09/20/17
sunrise

Beautiful Start to the Day

Sunrise

sunrise

Another Typical New Mexico Sunrise

Even as a child visiting the Southwest on vacations, I understood there was something special about the light here. Rather than growing tired of it with now-constant exposure and age, I appreciate it even more. While this morning was a little nippy and the arrival of Fall is not far behind, sunrise was spectacular (even without crepuscular rays 🙂 ))))))))) )!

09/18/17
Albuquerque sky

Albuquerque Sky in 30 Minutes

Albuquerque Sky in 30 Minutes

Albuquerque sky in 30 minutes? Well, yes. Especially regular readers here know I love the skies in Albuquerque and New Mexico and all of the desert Southwest. I see something worth noting almost every day. Because late yesterday afternoon was especially noteworthy, I want to share a few images. Most of all, these all occurred within 30 minutes. Maybe this happens every day, but this time I happened to catch it. 🙂

Crepuscular Rays, 6:39pm

Albuquerque sky

Crepuscular Rays

Rainbow and Rain, 7:00pm

Albuquerque sky

Rainbow and Rain

Thunderstorm over the Sandias, 7:02pm

Albuquerque sky

Thunderstorm over the Sandias

Muted Sunset, 7:06pm

Albuquerque Sky

Muted Sunset

09/13/17
sex and death

Sexual Cannibalism in the Cosmos

Sexual Cannibalism in the Cosmos

Sexual cannibalism in the cosmos, praying mantis style. You know all the stories you have heard about the female praying mantis biting off the head of her mate? I guess I never gave it too much thought. I had no reason to disbelieve it, but I never expected to witness any part of that ritual. However, I have seen some amazing things in my tiny Albuquerque yard, so I should stop being surprised at what I do see. I frequently go out in the morning to photograph flowers before the sun strikes them. Not too long ago, I found this sexual cannibalism in the cosmos:

sexual cannibalism

Female Praying Mantis with Decapitated Mate

sexual cannibalism

Female Praying Mantis with Decapitated Mate

sexual cannibalism

Female Praying Mantis with Decapitated Mate

sexual cannibalism

She Sees Me

sexual cannibalism

“I’m Taking My Body and Getting Away from that Woman! (Note the falling wing of the male)”

sexual cannibalism

“That’s Better!”

sexual cannibalism

“I’m Going to Eat Now! Go Away, Human Woman! He’s All Mine!”

I went out that morning to photograph flowers. But I learned long ago, that, if you keep your eyes open, you might get the opportunity to see some things most people don’t see often. Sexual cannibaism was about the last thing I was expecting to see or have the opportunity to photograph that morning! But, there it was. She was a voracious praying mantis!

National Geographic has posted a video about the praying mantis, which you might enjoy. It gives a scientific explanation for this behavior, also noting that “a well-fed female mantis is a well-behaved female mantis.”

09/10/17
Anticrepuscular Rays

Anticrepuscular Rays

Anticrepuscular Rays

Anticrepuscular rays are a phenomenon that occurs opposite a rising or setting sun. I first became aware of them on the weekend of autumnal equinox, 2013. After dinner, looking down from Los Alamos across to Santa Fe and the Sangre de Cristo mountains was something I had never seen before, and it was spectacular! To the west were huge, roiling, golden clouds, remnants of a storm I had driven through earlier. They were also precursor to a new forming storm. But the view to the east was calm. The sky was blue, and soft pink rays seemed to emanate from the middle of the Sangre de Cristos. It was breathtaking. At the time I did not know what I was seeing, but I knew I was fortunate to be seeing it. Camera? It was in the motel.

Anticrepuscular Rays in Albuquerque

Fast forward to Albuquerque, summer 2017. Those of you who read here often know that I have discovered how frequently crepuscular rays occur here. I just have to look for them. As an early riser, I can prepare for what looks like a promising sunrise long before it happens. I watch for it to develop, and have the camera with the right lens handy. One day I had “hit the wall” and overslept until 6:30am. Bright orange light coming through the blinds and curtains awakened me, heralding a colorful sunrise. By the time a sunrise is orange, it is almost over. I had no time to waste. Grabbing the camera, which still had a 100mm lens in place, I ran out. No time to change to a landscape lens, I thought. It should be more or less OK for the typical shot east from my back yard.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Then I turned and looked west. You never know what you might see. This is what I saw. I thought it was pretty, but I did not yet realize what I was looking at.

anticrepuscular rays

Moon at Sunrise

I went into the front yard to pick up the newspaper, and this is what I saw. Was I kicking myself for not changing the lens before I went out? Yes.

Anticrepuscular Rays

Anticrepuscular Rays

Anticrepuscular Rays

Anticrepuscular Rays

Anticrepuscular Rays

Anticrepuscular Rays

I returned to the back and took another shot looking west. Note how much lighter the sky has become. Total time elapsed from the first sunrise image to this last one? 5 minutes, 6:45am-6:50am.

Anticrepuscular Rays

Anticrepuscular Rays

More in the Future?

Many of you have seen the variety of crepuscular rays I have posted here. Now that I have seen anticrepuscualr rays here, I’m hoping that all it requires is an awareness to begin to see them more often. And, if not, well, I was fortunate to see them for a second time.

09/5/17
smoke distant fire

Smoke from a Distant Fire

Smoke from a Distant Fire

Smoke from a distant fire, in this case, multiple fires in the west, has made its way into New Mexico and Albuquerque. The sky has been hazy for several days. My eyes have burned a bit. I knew the smoke was here, but had not paid too much attention. Until last evening, that is. When I went out to change the water in the hummingbird feeders, I caught a glimpse of the moon rising over the Sandias. The moon seemed huge, but rather than the bright silver I’m used to seeing, it was a muddy red. By the time I got my camera, the moon was already up, but the same color. When I plan to photograph the moon, I generally use a tripod. This wasn’t planned and I didn’t have time. Such is life.

From 7:30pm MDT:

smoke from a distant fire

Smoke From Fires in the West Has Reached Albuquerque

With thoughts for all the people affected by the fires burning in the west, the firefighters, other emergency responders, as well as those affected by Harvey and those facing the threat of Irma.

This old song always comes to mind when fires are burning and smoke is in the air:

09/1/17
monsoon rains

Monsoon Rain and Roses

Monsoon Rain and Roses

Monsoon rain and roses have been outstanding this year!

Monsoon Rain

In July, I showed the first real rain at my house of the 2017 monsoon season. It was unusual, dropping 2.5 inches of rain in 40 minutes. Overall, I’ve gotten almost 7 inches of rain this monsoon season. The transformational power of rain in the desert is remarkable.

July 17, 2017:

monsoon rain

Monsoon Rain and Pond

August 21, 2017:

monsoon rain

Back Yard, A Month Later

Roses

The roses have responded in like manner.

The hybrid tea ‘Gemini’ has put out many sprays, which will appear at a later time. The one-to-a-stem blooms have had the perfect form for which this particular rose is known. This image is from the other night, after a brief monsoon shower. The new ARS guidelines that will be coming out later this month strongly suggest avoiding images with water droplets on the petals. I agree with avoiding such images if the light is wrong and the droplets light up as blank, a real distraction. But raindrops on roses after a gentle life-giving rain in the desert? I will photograph and show such images, happily. ‘Gemini’ is one of my favorite hybrid tea roses to grow in Albuquerque. “Raindrops on roses…” The stucco of my house, against which most of my hybrid teas grow, is the background.

monsoon rain and roses

Raindrops on Roses – ‘Gemini’

Another of my favorite hybrid tea roses in the desert is ‘Veterans’ Honor.’ It has also responded to the monsoon rains. While I frequently get sprays on ‘Gemini,’ most ‘Veterans’ Honor’ blooms for me are one-to-a-stem. However, it produced a spray this year. This is not any kind of classic spray form by any stretch of the imagination. Nevertheless, I kind of like the almost ‘golden spiral’ effect of this spray, the always-gorgeous color, and healthy foliage seen here.

monsoon rain and roses

Spray of Hybrid Tea Rose, ‘Veterans’ Honor’

Although Albuquerque will see some additional rain this year, the monsoon season is rapidly drawing to a close. From my perspective, as well as that of my yard and flowers, this has been a great – and much needed – monsoon year!

08/22/17
eclipse bokeh

2017 Eclipse Shadows and Bokeh

2017 Eclipse Shadows and Bokeh

2017 Eclipse shadows and bokeh were what I photographed yesterday. Albuquerque had a partial eclipse, rather than the total eclipse seen in a large swath of this country. But, any eclipse is exciting. I photographed what I know how to photograph, and learned some new things and a better appreciation of light along the way. For beautiful images of the eclipse itself as seen in Albuquerque, do yourself a favor and visit and visit Tim Price’s blog, Off Center and Not Even

Eclipse Shadows

I photographed these eclipse shadows on the sidewalk at my mother’s house six minutes after the peak of the eclipse here. The light was filtered through her crab apple trees. Clouds rolled over the sun, then left a clear sun briefly, then rolled over again. You will see much sharper shadows of the eclipse from areas with clear skies Nevertheless, I find these an interesting phenomenon. It is a safe way to view an eclipse.

Eclipse Shadows and Bokeh

Eclipse Shadows on the Sidewalk

Eclipse Shadows and Bokeh

Eclipse Shadows on the Sidewalk

Eclipse Bokeh

I knew about the shadows, and have photographed them before. Until yesterday, I had never thought about eclipse bokeh. Yesterday I learned about it accidentally. Had I known, I would have spent more time photographing birds and sunflowers in my yard! Not until I was processing casually shot images did I realize what I was seeing.

This image of the floribunda rose ‘Fabulous!’ is from May. The bokeh, the light filtered through the tree, is clear and round. This is normal bokeh.

bokeh

Normal Bokeh

Look at the bokeh in this image, taken when the eclipse was about three-quarters over. Note the distortion, and how different it appears from the bokeh in the image above. The eclipse is present in the bokeh! Seeing that in processing the image was an “Ah, hah!” moment for me. While it makes perfect sense, I had just never thought about it before.

eclipse shadows bokeh

Eclipse Bokeh

This is a closer crop:

eclipse shadows and bokeh

Bird, Sunflowers, and Eclipse Bokeh

Albuquerque saw only a partial solar eclipse yesterday. Nevertheless, I had so much fun photographing eclipse shadows and learning that the eclipse appears in bokeh! Most of all, because I had never thought about bokeh during an eclipse, this was a very exciting learning experience about light for me! Finally, I hope you enjoy the images too! 🙂

08/19/17
sunrise/sunset

Sunrise/Sunset

Sunrise/Sunset

Sunrise/Sunset: how cliche are such images considered by many who have never seen the fiery skies of the Desert Southwest? Oh, but how much the skies speak to those who know and love them. While it is true the depth of beauty will never been seen in a photograph, sometimes the beauty is so overwhelming that just a hint is satisfying. I quote again D. H. Lawrence’s written description of sunrise in New Mexico:

I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I have ever had. It certainly changed me forever. . . . the moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend. . . . In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly and the old world gave way to a new.
There are all kinds of beauty in the world, thank God, though ugliness is homogeneous. . . . But for a greatness of beauty I have never experienced anything like New Mexico.

Many of my photographer friends remember the magnificence of the skies of the 2009 monsoon season. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever see a prolonged season quite like that one again. Yesterday was almost like a whole season rolled into one.

Sunrise

Back Yard Sunrise 6:17-6:22am

I start each day looking out to assess the potential for a sunrise I would like to photograph. If any clouds at all are above the Sandia Mountains, I make sure my camera is by the door and with the appropriate lens. On this particular day, I did not expect much. However, I have learned over the years that you never know. When it was barely light I went out to water flowers in containers. And then, I saw the pink begin to show. Do I know I really need to use a tripod? Yes, of course. But that is another story. I grabbed my camera, which was in easy reach, and photographed this sunrise as seen from my back yard in the middle of Albuquerque. The first gif loops three times, for those who do not like constant movement on a blog. The second gif loops continuously, for those who like to watch a little more. This was a fairly long display of color over five minutes.

Sunrise/Sunset

Backyard Sunrise

sunrise/sunset

Backyard Sunrise

Front Yard Sunrise 6:25-6:39am

I would have been more than satisfied to start the day with that sunrise from my back yard. Although I can see a small part of the north end of the Sandia Mountains from my front yard, I rarely photograph from there. However, although the basic view is of houses, driveways, and vehicles, the surprise of that sunrise view made me grab my camera!

6:25am

sunrise/sunset

Amazing Clouds and Colors

6:36am

sunrise/sunset

Note You Can Tell Exactly Where the Sun Is Rising

6:37am

sunrise/sunset

Yes, Those Are Crepuscular Rays

6:40am

sunrise/sunset

The Morning Show Is Almost Over

Sunset

What more could one expect from the skies that day? I was more than happy with the offerings of sunrise.

But, I live in New Mexico!

Early sunset gave me this sky, looking west:

sunrise/sunset

The Beginning of Sunset

The day ended with a gently beautiful sunset:

sunrise/sunset

Gentle Sunset

What more could anyone ask from a day of monsoon skies?

08/18/17
Bee in Cosmos

Creatures in Albuquerque

Creatures in Albuquerque

Creatures: the desert is full of interesting plants and animals, even in the middle of a city like Albuquerque. I don’t see as many different hawks up in my part of town as Tim Price does down on the Rio Grande bosque (see his blog, very wide ranging but full of wildlife), but the ones I do see are pretty reliable. Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks like the NE Heights of Albuquerque, because people put out feeders that attract little birds. The little birds are what the hawks mostly go for. However, I never let my cats out, and the neighbor of a friend found the remains of his Pomeranian on top of the roof, thanks to hawks. During nesting season, people are advised to take umbrellas to the city’s parks, to avoid being dive bombed by the hawks protecting their young.

One morning last week I was out to photograph the sunrise. So, of course, I had a landscape lens on the camera. During the sunrise, I saw something I have never seen before: an adult hawk brought its young, seeking breakfast. They were in a tree really outside the range of my lens, but I photographed them anyway. Not a great pic, but you can make out the adult and the young one against the sunrise.

creatures Adult Cooper's Hawk with Young

Adult Cooper’s Hawk with Young, against a Desert Sunrise

Several days later I was out to photograph the hummingbirds. I had just put on my bird lens and gotten comfortable to try to get a few pics of hummers. This hawk almost immediately, and very briefly, flew in and then left. Some of you may remember the images from a hawk visit on August 13, 2013. I photographed this hawk on August 13 of this year. I have never photographed a hawk from this angle, and I find it very elegant with its spread tail. I think it is a young one for a variety of reasons. I’d like to think it was the young one brought by a parent a few days before. 🙂

Creatures Hawk Seeking Breakfast

Hawk Seeking Breakfast, Landing in a Neighbor’s Tree. Great Camouflage!

It caught breakfast next door, and then zoomed back through my yard, finding its safe spot for enjoying its prey.

Several of my neighbors and I have worked hard to develop yards that are pollinator-friendly. We have very busy bees during the day on sunflowers, cosmos, roses, etc. This is the year that I have discovered that some bees like to snuggle in flowers at bedtime. This little guy kept wiggling his butt until he was well settled into the cosmos. He was still there at dawn, but flew out to start his work as soon as the sun had warmed the flower.

 creatures Bee in Cosmos

Bee in Cosmos

So much beauty here in the desert, full of creatures even in town… Today, I offer just a brief sample of hawk family at sunrise, hawk landing in a tree, and a little bee snuggling in at bedtime. The world is a wondrous place.

08/11/17
colorful sunflower

Sunflowers of August

Sunflowers of August

Sunflowers go with August in the same way that the smell of roasting chile does, at least if you live in New Mexico. I could have had blooms a bit earlier. However, I waited to put out the seeds until the pansies from last fall finally faded with the heat. In another month it will be time to plant pansies again. By then, these will have finished blooming and the birds will have consumed the seeds. Monsoon rains also go with August, and this afternoon I got 1.5 inches of rain in about an hour. It was actually a very pleasant rain, although the Weather Service issued flash flood warnings. This monsoon season, so far, 5.5+ inches of rain have fallen at my house. The flowers are happy.

sunflowers buds

Sunflower Buds

sunflowers

Sunflower Takes Flight

colorful sunflowers

Colorful Sunflower

sunflowers after rain

After an Afternoon Rain