Weird Sky

So apparently there are wildfires in western Canada, and a strong northwest wind blowing. All of which helps to explain why, on a day that was forecasted to be sunny, we’ve had a bizarre overcast, orangish sky, and an orange (think sunset orange) sun all day. I’m not sure this picture does justice to the crazy colors, but it’s the best I’ve managed so far. It’s been like this all day.

Smokey Sun

The Price


He pulled his overcoat tight against the wind. Snow whipped around him angrily, as though his presence annoyed the flakes. With the storm raging all about, he could barely see where he was going; he relied on memory to guide his steps. It had been many cycles of the moon since he had last made the trip, but his memory had to be sufficient.

Eventually, he did find his way to the shrine. It was set into an alcove, protecting him from the worst of the storm. The ritual was difficult in the best of conditions; he would need to be even more careful this time.

With the break provided by the alcove, setting up was not too difficult. The candles were large enough, and short enough, that they withstood the wind swirling about. Lighting them, though, was another story. Every time he got one lit, another would blow out. It took some time before he could get all of them to keep their flame.

The snow actually made tracing out the patterns easier. His first lines provided a guide to follow for repeating them. Before long, the shrine began to hum and then glow. Finally a voice boomed around him.

“What do you want, man?”

“Our village is in jeopardy. I seek a boon to see us through this winter.”

“A boon? And what will you pay for this boon?”

Pay? Something was wrong. “I do not understand.”

“Everything has a price, man. What is this worth to you?”

“You have never asked for payment to help us.”

“Really? When was the last time you were here?”

“It has been several years,” he admitted.

“Ah, that explains it. The spirit you used to deal with has left this place. I would suspect it was out of neglect.”

The village spirit was gone? He could only manage shocked silence.

“Very well. I will tell you my price. I will give you your boon. In return, you are to deliver to me one member of your village, who must be in their twentieth year or less. Bring them to this shrine.”

“I will do no such thing!” He could feel his cheeks getting hot.

“I told you, everything must be paid for. If you are not willing to do so, do not bother me with your requests.”

The glow of the shrine began to fade.

“Wait!” Panic began to rise in his throat. The village needed this. “What do you intend to do with the villager?”

“Do you really want to know?”

He decided that he did not. “No,” he muttered, embarrassed by his own intention. But he could not let the whole village suffer. If someone had to be sacrificed, it was better than all of them.

“So you agree to the price?”

He could barely manage a “yes.”

“And you understand the consequences of trying to cheat me?”

“Yes,” he muttered again.

“Very well.” A fire sprang up in the middle of the shrine. “Reach in and take your boon.”

He extended his hand, expecting to be safe from the flames. He was not. Still, even as he stifled a yell, he grabbed a small stone from the fire before snatching his hand back and thrusting it into the snow for relief.

“Next time, do not question my price. Let the burn serve as a reminder. Ask only for that whose price you are prepared to pay.”

With that, the shrine’s glow vanished. He stood clutching the stone. The journey back to the village would not be long enough for him to find the words to explain the bargain he had struck. But what else could he do?

Lunar Eclipse

I’ve been wanting to dabble in astrophotography for awhile, but all attempts have been in vain. Still, with a lunar eclipse imminent, I was determined to give it another try. So I did a little research on it, and felt confident that I could get something good out of it.

It took a couple of attempts, but part way into the eclipse, I started to get the hang of it.


My biggest problem was focusing. My telephoto lens doesn’t have a mark for infinity, so I was trying to manually focus on a rather small object in the viewfinder. I lost a number of good shots because of focus or the smallest shake, so small I didn’t notice it. Yes, I used a remote to snap the shutter. But the wind or something must have nudged it ever so slightly.

Still, I got a number of shots that I am happy with.

The moon was almost in full eclipse at this point.


At this point, I began to realize that the faster shutter speed I was using was too fast to capture the now very dim moon. So I started to slow it down.


And finally, the closest I came to a decent shot of the full eclipse.


All of this was good practice for the eclipse in October. And the two next year. I hope the night sky is as clear during those events.

Tigers and Twins

Finally made it to a Tigers v. Twins game in Minneapolis at Target Field. The stadium is very nice. The game was fun, but the outcome was not.

Still, Torii Hunter seemed in good spirits.


And Miguel Cabrera was back in the line up, though he seemed to lack some pop in his bat.


Austin Jackson made it to third (and I believed he scored from there, too). Our seats were very close to third base.


I tried to get a lot of actions shots. Some came out, some did not. Unfortunately, many of the swings were strikes.


But not all of them, as Victor Martinez got a double out of this hit.


Still, this shot of Justin Verlander kind of sums it up for me. He was heading to the outfield for his pre-game warm up. And he pitched 12 strikeouts for six shut-out innings. Unfortunately, the bullpen could not hang on to the win for him.


And yet, I’m sure some people were happy with the outcome.


And I got to see my Tigers play and practice some photography, so it was a good night. And they won tonight, probably because I wasn’t there. So they only need to win one more to clinch the division for the third straight year. Maybe next year I can go watch a win.


Went to the Fantastic Cavern right outside of Springfield, MO.


It’s very hard to get enough stability to take low light pictures when you are in a cart that is moving more often than not.


But that doesn’t mean I didn’t get any decent shots.


Pictures don’t do it justice, but you get the idea.


Blowing Up The Sky

I know that everyone posts fireworks photographs this time of year. And I don’t want to be left out.


Went to the local fireworks show. Unfortunately, a street light forced me to aim my camera high to avoid it’s ambient light. Which meant some of the displays get cut off in funny ways. But you should get the idea.


It took me awhile to get the hang of how long to expose the shots. I like to think they started coming out alright.


I took lots and lots of pictures. Probably close to 250. That may be the best thing to come from digital cameras: the endless number of pictures that can be taken.


That and the immediate gratification of not having to wait for development.


Oh! And the easy post-processing work.


But in the end, I just like all the pretty colors.



It seems to really be spring in Minnesota. We haven’t seen snow in almost a month. Trees are getting green. The grass even needs to be mowed.

And there are birds everywhere. Especially in the street. So I decided to take my zoom lens out to try to catch a few.

Philadelphia Vireo (???)

I am very bad about identifying birds, but I think this is a Philadelphia Vireo. Or it’s something else entirely. But it’s yellow. And looked pretty good against the street.

Chipping Sparrow (?)

We think this is a chipping sparrow. He was the only one (so far) brave enough to see what the toast in the yard was all about.

Then a hawk flew by and all the birds seemed to scatter. I’m still waiting for them to return. Maybe some day…


The Red River of the North has experienced serious flooding three of the last four years, with 2009 being a record flood. This year, we have another flood on our hands. Originally, they were predicting a flood to rival 2009, but since then ideal weather has sent the flood projection down to very manageable levels. Still, it’s already several feet above flood stage, and it will have some impact on the area.


I find it difficult to take pictures of our floods that really convey what is happening. If you don’t know where the river belongs, you might find it difficult to see what’s going on. The fenced area on the far bank is a dog park, with a pedestrian path behind it. The dog park is closed indefinitely, and will soon be under water.

One effect of the flooding is the wildlife that usually stays close to the river being forced closer to the residences. In 2009, I saw a coyote in my backyard. (Unfortunately, I did not have my camera at the ready.) While walking today, we spotted a field mouse, hiding (very well, I might add) further away from the river than is normal, I suspect. At least, we think it was a field mouse.


Thank goodness for my new(ish) zoom lens.

Three Certainties

Sure, we all die. And sure, today taxes are due.

But more importantly, it’s April in northern Minnesota, which means it’s still winter.


The snow is heavy and wet.


And it clings in interesting ways to everything.