion, the concrete was nice and cold.

But we walked a good long way too, just real slow. The better to appreciate our adventure, you know.

Seriously Katie, does your mom always take so many pictures?”

I think Queen Abby was glad she granted me the playdate so we could go on on a Walktober together.

All hail the Queen!

And I was really glad to share my adventure with her too. But, eventually, we had to leave. We each went back to our waiting carriages.

I was disgruntled because my treats had not been placed in my private compartment as requested.

I don’t think Abby was quite ready to leave. I didn’t want to say goodbye either.

See you later sweet Abby-girl!

But I was ready for a nap, and slept most of the way home. Except when mama stopped to take pictures of barns. But I forbade her from showing those on my Walktober post!

Geeze mother!

I swear, that woman has no boundries! But I’ll forgive her, cause I had a stupendously fun day!

Talk later, your adventuring girl Princess Katie.

PS: Thank you to Miss Robin for hosting the Walktober again this year! It got mama to take me to a park, so I owe you!!

Come along with me, there’s another adventure just over here!