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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gather Ye Magnolias While Ye May...

Jan and I took another walk around the neighborhood, and I took along the Nikon to get a better shot of the white heron that hangs around the ditches searching out the minnows. I thought sure this would be the time.... but no success.

So, in order not to go away completely empty-handed, we looked for flowers to shoot. We came across a very large magnolia tree with several blooms near the top. Thank goodness for telephoto lenses! We started singing "Mag Nolia Grandi Flora, with your blossoms white and creamy..." a song from grade school. That was the only line we remembered.

I have a special "connection" with magnolias. I was born in the city of Magnolia, Mississippi. My mother loved magnolias, and had a painting of a magnolia flower hanging over the piano at our house for as long as I can remember. My sister Alice has it now. Her daughter Emily has painted magnolia flowers and the paintings are as good as any I have seen. And, not to stretch the point too far, the magnolia is the state flower of Louisiana, where I grew up.

Hope you like the photo. Tomorrow, I am invited to photograph birds. I hope I am more successful than I have been with the wily white heron!

Mike Z

Friday, May 30, 2008

In Heather's Honor, the Raven Totem

Heather, the Raven Lady, has had several posts on her weblog Raven Lady lately about her baby ravens and raven totems. Go there and check out her videos! They are amazing.

Seeing the videos and reading the posts about ravens and raven totem lore, brought to mind the photos I took of a raven totem pole at the Native Indian Totem Pole Museum in Alaska. The totem stood originally atop a very tall pole, and has a unique history, which I captured in a separate photo below (the photo is pretty dark, so click on it to enlarge if you have trouble reading it).

The other interesting totem I saw was a likeness of Abraham Lincoln! Obviously, Honest Abe held a position of great respect and honor in the native culture. Sadly, I can't locate the photo I took of President Lincoln's totem. Mea culpa.

More later. I hope to try my hand at taking bird photos at a friend's house this weekend. They have a feeder and attract numerous species including hummingbirds. That will be a challenge! Wish me luck.

Best regards, Mike Z

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bridge to the Clouds

We drove to New Orleans last weekend for my 40th high school reunion (yes, I'm THAT old...) and stayed at the Marriott Lakeway hotel Saturday night. Sunday morning I looked out the window and saw the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway (see the Wikipedia listing) seemingly going off into the clouds. I tried to capture that look with this photo.

The effect comes from the fog that was forming over the north end of the causeway, making the bridge seem to end in the cloud you see in the distance. At almost 24 miles long, the north end of the spans are difficult to see on the clearest of days.

For those that are curious, we did have a great time at the reunion. Saw some folks that I remembered, and caught up on what was going on with the old high school crowd. Good fortune smiled, and I didn't hear of anyone who had passed away since the last reunion I attended, the 20th. That one was a riverboat cruise on the riverboat Natchez, a pretty fun excursion! Jan had the great idea to bring my Senior Yearbook and have people sign it. I think people were amazed to see how they looked way back when. It was a great icebreaker, too--imagine a 57 year old geezer coming up to you and saying, "Want to sign my yearbook?" I can tell you it got plenty of laughs!

Some of the yearbook entries ran the gamut of optimism/pessimism, which I found pretty interesting. One fellow signed the book "See you in 40 years," another signed it "See you in a nursing home." That kind of thing. I jokingly told everyone that I think more people signed my book this year than when I was in school!

That's about all for now. I got to get to bed and get ready for work tomorrow. Thanks again for visiting!
PS if you go to the Wikipedia link above you can see the hotel we stayed in. We were on the 10th floor....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sometimes weeds can be Beautiful

Another quick post to "show off" some flowers that Jan and I saw on our walk (see post below). As we walked Jan pointed and said, "there's some pretty yellow flowers, why don't you take some pictures of those?" I liked them so much I did just that.

I did absolutely nothing to this photo to make it "better." Sometimes the beauty in a thing just has to stand on its own. If I had tried to do just one little tiny adjustment to it, I think it might have spelled doom for the whole photo. The problem with post-production to my mind is that you (I) never know when enough's enough. So I left it.

I am so glad you stopped by to share these photos and stories with me. One thing about photography -- there's always something new to shoot. I hope you find the things I shoot interesting. 'Bye for now.

We met some Deer yesterday

Jan and I were walking our usual route on the new walking/jogging trail at the Town & Country sports fields when Jan spotted two does in the waterway (fancy word for big ditch) alongside us. I had brought the lighter of the two cameras hoping to get some photos of the brown heron that frequents the ditch. There is also a white one that I wouldn't have minded shooting (with the camera) as well. With all the construction going on in our area, the wildlife is being pushed out. So it was pretty great to see these two ladies still hanging around. They were perfectly still until they realized that they had been spotted, then moved up the side of the waterway and into the woods. Before they left, though, they both were alerted by a noise or sight, and stood still to see what it was.

As they trotted off into the shadows, I heard a man behind me say, "Usually they will pose for photos..." I guess my approach was not subtle enough. But, I got a few shots of them before the chip filled up, so I was happy. As we walked on down the trail, I looked back and both of them were heading back for the water. I mentally sent them an apology for disturbing their peace. I hope to see them again soon on another walk, and I hope to see that brown heron, too!

More later. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

It has been quite a while since I have posted anything on the blog, and it is good to be back! I have been traveling a lot for work, most recently to the town of Pecos, TX. Pecos is in far west Texas, and has quite a history, mostly unknown by those of us in eastern Texas. I had been there several times before, but never with an eye for the sights and scenes of the place. I visited the Chamber of Commerce, and one of the first things I was asked was "Are you thinking of moving to our wonderful town?" I had to admit that I had not thought of it, but was just here on business for the day.

After I had done the business part of the trip, I went to a gas station and purchased a Fuji single-use camera. Since I had flown into Midland as my "base of operations" I was not able to bring my usual camera equipment. I had confidence that I could get some pretty good photos after my trip to New Orleans, so I headed back to the town square and began my informal tour.

I took this photo of a Union Pacific caboose mainly for my grandkids (hope you like it, boys!) but it shows how much the railroad has been a part of this little town. The train station (to the right behind the caboose) is being renovated into a Rodeo Museum but is not yet completed. I learned from the C of C that Pecos is known for having the world's first rodeo, something they're very proud of! I took the photo from a small park where the wagon and windmill are displayed, just in front of a replica of Judge Roy Bean's courthouse and billiard parlor. You probably remember that he was known as the "Law West of the Pecos." The original building is in Langtry, TX, east of Big Bend near the Rio Grande. I'd sure like to see the original one day.

Next on the "tour of Pecos" I visited the West of the Pecos Museum. For only $4 I was deputized, given a star and information to start the museum tour. This museum has the most fascinating collection of old Texas memorabilia, mostly having to do with rodeos and trains, but also how the people lived in the early days as well. Each room (the museum was originally the Orient Hotel) was a glimpse into some aspect of pioneer life in Pecos and the old West. There was the bridal suite, that had a sitting room with a piano and a large four-poster bed in the bedroom. There was the doctor's office, with original instruments and operating table.

There was a kitchen with original stove, table, cupboard, and lots of old coffee cans and biscuit boxes. (See the Museum's Gallery Page) There was a very large collection of Winchester rifles and other firearms from the 1800's through 1900's, many were specifically manufactured for heroes of the day. There was even one for the Boy Scouts! In the gun display was probably the most interesting item I saw. It seems that the famous Lillie Langtry, the English actress known as "the Jersey Lily," had starred in a play in the hotel. The play was "The Degenerates," a comedy by Mr Sydney Grundy. On the back of one of the playbills, Ms. Langtry had written, "I like this place & willingly would waste my time in it." I guess I'll never know whether she was being funny or mean by saying that, but I thought it was worth remembering and passing along.

In the back courtyard, I noticed this unique spiral fire escape. I don't remember ever seeing a spiral fire escape before, so I asked the curator if she knew of any others. She said that as far as she knew this one is the only one. It seems that in the 60's they did a renovation of the museum in order to get it looking more like it looked in the 1800's. Fire code regulations required a fire escape easily accessible by anyone the upper two floors. A local metalworker designed the staircase, and it serves the purpose to this day. It also makes tending to the air conditioners on the roof very easy.

Well, I could go on and on about Clay Allison, the Gentleman Gunfighter, or Pecos Bill, or Col. George R. Reeves, but I 'll save that for another time. Hope you found this post interesting, I sure enjoyed taking the photos. I hope that the next time I am there the cantaloupes will be in season!