Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beau got COOKIES!!!

Phyllis baked home made dog biscuits for Tina's dogs for Christmas. When they came over they could smell them in the gift bags, but they were good enough not to rip open the bags. When she opened the baggies enough for them to get a good whiff, Beau gave Tina this look. I called it:

Beau got COOKIES!!!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another Hobby

Another one of my hobbies besides taking photos is geocaching. You use your handheld GPS receiver and go around the world looking for little caches that have been hidden by other geocachers. You can learn more about it at http://www.geocaching.com/, and it is quite entertaining. Anyway, one of the little side things you can do is locate US Geodetic Survey markers. Those are everywhere, and they can sometimes be difficult to find, or at least difficult to get to. I found this one the other day. It is quite close to my house and I'd been meaning to go find it for a while because it is old. It was originally placed on top of Columbiana Mountain in 1887. The original marker was a beer bottle buried in the ground, but it has since been replaced by a more official marker set in concrete. I think the original beer bottle is still buried under the concrete block holding this marker.

This one was fairly easy to find after I'd huffed and puffed up Columbiana Mountain because it had a witness post right beside it. Yeah, I know Columbiana Mountain only has about 200 feet of elevation change from where I parked, but it's still a huff and a puff for me. This witness post is a metal pipe sticking out of the ground about three feet with a sign on it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

2 Things Challenge Saturday/Sunday

This week's 2 Things Challenge is Saturday/Sunday. Well, if Saturday is your day, the green dome on the right is for you. It tops TEMPLE EMANU EL on Highland Avenue in the Southside of Birmingham, Alabama. But if Sunday is your day, then perhaps the steeple on the left is for you. It tops South Highlands Presbyterian Church, diagonally across Highland Avenue from the temple. Just a couple of blocks off to the right is Highlands United Methodist Church where I have volunteered with the homeless and made several of my favorite photos. I have to credit my wife with the idea of putting the temple and the church in one photo for this challenge. I thought it was a clever idea.

Fall is Here, Some Places

When I first moved to the Birmingham area 37 years ago, I fell in love with Shades Crest Road. I was a lonely young man in a strange city and the first time I drove down this road was on a rainy evening. It was like driving through the clouds, something you don't get to do very often in Macon, Georgia where I grew up. It seemed to fit my mood. But then when I went down the road in the daylight, there were lots of places where you could get a glimpse of Oxmoor Valley through the trees, or pull over and walk out to the bluff for some wonderful scenery. The valley itself has grown up a lot, and the views from Shades Crest Road are now mostly from somebody's back yard and you can't get to them. But I did find one spot, where if you aren't too afraid of the traffic and heights, you can walk out and lean over the cliff and see some of the old splendor. Just narrow your focus though, because there are plenty of roads, houses and buildings that weren't there 37 years ago.

Golf Course from Shades Mountain
Shades Mountain from Shades Mountain

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Say hello to Herman. I met Herman about 18 months ago when a group of students from my first photography class called Photographing the Magic City were in the Five Points South area of Birmingham taking late afternoon and early evening shots. Herman got interested in what we were doing and was looking over my shoulder at the images I'd captured. We talked briefly that evening. Since we were supposed to do a series on the Magic City from some unique perspective, I decided I'd get Herman to show me around the city and I'd photograph what was important to him. After talking to him one afternoon for a couple of hours, I decided that wasn't going to work out, so I just snapped some pictures of Herman and his friends/acquaintances who were hanging around the fountain. The pictures of Willie and Chuck below were also taken that same afternoon. When we reviewed the photos in class the next week, the teacher really liked some of them and I decided to do my series as portraits of those street people, up close and very personal. Based on the photo of Willie below and my wife's comment, the series was called Somebody's Uncle. I went back an a couple of other afternoons and got some photos of different people in the area. Herman, however, is the icon of the area, and many, many people would know who you were talking about if you referred to Herman from Five Points.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fair Photos- Dismal Leaves

This was my final entry into the Shelby County Fair this year. I entered it into the "Seasonal" category, since I figured fall is a season. I took the photo on an excursion to the Dismals Canyon in Northwest Alabama last fall. When we got to the Dismals Park, it was closed. Rather than waste the drive, I went across the street and took some photos on a creek, a small falls, and leaves in the water. That's why I called it Dismal Leaves. When we got to the fair and looked for my photos to see if I'd won any ribbons, we found all of them except this one. After looking around for a few minutes we figured out why. It had been moved over by itself because not only did it win the Blue Ribbon for first place in the "Seasonal" category, it also had a big Best of Show Ribbon. Boy was I surprised. I did not expect this one to even get a ribbon. I thought some Thanksgiving layout or Christmas photo would win. Again, that's why I'm not the judge.

Dismal Leaves

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fair Photos - Jesus at St. Paul's

This statue stands over the entrance to St. Paul's Cathedral in downtown Birmingham, blessing those who enter. As I searched through my photos for one I could enter in the "Architecture" category in the Shelby County Fair, I came across this one, and it was the closest thing I had to architecture that was any good at all. I liked the way the stained glass window sort of formed a halo. Glad I entered it, because it won a First Place Ribbon. I like the photo, but I did not expect that.

Jesus at St. Paul's

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fair Photos - Fading Railroad Car

This photo was entered in the Vehicles category at the Shelby County Fair. I made this on a trip to the Railroad Museum at Calera. It was a tough day to shoot, with glare from the sky, but I took this of one of the old cars, and had it fade out of focus as it was further away. I then, I must admit, did a little photoshop to have the color fade at the same time as the focus. To me, it represented a vehicle that was way past its prime and fading into history, and I tried to convey that. I was fortunate enough to get a second place ribbon in the Vehicles category.

Fading Railroad Car

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fair Photos - Willie

My first photography class was last year and was called Photographing the Magic City. In that class we had to pick a theme and prepare a series of photos around that theme. I had no idea what to do, but while photographing near the Five Points South fountain, I hit upon the idea of photographing some of the street people in close up intimate portraits. I wound up calling the series, Somebody's Uncle, after my wife said this photo just looked like somebody's uncle. I agreed, and except for the filter on the cigarette, this could have been taken any time. This is Willie, and he's probably 70 by now. I enjoyed talking to him, and giving him copies of this and other photos of himself. This photo was entered into the category of People in the Shelby County Fair this fall and it took the Third Place Ribbon in that category. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fair Photos - Honduran Beach with Fish

The next photo from my fair entries was in the category called "Beach." I've taken quite a number of beach photos in my life, but it's been a while and there was a requirement that the photo be taken within the last two years. Well I did go on a cruise last February, and at our first port, Roatan, Honduras, my wife and I decided to do one of the glass bottom boat excursions. Great idea, but not very good in the execution. First, we had to climb down into this very narrow, cramped hard seated bottom of a boat. Second the air conditioning was broken, and although it was okay for about 10 minutes, there were about twenty people down in there with no air circulation and it got stifling pretty quickly. The reef and the fish were very beautiful, but the windows weren't extremely clear, and photographing through the windows wasn't satisfying unless the fish was right beside your window. After a while people started getting desparate to get back topside to the fresh air, some almost became frantic. My wife and I sweated through it. It was better after about half of them climbed back to the top. Anyway, as we walked back down the dock to the bus to take us back to the ship, I snapped this photo looking straight down into the water. It took a third place ribbon in the beach category. There were some gorgeous beach shots, but this was the best one I had. You may have to click the photo to get the original to see the fish, or at least their shadows.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fair Photos - Santa and the Moon

Today is the first of my ribbon winners. There was a category at the fair called "Other," and since I couldn't fit this one into any of the "other" categories, it went into the "Other" category and took 3rd Place. I honestly don't remember the competition in this very diverse category, but obviously two "other" photos were deemed better. That's okay, just glad to be in there.

This photo was taken from my deck in November, 2007, so it really wasn't Santa. I used my longest telephoto, 300mm with a 1.7x teleconverter, and the smallest aperture of f40. Even so, it had to be cropped a little to better fill the frame. The reindeer, etc. are leaves hanging on a sweet gum tree about 200 feet from the deck. I took several, but this was by far the most interesting.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Fair Photos - Sunset and Oats

My third losing entry in the fair was the following photo taken in Pennsylvania. It was in the landscape category, and there were really some other good entries, so I did not expect this to win a ribbon. My judgement was correct, but I still liked it. Tomorrow, the first of my ribbon photos.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fair Photos - Red Lily

Now this photo was entered into the "Flower" category in the fair and I thought maybe it had a pretty good chance at a ribbon. I especially like the red and green counterpoint, but alas, the judges liked others better and this was an also ran.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fair Photos - Carolina Anole

Shelby County, Alabama has a fair annually. It is a real old time country fall fair, with rides and competitions for baking, canning, plants, animals, crafts, and one of my favorites, photography. It is not a big fair. It is held in Columbiana, the county seat, and it is put on by the local Kiwanis Club. I enjoy going every year, but Six Flags it isn't. Anyway, this year I decided to enter a few of my photographs, just to see how they stacked up, and I did pretty well. The photography division was divided into 11 categories and you could enter only one photo in each category. There were a few, like children, that I did not feel I had any worthy photos, but I did enter in 9 of the categories. I did pretty wel in ribbons, but what I thought had a chance did not necessarily win, and what I just entered to have something in did well. That's why I'm not the judge. I will be posting pictures as I get the time, and I'll tell you how they did.


This is my Carolina Anole. This is the one I entered in the Animals category, and personally I thought it had a chance of getting a ribbon. Wrong! I got beat by some hummingbirds and something else. Oh well, I still liked it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

2 Things Challenge - Big/Little

Every spring in Birmingham there is a great pet parade called Doo Dah Day. It is an opportunity for people to dress their pets in outrageous costumes, then dress themselves in even more outrageous outfits and parade the whole group through an older neighborhood with lots of parks and winding roads, raising money for local charities in the process. Almost all of the pets are dogs of various varieties, from cute to down right ugly, teeny tiny to HUGE, and everything in between. There is the occasional groundhog or tortoise in the parade too. Needless to say, it is a field day for the local photographers. I caught these two cooling their rears on a patch of grass near the start of the parade, just waiting patiently for the whole thing to get started. They are likely father and son, and were well photographed that day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

2 Things Challenge - Black/White

This is Chuck. I met Chuck while photographing some of the "street" people who hang around at the fountain at Five Points South in Birmingham. I called them street people because it is not always obvious to me which people are really "homeless" and which ones really have a permanent place to live but like hanging around down there. I liked Chuck after I got to know him a little, and I think he liked my photographs, but I haven't seen him in a while.

This is a black and white photograph of a black man with white smoke curling around his face. Okay, it meets the criteria, but I think the color photo is better.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2 Things Challenge, Old/Fashion

With office dress codes migrating from suits and ties to golf shirts, and casual Friday now meaning blue jeans and tennis shoes, nothing says "Old" and "Fashion" to me like a pile of the old ties I used to have to wear to work every day. And nothing says it better than the one with the ladies dressed in their early 20th century dresses to go play tennis! That is Old Fashion as a part of a piece of old fashion.

I actually wore that thing to work in 1970's or early 1980's. That dates me, huh?

Friday, September 12, 2008

End of Summer

It's getting toward the end of summer around here, and these guys, or ladies more likely, are getting ready. What's this one?
C. D. Eyes?

It's a big fat spider I saw on the deck last evening. She had a very large web and was busily catching and storing away all kinds of bugs. This is the same photo, just not so close.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Another Week With More Rain and Sunshine

Remember the mushroom family from the other day? Well a few days in the sunshine can change things. Momma snowman got a little age on her, Jaba the Hut mushroom exploded and spread his spores everywhere, and the baby got buried in the mess.

But,. . . . there's a whole new crop of mushrooms. There are so many, it's almost like I need to go outside and mow them.
But a few days of moisture out here brings out other things too. While I was taking the two photos above, I was being eaten alive by hundreds of these little bat food creatures. We need more bats!

2 Things Challenge, Music/Note

This is my first attempt at this and I don't know if I can do it right, but here goes.

I don't know why this came out portrait instead of landscape, but you get the idea. The guitar is a fairly nice one I bought for and then from one of my sons, and I've never really learned how to play. The "note" is a twenty dollar Federal Reserve Note folded like none I've seen before. It's still in my wallet that way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I'm Back

I missed a couple of days, but here's another post. These are the eyes of our recently acquired cat, named Skittles because he was soooo skittish when he first showed up at our house. He's still shy, but better. Feeding them helps.

On Labor Day we went for a hike out at Ruffner Mountain, a really neat place in the middle of the urban areas. Found one geocache while out there, but didn't take the camera out of the bag. I just used the camera bag for additional weight and exercise!

Friday, August 29, 2008

One Foot of Rain + Two Days of Sunshine =

Some Rather Impressive Mushrooms

I mowed, trimmed, edged, and blew off the lawn today, and in the process discovered these rather nice mushrooms. I thought the one on the left reminded me of a snowman. The one in the middle is like Jaba the Hut, and the one on the right? Their offspring?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Helpin Out

Well, Fay left and yesterday was beautiful. So beautiful in fact that I never got around to doing a post. This morning I went down to Highlands United Methodist Church to work on Project ID, something I try to do every Thursday. That's a project where Highlands works with primarily homeless people to help them get birth certificates and state issued IDs which many times they need if they ever want to get a job and pull themselves out of their misery. This is a picture of some of the folks entering the building a couple of weeks ago and one of some of the folks waiting on us to help them fill out the forms or give them a check for the fees to get the documents they need.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fay's Gone, Here comes Gustav

Well, Fay has moved on this afternoon, just leaving behind a few light showers, but boy did she rain on us last night. I don't have any numbers but if we got another 6-8" during the night it wouldn't surprise me. She knocked a big branch out of a tree onto the driveway last night, and I wish I had taken a picture before I cut it up for firewood, but I didn't, so I just thought I'd post a random picture of a bumblebee attacking a flower from earlier in the summer.

Anyway, Gustav is brewing down there and heading who knows where. We should be sunny tomorrow, and hoping for a few days to dry out before he gets up this way.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thanks Fay, Now Move On

We've been in a really bad drought here, starting last summer, and then again this summer. No real hurricanes to wet us down. Then comes Tropical Storm Fay. She's helped a lot, but we've gotten at least 6 inches of rain in the last few days, and today has been the worst. Wet all day long. It's been an indoor kind of day, so I finished reading a novel I found that had been on my father's bookshelf when I was a kid.