Lost Marbles

It almost looks like I succeeded, but the moving marble actually missed and passed behind the other marble

It almost looks like I succeeded, but the moving marble actually missed and passed behind the other marble

I failed to get two nickels to connect yesterday.  I decided to revise my experiment and try with two marbles instead.  Of course, if I ever owned any marbles, I lost them (yes, that’s a pun).  However, I do have a glass vase with a bunch of glass beads in it to hold the flowers in place.  These glass beads are reasonably round, so it seemed possible that I could park one and roll the other into it.

Disappearing marble--as the moving marble passes in front of the still marble, it's so blurred, it's a ghost

Disappearing marble–as the moving marble passes in front of the still marble, it’s so blurred, it’s a ghost

Picture this (another pun):  One large camera with a substantial looking lens on the front of it sitting on a big tripod and placed up close to the kitchen counter, level with the counter top.  One small, black glass bead sitting on said counter.  Me, kneeling behind the camera, reaching up to the counter and rolling a second small, black glass bead towards the first.  As soon as I release the rolling bead, I try to move my right hand back to the camera fast enough to hit the shutter at the moment the two beads connect.

This resulted in a lot of photos of the second bead rolling through the frame somewhere other than right when it hit the other bead.  In fact, it would have been impossible to capture the moment when the two beads hit because they never did.  I began to suspect the beads were imperfectly round.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with my coordination.

The most common image I ended up with

The most common image I ended up with

Since it rapidly became clear that I couldn’t hit the bead and I was not going to magically spout any extra hands, I recruited the extra pair of hands in the form of my husband.  It’s possible there are government grants available to study the length of time two adults can be amused by trying to collide two beads and get a picture of it.  I should have applied before starting this exercise–I doubt I will get a second chance to run the experiment.

The two marbles actually collided in this shot, but I was a split second too late and the sitting marble blurred as it started to move

The one thing we did prove is if the lack of ability to make the two beads connect is related to coordination, my husband is only slightly more coordinated that I am.  Since he usually has pretty good finesse when it comes to doing anything involving eye-hand coordination, I’m confident those beads really weren’t all that round.

One marble passing behind the other

One marble passing behind the other

On the rare occasions when he managed to get the two beads to connect, I missed the shot.  I have about 40 images of one bead rolling into the frame on the right while the second sits patiently.

Marble passing in front of the other

Marble passing in front of the other

It’s more fun to create 40 of these images than it is to look at them one after another.  But, as I flip through the shots, a running narrative goes through my head “almost, almost, there it . . . oops . . . here it comes again, almost, oh shoot.”  The one shot where it looks like I captured the moment the two beads were colliding, the rolling bead actually passed behind the still bead without touching it.  But, I’ll take it.

The marble came hoping into the frame in this shot

The marble came hoping into the frame in this shot

Two Nickels

I was able to capture one nickel on edge, perfectly still

I was able to capture one nickel on edge, perfectly still

I noticed something interesting today.  I noticed I didn’t feel quite so bored.  Interestingly,  this seems to correlate with a sunny day.  Is it really that simple?

It was also a Tuesday.  Tuesday is a kind of mad-dash in the morning because the housekeeper comes on Tuesday.  This means, in addition to my normal morning routine that includes walking and feeding the dog, showering and getting myself groomed and dressed, we also ran around picking up and then I drove the dog to day care.

Guess what?  There’s rush hour traffic in the morning!  Even here.   And, of course, Tisen didn’t want to get out of the car when we got to doggy daycare.  He’s such a mama’s boy.  I had to lift him off the back seat of the van and then hoist him down to the ground.  It used to be a little easier–he seems to have picked up a few pounds of late.

Of course, once he got inside and one of his doggy friends showed up, he was all excited to be there.  He happily pranced back to the play room with his new best friend after a few doggy handshakes (which is a polite way of describing how dogs actually greet and get to know one another).

Back at home, Tisen seems to feel the need to keep a friend handy at all times

Back at home, Tisen seems to feel the need to keep a friend handy at all times

That task completed, I raced back home for my first conference call of the day.  And, of course, got stuck in traffic.  Traffic was backed up a good quarter of a mile.  It took an extra 5 minutes to drive the one mile between doggy daycare and our building.  Yes, it’s somewhat laughable, but 5 extra minutes to go one mile is a bit annoying.  Especially when you’re running out of time before your first conference call.

Tuesday morning also means I pack up my laptop and head down to the common area at the end of the hall where I can sit and work while someone else vacuums and scrubs back at home.  (How I appreciate the folks who do those chores for me!)  Since the common area is a large room in a corner of the building with lots of windows overlooking the riverfront, it’s a fantastic view.

This morning, there are other residents meeting in the room, so I must sit outside on the balcony so I can talk on my call without their voices interfering.  This puts me outside in the sunshine.

Apparently I need only 2 things to shake me out of my doldrums:  a slight change in my routine and sunshine.  That’s not so hard.

So, now that I’ve spent nearly all of my 500 words, tonight, feeling a little more creative, I had this idea of capturing 2 nickels.  I thought I would have one nickel sitting on edge, in sharp focus.  The other nickel I would roll towards the other, the motion of the rolling nickel blurring it as it strikes the one sitting on edge.

Up close tails--the second nickel is out-of-frame, flopping over long before reaching the first

Up close tails–the second nickel is out-of-frame, flopping over long before reaching the first

I’ll post that shot after I grow a couple more hands.

Boredom

Tisen too bored to move

Tisen too bored to move

I am bored.  I wasn’t sure until today.  Then, as I walked the dog around the same ⅔ mile loop in the same park for what must be close to the thousandth time today, it hit me.  My world has gotten too small.

This seems somewhat ironic given that two weeks ago I was sitting in Madrid.  Yet, I feel this overwhelming sense of the world closing in, growing smaller and not in a “it’s a small world after all” kind of way.

Even Tisen seems bored.  He walks listlessly, aimlessly.  Like he has no interest in walking the same old loop yet again, either.  I wonder if part of his allergy issue is pure boredom.  After all, I start to feel like pulling out my own hair with boredom, I just have better impulse control.

Tisen is not so lucky.  He chews and licks and gives himself sores.  Is self-inflicted pain more interesting than his life?

Tisen in his most bored pose

Tisen in his most bored pose

I try to think of the last time we went some place new (not work related).  I am coming up blank.  I try to think of the last time we revisited some of the places we love.  It’s been months.  I count back to the last time I went for a bike ride, a row, or a hike.  I stop counting when I get to October.

I get out my camera and decide my bored dog is my most appropriate subject for my mood.  Is boredom contagious?  Did I catch it from him or did he catch it from me?

I have been reading a novel called “Gone Girl.”  I spent a lot of time resting the past week, nursing a sinus infection.  So, I’ve made enough progress to be pulled into the story and to want to know how it turns out.  It’s not boring.  Yet, when I stop reading, I feel only more distracted by my own sense of dullness.  I guess real life is not as exciting as a novel.

But it’s a thriller of sorts.  Not really the kind of book that makes you think “wow, I wish my life were like that.”  In fact, quite the opposite.

Yet, I find myself longing for something to happen.  Something new and exciting and energizing that makes we want to get up in the morning and jump out of bed, excited to take on a new day.  At the same time, I try to think of something exciting to do and I come up blank.  Even making simple decisions seems too challenging.  I had to make myself dinner tonight.  I couldn’t take an interest in it.  I made myself a protein shake.

Tisen manages to turn his head

Tisen manages to turn his head

It seems I am the cause of my own boredom.  Although, I have to cut myself a little slack–I was feeling awful the past week and not at all up to doing much of anything.  But I’m growing impatient.  How long until I get off my rear and make something happen?

Blind Star

Adjusted with brighter whites

Adjusted with brighter whites

Getting new blinds had an unintended consequence.  I walked into the living room and discovered a new star in view.  A giant street light across the way suddenly got a new look.  Through the sheer fabric of the blind, the light burst into a star pattern.

It’s actually quite dramatic looking in person.  However, it presented more of a photographic challenge than I expected.  Through the lens, the beams of light spreading from the center light were more muted than with the naked eye.  I tried shooting with the inside lights on to see if it helped.  It just made the blind more apparent.  I tried shooting with longer and shorter exposure times.  Nothing seemed to make the light beams stand out the way they do in real life.

I tried many adjustments.  Making the light brighter made the blind in the foreground brighter as well.  If I were really industrious, I would try using Photoshop Elements to select only the light beams and lighten them individually, but I suspect I would end up with bright spots in the blinds since they stand in front of the beams.

Adjusted slightly darker

Adjusted slightly darker

It’s somewhat ironic that the object that creates the effect I want to capture is also the object that stands in the way of capturing it.

This is much like life.  Take having a job.  Having an income is what allows us to do all the things we want to do in life since, let’s face it, it all costs money.  But having a job also takes the vast majority of our time, leaving us with portions of weekends and a few weeks vacation in which to jam all of those things we enjoy doing.

Or look at having a home.  We want a nice place to live where things are comfortable and maybe even aesthetically pleasing.  Yet, having a home takes work that takes time away from enjoying the home as well as more time away from doing things away from home.

There are not too many things in life that aren’t a trade-off.  I suppose it’s a reality that you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  When we embarked on our little adventure over a year and a half ago, we envisioned having very little in the way of worldly goods.  Just enough clothes for me to have something to wear to work events besides a few days worth of casual wear.  A handful of dishes–just enough for one meal at a time.  Our bikes.  Our camping gear.  The computer gear I need to work.  My camera gear.  And the open road.

We thought we were ready to give up on having a home at all.  But, here we are, with new blinds, accumulating the trappings that not so long ago we were getting rid of.  The truth is, I like the blinds.  But, I find myself with mixed feelings.  Are they a nice decorative touch or the final sign that we are not going anywhere?

Winter Bird Walk

A male cardinal looks remarkable brilliant--he seems to be ready for spring

A male cardinal looks remarkable brilliant–he seems to be ready for spring

I managed to crawl out of bed early enough to lead a bird walk at 9AM this morning.  It was cold.  Yesterday, it wasn’t.  Yesterday, when I slept in until 8AM and stayed indoors all day, it was warm.  Today, there were snow flurries blowing around by mid-afternoon.

Fortunately, it was clear and sunny for the bird walk this morning.

A small group of us met for a mid-winter bird walk.  I kicked us off with a quick look and listen at a few birds I expected us to see who aren’t around for the spring and summer bird walks.

One of them is among my favorite birds.  It’s the White-Throated Sparrow.  This is a bird who is actually quite common in the winter months, but one that I personally failed to notice until I was in my 30’s.  Many of us go through life believing there is only one kind of “sparrow” and not knowing that the sparrow we most frequently see is an invasive import from Europe.  In reality, there are many native species of sparrows in the US.  The white-throated and the white-crowned are my two favorites.  There is a simple reason for this.  They have bold black and white stripes on their heads, making them easy to identify compared to many of the other sparrows.

A white-throated sparrow picks through a pile of leaves

A white-throated sparrow picks through a pile of leaves

The White-throated sparrow also has a distinct and beautiful song that makes them an easy bird to learn by sound as well as sight.  I won’t attempt to describe it, but it’s very high-pitched and clearly whistled.  Canadians claim it’s singing “O Canada,” but I can’t say that’s what I hear.

A second bird I planned for us to see was the yellow-rumped warbler.  These winter visitors are always a cheering sight with their bright-yellow rumps in the middle of winter.  Unfortunately, the only one anyone saw today flew off before the rest of us got to see it.

We had a nice surprise when we spotted a swamp sparrow while watching some white-throated sparrows.  It took us a while to realize what we were seeing.  After all, it doesn’t have bright white stripes on its head to neatly narrow down the possibilities.

In lieu of a shot of the swamp sparrow, here is another shot of the white-throated sparrow

In lieu of a shot of the swamp sparrow, here is another shot of the white-throated sparrow

Meanwhile, the Song Sparrows flew in and out, singing all the while in the background.  I hate to ignore the song sparrow–they are such great singers and they manage to keep it up year round.  But, it’s hard not to see a song sparrow in the park, they are so prevalent.

My one regret on the bird walk is that I didn’t look closely enough at the lens on my camera when I grabbed it.  I thought I had the 100-400mm lens on my camera when, in fact, I had the 70-200mm lens on it instead.  This resulted in a lot of “where’s waldo” shots like this one:

 

Can you spot the bird?

Can you spot the bird?

The earlier images are heavily cropped to make it a little easier to spot the bird.

Spider Webs

One drop melded with the balcony rail

One drop melded with the balcony rail

Sadly, I am out of photos from Madrid.  I arrived there a week ago Sunday and came home a week ago Friday.  During that time, I spent Sunday afternoon wandering around downtown and then was ever-after stuck in the hotel where the conference was held.  I guess I could have taken some shots of the Madrid airport, but I was pretty beat by then.

So, time to move on to new subjects.  When I returned home, I noticed a perfect little spiderweb on our balcony railing.  Then, I spent the next five days laying around, working as much as I could, and trying to get over a sinus infection.  So, it really should come as no surprise that by the time I got around to attempting to shoot that perfect little spider web, it wasn’t so perfect anymore.

In fact, it was pretty much in shreds.

I took a spray bottle out on the balcony and misted what was left of the spider web in the hope of getting some nice water droplets on it.  Then, I set up my camera with a 100mm macro lens.  I used a flashlight to try to get some soft, glow-y sunset-like light on the water droplets since none of the actual sunset light was coming my way.  After all that, this is the best shot I got of the remains of the spider web:

One remnant of a once-perfect spider web

One remnant of a once-perfect spider web

Not exactly what I was shooting for.

However, while I was trying to reposition to see if I could get something more interesting, I noticed the water droplets hanging off the bottom of the railing.  I ended up having a lot of fun with those water droplets.  I made a few attempts to catch one dripping, but didn’t have enough patience (I’ll use the fact that I’m still recovering as an excuse) to wait it out.  After a few misses, I gave up on the dripping water shot.  Maybe tomorrow.

In the process of shooting the clinging water drops, I noticed I got an interesting round orb in the background.  This turned out to be an out-of-focus street light positioned far in the background.  I kind of like it.  So, I moved the tripod around a bit, trying to get the orb in a position I liked.

Water drops without flashlight

Water drops without flashlight

As seems to be par for the course, I didn’t come close to getting the shot I had in my head when I started, but I still had fun.

Same droplets but with the flashlight

Same droplets but with the flashlight

I sometimes wonder what my neighbors would think if they saw me.  Out on the balcony with a giant camera on a tripod, spraying the railing with a mister, and shining a flashlight on it.  It would probably make me wonder what my neighbor was up to if I saw them doing something like that.

If I weren’t into photography myself, I would probably not be able to come up with a good answer.  I might think they were trying to do a super-thorough cleaning job.

Over Googled

Distant Arch

Distant Arch

Madrid is full of arches.  Sometimes in surprising places.  Buildings converge and converge again and just where it seems there should be a dead-end, there is an open arch leading into a square.

Sometimes a really big square.

Places that, if they existed in the US, would have 4-lane roads, lots of traffic, and would be surrounded by parking garages suddenly appear through a discrete arch in the midst of narrow pedestrian passageways.  It gives the feeling of stumbling upon a well-kept secret.

This particular arch led to an extraordinary square that once again made me wish I’d looked up some kind of information about Madrid.  Since I have the luxury of google to assist me now, I discovered it was the Plaza Mayor, one of the more famous plazas in Madrid that was originally constructed in the early 1600’s.

Discovering the arch opens into a huge plaza

Discovering the arch opens into a huge plaza

It’s kind of interesting to have wandered around just seeing what we saw without knowing what it was we were looking at.  I’m sure someone knew.  They probably even told me.  But, it’s nice to know that I made it to the Plaza Mayor while I was in Madrid.  Kind of a second surprise to find out where I was!  🙂

The main sculpture in Plaza Mayor

The main sculpture in Plaza Mayor

That said, I find myself googling a bit too much to see if I can identify any of the other sites we walked by.  Over-googling leads to regrets.  It starts innocently enough.  You wonder what that cool statue was you saw.  You google something vague like “Madrid Square with Horse.”  Along with the photos of the place you actually were, you see photos of places like Plaza Puerta del Sol, Plaza del Callao, and Plaza Espana.  The list goes on.  You look at the images and think, “Really??  I was  minutes away from this incredible place and I didn’t get to see it!??  Really??!!  I spent 18 hours getting from my house to the hotel in Madrid and I didn’t get to see any of this stuff!!??!”

I was perfectly content that I got to spend one afternoon wandering around Madrid taking in whatever was in front of me.  Then, I over-googled and now I wish I would have done a little more research before the trip and made some sort of plan on how I was going to get to at least a few more of the incredible sites in the city’s center.

Sadly, it’s been nearly 15 years since I was last in Madrid.  There’s no telling if I will ever be there again or not.  You’d think I would think about these things before I went on a trip instead of after.

Another arch leads away from the plaza

Another arch leads away from the plaza

When I was much younger, I wanted to take a summer off and backpack around Europe.  There were rumors that people used to do that in college.  I never took a summer off to do anything like that.  Maybe I’ll take a summer off some day and make it to all the plazas in Madrid.

Archway towards the market

Archway towards the market

 

Market and outdoor diners through the arch

Market and outdoor diners through the arch