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December 31,2009

The snow is falling. We may make it into town this evening for the First Night celebration, but that is contingent on the amount of precipitation.


Happy New Year's Eve!!!!

There will be a blue moon tonight.  What a nice way to close out the year.  We wish you all a fun New Year's Eve and a great 2010!  [Permalink] -New Year's Eve

November 6,2009

There is a LOT of manipulation which can be performed with software after an image has been taken: color correction, sharpening, contrast/brightness adjustments, the list is practically endless. However, getting rid of unwanted glare is not one of them. To do that properly, a polarizing filter must be used when taking the image. 

Light bounces around in all directions. Under certain conditions, some of the rays can muddy up a photo. A polarizing filter can be helpful in those situations by blocking light rays not oriented in a certain way from reaching the sensor. The effect is a clearer and crisper image.

When we took our walk down at the Boston Public Garden the other day, we knew we wanted to get some of the Fall colors reflecting off the pond, so we brought along our set of Tiffen filters. The set had the three basic filters: the warming filter for better skin tone, the UV filter for reducing haze, the polarizing filter for getting rid of unwanted glare. 

A polarizing filter is directional. Its orientation must be set for each shot. This is not as cumbersome as it sounds and it is very easy to do during use: look through the viewfinder, rotate the outer ring of the filter until the desired effect is obtained, and take the shot. 

To maximize clarity, we used the polarizing filter to filter out some of the glare of the water. This resulted in clearer reflections on the water and better color contrast overall. There weren't any clouds in the sky, but had there been, they would have appeared puffier and more dramatic. 

There are other situations where a polarizing filter can be of help, but we'll save those for another article. A filter is probably the simplest piece of optical equipment there is. Most have no moving parts, are relatively inexpensive compared to a quality lens, and are simple to use. They should also be in every photographer's bag of tricks.   [Permalink] - Tiffen Filters

NOTE: The weatherman was wrong about the snow prediction for today!  Get out there because it is going to be a gorgeous sunny day :-)


November 5,2009

When the sun is out in Boston, we try not to stay inside. The sun has has been showing itself these past few days, so we accepted the invitation, got our butts out of the Aeron, and headed outside. As we had been taking in the Fall colors, we thought we would see what's going on down at the Boston Public Garden.

On the weekends, the Boston Public Garden is a pretty busy place, but during the week it is quiet and serene. Parking, usually a problem, is easy. We found an on-street spot right next to the park. There were plenty of folks strolling about, but absent were the throngs of tourists and their kids. 

Boston is a very "visitor-friendly" city and we locals are happy that so many of them enjoy our lovely city. Sometimes, however, it is nice to walk around without being in the midst of so much, chatter. I know, I know...it is a sure sign that we are turning into a bunch of old farts!  Regardless, we took full advantage of the quiet, tranquil, and beautiful day in the Back Bay.  

If you live in Boston and have not had a chance to see the city's Fall colors, make some excuse for an errand, hop on the T and head to the Boston Public Garden.   The colors will only be around for a few more days (snow is forecast for Friday).  [Permalink] - Boston Public Garden


November 3,2009

Fall is a beautiful time of year in New England. On a sunny day brilliant colors of yellow, red, and orange colors are everywhere. We had plans to head to one of the popular "leaf-peeping" places (Western MA, White Mountains NH, etc...) but realized that the Arnold Arboretum at just three miles from the office would probably be as spectacular. Instead of spending hours driving to the enjoy this year's colors, we went for a walk instead.

We were not disappointed!  The colors of the leaves on the trees at the Arnold Arboretum were at their peak. Their glory was enhanced by the sun shining behind them. Even the colors of the leaves on the ground were still quite vibrant.

There are different and distinct sections in the Arnold Arboretum. We entered the arboretum from the Centre street gate, but it didn't really matter as there are well-maintained paths throughout. Some of them are paved walkways, but there are plenty of colorful trails for those wishing to momentarily transport themselves out of the city.

One of our favorite site at the Arnold Arboretum is the Bonsai House. The structure is built in such a way that visitors can get up close to the beautiful bonsai. The miniature maples in the collection have turned a brilliant red. Others have started their changes as well. If you want to see them in person, go soon as they will be moved indoors some time in early November, depending on the weather.

Next to the Bonsai House is the new Victor and Frances Leventritt Garden. This garden is one of the most significant additions to the Arboretum since its founding in 1872. The Leventritt Garden's terraced beds feature a diverse array of sun-loving ornamental shrubs and vines. There is lots of room for future growth, and for now, a great place to have a picnic or to host an event!

The Arnold Arboretum has three man-made ponds. They are clustered together near the Forest Hill gate entrance and are quite popular with the water fowl and dogs looking to cool off. They also offer a lovely setting for some very nice photo opportunities.

This week is forecast to be very nice, weather-wise. We would recommend a visit to the Arnold Arboretum if you want to see some Fall colors but don't have the time or the desire to wander too far away from the city.   [Permalink] - Fall at the Arnold Arboretum


September 13,2009

Today we got up early, had a leisurely breakfast, and got on the road by 11 AM :-)  We didn't have a lot on our schedule...just heading to North Adams to climb Mount Greylock and check out MASSMoCA.

We did bring our hiking boots and backpacks for the camera gear, but decided that we would probably not have enough time to make it up to the top if we hiked it.  What we did discover was that we could just drive the 5 miles up to the summit and forego the physical exertion all together.  We all quickly agreed that this was the better option.

The drive up was quite attractive...lots of twisties, switchbacks, and views onto the valley below.  We also saw some cyclists ripping downhill at speeds which we wouldn't attempt in a car.

The view at the top was pretty spectacular.  Suppositly we had a clear view to four states: Vermont, New York, Conneticut, New Hampshire.  We looked but couldn't really tell you if that was true.

What we can tell you is how form-fitting and comfortable the Kata 3N1 pack was during the little bit of hiking around we did do.  While we cannot really claim that this was an exhaustive test of the wear-ability of this pack, we can say that we will definitely be grabbing this bag for our next outing.

There is a really nice lodge at summit (great views, high ceilings, large fireplaces, and food service).  Apparently one can rent rooms there even in the Winter.  Not sure whether cars can make it up when there is snow or if it is hike-in only.  In any case, we are making plans to come back for some snow-shoeing this Winter.

This was more of a scouting trip for our Fall Foliage outing.  We got a lot of great info on places to stay, things to do, and where to eat.  The drive is a little over 3 hours from Boston.  It is possible to do it in a day, but would be much nicer as an overnight trip.

We look forward to coming back in a month or so when the foliage is peaking.  It will be a lot cooler at the top of Mount Greylock then.  If the weather is nice and we don't have too many Lemon Drops the night before, we may even actually hike part of the trail next time :-)   [Permalink] - Mount Greylock


September 3,2009

All the discussion regarding the Nikon PB-4 macro bellows setup brought an onslaught of email.  Most were requests for more image examples.  Not knowing what would make for good subjects, we just grabbed a few objects and started firing away.

It didn't take us long to get the hang of using the macro setup.  All of our examples were shot with available light.  The images were taken with the camera in "manual" mode.  We didn't note the aperture/ shutter speed setting as it was so easy with digital to just arrive at the right combination by trial and error.  We wanted a large depth of field (more things in focus) so we set the aperture at F16 and "found" the right shutter speed setting when we got a bright enough exposure.  Click on any of the images to see the larger versions.

Since the weather was gorgeous yesterday, we spent some time outside in the RainyDayGarden.  With all the rain this Spring and Summer, the vegetable (beans, tomatoes, etc...) got plenty of water and the vegetable garden produced a very nice harvest.  While picking some of the remaining tomatoes Carolyn noticed this giant caterpillar.  Even before she finished saying "you gotta see this..." we were setting up the macro gear :-)

Shooting outside was a whole different experience.  There was plenty of light, so we were able to use a much smaller aperture, thereby giving us greater a depth of field.  We found it easier to first focus with the aperture wide open, then stop-down to a smaller opening when we were ready to take a shot.  While the increase lighting was helpful, the occasional breeze made it harder to get a sharp photo.  Eventually, we decided to open up the aperture a little in exchange for a faster shutter speed.

The compromise meant a slight loss in depth of field so not everything we had wanted to be in focus was, but it was the best option available under yesterday's conditions.  We had to guess at the shutter speed.  At f8, most of these shots were taken at 0.5 sec.  However, we didn't really pay all that much attention as we were just looking at the LCD and adjusting on the fly.

Shooting macro images with our new bellows setup is a lot of fun.  The gratification was immediate and the results often surprising.  There are so many unexpected patterns when you get up really close that we could have easily spent the day in one spot and not exhaust all of the photographic possibilities.  We think we'll be spending a lot of time outside this Fall.  BTW...the catepillar was a Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) and it will emerge as a moth in next Spring.  [Permalink] - Macro Samples


August 18,2009
Summer has finally arrived in Boston.  The temperature has topped 90º for most of the week. The blooms in the RainyDayGarden have done pretty well despite the heat and the lack of rain (we don't like to water).

We are hoping that all the water we got in June and July is still deep in the ground and our plants have had enough sense to reach down and get it.  We'll see.  If nothing else, it will select for which type of plants are more drought/heat tolerant ;-)

The bamboo out back has actually been thriving this year.  It has almost doubled in size.  The New England Winters and short growing season has limited its spread.  Still, we are keeping our eye out for pandas anyway.

The one big project we did in the RainyDayGarden recently was the severe "hair cut" we gave the Japonica bush.  We really wanted to take it all out, but it was too hot to actually exert that much effort to dig it out of the ground.  Instead, we decided it was sufficient to trim it down to the ground.  If we get some new growth, that would be fine.  In any case, we'll plant a new tulip garden this Fall and figure out what to do with the new spot next Spring.

This RainyDayGarden has seen a lot of changes over the years, but our philosophy about what to plant in it has not.  All items must not require anything more than periodic trimming and feeding.  No pest control, no herbacides, and a minimum of watering.  Flowering plants are preferred, as they attract bees, butterflies, and other interesting things.  They must be perrenials.  Once in a while, we make an exception.  Can any of our readers find the exception in our garden?  If you think you know, drop us a note via email with the subject line... "This one is not like the others" and the name of the plant in the body of the email.  We'll pick a winner from the correct entries and send them something for their garden.  We'll announce the winner this Sunday.  Good luck!  [Permalink] - RainyDayGarden in August


July 21,2009

The purple coneflowers in the RainyDayGarden typically bloom in July. Just in time, too, as the day lilies have started to fade.  This year's crop of coneflowers appears to be quite happy in spite of all the rain.  Their colors did seem a bit pale this season, but it may just be our imagination.

Coneflowers do spread a bit on their own, but they are by no means invasive. They are resistent to pests, fun to look at, and require zero maintenance. They also attract all kinds of bees and small birds.  The bees love the pollen. The birds nibble on the seeds in the dark orange center cone.  The flowers may even have health benefits.

Blooms adds colors to our RainyDayGarden, but we try to select and arrange the plants such that even when the flowers are gone, there are still different shapes, shades, and textures.  In this way, even when all that is left are just leaves, they are still visually interesting :-)

Another way to keep all the sections of the garden "active" is to mix plants that have staggered flowering times. The daylilies bloom in June, the coneflowers in July. In practice, they overlap for a period of several weeks.  The purple Witches Brooms runs more toward the end of July/ early August.  All three have long stalks and combine well visually. Mixing them is a good way to keep a section flowering longer. These plants propagate easily and are nice investments for any garden.

Not all plants in the garden in the RainyDayGarden were store-bought. There are plenty of flowering "weeds" which fit happily into the garden. The Queen Anne's Lace is one of our favorite "weeds." It is hardy, requires no watering, and looks amazing in full bloom. And, the ladybugs love them. They can pop up anywhere. We do pull them out when they "assert" themselves in the middle of something else, but we usually leave the ones in the back corner alone. They can grow to be quite tall and flower for a few months.

Watering is always an issue for those with large gardens. We try not to water if at all possible.  When we do, we like to do it deeply. It promotes deep root growth, which helps the plants survive during the dry periods. Some really hot days have been forecast for this week.  However, with all the rain this year, there is a lot of moisture deep in the ground.  We may get away with not having to water at all this year!  [Permalink] - RainyDayGarden in July


July 17,2009

It has been a few years since we last went to the Jamaica Plain Lantern Festival.  This was the 11th year for the event and the crowd has gotten much larger.  The Lantern Festival is held every year at the Forest Hills Cemetary in Jamaica Plain.  The admission was free.  There were taiko drummers, Kendo demonstrations, and lantern painting. 

We got there around 7:30 and had a nice picnic dinner with some friends.  We also took the occassion to celebrate Bill, Irfan, and Carolyn's birthdays with a yummy cake, which we finished around dusk.  The timing was perfect as it was then that they started the lighting of the lanterns. 

The Jamaica Plain Lantern Festival is similar to the Japanese Obon Holiday, at which ancestral spirits are believed to return to their families to visit for three days.  Families gather to pay their respects with offerings of food and drink.  Lanterns are lit outside the house to symbolically guide the returning souls to the home.

On the last evening of the holiday, lanterns once again guide the departed back to their resting places.  The inscriptions on the lanterns carry well wishes and words of love and peace.

It was quite an amazing sight to see hundreds of these lanterns drifting slowly about the pond, making random patterns as they congregated and separated.  We are happy we got to enjoy this evening with friends past and present.  We hope to be back to visit with them again next year.  [Permalink] - Jamaica Plain Lantern Festival

BTW, for readers who were wondering about the effectiveness of the vibration reduction feature of the Nikkor 18-200mmVR lens, all of these images were shot hand-held!


June 23,2009

The rain has been falling steadily since Friday.  All this precipitation has been wonderful for the RainyDayGarden.  A quick look at the rain gauge told us that we got quite a few inches of rain in the past several days.  However, we hope we start drying out soon. 

We don't usually pay much attention to the rain gauge and wouldn't have given it another thought if we hadn't gotten an email the other day by a reader asking us about it.  So we thought we would give it a quick mention today.  The rain gauge is from Eva Solo and is made of three parts: the glass gauge, a heavy plastic holder, and a multi-sectioned aluminum pole. 

The markings are molded directly on the glass container in both millimeters and inches.  The gauge does need to be cleaned often as its shape tend to accumulate whatever is floating around in the air and funnel it to the bottom.  Emptying and cleaning the container is a simple matter of lift and pour.   The pole has an angled tip at the end for easy insertion into the ground.  The entire assembly is very sturdy. 

We have had this gauge out in the garden for three years.  It has survived all kinds of the New England weather without any problems.  There are certainly less expensive rain gauges on the market, but none of them are as elegant.  For readers looking for something beautiful and functional for their garden, the Eva Solo rain gauge would be an excellent choice...even after the sun has come back out. [Permalink] - Eva Solo Rain Gauge

June 17,2009

The cool wet June may have been responsible for the lovely blooms in the RainyDayGarden, but it was the well-stocked feeders that brought in all the song birds.

The RainyDayGarden is now a well-known destination for all the freeloading feathered flyers in the immediate vicinity.  There are two feedings a day of a buffet of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and other assorted tasty bits.  It is first come, first served and there is a line...unless you are a Blue Jay.  They just jump right to the beginning of the queue.  Queue?  What queue?

One cool looking bird that showed up the other day was a Grackle.  The body was mainly black, but it had this purplish irridescent head.  Today it came back with a bunch of its buddies and got into a little shouting match with the Blue Jay.

The Cardinals seem to prefer to eat at another feeder on the edge of the garden.  They don't seem to be bothered by any of the other birds.  We are not quite sure why.

The Sparrows are very "polite."  They all seem to wait their turn.  Being a rather small bird compared to the others, we guess they don't have much of a choice.  Still, it is nice that they are polite, at least to the bigger birds.

We took all of these images with the Nikon D90 and the 18-200mm DX lens.  Once again the Nikkor 18-200mm zoom did a pretty decent job.  We took these images at about 70 feet away.  The in-lens image stablization was on for all of these images.  Even at maximum zoom, the image was reasonably sharp for a woodpecker poking away at the peanuts.  If we were only allowed one lens for our Nikon, the Nikkor 18-200mm zoom would be the one we would pick.   [Permalink] - RainyDayBirds


June 16,2009

All of the rain and cool weather this June not only gave us a big Cottonwood "snow storm", it also gave us an enormous bounty of Peony blooms.  The RainyDayGarden was just bursting with huge blossoms this season.  We had to cut many of them all at once because most were too heavy to stay upright.

After we ran out of room for arrangements inside, we started placing them outside (front porch, back deck, etc...).  About a dozen of them were on the entry way to welcome the package delivery folks (USPS, FedEx, etc...).  They all seem to appreciate the floral greeting and the heady scent.

The many floral arrangements was also a great opportunity to practice in taking close-ups with the D90.  Our original intent was to do some experimenting with the Lensbaby, but got distracted by the various bugs which kept coming out of the crevices of the blossoms.

One particular ant had a great time posing for us.  We spent about 30 minutes working with this ant.  It climbed and wandered all over the petals, stopping at various points for us to get a few shots and then moved on to new petals and new poses.  The high contrast of the dark ant and the pink petals made for some interesting combinations.  The Nikkor 18-200mm zoom did a fair job.  We found the focus was a bit soft.  Someday we are going to have to spend a little more time comparing the manual to auto focus and see if we could get pull a little more sharpness out of this zoom.  [Permalink] - Peonies


June 13,2009

Today was one of those perfect New England days...crisp, cool, and sunny. It was also perfect weather for the first Roslindale Farmers' Market of the season.  As a result, the turn out was huge.

The kids out shopping with their parents today were kept entertained by a very amusing clown :-)  We have always been a little afraid of clowns.  However, the kids appeared to be quite amused by his variety of magic tricks, juggling acts, and other antics.

The Farmers' Market is a great place to find a variety of fresh local produce, plants, eggs, fresh breads and baked goods, preserves, and handmade crafts.  It is also an excellent excuse to bring the kids to the Square for a picnic lunch!

Besids the food and the fun, this weekly local gathering is also a chance to see what else the Roslindale community has to offer.  An example is Rozzie Bikes.  They are a local riding club which sponsors rides, advocates street improvements, and generally tries to make the roads more "peddler-friendly."

We know that some of you may have a bike in the basement or garage that has not seen the light of day in awhile.  Now is a good time to dust it off, pump up the tires, and meet up with the RozzieBikes folks for a group ride.  Go check out their schedule and find something suitable.  They have rides for all levels. 

After all the rain, it is nice to have a bright sunny day.  Get offline, go outside, see what's happening in your local community, and participate.  There are a lot of great things going on.  Enjoy them!  [Permalink] - Roslindale's Farmers Market

May 30-31,2009

One of the many great things about having a garden is all the photo ops available through out the day.  Birds come by to check out what's in in the feeder, bees zoom around looking for pollen and nectar, and the bugs are crawling around doing whatever they do.  All are good opportunities for sharpening ones nature photography skills.

Getting a decent close-up shot is easy in a studio under controlled lighting, no wind, and a sturdy tripod.  When we are out "in the field", shifting light and sudden breezes are always there to mess up a perfectly composed shot.  The goal is to train yourself to work fast... compose quickly (shot now, crop later), be familiar with the camera (no time to search for a feature), and work with a versatile lens (no time to change lenses). 

We have been using the Nikon d90/Nikkor 18-200VR combo for the past three months for all of our shots.  The pair have been proven themselves to be a nice "grab and go" piece of gear.  Even a the edge of it zoom range, the lens is sharp enough for most applications, color rendition is true, and you absolutely cannot beat the versatility of the D90's 11 point autofocus, movie mode, and amazingly great battery life.

There are still quite a bit about the camera we have not yet explored.  What we have seen have been very impressive.  If you have been trying to decide whether to get a digital SLR to replace that pocket point-n-shoot, we can definitely recommend the D90/18-200mm VR combo.  If you are unsure, you can test the DSLR waters by going with the Nikon D40.  Want more background info on either one?  Go check out the RainyDayPhotography section for our entire series regarding the Nikon D40 and D90.

One fun thing we like to make ourselves to do is to "find" different visual textures, grouping of similar colors, or compositions with a lot of high frequencies.  Besides being an enjoyable exercise, we find the photos can also be great as computer desktop backgrounds and screen savers.

Readers are free to download any of these pics (just click on them for a larger version) for use as backgrounds for their own computer desktop.  We, of course, reserve all rights to them regarding any commercial and/or for profit use.  If you do want the huge original files, drop us a line.  We can work something out :-) [Permalink] - RainyDayDesktop pics

May 29,2009

The RainyDayGarden, like many other gardens, have both sunny and shady sections.  We are constantly experimenting with "what will grow where" and the results are sometimes surprising. Plants which will do well in one area may not be as vigorious when moved to a different section, but many will adapt just fine.  To get more colors in our shadier sections, we are constantly testing new flowering plants there in hopes that they would take.  There is one section which has vexed us for many years, but we think we have finally found a good combination of plants for the patch. 

This one section gets very bright sunlight during the latter part of the day, but for the mornig and the hour or so after high noon it is covered in partial shade due to the shadow from the building.  When it does get sun, it is too bright for hostas and ferns.  However, there is not enough daylight for "true" sun loving plants.  We have been experimenting with different species, but the irises and day lillies seem to do quite well.  We have one clematis which does manage to flower, but it is nowhere near its full potential if it was planted in full sun.  Last year we introduced some spiderworts to the mix.  They came back this Spring and are doing quite well.  The Lamb's Ear are also making a go of it.

There is a section right against the building which never gets any direct sunlight.  The hostas and ferns love this area.  It can get a little bit dry for the ferns, but they have learned to adapt over the past few years and have firmly established themselves.   We love looking directly down and seeing the clumps of different color greens from above.

If you have a light-challenged area in your garden, take some of your favorites from a brighter area and transplant them to the shadier section.  If they survive, then see how you can help them grow a bit better (a little more plant food, a bit more water, etc...).  You might be reward with colors in sections of your garden where you think may not support such growth.  [Permalink] - Irises and ferns


May 24,2009

The cardinals and blue jays have been busy chowing down on the feast of seeds and nuts some of the editors have been putting out in the RainyDayGarden. 

The abundance of rain this year have been great for the Spring blooms, especially for the clematis.    All of the vines have been very vigorous coming out of the Winter and the blooms have been quite numerous.  We've not been successful in making cutting and propagating either vines, but we'll give it another try this year.

The peonies (just in front of the clematis) are just about ready to burst.  Perfect timing as the clematis and lilacs have been flowering for about two weeks and will be winding down soon.

Our goal have always been to have something new blooming every month in the RainyDayGarden from Spring until Fall.  We have been working to select plants so there are new blooms every week, but that is turning out to be a much trickier project. 

Keeping a close watch over everything is Eliot.  He is somewhat frustrated as he can't seem to get within three feet of the birds.  He is starting to suspect it must have something to do with that tinkling sound every time he moves.  Now if he can just somehow find that bell...  [Permalink] -May Flowers

May 15,2009

Recently our RainyDayLA team visited the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, CA.  Almost 50 acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus were in bloom and arranged in amazing bands of color. Each spring this fabulous sight blooms from March through May.  Throughout the season there are a number of events, and this year included a demonstration of macro photography sponsored by Canon.

As beautiful as these fields are, they are easily missed, as the view from the freeway is blocked by trees and other vegetation.  Many may have driven past this section of California and had completely missed this incredible scene.

The fields are unfortunately now closed (as the blooms are now ended), but if you are ever in the Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego areas, this is a "must do" side trip.  Carlsbad is located about 30-45 minutes north of San Diego and between 1.5 to 2 hours south of Los Angeles (depending on traffic on the 405 Freeway).  Carlsbad is also home to Legoland--a lovely little amusement park geared toward families with small children--as well as a large outlet mall.  So there is fun for almost everyone!

The tickets were $10 per person and can be purchased online and picked up at will call (recommended as during bloom season the lines can be quite lengthy, our LA folks had to wait about 20 minutes for entry). For those want to see the amazing display but don't want to walk the 50 acres, there are tractor rides which will take you around the entire farm.  [Permalink]-The Flower Fields

May 2,2009

The weather for this weekend is suppose to be overcast with a possibility of rain.  A low contrast day is always perfect lighting for photos of the RainyDayGarden.  The timing couldn't have been better as the May blooms are just starting to peak.

Many of the Spring tulips have been blooming for about a week already.  The Japonicas have just started to flower and should be in full glory by mid-May.  The Tiger Lilies and iries will follow in early June. 

Our approach is to select plants which require minimal watering and no special care (meaning: no fertilizing, weeding, or pest control).  With this approach, not only is the workload on our interns lighter, our environmental footprint of maintaining the garden is, too.

One advantage of having a garden is the joy of seeing our efforts grow with each passing year.  We have quite a few projects planned for 2009.  Bookmark the RainyDayGarden section and check back periodically and see what's new.  [Permalink]- RainyDayGarden May Blooms

April 19,2009

Tomorrow is Patriot's Day and the annual running of the Boston Marathon.  Athletes and tourists have been trickling into the city all week.  We covered the Marathon craziness last year, so we thought we would go down and take in the "calm before the storm."

We were at the Boston Garden at 10AM and it was pretty empty.  In fact, we even managed to find on-street parking!  By this time tomorrow, downtown will be packed and Boylston Street will be standing room only. 

Signs of Spring were everywhere.  We have been taking advantage of the beautiful weather since Friday and were surprised not more people were out and about, not that we were complaining :-)  In fact, this was the first time we've been down at the Swan Boat section and there was no line!  We decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth and took an impromtu boat ride around the Garden.  At $2.75 a ticket, this has to be the best sightseeing deal in the city!

Another icon of the Boston Garden are the Make Way For Duckling sculptures.  That children's story by Robert McCloskey has been entertaining kids for generations.  The ducklings are named in alphabetical order...Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack.  A little over twenty years ago, an installation of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings were placed near one of the entrance to the Garden. 

Every so often, some idiot(s) would think it was amusing to make off with one of the ducklings.  This time it was Pack that was taken.  Fortunately he was found a few days later, a little worse for wear, but generally in good condition.  When we visited today, he was still "recuperating."  We wish Pack a "speedy recovery."

If you haven't been down to the Boston Garden lately, we urge you to go for a stroll soon.   Spring is a short season in New England.  Get out there and enjoy it while you can.   [Permalink]- Boston Garden


April 17,2009
When the weather forecast is for 70º on a Friday before a long weekend, there is no option but to take the Friday as a vacation day.  We got out early, took the hardtop off the Boxster, and when for a drive out to the Great Marsh and the beaches of Plum Island.

The Great Marsh is the largest salt marsh in New England with over 20,000 acres of marsh, barrier beach, tidal river, estuary, mudflat, and upland islands spanning from Gloucester to Salisbury.  The Great Marsh is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA) as it contributes to the preservation of many breeding and migratory birds.  We learned all about it when we took a "rest" at the Audubon Visitor Center just before the bridge out to the island.

Plum Island is pretty quiet this time of the year.  How quiet is it?  It is so quiet that we didn't even have to call ahead to reserve a table at Mad Martha's!  If you go to Plum Island, this little shack is THE place to go for breakfast.  Parking is limited (4 spaces), but it is just across the street.

Once fortified, we continued our trek further out toward the end of the island.  With the salt marsh on one side and the beach on the other, awesome views and wildlife (egrets, swans, etc...) were everywhere.  We made frequent stops for various avian sightings and photo ops.

The drive from Boston to Plum Island is about 35 miles and took us around 50 minutes.  The traffic can get pretty bad on the weekend, but it is a great day trip for those who can get away during the week.  [Permalink]- Plum Island


April 12,2009

Today was supposed to be rainy and we had planned to be inside working on a few "rainy day" projects.  However, it turned out to be a beautiful sunny Easter morning so we thought we would take advantage of it. 

Last weekend, we stopped by the Arnold Arboretum to test out the Nikon GP-1 module.  At the time we noticed that many of the plants were starting to wake up from their Winter sleep.  We went back today to check out the marshy area near the front entrance of the Arboretum.

Most of the marsh was still a tan field of dried stalks from last year.  Not much was happening there yet.  There were some alien-looking pods pushing their way out of the muddy ground, though. 

The pods were not the only strange thing we saw in today's visit.  The oddest were the blooms on this bush.  From a distance, the branches looked as if they were covered in thousands of silvery wriggling catepillars.

In another week or two, the Arnold Arboretum will be exploding with color.  If you are near the Boston area, it will definitely be worth a daytrip to see the awakening.  However, no worries if you can't make it there in person as we'll be going back every weekend to chronicle the emergence of Spring.    [Permalink]- Easter Sunday


April 5,2009(WeekendEdition)

It was still a bit overcast this morning, but the sun was trying its best to break out.  We were busy inside most of the day yesterday so we really wanted to get out and get some air.  When we want to take a walk in the woods without having to take a drive, the Arboretum is our first choice.

The first thing we noticed was there has been some upgrades around the Arboretum.  All of the maps were replaced with new ones and there were trail markers at all of the paths.  Both the map and trail markers were much more attractive and definitely more informative than the old ones.

Another thing we noticed were all of the buds and blooms through out the grounds.  We didn't remember seeing a crocus field in previous years, but as they don't bloom for that long, it was entirely possible that we had just missed them in the past.

Spring is definitely on its way.  The plants know it, the creatures know it, all we need is for the New England weather to get on board :-) [Permalink]- Arboretum in April

April 4,2009(WeekendEdition)

The last few days of March and the first few days of April have been overcast and rainy, perfect for all of the tulips and lillies waking up from Winter.  While the RainyDayGarden is still mostly brown, some spots are showing signs of life.

Last weekend was warm enough for us to put the Passiflora back into the ground.  Not much growth has occurred, but we can see that it has established itself just fine.

Many of the irises, tiger lillies, and tulips have made their way out of the ground.  Some of the small crocuses have already bloomed.   We expect that in another few weeks, we'll have flowers ready for cutting.

Most of the shrubs are still "asleep", but the forsythia are starting to bud.  They are always the first to bloom.  One of our neighbors just dug up their hydrangea bushes and replaced it with something smaller.  Knowing that we didn't have any in our garden, they kindly dropped one off for us.  We wasted no time putting it in the ground next to the peonies.  It should be a nice cluster of blooms.

We like taking photos of the RainyDayGarden when it is just getting started.  One of these days, we'll have to put together a time-lapse of the flowering sequence from Spring to Fall.    [Permalink]- RDG in April

March 23,2009(MallMonday)

The New England Flower Show is now at the mall?  Not just one mall, but a few of them scattered around town.  The word was that the folks who usually put the show together every year ran into a bit of a financial problem, but got creative and worked out something with the mall owners.  It is a pretty smart idea.

One of the shows was at the Chestnut Hill Mall in Brookline.  We had to go check it for ourselves.  The displays were placed at all levels of the mall.  Mixed in with the flower show were displays from the various stores. 

The first thing we noticed was how quiet the mall was.  Maybe it was because it was a Monday night.  Maybe because it was dinner time.  Whatever the reason, it was great for a photo shoot, but probably not so great for the merchants.  

There were also booths and info about the vendors, nurseries, and plants on display.  We looked around, picked up some gardening tips, and were generally impressed with the whole experience.  As it turns out, the mall is a pretty nice venue for a flower show.

We are not sure how long the show will be at the various malls, but if you are interested, you should probably get out there to take a look pretty soon.    [Permalink]- New England Flower Show

Feb 27,2009(FlowersFriday)

A few weeks ago we did an article on the neglected orchid which started blooming.  Two of the three buds had opened, but the last one stayed closed.  Well, that third bud finally bloomed

We took the opportunity to test how close we can get with the Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens.  Click here to see a cropped version of the orchid at full resolution.  The image was a bit noisy because we shot it using only the light available.  We'll show how a brighter surrounding will influence the image quality tomorrow.  [Permalink]- Orchids


Feb 14-15,2009(WeekendEdition)

Last Fall we went to World's End in Hingham for a hike.  The Lobster Pound was open and the weather was warm.  We went back this weekend to see what the place was like during the Winter

The grounds were quiet.  There were a few birds out chirping, but pretty much everything else was in hibernation.  Spring is clearly still a few months away

It felt like we had the entire preservation to ourselves.  The solitude and calm of the hike was very relaxing.  We did have to pay attention on the trails as some of the paths were quite icy. 

As it was a clear day, we could see all the way back to Boston.  We took these two shots (18mm, 200mm) with the Nikon D90 and the 18-200mm VR zoom. 

This place would be quite beautiful after a fresh storm.  We hope to be back the next time it snows.  We'll definitely visit in the Spring when things start to bloom.   [Permalink]- World's End


Feb 13,2009(OrchidPhotoFriday)

Amongst all of the tech in the office here, nature still finds a way to assert its presence.  A few weeks ago we noticed buds on the much ignored orchid near one of the windows.  We watched as they grew and opened up this week.

The blooming orchid presented a perfect opportunity for us to take some close up shots with the D90 and 18-200mm VR lens.  We took photos at various times during the day to see how the D90 handles the different lighting conditions.

The ones above were taken during the morning and early afternoon.  The one below was taken a few days later at night.  All of the photos were taken with the D90 mounted on a tripod but without using a flash.

Here is a snippet of an orchid photo at full resolution.  We were impressed with the color rendition and low noise level of the D90 sensor even when the lighting conditions are quite poor.  There is one more bud waiting to pop.  It may be this weekend.  The interns are setting up a rig with hopes of capturing the unfolding of the petals.  We'll post the results if we are successful.  [Permalink]- Orchid Close Up

Feb 5,2009(GreenTechThursday)

Sometimes interesting things can happen when SaveTheEarth collides with DoItYourself.  For example, who knew you can make an algae bioreactor out of recycled water bottles?

It is unclear whether biofuel is a scalable solution for the world's energy needs, but it is definitely renewable, possibly carbon-neutral, and clearly "green" :-) [Permalink]- Algae Bioreactor


January 19,2009 (MoreSnowMonday)

The snow over the weekend finally ended Sunday night, but not before eight inches had blanketed everything.  By morning, the birds in the RainyDayGarden were ready for their breakfast.

The cardinals normally get first go at the fresh feed, followed by the sparrows.  This morning, the sparrows must have been really hungry as they were constantly buzzing the cardinal who was taking his time on the feeder. 

Althought not quite brave enough to actually push the cardinal off the feeder, the sparrows made it known that they were getting impatient.

The cats were also eager to get out there and see what all the chirping was all about.  However, with eight inches of snow, they had no chance of getting any where close to the action.  Besides, the bells around their collars would have announced their presences long before they could get within pouncing range. 

The temperature was cold enough to convince Buffy that it was senseless to go outside.  Eliot, being a bit younger and more adventureous, did ventured as far as the edge of the steps

After a more careful look at the situation, he decided to wait for the thaw ...or at least until the humans have had a chance to do some shoveling.   [Permalink]- Cardinal Feeding






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