Defining Irony

Who or what is your favorite Halloween story or character from pop culture?  Many of us would say “The Exorcist” or give you the name, Freddy, Jason, Leatherface or Tammy Faye Bakker. Before you say another word, let me tell you what I did this Halloween evening.  I spent a little more than two hours in a dentist’s chair getting three fillings and a root canal.  “The horror!”  Actually, my dentist is great and much better than I deserve.  After spending the first 25 years of my life making candy, cookies and ice-cream the staple of my diet (no exaggeration, trust me) and exercising less than optimal dental care, I have been paying the price to the dentist for the past 12 years or so.  The thought of all those wonderful Halloweens coming back to haunt me in this way!  Ironic horror, or not ironic at all?

Take care of your teeth, kids.

Today’s photo is not really representative of autumn, but it is an example of something I’d prefer to be munching on these days and about as close to a Halloween image as I could come up with.  This sulfur shelf polypore is more commonly known as chicken of the woods.  It is so named due to a texture that is similar to that of chicken meat.  The one sample of this I took for eating was quite tough; most often the outer edges of the youngest leaves are most fit for eating.  I do look forward to trying this again with a more sophisticated recipe.  Unfortunately I had my bird equipment on this outing and this was as best an image I could make of it.

What is my favorite horror movie moment?  This Bill Murray character.  “I’m sure I need a long, slow root canal”

I’m going to go cry now…

“Sulfur Polypore”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 1000,  f/5.6, 1/400 sec

The Dichotomy of Autumn

Is there more of a season with dramatic ups and downs than autumn?

Good: cooling temperatures that are often a respite to a long, torrid summer

Bad: the inevitable freezing temp, rains and gloomy weather that will show up sometime in November

Good: the astounding autumnal palette that the fortunate can find, depending on where you live

Bad: picking up those leaves and cleaning gutters after the show

Good: the backing of the clocks in losing “daylight savings”

Bad: going back to school

Good: feasts of the late summer/fall harvest season

Bad: knowing that in a month or two you’ll have better luck growing a second head than finding something worthwhile of being called a “tomato”

Good: apple season!!!!

Bad: end of the baseball season

I think I’ve made my point.  No other season is packed with so many highs and lows.  I’d be hard pressed to find many complaints about spring.  Even the most diehard winter fanatics must feel the hope and renewal that warming temperatures and fresh greens that spring in spring.  Autumn will always remain a season of two faces for me.  Now I can’t wait for the winter resident birds to show up!  Come on winter!

“Autumn’s Dichotomy″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 32mm, ISO 100,  f/16, 1/6 sec

Autumn Explodes in the Ozarks!

Following the winter that never was of 2011/2012 came one of the hottest and driest summers on record in the Ozarks.  Of course the autumn would be some sort of disappointment, right?  Boy was I pleasantly surprised!  Sarah and I have taken an October vacation, exploring the Ozarks, looking for color for about four years straight.  Even if our trip coincided with “peak color”, more often than not that peak wasn’t necessarily anything to jump up and down about.  Well, this year was nearly everything I dreamed an Ozark autumn should be.

Every tree tried on it’s best outfit a couple of weeks ago.  The black gum and dogwood were draped in their dark warm shades of reds and violet.  The maples were a schism of warm tones – sometimes on separate trees, sometimes with contrasting leaves on the same tree, and often with a mix on the same individual leaf!  My personal autumn favorite, the grand sycamore was gloriously showcased in yellows, burnt umber and mild reds that set off so nicely it’s bright, ivory bark.  Hickories, normally easily forgotten as the dull yellow leaves drop so quickly, were an incandescent display of quintessential amber.  Even the usually boring – white oak wasn’t going into its winter nap without a show, bringing out a variety of mild warm tones before dropping brown to become part of next year’s forest floor.  As usual, the small sumac and sassafras brought their best to stop you in your tracks.
This was darn-near too much!  Driving hundreds of miles and putting tens of miles on the trails I wanted to stop every five minutes and find a composition.  There was the problem.  Everywhere I looked was a potential composition, but actually putting something together was often a tremendous difficulty!  I now truly understand the concept of chaos in the biological world.  There were periods of frustration as I realized I wasn’t going to be able fulfill my desire to nail all the potential autumn shots that I dreamed about.  As I begin delving into and processing the several hundred images I took that magical week, I can only hope I nailed a few images.  Over the next several weeks I hope to post a lot images here with some info or story behind it.  Hopefully not all of the photos will be the typical cliche’.  Geez, are there any autumn photos that aren’t?

“Explosion of Autumn in the Missouri Ozarks″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens zoomed during exposure, ISO 100,  f/20, 1/5 sec

Mondays Are For The Birds – American Redstart

It is late summer/early autumn and the warblers and other songbirds are moving en masse south to their tropical wintering grounds.  Bring your binoculars to one of several wooded lots in the St. Louis metropolitan area this time of year and you’re almost sure to find one of the birds pictured here, the American Redstart.  I am calling this particular bird a mature female, although it is possible this may be an immature female or first year male.  Females and young males have yellow where adult males are always dressed for Halloween in reddish orange and dark browns.  This observation has prompted many a birder to call these guys the “American Yellowstart” .

This is one of the easiest warblers for new birders to identify, not only for its flashy coloration and pattern but for its particular behaviors as well.  These guys will usually position their wings low and drooped when sitting still and almost always are fanning their flashy tail feathers.  These birds are quite active and display a lot of “flycatching” behavior and will actually hover-preen.  Watching them hunt is a treat and as they catch flying insects you can literally hear these little guys snapping their beaks shut.  They can be quite responsive to pishing.

As mentioned above, this bird is heading south where it will over winter somewhere between northern Mexico and northern South America.  It has an extremely large breeding range, nesting anywhere between the gulf states and Alaska where it can find deciduous or mixed deciduous/coniferous forests.  These guys will also readily nest in secondary woodlands and forests, making them one of the few species who has not been altogether troubled by logging.

I wish this guy the best in her/his long journey south.  I am getting quite addicted to shooting these guys just when they are heading out.  I’m already looking forward to the spring.

“American Yellowstart”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 640,  f/5.6, 1/100 sec