Saturday, December 29, 2012


Today we share the final six of our 12 favorite pictures from this year.  In doing this annual series I strive for not only pictures with some compelling interest but diversity in the series as well.  They are not ranked in any particular order, in fact, on any given day an entirely different selection might have been made from the thousands of images made in 2012.  Enjoy!

I like to think of this picture being entitled Desolate Beach.  Actually, that's Sue on a beach just south of Port St. Lucie, FL which shares her name; Brooks.  We were exploring beaches for their sea shelling potential and I liked the fact we were more or less alone here.  I backed up making Sue with her red top very much the center of interest in the photo but presenting her in this diminutive size and alone struck me with a feeling of pleasant contemplation; or, whatever.

A characteristic of a telephoto lens is it compresses planes; making background objects appear closer than they really are.  In this photo it appears the fisherman is making a perfectly aimed cast to snare the lady on the wave runner.  Actually she is far out of his casting range while passing by in the Jupiter, FL inlet.  The photo was done at 1/500th of a second, f/9 and at the zoom lenses' full 200 mm focal length.  The relatively fast shutter speed was sufficient to freeze all motion in the photo (except for the rod tip), the aperture offered ample depth of field to keep the entire frame in sharp focus and the full telephoto length pulled the background and foreground together.

I selected this picture because it demonstrates two compositional tools, 1) getting close to your subject often improves the effectiveness of the photo and 2) throwing the background out of focus helps separate the foreground from an otherwise intrusive background.  I extended the lens to its full 40mm focal length and manually focused it at its minimum distance--then simply moved the camera back and forth toward the spider until it was sharply focused and made the exposure at 1/160th a second; a speed sufficient to help maintain sharpness in this hand-held shot.  It's a pair of banana spiders in Vero Beach.  The female is in the foreground.  As you might imagine the male usually is well behaved.

Interesting creative work in digital photography can be done with software; in this case Photoshop Elements v4.  Believe it or not the above, twisted, geometric spiral of lights is a very conventional Ferris Wheel at our county fair.  Take a peek at the blog story of August 16, 2012 if you are really curious about this technique.

This picture began life as a very conventional composition of my three children posed with son Craig's (right) prized VW bus restoration.  While I was tinkering with the camera some shenanigans broke out which I encouraged to continue and this was the result.  There is a place for nicely posed, conventional group photos but some apparent spontaneity can add lots of real-life interest.

It seems fitting to end an annual series of favorite photos with a sunset view; this one at the pier of the Lobster Shanty, Cocoa Beach, FL.  Before ordering our dinner I scouted the general area as dusk approached then went outside and did a couple of test exposures until I was zeroed-in on this presentation.  Sunset scenes are difficult to arrange on Florida's east coast.  The ocean is in the wrong location.  This one features the Banana River segment of the intercoastal waterway.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Florida style!

This view is a city park in Fort Pierce, Florida taken during the Christmas season there last winter and was featured on my Christmas cards this year.  The lights surrounding the trunks of the palm trees dance in synchronization with holiday music much to the delight of visitors.  May your celebration of Christ's birth be meaningfully enchanting.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Twas the night before Christmas and all through each state,
Coast Guard families were starting to celebrate.

Just then from the White House came an urgent call,
A crisis had arisen that would affect one and all.

In fact the State Department was frantic,
For Santa Claus had just gone down in the Atlantic!

It was foggy and Rudolph had made a blunder.
Santa, sleigh, and eight reindeer were going under.

Though the stockings were hung by the chimneys with care.
Poor Santa gurgled, "I'll never get there."

When what to his wondering eye should appear;
But a Coast Guard Cutter with their rescue gear!

The officers and crew were so lively and quick;
Sure was a lucky break for good old Saint Nick.

With a nod from the Captain they went right to work.
Rudolph was embarrassed, he felt like a jerk.

Poor Santa was soggy, but as anyone could see,
He was very grateful to the U.S.C.G!

And we heard him exclaim as they towed him from sight,
"If it weren't for my weight, I'd enlist tonight!"

                             SEMPER PARATUS

*          *          *

This from my coast guard friend John Estep of Cincinnati; founder of the group Buckeye Coasties.     

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Today we share six of our 12 favorite pictures from this year.  In doing this annual series I strive for not only pictures with some compelling interest but diversity in the series as well.  They are not ranked in any particular order, in fact, on any given day an entirely different selection might have been made from the thousands of images made in 2012.  Six more will appear here next Saturday.

I left my lunch sit while I grabbed my camera to do this shot on a pier in Sebastian, FL on a warm January day.  The exposure was manually controlled with a shutter speed of 1/320th of a second; brief enough to freeze the flight of the birds and the morsel of food thrown by the man in the foreground.  The aperture was f/10; sufficiently small to give abundant depth of field so the foreground man and the background birds all are sharply focused.  The lens was zoomed to 29mm (mid-way in its range) to tighten the composition.  Canon Rebel DSLR T3i camera with Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L lens; my walking-around combination.

This photo was done along the intercoastal waterway in Vero Beach, FL while a heron-like bird waited patiently for its evening snack.  The camera was rested on a fence post with an exposure of 6/10th second and the lens wide open at f/4 with ISO sensitivity at 3200.  The lens was at its maximum focal length of 40mm which brought the bird and background bridge detail as close as possible.  If I had to choose a favorite of the year, this would be it.  It was particularly nice that my lady Sue and friends Mark and Nancy Meinzer were close by to enjoy the scene as well. 

This photo made the cut because of the spontaneous, near-background activity of the amorous couple while Sue enjoys the view of the inlet from the Atlantic Ocean at the Jupiter, FL lighthouse.  An aperture of f/10 and a 17mm (wide angle) focal length allowed the scene to be rendered in sharp focus from the near foreground to infinity.  A shutter speed of 1/200th of a second simply contributed to a correct exposure.

The violent action of a baseball pitcher was amplified by a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/15th of a second.  Good field lighting allowed an aperture of f/10 at ISO 100 in this night, Class A, minor league baseball, Spring-training game in Port St. Lucie, FL.  This shot was made while I was sitting in my spectator seat along the first base line using Canon's 70-200mm, f/2.8 L lens at maximum focal length.  I was shooting through a protective screen but the long focal-length threw it completely out of focus due to its limited depth of field.

Photo finish to a cross-country race:  "Adopted" grand daughter Mackenna Curtis-Collins (right), judging by the shadow of her foot nearly touching the white finish line, appears to be winning this race.  However, the official camera declared it a tie.  The camera was pre-focused on the finish line and the exposure was 1/1250th sec., f/5, ISO 400 with the same telephoto lens at its full 200mm focal length.

This very-much alive and wild alligator was swimming in slow formation with our air-boat on Blue Cyprus Lake near Vero Beach, FL.  It was estimated to be in the 10 to 12 foot range and continued its menacing presence until we did a discrete course change.  The photo was made with the 70-200mm lens at 155mm; exposure 1/500th second, f6/3.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


MOHAWK DAM; An impoundment without any water

The top photo shows the downstream side of Mowhak Dam near Nellie in Coshocton County Ohio.  Invisible on the far right of the photo, the Walhonding River flows through the dam toward it's confluence with the Tuscarawas River in Coshocton where it forms the Muskingham River which, itself, joins the Ohio River at Marietta.

The dam is inert until flood conditions arise then, its gates are mostly closed restricting the Walhonding's flow and holding the water to help alleviate damaging downstream flooding.  The dam was built in the 1930s and joined 13 others in the Muskingham Watershed Conservancy District; all sharing the mission of flood control.

It's record year of flood control occurred in 2005 when it held back water to the depth of 80 feet behind the dam structure until area flood conditions improved.

The lower photo (above) shows the dry side of the dam as it usually appears when flood conditions do not exist.  For miles upstream the land is cultivated normally.

I once drove through the impoundment area after there had been considerable flooding .  By then, the water was gone but the land looked like a moonscape.  Everywhere, as far as you could see trees, crops, fences, township roads, etc., were covered with the drab gray color of dried mud; residue from the just ended flood awaiting the cleansing of the next rainfall.

*          *          *

I got reacquainted with Mohawk during a recent geocaching outing in Coshocton County.  Speaking of confluences, on another recent cache outing Sue and I experienced a point of confluence where lines of latitude and longitude appear only as whole integers--with all zeroes to the right of the degrees indicated.

This occurs only 866 times in the US, 11 of them in Ohio.  (Remember to click on the smaller image to see a larger view.)

In this case the specific location was in a field west of the truck stop at the intersection of I-71 and Ohio 83 near Lodi.  The debris on the glass surface of our GPS unit was chaff from the brier field we negotiated to get to this very precisely defined location.

You may note the numerics N XX.XXX, W 082 XX.XXX in the little photo.  That is the decimal equivalent of degrees, minutes and seconds; the common notation of latitude and longitude used in geocaching.

*          *          *

A popular place for geocache locations is around cemeteries--where cachers are respectful of the local rules and avoid any disrespect whatsoever to grave sites.  In fact, I often find myself repairing the medallions and flags that are askew on veteran's markers.

It also is interesting to simply pause and reflect on the older grave markers.  This one pictured, for example, marks the grave of Samuel Ziegler who died April 15, 1843 at the age of 82 years, 2 m(onths) and 7 days which means, of course, he was born in February 1761.

That was 28 years before George Washington became president.

In the lower photo, taken on a more recent geocaching outing in a cemetery on Middletown Rd., south of Crestline, this person died in 1845, some 167 years ago.  His stone commemorates his passing at an unknown age.

Then, a tree near his grave site germinated, grew to its massive size--and died as well.  Today only its stump remains yet still seeming to embrace its neighboring tombstone, while yet still another of life's cycles appears in the form of newly germinated plants in the foreground. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Mansfield pedestrians needed umbrellas rather than snow boots when they attended the city's Christmas tree lighting celebration near the downtown Carousel District Friday, December 7th.

Had the temperature been a bit cooler the evening's rain easily could have been multiple inches of snow.

In spite of the challenging weather area parking lots were full and shops in the district were buzzing with activities and customers in a celebratory mood.  The evening activities began with the tree lighting in front of the Carousel--partially hidden in the center of the photo behind the green and white umbrella.

This photo is looking south from the east side of N. Main St., just downhill from the near-historic City News.  The two green, traffic lights are at the corner of 4th and Main.

The tree itself has an interesting history.  It was planted by a city resident some years ago and grew so large it became a safety problem with traffic visibility.  Rather than suffering a severe trim the owner donated the tree to the city for this year's holiday.

Seveal downtown area churches participated in the event by offering open houses so visitors could enjoy their various, Christmas decorations.  A priest at St. Peter's Catholic Church greets visitors in the lower photo at that church's iconic sanctuary.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

my new camera and a new park!

Maybe I better start at the beginning.  In this marvelous hobby of geocaching we find ourselves hiking in some very strenuous locations and more than once I've pondered that husky, digital, single lens reflex camera in my hiking bag with its very expensive attachment in the form of my walking around lens adding both bulk and weight to my burden.

The camera and lens weighs 2 pounds and 5+ ounces.

So, given the modest requirements of most blog/geocaching photography I bought a Canon Power Shot A4000 IS HD, point-and-shoot camera.  It cost about 115 bucks including its very own 8 gigabyte storage card.

It weighs just under 5 ounces and I can stick it in my shirt pocket.  That's it in the small photo (left). 

It took its maiden voyage with me, Sue and our geocaching friends Mark and Nancy Meinzer, Sunday, Nov. 18th in the Wooster Memorial Park.  That's our platoon on a ridge, high above Rathburn Run, the main watercourse through the park, in the top photo.

Below, we have successfully negotiated our descent to the Spangler Trail and another 1/5 mile of hiking back to our parking place.

As you can see this tiny gem of a camera performed marvelously and will be a welcome companion on our often challenging treks.

The park itself was a demanding and rewarding delight of a hiking venue.  Yet, it was unknown to us just 30 miles distance from home and one of life's treasures that would have remained undiscovered had it not been for our terrific new hobby of geocaching.

The park had about a dozen caches.  We managed to discover half of them in this, our inaugural outing there.  We really look forward to finishing the task.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Deep in the Appalachian hills of Athens and Vinton counties stories of the paranormal abound to this very day.

In the case of the above tunnel and its neighbor the Moonville RR tunnel reports of apparitions linger from the area's history of death and ghostly mayhem when white-man's presence was first being established there in the 1800s.

Legends?  Maybe.

My lady Sue and I were there on a recent geocaching adventure and stumbled on this account of some geocachers that had preceded us just a few weeks earlier:

"As we got to the (Moonville) tunnel we noticed other flashlights and a guy in a robe in the tunnel. As we proceeded thru the tunnel the guy was dressed up like a grim reaper. At first I thought he was a prop, but as we passed him he turned his head and watched as we went through the tunnel. We then came up on some other weirdos that didn't really talk to us as we said hi."

This from the log of some folks who visited in the dark of night, October 26th last.

"Once we got through the tunnel we found the site of where the old railroad bridge existed and saw the road on the other side. We decided to cross the river down below and follow the road to retrieve the other two caches: Moonville Cemetery and Moonville Rocks.

As we got to the cemetery we started to hear those people chanting and beating a drum. Once in the cemetery there was a pentagram fire in the middle of the cemetery and items on graves. The items were coins and other weird stuff. We quickly found the next cache and decided not to stick around much longer as the chanting and drum beating continued."

When we visited that very cemetery just days later we shivered at the heap of cold embers from that fire and the odd trinkets remaining on the mostly tumbled tombstones.

From the web site we found this illustration (right) featuring the very tunnel Sue is pictured in above.

They explain, "Kings Tunnel was located on one of the more remote and eerie sections of the railway built...around 1857.  It was forged through a mountain-like hill and was almost 350 feet long.  Kings Station was located nearby.  Like (nearby) Moonville and the other ghost towns of the region, it was a small mining town with little more than a schoolhouse, post office, general store and the shack-like houses of the workers."

"The tunnel still exists even if the railway tracks are gone.  The reek of creosote used to preserve the wooden beams permeates the air and nothingness echoes against the walls.  But, if you go there and visit, taking the rocky path, listen closely and you might hear a little bit of the past still lingering in the air.

Or, you just may see a filmy white apparition following you in the darkness of night.  It happened to one railway walker on a dark rainy night.

The young man stated he had left to meet his father and a woman in a white dress walked just ahead of him.  The faster he walked, the faster she walked.  Then suddenly she disappeared completely.

The ghost was later identified as a woman who had, just weeks after giving birth in June of 1878, committed suicide by slitting her throat with a razor.  She had been married less than a year and lived just a couple of miles" from the tunnel.

That's Sue (below) as we finally found the geocache in the Kings Hollow tunnel then were glad to make a hasty retreat into the normal comfort of a sunny, late fall day.