Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

In The Merry, Merry Month of May, Day Two:

12 May 2009

The next day we went out to the Marshlands Conservancy, in Rye. The terrain was a little flatter than I like, but it was another very nice hike. I must have left my photographer’s brain at home, though, because I came back with a camera full of ruined shots from that day.

We saw a bunch of deer crossing the trail. The ones I managed to shoot either turned out headless, as they were passing behind trees when I tripped the shutter; or blurry, because I didn’t have sense enough to change the ISO setting on the camera to compensate for the dark overcast exacerbated by thick canopy. It sure was green in there, though.

I did manage to get an almost-passable shot of a pair of Great Egrets hunting along the marsh.


Great Egret [Casmerodius albus] at the Marshlands Conservancy in Rye, N.Y.

Just before the first crack of thunder heralding the coming storm, we came upon a tiny cascade:


Tiny cascade in Marshlands Conservancy, Rye, N.Y.

The last shot shows just how incredibly green it was in there. It doesn’t show how incredibly overrun with poison ivy it was. At least I haven’t started itching yet.

Right after that we hotfooted it out of the woods and made it back to the car just as the first drops started falling.

Next up: Day Three.

In The Merry, Merry Month of May: Day One

10 May 2009

The area around New York City is beautiful in early May: everything seems to be blooming at once. That will not be reflected in this post.

I just got back from my nominally annual trip to NYC to visit my sister for her birthday. We took a hike in a different part of Westchester County each of the three days I was there. On the first day, we went to the Cranberry Lake Preserve. While the gardens and grounds of the homes in that area are beautifully landscaped, not much seemed to be blooming in the woods.

This was one exception:


Wild Geranium [Geranium maculatum]

A Jack-in-the-pulpit is a Jack-in-the-pulpit, right?

Ha! Apparently, there are three types of Jack-in-the-pulpit, and I didn’t have my book with me to make a positive identification. But this looks like the variety sometimes known as Indian-turnip:


Northern Jack-in-the-pulpit [Arisaema stewardsonii]

We never did make it to the second lake, because the trail markers for one whole end of the preserve were nonexistent. They ran out at the same place on two different trails: the old quarry left over from the building of the Kensico Dam. The one quarry pond we found was a nice place to have lunch, though.


Quarry pond at Cranberry Lake Preserve

There was lots of wildlife. At the quarry pond, we spotted a water snake I was too slow to capture with my camera. We also saw what might have been a redheaded woodpecker, although it was too distant for positive ID. Later in the hike, my nephew with the young eyes spotted this guy sunning himself beside the trail:


Northern Black Racer [Coluber constrictor constrictor]

Despite not getting to see the whole preserve, we had a pretty good outing. Next up: Day Two.

Update: I’ve added a link to the Cranberry Lake Preserve’s website (just click the name of the preserve either here or at the top in the original body of this post). Not including it earlier was an oversight on my part, now corrected.


29 April 2009

I was trying to do too many things at once this past Sunday. As a result, I did none of them well.

Sunday was my every-fourth-week drive to Denmark, Maine, with a friend and his daughter. I’ve been promising her for six months that I’d take her on a little hike one of these times, and the weather was too good to pass up this time. As is usual for me, I grabbed my camera and tripod; because, if I’m gonna be out in the woods, I’m gonna be taking pictures.

Except I hadn’t hiked Douglas Mountain in about twenty-five years and my memory was a little fuzzy on the length of the hike. And when I take pictures I like to take my time.

So we ended up not being able to reach the summit, and I hurried the shots and came away with not much usable, and we were late getting to Denmark.

I need to learn to focus.


A small waterfall on Douglas Mountain


A small stream on Douglas Mountain

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.

Complementary Colors

5 June 2007

The sort-of orange of the azalea and the sort-of blue of the forget-me-not:


A closer look at the forget-me-not:


I never noticed before that the forget-me-not have little yellow suns with white rays in the middle of the sky-blue flower.

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:


Yeah, I’m Still Alive

28 April 2007

I’m about a month behind in spring cleanup around the grounds because of the late snow. I had scheduled a much needed day off today while it rains, but the rain stopped. So here ya go. I couldn’t look at the stuff growing without hauling the camera outside and crawling around in the mud.

Daffodil; I forget which cultivar:




Same kind o’ daffodils: