Monday, June 30, 2008

Familiar Bluet

Odd Morse Code

A message for you
Odd Morse Code in black and blue
Dressed in bright hues

Familiar Bluet
Dots and Dashes

(Click on the photo for a better view)

The Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) is a damselfly of the family Coenagrionidae, native to much of the United States.

Don't forget to read "Road to Adventure" below.

Troy and Martha

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Road to Adventure

The Path to the Boat
Alaska Sunday XI

The Road Goes Ever On

 The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
    -- J R R Tolkien

The Path to the Boat
And the Road to Adventure

Since we arrived safely back at Coldfoot in last weeks episode, I am jumping forward in time in our travel adventure (Driving from Texas to Alaska and Back) and wanted to share this photo. I am still going through the 18,000 photos that we kept (of the ~50,000 that we took). This photo was taken in the North West Territory, Canada, on the banks of the Liard River at Ft. Liard. We ate lunch here and watched the clouds drift by, in hopes of catching a glimpse of birds flying up and down the river.

In viewing the photo, I was struck by the notion that the small path down to the boat, partially hidden in the reeds and grasses, may have been not only a fishing boat, but was a Conveyance on the Road to Adventure. This is akin to what Martha and I were doing. We were on the adventure road also.

If you enlarge the photo, you can just see the tie-up line to the post to the left of the boat. Do you think the young boy, or girl, stopped along the path to pick a few berries growing there? Since they were going in the boat, I imagine they had a rather large sack lunch and a thermos (or jug) of water for the day.

Did they go upriver and let the boat drift back. Did they fish in earnest while they drifted or just enjoy watching the clouds slip by? Maybe they used the boat to cross the river, where they had a secret path through the woods to other adventures.

What adventure waited down that path?

Alaska Sunday is a collection of photographic remembrances of our driving trip from Texas to Alaska.
18,000 miles, 16 weeks, 16 western states including Alaska and four Canadian Provinces.
No chronological order, just anything of interest that got in front of our cameras.

Troy and Martha

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bug Guide – A Very Useful Tool for the Naturalist

A Grasshopper of Unusual Coloration

Recently I was invited to go on a field trip, as a consulting Naturalist, with my brother (Jimmy) and sister-in-law (Twalla) who are owners of Happy Time Day Care. This was to answer questions posed by sixteen of their 4th and 5th grade Day-Care Kids. We spent the morning at the Ft. Worth Nature Refuge. It was fun, but it kept me busy. It was…. Troy, come look at this spider…. Troy, what kind of flower is this? Troy, come look at my bug…. Troy, I found a wasp nest…. Troy, there is a really big snake in the water!!! etc. etc. etc. It was really fun with this group of kids. I am looking forward to next year’s outing.

I was walking down a trail through some of the tall Prairie Grass, when I came across an interesting grasshopper that I had never seen before. From a distance it looked like a large “bird dropping” on a blade of grass. I thought it was pretty cool, so I photographed it for ID later that night.

This was the first one that I had ever seen with this color pattern. It was really puzzling. After looking at the photo that night and going through all of our field guides, I was stumped. I was not able to identify it, so I went back the next day and spent an hour looking for this individual or a similar specimen.

Like many other things in life, you only get one chance at some things. I should know better, shoot lots of photos! Since I was running back and forth, helping the kids, it slipped my mind to open a wing and photograph it. I will say it again. Shoot lots of photos.

I thought it might be a possible Conozoa of the Band-winged Grasshoppers, so I put the photo on Bug Guide. In a few days, Eric R. Eaton (author of Kaufman - Field Guide to Insects of North America) suggested that it might be Arphia. In fact, it is pictured on pp. 72-73 of that excellent book minus the white coloring.

In just a couple of weeks, its identity was confirmed by David J. Ferguson, an entomologist of New Mexico. What threw me off in identification was the large amount of white coloration on this particular specimen.

Sulphur-winged Grasshopper (Arphia sulphurea)
(Click on the photo to see her beautiful eye)

Ft. Worth Nature Center and Refuge,
Tarrant County, Texas, USA
June 3, 2008
Size: 1.25 inches

Full classification:
Arthropods (Arthropoda) » Insects (Insecta) » Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids (Orthoptera) » Grasshoppers (Caelifera) » Short-horned Grasshoppers (Acrididae) » Band-winged Grasshoppers (Oedipodinae) » Arphia » Sulfurwinged Grasshopper (Arphia sulphurea)

I highly recommend Bug Guide for tough ID’s. If you have an Agricultural College in your state, ‘Google up’ an entomologist from that University. They are usually a good source of information and help.

To see the Specimen on Bug Guide, Click here.

Leave a comment if you have had any experience with Bug Guide or use Kaufman’s Field Guide to the Insects of N.A. or if you just like the photo.

Troy and Martha

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Teton’s Last Light

SWF…………………………….. (It’s our 100th Post)

After Sunset – Lake Jackson
Grand Teton National Park
(Click on the photo for a full page of blue)
(I used a telephoto to zoom in on the mountains and reflections)
No color enhancement, levels adjustment only.

Some of the best photos are made just before sunrise and just after sunset. In this case the sun was well down behind the mountains. The bight glitter patch on the lake is caused by a notch in the mountains to the left, allowing just enough light to illuminate the tops of really small ripples on the lake. This brightness is an optical illusion and caused by the longer exposure. In reality, it is like moonlight reflections that appear brighter than they really are.

I don’t think there is a name for the shades of blue in this photograph. I just know that I like them. By the way, in this photo, you get double your Skywatch due to the sky reflections in the water. If you go there to photograph this, climb up on the picnic table and set up your tripod there. That's what I did.

Since you will be using a tripod, use a small aperture (high f/number) to get best depth of field. Use RAW if your camera supports it. Digital is cheap, so make lots of photos. Use a broad range of shutter speeds. For some good information (tutorial) on early or late photography, see some of Jim’s recent posts over at Transient Light Photography. He does great work.

If there are no clouds to make oranges, expect blues. It may look black or really dark to the eye, but the sky color is still there in incredible shades of blues. In this case, it wasn’t that dark and you can still see some color in the near trees from the back lighting.

To participate in Sky Watch Friday visit Wiggers World.

Troy and Martha

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

W is for

Wide, Whale, Water, and Wear

A Wide Sitka Spruce

Rain Forest Monarch

The temperate rain forest is dominated by Sitka Spruce. Except where it penetrates valleys such as Hoh, the Sitka Spruce grows along a narrow coastal strip from northern California to Alaska.

High rainfall, fog, and ocean moderated temperatures create optimum growing conditions for these monarchs. This is one of the largest Sitka Spruce trees in the United States.

Height……………………......... Over 270 feet
Diameter at chest height… Over 12 ½ feet
Age………………………........... ~ 525 years

Martha was having a hard time measuring it.

Whale Breaching

Around 90% of the body clears the water before the whale turns to land on its back or side. "Belly flops" also occur but are less common. In order to achieve 90% clearance, a Humpback needs to leave the water at a speed of eight metres per second or 29 km/h.

Water and Wear

With a little help from lichens

Living organisms may contribute to mechanical weathering as well as chemical weathering. Lichens and mosses grow on essentially bare rock surfaces and create a more humid chemical microenvironment. The attachment of these organisms to the rock surface enhances physical as well as chemical breakdown of the surface microlayer of the rock. On a larger scale seedlings sprouting in a crevice and plant roots exert physical pressure as well as providing a pathway for water and chemical infiltration. Burrowing animals and insects disturb the soil layer adjacent to the bedrock surface thus further increasing water and acid infiltration and exposure to oxidation processes.

To participate, visit ABC Wednesday, mrsnesbitt's place. Click here.

Troy and Martha

Monday, June 23, 2008

Orange Lichen

Lichens are Odd Fellows

Orange Lichen (Teloschistes exilis)
on a Parmotrema sp.
(Click on the photo for a better view)

A couple of really nice lichens. . I have photographed a lot of them, and now I guess it's time to invest in Brodo's book - "Lichens of North America". See here at

Update: Whoohooo! the book is Ordered. Second Update: It's here, all 8 1/2 lbs.
According to Irwin Brodo, the two species are Teleoschistes and Parmotrema.

Lichens are symbiotic associations of a fungus (the mycobiont) with a photosynthetic partner (the photobiont also known as the phycobiont) that can produce food for the lichen from sunlight. The photobiont is usually either green alga or cyanobacterium. A few lichens are known to contain yellow-green algae or, in one case, a brown alga. Some lichens contain both green algae and cyanobacteria as photobionts; in these cases, the cyanobacteria symbiont component may specialize in fixing atmospheric nitrogen for metabolic use.

In the natural environment, lichen "provides" the alga with water and minerals that the fungus absorbs from whatever the lichen is growing on, its substrate. As for the alga, it uses the minerals and water to make food for the fungus and itself. Algal and fungal components of some lichens have been cultured separately under laboratory conditions, but in the natural environment of a lichen, neither can grow and reproduce without a symbiotic partner. Indeed, although strains of cyanobacteria found in various cyanolichens are often closely related to one another, they differ from the most closely related free-living strains. The lichen association is a close symbiosis: It extends the ecological range of both partners and is obligatory for their growth and reproduction in natural environoments. Propagules ("diaspores") typically contain cells from both partners, although the fungal components of so-called "fringe species" rely instead on algal cells dispersed by the "core species".

Troy and Martha

These odd posts all started over at Katney's.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Alaska Sunday XI

The Adventure Continues...... from last week

As you will remember, we were heading back to Coldfoot from Deadhorse. The morning started cloudy but with high hopes for the sun to burn off the clouds. That was not to happen, as the rain steadily increased as we headed out across the tundra. We reached the first steps of the Brooks Range and noticed a lot of small streams that were not there when we first arrived.

It had been unseasonably warm (~60 °F.) the 4 days we were there. There was a lot of the snow at the higher elevations that were rapidly melting and combining with above average rain, was producing a lot of water.

On the north side of the pass we saw a lot of streams (small waterfalls in the higher elevations no less) coming down.

Click on the photos for a better look at the adventure!

Snow Melt

Enough to make small waterfalls

We had read in the brochures that they had to constantly repair the guard rail due to landslides and falling rocks. Most of the rocks were small to baseball size with 1-2 foot boulders mixed in. there was a section taken out by boulders since our arrival a few days earlier. We could not stop on the blind curves, to take photos of the bad sections of the rail, and later on as you will see, I did not want to.

A "Good" section of the Guard Rail

We were in a narrow section of the pass when Martha said something to the effect that there was a small landslide coming down towards us. Now it wasn’t like an Earth trembling Hollywood blockbuster, but it was a respectable size and I can tell you that our 4Runner didn’t want a boulder in the side. Sassie (that’s our Toyota’s name) can move when she wants to. No, we didn’t stop to photograph this. I know, I know, camera always at the ready. I was a little busy driving and Martha was busy urging me on.

Safely through the pass, and about 50 miles down in the valley flats, between the mountain ranges, we discovered another interesting adventure. At least Martha did. I didn’t until I looked at the photos later on. If you remember, I mentioned several weeks ago, how several native villages were swept away by the river years ago. This was another case of the Koyukuk River flooding. The road was covered with sheets of water, hiding large, very large, potholes and I was try to avoid these. Martha kept mentioning that the water was rising and was pretty high. I took a quick glance and about my only comment was, “Yes Dear, that’s nice Dear, Why don’t you put the VR lens in active mode and shoot some photos. I’ll look later”.

The photo below shows how much the river was out of its banks. It was only about 6” below the roadway in places. Remember, we were in a valley with no place to go. Well, all’s well that ends well.

Koyukuk River Flooding

We arrived in Coldfoot late, grabbed a bite to eat in the trucker’s and oil field workers cafĂ©, and straight to bed. Even though I hung over the end of the bed about six inches, it was a great night’s sleep.

Next week, I will show some photos from other parts of the trip.
Just some favorites along the way and in no particular chronological order.

Alaska Sunday is a collection of photographic remembrances of our driving trip from Texas to Alaska.
18,000 miles, 16 weeks, 16 western states including Alaska and four Canadian Provinces.
No chronological order, just anything of interest that got in front of our cameras.

Driving by Troy
Photography by Martha

Widow Skimmer


The widow skimmer is a beautiful black and steely grey dragonfly with boldly marked wings. The females and young males do not have the white spots on the mid-wing. They are present across most of the US, except at higher altitudes in the Rockies. They may be seen in fields and meadows well away from water.

Widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Patience pays off.

I chased this male for about a half-hour with no luck. We were at the Ft. Worth Nature Refuge photographing “stuff” when I saw this nice photo op. He would not let me get closer than about 20’.
We birded the area for about an hour, then started to the car, when he flew up in front of me and landed on the nice grass stem about 3’ away and patiently waited for me to finish photographing him. Not only that, but he posed against a distant out-of-focus background.

Camera Critters is here. Come along; you’ll see some unusual stuff.
Join in; we would like to see your critters. Click here to join.

Troy and Martha

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Glitter Patch

Sky Watch Friday

I would watch the Sky,
If I were you,
Watch the water too,

Especially if it’s the Pacific,
You'll find a view that's terrific.
(Sorry for the bad verse)

Glitter patch
(Click on the photo for a better view)

Looking towards the Sun’s (or Moon’s) reflection across a broad stretch of wind-ruffled water, we see a brilliant elongated path of sparkling light called “glitter”. Glitter is the ensemble of countless sun glints. Each glint is an instantaneous flash of sunlight reflected from a wave with just the right slope and position to send light our way.

As the Sun begins to set, and the altitude is less than the maximum wave tilt, the wave shadows itself and decreases in brightness. When the Sun is almost on the horizon, only the tops of the very highest waves are illuminated and the glitter virtually ceases to exist.

Several factors can distort glitter, such as a gust of wind causing a sideways bulge in the glitter.

While the Sun’s glitter us usually too bright for enjoyment, the Moon’s glitter is just right. Here the glitter is composed of rapidly moving points of light that scurry around the surface in closed loops called moon circles, and are most prominent when the Moon is high and the water only gently rippled. A camera is the best way to capture these as they come and go about as fast as the eye can respond.

To participate in Sky Watch Friday visit Wiggers World.

Troy and Martha

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Vermillion Cliffs and Victim


Victim of Time and Ravages by the Elements
(Click on the photographs for best viewing)
by Martha

You know how Martha likes B/W. I think she did a good job on the B/W,
considering it was heavy overcast with rain and not much contrast.

It was photographed at
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Deschutes National Forest

In November of 1990, Newberry National Volcanic Monument was created within the boundaries of Deschutes National Forest. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, this monument provides a unique opportunity to view the Lava Lands of central Oregon.

Newberry National Volcanic National Monument includes 50,000+ acres of lakes, lava flows, and spectacular geologic features in central Oregon. The highest point within the Monument is the summit Paulina Peak (7,985 ft.), showcasing views of the Oregon Cascades and across the High Desert. The summit area of Newberry Volcano holds two sparkling alpine lakes full of trout and salmon.

Vermillion Cliffs
by Troy

The above photo is a composite of two photographs to produce the panorama. Notice Highway 89A in the bottom right hand corner for perspective and scale. This route by the cliffs is the only east route of get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Vermilion Cliffs are the second "step" up in the five-step Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau. Reddish or vermilion-colored cliffs are found along U.S. Highway 89 and U.S. Highway 89A near Kanab, Utah (and near Navajo Bridge in Arizona).

We stopped at Navajo Bridge to photograph the rafts on their way down the river. We were also looking for the California condor. They had been seen in this region. We didn’t see one here but we did see and photograph one on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a small dot on the photo, but we did get a look with our binoculars.

The Cliffs extend from a location near Page, Arizona and west for a considerable distance, in both Arizona and Utah. 112,500 acres (455 km²) of the region were designated as the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in 1984, and an even greater area was proclaimed Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in 2000. Famous locations in the cliff area include Lee's Ferry, Glen Canyon (a national recreational area), The Wave, Coyote Buttes, and others.

The cliffs sat astride an important route from Utah to Arizona used by settlers during the 19th Century. The area was thoroughly explored by the Mormon pioneer and missionary Jacob Hamblin who started a ranch at the base of the cliffs in House Rock Valley. Modern U.S. Highway 89A basically follows the old wagon route past the cliffs through House Rock Valley and up the Kaibab Plateau to Jacob Lake.

The Vermilion Cliffs are made up of deposited silt and desert dunes, cemented by infiltrated carbonates and intensely colored by red iron oxide and other minerals, particularly bluish manganese. In the spring, after a good winter rain, the valley between Highway 89 and the Vermilion Cliffs will be covered with a carpet of desert mallow and other spring flowers.

To play, visit ABC Wednesday, mrsnesbitt's place. Click here.

Troy and Martha

Sunday, June 15, 2008

An Odd Fact about Foxes

The Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes, may sometimes be gray and the Gray Fox, Urocyn cinereoargenteus, is sometimes tinged with red.

A general identifying characteristic is the white tip on the tail of the Red Fox, whereas the Gray fox has a black tip on the tail.

Native Red Fox

(Click on the photos for a better look at the fur)

A nice look at that innocent face

We photographed this fox by the Yukon River near Carmacks, Yukon Terr., Canada. This Red Fox is a native of North America as are all Red Foxes in boreal North America down to the Rocky Mountains. The Red Foxes in the Southern US were imported to the Southeast from England somewhere between 1750 to 1800, for fox hunts, and were later taken to California for the fur trade.

This Red fox was in its short summer coat. Notice some of the long hairs which it has not yet shed and you can see why people usually think of the fox as having short legs and a big bushy tail. In the winter, this fox would have a tail probably 3 times as big and would look like a short dumpy little fellow with all of that long hair. Nearing winter, it will put on some weight and they do store extra food in caches for the winter. They also have been known to clean out a hen house in a night, however its typical diet includes rodents, rabbits, birds, insects, fruit, earthworms, reptiles, and carrion.

The Gray Fox is the only North American wild dog that regularly climbs trees. Even though the Gray Fox is found over most of N.A., it usually avoids farmlands favored by the Red Fox.

See the Arctic Fox in the post below.

These odd posts all started over at Katney's.

Troy and Martha

Alaska Sunday X

Our Last Day in the High Arctic

Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay, and Surroundings

Our next to last day we were driving around Lake Colleen, a fairly large lake near the Arctic Caribou Inn where we stayed, looking for nesting Arctic birds. We had stopped and were scanning the edge of the lake and small ponds for birds, when we spotted movement under a feeder pipeline. It was an unexpected visitor to “town” - an Arctic Fox in summer coat. I almost tore up the car finding my long lens to get a photograph before he disappeared. I present Mr. Arctic Fox.

Arctic Fox – Altopex lagopus
Prudhoe bay oilfield in background,
possibly part of Pump Station #1

The Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus), also known as the White Fox or Snow Fox, is a fox of the order Carnivora. It is a small fox native to cold Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is common in all three tundra biomes. It is a tough little wild dog of the far north. They have been spotted not far from the North Pole. They are solitary for most of the year with both parents, and sometimes another adult, caring for the young pups. Litters are usually 6 to 10 with up to 25! Dens can be complex underground networks, housing many generations of foxes. Young from a previous year's litter may stay with the parents to help rear younger siblings. The cubs are brownish and as they get older they change to white.

The Arctic Fox has evolved to live in the most frigid extremes on the planet. Among its adaptations for cold survival are its deep, thick fur, a system of countercurrent heat exchange in the circulation of paws to retain core temperature, and a good supply of body fat.

The Arctic Fox will generally eat any meat it can find, including lemmings, Arctic Hare, reptiles and amphibians, eggs, and carrion. Lemmings are the most common prey. A family of foxes can eat dozens of lemmings each day. During April and May the Arctic Fox also preys on Ringed Seal kits when the young animals are confined to a snow den and are relatively helpless. Fish beneath the ice are also part of its diet. When its normal prey is scarce, the Arctic Fox scavenges the leftovers of larger predators, such as the Polar Bear, even though the bears' prey includes the Arctic Fox itself.

We were most fortunate to see this visitor, since they rarely visit towns, even as remote and sparsely populated as this is.

Out on the Tundra

We took our Toyota 4Runner and drove across one of the gravel service roads, forded a couple of small streams, and arrived in butterfly - wildflower heaven near the beautiful Sagavanirktok River. For those that live in the high Arctic, this will seem commonplace for the summer. For an East Texas boy raised in Piney woods and Oak forests, this was like another planet. It is full of wildlife, beautiful, stark, and quiet except for the sigh of the wind across the tundra.

There is one small problem with observing butterflies in the high Arctic on the tundra. Either they have evolved to take advantage of the constant winds across the tundra or they are just downright shifty. It’s hard to get close enough to identify one with binoculars, much less net one for look and release. They pop up and fly with the wind (really fast !). Martha says this was a common and comical sight, “Troy in stealth mode hoping for one last, close look, before heading back to civilization”.

Sneaking Up
Franklin Bluffs in the background

Wildflowers are everywhere. I’ll eventually look these up and identify them. Of course, we bought a copy of every local wildflower book that we came across on our trip from Texas to Alaska. That’s a lot of books. When I was a kid, I thought Alaska was a place of snow, ice and igloos. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is a sampling of the Arctic tundra wildflowers. If you can’t identify one, and wish to know more, email me and I’ll identify it as time permits.










We also saw evidence of caribou here
Lots of tracks

Here is their buffet
Reindeer lichen, moss, and grasses

Birds had been by also

It was a fine day photographing wildflowers and exploring.

And so the trip back to Coldfoot and Fairbanks begins….

The last day (6 AM) started nice enough. By the way, we considered the day to start at 5AM and end at 11PM. Breakfast was good as usual. They had great buffets with plenty of food and a nice variety. With breakfast over, souvenirs purchased, packing completed, we started. As we drove out of Deadhorse and visited our favorite ponds one last time, the wind picked up and the clouds started building rapidly. Storms in the Arctic can come up rapidly.

There’s a storm Brewing

Heading out of town
Ahead of the Storm

Like all good Adventure Serials………..

To be continued Next Week.

Photos by
Troy and Martha

Alaska Sunday is a collection of photographic remembrances of our driving trip from Texas to Alaska.
18,000 miles, 16 weeks, 16 western states including Alaska and four Canadian Provinces.
No chronological order, just anything of interest that got in front of our cameras.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

June 14, Flag Day

Hooray, it’s Flag day,
and Troy's birthday.
No Critters today, but go by
Camera Critters for fun.
Just a celebration here.

This is the US flag in the year I was born.

US Flag – 48 stars

Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened that day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.

Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, though on June 14, 1937, Pennsylvania became the first (and only) U.S. state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday.

36 U.S.C. § 110 is the official statute on Flag Day, however it is at the President's discretion to proclaim officially the observance.

The largest Flag Day parade is held annually in Troy, New York.

Being a Texas boy, here’s the Texas Flag

Texas Flag

The flag of Texas is defined by law as follows:

The state flag consists of a rectangle with a width to length ratio of two to three containing: (1) a blue vertical stripe one-third the entire length of the flag wide, and two equal horizontal stripes, the upper stripe white, the lower red, each two-thirds the entire length of the flag long; and (2) a white, regular five-pointed star in the center of the blue stripe, oriented so that one point faces upward, and of such a size that the diameter of a circle passing through the five points of the star is equal to three-fourths the width of the blue stripe. The red and blue of the state flag are the same colors used in the United States flag.

The Texas flag is known as the "Lone Star Flag" (giving Texas its nickname of the "Lone Star State"). This flag was introduced to the Congress of the Republic of Texas on December 28, 1838, by Senator William H. Wharton. It was adopted on January 24, 1839 as the final national flag of the Republic of Texas.

When Texas became the 28th state of the Union on December 29, 1845, its national flag became the state flag. Texas law assigns the following symbolism to the colors of the Texas flag: blue stands for loyalty, white for purity, and red for bravery. The official Pantone shades for the Texas flag are 193 (red) and 281 (dark blue)

Also, today is Troy’s Birthday.
I use the above two flags as my personal flags.

It's a party here on Flag Day.
Have a piece of Apple Pie that I baked


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mammoth Hot Springs - Yellowstone

Sky Watch Friday

An Amazing Occurrence
A hole in the clouds lets the Sun shine through.

We were in the northern part of Yellowstone, photographing the Terraces, on a severely cloudy day. The photo shoot was going OK and we were finding some things to photograph. (Note: Any day out photographing Nature is a great day. Sun – Night – Cloudy – Rain – etc). We were on top of the Terraces when suddenly the Sun found a hole or break in the clouds and voila - there was Mammoth Hot Springs bathed in sunlight below us. The mountains in the background were these indescribable shades of blue. The red barracks of old Ft. Yellowstone on the right just lit up. The sky can do some amazing things. Needless to say, Martha and I were rushing around photographing everything in sight. We drove down to the bottom of the Springs Area and photographed the Terraces. (We will do Yellowstone in a few weeks as part of the Alaska Sunday series).

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone

(Click on the photo for best viewing)

Here’s a Tip for Artists

If you are a landscape artist and especially if you use watercolors, buy every shade of blue from every manufacturer that is available to you. Each manufacturer has proprietary formulations for their pigments and final colors. You can’t take one blue and mix it with other colors to produce a certain blue without it becoming muddy in many cases. Sky colors tend to be pure. Look at the above photo and see how many shades of blue (and different blues) that you can see. Notice the midrange range of hills, which are really browns, should be painted with a mix of blues and ochers. If you do landscapes with receding mountain ranges, the same is true. If you are having trouble with desert landscapes, try this trick with yellow ocher also.

In the northwest corner of the park there is a large hot spring complex near Fort Yellowstone called Mammoth Hot Springs. Mammoth is a large hill of travertine that has been created over thousands of years as hot water from the spring cooled and deposited calcium carbonate (over 2 tons of calcium carbonate flows into Mammoth each day in a solution). Although these springs lie outside the caldera boundary, their energy has been attributed to the same magmatic system that fuels other Yellowstone geothermal areas.

The hot water that feeds Mammoth comes from Norris Geyser Basin after traveling underground via a fault line that runs through limestone and roughly with the Norris to Mammoth road (the limestone is the source of the calcium carbonate). Shallow circulation along this corridor allows Norris' super-heated water to cool somewhat before surfacing at Mammoth, generally at about 170° F (~77° C). Algae living in the warm pools have tinted those travertine shades of brown, orange, red and green.

Thermal activity here is extensive both over time and distance. Terrace Mountain at Mammoth Hot Springs is the largest known carbonate-depositing spring in the world. The most famous feature at the springs is the Minerva Terrace, a series of travertine terraces. The terraces have been deposited by the spring over many years, but due to recent minor earthquake activity, the spring vent has shifted, rendering the terraces dry.

The Mammoth Terraces extend all the way from the hillside, across the Parade Ground, and down to Boiling River. The Mammoth Hotel, as well as all of Fort Yellowstone, is built upon an old terrace formation known as Hotel Terrace. There was some concern when construction began in 1891 on the Fort site that the hollow ground would not support the weight of the buildings. Several large sink holes (fenced off) can be seen out on the Parade Ground. This area has been thermally active for several thousand years.

The Mammoth area exhibits much evidence of glacial activity from the Pinedale Glaciation. The summit of Terrace Mountain is covered with glacial till, thereby dating the travertine formation there to earlier than the end of the Pinedale Glaciation. Several thermal kames, including Capitol Hill and Dude Hill, are major features of the Mammoth Village area. Ice-marginal stream beds are in evidence in the small, narrow valleys where Floating Island Lake and Phantom Lake are found. In Gardner Canyon, one can see the old, sorted gravel bed of the Gardner River covered by unsorted glacial till.

I hope you have enjoyed Mammoth Hot Springs and found some use of the Artist’s Tip. Leave a comment if you have enjoyed the post today.

To participate in Sky Watch Friday visit Wiggers World.

Troy and Martha

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

From Upper to Under (U)

w/ Udder in between

Up on top of the Mountains
Near Keno, Yukon, Canada

Where the baby Stone Sheep gets his milk.
This is a two spigot model.
Photographed in B.C. Canada

Under the Ice
Ice cave Above Valdez, Alaska
(photographed by my sidekick, and
top photographer of the Expedition - Martha)

The river of water must have been a lot bigger earlier in the Spring to have cut a hole or ice cave this large. The cold wind was really whistling coming through the tunnel. I could see light at the other end of this river tunnel (Cave), but wasn’t too sure about the stability of the ice. I sure would like to have explored it to the other end. There are a lot of Glacier and Ice Fields above Valdez.

To play, visit ABC Wednesday, mrsnesbitt's place. Click here.

Scroll down to see:
Mt. Rainier and
Scott's Bluff

Troy and Martha
Texas Travelers

Mt. Rainier

“The Mountain”

We received a feature spot over at
Jason D. Moore’s Photography Blog &
a Photoshop & Photography Blogroll listing.
Thanks Jason.

In Honor of this Event,
I present for your interest and viewing pleasure,
a Presentation Style Photograph of
Mt. Rainier, Washington State

(Click on the photo for best viewing)

The Technical Stuff
Nikon D200, f/14, 1/800 sec, 24mm focal length, ISO 400
Middle shot of 3 raw (.nef) files

Now for the History and Geology……..

Mount Rainier is an active stratovolcano (also known as a composite volcano) in Pierce County, Washington, located 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Seattle, Washington, in the United States. It is the highest peak in the Cascade Range and Cascade Volcanic Arc at 14,411 feet (4,392 m). The mountain and the surrounding area are protected within Mount Rainier National Park. With 26 major glaciers, Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states with 35 square miles (91 km²) of permanent snowfields and glaciers. The summit is topped by two volcanic craters, each over 1,000 feet (300 m) in diameter with the larger east crater overlapping the west crater. Geothermal heat from the volcano keeps areas of both crater rims free of snow and ice, and has formed an extensive network of glacier caves within the ice-filled craters. A small crater lake, the highest in North America, occupies the lowest portion of the west crater below more than 160 feet (50 m) of ice and is accessible only via the caves.

Mount Rainier was originally known as Talol, or Tahoma, from the Lushootseed word "mother of waters" spoken by the Puyallup. It has a topographic prominence of 13,210 feet (4,026 m), greater than that of K2. It is a prominent feature of the southern landscape in most of the Seattle metropolitan area. On clear days, it can also be seen from as far away as Portland, Oregon, and Victoria, British Columbia. Because of its scenic dominance, Seattle-Tacoma-area residents sometimes refer to it simply as "the Mountain."

The Carbon, Puyallup, Mowich, Nisqually, and Cowlitz Rivers begin at glaciers of Mount Rainier. The sources of the White River are Winthrop, Emmons, and Fryingpan Glaciers. The White, Carbon, and Mowich join the Puyallup River, which discharges into Commencement Bay at Tacoma; the Nisqually empties into Puget Sound east of Lacey; and the Cowlitz joins the Columbia River between Kelso and Longview.

Mount Rainier's earliest lavas are over 840,000 years old and are part of the Lily Formation (2.9 million to 840,000 years ago). The early lavas formed a "proto-Rainier" or an ancestral cone prior to the present-day cone. The present cone is over 500,000 years old. The volcano is highly eroded, with glaciers on its slopes, and appears to be made mostly of andesite. Rainier likely once stood even higher than today at about 16,000 feet (4,900 m) before a major debris avalanche and the resulting Osceola Mudflow 5,000 years ago.

In the past, Rainier has had large debris avalanches, and has also produced enormous lahars (volcanic mudflows) due to the large amount of glacial ice present. Its lahars have reached all the way to the Puget Sound. Around 5,000 years ago, a large chunk of the volcano slid away and that debris avalanche helped to produce the massive Osceola Mudflow, which went all the way to the site of present-day Tacoma and south Seattle. This massive avalanche of rock and ice took out the top 1,600 feet (500 m) of Rainier, bringing its height down to around 14,100 feet (4,300 m). About 530 to 550 years ago, the Electron Mudflow occurred, although this was not as large-scale as the Osceola Mudflow.

After the major collapse 5,000 years ago, subsequent eruptions of lava and tephra built up the modern summit cone until about as recently as 1,000 years ago. As many as 11 Holocene tephra layers have been found.

The most recent recorded volcanic eruption was between 1820 and 1854, but many eyewitnesses reported eruptive activity in 1858, 1870, 1879, 1882 and 1894 as well. As of 2008, there is no imminent risk of eruption, but geologists expect that the volcano will erupt again.

Lahars from Rainier pose the most risk to life and property, as many communities lie atop older lahar deposits. Not only is there much ice atop the volcano, the volcano is also slowly being weakened by hydrothermal activity. According to Geoff Clayton, a geologist with RH2, a repeat of the Osceola mudflow would destroy Enumclaw, Kent, Auburn, and most or all of Renton. Such a mudflow might also reach down the Duwamish estuary and destroy parts of downtown Seattle, and cause tsunamis in Puget Sound and Lake Washington. According to USGS, about 150,000 people live on top of old lahar deposits of Rainier. Rainier is also capable of producing pyroclastic flows as well as lava.

At the time of European contact, the river valleys and other areas near the mountain were inhabited by many Pacific Northwest tribes who hunted and gathered berries in the forests and mountain meadows. These included the Nisqually, Cowlitz, Yakama, Puyallup, and Muckleshoot.

Captain George Vancouver reached Puget Sound in 1792 and became the first European to see the mountain. He named it in honor of his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier.

In 1833, Dr. William Fraser Tolmie explored the area looking for medicinal plants. He was followed by other explorers seeking challenge. Hazard Stevens and P. B. Van Trump received a hero's welcome in the streets of Olympia after their successful summit climb in 1870. John Muir climbed Mount Rainier in 1888, and although he enjoyed the view, he conceded that it was best appreciated from below. Muir was one of many who advocated protecting the mountain. In 1893, the area was set aside as part of the Pacific Forest Reserve in order to protect its physical/economic resources: timber and watersheds.

Citing the need to also protect scenery and provide for public enjoyment, railroads and local businesses urged the creation of a national park in hopes of increased tourism. On March 2, 1899, President William McKinley established Mount Rainier National Park as America's fifth national park. Congress dedicated the new park "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people; and...for the preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition." Wiki

The Washington state quarter, which was released on April 11, 2007, features Mount Rainier and a salmon.

I hope you have enjoyed the Presentation Style Photograph and history of Mt. Rainier.
Have you seen it, have you climbed the peaks, have you hiked the trails?
Can you feel the cool refreshing air?
Leave a comment at your pleasure, and
Give a visit to Jason D. Moore Photography

Troy and Martha
Texas Travelers in
Washington State

Monday, June 9, 2008

Scott’s Bluff

An Odd Shot
That Turned Out
Almost Perfect

First the Technical Stuff
Nikon D200, f/16, 1/1000 sec, 56mm focal length, ISO 640

It was mid-morning with some residual moisture in the air from an early morning fog. This photo (jpeg) does not do justice to the beauty of this quiet morning on the Plains. There was a high thin cloud layer making the lighting very diffuse. This only seem to enhance the soft palette of colors. I can still hear the birds in the cedars, grasses, and scrub. I can still smell the dry parched grasses touched by the hint of moisture. If you love history, can you still hear the creak and groan of the wagon trains? Do you think the Bluffs miss the company of the settlers at night as they made their campfires, cooked their meals, and reminisced about the adventures of the day? If you have never been to this part of the US, drop everything and go now.

A Hint to Make Your Nature Photography More Enjoyable….
Try to remember what it smelled like and what you could hear.
Update: Also, was the sweat dripping from your nose, and how did you feel.
Make notes if necessary to accompany a potential great photograph.

The Amazing Part
The only Post Processing done was to adjust the Levels. For those that don’t use Photoshop, this is a very minor adjustment to set the white point in the photo to white (in this case the small white chalk deposits in the cliffs), being careful not to lose detail in the lightest areas. Then set the black point to black (in this case the darkest shadows under the Cedars). The net result of this is to increase the range of shades of gray or in this case colors to a broader spectrum that the eye would expect to see. This may not be visible on a monitor, but is really important when printed to a good calibrated Printer. No other adjustments were made. Amazing. Sometimes the Camera just gets it right.

Saddle Rock
Scott’s Bluff National Monument

(Click on the photo for a full view)

Scotts Bluff National Monument in western Nebraska includes an important 19th century landmark on the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail. The National Monument contains multiple bluffs (steep hills) located on the south side of the North Platte River, but it is named after one prominent bluff called Scotts Bluff which rises over 830 feet (330 m) above the plains at its highest point. The monument is composed of five rock formations named Crown Rock, Dome Rock, Eagle Rock, Saddle Rock, and Sentinel Rock.

Scotts Bluff County and the city of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, were named after the landmark.

The collection of bluffs was first charted by non-native people in 1812 by the Astorian Expedition of fur traders traveling along the river. The expedition party noted the bluffs as the first large rock formations along the river where the Great Plains started giving way to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Their findings were not widely communicated, however, because of the War of 1812. In 1823 the route to the Rocky Mountains was rediscovered, and the bluffs became a regular landmark for fur traders in the region. The most prominent bluff was named after a fur trader named Hiram Scott who died near the bluff in 1828.

Fur traders, missionaries, and military expeditions began regular trips past Scotts Bluff during the 1830s. Beginning in 1841, multitudes of settlers passed by Scotts Bluff on their way west on the Emigrant Trail to Oregon, and later California and Utah. Wagon trains used the bluff as a major landmark for navigation. The trail itself passed through Mitchell Pass, a gap in the bluffs flanked by two large cliffs. Although the route through Mitchell Pass was tortuous and hazardous, many emigrants preferred this route to following the North Platte river bottom on the north side of the bluff. Passage through Mitchell Pass became a significant milestone for many wagon trains on their way westward. In one of its first engineering deployments, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a smoother road through Mitchell Pass in the early 1850s. Use of the Emigrant Trail tapered off in 1869 when the trail was made obsolete by the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

The town of Gering, Nebraska, was founded near the base of the bluff in 1887, and the city of Scottsbluff was founded across the North Platte River from the bluff in 1900. Separated only by the river, the two cities have since grown together and now form the 8th-largest urban area in Nebraska.

I hope you have enjoyed this odd shot of a moment in history.
Leave a comment if you enjoyed it (and why), or if you have been there.

These odd posts all started over at Katney's.

Troy and Martha,
in Nebraska