Sunday, April 25, 2010

Graduation Day

Kane graduated from Beginner Obedience Training class today. Doesn't he look smart in his mortarboard?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Owl Pellet Revealed

This is the owl pellet that I found at the athletic complex 2 weeks ago.

And this is what I found inside the owl pellet when I dissected it tonight.

Looks like the owl snacked on a bird. And judging from the seed-eater beak (upper center edge) that I found inside the pellet, it may have been a sparrow.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Untouched and Touched

I didn't bring my Nikon with me today when I took Kane to the athletic complex because I was planning on working on the "Come" command with him.

I thought, why bother bringing my big camera when I already spent 2 hours a few days ago taking pix?

Well, the dramatic cloud formations that were present today taught me that even though I may have thought that I have taken all the pix possible at one particular location, that Mother Nature still had some surprises up her sleeve.

There were these dramatic clouds with rain on the horizon, and all I had with me was my cell phone camera. The cell phone camera isn't too shabby as far as cell phone cameras go, but it simply doesn't compare to my Nikon D-80 SLR.

This is a raw, untouched photo that I took with my cell phone.

This is the same photo after I rotated it slightly and applied a tone curve to make it lighter.

Now you see that in making the image lighter, the foreground has more detail. But in having the foreground gain that detail, detail - plus the drama - was sacrificed in the clouds above.

Now we're going to do a very simple exercise in High Dynamic Range (HDR).

I took the original untouched cell phone camera photo. Then I made a duplicate of that image. So, I had 2 identical image layers sitting one on top of the other.

I applied the tone curve to the top layer in order to lighten up the foreground. Then I erased the clouds from the top layer so that the original dark clouds from the bottom layer would show through.

Can you see the difference?

We have the dramatic clouds from the original combined with the lightened foreground of the duplicate layer.

Now, just for the hell of it, I applied the tone curve to the bottom, original image layer. But instead of making the image lighter, I made it darker. The result? More drama.

Now let's rotate the final image to make the horizon line straight.

Isn't photo-editing great?

Sunday Cookout

Yesterday morning, our devotions were held at Maxey Park so that we could have a cookout right after prayers.

The weather wasn't the best for a cookout - overcast skies, wind, and dropping temps. In fact, it felt as though the temp dropped at least 5 degrees from the time I got in my car until we arrived at the park.

The temps may have been chilly, but at least the hearts of our friends were warm.

There are some nice and impressive bald cypresses growing in the lake at Maxey Park.

I just love it how the base of their trunks are wide and fat while it tapers to a skinny point on top.

Lena wanted to take a pic with my camera. And here's the pic she took. Not bad? Huh?

This delightful young man is Ethan, the son of our friends Liz and Keino.

Here's Lena. She was shy about having her picture taken. How can someone with a sweet and lovely face like hers be camera shy?

Here's another shot of Ethan.

Ethan was a willing camera subject.

With a beautiful, smiling face like his,

it was hard to stop taking pictures.

And I enjoyed taking every single shot.

Here's Merry, Lena's mother. Thanks to Merry taking change of the grill, there was no shortage of excellent food - especially tasty bratwurst - to fill our bellies.

Here's Keino, Ethan's dad. You can see where Ethan gets his beautiful smile from.

Clockwise, starting from the lower left, we have Neil, Marilyn (who's barely visible), Liz (Ethan's mom and Marilyn's daughter), Ted, Keino, Pejmon (who's off to the side), and Mike.

Mike's warm smile matches his cheery yellow jacket.

Fre (Ted's wife) makes the best coffee ever! Her high-test Ethiopian brew was sure welcome on a chilly day.

Where there's people and food by a lake, you'll also find ducks.

These ducks were not shy at all.

The grackles were close by too. But they had their own party, especially the fellow with the French fry.

Nyah, nyah! It's all mi-ine!

And you ca-an't have it.

Whoa! You don't need to get all huffed up about it.

Let's be friends. OK?

River Dog

Here's a dog that's happy to be around water.

The Returning of the Green

Because I take Kane to Mackenzie Park once a week, I'm always curious to see the little changes that have come over the park since the last time I've been there. And with us being 3 weeks into Spring, I keep hoping that this would be the weekend when the cacti are blooming.

The cacti weren't in bloom yet, but these flowers were.

And so were these,

and these.

(Ever notice that the colors most associated with Easter are white, yellow, and purple?

The reason for white is obvious, because it symbolizes the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But yellow and purple? Well, it makes sense when you see that most of the flowers in bloom this time of year are white, yellow, or purple.)

When I first discovered this park, I was thrilled to see the steel horse sculptures.

And now that I had my good camera with me, I was able to get up close

and personal.

Maybe a bit too personal.

There is one section of trail in the park that I found to be unusual in that it had a lot of broken crockery strewn about on the ground. How did those broken shards end up here when this area is far away from picnic areas, homes, or even trash dumps?

This green plant looks like a sprig of parsley on this broken plate.

Here, a few shards of crockery are juxtaposed with an artful piece of rusty metal.

This is the back field at Mackenzie Park. Hardly anyone ventures out this far.

It's so nice to see the green returning to Lubbock. Even the river is green!

And it's hard to believe that such peaceful verdure lies in the middle of a city in the dry and dusty high plains.

Where's there's water, there's ducks,

and more than one variety.

Grackles may be considered to be a nuisance bird in Lubbock, but here at the park their melodious notes make you feel like you're right in the middle of a rain forest or tropical jungle.

No matter where you walk along the river, the view is beautiful and tranquil.

Here's a short - very short - path that wanders along side the river.

I'm not sure whether this is common hoptree or some form of elm or something different all together. But what I am sure of is that the variety of greens is pleasing to look at.

Here's another view of that same tree.

Dandelion puffs are waiting for a stiff breeze to carry the seeds far and aloft.

Everywhere there is an explosion of green - an explosion of new life.

Green is everywhere.

And this bridge will take you across to the other side where there are more interesting things to explore.

(Would you believe that when it rains, this bridge gets totally submerged in water? In fact the whole park becomes a lake. Even the causeway gets covered over with water.)

The river view is just as nice on the other side.

This stand of trees looks as though it's patiently waiting to be captured and immortalized by a French Impressionist painter.

The greens are brighter in the sun.

One section of the park has piles of wood chips. Sometimes Kane likes to climb on top of those piles and play "King of the Mountain."

Way out back I found this tiny waterfall

which was fed by the river flowing under the overpass.

The river doesn't look deep now, but there have been times when I've seen it a bit deeper. And I suppose that during the heavy rains, the water level is considerably higher.

This is the back field on the other side of the river. There are more shade trees here

as well as more prairie dogs.

When I first heard prairie dogs, I thought they were birds chirping. I kept looking up in the trees to see what kind of bird was making that noise, not realizing that it was coming from the ground.

Here's an oriole nest.

It's amazing how drastically the color washes out when the sun ducks behind the clouds,

only to flood your sight with color

when it reemerges.

There's work being done at the park, and true to form, Kane found a mud puddle.

And here's one of the reasons behind the dug-up earth at the park.

It's always fun to check out large equipment,

especially when it's left unattended

and isn't locked up

behind a fence.

There is beauty

and symmetry

to be found in even in the dirtiest and most mud-spattered of machines.

Toward the front of the park, closer to the road, the space is more open and the river more exposed.

Way on the other side of the park, away from the river, is a more arid terrain that's also teaming with new growth.

Here you will find cacti

of different varieties, shapes, and sizes.

(I can't wait to see them in bloom!)

You'll also find fire ants.

And you'll find Stonehenge.

Not the famous Stonehenge in England, but an extremely dressed-down version made of wood,

which includes this very bumpy log,

which is way too bumpy to sit on.

Heading back to the car, we once more cross the bridge,

and walk along side of the river.

We make our way back slowly, taking time to catch the sites along the river bank, like this broken tree.

We're done for the day, but we'll be back next week to see what new and exciting things turn up.