Thursday, March 27, 2014

Magic Wings Butterfly House

I have enjoyed several visits to the Magic Wings Butterfly House at the Museum of Life + Science in Durham, NC. March 23 was special because I went there on an outing with the Carolinas Nature Photographers' Association. We were given access before the facility was opened for the public that day, which meant good opportunities to quietly stalk these creatures.

While I waited for the front element of my camera lens to defog (the butterfly house is kept at about 80ºF/27ºC year round, and fairly humid, while outside that morning it was cold, not much above freezing), I spotted a cooperative poser on a photogenic perch.

The dew hanging from this flower caught and magnified the images of leaves around it.

Recliner? Reclining Maja?

Reclining Magenta?

When I'm surrounded by colorful butterflies and flowering plants, I'm not usually "thinking in black and white", but I could hardly keep myself from imagining these leaves in a monochrome rendering, so that's where I went with this one.

This succulent is an unusual shade of blue-green.

A sudden flurry of motion caught my attention:

She lit on a joint of my tripod leg.

Here's an overview, the widest view I could get with the lens on my other camera.

She paused on the camera body.

I swapped cameras so that I could hand hold the shorter lens and locked the big rig on the tripod. That's when it became clear that my friend was female. She laid a few eggs (yellow spheres) on the lens hood among other places.

[all photos EF 100/2.8 L IS macro or 70-200/2.8 L IS II + Extender 2X III]


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Flowers after rain

A break in the rain this afternoon gave me a chance to play with some of my perennial favorites. So, without comment:

[Canon 5D Mk III, EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS Macro]


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fool me twice, I'll still flower

Some of the perennial flowers in our neighborhood were tricked into blooming in February, between substantial ice storms. The purple hellebores really showed their stuff then. Now the greenies have put on a March 11 display. I hope they're ready for the subfreezing morning we're about to get March 13.

I was pleased with the atmosphere of this shot, done with the camera hand-held, only the existing natural light.

[Gear: Canon EOS 5D MkIII, EF 100mm/2.8 L macro IS, 1/60 sec, f/4, ISO 400]


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More birds in flight, a turtle, and a foggy sunset

Doing landscape photography had made me inclined to dislike sunny, cloudless blue skies. Clouds add drama to the sky and often to the light falling on the scene as well. On the other hand, a sunny afternoon (March 9) lake outing (my third or fourth real attempt at shooting birds in flight) made me appreciate the good qualities this kind of day can have for catching avian aerobatics. The underside of a bird in flight over a body of water is illuminated by daylight reflected off that water. It's hard to top the strength of non-cloud-filtered sunlight when you're relying on a reflection of the source.

The turkey buzzard was not over the lake, but soaring over the land nearby.

No wing tips ever touched the water:

Crows are so dark, they're difficult to expose for some detail and highlights while retaining color in the bright sky above.

Really close encounter with the moon, and no - no Photoshop manipulation, the bird and moon were in exactly that relationship.

Even when I'm trying to watch for surprise overhead flybys, I try to remember to look down occasionally. I think this is a box turtle, but I never saw more than this much of it.

Finally the sun was at a low enough angle to throw some light across this crow's wings. It's a pretty specimen, in my opinion.

And a lovely foggy sunset ended the day!

[Gear: Canon EOS 1DX and 1DMkIV, 300/2.8 L IS II + Ext 2XIII, 100-400/4.5-5.6 L IS]


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Birds in Flight

Saturday I had a chance to practice shooting birds in flight. I've taken a few stabs at this before, but it takes quite a bit of practice (for me anyway) to have any consistent success at anticipating their movements, keeping them in the narrow angle of view of a (heavy) telephoto lens, and keeping autofocus sensors positioned to grab the eyes, not to mention exposing for the bird's tones rather than the sky or changing landscape background.

The following photos won't all make it to the nature section of my main website (let alone to anyone else's gallery), but I feel good enough about them - and the progress I'm making, gradually - to share them here.

You will see "flight path sequences" where I followed a particular gull or heron to try to catch it in attractive and interesting poses. I began the shooting with a Canon 300mm/2.8 L IS II attached to an Extender 2X III. (The Roman II and III are just version numbers for those into exact gear used. The camera was a 1DX.) The net is a 600mm focal length, 12x greater magnification than the 50mm focal length usually considered "normal" for a "full frame" DSLR (24x36mm sensor dimensions).

The next shot makes me think of a heron slingshot.

Here the background is busy, but the positioning of the wings and body is about as nice as I could have hoped for, and the light is attractive, really bringing out the blue of the feathers and the contrasting orange of the feet. I had to crop this shot quite a bit, so I don't think it will make the kind of sharp large print that I enjoy doing, but then photography doesn't always have to be about finest possible detail, even though I love when an image that has other more important properties also happens to offer details for the eye to explore. (There are reasons that photographers go crazy over high quality lenses and try to master the careful technique that's necessary to really exploit their capabilities.)

I'm sure that some viewers, recognizing the object behind this gull, will dislike the image for that reason. I don't mind, I like the juxtaposition of the graceful bird with the ugly-in-most-circumstances cracked concrete. I think it makes an interesting abstract composition. Feel free to disagree in the comments section!

Some of the birds were starting to fly closer to me. At this point I removed the 2x extender and shot with the bare 300mm.

Ooh, this one below has two shadows. Doctor Who fans know what that means!

The beautiful colors in the water are reflections of the "ugly" concrete tower that is seen above, midway through this page.

And that concluded my outing. I hope you enjoyed tagging along.