Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Welcome to my world...

Where I am mocked by, of all things, a Carrion Beetle. This carrion beetle, to be exact:

So this unknown buggish, beetlish thing landed on my deck soon after I had taken the photos of the Two-spotted Stink Bug of the previous post—and after I had (stupidly) put away the camera. Of course it was gone by the time I got back with said camera.

Fast forward to the next afternoon. *fwup* A flying thing bounced off the house wall. It was back! And when I went to get it off the deck railing, it fell to the ground and disappeared. Strike Two. I finally decided to creep through the ever-more-tick-infested yard and crouch down (making it easier for the ticks to get me) to look around for it under the deck. There it was! Of course, I now had a container in hand but no camera. And while going for the camera, the insect crawled out of the crack in the container… Strike Three.

But that wasn’t the end of it. *fwip* It landed on the house wall. And promptly ducked behind the siding. Argh!

It finally showed up again, and this time I had a new holding container. No cracks and with a lid. I had even had time to punch in air holes. And I had the camera. Success! See above photo.

And because I now had an okay shot, the damn bug taunted me the rest of the afternoon. It landed on the umbrella… “Nope, sorry, don’t need you anymore.” I went inside to fix supper—and it followed me into the house by coming in under the screen door! [All sorts of things have come in under that badly-fitting storm door, most notably skinks and a baby black rat snake that somehow made it half way up the door to wrap itself around the door handle.] I rescued the beetle before Sephy-cat could grab it and chased it back to the other side of the door. I took my soup out to the deck and what do you know? The blasted bug was on my hat that I had left outside!

It finally fell off the hat and disappeared down the crack between deck boards. Hah! I thought; let's see you get out of that.

Yes, you know what happened next. It did come back...

Yes, that’s it. Sitting. On. The. Camera.

My life in a nutshell: mercilessly teased and taunted by a Carrion Beetle. (Possibly even two, because that first one doesn't quite look like the one in the next two shots.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring Bugs.

With recent temps shooting into the seventies (yup, we’ve skipped Spring once again and headed right into Summer—no real surprise there) the creepy crawlies are out and about. And I’m not just referring to the ticks, which are pretty much a given at any time of the year. (Although in spite of much bushwhacking lately, I did not acquire my first tick bite until April 11, which has to be one of the latest dates, so even though some of the bloodsuckers survived the winter [damn], the numbers are definitely down [for now].) 

This American Oil Beetle raced past me across the sidewalk at the public library—right before the last snowfall. I like to think it would not have survived even if I hadn’t accidentally toasted it by keeping it in a little container in the warm truck before photo-documenting it. Whoops. Sorry, so sorry…

This gorgeously colored leaf-footed bug apparently spent the winter wedged between my shed door and the frame. It survived quite well enough to fly away on the warm day I took this photo. (Interestingly, there was second one nearby between the door and floor that did not make it… And no, I hadn’t stepped on it.)

I saw this beauty cruising down my deck railing and at first thought “Box Elder Bug?” because that’s what comes to mind when I glimpse a black and red creepy crawlie, but something wasn’t clicking into place... I’m glad I managed to plunk a plastic dish over it while I went for the camera, because the little bugger was not willing to stay around for a long photo session. Guess it heard about the oil beetle?

Resorted to Google and the Bug Guide for its ID, as the obvious starting point of “Black and Red Stink/Shield Bug” in my insect guide showed a critter that was definitely not this one.

Two-spotted Stink Bug, Perillus bioculatus. Even though this is a first for me, it seems to have a very broad distribution and activity period judging by the photos online. And is reportedly bred specifically to help control the Colorado Potato Beetle...

I saw another neat bug that didn’t get photographed because I didn’t tap it into a holding container. I had (stupidly) put the camera away and the bug was gone by the time I got it back… [It showed up the next day, however, and that’s a post of its own!] There was also a white moth that flew into the bathroom and then fell off the wall somewhere onto a shelf when I tried to reach it… I might be able to get a picture of it if I can find it, but I’m in no hurry as I’ve tried and failed to ID the one white moth I have found—even with top and bottom photos of it. (You’d think that they’d be easy to put a name to, given that there aren’t that many of them. Hah!)

The overwintering butterflies and early-emergers were also out, but flitted by (helped by a steady breeze) so quickly I could only guess at IDs, never mind try for pics. Come on, holly tree; I need you to get your flowers open soon to slow down the fly-bys…

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Oh, baby...

Lensbaby that is—a system of "creative lenses" for DSLR cameras. You could probably do most (most likely all if you're really, really good) of the effects in an image editing program these days, but doing the work in-camera appealed to me. That, and I figured the learning curve on the lenses would be less than the learning curve on the software. (Not to mention less time consuming: Point and shoot, or sit and fiddle for hours…)

I hate learning curves. It's probably the reason I don't play an instrument—I hate to practice.

I have good beginner's luck, though. Fourth shot off with the new lens:

Then I get cocky and think "I can do this!" and I start to play around and it all goes downhill from there… [Ask me about the one and only time I tried downhill skiing.]

But from the first 68 attempts I managed a few keepers, some technically-okay-but-not-interesting, a few near misses, and a few dozen I'm not even going to bother to post. (Ouch. Reality Check.)

Missed the exposure and focus by a smudge, dang it. Photoshop (Elements) to the rescue! I know how to lighten, darken and sharpen…


Yeah, fudged that one a bit, too.

And these… Two shots with nearly the same composition but with different exposures making the color saturation come out markedly dissimilar. Kinda like the effect myself; it conveys two totally different moods of what is, essentially, exactly the same photo…

Eh, I think one out of twenty or so shots is a good average for the first time out with a new gadget. And I'm so very grateful for the digital technology--I would never have started to shoot if I'd only had film to work with…

I am also very grateful to have such gorgeous, patient and captive models on which to practice. This one is my Cassandra. A real handful much of the time (gotta love that torbie cattitude!), but she sure knows how to vogue...

What, exactly, does the creative lens do? Compare a normal shot from one of my "regular" lenses, an 18-55mm zoom set at 36mm and f5 with the Lensbaby shot (Sweet 35) set somewhere around f4 or f5.6 (the lenses don't communicate with the camera body, so I have to be more diligent about start recording what settings I'm using)...

Of course the new toy had to be returned because I received duplicate lenses in the kit instead of the two different ones it was supposed to contain. Argh. Sigh. At least the snow that had followed a few hours behind the UPS truck (easily 7 inches, probably more) meant I had a day to play (because I was sick of clearing off the truck and the wind was too nasty to want to go out in yet more snow).

But B&H Photo had a new kit in my hands exactly a week later.

Naturally, we are currently trapped in that horrible in-between season where it is no longer Winter (I can't believe I'm saying that) but Spring is being a bit timid about appearing (can you blame her? Every blooming thing out there is waiting for Winter to reappear, say Gotcha and laugh evilly)... So what does one do when one needs to practice and is tired of annoying her cats? Why, sit outside on a sunny afternoon in that still-low, glowing light and just start shooting whatever is on hand. Like a rock. And a piece of that wow-it's-already-green moss. And a marble. And oh, I have those cool ceramic mushrooms in the house...

Still life!

This is a learning curve I might enjoy...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Incidental Scenery.

I had mentioned my search for skunk cabbage in bloom to a man who surveys the local butterfly populations (and therefore knows the nooks and crannies of the county very well) who sent me off to some wet woods I had not visited for years. I missed finding any flowers until, just before leaving the place, I used my binoculars to take a second, closer look at a spot right where I had entered the property. I did find the skunk cabbage but it wasn’t as nice as the first batch I had found.

But I was glad I had taken the time to stop because I had forgotten how pretty a particular little stretch of the acreage was. I had the “wrong” lens for shooting landscapes (and was too lazy to go all the way back to the truck) but I managed a handful of shots that didn’t turn out too badly. (Hooray for really good equipment, even if the lens is primarily for macro photography.)

One reason I tend to shoot wide: I knew there was something to be found in taking few shots of the iced-in leaves without the sweet gum ball, but what the camera grabbed was not quite what I had in mind. Hefty cropping and exposure adjustment and BAM! That’s more like it.

The light was lovely, too... (That lichen should be attached to a twig of a tree by the little pale dot lower right; the twig that looks to be extending from it is not part of the lichen. There is a lot of such lichen on the ground after this winter.)