The guy behind the lens

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I'm a Science Teacher, Nature Photographer,Husband, and Father, and Grandfather who loves to explore the natural world by traveling, photographing and thinking. 

MINDS WORK BEST WHEN OPEN!  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pawley's Island Sunset Series - Part 1

We all have places in the world that resound deeply in our souls regardless of where we happen to be in the world either geographically or emotionally. 
(Click in an image to view in higher resolution)

The South Carolina Grand Strand area surrounding Pawley's Island is such a place for me. Initially it was a fond memory of my childhood when my family would make the trek from New York City to South Carolina to spend time with family at the beach.  Memories of those times will always hold a special place in my heart as they were shared with loved ones who have since passed away. 



As an adult living in Texas, I had little chance to make my way back to Pawley's until a spring break trip in 2008 with my wife and children to visit my brother who had rented a house there. Needless to say, old memories were rekindled and a whole series of new memories and relationships began to blossom. As a result, Pawley's has become a regular summer vacation spot for my family over the past few years. It's well worth the 20 hour drive from Dallas at the end of my school year to bask in the beauty of the South Carolina coast between Charleston and Myrtle Beach. I have also developed a great appreciation for the history of the area that ties me back through relatives on both sides of my family to tumultuous events in history ranging from the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina in the 1960's  to the 1860's and the America Civil War. (Here's an earlier post relating the Civil War history)



This past summer, I paid particular attention to the beauty of the late afternoon light as the sun began its long summer sunset over the marshes to the west of Pawley's Island proper as well as the extended color casts in the clouds over the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The beautiful color ranged from the familiar warm glows of sunset to some striking deep blues as the sun would sink below the horizon and my patience was rewarded with the cool tones of fleeting  twilight. 



While the late day light of the Pawley's area is incredibly special to me for a range of reasons, every spot on Earth has the chance to be bathed in such light each day. The secret for us is to be alert to such possibility and seek it out -- for it is in seeking that we shall all find the beauty that lurks on the margins of our days and our lives. 

Come back next week for a second look at more sunset images from the area! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

MicroSafari – Blepharisma

This episode of my ongoing Microsafari series features an unusual single celled protist names Blepharisma. I looks a lot like the very familiar Paramecium, but you'll see that it's clearly different!





Please ENJOY, LEARN, and SHARE! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

HELP CREATE & NURTURE A YOUNG SCIENTIFIC MIND!

As a science teacher, I know that INSPIRATION is a critical ingredient when it comes to the success of most students. I also know that one of the greatest signs of who will be a successful student (in any field) is how much they read when they are young.

If I have a student who is an avid reader, I know he or she will most likely accomplish a great deal more than others who have minimal reading interest. The benefit of reading is obvious to me in two ways  - first, readers become more skilled at finding and synthesizing data than non readers over time. Second, readers wind up having a much broader horizon of interests because they have simply encountered a wider range of topics through reading than their non reading peers. 

Common Sense Media recently released "4 Alarming Findings About Kids' and Teens' Reading" which details where today's youth are in regards to reading - and it's not an encouraging story, but worth seeing and acting upon! 


Another great take on the significance of reading among the  young is Frank Bruni's op/ed in the New York Times, "Read Kids,Read"


Based on the above simple take on things, I am inviting YOU to help me begin to craft a collection of meaningful science related books that had an influence on you as a youth. My long term goal is to create a curated list of "science themed" books that my middle school students can benefit from when they are assigned outside reading books in my class. As part of the curating process I like the idea that they could see comments from "real people" about why a book was interesting / inspiring. 


SO - please take a few minutes and think about what "sciencey" books made an impression for you and which you think could help inspire science students of this next generation!
I really appreciate your willingness to share you thoughts in the comments below as well as hopefully passing this posting on to other friends/scientists/teachers who might themselves add their ideas. 


Thanks for taking a few minutes to help make a difference! 





John

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Springtime along the Raasch Trail




I consider myself lucky to live within an hour of the wonderful Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge that sits on the shores of Lake Texoma near Sherman, Texas. 


Click above to go to Google Maps of the area!




I started to visit Hagerman last year after years of hearing about it. However I had just not gotten up the gumption to get there. Aside from year round abundant bird life ,  and more than a dozen miles of nice hiking trails, I was immediately impressed by the warmth and friendliness of the volunteers I met there who staff the visitor center and share their impressive knowledge of the flora, fauna, and history of the area. I now happily count myself as a monthly volunteer at the visitor center in hopes of being able to give back to those of you who will visit Hagerman in the future. Before a visit, make sure to check out these two websites:

The OFFICIAL  Hagerman NWR Website - The official US Fish & Wildlife website for Hagerman. 

FRIENDS OF THE HAGERMAN NWR  website  - detailed information about the volunteer group I belong to that helps run visitor services for Hagerman NWR



Two weeks ago, I went up to Hagerman to spend the day photographing bluebirds - the Friends of the Hagerman group  has built and monitors several dozen bluebird houses which have greatly bolstered the local bluebird population over the past few years. 



I had a wonderful day taking advantage of a warm spring day capturing bluebirds busily working to capture morsels for their fledglings to feast upon. In addition, the lighting along the Raasch Trail was superb to capture the beauty of early spring growth here in North Texas. 




Please feel free to share this gem of a place with your online friends! It's well worth the visit if you're in the neighborhood! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

MicroSafari – Stentor the MicroTrumpeter






This episode of my Microsafari series features one of the most distinctive single celled protists - Stentor! Watch this video and learn why I call it the "MicroTrumpeter". I hope you enjoy this foray into the micro world and feel free to share this with all the young (or old!) science lovers in your life!

The entire series can be found on my YouTube Channel.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

MicroSafari – Snakes on a Slide!





With apologies to Samuel L. Jackson's film "Snakes on A Plane," I could not help but title this Microsafari episode "Snakes on a Slide" because that is what most of my students think of when they see the long snakelike ciliate protozoan named Spirostomum. As you'll see in the video they hold a world record and are important in many aquatic ecosystems! 

I am creating these Microsafari explorations to open up a new world of science exploration to young people --- please feel free to share these with the young scientists in your life as well as with any science teachers you know! It's greatly appreciated! If you want to find more Microsafari stuff- I'm using the hashtag #MICROSAFARI to allow folks to follow & share these more easily! 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

MicroSafari – Up Close With Paramecium




This installment in my MicroSafari series focuses on the famous single celled ciliate Paramecium. Most students never get to see a good up close view of what actually is happening inside a paramecium because they tend to move very quickly and appear as “herky jerky” blurs to most folks unless you place them in a solution of “ProtoSlo” (methyl cellulose – I call it jello for microorganisms). This keeps them from swimming so fast and lets us see them in one spot where a higher power lens can focus on their internal activities such a food vacuole formation (eating) and contractile vacuole filling and contraction (drinking & peeing). When you get close enough to these creatures to see these things, you also get to appreciate their cilia and how quickly they beat. So – take a couple minutes and get up close with this most famous citizen of the microworld! 

Congratulation to my friends at EXO LABS ( www.exolabs.com) who created the FOCUS Microscope Camera I use  for these videos - the FOCUS camera was recently featured in Apple's 30th anniversary video for the Mac - at 38 seconds into the video you can see students using the FOCUS camera with an  iPad to view what's under their microscope! 



Way to go Exo!