Tamron Tele-Macro Lens – Part 2

Quite frankly, I was so interested in getting a good telephoto lens, I essentially overlooked the macro features of the Tamron 70-300 Telephoto/Macro lens. On my daily walk around the yard, I discovered a small (less than an inch body length) green tree frog resting on the leaf of a lily. Finally, the “macro” feature of the lens came to mind.

It took a few minutes to determine how to switch to macro mode, and it was immediately obvious that I would need a tripod to steady the lens/camera combination.

The little green tree frog was my first subject. The first photo is maximum magnification by the camera and lens. The second is a cropped version of the photo to look at the detail captured by the lens.

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Green Tree Frog Resting on Lily Leaf (Original Photo)

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Same Photo as Above Cropped to Enlarge the Tree Frog

Next to the lily, there is a bed of pink and blue Vinca that attracts many small butterflies. One of the butterflies posed cooperatively for me as I adjusted the camera and tripod for its portrait.

Again there are two photos as above.The first is the full image captured by the camera, while the second has been cropped for composition and increased detail.

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Butterfly on Vinca – Original Photo as taken by Camera

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Cropped Version of Photo Above. Note Clear View of Proboscis Penetrating the Center of the Blossom for Nectar

I have been wanting to experiment with macro photography, and while this is not a traditional macro lens, the Tamron 70-300 Telephoto/Macro lens is delivering functional macro capability.

If anyone recognizes the butterfly, please leave a comment.


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A Ferry for Two…

Cars, That Is.

There are two ways to get from Ophelia, Virginia to Sunnybank, Virginia: either Hacks Neck Road to US 360 (18 miles) or via State Rt 644 (2 miles). A no-brainer, you say; “down State Rt 644!” Well, yes and no.

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The Sunnybank Ferry, the Northumberland, begins its ten-minute journey across the Little Wicomico River toward Sunnybank.

It is like this. The Little Wicomico River, some 300 yards wide, separates the two communities. But, there is a ferry for cars, so problem solved. Well sort of—yes during the daytime hours, and in good weather.

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A motor pulls the ferry along a cable to make the crossing.

Recently, visiting friends Ginger and Miller in eastern Virginia, we set out to explore coastal areas around the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. Miller mentioned a two-car “cable-ferry” near the town of Ophelia. Ferry boats are almost as strong an attraction for me as lighthouses.

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The Northumberland begins its 10-minute journey across the Little Wicomico River, near the Chesapeake Bay.

Cable ferries were common in the 1800s, but only a few still exist, and most are maintained for their historical and tourism value. The Sunnybank Ferry started out in much the same way in 1903. It was a privately-owned hand-pulled cable ferry to transport people, wagons, horses, cattle—whatever could be herded onto the ferry—for the 10-15-minute ride across the river. Later in 1912, a power boat was lashed to the side of the ferry to power it across the river.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) took over operation of the ferry in the 1930s. The ferry remained in service until 1954 when it was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel. In 1955, a new ferry, appropriately named Hazel, was built and service resumed. The Hazel was retired and replaced by the Northumberland, the Sunnybank ferry that is still in service today. Until 1985, the ferry continued to be tied to a workboat to drive it across the river, after which it was converted to a powered cable-ferry.

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A view of the Wicomico River. This is Chesapeake oyster country. One of the cables (left side of the ferry) can be seen being pulled out of the water.

The Northumberland crosses the river via two stationary cables stretched some 300 yards across the river. An engine-driven motor and pulleys pull the ferry along the cable. The cable lies on the bottom of the river–as the ferry moves along, it pulls the cable up in “front” of the ferry, and lets it return to the bottom behind the boat as it “crawls” along the cable.

The crossing takes about ten minutes. The free Sunnybank Ferry is something of a novelty, but it is a working ferry. Although, not just a tourist attraction, it may be worth the trip to experience one of only two working, powered cable ferries. There are other similar ferries across the country, but they are operated more for their historical and tourist value.

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The ferry is operated by one person. Here, he prepares to return to the other side to pick up more cars.

The Sunnybank ferry runs on a “casual schedule”—my words. If there is no traffic, the operator waits until a car arrives. If a car arrives on the other side of the river, he takes the ferry over to pick it up.

The ferry operates from sunrise to sunset, unless weather or high tides make the crossing unsafe. Typically, the ferry is shut down from 12:00 noon to 12:30 for the operator’s lunch break. Along the route to the ferry there are electronic signs indicating if the ferry is in operation.

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An Osprey nest guards the Sunnybank side of the river as we approach the landing.

There is one other similar VDOT cable-ferry in Virginia. The Merry Point Ferry on Rt 604, runs across the Corrotoman River between the towns of Merry Point and Ottoman in Lancaster County.

Incidentally, Virginia operates these two ferries as well as the more conventional diesel powered Jamestown ferries (some capable of hauling 40+ vehicles) at no charge.

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Sunset Cardinal

This fall I put a new bird feeder on the west side of the house, where it could be observed from our front porch. Birds have gradually become aware of the feeder and are beginning to show in good numbers, especially as cold weather begins to settle in here in Middle Tennessee.

I stepped outside yesterday evening and noted that the western location offers an opportunity I had not anticipated–sunsets.

Sunset Cardinal

Sunset Cardinal

©Jeff Richmond 2017



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“The Last Jedi” Does Not Disappoint

Yep. Went to see the latest incarnation of Star Wars, The Last Jedi.

In 1977–40 years ago–I saw the movie, Star Wars-A New Hope, and then Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back (1980). I really enjoyed them. It had all the elements I liked: Sci Fi, good heroes, really evil bad guys, reluctant but ultimately heroic good guys, a well-paced story with suspense and action, excellent cast, etc., etc.


“The Last Jedi”

Since then, I have seen all the subsequent movies in this family, some of which did not rise to the level of the original two episodes.

“The Last Jedi,” however, was cut from the same celluloid as the original, with all the same traits: action, suspense, great characters, including several from the very first movie (and the same actors, too). It works as a stand-alone movie, but, for those familiar with the series, there are story threads that reach back to the original. And the bad guys are really evil and get their due! Well, except for one who will be around for the next sequel if needed.

Two actors from the original, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill reprise key roles, adding to the movie for me.


Carry Fisher as Princes Leia

Like many movies in futuristic settings, there are events and time lapses that defy logic as we know it, but we can assume that in such a futuristic environment that includes the space cruisers and superpowers of the Jedi, these challenges to mere mortal logic are little more than a curiosity and do not detract from the movie or the story.

Finally, in what is clearly a very futuristic setting-space ships, hyperspace, light sabers, highly advanced robots, etc., there is a very human aspect to the story and the characters who have real, appropriate responses and emotions despite some extraordinary abilities. Unlike many contemporary movies, where the CGI imagery and action overshadows the characters, the storyline, and even the plight of the human condition, “The Last Jedi” is about the characters and their stories.


– Mark Hamil (Luke Skywalker) and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren): The Last Jedi Japan Premiere Red Carpet 1 

It was a very entertaining trip to a place distant in space and time.

1 Dick Thomas Johnson at https://flickr.com/photos

2 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55103929


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Mother’s Cooking

No. 7 – My Mother (Continued)

My mother was a pretty fair country cook. I think she did not enjoy cooking all that much, but in those days, that was the woman’s role. Balanced meals were usually prepared from fresh ingredients and included a meat, a vegetable, and a salad. If my father and I were fortunate, there may have been a dessert. There was no question like “What would you like for supper?” We—my father and I—ate what she fixed—and liked it. That became part of my personal behavior throughout my life. I have tried (almost) anything new to eat set before me. Where ever I traveled, I figured if the local people could eat something, then I could at least taste it. Food has been a constant adventure for me (I did not say I have always liked everything, but would not have known that if I had not tried it). I have my mother to thank for that.

The only concession Lois ever granted me was that I did not have to eat country cured (“old”) ham. If she fixed that for dinner, she would fix me something else. Not sure why I refused ham, but that lasted about five years, then one day I announced, “Oh, I like country ham.” That was end of that. (I could be a strange kid.)

Throughout my preschool and elementary school years, mother prepared most meals from scratch, except that about once a week we had Swanson “TV” dinners.


Swanson introduced the TV dinner in 1954. Mother must have discovered them within the next year.

Lois was the equivalent of a modern pioneer woman. She would cook anything we brought in from hunting—so long it was cleaned and ready to cook. We ate well, even in lean times. We ate squirrel, venison, rabbit, duck, as well as many kinds of fish. My father trapped the marshes for muskrats for their pelts, and we ate muskrat on several occasions. It has a definitely gamey flavor, but it certainly was palatable. Not all of mother’s cooking efforts, however, were so successful.

One day, several hunters who had launched their boat into the river from the farm left us four or five ducks. I recall mother being happy about the prospect of fresh duck. She spent some time cleaning and preparing the ducks, then put them in the oven to roast. Within an hour, the house began to fill with the most noxious odor—a very nasty oily-fishy aroma. It turns out that the ducks were mergansers—fish-eating ducks that were not fit for cooking because of the fish oil their bodies stored. It took a week to get the smell out of the house. As I recall, we ate at Susie’s house the next several nights. My father thought it was funny. Occasionally he would say, “Remember the time you cooked those fish ducks?” All he got in return was a glare.

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My Mother – I Could Get by with Nothing!

Monday’s Rewind

No. 6 – My Mother (Continued)

School Years – I could get by with Nothing

Lois started teaching the year I entered the first grade. She taught high school English and Biology. New Kent School was a two-floor brick building with a room for each of twelve grades, a library, a few offices, and an auditorium. The lower grades were downstairs (the boys’ and girls’ restrooms were also downstairs), middle school and high school grades were upstairs. Those first years, Lois and I both rode the school bus to school. Later, when we got a dependable car, Lois would drive to school and I did not have to ride the bus.

Because first grade was in the basement, I did not get by with anything. While I was generally well behaved, there was a girl in the first grade that I fancied. As everyone knows, little boys show their admiration for little girls by being bratty, teasing, etc. (I am told not all men outgrow this!) My actions soon came to the attention of our teacher, Ms Edwards, who was clearly the strictest teacher we would have in our entire twelve years of school. For punishment, I was sent to stand in the corner—in the hall under the stairwell to the upper level.


Although taken recently, this is how New Kent School looked when we entered the first grade.

It was a small school, and all of Lois’ students knew I was Mrs. Richmond’s little boy. The “girls’ room” was in our wing. Several high school girls had come by and spotted me in the corner. I stood there for the remainder of my sentence expecting my mother to appear at any moment. She never appeared and I thought perhaps she might not be aware of my misdeeds. It was not until dinner that evening she told my father that I had been sent to the corner in the hall. That launched an inquisition! After turning red, and stammering to try to explain, my mother explained that she had talked Ms Edwards and found out what happened. They both had a good laugh. As a first grader, I did not understand the humor.

Speaking of punishment, well, it did not happen often, but mother’s mode of operation was a branch from a little pussy willow in the back yard. Those willow canes made effective switches and I felt the sting on the backs of my legs on several occasions. It was effective. I don’t recall the offense, but I do recall the consequence.

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I Grew up on a Farm in Virginia – No. 5

Walking to Susie’s (Age 4)

In No 4, we learned about “How I learned to Cuss”

I grew up in a simpler time and in a simpler place. By now, if you have followed my “I Grew Up on a Farm in Virginia” series, you know I was an only child, living with my parents on a relatively isolated farm in Tidewater, Virginia.

The Lower (Susie's) House from the wharf in the winter.

The Lower (Susie’s) House from the wharf in the winter.

There were two residences on the farm. My grandmother Susie lived in the “lower” house (“lower” because it was down on the flat land near the river, while the “upper” house was up on a bluff several hundred feet above the river). I believe the lower house began as a hunting cabin when the property was owned by the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railroad. The house had been expanded and converted into a comfortable ranch-style home. The house was set back from the river about 100 feet and on a piece of land that was about 20 feet above the river. The front yard sloped steeply down to the river. There was a wall, made of old railroad ties that protected the front yard from erosion and there was a pier that extended from the wall out about fifty feet to the river channel.

We lived in the upper house, located on the top of a bluff above the Chickahominy River, a mile from Susie’s house. Although I do not know this for a fact, I believe Susie probably talked my father into moving to the farm, including having that house built for us. It was a simple house, basically a square box with four rooms, a hall, a full basement with a fireplace, and the kitchen and bathroom sort of attached on the back of the house. The exterior was wood shingle, stained dark green.

The front of Upper House. The road to the lower house goes past the house on the left and down a steep hill.

The front of Upper House. The road to the lower house goes past the house on the left and down a steep hill.

It was a drafty house, not well heated nor well insulated. Fortunately, the climate in Tidewater Virginia was not terribly harsh. Still, it was not unusual in the winter to wake up in my room with frost on the windows: inside and out. Occasionally, the fireplace in the basement became the place to stay warm when a really cold spell of weather hit.

There was a side porch that provided access to the side door into the living room. I had a swing on the porch that kept me occupied much of the time. It was my place to play, other than in my room. My room was on the northwest corner of the house—in the photo, the windows to the right of he front door. (The smokehouse partially blocks the far right side of the house.)

It was “my space” and other than parentally-directed duties of making sure I kept it picked up and keeping the bed made, my folks let me organize and decorate my room as I wished. From as early as I can remember, I liked plastic model airplane kits, and many of the kits included stands that could be attached to the wall to display the model. By the time I was in high school, there were probably 25 or 30 model airplanes on shelves, on the walls, or hanging from the ceiling.

I also loved to read. All through school, I would check out books from the school library—usually something about animals, dinosaurs, airplanes, or historical biographies (e.g., Abraham Lincoln’s biography). Both Susie and my parents also bought me many books. Often, on a nice weekend day, I would take the current book, hike into the woods, find a comfortable spot to sit, and spend the day reading. I had several favorite reading spots.

But this story takes place well before all of that
At the age of four, I loved being outside. I explored the limits of the yard, wandered in the garden (it was about an acre in size), launched cardboard boxes on large mud puddles to go sailing, and climbed on the tractor in the shed to travel where ever my imagination would take me (before the tractor shed burned down—see “The Day my Mother Burned Down the Tractor Shed”).

My mother and I often took walks around the farm. She knew all of the wildflowers, and most of the critters we encountered. One day, we walked the mile to Susie’s house. That was something of an adventure, walking through the woods, then along the bluff overlooking Diascund Creek probably a 100 feet below, then across open fields to the road that ran along the river, and finally to Susie’s house.

More often, she was busy with household chores or sewing, making the colonially dressed dolls she sold to shops in Williamsburg. So, much of the time I was on my own to explore, usually with instructions to stay “in the yard.” But on a farm, “yard” is not always a well-defined area, and I, like many a young lad, would push the boundaries.
Also, there was a shed across the side yard (not the one that burned!), in which I would play. It became the headquarters for imagining my adventures. Before going outside, I would announce my intentions. For example, I would say, “I am going to go sit on the tractor in the shed and imagine flying around the world.”

The usual response was, “Okay. Just be careful. Don’t fly too far. Stay in the yard,” and off I would go.

One day I announced, “I am going to visit Susie.”

Lois assumed I was going to the shed to act out my “pretend trip” to Susie’s. I got a simple “Okay.”

And off I started, walking down the farm road.

I remember much of that walk vividly. From the house, the farm road went down steeply through a deep cut in an even steeper hill. Trees leaned out over the road; it was like a tunnel through the trees. (In retrospect, having read The Hobbit in later life, it was like Bilbo Baggins starting off on an adventure into the unknown.) At the foot of the hill, the road took one more steep dip as it spilled out between two small fields. Here the road turned from red clay and gravel to white, soft sand. Further along, the road was lined with tall pine trees, and I kicked pine cones along as I walked.

There was a brief transition from the sandy road, down another narrow cut that often was rutted where rain water washed the road away. My father, and later, I spent much time with a tractor and trailer full of dirt repairing this short section of road.
The transition, at about the midpoint in my journey, opened into a large field. The road forked at this point, and I had to make a choice. To the left, the road ran between the pond and the field, and eventually came up behind Susie’s house. To the right, the road cut back into a stand of pine trees toward the river and eventually to the front of house. The stand of trees seemed more of an adventure, and I turned right.
Imagine a four-year-old boy, walking along, kicking pine cones, and just looking up into the trees above, and peering into the woods looking for, but happy not to see, some creature in the underbrush.

At the river, the road turned sharply left. At this corner, the river flooded a low swampy area in the woods on the right. There was an old, worn floating fisherman’s shack moored at the opening to this swamp. Surrounded by cypress trees and their “knees” that reached up from the swamp for air, the shack was an eerie and mysterious place.

The fish house was where my father kept all of the commercial fishing  equipment, and there was an ice room downstairs to keep a catch fresh.

The fish house was where my father kept all of the commercial fishing equipment, and there was an ice room downstairs to keep a catch fresh.

I followed the road to the left and emerged from the woods with the field on the left and the river, visible through about 50 feet of trees and brush, on the right. This last quarter mile of my trek was a straight walk, past the fish house where my father stored his nets and equipment to catch herring during the spring spawning.

From here the front yard of Susie’s house was visible. I walked the rest of the way and walked up to the house. I opened the door and announced, “Hi, Susie.” Needless to say, she was surprised.

I got the expected, “What are you doing here? Where is Lois?”

I explained that she was home. “How did you get here?” was the next question.

“I walked.”

“Does your mother know where you are?”

“Yes, I told her I was coming down to see you.”

Well, about 15 minutes later, my mother did show up. She had looked out to check on me and could not find me. Recalling my announced intentions, she began walking down the road. She soon saw my shoe prints in the soft white sand, and even saw that I had taken the right turn at the big field.

I do not recall the conversation after that, except that I was not scolded. After all, I had clearly stated my intentions, had gotten an “Okay,” and I had arrived safely.

Susie thought it was funny, mother was just a tad exasperated, but as I said, she did not scold me. Later, I did get firm instructions about the limits of my explorations away from the yard.

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My Mother (Continued)

No. 8 – Mother’s Cooking – And then there were grits.

(My apologies, this article was posted out of sequence.)

Following up on the topic of cooking; growing up in Virginia, you would think grits would have been a regular on the breakfast table. As it was, neither of my parents ate grits. I did not experience (and learn to like) grits until I went to college where they were a stable of the breakfast cafeteria line every morning. I went home telling my parents about how great grits were and why had we never had them. Mother allowed as how she thought they were tasteless, not worth the effort. How they had lived in Virginia for more than 20 years and managed to not develop a taste for grits was a mystery to me. After all, they liked cream of wheat and farina!

Mother, however, decided to surprise me and fix grits. She got a box of dried grits with a recipe for cheesy grits on the box, which she had heard me mention. That evening she served up a casserole dish of cheesy grits. They were gritty for sure. Naïve, my mother did not realize (and had overlooked the directions) that it was necessary to cook the grits first, then make the casserole. She simply put the dry grits with all the other ingredients in the casserole dish (minus any water) in the oven.

It was true grit!

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