A New Year!  New calendar pages, new opportunities, and new friends to meet.

Billie and I have had a whirlwind 2013 in which we dealt with many new emotions.  We came to grips with the loss of our brother-in-law Fred, we sold our home in the North Carolina mountains and we bought a home here in Sun City after renting through the past winter.  And on top of all that turmoil, we spent two weeks in the summer cruising the Rhine-Main-Danube River system in Europe and then welcomed our first granddaughter in September.  That’s a lot to ingest in one year, and we need to take a deep breath as we welcome this New Year.

As I’ve stated in a recent post here, we are beginning to embrace the Sun City lifestyle and we find it very much to our liking.  Lots of activities take up time on our calendars, and we find it easy and convenient to maintain our exercise regimen.  We walk 2.25 to 4 miles almost every day, depending on the route we chose to follow, and Billie is a devotee of Ray’s yoga classes at the Lake House Fitness Center.  We have lots of new friends, and as we participate in club activities we are meeting more new friends each week.

Here’s to a Happy New Year in Sun City!

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Whirlwind Tour

Billie and I went on a whirlwind tour of North Carolina recently, visiting Charlotte, Hildebran, Blowing Rock and Asheville in just 4 days.  Our tour included a family wedding shower, an overnight visit with our grandson Jacob (and his parents Peter and Amy), a visit with knitting buddies in Blowing Rock, a tour of the leaf displays along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and an overnight stay with friends in Asheville.

01-Jennifer-Luke-CakeThis beautiful cake was the centerpiece at the wedding shower for Jennifer Rhyne and Luke Williams.  We were happy to be able to attend this event because Jennifer has been special to us since she attended App State and came by our house on a regular basis while she was in Boone.  We wish Luke and Jennifer every happiness in their coming marriage.



In addition to lots of good food, the shower featured Jennifer and Luke opening gifts on the stage while family and friends looked on.  Everyone had a great time talking and catching up with acquaintances while the ribbons were being cut.  We hope that our gift, a portable picnic basket/backpack with service for four,  will be used for many an unplanned picnic by Luke and Jennifer.



Next stop on our tour was Hildebran, where we went to spend the night with our grandson Jacob and his parents Peter and Amy.  Jacob was really excited that we were coming to spend the night, and he gathered up favorite books to show us.  After a good night’s sleep we were served a delicious breakfast of gluten-free pancakes.



Peter and Jacob had been spending some father-and-son time together before we arrived, and this photo of them playing together seems to capture some of their relationship from that weekend.  They really enjoy their time together.  After visiting with them through the morning we all went to Mellow Mushroom in Hickory for a pizza lunch before we headed for Blowing Rock and the “leaf-looker” part of our tour.


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Settling In to the Lowcountry Experience

Billie and I have begun to breathe more easily now after a whirlwind few months.  It’s pretty incredible that in this calendar year we have sold our home in the North Carolina High Country, bought a home in the South Carolina Lowcountry, moved our household things to Sun City-Hilton Head, and welcomed a new granddaughter into the world.

Our new home is located almost exactly half way between our grandson Jacob (who lives in Hildebran, NC with his parents Peter and Amy Rhyne) and our granddaughter Lyra (who lives in Winter Park, FL with her parents Ben and Lucy Littler).  We have easy access to both grandchildren via I-95 and connecting roadways, with both being only about 300 miles away.  We plan to visit each of them fairly regularly, and the 5-hour drive has not been much of a problem so far.

Billie and I are enjoying our new home here in Sun City-Hilton Head and we have found many outlets for our energies.  We have joined several clubs and interest groups, and our social engagement calendars have been filled with meals shared with new friends we have met here in SC-HH.  We belong to a Friday Night Gourmet Dining Group which we thoroughly enjoy, and we both belong to the Bird Club.  Billie has joined the local knitters’ group in the Sew What Club, and I have joined the Computer Club and the Photography Club.

Now that things are settling down a bit, I plan to resume posting to my blog, so look for news of our new life in the SC Lowcountry here.

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Hands on little creatures

Warning to those who don’t like spiders−do not open links here because photos of spiders are involved!

I found this little creature outside our front door this morning, and since he was essentially immobilized because of the cold, I decided I would try to get a close-up shot of him (or her).  Upon taking a closer look I thought that this might be a proper subject for one of my assignments in the Creativity SIG (Special Interest Group, a subset of the Photography Club) here in Sun City.  The assignment this week is “Hands” and the appendages on either side of the face(?) look to me very much like hands.  A close-up using my 105mm Micro-Nikkor lens yielded just what I was looking for−a unique interpretation of the assignment in sharp detail.

I posted the photos on a spider identification web site to ask for an identification, and got a fairly quick response.  Check it out here.



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Audubon Newhall Preserve

20130124-123139I visited the Audubon Newhall Preserve on Hilton Head Island Thursday, January 24, and while there I happened upon an anhinga having lunch.  As I approached the observation deck on the north bank of the pond I saw some movement along the bank further to the south.  Luckily I was able to find a vantage point on the observation deck which gave me a clear view of the source of the movement—an anhinga hoisting a large sunfish with its bill and then slamming the fish against a log.



I watched for almost an hour as the anhinga set about the task of stunning or killing the fish before adjusting its hold to begin the swallowing process.  I was doubtful that the bird could swallow such a large fish, but then I was fascinated as it adjusted the fish to be swallowed head first.  The jaw of the anhinga must clearly be loosely-hinged to accommodate such large meals, because it easily swallowed the whole fish and followed it up with a few drinks of water.  Then the anhinga spread its wings to the sun to dry out before trying to fly away.  Incidentally, the turtle in the background slept through the entire drama.







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Gaussian Blur

I posted the photos of Charley the Bluejay on the CNPA web site asking for critique of the images, and fellow members and moderators offered the suggestion that the background was too busy with too much detail.  I agreed with these observations, and I set about the tedious task of changing the backgrounds of the two photos.

The first step in this process involves creating a virtual copy of the image in Lightroom 4.3 and bringing this copy into Photoshop CS6 for editing.  I selected the bird by drawing around it with the mouse, a tedious process which took some time.  Once the bird was selected, I selected the inverse (the background) and set about changing the detail which is the source of the problem.  First I chose a black background and then a 50% gray background, both of which caused the bird to seem too artificial and not to my liking.  I then applied a Gaussian blur filter to the background, and with a setting of about 55 I found that result to be pleasing to my eye.  The results are displayed here.  As usual, click on the thumbnail to see a full-size image.


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What color is a bluejay?

Old friend (long-time friend?) Jim Greene of northern Virginia and Boone, NC commented in my previous posting that the bluejay has no blue pigments in its feathers.  I had forgotten that feature of bird coloration, but a quick search of the internet located a number of references to structural coloration with some explanations of the bases for blues (and greens) in birds.

This short article by Anita Carpenter in Wisconsin Natural Resources gives the full story using layman’s terminology, and I recommend that you read it for a meaningful explanation.  The experimental test of this explanation of structural coloration is easily carried out if you find a bluejay feather:  the feather viewed in reflected light is blue, but if the feather is backlit and viewed by the light transmitted through the feather it appears brown!

Thanks, Jim, for offering this interesting observation.

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Charley the Blue Jay

20121227-084107Billie and I walk almost every day, following a 2.6 mile route that goes by Hidden Cypress Golf Clubhouse and the boardwalk through the wetlands wild area behind The Aviary.  One day in late December we met a lady who was talking with a bird, referring to him (or her?) as “Jay.”  She was trying mightily to get Jay to perch on her hand, and she easily convinced us that she had been able to do that in times past.  She even told us that this bird, or one like it, was known to perch on golf carts and to eat snacks from golf carts while golfers were on the green.  We were astounded to see a Blue Jay so tolerant of people since our experience has been that these birds are very skittish.

20130116-090605Today we met Jay again, this time on our own, as he came flitting up to us at almost the same point on the sidewalk near Hidden Cypress.  This time he came very close to us, seeming to want to check out whether we had any food to offer.  We did not, of course, but even so Jay stayed with us for several minutes and posed for some portraits which I took using my Canon Powershot P&S.  Jay was incredibly close and very patient with me as I clicked away.

Billie tried to get Jay to perch on her hand, but no dice!  He didn’t panic when she held out her hand, but he wouldn’t perch there either.  Perhaps he was looking for some food as reward for touching a human.  At any rate he stayed with us a bit longer until he seemed to be convinced that we had nothing to feed him, and then he flew away.

20130116-090630We have since learned that the accepted name for this bird is Charley rather than Jay, and that Charley has a very wide reputation here in Sun City.  Hope we see Charley again!  Maybe next time we’ll have some food.

You can see larger portraits of Charley by clicking on the photo above and the one at right.


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Fred A. Brown


Enjoying sunshine in Roswell, GA


Fred with brother-in-law Tom Rhyne

20121122-161641  20121208-172400  20121215-174400Fred A. Brown passed away at home, surrounded by family, on the morning of Saturday, December 29, 2012.  Graveside services were held Monday, December 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm at Bonaventure Cemetery, 330 Bonaventure Road, Savannah, GA.


He was born in 1941 and raised in the Bronx, NY by his parents Fannie and Joseph Brown.  His two siblings are Rosann Brown Kalish and Dr. Sydney Brown.  Fred celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in 1954, and proudly served his country in the Army from 1959 to 1962.


He attended Columbia College in Columbia, SC where he majored in English and drama, earning honors in the theater program in three separate years.


During his business career Fred became an executive in the children’s clothing industry.  He was founder and president of KIDS (Kids In Distressed Situations) which was an industry-wide charity that provided clothing, shoes, and toys to needy children in America and abroad.  He later started his own company, America’s Lighting Depot, in Atlanta, GA.




He was one of the founders of  the South Carolina Junior Tennis League, and enjoyed playing tennis his entire life.


20081128-163118A generous, giving, and loving man, he treated people with respect whenever he met them, and friends he made became friends forever, whether he lived in Palos Verdes, CA; Columbia, SC; Chattanooga, TN; Marietta, GA; or Bluffton, SC.  Fred was funny and loved to laugh and joke, often laughing at his own jokes.


He is survived by his devoted wife Nancy, his son Marc Brown and wife Betsy, his daughter Lori and partner Janet, and his son Philip and wife Geneva.  He is also survived by two grandchildren, Max and Levon, and his faithful canine companion Big Mac Brown.20110220-163112






Fred with newborn Levon

Fred with newborn Levon


Fred Brown was a man of great integrity and kindness; he was devoted to his family and friends.  He lived and died with dignity.

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HDR using Photomatix

I reprocessed the files taken at midday from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, using Photomatix 4.  Rather than try the 32-bit file technology with processing in Lightroom, I went with the “default” settings in Photomatix and did the tone mapping using the Photomatix presets.  It turned out pretty well, actually, and I think I like it better than the other options I considered in the previous post.  The original objectives of the experiment were met by giving a pleasing image which reduced the harsh light of midday.

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