Weekly Photo Challenge: (Extra)ordinary Planet Earth

Very often something that you experience for the first time can seem extraordinary to you, but repeated exposure with time can make it feel more “ordinary”.  The novelty can wear off.

In this context, the series of pictures that I am going to present may tend to be less noteworthy to a certain subset of population that is used to flying on commercial aircraft across the United States on a regular basis. But I also suspect that not all of this subsection of the population  actually even sees what I see.  They probably would not handle the flying experience the way I used to.  Most folks are who on these trips regularly are doing it for business purposes, and the flying part of the experience is used for pursuits other than taking pictures out of the window of the aircraft.  The more energetic folks are usually catching up on work, most often on their electronic devices, while most others are trying to simply relax, either reading, or watching a movie or taking a nap.  An alcoholic beverage or two can also sometimes help the time pass by.

But I took a different approach.   I would attempt to get on flights that were at the right time of the day for taking pictures from the air, and if possible even try to find a window seat on the side of the aircraft that provided the best views at that time of day.  My face would be stuck to the window pane. (The Airbus 320 family of aircraft have much more comfortable windows than the Boeing 737s in this regard.) I would take pictures of whatever I could see that seemed remarkable (extraordinary?) to me both in the sky and on the ground.  I flew quite a lot for many years, but none of this stuff ever became ordinary to me.

Looking back in time, I was quite fortunate to have found something to do that was exciting and extraordinary to me, something that made the routine and the drudgery of unending business trips for the purposes of making a living and putting bread on the table more tolerable.

Most of the flights I used to take happened to pass over the southwest of the United States, a particularly remote and rugged area of the country with a low population density.  Here are few shots that from those days.

IMG_2329The black spot in the picture is from water on the ground.  I wonder if people live in this area. And here is a picture taken with the sun low in the sky.

IMG_4099It seemed to me that I was flying over a different planet.  And then there was this shot that reminded me of fractals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe structure seen in the following picture reminds you of the complexity of the processes that have shaped the earth.  My guess is that the material of the structure is able to withstand erosion much better than the material around it.

IMG_2557Sometimes you see the impact of the combination of nature and man on the ground in a different way, as on this wintry day when I was flying cross-country.

IMG_2526Finally, here is a very simple phenomena that I saw from the window of my aircraft.

IMG_2341I have never seen a circular rainbow anywhere else.  Here is an explanation for this phenomenon.  Apparently this is not an uncommon thing for people who fly frequently to see.  It goes to show that something that is extraordinary to one person may be ordinary for somebody else.

Here are some other pictures I have taken while flying.

Here is a link to this week’s photo challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy Place

This is perhaps the place where I am best able to recover my sense of balance.

This is the place you will find me on most weekends, early on Sunday mornings.

A misty sunrise over the Potomac at Seneca Creek

Great blue heron gliding over the water at Widewater

Brilliant sunlight over the trail near Taylor’s Landing

On the trail beside the dry canal bed near Shepherdstown, WV

Fall morning at Riley’s Lock

Cold misty morning over the Potomac near Glen Echo, MD

Sunrise near Harper’s Ferry on a Winter morning

Trail near Antietam Creek in winter

Sunlight spotlights the trail in Spring

Springtime on the trail closer to Williamsport, MD

Summer time near Pearre, MD

This place is not defined by a single destination or a single moment in time.  It spans many miles and many seasons over many years.

This is the C&O Canal National Park that runs between Washington, DC, and Cumberland, MD, along the Potomac river.

I think this qualifies as one of my happy places.

To find more about this week’s photo challenge, visit this site.

Chasing Damselflies over the Potomac

It was cloudy yesterday morning at Pennyfield lock as we set out north towards Riley’s lock.  My old routine of early morning runs along the river on Sunday mornings has changed. I have company these days.  It has become a family affair. My wife and I are by ourselves on some of the Sundays, but on many other Sundays this also turns into a group event with other families joining us, the other families having been convinced that the outdoor activity is indeed a good thing for them.  In order to accommodate the larger group, this event has become a walk rather than a run, and it takes place a little later in the morning than I have gotten used to for many years.  But it is all for a good cause!

The cool of the cloudy morning, the early signs of changing color on the trees, and the dry leaves already on the ground informed us that the Fall season is on its way.

There are still flowers on some of the plants along the trail, but I could see that these would also be soon gone.

There were no herons to be seen on the canal this day, but I did sight an egret in the distance in the middle of the river.  What was it up to? Was it catching fish, or simply enjoying the feeling of standing in the flowing water while listening to the sounds of the river around it.

The waters of the river were low and at some point we decided to go down to the river from the towpath to see how far we could get walking towards the middle of the river by stepping over the exposed rocks.

We encountered plenty of damselflies along the way. (Yes, these exist, and they are not the same as dragonflies.)  Some of us tried to catch them as they hovered around, but they were too quick for us.  I stuck to using my camera.

The water was clear and you could see the fish and other little creatures of the water swimming around.  There were dry leaves already floating in the water, a sure a sign of the start of the Fall season, .

As we walked along the towpath we came upon the squirrel sitting on the branch of a tree chewing on something or the other.  It cooperated long enough for its picture to be taken.

It was a very pleasant walk on a day that also happened to be my birthday. I think this was the appropriate way to celebrate an event like this, and the way to also try to celebrate every day of my life.

Cheers everybody!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

It took me just a little while to realize that I had the perfect subject matter for the topic of this week’s challenge.  This is because I have been wandering over the C&O canal towpath over many years taking pictures through all seasons.  Here are some pictures that capture one aspect of change as I have observed it.

The first target for my observations is the Pennyfield lock house.  Here is a picture from early spring.

and here is one from a month later.

Here is the same lock house in winter.

Then take a look a Swains lock on a Fall day,

and then in winter.

Taking a look at the aqueducts of the C&O canal, the Catoctin Aqueduct was destroyed by Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  It was replaced by a temporary bailey bridge for many years.

April 2006Here is what it looked like when they started reconstruction.

and here is what it looks like after the work was complete in 2011.  They did a great job!

I will end with a picture of the bridge near Anglers Inn that was taken in the Fall.

Here is another picture of the same bridge taken in winter.

Feb 2010I find it hard to resist the temptation to dig up more pictures of this wonderful place I visit, but I must stop lest I be accused of obsessive behavior!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grids

The picture below illustrates how humans tend to convert natural shapes that are usually irregular into those that are more repeatable, including the grids that are very common for farming.

The picture below is another example of a grid created by human beings, and is perhaps also also a commentary on the state of the human condition.

This is the Grid!