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Rome Revisited

Once again I must apologize for my prolonged absence from this blog. With the start of  NaNoWriMo in November, my attention has turned once again to writing. But since I barely scratched the surface of my Roman experience with my last blog, I thought I’d post a bit more on that this week. So here are a few more shots from my trip to Rome. Hope you enjoy them!

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Victor Emmanuel II Monument

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I love taking pictures of sculpture when I’m in Europe. Trouble is, I can’t always remember where the sculptures were. I’ll have to work on that next time I’m in Europe. Still, they’re some of my favorite shots, so I’ve included them here.

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Galleria Borghese and its gardens

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The man who inspired a thousand pool parties!

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A Roman seagull with no respect for public art.

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A fountain in Piazza del Popolo, where a very kind Greek tourist returned my lost cell phone! Probably my favorite Roman piazza.

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St. Peter’s Square

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St. Peter’s Basilica

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These chairs, set up in St. Peter’s Square, seemed somehow very bleak to me. They made me think of victims of the Holocaust or soldiers lined up for battle, or perhaps I’ve just been reading too much Daniel Silva.

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Castel Sant’Angelo

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These locks, usually inscribed with the names of couples or just individual tourists, can be seen all over the city. They’re a sort of modern day graffiti, left by tourists who want to leave their mark without permanently defacing a monument.

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Rome

Returning to the blog after my recent Roman adventure, during which I collected enough pictures to fuel this thing for the next twenty years. Rome has to be one of the most photogenic cities ever created. It’s easy to imagine brilliant artists popping up an easel and gazing out at any one of dozens of picture perfect landscapes.

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Angles and textures are two things I really love to shoot. Rome, particularly the Colosseum, kept me busy with both.

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In several places through the city, we saw bent bikes painted white. It was explained to me that they serve as memorials to people who were killed in biking accidents.

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The history of the place was amazing and almost overwhelming to try to capture.

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Bug Blog

Again today I’m turning the spotlight on our insect visitors because they’re just so darn photogenic. We’ve been very fortunate to have a number of praying mantises this year (even more fortunate that we’ve actually been able to spot them, which is always the real challenge).

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Since their camouflage defense works best when they remain perfectly still, they make ideal models. As long as they don’t perceive the photographer as a threat (no sudden movements, please) they’ll stay perfectly still. This little guy was so still, I began to wonder if he was dead. Then I moved my position slightly and watched as he turned his head to keep an eye on me.

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I thought this grasshopper was really pretty cool…

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Until I realized he was busy devouring the only watermelon I’d been able to rescue from the groundhog. Then I gave gave him the boot (not literally).

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Every so often I find these odd little bug shells. I have no idea if this is something a living insect has shed, like a snake’s skin, or if it’s some sort of skeleton left behind after the insect has died. I just find them morbidly fascinating.

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This caterpillar was cute enough to give me a foot fetish.

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Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary by visiting the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Shiawassee/visit/plan_your_visit.html

More specifically, we took their Wildlife Drive. It’s well worth the time if you happen to be in the Saginaw area. If you’d like to make a day of it, you could easily combine a trip to the Wildlife Refuge with a stop at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland: https://www.bronners.com/ , the Birch Run Outlets: https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/birch-run/about, Frankenmuth: https://www.frankenmuth.org/, or all of the above.

We arrived at the refuge early on a misty, foggy morning. The glass half empty view of it was the damp chill.

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But the glass half full view of it was the assortment of delicate spiderwebs brought to life by the clinging dew.

 

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This one reminded me of one of those Native American Dream Catchers.

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When I was finally able to pull myself away from the spiderwebs, we were treated to a really spectacular array of wild birds. With the help of my Merlin bird ID app, I’m guessing my first shots here are of a Pied-billed Grebe.

Whatever he is, I watched him struggle for about ten minutes with a fish nearly the size of his own head. I wish I’d been able to get a better shot, but my zoom wasn’t up to the challenge.

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Some of the birds were so large and flying so low, I was reminded of the pterodactyl scenes from Jurassic Park.

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This beauty was the supermodel of the day. She waited patiently while three carloads full of bird loving paparazzi took aim, my husband and I included.

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We spotted several Great Blue Herons on the drive. This one was fishing not far from where we were parked.

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Even in areas without birds, the refuge itself is just plain picture worthy.

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If you do decide to make the trip, I have two important tips to remember.

1.) Don’t forget the bug spray. No, seriously, don’t forget the bug spray!

2,) Watch out for wildlife on the road.

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If you’d like to see more from our trip, I’ve posted additional shots on the My Photography tab of this site.

 

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Road Trip

This weekend I enjoyed a long overdue road trip to northern Michigan with my amazingly patient mother. Not only did she put up with my constant camera madness, she actually scouted new locations for me. My blog this week features a few of my favorites. To see more from this trip (and just more of my photography in general), please visit the “My Photography” tab here: https://jguentherbooks.com/my-photography/

We began our trip in East Tawas, which sits on the banks of Lake Huron. If you’re ever in the area, I’d recommend a trip to the Tawas Point Lighthouse.

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Aside from all the impressive man made structures, you’ll also find this beautiful, old stump, which had as much character as anything else we saw all weekend.

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I also discovered this lovely, painted rock. No idea who left it, but I’d like to thank them first for honoring our veterans and then for giving me something cool to shoot.

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Mom and I stopped for a while to walk on the beach, where we encountered this young lady, for whom all the beach was a stage. Eventually, she kicked off her shoes and did cartwheels up and down the very chilly beach. Meanwhile, I was wishing I could take that beautiful hunk of driftwood home with me. No such luck though.

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After East Tawas, we visited Harrisville, home of the prettiest wreck of a building ever. It’s an abandoned train station and I cannot figure out for the life of me why someone hasn’t restored this fantastic, old building.

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Metal spikes adorn the roof line. My mother informs me they’re to prevent birds from perching on the roof, but they reminded me of German army helmets.

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There was a giant wasp’s nest hanging off the back of the building. It reminded me of a skull, but I’ll let you be the judge.

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We made another trip to the shoreline in Harrisville and I stopped to harass the seagulls. I have a feeling they were happy to be rid of me by the time I finally left.

Gull Flight

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I spent quite a while trying to get an action shot of the waves crashing against the rocks. But in the end, I was happier with the shots I took along the shoreline, where the waves were rolling back out.

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Garden Shots

This week I decided to focus my attention (and my camera lens) on my home garden here in Fenton. I’ve also included a few shots I took earlier in the summer of two new plants I’ve added this year.

The first is this sunny, yellow poppy.

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Another new addition is this bright orange Geum, my first such plant.

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I was thrilled this week to discover three monarch caterpillars on my milkweed. Unfortunately, I returned a few days later to discover they’d all gone. I can only assume they became bird food. Next year, I’ll make it a point to add protection for them.

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The sunflowers are starting to die back now, but earlier this week they were still in full bloom. They’re wonderful for attracting American Goldfinch and all kinds of bees.

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Another popular flower for the bees right now are my Stonecrop. They’ve been covered with big, fat bumbles all week.

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My Russian Sage has been pulling in hummingbirds, as well as bumblebees. Of course, putting a feeder overhead helps!

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Bits & Pieces

This week’s post is a collection of miscellaneous shots, mostly from trips out to our property in Davisburg, MI.

Because of the amount of marshy land on the property, we have an abundance of ferns. Unfortunately, we currently have to fight our way through a fair amount of brush and wild raspberries to get to them, but we’re working on that.

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This time of year another plant that begins to take over the property is Goldenrod. It’s a Michigan native and I love the sort-of architectural form of its blooms.

 

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Another plant that dominates our landscape at present is Thistle. I have a love/hate relationship with Thistle. As its blooms go to seed, the plant definitely takes on a “weedy” appearance and it’s thorns make it less than friendly if you’re out taking a stroll and have to pass close by, but it consistently attracts beautiful birds and insects. Goldfinch love it, butterflies love it, I’ve never seen hummingbirds at it, but I suspect that’s more a matter of poor timing on my part than anything else.

 

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The one plant I’m still determined to get rid of on the property is the wild raspberry. It grows everywhere, snags on everything, and is a general nuisance. True, it’s a food source for the wildlife, but we plan to replace it with Michigan native food sources such as Amelanchier (Serviceberry) and Winterberry.

 

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This fall I’ll be relocating the Bearded Iris. We’ve discovered four or five of them growing randomly in different areas on the property. They’re gorgeous and they’re definitely staying, but I think they’d have more of an impact on the garden as a single clump.

 

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While working on the property this week, I picked up this very colorful hitchhiker. I first discovered him crawling in my hair. I moved him to my camera bag for this shot. Unfortunately, the shot is not as clear as I would have liked. He was a man on the move and it was all I could do just to keep him in the frame. A quick internet search leads me to believe he’s some kind of predatory stinkbug.

 

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On my recent Heron Hunt (see last week’s blog post for more on that), I had a lot of time to kill sitting in the brush waiting for Herons to show up. Here are a few of the shots I took while waiting.

 

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Heron Hunt

This week I went on a heron hunt. I’ve been watching them fish on the property all summer long and have actually been trying to get a shot of them fishing for frogs. I still haven’t gotten a decent shot of that yet, but here are some of the shots I did get.

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I will freely admit that some of these shots do not represent my best work, but I was playing around with going fully manual and relying less on my automatic features. I still have some work to do on those skills, but the birds are so beautiful and graceful, I think they make up for some of my photographic shortcomings.

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As I was shooting him on one of the dead trees, I noticed a cool, twisty spider web. So here’s my artsy fartsy view of that.

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Bugs and Butterflies and Dragons, oh my!

Some days I find photography immensely satisflying. Then there are days like today. Days when the shutter always clicks a split second after the subject has left the frame, or the great action shot you thought you had, upon closer inspection, turns out to be a blurry mess.

Don’t get me wrong, my worst day of shooting is still better than my best day doing just about anything else, but I do sometimes wonder what the neighbors must think of me crouching in a mosquito infested swamp, staring at a dead branch, hoping an interesting bird might land on it…any…second…now…

During those moments, I start taking pictures of bugs. They’re my only reliable target on days like today.

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Bug

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This last one, unfortunately, falls into the “blurry mess” category. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was kind-of hoping the bird would fly up and snatch the butterfly out of the air (in the center of my perfectly sharp, precisely timed action shot, of course).

That didn’t happen, but I still like the shot.

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