Flowers #5030B, 5030D & 5031B

December 28, 2013

As the part of planet Earth in which I reside is in the midst of a somewhat severe winter, even though officially the winter season had begun just a week ago, I had no plans on posting any more photographs of flowers until the first signs of spring.  My plans were to post some older black & whites and a concert or two in the coming months.  However, that all changed when I saw the original images of these three photos while sorting through the nearly 15,000 photographs of flowers that I had taken earlier in the year, having bought in June my first new camera in thirty-three years.

I decided to post these photos now as to not take the chance that I would overlook them at a later date.  These images were some of the last that I had shot in the fall.  If memory serves me, these were shot somewhat late in the evening, and being a dark flower (a Lily, I believe), the other photos of this plant did not survive the initial review of that day’s photographs and were deleted from the memory card.

Something about these images caught my eye.

Steven H. Spring

Wilson Chapel At Christmas #22B.

Wilson Chapel At Christmas #22B

December 24, 2013

Wilson Chapel, located just down the road from the farmhouse in my Plattsburg Farm photos.  I shot a lot of photographs of the chapel, sometimes right after a blizzard, late at night.  I would shoot right outside my back porch, poking a zoom lens around the corner of the porch.

There would be complete silence, except of course for the howling of the wind.  Or maybe the girls, Dakota and Arizona, my two red Dobermans, playing in the snow.

If you liked this photograph, check out my two farmhouse shots, Plattsburg Farm At Christmas #19F & 23B.

Steven H. Spring

When HD Television Is Good, It Is Very Good…However, When It Is Bad, It Is Terrible

December 23, 2013

While reading my local newspaper this past Saturday morning, one item in that night’s TV listing caught my attention.  It seemed that PBS television was rebroadcasting a 1978 Austin City Limits show featuring Tom Waits.  Over the past decade, PBS has reaired this show about a half dozen times; one of the very few Austin City Limits shows that enjoys the distinction of being rebroadcast, not counting the summer repeats of each season’s shows.  The only other shows that comes to mind are the two Stevie Ray Vaughan shows.  Tom Waits gives quite an incredible performance.  I have seen this show maybe five times, and the only disappointment is the quality of picture on my HD television.

Waits performance was somewhat dimly light, and we all know that HD images always seem to have pixelation problems with dark colors, even in the most highest of definitions.  However, the newspaper mentioned that the Waits show has been remastered.  This gave me hope, although I was not sure if it was only the audio that had been remastered or the video as well.

Come the midnight hour, when the broadcast was finally starting on my local public television channel, my hope soon gave way to disappoint as soon as Waits starts this performance with a bluesy number as some cat with a sax is wailing away beneath a street lamppost.   Not only was the quality terrible on my HD television, but most likely to keep the image in its original format, PBS had about three inches of blurred images on either side to the picture, which only made the quality factor even more prevalent.  If this was done to give viewers the best image possible, which I assume was their intention, PBS should have left the sides black, much like a certain classic movie channel does, presenting their movies in letterbox format, if necessary.  Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed.

As I am usually in bed by midnight, I figured there is no use staying up to watch such a terrible picture and got ready for bed.  However, this is when I discovered something truly amazing.  Turning on the twenty-year-old analog set in my bedroom, I turned the channel to PBS to see what Waits looked like on that TV.  Unbelievably, the picture was perfect.

If televisions are so smart now days, why aren’t they programmed to realize the show I’m watching is an old, analog program and the TV should switch automatically from a digital signal to analog?  If I can figure a solution to this dilemma myself, why can’t the engineers who design TVs do so?

Steven H. Spring

Plattsburg Farm At Christmas #19F.

Plattsburg Farm At Christmas #19F

December 20, 2013

Those of you who happened to see my post this past Saturday will recognize this photograph as very similar to the other.  This was taken fifteen years ago with 35mm film.  I then scanned the 4×6 print onto my computer.  After I had posted the previous version, I decided to try one more time at editing the shot.  What I did not like about it was the cut corn stalks poking up through the snow in the foreground.  I had darken the original image as much as I could without losing both barns to the nighttime sky, but those corn stalks stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

Instead of darkening the image again, I thought lets copy and paste and see what it looks like.  I like this photo much better.

Steven H. Spring

Half Breeds

December 18, 2013

No, this isn’t a racist rant against human beings of different races propagating, but about tropical fish doing so.  I decided to use this particular title just to catch reader’s attention, purely for shock value.  In nature, I know very well that a male dog will attempt to breed with any female.  A miniature male Chihuahua would try to breed with a Great Dane bitch, even if he needed a stepladder to do so, however, it seems that for the most part, the animal kingdom usually stick with their own kind, much to my amazement.  How, for instance, do birds recognize their own?  How do they know what they themselves look like, in order to breed with a similar looking mate?

Earlier this summer, I restocked one of my fifty-five gallon fish tanks with several different varieties of American Cichlids, such as Red Devils, Texas Cichlids, Black Convicts, Jack Dempseys and Green Severums.  About a month ago, maybe two, I noticed that a pair of Cichlids had bred, as there were maybe 30-40 very small fry swimming madly among the rocks at the bottom of the tank.  However, much to my amazement, the two Cichlids that had produced the fry were a Texas Cichlid (probably the male, as it is the larger of the two) and a Black Convict.

As a serious tropical fish hobbyist, I bought my first fifty-five gallon tank in 1982, after first buying a ten-gallon tank maybe a year earlier.  I know people think I’m nuts when I tell them I communicate with my fish, especially the Red Devils, however I am serious about doing so.  Red Devils have such a personality!  I had one who lived to be almost fifteen years old.  They are such a large, aggressive fish, that once they get so big, I end up keeping just one by itself in a fifty-five gallon tank.  I tell people who get up close to the tank that he isn’t mad at them for looking at him, he is mad at me for letting them do so.

Over the years, I have had several breeding pairs of fish, although only once did the fry survive long enough to grow large enough to avoid becoming dinner to the other fish in the tanks.  I currently have two fifty-five gallon tanks and a one hundred and twenty-five gallon tank.  Living in a very small apartment, my neighbors and friends were always amazed that at one time I had another fifty-five gallon tank and a thirty-gallon tank, three of which were given to me over the years.

As the fish in my largest tank are getting somewhat old, hopefully all of the young fry survive, as they would save me a lot of money when the time comes to restock that tank.  With a little bit of luck, the breeding pair of Cichlids will do their thing several more times in the coming years.

Steven H. Spring

Flowers #4835B, 4828B, 4835D, 4832B, 4834B, 4827C, 4831B & 4839C

December 7, 2013

Chrysanthemums, more commonly knows as Mums, are a member of the Asteraceae family of flowers.  This flower is considered a hardy perennial, although many consider them only as a short-season, fall-planted annual, as they bloom in late summer and fall.  There are forty known species and thousands of different varieties of Mums.  Most species originally came from China, Japan, northern Africa and southern Europe, although China is thought to be the original starting point of the plant, dating there as far back as the fifteenth century, B.C., where the flowers have customarily been boiled to make a tea and also used medicinally to treat influenza.  The plant has been grown in Japan since the eighth century.  Over five hundred different varieties were known to exist by 1630.  Chrysanthemums are considered to have been introduced in America in 1798, when Colonel John Stevens imported a variety known as Dark Purple from England.  The plant is considered the death flower in Europe because of its widespread use on graves.

The word Chrysanthemum is a derivative of two Greek words, chrysos (meaning gold) and anthemon (meaning flower).  This particular genus of flower at one time included many more species, but was divided into several different genera a few decades ago.  The National Chrysanthemum Society recognizes thirteen different classes of flowering blooms of the plant, based on form and the shape of its petals, although there are only eight major types; anemone, cushion, decorative, pompon, single, spider, spoon and quill.

Chrysanthemums are divided into two basic groups, garden hardy and exhibition.  Garden hardy are perennials capable of surviving winters in northern latitudes and produce a large quantity of small blooms.  Exhibition varieties are not nearly as hardy and sturdy; usually require staking and being kept in a relatively cool, dry location over the winter, sometimes requiring the use of night-lights.  In addition to its many different types of blooms, Mums come in a wide variety of colors, ranging not only of gold, but also white, yellow, bronze, red, burgundy, pink, lavender and purple.  The plant also comes in an assortment of heights as well, ranging from a height of eighteen inches up to three feet tall, depending on the particular variety, growing conditions and whether they are pinched regularly during the growing season.  Pinched plants will generate a smaller, bushier plant, producing many more blooms.

These plants can be planted either in the fall or in early spring.  Those planted in the spring will produce a more vigorous flower.  Mums prefer fertile, highly organic, well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight.  The plants should be spaced roughly eighteen to twenty-four inches apart, although some varieties might require spacing up to three feet.  They can be fertilized once a month up through July.  Mums particularly need plenty of water once they start blooming.  Every two or three years, Chrysanthemums should be divided to invigorate their growth.  If bought as a potted plant in the fall, as many people do, they should be planted at least six weeks if not more before the season’s first killing frost, although it seems that many who buy fall pots will throw the plant away after the frost kills the blooms, having never transplanted the flower into a garden.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment.  Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Stupid Commercials – State Farm Insurance’s “Jake From State Farm”

December 4, 2013

With advertising having taken over our radio and television programming (there are now at least twice as many commercials on television as there was during the 1960s, back when television was free), those men and women who create the ads should have the decency of airing smart and/or funny advertisements, in lieu of the unintelligent, mindless drivel that passes for commercials such as this one.

The latest advertisement that qualifies for induction into my list of stupid commercials is the State Farm Insurance commercial “Jake From State Farm.”  This ad is nearing the end of its run, as it now only appears on television every once in a while.  The premise of the ad is that a man is calling his insurance agent at 3:00 in the morning.  As the man is engaged in dialogue with Jake from State Farm, his wife comes down the stairs and begins questioning her husband, as to whom he is talking to.  If one did not know any better, you would think he is talking to his girlfriend because of answers to questions such as whether or not he is married.  Another implied sexual innuendo is made when the man responds, “You would do that for me?”

The man’s wife grabs the phone and begins questioning the agent herself, first inquiring as to whom the person is and then asking what he is wearing.  There is one brief funny moment when the wife informs her husband that “She sounds hideous,” still convinced the person on the other end of the phone line is a mistress.  Her husband responds, “Well, he’s a guy.”

What makes this commercial so stupid is why would anyone sneak around a darken house at three o’clock in the morning to call his insurance agent.  Doesn’t make a bit of sense, but maybe that’s the point.  Dimwitted drivel for the masses.

Steven H. Spring