Sunday, July 31, 2011

Five Years and Still Going

Family Farm in HDR

It's hard to believe that it has been five years and 1206 posts since Country Captures began.  At the time I was rediscovering photography with a Canon S2 point & shoot and editing in Photoshop Elements.

With the point & shoot I was limited to shooting landscapes, people, and wild subjects that could be approached very closely.  Within a couple of years I grew dissatisfied with the limitations of the p&s  and took the plunge into the realm of the DSLR with the acquisition of a Canon 30D and never looked back.  This camera along with the Canon 100-400 lens opened the door to shooting wildlife which then became my major focus.  The 30D served me well and after over 200,000 shutter cycles I upgraded to the 60D I am currently shooting along with upgrading my editing software to Photoshop CS5.

Shooting and sharing my images here at Country Captures has been a rewarding experience and I thank each and every one of you for following along with my adventure in digital photography.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer: Fawns & Flowers

At a time when landscapes shimmer under the afternoon heat, early morning is the best time to see natures beauty unfold.  Black-eyed Susan's brighten our landscape most anywhere that has escaped the blade of the mower.

Wild Morning Glories dot overgrown fields and roadsides.  The blooms are short lived, closing their fragile petals soon after sunrise.

A close-up of the Morning Glory reveals dew drops glistening like jewels in the diffused sunlight shining through the silken bloom.

Whitetail fawns are also very active during the cool of the morning.  Exploring their new world and cavorting about, must at times, take second place to a refueling stop.

Appearing almost as Siamese twins, a pair of fawns graze while the grass remains wet with dew.

I appreciate everyone's comments and well wishes concerning my illness.  I have had a nearly complete recovery since my body temperature returned to normal.  The rash is nearly gone but I tire more easily than before.  I am awaiting to hear the outcome of lab test and then expect to consult with my doctor concerning whether more treatment is required. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lyme: Not a Pretty Picture

The first symptoms occurred Sunday evening when I returned home from working a 12 hour shift; overwhelming fatigue.  I wrote it off to lack of sufficient sleep but by Monday morning the symptoms had only worsened.  Planning to pick and can green beans, I found it hard to do with overall body pain particularly in the pelvic region and knees.  Struggling through the morning I hit the end when I felt as if I was going to pass out while filling jars at our kitchen sink.  My dear wife picked up where I left off as I went to check my temperature; 101F.  I spent the remainder of the day in bed except for what time it took to put the canners on and take them off.

Tuesday with the fever hanging between 101 and 102 I only found energy to put one load of beans on the camp stove which we use to keep the heat and humidity outside.  Once again the overall body pain was high particularly when I would first stand up.  Thinking that I had a bout of the summer flu I was still toughing it out waiting for the fever to break.

Wednesday dawned hot and humid with me in as much misery as before.  My temperature remained unchanged and we decided that I had waited long enough; a trip to the doctor was in order.  For some unknown reason my temp had dropped below 100 by the time of my appointment and after going over my symptoms they didn't feel that I had given them much to go on.  It was decided that I must have some type of viral infection going on so was told to take Ibuprofen for the flu-like symptoms and wait for the fever to break and follow up with a panel of blood test in the morning.  After taking the 600mg of Ibuprofen I felt somewhat better; well enough to go ahead and finished two more canning batches.  By evening the fever was back with a vengeance hitting and holding 103 all through the night.

With the fever still holding 103 degrees Thursday and the blood panel showing nothing significant a call to the doctor got me a prescription for amoxicillin in case of a secondary bacterial infection and I took my first dose that afternoon.

Friday morning things finally took a turn for the better when my fever broke around 4:00am leaving me drenched in sweat.  By 6am though still sweating profusely I felt good enough to take a short drive about the countryside as told in yesterday's post.  By the afternoon I felt I would be well enough to return to work today and was in plant by the 3am start of shift; still sweating, temp low (96.5) but feeling much much better.  As Saturday morning wore on I felt more and more of my strength returning and by 10am my temp had stabilized and sweating ceased.

Upon arriving home this evening, as I changed from my work clothes my wife gasp "dear God" and pointed at the rear of my lower leg.  She recognized it immediately and so did I as I looked to where she was pointing; the Lyme rash!  As we looked back over the events of the week she was sure that if it had been present earlier it certainly had to have been much smaller and not nearly so inflamed or she would have noticed it.

Fortunately in an attempt to head off a secondary bacterial infection the doctor had prescribed the exact treatment I needed for this serious infection that had kept me bedridden for most of the week!

Come Monday I will be back in contact with the doctor to see where we go from here but for now, thank God, I'm off to a good start.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Country Roads

Unmowed roadsides are an excellent place to photograph wildflowers as the shots posted here can attest

Mid-summer's wildflowers, while mostly known as weeds, are just as beautiful as their spring blooming cousins that draw so many peoples attention.

Shooting roadside flowers is best done along backcountry roads with very little traffic for two reasons, safety and for lack of wind from passing vehicles setting the flowers to swaying. 

If it seems that I have been missing from the blog quite a while as my wife would say, there is a reason for that.  Sunday evening I felt very tired.  I blamed it on having worked 36 of the past 60 hours but after a nights rest and feeling even worse I came to realize that something else was at play.  Some type of viral infection has set in and my temp hovered between 102-103f for the next three days finally breaking early this morning.  To make matters worse this had to occur during the still ongoing heatwave.

Before the sun rose this morning I felt good enough to take a short drive along a couple of our back country roads and was treated to the surprise sighting of a bear with three small cubs.  The bears didn't linger and were out of sight before I could stop the car.  Just seeing them for a moment made it a very special morning, the first morning since Sunday that I felt up to driving and then to see a sow with triplets!  Now THAT is a special day!

Friday, July 15, 2011

C&O Canal Park in HDR

Nestled between the Potomac River and the old C&O Canal, the C&O Canal Park offers anyone a quiet scenic view of the river with picnic tables and grills.  Although its only a stones throw from the edge of Hancock Md one would never know it while enjoying the tranquility of the gently flowing river.

The canal tow path runs between the park and the old canal.  This shot was made in the evening facing east.  The tow path is enjoyed by both hikers and bikers. 

The old highway bridge, now a pedestrian bridge. adds a scenic element to the view along the canal.

I shot these images one evening shortly after a cold front passed through our area.  The front wiped away the hot hazy humidity leaving behind cool clear conditions.  I felt the conditions were perfect for shooting this location in HDR.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


With pruning long overdue, I set to work cutting my flowering quince back to a manageable size.  While working by way around the bush I noticed a nest woven between two branches.  When I pulled the branches down to head height I was greeted by three little birds crouched in the nest.   Leaving these branches uncut left the bush looking strange to say the least but with young gray catbirds in the nest it was the right thing to do.

While gathering the prunings the adults returned resuming feeding of the voracious babies.  Seeing a photo opportunity I retrieved the camera and set to work making images.

Hand holding and shooting from a step ladder gave me this bird's eye view of the ravenous youngster hoping for its next meal.

The growth rate of young birds is phenomenal and in just a few days these little guys were gone, allowing me to finish trimming the bush. 

Friday, July 08, 2011



This image was captured as a set of three photos and merged into HDR (high dynamic range) using Photoshop's HDR Pro.  Still new to HDR, I am trying to find scenes where I can use it to capture photorealistic images.

Visiting Cowans Gap State Park I was captivated by this simple scene of a grandfather sharing an evening on the lake with his grandson.  The bright red canoe, the placid water, the brightly lit trees framing the scene, and the shadowed background contained to much contrast capture well with a single exposure.  Shooting a 2.5 stop series captured detail in both the highlights and shadows as well as in the mid-tones.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Crystal Grottoes

Trying to think of a good place to spend a day trip I remembered  a neat little cavern I had visited on a school field trip over forty years ago, Crystal Grottoes.  Located near Boonsboro, Maryland the cave is touted as having more formations per square foot than any other cave known to man.  I have no way of knowing if this claim is true but there certainly is many spectacular formations in the 900 feet that is open to the public.

Discovered in 1920 when the Maryland State Roads Commission was quarrying for limestone the cavern has been privately owned and operated since 1922.

I have read some negative reviews of Crystal Grottoes but our tour was very good.  Visiting on Tuesday morning we had only a short wait until a school group finished.  As we were the only patrons at the time the tour was like a private showing.  As my wife and I following along behind Joel he explained all of the wonders the cavern has to offer.

Joel's enthusiasm for Crystal Grottoes and caving in general was very evident and contagious.  He related not only stories of this cave but of some of his other caving experiences.

Brenda taking in the sights

Brenda & Joel admiring the intricate formation hanging from the ceiling.

Crystal Grottoes is not a large cavern when compared with the likes of Luray Caverns.  The above ground amenities are somewhat less than what one would expect but, the sights below ground are certainly worth the price of admission. 

Saturday, July 02, 2011


A Fritillary displays its Proboscis curled moments after landing on a thistle.

The butterflies proboscis is the flexible specialized mouth part that allows it to sip nectar from deep within a flower.

As the butterfly prepares to feed it begins to extend the proboscis.  Note the loosening curls.

Now fully extended the proboscis is moving to rapidly for my shutter to freeze its movement as the butterfly probes for nectar.

Images posted above were taken with a Canon 60D, 100-400mm lens and 25mm extension tube