Aug 26 2014

Eye and Hand: Sketching Animals and Birds

I heard the cries loud and clear above the roar of rushing water. I’d made my way to an island in The River, hoping to photograph tadpoles in a nursery pool. But they certainly weren’t the ones making the racket. The caterwauling seemed to be coming from every point on the compass. So I climbed to the top of a rocky prominence to get a better look. And what did I see? At first, not a lot. The sun was in my eyes, and the water was a dazzling carpet of light. Then I saw an animal. An otter was bounding sinuously along the far shore. Suddenly it plunged into the swift current and began to swim upriver. That’s when I discovered where the noise was coming from. Two frightened otter pups were stranded on a boulder in midstream. Eager to capture the unfolding drama, I began shooting photos, though I had little hope that I’d get anything more than glare for my efforts.

Soon Mom reached her wayward kids. After checking them over to be sure they were unscathed — they were — she began herding them across the fast‑flowing water to the safety of shore. Once on dry land again, she administered a little tough love, head‑butting one errant pup into a reluctant amble before grabbing his (her?) more recalcitrant companion by the scruff of the neck and dragging him bodily up the slope, where two less adventurous siblings waited patiently. A flurry of greetings followed, but before long the family were bounding along a little feeder brook, only to disappear into the shadows of the deep woods.

The whole episode lasted just two or three minutes, and I managed to get off quite a few shots with my camera. But as I’d suspected, the photos didn’t turn out well. I was reminded once again that the eye is often quicker than the shutter. What do I mean? Just this: If I’d had a sketchpad in my hand instead of a camera, I’d probably have come away with a better record of the goings‑on in The River that day…Read more…

Mama to the Rescue

This article was originally published on September 8, 2010.

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Aug 25 2014

Bike Monday for August 25, 2014: Horse Sense

When I was just four years old, my grandparents started taking me to a stable after church. The stable offered rides for kids on Sundays, and the trips were my reward for not fidgeting during the church service. But if my grandparents hoped that this Sunday treat would get me to pay more attention to the sermon, they were doomed to disappointment. Parables and lessons drawn from the Gospels just couldn’t complete with visions of cowboys and Western skies.

Nowadays I don’t ride horses. I ride a bike, instead. But I still like spending time with equine acquaintances. Like this companionable pair, for instance:

Interested Bystanders

We love our bikes, right? And we never tire of looking at them. At least I don’t, and if I’m to judge from what others tell me, I’m not alone. So each Monday I’ll publish a bike-related picture. Most of the time it will be a photo, but don’t be surprised if a few drawings and paintings get added to the mix from time to time. I might even include a sculpture or two. (OK. A photo of a sculpture.) Anything, in short, that evokes the world on two wheels. And don’t be shy. If you have a picture you’d like to share, just email it to me. I’ll do the rest.

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Aug 23 2014

Reflecting on Life in the Slow Lane With the Yield Safety Triangle

I’ve said it often enough before, but it bears repeating: If you’re not bright, so the saying goes, you’re out of sight. Blinkies, bike reflectors, brightly colored clothes, and reflective strips all help. But in some conditions, even on brilliantly sunny days, these might not be enough. I like to hedge my bets. That’s why I bought a “Yield Safety Triangle” from Team Estrogen. It didn’t cost much (USD11). I’ve used it for years and it’s still a winner.

The safety triangle is modeled after the familiar “Slow Moving Vehicle” sign. You’ve seen them, I’m sure. They’re on farm wagons, tractors, and construction equipment—and occasionally even on horse-drawn Amish buggies. Some bike tourers use them, but there’s no reason why commuters and racers-in-training shouldn’t, as well. In city traffic, on back roads, and on the shoulders of busy highways the question is always the same: Will you be seen? A safety triangle can make the difference.

It’s not much of a burden to bear. My Yield Safety Triangle is made of featherweight flexible orange mesh with a hi-viz yellow reflective tape border. It attaches with a web belt that closes with a quick-release buckle.

Safety Triangle in Use

How brightly does it reflect? See for yourself in the night photo below, where the camera flash illuminates the triangle, while the Radbot blinkie flashes. (The white stripe and dots are reflective tape on Axiom Champlain panniers.)


You can wear the safety triangle around your waist if you want, but I don’t. I breathe with my belly when I ride. So I either wrap the belt of my triangle around my left rear pannier…

Safety Triangle in Use

…or I wrap the belt around the rack trunk. These placements allow the triangle pride of place on the aft end of my bike, right where it is most visible. When mounted on the rack trunk it wraps around just enough to be seen from the sides, too. It doesn’t even flap. If I wore it around my waist, the triangle would be less obvious because I often ride bent low over the bars.

I thread the belt through the loops of the zipper pulls for the trunk gusset and secure the buckle in front. Then I knot the end of the buckle webbing to itself so it wouldn’t flap or loosen.

Safety Triangle in Use

The safety triangle has stood the test of time. Vehicles approaching from behind on the highway give me plenty of elbow room in passing. And in busy downtown traffic, the following vehicles all kept back at a safe distance. Peace of mind never came so cheap.

Safety Triangle in Use

Further Reading


This article is an update of one originally published on March 16, 2010.

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