Saturday, March 20, 2010

Playing With Light

After this afternoon's photo session in the backyard, I changed the bed linens, vacuumed, straightened up and made dinner.  Then I showered and got comfortable and by that time it was dark.  We have timed lights in the yard that turn on when it gets dark.  There is a very long string of multicolored Christmas lights strung from the trellis on the right side of the backyard to the poles that hold bird feeders on the left side of the backyard.  At night, it's very pretty.  Plus we have some colored spotlights, although most of them are not working except for 2 green ones.  Next we have some solar lights that change color - I absolutely love those.  And finally - we have a small "pond" - actually a large tub that is embedded in the ground and surrounded by rocks and plants (although you can still see the black edge of the tub).  Inside the "pond" is a motorized filter that doubles as a small fountain and at night it glows different colors from blue to red to yellow.

Since I've been trying to practice photography more and learn the settings on my camera in "manual" mode, I decided to go outside after dark and try to photograph the colored lights, but without flash.  I had to set the film speed to 3200 - the maximum.  Next, I played with the aperture, making it let in a lot of light (lower number setting) and the speed, which I set to moderately fast to cut down on blur.  It worked and I got some pictures.  By themselves they are ok - colored lights are always pretty against the dark, but I played with the photos in Photoshop and I like the way they came out.  Before we see the photos I have to explain my addiction to colored lights, or rather, I can't explain it.  

My eyes love color, especially color combinations or color arrays, like a box of Crayolas in color order (I have ALWAYS put my crayons in color order before using them - I have no idea what psychological significance that has.....) or a wall of shelves of colored towels or linens following the colors of the rainbow in their order.  Literally, when I see colored lights, my eyes just get happy - my brain waves say, "Mmmmmmm", and all the positive energy in my body zings.  Since I have this addiction and my family is aware of it, I have received glow in the dark pens that change color (forget the fact that they are pens, the barrel changes colors and I just stare at it - plus I can write in the dark!), every holiday requires earrings or a cheap necklace that lights up.  For example, for St. Patrick's Day, it's green shamrocks that light up or blink, for Valentine's Day, it's red hearts, etc.  Christmas is the explosion of color where they are ALL combined - that is the best.  I have strings of tiny colored Christmas lights hung along the top of my living room walls just below the ceiling.  They get turned on every night and when they burn out they get replaced.  In my computer room, where I am now, I have a set of star colored lights in very bright red, green, deep blue and orangey yellow.  They were from Christmas, but I couldn't bear to put them away, so they are hanging over my bookcase in my computer room.  In addition to that, I have two mousepads whose edges light up in 8 different colors.  I set one to teal and the other to deep blue.  My keyboard lights up so I can see the keys in the dark - the light is behind the keys and the letters/symbols on the keys are transparent to let the light through.  I usually set my keyboard on purple.  I have a tiny plastic Christmas tree that plugs into my computer with a USB and it changes color from red to mauve to blue to deep blue to purple to green to get the idea.  And finally, I received an unexpected free gift at Christmas that I love the best of everything.  It is a small light set of 8 stars whose plug is a USB that goes into my computer.  Each star changes color constantly, and they don't all change at the same time, so while one is blue, the others are red, green, purple - and the colors keep cycling.  This gift was from a company at work that sent out gifts to their customers.  One day in early December I received a little box from Respondus Co., - they make testing software that locks the computer so that if you are taking the test at home, you cannot switch back and forth between the test and some answers - you are stuck in test mode until you complete the test.  It's clever software and it is made for the up and coming virtual education market (where you study at home via your computer).  Inside that little box from Respondus was the string of 8 star lights with a USB plug that all change color separately - I could NOT have received a more appropriate gift.  I now have to find out who makes these things and if there are more choices out there....

Anyway - now that I've discussed my colored light fetish, here are the photos I Photoshopped....they are mostly the solar balls that change color, the fountain and one of the sets of lights in my computer room.  Remember, you can click on them to see them in more detail.  Have I mentioned I LOVE COLORED LIGHTS????

Spring Has Sprung

It seems to be getting warmer here finally.  Soon I'll be longing for the cool days and nights as the heat gets oppressive.  For now, however, it is absolutely beautiful.  My husband and I could take a ride to several areas - and often do - to see wildlife, but my favorite spot is my own backyard.  This is the time of year when the bougainvilleas just pop with color and as April approaches, more and more of the bush is covered with blooms.

First, since this is Saturday, my hubby and I went out to breakfast, which is his favorite meal.  He positively loves Bogart's Bagels in Pembroke Pines, which has great coffee and bacon, two prerequisites to a successful breakfast.  Before we arrived at Bogart's, we took a little ride to Davie to see if we could buy another Coontie plant to attract Atala butterflies.  I actually saw an Atala butterfly in my yard twice within the last month, but by the time I got my camera, he/she was gone.  The second time it even landed on the one coontie plant we have.  I was so hoping that it was an egg laying Atala and I inspected the coontie several times over the next week or so to see if anything developed, but it didn't.  Unlike landscaping that uses Coontie, I will never use insecticide so the Atalas, if they come, can munch down as much as they like.  The pictures below of the Egyptian geese and their babies, the cormorant and the duck I woke up from his nap were all taken on the way to the plant nursery.

I thought the window at the top of our front door looked photographic this morning, so I snapped it.

Now for the pictures from my backyard ramblings today.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring in South Florida

This year we had a real winter in South Florida.  Since the end of December we have had consistent nights of at least 58 and below.  Here it is March 14 and we are still expecting a few more nights of mid 50's temps. 

I know you people who live in much colder climes are yawning and rolling your eyes right now, but the critters and plants that live in South Florida find it hard to cope with colder weather than normal.  I'm glad it's almost over.  I'm about ready for the next two months which are usually very mild, yet still dry and just gorgeous.  Then follows summer with it's daily thunder showers and rampant growth, which I also love.  I just don't love the threat of hurricanes - but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.  It is still mid March and I have much to look forward to before  we have to think about hurricanes.

I sat in our back yard today - it was windy and warm in the sun, cool in the shade.  The sky was intense blue and I saw some magic today.

First the little Chipping Sparrows.  We have tons of them this year.  Below is a little female as she jumps from her branch perch to the ground.  The next picture is of a male Sparrow taking a sand bath.  I love to watch them as they huddle down in the sand, digging in a bit and then spraying sand over their backs with their beaks and fluffing their wings to get the most of the "bath".

We love to put out unshelled peanuts for the Squirrels and Blue Jays.  This one chose a peanut and then I caught him in mid take-off.

Boat Tailed Grackles, though they are mean gang birds, like peanuts too.  Their colors are beautiful.

The Grackle soaks his peanuts and then crushes the shell with his beak and pokes at it, repeatedly dunking it, to get the peanut pieces out.  A Blue Jay started to try to steal the peanut and the Grackle is reaching out to bite the tail of the Blue Jay.  He did actually grab the tail, the Blue Jay flew off and the Grackle came back to finish his meal.

Next up - and most miraculous for me, since I've been trying to get these birds in our yard for a few years now without success.....a Hummingbird.  This one appears to have a growth of some sort on his beak, but it doesn't seem to be interfering with him.  When I saw him, it was by accident.  I was hunting for the Spot Breasted Orioles that keep cavorting through our yard and I noticed what looked like a leaf that was moving in an odd way.  It was swaying back and forth in a rhythmic way - not like a leaf blown by wind.  When I trained my camera on it, using the camera as binoculars, I saw it was a Ruby Throated Hummingbird trying to nap.

Here are some pictures of him/her - I had to do some touch ups because at times the light wasn't good and I couldn't get too close.

At last I got a few shots of the Spot Breasted Orioles.  Here they are.  When the sun hits them, they are magnificent.  They seem to like the Cape Honeysuckle and the Hibiscus.  Unfortunately the only good shots were of them on electrical wires, which are unattractive and hide part of the bird.  I'll have to keep trying to get better shots.

Finally - Mr. (or Mrs. - I didn't get a close look) Squirrel chewing on a peanut.