Just checking in

meathigh
So I’m feeling pretty guilty about not having appeared here for months (!) after being so gung-ho about blogging regularly again. After a bit of reflection, I realize that I was mostly enthusiastic about others blogging regularly again.

😉

I’ve been busy with the new job, of course, and busy sitting on my butt in the air-conditioning. This knee thing has really thrown me for a loop and I’m just now getting to feel better after a month of physical therapy. Why that dopey doctor I went to didn’t recommend it for me, I don’t know. I’m just glad I decided to be proactive after suffering for 3 months with barely any progress and so grateful to have good health insurance to pay for it. It’s really made all the difference in my ability to function like a regular person again. We’ve planned a camping trip this weekend and I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to hike without pain.

Other than work and physical therapy, I haven’t done much so far this summer other than try to avoid the heat. I still don’t know how people stand it here – I’ve got major cabin-fever! We’re sharing season tickets for the Braves and have been going to a couple of evening games each month. We’re discovering new favorite places to have breakfast on the weekends. We’re eating ice cream more often than is probably healthy. My brother and his family came to visit for a couple days at the beginning of July – it was super great to see them and to show off some of the fun things we do here in the A. I’ve been reunited with my dog Luka from that other life and just last week said goodbye to the senior shelter dog, Sadie, that we adopted only four years ago.

I bought myself a new camera lens – a super wide angle – and look forward to playing with that in the future. J and I went out the weekend that I bought it to take some photos of the tall buildings in midtown Atlanta, but ended up at the High Museum of Art as a way to escape the heat and enjoy some free air conditioning. I’m not much of an art museum type, but I enjoy the High and it’s folk and modern art. The photo that accompanies this post was taken there.

I plan to be back here in a couple days to share some memories of Sadie – once we’re back from camping in the mountains where hopefully it’ll be cool!

Just shooting

IMG_5639Since being back in Atlanta, I’ve gone out with a couple local photography groups to participate in meet-up events; I’m doing this to meet new people and hopefully find new, interesting places for photography, but also to maybe learn some proper photography techniques.

We went a couple weeks ago to photograph an abandoned Astroturf factory and later in the day visited Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens. The gardens are a dizzying, dazzling maze of sculptural monuments, embellished outbuildings, found-object assemblages, and elaborately painted signs, all interconnected by a series of inlaid concrete walkways. I visited there a couple years ago and was happy to find the gardens in better shape than last time. There’s even a new visitor’s center (and a much expanded “gift shop”). It’s an interesting place and worth a visit if you’re in the area or have a particular interest in visionary or “outsider” art. This summer while in NJ, we took a day trip to Philly and visited the Philadelphia Magic Gardens, which have a similar feel, but on a much crazier scale.

At any rate, what I enjoy most about meeting and shooting with other photographers is the opportunity to see how each of us approaches photography differently; we all share photos on Instagram (via a common hashtag) and it’s really interesting to see the various perspectives and points of view of others in the group. We’re a diverse bunch, with varying skill levels from novice to professional. If you’re interested (and on IG) check us out with #atlantaurbanphotowalkers.

How to: play hide and seek

Hide and Seek (beachnesting bird version) is a game where threatened and endangered chicks attempt to conceal their location in order to grow up and survive. It’s pretty basic, but various challenges have arisen throughout the years making the game more difficult. All you need to play are a few beachnesting friends and some hiding and spying skills. This game is a great way for chicks to practice real-world survival skills!

IMG_0941Step one: find a suitable location

An outdoor location near the coast works best and it should have plenty of sand and pebbles or clam shells. It will be necessary to set boundaries for hiding or you will have chicks running off to too many far-off locations. It’s not called Run a Mile and Go Seek!

  • If you’re playing with your parents around, make sure they know what’s going on. They may not want you hiding in the driftwood at the wrack line, under the lifeguard stand, or too close to the water.
  • Try to play in different places every time. If you play every game in the same spot, then the birds who play “it” (predators) will remember the good places and search there first.

IMG_1033Step two: select the players and set down the rules

  • If you have players of different ages, take this into consideration. Younger chicks can fit more places, but they sometimes choose less-than-brilliant places to hide and don’t have the longest of attention spans.
  • If you do not set down rules, you will have chicks running to places that shouldn’t be hidden in — either unhatched eggs end up breaking or another pair’s territory gets intruded upon — or someone gets eaten by a laughing gull.
  • Make sure everyone stays safe. You don’t want your friends running out in front of loose dogs or hiding beneath a fish crow’s perch.

IMG_0992Step three: choose someone to be “it”

  • Working out who is “It” can be done a variety of ways, for instance: the youngest chick might be “It” first; or the chick who is closest to fledging can be “it” first; or use an elimination word game, such as “One Potato, Two Potato” or similar game. Or just pick a number out of a hat, and #1 is “It”.

IMG_1112When playing with chicks, an adult is often a good person to be “it”

  • If one chick is older than the rest, they might make a natural “It.” Adult birds have longer attention spans and can think outside of the box better than their offspring.

IMG_0713Step four: start counting out loud

  • Once the bird who will be “It” has been chosen, he or she closes his or her eyes and begins counting out loud to a decided number at a steady pace. Or they could say a rhyme or sing a song. Anything that kills some time so everyone else can go hide!
  • Make sure there’s no cheating! The bird who is “It” needs to have their eyes closed, wings over their eyes, and preferably facing the water. No peeking!

IMG_0721Step five: start hiding!

  • All of the chicks who are not “It” should run off and quietly hide from the bird who is counting. The bird who is “It” is not allowed to peek at the birds hiding from him or her. Make sure you’re quiet as you’re hiding or “It” can use his or her ears to tell the general direction you went.

IMG_0619Once you find your hiding spot, be silent and still

  • You don’t want to give yourself up once you’re hidden! . If you’re noisy, even the best hiding spot won’t conceal you.
  • Remember the goal is to be invisible!

IMG_1000When a young chick is “it”, don’t hide too well…

LETE chick copyor the game can get too frustrating for them

  • The younger you are, the more frustrated you could get with other chicks who are really good hiders.

IMG_4083Step six: keep your eyes open and start searching!

  • Once the bird who is “It” has finished counting, he or she yells “Ready or not, here I come!” At this point, they must try to find all of the other chicks who have hidden. Be sure to look with your eyes and listen with your ears!
  • If you are hiding and “It” is close to discovering you, move deftly. Crawling or slithering are the best options. However, if it is too late, be still and silent. The “It” can actually overlook you and go away.
  • The chicks who are hiding can move or switch hiding places, if they so choose. It’s a good idea to change positions and go hide in a place the seeker has already looked. That’s called a survival strategy.

Good luck and have fun!

Pelican portraits

IMG_2092
I give myself away as a tourist and a Yankee anytime there’s a pelican about. I can not resist them or their prehistoric goofiness.

IMG_2093
They’re somehow both stately and silly… and seem to know that they improve any view.

pelicantire

Pelican, piling, old tire.

IMG_2303

I know they’re beggars, but how can anyone resist?

pelican2Can’t you just hear him begging… “Please take my photo. You need at least a thousand more.  A thousand more photos of me!”

The Brown Pelicans of Cedar Key were very well documented during my time there. I’m thinking of producing a wall calendar.

😉

What bird can’t you resist a photo of?

Another tern

Ever felt an angel’s breath in the gentle breeze?
A teardrop in the falling rain?
Hear a whisper amongst the rustle of leaves?
Or been kissed by a lone snowflake?
Nature is an angel’s favorite hiding place.

~Terri Guillemets

IMG_0769
Common, but uncommonly beautiful

Common Terns didn’t breed at any of my sites this summer, but they visited with the gushing of the tide, shaking themselves and their silvery fish. Angels, I’m sure.

A field guide to PIPLs

Much of the general beach-going public seems determined to believe that Piping Plovers don’t really exist. Many act as if they’re just an imaginary endangered bird the rest of us have made up to inconvenience dog-walkers or otherwise prevent folks from fully enjoying a day at the beach.

But, I have photographic proof of their existence!

😉

The past couple weeks have been Piping Plover boot camp here. Like the mailman, neither fog nor rain nor blazing sun nor gust of wind stays this courier from the swift completion of her appointed rounds! (The weather has been pretty crappy.) I’m out there on the beach daily trying to piece together tracks and sightings of individual birds to predict where they might nest. There’s been a fair amount of false starts and leads, and a steep learning curve for me, but we’ve got 3 pairs with nests!

I can empathize with the public’s general cluelessness about these birds. They’re really hard to see… even for those of us who are looking for them. They’re designed to be invisible. Just imagine trying to find a tiny bird the color of wet sand on a beach strewn with shell shards. It’s not easy! If nothing else, it gives you a real respect for the power of camouflage. But as a result, the public is left looking at yards and yards of “empty” roped-off beach that they’re not allowed to use and wondering what all the fuss is about.

I spent my afternoon “off” the other day visiting with the plovers out at Sandy Hook. The National Park Service monitors the birds there; I just plopped myself down on the beach with my camera, well outside of the roped-off areas, in order to get a general beach-going public sort of view of them. Just to try and see them the way the rest of the world does (or doesn’t!) PIPLs are very agreeable little birds… if you just sit quietly and still enough, they’ll happily share the beach with you. Every little drama of their lives is playing itself out around us on the beaches…

I like to feed on the sparkly parts of the beach.
The dunes hide me well; they’re a good place to rest.
Pebbly and shelly places make me disappear even more.
If I position myself just so, I can have a private bath right at your feet!
My eggs: a masterwork of disguise.

Please share the beach.

Please encourage others to do so.

Please help others to see and respect even the hard-to-see wonders of this world.

These birds live here, too. They’re our neighbors. They need our help.