A reason to be grateful — I can hear the birds again!!

•November 20, 2017 • 2 Comments

Great Blue Heron looks pensive at day’s end.

Last Saturday I visited my favourite Florida wetland rookery for more than one reason. Yes, it has been months since the last time I drove out to see which species were in residence and to enjoy the little Eden that Wakodahatchee is when  your days are consumed with work and deadlines and windowless office spaces disconnecting you from the crying birds or ocean breezes. But, I also wanted to see if I really could hear the birds again.

I have slowly lost most of my hearing probably since my late 40’s and no one really knows why. I always suspected my slow thyroid. The cochlear doc says maybe I have the gene for it. Apparently it is not entirely age related loss even if the demise of the hair cells in the cochlea is not uncommon with aging. But, over time hearing aids no longer made any significant difference. My trips to the rookery were always beautiful but even my footfalls were too quiet to hear. Actually, I felt rather stealthy but turns out not as much as I thought. When I first visited Wakodahatchee I was mesmerized by the cacophony of bird sounds and loved the chorus of hungry Great Blue Heron chicks crying out for a little fish. So cute. I missed those sounds and I missed the rustle of wind through the palms. And, of course, being able to have a conversation with friends and family. It really was all gone!! And, what was left wasn’t understandable. And at my office no more phone duty!! Well, ok, possibly a plus! CapTel was kind enough to provide me with two free caption phones, one for the office and one for the house which was a wonderful gift and enabled very smooth “conversations” all in all.

So my audiologist recommend I get evaluated for cochlear implant. My type of loss with the dead hair cells in the cochlea was just the right kind to be a great candidate. And, with my residual hearing in the low ranges for a hybrid type system with a shorter array in the cochlea to both preserve low end and stimulate the high end. I ended up choosing the University of Miami’s Health Program as they are  world renown for cochlear implant and people come world over to be there. Luckily near me and my Alma Mater to boot. I looked carefully at the top three brands, Cochlear Americas, Med-EL and Advanced Bionics. AB wasn’t approved yet for the hybrid system (I think maybe they are now though) so I focused on Cochlear and Med-EL. All three you can’t really go wrong but I chose Med-El as their stats I thought were just enough better on preservation of residual hearing. Dr Telischi I know works to preserve residual with every surgery regardless of brand, but from what I can tell, I think  he saved most of what I had left.

My surgery was at the end of September and I was “turned on” or activated a month later on Halloween!! I’d been cautioned not to expect to understand right away and that it might sound rather electronic like beeps at first and there would be a learning curve. But, whether I am lucky, or had just enough left, or my loss was later in life rather than childhood, or I hadn’t forgotten what things are supposed to sound like, for whatever wonderful reason, once all the frequencies were set the very first session, I could hear and understand all the conversation. It has only gotten better each day. Even music…not bad at all. Kind of modern anyway…they make music sound a bit electronic these days after all. Voices sound mostly normal.

And,so….Saturday…I heard the birds and everything. It was like Christmas and I kept looking around to see where sounds were coming from. I remembered what I had forgotten. Could hear the cormorants and the krack of the big herons and the racket the grackles make. And, I could talk to the other photographers around. Before I could carry on only so long and missed most of what was said and hated to make the other person work so hard at it so would just retreat.

The Great Blue Herons pictured here really just prove my day and remind me that I could hear them!!

Below you will also see just a couple of images I plucked from the Med-EL site to give the idea of what I have installed in my ear.

I am beyond grateful for this technology and feel someone just handed me my hearing back all wrapped up and tied with a bow. I would like to say that if anyone wants to know more of my particular experience who may be considering cochlear implantation, I am happy to share. Everyone is different and I talked to a lot of people before deciding.

Birds and medical devices below 🙂

Great Blue Heron preens in this early season nesting scene. Its breeding colors are already in evidence with reddish tints to its legs and the lore becoming blue.

In a somewhat awkward pose this Great Blue Heron still stands in its wing spread sunning posture, yet turns to begin preening its back feathers in a contortionist body position. Ahh, to be so flexible!

 

 

This image from Med-El shows both the internal and external portions of the cochlear implant. The part on the right is installed under the skin behind the ear with that slender tail portion with the electrodes curled within the cochlea. My particular array is the Flex 28 which doesn’t go all the way to the apex of the cochlea to try and save the low end hair cells and residual hearing. The normal CI array is 31mm or so. The outside processor hangs on the top of the ear with the circular part magnetically attached to the under-skin magnet. The chip is in that square shaped area under the skin. If I undo the circular outer piece then hearing goes away just like that. The beige piece in the image I do not have. It is an alternative processor which is placed on the magnet with no cord or cable. I was sure I’d knock it off. 🙂

 

A good views of what is inside.

 

 

This shows the pitches and tones in the cochlea in an arrangement know as tonotopicity. So my array electrodes are adjusted or mapped to optimize getting all those frequencies. When I get the add on portion for the low end, I should really have a complete range. It feels complete already. I am now enjoying the clack of the keyboard keys as I type. So cool!!

A Very Happy Thanksgiving to All!

I have many reasons to be thankful this year, but the gift of hearing makes me positively euphoric!!

Judy

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A Coin Collector’s Desk

•November 17, 2017 • 4 Comments

 

Today’ s post combines two favourite occupations….thinking up still life subjects and coin collecting. So this is my first experimentation with The Coin Collector’s Desk. Much of the imagery includes the much cherished and desired remnant of America’s Wild Wild West, the Morgan Silver Dollar minted from the famous Comstock Lode silver discovered in 1859 in Nevada. I still find it hard to believe that people actually carried the splendid, lustrous 0.77344 troy oz pieces of silver in their pockets and didn’t marvel at the beauty of it. No, the coin was very unpopular in its own time which has contributed to some degree to the number of mint state examples which do remain in the numismatic marketplace. Even the gorgeous original mint silvery highlight which circles the coin as you twirl it in the light often called a cartwheel led to the derisive reference to the coins as just being a cartwheel or as heavy as one. As contrary as human nature is, not just due to the increased value of silver, these particular coins are eagerly sought after today by collectors with passionate enthusiasm. Whether you like them raw with visions of who may have held them in 1878 or tossed them onto a poker table in some dusty saloon back when they were introduced or safely encapsulated in graded slabs, they are each and every one of them a bit of history in your hand.

Ok, I went off on the Morgans. Besides the Morgan Dollars you will see an example an 1877 Trade Dollar, Seated Liberty Quarter from 1853, an Eisenhower Dollar and a Kennedy Half. I’ve shown folded up GreySheets…the bible of pricing for me pretty much along with magnifiers for examining their surfaces. The open Morgan Book is by Alan Hager who was one of the first in about 1984, if not the first, to come up with a system for grading Mint State coins called Accugrade , with way to rate them depending on the quality of their surfaces, hard or soft strike, luster and brilliance, year, mint and remaining examples existing in the year or grade. His book on Morgans is very interesting and thorough and I think is a bit of a collectible in of itself.

I hope you enjoy the effort and maybe even the majesty of these silver coins and a time when people had actual precious metal in their pockets for everyday purchases, when money was real.

On the still life side I tend to think that if you take the picture looking down at you assembly of items, that it looks more commercial like an ad for something. When the image is more straight on with the camera at desk level as if your work was waiting for you to sit down and do it, then I think perhaps the result is more painterly or artistic somehow. I am still working these things for what is the most ideal for a viewer to enjoy. These scenes were at a desk with morning ambient light from the window mostly.

 

 

 


 

 

This is the only foreign coin pictured in this group. It is a Ceylon 5 Rupee coin made of .925 percent of silver. The front of coin (not pictured) has a Buddha temple on it and the reverse has the number 2500 in the center commemorating 2500 years of Buddhism and is encircled by rings of floral and zoological symbols. Quite lovely really. The silver coin was issued under Queen Elizabeth II in 1957 when Ceylon was a British Commonwealth Nation. Sri Lanka’s identity was not until 1972. Its original mintage was 500,000 but 258,000 were returned to the mint for melting in 1962.

This image is an 1889 Pennsylvania mint example of the Morgan Dollar. It is placed for photography on brass box with a pretty, exotic design which contrasts nicely with the silver coin. I did use my 100mm macro lens for some of the coins close ups and thought the results were very detailed of the surface values of the coin.

 

I’d planned more of a list of history references for the Morgan Dollar as it is wonderfully interesting but my computer and WordPress are not playing nicely this evening with linkages. So below find three url locations for some history and grading insights:

A bit of Morgan History:

https://coinsite.com/1878-1921-silver-dollar-morgan/

https://www.ngccoin.com/coin-explorer/morgan-dollars-1878-1921-pscid-49

How to Grade Morgan Dollars:

https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-grade-morgan-dollars-768394

Green Heron at Dock

•October 29, 2017 • 15 Comments

 

Considering when I first began taking pictures of birds it was difficult finding green herons to take pictures of, they now occupy my viewfinder fairly frequently. The last time I think was out at Big Cypress  where the colorful species looked wonderful against the grays, lavendars, and sage greens of the cypress forest. That post is HERE if you’d want to see that location. Another post  with a bit more information on this species is HERE.

This bird just happened to drop in onto my backyard dock and so I ran in and grabbed my bird lens and followed it with my camera while I could. Schools of mullet in plentiful fashion swirled around the dock and the bird concentrated greatly but I never did see it make a dash for a catch. The canal did have substantial hurricane related debri floating around, not particularly enticing looking really. Maybe those things obscured the bird’s eye view.

I thought the first image was very pretty as the blues and greens of the water when sunlit blended closely with the colors of the bird. Anyone in our southern coastal areas lives with the threat of hurricanes, but luckily a lot more often we live with beautiful herons and egrets.

 

 

I tend to prefer deep depth of field with photography
so it is not often that I set the camera for a lot of
blur. I find with my 300mm lens that F4 blurs more of
the bird than I like, and F6.3 or even F8 is better. I
like the entire bird in focus generally. With this the bird
is ok but DOF is quite shallow for me.

 

 

After following the green heron along the dock it 
dropped down onto some of the floating debri. This I 
think is a palm frond but with some foam bits that
I am sorry are floating around in the water. The bird
looks beautiful in the sun no matter where it stands.

 

 

Still playing with shallow DOF in this black
 and white treatment. The bird stands at the edge of my 
neighbors dock in a pleasant backlit scene. I love
the textures of docks. The more weathered the better!

I am so glad the Fall season is here and with it the winter bird migration and nesting season.

 

Irma and Me

•October 8, 2017 • 16 Comments

 

Image before Irma's arrival showing how many boat owners
will tie up their boats in the center of their canal
with ropes tied to both sides of the canal. Neighbors
are more than willing to help out to keep everything
safe.

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season has been a busy one and has affected many friends and family located in the coastal areas of the Gulf states, Florida and its Keys. With this post I am just sharing a little of my day with Irma. Well, as with any major preparation, it is never a day adding in preparation, clean up and repair. As I am located in very Eastern North Broward County and with Irma’s shift to the west we chose not to evacuate. So our day with Irma was Sunday, September the 10th. I am grateful that we didn’t take the direct hit here as the winds we did get were relentless all day Sunday. I think around 6pm I got my first inkling that ahh its over. In between gusts it was lovely by then and such a relief. Believe me I know we were very lucky. The images here are just a limited view of my backyard taken before the worst of the winds started and in between rain much as I could manage. Water  was pushed down our canal courtesy of Irma’s twirling skirts of chaos as shown below. And, also showing what a difference a day makes and the return of the critters.

In this view our across the canal neighbor's boat is
tied in the center roped to his and our side. Our
boat is the Contender tied closer to the dock. It is
not in the center but was anchored and tied so that
it was well away from the dock and pilings. It did well.

Water coming up and over the sea wall into the yard.
 The house was never in danger of flooding but even
with the current king tides water never goes over the 
high sections of the dock like this.

A view of the canal getting waves as wind pushed the
water in.

Aftermath consequence to the sea wall. Disturbance
to the sandy base of the sea wall from surge all day
caused loss of dirt from the yard and the sea wall itself
to move and become tilted.

Another sea wall view.

What a difference a day makes!! After a bad storm the
 beautiful weather is almost in defiance of the 
real damage in destroyed homes, downed trees, and
heartbreak illuminated by the beautiful day.

As you might imagine, critters who find shelter during
a storm are very quick to resume their normal 
activities. This guy looks rather defiant himself
perched on the top of my bougainvillea hedge, a favourite
salad bar.

See evidence....eating a leaf off the bougainvillea. 
Handsome though and the rich colors after the gray
days are a feast to the eye.

Wishing everyone affected by our storms so far this year a quick recovery and a starting over with hope and happiness. I have to marvel at the forces of nature and how insignificant one can feel in the face of Mother Nature’s fury. Sometimes all you can do is watch and wonder. Be well everyone.

 

Judy

 

Still Life Images – Time-Tulips Revisited – Thatcheria Textured – Wilted Roses

•September 2, 2017 • 18 Comments

This image features a vintage (60s or 70s) hourglass 
with some roses which have seen a better day. With the
thought of time running down, the wilted roses seemed
to represent how temporal existence is,their beauty 
almost expired. The old brass bell added an aura of age
 with its pleasant patina. I think one of my military 
relatives brought it home, possibly 
from China or maybe Korea many years ago.

I have a feeling some people are going to be asking, why doesn’t she just get back to the birds and lighthouses!!?? I understand completely. Is it fair to subject other folks to one’s learning process? I think one thing I have learned is that if at all possible, if you want a textured background or a painterly one, set up your stage that way. Then afterwards you can worry about color and lighting and anything else, but won’t agonize over blending in textures in post processing. Well maybe my problem is just being indecisive and I want to see what my options look like. And, to think I was supposed to be content with a simple black background. Ah well!!

So here is some more experimentation to share and I hope that some of it works for you realizing that not everyone likes still life projects. Yeah, I asked my husband if he thought the tulips looks too unnaturally red on my screen, and he wondered why the limp stems?? Tulips do seem to be a bit soft and watery in a way. I understand now why so many tulip images look the way they do, leaning all to one side or drooping with their heads hanging down from the arrangements they share with other flowers. Reds are the most problematic for me since my main computer tends to look oversaturated and then when I convert from Adobe 1998 to sRGB for posting I am not sure the reds will look the way I intended. You’ll have to let me know if the second image with the tulips looks over done. It looks very nice in my Photoshop screen. Hopefully you will have a friendly monitor for the reds. So just a couple notes under each image. The Thatcheria shell I thought looked kind of Grecian with the texture…like a vase.

Comments welcome..the good, the bad and the ugly…!

Revisiting the tulip arrangement from a few weeks
ago. I gave it combination of textures giving a soft, rich
look to the black wall. For those with an impulse
to clean up the table, I have quite a few objects including
the Roemer like wine glass, shells from the PI, acorns 
and little spiky round things from California, and a
favourite piece of my mother's carnival glass. The design
is kind of Persian and probably made by Fenton but 
should look it up. I think they must have copied the
iridescence given the grackle. I love carnival glass.

I think I had planned a black and white shadowy image
when I was looking at this image. But, put texture on
it and thought it reminded me of a Greek vase or something.
Truly an elegant shell.

For this I was trying to be more brazen with the
bi-color filter and jazz up an otherwise plain shot
of the fading flowers. They are not dried just have
nothing left to hold up their heads. I thought blue 
light ought to come in on the window side and have
a little warm light on the room side with some
texture for perhaps an aged quality.

Happy Labor Day and Best Wishes as you wrap up summer even though mother nature isn’t finished with the heat and hurricanes yet. Stay Safe!

When Insurance Just Isn’t Enough

•August 28, 2017 • 9 Comments

Having friends living along the edges of the watery basin we know as the Gulf of Mexico suffering the effects of Hurricane Harvey this 2017 Hurricane season , and despite some very real difficulties, I was reminded of another hurricane season in the Gulf and someone’s sense of humor.  The 2004 Hurricane Season brought Category 4 Charley to the Gulf coast of Florida in August which was the costliest storm to that date, only to be crushed  by the following record breaking 2005 season when Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma visited our lovely state.  A parade of active hurricane seasons besides having us all take Mother Nature more seriously, caused quite a few insurance companies to flee doing business in Florida. Even today my family has Citizens, the insurance company of last resort, since no company seems to want our small house situated on a canal linking to the ICW and vast Atlantic Ocean.

I could not resist going back in my files to gather up images I could never forget taking with my first digital camera, the Canon Rebel DLSR. It was September 19 of 2004 only 5 or so weeks after Hurricane Charley had come and gone, that we were visiting Naples and I wanted to take a few sunset pictures on the beach. The west coast has nice civilized sunsets, while in the east where I am you have to get up so early for pretty pictures of the sun near the horizon so I earnestly looked forward to the opportunity.

So, I spent some time walking up and down the beach waiting for the sun to descend when I approached a house, a large beautiful one with the new vertical metal style roof.  I was startled by the strange sight of  a giant orange anchor sitting in the yard and on closer examination realized that it was firmly attached to the house by a heavy metal chain snaking through the yard. Then I laughed so hard at the perfect absurdity and the rationality of the thought that this house was indeed anchored to the world and no hurricane wind would blow it away or rushing waves carry it out to sea. While it is difficult to see, on the left side of the 2nd image, this property owner has covered all his bases as a trio of crosses stands in an elegant and stylish display and certainly must appeal to divine intervention. So you can see the title I gave these images, When Insurance Just isn’t enough, is a natural one. So there Windstorm Insurance companies!!! Since this image was taken in September 2004, the 2005 season with its five hurricanes striking Florida was still in the future. I hope they fared well in 2005.

I don’t mean to make light of a difficult situation, but gotta love the very clever sense of humor of this  homeowner!! Maybe we all need to smile at life’s ups and downs whenever we can.

 

 

 

This image is just an old favourite from that same day.
It's color are so muted due to the presence of white
light courtesy of the descending sun. You can see
the pilings pointing out to the lighted horizon and
mounds of seashells polished by the storm piled
up on the beach and around some of the pilings. Hard to
see but pelicans sit on the furthest out pilings. I 
called this one Let There Be Light back when I took it.
It still looks interesting to me.

Wishing everyone in harm’s way this hurricane season a speedy recovery as they heal and rebuild!!

Judy

Everglades Bouquet of fern, thistle, duck weed and snowy egret elements

•August 27, 2017 • 9 Comments

 

Today I was intent on working through an idea for a composite for which I did not have all the images ideal for the idea. But, I felt compelled to do something. Some still life photographers do use compositing to set up their scenes bringing in objects or flowers to fill in the setting much as a painter would. I like the idea of having an inventory of flowers or objects with similar lighting so that you could plan a  basic set up  to fill in with flowers from other shoots from other days or even seasons. I wanted to  try something in my world instead of old Dutch master’s settings and objects which I see as something done exquisitely by so many other artists. Liking the idea of assembling some flowers from the swamp or glades, I thought an Everglades bouquet sounded interesting. I envisioned gathering up the purple thistles you see in the glades, aquatic pickerel weed, fire flag flowers, a wild iris,  maybe some tillandsia with the bright red bracts, a swamp lily and instead of insects or scorpions would incorporate a bird of the glades.

So despite not having images which had been shot with the idea in mind, I decided to set up something to take a picture of and then try and fill in with images I could hunt out of my files to learn on and test out the concept. So I cut some ferns from my yard for the greens background and cut some purple flowers from the roadside. They were the only ones I felt I could mooch without disturbing someone’s harmony on a Sunday morning. So I put together a basic composition to fill in…the last of the three images included here. I did find some thistle in my files and duck weed that I could darken the background for a merge. I tried to get the wild iris to work and I’d planned it to be my keystone flower, but I just couldn’t seem to make it fit. The fire flag flowers too weren’t suitable for a meld even though I really like them. Perhaps on a still day I can go to the rookery with a piece of black foam board to place behind a fire flag flower for the idea. Or do a different type of background…greenish with texture maybe. Those would drape so nicely. Oh, I did make a mistake thinking the purple flowers were Florida periwinkles; they are Mexican petunias (Ruellia simplex). Luckily the infertile kind as in the course of setting up something totally Florida, I put in an invasive species which in its infertile type is used as a colorful groundcover.

The top image is just what I ended up with when I brought in the bird, kept the water and made the flower vase the fern and lichen encrusted cypress trunk. Probably should scale down the bird a bit more but the snowy is so beautiful in that pensive pose. Image two is the set up with the flowers filled in with some fern strewn on the table. And, the third as mentioned is what I began with only with the oil filter applied. So I will keep planning as I like the idea of an Everglades still shot assembled from wild pictures, I just have to get it to work.

 

 

On this basic composition I used slices from the table
to form a frame to dress up the oil paint
filter I put on the image.

 

In hopes everyone has had a great weekend!

Judy