Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Does this scene look cold? Guess what - it was cold! This is the last mile of my bike ride each day, and today it was cold and windy, and the sky was a blue-gray in color, which only seemed to emphasize the cold. Brrrrrrr.... And why am I complainging? It was 49 degrees at the time. Of course that is warm compared to 32 degrees, which I will soon be riding in. But it is cold compared to 90 degrees in the summer, which I actually don't mind. I know I have photographed this scene before, and posted it on the blog. But I wanted to show you this version because of the color of the sky.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:22 PM
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I have a number of photographs left over from my urban archaeology field trip two weekends ago. I am gradually editing the shoot, and there are a lot of photographs to look through. As you know, I love landscapes, both beautiful scenic ones, and industrial ones like this. The abandoned power plant is in the distance, and a loading dock for a building in the foreground. I love the foreground/background here - it makes the photograph more three-dimensional and has more interest, in my opinion. The original photograph is in color, but the color was distracting, so I converted it to black & white which emphasizes the form of the structures more.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:29 PM
Monday, November 28, 2011
So today I sing the praises of an unknown photographer, from a long time ago. And it is also in praise of a time when quality and craft really mattered. My sister loaned me several photographs of my mother and her twin sister to make copies of. I chose this one of the three as being the most elegant. Look how beautiful this image is, and how it has been carefully composed and lit with care. It is such a delight to contemplate the artistry and quality of this. There is no date on this. The inscription embossed on the mat says "Crosby, 831 Chapel Street, New Haven, Conn." Credit where credit is due.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
My friends Adam and Jessica are home from college for Thanksgiving, and we managed to get together for coffee today, which was wonderful. Actually I was the only one having coffee. We talked for three hours non-stop about school, and life, and astronomy, and engineering and who knows what else. What a great time. I have missed them being off at college, even thought they are only an hour away here on Long Island. The cool thing is that they brought a SONY PSP with a game on it, and I had never seen one of those in use, so they were showing me how it worked. Looks like they are having fun with it. Now I want one!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:32 PM
Saturday, November 26, 2011
We stopped at Joan's on the way home from Massachusetts, because I needed to pick up a bowl of Indian Pudding that she and Betsey saved for me from Thanksgiving Day. I LOVE Indian Pudding, and in our family we only had it twice a year, at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Anyhow, I stopped to pick up my pudding and saw these chairs on the porch. There was something about the white chairs and the white walls - a kind of sparse still life that speaks to me of New England.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:11 PM
Friday, November 25, 2011
Late in the afternoon I took a walk around the house here in Attleboro, looking for photographs. I photographed a few things, but then saw these decorative grasses against the twilight sky. It feels as if this photograph has a different feeling than so many of my other photographs. I like how this looks, and I like that it is different, and I love the feeling of a November twilight on a crystal clear day. These are called decorative grasses, and this one, in particular, is called "Miscanthus sinensis" - I just know that some of you out there would like to know the scientific name for this. Of course, I could be wrong... In that case, please feel free to correct me!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:30 PM
Thursday, November 24, 2011
This is the beautiful Finley, all of 4 months old, the daughter of Pat and Bethany. The last time I photographed her, she was still being carried by Bethany, her mom, and I photographed them both on the chaise lounge in the back yard. So this is exciting for us because this is the first time we have seen her in person. She is such a happy baby, and is always smiling, and lively - note that she is a bit blurry in this photo. I should have used a higher shutter speed. You would think I would know this by now! I decided that I should use the photo anyway, because her character shines in this image, even if it is not perfectly sharp. So that's my excuse...
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:02 PM
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
We are in Attleboro, Mass, in the heart of New England, at Pat & Bethany's for Thanksgiving with family from upstate New York and Baltimore, Maryland. When we drove in this morning, on a rainy misty day, this stone wall jumped out at me right away. When I was growing up, I would visit my grandfather's farm, and all the fields were ringed with these old stone walls built by hand from rocks which came to the surface after plowing each spring. These walls were all covered with lichen, and seeing this brought back so many wonderful feelings of visiting the old farm. Together with family at Thanksgiving - the only place to be.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I spent yesterday raking leaves in the yard. I actually hated to rake the beautiful red and yellow leaves from underneath the Japanese maple tree, but it was time. In the process, I did a quick job raking leaves out of parts of the gardens around the house. That is what brought me here to this garden, and this plant. I love the beautiful subtle color of Dusty miller. And the shape of the leaves, if that is what they are called, resemble snowflakes in their shape. Just a lovely plant. I spent a while with various different compositions, both close and further away, and settled on this closer view.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:04 PM
Monday, November 21, 2011
So this is one of the subjects of our photographs on Sunday. It appears to be some kind of workshop, but it was hard to tell. It is two stories high. It is in pretty bad shape, in that half the roof has completely collapsed onto the second floor, and we could see from outside that the floor is rotted. I say we could see these conditions from outside, because of course we would never go inside an abandoned building like this. It is amazing how overgrown it is with vines, and it has been that way for a really long time. I have two closeup photographs of vines on the outside that I will have to post eventually, because they are so interesting.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:23 PM
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Had a cool "field trip" today with a friend of mine from the astronomy club. We went out photographing and doing some "urban archaeology." That is a euphemism for exploring abandoned buildings. To be accurate, we spent most of the day wandering around and photographing the outsides of different buildings at a former mental hospital. Many of these buildings are slated for demolition in the spring. Twenty years ago I did a photo essay, which took me several months to complete, about the architecture of abandoned mental hospitals on Long Island. At that time I had the luxury of access to the insides of all the buildings. Today it was different, since this was not an official visit. So my friend and I had to arrange our own access. You're looking at it! We got a lot of great photos, and I will, of course, be sharing them with you. With luck, this will not turn into Urban Archaeology Week!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:42 PM
Saturday, November 19, 2011
This old Dogwood was here when we bought the house forty years ago. It was flourishing then, but it has slowly lost branches to whatever the blight is that is killing Dogwood trees. I have tried to take care of it, but there is not much anyone can do when these trees have this disease. Anyhow, some of the branches still bear leaves. The leaves have fallen off any live branches by now. I do like the shapes of the branches, and to me what makes this photograph is the design of the branches - the different shapes. And maybe the sense that the tree is reaching for the heavens, like the arms of the Joshua trees do.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 5:41 PM
Friday, November 18, 2011
I was at the Cradle of Aviation the other day for the training class for Project Astro. You already know that. Anyhow, when I left the building I looked up while walking under the entrance covering and stopped in my tracks. What grabbed me was the dramatic color difference between the warm lighting in the entrance and the deep blue sky at dusk. There is a time of day, at dusk, called "The Blue Period." I think that when I first heard of this, I saw it described in French. In any case, once I knew the term, I look for it at that time of day. And here it is!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:15 PM
Thursday, November 17, 2011
I walked across the porch this morning, to go get the newspaper, and when I got to the front steps, this is what I saw! There is a day each year, when a majority of the leaves of the Japanese maple fall. They gently blanket the ground under the tree, and they are brilliant in their color. Today was that morning. I was just stunned with how beautiful it was. You will notice that there several pieces of wood in the middle of the photo. These are dead pieces of a lilac tree that I cut off in the spring. They are interesting because they are twisted, so I left them there, thinking that one day I might make a picture of them. Well, today was the day for the branches, as well as the leaves. It started raining later in the day, and now the leaves are soggy and matted down, and the magic moment is gone. I posted a larger than normal image, so please click on this to see it in greater detail.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:30 PM
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Had an interesting day today. I am taking part in a program called "Project Astro," where an astronomer is teamed up with a school teacher and they work together three times during the year to teach astronomy. I am really excited about this project. Today we had a training with a group of astronomers, and a group of teachers working together. Various class projects were talked about and demonstrated. Then we tried the exercises ourselves. This one is "Modeling Moon Phases" where we took a ping-pong ball and watched the effect of light on it, as if were the moon revolving around the Earth in a month, changing phases.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:07 PM
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I came out on the front porch in the morning, to get the newspaper, and this sight stopped me in my tracks! What is interesting is that this photo was taken on a sunny day. It doesn't look like it, except for the sharp shadows of the plant on the white porch. This is a plant that has been on the front porch all summer along. There is a basket of dark pink flowers up above, and then these long stringy things that hang down. They are green-gray in color for most of the season, but have turned just plain gray now. I, of course, don't have the faintest idea of what plants these are. But you don't come here for horticultural information - I am sure of that! In any case the reason the background is black on a sunny day is because it is the shady side of the Japanese maple tree in the distance, and is what gives this image the spooky feeling. I like this photo a lot - it has a completely different feeling from any other garden photo I have ever done.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Well at least today's photo isn't fall color again. Of course, it is me again... I promise, no more pictures of me for a long time. But I am excited today! I have been meaning to get back to flying for about a year now. I need to do a lot of studying for my biennial flight review. Stuff like airspace, weather and forecasts, aircraft performance, and FAA regulations among other knowledge. So until I have done all my studying, I wasn't planning on flying. The biennial consists of an informal written and oral exam, and then several hours of time in the airplane with an instructor. But I realized that I was really missing flying - it must have been sitting in the cockpit of that Thunderbolt! So I today I just scheduled time in an airplane with an instructor. I haven't really flown in four years, so a lot of things seemed a bit foreign to me, but my flying skills, according to the instructor were not bad. It was great to be back in the air again!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:51 PM
Sunday, November 13, 2011
I have had to wait for fall color for so long this year. Now that it is here, I am seeing pictures everywhere. This is the Japanese maple, and I see it from this angle every time I pull into the driveway. I saw it the day before yesterday and did some pictures, but the Sun had moved too far west to illuminate the whole branch. Imagine my happiness when today, earlier in the day, I saw that the branch was completely illuminated. I tried some subtle differences in composition before deciding on this view.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
During my bike ride today, I was grinding my way up the mile-long hill when I saw this gorgeous red japanese maple kind of all by itself in the woods in front of someone's home. But I had a hill to climb, so I did a dangerous thing - I didn't stop! Then I immediately worried that the light might change by the time I came back down the hill. Dumb thing to do, passing a picture like that. The rule is always STOP NOW! Well I didn't but I was in luck. I finished the ride to the top, turned around and raced half way to the bottom, and the orange sunlight was still on the tree! Whew! Just brilliant color, the combination of the red leaves and the orange light.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:40 PM
Friday, November 11, 2011
There was a story in Newsday yesterday that said the two aviation museums on Long Island were having a special weekend in honor of Veteran's Day, and there were several airplanes at each museum that you could go to and sit in the cockipit. One was this Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, built right here on Long Island back in the time of WWII. This was something that I couldn't pass up. So off I went to Republic Airport and the American Airpower Museum. The P-47 was one of the most rugged and powerful single engine fighters of the Second World War. This one is still flown. Hard to explain why it mattered to me to sit in the cockpit and try and imagine the lives of the young pilots who risked their lives against the enemy in an aircraft like this. As much as I have read, it is still just unimaginable for me to understand what they went through. I salute them all on Veteran's Day.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
I woke to a beautiful foggy morning. Everything was transformed and I saw lovely things everywhere. This was the first thing. Here is the story of this tree - it is a beautiful, tall Hickory tree. And it is a harbinger of winter every year. When I am painting the outside of the house, the temperature has to be warmer than 50 degrees. I have learned that when the leaves turn yellow, like this, then that will be the end of painting season. It will never be warmer than 50 degrees after these leaves turn yellow. This tree is so beautiful when it is this color, and wonderful to be tuned into nature like this.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:23 PM
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
After I took the glove off my eyes, I started looking around, and since the sun was low on the horizon, I thought I would go down to the sand, and see what the beach grasses would look like close-up, with the sun behind. This photo came together quite easily - I didn't have to struggle with the composition at all. The wind was moving the grasses around a bit, so I took perhaps 8 frames. Oh, and you will be thrilled to know I did this with my iPhone, and did NOT use Hipstamatic!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:19 PM
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
OK, so I know this is a weird and creepy photograph... :-) But here's the deal - I kind of beat up on myself for not being as creative as I "should" be. So I don't often shoot photographs that are really different, but I think about it all the time, even though it doesn't show. So I was resting on my park bench after my ride. I put my head back, and the sun was in my eyes. Usually I bring a bandanna to put over my eyes, but I forgot it. So I put a bike glove over my eyes, and was resting when I suddenly thought: "I wonder what this looks like?" Then I remembered I had my iPhone with me, so I took it out and tried holding it up in the air, looking down on me, and that's how I took this. I don't know exactly how creative it is, but at least it is different...
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:37 PM
Monday, November 7, 2011
I am not done with photographs from Tucson. I went nuts out there with my camera - I saw photographs everywhere I looked. I took this at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It is a traditional shelter from the sun and the roof is covered with "staves" from inside the Saguaro cactus. When the cactus dies, and then rots on the ground, the wooden staves which support the plant are exposed and the indians use them for all manner of things they build. In this case, to construct a shelter from the sun outdoors. When I visited Mission San Xavier del Bac, there were rows of these shelters, but I couldn't find a background there that I liked. So I was thrilled to find this one out in the desert at the museum. It is really a beautiful structure, isn't it?
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Well, the big news in astronomy circles these days is that a really large sunspot group has formed on the Sun and has rotated into view on the Sun's face. The Sun has cycles of about 11 years that go from no sunspots to large numbers of spots. Recently we have been coming out of a low period. But this spectacular grouping is an exiting jump in activity. So when it appeared, I grabbed my camera and a whole lot of other stuff, and managed to get a decent photograph. I have posted both the Sun's full disk so you get a sense of the scale, and a close-up of the large group.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 4:58 PM
Saturday, November 5, 2011
It was good to be away, and it is great to be back home. It's good that I get out every now and then! Boy, there is nothing quite like an Arizona sunset. This one was from the top of Kitt Peak. The air is clear here, and I was at an elevation of 6,500 feet so that makes it even clearer. And the crowning touch is a small crescent moon in the upper left of the photo.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:09 PM
Friday, November 4, 2011
I was having breakfast in the bagle store down the street from my hotel in Tucson. Wow, fresh squeezed orange juice every morning! Now I am spoiled. So I was sitting there eating my toasted and buttered pumpernickle bagel with my cup of French roast coffee (I thought you might want to know that) and I noticed this toddler exploring the dining area of the store. Everything was fascinating for her. But it wasn't until she went to the door that I grabbed the iPhone (and the hipstamatic, of course) and snapped this.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:27 PM
Thursday, November 3, 2011
SOME people, who shall go unnamed, have suggested I have shown enough pictures of telescopes! I guess that could be, but I love these magnificent instruments, so here are two more. On the left is the 90-inch telescope, and my friend Mikee is one of the two operators of it, and the other is the 4-meter Mayall telescope. I already showed you the telescope itself inside the dome, a few days back. This is the exterior showing the dome and the very distinctive support structure. I don't think there is another telescope this high off the ground. Together these instruments make a spectacular photo, just after sunset. Well, if you are a telescope aficionado, at least.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:25 PM
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
This is my friend Mikee, who I have known for about 20 years now, I think. We met in the astronomy club on Long Island years ago. Now he is living in Tucson, and is a telescope operator for one of the big telescopes on Kitt Peak. After the convention was over, we went hiking and photographing out at Gates Pass and Tucson Mountain Park, and at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. While in Gates Pass, I happened to look up from what I was photographing and saw mike doing a shot with his toy camera. It reminded me of a photograph of Ansel Adams that I am familiar with, so I hollered "Don't move!" He didn't and I got this shot.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:54 PM
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Today I was out photographing in the desert west of Tucson. It occurred to me that with my iPhone, I could snap a photo with it and email it to my sisters. I got back a note from Joan: "I would have expected mountains" in response to my photo of Saguaro cacti! So... I went looking for mountains that I had photographed on this trip. How are these? This is from the summit of Mount Hopkins, the home of the MMT telescope. The summit is at about 8500 feet. We are looking down at the switchback road that we needed to travel on to get to the top! Yikes! The view from here is just spectacular - range after range of mountains stretching to infinity - more mountains than you can shake a stick at! I believe that if it is clear, you can see further than one hundred miles, from this altitude. It is an absolutely stunning view in person. I posted a larger-sized image, so please click on it to see much more detail.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 11:13 PM