Category Archives: Personal Photographic Wanderings

Wild turkey tracks in the snow

Figure 1 – Wild turkey tracks in the freshly-fallen snow, Jan. 30, 2018, Wilmington, MA.  IPhone 6 photograph. (c) DE Wolf 2018.

It is winter and yet we torture ourselves with daily walks. It is as if to harden ourselves and is reminiscent of “The Siege of Leningrad,” “The Retreat of Napoleon’s Army of the Republic,” and “Scott’s March to the South Pole.” Hmm, none of those worked out so well in the end.

I was delighted this morning during my morning walk to come across these wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, tracks in the newly fallen snow – accentuated here by the pavement below. When I was in graduate school in upstate New York the turkey was a rare bird, and the joke was that the hunting season was so short so as to protect “the stupid birds.” I do not call birds stupid anymore and respect enormously the evolutionary endurance of these “dinosaurs.” In Massachusetts they disappeared 160 years ago and the state brought them back. So now they are everywhere.

You may have heard that Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be the national bird. Apparently this is not true. In a letter to his daughter Franklin objected to the Bald Eagle and commented that the bird on seal looked more like a wild turkey than an Eagle.

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our country…

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Much more turkey lore relates to its consumption on American Thanksgiving, and there is decent evidence that the wild form was served at the First Thanksgiving. But it did not become the modern stable of Thanksgiving until way into the 19th century. Although and significantly another Revolutionary Luminary, Alexander Hamilton did say, or is reported to have said that:

“No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.”

The Blue Jay Legend

Figure 1 – Blue Jay, Jan 13, 2018, Sudbury, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2018

Figure 1 is a Eastern Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata,  laughing at me this week in the snow. The native American blue jay spirit was in many ways akin to the Norse God Loki. He was the joker, always making trouble, always the trickster.

There is a Chinook Legend called Blue Jay Takes a Wife., in which Blue Jay is told to choose a wife among the dead and then spends time trying to resurrect her. When he finally succeeds the father of his bride demands that he cut off his beautiful hair as a gift for his new in-laws. Blue Jay refuses. Instead he turns back into a bird and flies back to the land of the dead and his bride drops dead. It is a story of failed resurrection – unlike the Legend of the Buffalo Dance. The Trickster’s magic is not strong enough.

In the summer Massachusetts is a bit of a playground. The old legends are muffled out by modernity. But in winter the old stories are carried by harsh winds. The birds, magical and real, struggle as they have for thousands of year. The spirits of the first peoples echo everywhere for anyone who cares to listen.

Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 310 mm, ISO 800, Aperture Priority AE Mode 1/200th sec at f/7.1 with +2/3 exposure compensation.

Savannah sparrow

Figure 1 – Savannah sparrow, Jan. 17, 2018, Sudbury, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2018.

Something happy and sweet today. We have had the second snowstorm of the year and the snow fell steadily. This always brings out the birds to my feeder and I took the image of Figure 1 of a bird that I have been trying to photograph for a while. It is the Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis, with the tell-tale yellow spot on its head.

I have read that Savannah Sparrows are rare at feeders. So I guess that this one or the others that I have seen over the years have not read the same books or web pages.

Cannorn T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 250 mm. ISO 800, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/400th sec. at f/7.1, with +2/3 exposure compensation.

Happy New Year from Hati and Skoll

Figure 1 – Seeing into the mist that is the New Year, Sudbury, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2018.

Well celestial mechanics being what it is, we seem to have reached the New Year once more. So it is both time to reflect and to look forward. First, I would like to thank all of my readers and friends for a wonderful year. Friends always are our greatest blessing. So Happy New Year one and all.

I have been saving Figure 1 as representative of the New Year. There is a window, where the future is out of focus as if shrouded in a fog – “the veil past which [we] cannot see.” And based upon the lens of the present we seek to see and understand the path forward. Even that is out of focus; the colors dispersed in aberration. But importantly there is a path forward.

It is pretty clear that 2018 will be dangerous year, both in America and in the world. For American democracy it will be the most challenging and and momentous year since 1968. Indeed, for the millennialls it will likely prove to be their defining year.

Some people as so iconic and memetic that we have come to call them by a single name – hence, Newton, Einstein, and Lincoln. Let me the cathartically quote Hume and say:

“It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place… it’s when we start spilling our sweat, and not our blood.”
So dear friend, dear reader, take my hand and let’s go into the furture’s mist together! Perhaps we may reach Avalon together.
And just a note for those of a physics inclination. It seems common knowledge that lenses invert images. Why then is the image of the trees and snow upright? I’ll leave you to puzzle that as just one more enigma for the New Year.
Good things for all of you, good friends!
Canon T2i with EF70-200mm f/4L USM lens at 200mm, ISO 1600, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/1000th sec at f/13.0 with no esposure compensation.

Schrodinger’s cat and the principle of relativity

Figure 1 – Schrodinger’s Cat, origin and copyright status unknown.

It is the last day of the year, which means that it is my last opportunity, at least for this annum, to do something that I have never done before on Hati and Skoll. That is to share something I’ve seen on social media. Several times this year I have seen or been sent the image of Figure 1. I do not know its origin. Erwin Schrodinger admitted defeat, when his cat smugly proved that the box both exists and does not exist at the same time…”

Obviously this is a jab at the whole Schrodinger cat in the box quantum entanglement thing.  But it is so much more than a simple play on the meme of Schrodinger and his cat. As all lovers of things cat, physicists and otherwise, it is symbolic that ultimately the cat is master of his or her domain. And to the cat there is no ambiguity. The box is. The cat knows that it is, but asserts that if it is absolutely still and silent, you may not observe it. That is your problem, fur sure. Also Schrodinger’s assumption that there are two states of cat, alive and dead, ignores the fundamental quantum point that while dead is dead, the state of cat being alive is nine-fold degenerate. Also the transition of the cat between the dead state and one of the nine alive states requires the absorption or emission of a caton – not to be confused with a cation, which is something altogether different.

Now there is evidence that while Schrodinger lived in Oxford in the nineteen thirties that he owned a cat named Milton. This raises the question of why Schrodinger’s equation is based on the Hamiltonian rather than the Miltonian operator. In Hamiltonian mechanics two variables may be canonically conjugate in the Hamiltonian sense, while in Miltonian mechanics, they may be catatonically conjugate in the MIltonian sense. We may conclude, perhaps, that it should have been the Maltonian operator because, as pointed out by A. E Housman, “malt does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man.”

As natural as a cat sitting in the middle of a box-shaped sunbeam may be, it does point us to another principle of modern physics – the principle of relativity. Loosely the point is that if you do an experiment, say a chemical reaction, on a carousel, you will see the same results regardless if the observer is sitting on the carousel or on a park bench beside the carousel. “In physics, the principle of relativity is the requirement that the equations describing the laws of physics have the same form in all admissible frames of reference. For example, in the framework of special relativity the Maxwell equations have the same form in all inertial frames of reference – from the Wikipedia, if you prefer.

So from the cat’s frame of reference, you both exist and do not exist until you open the box and look in. Actually, truth be-knownst, the cat doesn’t really care if you exist until it is time to be fed. And finally, as shown in Figure 2, and as all cats know – the principle of relativity must be extended to take into account the fundamental feline recognition (for they are much wiser than thou or me) that the box is everywhere and in everything. Happy New Year, Everyone.

Figure 2 – Cloe’ wears the pants in her family and demonstrates the ubiguity of “the box.”. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

Also posted in Essays on Photography

Reassuring moments in physics #5 – snow on the side of the barn

Figure 1 – Snow on the side of the barn, Christmas Day, Sudbury, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

Figure 1 is another photograph that I took after the storm on Christmas.It struck me as a bit incongruous that the snow had stuck to the side of the barn, and I particularly liked the fingers of snow offset by the texture of the barn wood. 

Ultimately, this is I think, a wet snow phenomenon. If the ground and air temperature is below 32 deg. F you wind up with light powdery snow. On the other hand if it strikes a “warm” surface the snow partially melts. You have wet snow. You know, the stuff that snowmen are made of. Of course, you can still make snowballs out of powdery snow if you use warm hands and a lot of pressure. Pressure causes snow to melt, because water is denser than ice near 32 deg C. That is why you can skate on ice, but not say dry ice, which is carbon dioxide not water. But I digress. Here the warmth of the barn has melted the snow allowing it to stick to its outer surface. Of course, there is a limit to the weight that can be borne, before plob…

Ain’t physics wonderful? Damn straight it is.

Snow and ice on Christmas Day

Figure 1 – Snow and ice on Christmas Day, Sudbury, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

Christmas day in New England began with a snow and ice storm and ended with a magical ice world set against perfect blue sky. In the early afternoon i went out to take some photographs intrigued by the gem like  quality of the ice covered trees. In Figure 1 we have a snow-covered pine with icicles dripping in the sunlight. The tips sparkle like little stars and I am reminded of why, despite the cold, New England is such a wonderful place to live. It is as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said:

“Winter giveth the fields, and the trees so old,
their beards of icicles and snow.”

I have tried this kind of subject before, sunlight through icicles, and to some extent, I am invariably defeated by the depth of the dynamic range. I am somewhat pleased by this image. But it still seems to fall somewhat short of capturing the total beauty of the moment.

Canon T2i with EF70-200mm f/4L USM lens at 70 mm, ISO 400, Aperture Priority AE Mode 1/640th sec at f/13.0 with -1 exposure compensation.

Seasons Greetings from Hati and Skoll Gallery

I want to wish all of my dear friends and readers Happy Holidays, A joyous season, and all the best wishes for the New Year!

We awake this morning to a white Christmas in New England. Let’s hope that it is auspicious of good things. And remember that good things do not just come about; they must be worked for. The possibilities are infinite!

Now we are slaves. Next year, may we be free men.”

Monument Square

Figure 1 – From the Colonial Inn looking onto Monument Square, Concord, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

Winter is a fact of life in New England, and New Englanders embrace it. Here in December, we are on the near side of the Christmas holidays and there is a raw novelty to winter’s bite.  Everything is decked out in vivid color and light. We eschew gaudy light displays and favor, instead, the traditional candle in each window. This, of course, is meant to draw and welcome the pilgrim home.

No place epitomizes Massachusetts more, this time of year, than Concord. It is where our journey as a nation began on a chilly, windy April morning. To those who would threaten or democracy, I echo again the wordss of Edward R, Murrow: “We are not descended of fearful men.” We went today for a pre-Christmas luncheon  with a dear friend. And in the spirit of New England, I had my once in every two years or so New England Clam Chowder – pronounced, of course, as chowda. The Inn dates back to 1716 – so if building could talk, it could tell of that morning.

I brought my camera along for inspiration, as there was the annual gingerbread house competition among local businesses. Why do I feel like I am living in a Hallmark Channel movie? As I stepped onto the Inn’s porch, I took the image of Figure 1 showing Monument Square and Routes 4/2a to Lexington, “the Battle Road.” The church that you can just make out is “Holy Family Parish,” which lies along side “The Old Burial Ground,” built on a glacial drumlin. I guess, that in a sense this photograph displays the two diametrically opposed solstices and their attendant holidays, Christmas and the Fourth of July.

Canon T2i with EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens at 35 mm (unusual for me), ISO 1600 (ever set for birding), Aperture Priority AE Mode 1/640th sec at f/8.0 with no exposure compensation. 

Animal faces #9, “Alpaca”

Figure 1 – Animal faces #9, “Alpaca.” Lincoln, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

For the last four years I have passed the historic Codman Hill Estate in Lincoln, MA every day on my commute and have always wanted to stop and photograph the Alpacas. It is always so serene to see them especially when they frolic in the freshly-fallen snow. Well, today I finally stopped, since they were all out in the field and this guy and a friend came running up to me. I really wanted to pet him. But l was deterred by the electric fence – “Massachusetts photographer gets too close; fries camera on electric fence – Vicugna pacos laugh.”

I spent several happy moments stretching to get my camera above the fence line and waiting for the best pose to augment my series of “Animal Faces.” The square format is requisite for the series.  The goal as always was an image that captures the gentle creature’s inner self – dare I say, soul? The result is Figure 1, which I leave to speak for itself.

Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 120 mm, ISO 800, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/1250 th sec at f/7.1 with -1 exposure compensation. Codman Hill Estate, Lincoln, MA.