A Sunrise…and Sunset

The day we took our trip to Smith Island, we were up to catch the sunrise from the balcony of our hotel…looking toward the Somers Cover Marina in Crisfield MD.

After the boat to Smith Island, we headed toward home and saw the sunset just before we got to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the car.

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Colorful bookends to a day on the water.

On the Train to Providence…and Home Again

Last week, I went to the Certified Zentangle®  Trainer (CZT) class in Providence RI. I decided to take the train since the hotel in Providence was within walking distance of the train station…and I had never taken more than a day trip on the train. The class started in late afternoon and the train from the Baltimore Washington International Airport train station was about 7 hours. I left in the early morning. It was a little daunting when my husband dropped me off in the dark at a station under construction (or renovation…not sure…most of it was not open). I was glad it was not a cold morning. There were no Amtrak personnel around that I noticed but there were enough experienced train riders to reassure me that I was in the right place. I also learned about the quiet car…what luxury. The sunrise (blur) happened not long after the trek began.

The gentle rocking of the train and the quiet was very calming…so different than an airport. The seats were larger than an airplane seat – and therefore more comfortable. Overall everything was roomier than an airplane. There was never a wait for a bathroom. A lot of people got off at New York and I moved to a window seat – still in the quiet car. I tried taking some pictures from the train window. Many of the views were of cities (construction, debris and trash, industrial areas) and forests.

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As I got off the train in Providence, my seatmate – a native of Providence - pointed me in the right direction for the hotel and Google maps on my phone picked up the directions shortly after I started walking. It was gently downhill! I realized that several days later it would have to maneuver up the hill.

That is what happened on the morning I left. I got some ‘active minutes’ on the walk to the train station and took more pictures as I got tired – crossing the Providence River

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And the landscaping in front of the train station. The landscaping seemed new and I wondered how long it had been since the station has been renovated. Hopefully the one at BWI will be improved by the construction that is happening now.

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The station in Providence was closer to what I expected – a large indoor area where there were wooden benches (like pews) for sitting around an open area…some places to get food. My train did not leave until almost 9. There were marques that were like ones in airports that directed people to the right track a little before the train arrived. I took the elevator down rather than the stairs since I had luggage that was OK rolling…but not carrying.

And then I was on the train for 7 hours – enjoying a good book and journaling the events of the week. Overall the train was a good experience and I found myself wishing that it was possible to take trains to more places I travel.

More posts about my Providence experience in the next few days…

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The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

March Sunrise

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It was a cold morning last week when I noticed the sunrise color was reflected off the clouds and stepped outside on my front porch for a picture. By next month the trees will be leafing out and the sunrise will be obscured almost completely. I hurried to take my pictures – thoroughly cold almost instantly in the 20-degree temperature.

The cat was waiting for me at the door but made no move to come outside. The trash truck was rumbling through the neighborhood; 6:30 AM and the day was brightening.

It was cold enough that the birds seemed to be sleeping in. I’ve been seeing more robins and red-winged blackbirds recently…but the morning was quiet at sunrise.

The clouds thickened during the day and snow fell (melted on impact) in the afternoon. At this time of year, any snow could be the last of the season. I savored the snow in the air through the window of my warm office.

Capturing a Sunrise Moment

Getting sidetracked from fixing breakfast by a sunrise – what a great way to start the day! I timed it perfectly late last week. I saw the color in the narrow windows on both sides of our front door as I came down the stairs and turned around to get my camera. I stepped out the front door in my stocking feet to capture a sunrise moment. Both are zoomed somewhat – which do you like best? The tree is an oak that is by our mailbox.

As turned to go back inside, a car went by. They probably wondered what I was doing on my front porch without a coat…in below freezing weather.

Zooming – February 2019

So many pictures captured with the zoom feature of the camera:

  • The framing of a sunrise so that no post processing is required

  • Birds photographed only because my presence was not detected

  • Documenting an oddity like a unique squirrel tail

  • Plants filling the frame…but the bit of background a blur

I estimate that most of the pictures I take use the zoom on my camera. The advantage of positioning myself at the right angle but not needing to be overly close is not to be underestimated. Before modern lenses, sensors, and autofocus photography was much more challenging. Now it is much more about composition and that is the part I enjoy more than anything else anyway. Being at the right place – and fast enough to use the technology – is the remaining challenge.

January Sunrises

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I used the Sun Alarm app on my phone to remind me a bit before sunrise each day this month. My plan was to photograph sunrises. It worked great on the 1st. There were a few clouds to reflect the color near the beginning of the sunrise then they thickened, and the rest of the sunrise blinked out.

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There were a lot of very cloudy days with no color. On the 3rd, it was cloudy, but the clouds had an interesting texture so a took a picture anyway.

The 7th was probably the best overall sunrise of the month. The clouds and color were good for the whole sunrise

And the sun on the trees to the west of our house was rosy too.

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On the 9th, the clouds appeared to be too thick in the east for any sunrise color but a little after sunrise there was a break in the clouds and the color was very red on trees behind (to the west) of our house. The tulip poplar pods looked surreal!

There were some scattered clouds on the 10th that preceded a sunny morning.

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The sunrise on the 14th and 17th were so cloudy the color could barely be seen.

Overall – I am planning to keep the Sun Alarm going in February…and recording the best sunrises of the month.

Smartphone Nature Photography – part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post….

Identification. Sometimes I take a lot of photos so I can identify something later. This was the case with these caterpillars. They were devouring dogwood plants at Brookside Gardens last summer. They remind me of lemon bars (yellow custard underneath powdered sugar). I defaulted to thinking they were a moth or butterfly larvae…but they turned out to be a dogwood sawfly larvae!

Stories. Some pictures tell a story. If you are aware at the time…make sure you take the pictures of the whole story. This Achemon Sphinx Moth was discovered by summer campers going out between rain showers during a nature photography activity. Moths are more active at night and usually are hiding in foliage during the day. This one was on the ground and twitching. I knew from experience in the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit that it had probably been bitten by a spider. We took our pictures and left it where it was. I regret that I was too busy helping campers to keep my camera at the ready to shoot the moth being pulled between two rocks – presumably by the spider that never did make itself visible.

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Insects. Insects can be very fast moving and difficult to photograph no matter what camera you have. They often are slow or immobile when it is cooler. Cool mornings are good to find cicadas – silent and still…but maybe not dead. Butterflies can be under leaves roosting if it’s cool…or it is dusk and they are seeking a place to spend the night. Then there are masses of milkweed bugs that are prevalent in the fall. They are moving but there are so many that it’s easy enough to get a good number; I always try to figure out how many instars are shown in the same picture.

And sometimes it is just luck. This blue morpho sat on my wrist while I was at the exit of last summer’s butterfly exhibit at Brookside Gardens. I had my phone on the lanyard so was able to pull it out and one-hand the phone to take the picture.

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Specimens. There are nature photography shots that might be of specimens rather than out in the field. The shot of the blue morpho wing was from a specimen that had died using the 15x macro lens. I’ll try the 60x next summer. I included the label in the picture of the dogwood tree cookie…for documentation; I liked the irregularity of the rings.

Wet day color. Sometimes a rainy-day hike is a good thing. The color of fungus is often more intense on these days – and the phone handles the raindrops better than more traditional cameras.

Light. Sometimes an image is made by something special about the light – spotlighted ferns, the shadowing of a sectioned Nautilus shell, a sunrise.

Clipping. Because the camera only has a digital zoom, I often take the picture without zooming then make a clip after I get home. In the example below – the two butterflies (tiger swallowtail and male monarch) are clearly identifiable even though the clip has a painterly look.

So – go out and take some pictures! The only blooms we have outdoors right now are the witch hazels. There are other winter opportunities too: tracks in the snow (or mud), seed pods, snow landscapes, and ice crystals. And maybe a squirrel will be close enough and still enough….

Happy New Year 2019

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A brand-new year…a beginning…full of potential. I got up to see the sunrise this morning; it’s become a minor tradition and this year I set an alarm to make sure I didn’t miss it. This time of year, it isn’t hard to be up and about before sunrise!

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There could be some big changes this year with my daughter make a career move that requires relocation, elderly family members in precarious health, and me wanting to reduce ‘stuff’ that is filling our house. Enter another tradition for the first day of the year: a bit of introspection…making some decisions about what I want to discontinue, continue or start. It’s an evolution of the tradition to make resolutions – which rarely meant very much.  Everything on the list needs to be something important, achievable and measurable. I’m having trouble coming up with something to discontinue in 2019!

Ten Little Celebrations – December 2018

It was easy to find 10 little celebrations in December before today. I divided the month into three segments: before I went to Texas, in Texas and then after I got back from Texas.

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Before I went to Texas there was the Howard County Conservancy’s Natural Holiday Sale (ate lots of cookies and bought suet garlands from the garden club),

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A glorious hike along the Trolley Trail between Banneker Historic Park and Ellicott City,

The Maryland Water Monitoring Conference and managing to find a replacement travel mug in a store (since I didn’t have time to wait for an online order before I left for my travel to Texas.

While I was in Texas, I enjoyed the birds at Josey Ranch Lake,

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Two sunrises (the first and last mornings in Texas!),

Listening to vintage to modern Christmas music…getting in the mood for Christmas and making progress on a Christmas themed jigsaw puzzle that took us almost the whole week to finish.

Afterwards, I celebrated being home again – the usual for me after being away for a week – and staying indoors on some cold, wet days.

Hope everyone is enjoying today’s holiday – Merry Christmas! It’s always of time of year to savor.

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Travel Day

A week ago, I got up in Texas and got ready to fly home to Maryland. As I got my breakfast, I noticed that the sunrise was spectacular. I quickly grabbed my camera to take some pictures from the backyard. The colors were changing fast. There was a little breeze that caused me to notice the windchimes and I decided to take a silhouette of them with the colors of the sunrise in the background.

Looking back toward the house, there were some hazy clouds that reflected the color. What a great start to my last day in Texas!

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My strategy for the trip was to pack small bags rather than large ones. I was flying on Southwest so there was no charge for checking two of them. I carried my back pack and tote on the plane. The tote was holding a red poncho that I wore on the plane (and is a good substitute for a blanket). The strategy worked well for this trip. It’s great to not have to lift heavy luggage.

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It felt good to get home later that day. I always savor being ‘home again’ after being away for a week.

Texas Sunrise

I was in Texas last week (Carrollton near Dallas to be precise). They were experiencing their first round of cold weather. The first morning I got up to early enough to see the sunrise (not hard this time of year).

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The garden still had a surprising amount of green I wondered how long it would be before the plants succumbed to frost. There were some that already had dried to brown (leaves and flowers) but the soft greens of oxalis and sedum

And the brighter colors of kale dominated the view.

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I took my pictures and hurried back inside…it was cold. Little did I know that the next 3 days would be cloudy…and then wet.

Sunrise Alarm

After I posted about the sunrise back on March 18th, I remember a time when I wondered why there were not alarm clocks that would be relative to sunrise rather than the same time every day. Well – there are apps for that! I found several when I thought to check and chose Sun Alarm from Volker Voecking Software Engineering. I set the alarm on my phone to go off at 10 minutes before sunrise for my location.

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I usually get up earlier than the alarm…but find that I am seeing more sunrises because I look to the east when the alarm goes off. Seeing a beautiful sunrise is a boost at the beginning of the day that is always welcome. The picture I’m including with this post was taken last Tuesday…about 9 minutes before sunrise.

Snow Day - Part 2

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By mid-morning – it was obvious that the ‘big snow’ was going to be during the day on Wednesday. The backyard became a winter wonderland with snow accumulating on every available surface.

The azalea that has been showing a lot of stem and leaf color earlier in the day became indistinguishable from other mounds of snow.

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After lunch I opened the garage door and took a snow measurement on the driveway – a little over 4.5 inches and it was still snowing. I also photographed the sidewalk in front of our house. I wondered if the plum tree was going to have some breakage from the weight of the snow; there was no wind – a good thing.

I decided to shovel the driveway. The snow was not as heavy as I thought it would be – which made the job easier. There were plops of snow falling from the trees and I could hear some slow trickles of water. The temperature was about 33 degrees.

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A little while after I came in from shoveling, the snow plow made a down and back pass at our street. Later in the day they came back and did the side streets. Events for Thursday began to be cancelled.

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The next morning (Thursday), there was still snow on the trees at sunrise. But the day was sunny and the forecast was for a high of 45…probably the last of the snow days! I got some pictures of the forest and the maple blossom in the morning sunlight.

March Sunrise

About the only perk for going to daylight savings time is being up for sunrise again. I noticed the one yesterday via its reflection on clouds in the west at first. The clouds had a pink tinge over the tree tops. I took the picture through my office window.

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I went downstairs and took a picture through the narrow window beside the door. The color was already becoming more orange.

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I opened the door, so I would avoid the window frame (and the smudges on the glass).

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That’s when I heard the red winged blackbirds. They were across the street in a treetop – greeting the new day with their chatter.

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The cat was waiting for me when I turned around from the open front door. Fortunately, he is not a cat that is always looking for an opportunity to escape to the great outdoors!

Ten Little Celebrations – January 2018

This month was mostly cold…mostly spent at home…but I easily found lot of little celebrations!

I celebrated the model trains at Brookside…on the very last day of the exhibit – January 1. I enjoyed volunteering to help the exhibit run smoothly…and experiencing the trains through the eyes of the children.

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I made a lot of progress on the collection of botanical prints eBooks area of my website. I am adding to the list of links as I work back through the annual lists of books I read/browsed…picking out the ones that contained botanical prints. So far, the books I found from 2013-2017 are listed – each with a link to the free eBook and a sample image. I celebrated the beauty of the botanical prints the whole time I worked on the collection…and may have the ones from 2012 ready later today.

We had some very cold days early in January and I celebrated my well-stocked pantry, freezer and refrigerator – as I stayed warm at home!

The were three Winter Wellness sessions this January hosted by Howard County Conservancy for their volunteers. Each included a lecture and hike…worth celebrating.

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Conowingo was not as scenic for birds as it has been at times in the past…but the ice on the rocks and railings was worth seeing. I enjoyed being out and about….maybe that was more what I was celebrating.

I had a cold earlier in the month – so of course I celebrated as soon as a started feeling better.

In November I got my box of Foldscopes and was so busy I didn’t put one together until recently. I was pleased to finally do it…celebrated my origami-type success with the pieces and my initial results.

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My area of Maryland has been very dry. We’ve only had dustings of snow…but we had a day recently that is rained gently for most of the day. We needed the moisture….and I celebrated that it came in an easy-to-handle form.

I had a dental appointment as was pleased that I had no cavities! It’s been a long time since I’ve had a new one and I celebrate after each appointment.

I started out on my weekly grocery shopping drive and notice the sunrise over our CSA buildings. I pulled off the road to take a picture. It was a good way to celebrate the day’s beginning.

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Staunton River Star Party Solar Observations

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Most of the action at a star party is in the dark…but there are a few daylight activities as well. The sunset on the first night was scenic – with a few clouds near the horizon and tree line.

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On Thursday morning I took sunrise pictures. Clouds helped make it more interesting. The picture below was taking about 15 minutes after the one to the right.

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My husband brought his solar telescope and used it on 2 days. There were solar prominences on both days! On the second day – the prominence seemed to be changing as we watched it. I put my camera up to the eye piece of the telescope and got some pictures. The prominence on the first day was toward the bottom of the disk. On the second day, the prominence was in the upper left.

Nebraska Sunrise

We were in Nebraska for two mornings and I was up for the sunrise for both. The first morning was the day of the solar eclipse. We got an early start because we knew we had to drive west to get out of the clouds. Our hotel in York, Nebraska was full of people around for the eclipse but many were hoping to stay in York and hope for clearing.

The next morning, we were heading east toward home. I walked to the edge of the parking lot for this picture. A few people had left the day before but there were still quite a few people at the hotel breakfast getting an early start on their trek back to where they came from.

Once we were in the car – I noticed that the sunrise was very colorful. I wished the dew was cleared better from the windshield…but couldn’t resist the ‘on the road’ sunrise pictures!

As always – watching the sunrise is a wonderful start to the day.

Previous posts about our Solar Eclipse trek: Road Trip to Nebraska for the Eclipse, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Solar Eclipse – August 2017.

Ten Little Celebrations – August 2017

August has been a busy month – volunteering (primarily at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy) and the solar eclipse road trip. There has been plenty to celebrate.

Monarch Butterflies. The population of Monarchs in Maryland is so reduced from 15 years ago that I celebrate whenever I see them. Brookside Gardens has a few and they are strong enough flyers that I’ve seen them even on rainy days where most of the other butterflies are hiding under leaves.

Orange dead leaf butterfly resting on my hand. An orange dead leaf butterfly kept me company for the last 20 minutes of one of my Wings of Fancy shifts! It settled onto my hand and used its proboscis to get whatever was on my skin. Periodically it opened its wings – flashed their brilliance for a second or two before looking like a dead leaf again. (picture from back in July...not when it was on my hand)

Emerging Atala butterfly. I was at the discovery station talking with a group of children in front of the discovery station when an Atala butterfly emerged. Its wings were folded so tight that they were almost not visible! The was a great experience for the children…and for me too.

Emerging pipevine swallowtails. One day there were three swallowtails that emerged during the hour I was at the discovery station at Wings of Fancy. There was a different audience of families each time. Someone would comment that one of the chrysalises was moving and then – the butterfly would be pulling itself out. The wings would be very wet but noticeably start expanding almost immediately.

Cantaloupe. We’ve has some great watermelon and cantaloupes from our CSA this year. They are probably all worth a little celebration but there was one cantaloupe that was spectacularly sweet – and that’s the one I’m thinking about as I write this.

August sunrise. Somehow being up and observing the sunrise is my favorite way to start the day. It is something to celebrate even if it potentially happens every day!

Orange striped oakworm caterpillar. Yes – it eats oak leave…but they don’t kill the tree. They are beautiful caterpillars and I celebrated seeing one for the first time!

Spider web on the mailbox. I celebrated a spider web that was naturally misted (with fog) and being in out at the right time to photograph it. As a secondary little celebration – I was relieved that the ants that crawled up my legs, while I was concentrating on photography, did not bite me!

Glow. I celebrated thinking about the glow of light in flowers and glow of interactions with people…sometimes those two things bring out similar emotions.

A day at home. Sometimes with a lot going on, a day at home is just what I need…and worth celebrating.

An August Sunrise

With the days getting shorter, I’m downstairs before sunrise on some mornings. I looked out the narrow window beside my front door last weekend about 10 minutes before sunrise and decided to take a minute for some pictures…stepping out to the front porch. I experimented with composition and orientation. My favorite is the last one because it shows the top of our oak tree and there are faint pink streamer clouds up into sky. It was a very worthwhile minute on the front porch! The cat watched me from the narrow window; he might have been enjoying the morning scene as well. Noticing the sunrise is a great way to start the day.