Michelle’s been busy lately working on maille projects (and I’ve been slow on posting pictures of them – the last one I posted was her dragonscale bracelet), so here’s a post with some of her latest work.
This zebra striped bracelet is made out of black and white anodized aluminum rings (18 gauge 1/4″ diameter) held together by bright aluminum rings (20 gauge 1/8″ diameter) in a Japanese 12-in-2 pattern.
These colorful earrings are made from anodized niobium and bright aluminum rings (20 gauge 1/8" diameter) woven in a Byzantine pattern.
These are made from blue anodized aluminum rings (18 gauge 1/4") and bright aluminum rings (19 gauge 5/32") woven in a dragonscale pattern.
Another pair of earrings made in a Byzantine weave, this time using all bright aluminum rings (20 gauge 1/8").
This bracelet is made out of copper rings (20-gauge, 3/16″ diameter) woven together in a European 8-in-1 pattern; I’ve got a separate “behind the scenes” post detailing how I created the all-black background for this picture.
Yesterday afternoon while planting some tomatoes in the back yard I heard a distinctly non-modern sounding aircraft. I looked up to see this beauty flying by:
It’s a restored B-17 bomber nicknamed “Nine-O-Nine”, and it even has its own Wikipedia page. Long story short, it’s been around the block a few times: it served in WWII, participated in atomic bomb testing in the 1950s, was sold as scrap in the 1960s, converted into a fire suppression tanker in the 1970s, and then finally sold to the Collings Foundation, who restored it to WWII-era condition in the 1980s.
The pilot(s) were even kind enough to fly nearly directly over our house about an hour or so before sunset, giving me a great view of the bottom of the plane:
And, after a few loops over our house, it flew away:
And, fortunately enough for this photographer, it flew AWAY from the sunset, so it was nicely lit for my final shots 🙂
Michelle and I were lucky enough to be passing by the light station in time for one of their rare moonrise tours (okay, I’ll admit, we planned our trip up the coast around the tour …). These tours happen once or twice a month at (you guessed it) the full moon. The tours start shortly before sunset, and end with the moon rising over the lighthouse.
The tour starts with everyone waiting at the entrance sign to the State Historic Park & Lighthouse. I was advised to arrive early to ensure a spot in the tour, and while arriving early turned out to not be necessary, it did help me realize just how windy it was going to be. The wind was constant, strong, and cold. I bundled up for the night, and was glad I did. Once the docents arrived everyone was let through the gate and drove to the base of the rock the lighthouse stands on (where one of only two bathrooms on the tour are found).
We soon started walking up the road that leads to the lighthouse. The road is not for the acrophobic: it’s a steep paved road about one car wide that’s chiseled into the edge of the steep rock face with no fence or barrier between the edge and a long drop to the ocean. The road by itself would be fine, but the constant seemingly gale-force winds made people stay far from the edge (and parents hold onto their children rather tightly). Here’s what it looks like:
The road was a bit of a climb, but persevering paid off with our first view of the lighthouse peeking over the hillside.
Any acrophobia I might have had disappeared entirely with this view 🙂
Even without the lighthouse peeking into view, the walk to the top was filled with entertainment: blooming plants lined the hillside, and the ocean was a beautiful seafoam green.
The lighthouse itself was built in 1889, and is still a functioning navigational aid. The building and its interior are built in the classic lighthouse style of elegant functional simplicity.
Some of the most intriguing structures were pieces of cut glass embedded in the floor of the lantern room’s upper level. These were designed to capture the light from the primary source and diffuse it down to the lower levels of the lighthouse building, allowing the lighthouse’s main tower to be lit solely by the primary light. They’re miniature sunroofs if you will.
In addition to being able to walk around in the lantern room and look at everything up close, we even got to climb out onto the walkway surrounding the lantern room and enjoy the view:
The view was great (the sun was setting behind the coastal clouds), but even more amazing was how WINDY it was. The door to the walkway was on the leeward side of the building, and so there was virtually no wind there. But walk even a few feet from the door and you suddenly get slammed with a wall of wind. Walking through this wall took tremendous effort (as you can see if you look closely at this picture).
After the tour of the inside of the lantern room we got to climb above the lighthouse, and from there I think I was able to capture a bit of the feel of the night: the slowly rotating dual beams of the lighthouse sweeping over the broad expanse of the ocean while coastal clouds roll in at dusk.
A few minutes later we headed to the southern end of the station and watched the moon rise, with the Pacific Ocean, Highway 1, and the California coast as background.
I could have stayed in that spot a long, long time (assuming I had a heater with me).
If you’re ever in the area, check and see if there’s a tour. As the moon rises the docents break out hot chocolate (available for a suggested donation of $1!2), and life is good.
1 Point Sur is a light station, not just a lighthouse, because it was built to be an independent facility. When it was built there was no easy road that connected it to Monterey, so it was in an extremely remote location. It housed multiple families at a time, and had all the facilities needed for independence: a blacksmith shop, woodworking shop, barn, water tower, and multiple houses. 2 Sadly, I missed the hot chocolate. The entire tour was difficult to photograph, as the tour was not aimed at photographers. The only time I could break out a tripod was as the moon rose, and since we only had about 10 or 15 minutes it was either hot cocoa or pictures, and you know which I’ll choose every time.
Point Sur State Historic Park & Lighthouse: Located along California Highway 1 about 25 miles south of Monterey, the entrance to the park is at a small gate along the west side of the highway. The GPS coordinates for the entrance to the park are N 36 18.578 W 121 53.165; it’s just north of the Point Sur Naval Station and near the California Sea Otter Game Refuge. See the park’s website for more information on location and schedules of tours.
The station is a state park run entirely by volunteers; it’s only open during guided tours, and there is no access at other times. You do need to plan ahead: if you stop by at a random time, you’ll get a picture much like the first one of this post and then drive on your way, never knowing what you missed. Parking is free (stop by the gate at first, and then drive into a small lot at the base of the rock once a docent opens the gate), and bathrooms are limited (there’s one at the interior parking lot, and one in the last building the tour goes through). There are no public facilities on the highway near the lighthouse.
The moonrise tour occurs only during full moons. As you gathered from the post, it can be EXTREMELY windy: I highly recommend a hat, gloves, windproof jacket, and warm layers underneath. I wore all that, and was cold; many people on the trip reported being very, very cold. Docents report that it’s less windy in the fall. The park runs other tours that meet during the day; these apparently go through more of the buildings.
We weren’t planning on adding another family member (haven’t you heard that before?), but Bertie adopted us and we couldn’t turn him down. Bertie is, as you can tell from the pictures, a blue tabby and white domestic shorthair cat.
Bertie was a stray; we first met him when he meowed outside our window as we were feeding our own cats. He was super-friendly right from the start, wanting no end of petting and company. We ended up catching him, and discovered (thanks to his chip) that he was an abandoned kitty: the owner registered on his chip no longer wanted him. 🙁
So, we’ve decided to give Bertie a home, with the blessing of the prior owner. He’s currently indoors, isolated from our other two cats as we wait on test results to make sure he won’t transmit anything to them. When we first met him he was starving and thus wolfing down food (he hunts about as well as your average pine tree), but he’s back to normal eating habits now. He’s also spent nearly all of his non-sleeping hours grooming himself.
Planarians are free-living aquatic flatworms that are staples of high school biology labs. The species I was able to photograph, Dugesia tigrina, is fairly small, growing up to about an inch in length when stretched out.
Planarians are utterly adorable. Their heads have cute little eyespots (ocelli) that sense light and auricles (the triangular extensions) that reportedly sense water currents. The eyespots lack lenses and a retina, so these cute little worms aren’t looking up at you and seeing your face, but they can detect the intensity and direction of light, allowing them to swim away from light (which is one of the easiest behaviors to observe in them; shine a light on them, and they’ll swim directly away from it). And when they move, they glide through the water with serpentine elegance.
The dark portions of the eye are not actually the photosensory nerves. Instead, the dark portions are pigment-filled cells that partially surround the photosensory neurons, shading them from one side (thus allowing them to detect the direction of light without a lens, retina, or movable eye).
While many flatworms are parasitic, these planarians are not; they’re free-living omnivores that swim around in freshwater ponds nomming on whatever they can find predators feeding on small insects and other invertebrates they’re able to capture (see comment thread for citations). In the lab we frequently feed them small pieces of liver or thymus.
The way flatworms feed is just awesome. Instead of having a mouth at their head, they extend a tube (their pharynx) from the middle of their body and latch this tube onto their food. They then “suck” the food up through this tube and into their digestive tract.
Speaking of guts, flatworms’ digestive tracts aren’t built like ours are: they have just a single opening that leads to and from their digestive track. This contrasts with our style of digestive tract, which has two openings: a mouth and an anus. The planarian style of digestive tract is called a gastrovascular cavity, and it can be seen in the following image of a preserved planarian slide:
And yes, this does mean that digested food has only one way out: through the same opening that they used to get the food in.
Planarians are used in biology labs primarily thanks to their easy availability from biological supply houses ability to regrow tissues from traumatic injuries: when cut in half they can regrow the other half of their bodies. This is because while they can reproduce sexually using sperm and eggs, they can also reproduce asexually via fragmentation. Fragmentation is a reproduction mechanism wherein an organism literally pulls itself in half, with both halves growing into complete new organisms. This leads to the classic high school biology “experiment” wherein students cut flatworms in half and wait for them to regrow. We won’t be doing that here. But this picture of two flatworms swimming next to each other almost looks like it 🙂
I get live planarians each semester to show my biology classes, but sadly most students just give them a passing glance. Next time you get a chance to observe these cuties, put them in a dish of water, get a dissecting microscope and some liver, and plan to spend some time with them. They’re great fun!
The team had only three days to build the entire garden on site. I took in-progress pictures of the team building the garden less than 48 hours before, and was amazed when I returned and saw the finished product. It’s a gorgeous work, and it also seems very functional for the visually impaired. The plants were chosen for texture and scent, and many are labeled in Braille:
But the centerpiece of the garden is a restored 1957 braille world globe, one of only 500 made.
The globe was contributed to the project by the club advisor, OCC Ornamental Horticulture Professor Rick Harlow. It features the world geography in exaggerated relief, so all the land on the globe can be sensed by touch. The club added Braille markers to the globe indicating where all the Braille-labeled plants are from.
The garden has other features to help the visually impaired, including wind chimes and a waterfall to provide auditory cues to direction, easy to use railings, easily sensible floor textures, and a speaking weather meter. The bottom of the waterfall grabbed my attention:
The garden is just plain beautiful; it’s amazing what the club was able to do with such a limited space in just a few days.
Doesn’t it call out to you to relax in it?
The garden will be on display for this weekend only (April 27-29, 2012), so if you want to see it come quick!
To see more pictures of the garden, head to my two galleries below:
South Coast Plaza is at the intersection of the 405 Freeway and Bristol St. in Costa Mesa, CA. The garden show is located in the portion of the mall that houses the Crate and Barrel and Apple stores. Parking and admission are free.
Emperor’s River focuses on telling the story of the people and places behind the recent massive expansion of China’s economy. He traveled the entire length of the Grand Canal, getting images of places that most western photographers ignore. There’s no Great Wall, few bright city lights, and no gorgeous mountain landscapes. But there are construction workers toiling, families working barges that follow the same routes people have have traveled for centuries, old buildings being torn down to be replaced with high-rises, and all the contrasts that come with quick industrialization.
I’ll be honest: during the talk I found the photographs to be good, but not addictive (except for the one at the top of this post, which grabbed me instantly). The images were being projected onto a large screen, but said projector wasn’t particularly detail-capable. The same goes for his website’s page on Emperor’s River – the pictures look good, but you might wonder “why should I go to a gallery for these, if I can just see them on the web?”
The reason you should go is that Mr. Rittermann’s speciality is to capture scenes that have many individual stories in them, and then to create giant prints that call out to the viewer to go over them inch by inch, revealing a bit more with every inch traveled. He does this by photographing each scene as a panorama, stitching together the individual images1 to create a cohesive whole that is insanely high resolution, and so can be printed gigantic.
When I say gigantic, I mean it: some of the prints in the gallery are ten feet wide, and most are at least five or six feet wide. And these aren’t intended to be viewed from five or six feet away (as many large photographic prints are); there’s almost no noise visible in any of the prints, and they call out to you to stand with your nose touching the glass, peering into the scene absorbing all the minute details.
This construction site image is probably the best example:
On the web, you’re probably looking at that and going “Okay, it’s a construction site. Um, yay?” It’s well composed and gorgeously stitched, but at this resolution it’s basically just a construction site. That’s essentially what I thought when I saw the image in the talk.
But when I saw the image in person, printed at more than six feet wide, I was able to see all the little details in precise, sharp focus. I could examine the stacking of individual bricks in each of the dozens of piles of them, I could look at how people were living in the lower floors of the mostly-completed buildings, I could look at the workers wandering the construction site, I could see the methodology of the construction in the background buildings, and as I spent more time I kept seeing more and more. And the same thing happened with all the other prints (another excellent example is the second image I included, “Overview, Night Fish Market”; it’s just amazing in person).
This isn’t your typical splashy modern photography. The images aren’t over saturated (so refreshing!), and they don’t necessarily have a single element that pulls your eye in and makes you click “like” right away. But each image has dozens of different scenes in it, and dozens of different stories to tell. These are images that need to be seen large, and when you do see them I guarantee that you’ll stand in front of each one for a good long time absorbing all the detail.
If you have the time, head over to the gallery and take a look (it’s free!). There are a few dozen prints of his up, and they’re all gorgeous. Just be sure to get your nose right up to the glass, and look at them in depth. You’ll be glad you did.
Orange Coast College’s Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion: Mr. Rittermann’s show runs from April 7 through April 28, 2012. The gallery is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11-7pm, and Saturday from 11-4pm; it is entirely free. The gallery is located next to the Starbucks on OCC’s campus; the base address for the campus is 2701 Fairview Rd. in Costa Mesa, CA. The college has a map and directions page to get you to the campus, and the gallery’s website has a map locating the gallery on OCC’s rather large (and confusing) campus; I’d suggest printing the map if you’re unfamiliar with the campus. Parking is free on Saturdays in any campus lot, but during the week all spaces on campus require a permit except for those with coin-operated meters.
1 Mr. Rittermann freely admits that he combines these individual images for artistic effect – choosing each image of the panorama to tell the story, not necessarily choosing images that are taken at the exact same moment. So this isn’t single-frame, capture-a-moment-in-time photography; it’s different, in a good way. And Mr. Rittermann is a master of panora stitching: horizontal lines, diagonal lines, rippling water, moving people, and parallax-inducing situations are everywhere (literally every single print is a stitched-together panorama), yet I didn’t see a single blending flaw other than a few ghost people and duplicate people in the prints. And at 10-feet wide, blending flaws would be obvious (at least if I did the blending).
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp. cultivars) are grown in most cold regions of the United States as an indoor houseplant that people work hard to force to flower. One of the nice things about living in coastal Orange County is that plants like amaryllis can live year-round outdoors in the soil, and need no forcing to flower.
We put in a few small plants 7 or 8 years ago, and they’re now giant bulbs that send up multiple flower stalks every spring. I’ve been watching this year’s flowering stalks grow daily, and finally made some time last week to go out and get some pictures.
Amaryllis flowers grow in inflorescences, clusters of multiple flowers growing from a single leafless stalk called a scape (three scapes with their developing inflorescences are visible in the picture above). The actual flowers develop at the tips of the scapes surrounded by two modified leaves (bracts) called spathes.
In the image above you can see the two spathes starting to split apart on the front-most inflorescence, revealing one of the red amaryllis flowers inside. As the spathes open further, the multiple flowers contained inside start to elongate their pedicels (the stalks that attach each flower to the scape) and they emerge from the spathes:
Amaryllis are showy, long-lasting flowers, but I think the buds are under-appreciated.
Technically these shots were fun to capture. I wanted to create a studio-esque feel, so the viewer could focus on the details of the buds themselves without distraction from the background. I worked on a partly cloudy day, and set up a black backdrop behind the subjects I wanted to photograph, using a reflector to add highlights or fill as needed. The second image is a blend of five images to get additional depth of field (using the technique described in my poinsettia behind the scenes post), but the first is a single-frame capture. All plants were left completely intact, and if all goes well they’ll be in full flower soon.
I don’t like pictures of animals in cages, especially ones that are clearly behind bars. But while I was photographing cats available for adoption at Miss Kitty’s Rescue last week I decided to take a few “behind the bars” images, and I’ll hesitantly share them here.
The reason for sharing them is simple: living in cages is the reality for many cats. There are simply too many cats, and not enough loving enough homes for them all.
Awesome cats like Oliver and Trista end up being born feral or getting tossed out onto the street by an unloving owner. If they’re lucky, they’re picked up by a rescue like Miss Kitty’s, who befriends them and sees if they could make a good pet. If they can make a good pet they live in a foster home for some time, then move to a cage at a display location like Petsmart in the hopes that someone will adopt them, enduring the hundreds of kids and dogs that knock on their cage’s window and bark at them. And that’s if they’re lucky.
Won’t you help?
When you do want a new companion, adopt a pet in need (not from a breeder). But if you can’t adopt right now, you can also help spread the word about pets in need of adoption. You could also volunteer to help at your local rescue or shelter; they’re always looking for good people (and if you’re a photographer, see if they want a volunteer photographer). Or donate to organizations like the Humane Society, an organization that works to, among other things, fund efforts to spay and neuter cats and dogs to help reduce the pet overpopulation problem.
Whatever you do, just make it so that I don’t need to take pictures of cats in need of a home anymore.
Both of these cats (as of this writing) are currently available for adoption through Miss Kitty’s Rescue in Costa Mesa, CA. For more information on the rescue, and to find out how to adopt them, contact Mindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.