Archive for April, 2015

Saguaro Buds Update

Saguaro Flower Buds

The ‘big guy’ out front has more flower buds. This is a small section of one of the upper arms where the buds get bigger each day. I tried to count the number of buds, but lost count when I could not quite see what was on top of the arms of the cactus. I got to about two dozen when I gave up.

This photo is of the same area on the same arm of the cactus I posted last week. I’m sure we will have dozens of flowers this year. Maybe we will get on the garage roof when the flowers start to open to get some photos from that vantage point.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Comments off

The Camera Mode Wheel

Camera Mode WheelI have been in possession of my Canon EOS Rebel SL1 since last December. Damsel has had Canon EOS Rebels for years, but this one is my first semi-serious DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera.

Since I had little experience with DSLRs other than borrowing Damsel’s from time to time, I bought and read “Canon EOS Rebel SL1/100D for Dummies.” The book helped a lot in that it pointed out all of the special features of the camera including the menus plus all of the modes available on the wheel and a few more beyond that.

In this post I will discuss what the Canon manual describes as “creative modes,” which are P, Tv, Av and M seen in the image enclosed by an arc and braces on the upper left side of the wheel in the image. I won’t go into all the other modes available other than to enumerate them. Starting with the green box “A” on the left going counter-clockwise, the fixed modes are as follows:

  • Scene Intelligent Auto
  • Flash Off
  • Creative Auto
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Close-up
  • Sports
  • and Special Scene Mode with a variety of kitschy settings available (snow, beach, fireworks, etc.)

Now for the creative modes:

P is for “Program AE,” which automatically selects aperture and shutter speed for you. If you select ISO AUTO, then this mode is more-or-less completely automatic with the exception that if you want the flash to fire, you must deploy the pop-up wink light manually. The latter is true for all of the creative modes. “P” is the mode I use the most.

Tv is for “Shutter Speed Priority.” Set the shutter speed to get the effect you desire. Long exposure time to blur motion and short exposure time to freeze it. Aperture and other settings are automatic. I have this mode set to a very fast shutter speed for normal use in case I see something moving that I wish to freeze. Switching modes is almost instantaneous while in the field.

Av is for “Aperture Priority.” Use a narrower aperture for greater depth of field. I have this set to a wide aperture to be able to capture objects with a blurred background. It’s good for portraits of people and photos of critters in the desert with attention focused on the subject and drawn away from the background.

M is for “Manual Settings.” The photographer can select both aperture and shutter speed settings. I keep this set for the occasional solar filter photography I do: very fast shutter speed and wide aperture seem to work best with the solar filter I use.

In the few months I have had this camera, I have tried to delve into the myriad functions and modes, but after this short time there is still much to be discovered. Regardless of that, I am very well pleased with the camera.

Comments off

Replacing the Compost Bin

Compost Bins

“Nothing lasts in Arizona,” was the warning given to us by one of the guys installing stuff when we first moved here. Sure enough, the old compost bin installed in 2011 is, literally, coming apart at the seams. Even though this location is in the shade most of the day, the UV and other damage has taken its toll.

Enter the new compost bin; we don’t expect this one will last any longer, but it will replace the decrepit bin tomorrow. We will lift the old bin off of the heap and put it in the recycle bin after disassembly. The new bin will fit the footprint of the old one within a couple of inches. We may have to rake the compost toward the center of the heap before putting the new bin over it.

Despite the triple-digit heat in the summer and the frosts in the winter, our compost worms continue to thrive. A quick dig into the heap reveals many, many red wigglers doing their thing. We take a couple of quarts of composted soil out now and then for various of Damsel’s garden projects.

UPDATE 28 Apr 2015: As I said we would do, I replaced the old compost bin this morning. The footprint of the new bin was slightly smaller than the old one, so I had to shovel the compost edges into the wheelbarrow and shovel it back in to the new bin once in place. Dress up the edges with some of the one-inch red gravel and it looks great!

Replacing the Bin

Comments (3)

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

I went outside this afternoon with the telephoto lens on the Canon SL1 to try my luck at capturing images of some of the local wildlife in their habitat. Damsel and I have already observed a couple of quail herding their spring chicks around but I had no such luck today.

I did see this cactus wren nibbling on the seed bell. I waited until it got off of the human-provided feeder and into this mesquite where it perched briefly for me to secure the shot. Click on the image to enlarge.

The cactus wren is the state bird of Arizona and, according to Wikipedia, has these additional attributes:

The cactus wren is the largest North American wren, at 18–23 cm (7.1–9.1 in) long. Unlike the smaller wrens, the cactus wren is easily seen. It has the loud voice characteristic of wrens. The cactus wren is much less shy than most of the family. Its marked white eyestripe, brown head, barred wings and tail, and spotted tail feathers make it easy to identify. Like most birds in its genus, it has a slightly curved bill. There is little sexual dimorphism.

My guess is that last dimorphism bit means that one cannot easily distinguish between males and females as is the case with many other birds. Why not just say that in the first place?

Comments (3)

A-h-h-h, That New Camera Smell

Beethoven’s Nose

I just came back in from the courtyard where I had been taking some pictures of ’stuff,’ when I got in the house I was greeted by ‘Beethoven,’ our five year old min pin. He seemed very interested in the camera, so I let him sniff at it.

I guess I pressed on the shutter release just as his nose was up to the lens guard. I thought this was an interesting and humorous view of the curiosity of a small, but very loveable dog. Click on the image to enlarge.

Comments (2)

Lawyer’s Tongue Cactus Flowers

Lawyer’s Tongue Cactus Flowers

These nice showy flowers are open on our Lawyer’s Tongue Cactus (opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis). This cactus, which is now over three feet tall started from a single paddle that we rescued from a local park in 2011. We planted the paddle in a pot and it thrived in the courtyard until last winter when we transplanted it to the west side of the lot.

This is the first year that it is producing flowers and (hopefully) fruit. We would like to try and use the fruit in some recipes for syrup, juice or jellies. Maybe we will even make some Lawyer’s Tongue Margaritas this summer.

Comments off

First Saguaro Flower Buds Sighted

Saguaro Flower Buds

The first saguaro flower buds were sighted today and they are on our own big guy out front! We passed by the big saguaro today and I noticed what might be some flower buds on the crown of the cactus. Sure enough, when we got the pictures blown up big enough, we could see two or three buds.

In a few weeks, there will likely be many saguaro flowers open. I will be sure to post pictures of ours and any others that we might see around town. Yay for the Arizona State Flower! Click on the image to enlarge.

Comments (2)

« Previous entries