Author Archives: CMSmith

Sixty-two and Senior

I recently read somewhere, and it might have been fiction, that you’re not a senior until you’re 62. I turned 62 in March. How in the world did I ever get here? This river of life my boat has been traversing has been moving at a fearsome speed while I drifted unaware, content to celebrate the spring blooms, to listen to the music of the summer rains, to contemplate the floating leaves as they fall from the fiery trees, and to marvel at the magic and beauty when I discover, upon dawn, a pristine snowfall blanketing the ground and decorating the bare limbs of trees. My life moved on all the while, and I wasn’t paying attention.

Maybe it is fiction.

I’m going to have to change the subtitle of my original blog, “Random Thoughts from Midlife,” to “Senior Moments.” Maybe it will be more lighthearted and humorous. Maybe the last quarter of my life will be more like the first without all the hard work and angst that happened in-between. There will be more good-byes. I know that now. But maybe, like most things in life, it will get easier to say good-bye with experience. Maybe it will be easier to surrender to the inevitability of loss. I don’t know. I can only hope.

All I know is that my boat is still on this river, and it is still moving, carrying me forward. This boat only moves in one direction. Reverse is not an option.

Ohio River

~~~~~

 

 

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Eagles at Carrillon Park, Dayton,Ohio

Eagle at Carrillon Park

I knew the eagles were there, but I was still pleasantly surprised and a little thrilled when one soared over a building to my right, and flew overhead and up to the nest high in a sycamore tree. It’s white tail feathers flashed in the sun. I regretted that my camera was inaccessible in its case hanging from my shoulder as I meandered down the walkway. I wasn’t expecting to see it so soon.

The presumably male eagle landed on the nest, then flew to a nearby tree shortly after. The only time I’d ever seen eagles in the wild before was during a trip to Alaska in the late 1990s. This nest is a half-hour drive from my house.

I expected a large nest, but was surprised by how large. It’s much larger than the hawks’ nest I’ve been watching in the woods behind our house. I expected a majestic bird, but was enthralled by its majesty.

I hope to return again soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Photographing the Hawk Nest

I first saw the hawks last Sunday. For three days in a row (for my daily photo for the 365Project) I took photographs of them working on their nest high up in one of the sycamore trees in the woods behind our house.

Then on Wednesday, they did not show up. I watched on and off all day and no hawks. According to All About Birds, “Red-tailed Hawks may or may not use the same nest from year to year. A pair may have a few nests in the area and may fix up two or more nests for the breeding season before they finally settle down and choose one.”

I believe this may be what they are doing on the days they are not here. And I thought today might be one of those days. Then at 8:01, as I stood looking out the kitchen window towards the nest, one of the hawks glided over the top of our house outside my window and landed in the nest. It was immediately followed by the second.

They are majestic creatures and fascinating to watch. They are also powerful predators. From time to time I see one swoop past our bird-feeders looking for lunch. They also could potentially kill my little 10-pound dog Arthur. Meanwhile they are simply trying to live, make nests, and feed their young. I understand all of this. Life is full of dichotomies.

Tri-pod with camera

The setup I use to photograph the hawks’ nest that you can see as a small spot in the top of the tree through the window.

I believe I am doing the best I can to photograph these birds given the limited equipment I own. If I had a super long pro lens, I could probably do a lot better. I have an Olympus OMD Em1 with an Olympus 14-150mm f/4-5.6 lens and use a trip-pod set up beside my kitchen window.

This is actually a good location because our house sits on a hill. The yard drops down a steep slope to a creek, and then the woods rises up another hill on the other side. The tree is in the woods across the creek. My kitchen window provides the advantage that it sits a few feet higher than the floor of the deck right outside–not to mention it’s been cold outside. So there is that. One of the challenges is getting an angle that minimizes view obstruction from branches.

I shoot at 150mm and then crop in to get the shots I post. I use center-weighted metering and manual, magnification-assisted, focus. Another challenge is lighting. It’s so far away, and mostly backlit, that it’s been difficult to illuminate the birds in or on the nest. Yesterday I realized that 9:00 a.m. on a sunny day, is a good time. The sun is high enough in the sky and off to the left enough to shine a nice light onto the birds. I just have to get the birds to cooperate during that time — another challenge.

Hawk in nest

Shot taken at 9:00 a.m. with the morning light shining into the nest. This is an extreme crop.

I might try my longer, 75-300mm lens, again. I tried it once and discarded the shots because I thought the 150mm cropped shots were better. But I just googled and read a post about birding lenses from an Olympus user at mirrorlessplanet.com, and he used the longer lens I have to get some acceptable images. It’s worth another try. The dream lens, a 300mm f/4 pro lens lists at $2500 on Amazon. Then there’s the Olympus 300mm f/2.8 super telephoto lens for Olympus digital SLR cameras (I don’t know if this would work on my OMD-Em1) at $7000. My 75-300mm lens currently lists at about $550. You get what you pay for. Maybe when I get hired by National Geographic . . .

(You might be interested in a video I posted on YouTube where I tried to record the hawks in action. There is no audio and the lighting is not optimal, but you can see the activity of the birds. I actually don’t hear anything when I’m watching them either. I got dinged by a viewer who didn’t approve. You can read my response to him there as well. It appears he removed the 26 dislikes he gave me after reading it.)

Two Hawks and a Nest

I’m back to bird-watching. I haven’t done a bird-watching post since I watched the little hummingbird in June of 2016. It’s not that I decided it was time. It’s just that I noticed the two large hawks flying around the treetops of our woods.

Woods with nest at top of sycamore tree

The red-tailed hawk nest is at the top of the sycamore tree near the middle of the photo. This is a fairly accurate non-magnified portrayal of my view of the nest.

I first noticed the large nest at the top of a sycamore tree visible from my kitchen window last year. I never saw any fledgling hawks and really don’t know if the nest was even productive last year.

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The hawks are back. And they’ve been active the last couple of days, sitting on the nest,

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flying to the nest,

Red-tailed hawk in flight

flying away from the nest,

Red-tailed hawk in flight

standing on the nest,

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and sitting and looking around some more.

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Sometimes one will wait nearby,

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before it trades places with the other on the nest.

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They are fascinating to watch as they fly around the treetops to and from the nest. They’ve been bringing sticks and stringy things to the nest. One of them seems to be more particular than the other about how the sticks are arranged in the nest. She picks them up, moves them around, presses them down, tugs them out of place, and generally fixes things up. I wish I could see up into the nest. For the first time I’ve wished I had a small camera drone, although I probably wouldn’t use it for fear of scaring the hawks away.

I’m shooting these pictures from my kitchen window, using a tri-pod with my Olympus Omd Em1 mirror-less camera and a 14-150mm 4.0-5.6 zoom lens. I have it fully extended. The lighting is challenging. I’m trying to spot-meter the birds, but they move around a lot so I’m not always successful.

I’m doing the 365Project photography challenge this year and am trying to devote this week to pictures of the hawks. I’m having fun watching them. I hope you’re enjoying the pictures.

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While we’re not watching

Christine M. Grote

The backyard drops away from where our house sits on the hill. Because of that, our view from our windows is at, if not treetop level, certainly a tree-house level. From the bay windows around our kitchen table, I can watch birds while I eat. Since I spend a fair amount of time doing that on a daily basis, I witness things in the woods I might miss were I not watching.

Like this little hummingbird, for example.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The little humming bird is perched on the sycamore tree in the center of this photo. 

“That little bird really likes to land at that spot,” I said to Mark. “I’ve seen it in that same exact spot several times in the past couple of days.”

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I wanted to get it’s picture so I zoomed in with my camera, but the little lady wasn’t there.

I didn’t realize it immediately, but you…

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Many Books – featured author of the day

I’d like to thank ManyBooks.net for selecting me as the featured author today. They posted a nice article about me complete with pictures, even one of my writing desk (which looks a little chaotic, I might add.) Of course, I took the picture and sent it to them. I wanted it to be mostly realistic. I say mostly, because usually my work area looks more cluttered than this. You can see the photo and read the interview at ManyBooks.

Me and Annie ~1959

Me and Annie, 1959, after Annie’s testing. The staff at the hospital shaved Annie’s hair. My mom cut mine. It looks like she set a bowl on my head, but I think the truth is that she stuck a piece of scotch tape straight across my forehead and cut below it.

The article leads off with this photo of me and Annie taken in 1959. This was after my parents had taken Annie to Columbus Children’s Hospital for testing because she was over a year old and wasn’t yet able to sit up. They shaved her hair to do the test. It was a very difficult test for everyone involved. I describe it in more detail in Dancing in Heaven.

Today is Annie’s birthday. She would have been 58, a year younger than me. Her first birthday, after she was gone, we celebrated the day at my parents’ house. Mom had a helium balloon for Annie, because she loved them. In subsequent years, I always made sure to call Mom to acknowledge the day. Now that both of my parents have joined Annie, I decided to acknowledge her birthday this year with a Kindle Countdown deal. Dancing in Heaven  (Kindle version) will be on sale for 99cents today. If you haven’t read it yet, this is a good opportunity to get it at a bargain price.

If you have read it, or do read it, I hope you will let me know by leaving a short review at Amazon and here as a comment on the Dancing in Heaven book page, I will answer any questions you might have if I am able. Feel free to ask in a comment. Or you can contact me at my Facebook page Christine M. Grote.

 

 

Using Amazon’s KDP Program to Greatest Advantage

I recently attended the Mad Anthony Writer’s Conference held in Hamilton, Ohio, where award-winning writer Bob Hostetler, and Jane Friedman, renown strategist for authors and publishers, were presenters. Over time I hope to share some of the wisdom about writing and publishing that I learned from them. The following is a tip from Jane Friedman, and what she says many authors do.

If you are in the KDP Select program, run your book for free for 5 days every three months without fail.

Amazon offers the KDP Select program to authors as a tool to promote your Kindle book on a Countdown Deal or as a free promotion for five days every three months. In return, if you enroll in the KDP Select program, you have to remove your e-book from all other sales channels and sell exclusively on Amazon for the three-month period of enrollment.

I began debating whether or not to enroll in this program in January of 2012 a few months after I published my first book, Dancing in Heaven. I debated the issue for a while, but was bothered by the exclusivity. Not because I was going to lose a lot of sales. The vast percentage of book sales came from Amazon. But I had a philosophical, or maybe ethical, problem with participating in what was clearly an effort on Amazon’s part to corner the market of e-books, which they have largely done without my participation, anyway.

This January I decided to try the KDP Select program with my second book, Where Memories Meet-Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s. I was having trouble getting the word out about the book, and I wanted to do a Countdown deal on Amazon that I could advertise through various other websites. I actually sold a lot of books on the days the price was reduced and the book was marketed. But I did not realize a lasting increase in my sales, and don’t expect to. I’m planning to take Jane’s advice and put it up for free for five days next month around Father’s Day. And I may cycle it through five free days every three months for a while.

I suspect some, perhaps many, of the customers who download a free book don’t read it. But I also think some will. At least it is a way to generate a little conversation online and get the book out and into readers’ hands. If I’m not really selling a lot of books anyway, I don’t have much to lose.

I have since put Dancing in Heaven on KDP Select and plan a Countdown to run beginning on my sister Annie’s birthday, May 17th, when the book will be priced at $0.99. I’m over the philosophical/ethical dilemma, at least for now. I’m not really supporting a monopoly, when no one was visiting the other sites to buy the book anyway.

I don’t know how long I will stick with the KDP Select program for either book, but for now, thank you Jane Friedman, for the tip.