I love shooting landscapes and wildlife because there is just so much of it around me. Every once in a while I’ll remember that not all the beauty is on the ground. Sometimes you just have to look up.
The weather is starting to return to normal, making it easier for me to breathe outdoors so I managed to get out and do some shooting. Here’s another one of my days, looking up, from sunrise to sunset.
Sunrise to sunset
Dawn breaking as I drove Frankie to work.
From the parking lot when I dropped her off.
Sunset from the kitchen window.
In between it was just plain hot and the forecast calls for hotter still through the weekend. My asthma means I can’t tolerate the heat so my plan is to pass the next two days just like today; in the house with the air conditioning so cold it frosts my glasses if I step outside. At least I got out for a short while today!
The reason I take my camera EVERYWHERE I go:
This is the piebald buck Sam spotted in the back yard yesterday. By the time I got my camera he had wandered back into the woods behind the house so I missed the shot.
On the way home today I spotted him just down the street so I handed Frankie the camera, stopped the truck about 10 yards away and she got these shots from the passenger side window.
Buckmanager.com defines a piebald as:
A genetic variation (defect) produces the piebald condition in white-tailed deer, not parasites or diseases. Piebald deer are colored white and brown similar to a pinto pony. Sometimes they appear almost entirely white. In addition to this coloration, many have some of the following observable conditions: bowing of the nose (Roman nose), short legs, arching spine (scoliosis), and short lower jaws. This genetic condition is rare with typically less than one percent of white-tailed deer being affected.
Seeing a piebald is said to be lucky. I sure hope some of that luck gets applied to the lottery ticket Frankie had just purchased a few minutes earlier! If it does we’re all going to Disneyland!
My buddy and partner in crime, Sam the Wonder Dog (I wonder what that Dog thinks he’s doing now), sure knows how to deal with the summer heat.
Most days he can be found napping on “his” sofa enjoying the cool air flow from the air conditioner as it washes over “his” pillow. People tell me that when a dog sleeps on his back it shows he is contented. If Sam gets any more contented he’ll melt into the cushions!
Yesterday he suddenly popped upright and trotted down the hall towards our bedroom. Sam loves looking out the bedroom window when he’s not snoring on the sofa.
Thinking he had heard a cat prowling in “his” yard I didn’t pay much attention until he came trotting back, “sat pretty” in front of me and whoofed to go out.
As soon as I hooked him to his lead I discovered what he had heard…..a piebald buck in the back yard nibbling on some low hanging branches!
By the time I grabbed the camera and came back out the buck had wandered off into the trees, out of sight.
Then Sam went on point with his head held high, nose pointed straight ahead, tail straight out behind him and left paw raised (sometimes Sam thinks he’s a bird dog).
Following his stare I was surprised to see a large groundhog sitting upright a couple dozen yards from the spot the deer had been in.
Raising the camera I quickly discovered that a) the lens cap was still on, b) I hadn’t turned the camera on and c) the groundhog had disappeared while I was screwing around with the camera!
So I took a few shots of Frankie’s day lilies instead.
I only shot 10 or 12 frames before my attention was diverted by a rumble of thunder and I looked up just in time to catch the last patch of blue sky as a pop up thunderstorm rolled over the ridge.
Naturally, as soon as I got back inside, downloaded the images from the memory card and put the camera away the storm passed over after dropping a few fat rain drops………so I said to hell with it and took a nap.
Some days you just can’t win.
As the sun peeks over the eastern ridges on a foggy morning can there be any doubt about how these ancient mountains got their name?
NOTE: The following is a re-post from my old Windows Live Spaces page. Some of you have already read this but I’ve posted it for those who are new followers here.
For those of you who are curious about the “roketman” portion of my url it’s as close as I could get to Rocket Man, the screen name I used for a year and a half on Windows Live Spaces and currently use on my Blogger page. This blog will explain why I chose that name.
Back in the early 70s I really was a rocket man. During my first hitch in the US Air Force, in the early 70’s, I was a Missile Facilities Technician assigned to a 4 man Missile Combat Crew in a Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base (AFB). We were the men who pulled 24 hour alert tours 8 to 10 times a month in the 18 missile silos scattered across central Arkansas. That’s right; the Looney Toon y’all know as Rocket Man was one of the people who would have launched a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union if a valid launch order was ever issued by the National Command Authority.
I guess I should add a disclaimer here just to prevent my fellow veterans having cardiac arrests because I’m posting classified information in a blog. All of the following information and much, much more is readily available online. This weapons system was retired in 1987 and all the silos, but one ,were imploded to satisfy terms of the Salt II treaty. The one complex that was not destroyed is now the Titan II Museum in Green Valley, Arizona. It is open to guided tours and more information about the museum can be found here.
The diagram above shows the layout of a typical Titan II complex with the silo itself on the right, The silo was shaped like a large donut with 9 levels, The hole in the center was the launch duct containing the missile and hydraulic work platforms which could be lowered to perform maintenance on the bird. The rings on each level held support equipment including air conditioning systems, hydraulic and pneudraulic pumps, a diesel generator, elevator and various other equipment.
The structure in the middle of the diagram is the access portal which served as secure access to the underground complex. In addition to the 3 flights of stairs, with electrically operated doors controlled by the crew on duty, there was also closed circuit TV cameras, an elevator and four 8-ton interlocked blast doors. These doors could only be opened one at a time and protected the crew from surface blasts in case of attack as well as secure access to the launch duct and control center. The duty crew had electronic control over the interlocks and if they didn’t want you to get in, you didn’t.
The bullet shaped structure on the left is the control center, a three story structure containing sleeping quarters, kitchen and full bath on the top level, system monitoring, communication and launch consoles on the second level and emergency battery power, stable power supply generators, radio and other equipment including a 90 day supply of survival rations and water for the 4 man crew. All of these structures were hardened in case of attack and could probably have survived a near direct hit with a medium sized nuclear weapon.
The shot above left shows the layout of a typical complex. As you can see, very little equipment is located above ground, in keeping with the hardened complex protocol. The large structure in the center is the silo closure door.
This 740 ton slab sat on railroad tracks directly over the silo itself and was intended to protect the missile located just below it. During the launch sequence hydraulic motors were used to roll this door aside.
The color quality in the close up photo on the right isn’t the best because that door was actually painted “sandstone pink” as were the doors on all 54 silos. The first squadron went active in Arizona (the location of this shot) and the pink shade was intended to act as camouflage. The shade of paint became military standard or “milspec” for the silo closure doors on all Titan II sites.This may have been a good idea for the 18 complexes attached to Davis-Monthan AFB in the Arizona desert but the doors on the 18 complexes in the corn fields around McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas and the 18 scattered in the woods and farm fields around Little Rock AFB, Arkansas stuck out like a sore thumb from the air.
The missile itself, or The Bird as we called it, was a 2 stage, inertially guided, liquid fuel rocket which was used as he booster for the NASA 2 man Gemini space program before NASA moved to the more powerful Saturn V booster vehicle for the Apollo moon missions. The fuel, unsymetricaldimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and oxidizer, nitrogen tetraoxide, were hypergolic meaning they exploded on contact so no ignition source was needed other than the start cartridges which initiated the fuel and oxidizer turbines used to pump the components into the thrust chambers on the base of each stage. Each stage held fuel and oxidizer tanks to supply the two engines on stage one and single stage two engine. The stage one engines and thrust chambers can be seen firing in the photo above which was taken during an unarmed test launch from Charley Site at Vandenberg AFB, California. The ICBM version had a range in excess of 7,000 miles and carried the largest weapon ever fielded by the United States.
All of these birds were targeted on the old Soviet Union and were basically massive antipersonnel weapons intended to take out “soft” military targets as well as population centers. One instructor brought the mission of these weapons to stark clarity when he referred to them as “city killers”. Under the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine our mission was to provide a deterrent force against the Soviet Union. Our purpose was to assure the Soviets that any strike launched against the United States would result in overwhelming retaliation that would most likely result in the end of life as we know it.
Instead of a capsule used to carry astronauts into space the Titan II ICBM was topped with a re-entry vehicle or RV in our terminology. All United States land based missiles, Titan II and Minuteman, were ballistic meaning they were to be fired over the North Pole in the boost phase, and would re-enter the atmosphere during the ballistic, or unpowered phase of their trajectory. The RV, pictured above, is actually made of an “ablative shield” intended to protect the weapon during the heat of re-entering the atmosphere over the target. This shield, made of layer upon layer chemically impregnated cork would flake away after reaching a specific temperature during re-entry exposing the layer below to begin heating before flaking away and exposing the next layer. Long before the final layer burned away the RV would be low enough in the atmosphere for the entire shield assembly to be jettisoned.
Housed inside the RV was the weapon also known as the fission package or the device. The ordinance bus on the Titan II carried a W-53 Thermonuclear package (above) with a yield of 9 megatons which is equivalent to the explosion produced by 9 million tons of TNT. To give you an idea of just how large that explosive force is, The weapons used against Hiroshima ( code named Little Boy) and Nagasaki (Fat man) at the end of World War II had yields of 15 kilotons and 21 kilotons, respectively. The W-53 yield was 600 time the size of the blast that destroyed Hiroshima and killed or injured 135,000 people.
I have heard it said that those of us who were charged with protecting these weapons and standing by to use them if necessary won the Cold War. I don’t know about that but every day I thank God we never had to use these weapons.
After leaving the USAF in 1976 I spent 2 years as a long haired beach bum but missed the service enough that I cut my hair and enlisted in the Air Force reserve where I served in a Special Operations unit for nearly 10 years but that’s a whole ‘nother blog.
I thought I’d take y’all along on a trip into town to pick Laura up from work.
As usual, I took the long way ‘round.
High Bridge Road
West Lee Highway
4th & Main, downtown Wytheville.
4th & Commonwealth heading into town with Sand Mountain in the background.
Best sammiches in town!
Our not so little anymore baby girl.
Hope y’all enjoyed the ride.
Frankie’s shift was pushed back an hour so the sun was already up by the time I drove her to work. This is some of what I saw on the way to town and back.
The view from our porch
Frankie’s Knockout Rose
Part of the flock on Ridge Road
My brother in law’s back yard
The field at the top of our street
Mom and the kids in the same field
The fawns were having a great time chasing each other
If the weather guesser can be believed the heat is back on for us so I’ll be shooting early mornings or late afternoons until we get some relief. Actually, I’m good with that because I love the light as the sun rises and sets. Y’all stay cool.
Cabin fever started to work on me today and I lucked out; the temperature and humidity started taking a nose dive as the sun went down.
But before that happened I was back to my old tricks; shooting the visitors in Burd Town through the bedroom window. For those who don’t already know, Burd Town is what I call the tree full of feeders Frankie has outside our bedroom window. She loves watching the little guys and they make interesting photo subjects .
They also make great learning aids when I’m experimenting with my new lens. Today was so boring that I actually tore the wrapper off the manual and read it! I have it pretty much figured out and I’m very impressed with the clarity and crispness it produces but there’s no such thing as too much practice. This female cardinal was happy to pose for me…..as long as the supply of sunflower seeds in the feeder held out.
As the temperature dropped into the 70s I couldn’t take being indoors any longer so Sam and I went for a short ride. I’ve been meaning to get a shot of this farm shed.
My intention was to find a good place to watch and capture the sunset but that didn’t work out. A church group was having a yard sale in the parking lot I chose and space was at a premium.
Oh, well There will be other days and other sunsets. At least I managed to get this last shot from the driver’s side window as I waited to pull out of the lot.
Last night the TV weather guesser announced that the dew point and air temperature would be equal after midnight which would produce heavy fog by daybreak. A light came on in what’s left of my mind and I decided to set the alarm, get up early and be in place in one of my favorite perches to shoot a few dozen frames of the sun rising through the fog.
That was the plan.
Apparently the sun didn’t get the memo because we have solid overcast but I did manage a few frames like this heron perched on the dock in the stock pond.
Just after I tripped the shutter on this shot the bird took flight…..and vanished in the fog before I could get another shot.
The tree above grabbed my attention, mainly because of the three deer in the foreground. What deer? The ones that jumped the fence and vanished into the mist while I was busy stopping the truck and raising the camera.
The National Weather Service web site has a special weather statement posted warning of dense fog and visibility reduced to 1/4 mile in some areas. Locally it was down to about 25 meters in places.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms are in today’s forecast. We can use the rain because we’re still over 4 inches below average for the year but heavy rain always brings the danger of flash floods. At least the cloud cover will keep the temperature down…..for now. The weather guesser is on the tube right now saying the fog should burn off by 10:00, raising the temperature enough to trigger thunderstorms as another cold front moves into the area. Guess it’s time to find my life jacket.
That’s all I’ve got for this morning. Y’all take care out there. I’m gonna take a nap.
The heat wave dissipated enough for me to get outdoors with the camera late yesterday afternoon and these are a few of the shots I got.
Puttin’ Up Hay
That’s what it’s called around here. Farmers, especially livestock owners have been worried by the way the heat wave has effected hay production. The more hay they can produce this summer, the less they’ll have to buy and the lower the price will be come winter. These bales will be left out to dry for a couple of weeks before they’re hauled off to the hay barn.
Bird on a wire.
American Robin on the lookout for insects in the freshly mowed fields.
These clouds were the leading edge of the cold front that moved in overnight.
We’ve had scattered showers today, heavy at times, and not a moment too soon. Showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast for most of this week and we’re thankful for that. I may have to mow our lawn this month after all! The last time I mowed was June 27th.
We’re getting rain at last and not a minute too soon!
Everything in our yard is wilted and turning brown after the heat wave we’ve had for the past week. Best of all, this isn’t the torrential downpour the weather guessers predicted. We’re getting a slow, soaking rain that will actually help our grass and flower beds instead of running down the ridge and raising the branch out of it’s banks.
No thunder and lightning, yet, but I have the camera ready and close at hand just in case we get a few just in case a few bolts flash……a safe distance away.
The video is large and takes a while to load.
You may want to just go straight to YouTube to watch it.
As you know, the heat wave has kept me cooped up indoors. Since I can’t go out and play I decided to work on the hundreds of shots I got this past winter. While I was working in Photoshop Elements I noticed the “create” button and before I knew it……
I hope the video will bring a little relief to those of you “enjoying” the hot, humid and hazy East Coast weather this week.
Everybody try to stay cool, stay hydrated and, if you have pets, keep a close eye on them when they go outdoors. Remember……they’re wearing fur coats and this heat effects them even more than it does us.
According to our indoor/outdoor thermometer it’s 99°F (37C) in the shade but that’s better than today’s high of 102°!
The heat wave still has me trapped indoors where the air conditioning makes it possible to breathe. This is extra tough on me since my new telephoto lens arrived yesterday and I can’t go wandering the ridges to try it out. Just walking out to the truck and waiting for the air conditioners to kick in is enough to cause me problems.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a little cooler but very humid as an approaching cold front brings scattered showers and thunderstorms into the area. We would prefer a slow, soaking rain but any moisture at all will be welcome. It’s hard to believe that just a few short months ago we wondering if winter would ever end.
Maybe I’ll have some lightning strikes to post tomorrow…..if the power doesn’t go out. If we do drop power I may end up in the hospital with breathing problems but at least it will be cool. They have A/C and a generator!
Meanwhile I’ll just look at my winter photos and think back to early march when we still had 2 feet of snow on the ground.
The doctor says I have to drop 10 lbs. I wonder how long it will take using this technique.
Since first taking up photography as a serious hobby last year it has become my habit to carry my camera everywhere I go and to spend at least part of each day wandering the back roads in search of that “one great shot”. Lately the summer heat and humidity, which aggravates my bronchial asthma, has drastically reduced my daytime cruising.
To give you an idea of just how thoroughly the shutter bug has me in it’s grip, I’ve shot over 20,000 frames in the past 14 months. My wife, Frankie, has caught the bug as well so, even though I’m not shooting as much or as often, I still have plenty of images to work with until fall returns.
Frankie captured these first 2 images last week as we were driving down Pepper’s Ferry Road. Even though a broken telephoto lens means we only have an 18-55MM image stabilized lens for the time being we can still get a few great shots.
Did you spot the little fawn in the lower right corner? We have no way of knowing if the fawn has lost it’s mother but she was nowhere in sight. Spotting a fawn this small on it’s own is very rare. When I first spotted it bouncing around in the field I thought it was a dog.
Despite the weather I still manage a few frames now and then. Frankie usually works the early shift and I often drive her in when Laura needs the Jeep they share. We pass a stock pond on the way to town and some mornings I manage to catch the sunrise behind the pond just right.
Further along the road the fresh hay bales in some of the fields take on a glow of their own as the rising sun clears the ridges.