a photoblog of God's handiwork.

Archive for December, 2011

Wrapping up 2011: A Mixed Bag

Today marks the end of the first full year of regularly blogging on His Creation.  As I look back at the posts over the last twelve months, I find it exciting to re-visit the places I’ve been and the sights I’ve seen.  I’ve been blessed with some really wonderful opportunities, and am looking forward to more in 2012.

My review of the posts and albums did make me aware that I never was able to work a number of 2011 images into the blog.  As much as possible, I try to post images fairly close in time to when they were made, so if I don’t get some “leftover” images from 2011 posted now, they may never make it (or I might be tempted to cheat and use them next year).  So, in order to start 2012 with a clean slate of photos, I am posting a number of ’11 images that I want to share with you.  It is my hope that you enjoy them as much as I have.  May you be blessed by our Maker in the coming year!

In January I traveled a big circle, from Montana to California to Washington state, and then back to Montana.  Because this was a business trip, and due to a lot of wet and snowy weather along the way, I wasn’t able to work in a lot of camera time.  However, I did make the most of a few opportunities.  I found the Hooded Merganser in a creek along Interstate 5 in western Oregon.  This is the first time I have ever seen this unique looking bird, and he didn’t allow me much time to capture very many images.  At the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, I found the Great Blue Heron enjoying a short respite from the rain.  The young Bighorn Sheep was along Highway 200, near Bonner, MT.  He is from one of several Bighorn “flocks” in the northern Rockies that has been heavily impacted by losses due to pneumonia in the past few years.

Hooded Merganser

Great Blue Heron at Ridgefield NWR

Bighorn Sheep near Bonner, MT

During the month of April I drove to Phoenix, and made a few detours along the way that yielded some fun images.  The bulk of photos from this trip were previously posted in The Rejoicing Desert gallery, but I think these are at least as entertaining.  American Kestrels seem to be everywhere I travel, but they are very aloof and rarely let me get close enough to get decent shots of them.  Perhaps it was the freezing weather in the mountains of southern Utah that slowed down the reaction time of this guy, but I was able to get surprisingly close to capture this image.  While in the Phoenix area, I spent some time at Papago Park and the Gilbert Riparian Preserve and got some unique bird captures.  I had never seen Great-tailed Grackles before this, but I found them to be pretty comical.  This fellow was enjoying a bath in a stream at Papago Park.  The gosling (Canada Goose) and the Great Egret were taken at Gilbert.  The snow finally stopped and the sun came out for a short period at Bryce Canyon National Park, allowing me to get an expansive landscape shot that I really like.  For all the miles I drove on the trip, the only traffic jam I encountered was a three American Bison stack-up in Yellowstone National Park.

American Kestrel

Great-tailed Grackle at Papago Park

Canada Goose Gosling at Gilbert Water Preserve

Great Egret at Gilbert Water Preserve

Bryce Canyon National Park Overlook

Traffic Jam at Yellowstone National Park

I normally see a lot of hawks and eagles throughout the year, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Ferruginous Hawk prior to sighting this one nesting on a farm south of Chester, MT.  I tried to follow up a few weeks later in hopes of getting more pictures, but the hawk had abandoned the nest and was not to be found.  On a trip through Wyoming, I caught the Great Horned Owl at Wilkins State Park, along the North Platte River.  As much as I tried to get an unobstructed view, the owl kept finding landing perches that partially camouflaged his view – this is the best I came away with.   Wood chips were flying when the Downy Woodpecker was concentrated on boring through a tree along the Musselshell River about a week before it reached historically disastrous flood stage.  Escaping high water along the Missouri River in Great Falls, MT, this squirrel peered down at me from the safety of Cottonwood branches well above my head.

Ferruginous Hawk south of Chester, MT

Great Horned Owl at Wilkins State Park

Downy Woodpecker

Squirrel along the Missouri River in Great Falls, MT

Summer brought even more extensive travel, both domestic and foreign.  The Cedar Waxwing photos I took in Washington still rank as some of my all-time favorites, simply because this was the first time I had seen this species, and I find them to be an awesome creation.  The post, Winning the Prize, better explains my excitement over this bird.  At the same place I also found the Vesper Sparrow, which looks to me like he used a little too much mousse on his head feathers!  In the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks I stumbled upon a group of Bighorn Sheep, and caught this fellow climbing the rocks to get away from all the people below.  The Yellowstone River was running at a near historic high level when I took this shot just below the Lower Falls in YNP.  And in Grand Teton National Park, it still looked like Spring, with plentiful green grass and a lot of snow on the Tetons.

Cedar Waxwing

Vesper Sparrow

Bighorn Sheep in Yellowstone National Park

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park

Grand Teton National Park

I just had to slip in a few more shots from my Ireland trip, each of which are the result of a little more post-processing work than I normally employ.  Nevertheless, the results better reflect how the scenes actually looked at that time.  The first is the cloister of Quin Friary.  The caretaker of the friary told us that the purpose of the cloister was to catch the sunlight, which was relected into the surrounding archways.  The interior halls were painted white, so the effect was significant illumination, allowing the friars ample visibility to write and study, yet be protected from the rain that is so common in the country.  The second image is a old farmhouse that seems to have a story to tell.  It has obviously been around for a long time, and I believe it was still lived in at the time the picture was taken.  Despite the unkempt appearance of the dwelling, it is situated in a beautiful and fertile setting, making the house all the more attractive itself.  And finally, a long exposure shot of the bridge over River Sullane in Macroom.  Above the bridge, the top of Macroom Castle is partially visible.  And, just in case the writing on the tank isn’t legible, that is an advertisement for Murphy’s Ale, an obvious competitor to Guinness.  I only partook of Guinness during my visit; perhaps I will have to try Murphy’s when I return!

Cloister at Quin Friary

Ireland Farmhouse

Bridge over River Sullane at Macroom, Ireland

We finally made it to the final series to end this year.  On Veteran’s Day I stopped at the Black Hills National Cemetery for a few moments of remembrance and took a few pictures while I was there.  Being my first-ever visit to a military cemetery, I was taken aback with emotion as I considered the struggle, pain and sacrifice that so many have made, in order that we may live free.  There is no way that a photograph could ever convey the feeling of being there, but I hope these couple shots are deemed a worthy effort to honor those that served.  The price that our veterans have paid, and are paying, is something we should consider everyday.  It seems appropriate that Mt. Rushmore is located nearby, a monument to some of the men who were instrumental in the establishment of our country and who helped it grow through it’s adolescence.  Wrapping up this post and 2011 is a fall sunset over the Rocky Mountains.  Had I a little more time, I would have stopped and set up a tripod to catch the beautiful colors in the clouds.  However, the sun was descending rapidly and I was traveling Interstate 90 at 75 mph, with no place to safely stop.  The result isn’t bad, considering I side-armed the camera out the window of a moving vehicle (not a recommended practice).

Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, SD

Flags at the Black Hills National Cemetery

Mount Rushmore on Veteran's Day 2011

Autumn Sunset over the Rockies in Southwest Montana


Light in the Darkness

“Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”  Psalms 139:12

Great Falls, Montana is a community I visit frequently, but normally my schedule is too busy to spend much camera time there.  The old Milwaukee Road station is a landmark I’ve wanted to photograph for some time, and I finally had a chance awhile back.  Pulling into town long after sunset on a nearly moonless night, I hunted for a position that would yield a compelling composition.  Using the reflective surface of the Missouri River, I set up on the west bank of the river and took a series of shots at varying exposures.  Combining these images in Photomatix Pro, I got an HDR (high dynamic range) composite that reveals much more detail than I could see that night.

The wind at Moses Lake, Washington was cold and gusty the evening I photographed Renewable Energy Corporation’s silicon plant.  As I caught sight of this facility from the interstate, I was impressed by the “whiteness” of many lights.  It was difficult to keep my tripod steady through the long exposures, given the fierce winds, so the clarity of image suffers somewhat.

The coal fired power plant at Colstrip, Montana made another nice HDR subject.  The dusky sky wasn’t very impressive, and I felt that converting the image to black and white gives a more striking look.

I took this shot from a cruise ship as it was departing the Port of Long Beach.  Unlike the previous images, this one is not an HDR composite, but is a single frame capture.  For all the lights and equipment visible, there didn’t seem to be very much activity…probably a symptom of the current economic times.

Including these images in a blog that references “God’s Handiwork” might seem to be a real stretch.  In fact, I’ve been struggling with the idea of this post for the last couple months as this post resided in “draft” form.  However, I finally decided to go ahead with it by justifying as 1) things that were created by the hand of man, through God-given wisdom, talent and ability; and, 2) symbolism of the scripture in Psalms 139:12.  Much of what can be seen in these images is not visible to the naked eye, much like the God’s presence in the lives of believers.  It doesn’t matter where we are, in tragedy or celebration, in youth or old-age, in light or darkness; His spirit is always with us.  We can never be in a spot where we are hidden from His ever-present light!

Pronghorns: Plentiful, Fast & Alone!

Often mistakenly called an antelope, the Pronghorn is actually the last surviving member of the Antilocapridae family.  So, despite the striking similarities to “true” antelope of the Old World, the Pronghorn is a decidedly unique creature that is native to central and western North America.  Hunting pressure in the early 20th century reduced the population of Pronghorn in the US to roughly 13,000 animals, but their numbers have since recovered to well over a half million.  Anyone who has seen Pronghorn in the wild knows that they have a heightened sense of awareness and can run extremely fast.  In fact, Pronghorns are generally accepted as the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere.  Affectionately nicknamed speed-goats, Pronghorn have been clocked at speeds ranging from 43 to 53 miles per hour.  Only the cheetah is faster, however Pronghorn are able to sustain their speed much longer.  Throughout much of the country I traverse, Pronghorn are so common that I frequently don’t notice them.  Sometimes it takes the excitement of a tourist or visitor to remind me that this awesome creature abounds here in the northern plains.  Over the past several months I have been blessed with a number of opportunities to photograph Pronghorns when they weren’t on the run, I hope you enjoy viewing them.

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