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The Visitor

The Blog Post previously scheduled for this week has been put back for a while in order to write about a recent occurrence involving the Gretchen and myself on the back porch. 

So … I was sitting on the back porch, minding my own business, and occasionally throwing peanuts to the Blue Jays all the while trying to get the Gretchen dog, if remotely possible, to cooperate with my efforts. I was, since the light was excellent, trying to get some additional Blue Jay action photographs.JEMCSC_0131-1

Gretchen, on the other hand, decided some time ago that it is great sport to chase not only the doves from the yard, but anything with wings or sporting a large amount of cat hair. At times, she can be quite difficult and contrary. And that is being kind to say the least.

I had just finished taking her photograph chewing on one of my Blue Jay peanuts when I noticed an exceptionally large raccoon hurriedly crossing my neighbor’s backyard. It was heading straight for us.

Gretchen didn’t see the approaching danger. Her attention was focused on chewing up a Blue Jay peanut she had found out in the yard. She was oblivious to pretty much everything happening in a quarter mile radius.

My first thought at seeing what looked to be a forty pound raccoon suffering from a bad case of of hair static running across the yard in the broad daylight was that it was sick. Nocturnal creatures generally stay true to their nature and this behavior was highly peculiar. And, around this part of the country peculiar in animal behavior generally spells Rabies which is a real and ever present danger best avoided. Just last summer my neighbor had a sick raccoon in his front yard flower bed. A city policeman dispatched the animal with three quick gunshots. Evidently, being sick eliminated the possibility of surrender.

Over the years, I have lived through several county and state Rabies scares. During one particular nasty Rabies outbreak I was helping a friend move a couch from his Mother’s house when her dog bit me. Turned my back on the little beggar and it got me good. I was assured the beast had been properly vaccinated.

A week later … the dog died. I mean it passed away, had expired, no longer was breathing and was pronounced dead as a door nail. Rabies all around me and poor Muffin was no more.

What would befall me? There were visions of turning into a creature of the night, a Werewolf or a target for Atticus Finch’s 30-40 Krag rifle. Fortunately, I was only a victim of a painful dog bite and quite a few sleepless nights.JEMCSC_9793-1

That left the spade which awkward to wield was in itself an exceptionally dangerous weapon. This would be true even in the hands of an amateur or your common everyday Old Guy. 

I took a deep breath. The battle was about to begin. The beast was approaching quickly and was at the fence. I was prepared to have a biting, growling, shouting, screaming, metallic shovel ringing war down in the yard. I was determined that if Gretchen and I were to endure a series of painful Rabies shots because of wild animal injuries … it would be after we attended a large raccoon’s funeral.

Fortunately … my voice and the element of ambush surprise proved pivotal to the situation …

“Hey … what do you think you’re doing? Get yourself out of here!”

The beast came to an abrupt stop, looked at me, turned and ran across the yard where it crossed the back road and escaped into the woods. It disappeared at a pace that would make hunting dogs envious.

Gretchen, as is her habit when outside, thought I was shouting at her and paid little attention to my directives as she continued the destruction and consumption of the Blue Jay peanut.

As a photographer, I failed during the crisis. Not a single image was recorded; didn’t cross my mind. I sat up and reached for a weapon. Being Southern Born, my first instinct was to protect Gretchen and myself from harm or foul.The one thing someone or something, including wild critters, doesn’t do to a Southern man is hurt my dog or Sweetheart … well let me quickly rephrase that … the one thing someone or something, including wild critters, doesn’t do is hurt my Sweetheart or my dog. We’ll bite, smack, push, shove, holler, and or wear you out with a spade shovel if what we love is in danger, compromised or threatened.

Yep … I was ready … to this day … the raccoon has yet to make an enore appearance.

Next Week … Mr. Andrew  or something current …

To See more photographs go to oldguyphotography.com 

 

 

 

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Night Photographs …

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My First Night Photograph …

My introduction to long exposure night photography found me standing in a cemetery in Chancellorsville, Virginia at three-thirty in the morning. It was stone cold quiet. Next to the cemetery, in the trees, was a small white church. Every morning on the way to work I would see the church highlighted by a single parking lot light. I wanted the image. It had become a friend in the night.

My friend and mentor was giving me a lesson on his first love … long exposure night photography. Shutter speeds and aperture openings filled my head along with wisdom passed on by hands-on experience. My friend, a former commercial photographer knew his business. I was ecstatic about the images I got that first night. Of course, I was also hooked on night images. There was a quality and clarity that appealed to me.bAntiqueShop-2

My night excursions started shortly after that first night. The last year I lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia I was out many of the weekends shooting the city. It was a learning process; what to carry, what to leave home and how to see and pull a photograph in the darkness. It was a wonderful experience but at times nerve racking.

I learned early to “Go to the bathroom before going shooting”. There is nothing like getting an image all ready to shoot and you get one of those “Go to the bathroom right now” messages. At three-thirty in the morning there is no place to go and nothing to do but gather up everything and head home. Despite the darkness of the great beyond, you have to remember you are never alone. Someone will be  watching. One of my best night images came on a second setup. I had gotten the message don’t you know and had to scramble all the while learning the meaning of the term “Turtling”.

Another thing I learned quickly was to avoid drunks and the benefits of running away, circling back, and setting up later. I also learned if observed by the police … let the officer or officers see your hands, tripod, camera and make no sudden movements. BehindWarMemorial-1Also, police dogs, like their owners, have no sense of humor and keep your hands away from their mouth and face.

I got quite comfortable shooting images in the deep parts of the night. I even got to the point where I forgot all about the percentage chance of a small, sharp-toothed critter coming out of the darkness and ruining my night … though I did start sporting my bent wood throwing cane during my shoots.

Shooting night photographs was a challenge. I shot all of my photographs at f/22 with a fixed 50 mm lens and varied the timing according to available light.fJamesTownWaterTower-1c Timing was accomplished with an Ipod Touch. I did get fairly good at getting the timing close on the first try. Generally, I started at around thirty seconds and worked backwards or forwards with the timing as necessary.

All in all, it was a memorable experience and I cannot wait for another season of night shooting. I have come a long way from that first night shot taken while standing in a cemetery in the very, very early morning hours.

 

 

Next week … Mr. Andrew … 

To see more  photographs go to oldguyphotography.com


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Snapper Days

Springtime means it is time to dust off the antique Snapper lawnmower and prepare for a Spring and Summer season of cutting the front, back and JEMCSC_8268-1back-forty part of the yard. Fuel, oil and the mower belts had to be inspected and a ton of yellowish-green pine pollen had to be cleaned off the seat and control surfaces.

The battery received a four hour charge and the first start of the season was surprisingly easy. I even drove the old mowing machine down to the back road … and back. No problem presented itself except I was ready about a week before the grass actually needed mowing.

I love mowing the grass. It is a time to sing, whistle and think about nothing … yep … think about absolutely nothing. It is a time to myself with few intrusions … well except for when I run into something like steel poles concreted into the ground, fence posts, vehicle fenders, or thick bushes. I will not speak of the time I rode over the front yard embankment.

Mowing day came with bright sunshine. I waited patiently for nine-thirty in the morning out of courtesy for my next door neighbor. JEMDSC_8814-1We don’t want to antagonize a good neighbor with mowing sounds ruining his morning rest should he be sleeping late. The antique Snapper started without a single problem and off I went towards the back forty. The first grass cutting of the new season. Sunshine and a three or four mile an hour wind blowing in my face.

What possibly could possibly go wrong? Well … three passes from the back porch to the back road and the Snapper didn’t want to turn right. I was making wide turns that carried me close to obstructions I really had intentions of avoiding. It was then when I noticed the left front tire had gone flat. I nursed the machine back to the porch, propped the left of the mower deck up with an old clunk of concrete and removed the tire. It was worn out, dry rotted and unfixable.  So … off to the Snapper dealer.

The small tube had a hole in it but was patched with no difficulty. And, a new tire was installed on the rim and despite the serious deflation of my wallet and the lost repair time, I was in good spirits. As I headed back into the backyard, I notice a slight resistance in the turning abilities of the old Snapper. For the moment, I wrote that off as the old tire and new tire disparity. It was after I had finished the yard and was heading down the side of the house to park the machineJEMDSC_8817-1 that I noticed the other front tire was flat. Really?

The Snapper man wasn’t surprised to see me again. I guess he has seen it all at one time or the other. Soon, he will have the flat tire replaced and I will be on my way again. In a short week, it will be grass cutting time again. This time,  I will be ready with two new tires on the front, and smiling as I have the sunshine and a three or four mile an hour wind blowing in my face.

Next week … Night Photographs  To see more  photographs go to oldguyphotography.com