Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday's Thought

"Tulip Profile"

[1] Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
[2] Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
[3] Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
-Psalm 96:1-3
[ESV Study Bible]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday's Foto!

Since I've been writing about Macro Photography and Gardens lately, I thought I would combine the two and share one of my favorite images with you.

The "Strawflower" is a small size annual which comes in several different colors: Yellow, White and Sundaze (this color combines a yellow with orange on the tips of the petal).  The flower's petals actually feel like straw or hay when you touch them.  The flower has a cheery character to it.  An interesting feature is the blooms close at night or when it is raining.

Each year, I plant groups of three of these plants in container around my backyard using one from each color group (and some years more yellow than others).  I use containers for "precious" or "special" plants that I do not want my dog to get into.

For this shot, I use my "dedicated" macro lens and got as close as possible to create
the flaming effect.

Do you have a favorite annual?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rainy Days and Photography

"Rain on Purple Iris"
You wouldn't think that a rainy, cloudy, and (what some people add) dreary day would be perfect for photography, especially Macro Photography since it tends to be more sensitive to movement and light.  However, it's the ideal setting.

Provided you take precautions with your equipment to protect it from rain, my Pentax K10D has a waterproof body so I have to protect the lens, you're set to go.  I use a plastic bag that you can buy at any camera shop to pull over my camera during steady rains or when I'll be out for awhile.  I like to use these bags because they are fit for a camera.  If you get stuck in a downpour, you can use the drawstring to pull the bag tighter to your camera unlike a plastic grocery bag.

You'll want to take a few precautions for yourself too.  Typically, if I am shooting in the rain, I'll wear a jacket that I has good flexibility and I can move easily without squeaking or making too much noise.  Also, I wear a baseball cap to keep the rain directly off my face.

Why do rainy, cloudy and dreary days make good days to photograph?  The weather defuses the bright sunlight causing the colors to be brighter and cheerier.

Have you had any experiences photographing in the rain?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wildlife Gardens

Today I am featuring a guest post contributed by Rumbold-Ayers garden design in Hampshire. For more information on wildlife-friendly gardening and garden design in Hampshire, you can visit the Rumbold-Ayers website. 
There are many features you can add to your garden in order to encourage wildlife onto your property. Some are easy to implement - simply allowing a section of lawn to grow, for instance - while other will require more thought and preparation. These include wildlife ponds, bird feeders and nesting areas for various larger animals. Here are a few tips on putting features like these into place in your garden.

Long Grass
"Garden in Hampshires"
Although this is definitely not to everyone's tastes, insects can be encouraged into your garden by deliberately allowing a patch of grass to grow longer than usual. Rare species of caterpillar, crane fly and even spiders prefer to live in long grass, which allows you to study unusual wildlife conveniently from your own backyard. You can dedicate a specific area of the garden (somewhere near the back of the property would probably be best!) where the grass will be allowed to grow unhindered - or at least more than usual!

Bird Feeders
A bird feeder is one of the easiest measures you can implement in your garden, and the benefit will be felt almost immediately. You will very quickly notice an increase in the number of birds that visit your garden. There are several ways you can go about this - the easiest way is to simply spread peanut butter on an old pine-cone, and hang it from a tree. For a longer-lasting alternative, you can fill an old plastic bottle with seeds or nuts, cut several holes in the body, and string it up from a sturdy branch. Birds will enter through the holes and feed on the nuts and seeds - the advantage of this method is that an empty bottle is easy to refill and reuse.

Wildlife Ponds
Although ponds will certainly take a bit of work, the wildlife benefits for your garden can be huge. You can either create an in-ground pond, which are often considered the most versatile option, or you can simply waterproof the inside of a large barrel or tub. Whether you fill a container with water ir whether you dig a water-filled trench, the most important thing is to remember to plant plenty of aquatic plants inside the pond. These will help with water filtration, keeping your pond from becoming stagnant, as well as improving the feature's visual impact. Wildlife ponds can encourage dozens of new species into your garden, including, frogs, toads and newts.

Nesting Areas
A rockery provides an area for small mammals (usually nocturnal ones) to nest. Although you may not have the opportunity to observe these creatures in action, a rockery can still provide aesthetic benefit for your garden. To build one, you will need a large number of rocks - these should be arrayed so as to create a number of natural hollows, nooks and crannies. These will provide animals with the perfect place to hole up during the daytime, at the same time as adding a visual feature (and a talking point) to your property.

A wildlife-friendly feature can a fantastic addition to any garden - although it may require some compromise on the aesthetic layout of your yard. If you are thinking of encouraging more wildlife onto the property, you will first need to think carefully about whether you are willing to make a few changes to your property.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday's Thought - "Go Ask" By The Hoppers

Remember the friend I wrote about a few Sundays ago?  I got to spend some time again with him yesterday.  Always great to visit with him! I am always surprised about how happy and that I rarely hear him complain about his situation.

Yesterday, he told me about a problem with his legs and feet which started in the year 2000.  "It was July, when I finally decided, after putting it off forever it seemed, to get the pain and issues in my lower legs and feet checked out.  I went to see my Primary Care Doctor, then to the Sports Rehabilitation Doctor and finally to an Orthopedic Prosthesis Specialist.  I knew what was coming by that point and I was not happy at all," he stated.

"Here's what's funny part though, or maybe I should say sad," he starts, "I've been a Christian a long time and when I started having these health issues, God spoke to me with this Scripture verse:

[31] but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. -Isaiah 40:31 [ESV Study Bible]

The emphasis was that I was to depend on Him for my physical abilities, not on myself for without Him, I would be able to do nothing- I had forgotten this promise," he smiled.  "When I finally ended up at the Orthopedic Prosthesis Specialist, it was getting close to Christmas- not how I wanted to celebrate Christmas."  My friend had several tests done, a Prosthesis fit and sessions of testing and getting used to it.

"Christmas Day was the first day that I was to wear my 'new toys' all day.  I was headed to family and was far from thrilled about wearing these things but I had to follow through," he says with a smirk on his face.

He continues "My wife had given me one of those Gaither Homecoming CD's titled, 'Irish Homecoming' (  I wanted it for the song 'Praise The Lord' by Sherry Easter. While getting ready for the day's family visits, I put the CD on and let it play.  As I was getting ready, the song 'Go Ask' by the Hoppers began to play.  I had never heard it before....

I could have sworn the words to the song said 'Go Ask the man (instead of girl) who is walking now though legs were once crippled and then somehow' and I began to cry!"

After some tears, he finishes, "During all the struggles of those past few months, I forgot God's promise to me through Isaiah 40:31 and was just reminded through the song.  I can't explain how God does things, put He does take care of us in His ways and timing. It doesn't mean I will have a healthy or perfect life. He can do anything according to His Will for each of us."

May you have a blessed Sunday.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Capturing the Music: Tips for Great Band Photography by Jonathan Rodriguez

The post today is geared toward some of my youth friends from church who participate in bands.  It's written bya guest blogger today, allow me to introduce him: Jonathan Rodriguez is an avid writer. He is capable of writing on many subjects but prefers business articles and marketing in particular. He met his sweet heart, Savanna while studying at BYU. Together they have two beautiful boxers, Gia & Capone that they take on a long walk every day. He enjoys cooking meals for family and friends, riding his motorcycle and golfing.

Band photography is a field that poses some unique challenges and opportunities for photographers. You, as a band photographer, will have to deal with limited lighting, time restraints, multiple personalities, and location changes. Throughout this process, however, you’ll have the satisfaction of working with some amazing people and getting some great shots of your favorite bands.

Here are some tips that can help you take your band photography to the next level:
  • Get familiar with the band – Before you even think about snapping pictures, get a feel for the band’s music and their personalities. Set up a meeting where you can talk with the entire band and see what they have in mind for the shoot. Make your own recommendations about the style of the shoot and the composition of the photography, and come to an agreement about the theme, the location and time of the shoot, and payment.
  • Know what the photos are for – Bands often need photos for news stories, promotional material, or album art. Find out what the band plans to use the photos for, and comply with any size or composition requirements.
  • Scout the location in advance – The more confident you seem in your photographic abilities when shooting, the more relaxed the band will be. The day of the shoot is not the time to be making last-second changes to lighting or settings. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to go to the pre-determined location at roughly the same time of day as the shoot and take some snapshots. Determine where you want to shoot and where you want to place your strobes.
  • Explain what will take place beforehand – Letting the band know what to expect puts everyone on the same page and lets the band feel more at ease. Don’t forget about details like the band’s choice of outfits or props. These things can often make or break the shoot.
  • Know what pictures you want to take – Have well-defined goals for the outcome of the session, and take enough time to get each set right. At the same time, don’t be afraid to improvise a little and look for unexpected opportunities between sets. Your instincts are invaluable for knowing when to press the button.
  • Choose your best shots – Don’t show the band every photo that you’ve taken—instead, choose a selection of what you think are the best shots and work together with the band to select the final ones for post-processing.
  • Deliver the photos and get credited – Finish the photos in a timely manner and deliver the finish products to the band. In addition to your finished shots, you may want to consider including a CD with all the photos you took during the shoot. Ask the band to acknowledge you somewhere on the album cover or in the magazine article, if possible, and be sure to let them know that you’d love to work with them again.
Band photographers are part people pleasers, part fashion photographers, and part whirlwinds. What are your tips for successfully capturing a band’s unique style and personality?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday's Foto!!

"What Flower is This?"
"Friday's Foto" is going to focus on just a photo from the gardens or the dogs on, yes, you guessed it, Friday's.

Any idea what flower this is?

Thursday, April 19, 2012


"A Single Tulip"
I love this time of year because not only do I get to start on my garden work, fixing up my yard for spring and summer, but I get to enjoy photographing Spring's beauty.

I usually keep my camera handy when I am working in the yard so when I see something I can capture the image fairly quick.  Since my interests have changed some, I tend to keep the macro lens on the camera rather than the others. The macro lens will allow me to photograph the image closer with more detail.

As far as tulips go, I haven't planted many of them.  I tend to like to plant flowers that will bloom at some point in Spring and stay around for the season whether with the bloom or green leaves.  My neighbor has great success with Tulips which is where I found this beautiful image.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dogs, Gardening and Mulch

"Noah" (alias Dulles Dog, author of
My Dog loves to be with me wherever I go.  During the garden season, he is happiest to be chewing on a toy or stick while I am working in the garden.

Try as I might, I cannot seem to get him to dig those holes where I actually need them.  Bags of top soil kept in the garage for the occasions when a hole must be filled immediately have come in handy.

While I love having Noah with me in the garden, I must be aware of him and his desire to "hang out" all the time.  From buying mulch to purchasing lawn care products to buying plants.

Here's why:  Some plants, even natives, can be toxic (or cause an allergic reaction) to dogs, cats and sometimes humans (especially children and elderly).  I read the warnings on the plant labels and research purchases I am interested in before buying.  One site I've used a lot in the past for my plant research has been      Enature-Native/invasive.  This link should take you to table where you can start you research for your area.  Also, this site indicates in red lettering when it could be a dangerous one to plant.

The area of mulching has gotten to be a tough area for pet owners over the years.  As new mulches have been designed where they either recycle products, rubber tires, or have added ingredients such as Cocoa to enhance the smell or look around your property.  These products are considered dangerous, if not lethal, for your dog.   The rubber tires could have wire pieces in it which would harm your dog if swallowed.  And, we already know chocolate is not good for dogs so the Cocoa mulch is not a good idea if you have a dog.  Be sure to research online the products to determine what is safe to buy.

For my lawn, I started using Scott's Organic Fertilizer, again so I don't have to worry about my dog ingesting something he shouldn't- if it's there he will!   The product does a good job in creating a nice lawn.

A final thought, my writing today is a warning, my intention is not to slander any products!  As fun as it is to have Noah with me when I am gardening, and he gets into everything, I had these thoughts on warnings to share.

A step further, I maintain my front lawn keeping in mind these items because I will often see a neighbor's dog, and sometimes even children, in my yard.  I don't want the curious dogs walking their humans down the street to get into anything harmful nor do I want a child to do it.  Just something to keep in mind.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday's Thought -A B C's

"Sunny Tulips"
When I first started attending a Baptist Church and began teaching young boys in Mission groups, I can across a simple way to share the plan of Salvation with someone.

I searched and couldn't find it.  This past Easter, the pastor shared the points in his sermon, so I would like to share them with you.

A  Admit
Admit that you are a sinner, just like everyone else born into this world, until we  confress to Jesus Christ and ask His forgiveness:

    [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, -Romans 3:23-24 [ESV Study Bible]
    [23] For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. -
Romans 6:23
 [ESV Study Bible]

B  Believe
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ:

[16] “For God so loved the world,[f1] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
-John 3:16  [ESV Study Bible]  ([1] 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world)

C  Confess
Confess of your sins in a prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ:

[9] because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. -
Romans 10:9 [ESV Study Bible]

[13] For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 [ESV Study Bible] 

If you prayed this prayer with your whole heart, you are now a Christian.  My suggestion is to find a local church and become involved.  Talk to the pastor about this experience and ask him to teach you where to go or what to do next.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Preparing for a Weekend of Gardening

"Spring's Crocus"
I often get teased from neighbors about my garage- it starts to look like a Lowes annex or a mulch yard starting about the time the Crocuses are in bloom or are beginning to fade.

I don't mind the teasing because in reality, it does look like a Lowes annex!  Sometimes, I have as much as 100 bags of mulch stored in my garage.  I use "Lowes" to describe the garage because that's where I buy most of my mulch, a few minutes drive there.  And, if you've been there, or any other garden center for that matter, you'll see stacks and stack of every kind of mulch.

Typically, each March I start preparing for the spring season by buying mulch, garden soil, potting soil, and other supplies that I can store in my garage so when I have time, I can begin using it.  I don't know about you, but I can't always count on having a full day or two to work in my yard so I buy the supplies (except plants) that I need in sequence of planned use.

As time allows, usually a few hours on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights, then some Saturdays, I will several hours mulching.  Mulching is done after cleaning up the garden beds.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Cleaning and Mulching

"Phlox around Rock"

Believe it or not, one of my favorite chores this time of year is to mulch.  I love to clear out the gardens of fall and winter's debris and place mulch around the plants.  Any rocks or garden decorations I have used, I'll pick those up, mulch and replace.   Sometimes, it's a good time to rearrange these items and in some cases, throw them out and replace.

This year, I am spreading about an inch of mulch through all of my gardens.   Most people put 2-3 inches, and there isn't anything wrong with that, it's just that I have plenty of mulch remaining from prior years and just want to refresh them.  Last year, I bought the Pine Mini-Nuggets which I was not happy with.   First, the nuggets were not as small as I wanted or had purchased in prior years.  Being tired of the nuggets taking flight during strong winds and seeing them in my driveway, sidewalk and yard, and thinking they were "something else", I went with Pine Mulch this year.   It's lighter in color, shredded, and doesn't take off when windy.  Yet, it's dark enough to use with the other mulches I will use for paths through my backyard gardens.

Most of my front yard is done, still need to do one side garden, but from the street it looks great!!!

I keep my camera handy when I am gardening since it's often the time I see something I have got to photograph.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What Kind of Flower?

"What is this?"
I captured this image a few years ago at Walney Pond but not sure what flower it is.   Any ideas?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday's Thought

"Spring's Daffodil"
In my area, the Daffodil is one of the signs that Sping is on it's way.  We may have a snow or two, but they won't last long and next thing you know the warm weather has arrived.  Spring signifies the earth's renewing- renewing from the dead and cold of winter to the warmth and beauty of spring.

As a Christian, we go through similiar experiences where, once we believe in Christ and accept him as our personal Savior, we begin the journey from dead and cold of winter to the warmth and glorious beauty of Spring. It's an experience which happens over time, not usually instantly.

This reminds me of the Scripture:  [16] “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. [19] And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. [21] But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
[22] After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing.

(John 3:16-22 ESV)

[1] 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Via Cruces -the Way of the Cross- Centreville Baptist Church

I'd like to invite you to a special event my church will be presenting in remembrance of Good Friday, here are the details:

"Experience a moving retelling of the last few hours of Christ's life on earth.  Sense His suffering, death and crucifixion through the power of multi-media, music and dramatic portraits.  Partake in the Lord's Supper as you identify with all that Christ suffered out of his amazing love for you."   

Bring a friend!  Childcare will be provided up to age 5.  Please make a reservation by calling the church, 703-830-3333, or emailing   

 Via Cruces- the Way of the Cross, 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., at Centreville Baptist Church, 15100 Lee Highway, Centreville, VA 20120, 703-830-3333, www.cbcva,org. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Happy Monday- Macro Photography

"The Daisy and the Bug"
Happy Monday!! If you're traveling this week on Spring Break -please be careful.

One of my favorite images using my macro lens is of a bug (don't know what kind) on a Shasta Daisy.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday's Thought

"27 ePeace I leave with you; fmy peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. gLet not your hearts be troubled, neither hlet them be afraid." John 14:27 [ESV Study Bible]

My friend headed to the doctor on the cold, rainy, and dreary October day.  An odd spot had developed on his arm- discovered by his wife- so he promised to get it checked out.

"The Red Tulips"
When he got there, the news was not good.  The spot didn't look good at all.  Not sure what it is,  the doctor took a quick biopsy of it to send to the lab.  Curious as he is, he wanted to see the item.  "It looked like an small pill," he said.

Waiting a short period of time for the results to return from the lab, the appointment was made to meet with the doctor and learn the answers.  Nervous and anxious, he headed to the doctor and learned the spot was "melanoma."  Shocked, by the news, he sat there as his wife and doctor discussed the necessary treatments and where to start.

While waiting for the surgery and treatments to begin, my friend got angry and mad - stayed that way for several days after the news.  Though the diagnosis from all medical staff involved was clear, "it was in the pre-stages and has not spread- you'll be alright" he and his wife made preparations for the worst and even discussing funeral plans since he wanted things "a certain way."

Then, he tells me "A calm peace, that truly passes my understanding, came over me.   It was odd, as I've experienced peace and calmness within my life, but not like this. It's an indescribable experience. I am not afraid or scared of the future or what may happen with melanoma."

Then, he remembered, being taught after he became a Christian, that God would give you a "peace that passeth all understanding" in your heart.   Yes, there will be trials and troubles, but God's "Peace that Passeth ALL understanding will be with you."  

[7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:7 [ESV Study Bible]