Shell Game

On my walk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I happened upon these shells neatly arranged on a split log.  Somebody went through the trouble of finding the shells and then arranging them in the log.  All the work so I can happen upon the shells and have something to take a picture of.  Amazing.  Thank you, unknown artist!

And before I forget.  One more picture of an autumn leaf.

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Or leaves.

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Green ones too.

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Mid November Birds in Northern Virginia

I haven’t been to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge since spring.  I’d almost forgotten what a great place this suburban refuge is for spotting birds.  Perhaps it is the massive amount of flies that are very adept at finding places to bite you during the summer time.

As I walked the trails at the refuge, a large buck with a large set of antlers jumped about fifteen feet beyond me.  I have never seen anything that big so close before (at least not in the Northern Virginia suburbs) and I was stunned.  I almost forgot that I had a camera with me as I struggle to see where it went.  I saw it again, but instead of taking a picture, I just soaked in the experience of seeing something new.  It scampered away quickly.  Darn.

Fortunately, the bluebirds still sang.  The woodpeckers still pecked.  And a few birds that I’ve never spotted before were, surprisingly, within my camera’s view.  I’ve been telling myself that even though a bird looks grey or brown, it may be something unfamiliar.  When you are learning how to spot birds, one of the worst things to do is assume that if a bird looks like something you’ve seen before, you just ignore it.  I am not very good at spotting birds, so imagine my surprise when I looked at the pictures of the small birds and saw a hermit thrush (above) and what I believe is a yellow rumped warbler.

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And a white throated sparrow hiding behind leaves.

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Of course, why not take pictures of a woodpecker and an Eastern Bluebird?

And fortunately, with the tide low, this ring billed gull was standing in the sand.

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This is Late April!

And it was wonderful!  With my son (young then) looking at the pristine blue waters of Crater Lake, the beauty of the Cascades was in full view.  If Bend was beautiful, the view from the snow covered edge of the caldera that forms the lake is nothing but spectacular.  The blue waters.  The strong springtime winds.  The setting sun.  And getting used to snowshoes.

My older son is in college now.  His younger sibling will soon follow.  Each second seems long enough, but the years spent with the children seems all too short.  The transient nature of every moment.  Each slice of time unique.  Some joyful.  Some challenging.  All part of lives lived and still being lived.  A lot has been told.  A lot has yet to unfold.

Life is indeed beautiful.  From the places that we visit and look on in awe.  To the short moments that we share with each other.  Each day unique.  Each day a chance to appreciate the world that we live in.  And hopefully, in our own way, moments lived making a world  that is a better place for all who live in it.

You Know a Place is Beautiful when

IMG_0443d_sEven in the early morning, as the planes are being deiced in the airport, the beauty of Oregon and its mountains won’t let you go.  Bend, Oregon.  Incredible town.

Flying across the continent, we arrived in Bend – the launching point for a mid spring visit to the Cascades.  It was an ideal base to drive around the high desert and visit Crater Lake.  I did not know much about the town until we landed.  And for several days, it became clear to me.  This is one of the great places in the United States to visit, and perhaps even live in.  Mountains and lakes nearby.  A river to go tubing in.  And as we were leaving, the view from the window was still spectacular.  Beautiful deicing?  It was, in Bend.

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Dancing Flame

Taking a picture of a candle isn’t particularly exciting.  To add a little zest to the standard lit candle image, I used a macro lens and a longer than one second exposure to capture the flame moving around.  And since the picture was indoors, blowing on the candle ever so slightly introduced the requisite amount of motion to capture the dancing candle light.

Autumnal Beauties

The birds are still here.  And they are at Huntley Meadows.  Just look for bushes laden with berries.  Or seed bearing pods.

And with autumn in the air, in the leaves, in the sky (the sun angle is far from its summer heights), the birds remind us that season after season, life is everywhere.  And beautiful to behold.  In all its forms.

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Roadside Pictures

It was a cloudy day in the D.C. suburbs.  We are getting some badly needed rain.  And, I had to make a short trip to Harrisonburg, Virginia.  So I drive westward on Interstate 66.  The clouds were hanging low as I approached the highlands of Shenandoah National Park.  A little past the exit to the park, the sun peeked through the clouds.  The low lying clouds, the fall colors highlighted by diffused sunlight – it was beautiful.  So what kind of photography can you come up with while taking pictures from the side of a highway?

There’s only one way to find out.  Slowing down from seventy miles per hour, I stopped by the roadside and glanced across the lanes of the interstate.  Nestled in what looked like a small nook by the mountain was a house surrounded by saturated trees sporting saturated autumn colors.  Out came the camera.  One click.  Another click.  Another click.

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It was time to go back to the highway and head westward towards Interstate 81.  The traffic remained relatively light as I reached the junction to I81.  Heading south towards Harrisonburg, the sun was beginning to set towards a horizon barely clear of clouds.  In some spots.  I saw a silo, the sun was setting behind some clouds, and I slowed down again to take more pictures from the highway.

DSC05101_sDSC05103_sAfter ten minutes in Harrisonburg, it was time to go back towards the D.C. suburbs.  It was getting dark rather rapidly, but in the rear view mirror I spied upon a bright red sunset.  The sun was nearly gone as I headed towards an exit at I81 and stopped by a gas station.  Through some barren trees, towards Interstate 81, I saw the last vestiges of light.

DSC03048_sWho knew that a gas station would be a good place to be to watch the sun set?  Photography is incredibly rewarding.  Images are waiting to be taken at almost every moment.  Just keep your eyes open and your mind free.  The pictures will be there for the taking.