Blue on Blue

A close-up view of the face of a juvenile great blue heron

I laughed while editing this picture when I realized I spent more time with this young great blue heron during the winter and spring than any other being not living in my house. Alas it wasn’t true, I spent much more time with my friends at work, but true enough.

It’s rare that I get to know a particular bird, even visiting Ridgefield so consistently it is difficult to be sure a bird I see one day is the same one I saw in the same location previously. But this juvenile never strayed far from Horse and Long Lakes during the winter and spring. It was fun to see it learn the ropes, avoiding the territory of the older herons, fleeing the madness and mayhem that wandering too close to a red-winged blackbird nest brings.

Sometimes I just watched rather than take pictures, these lakes can draw a crowd as they sit at the start of the auto tour. And bringing out the big lens can attract even more attention, too much of which might cause the heron to take flight. But on this early morning in late February we were alone, the young blue heron in the soft blue light, giving me a look I had long hoped for.

Love & Loss

Our cat Templeton in front of my 15 inch Powerbook

After the long writeup about workflow in the previous post, one more thought about tools. This is a picture of Templeton with the 15″ Powerbook I referenced in that post, my favorite computer of all time until my current MacBook Pro.

The picture was taken in January 2006 while Templeton was recuperating from surgery to remove the sewing needle he swallowed right before we left on Christmas vacation. He had to be kept from running and jumping, and isolated from Scout, so one of us stayed with him in the guest room while the other stayed with Scout. He had to wear a plastic cone to keep him from pulling out his stitches, but we gave him supervised time with it off so he could relax and clean his fur away from the incision.

I left the room for a brief moment and came back to find him sitting at my laptop, paws on the trackpad as though he was settled in for work. What he had really done was an old Templeton standby, though.

He had stolen my spot.

Templeton and my 15″ Powerbook. I loved them both. I miss one. Important as they are, tools are just tools.

Bool’s Tools


One of the podcasts I listen to, Enough by Patrick Rhone and Myke Hurley, has been asking their guests what applications they would install if they had to get by with a MacBook Air (and its 64 GB of storage) as their main computer. After listening to the their choices I took a look at my own and a couple of small things surprised me.

The first was that when I looked at my list of installed applications I didn’t have as many third party applications as I expected. This is partly because I’ve used a laptop as my main computer for many years, and up until the latest was always hard pressed for hard disk space, but it’s partly a conscious choice. Since switching to the Mac years ago I’ve used Apple’s applications by default and only look elsewhere when I find them confining.

The second was that I looked at each application in my dock and thought about how often I use these apps today to make sure they still make sense to be there. As a result I ended up taking Photoshop out of the dock, marking the first time since I got into photography it hasn’t owned a prime location in the dock or Windows task bar.

The Workflow

Here’s a rough list of my workflow moving pictures from field-to-web, and the tools I’m currently using at each step:

  1. Take notes in the field (Moleskine and uni-ball)
  2. Download pictures from memory card to computer (Photo Mechanic)
  3. Backup up the hard drive (SuperDuper!)
  4. Make a first pass at choosing which pictures will be edited or rejected (Photo Mechanic)
  5. Make a final pass at choosing which pictures will be edited or rejected (Aperture)
  6. Edit the pictures (Aperture)
  7. Hedgehogging (Ellie) and belly rubs (Scout, Emma, Sam)
  8. Goof around (Safari, NetNewsWire Lite, iTunes)
  9. Resize to create web and thumbnail versions (Photoshop)
  10. Upload the web and thumbnail versions (Photo Mechanic and Transmit)
  11. Update the website (BBEdit) or blog (MarsEdit)

The Moleskine & the uni-balls

I’ll start with the new pens and paper I purchased for taking notes while taking pictures before moving on to the software. The uni-ball pens use gel ink and write much more smoothly and consistently than my old pens. So far I prefer using the finer Signo RT Gel (0.38mm point) for writing in the Moleskine and the wider Signo 207 Gel (0.5mm point) for general use.

The large red Moleskine notebook is beautifully crafted to the point I was a little concerned I wouldn’t risk exposing it to the same weather conditions as the previous cheap notebook. But it poured rain my second day out with it and even in the car I knew I couldn’t keep it from getting a little wet, so I was happy to see I was as willing to let the new gear suffer the slings and arrows of rainy fortune as the old.

I would like to try some Field Notes notebooks before my next big hiking trip, they are much smaller and thinner and better suited to long day hikes, but not as well suited to my days at Ridgefield.

OS X Lion

I discussed upgrading to Lion a bit in the previous post, but I’ll mention it again as the screenshot shows the new Mission Control feature, where you can see little snapshots of many of the tools I’ll discuss. Plus a few sneak peaks of pictures that will be coming online soon (starting with my current desktop picture of a young heron I watched throughout the winter and spring).

Mac App Store

One of my favorite applications on the Mac is the Mac App Store itself. When I upgraded laptops four months ago, I decided to do a clean install for once. All I had to do was enter my Apple ID and Aperture and all the other apps I bought at the App Store installed like magic. Simple. Beautiful.

Contrast that with installing Photoshop.

After finding the install disc and letting it run, it asked for a serial number, which in and of itself isn’t too bad as its on the disk case, but does get tiresome when you have to do it for app after app. But then because I was doing a clean install and didn’t have Photoshop already on my system, and since my CS5 version is an upgrade version, it also wanted a serial number from an earlier version.

Oh corks!

I had forgotten about this step as I usually don’t do a clean install of the OS. With a brief bit of panic I started searching to see if I still had one of the older DVD’s around. I’ve upgraded Photoshop through many versions over the years and used to keep all of the boxes lined up in my bookcase, but in a rare bit of office cleaning I got rid of most of them. Fortunately I didn’t throw out the previous versions discs and was able to enter its serial number as well. I’m sure a phone call to Adobe would have sorted it out soon enough if I had lost the older serial number, but it illustrates why I now buy all my software through the App Store when possible.

Photo Mechanic

I’ve used Photo Mechanic for the past five years to download my images from a card reader and quickly sort out the rejects from the keepers. I’ve been looking to move away from Photo Mechanic as its target audience is photo journalists and I don’t need any of that functionality, but while Aperture does have the ability to download pictures and compare them, so far I’m still much better and faster at doing this in Photo Mechanic.

I’ve also come to use it as my general purpose image viewer so I nearly always have Photo Mechanic fired up for one use or another.


I’ve written before about how I fell backwards into using Aperture, the photo processing program from Apple. I’m still learning the ropes but getting more comfortable with it, using multiple libraries is rather clumsy but otherwise there is a lot to like. I especially like the way it handles RAW images from my Canon 7D and how easily it works when I hook up my laptop to my external display.

There’s a sneak peak of an upcoming picture in the Aperture icon on the screenshot above (it’s up near the top since it is running in full-screen mode), I still have a lot of sorting and editing to do before this picture comes online, but the little tree swallow was one of my favorite (and most anxious) encounters.

My biggest worry with Aperture is Apple’s long-term commitment to it, it’s not central to their business which gives me pause, but for now I love the way it handles my 7D’s files so it is my photo app of choice.

Photoshop CS5

I took Photoshop out of my dock a week or so ago with a heavy dose of nostalgic regret. I started using Photoshop 4.0 back in college and it has occupied a prized spot in my Windows task bar or Mac dock ever since. But since I switched to Aperture for my photo processing, I primarily only use Photoshop for resizing images for the web, and I since I send the files directly from Aperture there isn’t a need for it in my dock anymore.

I do use Photoshop for other things at times, but it is a professional application with a professional price so now that I’m not relying on Camera Raw for my photo processing, I’m not sure if I’ll keep upgrading it or not. It’s a little similar to what will happen when we upgrade the Civic: I’ve driven a stick shift since I bought my first car in college, but on the next car I’d prefer a continuously-variable transmission instead.

Time marches on, needs and desires change, and thus sometimes my tools must too.


Something that hasn’t changed much, to my discredit, is my main site at which still revels in its mid-90’s look. I’ve hand coded it since the beginning and since my knowledge of web design hasn’t evolved much since then, neither has the site. Another thing that hasn’t changed is the program I use for writing the HTML code, BBEdit from Bare Bones Software. I started using it back when I first got my Mac and have used it ever since.

I would like to upgrade the look and functionality of my site at some point but the driver will probably be when I get an iPad, as navigating the site with fingers isn’t so easy. I’ll need to decide then whether to keep writing it myself or go with a pre-made site like Squarespace, or perhaps even WordPress. But for now, HTML and BBEdit it is.


Safari didn’t exist back when I switched to the Mac but it’s been my primary browser from the day that it did. I keep Google’s Chrome browser on my system since I don’t have Flash installed on my computer, so I use Chrome’s built-in Flash for the rare times I need it (primarily Amazon’s music and video services). I keep Firefox installed too, mostly for testing purposes.

Safari is even better in Lion so it remains my browser of choice.


When it’s time to upload images for the blog or website I drag them from Photo Mechanic into one of my all-time favorite programs, Transmit, from Portland-based Panic. Back when I thought I was going to be leaving the Mac, one of the reasons I decided to keep using my MacBook for everything but photo processing was Transmit. On the one hand it makes no sense to not want to abandon a platform because of an FTP program, even one as nice as Transmit, but part of it is that they seem to be a great little company and I’m happy to support them. And part of it is well-designed apps like this just make my computing experience simpler, and more enjoyable.

And that’s enough.

I’ve been using Transmit since 2004, I had been on the Mac for a little while at that point and was using a freeware FTP program that I wasn’t very happy with. Then someone recommended Transmit, I downloaded the trial, and I think I set the record for the fastest time I’ve gone from trying out some software to deciding to buy it. I upgrade every time a new version comes out without even thinking about it, it’s always worth it.

NetNewsWire Lite

I can be a bit scatter-brained so I rely on automatic feeds to tell me when my favorite sites get updated, and I’ve always used NetNewsWire for this task. When the new Lite version popped up on the App Store, it replaced the older but more full-featured version I had been using.

Another one of those programs that makes me happy to be on the Mac, great software from great developers.


You can’t see this from the screenshot, but I recently got DoublePane from the App Store and I love it. It does something I think you can do in Windows 7 by default, which is to use keyboard shortcuts to snap a window to the left or right half of the screen. Just the thing when I’m ready to upload images, I can snap Photo Mechanic to the left half of the display, Transmit to the right, then drag images from one to the other. Then with another keyboard shortcut, Photo Mechanic is back at full size.

A fantastic little time saver and highly recommended if you need to use windows side-by-side.


Also not visible in the screenshot above is SuperDuper! from Shirt Pocket. I use it daily to create a bootable clone of my laptop’s hard disk onto an external disk, as well as special situations like before I upgraded to Lion. I haven’t tried Time Machine yet, which serves a similar but different purpose, but SuperDuper has given me peace of mind for if and when my laptop hard drive falters.

Another great piece of software from a long-time developer on the Mac. There’s a theme here.


I’m not a power user of mail apps, I used Outlook Express when I was on the PC and have used Apple’s Mail ever since I switched. It got a major upgrade with the Lion release and I’m still finding my way around it, but I like what I’ve seen so far.


Not specifically related to photography but iTunes so completely transformed the way I listen to music (for the better) that I couldn’t help giving it a plug. It tries to do too much these days but when it comes to music, I love it and use it constantly when I’m listening to music or podcasts as I edit my pictures or write my posts.


MarsEdit also isn’t in the screenshot but that’s because I was evaluating it while writing this post. It’s an offline editor for blog posts, and it made writing this post so much so easier than the web browser version provided by WordPress that I bought it from the Mac App Store before finishing this post.

And with that, I’m finishing this post.

Categorized as Mac

The Love of a Dog

Our dog Ellie starts to stick out her tongue while relaxing at Irving Park in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

Sentient or not, Ellie’s stomach got upset after the 4th of July weekend and Monday morning and evening we had the pleasure of cleaning up after she pooped in the house. Sometimes she gets diarrhea like this when she eats something she’s not supposed to, but to the best of our knowledge she’s had no misadventures lately. My wife moved her right away onto a bland diet of rice and chicken and she regained control of her bowels.

It’s possible it’s stress related from all of the fireworks activity. When it got loud on the evening of the 4th I closed all the windows despite the heat to help deaden the sound and ease the nerves of the cats who were hiding under beds and couches. Ellie didn’t show much outward sign of distress, and although she would look up at me when a boom was especially loud or close, she always settled back down when I told her it was OK.

If she thought it was doggie Armageddon, she didn’t seem too concerned that she wasn’t being raptured, so long as we were together. That is unconditional love.

Our dog Ellie sticks out her tongue while relaxing at Irving Park in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon


Our cats Sam and Scout snuggling in the cat seat in the picture window in July 2011

Another change I made to the Giving of Treats is to swap out the treat I give to Scout. While she still likes the WildSide Salmon dried salmon treats, she wasn’t eating them with the same fervor so I decided to mix things up a bit. I started off with Whiskas Wild Alaskan Salmon Flavor Temptations, a little treat with a crunchy whole grain shell and a meaty treat inside. Despite the name, the first ingredient is chicken meal and the wild Alaskan salmon flavor (whatever that is) is one of the last, but Scout loves them. She’s normally a bit picky about food so it’s nice to find another treat she gets excited about.

Sam likes them too, but that’s not too surprising, Sam likes just about everything. He has gotten more tolerant of Flea Medicine Night, a monthly ritual necessitated by Scout’s flea allergy, partly with experience I suppose and partly because I started giving the cats a few treats afterward to soothe their injured souls. Now instead of hiding from me for a few hours afterward, Sam has learned it is treat time and he doesn’t even resist his treatments with the same vigor that he used to — in other words, I don’t end up bleeding anymore.

Emma is another picky eater and while she likes the wet food she gets in the mornings, and sometimes eats the dried salmon treats, I have not yet found a dried treat she will consistently eat. I picked up a couple of new Temptations flavors, Free Range Chicken and Yellow Fin Tuna, to see how they would be received. I had little doubt Sam would love them but really hoped Emma would take to them too.

On the latest flea night I assembled the three cats after their treatment, each a little irritable but each eyeing the treat bags I held in my hands. Emma didn’t like any of the treats, a disappointment but not a surprise, while Scout loved them all. The biggest surprise was Sam, who not only didn’t like the new flavors but actually spit them out!

Scout, who was learned well from her Snuggle Twin, body blocked Sam out of the way and devoured his spurned treats and Emma’s too, not a normal behavior for our gentle Queen. I guess it’s safe to say she likes these treats!

I have given her the Tuna flavor the last few days in the mornings, the first time after I handed her the last treat she swatted my empty hand with her paw. I thought it an aberration until she did it again the following morning. This morning though she just buried her head in my empty hand and rubbed her head through my fingers to capture any fleeing evanescences from the departed treats.

Sentient Beings

Ellie relaxing in the off-leash dog park in Irving Park in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

I’ve made a couple of modifications to our morning ritual of treats for the pets. We had started giving Ellie Checkups once a day, a white dog-shaped treat that is supposed to be good for her teeth. When we discovered this is by far her favorite treat of all, instead of giving Ellie a charcoal dog biscuit in the morning she now gets her white bone.

And oh how she loves them! When I open the door to the closet where we keep them, she runs into my office and quickly lies down on her dog bed, so intently focused that she doesn’t move apart from her big black tail which wags furiously.

My wife takes her about once a week to doggie day care so she can spend the day socializing with other dogs. She normally enjoys this and doesn’t need any encouragement to go out the door, but one day my wife was running ahead of schedule and was ready to leave while I was still feeding Scout her treats, and thus before Ellie had gotten her highly anticipated white bone. When my wife called her, Ellie got up and started for the door but then returned to me and half-sat and half-stood, torn between obeying my wife’s call and waiting for her treat, as if she were being controlled by two minds.

I think her stomach has become self-aware.

A Reward Paid in Black-and-White

A pied-billed grebe starts to sink down into Long Lake at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Another reward for spending all of Mother’s Day at Ridgefield was a chance to photograph this pied-billed grebe in breeding plumage in Long Lake. These grebes are so commonly seen at Ridgefield that it’s a rare visit when I don’t spot one, but they are both small and shy and thus have generally eluded my lens. I got some nice pictures of them this winter, but on this day I got my opportunity to photograph one with a pied bill (they only have it in their breeding plumage).

And to top it off it’s doing my favorite pied-billed trait, sinking slowly into the water before diving!

There is an audio guide that goes along with the auto tour at Ridgefield, and while the audio at this point is difficult to make out it seems to me they suggest that the pied-billed name comes from the black ring on the bill resembling a pie stain (such as you might find ringing a child’s mouth after it eats a piece of pie). I’m not sure if I’m not hearing it correctly or if they are being a bit tongue-in-cheek (not that I would ever do such a thing here!), but I believe the name comes from the old English usage meaning black-and-white (as in the magpie), and which eventually came to mean multi-colored.

Thus I think the name is more Pied Piper than Purple Pieman.