Monday, April 14, 2014

Mother Nature's Cruel Joke.



Yesterday mild temps, rain fog.  We'd had 2" of rain on Saturday night.



Soggy foggy critters on Sunday morning.

Then I had to take Opal inside the shed, she wasn't feeling well.   Seemed the rain overnight and sudden drop in temps chilled her.

She didn't want to eat when I fed her, so I took her inside and well....


....Warmed her up.  Her vitals were normal.  Thank you to my 'Vet' Assistant who called out times for taking her respiration and heart rate, thanks Ariel.

Then we had more rain, at least 2" more.
Top that off with about 2-3" of snow this morning.
That outlook is rather wet and mushy looking.




What a surprise to wake up to this morning!

Well there you go, that is our wacky weather for you!

Welcome to April.  

When the snow does melt though, the grass will be astonishingly green.

Happy Monday to you all.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Things found wandering the woods...


Red Cup Fungi


Tracks.  


Winter Kill


Skunk Cabbage


Ice Formations


And the beautiful Marsh Marigold

Siera and Princess


So by now you all know Siera.  She is my 'after' Badger Mule.  Will she ever be as good as Badger?
Ahhh, it isn't fair to even compare is it?

Time to move away from comparisons and just go forward.

Yesterday I took Siera out and gave her a nice clean up [actually I did that to several equine!].

I put a bridal on her and wondered how she'd react after not being ridden since November and how would she like being ridden bareback?

On came the helmet [safety at all times].
Next came "bucket training".

I not tall enough to jump up on her.

So at first she decided that the bucket was mildly interesting, but would step back when I went to swing a leg over her.

We repeated these steps until she stood still for 3 mounts.  Then we rode around the yard and up the drive, around trees and ... climbed a big dirt pile.

I was happy to have her untrimmed mane to hang onto  when she and I slid down the pile of dirt and then re-climbed it.
For about a half hour I just sat on her and enjoyed the warmth from her body and the view.


We were practicing patience at standing still.  She is pretty good at that!

Next I took out Princess.  She came willingly.
After a long currying, I decided to give her a halter 'lead line' obstacle course.
I was curious to see if she would go anywhere with me, including climbing huge piles of dirt and down a deer trail and around trees...out of sight of the other donkeys.

Conclusion.
Princess does not care about her 'buddies'.  She went everywhere and did everything for me.
We do however have to work on her back up.  She has no clue what that is.

Soon she will be getting her first saddling and bridling.

She won't be hard to teach to ride.  This I can be pretty sure of.

In case you are wondering ... Princess is the mom to Thor.

The photo was taken March 28, 2008.

I think she will be a fine riding donk.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Gotta love that Equine Hair!

If you are an equine lover you know that spring brings out a special event that we all love.

Shedding season.  The time of year where you curry and curry and brush and brush and donkey/mule hair flies into your face and leaves you coated with it.

Truly.
You must like spitting it out and trying in vain to brush it off your clothes, the more you try and get rid of it, the harder it sticks to you.

You resign yourself to wearing it.

I took out Nikki the little donkey, she really didn't want to leave her buddies.  But she did well and let me clean her up nicely.
Then Emma [a donkey] decided she was next.  She is a pretty cream colored donkey and we went up the driveway for some halter lessons.  
She did very nicely.

Then there is Princess.  We bought her about 10 years ago.  Her first breeding resulted in twins -- we should have had her checked!  But twins are pretty rare.  Both twins died during birth and we nearly lost Princess.
That night I slept with her in the yard and laid next to her with my arms around her neck so I could feel her breath.

I was supposed to get her up and make sure she ate and drank.  By morning, you would have never known she had any problems, she wanted back in with her herd.

She is an extremely classy donkey, and we have a pretty special bond.  I've been thinking about starting to ride her now for a couple of years.
I think this spring is the time to do it.

I just have a feeling that it would work out well for the both of us.


After all, I ... don't know, she seems pretty spooky and all.


I mean she looks more embarrassed than spooked.

On I went to Opal, Fred, Dinah, and Siera.  All seemed to enjoy their first really good currying of the spring.

I enjoyed spitting out hair and watching it float in the air.

Gotta love that Equine Hair...it means shedding season is upon us, it also means spring!


Welcome to our farming update

Well sort of, we are a very small farm, more a hobby farm than anything else.

I haven't said much about the farm lately as March was the month of melts, snows, sleet, rain, melt, and the beginning of our mud season.

Our Dexters look great, seems the cold didn't effect them at all.

They spend their days chewing their cud and looking rather unconcerned about the rest of the world.



If Black Bart did his 'job' right away we'll expect calves from at least Valerie and maybe Annie in April.

Black Bart from Plum Creek Little Cattle Company:


He is quite the handsome fellow.

The girls are laying around and soaking up the sun.
I must say that Dexter meat raised on grass and good hay is something very divine.

I promised my husband that if we ran out of meat before the next time we fill the freezer, that I would NOT buy anything from the grocery store.

Sorry, once spoiled by having your own meat, you cannot simply bare to eat grocery store chain meat.


We finally got those trees off from the garage.  What a job.  Now the de-construction of the destroyed garage can begin.

I'm not looking forward to it.  I'd rather have a huge dumpster and just start chucking things.


The mules and donkeys are beginning to shed their coats.   
Opal is ready to go back outside.  She looks great with the weight gain she had this winter.  Her coat is lustrous and shiny.
Not bad for a 29-32 yr old mule!

The woods are still very slippery so riding down the deer trails is still not quite an option.

But if you look carefully in the woods you will find ferns that are still green. They obviously survived the winter under the deep snow pack.


The other day I went out armed with a set of nippers and a small camp saw to trim up my walking/hiking/riding trail.  It is an endless job to fight back the briers and prickly stuff.
I maintain it so that I am not ripped apart while riding or hiking as the season progresses.

Of course, Morris was along to help.


There is still snow in areas and ice on some of the north hillside deer trails.
But I am looking forward to spring now and all of the surprises that it will bring in the woods...

and the surprises that the Dexters will bring!


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

High Key Photography ~ my lesson

Our assignment for this week was High Key photography.

So I read up on it and was rather put out to find that most of this sort of photography was done in a studio with lights and things called softboxes, lightboxes, and other things that I don't own.

Never fear.
Some things can still be achieved by using natural light.

But I had to wait for the sun to shine.  That did happen yesterday, but I couldn't do the project outside as the winds were gusting to about 35 or more mph.

So I set up my little ugly wooden chair in the living room and put an old white sheet on it.

High Key=light ...upbeat, happy, bright...

Ohhhkay...

Well here is the 'home' fancy studio.
Not very impressive right?
I mean look at Morris's crate right behind it, the heater, the brick, the wall, and all of the distractions.

But...
Here is that red horse.




Items used.
Tripod.
40mm micro Nikkor lens, Nikon D5200.
Sunlight, bright sunlight coming in the window.  This reflected off the old white sheet I tossed on the chair, or should I say.... 'Artfully tossed' on the chair.

I had the sun at my back and off to the side.  The white reflected the sun onto the subject and into the camera.
I tried a few settings.  Manual settings were ISO 100, f4, 1/20th of a second.

I also used the setting on the D5200 of High Key.  
But because I wanted to learn how to do this, I decided to use the Manual settings.  I was able to over expose by .67, I thought it was +7 on the EV but the details say .67.

I took the photo in RAW, processed it to jpeg in CorelAfterShotPro and then used Topaz BW Effects in CS2 [I also was able to process it in PaintShopPro X6 the same way].

I tried the Topaz BW setting of Hi Key I.  It was close to what I was looking for but I moved the color filter towards pink to get the details to show up on the horse.


I like how this shot turned out.  Very high key.



I  used Topaz BW Effects on this one also.
But then I used another method of how to make a photo look like a drawing.

I finally settled on this shot as my presentation for the assignment.



I'd like to redo this shot and bring out the details in the wings more, but that will require another sunny day and a different mode of focus on the camera.

I'm not sure High Key is my style but it sure is a good exercise in photography.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Oak Leaves and Spring



March is the month of changes.  Winter still hangs on yet it keeps teasing us with hopes of Spring.

We get warm sunny days followed by cold frigid nights.  It is the way of March, yet it seems to surprise us each time it occurs.

The yard and the pastures alternate between sucking mud and frozen rough ground.  The mud and muck literally try to suck the chore boots right off your feet.

Then true to March's nature a warm day comes followed by ferocious winds that bring cold, snow and sleet.
A reminder that winter doesn't really want to loose its grip on the land quite yet.

There is snow still in the steep north facing hillsides and ravines.  But the robins have appeared singing their merry morning songs as if they know better than us.

Daylight hangs on just a bit more each day.

Yet the Oak leaves are still clinging to their branches in areas where they have been protected from our fierce winds.
They await spring buds to push them off.

April is here with predictions of thunderstorms and sleet for this first week.

Me?
I'm going to see when the oak leaves fall.
Then the oak buds are here...

and so is Spring.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I should what with my Hist-o-gram?

Histograms.
They are supposed to help a person take a better photo.

I never used them until the other day when doing an assignment for a group I belong to on Google+.

I knew what it was, I knew it was a graph 'thingy' that showed up in the camera if I hit certain buttons, and I know it shows up in Photoshop when I do editing.

So the other day I did a little experimenting on my own.

I shot with my Olympus Digital E-420 camera, it is light enough to use a wimpy light tripod with.  I'm not weighed down by it much and since it is one of my oldest cameras, I take it when things can get rough hiking.

However it sees snow as blue!

Here is one shot I took for the Histogram shot.


Well obviously the colors are way off.
I put it into my trail version of PaintShopPro X6 Ultimate and decided to check the histogram.


The top one is the histogram as PSP reads it.  There is a lot of info missing on the right which means this is underexposed.
Yes I bet it was, it was getting dark and the ISO was set at 100 for this shot.

Not only that, I was dealing with a flash flood from snow melt, so I wasn't taking the time to twiddle with the camera.

I know, bad me right?

But could I save this shot of the ice wall?




Above I tried to stretch out the histogram, but dang it, the color was so off that it wouldn't work well.

Back to PSP.

First I used AfterShotPro to develop the RAW shot over again, this time paying attention to the WHITE of the snow.


I was able to stretch the histogram to the right and get the nice white color I needed instead of the blue.

Not a perfect histogram according to some digital photographers, but this was going to have to do as the wall may well be gone on my next trip down.


This turned out so much better than I hoped.  The texture of the ice wall along with the streaks of brown from the clay and minerals came out quite nicely.


The snow is white, the shot was saved!
I can add it to my project about the creek!

This thanks to learning a bit more about the histogram.


I also found the histogram quite useful with this shot.  The original is in color but I converted to black and white.  
The white of the water was not showing white, it was coming up dingy grey until I worked on the histogram.



That said, I also liked the dark forboding color version of this shot.  
Histogram be danged and all that.



You see there is a 'lot' of info missing on the right side.  I say, oh well, I really like this shot.


So I'll do some more experimenting with the Hist-o-gram shortly, but there are many occasions that a photographer doesn't have time to set, reset, change EV values and then re-check the histogram while doing a shot in nature.

Well, maybe they do and I am just lazy.

But these shots were taken as quickly as possible during a mini flash flood, so I was 'capturing' the moment so to speak.

And if you want more reading on Histograms, try this article from Digital Photography school.




Saturday, March 22, 2014

Using Graphic programs to creat art.

Over the past year I've met some incredible Fractal Artists that do some incredible work.

There is a group at Facebook called Mandelbulb Maniacs which was founded by Ricky Jarnigan.  
The group has people of all levels and skills with the program.

I've been working with Mandelbulb 3D for a few years now and it seems that I learn something every time I create 'something'.

I often mix up my media.

I like to use other programs such as JWildfire created by Adreas Maschke.  If you like flames and colors, this is mind blowing stuff.  Andreas is always working on ways to improve JWildfire and make it even more easy to create beautiful works.


This took a bit, but it really wasn't that hard.  I started with Daniel Eaton's parameters he posted on Flickr, March 18th.  I then created this piece with symmetry settings, and something called Layerz.

LĂș Bendett is another artist I enjoy  following and interacting with.  He has Fractart on FB and his images area both JWildfire and Mandlebulb 3d.

Here is a fantastic fractal he created for today!

*Spring has Sprung in a Vase* 


One other thing I'd like to mention, these two programs are free.
Yes .... free.  Free to download and experiment with.

The FB groups are worth joining FB for just to get tips and ideas, as well as fantastic parameters that are shared.

I will mention one other program.
Incendia.

It is also free but the programmer has left a message that they are not developing it any more due to lack of funds.
There isn't a lot of extra help out there for the program and it is very resource intensive, however...beautiful things can occur when you mix your medias.

I used JWildfire as a backround IN Incendia and rendered the fractal flower into the image.


Here is a Mandelbulb used as a backround and Incendia used to create the final image...mixing the media is very cool.


So when the outside world is cold, damp, snowy, yucky, and you are looking for something to do, start playing with graphic art.

It brings color into your life.

My entry today for a 'spring like' fractal for Mandelbulb Maniacs was this: