Thursday, September 30, 2010
We have been in the middle of a pretty good storm for the last 24 hours. The wind is howling and we had heavy rain. So naturally I went down to the harbor to photograph the giant waves and whatever else I found. Strange thing, the wind was out of the southwest, which is the bottom end of Hempstead Harbor, so there were no waves to speak of. We only get the huge waves when the wind is blowing from the northwest, and the water is blown into the harbor. Anyhow, that was a disappointment. So I started looking for other pictures. This is more subtle, and doesn't relate to the the storm in any way. It is just some fall leaves that have turned early, and were blown in to a backwater, with the beach grasses. I love the contrast in colors here. It doesn't hurt that the blue sky is reflected in the water as well.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:55 PM
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I think it is amazing that one of the kitties would find these stripes of light on the living room floor, and want to sleep where the light was. I mean, how much warmer can it be here. I guess a bit. But still, it seems so funny because the light is in stripes, not just a bright patch. Kitties are so funny sometimes. The stripes are because the light was shining through the balusters on the stairway.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:08 PM
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Went to Jones Beach today, because it was supposed to be windy and rainy. Sounds like a great day to go to the beach, right? It was. It was windy, but not cold, and there were large waves crashing on the beach that were mesmerizing. I was standing there just watching the surf when I noticed this woman sitting on the beach alone, and she appeared to be writing. After a while she got up and went down to the water's edge and just stood there, for a long time, looking out to sea. I could imagine what it would feel like to do that.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:07 PM
Monday, September 27, 2010
I like to think I pay attention, but some days... Some days, I just don't know. I was walking along the driveway and happened to look down where I saw this cloud of pink and red. "What?" I have been watching these plants since they first came up, and I photographed them a month or two ago and posted it on the blog. I had to ask for help back then, because I had no idea what kind of plant it was. I think it was Bunny who told me they are Sedum. But I just thought it was just a green plant. I couldn't believe how beautiful it is when the flowers bloomed! Totally unexpected, of course, but that's how little I know about gardens and flowers. I have no idea how long they have been there in bloom! I do love the multiple shades of green in the leaves below the blossoms.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:42 PM
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I was next door today helping Judy paint her house, when suddenly we noticed this tiny mouse on the sidewalk. It could barely stand upright. Judy thought that it must be a baby, because its head was larger than its body. It would struggle to walk for a bit, then fall over, then get back up and continue on. then just stop and wait. I ran home and got my Nikon with the closeup lens and started taking pictures. It was easy to photograph because it didn't move much. When I was done, we put it in the bushes, where it originally came out of. After a while it came back out and was walking around. We put it back in the bushes, and it came back out again. I guess it was learning to stretch its legs and see the world. It was so small that I needed to have a sense of scale, so I put my foot next to the mouse so you can see how tiny it is.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:31 PM
Saturday, September 25, 2010
This is the barnyard of the old Spencer family farm. It has been out of the family now for over 20 years. When my sisters and I were kids, we each got to spend a week here every summer. This is where I learned to know what a farm felt like, and, in later years, was able to feel more deeply the poetry of Robert Frost, because of my experience here. I played with frogs in the horse trough, watched my grandfather milk cows, plow fields, harvest hay and helped my Uncle Norm collect eggs from his chickens. The farm has changed hands at least three times now, and the barnyard is now overgrown. It's not the same. A bit sad to see this after all these years. The barns have not been well maintained, and are at risk of being damaged beyond repair. This sad for all of us to see.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:09 PM
Friday, September 24, 2010
I photographed the Verrazano-Narrows bridge on the way down to Virginia, at night, trying for a moody shot. On the way home, the light was just right for photographing one of the towers in daylight. I left the cars out of the picture, so just the structure of the bridge was visible. It really is a stunning structure. Years ago I proposed a photo essay on the bridges of New York. And the stupid editor rejected it! Are you kidding? Everyone who lives here has to cross bridges to get off Long Island. Anyhow, my dream was to be able to climb up to the top of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, with an escort, of course, for one of my photos. Oh well.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:11 PM
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I drove by this sight last weekend in Guilford, Connecticut on the way to have lunch with my sisters. I couldn't believe my eyes. I parked and walked back to look at this building and photograph it. It is a condominium, believe it or not. And it IS known as "the Spaceship." It was designed by the architect Wil Armster and is built from copper, concrete and steel. It is in the shape of a ship, more or less, and this is looking at it from the bow or stern. It must be about 240 feet long. But here is why I was in shock - Guilford was first settled in 1639 and is considered by some to have the third largest collection of historic homes in New England, with important buildings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. So to find this building in this town was, literally, unbelievable! Apparently there was a great deal of opposition at the time of its construction. Local residents felt its modernist form was incompatible with the town’s colonial heritage. An August 2009 article in The New York Times, however, reported that the building has become a widely-recognized and accepted landmark in the decades since. I hate to say that I am still shocked that it was built here.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:21 PM
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I saw this on the turnpike on the way back from Virginia. My first reaction was astonishment. They can't possibly ship coffee like this, can they? Then I kind of figured out that this was NOT a tanker truck filled with coffee - I thought it probably was carrying gasoline for the same company that sells the coffee. (I looked at the code in the red triangle at the lower right and 1203 is for gasoline.) But I did have a chuckle when I saw it - I was thinking: "It looks like just about enough coffee for a long drive home!"
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:55 PM
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I did a photograph of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on the way to Charlottesville, and I photographed this bridge on the way home. I was going to post it earlier, but thought it would seem as I was doing a "Bridges of the World" tour! I love bridges, and always have. This is the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which is made up of twin suspension bridges, the first finished in 1951 and the second in 1968. Here's the cool thing - these bridges were designed with consulting help from the famous engineer Othmar Ammann. He designed the George Washington bridge, and the Verrazano-Narrows bridge as well! These two spans are dedicated to those from both New Jersey and Delaware who died in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Each span is 2 miles long, and they are 174 feet above the water. Just so impressive to see two bridges side by side like this. You know what is even more impressive? Me driving across the span trying to shoot through the windshield without driving off the edge!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:14 PM
Monday, September 20, 2010
I looked into the dining room today and saw one of the kitties in profile. She looked so regal. There is a thing that cats do sometimes, like this, where they seem to tuck their chins into their chest. She looks so regal like this, especially in profile, don't you think. Oh, the kitties are NOT allowed on the dining room table! Not! So, once I got my photograph, then I had to shoo her off the table. The nerve of her!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:43 PM
Sunday, September 19, 2010
This is my Aunt June's workbench in her house in Guilford. She was such an amazing craftsman and artist. She wove baskets, made braided rugs, caned chairs, and did needlepoint for chairs and footstools. She tended to her perennial gardens, and then harvested and dried the flowers between pages of books. She made dried flower arrangements, and she also made the most beautiful works of art with her pressed flowers, constructing cards, and framed works. She was so talented and artistic, that she was an inspiration for everyone. And of course she did this while being a wife and mom to two children. My Aunt June passed away earlier this week at age 87, and today there was a gathering of close family, to celebrate her life.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:41 PM
Saturday, September 18, 2010
So after the convention, a bunch of us were sitting around in one of the rooms, and one of the guys suddenly gets the hiccups. So we do the usual thing of everyone suggesting what home remedies we can think of, when one of the guys says: "I had the hiccups once and a friend of mine did this thing with his hand and fingers and he put pressure on my head. Do you want me to try it?" So the other guy says: "Sure, why not?" So then he puts his hand on his head, and holds it for about a minute or so, and guess what? Hiccups gone! True story. I kid you not! So try this the next time you have hiccups.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:58 PM
Friday, September 17, 2010
On my way to Virginia to my astronomy convention, I drove part way at night, and stayed over at a Days Inn. I went into my room in the dark and turned on the light and found this staring at me from the bed! What tha??? After my surprise, I thought it was kind of cute. The little eyes are not really stuck on the towel - when I touched the animal, one of the eyes fell off. I guess I should have brought the eyes with me, but I forgot. If I had brought them home with me, I could use them to surprise other people in unexpected ways!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:18 PM
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I am going to be on Public Access TeeVee! Or at least I think I might be. I received an email from a non-profit that they wanted to interview someone about astronomy, from the amateur side, and so I agreed. So I brought two of my telescopes to the planetarium today, and set them up and sat down for a half-hour interview. The young woman on the left is a film-student and she did the interview, and the woman on the right is the producer of the project. I am not sure of what to expect, but it was an interesting process. I was able to suggest that beginners in the hobby of astronomy should start by visiting the planetarium, and our club, for information on how to get started. I hope that part doesn't end up on the cutting room floor.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:04 PM
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I finally got to visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. He designed it, of course, and it is beautiful. But we have all seen the classic photographs of it, and I did photograph those views, but I wanted to show something different. Believe it or not, the thing that grabbed me was the stable area, under the wooden boardwalk. I can't explain it exactly, but the stables felt really old - more "old" than the house felt. I guess it was the unfinished wood, and the care taken with the woodwork, even though it was just the stable area. It is beautifully constructed. Funny how we have certain expectations before we visit a place, and sometimes we are surprised by what affects us the most. The lesson is to always pay attention, because you never know what the most interesting thing will be.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:50 PM
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
In my readings about Thomas Jefferson in the last few days, and during a tour of his home at Monticello, I learned that he felt, believe it or not, that his primary calling in life was that of a scientist! This is a replica of Thomas Jefferson's lost sundial, which he said was "a handsome object, and an accurate measurer of time." It was made according to his design. I have never seen anything quite like this, and it is different from any other sundial than I have ever seen. The longitudinal lines are drawn to indicate the hours of the day. The curved metal plate is called a gnomon, and the user rotates it around the poles of the sphere until it casts the smallest shadow, and then the current time is read from numbers. While I was photographing this object, one of the members of my group put his hand in to point out something to another member. I thought it messed up my shot, and yet when editing the photos, I decided this was my favorite.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:11 PM
Monday, September 13, 2010
I love this photograph because it beautiful in some way, and because it is so incongruous. Incongruous because there is a beautiful photograph of the natural world, out a dark and perhaps foreboding doorway. But what kind of doorway - it appears to be way up in the air, and there is a railing in front of the door. Fun to contemplate where this might be. But of course you know me by now. It is an astronomical observatory here in Virginia - Fan Mountain, to be exact - and the doorway is to the catwalk around the dome - a dome that is 30 feet in the air. That is why there is such a strange perspective in the photograph, and such a sense that something is not quite right. But I love that it is quite beautiful as well.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:02 PM
Sunday, September 12, 2010
This is the 26 inch Clark telescope at the McCormick Observatory that I posted a photograph of the other day, in the dome at night. We went back to the observatory during the day today to see it in daylight, and to examine it more closely. The staff astronomer put a ladder up to the mount so members could climb up and inspect the telescope's mounting. I climbed up the stairs of the observing chair, about 20 feet off the floor of the observatory, so I could look at the famous objective (the lens of the telescope.) It is an amazing thing to see this incredible piece of glass, 26 inches in diameter, hand polished and figured to millionths of an inch back in 1878 when it was completed. I am about 20 feet off the floor of the observatory, and in spite of the title of this post, I am not in a precarious position. I was just trying to be overly dramatic. The white areas in the objective, by the way, are just reflections of the dome and the observatory wall, about 3 feet in front of the telescope.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:50 PM
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I knew Thomas Jefferson was brilliant, it is just that I didn't know HOW brilliant he was. This is one of my favorite quotes: When President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962 he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." What I didn't know was that Thomas Jefferson is the founder of the University of Virginia, AND...is widely recognized for his architectural planning of the University grounds. He was also the architect for the Rotunda, and what he called the "Academical Village" where individual academic units are expressed visually as distinct structures, represented by Pavilions, facing a grassy quadrangle, with each Pavilion housing classroom, faculty office, and homes. A lot of words, maybe, but just look at the beauty of these buildings on either side of the grassy quadrangle. I was just stunned to come into this area and see all these columns receeding into the distance. And I won't even begin to describe the building they call the Rotunda! One could see all this beauty, and walk around here feeling stupid!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:23 PM
Friday, September 10, 2010
Well, it is the first day of the Antique Telescope Society meeting, and we finished up by getting to observe with the 26-inch Alvan Clark refractor at the Leander McCormick Observatory at the University of Virginia. It is a beautiful instrument - built around 1819, and at the time was one of the largest telescopes in the world. 26 inches, by the way, is the diameter of the glass objective (or lens) of the telescope. The telescope is about 10 meters in length. Notice how it dwarfs the observer in the lower left corner of the photograph. Like I said, a BIG telescope. We got to observe a globular cluster - M15, and the planet Jupiter, which was stunning in this large instrument. What a great way to start off the conference and we were really lucky that it is not cloudy.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:53 PM
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Well, it is not exactly a "night flight." It's actually a "night drive." I decided to start my drive to Charlottesville, Va tonight, so I could get through Brooklyn and the Belt Parkway, and the Verrazano Bridge and Staten Island without traffic, so that in the morning I could have a nice relaxing start for the day's drive. So I was looking for some photograph that gave a sense of driving at night. I tried shooting along the Belt Parkway, and found an interesting shot, but this is my favorite because it includes one of the towers of the bridge, which is such a stunning engineering achievement.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:56 PM
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
We had an observing night at my astronomy club tonight, which meant everyone brought their telescopes. I planned to do a group photo for our website, and for some flyers we were thinking of making. So everyone came early and set up their scopes, which in some cases takes nearly half an hour. The sun had already set, so the light was fading, but it was very soft and good light for a portrait. I balanced on my rickety step ladder so I could get high enough to be able to see everyone. So here we are. There were a bunch of people who were away, observing under really dark skies in western Pennsylvania. But there were enough of us for a nice group photograph.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:49 PM
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
It's a take off on "Shark Week" which I have never seen, but Craig Ferguson is always joking about that! Our neighbor stopped by the other day with four fresh figs. I have never eaten a fresh fig. It was incredibly delicious! The best part was that the tree they grew on was made from a cutting from Judy's grandfather! So this line of figs goes way back. After eating the figs, I realized that I should have sliced one in half and photographed it. I mentioned it to her, and the next day she brought two more over to our house! So here it is, sliced in half. What an amazing subject! And here is something else I found interesting - the appearance of this cross section of the fig, looks a great deal like a telescopic view of a sunspot seen on the face of the sun - an amazing coincidence.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:57 PM
Monday, September 6, 2010
I was busy today, doing some painting and some spackling and I was about to go for my late afternoon bike ride when I realized I had no blog photo for the day! No more fooling around at the last minute, so I decided I needed to get to work. I wandered around for a bit and found this peach ripening in the kitchen window. Starting with that, I took it out to the front porch where there were some patches of late afternoon sunlight on the porch floor. I found one such patch, and placed the peach there, and watched the light move as the sun was setting. This is my favorite.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:00 PM
Sunday, September 5, 2010
I will spare you the long drawn out excuse. We did have company for dinner tonight, and it was late when they left, and then I decided to go out to the side yard and do some more observing. Now it is 2:30 AM and I didn't shoot today and I need a blog post. So here is one other choice I thought I might post last night. It is Jupiter seen through a thin cloud while we were waiting for clearing. I just think this has a nice quality to it, and I wouldn't normally think of doing an astrophoto with clouds in it, but the clouds were a fact of life for a time last night, so I thought I would see what I could get. The orange coloration is actually true to the scene - it is the glow of light pollution illuminating the clouds.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 11:30 PM
My apologies for being late with this post - I just woke up! The weather was a bit "iffy" for astronomical observing last night - there was a forecast for clouds for much of the evening, but several of us from our astronomy club took a chance and drove out to Custer Institute. We observed in between clouds for an hour or so, then the clouds thickened, and we stood around talking of things astronomical. After about 45 minutes, the clouds began to dissipate, and when they cleared it was a spectacular evening of observing! I stayed way longer than normal, and didn't get home until 3:30 AM after a drive of an hour and a half. I was wide awake, though, recharged from my night of contemplating and viewing the heavens with friends. You may want to click on this to see a larger version. Those are the Pleiades in the upper right corner of the image, and the streak in the lower right is probably an aircraft landing light, on a late night flight on its way to JFK.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:33 AM
Friday, September 3, 2010
We were lucky in that hurricane Earl bypassed us, at least in Sea Cliff. We didn't even get any rain. I decided that I could even get in a bike ride, because there was little or no wind to speak of. The clouds were pretty down at the park, at the end of the ride, so I took the time to take this photograph to show you.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:12 PM
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I have photographed this Aloe plant in the back room before. But from above. Today I was putting on my cycling shoes, seated in a chair in the back room. It was then that I looked up and saw the plant from this angle. I think the view from above is more artistic, but this is still an interesting way to see the plant. Maybe not as dramatic. Gee, maybe even not as good...
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:40 PM
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
This picture is worth clicking on right away, to see it in a larger size. This is a beautiful bench, and it is even more beautiful because it is covered in lichen. Gee what ARE lichen? I looked it up in Wikipedia: "Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic association of a fungus (the mycobiont) with a photosynthetic partner (the photobiont or phycobiont), usually either a green alga (commonly Trebouxia) or cyanobacterium (commonly Nostoc)." There, aren't you glad I did look it up? Apparently the location makes a huge difference on whether or not lichen will grow. There was a lot of it on rocks in Connecticut on my grandparents farm. This bench is in Montauk, and clearly a perfect place for lichen. Of course I would never sit on this bench, because I wouldn't want to mess up the lichen.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:26 PM