Saturday, December 21, 2019


I just read a short story by Ray Bradbury, "The Murderer," in which the perpetrator crushes or shoots the technology that is demanding his constant time and attention. The victims are the TV, phone and various portable devices. In the police interrogation room, the perp even smashes the device carried by the psychiatrist who is interviewing him. No electronic noise interrupts them as they converse. Then the disturbed man is led away to a quiet jail cell and the psychiatrist returns to air-conditioned reality in which he is in constant communication with a myriad of people without seeing anyone in the flesh. Once again, he is safely immersed in his devices.

The story was published in 1953, decades before Al Gore, Steve Jobs and Satan himself Mark Zuckerberg conspired to steal our souls.

Bradbury wrote of the world as it was 66 years ago, and we know what the world is like now. Imagine how deeply embedded the children of 2085 will be in their technology. I may be becoming a Luddite in my old age (as I'm typing this on my tablet) but Yikes!

Wednesday, December 04, 2019


My first photo expedition to Northwest Missouri was in 2005. The wildlife refuge near Mound City used to be called Squaw Creek, now it goes by the bland PC name Loess Bluffs, but the attractions are still the same – eagles and snow geese. The geese start coming in November with the eagles following, and I have found the first week in December is usually the best time to see some of each.

There is a public event at the refuge this weekend, Eagle Days. There are many eagle events located throughout the country this time of year, and I encourage everyone to find one in your area and check it out. But you won't see me because I want to see eagles, not a bunch of people clogging the road. My advice is to avoid the crowds and hit the location of your local event the week before.

Unlike some recent quick trips to Loess Bluffs, I had all day Tuesday and half of Wednesday to hunker down and wait for things to happen. This worked well on Tuesday with the eagles, but the only snow geese I saw were high in the sky, on their way elsewhere. There are two eagle nests, one on the west side and a newer one to the southeast. Unlike last year, there didn't seem to be any construction going on, but there were eagles hanging out at both locations. I have one image of an eagle in the west nest, but it just seemed to be resting there momentarily. Prominently present in the pools were hundreds of trumpeter swans, a formerly-endangered species. On the way out at the end of the day, I came across a large, scary cloud of red-winged blackbirds.

Wednesday, a big flock of snow geese did come down to earth, but in a location I don't usually see them. They were in the Pintail Pool on the west side rather than the Eagle Pool to the southeast near the main entrance. I waited around for a while, but finally they did the big cloud thing. I snapped some final pics then headed home just before noon.

I took a few videos with my SLR, and caught about 30 seconds of an eagle screeching. There is some wind noise, but I thought it was worth posting. See this YouTube Video.

Click on one of the images to start the slide show of 37 images.



Lots of geese

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Meth, We're On It!

As a resident of South Dakota, I just have to cringe at the new state anti-meth ad campaign that uses the above slogan as its tag line. After watching it the first time, I thought it was a Saturday Night Live skit. I was expecting Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin to pop up in cameo roles.

As a taxpayer I wonder if we can sue the ad company that came up with that to get our $449,000 back. I wish there were video of the pitch meeting where the ad company presented this lunacy to state officials. Everyone thought it was a good idea? Unbelievable.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


I have been eating more sensibly recently, but I still have one packet of Maruchan Ramen lurking in my pantry. Does throwing away the flavor packet get rid of all the 830 mg of sodium? How about using the packet for cooking but draining away the broth, which is what I usually do? The back panel of the package doesn't break it out, and good luck finding the answer on the internet. Let's just say opinions vary.

I did notice one little disclosure on the package that should cause Millennials to flee to their safe spaces: "Partially produced with genetic engineering." Cool. Now I want to eat it every day just to be a contrarian. Instead I'll probably switch to Rice Ramen (0 sodium) or (if the United States Postal Service ever finds my spiralizer) zucchini noodles aka zoodles. My Amazon tracking update says the package was left in the parcel locker yesterday, but the USPS didn't give me a key.

Update: I stood and stared at the mail carrier today to make sure he put the parcel locker key in my box. Zoodles!

Monday, November 11, 2019


On the 11th day of the 11th month, it was 11 degrees in my yard as I prepared to witness the Transit of Mercury. The forecast said it might be cloudy until 10 a.m. but by 8:00 there were only scattered clouds interfering occasionally. In the warmth of August 2017, I got a few images of the total solar eclipse through my telescope with the old Canon S45 camera attached. Today it was just too cold to fiddle with that setup, which is very hard to aim and focus. I gave up on that and just used my DSLR with 400mm lens. (Everything is protected by appropriate solar filters, of course.) I also set up my little Coronado solar telescope, but photography through that is impossible so that was for visual observing only.

I could not see the planet through my camera, but on the solar scope I was able to make out a little dot near the center of the sun. The apparent size of Mercury is much smaller than Venus, but we won't see another Venus transit until 2117. So this is what we have today. Unlike the total eclipse, which was rather exciting, this really doesn't get the adrenaline pumping, but it is a somewhat rare event involving another world. The next such transit is in 2032. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Next celestial events are an annular "Ring of Fire" eclipse Oct. 14, 2023 (I plan to be in Albuquerque) and a total eclipse Apr. 8, 2024 (I probably will be near Austin, TX). Previous celestial events:

2017 Eclipse
Total Eclipse 2017
2017 Eclipse
Total Eclipse 2017
Annular Eclipse Iceland 2003
Annular Eclipse 2003
Transit of Venus 2004
Venus Transit 2004
Transit of Venus 2012
Venus Transit 2012
Partial Eclipse 2014
Full Moon 2015
Full Moon 2015
Transit of Mercury 2016
Mercury Transit 2016

Monday, November 04, 2019

Badlands Bighorns

There are certain places where I stop just about every time I drive by, and the Badlands is one of them. I know there are usually bighorn sheep in the Pinnacles Overlook area near the western entrance, and the rams usually hang out just west of there a short distance down the Sage Creek Rim Road. I saw a couple of rams when I drove through there Oct. 28, but on my return trip yesterday I saw nothing on my first pass. After a pit stop, I did another short loop and saw a herd of something off in the distance.

It was a herd of bighorns, including five or six rams of various ages. Most of the group eventually came closer, and a few approached the canyon rim just a few yards from me. A couple of the rams curled their lips and tasted the air, which is a mating behavior, but to my disappointment they didn't engage in any head butting. There were only about four ewes, so it seemed the females who usually frequent the area were elsewhere.

By my count I have posted 268 images of bighorns on my site, including 11 from this trip. Click on the image to start the slide show:

Bighorn Rams. The one on the left is tasting the air.

Monday, August 19, 2019


The Sioux Falls Air Show was over the weekend featuring the USAF Thunderbirds. Including Friday's practice, I had three chances to track the Thunderbirds through their routine.

While there may be some value in being on the flight line at the airport, I camped out on a hill a mile or so from the airport and waited for the planes to fly over. I missed out on the static displays and some of the other performers, but I avoided the crowds and the Thunderbirds flew right over my position several times during each show.

The other highlights of the show were the old warbirds. I didn't get great photos of the Corsair, P-51, and TBM Avenger, but I did post a couple images of the latter two. (I got much better warbirds shots at the 2016 Sioux Falls Air Show.) I had more success with the Heritage Flight, which this year featured Navy planes including the AD-4 Skyraider, FJ-4B Fury, and F/A-18G Hornet. The Skyraider and Fury were Vietnam-era ground attack planes, one being prop-driven and the other being a jet. The Fury is related to the Air Force's F-86 Sabre. The Hornet is a version of the same plane used by the Blue Angels. Another Hornet at the show was a CF-18 Canadian version, which did solo shows before the Thunderbirds. It was reported that this was the only appearance by the RCAF at a US air show this year. It seemed like five minutes after finishing its performance, it took off again and headed back to the Great White North.

By my count this is the 11th air show I've photographed since 2002, the third with the Thunderbirds. The last time I saw the Thunderbirds was back in 2005 at their home base in Nevada. That was a gigantic show. Click here to see the air show listing on my Galleries page.

I posted 63 images, including 47 of the Thunderbirds. The light was constantly changing during the three days, so at times it was challenging. The Thunderbirds images are roughly in chronological order, but with single planes first, then formations of four, five and six. Click on the images to start the slide show.

Update: I just added seven new images to the 2016 Sioux Falls Air Show gallery. The new stuff is three AV-8 Harrier images, and additional Blue Angels and B-25 images.


US Navy Heritage Flight

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Painting with light

The Fourth of July once again brought me to Red Lodge, Montana. Last year I shot the fireworks with the Canon M100 on a tripod, which was OK, but this year I decided to use my real SLR, 5D Mark III, with the ultrasharp 80-200 f4 lens. For some reason the difference was dramatic, perhaps due in part to the ability to fire continuously with a shutter release.



Saturday, June 08, 2019

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

He knows Tom Brady

Who wouldn't dream of walking in the shoes of both Graig Nettles and Roger Staubach, playing third base for the New York Yankees and playing quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys? Drew Henson experienced both of those things during his unique but short pro sports career between 2002 and 2004. He got a hit (just one) for the Yankees, and he had a start at quarterback (just one) for the Cowboys. I got this photo of him in the 2002 Arizona Fall League when he was battling to make the Yankees.

But Henson's greatest claim to fame probably comes from his college football days at Michigan when he battled Tom Brady for the starting quarterback job. (Brady was thought to be a baseball prospect at catcher but never went the dual-sport route, instead concentrating on football.) There's an urban legend that Henson beat out Brady for the Michigan job, which isn't true. The two platooned for the first seven games of 1999, after which Brady was named the starter. In the image below, Henson made a good stop on a hot grounder to third, but was indecisive and threw late to first base. Just like his career, didn't quite make it.

3rd baseman Drew Henson

Monday, May 20, 2019

Osprey, 16 years later

This is the third installment this week in my "old images revival." This time the setting is Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland in April 2003. There were lots of osprey in the area but it seemed I would have to be content with distant shots. Until...I was walking along a trail and heard a crash in the tree above me. An osprey had landed with a huge fish that was still flopping around. I carefully got in position to shoot up at it, and fired off 85 images in 10 minutes.

The lighting conditions were difficult. It would have been much better if the sky had been blue and I had a flash unit for fill flash, but what I recorded was a low-contrast bird with a washed-out, cloudy background. At the time, I posted a couple of images with which I was never really satisfied. I took another crack at the images today with my more modern version of Photoshop Elements and another 16 years of experience with photo editing. There are still the limitations of the original images, but I think what I came up with is more presentable. I ended up posting two revised images and eight new ones. Click on the image to start the revised slide show.

Osprey with a fish

Cherry blossoms, five years later

I've been going through old images, as I do from time to time, and noticed that a few from the April 2014 Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC didn't make it onto the web site. I went to Washington many times between 1986 and 2014, this time to attend orientation for my fourth and final incarnation as an FDIC bank examiner, and for only the second time I happened to be there in April when the blossoms were peaking. (The other time was pre-digital. I've got some prints somewhere.) Click on the image below for the slide show starting with the four new images. It then wraps around to other DC-area images from the 00's.

Cherry Blossoms

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The busy years

In 2002-2005 I was rediscovering photography and I also felt the need to do something more with my vacation time. In 2003 I went to Antarctica, Alaska, Iceland, Maine, Florida, Maryland, and the Yellowstone area. I was looking through my Yellowstone photos today and decided to add five more images to that gallery. I also did a revision of the iconic (for me) elk image shown below. The new images are two more of the elk, a magpie, a female mountain bluebird, and a moose in Grand Teton. Click on the image to start the slide show.

Iconic Elk

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Baby bison can fly

I've made the Black Hills and Badlands photo trip several dozen times since my move back to the Heartland 12 years ago and have accumulated hundreds of bison, pronghorn and bighorn images. There's always the hope that I'll see and capture some behavior I haven't seen before, and this trip didn't disappoint.

When we passed through the Custer State Park in mid-April, there were no baby bison present. According to news reports, they started popping out just after we left. When I returned solo on Friday, there were baby bison everywhere. I was staking out a large herd in the south part of the park and saw this baby, no more than four weeks old, decide to jump over a small creek rather than wade through it. Baby bison really can fly!

Baby bison

Something else I hadn't seen before was pronghorns chasing each other. Next to Oak Draw Road, I saw a small herd of six, and I think the old buck was chasing the youngsters around to keep them in line. Compared to the youngsters he seemed to move rather stiffly when walking, but he could still run. Pronghorns are considered the second-fastest land animal in the world after cheetahs, and it is something to see them race across the prairie at speed.

Pronghorn chase

I stopped in the Badlands both Thursday and Saturday expecting to see bighorns, and as usual a herd was in the vicinity of Pinnacles Overlook. There was only one small ram with the ewes. Several of them with lambs were on the cliffs above the nearby Ancient Hunters Overlook and I got some images both Thursday and Saturday. The lambs blend into the cliffs and it was hard to see them, but I was able to tell there were three of them climbing around on the steep hillside. The Sage Creek Rim Road was finally open on Saturday after being closed the last few times I've been in the park, but I did not any of the four rams that frequented the area the past few years.

Baby sheep (look closely)

Click on the image below to start the slideshow of 60 images at the beginning. Besides bison, pronghorn and bighorns you'll see prairie dogs, elk, deer, mountain bluebirds, swallows, and some other little birds. Alas, no coyotes.

Baby bison

Update 5/26/19: Geese and ducks are so common I rarely bother to shoot them, but I decided today to head to the neighborhood pond, the site of my first Canon M100 test two years ago. I got three images worth posting but it was a reminder that a mirrorless camera without a viewfinder is not a wildlife camera. The image shown below is two ducks on what I believe is a muskrat hut. I got a few blurry images (not posted) of a muskrat (?) swimming toward me. He submerged near the shore and I never saw him come up again. Not only is it hard to frame a moving subject, it is hard to get correct autofocus with a long lens, even with a stationary subject. I missed my tripod and real DSLR 0.8 miles away; maybe this week if it stops raining. Click on the image to start the slide show at that point, then it wraps around to the images from out West earlier in the month.

Ducks on muskrat hut

Friday, February 01, 2019

Lamar Valley in Winter

After the snow coach experience of last Friday, we struck out on our own Wednesday and Thursday to drive the only portion of Yellowstone open to traffic during the winter, Mammoth Springs to Cooke City which includes the famous Lamar Valley. We saw an abundance of bison and a couple concentrations of bighorn sheep. Strangely enough, this is the first time I've seen Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep outside of South Dakota, which is not in the Rockies. There also was another "coyote of the week" strolling down the road taking no notice of people gawking at him. Most of the elk we saw were concentrated near the human activity of Mammoth and Gardiner.

We got to see how the different grazers dealt with digging through the snow to find vegatation. The bighorns pawed at the ground with their hooves. The elk stuck their noses into the snow. And the bison swept back and forth, clearing the snow with their massive heads.

The weather was mostly overcast but not too cold. There was one minor little incident where I got too close to the edge of the road near Soda Butte and needed the assistance of park rangers to get my truck free. My bride describes the incident in much more dramatic terms. Anyway, I added images from these two days to the previous slide show. The link below will start with the new images, then wrap around to those from last week.

Bighorn Sheep in Lamar Valley

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Yellowstone in Winter

One of my favorite photos from my September 2003 trip to Yellowstone is of a bull elk in a meadow. There were at least 20 photographers with big lenses gathered around, snapping away at the elk. Meanwhile, along the road where all the vehicles were parked, a coyote strolled past almost unnoticed and unconcerned about the gaggle of humans who were watching the elk.

It was deja vu all over again this week, except this time Yellowstone was under a cover of snow and the star of the show was a coyote. Once again, the photographers with the big lenses made their presence known. For me, nature photography is a solitary pursuit and I've never paid for a workshop. I'm not a fan of packs of guys (almost always guys) piling out of a vehicle to stalk an animal. No doubt Yellowstone and Grand Teton are more spectacular than Custer State Park and the Badlands, but I've never seen a van full of photographers in my local parks. This week in Yellowstone, I was in a snowcoach full of regular tourists with camera phones, but I had my 5D Mark III/100-400 hiding in my backpack in case something happened.

It was an uneventful day, lots of snow-covered scenery but only a few bison on the road, until we were well on our way back to West Yellowstone when a coyote was spotted on the ice of the Madison River. About 10 guys with big lenses were lined up on the bridge firing away. The snowcoach driver disapproved of them stopping their vehicle on the bridge, so he found a pullout a little further on, and I got a few shots of the coyote on the ice working her way toward us. She came through the guardrail just west of us onto the road, then took a pee. (That's why I think it was a she. I got an image of that but I'm not posting it.) She then headed for the north side of the river and started working her way along the bank headed west.

The most interesting part of her journey was when she climbed up a snow-covered tree trunk to get up the bank to higher ground. I didn't think a coyote would try to do that, but I was wrong. The climbing sequence of images starts with the eleventh image in the slide show. Then she had to plow through some deep snow on her way up the hill. The last I saw of her she was up in the trees.

Coyote on the frozen Madison River