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Friday, February 27, 2009

Skywatch Friday

Not a sunny day, not exactly. Not exactly a cloudy one either. But it's a warmer day - the temperature is above freezing and it seems inviting to go outside despite the wan sun.

It's Skywatch Friday - do visit the blogs of the dedicated people who bring us their skies each Friday.

This is a morning view looking easterly. The rainbow-like blur is called a sun dog. I'm sure there's a good reason that I could see a sun dog at this moment, but I'm no meteorologist. Just a guy with a camera at the right moment.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My viola

It's my 200th post. I can hardly believe I've had enough stuff to show... Certainly it's been more interesting for me than my readers! The good news is that I'm learning every day, and I've met some very wonderful people. I'm looking forward to my next 200. I think my first lesson learnt is that I've forgot how much I stay inside in the cold months. Need to schedule some time to go get some photos...

For my 200th, I present my old, comfortable, scratched up viola. I love this old girl to bits - my teacher gave it to me, back when I could never have afforded my own instrument. A viola is held under the chin like a violin, but it's a fifth lower in pitch. If you imagine hearing gypsies playing in a movie, that's probably a viola. Sweet sounding, mellow. The viola isn't typically a solo instrument, although there have been a few very famous artists. The viola is an ensemble instrument. We don't just make the music: we make the music better!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ceiling fan

It's not really about the city, but I was inspired by Marguerite-Marie's work last week. (This week she's in Paris! Wow!)

Art is where you find it. Not exactly her theme, but it's as close as I'll get for now

This is a ceiling fan with the camera on manual and I've overridden just about everything to be able to get the bulb and fan in the same frame.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The bunny

He's got very long fur, smallish ears and he's very, very soft. His name is Mousse. He's an American Fuzzy Lop.

Strangely enough, the cats and the dog don't see him as prey. I have no idea why. Oh, they like to follow him around, but they've never tried a taste.

He's a very relaxed, mild mannered fellow who likes timothy hay and oats. He's particularly fond of being scratched between his eyes - I don't think he can reach there himself.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Skywatch Friday

Another unofficial Skywatch Friday. Do click the link to see how the talented photo bloggers posted!

Yesterday. Not much sky, but the camera is pointed into the air. The weather service claimed 'ice fog' and I suppose it was. Trees and rooftop to prove that I did in fact take a photo of the sky!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Old snow

Old snow. It is said that people living in the far north have a thousand words to describe snow and ice in their many forms. I don't have that many words!

This is what we locally call a snow bank - the piles of snow that are made when we shovel the snow off the sidewalks and drives gets piled into heaps running along the walk. I don't know why we don't call them snow piles or snow heaps, but it's been snow banks as long as I can remember.

There are some snow banks that are very tall - places like parking lots use heave machines like bucket loaders to heap the snow in one corner. As children, we'd play 'king of the mountain' and try to be the only one standing on top. By pushing the others off, of course!

Anyway, this particular snow bank is old. It used to be completely smooth, but the sun and the wind and the warm weather have sculpted it into weird shapes. (Yes, I'm calling 35F warm!) As the snow gets older, it gets darker, as all the white snow disappears, revealing the tiny layers of trapped dust underneath. Strangely enough, it's easier to photograph old snow because of this darkening effect.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


A little while ago I posted a photo of two of the cats. This time, it's the dog's turn. She's very camera shy, but I managed to snap one of her on the bed with the third cat. The cat's name is... well, it's Spot. No, he hasn't got a spot. He came to us already named.

Spot loves the dog to pieces. I think he figures he needs to take care of her. He's never far from her - pet one and the other will come running!

The dog is a sort of rescue dog; she came to us from a breeder after her breeding days were over. She's very shy which is a bit of a surprise for such a large dog. She weighs something like 90 pounds (41kg). She's a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, nicknamed the Swissy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Butterfly in winter

A butterfly from the Popp Butterfly Conservatory in Oneonta, NY. There are feeders all over the place, and the butterflies drift over, have a rest and a feast. It's better than the jungle because there aren't any insect-eating animals here!

I have no idea what species this is and I didn't think to ask the friendly people there before I left. I can only assume they are a tropical insect because I've never seen anything like it in the outdoors here!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Butterflies in winter

No, not in my yard! We took a trip to the Joseph L Popp, Jr Butterfly Conservatory in Oneonta, NY. It's less than an hour away and well worth the drive.

It's an indescribable experience to walk in from an ice-covered parking lot to a large open 80F room where the humidity is high enough to fog my glasses instantly. I was a bit worried for the camera, but it wasn't a problem.

There are hundreds of butterflies; species I certainly never saw here in NY before. Keeping them inside is an 'airlock' where only one door at a time is opened. No worries about invasive species here. Along with the butterflies are more than a dozen species of birds, several tortoises, turtles, chameleons, stick bugs, an iguana and a koi pond. In and about are scattered various 'islands' of tropical plants with bird and butterfly feeders.

Did I mention that it's open? All these creatures are free to go wherever they like. The birds are comfortable with visitors, and they aren't afraid of the camera. We were asked not to use flash, to not startle the creatures, and not to touch them (can you imagine the stress of being handled by a hundred people a day?)

I started out taking many, many pictures, and they looked OK on the LCD, but after reviewing them in the large, I could see that most of them were shaky. You know, I didn't feel too bad about that. After a while, I just sat on a bench, watched the button quail walking / running about, seeing the red faced Gouldian finches enjoying their millet sprays, enjoying the red factor canary singing and enjoying the warm 'weather' inside the conservatory.

It's a strangely satisfying feeling to have butterflies fly over and land on you. I know they think I'm just another bit of 'structure' but I enjoyed it just the same.

Highly recommended. Bring a camera and tripod. There are knowledgeable folks there to answer your questions, but they aren't at all intrusive. One photographer had a neat trick of setting up at a butterfly feeding station and waiting for them to come to her, rather than trying to chase them about. It worked, too!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

City Hall in winter

About six months ago I took a photo from about the same spot. This is the Schenectady City Hall, dressed in her coating of winter snow. The view is a little different - in the summer I was able to walk up the hill and get a better view of the horizon. Now, in winter, I can't climb that hill without my snow shoes, which I didn't think to bring with me. So this is taken from Nott Terrace instead.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Moonrise, through the trees. It's about 30F, which is warm for the past few weeks, and I saw the moon coming up behind those trees and decided to try the camera out under these conditions.

On a tripod, I liked this best of the two dozen I took. It's F4.0, 8 seconds exposure. The house is illuminated by the street lamp across the way. I notice some strange artifacts like the green flash, but I think it adds to the mystery of it all!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Luminous beings are we

From the Schenectady Museum and Suits-Bueche Planetarium. The museum is in the midst of a transition from exhibits of local history (like the French and Indians burning the city) to showing off technology that our people helped invent. If you're in the area, stop by - it's sure to be different from your memory of it.

There are many interactive exhibits. This is a photoluminescent wall. Opposite, are bright lights on a timer. Push a button, the lights come on for something like 30 seconds, then turn off, leaving the room in complete darkness except for the soft glow of the wall.

If one stands close to the wall when the lights are on, one's shadow is captured. The closer one stands, the sharper the image. Slowly move an arm, and it becomes ghostly. Fun for kids and parents too. Hand-held, but the wobble in my arms only adds to the overall effect.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Skywatch Friday

Yes, it's another informal, unofficial Skywatch Friday here in Schenectady. Follow the link to see what the more dedicated bloggers are posting today!

This is somewhat misleading. My current sky isn't very photogenic, so I'm posting a photo from one that is! This tree lost several large limbs in the ice storm we had earlier in the year. Yes, the sky does actually show up blue in this area and here's the photographic evidence to prove it!

The good news is that the weather is supposed to get better - above freezing - this weekend and maybe I'll be able to get out and refill the photo inventory.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


The white cat's name is Smudge. He used to have a smudge of dark fur on his head until he was... barbered by our youngest. When it grew back in, it was all white, so now we have this long-winded explanation about his name!

Smudge hasn't been feeling well of late, and the other cats seem to know it. Huckleberry (the tiger) is keeping him company in the sun.

We have cats, a dog, a rabbit and tropical fish in the house. Sort of interesting for a couple born and raised in the city.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Well, sort of. Bootprints is a more accurate description. On Theme Day, I thought I'd post some photos of the passageway between my house and my neighbour's. I had to wait for the sun to shine down the alley before I could get this view. I kind of like it. The sparkles you can see in the larger photo are snow crystals being blown about.
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