Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thank you dear viewers!

Wow, I'm humbled.  Thank you all for visiting my blog.
I am now one semester away from earning another college degree.  To complement my B.A. I'm working on a B.S. at Western Governors University.  Once I finish my studies, I should be able to again spend more time blogging, but until then ... it's back to the books for me.
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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse

Cyndi and I traveled to Zion National Park in Utah to enjoy the solar eclipse of 20 May 2012.  We checked out the area the day before the eclipse and settled on the Hop Canyon Trailhead on Kolob Plateau.

The sandstone features were amazing all by themselves, so we figured we'd enjoy the scenery as well as the astronomical event.
Here's a detail view, looking over toward Kolob Canyon (which we had visited the previous day ... but that's another story altogether).

The moon slowly passed in front of the sun and over the course of an hour covered more and more of the bright star.  Cyndi's brother Derek had presented us with eclipse viewing filters when we visited him on the way down.  Good thing, too, because my imagination told me the sun would be way down on the horizon at sunset so would be seen by the camera lens.  To be sure, the camera would not have seen the eclipse at all without this filter in front of the lens.  Thank you Derek!

As the light took on sunset hues, even though the sun was still rather high in the sky, I noticed I was being observed.  This Long-tailed Weasel had passed nearby with something in her mouth, and was now hiding in some oak leaves intently watching me.

As the moon obscured more of the sun the camera began to give sharper images of the crescent sun.

The mystery was solved as this mother weasel and her baby ran across the open rocks and disappeared into the sagebrush uphill of my vantage point.  During the eclipse she passed by me repeatedly, once shuttling two young, but otherwise just escorting one to the relative safety of the scrub and brush on the hillside behind me.  I counted 5 young ones during these trips.  What a great sideshow!

This is what it looked like at the moment the moon appeared to me to be most centered on the sun.  The moon was only completely in front of the sun for just a bit more than 6 minutes.

Then the moon began to pass away from the sun and the magical light faded away as it became progressively brighter for the next hour until we were back to our usual experience.

I had been unable to see the new moon the day before the eclipse, or on the day, or even the day after ... but two days later, at sunset, there she was once again ... the smallest sliver near Venus.

Though this kind of photography highlights well any "dead pixels" on my digital camera CCD sensor, in this instance the tiny speck to the right of the limb of the moon really is a faint star.

Show's over folks, nothing more to see here.  Get back to work, and there's studying to be done.  Don't even think about bird photos!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pottery Class

Blog posts are few and far between for me these days. I've just finished up another six-month semester toward my degree in Information Technology with a Security emphasis. I have about a year to go, including the most difficult certification they offer and a final thesis I must propose and prepare.

Unrelated to the actual studies toward the degree, I have been engaged in two extracurricular activities. I go to English Country Dance once a week taught by Gordon Dodge. (If you've ever seen Pride and Prejudice you've seen that stylized form of dance. If you're curious, just Google the phrase English Country Dance to find a bunch of YouTube videos.) The second activity has been pottery class taught by Jerry Hendershot of Parched Earth Pottery. Cyndi, Emily and I have made a few pots to completion now, and here are the results.

I tended to prefer the glossy glazes in bold, primary colors often over a black base. Cyndi, on the other hand, utilized white and matte finishes with more natural and subtle color blends. This glaze was thick and near the bottom of the barrel, so my hand dipping resulted in a narrow band of glassy glaze near the rim which fired in place in three-dimensional heavy drips of deep blue over the natural clay base.

Here is a shallow dish about six inches across made by Cyndi. The crackle in the thick glaze appeared as the green glaze shrank and dried, and it persisted through firing.

This weighty urn-like piece has a blue glaze inside and out over a black underlayer. I had placed some texturing on the clay before glazing and that may have allowed a few air bubbles to persist under the glaze. I see a few bubbles in the surface texture of the glaze. I was working on maintaining control during the process of throwing the pottery on a wheel by trying to make a cylinder of even thickness and diameter greater than six inches high. With a bit more practice this will be accomplished.

Here is another shallow dish Cyndi made. It has white gloss outside though this photo taken at a high angle only hints at the white near the base. It has a wonderful blend of green earth tones swirling together inside.

I mentioned Cyndi prefers the matte finish, and here we see the flat black glaze inside and used for a few accent drips over a wonderful weathered bronze color which brought out the exterior texture of this bowl. We were shown how to make a foot on our pieces, and learned that it is functional in that the heat of food is not as readily transmitted if there is a ring of pottery which keeps the entire hot surface off a table or counter ... and it makes holding the pot to dip it into glaze much easier.

When I first threw a pot the clay took its own form, which was bowl shaped. This one made itself as one of my very first attempts. Mastery of the form requires attention to which hand presses the clay during throwing, and which hand merely acts as a backstop to keep the whole thing an even thickness. When I glazed it I predicted that it would be a rather boring form with a dull single color glaze ... but to my surprise the differing thickness of the glaze along with the subtle variations of the clay surface resulting from the manufacturing process created a wonderful range of colors from brown to blue-green. It is one of my favorites, and has already proven to hold water as we ate soup out of it! Yay, it does not leak.

Cyndi created this delightful bowl in green and white. It is a joy to behold and a tactile treat as well with smooth glaze over a sensual curved form.

I felt I had to provide two images of this final piece I'll show here today. The white glaze over black gloss dried with small cracks which opened even further during firing as the black underlayer repelled the white overlayer, creating what I call "bird tracks" which make me smile. If you were there when I poured a bit of white glaze inside and attempted to swirl it into a paisley form which would evoke memories of a yin-yang Taoist symbol you would have heard me express disappointment as the watery glaze took a path of its own choosing. As in life so it goes in pottery. We make our plans and try to control the results, which often have a way of ignoring us and then surprising us with the unexpected.

Here it is from the outside, showing the bowl form. I initially intended to just use blue over black, but it seemed too spartan and I then added the white on a whim, which in retrospect I deem a wise choice. Blue, white and black. They do go together well, to my eye. This one, too, has served as a soup bowl at dinnertime.

I'll admit that the process of making these was time-consuming; at times even frustrating. Cyndi started us on this path, by purchasing a Christmas gift of pottery lessons. Thank you! It was all worth it, and greatly appreciated.

Since this isn't a class that gives a grade, I'll provide myself with a "pass". And now, for extra credit, Raku! I have two bisque fired pots, and we'll be doing Raku soon. I can't wait.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2012, Here We Go!

Looks like 2012 is off to a great start. The sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular. Here's sunrise earlier this week.

Cyndi and I have been involved in various pursuits to try to stay active and creative. She's invited me to her English Country Dance group, and they put up with my mistakes in a most collegial way, so I'm giving it a try. I'll let you know when the YouTube video is ready for prime time.

Last weekend Cyndi, her daughter Emily, and I took a class in pottery. I threw a few bowls and a plate.

Cyndi bought Emily a class in glass blowing, and Emily made some marvelous Christmas ornaments. This one was very colorful!

And, Cyndi took a class in enamel, and one of the results is pictured below.

Snowy Owls have been in the news, wandering far south of their usual arctic haunts. On Christmas Eve Cyndi and I went to see a pair of them that came to a nearby town. Here's the whiter one.

We went back again today, and though it was in a different field it was still in the same general area. This time I tried to photograph it through my scope.

So far 2012 has been an exciting year, and I have high hopes for adventure and excitement as the year unfolds. Looks like there's gonna be an annular eclipse of the sun sweeping across the continent not to far from me. Count me in.