Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New York Botanical Garden

My first trip to New York, I went with a Meet-Up group to the New York Botanical Garden. Surprisingly, it was not a bad drive, just over 2 hours from my door to the front gate of the Garden. What an amazing place! The Garden, a beautiful 250 acre park in the middle of New York City's Bronx borough, has been in existence since 1891 and is home to over 1 million plants and 30,000 trees, some of which are over 100 years old.

I contacted a Facebook friend who lives in New Jersey, and asked her if she would like to be my Meet-Up guest. She took a train up to meet me at the front gate. It was wonderful to see her again after our trip to Magic Wings, in Deerfield, Ma. The Meet-Up group had planned this trip to coincide with the exhibit of world famous French botanist and artist Patrick Blanc. The exhibit was inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. What a stunning delight to the senses.

This beautiful sight was the first thing that greeted you as you walked into the Conservatory.

The orchids, ferns, and other epiphytes came in all sizes, colors, and fragrances.

The Conservatory had other exhibits, each of the major deserts had their own native plants on display, such as the South African Desert and the American Southwest Desert.

By early afternoon, the Conservatory because outrageously hot and humid, so we took a break and went out to photograph the other plants in the Park.

The Wisteria were just starting to bloom, and their fragrance filled the air.

There were quite a few people simply out enjoying the beautiful weather, including some artists who were taking advantage of the Cherry Trees blooming. The Cherry Trees were at the height of blooming, and their beauty was simply stunning.

We made our way through part of the park, vising the Azalea Garden, the Stone Mill, the Lilac Garden and the Cherry Collection. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could see the rest of the park. We missed the Magnolia garden by about a week or so, they had already gone by, but the Tree Peonies were in full bloom.

All in all, it was quite a delightful day, and I can't wait to go back again. I never thought I would say I enjoyed a trip to New York City, but I did. I'm glad that I got to spend the day with my friend, and made a new friend who carpooled with me on the way down and back.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Free Perfect Effects from onOne Software

onOne Software, a software company whose products include: Perfect Resize, Perfect Studio 6.1, and others just came out with a new item in their free product lineup:

Their complete list of free products can be found here:

Take a look, download the free products and enjoy! onOne Software has some awesome products!

Flip Flop Edit Challenge

Since I'm in between dog shows I thought I would have some fun playing with a couple of blogs.

This one is from
Flip Flop Photo Edit Challenge

The original photo:

Here is my edit:

Cropped vertically, adjusted exposure and contrast with Nik Software's Vivesa2, added a Tonal Contrast, used Color Efex Pro 3 to add a soft gold reflector, used a localized adjustment to bring out the green and blue more

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just a Reminder...

The coupon code TMAC for the Talcott Mountain Agilty Club's February AKC Agility Trial will be expiring soon. This coupon is good for 10% off your purchase, not including shipping and expires on 4/2/2012.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Good Morning Ragged Mountain!

Saturday afternoon my friend Gene called me to see if I would like to join him and his wife Karen hiking a local mountain, Ragged Mountain, the next day. I said sure, sounds like fun, what time? We decided to leave Granby, Ct at 6am Sunday morning, and our friends Dorry and Buzz met us in Granby and followed us down to Kensington, Ct. We wanted to get there just after sunrise to catch the morning glow on the rocks and cliff faces. As we were hiking up the trail, the sun started to rise, and what a beautiful morning it was going to be. As we hit one of the first outlooks, the vista was just stunningly beautiful.

Everything was colored by the beautiful morning glow of the sun:

Most of the trees that we came across were stunted, contorted cedars, twisted by the constant wind and lack of water,

but this one was perfectly straight and surprisingly large

As we followed the trail higher, I turned around and snapped this photo of the sun peeking through the tree.

There was not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was warming up nicely from a chilly 28°F start. We were getting close to my friend Gene's destination. Part of the cliff face had fractured and sheared off, with a large boulder that had also fractured in two wedged between the sheared off the cliff. He had seen this on a previous hike here, but did not have time to stop and photograph it.

This fractured part is much larger than it looks. Here is my friend standing on the broken boulder for a size comparison

We took this opportunity to take a quick snack break and just enjoy the morning and the company.

Further up the trail, we came across this lovely example of a Glacial Erratic, which Wikiepedia defines as
"A glacial erratic is a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. "Erratics" take their name from the Latin word errare, and are carried by glacial ice, often over distances of hundreds of kilometres. Erratics can range in size from pebbles to large boulders, up to 15,000 Metric tons"

Just around the corner and up the trail we came across another outlook, and hearing voices, we looked down. There, below us, were some people rappelling off the cliff and climbing back up. We stayed and watched them for a while, it was very interesting to watch and listen. The leader was talking to some younger climbers, telling them to "overcome your inner demons" to make the climb up the cliff face.

We stayed in that area for a bit, taking more photos of the lovely, twisted trees. In this instance, they were pine trees instead of cedars.

Continuing our hike, we soon left the Ragged Mountain trails and hit the Metacomet Trail. Here is a link to Wikipedia for more information about the Metacomet Trail.

The climb here went up hill drastically!

Then, just when we thought we were safe, we hit this wall

We had to climb hands and feet up. I climbed up first, but got stuck at one point, so I had to swing to the side to let Gene by so I could hand up my monopod, camera and backpack to him. Once I was past him, I took his camera and tripod so he would help the others up. Fortunately, that was the hardest part of the hike, we would soon meet other areas just as steep, but no rock climbing. As we descended down into a rift type valley, we ran across this lovely little pond. The light was just at the correct angle to get beautiful reflections. We spent about an hour here taking photos.

I also scared the first snake of the year, I would have thought it was too cold for the snakes to be out yet, but this poor little guy took off when he saw me and headed straight for the cold water.

By this time, we realized that it was now past 1:30, and our goal to be home by now was well past. We had been hiking for 6 hours, and we just wanted to get back to the cars. All the climbing up and over rocks were starting to get to us. Unfortunately, the trail map did not show distances for the trails. We swore that we had missed the trail turn off to get back onto the Ragged Mountain trail, but a lucky break, a gentleman jogging by informed us that we had a mere 10-15 minutes more on the Metacomet Trail and we would hit the trail loop back to the vehicles.

One last look from the top of the mountain,

The large building all the way to the left is the UCONN Health Center, all the way to the right and in the distance is the City of Hartford, the large tall buildings. In between are the cites of New Britain, Farmington, and Newington.

We made it back to the cars at 3m, a nice long 8 hours of hiking. We teased my friend Gene, that the next time we go hiking, his wife Karen picks the route. We had a wonderful time though, a lot of laughs and great company made the miles and hours go by quickly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

and the Beat goes on....

While on Clearwater Beach, Fl recently, I ran into 3 Street Musicians playing on the beach. Busking, as what street performing is known as, has been around since the days of antiquity. Busking includes street musicians, street theatre, card tricks, and just about anything else that people find entertaining.

Friday was a sunny, but quite cold and windy day to be out on the beach playing. Ernie was all bundled up against the frigid wind, while playing his guitar. He was quite engaging, and a friend and I spent a good amount of time chatting with him. The interesting thing that caught my eye, Ernie used a seashell as a pick for playing the guitar. He explained that using a shell really killed his strings, he has to replace his strings quite often because eventually the shell will cut through them.

Saturday had turned out to be the opposite of Friday. The sun was bright, and it was warm and sunny with only a very light breeze, making it an extremely delightful day. A little further down the beach we ran into this older gentleman. He was quite stern looking, and his collection jar was quite empty when I ran into him playing his accordion on Saturday afternoon. I stopped and chatted with him for a bit while waiting for my friend to catch up with me. The longer we were there chatting the more people stopped by to listen to him playing. He was quite good, and after a bit he warmed up and started smiling.

J spent his afternoon and evening playing the saxophone on Pier 60 on the beach. While less chatty than the other musicians, he was an awesome player.
As you talked to him, he replied by changing the tune he was playing. He had a little girl laughing hysterically as he played her favorite songs.
Pier 60 on weekend evenings has a carnival atmosphere, and everybody was in a great mood. The day had been warm, cloud free and very little wind. As the sun was setting, and people were starting to head home for the night, I was still on the beach photographing the sunset. As I was shooting this photo, I could hear the soft melodies of a sax wafting on the breeze. What a lovely tribute to an incredibly beautiful sunset.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Let's Play...Ball!

Saturday was a classic spring day, warm, sunny, with a delightful breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. In other words, a perfect day for a game of baseball.

I was down in Florida for a photography workshop held by a friend of mine, Robert La Follette (, and with another friend who had done the same workshop with me last year, Nick DePasquale (, Robert had mentioned that he had a surprise for us on Saturday, and would not give any hints, irregardless on how much I asked. Going to a baseball game was a definite surprise, since as a rule, I really do not like baseball. I went with an open mind though, happy to just enjoy the afternoon with two friends far away from the snow at home.

Brighthouse Field, Clearwater, Fl. is the winter home for the Philadelphia Phillies. The crowd was just starting to gather when we arrived.

This was my first baseball game, and I was not sure what to expect. The carnival atmosphere was quite a surprise. I was used to seeing the more formal games on TV, everybody in their seats, no milling around. This was a far cry from that! There were people all over, walking around, talking, chatting, and eating, after all, what good is going to a baseball game and not getting a hot dog? Or a Lemonade?

Our tickets were for Berm seating, so we were beyond the outfield in the grass. But in reality, we, like others just milled around. We watched the game from several vantage points, one being behind the foul post. That is until I heard "Look OUT!" I instinctively ducked, not knowing why, I just did it. As I was ducking, a baseball hit not more than 1 foot from where I was standing.

After the third foul ball to head in our direction, we decided discretion was the better part of valor and moved on. As we started to head towards the stadium, I looked up and realized the field was packed. A quick estimation- between 10,000 and 13,000 filled the stadium seats and the lawn.

Inside the stadium, this scene caught my eye:
The perfect symmetry between the way the grass was mowed, the circles, the lines, the diamond of the ball field, the vivid green grass accented with the players in red against the beautiful blue sky made for a lovely scene.

Chatting with an older gentleman about cameras and lenses, he very graciously offered me his seat while he came in to get something to eat and get out of the sun for a while. His seat: Front row, approximately 50' from the Batter, right over the Visting team's dugout. From there I took what I call my Sports Illustrated Cover shot:

The Tampa Bay Rays had two home runs back to back, and a third home run in the next inning.

After partaking in the game, we decided to head over and check out how the kids were doing. The Phillies' A and AA teams were also playing, and we enjoyed watching them.

Poor kids! I do not think they were used to seeing people with big cameras taking their photos.

All in all, it was a delightful experience, one that I will actually look forward to doing again if I make it down for Spring training again next year.