Friday, May 30, 2008

Marriage of Megan and Jess - Part Three

Thursday night was the bachelorette party for Megan and Jess. It was a pretty fun group - boys and girls, gay and straight. One of the "Best Persons" organized a bunch of games and frivolity to keep the fun moving.

Bachelorette Party

And of course, a bit of alcohol fuels the sillyness!

Bachelorette Shots

A few of the party favors were more interesting than others. I notice in this picture that the brides seem a bit uncertain about this particular item:

Oooh, new paddle!

Megan and Jess had requested a couple of drag queens, but apparently there was no local talent available, so we chose to improvise and what they got was yours truly offering up a 'drag tease'. I had a slinky dress under my pants and shirt, and stripped into the dress. Low budget to be sure, but funny.


Stay tuned for actual wedding shots!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Marriage of Megan and Jess - Part Two

Today we took our rented bicycles on the ferry and crossed from Falmouth, MA, to Martha's Vinyard. We biked around and looked at sights, ate, and drank coffee. An all-around low-key day. The group is still small, just eight of us, but that will start changing tonight as more people arrive at the house. By the weekend there will be 24 of us there.

Megan on the ferry to Martha's Vinyard

Much like me, Jess often has a camera stuck to the front of her face. In this shot we're on the ferry returning to Falmouth, and Jess is leaning over the rail a bit to get some wave shots. I love the shark fin!

Jess, shooting waves
Jess doing her thing

With a world filled with 'phobes, these two lovebirds don't get to smooch in public real often. I just happened to turn at the right moment to capture this elusive shot.

Jess and Megan

Tonight is the Bachelorette Party, and drag queens were requested. I wonder if they'll find any here? Falmouth doesn't seem the sort of place (unlike, say, Provincetown). They may have to settle for something less...

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Marriage of Megan and Jess, Part One

I'm taking a little vacation this week, and am out in Massachusetts to celebrate the Marriage of two friends, Megan and Jess. They have rented a large sprawling Cape Cod house, and all the less well-heeled friends and family, and me, are staying here. All told, there will be 24 of us by the weekend. Can you say communal living? Today, our morning task was to paint a whimsical backdrop for their nuptial photos. It's an under-sea theme for the backdrop, so we painted fish and eels and sharks and jelly fish and a lesbian mermaid lounging on her discarded flannel shirt with a riding crop and glittery pasties. Run of the mill under sea stuff. Here are Megan and Jess painting some of the backdrop:

Painting the photo back drop

Of course, puckish Jess just HAD to stand behind Megan with a brush loaded with red paint. Right behind her. With the brush half an inch from her back. Had to. Of course, Megan eventually leaned back and got a load of red paint in the middle of her back. So of course Megan had to dip her brush and stand up to retaliate:

The start of the Great Paint Fight

Fortunately for all involved (or spectating), the clicking of my camera, and the preceeding statement that "I blog.", caused saner heads to prevail, and only a prief flurry of feints and passes occured, with very little actual paint delivered to the foe. Here, Jess hs just taken a swish at Megan, and missed. Much laughter ensued, and the back drop was completed with all the skill a batch of adult three year olds can muster.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Truly Renewable Resource

I have always been fascinated by wind pumps and wind turbines. I admired farmers when I thought about using the wind to do simple work like pumping water for livestock. It's no surprise then, that the wind farm at Cobb, WI, has been an interest. Yesterday, while Reena and I were out blasting around southwestern Wisconsin on our motorcycles, we found ourselves near Cobb with time available. We got about as close as you can get to the windmills and I hauled out my camera and tripod. This was absolutely the worst time of day for taking these pictures. It was mid-afternoon and we were looking west, so the sun was a bit in front of us, and the sky was hazy with a thin layer of white clouds. Clearly I was not going to get a beautiful, sell-it-to-the-power-company photograph. But, I was there and so were they, so I took photos. I like this one as it sort of isolates the power of the turbines.

Wind Power
Wind Power

I should note that I don't use much in the way of post-camera software to "correct" my photos. I'm working hard at being a better photographer rather than a better Photoshop wizard. I use iPhoto to do some minor corrections to exposure, and maybe a bit of color correction (dangerous ground for a colorblind guy!). The sky was hazy white, so I get photos of a hazy white sky and don't turn them blue outside of the camera. Perhaps I'll change my tune some day, but for now, that's my focus.

Wisconsin Wind Power
Best of Wisconsin

I really like the idea that this wind farm is situated on a working food and dairy farm. It's like some Wisconsin trifecta: Bread Basket provider, Meat Locker provider, and Renewable Energy provider.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Backyard Pond

So despite it being a three-day holiday weekend, we did not go for a three-day motorcycle ride this year as has become our habit. Reena worked on Saturday, and I took a solo day trip to Pewit's Nest (see post below). On Sunday it really seemed like it was going to storm at any minute, so we quick mowed the lawn and started doing some long-ignored weeding and removal of last-year's stalks. One hour became two, and it STILL looked like immanent rain, so I started the truly disgusting task of emptying and mucking out my small backyard pond. It's under part of our neighbor's sprawling silver maple tree, so it gets a lot of fallen leaves, twigs, helicopter seeds, and other gack in it. Compounding this mess is that my pump failed last year so the pond was stagnant for a month or so last fall, and was full all winter. I got the pump working, so draining the pond was pretty easy, if smelly. Once empty of most of the water, the pond had a two inch layer of muck. *sigh* Nothing for it except to wade in and scoop it into a bucket, lug it to the compost bin, and repeat until it's mostly empty and I'm covered in foul smelling splatters. I did NOT touch my camera during this process!

The end result, though, is an awfully pretty little pond, with a newly invigorated waterfall. The birds love it, and it is a late afternoon pool party for all sorts of avian visitors. It is also like porn for the cat! This morning before the light got too overhead, I got out there and took this shot:
Backyard Pond
My backyard pond - 1/2 second at f/22, ISO 200 using a 4ND (neutral density) filter and a tripod.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pewit's Nest

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and a fine start to a 3-day holiday weekend. Reena had to work, so I took of on my motorcycle around 8:15 to ride up to a little waterfall area that I was previously unaware of. I've lived in Madison my entire life and ranged extensively over southwestern Wisconsin, and this place - Pewit's Nest - was unknown to me. I ran across a photo of it last fall and put it on my list of places to hit this year. I loaded up my camera gear and tripod, and headed northwest about 50 miles. The parking area is small and unobtrusive. It would be simple to blow right past it without ever seeing it. The walk from the parking area to the stream is no more than a few hundred yards of flat trail. If you follow the main trail you end up at the bottom of the canyon and this is your first peek at what's to come:

Pewit's Nest
Sneak Peek

It was here that I realized I had left a key piece of equipment at home: The top of my tripod, the part that mounts to the camera and allows a quick disconnect. Thus my tripod was essentially useless, and I couldn't get the timed exposure shots I was hoping for. Dangit! But the opportunity was not wasted. I was definitely intrigued, and set off to find other vantage points. As I traveled along the upper trail, it quickly became apparent that there were no trails down into the draw. The walls were steep and slick with moss, moisture, and dead leaves. The entire draw is only about 100 yards long, and there are three or four falls and pools along that length. You can see that in this photo:

Pewit's Nest
Pewit's Nest Slot Canyon

There were only a few points from which to take photos, and my views are similar to the ones I saw last fall. However, between the time those photos were taken, and my visit yesterday, there was a large tree that fell into the stream and was creating a bit of a dam. It also added a fair bit of natural "clutter" to my pictures. Less ideal perhaps, but I captured what was there that day.

In this shot I jury-rigged a tripod setup so that I could get myself in a shot. I'm on one of the few "safe" places to be, and I use that term lightly. The footing was reasonably treacherous, and it was probably a 30-foot drop to the rocky stream below me.

Pewit's Nest
The eyeDancer

All in all, a successful morning, and I'll try to find a better time of day or season of the year to get better light. The rest of the series is at my Flickr site.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Green Bokeh

My iris are blooming all over the yard, and just slightly out of sync with each other. Every day I have a new bunch hitting their peak. Certainly no master plan of mine, but I definitely am enjoying the unfolding show. Our spring has been long and cool this year. That makes for a splendid showing of flowering trees. The magnolias are hanging on to their blooms for weeks. If the temperature gets too warm, the blooms drop off right away and the tree starts leafing out.

Green Bokeh
Green Bokeh

I've been paying more attention to the bokeh - the out of focus portion of my photos - when I'm using a narrow depth of field. In this shot, I originally lined up where I happened to be. Then I lowered the camera and took a second look at the surrounding garden and realized that by moving only a few inches I could frame the bloom with a halo of bright green-yellow blooms in a field of green. Thus a photo that had an indifferent background became one with a background that is just as important as the subject. If I were making this photo again, I might opt to open the aperture a bit (it was at f/1.8) to get a little more depth of field. I think the iris would stand out better if it was completely in focus rather than just the leading edge. The drawback would be that the deliberate out-of-focus background would resolve a bit more, and perhaps draw the eye away from the bloom. Next time I'll try a brace of apertures and see the result.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wheels On Willy

I got out this morning to catch some of the bicycle races ("Wheels On Willy") here in Madison. While not a bike race junkie, I enjoy the athleticism and passion that goes along with such an event. I set myself up at Turn One, which is at the end of an uphill segment of the course and just at the start of the only downhill. Riders poser up the hill, then swoop past, upshifting furiously to take advantage of the slope.

Through Turn One
Through Turn One

While the adult races were fun to watch, the kids got all the smiles. They ran a dozen or so in each heat, seemingly divided by age. The racers presence seemed to range from dogged and determined to unclear on the concept of "racing". Regardless, fun was had by all, not least by the spectators.

Lovin' It
Using the old 'Tongue Out' technique!

This little machine powered his three-wheeler to an easy victory. He simply had the crowd laughing the whole way with his huge grin and tongue lolling out. What a peach!

You can view the whole set HERE.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008


The first weekend of May was a neo-Pagan holiday called Beltane. This festivity celebrates the arrival of the spring, the fire, the light after so many months of cold and darkness. It celebrates nature and its cycles as it emphasises the victory of the light over the night, spring and renewal over the cold winter months.

It is generally a fertility celebration, and over time one of the most traditional ways of celebrating it is by dancing a maypole. The maypole represents a giant phallus, and often only young women who hoped to conceive would dance.


"Pagan traditions generally recognise the Divine as having both male and female aspects, Goddess and God. At Beltane, the Goddess manifests as the May Queen and Flora. The God emerges as the May King and Jack in the Green, or the Green Man. The danced Maypole represents Their unity, with the pole itself being the God and the ribbons that encompass it, the Goddess. Colors are the Rainbow spectrum. Beltane is a festival of flowers, fertility, sensuality, and delight." (Celli Laughing Coyote)

Maypole in the Meadow

In Celtic traditions, Beltane was also a time when hearth fires were extinguished - a once a year event - and a new fire laid. Much ritual was involved with kindling a community bonfire, and from that celebratory fire, torches were carried home to relight the hearth. Fire was a common ritual symbol as it represented the return of the sun after long winter and the bursting forth of summer energy.

It is a time of fun and games, of releasing pent up energy. Games of strength and agility are common. In the context of the (non Pagan) gathering where this particular maypole was danced, there were activities like craft decorating, tossing empty bier kegs, large-scale Ta ka radi (or Jenga) games, and dancing. Musicians played, food was prepared and shared, and laughter dominated the gathering.

The rest of the activities generally associated with Beltane are best kept between consenting adults, and result in a surprising number of welcome late-December babies (a date that might ring a bell...).

Maypole Colors

I leave you with the lyrics to Jethro Tull's "Cup of Wonder" from the Songs From The Wood album:

May I make my fond excuses
for the lateness of the hour,
but we accept your invitation, and we bring you Beltane's flower.
For the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did lay
will heed the song that calls them back.
Pass the word and pass the lady, pass the plate to all who hunger.
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the cup of crimson wonder.

Ask the green man where he comes from, ask the cup that fills with red.
Ask the old grey standing stones that show the sun its way to bed.
Question all as to their ways,
and learn the secrets that they hold.
Walk the lines of nature's palm
crossed with silver and with gold.
Pass the cup and pass the lady, pass the plate to all who hunger.
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the cup of crimson wonder.

Join in black December's sadness,
lie in August's welcome corn.
Stir the cup that's ever-filling
with the blood of all that's born.
But the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did lay
will heed this song that calls them back.
Pass the word and pass the lady, pass the plate to all who hunger.
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the cup of crimson wonder.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Slow Shot of a Fast Creek

I had some leisure this past weekend to try to push my skills a little bit. I was camped near a beautiful stream that emerged crystal clear and cold from the side of a hill. A few feet later the stream is five or six feet wide and home to watercress and not too much else. Less than a quarter mile downstream it becomes home to some nice brook trout. This shot is taken at a bend quite near the head and the rocks make a pleasant splishing sound that is nicely relaxing.

Slow Shot of a Fast Creek
200 ISO, 1.6 seconds at f/13 using a tripod and remote trigger. An ND4 neutral density filter was used as well.

The photo is particularly stunning at larger size, so
View Large On Black

This is probably the finest photo I have ever taken.

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