Archive for September, 2012

September 30, 2012

Harvest Festival 2012 – Potter

Simon B. Keller, giving a brief pottery lesson at the Union County Harvest Festival

The Union County Harvest Festival was today! I’ll be posting my photos from the event over the next few days.

This ceramic artist, Simon B. Keller, was one of the many friendly artisans showing his work. (I featured him last year, too! I had a longer conversation with him this year, though.)

I'm terrible at pottery, so I have great respect for those who do it!

Mr. Keller learned his craft in Japan, he says, where students don’t start at the bottom and work their way up— they start below the bottom. He wasn’t permitted to touch the clay until he’d paid his dues, learning the other odd jobs around the studio. It’s an understandably frustrating process, but it isn’t until you understand that aspect of the craft that you can appreciate how all the cogs of the art— the small but important aspects that you might otherwise ignore— fit together to form a whole.

Although Mr. Keller has been creating ceramics for twenty years, in recent years he’s started instructing at Plainfield’s duCret school of Art, the oldest private art institution in New Jersey.

September 29, 2012

Styphnolobium japonicum

Styphnolobium japonicum! Green string-of-pearls seed pods that took me a while to identify.

It took me a while to figure this out, but these lovely green seed pods are part of a Japanese pagoda tree, formally known as Styphnolobium japonicum, and formerly known as Sophora japonica (before they went and restructured the taxonomy of the family). There weren’t any nice long ones within reach of my camera, but the way the pod wraps around the bulbous seeds makes ’em look like strings of pearls.

(…if you’re a botanist and I misidentified this tree, please please please let me know!)

September 28, 2012

Wildlife photography (ha!)

You can sort of make the turtle out, if you squint.

This turtle was hanging around in the Great Swamp, and I was all “finally! some wildlife!” because I’d been there for 30-40 minutes minutes (shortly after dawn), and I’d seen bupkis thus far (not counting the blurry shots I got of a gray catbird), and I was pretty excited to see something alive (and in reach of my short kit lens).

(Psssst, here’s my blurry gray catbird, which was surprisingly blue:)
You know, I designed a cover for a short story called "the Catbird Seat" when I took a graphic design class.

So yeah, I’m trying to cultivate my patience; I hear it’s a useful trait for photography (and life), but man oh man it is not easy.

Perhaps next time I will bring live bait, so all the creatures will flock to me, and I won’t have to wait. Or I’ll buy a telephoto lens, so they don’t have to come sit right next to me to be in reach of my lens. Bait’s cheaper, though.

September 27, 2012

Another boardwalk

A boardwalk! My heavens.

While this is far from the first time I’ve photographed one of the Great Swamp’s hiking boardwalks (see here, here, here, and here), and while it will probably not be the last… they really are photogenic, and they scream to have their portraits taken. I oblige, because what else can I do?

September 26, 2012

Millburn street fair – 2

Studio 22 ballroom dancers at the Millburn Street Fair!

I’m always happy when street fairs include more than just vendors. These ballroom dancers from Dance Studio 22 parted the crowds to put on on brief performances at irregular intervals.



Have straight-up pickles always been this popular, or is this a recent phenomenon? There’s a pickle vendor at every farmer’s market I go to— and now at every fair, too, apparently. These Gourmet Pickle Guys had four customers just in the 45 seconds that I watched. I guess they make good pickles!


Damon T. Garrett, I... dressed as a bishop.

This bishop is not actually dressed as a bishop-bishop— he’s dressed as a chess-bishop. Damon T. Garrett, I is president of Chess for Life, an organization that promotes chess (teaching, learning, playing, competing, all of it). He’s also one of the coaches. I watched him in action, giving tips as he played a fairgoer— he’s really good. If you’re in the West Orange area, and you want to learn to play chess, look these guys up.


Whoa look it is Millburn Avenue with lots of people in it

I always end these posts with something hokey like “a good time was had by all” or “all in good fun” or something. Anyone got any suggestions for a less lame-o conclusion?

September 25, 2012

Millburn street fair


I know you’re all like “Whaaaat! Didn’t you just cover the Stirling Street Fair? What’s this nonsense with Millburn?”

To which I reply: both Stirling and Millburn had their street fairs ON THE SAME DAY, and I went to both, because I’m nuts like that.


The top photo features Cookie! She’s a representative of the Arcadia Bird Sanctuary and Educational Center. They take pet birds that can’t be placed elsewhere for various reasons— some bite, some screech, some were abused, some were abandoned.

The sanctuary, located in Freehold, is currently home to ~300 birds. There are ~20 that they take on the road and show for educational purposes.

“‘Educational purposes?'” I asked. “Like what?”

“Well,” said Terri Jones, the director of the sanctuary (this is entirely paraphrased, so please don’t heed my quote marks), “a lot of people don’t realize what they’re getting into when they get a bird. They think it’s this cuddly pet— but they bite, they screech, they have different personalities, they may not be suited to your lifestyle.

“And even if they are, your lifestyle may change. We get a lot of birds because their owners got married and the spouse makes ’em get rid of it, or they had kids, and it just doesn’t work with their lives anymore. Some parrots outlive their owners. These birds live 40-60 years. We’ve had one who was 80. So you have to think— not just where your life is now, but will you still be able to care for this parrot in 50 years?”

A dollar.

Because it takes money to run a nonprofit sanctuary for 300 parrots, they were accepting donations. And because parrots are cool, they’d trained this guy to carefully take bills proffered from giving hands, fold them in half, and drop them into a box below.

Into the money box!

For each dollar that he dropped into the box, each money-giver rewarded him with a seed.

How seedy.

(I’ll cover the less bird-based aspects of the fair tomorrow.)

September 24, 2012

Stirling street fair – 2

Pulling pork!

The Stirling Street Fair (which I touched upon yesterday) is your standard street fair— lots of food, lots of people trying to sell you things. The BBQ stand let me get a shot of cutting their second pig of the day for pulled pork.

“Reunited” sang classy doo-wop…

…and overall, the fair was… well, a fair. As fairs are.
Stirling street fair, 2012


There were also loads of people who were happy to talk to me even after it was obvious that I wasn’t going to buy anything. I didn’t get pictures of any of them, but they’re worth a mention, I think:

* Victor Davis, freelance writer and hobbyist sunspot-spotter, who brought out his solar telescopes for everyone to look through. I saw sunspots (in the white light wavelength) and feathery prominences (in the Hydrogen-alpha wavelength), neither of which I’d ever seen before.

* Luce’s Gluten-Free Artisan Bread. Mr. Luce, as it turned out, used to teach photography, so we got to discussing cameras. (And if there’s one thing I can blather on about, it’s cameras!)

* Restore, a furniture restoration shop on Main Avenue. The owner had his beautiful mostly-antique furniture in the street for everyone to look at, including a refinished carousel pig. Apparently he used to have *loads* of these carousel critters on hand, but that’s no longer the case, and he’s selling this one for a friend. He’s been running that little old store for 40 years!

All good fun. If you’re in the area, check it out next year! There was a lot more breathing room than there is at a lot of these overcrowded street fairs I’ve been to.

September 23, 2012

Stirling street fair!

Everyone loves bubbles!

The Stirling Street Fair was today! Locals annually celebrate fall with this festival.

The Long Hill Library had a booth with free books and a bubble machine. And bubbles are awesome. Everyone knows it. Especially kids.


(Tangential note: this is probably the furthest west I’ve ever gone for this blog.)

More festivities tomorrow!

September 22, 2012



Anyone know what kind of spider spins these double cobwebs in fields? They look cool when they’re covered in morning dew, anyway.

September 21, 2012


Dare I call it... a TRAINBOW?!? No, that's pretty bad, even for me.

This has sure been a week for interesting weather at the train station.

I hadn’t seen a rainbow in forever! It was an unexpectedly lovely way to end the day.

I wonder if anyone else on the platform saw it. From what I could tell, I was the only commuter weird enough to go stand in the rain looking for rainbows. 😉

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