Not all Frosts are the Same

Did you know all frosts are not the same? I was well into my thirties when I heard my twinsters father-in-law talk of a beautiful hoar frost once back in the cold West Virginia mountains.

It did look rather different once I paid real attention. Since then I have paid more attention to frosty mornings both here in the East and out West. There are visual differences, though I am not able to describe the science behind them. If a reader can, kindly educate me in the comments.

The word ‘hoar’, or ‘hoarfrost’ is an old English word that describe the feathery white appearance of the formation of this type of frost. Much like the feathery white beards on old men. This is the visual difference between this frost and those I am most familiar.

From the information I think I understand, the hoarfrost is formed when cold air comes in contact with already below freezing objects, such as pine needles, and feathery crystals are formed. It seems foggy weather produces a hoarfrost.

So, while I do not know the way it comes about I do know it is pretty. And I know the One who does know all about it: He gives snow like wool; He scatters the hoarfrost like ashes. Ps 147:16 NKJ

I found these pretty, feathery crystals on a little frozen puddle on our farm. Beautiful yes?

Three Season Identity

The naturalist was informative and engaging with our grandchildren during the program we recently attended at West Virginia’s Cacapon State Park.

The on-again off-again rain did not stop our outing, but must have others because we were the only attendees.

Valerie Chaney, Full-Time Naturalist, at Cacapon State Park happily answered our questions as we made our way around the park. She gave each of us a pair of binoculars to see nature close up. She asked thoughtful questions to the children as well.

The nature lodge is well-made, cozy, and full of all sorts of local wildlife. Beautifully taxidermies line the walls in a grand display of the wonders of the natural world to see up close. Some of the animals and fish I have never seen. Thankfully the huge wolf is not local!

One interesting challenge Valerie gave us was identifying trees. She invited us to study not only the leaf structures, but the bark on the tree as well, and the general overall look of the tree. Such a challenge! She encouraged us to be able to identify them in those three ways throughout each season of the year.

She would watch and listen to the birds and ask if we knew them and their songs. Some we knew, she told us the others. The huge Pileated Woodpecker hole in the tree was fun to see too!

She gave us an interesting way of looking at the wonderful world of nature all around us. The park has many activities for families. Check them out! Also on FB.

Glad this huge wolf isn’t local!
Look at the size of the Pileated Woodpecker holes!
These two Shag Bark Hickory’s make for an easy tree to learn by its bark.
Grapevine is another easy starter for beginning naturalist.

Another trip to West Virginia’s Cacapon State Park will be made this summer. As an added note; their restaurant and gift shop are terrific!

In Focus #13—Wet Pinecone Study

I have realized pinecones are like me. No wonder I like them! When they get wet, they close up. And they close up tightly. I am not keen on being wet either. My husband, on the other hand, loves the water and being in it. I have always told him I would not mind being in the water if I did not have to get wet. He thinks I am humorous and weird.

Pinecones can be found placed all around our house. I put them inside and outside around the house and gardens. There was an especially pretty one sitting on the bench outside our kitchen door. We have had terrific winds these past few days, whereupon, I found that pinecone completely soaked in the dogs water bowl.

Picking the poor soaked thing up, I put it in the kitchen to watch it dry out. What a pretty process it was watching it dry out and unfold.

Here is the photographic study that was three days in the process:

Happily dried out and soaking up sunshine.
Filled up the planter for winter with pinecones.

On the Fence?

Being a bird watcher has been an enjoyable passion for as long as I can remember. This endearing past-time was taught to me with fun by my Aunty Bliss (Mom’s twin sister). She was a scientist of sorts, as she filed and categorized all the birds she photographed. She passed that love onto me, though she kept better records than I. I passed it on to one of our sons. Many precious memories are on file birding with my Aunt as a child and as a grown-up with my son.

I thought of them both recently when looking out at the pond. To my great surprise, I saw this Great Blue Heron sitting on the fence! On the fence? I have seen many of these lovely birds in my day, but never sitting on a fence! If you look closely in the photograph, you will notice the pond is frozen. Guess no fishing was to be done that day.

Grabbing my camera bag and changing the lens I thought the bird would surely be gone. To my great joy it was still there. I have a 300mm fixed lens for my camera, but still needed to crop the photos to get a better view. This makes the photos not that great, but, as I was taught in a photography class once, “A rather bad photo is better than no photo at all.”

Have you ever seen a Great Blue Heron sitting on a fence?

Nature Photographer

You should call yourself a nature photographer, my son recently told me.

This was a compliment, and it prompted me to study the content of my photographs more carefully. He and his wife are professional wedding photographers, and he owns a camera shop. In other words they know a great deal about photography.

Photos have been a part of my life for many years. I have always said I take photos because I cannot paint! There is something magic about capturing a moment in time. I started when I was 10 years old.

My first camera was a Kodak camera. It had a cartridge that dropped in the back of it. It would take twelve photos. Later one could purchase a twenty-four picture cartridge. The flash was a four-use cube. It would turn with every photo taken. The directions included in this fancy camera box told users to always put the sun behind you ( the photographer) so it could shine directly onto the subjects.

It was great fun. Developing photos could be done via mail, or the local photography store. Going through the mail was cheaper, but slower. I sent mine off through the mail. It would take up to a week or more to get them back. How exciting it was to see just how they turned out!

On the back of each photo I would write it’s own description with the date, names of people (or animals), and the place it was taken. Finding old, family pictures with no details were frustrating and not of much meaning to me. So I spent much time getting the details correct. So much time, that I quite saving every photo I took and kept only the ones I liked best. I think this did as much as anything to develop my eye.

The most exciting camera I owned, and wish I still had, was a used Canon AE1 purchased at a camera shop. It was a great camera that taught me a lot about film, lighting, settings. It took my skill to a new, fun level. I started then having film developed at camera shops. Talking to the owners taught me much about film, light, and settings. All the photos of our five children were taken with that wonderful camera. It captured a large portion of life for me. I began entering my photos in local county fairs. Seeing a ribbon hanging beside a photo was very exciting! The back closure finally gave out so I set it aside, and left the joy of photography for a while (having a house full of teenagers took every moment of time). I am sorry to say I think lost it in the shuffle of our last move for I have not been able to find it. I may yet!

Later, family and business trips required a working camera. The Minolta Freedom Zoom 140EX was the one of choice to record these fun times. It was the first digital camera I owned. It came with us on our big six-week family outing out west years ago, where it fell from the roof of our truck and that ended that. However, I do still have that camera. Think I’ll take it to our son’s shop for repair.

Then came the Iphone. Photography has never been the same. I used it for years. Compact, easy to carry, nothing but keeping the battery charged was required. It did set me back on the path of picture taking again, and I am grateful.

The days of buying cameras are over now, as our son has helped get me outfitted with a wonderful camera and accessories to keep me busy for a long time. The Olympus OM-D camera works well for me. I use mostly the 12-100mm lens, and a fixed 300mm lens with a monopod. This camera can do more than I will ever be able to do, but it is fun learning. I have also taken several photography classes to improve my skill. I recall one teacher saying that photography is not complete until it is printed and shared with someone you love. My family gets a good many photos in the mail of times we have shared together!

So, as I have studied my photographs, I realize my son is right. I do take many nature shots. We live in the country. I see a lot of nature everyday. He is right, I am a nature photographer.

These photos tell a story (don’t all photos?), of the deer as I interacted with them through the lens of the camera. What story do they tell you?