Underground Railroad

Autumn Wonder

We have often travelled Lower Creek Road as an alternate route to visit my son and his family who live in Freeville, a village named for the activity of the Underground Railroad. After noticing this sign in passing for years, this week we stopped on a glorious autumn morning to capture it. I had packed the Sony Alpha 700 dslr for just such an opportunity.

Just off the road, under a maple tree in full autumn color (yellow), ground covered with fallen leaves (brown) on a fine early October morning, the sign reads, “New York, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, HOME OF WILLIAM HANFORD AND WIFE ALTHA C. TODD, WHO SHELTERED FUGITIVE SLAVES ON THE WAY TO CANADA AND FREEDOM, STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT 1932”. These dark blue background, bright yellow letter signed are found throughout this region and much appreciated.

An added plus for me is the acceptance of both photographs by Getty Istock. Click this link to view a selection of my Getty photography in and around Ithaca, New York.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Thin Crescent with McGraw Tower, Venus and Star

pre-dawn sky event

Here are two photographs taken about the same time, 6:30 am, October 18, 2017, companions to the photograph shared earlier this week.

The moon rises later each day, so these shots include a larger disk closer to Cornell University.  Both components, the crescent and earth-glow, were dimmer this morning.    In each photograph Jenny McGraw Tower is visible.

Crescent, McjGraw Tower, Regulus, Venus
The star is Regulus, the brightest in the constellation Leo, close below the moon.  I don’t know the star close to Venus.

Here the tower is slightly to the right of the crescent, the arch of Schoellkopf stadium further right.  Among the trees on left, is the baleful red glow of Bradford Hall.

Cresent, McGraw Tower, Regulus
Click for another view of McGraw Tower from my Online gallery.

The tower is outlined by the lights of Uris library, presumably filled with early rising students.

The light of Regulus (“small king”),  below and to the right, is a composite of four stars moving together through space.  The position of Regulus on the path in the sky of the moon, planets and asteroids (called the ecliptic) leads to the occultation of the star by the disks of the moon and, less regularly, the planets and asteroids.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Thin Crescent Bowl filled with Earthglow

pre-dawn sky event

A thin crescent bowl filled with earthglow floating above the dawn attended by Venus, Mars, Virgo.

Thin Crescent with Planets, Stars, Dawn

This was the view from Ithaca, New York at the start of dawn this morning of Tuesday, October 17, 2017.  Mars is next to the moon, the stars of the constellation Virgo scattered around, Venus is the bright object below.  We had a bright, clear sky not unusual for September and October.

Want more? Click the link for my Online Gallery

In the city, an arch of Schoellkopf Stadium on the Cornell University campus.  Cornell is on east hill.  We live on west hill, across the valley.  It is quiet on west hill, away from the students.

Earlier this week the crescent was in the constellation Leo where the bright limb occulted the bright star Regulus, to reappeared from behind the dark limb, a brilliant spectacle that happened after dawn for New York.  It was cloudy, as usual, on October 14.

When I woke, the moon was shining through the trees, still full of just turning leaves. The crescent turned, cup like, above the horizon, to cradle the dark orb glowing from the reflected light of our earth. I did not recognize Mars, the disk was less red than usual. Research revealed the moon had two planets in seeming attendance. I also learned that, when the horns point right the moon is waning, moving toward a new, or un-illuminated, moon. When the phase moved from new it is also a crescent with horns pointing left.

This morning was a fortunate gift, I had never contemplated the moon in quite this form before.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Blessed Lights

9/11 Remembrance

I choose to remember September 11, 2001 with the IPhone 7 video of September sunlight shining through clear water, set to the music “Blessing.”

Click on thenWatch on YouTube to open a new tab and a better viewing experience.

The post header is sunlight shining through the clear water of Reavis
Creek, Superstition Wilderness, Arizona.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All rights Reserved

New Neighbors

Manufactured Home Installed Next Door, September 2017

When Pam and I made Westwood Knoll our home in 2011, to the north, across the street, was an empty wooded lot that has since been subdivided into three of the last home sites in Ithaca. This summer, the corner lot was razed of all its trees, the lovely mature cherry, sycamore, ash, maple reduced to stumps to be cut up and carted away. There was a positive in that the lot was overgrown and unsightly, but every spring the upper reaches were masses of blooms and young green leaves.

In a heavy rain on September 5th, 2017 the two parts, call them “modules”, were delivered, and then sat until September 7th to be assembled in one day. The process itself was interesting to witness and, while being otherwise occupied, I came out now and then to document the progress.

Here are my photographs. What do you think? Please leave comments.

The Foundation
The foundation installation took a week to construct. It started with, literally, blocks of styrofoam held together with plastic and assembled by hand, like a child’s block set. There is an 8 inch gap in between filled with concrete. There was NO rebar used. bolts were inserted for attaching the modules.
How Module Two  was Hauled
Module Two was delivered on wheels and moved into position by this semi.
Module Two, the house next door
Module Two will eventually face the opposite direction. That will be the rear door. This is our swimming pool, I use garden hoses to siphon excess rainwater.
Construction Worker??
Most of the workers were dressed like this, casually, no protection for feet or head. We were concerned with this. No one was injured this day, as far as we know.
Another Construction Worker
The worker is standing on a board on which the crane wheels will rest.
Crane Boom End and Hooks
Crane Boom End with hooks in transport configuration. These are attached to the modules for positioning over and lowering onto the foundation.
A supervisor
This fellow arrived to take pictures from that smart phone.
Tracked Loader
A versatile tracked loader used throughout the foundation construction and module installation.
Worker and Hooks
A worker prepares the hooks for use. No head protection was a concern to us.
Support Blocks
Yellow blocks of metal used to support the crane.. A railing of Module One is above the truck, to left.
Hooks Prepared for Use
The red hook is ready.
Hooks ready to go.
The hooks hang free, ready to use.
Module One
This is where Module One was dumped on the side of the road on September 5th, two days before installation.
Module One and Construction Worker
We are looking here over the edge of our patio and landscaped yard to the site of module one, pre-installation, a worker approaching.
Module Two
The first step was to extricate module two from the mud and haul it up the street. A construction worker foreground, the boom of crane beyond.
Positioning Module Two
The semi backed Module Two into position, the crane boom and hooks loom.
The Company Responsible
The workers were considerate of our lawn. There was minimal damage. The modules installed this day looks nothing like this image.
Module Two Attached and Ready
From here Module Two will be lifted onto the foundation.
Workers Prepare Foundation.
Workers prepare foundation to receive Module Two while the unit is readied.
Module Two Lifted.
I see only the black hook is in use.
Another View of Module Two
Another View of Module Two with worker. That is the bottom of our driveway.
Module One with Construction Materials
Module One was delivered with construction materials inside.
Module One with Carrier and workers.
The porch and entry door of Module One with worker and rope. The worker needs to negotiate the carrier.
Pulling Module One Around
A 180 degree turn orients Module One to Module Two. The porch overhangs the foundation.

Positioning module one over foundation.

Worker Stands in Module Two
A worker observes from the interior of Module Two. Here is a closer view of the wire harness.

Final positioning of the module to form a whole structure.

Finished.
The roof panels are here lifted to a peak. The shingles and such in place for installation. These are the materials delivered inside Module One.

Update: since this post was first published September 2017 the original owners moved to the southern USA after selling the property at an inflated price to a young Cornell professor.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Smoke Tree, late June

Three species of the genus Cotinus, commonly called “Smoke Tree,”in the family Anacardiaceae exist in North America, Europe and Asia. Ours is more like a shrub with numerous, long branches. Flowers with profuse filaments in clusters resembling whiffs of smoke. Here we see the flower filaments, interspersed with small drupes, each containing a single seed.

The post header, and these photographs were made from the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon Lens EF 50mm f/1.2L USM stabilized with a Manfrotto 468ZMZ tripod with hydrostatic head. Late afternoons, evenings the tree is shaded by a hemlock hedge (line of trees running north/south) this is the shade here. This Canonn dslr excels in color rendition. The flower masses are a burgundy wine color, the leaves have a purple tinge. I do not directly fertilize, as the plant is said to do best with unfertile soil though the surrounding cedars do get fertilizer stakes.

Eight AM a following morning I followed up with a handheld session using a Sony DSLR-Alpha700, Sony Lens DT 18-200 mm F3.5-6.5. Took these two shots with a lower ISO and tweaked the images in Lightroom, reducing the exposure. The flower smoky effect is well captured, the color in bright sunlight is not as wine-like as in shade.

By the time I proceeded to macros, a morning breeze kicked up, handled by upping the ISO to 3200 for a faster shutter speed to stop the movement. The bright sun helped with this.

Fertilized flowers develop into fruit stalks with radiating filaments, the yellow dots are the drupes (fleshy bodies surrounding a single seed). Fresh leaves are purple, turning to dark green with age. The leaves are as unusual as the flowers: aromatic, simple and round on long stalks. Autumn, the leaves turn a stunning bright red-orange, a scarlet shade. In winter some stalks die off, new growth appears from the roots in spring.

References

“The Botanical Garden Vol 1 Trees and Shrubs”, Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, Firefly Books, Buffalo NY, 2000, p 361

Wikipedia, “Smoke Tree”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Woody Peony 100 mm

Macro series

See my May Woody Peony postings for background on this peony variety.

These photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr and the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens stabilized with the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head.

The morning breezes of May caused me to “up” ISO to 1600 for a faster shutter speed at higher f-stop.

Taking full advantage of the macro lens, the higher ISO helped to maintain sharper focus on the highlighted feature, in this case the stamens.

A gallery of macros with various settings and aspects of the bloom.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Woody Peony Reader Query

“It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Asphodel that Greeny Flower WC Williams

Here is a Sunny Sunday reader assignment. Which handling of this woody peony blossom do you prefer? Please leave your preferences in the comments section with details of your reasoning. Thank you!!

These photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr, new for me as of 2020, and the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.2L USM lens stabilized with the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head. This setup allowed me to fiddle with camera settings, here you see a variation in the width of the shutter diaphragm opening, or F-stop. The smaller the opening (higher F-stop) less light is let through to the image sensor, longer exposure time (allowing the subject to move, as in the morning breeze) offset by greater depth of field, more of which provides sharp focus as the subject elements are further from the lens.

In this first photograph, the F-stop is moderately high. The entire blossom and plant are in focus, the background moderately blurred though still recognizable.

For the second photograph F-stop is low, opening up the shutter diaphragm, allowing more light in for a faster shutter release, less time for the morning breeze to rise up and ruin the shot. The beautiful background blurring, bokeh, is a feature of this 50 mm lens. At the same time, at F/4.0 the shutter diaphragm is not wide open. The blossom is entirely in focus, many plant leaves and the other blossom, to left, are out of focus. This places emphasis on the primary subject of the photograph while providing a feel for the surroundings.

Here are the same photographs, click on one to open a gallery for you to flip back and forth to compare.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Woody Peony, Yellow Still Life 50 mm

Yellow for this last day of May 2021

This yellow woody (also called tree) peony blooms later than our red varieties. The first set of three were photographed May 26, 2021 have unopened buds. Yet, these are early compared to those photographed June 6, 2019 used in the last still life.

These first photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr, new for me as of 2020, fitted with a 600EX-RT Speedlite (flash) and the Canon EF 70-300 mm (variable) f/4-5.6L USM lens stabilized with the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head.

Our Itoh yellow tree peony has flowers on stalks too slender to hold the heavy blooms upright. The flowers open hidden among thick leaves. Here they are a still life of cut blossoms and leaves. The cultivars of Paeonia, the mouton, or hua wang, king of flowers, are ofe of the classic ornamental genera of China. By the 11th and 12th centuries the center off cultivation was in Sichuan, and there yellow-flowered varieties appeared.

Crossbreeding of yellow-flowered P. delavayi with traditional double-flowered P. suffruticosa cultivars by Victor Lemoine in Nancy, France has led to the introduction of the color yellow into the cultivated double-flowered tree-peonies. These hybrids are known as the Paeonia × lemoinei group. In 1948 horticultulturist Toichi Itoh from Tokyo used pollen from ‘Alice Harding’ to fertilize the herbaceous P. lactiflora ‘Katoden’, which resulted in a new category of peonies, the Itoh or intersectional cultivars. These are herbaceous, have leaves like tree peonies, with many large flowers from late spring to early autumn, and good peony wilt resistance. I am guessing our Yellow Wooden Peony is a type of this hybrid because the long stems are more herbaceous than woody, the heavy flowers droop so the best form to capture them is the still life.

Compare the above two exposures to appreciate the effect of the f-stop and excellent bokeh of the Canon “L” lens.

This still life from the 2019 bloom was taken with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr and the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.2L USM lens used above. Stabilization provided by a Manfrotto 3036 (studio) tripod with the 468MG hydrostatic ball head. That room is bright from large, east-facing windows. Late afternoon light is soaked up by the black velvet backdrop leaving the lemon yellow leaves to shine.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

References
Wikipedia “Paeonia × suffruticosa
Roger Philips and Martyn Rix, “The Botanical Garden, Vol 1, Trees and Shrubs” p 133

Woody Peony 50 mm

An Early Spring for 2021

Spring 2021, though cold, is early. As I write this the peony blooms presented here, photographed May 20, 2021 are seeding, the gorgeous purple magenta petals strewn beneath the woody stems. In my last posting, from Memorial Day 2019, the plant is in full bloom the end of May.

These photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr, new for me as of 2020, and the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.2L USM lens stabilized with the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head. Color results from the Canon dslr are impressive, the first time the unique purple magenta is accurately represented here. I found a slight under exposure captured the plum – fine burgundy wine nature of this Japanese cultivar, “Shimadaijin,” planted in the 1970’s or 1980’s.

Here is the last unopened bud of this season, enclosed by a calyx of 5 green sepals with reddish highlights . In the wild, woody (also called tree) peonies favored cliffs and scrub of western and central China, eastern Himalayas (southeastern Tibet).

The bud is toward the back, slightly out of focus, of this overview. The woody stems hold the profusion of large flowers each one erect. “Tree” is a misnomer as this plant is a shrub growing mid-thigh high. One of the classic ornamental genera of China, known there as moutan or hua wang “King of Flowers.”

Cultivation in China began in Chekiang in the early 4th century AD. By the early Tang period (circa 700 AD) hundreds of varieties were grown.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

References
Wikipedia “Magenta” color
Roger Philips and Martyn Rix, “The Botanical Garden, Vol 1, Trees and Shrubs” p 133