A Long Time Ago

rockhouse-lake

It was about three years ago when I was walking along this small lake in West Virginia, really no more than a pond fed from an old surface coal mine, that I decided to further my education and pursue a Master’s degree.  Shear folly, of course, since I was well past the age that anyone should be entering graduate school, but still…..

After several weeks of web browsing and soul searching, I found a program in Environmental Policy and Management at American Public University and enrolled the same day.  My first class started in June 2014 and, since then, I have read thousands of pages and written hundreds more on topics ranging from environmental law and ethics to restoration ecology and landscape planning.  Nearly every weekend for the past 2 1/2 years has been consumed with reading government reports, scientific studies, and course textbooks while writing an 8 to 10 page paper on any number of topics.

Now I am nearing the end of my program.  I have submitted my capstone thesis and, on Christmas day no less, I’ll receive my final grade.  It’s been an amazing and thought-provoking experience that left me very little time to do other things, like writing this blog.  Now that it’s over, I can’t wait to get back to exploring nature, bird watching, hiking and photography, and dropping by here from time to time to share my experiences.

One question I have been pondering is whether to stick with this old blog or construct a new one.  For now, I think I’ll stay here.  I have to prove to myself that I am willing to make the time to read and write.  With so many false starts over the past couple years, it seems the prudent thing to do.

Oh yeah…the pond.  It’s called Rockhouse Lake and has a Facebook page (where I found the photo).  I sometimes go for walks there when I’m visiting my family.

 

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Cranberry Glades

A few weeks ago I published a rememberance of family vacations spent at Cranberry Glades.  Shortly after writing that article, my wife and I had the great fortune of visiting my childhood home.  On the way back to New Jersey, we stopped by Cranberry Glades for a quick hike.  The Glades were already boasting their fall colors under blue skies.  The temperature was perfect – what a beautiful place.

At about 750 acres, the Cranberry Glades are the largest area of bogs in West Virginia.   This unique ecosystem, which consists of 5 bogs, was preserved by the U.S. Forest Service in 1965 and protects over 60 species of plants, most of which are usually only found much farther north.  The gladed land is highly acidic and supports cranberries, skunk cabbage, sphagnum moss, and two types of carnivorous plants (purple pitcher plants and sundews).

A half-mile boardwalk traces along the edge of two bogs and through a small wooded area, giving you the opportunity to experience and enjoy this remarkable and ecologically-sensitive area.  I especially enjoy the boardwalk – slowly walking through the Glades, stopping here and there to enjoy an unusual plant or snap a photo.

Not far from the boardwalk, you can visit the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center.  Open from April through November, the Center has an exhibit hall and audio visual programs which provide interpretation of forest ecosystems and local history.  You will informational brochures and maps and, if you’re like me, a nature book or two to add to your library.

After so many years away, it was invigorating to re-visit one of my childhood stomping grounds.  I highly recommend the experience for everyone!

More Adventures in Photoshop CS4

click on image for larger view
As I was finishing up with my first round of online CS4 classes, we began to explore ways to restore and repair old images.  I’m really interested in this ability as my long range plans include scanning many of the old photos collected by my parents over the years, restore them, and publish a collection for my brothers and sisters.  

 After finishing the class, I began experimenting on this photo – an undated image sent by a former high school teacher of a parade float used to represent a school for kids living in Miflin, West Virginia; a coal camp located about 2 miles from my childhood home town.  Miflin still exists, but Miflin Grade School has long since disappeared into the mists of time.

click on image for larger view

Here is my first attempt at correcting and enhancing the original scanned image.    I utilized spot healing and healing brush tools, clone stamp, history brush, burning and dodging,  adjusted shadows and highlights, hue and saturation, and sharpening.  Once my processing was completed, I utilized the elliptical marquee tool to create a vignette and increased the canvas size to create a frame.

Fun stuff – it almost takes longer to type it out than to do it!  Constructive comments are welcome!