It was still spring (26th of May) and a soothing spring rain had just fallen over our town. Raindrops were hanging on flower petals, leaves and blades of grass. The air had been freshened up and any breeze flowing through the garden made you shudder, now that the air and the earth had cooled off. You just wanted to curl up with a nice cup of coffee — which is just what I did after I took these photos. Enjoy the gallery!

Places

A rainy day in the garden

Gallery
Events

The June rainstorm

I happened to have my video camera with me one June day as the sky darkened and it began to thunder loudly. Birds, scared by the noise, took flight. Soon, rain began to fall, in buckets. Everyone who didn’t take cover got drenched to the skin in seconds.

see this on YouTubesee this on blip.tv

This video was recorded in Grosvenor Park, North Bethesda — a beautiful community near Washington, DC, USA. I have lots of photos from Grosvenor Park in my photo catalog. Some are posted below, but feel free to click through and view all of them.

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Events

First torrential summer rain of 2009

On a clear day on the 21st of June, 2009, the sounds of distant thunder made their way into the valley in which the city of Medias, Romania, lies. I checked the sky but not a dark cloud was in sight. In spite of that, the wind began to quicken, and the ruffling of the leaves gave evidence of the approaching rain. Soon, dark clouds appeared over the horizon, and within a quarter of an hour, filled the sky. Peals of thunder punctuated every passing minute. The wind began to blow the dust from the pavement right into the eyes of passersby. People hurried home, shielding their faces.

In another quarter of an hour, the rain started to come down, suddenly. It rained in buckets, with large, thick, heavy drops that hit with a thud and splashed heavily all around. It only lasted another quarter of an hour or so, and it stopped as quickly as it started, but everything was soaking wet. The thick cover of dark clouds slowly parted, and the evening sun lit up the terracotta roof tiles in a golden-orange hue.

I’ve witnessed many rains of all kinds in my time, in temperate and tropical regions, but this was one of the few that I noticed more than the others. I’m not sure why — perhaps because I’d been outside, cleaning up the yard. In the past, I tended to slide in and out of my car and into air conditioned places (work, home), where I was seldom in contact with nature. Now that I’m spending more time at home, and in the yard, I’ve slowed down to where I can sense things a little more. I feel a little of my boyish wonder coming back, and that’s nice; I thought I’d lost it.

A quick video clip recorded while the rain was falling is up in my SmugMug galleries. You can watch it there, or below, if you happen to be reading this on my site (embedded videos don’t appear in the site feed, sorry, nothing I can do about it yet).

http://blip.tv/file/3046222

See this video on blip.tv or at SmugMug.

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Thoughts

The shit days of spring

I am pleased to announce that the shit days of spring are approaching their malodorous end. If you happen to live in non-temperate climates, you may not be accustomed with this rite-of-passage period that takes place every year where I live.

The shit days of spring are that time of the year when pig farmers get to spread the joy of their filthy farm by-products throughout the land, at insanely high prices, under the pretense of fertilizing our grounds. It must put a smile on their faces to know that they’re putting the city slickers through the same shitty time they have year-round, even if it is only for a couple of weeks every year. The regret of not being able to make us smell the offal of their filthy beasts all day, every day, is tempered somewhat by the knowledge that their bank accounts are getting fatter, just like their pigs, with every shovel-full of the nasty stuff they throw our way.

Others are in on the fun as well. Landscaping companies throughout the land rejoice every March. This is their own Christmas time, when they get to sell us pig shit at crazy prices. Just how crazy? Friends of ours who own a house told us they were charged $200 per tree for the privilege of having pig shit dumped around the trunk a couple of springs ago. I can only assume the price has gone up since. That’s right, ladies and gents… The going rate is about $200 for two bags of pig shit mixed with wood chips in the DC area. Ain’t that grand?

So it is with a doubly-chagrined expression that I take walks through our community each spring. For one thing, it smells like shit, and not just like cow shit or horse shit, which would at least smell somewhat decent, but like pig shit, arguably the filthiest, smelliest shit on earth. And for another thing, I can’t believe how much us suckers are paying for the damned pig shit. For shit’s sake, shouldn’t it cost less?

At least the shit days of spring are drawing to a close. Trees and flowers are beginning to blossom, and recent rains have flushed away the nasty stuff. I welcome sweet April, and think of Chaucer as I open my windows and can still get a whiff of March’s filthy stank:

“Whan that April with his showres soote
The droughte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veine in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flowr;”

Indeed. Although Chaucer must not have realized that “swich licour” is really just rain water and pig shit. Who knows, perhaps during his time they used cow dung, which would be the civilized thing to do. At any rate, Republican politicians must get a chuckle out of the whole thing too. Who knew that entire armies of Karl Roves blossom out of the turds every spring?

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Thoughts

Falling upwards

I got home one afternoon just as a summer storm was about to break the heavens open. I had a choice: do some consulting work, or set up my camera and get some photos. The camera won.

Got all sorts of great photos of the clouds wrestling with each other during the prelude to the wet show. As the rain started, I decided to do some high speed photography as well. Set my 5D to 3200 ISO, put it in Aperture Priority mode and the aperture to f/2.8 (the largest my 100mm lens could do), and had lots of fun capturing raindrops in mid-air. It helped that I knew my 5D would go all the way up to 1/8000 secs on the shutter speed…

It looks as if I’ve photographed a wet window pane here, but trust me, those raindrops were caught in mid-air, as they were falling downwards.

Caught mid-air

I thought it’d be fun to process this photo differently, and to turn it upside down. So the raindrops are falling upwards here. 🙂

Falling upwards

Photos taken in North Bethesda, MD.

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Events

Photographing in the rain

Part of the fun of having a good camera is using it in all sorts of situations, inclement weather included. It was raining during one particular afternoon last month, and to top it off, it was windy and ridiculously cold (somewhere between 34-38 degrees Fahrenheit). Yet I really wanted to go out and take photos, because I knew I’d get some interesting shots. I managed to talk Ligia into it, and we headed out with our huge golf umbrella. I’m sure we were a sight to behold: two thin people, huddled together, walking in freezing rain and blustery winds, with a huge umbrella and a DSLR in hand. There were no other people in sight. Everyone else was inside or passing us by in their cars, and I’m fairly sure they were giving us strange looks. But I didn’t care, I was out to take photos!

When I’d find something interesting to photograph, I’d stop and ask Ligia to hold the umbrella just right while I took the shot. The poor girl would struggle with that big umbrella in the wind for my sake. What a wife! What a woman! 🙂 That’s why I love her so — she sticks out for me! Her pant legs were soaking from the beating rain by the time we got back in. At any rate, I did get some pretty interesting photos. Good thing neither of us caught a cold!

Magnolia in early spring rain

Wet patches

Water drops on pine needles

This winding brook caught my eye, and I just had to photograph it. If you look carefully, you’ll see a fairly busy highway in the background. I like the way the light shines through the wet tree leaves. There’s a bunch of snowdrops in the bottom left corner, visible as a patch of green.

Winding brook

I thought it was interesting how the two branches crossed like that:

X marks the spot

Rain, when coupled with good light, makes evergreen colors really come alive, doesn’t it?

Ever green

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Places

Camping in the Shenandoah National Park

This past weekend, close friends of ours and Ligia and I went camping in the Shenandoah National Park. It was a surreal experience. We left a little later than we’d planned, and caught the rush hour traffic heading west on Route 66. We rued our day as we slowly crawled through miles of clogged up highway, but when we got out of the Manassas area, the traffic improved.

At any rate, we’d been slowed down enough that we arrived on Skyline Drive after dark. Then, it started raining as we approached the park. As if that wasn’t enough, fog set in and we could barely see ahead of us. But after all, we were traveling on mountain tops, and it was the start of fall, so the weather can be pretty unpredictable and wet. After trudging around in the dark, we got to the camp, and found one of the few remaining spots for the night. We were shocked to find out that they were booked solid and there was a waiting list. Our friends, who wanted to stay for two nights, couldn’t.

We bought some firewood and headed to our camp site, dreading the experience that would follow: pitching our tents in the dark, in rain, and in strong wind. Fun isn’t the word to describe it. We turned on our headlights and kept them on as we unpacked the tents and raised them. I’ll spare you the muddy details, but you’d be amazed what four pairs of helping hands, working in unison, can accomplish when under pressure.

We got the tents up, then tried to eat. What to eat? We wanted to heat up the food, but we needed a fire. Have you ever tried to start a fire while it’s raining and windy? No copious amounts of lighter fluid and paper will help. It kept dying down, even though the wood was dry. Finally, I gave up and called in the reserves: our friends. They both tried it, persevered, and finally succeeded. We gave up warming the food and ate some cold sandwiches instead, as we sat and warmed ourselves by the fire.

Fireside chats? Not that night! After we got done eating, we went directly to bed, where another surprise awaited us. Our tents were summer tents, and while they held up very nicely in the wind and rain, they were, shall we say, constructed more for the purpose of aeration than insulation. Luckily, we’d brought plenty of covers, but our friends didn’t. Even though they didn’t admit it, methinks they froze their butts off during the night. And what a night! A gale wind blew the whole time, and waves of rain beat down on our tents. It was noisy and lousy, and cold. It took me a while to fall asleep, but thankfully, I stayed asleep till morning after that. We woke up early, with the wind still blowing outside. The rain had stopped, and I managed to get a fire going without help.

We ate our breakfast and had tea, then had two wonderful surprises. One was the Monarch butterflies, in various stages of development, attached to the exterior walls of the bathrooms. Why they picked the bathrooms I don’t know, but that’s where I found them.

Monarch butterfly larva

Monarch butterfly cocoon

Monarch butterfly cocoon

I found the gold lining on their cocoons truly amazing. That’s actually what drew me to them in the first place. If I hadn’t seen the gold spots and crown lining, I’d have passed by them like many of the other people using the bathrooms. It’s no wonder they’re called Monarch butterflies. They sure look regal with those spots of gold, don’t they?

Then Ligia had the second surprise. She found a wild apple tree, and picked a few apples. (They were delicious, by the way.) What do you think she found on one of them? An Eyed Hawk Moth larva, of all things! What was it doing in the Appalachian mountains? It normally lives in Europe. I don’t know, but it was a beautiful thing to behold.

Eyed hawk moth larva

After our breakfast — and this time we could chat around the fire — we took off and went hiking on the Rose River Trail. Our goal: Rose River Falls. The trail was easy and beautiful. Here are a few photos from the hike:

A nonconformist tree

Tree on a rock

Rose River turned out to be a brook in the forest — quite the optimistic name for a brook, isn’t it? 🙂

Rose River

Forest art on display

Rose River Waterfall

After the hike, we had a wonderful late lunch at the Skyland Lounge, then headed out on Skyland Drive, and stopped along the way at overlooks to take photos of the gorgeous vistas. Here are a few of them:

Wide vista

Set against the sunset sky

Mountain tops

Hazy outlines

Fall colors

Was it a wonderful trip? You bet your britches it was, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, even with all the nightmarish traffic and surreal weather.

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