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"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
 

Dog in Ivy, Hawk in Tree

From Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz:

“Domestic dogs do not generally hunt. Most are not born into the family unit in which they will live: with humans the predominant members…. Even feral dogs — those who may never have lived in a human family — usually do not form traditional social packs, although they may travel in parallel.

“Neither are we the dog’s pack. Our lives are so much more stable than that of a wolf pack: the size and membership of a wolf pack is always in flux, changing with the seasons, with the rates of offspring, with young adult wolves growing up and leaving in their first years, with the availability of prey. Typically, dogs adopted by humans live out their lives with us; no one is pushed out of the house in spring or joins us just for the big winter moose hunt….


“What domestic dogs do seem to have inherited from wolves is the sociality of a pack: an interest in being around others. Indeed, dogs are social opportunists. They are attuned to the actions of others, and humans turned out to be very good animals to attune to.”

From The Complete Works of Henry David Thoreau by Henry David Thoreau:

“Methinks the hawk that soars so loftily and circles so steadily and apparently without effort has earned this power by faithfully creeping on the ground as a reptile in a former state of existence. You must creep before you can run; you must run before you can fly.”

From The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram:

“We may cast our gaze downward to watch the field mice and the insects that creep along the bending grasses, or to glimpse the snakes that slither into hollows deep underfoot, yet, at the same moment, hawks soaring on great winds gaze down upon our endeavors. Melodious feathered beings flit like phantoms among the high branches of the trees, while other animate powers, known only by their traces, move within the hidden depths of the forest.”


Hello!

As the first week of 2022 approaches its end, all my shiny baubles and tiny trinkets have been boxed and packed away, with the wreaths snuggling nearby in their storage bags. The tree — undecorated, dismantled, squashed, tied up and crammed in a closet — fought back and screamed a little (it may have been me screaming), but has now gone quiet. The floors and shelves, the tables and windows have all been de-glittered (though my eye still catches a shiny dot now and then), and, visually, my house appears to be about thirty percent more spacious. So the holidays are officially over and it’s time for some things new.

The galleries below feature some photos I took while experimenting with one of two used Minolta lenses I bought in December. One of them — a 50mm f/2.8 macro lens — got a workout with this year’s “Days to Christmas” series; its ability to achieve focus as close as seven inches from a subject (and produce excellent color and good background blur) made it ideal for those photos. I have a Sony 100mm macro lens that has similar characteristics (and has a Minolta predecessor that I will probably buy at some point); but the older 50mm gave me a wider angle of view to work with while still allowing my subjects to loom large in the images.

Most of the Minolta lenses were manufactured in the 1980s and 1990s, originally of course for film cameras. I didn’t realize until about a year ago that there was a vibrant market for these lenses, many of which can be acquired inexpensively; and all of which provided part of the technology basis for Sony’s entry into the digital camera and interchangeable lens market when Sony acquired Minolta’s assets in 2006. My first film camera was a Minolta (I still have it, though it’s not functional) and my first DSLR was also Sony’s first: the a100, designed from Minolta’s tech and capable of using many of Minolta’s lenses, as well as those built and marketed by Sony as “A-mount” lenses. I eventually sold the a100 and replaced it with an a55; then, in 2018, replaced the a55 with the last of Sony’s A-mount cameras: the a99 II full-frame DSLR — which is freaking awesome. So apparently I have a good bit of nostalgia for the Minolta-Sony history and how it aligned with cameras and lenses I’ve owned, and it really is fun to take one of the lenses from the 1980s, slap it on the nearly-new camera, and get results that remind me of the film camera I originally started photography with.

(If you would like to learn more about the history of Minolta and Sony, Tony and Chelsea Northrup discuss it here: Sony Alpha and Minolta Camera History. If you are interested in acquiring some used photo gear from a great source, I can certainly recommend KEH Camera, from whom I’ve bought five used lenses that arrived in a few days and in like-new condition.)

I didn’t try the second lens — a Minolta 100-300mm zoom lens — until the Christmas photo project was behind me. It’s now the zoomiest lens I own; so of course one of the first things I did was try to use it for not-its-intended-purpose: some 300mm closeup-zoom photos of flowers. All of the photos in my New Year’s Day post were taken with this lens, and while there were plenty of rejected photos because I was experimenting with the lens’s capabilities… I was quite happy with how well the lens captured color and detail, even though I was twenty feet or more from the subjects and the lens was extended to its 300mm maximum.

Before heading out to take the white flower photos, though, I just took it into my back yard with my little companion, where I managed to snag a few decent photos of him doing what he does so often: hunting the English ivy for choice sticks — the longer, the better. A couple of the photos aren’t as well focused as I would have liked; but the rest are surprisingly sharp — which helps me understand more about using the zoom lens and what settings work best. Lobo is about thirty feet from me in these photos, something that works out well because if he’s too close when I try to take his picture, he turns away like he’s camera shy. For these photos I just stood still and waited for him to check in with me (dogs do that, you know, check in by making eye contact with you at least every few minutes; you just have to be ready for it) and it looks like he’s posing for the shots.

While I was wandering through Oakland Cemetery’s gardens for some white flowers to photograph, a little drama started playing out in the old oak trees between a tiny finch and this hawk — which I believe is a red-tailed hawk — as the two seemed to chase each other among the highest tree branches for about thirty minutes. The finch was way too small to photograph at this distance — but I did manage to capture some decent shots of the hawk… who eventually gave up on the escape-artist finch as it flitted among the twisted branches until it was safe to streak away.

The first four photos below are the originals taken with the lens at its 300mm setting; the second four are the same photos but cropped in Lightroom to show the detail that the lens was able to capture. Wheeee! I like this lens… which, by the way, only cost me $39.



Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Happy New Year!

From Miracle on 10th Street and Other Christmas Writings by Madeleine L’Engle:

“New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day come not out of the church year but out of the dawn of human life. To our ancient forebears… the stretching nights of early winter and the shortening days were terrifying. Was the night going to swallow up the day? Was the life-giving sun going to slide down the western horizon and be lost forever? It must have seemed a real possibility to those dwellers in caves or tree houses, who knew nothing they could not see with their own eyes about the movements of the suns and the stars.

“So, when it slowly became apparent that the sun was staying in the sky a minute longer than it had the day before, and then a minute longer, there was great rejoicing, and feasting and fun…. But it was more than fun. It was spontaneous gratitude that the world was not coming to an end.”

From The Complete Works of Henry David Thoreau by Henry David Thoreau:

“[What] shall be my new-year’s gift, then? Why, I will send you my still fresh remembrance of the hours I have passed with you here, for I find in the remembrance of them the best gift you have left to me. We are poor and sick creatures at best; but we can have well memories, and sound and healthy thoughts of one another still….”

From Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond by Elizabeth Lawrence:

“As the New Year comes around I always wonder what flowers will be here to greet it….”


Hello! Hello!

I always like to find some white flowers blooming during the last week of December, to post here on New Year’s Day. Below are this year’s galleries: some paperwhites, white quince, and white camellia, followed by renderings of a few of the quince and camellia flowers on black backgrounds.

Thanks for taking a look, and…

Happy New Year!  







Merry Christmas!!!

From A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd:

“Santa was sliding me off his knee and toward the red chute, and I could see behind me another white-faced kid bobbing upward.

“‘I want a Red Ryder BB gun with a special Red Ryder sight and a compass in the stock with a sundial!’ I shouted.

“‘HO-HO-HO! YOU’LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT, KID. HO-HO-HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS!’

“Down the chute I went….”


“Dawn came. As the gray light crept around the shades and over the quilt, I was suddenly and tinglingly awake. Stealthily I dressed in my icy maroon corduroy knickers, my sheepskin coat, and my plaid sweater. I pulled on my high-tops and found my mittens, crept through the dark living room, fragrant with Christmas tree, and out onto the porch. Inside the house the family slept the sleep of the just and the fulfilled.

“During the night a great snow had fallen, covering the gritty remains of past snowfalls. The trees hung rich and heavy with fluffy down…. Overnight the temperature had dropped thirty degrees or more, and the brittle, crackling air was still and clean, and it hurt the lungs to breathe it. The temperature stood at perhaps fifteen to twenty below zero, cold enough to make the telephone wires creak and groan in agony. From the eaves of the front porch gnarled crystal icicles stretched all the way to the drifts on the buried lawn.

“I trudged down the steps, barely discernible in the soft fluff, and now I stood in the clean air, ready to consummate my great, long, painful, ecstatic love affair. Brushing the snow off the third step, I propped up a gleaming Red Ryder target, the black rings and bull’s-eye standing out starkly against the snowy whiteness. Above the bull’s-eye Red Ryder watched me, his eyes following my every move. I backed off into the snow a good twenty feet, slammed the stock down onto my left kneecap, holding the barrel with my mittened left hand, flipped the mitten off my right and, hooking my fingers in the icy carbine lever, cocked my blue-steel buddy for the first time. I heard the BB click down into the chamber; the spring inside twanged sharply, and with a clunk she rested taut, hard, and loaded in my chapped, rapidly bluing hands.

“For the first time I sighted down over that cold barrel, the heart-shaped rear sight almost brushing my nose and the blade of the front sight wavering back and forth, up and down, and finally coming to rest sharply, cutting the heart and laying dead on the innermost ring. Red Ryder didn’t move a muscle, his Stetson flaring out above the target as he waited. Slowly I squeezed the frosty trigger.”


Below I’ve accumulated all my photo galleries from this year’s “Days to Christmas” series. Click the links above each gallery if you would like to see the original posts and the quotations I selected to go with them. 

Thanks for reading, and taking a look … and:

Merry Christmas!!!


Ten Days to Christmas: Peace … and Glitter!






Nine Days to Christmas: Nutcrackers in a Truck, Paperwhites in a Vase, One Tiny Duck




Eight Days to Christmas: Red and Green




Seven Days to Christmas: Silver and Gold





Six Days to Christmas: Shiny Baubles, Tiny Trinkets








Five Days to Christmas: A Collection of Angels and Santas





Four Days to Christmas: Winter Solstice in Silver and Blue





Three Days to Christmas: Time for Music, Time for Toys







Two Days to Christmas: Light a Candle (or Two or Three)




One Day to Christmas: Happy Christmas Eve!


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