Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 2010




My Weird Eye:

Arts 'n Crafts:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Naked Lotebush

"Naked Lotebush"
(Zizyphus obtusifolia)
West Odessa, Texas

This is the season when the lotebush is nothing but spines. No leaves. No blooms, no berries. On this specimen there isn't even any overwintering ovaries. Just a plant of pure spines. This is a young specimen, with spines about two inches long. I've seen older bushes where the spines were longer than my hand, at about 6 or 7 inches. Nothing to sneeze at. Or, worse, accidentally trip into!

Actually, tripping in the desert rarely turns out well.

An interesting photo essay on Sibley Nature Center site, which includes this about the remarkable ovary adaptation:

"Lotebush is a common shrub species found mixed in with mesquite bushes and tasajillo (christmas cholla cactus). When it blooms in May and June many species of insects come to nectar on the sticky waxy flowers (which are half the size of an adult human's pinkie fingernail.) After it blooms, the ovaries remain as discs until the following April and early May when blue berries appear, 11 months after insects pollinate the flowers. One other species of plant (a cactus known as Mammalaria vivipara or chilipitin cactus) on the Llano Estacado also displays this adaptation to the rainfall regime in the region (heaviest in May.)"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Milkweed, Some Moments Later

"Milkweed, Some Moments Later" 1,2
Time 5:10:42 and 5:11:24 pm, 42 seconds
January 14, 2010
Race Field,
West Odessa, Texas

After opening this milkweed pod, and seeing the seeds all lined up inside it, I thought of the children's hand rhyme, "Here's the church, here's the steeple. Open it up, and here's the people." The seeds look a little like members of a church choir, don't they?

This photo was taken at my second adopted citizen science location. I'm calling it Race Field because it is a large open field behind a horse race arena. I chose to adopt and study it because it's the epitome of an untouched West Odessa.

For now, anyway.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Marking the Occasion

Some of you remember that my blog started off as "A Photo A Day." That was way back in February of 2007. This is now my 700th post. To mark the occasion, how about a list of the top ten things I've learned about taking photos since then. Nothing earth-shatteringly new here, mostly a reminder list, really.
Take my camera everywhere.

And if at all possible, I stop when I see a photo opportunity, not waiting until the next day even. I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to find that once delightful bloom beyond its prime. Or the roadside has been mowed. Or the entire field has been paved.

That's what happened to this photo's location, one of my all-time favorite places, now literally a parking lot.

"Golden Globes," October 2008, Interstate 20, Odessa, Texas
Take photos every day.

But two or three times a week is serviceable. Once a week is bad. Zero per week and I get downright cranky.

Thankfully, though, taking photos doesn't necessarily mean going outside. Sometimes when I can't get out, the outside comes in.

"A New Friend" September 2008, West Odessa, Texas (my bathroom, to be exact)
No, you won't remember.

I keep a little notebook with me to record places I go, names of people I photograph, and even ideas for future photos. I used to say of course I'll remember. But I've learned I won't.

Like this perfect pomegranate tree, as big as a shade tree, taken back when I believed I would always remember where it was.

"Pomegranate" July 2007, Somewhere in West Odessa, Texas
Go! Rain or shine.

I've shot through my rainy windshield. I've pushed the shutter button with frozen fingers. I've dropped sweat from my face onto pretty little wildflowers.

I try to remember even just a little weather can make a more interesting photo, and a memory. Dress accordingly.

"The Day It Never Rained" June 2008, My brother Casey, Between Seminole and Lamesa, Texas
My camera and I see differently.

I can't describe this technically, but I know what we see with our own eyes is not a perfect match to a camera's capture. The trick, then, is to learn what your camera will do with what you give it, and "collaborate."

I think that's why I've stuck with a Lumix brand (four years, three cameras). We've built our collaboration. Besides, I now have three batteries, two home chargers, one car charger, and a number of cards that all fit my camera, side benefits of sticking with a brand.

"Salvia's Song" February 2009, West Odessa, Texas
Ignore "That won't work."

I was frightened when I first poked my camera into a flower: "It will be crap and I'll ruin my lens trying!" Since then, I've kissed a thousand flowers, and my lens keeps on going after a thousand cleanings.

Each time I go out, I include trying a "Nah, that won't work" shot. It usually doesn't. Sometimes, it opens a whole new world.

"New Camera" June 2008, West Odessa, Texas
Shoot the breeze.

I'm no stranger to strangers. I feel comfortable talking to just about anyone.

Oddly, though, I get nervous taking photos of people. I suppose it's because I really, really, really want them to turn out well.

I've learned that talking while shooting people, asking them questions and shooting the breeze makes me less nervous. Them too.

P.S. Most people say yes, when you ask. Even if they at first say no.

"Abraham & Penguinito" February 2009, West Odessa, Texas
One word: Prune.

Because this spider wove stems into her turret, I wouldn't prune for this shot. But, trust me, I have plenty where a jutting piece of grass over the very center view or beer bottles in the background should have been pruned.

By pruning, I'm not talking about anything environmentally unsound. No, I mean just take out the stray stick, brush off some distracting dirt, and generally pay attention to the whole, not just the, er, hole.

Take plastic bags with you. Pick up trash for bonus karma points!

"Spider Style" May 2009, West Odessa, Texas
Be a tourist.

How many cotton fields have I seen in my life? How many tumbleweeds? How much red, sandy dirt? Too much, too many to count. Still, I'm really only a visitor, a tourist in this place and time.

There is no such thing as ordinary, except as a judgment. On the one hand, it's a challenge to take photos of what I've seen a million times. On the other, what else should I take photos of?

"One" January 2008, Martin County, Texas
Don't worry. Be happy.

Taking photos is somewhat of a ruse. Having some good photos, a bonus. The real enjoyment is being outdoors, walking, open to seeing. If some photos turn out well enough to share or remind me of good times, it's icing on the cake.

And the best part? There's always today to get out for more photos and for more seeing.

"Winter Tapestry" January 2009, East Loop 338, Odessa, Texas

(And a Bonus)

Embrace Happy Accidents.

If you take photos, you'll have some happy accidents. They are yours, just as much as the shots you wrangled and poured your soul into.

You got up. You got dressed. You got out.

You pointed. You clicked.

It's truly yours. Embrace it.

"Two Photographers at Dawn" June 2008, Master Gardener's Compost Garden, Time Machine, Odessa, Texas