Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

Is It Safe To Come Out Of The Storm Cellar Yet?

4 April 2009

Another day, another excuse from the guy who has over 1100 of my dollars for a new cap for my new truck. He still hasn’t driven down to Massachusetts to pick it up. The upside is that I now have the time to post some stuff I shot a few days ago.

I think I’ve figured out why I get so depressed in March. That’s when, at the end of a long, hard winter, I figure out that I still can’t afford to retire to Florida and I’ll have to spend next winter here, too. Even with that in mind, this past one was particularly bad. Several injuries have left me limping and depressed. In the midst of it all, the 95-year-old whose property I maintain fell and broke his hip. Between hobbling to the hospital every day with his mail, trying to shovel snow using only one arm, and watching my retirement fund fly out the window for a new truck after the old one died of cancer, I’ve been functioning at a very low level.

The good news is that most of the snow has melted and the temps have gotten high enough that I can put out the garden hoses and start spring cleanup. A few days ago, as I was surveying the damage to the trees out back, I came across a little patch of color in the woods. As I couldn’t decide which shot to post, you get two.


Crocus, unknown species or cultivar.

These crocuses were poking their heads out of the mess of leaves on the far side of my canoe. The colors remind me of a children’s book I had when I was a kid, “The Color Kittens.”


Same crocuses, different shot.

I didn’t even notice that I was crawling on my belly in the mud until I brought it into the house with me.

And a couple of nights ago, as I was walking home, I thought the fog rolling in to Memorial Field was pretty neat. But by the time I got my camera and got outside, the fog had completely rolled in and there was no contrast between clear air and fog. Some interesting shots, anyway.


Deering High Memorial Field at night in fog.

The lacrosse players were taking a break on the left side of the picture. They’re pretty hard to see.


Deering High Memorial Field at night in fog. This view is from ground level.

Back to working on my attitude…

Update: Well, crap. I just noticed that for the last few posts, Worpdress hasn’t been automatically making each image a link to its full-size self. Now I gotta go in and hand-edit all the images. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Update 2, now with more bookly goodness: Here’s the cover from the book. I found it at Wikipedia.


The Color Kittens

That takes me back about sixty years. That’s scary. And sad.

The Difference of a Week

12 October 2008

Different weather. Different light. Peak foliage. A tripod.

I wasn’t satisfied with the stuff I got last week on Pleasant Mountain, so I tried it again yesterday. (I’m not satisfied with the stuff I got yesterday, either, but for different reasons.)

There was a dad-gummed hiking tour convened at the top when I got up there. Twenty or so self-congratulatory Sierra Club types who sounded like a flock of starlings. I didn’t realize how loud they were until they left and it got quiet. I don’t understand why anyone would do something like that in a group. I go for the solitude and silence. And the pictures, too, but mostly for that other stuff.

I did manage to keep the crowds out of the images; although I had to edit out a couple of apple cores, left behind by some pig, that I didn’t notice for several frames.

On the way up:

American Beech leaf in Autumn

American Beech (fagus grandifolia)

At the top:

Mount Washington, Kezar Pond from Pleasant Mountain

Looking northwest towards the White Mountains. Kezar (kee’ zer) Pond is at right, Mount Washington is just to the left of center at the top. If you embiggen and look closely, you can see both Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines.

Mount Washington and Kezar Pond from Pleasant Mountain

Another perspective

It took me three hours to get down, because I kept stopping to take pictures.

Moose Pond, Denmark, Maine

Looking southwest, over Moose Pond towards the town of Denmark

Moose Pond, Denmark, Maine

Southwest view, again

Moose Pond, Denmark, Maine

More of the same

Red Maple leaf, backlit by sun

Red maple (acer rubrum) leaf, backlit by the sun

Autumn maples

Some local color

If I’m gonna do any more fall foliage this year, I’ll have to hustle. It’ll all be gone by next weekend. Well, the bright maples and birches and stuff; after that comes the quiet umbers, siennas and ochers of the oaks and other late-fall foliage. But the stuff most people think of as “New England Autumn” will be past.

On the Run

10 October 2008

I hate to post just pictures (I have to explain them, doncha see), but I’m pressed for time right now. Here are a few from last Sunday’s hike up Pleasant Mountain in Denmark. The colors weren’t at peak, but still nice.

Pleasant Mountain, looking towards White Mountains

View from the summit looking northwest towards the White Mountains

View towards Mount Washington

That’s Kezar Pond at middle right, and Mount Washington at the upper left

Striped maple (acer pensylvanicum)

Striped Maple (acer pensylvanicum)

Red Maple (acer rubrum)

Oo! The colors! (acer rubrum)

Gotta run.

Cram It!

26 September 2008

My bookmarks file is a bloated two megabytes. I save bookmarks that look interesting, and then forget them. A few days ago, as I was browsing some of the photography-related links, I found some good stuff.

One of the links was to I originally found the link at Reflections By Kris, but this time I took the time to read it.

I found a link there to an article by a Michael Brown, titled “The Art of Abstract Macro Photography.” I haven’t been a big fan of macro photography, mainly because my attempts have turned out to be mostly boring. In the article, he discusses a technique he calls the “Cram It” method. It looked interesting, so I tried it out.

Some of the stuff I got was pretty crappy, some of it was okay, and some of it I really liked.

This rose wasn’t, strictly speaking, “crammed,” but I like it anyway, so I’m including it here:

Rose <em>Carefree Beauty</em>

Rose Carefree Beauty

Some of them came out looking like the sorts of things Georgia O’Keeffe obsessed about:

New Guinea Impatiens

New Guinea Impatiens

Some were, indeed, filmy and abstract:

New Guinea Impatiens

New Guinea Impatiens

Pink Petunia

Pink Petunia

Rose <em>Carefree Beauty</em>

Rose Carefree Beauty

And some were so vague as to defy analysis:

Purple Petunia

Purple Petunia

I really like this one:

Rose <em>Carefree Beauty</em>

Rose Carefree Beauty

I think I’ll do some more.

Day of the Triffids

13 August 2007

I just spent a week surrounded by cows ‘n corn and not much else. After the first 3 days, I more or less got over my internet withdrawals. The lack of people helped a lot. This is what it looked like first thing in the morning:

Morning mountain mist

If you look closely, you can make out the house over the hill about a half mile away.

This is the view in the other direction (no houses there):

Morning river mist

There’s a river in front of the mountain, just beyond those elms in the middle of the picture. While I was tramping around near the river the next day, this alien-looking plant was pointed out to me by my brother-in-law:


It was six feet tall and looked like something out of a John Wyndham novel. My book of wildflowers of the Northeast failed me, but after much googling (clustying, actually, since Google is evil) I found that this plant really is alien. According to the National Invasive Species Information Center the Common Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum L.) was accidentally introduced to the U.S. in the 1700s.

Seems a long time to hold a grudge, but there you have it. Apparently, these plants never bothered to wait in line to become legal immigrants, instead secreting themselves amongst legal seeds. I, for one, have no problem uprooting such invaders, as long as they can’t blind me.

I have more pix from the trip. I’ll put ’em up soon.

Dr. Geeklove, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The CLI

19 May 2007

Since the rain we’ve had for the past few days has given my poor, elderly body a respite from the springtime demands of grounds maintenance, I decided to catch up on some geek stuff. I spent all of yesterday engaged in a titanic, life-or-death struggle with ImageMagick, a command-line image-manipulation program.

Well… maybe not life-or-death, since that would imply that one of the parties would not survive the encounter. And while I might have used a few bad words in the midst of yesterday’s struggle, I’d be very unhappy if ImageMagick died. The more I learn to use it, the more I learn to love it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the command-line interface (CLI) was all that was available before the Graphical User Interface (GUI) was popularized, first by Apple and then by Microsoft. This is a screen shot of a terminal (CLI) session on my computer:


Where’s the mouse pointer?

Please note the dearth of pretty pictures and mouse-clickable items.

It may seem is definitely counter-intuitive to think that images may be manipulated from the CLI. I had trouble accepting the concept at first, but I’ve become more comfortable with it as I’ve become more experienced. Of course, this is all driven by my aversion to giving Microsoft any more of my money to allow me to temporarily access my intellectual property that I’ve created on my computer. I have a powerful motivation to learn this stuff.

Anyhoo (as I wipe the spittle from my monitor), what I wanted yesterday was a non-labor-intensive way to add a watermark to each image in a directory. For most open-source projects, there is a wealth of documentation. And most open-source documentation has been written by people with a limited grasp of the English language (be they native English-speakers or not) and/or a limited grasp of real-world applications of said projects and/or a limited grasp of what lesser and non geeks might be willing or able to understand. ImageMagick fares better than most in this regard, but the complexity and scope of the program makes the documentation difficult to wade through.

After beating my head against the wall of command-line tools, settings, options, operators and sequence operators, I stumbled across a link on ImageMagick’s home page to an online document titled “Examples of ImageMagick Usage”1. This document is itself large and complex, but it contains specific examples of command-line processing for a plethora of usages. Within the document, I found a link to Annotating Images, which held a section on Watermarking, which was just what I needed.

After I decided which method of watermarking I thought would work best for me, all I had to do was copy the commands in my terminal to produce the watermark “stamp.” That’s when the real fun started.

ImageMagick’s command-line tools, “composite” and “convert” (which takes “composite” as an image sequence operator), will only work for one image at a time. The command-line tool “mogrify,” which will apply itself to multiple images, will not take “composite” as an argument. I had run into an impenetrable wall.

But even if a wall is impenetrable, there’s usually a way over, under or around it.

Enter Bash scripting.

This is a geek’s tool I like so much that it’s almost embarrassing to stand up while I’m thinking about it. Bash scripts allow one to string together commands, test for conditions, execute commands and programs based on those tests, and lots of other stuff. They allow me to automate repetitive or complex tasks (such as cleaning out my log files and emailing me the results), or execute them simply from the command line (such as backing up my browser’s bookmarks or moving images from my digital camera to my hard drive).

I am not, however, an advanced scripter. It took me another few hours of struggling with for loops and string manipulation to finally come up with a solution.

I started at about 10 in the morning and spent about 8 hours total on this, when I subtract mealtimes, afternoon nap and goofing off. At 2201 last night, I executed my “watermark”2 script one more time. Within a few seconds all the images in the target directory had been watermarked.



Skunk cabbage and fiddleheads in a Chappaqua, NY swamp.

I may change it later to tile the watermark, but the bulk of the work is done.

Okay, so it was a lotta work to get here. But now all I have to do is go to my CLI, navigate to the relevant directory, type the word “watermark” and hit “Enter.” I was gonna say that it was a bunch of pain up front for a bunch of ease later, but I had too much fun in the process to call it pain.


1. While you’re at the “Examples” page, it’s worth a side trip to follow the link to Anthony’s Graphics Lab.

2. For those interested, here’s the “watermark” script:


# This script adds a watermark to each image file in a directory.

for file in *

composite -gravity center -geometry +0+10 /home/cj/foto/worktable/stamp.png ${file} w_${file}

exit 0

Not much to show for all that work, is it? If you wanna use it, change the directory path to reflect your work environment. Don’t forget that you’re executing this script from the directory full of images you want to watermark. And if you wreck your images, it’s your own darn fault for taking advice from me.

Update at 070520/2023: Doh! I reinvented the wheel.

Sod Off

17 May 2007

One of the outstanding characteristics of the Bronx is noise. I had a nice visit, but I was really looking forward to getting back to Maine’s relative quiet.

No such luck. While I was away, a major construction project was started across the street from my house. According to a friend, the turf at Memorial Field (of the nice, growing, sod kind) is being replaced by Astroturf.

20070516_003a.jpgThe rape of Memorial Field

Intellectually, I understand that this move will save the city money (despite its $1.1 million price tag), and will allow greater use of the field. But I spent too many years producing the kind of lawns that kids love to run on barefoot, and that high school athletes have played on forever — and this field was one I helped maintain many years ago — not to feel like I’m being stabbed in the heart every time I look across the street.

This is what grass is supposed to look like:

20070516_004a.jpgMy baby

Technically, I’m retired, but I’ve fought dandelions, crabgrass, grubs and ants to produce this. My lizard brain just doesn’t understand why anyone would throw it away for a plastic carpet.

Intermittently In Residence

6 May 2007

I was offline for most of yesterday. I thought that it was finally the senile dementia catching up with me, but after I pulled the PCMCIA card out of the lower slot and plugged it into the upper slot, my connectivity problems disappeared. That’s not to say that they won’t come back. I am here for now, though, and I hope to have more stuff up this evening.

In case I don’t get back, tho, here’s a place holder:


My filing and cataloging habits are so good that, while I know when and where I took this, I don’t have a clue as to what it is.

It Doesn’t Rhyme With “Waco”

1 May 2007

I had to travel to the VA Clinic at Saco (pronounced SOCK-o) today, and the brain damage cleared away long enough for me to remember that Laurel Hill Cemetery on Beach Street is known for its masses of daffodils. This being daffodil season around these parts, I took the old Nikon and tripod with me and shot some more daffodils (as if you hadn’t had enough).

Lots of mommies pushing baby-filled strollers, some parking the kids in the middle of the flowers for cute photos. It was a nice cap to a task-filled day that had no space in it for my afternoon nap.

I wanted to post more pix out of this shoot, so I made ’em smaller. If they strain your eyes, lemme know and I’ll make ’em bigger and just take the account quota hit.

Path leading down to the Saco River, which at this point is a tidal estuary:


There are lots of granite memorial benches, like this one:


The daffodils come in several colors:


These are nice:


There’s even a bit of salt marsh. The wind wasn’t blowing especially hard, but it didn’t let up much. Because I was going for the depth of field, I was shooting at slow shutter speeds and had to time the shots for when the flowers were relatively still:


This is the slope down to the river from the road where the less active people park and watch:


I could swear that I heard little daffodil voices singing, “Neener, neener, neener” to the marble reminder of mortality in their midst:


And here’s Captain Jack:


St. Paulia Saga Sequel

29 April 2007

I gotta learn some better literary devices than alliteration.

This is the African Violet (St. Paulia) that I posted about here:


Please note that in the first image, the entire plant covered less than half the surface area of the pot. It’s now big enough to force me to move back to get the whole plant into the picture. Any bigger and I won’t be able to use the macro lens.

I’ve taken to calling it “Monstro, the Mutant African Violet.” It was an 81st birthday gift to someone who threw it away after she thought she killed it, like all her other house plants. It’s going to be an 82nd birthday gift to her next week. And I didn’t even buy it for her the first time around.

Is that cheap? No way, man. I’m green! You wanna buy some carbon offsets?