Category Archives: Astrophotography

Beautiful Great Blue Heron and One Special Feather

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather – babsjeheron

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Great blue heron fishing with a feather as bait.

Great Blue Heron shaking a seagull feather – babsjeheron

Doesn’t this Great Blue Heron holding a seagull feather bring to mind a friendly dog playfully carrying his favorite toy back to you, wagging his tail?
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At the time, I wanted to say to her, “Who’s a good girl? You are! You are a good girl!” because the way she pranced the length of the submerged log seemed so playful – at first.
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At first, it looked playful, but then I realized the seagull feather was not a mere toy to this Great Blue Heron – it was a tool, a fishing lure she repeatedly dipped into the water to entice fishes up to the surface, making it easier for her to spear them with her stiletto beak.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 2 - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 2 – babsjeheron

For some birds, it is dinnertime more often than not.
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Searching for their next meal, or that of their offspring, is a full-time job.
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A few Great Blue Herons at the lake have adapted tools to make fishing much easier, and dinner more of a sure thing.

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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 4 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 4 – babsjeheron

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She would pluck the feather from the water’s surface, and shake loose the droplets…
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…And then carefully drop the feather back down into the water…
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 5 – babsjeheron   © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 5 – babsjeheron

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After a few moments, she retrieved it with that stiletto beak again, shook it dry, and then dropped it into the water once more.
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Transfixed, I watched her repeat this for more than ten minutes.
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It looked almost ritualistic – totemic or shamanic even.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 6 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 6 – babsjeheron

To see a feathered creature brandishing a feather from a different bird in such repetitive behavior.
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And then it dawned on me.
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Before she first picked up the feather, she had been fishing, staring intently into the water as though tracking a fish, from the half-submerged pine trunk.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 8 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 8 – babsjeheron

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And once she picked up the feather, she continued her fishing – using the feather as bait to attract her prey, the fish.
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How smart a bird and how alluring a lure she chose.
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Crows are the master tool users of the bird world, but as this experience shows, herons are smart birds, too.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 10 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 10 – babsjeheron

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I’ve observed herons using tools for fishing on other occasions, but there’s something magical and special about her choice of a feather.
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After all, don’t human fishermen – especially fly casters – often fashion their lures with feathers?
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 11 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 11 – babsjeheron

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Why should a Great Blue Heron choose any differently?
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Ingenious heron!
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 13 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 13 – babsjeheron

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That day, I took more than 925 photographs at the lake.
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The Great Blue Heron you see here is one of only three I’ve named: Juliette.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 14 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 14 – babsjeheron

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While Juliette and I were in the middle cove, her suitor Romeo was just over the ridge in the long slender cove, oblivious to the mysterious joys of fly casting with a feather.
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Romeo missed all the fun that day.
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Last Wednesday I had a successful eye surgery, but apparently it hasn’t cured my dyslexia, and I posted my photo backwards accidentally. I think this is right now?

Babsje With Clear Eye Patch - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Babsje With Clear Eye Patch – babsjeheron

The eye patch is only temporary, but I sure could use a more fetching one!

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This post is prompted by Cee Neuner and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya, all of whom encourage the community of photographers and writers. The focus for this week’s LAPC is Going Wide. Isn’t Go Wide something the Coach calls as a football play? Or wasn’t there a saying Go Big or Go Home? I don’t have a wide-angle camera lens any more, so I can’t Go Wide. Maybe I should just Go Home. Unless the big, wide sky encompassing Comet Hale-Bopp and the Pleiades counts:

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Comet Hale-Bopp at top right, the Pleiades mid-frame above the trees – babsjeheron.

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Thanks to Cee for her CMMC: Dark Greens. Green foliage abounds at the lake.
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From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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Folks, now that some areas are opening back up, please consider supporting your local Arts communities – whether music, theater, crafts, visual arts venues, and others. All have been impacted over the past year and they need your love.

My brick & mortar presence in Massachusetts dates back to 2009 in several local venues/galleries.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
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Natick Town Hall
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Five Crows Gallery in Natick
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Audubon Sanctuary
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Be a fly on the wall! You can CLICK HERE to see the gallery walls with Herons .
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Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

May the Muse be with you.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2021 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Read the rest of this entry

Great Blue Heron and Meteor

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron flies by – babsjeheron.

I blame it on the Beaver lodge.

No, that’s not right.

I blame it on the Beavers.

Or more accurately, on the beady eyes peering up at me from the shallows near the shoreline.

Actually, that’s not correct either.

I blame it on the absence of beady eyes just above the surface.

While kayaking one day some time ago ago, I discovered a Beaver lodge in the cove, the first one there in at least a decade. I took a few photos of the tall tangle of branches and twigs, but was more interested in seeing, and photographing, a Beaver. (I had never done that before, Muskrats, yes, Beavers, no.) As luck would have it that afternoon, there were two Beaver kits paddling around the point not far from the den, but they both quickly slipped beneath the surface and disappeared before I could focus the camera.

So, a few days later I went back to the cove to try to photograph the Beavers.

This, of course, was a mistake.

I learned long ago to open myself, and my eyes and camera, to whatever experiences and sights the lake brought forth at any moment. I had learned the hard way that “trying” to capture a specific subject meant that I would be missing out on what was unfolding right before my eyes. Mindfulness is a great attitude for a photographer.

So, there I was that weekend in the cove fifty yards or so from the Beaver lodge, scanning the surface of the waters with my binoculars, looking for a pair of beady eyes or a tuft of greenery being dragged along, trailing a small wake behind.

A flurry of activity at ten o’clock caught my eye and I paddled a bit closer and refocused the binocs.

Nope, not the eyes of a Beaver: a swarm of Dragonflies flitting and alighting on something, maybe a leaf.

I padded closer still to frame the swarm and through the lens realized the leaf was a feather, a single gorgeous raptor feather.

And as I was dialing down the lens for a closeup of the feather, a shadow passed directly overhead, and I saw a reflection framed on the water a few yards south – a Great Blue Heron.

Without thinking – without having to “try” at all – I lifted the camera and fired off this one shot you see above as the Heron flew by.

I almost missed the photo because I was looking down when I should have been looking up.
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And here’s that Meteor I promised in the post’s title. One occasion when I wss looking up at the right time in the right place: (I hope you weren’t expecting to see the Heron and Meteor together in the same photo?)

Meteor from Leonid Meteor shower - babsjeheron  © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Meteor from Leonid Meteor shower – babsjeheron

Watching meteor showers and photographing comets both put me in touch with the infinite in a way that nothing else can.

There’s something primal about laying back on a grassy hillside watching the summer Perseid meteor shower put on a show overhead.

Standing on that same hillside before dawn on a frigid November morning photographing the Leonids, cold of body yet warm of being, has the same effect.

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As long as we’re looking really far up, why not a Comet?

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Lizz (age 9) strikes a pose with Comet Hale-Bopp – babsjeheron

During the year of Comet Hale-Bopp, we watched and photographed almost daily for the duration, tracking the comet’s position on paper star charts. We experimented with all of the low light film we could find, comparing the quality of color reproduction and sharpness. Lacking any idea how long an exposure needed to be in order to clearly see the comet on film, and without a timer on-hand, my daughter hit on the Hippopotamus technique: she would depress the plunger on the cable release and hold the shutter open while counting out loud “one Hippopotamus, two Hippopotamus, three Hippopotamus.” It worked from the very first photo! We had a great time together, just the two of us viewing the comet through my old 35mm Konica and small toy telescope.
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This post is prompted by Cee Neuner and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya, all of whom encourage the community of photographers and writers. This week, the Lens Artists have invited Sofia Alves of Photographias as guest host. The focus this week is Looking Up, Looking Down. Please check out their gorgeous photos at the links listed below. My submission includes a case when i should have been looking up but was not, and two photos where i was looking very far up, if not far out!

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Thanks to Cee for her Hunt for joy. I don’t know if this challenge is still on, but I really like the idea of searching for joy. The Herons bring joy.
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From Sofia Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .

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From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Look Up, Look Down ..

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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Folks, now that some areas are opening back up, please consider supporting your local Arts communities – whether music, theater, crafts, visual arts venues, and others. All have been impacted over the past year and they need your love.

My brick & mortar presence in Massachusetts dates back to 2009 in several local venues/galleries.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
.
Natick Town Hall
.
Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
Audubon Sanctuary
.

Be a fly on the wall! You can CLICK HERE to see the gallery walls with Herons .
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Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

May the Muse be with you.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2021 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Meteor, Comet, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Read the rest of this entry

We Now Interrupt your Regularly-Scheduled Great Blue Herons

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

My daughter strikes a pose with Comet Hale-Bopp.

Me and my comet,
strolling down the avenue

With apologies to Judy Garland

It doesn’t get more out of this world than Comet Hale-Bopp, poised above my daughter’s shoulder.

If you missed Hale-Bopp last time around, it will be back in our neighborhood in about 4,500+ years, assuming that our neighborhood will still be here, of course.

(We now return to the Great Blue Herons with thanks for allowing this temporary derail.)
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Thanks to Ben H and WordPress for this week’s WPC Challenge: Out of this World.

And more thanks to Ben and WordPress for today’s Daily Prompt: Above.

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From July 1 through July 30, 2016, I was the Featured Artist of the Month at the Summer Street Gallery. The Great Blue Heron photographs once again graced the walls of the lobby and theater in a one-woman show at The Center for Arts in Natick. In addition to the visual arts shown at the gallery, TCAN has a lively, dynamic lineup of upcoming performing artists.
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Through July 13, 2017 I was a Featured Artist at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.
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Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2018 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows

Comet Hale-Bopp and The Pleiades for Weekly Photo Challenge and Thursday’s Special

Survived by approximately several trillion siblings, Comet ISON leaves behind an unprecedented legacy for astronomers, and the eternal gratitude of an enthralled global audience. In ISON’s memory, donations are encouraged to your local astronomy club, observatory or charity that supports STEM and science outreach programs for children. 

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)
Born 4.5 Billion BC, Fragmented Nov 28, 2013 (age 4.5-billion yrs old) 

Karl Battams
CIOC
NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Comet Hale-Bopp at top right, the Pleiades mid-frame above the trees.

Like many astrophotographers in the Northern Hemisphere, I was eagerly anticipating a naked-eye view of Comet ISON this December. When last I last I photographed a comet, it was in the pre-digital camera era for me, and so I was sorting out the gear and possible locations for 21st century comet shoots. But it was not to be.

As Dr. Tony Phillips writes in What Happened to Comet ISON?

Dec. 4, 2013:  Astronomers have long known that some comets like it hot.  Several of the greatest comets in history have flown close to the sun, puffing themselves up with solar heat, before they became naked-eye wonders in the night sky.

Some comets like it hot, but Comet ISON was not one of them.

Hopes for December comet-watching dashed, I’ve taken a walk down memory lane, revisiting archives of the last comet I photographed, Hale-Bopp, sixteen years ago.

This is Thursday, time for Paula’s wonderful Thursday’s Special challenge, and I’m submitting this post because the year of Comet Hale-Bopp holds a special place with fond memories.

Also, this week, Ben Huberman has challenged us to show light sources. The above photo has many: besides the comet at top right and The Pleiades clustered in the center, untold other celestial bodies are visible.

One of hundreds of photos taken during the months Hale-Bopp was visible here, this scene was across the road from home, an expanded view of more of the landscape from the first comet photo I shared here. (Please click here if you missed seeing my daughter posing with Hale-Bopp)

Karl Battams makes a valuable suggestion in the quote at the start of this post: support STEM and outreach programs for children.

During the year of Hale-Bopp, we watched and photographed almost daily for the duration, tracking the comet’s position on paper star charts. We experimented with all of the low light film we could find, comparing the quality of color reproduction and sharpness. Lacking any idea how long an exposure needed to be in order to clearly see the comet on film, and without a timer on-hand, my daughter hit on the hippopotamus technique: she would depress the plunger on the cable release and hold the shutter open while counting out loud “one hippopotamus, two hippopotamus, three hippopotamus.” It worked from the very first photo!

We had a great time together, just the two of us viewing the comet through my old 35mm Konica and small toy telescope, but what really made an impression were the star parties, where people from the community and scientists from MIT and Harvard gathered at the elementary school with their telescopes and gave everyone a more up-close-and-personal experience.

While Comet ISON is done, there will be others, and Comet Hale-Bopp will swing back by Earth in around 5,000 years, give or take.

But please don’t wait that long to get involved with science outreach in your community.

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Thanks to Paula and WordPress for the Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge Challenge.

Thanks to Ben Huberman and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light.

Thanks to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Night Shots prompt.

Thanks to Ailsa for the Weekly Travel Theme: Sky. (The night sky is so wondrous.)

Thanks also to Sue for the Word a Week Challenge: High. (How high sky!)

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

(This photo was taken In 1997.)

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Comet Hale-Bopp, The Pleiades, Comet ISON 2013

Lunar Eclipse with Aurora Borealis – Weekly Photo Challenge

…All that is now,
All that is gone, 
All that’s to come,
and everything under the sun is in tune,
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon. 

Roger Waters,
Pink Floyd,
The Dark Side of the Moon

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Total lunar eclipse and aurora borealis. November 8, 2003

This week, Ben Huberman has challenged us to show sources of light. The photo above shows the total lunar eclipse of November 8, 2003.

As people know, the Moon is illuminated by light from the Sun. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes directly between the Sun and the Moon, and the Earth’s shadow is cast on the surface of the Moon, causing the moon to take on a red-orange color.

It was magical that night, standing out in the field watching the eclipse unfold. My eye was focused through the camera for most of the duration and it was only afterwards that I realized a slender finger of a green aurora was also captured on film. That was a pleasing bonus.

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Thanks to Ben Huberman and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light.

Thanks to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Night Shots prompt.

Thanks to Ailsa for the Weekly Travel Theme: Sky. (The night sky is so wondrous.)

Thanks also to Sue for the Word a Week Challenge: High. (How high the moon is.)

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

(This photo was taken November 8, 2003.)

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Lunar Eclipse, Aurora Borealis

Stairway to Heavens & Comet Hale-Bopp

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

My daughter strikes a pose with Comet Hale-Bopp.

This week Ed asked us to share a photo of our favorite subject. It was a no-brainier: my daughter on the stairs leading up to the heavens and Comet Hale-Bopp.

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Thanks to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Favorite prompt.

Thanks also to Sue for the Word a Week Challenge: Pose.

Thanks to Ailsa for the Weekly Travel Theme: Short. (When this was taken, she was short, but now my daughter is as tall as I am. Kids have a way of doing that!)

Thanks to the kind folks at NaBloPoMo for the National Blog Posting Month challenge this November.

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A selection of my heron and flower photos are now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Comet Hale-Bopp

To Infinity and Beyond

In coldest darkest November, some people go ice fishing.

Me? I go star fishing.

Babsje
November 2002

Meteor from Leonid Meteor shower.

Meteor from Leonid Meteor shower.

The topic for this week’s photo challenge on WordPress is infinity.

Watching meteor showers and photographing comets both put me in touch with the infinite in a way that nothing else can.

There’s something primal about laying back on a grassy hillside watching the summer Perseid meteor shower put on a show overhead.

Standing on that same hillside before dawn on a frigid November morning photographing the Leonids, cold of body yet warm of being, has the same effect.

The photo here is one of many meteor and comet photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Thanks to readers here for indulging me in this non-heron post!

I’m sure the herons don’t mind, either.

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Thanks to Petrel41 at Dear Kitty for pointing out the December 13, 2013, Geminids Meteor Shower. Don’t miss it!

Thanks to Ben Huberman and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Infinity prompt.

Thanks to the kind folks at Skywatch Friday.

Thanks also to Ailsa and WordPress for the Travel Theme: Height challenge. (Not much is higher up than the source of a meteor shower.)

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(This photo was taken November, 2002)

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

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