Thursday Shorts ~ July 17


* Zion Meadow: another shot here from the natural zoo in a vacant lot. (Click image to enlarge). If you never have taken insect images, here’s your chance. If you can recognize milkweed (around here, right now, you can’t miss it) then your chances are excellent of finding these red milkweed beetles. Finding them, they will most likely be, er, doing the wild thing. And they really don’t care if your lens is just an inch away. You keep snapping and they’ll just keep on–posing. However, do not eat. Red among insects (etc) often says “if you eat me you’ll be sorry”. In this case, your regret (even beyond the fact that you’d eaten an insect) would be from the toxins in the latex (milky sap) of the milkweed. Monarch butterflies (whose caterpillars feed on milkweed) are recognized and avoided by birds after a gaggy first sample.

* Task To Do: Find suitable images of Floyd in the Fall to submit by request to a medium circulation magazine, possible cover. Darn. Success means finding pictures of landscapes taken in PORTRAIT orientation with some clear, featureless open space above for cover text yet rich enough of features in overall composition to still be interesting. That’s a tough order for a photographer, but something I’ve started paying more attention to. Sometimes, the portrait can be cropped from the landscape view–if the image is taken in RAW format. Then, it might hold up to 8.5 x 11 enlargement.

* Task Done: Our neighbor finally was able to come and cut, windrow and bale our pasture yesterday afternoon. While the large round bales are visually interesting, I couldn’t make much of the scene photographically just now. I took a few shots (avoiding the very large yellow jackets nest marketed by a white rag tossed from the tractor, thanks for the warning. )

* Baby Steps: The printer arrives today. I have no paper for it. And therein lies another outlay of cash–to keep on hand a supply of luster, glossy and matte papers in commonly needed dimensions. I’m looking for a one-stop site from which to order both inks (hard to find yet for the new model 2880) and paper. Any recommendations?

* Forms: the Society of Environmental Jouralists is coming to Roanoke in October. The central focus is on America’s future with regard to coal and its many costs. I’m in the process of filling out the application form to join the association, then will send in conference fees. I am not spending anything for writers conferences this year more out of sheer inaction than as a statement. But I feel the need to have my batteries recharged. So we’ll see.

* Forms II: The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge is (sit down for this) asking writers to join. I’m all in favor of those who create with words gaining more visibility in our visually oriented, hold-it-in-your-hands manifestation of what is artful. But I’m not sure what the writers’ corollary to a gallery showing would look/sound like. Writing is art, but it is enough different from tapestry weaving (even though some writers spin yarns) that it seems destined to take a back seat to the tangible arts, the material arts. Still, I might just join and see what happens.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Magazines should start printing in landscape orientation rather than make us turn our cameras on edge. They’d get a lot more material for covers.

  2. Fred,

    I’ve been buying photo print papers for my Canon printer from for some time and I’m pleased with their service and selection.

  3. My husband has checked all the ink providers and says atlex is the cheapest for real Epson inks. He also uses atlex for his papers. Atlex is $11 something a cartridge compared to $18 retail. Most other online sellers are $14- $15.
    Congratulations on gettng a request to submit photos for a magazine cover!! I’m confident a cropped photo will do fine for 8 x 11. I’m sure your camera has more than enough pixels. Think of what people were using only a few years ago!