Bird Man of Our Century

 

“A bird’s experience is far richer,
complex, and thoughtful than I’d imagined.”
David Allen Sibley

 

Birdman of the New Millennium
In a previous blog post I wrote about The Bird Man of America, John James Audubon. However, it appears there’s a new bird man of America artist that has been painting and studying birds for over 50 years. He has been called the most important illustrator of birds since Audubon.

David Allen Sibley, ornithologist, self-taught artist and author was born and raised in Plattsburgh, New York. His love of birds began at the age of eight years old while hiking with his father, Fred Sibley, famous ornithologist at Yale University.

Often after hiking with his dad, David would sketch all the different birds he had encountered from memory. His bird-watching hobby became a life-long passion. Much so, that he dropped out of college at Cornell University to pursue the study of birds.

Through the past five decades, Sibley has drawn and painted thousands of species of birds. His love of birds and painting them has never wavered. It was his goal to one day publish a field guide book for other bird watchers. With encouragement from his wife, also an ornithologist, he spent 14 years traveling, researching and painting birds for the book.

His hard work paid off and his goal was achieved in 2000, when his first book, The Sibley Field Guide to Birds was published. Shortly after publication, his first volume was on the New York best seller list and David followed up that book with numerous other popular guide books.

Even after half a century of bird-watching, David Sibley continues to study and learn new things about his favorite topic. When he did research for his recent book, What’s It’s Like to Be a Bird, he became convinced of something he had not previously anticipated: “Birds routinely make complex decisions and experience emotions”. In this book, he also covers such topics as; Do birds have a good sense of smell? Where do birds go at night? Where do they sleep?

With over 8.7 million species of birds throughout the entire world, I’m pretty sure his latest bird book won’t be the last for this bird man of our century.

Shine On

Captivating Comet

 

“Science is an ongoing process. It never ends.
There is no single ultimate truth to be achieved,
after which all the scientists can retire.”
Carl Sagan

 

NEOWISE Comet

NEOWISE Comet from Mt. Hood, Oregon by Daniel Springer –  July 2020

A few weeks back, a good friend asked if I had the opportunity to photograph the comet, NEOWISE in the skies over Redondo Beach. Unfortunately, because of overcast evening skies, I have not been able to get a good photo of the comet. However, I still have time since the comet will be visible through mid-August.

This fairly large, 3 mile across comet was first spotted by The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on March 27th. NEOWISE is named after the JPL space telescope used to first discover the comet, the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer aka NEOWISE. To learn more about the NEOWISE JPL Mission visit, https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/neowise/

The newly discovered comet might become known as the Great Comet of 2020 because it won’t be returning to our neck of the world for another 6,800 years. Why? Because, that’s how many years it takes this comet to complete its journey around the sun. It’s also one of the few comets visible without the use of a telescope or even binoculars. According to JPL, NEOWISE is the brightest comet since Comet Hale-Bopp visited us in 1997.

Joseph Masiero, NEOWISE deputy principal investigator at JPL, said in a recent interview that, “. . . by combining the infrared data with visible-light images, we can tell that the comet’s nucleus is covered with sooty, dark particles left over from its formation near the birth of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.”

If you’re interested in capturing a beautiful photograph like the one my friend’s son Daniel took at Mt. Hood in Oregon, start looking up at the sky about one hour after sunset. According to the Sky & Telescope magazine, you’ll find the comet just over the northwest horizon as the last of twilight fades into darkness. Look about three fists below the bowl of the Big Dipper. The comet has also been getting brighter and brighter in the early morning sky as well.

Good luck my fellow Blogaholics in photographing or just experiencing this captivating comet.

Shine On

Exceptional Eggs

“The key to everything is patience.
You get the chicken by hatching the egg,
not by smashing it.”
Arnold H. Glasow

Exceptional Eggs

Everyone has heard the old famous question; What came first the chicken or the egg? Well, scientists say the egg came first about 340 million years ago while the chicken evolved about 58 thousand years ago.

Scientific records show that fowl were domesticated and laying eggs for human consumption since the 14th century. There is also archaeological evidence dating back to the Neolithic age for egg consumption. In North America, the first domesticated fowl arrived with the second voyage of Columbus in 1493.

Just a little over 100 years ago most people with farmland had chickens and the majority of these chickens were kept in a henhouse. So how did we go from gathering a few eggs on a farm to shipping millions of eggs across the country every day?

Exceptional Eggs

James Ashley’s Egg Case Maker circa 1900

In the late 19th and early 20th century, families leaving the farm for the city couldn’t take the chickens with them, so they had to rely on markets in the city to get their eggs. With the demand for fresh eggs, an innovative Civil War veteran, James Ashley developed a crate for eggs that allowed eggs to be mass marketed.

Ashley first patented his egg case maker in 1896 and received additional patents for improvements to the machine in 1902 and 1925. Farmers could then put their logo stamp on the outside of the crate and ship them off on the rails to major cities. Today, egg farmers are still using Ashley crates to get their eggs to grocery stores.

There are different types of eggs available at your local grocery stores, such as pasteurized, farm fresh free range, and organic type eggs. Pasteurized eggs means they have been treated to destroy any bacteria on the egg so it has a longer shelf life but they must be refrigerated. Farm fresh eggs come from chickens that are free range and eat non-GMO feed, mostly small bugs. Organic means these eggs aren’t from free range chickens but may have been fed non-GMO feed.  You do not have to refrigerate your farm fresh organic eggs because they have a shelf life of over a month.

Eggs have about 7 grams of protein per egg. An individual needs about 40 grams of protein a day. So, eggs are an excellent source and inexpensive way to get your daily protein.

I’m a fan of farm fresh eggs and it is one of my main source of protein. I’ve noticed if I buy grocery store eggs, they’re just not as agreeable with my digestive system. That’s why I buy farm fresh organic eggs that I get at the local farmers market, which in my opinion are exceptional eggs.

Shine On

The Wizard of Botany

“It is well for people who think,
to change their minds occasionally
in order to keep them clean.”
Luther Burbank

The Wizard of Botany

Luther Burbank and his dog Bonita circa 1925

 

I bet when you hear the word French fry, you associate it with the French or the Belgium who actually invented this recipe. But there’s one man you would never in a million years have guessed was responsible for the modern French fry. That man was Luther Burbank, a famous American botanist, horticulturist and pioneer in agricultural science. He created a disease resistant potato named the Russet Burbank potato which is the main source of McDonald’s French fries and most all French fry fast food.

Burbank made it his life‘s work to create new varieties of plants, ranging from flowers, fruits and even cacti. He is credited with creating over 800 new varieties of plants and received 16 plant patents.

He was one of the first botanist to cross pollinate fruits and flowers spending decades perfecting this cross pollination. For example, he cross pollinated plums and apricots to get the plumcot as well as cross pollinated four different types of daisies and spent 17 years to create the Shasta Daisy.

Shasta Daisy

Shasta Daisy

Not only a talented botanist admired for his work but also admired for his generosity and kind spirit. He was very interested in education and gave money to local schools. One US Senator stated, “he is doing more to instruct, interest, and make popular the work in the garden than any man of his generation.”

At seventy-seven years old, Burbank said: “I love humanity, which has been a constant delight to me during all my life; I love flowers, trees, animals, and all the works of Nature as they pass before us in time and space. What a joy life is when you have made a close working partnership with Nature, helping her to produce for the benefit of mankind new forms, colors, and perfumes in flowers which were never known before; fruits in form, size, and flavor never before seen on this globe; and grains of enormously increased productiveness, whose fat kernels are filled with more and better nourishment, a veritable storehouse of perfect food—new food for all the world’s untold millions for all time to come.”

Today, most people when they hear the name Luther Burbank might associate the name with the town of Burbank, California. However, that city was named after David Burbank, a New Hampshire born dentist and entrepreneur who established a sheep ranch there in 1867.

Burbank became world famous in the early 1970s, by Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show daily monologue jokes poking fun of the town where the tonight show was filmed, “Beautiful Downtown Burbank.”

Every single day we encounter something that Luther Burbank created because he was truly the wizard of botany.

Shine On

Pathway to Photography

“What we do during out working hours
determines what we have;
what we do in our leisure hours
determines what we are.”
George Eastman

 

Nicéphore_Niépce_Oldest_Photograph_1825

Earliest known photograph taken 1825, by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce,

Our photos today look very different from the ones that were taken just two centuries ago. It was even more rare to have a photograph of one’s self. In just 200 years, the camera advanced from a small black box that took blurry photos to our high-tech mini computers found in our smartphones.

The concept of photography has been around since the 5th century. By the 11th century, an Iraqi scientist developed something called the camera obscura and voilà, the art of photography was born.

This early camera did not actually record images, it simply projected them upside down onto another surface. The images could then be traced to create accurate drawings of real objects such as animals, people and buildings.

1920px-Daguerreotype_Daguerre_Atelier_1837

Daguerreotype Photo by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, 1837

Around 1830, French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first permanent type photograph. He created heliography, a technique used for the world’s oldest photographic process. Shortly after inventing this technique, he formed an alliance with French artist, Louis Daguerre. Together they developed a new photo processing technique known as, Daguerreotypes. To make these images was not only laborious but also dangerous. For them to shoot and process just one photo, they would polish a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish, treat it with fumes that made its surface light sensitive, expose it in a camera for as little as a few seconds; make the resulting latent image on it visible by fuming it with mercury vapor; remove its sensitivity to light by liquid chemical treatment, rinse and dry it, then seal the easily marred result behind glass in a protective enclosure.

Tintype Photo

1856 Tintype Photo

By 1856, a process known as, Tintype photos were made and became more affordable for the average person to obtain photos of family and places. The materials to make these tintype photos were inexpensive, durable and faster to process. Still, the process for capturing a tintype photo was not that easy. First, the subjects had to remain perfectly still and moving was a no-no. Often the photographer would use body stands for people to remain still for up to six to thirty seconds. The image was not captured on a piece of tin, but rather a thin piece of iron with a black enamel coating. One of the chemicals used in the tintype process was cyanide. Tintype photography became easier but the processing was still very dangerous.

Tintype photography saw the Civil War come and go, documenting the individual soldier and horrific battle scenes. It captured scenes from the Wild West, as it was easy to produce by photographers working out of covered wagons.

Photography was only used by professionals and the very rich until 1888 when George Eastman started a little company called Kodak.

Thanks to Kodak, anyone could take pictures. They just had to send the camera back to the factory for the film to be developed and prints made, much like modern disposable cameras. This was the first camera inexpensive enough for the average person to afford.

Professional photographers began to use small 35mm cameras to capture images of life as it occurred rather than staged portraits. When World War II started in 1939, many photojournalists adopted this style.

The film was still large in comparison to today’s 35mm film. It was not until the late 1940s that 35mm film became cheap enough for the majority of consumers to use.

At the same time that 35mm cameras were becoming popular, Polaroid introduced the Model 95. Model 95 used a secret chemical process to develop film inside the camera in less than a minute.

The Polaroid camera was fairly expensive but the novelty of instant images caught the public’s attention. By the mid-1960s, Polaroid had many models on the market and the price had dropped so that more people could afford it. Unfortunately, in 2008, Polaroid stopped making their famous instant film and took their secrets with them.

Although the French introduced the permanent image, the Japanese brought easier image control to the photographer. By the 1950s, Asahi (which later became Pentax) introduced the Asahiflex and Nikon introduced its Nikon F camera. These were SLR-type cameras and the Nikon F allowed for interchangeable lenses and other accessories.

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, compact cameras capable of making image control decisions on their own were introduced. These “point and shoot” cameras calculated shutter speed, aperture, and focus, leaving photographers free to concentrate on composition.

By the mid 1980s, numerous manufacturers worked on cameras that stored images electronically. The first of these were point-and-shoot cameras that used digital media instead of film.

Kodak developed the first digital camera in 1975, but dropped the product for fear it would threaten Kodak’s main income, its photographic film business. However, they decided in 1999 to produce the first digital camera that was advanced enough to be used successfully by professionals. Other manufacturers quickly followed and today Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and other manufacturers offer advanced digital SLR (DSLR) cameras.

Mr. Niépce would be proud to see his hard work in the invention of a technique used to create the photographic process was the pathway to modern photos.

Shine On