August II

A few more August photos. It’ll hit 90 the first day of school on Wednesday, of course. After that, anyone’s guess.

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August

Ten minutes into the first interview I had with my current boss, he was telling me about the weather in Gorham. He carefully walked me through all twelve months and what they would deliver to the area in which I was seeking employment.

“And then in late August,” he said, his eyes suddenly becoming far away, “the light starts to change…” Right about then, I swear I heard a ghostly tinkling of distant chimes. This did not sound good.

He was right, of course. The light has changed. The sun is lower in the sky and already you can tell something is amiss. Fall is coming. Every hundredth or so tree on north-facing hillsides has a faint yellow cast. Afternoons are still warm, but this morning had a bit of a snap to it.

The coming of our second autumn is difficult to describe. It’s like that stinging aura you feel the night before you get the flu. But it’s pleasant. Of course, the winter that comes after is long and can be unpleasant. Whatever. You get what I’m trying to say.

To hell with it: I’ll just defer to my boss. The light has changed.

Hummingbirds

A few days into the last school year, our Life Skills teacher handed me her phone. Playing on the screen was a movie that I couldn’t believe was real. A cloud of hummingbirds was buzzing a bird feeder like electrons orbiting an atomic nucleus. The teacher had shot the movie through her kitchen window.

Today, she invited my wife and I over for lunch, and suggested I bring along my camera. For the next hour, we ate salads and watched the little birds feast at the feeder. Between bites I switched lenses and mostly failed to catch the little scamps in action. I shot almost 600 frames, and wound up with these four.

The challenge is not just in their speed, though that is a problem. They really don’t stop moving for more than a half-second or so, and are in and out of the focal plane before you can get a bead on them.

The real problem, though, is shooting fast enough to stop their wings, while also allowing enough light into the camera to make a decent image. I would have loved to have shot these images at 1/4000, but it was cloudy and even rained for part of the time. It was just too dark. And shooting with any speed at all meant cranking the ISO to 3200 sometimes, which made even the decent images a little too grainy.

Still, they are fascinating creatures. One thing I’d heard about but never seen was their aggressive behavior to each other. I guess if I had to get through the world eating liquid sugar all day, I’d be a little cranky, too.

New Glass

Last night, Mrs. cpb made me open my birthday present two days early. She got me a 100mm Canon macro lens, which will allow me to take closeup photos of small objects without having to use my zoom lens. The zoom served me well, but that kind of focal length can lead to distortion and blurred images, especially if you can’t keep your hands completely still.

I knew an honest-to-God macro would improve my closeup stuff, but wow, was I unprepared for the difference. I have a lot to learn—the depth of field is about the diameter of a hydrogen atom—but even these crummy photos are light years better than the stuff I was taking before.

Mallardjusted

Mallard, Crawford Notch State Park, NH
Mallard, Crawford Notch State Park, NH

I met this fine fellow earlier this week, swimming at the Willey Home Site. Jaunty, stylish, and more than a little full of himself, he served as a reminder that college football season is but six weeks away. I hope Oregon’s new quarterback gets his act together so he can play on time.

It’s funny: A year before I graduated from UO back in the ’92, you better believe I had my classes lined up. Who screws up a graduation timeline?

I like The Sporting News’ headline: “Vernon Adams’ Oregon status in question thanks to academics.” Like, once again it’s the fault of this horrible “school” thing they make college athletes have to deal with.

Envy

I saw not one but two seagull fights yesterday. One was in St. John, and the other in a little harbor town forty miles away. This leads me to believe that gulls do more than just glide passively in front of sunsets. I missed the first fight because I had my shutter speed set too fast for some reason, and almost missed this one because I couldn’t focus fast enough. I mostly got it.

I like this scene because it’s clear they’re fighting over a fish. Not sure if Gull No. 1 stole Gull No. 2’s prize, or if Gull No. 2 was just being a jerk.

Either way, Gull No. 1 with the fish, and the win.

Drops

IMG_3392I’m on Day 4 of a self-imposed 10,000-steps-a-day program. On the exercise spectrum, this places my lazy butt somewhere between senior center tai chi and being an inanimate object. I guess it’s better than not exercising at all.

It rained pretty hard today. For a while there, it looked like my streak was in peril. But I got home from work and the rain had stopped, so we walked out by the airstrip. I really thought we were out there for while. But the 2,500 steps during my working hours plus the walk only got me a bit past 9,000. As I write this, I’m already in my robe and 400 steps short. I have less than two hours to get up and pound them out. Hope I can summon the will.

Anyway, it was a pretty good drenching this afternoon. Water was definitely a motif in today’s photos. But it’s New Hampshire, which means nothing stays wet for very long—thanks, two inches of topsoil!

Wildflowers are everywhere. So were the gnats. I got home and was getting in the shower when I felt the familiar tickle of a tick getting ready to give my back a love bite. I stayed on the road 99 percent of the time and only stepped in grass for a combined thirty seconds. Ticks can go to hell.

I got another shot of a spider skulking around on a flower. That makes three in two weeks. I didn’t even see the latest one until I got home and started going through the pictures.

Mostly missed

Red fox, Randolph, NH
Red fox, Randolph, NH

I’ve seen a red fox since moving here, but this one felt more like a “first.” I was by myself, and spotted him just bumming around along the side of the road. He knew I was behind him in the jeep but never panicked. He just mosied into the woods and turned around to check me out. I couldn’t get a lock on him with my autofocus, and by the time I switched to manual and looked back through the viewfinder, he was gone.

Slick Willie

Jumping spider hiding in dandelion, Lancaster, NH
Jumping spider hiding in dandelion, Lancaster, NH

This is the second time in a week that I’ve seen a spider hiding in or on a flower. Not being a fan of our eight-legged friends, I find myself a little offended and horrified. Poor bugs, dropping in on a flower for a rest, or a meal, and BAM! Imagine being on a road trip. You stop in at a Starbucks or a McD’s to take a load off, and instead of grabbing a bite, something jumps out of the men’s room and grabs you.

But I suppose the spiders are just doing the smart thing. Someone once asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, and he supposedly said, “That’s where the money is.” So, Mr. Spider, I guess I won’t bother to ask why you guys keep hanging out on the blossoms.

Incidentally, I read today that Sutton actually said:

Why did I rob banks? Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life. I enjoyed everything about it so much that one or two weeks later I’d be out looking for the next job. But to me the money was the chips, that’s all.

Go where the money is …and go there often.

IMG_1801Spider on, dude.

Swivel

Swallow, Gorham, NH
Swallow, Gorham, NH

I saw this startled little friend on a branch outside my school. I actually got fairly close, though not close enough to get any sharper than this, unfortunately. Focusing is a weakness I just can’t seem to get a handle on. Anyway, he seemed content to have me about seven or eight feet away. He should have fluttered away as I got that close, but other than keeping his head trained on me, he didn’t move. There are a lot of student-built birdhouses nearby. Most have nests on or in them. He or she probably was luring me away from a next of open mouth babies, possibly even willing to become my snack if it meant sacrificing for the next generation.

Anyway, I wonder if it’s the same bird that I saw here.

Ghosts

Moose by roadside, Route 16 between Milan and Erroll, NH
Moose by roadside, Route 16 between Milan and Errol, NH

We saw our first moose—mooses? meese?—last night. It could have been five, or two, because I kept driving us back and forth, hoping to see them re-emerge from the woods. Usually one would. But then we’d see others in other places, in places we didn’t think the originals could’ve gotten to in time.

The moose were more ominous and unsettling than majestic. They didn’t care that we were watching them. When they decided to vanish into the trees, that’s what they did. Their spindly, knobby legs disappeared among the spindly knobby trees, followed by their dark, mangy coats. One walked less than a couple of yards into the trees and stopped, almost completely invisible.

The animals didn’t photograph well. I took about a hundred different images, none of them good. Most I had to process to the extreme just to make the animal visible. I know I had my settings right—manual one time, auto the next. The moose were hazy and indistinct even when out in the open.

People hit moose with their cars all the time. Usually the moose are killed and sometimes the people, too. Moose are active in the morning and early evening when the light is tricky. If you’re driving along at 50 mph, it’s probably as though a part of the forest has come to life and appeared in your lane. I’m glad my commute is half a mile long and right through town.