Near my house there is a overflow pond full of reeds. A few weeks ago hundreds of small birds were there (starlings, I suspect). I did not get out in time to try and photograph them, as they wheeled in the sky then settled in the reeds to chitter and chirp. When I did go out last week there was one, solitary bird: a breeding male, red-winged blackbird. It was dusk and I was shooting with the Nikkor 200-500 f5.6. It is an excellent lens, but the light was low and I am not experienced at shooting birds in flight. Still, here are a few shots. I hope through the summer to work harder to learn the technique as the equipment is excellent, it is the photographer who is lacking in skill.
Yesterday there were massive rains on the mountain. I am told that it even dislodged borders that rolled into the streets causing massive damage to cars and the roadway. I took another two more hikes after the rain, last evening and again this morning. Here are few shots, particularly of flora and snails. At the end I came across an amazing rock formation, a kind of bunker, but my photos do not do it justice. I have included a few so that you can get the idea.
This morning as the sun came up the dew was thick upon the grass and near me was the camera with the 200-500mm lens on it. Nikon says it is good for macro photography so why not? Being a 6 pound lens it is a bit unwieldy for a lot of close work (close being relative, roughly 5 feet away) but it did yield nice, crisp shots with beautiful bokeh even at f5.6.
I have often been told by professional friends that giving yourself an assignment is the best way to keep yourself engaged and learning in your photography. I have done this in various ways, but especially in just taking pictures of what I see everyday. A recent post on Digital Photography School makes the same point. I even have an entire flickr set just for backyard photos. These few show some extremes in lens length.
I have loved orchids ever since I first read Nero Wolfe as a kid (Timothy Hutton did a great TV adaptation a few years ago). I already enjoyed horticulture and to have a detective-hero who had his own greenhouse where he nurtured and nursed his blooming children made it obvious that I had to have a few plants of my own. In those days orchids were very hard to find. Now they are in every grocery store, or so it seems. My wife has recently developed an appreciation of the delicate blooms as well and rather than giving her cut flowers that would fade and die in a few days, this anniversary I got her a small phalaenopsis. In the sunlight the blooms are translucent and gorgeous.
This is the building in which my office is housed. It was originally built in 1937 (see image below) and was a woman’s residence hall and was named after Frances Washburn Atherton, the wife of the 4th president of Penn State. In 1997 construction began on creating office space within Atherton, already an honors residence hall, for the newly founded Schreyer Honors College.
We had a beautiful evening last night, dining at the Mount Nittany Inn, overlooking Penns Valley.
I am back from my trip to Freiburg, Germany. It was a very productive time and on the last day, yesterday, the sun broke through just long enough to get some pictures at the flower market taking place in the Freiburg Münsterplatz. This statue, presumably of St. George, since he is slaying a dragon, and this older women were vigilant.
I am very fortunate to be able to travel for Penn State this summer. I was recently named as chair of Freiburg “Faculty Implementation Committee,” or “FIT.” Last spring a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between PSU and the University of Freiburg. This is a university-wide agreement and we already have decades of collaboration between our two universities from philosophy to forestry and now energy and honors. In a few weeks over a dozen of my colleagues in the Penn State Institutes for Energy and the Environment will be arriving in Freiburg to meet with their counterparts here and we will reciprocate by hosting the Freuiburgers next year in Happy Valley. In addition to representing the university as a whole, I am also going to be working with their new University College Freiburg to establish an exchange program. I am very excited about that and more details are to come…
The trip here was fairly uneventful, although delayed by two hours. We pushed back from the gate at Dulles and they realized there was a brake problem. We returned, they fixed it, and an hour later we were on our way. Somehow we then lost another 50 minutes en route (with a tail wind, go figure). It was not a big deal for me since I simply took the train from Frankfurter Flughafen to Freiburg and walked two blocks to my hotel.
The Best Western “Hotel Victoria” bills itself as the greenest hotel in the world and I believe it. They have solar cells on the roof, wood pellet heaters for the water, and wind power from the city. (Freiburg is one of Germany’s foremost “Green Cities.”) After dinner at a local Italian café (and watching Spain-Italy tie in Euro 2012) I took a walk around town. Here a few pictures of my walk.
Today was the last day of school for our kiddos. For the boy it was a half day and for the girl they had a pool party. (A bit brisk apparently.) After a few pictures of the kids getting on the bus I snapped one or two of my wife’s flowers already blooming brightly up the front path.
These were taken with my new (early Father’s Day present) lens the Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3. I know that pros eschew the “super zoom” but this replaces the 18-55 and 55-200 kit lenses and so far I see no loss in quality but all the benefits of have a single lens (and longer focal length). Obviously I would love a faster lens at longer length for all those indoor soccer games but until I win the lottery, this will do very nicely for trips and every day shooting.