Thursday, November 29, 2007


Eight hours of sunlight just is not enough for one day. Winter would be great if we got at least twelve hours a day, but if that were the case, we wouldn't have winter at all, would we? For my morning commute, I head due east, and since my route is in the middle of mall-land, I've got plenty of wide open views of the sunrise. Up until yesterday, I had been leaving work about 4:00 or so, to get home with a little light to enjoy while not working. Yesterday I drove home as the sun was setting, and the 15 minutes it took me to drive four miles was fairly spectacular.

I ran into the house and grabbed the camera.

Tonight, although not quite as spectacular as yesterday evening, also made for a nice drive home. I had a bit more time to grab the camera and tripod, run down to the woods, and snap a few more photos.

All in all, views like these are what make winters here in Columbus bearable.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 26, 2007

Maine Megapost

Megan and I are back in Ohio. Our transportation via Budget, Skybus, and Fastrack went smoothly and we welcomed the "warm" 45 degree air that had descended upon Columbus.

A few more reflections and images from the trip, including one of Maine's ever so unique parades, The South Paris/Norway Merchant's Association Christmas Parade. I've only seen two parades in Maine, but they were both fantastic compared to what I am used to. For some reason, the people of Maine show a flare of creativity and imagination that just doesn't exist in Stow, Ohio, where I suffered through countless fourth of July parades peppered with politicians, boy scouts, and of course the obligatory Shriners driving around in weird vehicles. These guys showed up in Maine this past Saturday, this time in little krazy cop cars and even a mini-monster truck. It was ridiculously cold during the parade as well, but nobody except me seemed to notice or care, they were just happy to view the parade.

After the parade we both needed some fuel for the fire, so we stopped in with Megan's friend Kelsey and her Norm at the smiling moose. Nice little bahh where you drink beeeaa (that's bar and beer for us Ohioans!), and they made a killer lasagna as well. This was the second fine eatery that we had frequented in as many days, both named after some large furry creature that lives in Maine.

A busy day indeed, because I'm just getting started. On our way back to the house, I asked Megan, who was driving our Focus again, if she could go past her house about a mile and take a look at the Crooked River. Cold, clear, and running much higher than this summer, I was a bit disappointed that river was well shaded and not very photogenic. A few snaps and I was back in the warm car.

Unlike the river, the pond was spectacularly lit, the sky was blue, and a few clouds made photography around the pond an amazing experience. Unfortunately, in my haste to see the pond from every angle, I didn't execute from the best views, and I got a few decent shots that would have been great if I had just spent a little more time with my composition! When Megan and I first arrived in Maine, temperatures were hovering above freezing, so the bog around the edges of the pond was wet and soggy. Cold air had moved in for Friday and Saturday, freezing the bog and creating a thin skim of ice around the edge of the pond.

The sun set behind some thin but hazy clouds, and my attention turned to the hairy woodpecker that caught my attention over my shoulder, back towards the treeline at the edge of the bog. A female, this bird started at the bottom of an old, bleached out pine snag, and headed upwards pecking along the way. Not very good pictures, but perhaps my best opportunity to photograph this woodpecker species.

Have you ever seen the Maine State License plate? Are you thinking a red lobster? Nope, that was the old plate. The current plate has a sprig of white pine needles and a black-capped chickadee. I grew up with black-capped chickadees in northeastern Ohio where they live. But somewhere between Akron and Columbus, the black capped chickadees are replaced by the Carolina Chickadee. A smaller bird, I had always wondered how I would be able to tell the two apart if a black-capped showed up at my bird feeder here in Columbus. After watching black-caps for three days, I think I have it down. In my opinion, the black capped is a much more handsome bird. It is larger, its colors are more bold, and the ones at Megan's parents house are much more tame then our Carolina chickadees here. Our city birds might be extra wary-they are battle tested city birds. I've got to really hide to photograph Carolina's, but the black caps would let me get four to five feet from the feeder and they would still come down, pluck a few sunflower seeds, let me fire a flash at them, at still come back over and over again.

Two other bird species visited Megan's parents feeders--the red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatch. No northern cardinals, not tufted titmice, and no song sparrows, typical feeder birds in my neighborhood, were around in Maine.

Although we have red squirrels in Ohio, they are dirt common in the mixed pine forests of Maine. They are incredibly acrobatic, and had no problem hanging on to a white pine, reaching out and grabbing the bird feeder, and then scooping out a few sunflower seeds. There are also gray squirrels at Little Pond.

Ok, so its about 4:30, and its getting dark. Time to head in to take a nap so that I would be ready for Megan's ten year high school reunion! Although she decided about 5:30 that she wasn't going to go because she was so nervous, we ended up going and she had a great time! Luckily, we weren't there for too long before we had to leave so that we could wake up early and leave the house about 5:30 to catch our flight down in Portsmouth New Hampshire. All in all, a great trip to Maine.


Saturday, November 24, 2007


Even though Otisfield and the Oxford Hills region of Maine is pretty far isolated from everything, it is only about a forty minute drive or so to the nearest big box shopping area. Megan and I couldn't miss out on the after Thanksgiving shopping bonanza. I picked up a new four gigabyte compact flash card from Staples, and after which, we headed over to Kohl's for some more bounty. We struck out there however, and they didn't have what we were looking for. Oh Well. For lunch, we headed down to Portland, Maine's largest city, to meet up with her friend Katrina and her husband Nick. We ate at a great little brew pub, I think it was called The Great Lost Bear, or something similar I had a haddock open faced sandwhich. Maine is fantastic for getting fresh seafood. Haddock, clams, native shrimp, mussells, its all here. As a seafood lover, I'm in heaven.

Megan and her friend Katrina at Portland's Great Lost Bear

Megan and I wanted to explore the city of Portland a bit, so we headed down to the old port area. What a cool place. Definitely the highlight of the trip so far. We can see why our friends Brian and Rita raved about it when they came up to Maine for our wedding about a year ago. We'd never been down to the area, but there are plenty of old dockside warehouses that have been converted into offices and chic storefronts and restaurants.

Typical historical brick building in downtown Portland.

Especially cool was the U.S. Customs house, whose gray exterior stuck out from all the other brick and granite buildings. The old brick armory, which looked like a medieval castle, had been turned into a posh Regency hotel. All in all, a great little place to shop, eat, and drink. The brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets were packed. After shopping, we drove around the seaside perimeter of the city, taking a few pictures of low tide along the way. Portland is a fantastic place to visit at any time of year. From Columbus, you can hop aboard a Skybus flight to Portsmouth New Hampshire, rent a car, and be in Portland in about an hour.

Too cold for whale watching today! It was only twenty degrees or so.

As far as seafood goes, lobster is king throughout coastal Maine.

Although we didn't get much snow this trip, there were constant reminders of how much snow can fall in this region, like this gigantic plow just sitting and waiting in a parking lot.

After our downtown shopping adventure was over, we drove around the perimeter of the peninsula. This shot is to the northwest and looks out across Casco Bay.

A full moon was rising and followed us on our way up to the Oxford Hills.

Megan at the wheel of our rental Ford Focus, courtesy of Budget rental cars. We didn't get the free upgrade this time!

On the way back home, I decided to do some experimental photography since Megan was driving and I was fairly bored. Some of the results:

And finally, we got home. There was just enough light to capture a few photos of the pond, and the moonlight lent itself perfectly to night time photography of Megan's parents log home in the woods. What a place to live!

What I like about this photo is that you can see a few bright stars at the top left portion of the photo. This image shows the very last bits of daylight at little pond. This photo was shot at 5:46 p.m., a good hour after sunset. Both of these night shots are thirty second exposures taken with the camera on a tripod.