Elegant Thatcheria Shell in BW

•October 14, 2018 • 11 Comments


I’ve offered views of the Thatcheria shell a few times in still life but cannot seem to entirely stay away from this elegant form. In prior efforts I seemed to have trouble getting this front view of the shell as it sits more easily oriented the other way, perhaps some non permanent adhesive to position things that tend to roll might help in the future. Certainly the Thatcheria itself is stunning from any angle.  While I’d intended a single simple black and white image, I did get tempted to play with some background blending for and alternate texture. I thought the texture looked  a bit like stone and that the shell structure played nicely off of it. Hope you find it interesting.




May what remains of Sunday be peaceful as the busy work week looms.



Horse Shoe Crab with Barnacles

•October 7, 2018 • 25 Comments


Meet Limulus Polyphemus, the American horseshoe crab! This prehistoric creature is commonly seen here in South Florida on its beaches and salt lagoons. I’ve been fascinated with their ancient aspect since I was a child. They always did remind me of trilobites which are extinct marine arachnomorph arthropods so that makes sense. Horseshoe crabs are one of the oldest creatures on earth called “living fossils” sometimes. Crab is a bit of a misnomer as these animals are more closely related to spiders and scorpions or arachnids, than they are to crustaceans. Of the four species of horseshoe crab on earth today three species live in Southeast Asia while just one inhabits North America. See the bottom on this post for a good link to learn more about this very cool creature.

I collected this specimen in Merritt Island a couple of months ago. It was found along with a few others behind the Veteran’s Center there on the sandy shallows near some mangroves. All were dead but recently due to the good condition they were in, so not long I don’t think. Excepting, how did they become so barnacle encrusted so fast? I selected this one to take home and let dry for awhile as a good photography subject.

I started taking pictures of this specimen today on a plain platform and worked along nicely until I decided to flip it over to look and its underbelly. The carapace and legs served as an upside down bowl retaining quite a bit of sand. While I had tidied up the crab somewhat dusting off some of the sand on top, the flip spilled out sand in a starry pattern which I quite liked. The ancient arthropod seems now to transcend time sailing towards some point of origin in deep space. It looks organic and alien against the sandy heavens.

I hope you enjoy the sight of this interesting fellow and I’ll endeavor to take more time and care in removing sand and cleaning it up some more as it really is in perfect condition as a specimen.  I did notice that some of the spots of barnacle cement did fall off on their own so I do not know if the remaining barnacles will eventually separate from the carapace.







Horseshoe Crab arranged with a sand dollar and
some twigs also encrusted with barnacles from
another seaside adventure.

Learn about Horse Shoe Crabs




Giant Leather Fern – Shape, Shadow and Home

•October 6, 2018 • 19 Comments



Wilderness areas, as messy and tangled as they are, are filled with pleasing textures and a geometry of form and shadow. Like many photographers, no matter what the intended subject for the day, I stop at most any interesting pattern or attractive shape I see. This of course clogs my computer quite a bit and drives my pack rat nature into the digital world. You never know when you might have a use for something!! Right??

The giant leather fern, Acrostichum danaeifolium, is Florida’s largest fern and besides its tremendous size, growing typically 6 feet tall but can reach 12 feet, offers lots of interesting texture, shapes and shadows. Florida is the only state this species is found but it also lives in Central and South America and in the Caribbean.  The fern grows in coastal hammocks, mangrove swamps and on the fringes of canals and ponds. The fern grows in large clumps in many of the wetland areas I go to shoot birds and is often home to the nesting birds. The leaflets are quite leathery looking and substantial and the undersides of the fertile leaflets are coated with reddish spore cases looking much like a coppery felt. The greens and copper colors are quite lovely even when the fronds dry up and curl into intricate circles. The pinnately divided parallel arrangements of the frond leaves delivers great shadow patterns in most any angle of sunlight. The plants are also used in landscaping schemes and are quite hardy all year round.

In all probability, these won’t be far from my viewfinder when I encounter them in their various forms.







White Egret rests on a Giant Leather Fern Frond. Its
chicks are in a nest deeper within the clump of fern.

These images are from various times of year and I do look forward to cooler temperatures and exploring the Florida wetlands and rookeries soon!



Great Blue Heron in December

•April 15, 2018 • 13 Comments


Just a small indulgence to get back in the rhythm of the birds and artistic endeavors. This considering I have missed most of the 2018 nesting season and was unable to get out today yet felt motivated to do something. I was surprised in looking at my file folders that I have not taken any pictures, save some at my father’s funeral in February which I have not loaded up yet, since the shoot this bird was part of in December of last year. I had basically rejected that shoot as not being particularly worthy photographically but was a welcomed respite just hiking around. Still, I did like the elegant pose of this Great Blue Heron despite the fact that the capture image falls quite short. Not the heron’s fault of course as it gave me all the beauty it had.

The image was fairly dark and low contrast being late day and the sun not really hitting this section of the tree island very well. Being December, the leaves were also not particularly beautiful as they are in spring and were quite tattered by birds beginning to nest. So this image, for better or worse, involves darkening and blurring the background, bringing out the bird from it, and then filtering for some lighting which was not there onto the bird and selected leaves. Trying to minimize a tangled background is not always the easiest thing for me but I hope that the bird itself carries the image enough for an enjoyable view.

Now to get back out there!!! I really need an everglades or big cypress swamp fix.









Duty-Honor-Country: Remembering my Dad

•April 1, 2018 • 17 Comments

Perhaps Easter with its underlying themes of life, death, rebirth, and immortality is an appropriate time to post a remembrance of my father. As with my mother who died just a year and 4 days before Dad, I am sharing the eulogy I gave at his funeral. While consumed by practical matters after Dad’s death and even with the support of my wonderful siblings, I have still felt emotionally stalled unable to take interest in things such as reading, photography, or writing anything. Mom’s last years were marked by the unfortunate progression into dementia and Alzheimer’s. Dad, on the other hand, was very much himself to the last, and this is part of what has made it more difficult. And, so I miss his company, generous nature, and just manner of being much more profoundly. I thought he’d have more time to be himself after losing Mom.

I have used a sort of metaphor lately, an image I can’t seem to dismiss from my thinking, that I feel “root pruned.” I remember when our two large Sea Grape Trees were root pruned for transplant to another location. They cut the larger supporting roots which extend out beyond the arms of the branches to encourage the growth of more of the smaller feeder roots at the root ball itself. For an older tree the shock of this procedure can kill it, but properly done the tree will survive in its new location beautifully. As an army brat, we moved a lot and so I never put down roots at a particular place. The ground my roots were imbedded in was the people in my life, my family. That was my constant and my support. Although, death is as natural as birth and a good death should be treasured and special, still for the living there is a big void. Just about every older relative that was part of my memories of childhood and integral sense of self are gone now…grandparents, favourite aunts and uncles, a favourite cousin, and now my mother and father. It feels like the last, biggest and strongest supporting roots have been severed. Sure, the tree will survive and other supporting roots will become even stronger, and new feeder roots will give life new vitality. Still, I don’t like the sense of disconnect from such well loved parts of myself, but I don’t want to forget either and regret no tear spent in the process. I am lucky to feel this way. I love my roots.

As we seek renewal through Christ today, may we not be severed either from his love and support, by forgetting all He suffered on our behalf.


eulogy for Dad

John Darby Howard -  West Point Cadet


Almost exactly a year ago, I stood here delivering my mother’s eulogy, and found it one last chance to say thank you to someone you love. In that spirit, my eulogy to my father is a thank you letter.

Dear Dad;

It is so difficult for me to accept that your time with us in this earthly realm has ended. If I hadn’t been there at your bedside when you drew your last breath, I might yet think you were just working in your office or sitting in the next room. Yet, we had you here for 93 well lived years and how can I complain about that!

And what a 93 years they were. You served in three wars and saw the Berlin Wall come down. You’ve seen the advent of TV, the personal computer, man touching foot on the surface of the moon, and the Space Shuttle rumble into orbit from your back yard in Merritt Island.

They say that life’s only constant is change and I am sure the future holds many more technological achievements. But, Space Age to Digital Age the one thing that never changed was your personal dedication to God, Country and Family. Considering we moved every couple of years growing up, it was this sense of constancy and stability that gave us a secure childhood despite having had many addresses.

The hallmarks of my upbringing included your unflagging optimism and joy in life and that great gift you have in seeing the good in people. Being raised by a person who believes in the inherent goodness of man to balance out the negatives out there in the world gave all of us kids a positive platform from which to build our lives. That this would come from a soldier who has seen the face of war, is to me especially unusual. Perhaps we can blame it on Abou Ben Adhem’s angel who let us know that love of God blesses the one who loves his fellow man.

Of your 93 years, I am grateful for the years your parents spent helping mold you into the person you were and for the influence of forbears such as your grandfather, James Marion Howard, who exhibited a great work ethic and a problem solving attitude to life, including surviving the Civil War. And, for the influence of your own father Willis T. Howard, Methodist Minister and Military Chaplain who put God first and allowed that individuals must find a personal relationship with their Creator first and foremost above denominational concerns.

I am most grateful for the years you, along with Mom’s love and support, spent molding me into the person I am and thank you sincerely for a wonderful, supportive childhood. A childhood filled with both important as well as silly memories. Like remembering you laboring to help me understand Geometry with my tears of frustration dripping all over my theorems, or that short-lived enterprise of trying to get us kids take a spoonful of vinegar daily for health, or instilling a love of poetry…well with a few coins for the memorizing…always brings a smile…. did I really memorize Poe’s The Raven for a quarter??  Those poems so wisely chosen were probably part of the molding too…from Henry Leigh Hunts’ Abou Ben Adhem to William Ernest Henley’s Invictus to Edward Sill’s A Fool’s Prayer and so many others which spoke to the better instincts of man. And, on the more serious side remembering losing little Susan Leigh so soon and the lessons of Viet Nam learned while we lived in the Philippines. Even the difficult things were handled with grace and we kids were instilled with an appreciation for how precious life truly is.

Tripping down memory lane is certainly a fun ride of family camaraderie during so many wonderful road trips traveling from one army base to another. So many things, but whether the Grand Tetons, The Painted Desert, Yosemite, Yellowstone, or some lesser known side trip… it was always an adventure. Hawaii was one of my favourites from being there to witness statehood, to seeing Mauna Loa after it erupted and feeling the heat still present in the rock beneath our feet and steam visible from fissures as we walked on the hardened lava. Far too many adventures and anecdotes to recite here, but all part of my sense of life and inevitable curiosity of what comes next.

Even in retirement, you never slowed your pace and continued to serve your fellow man in so many ways. A position with the State Job service helped people gain employment. You took a Program Director position with Brevard Correctional to give others a chance to turn things around through education. And, most notably and most dear to your heart you led a campaign to bring veterans together in remembrance of all they gave for our freedoms and to aid their families in making the Merritt Island Veteran’s Center and Museum a reality. Duty – Honor – Country was never just a Motto for you; it was your sense of self. You not only followed the guidance of father and family, but also that of our founding fathers who looked to God as the source of Life and Freedom.

Even in your last days you thought of others first with thank you s for everyone and every helpful service provided. Your grateful spirit was undimmed even as you struggled for breath from failing lungs. When Darby and Ginger flew in to see you in the hospital with Lynda and me, you thanked US for ‘backing you up’, you who had our backs from day one.

I am so deeply blessed you were my father and thank you for your guidance in my life,

In conclusion, I’d like to share the poem Abou Ben Adhem by James Henry Leigh Hunt alluded to in the letter. If we are at all defined by the things we love, then it is easy to see why he loved this poem.


Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight in his room,

Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

An angel writing in a book of gold:—

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

And to the presence in the room he said,

“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,

And with a look made of all sweet accord,

Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”

Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,

But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,

Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

It came again with a great wakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blest,

And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.



 Heaps of Love Dad, Heaps of Love


Dad in front of the Merritt Island Veteran's Center
and Museum he helped found and worked tirelessly
to make happen.


These soldier boots on display at the Merritt Island
 Veteran's Center are a haunting reminder of those who
served and the sacrifices they made.

For those who may wish to support the Merritt Island Veteran’s Memorial Center and Museum and its mission to help veterans you will find a donate button on their website.

Happy Easter Everyone,


Grandmother’s Donut Vase in Still Life

•January 14, 2018 • 9 Comments


Selecting a couple more images from the November Still Life shoot. Who knows what I will go and  round up when I have a camera in my hand. Most of my short experience with peonies has been with the lighter colored ones which I actually find easier to work with post processing because of differences in my monitors and the stronger colors. The objects were set in my general fashion with black felt as a background and ambient light from the window on the semi reflective surface of the old sewing cabinet I have been using.  I probably should just do a series of posts simply of favorite things as I keep gravitating towards these old pieces I have.

This particular vase was my maternal grandmother’s and very likely belonged to Great Granny too. It looks it. It is one of those things that doesn’t quite fit with modern tastes but has a charm of its own and I find that donut hole structure of it feels very right in hand. Easy to hold. Quite often with vintage items I will go online and see if anyone has one like it. I have found so many times when I think I have an object so unique and old that it must be one of a kind, I find something exactly the same for sale on eBay. A reality check of sorts. But, I haven’t found one like this yet in looking around. Maybe someone else out there has one saved from their grandmother too.

I hope that you enjoy seeing the vase and the arrangement of the items. When working by a window the ambient light changes when time moves on and when clouds drift by, giving  dimmer or brighter images.  I rather liked the single peony below in the vase, it just looks so soft.

PS: I am not a hoarder, possibly a pack rat, I just have always felt connected to people I have loved through objects they owned and used.


The Complexity of Simplicity

•January 7, 2018 • 9 Comments

Delicate pink flowers with the classic Thatcheria
mirabilis shell and elegant Murex haustellum.

It is said that true understanding is when you reach the simplicity on the other side of complexity. The same could be said for the effort to create a pleasing still life composition. Speaking for myself at least, there seems to be quite of bit of experimentation with selection and turning things this way or that to try an arrive at the goal of classic artistic simplicity. As individual elements seashells and flowers have it all being graced with nature’s perfect symmetry and a geometry so pure that it must surely have its origin in the divine.

These images are from an earlier still life experimentation session from which I may draw upon another time or two for sharing. I hope that they are enjoyable to view and I am as interested in what doesn’t work as well as what does!!



Probably got carried away with this chain of shells and
flowers. The image features two types of Murex &
the Thatcheria shell.


This pairing is of the elegant Thatcheria mirabilis &
the spiny Murex pecten. The Murex as not an uncommon
species but is truly uncommonly beautiful. It has over
100 spines which protect the gastropod from predation.
This intricate safety feature earns the shell the
nickname of Venus Comb. This I collected in the 
Philippines in 1970.



 This one is for Linda Leinen who liked the grunged Thatcheria!

To simple joys in a complex world

Happy 2018!!