Strange Ice Structure in Wind-Whipped Winter Birdbath

Our birdbath contained an unexpected and surprising structure on a recent January morning with freezing temperatures and near-constant overnight winds.  The structure consisted of a finger-like structure pointing at an angle of about 30 degrees of elevation in the general direction of the prevailing wind.  The structure seems to have grown out of the water with no visible means of support other than from the ice itself.  I believe it formed from the prevailing wind forcing freezing water to the base of the growing (freezing) structure under the influence of the symmetry of the birdbath, and I visualize the structure “growing” out from the ice base overnight as the freezing process collected more and more freezing water as ice.

Thorough science-based explanations for this event are invited, and I will entertain all theories with interest.

Explanation for identity and mechanism of formation received via Nikon Cafe website:


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January Snowfall

We have some snow today, and perhaps there will be more to come later in the day.


Still snowing in the afternoon!  These colorful bushes show off the snow really well.

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We lost a friend of the family just a few weeks ago.  Reese was the rescue dog who lived with Lucy, Ben, Lyra, and Freddie Littler in Winter Park, FL.  She died in the vet’s office on December 2, 2020.

She was loved. 

Reese was known for having helped Lyra learn to walk!

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Choosing Gallery Photos

Billie and I spent a month in Hendersonville, NC last summer to escape the heat and humidity of the South Carolina Lowcountry, and we enjoyed our stay so much that we went back in early November to explore real estate options in Hendersonville and Henderson County.  The bottom line is that we found a new home in Henderson County in the village of Fletcher, halfway between Asheville and Hendersonville.

One of the many attractions in the area, other than the obvious mountainous terrain, is the Camera Club of Hendersonville.  Once we moved in, I attended the first available meeting of this club and felt very welcome, so I joined.  Not long after this, the pandemic reared its head and all of us were urged to stay home.  Club meetings were canceled for the foreseeable future.

With all the time available to us, Ken Weaver, the club webmaster suggested that we take some time to select ten images from our libraries to constitute a gallery of our work, and I decided to jump in and participate.  I chose ten images, composed a short biographical statement, and sent the information along to Ken, who immediately posted the images and notified the club that I, as the newest member of the Club, had responded to his charge.  He broadcast my website to the membership of the club and I immediately began to wonder whether I had chosen judiciously or superficially in constructing my gallery.

I have some 65,000 images in my Lightroom catalog, and to pick only ten of those images to represent my work is a daunting task.  Have I made good choices?  Reflection on the choices I have made is certainly in order, and I have come to the following observations.

I chose two images taken with my very first digital camera, the Nikon D80, an APS-C crop-sensor camera.  Before going digital I shot with a Nikkormat FTN film camera, and I don’t have any of those images in my digital library so I couldn’t easily include any of them in my gallery.  The two D80 images I chose were taken as part of my early CNPA experience, under the leadership of Foothills North Leaders Bob Phipps.  Bob helped me learn to look for stories and uncluttered simplicity in my landscape shots, and these two represent both of those characteristics.

The photo “Dugger’s Creek Falls” was shot on 9/30/2010 at 4:17 pm using the Nikon D80 with the Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens.  I used a focal length of 75 mm (35mm equivalent of 112 mm) and the exposure was 2.5 sec at f/8.0, shot at Aperture Priority in spot metering mode at an ISO of 100.  And, yes, I used a tripod for this shot.

The image is important to me because of the serendipity in finding the waterfall subject and because of the not-so-obvious origin of the colors surrounding the falling water.  When we asked at the Ranger station for directions to this little-known attraction we were told that it was just across the parking lot and that “You may be lucky today–there may be water there since it rained recently.”

Dugger’s Creek Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway

We were lucky indeed!  I recall that Bob Phipps commented that I had captured the different colors of algae in the variety of splash zones around this little waterfall, and that seemed important to me at the time and it’s even more important now in retrospect.  This remains one of my favorite shots.

The “Sunrise on the Black Mountains” shot was made on another CNPA field outing, this time to Carver’s Gap on Roan Mountain in Tennessee.  The date was 10/09/2010 and we got there early to catch the sunrise at 7:48 am.  I used my trusty Nikon D80 with the Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8 at a focal length of 70 mm (35mm equivalent of 105 mm) at an exposure of 1/100 sec at f/8.0.  This was shot in Aperture Priority mode using spot metering, with an ISO Speed Rating of 200.  I used a tripod for this shot even though it was at 1/100 sec.

Sunrise on the Black Mountains

I recall that I had agreed to scout this location for the CNPA Foothills North outing and even though I went there in mid-morning rather than at sunrise, I found the view breathtaking.  The shot was taken from a bald area alongside the Appalachian Trail which runs through Carver’s Gap, and it provides a majestic view of the Black Mountain range which includes Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak in Eastern North America.  I chose to include the Mount Mitchell peak in the image rather than the rising sun to the left because I was fascinated with the oblique lighting on the valleys and ridges cascading across the open space toward the mountain range.  This also remains one of my favorite images.

I will continue this exercise of examining the shots I chose to include in my CCoH Member Gallery.  If you wish to jump ahead of my analyses, you may view my gallery here.



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Moving in the Time of Covid-19

We moved this winter, just in time to get into our new digs before the Covid-19 pandemic made itself known in this country.  We left Sun City-Hilton Head (in Bluffton, SC) for higher ground, selling our home there and purchasing a townhome in the village of Fletcher, NC which lies about halfway between Asheville and Hendersonville.  The 16-ft elevation in Bluffton seemed at times to barely get us above the water table, whereas the 2200-ft elevation in Fletcher gives us plenty of reason to refer to this as our “mountain home.” Although still about a thousand feet below the elevation of our former home in Boone, this new perspective certainly gives us a mountain presence and occasional mountain weather.

We hired a moving company, Carolina Moving and Storage, to bring us here since we felt too old to load and unload a truck this time as we did in our previous moves.  This crew did a marvelous job for us, and if only we didn’t have so much “stuff”…  I packed a lot of our things, the movers packed the breakables and the furniture, and they unloaded the lot when we arrived.  I broke down the boxes and packing paper, which we then took to the Henderson County Recycling Center.  We have replaced most of the original appliances (still have the original gas range) and we are getting to like the place.

With the move comes the tasks of seeking new healthcare professionals, transferring driver licenses and automobile titles, and getting insurance coverages squared away with new state requirements.  We are moving along with this very slowly, but have at least got the insurance and driver licenses transferred to North Carolina.

I was scheduled to have cataract surgery in a few days from now but the Covid-19 pandemic has put that on hold since all elective surgery has been delayed.


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Photography Fundamentals Workshop

I just finished teaching the first offering of Photography Fundamentals Workshop Level 2, a workshop for beginning photographers in the Photography Club of Sun City-Hilton Head (PCSCHH).  It’s time to reflect on the effort and to decide whether it is a worthwhile endeavor.

I joined the Curriculum Subcommittee of the PCSCHH earlier this year with the express purpose of helping develop an educational opportunity for beginning photographers in this club.  The subcommittee addressed this task with the understanding that the workshop should be active rather than passive and that the sequence of experiences should facilitate students’ learning how to use their camera(s) to best advantage in making images.

A number of hurdles presented themselves immediately, not the least of which was that interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) such as digital single-lens reflex (DSLRs) and mirrorless ILCs present a set of controls and language(s) that do not necessarily apply to point-and-shoot cameras and other fixed-lens hybrid cameras.  In addition, many new photographers tend to use “the camera they have with them,” ie, their cell phone camera, and these devices often have many different controls than traditional interchangeable-lens cameras.

In addressing these hurdles, we developed a level-one workshop for cell phone camera users in addition to the level-one workshop for ILC users.  In these level-one workshops, top priority is given to getting the students in touch with their cameras.  Class assistants were recruited to enable one-on-one assistance for Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Panasonic LUMIX camera models, and students were urged to take photos using all presets and automatic modes available on their camera models.  Student photos were evaluated (critiqued?) as part of the in-class exercises, and additional homework assignments produced images that were critiqued at the beginning of the following workshop meeting.

The level-one workshops were scheduled for three-hour periods over a sequence of four weeks.  Significant time was allotted for actual walk-around shooting in each of the four sessions and evaluation/critique was offered for all images produced and submitted by students.

The level-two workshop syllabus continues the model of shooting and critiques with the emphasis on students learning how to use the semi-automatic shooting modes (Program mode, Aperture priority mode, and Shutter Speed priority mode) before progressing to topics such as Manual mode, Exposure Compensation, and the interpretation of histograms.  A very modest introduction to post-processing techniques is provided to end the workshop activities.  These activities span three weeks of class time, again drawing attention to students learning their cameras and practicing using them.

No level-two workshop has been developed at this time for cell phone cameras.

And what of the evaluation of this effort?  No formal evaluation has yet been initiated since the education committee has decided that the evaluation format used in the past is inappropriate.  At the end of the last workshop period, I asked for discussion and feedback from students in the level two workshop, and some discussion followed.  As expected, response to the class/workshop varied among camera brands and models.

Formal feedback so far has been primarily of the “Good job!” category, but feedback such as comments on the imprecise language used in homework assignments (“I didn’t really understand the assignment.”) was really helpful and I will definitely restructure those assignment sheets before conducting this workshop again.

My evaluation is that I should have had more assistants committed to helping with the one-on-one instruction of operation for Panasonic LUMIX, Sony, and Nikon D3xxx/D5xxx cameras.  I could not provide meaningful instruction on the Sony A6000 since I had never seen one before the class began, and we could not find class assistants for the second and third workshop meeting.  I also was not prepared to instruct the LUMIX shooters since I had not used one, and the studio monitor was not familiar enough with the camera controls to instruct the student adequately.  Two students had very advanced cameras (Nikon Z 7 and Nikon D500) and their instruction requirements were almost entirely different from that needed by the students with the D3xxx/D5xxx models.  In short, more class assistants with wider experience with cameras would seem to be the solution to this shortcoming.

On the positive side, I saw definite growth in the photographic skills of the students over the three weeks of the workshop.  They became more comfortable with their cameras and their images became more sophisticated as the workshop progressed.  Overall, I judge the effort to be well worth it and the workshop offering must be repeated.

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And then they were gone…

A day later, the fawns were still there, waiting patiently for Mama Doe to come back for them.  Apparently she leaves them in a safe location for a short time, then moves them along to another place before they attract the attention of predators.

This morning there was a short rainstorm, and sometime during that weather event the fawns disappeared from the shelter of the cypress tree.  We didn’t see the doe come for them nor did we see the fawns leave.   But I looked for them just before the rain began and they were huddled under the tree, but when the sun came out after the rain they were gone.

We wish them well!

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“Afternoon of the Fauns”

Interesting experience this afternoon.  While walking our dog around the house, I happened upon a pair of baby deer under the cypress tree by the lagoon.  I first realized there was one lying under the tree when I saw the ears, but then when I photographed it and adjusted the exposure I found that there are actually two of them.
Midday yesterday I saw a doe in the back yard, and when she saw me in the sunroom she left in the direction away from the cypress tree.  At that time I did not know about the fawns, but I suspect they are indeed hers and that she likely bedded them down in what she judges to be a safe place and will come back for them later.
The spot she chose is, however, not what I would consider a safe place.  It is one of the favorite places for our resident alligators to lie on the bank of the lagoon, and I suspect the fawns would be a welcome snack if the alligator happened to find them.
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Easter Reminiscences

Just four years ago, on Easter Sunday, 2015, Billie and I were in Paris and actually attended services at the Notre Dame de Paris.  It was a special opportunity that came with a very special river cruise that began in Paris and carried us along the Seine to Normandy and back.

The massive fire this week brought back many memories of our visit there four years ago, including these marvelous stained glass rose windows that adorn the north and south walls of the cathedral.  We thought at first that these treasures had been lost in the fire, but by some miracle, the firemen saved the windows.

North Rose Window, Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015


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June 15 & 16 – Cruising the Inside Passage to Vancouver

Our last days aboard the Golden Princess were spent cruising the Inside Passage to the port in Vancouver where our cruise ended on the morning of June 16.  The scenery along the way was eye-popping.

One of the big surprises on the Golden Princess was finding that Santa Claus was on the ship!  And not just one Santa, but a group of them in all their bearded glory.  We found ourselves on the elevator with a pair of them during this last day on the ship.

Amazing beards, aren’t they?

We cruised into Vancouver early on June 16 and disembarked the Golden Princess as our cruise ended.  We toured the city of Vancouver and then traveled to Seattle for our flight home.

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