Sunday, January 27, 2013

First Light Birds

More first light tests yesterday (see yesterday's post) were conducted using a 1.4x teleconverter. Knowing that eastern Iowa would receive sleet and ice today the Saturday test pushed to find more willing subjects at mid-distances. 

At the Wapsipinicon State Park in Anamosa, Iowa (a few hundred yards south of where artist Grant Wood is buried) the open water attracts many ducks and geese. Flying overhead was a lone bald eagle looking for its next meal. After circling just below the dam, the bird of prey nabbed something in the water and started down river where I was stationed. I had been concentrating on the Canada geese sunning themselves while looking for minnows to eat. After I took a few photos of the eagle passing in manual focus mode, I later applied it to an online photo editor, and played with background and text as an experiment. 

Canada geese are year round residents of eastern Iowa. With ample open water and food sources available the large birds tend to stay rather than migrate. At times this becomes a problem for people wanting to stroll near rivers or lakes without walking in bird poop. Since temperatures meant that anything organic on the ground was frozen, yesterday's walk to photograph the birds included a caution not to roll off a frozen surprise.

First light tests went well. Things learned included the need for strong lighting, re-learning manual focus photography and anticipating where subjects may be in motion before the snap of the shutter. Simple.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

First Light on Blue Jay Way

A lone wintertime blue jay finds its way to some seed after the bird threw it from a suspended feeder earlier. Blue jays, cardinals, red headed wood peckers, crows and sparrows all hang around 42N country for the winter season. Hawks and eagles come around too if they don't lose their way. This first light image is made possible by a 1.4x teleconverter.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Smoke Underlined

Saturday was a great day for photography. A smokestack at an ethanol plant on the west side of Dyersville, Iowa shows just how windy the westerlies were blowing. While the contrast of white smoke, silver stack and blue sky made for an interesting composition, those power lines made no positive contribution to the scene. Maybe some talented artist can Photoshop the lines away.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

No Pout for Iowa's Winter Trout

For all the years that I have traveled eastern and central Iowa I apparently have not been to every location - shocking, yes. Yesterday for example the 42N staff was out on a drive enjoying the last day of this week’s January thaw. So it was up to Manchester, Iowa to see the sites and enjoy the country side.

A sign posted a few miles southeast of town on county road D22 points to the state’s trout hatchery. I hadn't been to an open hatchery in decades so off the beaten path we went to investigate.

Along the way the land turns from relatively flat farm fields to hilly, timbered and with a spring-fed creek running along the road. At the Iowa DNR hatchery location there are a few one story buildings which are like extended ranch houses. In the hatchery’s open area tall fences surround holding ponds where you can see swarms of growing trout. Visitors can feed the fish using a bucket of fish food and Dixie cups available at the fence’s corner. Just pour a little in your hand and throw it over the fence, then watch the water boil in activity as the trout youngsters race to claim the food pellets.

On the west side of the parking lot a clear creek flows. There you can see freed trout in the stream which is only a few yards wide. We observed two anglers, one leaving and the other preparing to fish. The man dressed in waders walked down to the bridge, turned and began throwing a trout line upstream. A sign posted nearby proclaims any caught trout under 14 inches in length must be returned to the water immediately. By just glancing at the stream’s population of trout it appears that nearly a third of the fishes are over that minimum.

Need more of an Iowa trout fix? Then go to the DNR’s web site or see the hatchery’s live trout swimming in the holding ponds at this site.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Snowfall at Kalona Area Barn

The last bit of December's snowfall was still evident on January 1st at this Kalona, Iowa area barn. The December 19-20th blizzard was this region's only snowfall this season - so far. Last week's January thaw melted most of the snow in eastern Iowa. Sounds nice but we need more precipitation. Bitter cold air is predicted for this area on Monday. How many days until Spring?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Time for the January Thaw?

Two and a half weeks ago eastern Iowa and parts of surrounding states received a first taste of Winter. Locally about a half foot of snow fell on green dormant grass. The quick freeze of rain turned to sleet, then turned to snow with 45 mph winds snapping tree branches and limbs. For 19 days the temperatures have stayed below freezing. This week air temperatures are expected to change upward. We may even see 40 F plus temperatures by the end of the week. Perhaps the severe winter weather is done for the season - but probably not. Sounds great but we really need participation. Year two of the drought continues without signs of abatement locally.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Whale Bones in Iowa

Yes, Iowa was once covered by a shallow marine sea. Today the result of that long ago sea are layers of limestone found just under the prairie soil. Some of the rock contain fossils of small marine creatures like coral, snails, fish and a few larger marine creatures.

To see these suspended whale bones you need to visit the Natural History Museum at Macbride Hall on the University of Iowa's main campus. A Right Whale's skeleton was collected early last century on a North Carolina shore and brought to the university for study and eventual display. Many a schoolchild and adult has marveled at this creature's size and bone makeup. The whale is located in the  museum's mammal hall section. The other side of the building contains bird hall and is filled with all types of feathered creatures including a detailed observation post of a remote Pacific island sanctuary visited by UI researchers a hundred years ago. The lower middle portion of the building houses the third section of the museum and features a walk through Iowa's pre-history.  Come check it out. Admission is always free.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Kalona's One Room Schoolhouse and Technology

Simplicity exists in 2013. East of Kalona, Iowa, in Amish country, a functional one room schoolhouse shows buggy marks in the snow and decorative snowflakes on the windows. 

On New Year's Day the building was closed for the holiday while a mile or so north a group of Amish children played Ring-Around-a-Rosie outdoors in the near 20 degree weather. 

Ironically to document this simplicity, a digital SLR camera was used  to photograph the scene (aside from the travel technology used.) Then the file was uploaded to a PC, then sent to an online photo editor and later housed on Flickr.  Ultimately the blog was assembled on blogspot and published. Simple.