Category Archives: Photography

Chainmail projects: three pairs of earrings and two bracelets

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.

A chainmail bracelet made by Michelle in a Japanese 12-in-2 pattern from 18 gauge 1/4" black and white anodized aluminum rings with 20 gauge 1/8" bright aluminum rings as connectors.  Taken on a concrete floor for a rugged background. (Marc C. Perkins)
A a white and black Japanese 12-in-2 bracelet.

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.

A pair of chainmail earrings made from anodized 20 gauge 1/8" niobium rings with a few bright aluminum rings woven in a byzantine pattern.  Made by Michelle. (Marc C. Perkins)
Byzantine earrings made from anodized niobium.

These colorful earrings are made from anodized niobium and bright aluminum rings (20 gauge 1/8" diameter) woven in a Byzantine pattern.

A pair of chainmail earrings made from blue anodized 18 gauge aluminum rings  and 19 gauge 5/32" bright aluminum rings woven in a dragonscale pattern.  Made by Michelle. (Marc C. Perkins)
Blue and silver aluminum dragonscale earrings.

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.

A pair of chainmail earrings made from anodized 20 gauge 1/8" bright aluminum rings woven in a byzantine pattern.  Made by Michelle. (Marc C. Perkins)
Shiny Byzantine earrings.

Another pair of earrings made in a Byzantine weave, this time using all bright aluminum rings (20 gauge 1/8").

A european 8-in-1 copper chainmail bracelet with a sliding clasp.
A european 8-in-1 copper chainmail bracelet with a sliding clasp.

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.

More pictures

To see more pictures of maille, head to my Chain mail – finished projects gallery.

B-17 Flying Fortress Flyover

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:

The B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber "Nine-Oh-Nine", tail number 231909, flying over Orange County, CA on May 12, 2013.  Taken about an hour before sunset, the plane's left side is clearly visible.  The vintage plane has been resored by The Collins Foundation to it's WWII (World War 2) configuration, after having served in nuclear bomb testing in the 1950's, being sold as scrap, and being converted into a forest-fire supression plane. (Marc C. Perkins)
"Nine-O-Nine" flying over Orange County, CA on May 12, 2013.

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:

The B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber "Nine-Oh-Nine", tail number 231909, flying over Orange County, CA on May 12, 2013.  Taken about an hour before sunset, the bottom is clearly visible and evenly lit.  The vintage plane has been resored by The Collins Foundation to it's WWII (World War 2) configuration, after having served in nuclear bomb testing in the 1950's, being sold as scrap, and being converted into a forest-fire supression plane. (Marc C. Perkins)
Thanks for coming so close!

And, after a few loops over our house, it flew away:

The B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber "Nine-Oh-Nine", tail number 231909, flying over Orange County, CA on May 12, 2013.  Taken about an hour before sunset, a brick chimney and the roof of a house frame this picture of the plane flying away from the sunset.  The vintage plane has been resored by The Collins Foundation to it's WWII (World War 2) configuration, after having served in nuclear bomb testing in the 1950's, being sold as scrap, and being converted into a forest-fire supression plane. (Marc C. Perkins)
Flying away

And, fortunately enough for this photographer, it flew AWAY from the sunset, so it was nicely lit for my final shots ūüôā

More pictures

To see more pictures of the flyover, head to my B-17 Bomber Flyover Gallery.

Moonrise tour of Point Sur Light Station

Point Sur Light Station1 stands on a 350 foot tall rock on the California coast about 25 miles south of Monterey.

Point Sur Light Station seen from along California Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway).  The station's buildings are all on top of the small hill / rock that rises from the ocean behind a grassy meadow on this blustery day. (Marc C. Perkins)
Point Sur Light Station seen from California Highway 1. The tall structure visible at the top is the water tower; the lighthouse itself is not easily visible from the highway.

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 old entrance sign to Point Sur Light Station.  The sign is now on display in the museum at the station. (Marc C. Perkins)
The old entrance sign to Point Sur Light Station. The sign is now on display in the museum at the station.

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 docents broke our moon rise tour of Point Sur Light Station into two groups; I was in the first, and in this picture we're looking back at the second group taking a break on the road up to the top of the rock the station is located on.  The road to the top has no fence, and the edge steeply drops off to the ocean.  It'd be fun to walk on if there hadn't been gale force winds. (Marc C. Perkins)
The docents broke our tour into two groups; I was in the first, and in this picture we're looking back at the second group taking a break on the road up to the top.

The road was a bit of a climb, but persevering paid off with our first view of the lighthouse peeking over the hillside.

The first view of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse that I got on the day was this one: the lamp room peeking over the hillside as we walked along the narrow roadway tacked onto the hillside.  The ocean and sun setting behind incoming coastal fog set the scene nicely. (Marc C. Perkins)
My first view of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.
Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse peeking over the top of the hillside it's built on.  This is seen from the road that climbs the hill to reach the lighthouse.  The day was incredibly windy, and the only barrier on the steep hillside is the vertical wooden beams you can see in the picture.  The hillside was covered in blooms, making it beautiful. (Marc C. Perkins)
Point Sur Light shining proud.

Any acrophobia I might have had disappeared entirely with this view ūüôā

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.

A hillside covered in blooming plants (yellow, red, and purple) provide foreground for the sandstone assistant keeper's house at the Point Sur Light Station.  Three families lived in this house at one time. (Marc C. Perkins)
Assistant Keepers' House.
The water of the ocean to the west of Point Sur Light Station was turned sea foam green thanks to the action of waves and high winds.  In this image the blooming hillside is in the frame, providing contrast. (Marc C. Perkins)
Seafoam green. I always thought this was a silly name for a paint color, not a real color!

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.

Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse seen from the ocean-facing side.  A docent from the tour is walking out of the main door of the lighthouse, providing scale.  The lighthouse is built on the northern end of the rock the station is on; the stairway visible to the right leads to the rest of the light station. (Marc C. Perkins)
Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse. A docent from the tour is standing by the main door of the lighthouse, providing scale.
A view from the bottom of the stairway leading to the top of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse's lantern room.  I'm a total sucker for lighthouse stairways ? the white iron stairway contrasts beautifully with the wooden central beam and brick exterior (with light streaming in through a window). (Marc C. Perkins)
I'm a total sucker for lighthouse stairways.
A section of the black iron stairway that leads to the top of the lantern room of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.  I love the contrasty, beautifully textured iron. (Marc C. Perkins)
A section of the iron stairway that leads to the top of the lantern room of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.

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.

A set of light diffusing glass crystals placed into the floor of the walkway that surrounds the light in Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.  Photographed from underneath, these crystals are used to illuminate the walkway underneath the light by catching the lighthouse's primary light and diffusing it down to the walkway underneath. (Marc C. Perkins)
A set of light diffusing/diffracting glass crystals placed into the floor of the walkway that surrounds the light in Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.

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:

A view looking up the California Coast from the walkway outside the lantern room at the top of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.  The view was incredible, with low fog rolling in as the sun set, and the sea foam green ocean waves lapping up along the sandy shore.  The railing in front provides scale, but doesn't show how incredibly windy it was. (Marc C. Perkins)
A view from the walkway outside the lantern room of Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse.

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 view of the Pacific Ocean with Point Sur Light Station's light house in the foreground.  The sun has just set, and low marine clouds cover the sky, while the light can be seen rotating.  The view from the lighthouse is just stunning.  This view includes almost none of the hillside, as opposed to #2. (Marc C. Perkins)
A view of the Pacific Ocean at dusk with Point Sur Light Station's lighthouse in the foreground.

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.

The rising full moon is reflected off of the Pacific Ocean within view of one of the buildings at Point Sur Light Station (the barracks).  I love how golden light streams out of the building's windows, illuminating the native plants on the hillside.  This image is the ultimate summary of the station's moon rise tours: they're just gorgeous, and you should go on one if you can! (Marc C. Perkins)
Moonrise over Point Sur Light Station.

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.

Footnotes

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.
.

More pictures

To see more pictures from the light station, head to my Point Sur Light Station – Highlights Gallery or, if you’re really a glutton for punishment, head to my Point Sur Light Station – Entire Set Gallery.

Getting There

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.

A new member of the family: Bertie!

Last week we got a new family member: Bertie!

Bertie, a blue tabby and white shorthair cat, looking outside in front of a mottled white background. (Marc C. Perkins)
Bertie looking sharp

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, a blue tabby and white shorthair cat, relaxing on a bed all curled up with his eyes open looking out a window. (Marc C. Perkins)
Lazy day

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. ūüôĀ

Bertie, a blue tabby and white shorthair cat, looking a bit surprised as he stares directly into the camera. (Marc C. Perkins)
I was abandoned ūüôĀ

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.

Bertie is definitely into comfort:

Bertie, a blue tabby and white shorthair cat, laying on his side all cutely with his eyes closed and paws curled up. (Marc C. Perkins)
Nap time!

Continue reading A new member of the family: Bertie!

Planaria: adorable flatworms

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.

A live brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} swimming in a dish full of water above a white background. The light is coming from the left, and its shadow is subtly visible. The pharynx (a tube the flatworm extends from its body for feeding) may be visible as a darkened tube in the middle of its body. The planarian almost seems to be swimming as a sine wave. (Marc C. Perkins)
A live brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} swimming in a dish full of water above a white background. The light is coming from the left, and the worm’s shadow is subtly visible. The pharynx (a tube the flatworm extends from its body for feeding) may be visible as a darkened tube in the middle of its body.¬†

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.

A brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} swimming diagonally in a dish of water on a white background. The planarian's eye spots (ocelli) and auricles are plainly visible in this closeup on its head. (Marc C. Perkins)
A brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} swimming diagonally in a dish of water on a white background. The planarian’s eye spots (ocelli) and auricles are plainly visible in this closeup on its head.¬†

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.

A live brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} feeding on a small piece of Thymus. The planarian's pharynx, a feeding tube that extends from its gastrovascular cavity (digestive tract) tract), is easily visible connecting the mid-section of the worm to the food. These flatworms feed through their pharynx, which is located in the midsection of their body, not on their head. The planarian's auricles and eye spots (ocelli) are planing visible. (Marc C. Perkins)
A live brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} feeding on a small piece of thymus. The planarian’s pharynx, a feeding tube that extends from its gastrovascular cavity (digestive tract), is easily visible connecting the mid-section of the worm to the food.

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:

Planarian with a stained gut 2
A whole preserved planarian seen through a compound microscope after the gut has been filled with ink. The head is visible at the left, most notably the ocelli (eye spots) and auricles (triangular outgrowths from the head). In the center of the body is the pharynx, a long tubular structure that is extended from the body to feed. The pharynx connects to the gastrovascular cavity at the left end of the tube.  The gastrovascular cavity extends throughout their body; in this individual it has been filled with black ink.

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 ūüôā

The head of one brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} swimming up positioned next to the tail of a second planarian swimming down in a dish of water on a white background. The planarian's eye spots (ocelli) and auricles are plainly visible in this closeup on its head. Both head and tail are angled up and to the left. (Marc C. Perkins)
The head of one brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} swimming up positioned next to the tail of a second planarian swimming down in a dish of water on a white background.

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!

A brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} turning in a circle on a white background. The planarian's eye spots (ocelli) and auricles are plainly visible on its head. The tail of the planarian is looped under the middle of the body, forming a circle. (Marc C. Perkins)
A brown speckled planarian {Dugesia tigrina} turning in a circle on a white background. The planarian’s eye spots (ocelli) and auricles are plainly visible on its head.

OCC Ornamental Horticulture Club’s First Place Garden

South Coast Plaza has a Spring Garden Show every year, and every year they have a contest for local landscape designers and schools to build judged gardens inside the mall. This year’s garden theme was “Healing Gardens”, and Orange Coast College’s Ornamental Horticulture Department Club built a garden for the visually impaired; OCC’s garden won first place in the competition!

A head-on view of Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe.  This picture was taken Thursday April 27, 2012 at ~9pm, less than 48 hours after my in-progress pictures. (Marc C. Perkins)
A head-on view of the garden.

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:

A small portion of Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  This image shows how many of the plants were described in braille. (Marc C. Perkins)But the centerpiece of the garden is a restored 1957 braille world globe, one of only 500 made.

A view of the braille world globe in Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe. (Marc C. Perkins)
The Braille world globe seen in front of the waterfall.

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.

A closeup view of the braille world globe in Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe. (Marc C. Perkins)
A closeup view of the braille world globe.

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:

A closeup of the water feature installed in Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  This is a long exposure image, so the water blurred into nice streams. (Marc C. Perkins)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.

A view of the braille world globe and one of the garden benches of Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe. (Marc C. Perkins)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!

More pictures

To see more pictures of the garden, head to my two galleries below:

Ute Smith works to artfully wrap a vine around a post at Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's in-progress installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for this year's show is "healing gardens", and the OCC team is installing a "garden for the blind," which will be complete with a braille world globe and braille labels.  This picture was taken Tuesday April 25, 2012 at ~11pm, as the team was working frantically to meet their Thursday-morning deadline.  This image was taken at a high ISO using the ambient light in the dim mall, so it's noisier than my typical images (and thus I'd recommend against printing it large). (Marc C. Perkins)
Garden Installation

A 3/4 view (with award ribbon visible!) of Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe.  This picture was taken Thursday April 27, 2012 at ~9pm, less than 48 hours after my in-progress pictures. (Marc C. Perkins)
Completed Garden

OCC’s team also won first place in the 2011 competition, and I have a few pictures of that garden in my 2011 Horticulture Garden Gallery.

Getting There

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.

Philipp Rittermann’s “Emperor’s River” Gallery Opening at Orange Coast College

Hutong Neighborhood and Huaneng Coal Fired Power Plant, Dezhou, Shandong Province, China. ©2010 Philipp Scholz Rittermann - Image reproduced by permission from the author.

This past Saturday I went to a lecture and gallery opening celebration for¬†Philipp Scholz Rittermann’s¬†“Emperor’s River” project at Orange Coast College’s Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion. The talk and photographs were focused on Rittermann’s work from more than two months spent traveling along China’s Grand Canal,¬†a millennia-old canal that runs 1,100 miles from Bejing to Hangzhou.

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.

Overview, Night Fish Market, Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China. ©2010 Philipp Scholz Rittermann - Image reproduced by permission from the author.

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:

High-rise apartment blocks under construction. Wuxi, Hangsu Province, China. ©2010 Philipp Scholz Rittermann - Image reproduced by permission from the author.

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.

Getting There

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 flower buds

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.

Three young developing amaryllis ([Hippeastrum] sp cultivar) inflorescences can be seen growing on their scapes, long leafless stems that support them.  Amaryllis inflorescences contain multiple flowers that develop inside spathes, bracts (modified leaves) that surround the young flowers.  The two spathes are just starting to split open on the closest flower, revealing a bit of red from one of the flowers.  The two flower stalks in the background are blurred out of focus.  This image was captured outside using natural light; no flowers were harmed in the production of this image. (Marc C. Perkins)
Teamwork: Three developing amaryllis inflorescences.

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:

An amaryllis ([Hippeastrum] sp. cultivar) inflorescence pictured just as its flower buds are emerging from their sheath.  There are three red and green flowers easily visible.  These flowers are growing from a scape, a leafless stem that is used to support flowers.  The three emerging buds are surrounded by two spathes, bracts (modified leaves) that surround the flowers as they develop (and then stay present as the flowers bloom).  This image was taken outdoors using natural lighting on an intact plant growing in my yard; no flowers were destroyed in the making of this image :) (Marc C. Perkins)
Opening Day: Three amaryllis flower buds emerge from their sheath

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.

More pictures

To see more of my pictures of plants, head to my plants portfolio page or my botany demonstrations gallery.

Here are two more images of amaryllis. The first is another image from the day’s work (a single inflorescence up close) and the second is a closeup of one of my amaryllis flowers from last year.

A young developing amaryllis ([Hippeastrum] sp cultivar) flower just starting to emerge from its sheath.  Amaryllis flowers grow on a scape, a long leafless stem, and develop inside spathes, bracts (modified leaves) that surround an inflorescence (cluster of multiple flowers).  The two spathes are just starting to split open, revealing a bit of red from one of the flowers.  This image was captured outside using natural light, with a reflector used to angle light on to highlight the texture of the flower bud's tip.  No flowers were harmed in the production of this image. (Marc C. Perkins) Amaryllis are commonly grown as indoor plants in cold regions, but here in Southern California I can grown them out in my yard.  The flowers are absolutely huge, and I wanted to capture the immensity of the blooms with this picture.  Seen in the background is a plot of roses, with a post-sunset dusky sky in the background.  As a side note, this may actually be a Hippeastrum, as plants sold as Amaryllis are apparently often actually Hippeastrum. (Marc C. Perkins)

Chicken cat

While photographing Oliver for my cats up for adoption series, I captured this image of him looking just like a chicken, which I thought would make a great post to end the week:

Oliver, a two year old male short-haired brown tabby and white cat, looks like a chicken in this picture.  Here he's perked up and stretched his neck as far up as it'll go, looking intently at something off camera.  He really does look like a chicken here.  Oliver is a sweet cat who needs a home with no dogs and no kids.  Oliver is up for adoption at Miss Kitty's Rescue in Costa Mesa, CA.  This picture was taken pro bono for Miss Kitty's Rescue to help them advertise the cats for adoption. (Marc C. Perkins)
Oliver: chicken cat.

He was standing on top of a bank of cages at the rescue, and had just been mildly startled by something off in the distance.  So he stretched his neck up to see better.

Can’t you just hear the clucking?

More kitties?

To see more cats available for adoption at Miss Kitty’s Rescue in Orange County, CA, head to my cats available for adoption in Orange County, CA page.

To see more cat pictures I’ve taken, you can see a list of all of my pet posts, or head straight to my pets portfolio page.

Sad shelter pictures: cats behind bars

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.

Oliver, a two year old male short-haired brown tabby and white cat, looks out from behind the bars of his cage.  I don't like pictures of cats behind bars, but it's what happens when people abandon their cats or let them have offspring uncontrolled.  Oliver is a sweet cat who needs a home with no dogs and no kids.  Oliver is up for adoption at Miss Kitty's Rescue in Costa Mesa, CA.  This picture was taken pro bono for Miss Kitty's Rescue to help them advertise the cats for adoption. (Marc C. Perkins)
Oliver looks out from behind the bars of his cage.
Trista, a three year old female short-haired brown tabby cat, comes up to the bars of his cage to ask for petting in the rescue shelter he's currently living in.   I don't like pictures of cats behind bars, but it's what happens when people abandon their cats or let them have offspring uncontrolled.  Trista is up for adoption at Miss Kitty's Rescue in Costa Mesa, CA.  This picture was taken pro bono for Miss Kitty's Rescue to help them advertise the cats for adoption. (Marc C. Perkins)
Trista comes up to the bars of her cage to ask for petting. Mindy, who runs the rescue, pets her.

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 misskittysrescue@yahoo.com.

More kitties?

To see more cats available for adoption at Miss Kitty’s Rescue in Orange County, CA, head to my cats available for adoption in Orange County, CA page.

To see more cat pictures I’ve taken, you can see a list of all of my pet posts, or head straight to my pets portfolio page.