Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

That time of year…

8 August , 2014

It’s that time of year again. Summer projects started aren’t quite done. The long to-do list I started with is, well, still long.

Some things will be done. Within a few more days, we will have moved the boys out of their old rooms and into the new. This involves one of the rooms getting new paint and floor, and a new loft bed that is out of stock at IKEA for a few days — part of the very slow process of removing ALL of the carpet in the house and replacing it with laminate or other materials.

Many projects are in progress. Many things need to be started yet in the diminishing time before the start of yet another semester.

And so, rather than trying to conjure up more words, a picture of a place I’d perhaps rather be:

Just one picture from Jiuzhaigou...

Just one picture from Jiuzhaigou…


Spring is sprung

22 April , 2012

One of my classes is being taught at the Morton Arboretum. It’s offered through ACCA (Associated Colleges of the Chicagoland Area) and the Arboretum’s College Botany program. The class is Plant-Animal Interactions.

There’s a post that will come that looks at some of the assignments the students are doing (a mix of high and low tech), but that’s not what this post is about.

Today I was there with students to look for herbivory. Given the early spring around here (blooms are at least a month ahead), they found a fair bit from the reports I heard. (They have a week to write up and submit the lab report.) I was armed with a digital SLR and a macro lens (105mm), and spent most of the lab time looking for things to take pictures of (mostly birds and flowers), and continued for a few more hours.

Some pics are below. More are on Facebook, if you’re there and have friended me. And yes, this is an excuse to post something to this blog again… (I did post some of these to the class blog as well.)

New beginnings, 2012 edition

23 January , 2012

It’s a new semester. The coordinators of our New Media Seminar met today to plan out the coming spring edition of the seminar. If you were in last semester, you have an invite (whether we’ve sent it yet or not!) for this semester. We’re hoping to have a few additional seats, so if you’ve been following along and would like to join in, please contact me, or another one of the organizers asap!

We’ll be moving to a format of one public forum, one open discussion, and two readings each month. The public forum will meet on the first Monday of the month, with the first scheduled for 6 Feb.

Wilson and I spent 10 days in/near Havana, Cuba over the break. What an amazing trip! We were part of a 12-person faculty study tour. While much of the planning for the trip didn’t pan out, the city is an entrancing mix of beauty and ruins. I’ll add a few pics to this post later — my picture hard drive isn’t attached at the moment. (I acted as a sort of unofficial photographer and took over 2500 pictures there!)

Tiles from a wall at the Hotel Sevilla (Habana)

Tiles from a wall at the Hotel Sevilla (Habana)

A view from the restaurant in our hotel.

A view from the restaurant in our hotel.

A picture of two buildings (one tower) from Habana, Cuba.

A picture from the bus ride to our hotel on the first day.

One of my classes this semester is an ACCA course at the Morton Arboretum. We’ll only meet one evening a week until the semester gets going, so I’ve decided to add some online content to keep things interesting. I’ll have a class blog and ask students to participate during the week. (When it warms up, we’ll have Saturday morning labs.) I enjoy this class; the Arboretum is nearby, but I rarely have to go there. This class is a fun excuse to visit far more often!


12 October , 2011
Heliconius erato


The butterfly above is Heliconius erato. The picture was taken (by me) in the research space of Larry Gilbert at the Breckinridge Field Station, a part of the University of Texas at Austin.

I like this picture and am using it in this post for much the same reason: Focus. Without the narrow depth of field that I’ve used in this picture, this would be a very busy scene. There are plants and flowers in the background that you can’t really see here due to the level of blur. Some are far away, others are close, but the butterfly and the leaf that its on are really all you can see.

I’ve been struggling with focus for the past week. I’m really enjoying the NMFS reading this week: Computer Lib/Dream Machines by Ted Nelson (1974). I have not been reading with a highlighter in hand (it’s just not something I’ve ever had the habit of doing), but for once, I wish I had — there’s a lot here that I need to go back and re-read, savor, consider, and contemplate. The idea of a computer as a tool for education — and one that could be used to improve education — is still under discussion today. I was struck by his metaphor of dog food kibble as bits of information we feed to kids in schools. I was particularly struck by this line (page 317): “I think that when the real media of the future arrive, the smallest child will know it right away (and perhaps first). That, indeed, should and will be the criterion. When you can’t tear a teeny kid away from the computer screen, we’ll have gotten there.” By that definition, the iOS devices are it. My three year old twins are growing up with this technology (with occasional access to an iPad and iPod Touches), and they intuitively know how to use it, and are very upset when it is taken away (which is part of why the access is very occasional, indeed).

I’ve spent time this week thinking, for other reasons, of the benefits of getting out in, and paying attention to, nature. This means stepping away from the computer, even the laptop. I think that carrying a camera (even a digital one) is allowed, though — hence the opportunity to take a picture like the one above. There’s growing evidence that many of our mental ills of the modern world (ADHD and perhaps also such as anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia) may be exacerbated by the way we’ve filled our lives with indoor and manicured outdoor activities. We don’t often — as kids or as adults — simply go out into the forest or prairie to play, look, observe, attend… And we may be paying a price for that.

I know that I feel better, and can often get more done afterwards, if I take a break and get outdoors. Not just to walk around the campus, but get out to a natural area (on campus or elsewhere) and lose myself in the nature around me. But I don’t do it as often as I should.

So, can we use technology to get back into nature? I have iOS field guides. Some are wonderful. Others leave something to be desired. So yes, I’ve pulled out a device other than a camera in the field. But sometimes it feels like the technology requires more effort, and more time. I was feeling a lot of irony earlier this week, while trying to put together a presentation on the concept of why we need nature, trying to grade an ecology exam — both skipping around the idea of nature, but keeping me from getting out to enjoy it.

And so, the struggle to focus continues…