Nisqually in the Sunshine

I’d rather think of myself as a Renaissance Man than a dilettante, but there’s no doubt that if I don’t find ways to rejuvenate my interest in an area that I tend to lose interest rather quickly and move on. When it comes to photography, though, I’m more apt to shift my focus than abandon it.

When I began taking photographs, I was mainly interested in scenics, and I’ve never totally lost interest in that. However, since buying my first Canon digital SLR a couple of years ago, I’ve been focusing on birding and expensive telephoto lenses, and doing without a “scenic,” i.e., wide-angle, lens. Perhaps I’ve never owned a decent wide-angle lens, or even felt the need for one. After reading several reviews, though, I decided to buy a “good” 17mm-40mm L series lens.

I bought the lens mainly for the mountains and the coast, but I couldn’t resist taking it with me to Nisqually Friday. Good thing, too, because there was very little “birding” going on, even though I got there by 7:00 to see if I’d have better luck than I did last Sunday. If I’d gotten some better pictures of birds, I would never have included these next shots.

This shot was taken from the McAllister side of the loop trail, looking back into the center of the preserve. If nothing else, it reveals what a beautiful day it really was.

Nisqually wetlands

This one was taken looking out toward Puget Sound and the snow-capped Olympics:

Puget Sound with Olympics in background

Neither of them strikes me as particularly good, but at least they offer a starting point, and I’ve found that the best way to improve is to start taking pictures and building on my mistakes.

My main lens, though, will continue to be my 400mm lens, and I’ll still be featuring close-ups like this one of the red berries that lit up the shadiest spots in the preserve,

Red Berries

or this one of daisies who couldn’t quite hold all the sunshine falling down,

Daisies from behind

and pictures like this one of a Flycatcher, perhaps even a Pacific-Slope Flycatcher, which obliged by flying up on a branch right in front of me just as I was leaving. At least I saw one bird that I haven’t seen for awhile.


Don’t Ask Me

I finished R.S. Thomas’ Collected Later Poems today while waiting to have my Tacoma Pickup serviced at two different shops. It’s amazing how much reading you can get done in 2+ hours if you leave the noisy waiting room with the TV blaring away and sit in the parking lot.

The final section was entitled “Residues” and consisted of poems unpublished when Thomas died. Though there was several poems I liked, there probably wasn’t as many as in earlier sections. Though it was interesting to see how Thomas reacted in the face of death, I actually preferred two of his poems about poetry. The first one would resonant with anyone who’s devoted much time to poetry:


I went up the holy mountain
thinking to be at dawn
a poet or a dead man,
but not mad, not mad:
I was that already.

I came down from the mountain
where the tempter had offered
in exchange for my poetry
the kingdom of this world.
My insanity saved me.

Poets don’t make money writing poetry, but I can’t remember ever hearing a poet express any regret about choosing poetry over money, which isn’t to say that I haven’t heard a few complain about how little poets earn. It’s that last line, though, that makes the poem effective. If “insanity” saved him, how can it be insanity?

Perhaps this last one appeals to me because I just started reading Levertov’s essays, and this bears on what she has to say in the first essay and on my earlier discussion of a vague feeling I had that Levertov’s poetry didn’t quite measure up to what I most love in poetry.


Don’t ask me;
I have no recipe
for a poem. You
know the language,

know where prose ends
and poetry begins.
There should be no
introit into a poem.

The listener should come
to and realise
verse has been going on
for some time. Let

there be no coughing,
no sighing. Poetry
is a spell woven
by consonants and vowels

in the absence of logic.
Ask no rhyme
of a poem, only
that it keep faith

with life’s rhythm.
Language will trick
you if it can.
Syntax is words’

way of shackling
the spirit. Poetry is that
which arrives at the intellect
by way of the heart.

Considering the relative “informality” of most of Thomas’ poems, it comes as no surprise that he doesn’t have a “recipe for a poem,” but it would also take an obtuse reader not to realize that these are poems merely by looking at the line breaks, especially with metaphors like “Poetry/ is a spell woven/ by consonants and vowels/ in the absence of logic” and “Poetry is that/ which arrives at the intellect/by way of the heart.”

What I most found lacking in Levertov’s poetry was the “spell woven by consonants and vowels,” something which almost gives Thomas’ poem a “traditional feel.” Look at the last two stanzas where three words begin with “s” and three words end in “t.” You could almost swear the poem ends with a rhyme, or, at the very least, a near rhyme.

It doesn’t hurt that he ends his poem with a sentence that, for me at least, captures the essence of poetry, “Poetry is that which arrives at the intellect by way of the heart.”

Shelley Powers’ Painting the Web

Picture of Painting the Web

Last year when Shelley Powers asked for volunteers to help edit her new book, Painting the Web, I naively volunteered, with the caveat that I certainly wouldn’t be helpful on the technical end, which I was pretty sure she knew already since she’s assisted me in installing my web site until recently. Shelley accepted my offer, suggesting that I would give her a good idea of who to promote the book to. The book appeared a little while ago, but I just received my copy.

I had no problem following the early chapters in the book, chapters where Shelley introduces graphics, provides background on various types of imagery, and covers various photo editors and photo utilities, including some very powerful shareware programs. Anyone who doesn’t already own Photoshop should find this chapter valuable. Considering the price of Photoshop, I’ve started suggesting cheaper alternative to most people who ask me what I recommend unless I think they absolutely need it. Considering how much time I’ve spent learning how to use Photoshop, though, it’s unlikely I’ll ever switch to another editor, no matter how good they might be.

Chapter 4 shows various ways photos can be displayed online. It was this chapter which gave me the inspiration, and confidence, to finally gather various photos I’ve used on this site and group them into Galleries. Of course, I’ve been somewhat remiss in failing to follow through and add more galleries, but I still have plans to expand the galleries in the future, hopefully to include all the special places I visit regularly, like Nisqually Wildlife Refuge and Theler Wetlands. The best thing about Gallery is that it allows me to use existing photos already onsite, and thus uses very little extra space. Of course, Shelley explores several different tools to display your photos, not just Gallery.

Overall, I think the first 250 pages of the book are accessible to anyone interested in adding web graphics to their site, which is not to say that you won’t be introduced to tools that you are probably totally unaware of right now. In fact, Shelley’s inclusion of web sites to explore further is one of the strengths of the book.

With the introduction of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) in chapter 7, though, Shelley launched into an area I doubt I’ll ever venture into, though it provides insight into a new technology that may become more and more important in web development as more browsers begin to support it. For now, I’m satisfied converting vector art in Photoshop to jpegs or pngs.

Luckily, the next two chapters on “CSS Uber Zone” and “Design for the Non-Designer” are less esoteric and provide lots of hints for non-technical folks like me. The chapter that I found the most intriguing, though, is Chapter 10, “Dynamic Web Page Graphics.” In fact, I really wanted to apply the ideas I found there into my site before I wrote this review. If I were satisfied to blindly insert Shelley’s code into my WordPress Template I think I could actually pull off the two things I’m most interested in, substituting a thumbnail for the large pictures I currently use, allowing the reader to select the picture if they want to see a larger version, and using an “accordion” element to show only one story at a time, thus making the page faster to load. Of course, then I would want to apply the “accordion” element to the sidebar so that much less scrolling would be required. Unfortunately, I really don’t like to blindly apply code like that so I’ve set out trying to learn enough Javascript that I can understand the changes that I would be applying. And I’m learning that it’s taking longer to learn Javascript than I thought it would, and it may take awhile longer if the sun holds out here.

I’ll have to admit that the last 150 pages of this 638 page book are considerably over my head. Although I was intrigued by Chapter 14’s discussion of Google maps and could see them being an interesting addition to my description of hikes, most of the rest are just too far over my head to interest me. ImageMagick seems like a powerful tool, but it requires more programming than I’m going to tackle in this lifetime, though these chapters might be the most interesting to those who actually write code for the web.

If I didn’t enjoy the challenge of learning new things, I would never have stayed with blogging nearly as long as I have. It was quite a challenge following along as Shelley wrote this book, but it was an enjoyable experience and one that inspired me to try to learn some new things so that In a Dark Time can continue to evolve in new ways, hopefully providing a better experience those of you who happen to stop by here. I suspect I’m not the only one who would enjoy reading it.

(And, yes, the photo of the book was inspired by a simple technique Shelley explains.)

A Weed, By Any Other Name

Although the daisies have been around for awhile now, I haven’t managed to get a photo that I was happy with, so I carried another camera with a close-up lens when I went to Nisqually Sunday. Guess that’s what I needed, because I like this:


As long as I was carrying the camera, I decided that I also needed to update you on what has happened to Goatsbeard, or Salsify, which I showed earlier, which has now turned into a giant puff ball, just as Jamee suggested it would:

Salsify puffball

I think the above weeds appeal to the mathematician in me, but I’m not sure why these Fireweed also appeal to me:


Perhaps their appearance in clearcuts and recent forest fire burns symbolizes Nature’s ability to begin to heal disasters through natural Beauty.