Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Can I Take Your Order?"

So I don't want to complain, OK? This is the order window at the drive-through at the local McDonalds. We don't eat at McDonalds - we only go there to buy their low fat soft ice cream cones, which we love! So what is this all about? It's about how pretty the Black-eyed susan's are. It is nice that they dress up the property with these flowers, but it does seem incongruous, because these flowers are surrounded by blacktop and the plastic displays listing what you can buy, which are not that pretty. So I am not complaining - it just seems strange.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Paper Wasp Nest

I saw this just the other day, and it appeared that it arrived overnight. I don't think the nest could have been built that quickly but I was amazed to find it there, attached to branch of my favorite tree. Unfortunately, the nest is only about 4 feet above the ground, and the wasps were arriving and departing right toward the driveway and the front porch. These are paper wasps, and not the agressive yellow jackets, but I was worried about people getting stung by them. It was a very busy nest. So... I bought the special wasp spray, and went out at midnight with a flashlight and the spray, and soaked the nest completely. There is now no activity and I will cut the nest down tomorrow. Here is the bad part - I looked up these wasps and discovered that they are really beneficial insects, and they recommend that you leave them alone, unless they are close to where people are. So now I feel really badly.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Doors, Windows, Mirrors...

I was looking around Capt. Dusty's to see if I could find a photo when we were out there. Then I noticed this hallway with three mirrors in it, and a door at the end, and a door leading to another room. Oh wait, there is no window, and there is no door leading to another room. It is all done with mirrors. So I experimented with the composition, and realized that the photo needed something else - a person. So here is Amy - twice - in person, and as a reflection.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Astronomy Picnic

We had our astronomy club picnic today. Hot dogs, hamburgers, salads and all kinds of desserts, and... binoculars! Of course we had binoculars at an astronomy picnic! We did talk about a lot of different things, as well, but when someone showed their new giant binoculars, we all had to look through them and see how good the optical quality was! Only at an astronomy picnic.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Mystery of Cooking Fish

We brought some of the fresh caught fish back from Montauk. I have always been intimidated by the thought of cooking fish. I do know how to cook a salmon filet on the grill. But somehow I just thought that any other way of cooking fish would somehow be really complicated. But then I watched Amy cook the fish for lunch, and it was so simple I couldn't believe it. So the next day I cooked the remaining fish, and it was absolutely delicious. Oh, how I did it? Olive oil in a frying pan, a crushed garlic clove. Dry the filets and then add salt and pepper, and some paprika, and some spices. Grill for about 7 or 8 minutes. Eat. Yummmmmmm!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The End of the World as We Know It

Another line of thunderstorms came through here early this evening. It got so dark that I began to think that the sun had set earlier than normal. Then I went outside and looked up to see these roiling clouds overhead. The clouds in a squall line are always stunning - there is so much energy there, and I love all the incredible shades of gray. Thunderstorms are such incredibly powerful "engines." I never tire of watching them develop and then release their energy. I just don't want to every fly through one!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I was standing on the beach when I saw this child, wrapped in a colorful beach blanket, just staring out to sea. I wanted to take the photograph, but I was too far away. Here is the tricky part - I didn't want to start moving quickly toward the child, less someone think I was a creepy old man. So I decided to change lenses and use the 200mm telephoto. This took me about 40 seconds, and when the lens was on, the child had crouched down to get something, and when she stood up, the blanket was not wrapped as tightly around her and she was looking off in another direction. Oh No, I have missed the photograph. My only hope was to stand there and wait. So I waited and waited, and then finally, she gathered the towel around her tightly, and looked back out to sea. Whew! I got it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Fisher-Ladies

Amy discovered the joys of fishing off a "party boat" a couple of years ago while enjoying her month-long-stay in Montauk. So when we went out to visit, she suggested we all go on the boat Flying Cloud to do some fishing. We got up at 7 AM (which is a huge sacrifice for me...) and the boat left at 8 AM. There were about 11 people fishing and two crew members. Kathy, who had never fished in her life, was one of the first to catch a fish - a huge fluke! She then caught 3 other fish quickly after that! Wonder of wonders. I didn't fish, because I was having so much fun photographing everything that was going on. Eventually I did try a rod and reel for a bit, because I have never been fishing either. I would rather photograph!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Amy on the Beach

Amy has been coming to Montauk now for about 14 years. She has been renting a small cottage with some friends and really loves the magic that is Montauk - the light and the salt air and great hang-out spots and restaurants. Now that she lives in California, she takes a month off to come here to work, to write, and to relax. Her husband Gus joins her for a couple of weeks, and if we are lucky, we get invited out for a couple of days each year, which is wonderful. So today we walked the beach, and breathed salt air, and soaked it all in. In this picture, I love the atmospheric quality of the light and the way the salt spray fills the air, and how objects in the distance become fainter and lighter and less distinct.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How Perception Works

Actually I haven't a clue how perception works! I was on my bagel run this morning and stopped at a stop sign - the same stop sign I have stopped at for every bagel run for the last ten years! But THIS morning I looked over to the right, and saw the way the curve of the fence in the foreground reflected the curve in the background. The first thing I thought of was a fugue, with two "voices" that are similar but different. I have no idea why I never saw this in all the years before today!

Under the Stars

The weather forecast was not for perfectly clear skies, but I decided to take the chance and drive to Southold to do some observing. My friend Stan, who I went to Chaco with, was anxious to do some observing with a telescope, because at Chaco, we only had binoculars. He lives in Manhattan, so there is no chance he would ever see the Milky Way. We had a really good night looking at star clusters, galaxies and nebulae. We were set up in a field, and several times during the evening, people would come by, and I would ask them if they wanted me to show them some of the wonders. Everyone was so appreciative and so thankful. For me, that is the richest part of astronomy for me - sharing it with others.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cool Water on a Hot Day

It was raining most of the day today, which reminded me of this photograph, which I took last week in the extreme heat. I noticed this, because I was in charge of watering the plants. I had just finished my watering chores, and then I happened to look closely at this Schefflera on the front porch steps. Something about water drops on leaves and blossoms that begs me to photograph them. What I liked about this was that the sunlight was somewhat spotty - the light is not even over all of the plant, and I think it adds interest to the photograph.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


So how is this for an amazing photo! Wow! I went to a meeting at this facility, which has been St. Ignatius Retreat House since 1963. This 87 room mansion was built between 1916-1920 as a summer home for Nicholas and Genevieve Brady. Upon her death in 1937, it was donated to the Jesuits. It is a stunning architectural treasure - a Tudor Elizabethan mansion which looks like a medieval castle. Just look at those stunning chimneys! When I left the building tonight, I walked to the parking lot and then turned around to see this and was blown away! Some of the lights illuminating the lawn and parking lot were not working, which gave me this dark foreground which made the photograph much more interesting.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finding Stars

This is Ben, and he came to our astronomy meeting tonight, because his grandmother is president of the club. So while people were inside preparing for the meeting, Ben was outside using the planetarium program in his smartphone. You start up the app, and then when you raise the phone up, and turn left and right, the phone displays the stars as they are seen in that part of the sky. It was cloudy tonight, and the sun had not yet set, but Ben was completely absorbed in seeing where stars and galaxies would be if he could actually see them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Speaking of Thunderstorms

I took this picture a couple of weeks ago, when thunderstorms were around the area. One had moved through, and there were left-over clouds in the sky, and it was sunset. I could not believe the brilliant colors in the sky - it knocked my socks off. The interesting thing is that even with my lens on wide-angle mode, I couldn't get as much of the sky as I wanted. So I took two pictures - they were both horizontal - the first one included the trees at the bottom and some sky, and the second picture was just the sky above, and I have software that seamlessly combines both images.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Squall Line

I checked the radar for thunderstorm activity yesterday, before going out for my bike ride. I stopped on the bench at the water, thinking that I had some time to rest. Then I looked to the north and saw this - a squall line! I thought it was fairly far away, but then heard thunder, and realized that the shore across the sound was obscured by rain. Yikes! It is getting closer. So I jumped up, got on the bike and hammered my way up the hill to home. I beat the storm by about five minutes. Lucky me. I love how beautiful the deep grays of the sky are in this photograph. Please click on it to see it in more detail - it is really a gorgeous sky.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Circle of Life

A few years ago, we had an engaged couple who we worked with during the marriage preparation program at church. Then they were married, and we would see them on Sundays. Today we saw them again, and they had their one-year old daughter with them! It is really nice to see the circle of life taking place. We work with so many couples, and then never see them again, so we never know how their story goes. This couple is such a wonderful exception.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Murray's Garden

I went over to Murray's today because we needed to check the observing site for the astronomy class that we are involved in teaching. For some reason he had mentioned in one of our emails that he had a two-year old garden that was doing nicely. So today when we got back to his house from the observing site, I asked to see it, and of course brought my camera with me. Some of the flowers had passed their prime, but I was able to photograph this view of the garden with the flowers looking pretty nice, for the most part. It was an amazing transformation to what had been an ordinary back yard.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Water Glass

Each day before going out on my bike ride, I drink a whole glass of water, and then I bring a water bottle on the bike. The sun happened to be shining in on the kitchen counter, and that's where I happened to set down my half filled glass of water. I was stunned when I looked down at the glass and saw its shadow. So I grabbed the camera and made a few shots. The shadow of the glass and water makes such an amazing pattern on the counter. What is also interesting is that this is a color photograph!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Crouching Kitties

I don't remember what attracted me to the back room, but the first thing I saw was one of the kitties crouching low in the chair, obviously looking at something outside the window. The second kitty came in, saw the situation, and jumped up beside the first one. And they were both transfixed by whatever they were watching. I spent a minute waiting for the perfect moment. This photo to me seemed like it was all about the shapes of their bodies. I never did figure out what they were looking at.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Beauty of Cirrus Clouds

For the last three evenings I have been taking a class down at the school that is part of St. Brigids. It is three days long, and three hours each day, with two short breaks. It is tough to sit for longer than an hour at a time, so I get up and walk outside to stretch my legs when the breaks come. While walking back and forth outside the school, I just happened to look up and saw this! It stopped me in my tracks. It was the cirrus clouds I saw first, then the tiny cross, which completed the photo for me. Fortunately my toy camera was where it should be on my belt. It was surprising how quickly the clouds moved - I didn't take that many frames before the composition no longer worked for me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I See Spots

There is an absolutely enormous sunspot group on the face of the sun. It is the largest grouping, both in numbers of spots, and surface area covered that I have ever seen in 24 years of looking at the sun. I could have missed larger groups in the past, of course. Sunspots are cooler areas on the surface of the sun, caused by huge magnetic fields which inhibit convection. It is a spectacular thing to see. In a few days, the sun's rotation will take these spots out of our view. Please click on this to see a larger image.

Monday, July 9, 2012


There is a house a ways up the street that is up high on an embankment with a big cement wall in front of it. There used to be some kind of stuff with prickers on the branches growing in the strip between the wall and the curb. They recently ripped it all out, and planted "something." Well that something turned out to be a wildflower garden, and it is subtle and beautiful, and wonderful. I did take a photo showing the whole scene with a gate and the curb, but realized that I needed to be closer, because it is all about the flowers themselves, not the scene. Please click on the photo to see a larger image with more detail.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

By Popular Demand...

OK, by popular demand, here is a photograph of the pink lady, in all her glory. The paint is faded some, even though the boat was under the front porch, out of the sun. I should take the time to sand it down, and give it a fresh coat of paint, both inside and outside. Unfortunately, the boat was backlit, and so the sunlight is not shining directly on the pink paint, and the color is subdued. And, yes, although I never thought of it before, it is definitely "Stellafane Pink!" Thanks for pointing that out!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Pink Lady

We have had this rowboat under our front porch for 20 years or so. I originally got it in order to row out to our sailboat which was moored in the harbor at the end of our street. Years ago Amy and her friend asked if they could fix it up and paint it, and they did. They painted it pink, and got letters for the back, and named it "Pink Lady." So when she arrived here, she wondered if it would still float without leaking. So we got it out, cleaned it up, and took it down to the harbor. It still floats, it leaks just a bit, and we rowed around for a couple of hours, with Amy doing most of the work. It was a fun afternoon.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Mustache Girls

That's Amy on the left, and my niece Jen on the right. I think it was Jen that came up with this cute trick. You draw a mustache on your index finger and then hold it under your nose, and voilĂ ! You have a mustache. They had a lot of fun doing this, we all had a lot of laughs so then I had to take their picture!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Birthday Party Surprise

OK, so this is an ordinary picture, which I actually shot with a self-timer. But the STORY here is more important than the photo. Notice anything about what the people in the picture are wearing? Right - they are all dressed alike! In a white shirt and tan slacks. Those of you who know me know that this combination is my uniform! So at the picnic last Sunday, everyone disappeared gradually while a couple of us were talking out on the deck, and after a while, they all re-appeared dressed as me, dancing in a flash mob! Each one had one of my baseball hats on, and 3 by 5 cards and pens, so they could take notes! It was hysterical. And I think it took me nearly 5 minutes to notice that they were all dressed like me!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July Fourth Fireworks

Today was an amazing day, from when we first got up, until we came home after dark. We did so many things and I took so many photographs that I don't have enough time to edit all the photographs and pick the best. So I will show you this one. We went to the Gordon's after dinner, to watch the fireworks in the harbor after dark. What we didn't expect was the natural fireworks of a passing thunderstorm. So I put the camera on a tripod and kept opening the lens for 15 seconds at a time, trying to get a photograph of lighting. I only got two and this one was the best. Perfect ending for a perfect day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sprinkler Jumping

One of the many fun things that we did during the party in Connecticut, was "sprinkler jumping." The girls thought that up, and we ALL had to run through the spraying water. That was the rule - everyone. Of course in this Facebook world everyone took photographs of everyone who jumped through the sprinkler, and then of course had to immediately see how the pictures came out. So in this photo, my niece Jenny is showing one of the photos she took to some of the girls. It was such a good time. And somewhere out there is a photo of ME jumping, but I hope it never surfaces... I LOVE catching the moment.

Monday, July 2, 2012


We had the annual Spencer family July 4th celebration and picnic on Sunday, at Joan's in Connecticut. We had so much fun. There was great food, astounding desserts, and all kinds of activities - from organized games, to jumping through a sprinkler on the lawn. And someone got out these stilts. I haven't been on stilts for years. As a kid, it was so easy for me to get up on them and walk around. Yesterday it took forever to get up and balanced. Everyone wanted to try these, and Liz was able to get up fairly easily on them and walk around. See how much fun she is having?

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Another mystery: what's going on here? Well, for one, it's Amy's birthday! Liz got her a really cool present - a session at a trap and skeet shooting range. How's that for a cool present! So the minute she read the description of what the present was, Amy immediately acted out how the trap shooting would go. Funny! She is really excited about doing this. This is an interesting fact - Amy said she had never fired a gun before. Man, what kind of a father am I, not teaching my daughters to shoot? Oh, "Pull!" is what you say when you are ready for a clay "bird" to be released from the launcher, just before you track it with the shotgun, and try and shoot it down.