The catching of feathers

January 24th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Feathers at the Dam

Alright guys, whoever was preening upstream and didn’t clean up after themselves, raise your wing. I know it isn’t politically correct to profile, but I know it was one of you pekins. Fess up!

At the top of the millpond dam, ice coats the surface as the water floats below it. Anything floating is caught by this ice. Nine feathers were caught around midnight on January 22, 2010 when I took this shot. It’s much more attractive than the mass of gooey bread I saw there a couple of days before. I didn’t shoot that. Not only were the feathers caught, they were aligned which you can see more easily in the larger version. Note how the quill end of each points upstream. Interesting.

Microclimates: the sinking of leaves

January 24th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

The Sinking of Leaves

When conditions are right — temps just below freezing, still air, and sunshine — leaves resting on fresh snow slowly sink. Each dark leaf acts as a tiny solar heat collector that warms the snow crystals touching its underside just enough to melt them. Down goes the leaf a fraction of an inch. The melted crystals help melt more snow below them as the leaf slowly drops. The holes are the exact shape of each leaf including the stem. Above are 2 shots of the same leaf: a top view and one from the side so you can see that the leaf is about 2″ below the snow’s surface. Note how the stem slices through the snow as it sinks; you can just barely see it. Click the image to see a larger version. A desktop pattern (1920 x 1200 pixels) of the top view in very crisp focus is also available.

Homage to Hopper

January 22nd, 2010     5 comments     permalink

Homage to Hopper

Nighthawks by Edward HopperThe Manhattan streets are empty and the guests aren’t relating to each other in “Nighthawks.” Edward Hopper (1882-1967) began painting it in 1942 shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack. Americans were wounded and stunned. The painting strikes a chord in the American heart. Why? What is there about it that moves us? Why has it been a springboard for many other works of art including my humble snapshot of a mobile refreshment stand on Main Street in Brighton for the Smokin’ Jazz Festival in September, 2009?

Kevin Grandfield believes it’s Hopper’s depiction of loneliness. He wrote about it after visiting 47 museums exhibiting Hopper’s work to ask people if they felt as isolated as the imaginary ones in the paintings.

The Brighton streets weren’t empty on the night I took this picture. The crowd was an affable bunch. My camera captured the vendors in eye-to-eye conversation rather than dazed silence. Like a moth, I was drawn to the light illuminating the smoothie stand. It’s identical to Hopper’s flourescent glow.

Demon Dog

January 21st, 2010     Comments Off on Demon Dog     permalink

Demon Dog
Original Image for Demon DogDigital cameras are great. You can take boatloads of shots and delete all but the few keepers. It’s also fun to resuscitate crappy ones like this.

Artists need to play, to refill the reservoir, to explore and blaze trails. This terrible blurry shot (right) reminded me of paintings by Francis Bacon and illustrations by Marshall Arisman. So I altered it in Photoshop and played. It’s not something I want on my wall, but Arisman says that’s okay:

“I don’t know why anybody buys my paintings. I really don’t. I wouldn’t want to live with these goddamn things…. I like them in my studio because I don’t have to live with it every day. They’re not in my living room. I can avoid them. That’s why I like books, because there are some days I want to look at Hieronymus Bosch, and other days I want to look at Diane Arbus photographs, but not every day.”  — Marshall Arisman, 2005 interview at Tastes Like Chicken

This dog is no demon in real life. His name is Rex. He’s gentle, affectionate and loves to swim in the millpond and nip at the bubbles he creates. He dives in, swims until he’s tired, gets out, shakes off the water, and then dives in again.

The interplay of gloss and matt surfaces

January 21st, 2010     0 comments     permalink

The Gloss and Matt Finishes on the Pond

Claude Monet (1840-1926) spent the last thirty years of his life painting water lilies on his pond at Giverny. I don’t know if his pond ever froze over like ours does in Brighton. I was reminded of him when I took this shot at the millpond. The colors matched some of his paintings. What interested me most is the interplay of glossy and matt surfaces on the pond. The shiny patches reflect more light and the trees on the far shore. The larger version shows more detail, but it still doesn’t rival being there.

At the edge of the ice

January 20th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

At the edge of the ice

At the beginning of the millpond, Ore Creek flows out of a culvert. The water moves swiftly until the pond widens on its journey toward Main Street a half mile away. The movement keeps the surface from freezing solid for 100 yards or so except in severe cold snaps. Here, the ducks congregate along with the occasional Canada goose as shown here. This goose didn’t join its brethren in the southern migration due to a wing injury. It will probably spend its entire life at the millpond. The juxapositon of the smooth ice and rippled water is always interesting but especially so at dusk as seen here. Another sliver of open water exists at the other end of the pond before the water tumbles over the dam. Wildfowl hang out there, too.

Ikebana on ice

January 20th, 2010     1 comment     permalink

A twig emerges from the millpond

Ikebana is the Japanese art of arranging natural plant materials to create beauty. Here is a sparse winter arrangement the millpond created all by itself with the help of the wind to drift the snow in interesting ways and the sun to selectively melt a shallow dish in which to display it. Bubbles frozen beneath the surface add a subtle footnote. This was photographed in the fading blue and rose light of a cloudless day.

Close-up of the twig in ice

Maybe you left it at work

January 17th, 2010     1 comment     permalink

Sheriff's Department Clip-On Tie

The previous blog entry showed an item that was intentionally left behind. I’m sure this one wasn’t. I photographed it exactly as found — beside the white line of a parking space behind the courthouse (next to the millpond). This clip-on comes complete with a handsome seal of the State of Michigan on the “Sheriff Dept” tie bar and a few coffee stains which probably violate uniform regulations. On the morning of September 20, 2009, somewhere in Livingston County, one of our finest deputies uttered, “Honey, have you seen my tie?”

Hope is scratched, an offering made

January 16th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Scratched Dreams

Ah, the things I find on my walks. From time to time, I post them here with little regard for your sensitivity.  I’m too old to be shocked but I’m often amused, occasionally repelled, and frequently intrigued. I wonder about, and then imagine, the stories behind them. With so little information, it gives me a wide berth in which to dream.

September 13th was an unlucky day for one of the PondPeople™. Following their disappointment, they carefully positioned the shiny new penny (dated 2009) that scratched their hopes on top of the worthless ticket on the park bench and walked away. It was an intentional act. Why?

Blatant, Gratuitous Color

January 16th, 2010     3 comments     permalink

Purple Iris

After posting the previous entries, I realized this blog has been monochromatic for too long, and we’re not even half way through winter. Expect more snow shots in the coming months. It’s my world for a while. I’m returning to summer and brilliant sunshine for a moment to remind Michigan readers that color grows here and it’s glorious. Maybe we appreciate it more because of the gray months.

The iris are beside a pond in front of the First National Bank in Brighton on Challis Road. The peony, below, is in a parking lot at an apartment complex. Both are in urban settings although they don’t look like it in these photographs. The color of the peony is not accurate. My camera turns particular reds into shocking flourescent pinks sometimes. I don’t know why. I’ve reduced the saturation of this image but it still looks like it might glow in the dark. The iris can be a desktop pattern if you need a winter blues remedy. It’s very large. The larger peony photograph isn’t like this close-up. You can see the whole flower. Both photographs were taken in early June, 2009.

Red Peony

A river runs under it

January 16th, 2010     3 comments     permalink

Close up of waterfall under ice

underit_5013_350vWe had a couple of weeks where the temperature never got above freezing. “Brighton Falls,” the 5-foot cascade at the southern end of the millpond, became completely encased in an ice tunnel this year. The picture to the left shows the entire falls looking downward. At the very top, you can see a wedge of the millpond. The duck footprints give you an idea of the scale. The left and right sides of the stream aren’t shown here. They are ugly cement walls.

As water spills over the dam, droplets splash onto the cold cement and freezes. Ledges of ice build up on both sides of the channel and finally meet above the falling water. Fresh snow accumulates on this translucent natural bridge. At the base of the falls, a large bolder wears a necklace of frozen crystals that catch the late afternoon light. The beauty of the scene quickly fades beyond this rock. The stream enters a cement culvert and travels unseen for an entire city block. It finds daylight again where the public rarely goes and rushes toward the city limits like a shoplifter.

I suspect the bridge is gone today. Afternoon temperatures have approached 40 degrees lately. Yet the bridge might have an encore performance this winter. Historically, our coldest week comes near the end of January.

A large bolder is ringed with an ice ledge


January 16th, 2010     1 comment     permalink

A Crack in the Millpond Ice

Haiti is in deep pain as I write this. Donate if you can.

Earthquakes are rare in Michigan, but I’ve experienced two tremors where objects move around a bit. Few people know that the Midwest had a earthquake 10 times larger than the one in San Francisco (1906) in 1811-1812 centered around New Madrid, Missouri that rerouted the Mississippi River. Damage covered 600,000 square kilometers, but that vast area wasn’t populated like tiny Haiti is today so there was little loss of life.

I was about eight when I experienced my first quake ice fishing with my dad on a small Michigan lake. The sound is difficult to describe. WWWWWWWWhhhhhaaaaaaaccccccckkkkkkk does it the best. The ice under my feet cracked while I was peering through at least a foot of ice watching my bait. We heard at least a half-dozen of these ruptures that day. The sound started at one side of the lake and, within a second or two, traveled to the other. The brittle ice doesn’t break apart. It just cracks from uneven pressures. Seasoned fishermen don’t bat an eye when it happens, but I still remember the first time I heard it five decades ago.

This picture shows minor cracks in the ice on the millpond along with an opened seed pod that scooted like an ice boat from a shoreline locust tree. Perhaps by spring, one of these seeds will germinate along the 100-mile meanderings of the Huron River on its way to Lake Erie.

Gift, Rapt

January 13th, 2010     2 comments     permalink

Bella, a 9-month old great dane

Ryan and BellaThe second reason people love dogs is that they are so damned easy to amuse. You can present them with a stick or snowball, and they are thrilled with you. Not only that, but they are happy to give you their rapt attention at any moment and right now is always a good time. They don’t have deadlines to meet, meetings to catch, or cell phones to check. Click to see what has grabbed this Great Dane’s attention.

I met Ryan Sawallich and his 9-month old Bella on a snowy evening walk in Brighton. Click the small thumbnail (left) to see a larger version of her at full stretch. It’s worth the effort. Oh, and the first reason? Their unconditional devotion.

Breeze-built cathedral arches

January 13th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Cathedral Arches in Snow

Looking down from the tridge at the drifting snow presented in the previous post, you can see the patterns created by the breezes and winds. Winter arrived early and temperatures have remained below freezing so accumulating snow continues to move. “Spring thaws” in January or February will freeze the snow in its current position and alter the patterns of future snowfalls.

Where snow rests and where it doesn’t

January 13th, 2010     2 comments     permalink

Drifting Snow

The piers of the millpond Tridge alter the wind patterns of the snowflakes as they slide along the glassy ice under the walkway. Apparently, the tridge retains enough warmth to occasionally melt the surface of the pond so it retains a rich, deep gloss while the rest of the pond lightens and becomes pitted. I like the subtle colors in this image: the dormant moss green of piers, the almost-black green of the water seen through the ice, the cool gray-blue of the steel brackets and the inviting pink of the setting sun on the snow and natural wood.

When gravity creates art

January 13th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Snow Pattern 1

This is a stretch. Bear with me. My dad liked light verse because he loved words. One of the poems he endlessly recited to me was written by Augustus De Morgan in A Budget of Paradoxes (1872) as a parody to a snippet from Jonathan Swift’s On Poetry: A Rhapsody (1733):

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.

Here’s the stretch: The same is true with dust or mist that adheres to windshields. They catch snowflakes and other snowflakes are caught by the first ones to land. They build upward and outward, sometimes make interesting patterns until either the weight of these cantilevered mounds causes a micro-avalanche or the breeze/temperature destroys them. Sometimes the reflected images in the glass add an additional element like in this image. Rather than fill this post with several images, I’ve placed them on their own page. I’m sure I’ll add more throughout the winter.

Trashing the Mini Cooper

January 12th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Advertisers rarely take big chances anymore. Their budgets are too tight and they’ve been beaten up for too many years. So it’s refreshing to see the occasional off-the-wall approach. Right after Christmas, shoppers in Amsterdam found piles of trash on the streets that looked like the debris left after opening Christmas presents. The largest was an empty cardboard box which appeared to be the largest gift opened on Christmas morning. Clever, soft campaign. Fun. Here’s the 1-minute video:

On Artists, Art, and Death

January 11th, 2010     2 comments     permalink

Like Nyro mentioned earlier, the songs of Kenny Rankin echo back to my earlier life in the 1970s. I haven’t followed his career since then. This past week, I read he had died in June at the age of 69 of lung cancer three weeks after his diagnosis. The gods were kind to him. I’m glad he didn’t have a prolonged and debilitating illness.
In reviewing his music on YouTube, I discovered his later works in the jazz realm. He continued to grow as an artist. He didn’t have to. He was compelled to move forward, to explore.  Like other successful artists, he said, “… it’s about the work ….” What is “the work,” you ask? It’s the delving into new territory, the creating of something from nothing. I think the most important skill for artists isn’t talent. Talent is plentiful. It’s courage. It’s bringing something fresh into being on a stage or canvas, in a kiln or movie reel. Kenny had more than a gift. He had the drive and the courage. This music will live on.

Like Nyro mentioned earlier, the songs of Kenny Rankin echo back to my earlier life in the 1970s. I haven’t followed his career since then. This past week, I read he had died in June at the age of 69 of lung cancer three weeks after his diagnosis. The gods were kind to him. I’m glad he didn’t have a prolonged and debilitating illness.

In reviewing his music on YouTube, I discovered his later works in the jazz realm. He continued to grow as an artist. He didn’t have to. He was compelled to move forward, to explore.  Like other successful artists, he said, “… it’s about the work ….” What is “the work,” you ask? It’s the delving into new territory, the creating of something from nothing. The most important skill for artists isn’t talent. Talent is plentiful. It’s courage. It’s bringing something fresh into being on a stage or canvas, in a kiln or movie reel. Kenny had more than a gift. He had the drive and the courage. What he contributed to music will live on.

Tail-dragging through winter

January 9th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Muskrat footprints in snow

For the past few months, I’ve become a fan of muskrat hunting with my camera as mentioned before. When the millpond iced over, I thought I could continue to hunt them because, in past years, I have occasionally spotted them above the ice. But they’ve been staying below the surface more than I expected. I rarely see footprints like these I spotted below one of the boardwalks. I think it’s because we haven’t had many warm days. If I had to drag my tail through the snow, I’d stay in my burrow, too.

Turning snowflakes into bubbles

January 9th, 2010     4 comments     permalink


It was an ordinary snowstorm, nothing special. I ventured out to take some photographs but the snowflakes obscured everything I shot. So I played in Photoshop with what I had. Above is what I started with. Below is the end result which you might like for a temporary desktop pattern in its larger size. Cheers.

Snowflakes Become Bubbles

Partying naked in Brighton

January 9th, 2010     1 comment     permalink

Naked Sculpture in Brighton, Michigan

Who says Brighton is a sleepy “bedroom community?” Here’s evidence we know how to have a good time! This naked guy was photographed New Year’s Eve at the millpond. Thank God he was modest enough to don beads and tinsel so he wouldn’t offend. The mylar balloons bobbled in the winter breeze. In 2006, there were efforts to remove this nice life-sized sculpture by Jay Holland due to his not-clearly-defined bronze genitalia being exposed for everyone to see. Honest. But the bruhaha has settled and he remains naked year ’round. The beads add a festive touch as they sparkle in the street lights. Too bad few revelers saw them. They were home sleeping.

Bronze sculpture by Jay Holland

Mallard Snow Angel: Slide, spin, and waddle

January 6th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Mallard Landing

I found this evidence of a mallard landing after a couple of inches of fresh snow had fallen on the ice-covered millpond. It appears the duck landed at the far right, slid on its breast about five feet (There aren’t any grooves showing its feet plowed, foot brakes so to speak, into the snow.) then made an abrupt 90-degree turn (note the wing marks) and waddled away.

The Blues of July 4th

January 6th, 2010     1 comment     permalink

Berries, Blue and Red

It’s odd how I think sometimes. Disparate bits slosh around in my mind and then sometimes well up loosely tied together into meaningless bundles. :-)

And so it is tonight as I prepared this luscious image of berries from the Farmer’s Market table of Turk Farms taken on July 4, 2009. The patriotic reds and blues are fitting of a day following the annual parade in Brighton, Michigan.

I’ve been thinking about Laura Nyro lately as I silently work on assignments, her songs play in my head. They are a part of my past which is pleasant to visit from time to time. In the Wikipedia entry about her, it states:

Nyro painstakingly guided co-producer and engineer Roy Halee using colour metaphors. Nyro could not understand musical notation, and used other analogies to communicate what she wanted.

I like the thought of her using colors in this way. Maybe that’s why she inserts “blue berry” in New York Tendaberry (1969). It’s her way of metaphorically describing her love of the city. The lyrics also include:

Firecrackers break and they cross
And they dust and they skate
And the night comes

Those fireworks aren’t of the July 4th variety. They are part of her neighborhood’s background noise. As an urban transplant, I know how the din of the city can envelop you; honking horns, random gunfire, and barking dogs. Most of us try to ignore those noises. Laura was acutely aware of them. Her songs dive from soft, melodic to screams of pain within a few bars. Laura’s friend, Nancy Friedman, recounts a 1979/1980 trip to the Berkshire home of Nancy’s parents:

“My mother reminds me that Laura asked them what that loud and unbearable noise was as she was holding her ears. They told her that it was the tent caterpillars eating the leaves, so you can imagine the enormous infestation that was reeking havoc on the forest and the sensitivity of Laura’s ears to be so disturbed by the sound.”

Both Laura and her mother died of ovarian cancer at 49. It’s encouraging to see her work endure. The comments left at her YouTube songs are from long-time devotees as well as listeners who have only recently discovered her body of work.

Memories of Summer

January 4th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

A perch beside Ore Creek

Do you notice the pattern? The temperature today dropped into the low single digits and I’m in denial. I stay inside looking at summer on my monitor to make reality disappear.

Ore Creek Chair and Table

Isn’t this a pleasant, buccolic summer image? Since I’ve been accused of making Brighton overly attractive, I’ll break the illusion with this one. The chair was within 15 feet of an asphalt road, a block from a car wash. When you sit here, the horizon is partially obscured by a 3-story apartment building and Belle Tire. You can hear car radios blare as they zoom down Grand River Avenue, a 5-lane slash through the city. Even long before the asphalt was laid, Claude Lorrain (c. 1500-1682) wouldn’t have considered painting here had he traveled with French fur traders to barter with the tribes. It lacks interesting outcrops or dramatic terrain.

But it is a tiny bay of serenity and a worthy place for sunset watching although you’ll have to bring your own table and chair. These have gone missing. Ore Creek flows through the weeds with little fanfare on its way to the Huron River. It enters a culvert under Grand River then becomes the half-mile long Brighton millpond.

Nightgardens to warm the winter

January 3rd, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Nightgarden 2

As winter builds to full strength here, it helps to look at summer flowers. As explained in my earlier post, I’m pursuing a series of images of gardens and foliage photographed after sunset. My camera’s flash does interesting things, good and bad. The camera-mounted flash can cause harsh shadows behind objects. It’s also easy to bleach out colors if I get too close. I’ve found it’s best to stand back ten feet and use my zoom. On the positive side, distracting background objects quickly fade into the unifying darkness. I use available light from street lamps if I can. Images taken at night sometimes surprise me. Colors may become richer or fade toward subtle grays. The wide open aperture often softens the focus very nicely. Stay tuned for more.

Blue Iris (detail)

These iris are a detail from a larger photo. Click through to see it. They are in the well tended garden at the Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hello 2010: Two Views of the Year

January 1st, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Two Bulldogs in Brighton

I encountered these pooches in mid-summer on the boardwalk at the millpond. One of them is named Petunia, but I can’t remember which. The one on the left is lunging forward but doesn’t look too happy about it. The other bulldog stands firm and smiles about being on a delightful walk. I go forth into 2010 like the dog on the left. Trepidation is the key word for this year.

Hi 2010: Glad to meet you

January 1st, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Mallard Duckling

This duckling seems like a good visual representative for cheering in the New Year since I don’t have a diapered baby to photograph. It was taken in mid-June and belonged to a family with seven other balls of fluff. I watched this brood grow up. In this shot, this guy is no longer a baby. He’s more like a teenager.

See Ya 2009: Brighton lacks a laundry hamper

December 31st, 2009     5 comments     permalink

Swinus Americanus

You’ll never see an image like this at! When my dad would see something like this, he’d look at me and say, “Evidence of Swinus Americanus,” and wink. I thought that was one of his clever original lines, but I typed it in Google today and found 78 references to it. The earliest I could find was in 1909, the year he was born.

I found these at about midnight within 4 feet of the millpond. In plain sight, not on some darkened path. It was on a Friday night in June. Not even a drunk teen would dare skinny dipping in the millpond because of the duck and goose droppings. I’m sure there’s a story. I’m content not knowing the details. Had I been thinking clearly, I should have encased this as a visual representation of 2009 and sent it to the Smithsonian.

  • Douglas Peterson
    Brighton, Michigan

    Artist • Designer
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    You'll find information about the resident ducks, birds, and critters residing at the Brighton millpond. I slip in my art and poetry, but my photography of wildlife and plants is the primary focus.

    Douglas Alden Peterson
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