Saturday, August 2, 2014

I'm dying here... (More spiders!)

The spiders in my yard this year are killing me. So many, so fantastic! I don't know if I'm spending more time looking or if the yard is now mature enough to support them. Probably both.

This one literally dropped out of a tree to the deck right in front of me. Oh, my...

And then I found another one.

I've spent too much time comparing the photos but although incredibly similar I believe they may be two individuals. No ID yet.

And then this handsome male (one of a few cases in the spider world where the boys are pretty spiffy themselves) appeared on the top of an iris leaf in the container pond. After snapping a few slightly blurry photos (I was leaning out the door trying to keep cats in and mosquitos out, twisting the leaf around because he was being particularly shy) I made sure he was over dry land so he didn't miss a jump and land in the water.

These are just the jumping spiders; the orb weavers are out in great variety as well. More to come! Apologies to all arachnophobes. (Don't worry, I only take photos of the beautiful ones; some spiders even make me go Eeewww...)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I am in LOVE...

How can you not love this face?

To continue with examples of the serendipitous way my life works, out of the blue the other day I decided to see if I could get the sliding screen door either back on its track or figure out a way to hinge it. (It's been lying on its side tucked away on the deck for years...) In the process of wrestling with the door (which I did manage to get back up, more or less) I happened to notice this little fellow.

Even if you don't like spiders, how can you not like jumping spiders?! Okay, so one friend is most likely now afraid of any photo I post on Facebook. She says it's the eyes. Fair point; jumpers typically have eight of them, with at least two huge ones front and center. As well as eyes in the back of their head; how cool is that?

But (probably because of all of those eyes) they look at you. They notice you. They react to you with seeming intelligence. There's a connection being made and it's marvelous.

The legs-up photo is because he she was trying to get away and I wanted his her attention, so I tapped the chair arm and disturbed him her a bit more than I had planned. Oops. (He went merrily on his way when I had clicked off a dozen or so shots.)

CORRECTION: Paraphidippus species -- Emerald Jumper. Always go with the obvious. *sigh* With over 400 species of jumping spiders north of Mexico, it isn't easy to say which is which... Doesn't help that the females look different from the males. The juveniles probably look different from adults. Spiders of the same species can be highly variable. And some spiders can even change their patterns and colors like a chameleon. I'm sticking to Pelegrina (the white marks on the abdomen seem to be rather characteristic of the genus) and will let the nice folks at worry about which one. happy to be corrected.

Two days earlier I photographed the little one shown below on my front deck. I believe it too is a Pelegrina Paraphidippus; note the same white markings. Smaller and plainer = male. The line down the center of the abdomen really threw me until I realized it was not a true mark but merely the light reflecting off the spider.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Ten Minute Snapshot of My Life

Ten minute snapshot of my life... In snapshots.

How things work in my life: I went out to pick up some bamboo tips from where I'd tossed them last year because I finally figured out a use for them. Saw a wee snail in a patch of fantastic light, thought it would make a neat picture. Went for the camera, snail was cruising and had nearly managed to get out of sight by the time I made it back outside so I picked up the piece of bamboo it was on, scaring the snail. Snapped photo anyway:

While waiting for snail to re-emerge, out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement under the tree a couple feet away and looked more closely to discover it was a spreadwing damselfly... First for the yard, woohoo! Bad lighting but I took a documentary photo anyway:

The snail being stubborn, I was then sidetracked by the way the light was hitting the milkweed blossoms farther past the tree. (You can actually see the pink blur in the background of the above photo.) I walked around for better angle on damselfly and for photos of the milkweed. Scared the damselfly, took flower photos:

(Oh, snap! Much better than they appeared through the viewfinder, what with all the sweat running into my eyes. Did I mention it was broiling outside and only ten o'clock in the morning--?) Looked up from the flowers in time to notice the damselfly settling back down. Took poor photo but perfectly adequate for an ID: Slender Spreadwing. You can even see the diagnostic pale veins on the end of its wings.

Spooked damsel again. (Must learn not to wear white when creeping around my yard chasing small insects...) Went back to look for snail: Gone. Those things can really boogie when they want to.

New damselfly for the yard list and a flower photo I'm tickled over: Well worth the mosquito bites. And I now have an idea for creating a leaf litter tray for future snail photo sessions... :) And the reason I went for the bamboo sticks in the first place?

Typical way the "stream of consciousness" path of my life tends to go. Eh, I'll take it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Let there be light...

Physics fascinates me even though I don't understand most of it. I did quite well in those classes, mind you--mostly because I knew which numbers to plug into which formulas. But to this day all I really know is that you flip the switch, the light goes on. Somehow.

Speaking of lights, I really wish I'd been able to study light more in physics class. Those high school and college courses seemed to have mostly involved projectiles, which is great for a doodler (you should see my notebooks!) but didn't delve much into light and how it works. Not that I would have come out with any more enlightenment [sorry, couldn't resist] but it would have been fun trying.

Normally a camera's aperture, the opening where light enters, is circular and controlled by a diaphragm that is adjusted by means of a dial. The diameter of the aperture determines how much light gets to the camera's sensor/film; this controls depth of field among other things.

Most of the Lensbaby optics use removable disks with varying sized holes to change aperture instead of a diaphragm. This also controls how much of an image is in focus and how much receives the LB blur.

But thanks to some I-don't-know-why-it-works reason, you can change the shape of the aperture to something other than round and still take a good photograph--with some additional, amazing results.

Any bright spot not in focus takes on the shape of the aperture. LB manufactures a set of shaped disks, but you can make your own, too. I hadn't planned on ever shooting with these but a post on the Lensbaby Addicts Facebook page prompted me to revisit the idea. And I happen to have a wee tiny oak leaf paper punch and one LB optic that would make this effect work... The photos are so abstract because I had to push the lens as far out of focus as it would go in order to make the effect appear to its greatest extent.

I also enjoy the irony that not one of the trees I was photographing was an oak...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lensbaby Laurels.

Mountain Laurels, that is.

Kinda weird to have “mountain” laurels without mountains. We're lucky if high points in the county reach 20 feet above sea level! (We do have pine/oak habitat along the north edge, so in this case I guess vegetation trumps topography.)

Of course, I will also once again give laurels to the Lensbaby System. It’s perfect; it’s just the photographer who needs to learn to check the f-stop before hitting the shutter button and record which lens she’s using for which shots…

I actually remembered to check the status of the flowering (a thought prompted by a friend in North Carolina's posted photo of blooming mountain laurel) and so I finished off a day of errands by driving up to Belleplain State Forest late in the afternoon last week. Had to play a bit of peek-a-boo with cloud cover, but I lucked out and hit what looked like mid-bloom.

I was a bit startled to discover (upon sticking my nose into one of those bouquets) that these flowers have, for all intents and purposes, no aroma whatsoever...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Good Morning, Sunshine!

So far there has been little more than mosquitos in the new in-ground pool in the front garden. (Well, there’s some other practically microscopic invertebrate something buzzing around in there too, and the male Indigo Bunting was eyeing it up the other day.)

While sitting on the bench on my front deck (which over looks the pond) the other morning I realized there was a bit more wave action in it than usual…

(No, don't focus on the plants, Camera! The turtle, the turtle...!)

Not quite what I was expecting to show up. I should have realized, though, given the number of comments I’ve heard about how much box turtles love going (intentionally) for a swim. Small pond, perhaps 15 or 20 gallons? Big box turtle.

I fished him out just in case he wasn’t big enough to get over the low lip. (Must ponder the best way to build an escape ramp…) He was the least fearful box turtle I’ve handled in some time; I earned a few short hisses before he seemed to think better of it. Normally, a box turtle realizes it has a pretty effective defense mechanism: “I have a hinged plastron and I know how to use it!” *thwunk* I had to plop him in a bucket when I went to get a different lens because I didn’t trust him not to scamper off faster than I could get back outside. (I’ve been keeping a haphazard photo account of box turtles I find in the yard; basically, I take their pic and there it will sit in the memory card and the computer until I get around to doing something a bit more scientific with it.)

As an apology and restitution in case he had spent longer in the drink than he had intended, I fetched out some lovely earthworms from a few inadvertent stashes I have. (Given a year or two the mulberry and grape leaves compost beautifully all on their own just lying around in a pile on my patio. Guaranteed to be full of earthworms.)

Because he wasn’t really afraid of me, it took him about two eye blinks (his) before he realized I had dropped breakfast in front of him.

*nom nom nom* And then the bugs (biting flies have been added to the list of the other blood suckers out and about, oh joy) got the better of me (although I didn’t come off the front walk with nearly so many ticks as I expected to) and I let him go on his way…

It was fun tracking his slow, meandering progress across the front yard by the swaying-out-of-time-and-direction-with-the-wind grass and vinca vines.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Blue Eyed Grass

Click to bigify all photos--these wee flowers (~1/2") are worth a closer look.

Just holding the plants up and together; they got a bit leggy and top-heavy.

What’s in a name? Not too much in this case... Blue-eyed Grass does have a flower that is blue, but the “eye” is not (I wouldn't call it "eyed", either) and it isn’t even a grass. It’s actually an itty bitty iris! (Or close enough as makes no difference. And, wonder of wonders, it's a native wildflower in the genus Sisyrinchium; we may have up to four species in NJ.)

While the blossom doesn’t have the typical fleur-de-lis look of what we think of as an Iris, the base of the leaves form a flat fan just like a “normal” iris. It’s how I managed to sort these plants out from the actual grass in my yard before they bloomed so that I could transfer some of the blue-eyed grass to my deck containers…

Tried it last year but didn’t use the best pots (far too small) and most of the plants didn’t survive until fall, never mind make it through that horrible winter we had.

So after finding that the yard still contains a goodly amount, I snatched a few more plants and am trying again (in larger, mixed-plant pots). Most came from a stone-paved sometimes-walkway and a heavily deer-grazed section, so in essence I was rescuing them.

Sitting on my deck leisurely taking photos sure beats tromping around the tick-infested yard. The plants came up early enough so that I noticed them when a yard walkabout was still enjoyable, but they always seem to bloom just when the ticks really get their game on…

These shots were all taken with my Lensbaby collection: Plastic Optic (for the soft fuzzy look), Sweet 35 (for a “sweet spot” of focus amid radial blur) and Edge 80 (for a streak of focus across the shot), paired with macro converter rings for the close-up work. (And yes, in some instances I'm not sure which is which myself. I really have to start writing these things down...)