Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stalking the little creatures at the arboretum

The Raulston Arboretum harbors a lot more than trees and flowers. There are also hosts of insects that feed and pollinate, as well as some fish and amphibians.

I've hoped to have a shot at some dragonflies, and got my chance Monday.

I don't tire of observing bees and capturing them at work.

I've worked that area, goodbye!

Really getting into it.

Here comes a dragon, headed for a perch with a good background. Will it land facing me?

Yes, and it angled its body upward and caught the sunlight! The iridescence of the wings lasted but a moment. Now I can enjoy it at my leisure.

The sky was the best background for this group.

Swaying in the breeze, it was a challenge to frame and focus on this moth while it perched on a flimsy flowering stalk.

It was a little easier in this location, though those six legs were moving.

Taking a sip.

This one is almost camouflaged for its flower perch. I angled for a background that would show them both to advantage for my eye and my camera.

Watch out for this ambush.

This combination of bloom and desiccation made me think of driftwood.

A garden variety sea serpent?

This bullfrog watched very patiently for any flying insects that might approach.

To the unwary quarry, he might be no more noticeable than this.

This dragonfly almost got too close!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bees at Work, Overtime

My wife went out for a solo walk yesterday early evening. Five minutes after she left, she used her cell phone to alert me that some bees were very active in a neighbor's garden. That was very thoughtful of Pam, but don't those bees realize that it's difficult to photograph them when the daylight is fading? Well, no matter, I took the challenge. I quickly mounted a macro lens and a flash (for fill light) on a DSLR body and speed walked to the site. I would have trotted, except that I didn't want to arrive too winded to hand hold the camera.

I made guesses for preliminary settings as I walked. When I got there, the bees were still flitting from flower to flower. Shooting mostly at ISO 2500 and f/5.6, I got shutter speeds up to 1/250 second, with the flash dialed back and popping softly to punch up the colors a little without being obvious as a light source. Wow, I could not have done this in my years of shooting film! I so appreciate the advances in high ISO digital technology!

All paths lead to the bee.

I almost forgot to include this one, actually shot before the bees accepted my presence and returned.

All with Canon EF 100/2.8L IS macro, Speedlite 600EX-RT, 1DX.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Butterflies in Flight, Milkweed Runway

Asclepias is the genus of milkweed plants. This clump formed a busy runway for butterflies yesterday afternoon. For a minute or so, the landings were more frequent than at O'Hare and Heathrow combined.

All images shot with 300mm, at or near f/2.8, 1/2000 sec.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Olla podrida

Two of one plus two of another, plus one of those imitating the other. This is just an olio of the things I found in a period of six and a half minutes (ah, the uses of Exif) within a dozen paces of our mail box at about noon today.

First, two insects, a bee and a butterfly.

Next, two flowers. Remember, noon is supposed to be the worst time of day for photographic light. It ain't necessarily so!

And finally, a camera-shy dragonfly, which hid its body behind a car antenna. The two joined so well that it looks like an insect-flower hybrid. The plaited rubber stalks climb, vine-like, toward the sky...where the Giant awaits Jack?


Happy as we age

In an article published in the NY Times July 6, Oliver Sacks looked forward to his 80th birthday, which was today, July 9, 2013. The piece, titled The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.), is fun to read, as are many of his books. It is also very resonant for me. Although I am significantly younger than Dr. Sacks, I am old enough to have experienced a general movement to increasing enjoyment of daily life, expanded appreciation of ordinary surroundings, without any diminishment of intellectual curiosity.

With no purpose beyond the play that goes into creating a photograph without anything special as a subject, here is a picture of ordinary trees, weeds, and sky. Cirrus clouds scudding through the gap.

Fun for me, and I'm not even sure why - but that doesn't matter! I hope it's a little bit enjoyable for some of you as well.


Monday, July 8, 2013

The value of black and white for interpretive imaging

Reviewing my Laurel Mill photos from three days ago, I began to rethink my processing of one of them. What gave the image some interest, I felt, was the streaks of clouds. They mostly radiated from the apparent location of the mill, and functioned as leading lines, drawing the eyes to the subject. I emphasized that by darkening the blue sky, but keeping it within a realistic range of appearance. I'll repost that version here for comparison.

Today, realizing that textures and shapes were far more important elements in this photo than color, I played with monochrome interpretations. This version is much like what I might have done long ago by shooting b&w film with a deep red filter in front of the lens, followed by high contrast printing. This is not intended to be a "photorealistic" depiction of the scene as I saw it. Rather, it's a dramatic interpretation of what I wished to see.

You may have noticed that the changes in the image led me to a decision to crop a little from the right side for better balance.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

A pastoral photo expedition

A photographer friend and I went on a rural photo hunt Friday. Our goal was the old Laurel Mill outside Louisburg, NC. Access was limited to the public road, so we didn't have the range of perspective options that we had hoped for. Here's a shot that shows the character of the mill pretty well.

Along the way, we took advantage of the photo ops offered by some pretty farmland, with good views right from the roadside.

When we got to Laurel Mill, we made the best of shooting from the highway bridge, and from the stream bed underneath it.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Independence Day, 2013

Most of the fireworks photos that I see are good representations of the effect we get when we stare at the sky and enjoy the bursts of color and the patterns they create. When the performance is set up with a backdrop of a great city skyline, some of the best shots incorporate city lights and architecture with the pyrotechnics. There are also some interesting photos of spectators' faces illuminated by the glare of the rockets.

Although I see fireworks each July 4, I have usually been inhibited from photographing them by the fact that I was playing violin on stage for at least the beginning of the bursts. This year the town of Cary, NC, summer home of the North Carolina Symphony, planned the thunderous display to follow the conclusion of the NCS concert at Koka Booth Amphitheater. I tried to take advantage of that by having my photo gear handy. I packed up my instrument quickly, and had the camera on tripod not too long after the fireworks began. I had preset the shutter to bulb, rather than a fixed shutter speed, so I could time the opening and closing according to what I saw happening.

My goal was to get a few photos a little out of the ordinary. I tried to get some reflections in the lake, to show the flames and smoke of rocket launches, and time the trails to create a variety of shapes and textures.

My shots were done from a backstage area where the public is not permitted. When the light show was almost over, I noticed that a few special guests were seated just behind where I had been. I saw an opportunity for a spectator shot, and quickly planted the tripod and composed my image. I guessed at an exposure that I thought would do justice to the people's profiles and outlines, then hoped that they wouldn't move too much during the exposure. This is what I got.