Thursday, April 30, 2009

39/365 Fresh asparagus

Asparagus makes me think of two things: 1. my grandmother on my dad's side, and 2. the garden my parents had when I was a kid.

I think of my grandmother because asparagus was something she served every year at Easter when we visited. (I didn't actually eat it myself, but she served it.) It's not like this was the only time I was around asparagus; Mom fixed plenty at home. But for some reason the sight takes me back to Easters in Michigan.

And I think of the garden we had when I was a kid, because we grew a patch of asparagus against a side of the shed. Mom often says that the patch had just filled out and become a fantastic source of fresh asparagus when we sold the house and moved.

Isn't that how it always works?

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 400

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

38/365 Apple blossoms

Like everything else blooming right now, this apple tree is completely loaded with blossoms. If it's a sign of the fruit to come, then I won't need to make any trips to the orchard this fall!

I'm very grateful that I live in a climate that allows me to grow food in my yard. My parents have generally grown the same vegetables year after year in their garden, but just this year, I learned exactly how extensive the list of Indiana-friendly vegetables is.

You can check it out in the Indiana Vegetable Planting Calendar on the Purdue Extension Publications site. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, in the "Vegetables" section, and it's pdf HO-186-W. You can download it for free by clicking on the PDF link.

Did you know that you can grow black-eye peas in Indiana? How about beets, eggplants, horseradish, kale or celery?

If I lived in a tropical climate, on the other hand, I would immediately plant some citrus trees in my yard. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons... The idea that I could walk out in my backyard and pick a fresh grapefruit for my breakfast sounds exotic -- and heavenly.

Nevertheless, the list of foods that can grow in Indiana is impressive and not too shabby!

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 250 at about 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

37/365 Collecting rainfall

I've found collecting rainwater to be a fun pasttime throughout my life. [This goes hand-in-hand with both my fascination with meteorology and the way I was raised -- no video games allowed, just entertain yourself. So you get creative.]

As a kid, I loved setting bowls and buckets in scattered locations outside during a rain storm, then waiting to see which ones (if any) collected more than the others.

Now I enjoy having a visible rain gauge at home to monitor our rainfall. And in the future, I'd like to merge the kid in me with the conservationist and begin collecting rainfall for watering plants.

It's the best of both worlds!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/60s, f/2.8 at ISO 1250 at about 8:00 p.m.

Monday, April 27, 2009

36/365 Flowering redbuds

I adore the redbud trees at this time of year in Indiana.

I love that they disguise themselves as ordinary green-leafed deciduous trees for the majority of the year, but for a few weeks in the spring, they add bright pops of lavender and magenta to the landscape.

While my other favorite pink spring trees -- magnolias -- are generally planted on purpose, redbuds are often scattered all over the place, in unassuming wild wooded areas.

Wouldn't it be nice if they retained their color throughout the growing season? (Seasonal allergy sufferers are probably screaming "No!" at the screen right now.)

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 125 at about 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

35/365 Waiting patiently

Mom has been doing some intensive training with (the horse formerly known as Destiny but now named) Xena in the last month, now that the weather is improving.

The focused training is done with the purpose of preparing her to do trail rides this year, and to bring her up to the same training level as Shep and Oprah.

Focusing on Xena means leaving Oprah at home occasionally, which Oprah doesn't enjoy, but she enthusiastically greets Xena when she gets home. She's so enthusiastic at the gate that we have to move her to the corral before Xena gets within earshot.

And herein lies an amazing demonstration of a horse's senses. On Saturday, Oprah had successfully been gated into the corral far in advance of Mom and Xena's return. Then, long before they were in sight or my hearing, Oprah started whinnying in their direction. It was so far in advance that I wasn't even sure what she was talking about (yes, it's like she's talking).

So on Sunday, I took my camera out to try to catch her in the act. Did she perform?

Nope. Of course not. She was the picture of patience, quietly waiting for their return.


Camera: Canon 40D, 1/250s, f/5.6 at ISO 100 at about 5:30 p.m.

34/365 Leaving the nest

With all the possible danger that baby birds have to face, their survival is truly commendable.

Think about it: your mom lays her eggs (you and your siblings), and you mature in an open-topped bed made of twigs and grasses, woven together by your doting parents. You're exposed to the elements -- freezing temperatures, raging winds, blinding rain -- and that's before you've even hatched yet.

Then you hatch, and like all babies for a time, you're completely helpless. You still face those harsh weather elements, but now you have an added threat: you're a warm body that may look tasty to a fellow tree-crawling creature.

You grow quickly, as wild animals do to protect themselves, and you're getting adventurous. You start to spread your wings, literally, and try to fly. But here's the catch: if you fall out of the nest too soon, there's no way for you to get back in. Your mom can't pick you up, and you can't fly. You're stuck. And the number of predators on the ground is even higher than the ones that can get you in your nest.

And yet, thousands of baby birds live to become adults every year. How do they do it? Thinking about it gives me a whole new respect for mother nature.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 100 in direct sunlight at about 6:30 p.m.

33/365 Watercolor motion

This photographic technique always reminds me of a watercolor painting. Not only is it a fun and different way to photograph flowers, it's a great way to combat wind.

I did this by focusing on a flower, setting a slow shutter speed, then zooming in while the shutter was open. Last year I did something similar, but instead of zooming with the lens, I leaned toward the flower while the shutter was open.

Same idea, one's just a little more high-tech than the other.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/10s, f/11 at ISO 100 at about 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

32/365 Cherry blossoms

This lovely little cherry tree has been a favorite subject of mine, but this is the first I've photographed its blossoms instead of its luscious fruit.

Curious about the story of this little tree? Check out these posts from Year 1:

34/365 -- How this little tree came to be...
92/365 -- Full of fresh fruit
99/365 -- A modest but wonderful harvest

I adore the bright green grass that acts as a backdrop for the bright white blossoms in this photo. The wind presented a challenge, but I fought back with patience and a sufficiently fast shutter speed.

I can't wait for the fruit!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 640 at about 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

31/365 A small-town cemetery

I realized recently that I haven't tried to do any cemetery photos in the time since I've been authoring SightSalad.

That may not seem like an odd thing, but in the Indianapolis photography market, trekking to Crown Hill Cemetery is a must-do for interesting subject matter.

This shot isn't of lovely Crown Hill (which I do mean to photograph at some point) but it's a small cemetery I passed on my way home. My great-grandparents on my mom's side are actually buried in this cemetery.

One aspect of this photograph that I like is if you didn't know it was a photo of silhouetted grave markers, your first thought might be that it is a city skyline. Or is that a stretch?

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/250s, f/11 at ISO 100 at about 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

30/365 Bunches of bananas

I've mentioned before that I don't really care for bananas. But I'm on a mission to learn to like them.

I want to like them for many reasons. For one, they're incredibly good for you. But two, what's easier than grabbing a healthy snack that comes in its own container and doesn't have to be washed? You just separate one from its neighbors and you're set to go!

I did the same thing with salad years ago when I started college. I didn't like salad before then. But being a picky eater, and seeing that eating salad would open up a lot of new restaurant options for me, I was determined to learn to like it.

And now I do. So for the last couple of weeks, I've been forcing myself to eat bananas. And honestly, they're growing on me.

But they're still not my favorite.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 400

Monday, April 20, 2009

29/365 Raindrops on tables

I'm always intrigued by the way water molecules stick to each other.

Yes, this is my nerdy side coming out.

I also love water rivulets. When I see a little puddle of water, say, on the edge of a sink or a bathtub, I like to create a path for it to run down. And it works every time -- the water goes where I want it to.

It reminds me of a scene in Jurassic Park (I've searched on YouTube and can't find it) where Jeff Goldblum's character demonstrates the way water will follow the path of least resistance on the back of someone's hand. The fact that I remember this particular (insignificant) scene should tell you a little about how much I notice this phenomenon.

The water droplets clinging to the underside of this table, and the rivulets above, were what caught my eye for this photo. We were between rain showers, and I stepped out to the deck to capture a few shots.

In the words of Dr. Spock: "Fascinating."

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 200 at about 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

28/365 Heavenly fragrance

The handful of daffodils that I cut on Saturday brought a welcome bit of sunshine on a miserable, rainy Sunday.

They smell heavenly -- not too perfumey, and not so strong that you can't eat with them sitting on the table next to you. Lilacs have always been one of my favorite fresh flower fragrances to have wafting through the house, but they aren't quite blooming yet. These daffodils are a very good second choice.

The only flower that stands out in my mind as an absolute "no" when it comes to having the fragrance around (and it's more of an odor than a fragrance, in my book) is a lily. And the worst offenders are star-gazer lilies.

Gorgeous, yes, but horribly stinky and overpowering. I'm sure there are hundreds of people out there who would disagree with me, and this website proves it. But I stand by my opinion.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 1000

Saturday, April 18, 2009

27/365 Bubble collection

To celebrate spring, and the bountiful blooming flowers, what's better than cutting a bouquet to bring inside with the fresh air?

I cut a handful of daffodils yesterday (a truly beautiful day in central Indiana), and after a few hours, I noticed these collections of water bubbles on the stems in the vase.

I wanted to play with lighting the flowers in the dark with a single spot (flashlight), so I worked in my highly sophisticated studio (which usually parades as an interior bathroom most of the time) on a white surface (the lid of the toilet).

I love having the latest and greatest in photography equipment and studio setups. A little creativity doesn't hurt, though.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 500, lit by a flashlight

26/365 An entertaining Friday night

One aspect that I love about going to regular performances at the IRT is getting to see the amazing set design that is created new for each show.

The stage is utterly transformed each time (which is obviously the point), and I'm amazed at the craftsmanship and creativity.

Mom and I saw Crowns on Friday evening, and I captured this photo before the show started. We arrived incredibly early, allowing time for difficult Friday-evening traffic (that didn't happen). One positive side to our early arrival was we got to hear an introduction to the play given by one of the actresses.

The play was a musical that told the stories of several African American women and used their vibrant hats as an illustrative device.

I was blown away by the musical talent of the cast (I actually had goosebumps more than once). Mom and I both felt that this was one of the best performances we've seen in a while.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000

Thursday, April 16, 2009

25/365 Magnolia at sunset

This photo is more along the lines of what I was going for on Day 4.

It sure helps when the sun is shining! What a great demonstration of how light makes a difference in a photo. This is the exact same plant, just three weeks later. I'm still pleased with how the photo turned out on Day 4, but it's nice to see the result end up closer to the goal.

For this photo, I again sat on the ground, but put the bloom between myself and the sun. I'm determined to get a true silhouette, so I'll have to give it another go, but this is definitely closer.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/500s, f/4 at ISO 200 at about 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

24/365 April showers and flowers

Ah, irises!

Even though the weather this week has been dreary at best, some fresh flowers are flourishing, like these new purple irises.

It was so chilly that I had to don a jacket to photograph them, but I was able to take advantage of the only sunshine we had all day and get some good shots.

The flowers in this area are some of the first to bloom every year, partially because they're growing along a south-facing brick wall that retains warmth.

The yellow flowers in the background are more irises, so I'm sure you'll be seeing photos of them here in the near future.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 500 and 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 200 at about 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

23/365 Mint-chocolatey goodness

I don't think I'm alone in stating that Thin Mints are The. Best. Girl Scout. Cookies. Ever.

I read recently that Thin Mints are their top seller year after year. I believe it. None of the other cookies even remotely tempt me. All I want is the mint-chocolatey goodness.

My love of this cookie probably isn't a surprise if you know about my love for Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. But now the Girl Scouts have fallen victim to the marketing and profit scheme running rampant throughout the food industry: they're packing fewer Thin Mints in every box.


I noticed even before I read the confession.

The first time I recall noticing this phenomenon, I was a kid opening a box of Pop Tarts. I realized that the delicious little pastry didn't fill out the wrapper quite as well as it used to. But had the price dropped? Of course not!

What's wrong with the world today?

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 500

Monday, April 13, 2009

22/365 The joy of a good book

In my world, finding a book that completely sucks me in is a feeling unlike any other.

I love a book that is so good I get totally lost in it, forget to even get up to take a restroom break, and want to continue reading through every meal.

Now that's quality reading.

I read Water for Elephants a few weeks ago, and while it wasn't quite as good as the ideal book I just described, it did keep me hooked. And now I've passed it on to Mom. I can tell she's really enjoying it because she totes it around the house and picks it up during the commercials while she's watching TV.

What was the last book that really sucked you in?

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/4 at ISO 1250 lit by an incandescent light

Sunday, April 12, 2009

21/365 Happy Easter!

As Easters go, this one was very low-key. No big traveling, no big feasting. It really was much like any ordinary Sunday.

And with Easter now behind us, I can't believe we're halfway through April already. One thing I'm looking forward to through the month is the rising average temperature. At the start of April, the average high temperature in central Indiana is 58°F. By the end of April, it will rise to 68°F.

If that's not good news, I don't know what is. Bring on the skirts, sandals, and t-shirts, and let's leave coats behind!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 125, in natural light at about 6:00 p.m.

20/365 Spring purging

Have you ever experienced the joy that comes with having a dumpster on hand?

I'm sure that seems like a funny sentence. But hear me out.

We spend the majority of our lives trying to take care of our possessions. That usually involves not breaking them.

But mix an open dumpster with serious spring purging, and breaking things becomes fun. Swing a lamp up and over the top and listen to it break. Don't mind whether something heavy lands on an old bookcase and splits it in two.

It's like being a kid again, and being allowed to do the one thing your parents won't let you do. Don't care if things get broken.

Instant catharsis!

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 100 at about 6:30 p.m.

19/365 Surfing the 'net

When it comes to possessing knowledge about cars and how they work, Chase amazes me.

I remember a time when he was still in high school, and I stepped outside to find him with his head under the hood of his pickup truck. I asked him what he was working on, and he gave me a very detailed account of exactly what he was fixing.

I stood there awestruck, in complete wonder at how my little brother had acquired such great knowledge without me realizing it.

He was never one of those "gear-head" kids who wanted to spend all their time in a garage and grow up to be a mechanic. On the other hand, he was a kid who loved taking things apart to see how they worked, so when he started driving and got his own truck, it makes sense that he would love learning how to maintain it himself.

Now, when he and my cousin get together to spend some time on the Internet, they go straight for YouTube videos showing high-performance trucks.

I'd much rather see them drooling over videos of automobiles than other various subjects they could find.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/4 at ISO 1600 in incandescent lighting

Thursday, April 9, 2009

18/365 Tulips in bloom

I noticed at home last night that the tulips are now beginning to bloom.

It reminded me of this post on Apartment Therapy this week. Maybe you already do, but if you don't, can you imagine living in an area populated by tulip fields, instead of the corn, wheat and soybeans we have in central Indiana?

Acres and acres and acres of vibrant colors in every shade imaginable. It makes the photographer in me start buzzing through ideas for utilizing such unique local scenery.

Someday I want to travel to an area like this when the tulips are blooming to see it firsthand. Is that so much to ask?

Until then, I'll be satisfied with the bunches of red ones I have at home.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 500

17/365 Faucets galore

I love going to Lowe's. (Home Depot, I love visiting you, too, but there just aren't any of you near me.)

I love the smell -- a mix of paint, sawdust, metal, a little fertilizer if you're in that area -- it smells like family. My grandfather is a master woodworker, and my uncle is a contractor, so the smell of sawdust always makes me feel at home.

I also love the do-it-yourself atmosphere of Lowe's. I'm of the mind that if I can do it on my own, especially if I can save some money in the process, I'll do it. And what's better than the feeling of accomplishment when you're done?

I wandered through the faucet selection on my trip to Lowe's this week, and the selection is broad, to say the least. Who'd have thought that faucets would become such a design element in a kitchen or bath?

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

16/365 Signs like this give rural Indiana a bad name

I'm going to give the author of this sign the benefit of the doubt and guess that he/she pushed the limits of grammar here intentionally.

But it still bugs me. Why? Because I love living in the rural countryside of the Midwest. And it irks me when people who live outside the area choose to stereotype everyone who lives rurally. Just as it is with any stereotype, sure, a lot of people fit. But so many don't.

If a relative stranger to the area drove by this sign and had any preconceived negative notions about the people who live in the vicinity, this sign just encourages that notion, whether it was done humorously or not.

And that bugs me.

And this doesn't even get into the fact that one of my greatest pet peeves are typos on public signs.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 5:30 p.m.

15/365 Complications

Do you remember life without a remote?

It seems like such a hassle now to get up off the couch and be forced to change a channel or increase the volume by hand. And no entertainment center is now complete without at least three remotes to control the various units.

For years, my uncle had a method for manually changing the channel that always made me laugh. His TV is only about five feet from his couch. He found a long, skinny scrap of wood, long enough to reach the TV. Then he could remain seated but change the channel on the actual television set by holding the stick in one hand and reaching the TV with it.

He called it his "redneck remote." Clever, and it did work. I do think by now he's upgraded to a set that has a remote and no longer has use for the stick.

Camera: Canon 40D with 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4.5 at ISO 500

Sunday, April 5, 2009

14/365 Making a splash

Capturing water droplets in a photograph comes close to the joy I find in capturing lightning. It's one of those subjects where I stand by the camera and say, "How cool that I can do this with my camera!"

The nice thing about water droplets is it's a much easier subject to manipulate.

I've seen other examples online of how this can be done, and I think it can be more eye-catching with a darker surface. I need more contrast between the water and surface. Unfortunately, this yellow serving platter is the most vibrant item I could find.

Sounds like I need a shopping trip. And that doesn't require much arm-twisting.

Camera: Canon 40D with 430EX Speedlite, 1/250s, f/4.5 at ISO 1600

13/365 The dangerous side of spring

One thing I've found interesting to learn since having horses is the danger that comes with spring grass.

I know, that sounds like an oxymoron -- "danger" and "spring grass" don't seem like two ideas that fit together.

But here's the idea: When the grass begins growing again in the spring, loads of nutrients flood into the new growth.

Enter, horses. They've spent the winter eating grain, last year's hay, and any little bits of grass left and worth eating in a field. Then all of a sudden, the grass in the field is growing again, which makes it incredibly tasty. They think about it the same way I think about fresh fruits and vegetables at this time of year: "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!"

But this drastic change in food to their systems is dangerous. The horses will gorge themselves on spring grass, and since their digestive systems aren't used to that, their bodies go haywire.

Not only can they develop serious internal problems, but they can quickly put on weight, which is just as hard on the body of a horse as it is on the body of a human.

Who'd have thought that green grass could be dangerous? The key lies in moderating the horse's intake of lush spring grass, a process they despise because it means being held in a dirt lot, gazing out into to the pasture.

And in this case, the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 100 at about 8:00 a.m.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

12/365 A willing model

Buster loves perching on the stairs. He usually sits about halfway up, but as I moved around getting photos of him, he kept moving higher.

Was he trying to get away? Let's assume instead that he was saying, "OK, you've photographed me here, in this angle, with this light, so now I'll move and let you photograph my other side from up here."

Aww, he's my perfect, willing model. It's so nice to have such an understanding dog.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/4 at ISO 1600

11/365 A varied collection

When was the last time you dug all the way to the back of your kitchen utensil drawer to see what was there?

It's amazing what can accumulate over time. I read a good spring cleaning tip on one of my favorite blogs, Apartment Therapy, from organizing guru Peter Walsh. He recommends doing a one-month cardboard box test.

You dump all your tools into a cardboard box. When you need one, pull it out of the box, use it, then put it back into your drawer -- because it's obviously needed.

Everything that's left at the end of a month in the box can theoretically be purged. There will always be a few tools that you do need for special items that aren't used every month, but I think this is a great approach.

I could probably stand to do this for a lot of things other than kitchen utensils...

Camera: Canon 40D with 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 400

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

10/365 The surface of...?

Take a guess at what this is.

Go ahead, I'll give you a minute.

(Imagine the Jeopardy song playing in your head.)

Maybe it's obvious to you that it's a cantaloupe, but I love the fact that it might not actually be obvious.

It reminds me of the surface of another planet, like a photo taken with a traveling satellite. Maybe that's my sci-fi side coming out, but I always love photos that spark your imagination and make you think just a little bit harder than usual.

And honestly, I think this turned out much more interesting than I originally intended. I love when that happens!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/250s, f/2.8 at ISO 200