Thursday, September 29, 2011


Capturing wildlife images is one of the most challenging types of nature photography.  The first step is to find the varmint.  Next, there's the challenge of getting close enough and grabbing a few shots as the animal is moving around.

Of course, you can always do it in a zoo.  Careful positioning and cropping can yield some excellent pictures.  I'll have to dig some out of my archives soon, since it'll be a while before I get a chance to visit the zoo again.

Another way to make things happen is to go for the semi-tame animals in the city or at campgrounds.

Yes, there is wildlife in this photo,  Just look at the very top of the lighthouse.

See?  Told you so!  That bird is definitely on the top of the pecking order because he has the only high perch for half a mile or so.

These birds get to share with each other...

... and a squirrel

... and another squirrel

If you look more closely, you will see that he is chewing on a black walnut.  There are little bits of shell dust falling to the ground.

Of course, not all squirrels like high perches.  This little chipmunk is perfectly happy to root around in the wood chips and snatch crumbs from the tourists.

 This critter isn't so wild.

In fact, he's kind of sleepy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Praying Mantis

It is a praying mantis, Julie-san.

Or, maybe it should be called a 'preying mantis.'  It is, after all, it is one of the more effective predators of the insect world.  All small critters need to fear the praying mantis, including other praying mantises -- especially male praying mantises.

Yes, the female praying mantis is a real man eater.  After he does his duty to the species by sharing his genetic material, he goes a step further by sharing his very substance.

Yes, the female praying mantis is much like a black widow spider.  She eats her mate, and doesn't wait for him to finish.  She starts by eating his head.  That doesn't slow him down at all.  In fact, it seems to encourage him to go even faster.

I can't help but wonder if there is a lesson in there.

This mantis wasn't particularly big, which probably means that it's a male.

Climb every mountain.... or maybe every posie.

When you look into his big compound eyes, the little black dots appear to move with you; as if he's watching you closely.  This is because each eye consists of a bunch of tubes each facing in a slightly different direction.  You end up seeing the insides of the tubes of most of the facets, but you can see to the bottom the ones that are pointing straight at you.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ludington, Michigan

Ludington is one of the jewels of Michigan's west coast.

Actually, Michigan's fresh coast contains lots of opportunities for recreation, relaxation, and exploration.

Not to mention photography.

So, we'll be exploring the Great Lakes a lot in this blog.

We are fortunate to be living in the place where other people come for vacation.  Ludington is just an hour away from Cadillac, so it is a day trip for us.  Still, there's something to be said for taking a week off and camping there.

Mary grabbed this picture of a seagull doing what seagulls do best -- making noise.

I know it's cliche', but who can resist a beautiful sunset over Lake Michigan?

When are wild animals not really wild? When they live in a city or campground or any other place that is frequented by humans.

While we humans have encroached upon the habitat of some wildlife, a number of species are actually benefiting from us.  Animals that can tolerate our presence benefit by picking up our scraps.  In fact, coyotes are more widespread now than they were before this continent was discovered.

It has been theorized that wolves were originally domesticated because the ones that could tolerate our presence followed our early hunter-gatherer groups around.  Some people decided that the puppies were cute and raised them and the rest, as they say, is history.

There is a research group in Siberia that is doing exactly that with foxes.  In less than fifty years, they managed to breed foxes that are as friendly and loving as any dog.

Does anyone want to try it with the city squirrels, coons, or 'possums.

Well,  maybe not the 'possums.

By the way, they still are wild.  If you try to pet them, you'll probably get bit.  The meanest animal I ever had to deal with was a mama coon who kept sneaking into the house and eating the cat food.

But that's another story for another time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


The most common mistake made when taking snapshots is to stand too far away from the subject and snap a picture that consists of a small item or person in the middle of a bunch of uninteresting dead space.

The next batch of photos exemplifies just the opposite. I used a close-up lens to get in close and personal. In most cases, I even cropped the original file.

I also like to shoot from a different perspective. You can get a lot of visual impact by taking a commonly ignored item and making it larger than life or grabbing it from an unusual angle.

A picture is worth a thousand words (but it takes several million bytes.)

Oh cool! It's a fly agaric mushroom! Let's grab a snapshot!

If you see a picture of a mushroom, it is probably a fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) Even the mushroom people on the popular Nintendo game that my kids like to play is a fly agaric. I don't recommend eating one, unless you want to get sick and high at the same time.

Anyhow, the above picture is singularly uninspiring, isn't it? Let's try again.

That's better! We have more mushroom and less other stuff. Still...

Even better. You can almost see the fairy sitting on it, can't you. (My wife asked me if I saw the fairy before or after I ate the magic mushroom.)

Finally, we see the bug's eye view. It's almost worth getting bit in the bellybutton by ants.

No, this isn't a large exotic orchid. It's a common violet. We tend to walk past (or over) them without sparing a second glance.

The above three are orchids. They aren't big or particularly exotic, but they aren't commonly seen. These pictures were taken near Mothers' Day at my parents' retirement home, which is about half way between Reed City and Cadillac, Michigan.

Pink Lady Slippers are found in low wooded areas. They are protected wildflowers.

If you look closely, you can see pollen on the bottom of the 'slipper' part.

I'm not sure what this one is. I'll have to look it up. It looks a lot like wild mustard.

The Trilliam is another protected Michigan wildflower.

Taking pictures in the wet foliage isn't fun, but the water droplets definitely add to the final image.

Getting closer, we can see detail that the casual observer misses. Who crawls down in the soggy forest floor, anyhow? I did it so you don't have to.

One thing I missed when I was taking the picture, but noticed when I was going through the results, was the pollen that is on the petals -- ready to be picked up by the feet of a pollinating insect or bird.

This is another flower that I haven't identified yet. It is very easy to ignore because it's only about a quarter of an inch long. It's worth a closer look, don't you think?

This is another tiny flower that has a lot to offer when you take the effort to look closely.

... And sometimes, you just take things for granite.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I'm a long time 35mm photographer, but it's only recently that I managed to drag my camera gear into the twenty-first century. Now, armed with a really long zoom lens and an imager that makes 35mm film look weak, I'm happily snapping images (without having to worry about the cost of film - yay!)

I have always enjoyed macro photography because it allows a whole new perspective on the world. So what if people speak disparagingly of my 'bugs and flowers' pictures?