Saturday, August 29, 2009

Danielle Boone Homestead (Road side)

On the road to the picnic areas, the shoulder was full of macro activity. Daniel Boone Homestead has a new policy to pay to walk the grounds, but the picnic area is still free I believe.

I looked for milkweed plants for they might offer some caterpillar and insect shots. My search paid off with monarch (striped - eats young leaves) and milkweed tussock caterpillars (spiky - eats old leaves). A third caterpillar was found on a tree leaf, not milkweed.

Three distinct butterflies were present too, monarch, black swallowtail, and a red-spotted purple (sunning on gravel). Sadly, they are showing their age with tattered and faded wings.

Still some colorful thistle and wildflowers are present.

As we were about to leave, Max and I heard musket shots, which could only mean target practice at the range.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Angelica Park (Pre-Fall)

Thinking that the weekend could be a wash-out, I wanted to get back on a trail. Angelica Park had a fall-like feel due to the mild 70 degree temp and the apparent change in colors.

Many of the wildflowers and thistle are now brown and wilting. There are still the late summer flora species present, but nothing near the saturation of color as in July.

One of the highlights was spotting a giant brown spider, at least a 3" diameter is big by my standards. If you shape your thumb and index finger in the shape of a "C", that is the area the spider would fill. Still to be identified, so if anybody knows the species feel free to comment. My first choice is a wood spider, but I am having a hard time finding a pix and conclusive id on the web, pun intended.

Update: the spider is a fishing spider, per the Bug Guide.

Lighting was waning so I was practicing some macro with flash photography. I prefer natural lighting, but fill flash and pure flash lighting can save or make interesting shots.

My absence from Berks Awhile is due to spending five days in Las Vegas, NV where I accumulated a couple thousand pictures, so I'll share a few brief posts on that experience.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Las Vegas (Red Rock Canyon)

The Las Vegas area is rich in Native American history, pop culture, engineering marvels, live entertainment and food, but I think my favorite spot is the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Red sandstone veins and big hills are visible from the Strip and throughout the desert region. Nature activities abound from horse back riding, biking, hiking and camping.

I was drawn to the "red rocks" and visited three times in five days for it's a new and unique place that offers vast photo opportunities. I caught one morning just right with blue skies, puffy white clouds and mild temps.

The Red Rock Canyon area is nearly 200,000 acres and features 30 miles of hiking trails and a 13 mile scenic drive. For $5 a car, the scenic drive was an economical and an efficient way to see the highlights of the canyon in a short time.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Las Vegas (Neon Museum Boneyard)

Another cool and unique thing to do is take a guided tour of the Neon Museum's "Boneyard". It's the temporary and permanent resting place for discarded lighted and neon signs.

Many iconic signs are being preserved here by the dry desert heat until their turn comes to be restored to their original splendor so they can be put back on display. The plan is to add the signs to the Fremont St collection and also line N. Las Vegas Blvd median.

It was a sunny 104 (sounds like a radio station) when we visited. I'd estimate that two groups of 20 were braving the heat to get a history lesson, take pictures and enjoy the workmanship, design and artistic styles of the colorful old signs.

I wasn't alone in believing that the venue was eye candy and it was a great, stimulating photographic challenge.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Las Vegas (Hoover Dam and Boulder City)

The next stop about 4 miles from the Lake Mead scenic drive was the Hoover Dam. After a cursory security checkpoint, they let the vehicles drive across the dam.

The near side of the dam has paid parking, a restaurant and a visitor center where you can take tours inside the dam itself. The far side has free parking and a side walk leading back across the dam. I took pictures from the free parking area and then headed back. Grab shots from the van were easy due to the line of traffic that paused frequently.

Granted the dam is an engineering phenomenon for the era it was built, the suspension bridge that they were building over the deep gorge is a testament to modern bridge designers. Bridge building conditions are usually extreme, hence the need for the bridges in the first place, but the terrain of sheer cliffs and deep gorges make this construction project quite dangerous and ever challenging. I'm sure that there will be a documentary on this project someday.

Update 10/24/09: The "Big Pour" of the largest concrete suspension bridge in the US (4th in the world) was on rerun today on the Science Discovery channel. Originally aired in 2007 on Mega Builders, the documentary documented many of the obstacles encountered when pouring the foundations and stretching the cable across the gorge.

On the way back to Las Vegas, I stopped in Boulder City where I read that I might get a glimpse of some big horn sheep in a suburban public park. I read on a couple of Vegas blogs that Hemenway Park with kiddie playgrounds and tennis courts had big horn sheep that come down and graze in the mornings.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Las Vegas (Desert and Lake Mead)

I've studied tons of photos of deserts, but never actually visited one. Since my body was still on EST, I easily woke up for sunrise which is when the desert temps are quite tolerable. The temp in the rental van said 80 degrees at 6AM, which felt mild. 105 was going be the high.

I headed east of Las Vegas to the Lake Mead Recreation Area for about 20 minutes. That area is part of the vast Mohave Desert. Lake Mead, which was created by Hoover Dam, looked so unnatural to me. Like a rock with a puddle in it.

The water I typically photograph has vegetation up to the waters edge. Instead of trees, grass, weeds, and mud, the desert shore line is pebbles and rocks with some scrubby bushes and an occasional patch of hardy grass.

I loved the palette of colors that the desert offers, every conceivable shade of brown with patches of red and green, plus the blues of the skies and man-made lakes.

Many places along the drive reminded me of pictures from the moon, just dust, gravel and rocks with no vegetation in site.

Flash flooding is apparent too, for deeply eroded ruts are everywhere the water could flow. The ground is so hard and rocky that water doesn't get absorbed but runs off the surface. Lots of warning signs to avoid gorges if rain is forecast.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Drive to/from French Creek

I try to remember that the path to the destination should not be overlooked. Here are a few shots of stops I made to and from French Creek. I take different routes into the park for variety.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

French Creek State Park (Sunrise)

Mornings in the woods are a special time. Knowing that you, and possibly only a few others, are experiencing the same unique sights, sounds, and smells can't help but make you feel privileged. I get the same feeling when I walk the beach at sunrise.

A couple fishermen were the only fans of this morning. A good fog blanketed the area which makes for dramatic lighting when the sun starts to climb.

I really like Scotts Run in the morning for the lake is usually smooth, with mist rising. and a line of diverse colorful boats tied off. Most of the boats were nearly touching the bottom for they has retained gallons of rain water from our wet week.

Max and I briefly walked the shore line, but then headed down the trail along the stream. The woods were lush, green and dripping with dew. The trail was puddled and soft at spots due to all the rain.

For the many times I've taken this trail and detailed the challenges of shooting in the low and contrasty light, I keep trying. Even if no shots come out, I still have the experience of being surrounded by green in a rain forest like setting.