Category Archives: Photography

Donate Old Towels for Cats and Dogs

This cute tabby cat is enjoying a pile of towels in her kennel.

This cute tabby cat is enjoying a pile of towels in her kennel.

In January, to start out the New Year, stores often discount bedding and towels.  It’s a marketing strategy called a “White Sale,” when bedding used to be all white, to jump start sales after the Christmas shopping season is over.  I don’t remember ever buying bedding or towels in January, but it is a good time to do an inventory of your old towels and sheets.  I keep a lot of old towels for cleaning rags, more than I need, so I donate some to Wayside Waifs, the animal shelter, where I volunteer. Animal shelters have a constant need for towels that are still in good condition. The towels are placed in the kennels to give the animals soft, cozy bedding. Old blankets and sheets are also needed. Contact your local animal shelter to see how you can donate. Wayside Waifs has a large bin in its entryway for donations, for example.

An old towel is also wonderful for people. In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” author Douglas Adams championed the importance of always having a towel with you when you travel the galaxy. I always carry at least one towel in my car on my earthly travels. It’s been very useful many times.

Towel Day is May 25, a tribute to Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

White Sale Marketing Strategy.

A dog enjoys a large sheet. Beyond is a blanket. In the next kennel, blankets cover a dog bed. Most of the bedding at the animal shelter is donated.

A dog enjoys a large sheet. Beyond is a blanket. In the next kennel, blankets cover a dog bed. Most of the bedding at the animal shelter is donated.

Towels can also provide privacy in a kennel. Here, two cats can hide behind the hanging towel, if they feel like having some privacy.

Towels can also provide privacy in a kennel. Here, two cats can hide behind the hanging towel, if they feel like having some privacy.

This animal shelter room, enjoyed by two cats, is furnished with many towels to make it very comfy.

This animal shelter room, enjoyed by two cats, is furnished with many towels to make it very comfy.

Towels of every size are available throughout the animal shelter. On the lower left, a dog bed is made up with a couple of towels, ready for the next occupant.

Towels of every size are available throughout the animal shelter. On the lower left, a dog bed is made up with a couple of towels, ready for the next occupant.

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Dogs, Kansas City, Photography

Webster House in Kansas City

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

One of my favorite buildings to photograph is the Webster House, formerly the Webster School. It’s in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri. 

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

It’s a beautiful work of art, designed in the “Richardson Romanesque” style.  What a grand place it must have been to attend school there! It’s lovely inside and out with fabulous interior wood woodwork. The school officially opened in 1886 and then closed in 1932. It was restored, opening in 2002, as a beautiful dining and shopping location. The Webster House has a beautiful bell tower, which is a reconstruction. The original was removed after another school’s bell tower fell during a tornado and caused the death of fifteen students.  I like to meet friends and family at the Webster House for lunch or dinner, served in a couple of lovely dining rooms, which were once school rooms.

Behind the Webster House are the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Bartle Hall Pylons, architectural icons and modern additions to the Downtown Kansas City landscape.

The Webster School was designed by the Kansas City School Board’s architect, Manuel Diaz. Webster House is one of the oldest remaining public school buildings in Kansas City and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Webster School was the last area school built with a bell tower on top. In 1886 a tornado caused the bell tower on the Lathrop School at Ninth and Broadway to crash into the school, collapsing the third and second floors into the basement and burying children in the debris.  Bell towers were no longer permitted on top of schools after this tragedy.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

History of the Webster House.

History of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Crossroads Arts District.

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Filed under Education, Kansas City, Personal, Photography

Vermont Church Before and After Photoshop

 

“Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?”

(“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen)

island-pond-church

This is my photograph of the Episcopal Church in Island Pond, Vermont, after removing electrical wires and poles and adding a watercolor filter in Photoshop. Click on the photo to see it in a larger size.

On a recent trip to Vermont, my fantasy was to find a quintessential New England church that was surrounded by trees glowing with brilliant Autumn colors.  I found the tree in the Northern Kingdom of Vermont, but it was also surrounded by more than a dozen strings of electrical wires and one large utility pole.

As a long-time journalist, I hesitate to change reality in a photograph, even though the camera does lie somewhat with lens distortion, not capturing true color and other defects,  but as an artist I didn’t hesitate one second to remove all of the electrical debris.  Easier said than done, though.  When you remove an element from a photograph, the deleted spots must be replaced by pixels that look natural. I used the clone brush to make the changes.  I didn’t do it all at once, but in about half-hour increments over a series of weeks, because the work was incredibly tedious. I also straightened the photo a little to fix lens distortion.

After many hours, I’m happy with the result. Hope my fantasy looks real!  And thanks to my husband Mike and friend Phil who were very patient while I wandered around Island Pond with my camera. There was a gorgeous shot everywhere I looked! I posted these photographs on a couple of websites.

Be sure to click on my post “Fauxtography” Altering reality in a photograph, linked below.

dsc_0372-002

This is my original photograph of the Episcopal Church in Island Pond, Vermont, before I did any editing. Note all of the wires and the guardrail of the street in front of the church. I removed all of that with Photoshop.

Island Pond, Vermont, Church, Autumn Poster

This is a version of the church without the Watercolor Filter.

Island Pond, Vermont, Church, Autumn Poster

“Fauxtography” Altering reality in a photograph.

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Filed under Journalism, Personal, Photography, Travel

Falconer and His Hawk in Mexico

A Harris's Hawk stands on a falconer's fist at a Cancun, Mexico, resort.

A Harris’s Hawk stands on a falconer’s gloved fist at a Cancun, Mexico, resort.

I’ve been reading “H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald, about a woman training a goshawk, and I took the book to a resort in Cancun, Mexico, where my husband and I were attending a wedding. So with falconry on my mind, I was excited to see a man with hawk at the resort. My husband spotted the bird first. He trained his own hawk many years ago.

I rushed over and asked the man many questions and took some photos (lucky to have my camera with me.)

The bird, a Harris’s Hawk, named Runner, was two years old and had been bred by the man’s family, which has been in the bird breeding and training business for five generations (now including his son.) It took three months to train the bird to return to the fist. “He thinks of us as his parents,” he said.

He calls the bird back to his fist with a click and then feeds it. The bird is gentle (except with food) and good with children.  I was able to pet it a little.

The man brings Runner to the resort about three times a week to discourage smaller birds from taking up residence in the trees and around the pool, where they would leave bird droppings, and at outdoor restaurants.

The man said that Harris’s Hawks were very smart and were some of the few birds of prey that hunted in groups.

“They are called the wolf of the desert,” he said. “They live in Sonora and Chihuahua.”

The Harris’s hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) formerly known as the bay-winged hawk or dusky hawk, is a medium-large bird of prey that breeds from the southwestern United States south to Chile, central Argentina, and Brazil

Runner lives in the man’s house, along with 18 other birds. “They live like kings.” In all, the family business owns 300 birds that they have bred, including eagles and macaws in addition to hawks.

I wish I would have thought to ask him his name and the name of his business, but at least I was able to take some photos.

A falconer brings a Harris's Hawk to a Cancun, Mexico, resort to discourage smaller birds from hanging out on the grounds and pool areas, where they might soil the landscape. Clockwise from the upper left, the hawk flies to a palm tree; the hawk sitting in a tree; a little girl petting the hawk; the hawk resting on the man's gloved fist; and the hawk eating some food after being called back from the palm tree with a click.

A falconer brings a Harris’s Hawk to a Cancun, Mexico, resort to discourage smaller birds from hanging out on the grounds and pool areas, where they might soil the landscape. Clockwise from the upper left, the hawk flies to a palm tree; the hawk sitting in a tree; a little girl petting the hawk; the hawk resting on the man’s gloved fist; and the hawk eating some food after being called back from the palm tree with a click.

About the Harris’s Hawk.
“H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Photography, Travel

The Hottest Little Festival in Texas

Amazingly, the winner James can still speak even after eating a ghost pepper, which is rated at over one million Scoville units in heat.

Amazingly, the winner James can still speak even after eating a ghost pepper, which is rated at over one million Scoville units in heat.

 

There are a lot of festivals in east Texas, celebrating everything from roses, peanuts, yams, trains, pecans, mushrooms, pipe organs, chili making, stew making, duclimers, dogwoods and even feral hogs.

The Hot Pepper Eating Contest trophy with some of the hot peppers in the contest.

The Hot Pepper Eating Contest trophy with some of the hot peppers in the contest.

Palestine, Texas, boasts that it hosts the Hottest Little Festival in Texas every October. My family and I arrived in historic downtown Palestine in time for the hot pepper eating contest on Saturday, October 22, 2016.  Six brave people entered the contest. (Another two were turned away because they weren’t eighteen.)

The master of ceremonies of the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, which was sponsored by Brookshire Grocery Company.

The master of ceremonies of the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, which was sponsored by Brookshire Grocery Company.

Contestants were given a series of peppers in order of heat, beginning with green peppers with a Scovill rating of zero. Next was the banana pepper, the jalapeno, the serrano, the seven-pot and then the ghost pepper. The scorpion and the Carolina reaper were next, but all of the contestants except two had already dropped out when the ghost pepper was presented.  The runner-up declined the ghost pepper, so after James ate the ghost pepper, he was spared any further torture. The Carolina reaper is currently the hottest pepper in the world.

The master of ceremony told each contestant that they had to chew the pepper for a while and not swallow it until he told them to. I would have stopped after the banana pepper. James, the winner, received $150 and a trophy in the shape of a red hot pepper. The two runners up received a cake.  Each contestant got a glass of milk to drink to neutralize the heat.

According to Wikipedia, Palestine is a relatively small town located in the Piney Woods area of Texas,  equidistant from the major airport cities of Dallas, Houston and Shreveport.  It celebrates its natural beauty characterized by a magnificent dogwood floral blooming season with an annual Dogwood Trails festival in April. It’s a small town of about 20,000 people, but it’s big on history, with 1,800 historical sites on the National Register of Historic Places.  It’s the western terminus of the Texas State Railroad, a steam and diesel railroad museum operating between Palestine and Rusk.

All six of the entrants were able to eat the banana peppers.

All six of the entrants were able to eat the banana peppers.

Contest participants prepare to eat their jalapenos.

Contest participants prepare to eat their jalapenos.

The winner James, holding his trophy, drinks milk to neutralize the burning sensation. James has won the contest several times previously.

The winner James, holding his trophy, drinks milk to neutralize the burning sensation. James has won the contest several times.

James, the hot pepper eating contest winner, shows off his $150 check.

James, the hot pepper eating contest winner, shows off his $150 check.

Click on a thumbnail to start the slideshow:

The Scoville Scale measurement of the pungency and heat of chili peppers.

Hot Pepper Festival Facebook Page

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Filed under Entertainment, Photography, Travel

Bountiful Butterfly Garden

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

As summer draws to a close, our neighborhood butterfly garden is now a flowering paradise finally crowded with bugs and animals. During June, July and August, the garden reminded me of a dinner party where few of the guests showed up, despite the mass of plants that bloomed all summer. We did get a lot of rabbits, who found the young plants very tasty and ate them almost to the dirt.  Joan, one of the hardest working neighborhood gardeners, built cages around the tender coneflowers and tropical milkweed plants so that they’d have a chance to provide food for other animals, and of course to be beautiful for our enjoyment.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

I’ve seen many types of butterflies in the garden this week.  The two species I plant specifically for are the Monarch Butterfly and the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.  We plant food plants for the caterpillars and lots of flowering plants that butterflies and other pollinating insects prefer for nectar. For Black Swallowtail caterpillars, we plant bronze fennel and parsley. Monarch Butterfly caterpillars will only eat milkweed, and they sometimes are picky about which kind of milkweed.  Tropical milkweed is the most popular milkweed in our Kansas City area garden, and it has lovely scarlet and yellow flowers, too. Unfortunately, it’s an annual in our climate so it has to be re-planted every spring. I buy my plants from Monarch Watch on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas, at their plant sale in May. Monarch Watch sells a lot of plants for butterflies and other pollinators.  Their butterfly garden is worth visiting.  They also have an open house in September every year.

Protecting and fostering pollinators is good for the environment and for our food supply. A large percentage of our food plants must be pollinated to produce a crop. On a recent visit to the garden, a ruby-throated hummingbird whizzed by me. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, which are also pollinators, also visit the feeder at my house.

The Monarch butterfly population is in serious decline, so I would encourage everyone with a yard to plan a butterfly garden.  To find out more click on this link: Monarch Watch.

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn't provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn’t provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

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Filed under Butterflies, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Photography

Melvin

Melvin, 14-year-old cat.

Melvin, 14-year-old cat.

Melvin melted my heart the minute I met him at Wayside Waifs.  He certainly wasn’t beautiful in the usual sense. His ears were crinkled and bare, his fur was patchy, and he was missing his front right leg. He was probably close to being deaf. He’d had ear infections.  He could barely get up to greet me, but he tried and tried until he finally made it to the front of the kennel.  He is a very sweet and affectionate cat.

He was thought to be 14 years old when he was brought to Wayside Waifs.   Little was known about his history.  He was transferred from another shelter when it ran out of space.

I admit that my heart is easily melted, but Melvin tugged even harder at my heartstrings.  I seriously thought about bringing him home, even though my house isn’t set up for a cat that can’t get around very well. My two resident cats, who don’t get along that well with each other, were also a consideration.  Melvin worked his special cat magic on a lot of volunteers and staff members at Wayside Waifs, who called out “Hi, Melvin” whenever they passed his kennel. We were all so happy when the boyfriend of one of them recently adopted Melvin so that he can live out his final years with love and in comfort.

I’ve met a lot of wonderful cats and kittens during my six years of volunteering as a photographer at Wayside Waifs, a no-kill animal shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, but Melvin will always hold a special place in my melted heart for him.

About Wayside Waifs

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Kansas City, Personal, Pets, Photography