New at Rosetta Stones: Mount Baker At Last! Plus, a Genuine Watercolor

I’ve got the preliminary findings from our maiden voyage to Mount Baker up at Rosetta Stones for ye. You’re gonna love it.

You may also love this photograph of Mount Shuksan:

Image shows what looks like a watercolor image of Mount Shuksan.

Mount Shuksan reflected in a lovely tarn.

Looks sorta like a watercolor, doesn’t it just? It sorta is: this is Mount Shuksan as reflected in a lovely little tarn on Mount Baker Highway.

It’s the real thing – I’ve just played a bit with the brightness and such. Here’s the untouched version:

Mount Shuksan as reflected in the tarn.

Mount Shuksan as reflected in the tarn, without the fiddling around.

Okay, and I flipped it right-side up, too. See it in its non-reflected glory at Rosetta Stones, and find out why it’s really actually green.

Moment of Beauty: Cherry Blossom Rain by Jane

Fruit Tree Blooming Season here was a bit tricky – we had lots of gorgeous blooms, of course, but we also had rain. Rain rain rain rain rain and heywhodaguessedit more rain. There would be these glorious intervals of sunshine, but they’d either be gone by the time you dug the camera out or they happened when you were otherwise occupied.

It made taking photos nigh impossible. But oh, the result when you could grab one of those moments and run with it! Jane caught a sun break with her new smartphone: a fleeting instant of breathtaking beauty, preserved with such clarity that you can feel the cool, rainswept breezes from the storm clouds and taste a perfect drop of rain on soft petals.

Image shows a cluster of cherry blossoms covered in raindrops.

“Here’s my picture of the cherry blossoms bursting with raindrops taken with a silly phone!” Image courtesy Jane.

You know, I never thought anything would make me pine for rain again now that we’ve finally had a few days without, but all of a sudden, I wouldn’t mind a few drops of the stuff.

…   …   ……….

You know what, let’s settle for a sprinkler instead.

Amanda’s Facebook Photography Page is Up!

My friend and photographer Amanda Reese created a Facebook page – if you love pretty pictures, go show her some love!

Image is a selfie of Amanda, who has a beautiful bird painted on her face.

Amanda Reese. Image courtesy Amanda Reese.

While you’re there, feel free to demand endless pictures of her adorable tiny new kitten, Chipper.

Image shows me holding a tiny, long-haired black kitten who is getting ready to lick my nose.

Chipper likes noses. Image courtesy Starspider, kitten courtesy Amanda Reese.

There’s never enough kitten!

Image shows Chipper standing on B's shoulder.

She also likes climbing people. Image courtesy Starspider.

There will be some geology later this summer, too – I’m going to take Amanda to photograph the hell out of some prime examples. Although if I go over to her place to pick her up, we may get sucked into a kitten black hole… you’d forgive us if we brought you lots of kitten instead, right?

The Outstanding Imagery of Amanda Reese

Originally published at Scientific American.

You want some Yellowstone? You got some Yellowstone! Amanda Reese is one of my most talented friends, and she’s just got her photography website up. After I did a lot of squeeing and awing and OMGing, she graciously agreed to let me filch a few of her images to show you. Because supervolcano. Love it!

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image shows a ridge behind Grand Prismatic Spring. Part of the spring, bright orange, is visible in the foreground. Steam is rising between the spring and the ridge.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Amanda says, “This is a must go to spot in Yellowstone. The insane reflections and endless colors are a photographers dream!” Geologist’s dream, too! This is the largest hot spring in the United States and third largest in the world. Kipling called the area where it’s found Hell’s Half Acre – and lemme tell ya, if hell is this gorgeous, sign me up to go!

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image is a close-up of the spring, showing the patterns in the tan ground beneath the water.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

I love the patterns of the clouds reflected in the water, and the strange ground beneath. Amazing to think what molten rock, water, and bacteria combine to achieve here.

Firehole Lake Drive, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image shows an amethyst-blue spring with trees in the background.

Firehole Lake Drive, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

 

The water looks cool blue serene, but it’s hot! And hidden: “This is a hidden gem in Yellowstone. Very few tourists and was an absolute highlight of our trip. This thermal pool was one of few not roped off so I was able to get very close for this shot.” One of the things I love about hot springs, other than their colors, is feeling their warmth (mind you, I don’t dabble me toes in the boiling ones!) and knowing that the heat is coming from within the earth. It’s a tangible reminder of the power beneath Earth’s skin.

Mind you, the cold water around Yellowstone is mind-blowing, too – our own Anne Jefferson reminds us that those cold rivers and streams might move more heat than the flashy geysers and showy hot springs!

    Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image is the sun shining through a small gap in clouds.

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

“The sky opening up after an afternoon storm.” Those crepuscular rays are phenomenal.

All right, I know this isn’t geology, but I couldn’t resist showing you them:

    Flamingos, Woodland Park Zoo, WA, Feb 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved. Image shows the head and necks of two flamingos. One is nibbling at the beak of another. They almost look like they're drawing a heart.

Flamingos, Woodland Park Zoo, WA, Feb 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

They look like lovers, don’t they just? Actually, they are: “Two flamingos in a battle over food. Even when fighting they still appear so fragile and beautiful.”

Amanda has an extraordinary talent for bringing out that fragile beauty in wildlife. She’s also amazing with kids and people and architecture and art and… well, basically, if it can be photographed, she’ll photograph it marvelously! Go enjoy her site. She’ll be accompanying me on some geoadventures this summer, so you’ll see more of her round here, too!

And if any of you Puget Sound locals need a photographer, allow me to gently nudge you Amanda’s way with a meaningful clearing of the throat.

Moon Art Madness

Gotta love the Moon, right? Big ol’ lighty-uppy thing makes the nights all pretty, has got lots of rocks on. Lovely. And with modern cameras and software, you can create moon art with the press of a few buttons.

I play with photo editing programs sometimes just to see what happens.

Image shows a crescent moon with many crows flying past it.

Crows of the Moon.

This is just yer basic crop and adjust a few highlights and suchlike. I love the time just after sundown round here, when the crows stream past on their way to their evening confab on the ball fields before they go roost for the night.

Black and white image of a full moon, with bare branches rising from the lower-right.

Stark Moon

Playing round with the black-white filters in Windows Live Photo Gallery gives me some very beautifully bleak results sometimes.

Image is a blue-black sky with a bright near-full moon. The maria of the moon are swirled.

Swirled Moon

There’s a little function in Corel that allows me to do swirls. This leads to interesting results with the moon’s maria.

Image is a tan background with a blue moon and white tree branches.

Paper Moon

I don’t remember all the effects I chose to get this, but I quite liked it when I was done and wish I could remember how it was done. Ah, well, play with enough settings in Corel, and you’ll figure it out if you want to make your own.

A kaleidoscope image created from a moon photo

Kaleidoscope Moon

I chose the kaleidoscope function on a daytime image of the moon in a blue sky with a bare apple tree, and got this. Pretty neat.

Image is a blue-tinted picture of embossed-looking tree branches and a half-moon.

Old Time Moon

This is the result of running through the charcoal filter, then the cyanotype photo filter, then adjusting highlights and contrast.

Image is the full moon on with blued maria on a mottled blue background.

Blued Moon

This image was really boring in its natural state – the moon behind a lot of thin clouds, kinda blah. But put it through the charcoal and cross-process filters, and you come up with something that’s quite a bit more interesting. Some of those maria now look like they’re holding deep-cyan blue pools of water! Shall we go sip a cocktail on their beaches?

The Art of Nature: Dandelion Blooms

We’ve got a love-hate relationship with dandelions, don’t we? If you’ve ever owned a lawn or been around a lawn-owner who gives a shit about grass, you’ve either personally attempted or seen someone attempt to eradicate the no-good very-bad terrible dandelions in it. The circular sprays of leaves seem like particularly wicked saw-blades. Grass-murderer! Lawn defiler! Diiiieeee!!!!

But when they bloom, they’re pretty. You may hate them, but you know they are. They’re beautiful. And who as a little kid in an area with dandelions hasn’t plucked up little sun-hued and sun-shaped blooms and run off with them? Who hasn’t wondered if they have anything to do with actual lions? Who hasn’t breathlessly waited for them to form those perfect spheres of white fluff that we could carefully pick and then blow on with all our might, trying to scatter the seeds with one blow and ensuring the lawn owner will spend next summer tearing their hair out over yet more dandelions?

Yes. It’s a complicated relationship.

Happily, I do not own a lawn, and furthermore find grass ridiculous, so I can enjoy dandelions without inner conflict. I was particularly delighted to find a set of them displaying several stages of bloom development during a supposed-to-be-winter-but-seemed-awfully-like-spring walk along North Creek.

Here we have the bud.

Dandelion bud.

Dandelion bud.

There are two, very tightly closed. Inside, the awesome unfolding of biology is preparing a bit of beauty for reasons of its own.

And at some point, it’s about ready to burst.

Dandelion bud beginning to open.

Dandelion bud beginning to open.

I like how it looks almost exhausted, the bits protecting the flower looking damp and worn out, having done the hard work of bringing a new flower to the brink of existence.

And then it begins to unfurl.

Opening dandelion, with some of the petals not completely unfurled.

Opening dandelion, with some of the petals not completely unfurled.

Watching them do this in time lapse is rather remarkable, especially watching it create the seed-head.

I’ll leave off with a little of my own art, ripped from context: rocking in a porch swing moved off the porch, at night, remembering a time before violent death tore ordinary life apart.

Quiet, then, just the creak of wooden joints as they rocked, young leaves rattling sometimes when the breeze gusted.  In the distance, louder vehicles on I90 sounded like wind themselves.  Bruised grass under the swing posts gave off a scent that had become inextricably entangled with gasoline fumes in her mind since the advent of landscapers with leaf blowers.  With baby powder, from all the time Kaitlyn had gone out to play in the freshly-mown grass while she and Stacey sat on the lawn watching her look for surviving dandelions, which hadn’t survived long when she found them, plucked them, came running back to her mother with a bit of botanical sunshine clutched in chubby little hands.

A good memory. And one, I imagine, that might change a person’s relationship with dandelions forever.

Dandelions on slope.

Dandelions on slope.

The Art of Nature, Iguana Edition

Sometimes, you see a photo featured somewhere and you know you must share it with your friends and readers.

Iguana at Butterfly World, Stellenbosch, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Photo and caption courtesy Leo za1 / © Rute Martins of Leoa's Photography / CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Iguana at Butterfly World, Stellenbosch, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Photo and caption courtesy Leo za1 / © Rute Martins of Leoa’s Photography / CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Isn’t that wonderful? I look at that face and see an ode to evolution right there – a symphony of natural processes and natural history.It reminds me of what RQ said on our most recent installment of Friday Freethought:

Because something that assembles itself is so much cooler than something built – a painting by an artist can be wonderful and impressive, but you’ll always know that someone took the time to learn to paint, put the colours together, think of the design, etc. But imagine a painting that comes to be on its own – through random processes! How impressive would that be? Like the crystallization of water into snowflakes. Or the Mandelbrot leaves on that plant last week. Or the way cold fronts and warm fronts can combine to make a giant, organized hurricane. So much more awesome than just saying, [entity] did it. To me, anyways…

I’ve seen nature paint. I’ve seen it paint in space, where stars are born and where they die. I’ve seen it paint on still water on sunny days.

DSC07818I’ve seen its art in the orderly arrangements of crystals, and frosty paths sparkling in the sun. I’ve seen nature paint with red rocks against cobalt blue skies. I’ve seen more art in nature than I’ve ever seen in a gallery. Even the gallery is nature’s art, in a way: we are products of natural processes. The art we make, the art we call “unnatural,” is produced by the end products of mindless forces of nature.

You can see it in the blooming of flowers…

…and the unfolding of ferns.

And yes, even in iguanas. Iguanas are remarkably photogenic.

Sage iguana.

Portait of Green iguana (Iguana iguana) taken in Florida Keys, USA. Image courtesy Artur Pedziwilk via Wikimedia Commons.

Portait of Green iguana (Iguana iguana) taken in Florida Keys, USA. Image courtesy Artur Pedziwilk via Wikimedia Commons.

Seaside iguana.

A Green Iguana sunbathing at Marriott on St. Thomas. Image and caption courtesy Fred Hsu via Wikimedia Commons.

A Green Iguana sunbathing at Marriott on St. Thomas. Image and caption courtesy Fred Hsu via Wikimedia Commons.

The iguana as The Thinker.

The Thinker, Iguana Edition. Image courtesy Orchi via Wikimedia Commons.

The Thinker, Iguana Edition. Image courtesy Orchi via Wikimedia Commons.

And, for the geologists in the audience: Iguana on the rocks.

Galapagos iguana: Conolophus subcristatus. Image courtesy Peter Wilton via Wikimedia Commons.

Galapagos iguana: Conolophus subcristatus. Image courtesy Peter Wilton via Wikimedia Commons.

“Endless forms most beautiful,” indeed.

Saturday Song: Butterfly Lovers

Okay, so this is the most magnificent thing I’ve ever seen human beings do. Well, do while dancing, anyway. I mean, she’s standing en pointe on this dude’s head, and – just watch.

Words. I haven’t any. I just. That’s simply. Mwah.

You know what, that’s art. That’s pure bloody art right there, and it’s one of the reasons why I don’t give up on humanity in despair (you, my darlings, and my fellow Freethought Bloggers, plus the other folks out there doing magnificent work making this world better and more beautiful every day, are the other reasons). All right? It’s moments like these that just make me sit back with my jaw flapping gently in the fully unhinged position and my eyes popping out and my poor little tempted-to-be-misanthropic heart welling, and I burst out with a robust, “I bloody love people!” when I’m capable of drawing breath again.

I rather imagine this is what it’s like running about the universe with the Doctor, actually.

So it feels rather a bit silly to plop my own pathetic art down atop that masterpiece, but the whole reason I was seeking butterfly songs to begin with was so that I could chuck these photos and a song at you and call it good. Work had me typing frantically all day. My wrists are distinctly upset. But it doesn’t matter anymore, because beauty.

Beautiful people, and beautiful creatures.

Black and white and beautiful all over.

Black and white and beautiful all over.

This was from our trip to the Olympics a couple of years ago, when we went up the Elwha River for a last look at its dams. The reservoir where these butterflies lived isn’t even there anymore. Dam’s gone, water all drained. Hopefully the butterflies still flutter round on the banks of the river, though. They were wonderful, so many of them, fluttering about like so many large and animated snowflakes. Very hard to get good shots, they were so active. However, one can play with the blurred photos and see if art can be created, and perhaps, to a small degree, succeed.

Butterfly between.

Butterfly between.

I like them, anyway, and hopefully you’ll be so dazzled by the dancers you’ll think my blurry butterflies are wonderful, too, and we’ll all be happy enough, then.

But I know you lot. You’ll stop admiring the dubious artistic merit of the photos and start doing things like trying to figure out the species of flora and fauna. So we have a sort of Mystery Flora-Cryptopod Double Feature going on here. Suppose that means I’d best provide you with a proper photo for identification purposes.

Mystery Flora plus Cryptopod

Mystery Flora plus Cryptopod

There you are, then. Lovely, aren’t they?

Here’s a good close one of the butterfly – not the above butterfly, but one of its compatriots, one which liked hanging upside down for some unknown reason.

All's right with the world when you're not upright, it seems.

All’s right with the world when you’re not upright, it seems.

Now, these photos were taken back in the days before we started doing Mystery Flora and all those, so I don’t have five trillion photos of the flower to choose from. So we shall make do with one very like it (and likely closely related, if not the same species), which I snapped up on the drumlin last September.

Mystery Flora I

Mystery Flora I

And a bit closer:

Mystery Flora II

Mystery Flora II

There you are, my loves. Art, nature, music and mystery all in one. Lovely!

Something Beautiful, Something Blue: Seattle from Alkai

I love my adopted city. I’ve never been much of a big-city person, and I’d frankly rather be out in the mostly wild spaces most of the time, but I’ve always adored Seattle. I find her beautiful from most every angle. I love wandering round downtown, rambling among the hills and the shops and the art and architecture. I love her culture, and her old buildings, and her waterfronts. The only thing I don’t like is driving there, but even that isn’t horrible. Merely awful. Best to take the bus and a comfortable pair of shoes, and make a day of it.

"Something Beautiful, Something Blue." Seattle from Alki, view across the Sound with a spray of water over the Space Needle.

“Something Beautiful, Something Blue.” Seattle from Alki, view across the Sound with a spray of water over the Space Needle.

I love her skyline. I took this image from Alki Point one summer. There’s a strip of beach with excellent views toward the city center, and a set of concrete stairs, and waves that splash dramatically against said stairs, and give a photographer a chance at a little artistry. I like how, after a bit of mucking about with contrast and saturation, it ended up looking a bit like a watercolor.

My fair city isn’t without her faults, though. In fact, we’re pretty much standing on one here, and one day I shall tell you about it, once we’re done with all this volcano nonsense.