Archive for July, 2010

Dr. Evil’s Tomatoes

A couple of summers ago I noticed a pretty plant in the backyard.  It’s a floaty vine with beautiful flowers.  The bees love them.  I didn’t give it much thought until I tried to photograph it –

Very difficult.  Those leaves are like sails and catch the least little breeze.  What a PITA, honestly.  But the flowers were so pretty and reminded me of Shooting Stars though I knew they weren’t.  So I did some checking and discovered what I had on my hands is Bittersweet Nightshade also called Deadly Nightshade although I think they might be different species that only look alike.  Either way it’s poison.  Bittersweet nightshade won’t actually kill you, but I it will make you wish you were dead for a while.

So I kept an eye on it and after a few weeks I saw this –

Dr. Evil's Tomatoes

Aren’t they the cutest things?  They look just like tiny tomatoes.  No wonder since tomatoes are in the nightshade family.  Not surprising people thought they were poison for centuries.  After a few days they look like this –

Salad anyone?

OMG aren’t they awesome?  Don’t you love how the stems turn black and evil looking?  I want to eat one they look so appetizing.  I won’t, but something does.  When they all turn red they disappear quick just like the leaves which get eaten down to nothing.  Deadly sure, but only to us.

American Battlefield

Recently the husband and I took a trip to upstate NY and on the way back stopped in Stillwater to tour the Saratoga Battlefield.  Coincidentally I’d just reached the part in the Franklin biography I’m reading where we won this battle and the French crown decided to recognize the still wet behind the ears United States.  It was really something to walk the battlefields and defensive positions and imagine what it was like.  The countryside itself isn’t much changed (oh how I wish remnants of the actual earthworks remained) and it was pretty easy to do.

The park itself is spread out over several miles and has a road you can drive to each point of interest.  Or you can take a bicycle through.  There were hardly any other visitors in the park while we were there which was surprising considering it was a Sunday in July.  Good for us though.  Also good was the general cloudiness that persisted all day.  It made for moody skies and more even light.

One of the first stops includes the only period building left on the whole site – the Neilson Farm house –

the Neilson farmhouse at the Saratoga Battlefield

Back in those days armies on both sides took over farms and houses that were convenient or in strategic positions.  The Neilsons were unfortunate enough to be farming on Bemis Heights which proved just the right spot to build a defensive line.  That blue-tipped fenceline to the left marks where the fortifications ran. This was not General Gates’s headquarters, but no wonder we now have the 3rd Amendment!  I feel badly for the farmers who labored for months just to lose all crops and livestock.  Collateral damage indeed.

View to the battle lines from the Neilson porch

From here we drove to the site of the American River fortifications over the Hudson.  These were critical in preventing British General Burgoyne from marching to Albany.  The road which is still used today is by the near treeline and the Hudson itself is beyond the farmland behind the trees.

American cannon defends the Hudson and the road to Albany

Defender of the faith - American cannon at Saratoga

From here we went to the Baker wheat field (another poor farmer probably lost his all after this) where after a bunch of back and forth, the British and German soldiers (1500 of them) were forced back and their General Simon Fraser was mortally wounded here.  I loved this lush meadow with the cannon in it (a British cannon).

site of the Baker wheat field battle

From here it’s just a hop to the British Balcarres Redoubt, a position fortified with log and earth works 375 feet long and 12-14 feet high, behind which light infantry commander Lord Balcarres defended the British encampment further up river.  This fortification took over yet another farmer’s land, this time loyalist Mr. Freeman who when the battle was lost probably retreated with the British army.  I couldn’t help myself with the extreme processing on this one.

British line of fire at Balcarres Redoubt

Nearby was another British fortification called the Breymann Redoubt.  Its 100 yards of earthworks guarded the British right flank and the road to Quaker Springs and named for German Lt. Col. Heinrich Breymann whose troops were stationed here.  Here also is where Benedict Arnold suffered his famous leg wound and is commemorated by the nearby Boot Monument.

British Artilery at the Breymann Redoubt

Last, but not least, is the Great Redoubt.  I couldn’t help a bit more extreme processing here either.  I think it helps establish mood, after all, the battle took place in October and probably wasn’t as lush and green as it was when I visited.

The Great Redoubt

This was a series of British fortifications designed to protect their hospital, artillery park, supplies, Indian camp and the boat bridge across the Hudson.  Burgoyne’s last refuge at Saratoga was here before he finally retreated and eventually surrendered.

Who knows what would have happened if the Americans hadn’t won such an important victory so soon.  Because of the win here at Saratoga, we kept the British out of Albany and kept the colonies together.  If New England and New York city had been cut off from Pennsylvania, Virginia and the rest of the colonies their strength would have been seriously diminished.  Also a victory so early gave France the push it needed off its fence of indecision about America and whether or not they would back her after the Declaration of Independence.  I’m fascinated by the Revolution and the fact that it succeeded at all and I hope I can visit more forts and battlefields in the future.

There are more pictures in the Smugmug Gallery if you want to check them out.

Reflections on Death – Part 2

Strange that I haven’t posted more from my large collection of cemetery images.  I shoot cemeteries all the time and really enjoy spending time in them.  New England is littered with old ones and many of them are tiny and very picturesque.  Recently on a trip to upstate New York, I saw this one in Stillwater right on Route 423.  It has no name and appears to be used by only a handful of families.

...all in a row

Many of the stones were illegible due to time and weather, but the ones I could read dated from early to late 19th century.

The Sentinel

I shot with my legacy Zuiko 24mm f2.8 lens this time and wanted to capture the green lushness of this little burial ground.  The huge trees spaced throughout added to the intimate feel.  I reduced the clarity slightly in two of the photos and only sharpened slightly.  Color saturation and vibrance was left alone, but I did reduce the luminance in the greens a bit.  I think it works.

In company

I know this is sort of an unusual subject for some people, but if you like it and don’t want to wait for my next cemetery post, you can visit my Graven Images Gallery on SmugMug.


Life and circumstance have conspired against me and I haven’t shot anything except pictures of my cats since the weekend in Seattle.  It feels strange.  As if my routine has been disrupted.  I’m not very out of sorts about it, but I am off kilter if you know what I mean.  I’m going to try to get out tomorrow, but until then here are some pictures of cats –

This one is Zaphod Beeblebrox the Nothingth.  My original Orange Menace.  In this photo he was less than a year old.  It was taken in 1988 on T-max film with my OM-1n and the standard Zuiko 50mm lens.  The negative is badly scratched unfortunately and I’m not really good enough with retouching to deal with it.  Someday maybe I will be –

Zaphod in a drawer

Zaphod looked like this as an adult.  He was seriously gorgeous and had a very weird habit of climbing up onto the porch roof which was just below my bedroom window, and throwing himself at the screen until I let him in.  At midnight it was a treat I tell you.  This one dates from 1990 and was shot on Kodak Gold 200 with either the OM-1N or the OM-G and probably the Zuiko 65-200 f4 zoom.

Zaphod on the birdfeeder

This next one is Pippen, one of my mother’s cats also now deceased.  She was a sweetie pie and my mom misses her intensely.  Obviously she’s a kitten in this one and the timing of this shot couldn’t have been better.  I think it was the OM-1N again with possibly the Zuiko 135 f2.8, but I’m not entirely sure.  The film is Agfa XRS 400 and the shot dates to 1991.  That stool has been painted more colors than a rainbow, but I’m glad it was in it’s chipped, red glory here.

Pippen on the red stool

Now we shall move to the land of the living.  These are my three boys –

This is Chuck (aka The Orange Menace) when he was a robust young man of 3.  It was 1995 and a really hot summer day and he took advantage of some shade under the deck so he could pant and cool down.  I shot this with Fuji Reala with probably the OM-1N and the Zuiko 50mm f1.8.

Chuck panting

This is a more recent picture (late 2009) of the old boy who will be 18 in August.  He’s slowed down considerably in his old age and has lost a great deal of his muscle mass, but retains his fiery color and is healthy if somewhat rickety.  He’s become somewhat cuddly, too.  Never before was he a lap cat.

Chuck is suspicious that I will ruin his nap

This next one is Thomas, a rescue who came to us in 2005 at about age 6 and missing most of his teeth due to granuloma, the same condition that makes him so skinny although you can’t tell under all that fur.  He’s very cuddly, gentle and somewhat drooly.  We almost didn’t get him because someone put a hold on him at the shelter.  Bummed we went home empty-handed, but a few days later I got a call asking if I still wanted him.  Of course I did and went up immediately to take him home.  He’s mostly or all Maine Coon and has the most intricate coloring – grays, black, reddish brown, tan and white.  He’s a weird little addition.

Thomas lounges on the living room rug

And last, but not least – Larry.  Another rescue we chose from another after we came away with no Thomas from the first.  Larry was approximately 1 1/2 years old when we got him in 2005.  He’s got his full arsenal of teeth and claws and is a muscular cat with a penchant for pillows and fleece blankets.  He talks a mile a minute and spars with Thomas every morning and afternoon.  Chuck hates him like poison, but we’re pretty glad to have him.

Detective Larry, Vice Squad

Well, that’s the current crew and some of the old crew.  Such unique little personalities each and every one of them.

A few from Seattle

Over the Independence Day weekend my husband and I traveled to Seattle for a wedding (eek!  I forgot and totally didn’t read aloud the Declaration of Independence for the first time in years…oh the shame).  It wasn’t a photography trip per se, but I did manage to get a few photos that don’t suck.

Mt. Rainier in a sea of clouds at sunset

Fishing pier in Seattle, WA

View of Puget Sound the northern edge of the waterfront district in Seattle

I wasn’t in the groove though, you know.  Lately I’ve been feeling awkward and weird with the camera despite many satisfying hours behind it.  A lot of it had to do with exhaustion.  Well, impending exhaustion.  We stupidly and somewhat inadvertently walked the entire way from downtown to Discovery Park.  It’s 6 miles.  Not that big a deal when you plan for it, but definitely sort of strange when you don’t.  Especially when you leave the tourist areas and end up in a freight yard –

Diesel and Dust

Right after walking through this (there is a designated bike/foot path) we got dumped into a suburban area and a helpful sign said Discovery Park 1.8 miles.  Uphill.  Yay.  But what the heck, we’d come that far.  When we got there all we wanted was a bench and we found one not far from here –

Parts of Discovery Park are thickly forested

My not being in the groove shows a lot and I only got one decent picture of the beautiful moss and other small details of the rainforest –

Moss Garden

Eventually the paths come out of the forest and onto headland and meadow which leads right down to Puget Sound and some very popular beaches.  Paved roads and bike paths lead right up to them as well.  The same wildflowers that were everywhere in California are here, too and provide for some spectacular color.  But again, I wasn’t feeling it so didn’t even bother to shoot many of them.  And the light is a bit harsh anyway, so it would have been a waste of memory.

Puget Sound at Discovery Park

So after adding another 4 miles or so to our total from walking all over the park, we were dead tired and tried to get a bus back to downtown.  Alas, no change and we had to hoof it back to the park’s visitors’ center where a very nice lady gave us change and we were back down to catch the 33 to downtown.  The hotel lobby never looked so good –

The Arctic Club Hotel (No Minors. No Firearms.)

And a stop here was a must before dinner –

Arctic Club bar

Overall we enjoyed our couple of days in Seattle and will probably go again, but this time we’re going to rent bicycles.


A crab spider and her ingenious hide.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see her build it, but she had one on several blossoms in her little territory.  Clever girl.  She was able to take down many an unwary bee with this set up.  Handheld at 1/250 f4 with the OM 90mm macro.  She was very hard to sneak up on and when she sensed my looming presence she’d dart under the flower and escape.