Category Archives: Photos

Staring Back at You

Dragonflies are such interesting insects often darting here and there riding the air currents as they hunt. Occasionally they land for a moment or two allowing a photo to be taken. This one seems to be looking back wondering what this big eye (camera lens) looking straight at it is doing. The colors and details of dragonflies are quite diverse and fun to look at when you get an opportunity. I believe this one is called a 12 spotted skimmer due to the spots on its wings all of which are not visible in this photograph. I was surprised by all of the hair covering the main portion of its body. Almost like a bumble bee. A fun subject to photograph.

Pansies Close Up

Pansies are a beautiful spring flower showing off their vibrant colors when many people want to see flowers in bloom. They are striking flowers so I spent a little time photographing them and was fortunate enough to encounter some wildlife while doing so. Well, if insects can be considered wildlife. While really looking into these flowers I was setting up to take some close up abstract photos when a fly decided to enter the picture.

A fly decided to get in front of the camera for a photo

Already set up I quickly snapped a few photos while it was in focus under the lens just for some added interest. Below is the photo I was attempting to get before the fly flew into the frame. Seeing pansies this close makes me wonder how insects see them. Supposedly the veins, which are the darker lines, draw them into the center part of the flower where the pollen is so they can exchange this pollen in hopes of creating new seeds. But then why is the center yellow? Does that attract the insects once they are on the flower enticing them to the pollen? I like how this photo shows pollen grains sitting on a flower petal shaken from the stamen either by insects or wind. A nice contrast to the purple.

Abstract close up of a purple pansy

The Next Generation of Monarchs

Every night as I walk into the house there have been a couple of monarch caterpillars munching away on the leaves of milkweed which we let grow specifically for them. It’s always amazing how fast these caterpillars grow. They become noticeably larger each day. There’s some debate as to if we should put these into a protected place so they can cocoon and turn into butterflies or let them find their own hiding place to cocoon and risk something eating them. Looking forward to seeing the butterflies soon floating around the neighborhood.

Another monarch caterpillar

Capturing The Great Blue Heron

With the late spring this year migrating birds such as the Great Blue Heron were restricted in places to find food. This gave me an opportunity to get closer and get some great photos of this skittish bird. Several days earlier I was walking through this area and was only able to catch a glimpse of this heron as it flew away before I really even knew it was there. A couple of days later the same thing happened only allowing me to get a blurry photo as it few away.

And down it goes

Finally, the next day being a Saturday I ventured out again before sunrise. As I got closer to this little stream, which was beginning to open up after the winter, I moved more cautiously and tried to appear as though I wasn’t even paying attention to the stream by looking the other way. After a bit of surveying the landscape in the opposite direction I caught this heron out of the corner of my eye so I now knew it was there and hadn’t taken flight yet.

Surveying the surroundings

Returning my attention in the opposite direction from this bird I would glance back from time to time to find it was going back to its business of fishing. Slowly I retrieved my camera and attached a larger lens before turning it on this Heron over a downed log. The more I just relaxed and continued my normal movements from this distance the more comfortable this bird seemed to get even allowing me to slowly move closer over time getting even better photographs and observe its behavior. Occasionally a pair of wood ducks would swim by since the Heron deemed the area safe with me their. I had a great time and stayed there until the Heron stopped fishing and departed with another one passing by.

Heron fishing while a wood duck drake looks on

Emerging

Once spring arrived plants began to return to life rather quickly. I took a little time to capture some of the surrounding trees as their leaves returned to life bringing green back into the landscape. In the above photo is a silver maple extending new leaves into the warming air to capture the power of the sun creating energy for life.

Emergence of oak leaves

Oak leaves expanding with their tiny lobed leaves while still perfect in form before the tribulations of summer take its toll on them.

Gingko leaves unfurling

Here are Ginkgo leaves emerging from a long winter unfurling into the bright sunlight as they stretch out of the bud. Below are the flowers of an oak tree getting ready to create new acorns. The beginning of another oak tree?

Flowers of an oak tree

Capturing a Little Bit of Spring

Unfortunately there has been limited time available to go exploring with the camera while spring explodes all around us but I have taken a few opportunities to enjoy the landscape as it returns to life. Above is a purple and white bicolor wild violet. Below are oak tree flowers.

Flowers of an Oak Tree

Crabapple in full bloom

Bringing some very enjoyable sweet fragrances are the blooms of crabapple trees and hyacinths. They don’t last very long but sure do bring a smile to many with their pleasurable smell bringing great springtime moments.

Hyacinth beginning to bloom

Ducks, Ducks, and More Water Fowl

Over the last few weeks I’ve been able to get out and photograph several different types of ducks and other waterfowl as they begin their migration north. Fortunately for me there has been limited areas of open water so these ducks have had to congregate into these areas making it a little easier to photograph. There have been thirteen different ducks that I’ve photographed this spring. Out of those, six are types I’ve never seen before so that’s pretty good success in my book. The top photo is a pair of wood ducks searching for a place to build their nest.  (Click on each image below to view a larger version of it.)

A pair of Mallard drakes                  Canadian Geese

In these next two pictures are the most common types of waterfowl in my area which include mallards and Canadian geese. Mallards can have some great colors but are seen all the time during the summer making them less interesting. Canadian geese are a pretty bird with their combination of brown, black, and white colors but they are kind of annoying with their constant honking.

Great Blue Heron                  A pair of Blue Winged Teal

The first image on the left is not really a waterfowl, but a bird that spends a lot of time in the shallow waters. This Great Blue Heron took me several attempts to get nice photos of because I would continually scare it away as I approached the thawing creek without knowing it was there. Finally on the third time going to the area I saw it before it took off and stopped. After awhile it didn’t seem to care that I was there so I could get close enough for some nice photos. In the second picture is a pair of blue winged teals which I’ve photographed a number of times before.

Green Winged Teal                  Ring Neck drake

During one of my outings I came across this duck on the left above which I have never seen before. Upon getting home and doing a little research I found out this was a green winged teal. A very pretty duck which would have been nice to get closer to for better photos. Not this time I guess. The duck above on the left is a ring neck duck which I’ve seen and photographed a couple of times. A fun duck to watch.

A pair of Bufflehead ducks                   Red Head duck

Above on the left are a pair of bufflehead ducks. Another duck which I had not yet seen so it was nice to add these to my collection. Fortunately I saw several of these during a weeks time span. On the right above is a read head duck which was mixed in with a flock of lessor scaups below on the left. These I’ve seen a number of different times during the spring and fall migration. They are very distinctive to pick out in a flock of ducks due to their red heads.

Lesser Scaup ducks                   Hooded Merganser drake taking off

Getting ready to fly away on the right photo above is a hooded merganser. These are another fairly common duck in central Minnesota. Moving to the pictures below, the one of the left is a red breasted merganser and the common loon on the right. Both of these are new to my photo collection and I’ve never seen a red breasted merganser before so that was fun. Very interesting and pretty ducks. While loons have been visible from time to time I’ve never actually taken a lot of time to watch them up close. They are fun to sit and watch with a binoculars or spotting scope (or in my case a zoom lens) for awhile as they fish, preen, and maintain their territory. With any luck I’ll be able to get out more this spring and observe more fowl as they prepare for the summer.

Red Breasted Merganser                    Loon on take off

The Forms of Water

Winter is beginning to lose it’s hold on the North bit by bit allowing water to run freely again. Near this running water, the ice remains showing all of the different layers together which has hidden the lakes and rivers for several months. In some areas this ice is really quite intriguing as you look closer at it. Portions of it are solid white other parts are made up of a combination of ice crystals forming together. A question I have about these different layers is were they formed during the winter or is this the result of spring weather with freezing and thawing working together to form these layers? Soon it will all be gone. Replaced by rain and thunderstorms once again.

Smiling Ice

More Snowflakes

There hasn’t been a lot of opportunities to go out and find beautiful, wintery landscapes to photograph recently. Temperatures have also been staying quite cold so I’ve taken this opportunity to capture more snowflakes under the camera lens whenever a few flakes have fallen and have been having a lot of fun doing it. A previous post with more snowflake photos can be found here.

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Some snowfalls don’t produce much for interesting snowflakes while at other times there are so many to choose from that they can’t all be photographed before blowing away or disappearing. Yes, they disappear even in very cold weather. I can only assume it’s due to the very dry air near the ground causing these delicate ice crystals to evaporate.

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The many different shapes and make up of these ice crystals continues to amaze me with each one I see. Some are so sharp and pointy while others are more rounded. It’s also fascinating to see the different stages of development of different snowflakes in each photograph that surrounds the larger one focused on. In some cases you can see the center of a developing snowflake that has fallen before growing larger. Other times seeing the different fragments that have broken off from a snowflake during its journey to the ground provide some great shapes.

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At times there are multiple snowflakes frozen together such as in the picture above. On the longest branch there is the center of another developing snowflake frozen to the larger snowflake. In addition, the branch next to this one you can see the beginning of the center of another snowflake. One theory indicates these snowflakes collided on their trip from the clouds and merged together. I wonder if it’s possible these centers formed at the tip of these branches. Fun to discover regardless of how they were created. I hope you enjoy viewing these and also find it fascinating to see the different shapes they develop into.

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The Beauty of Snowflakes

Over the past couple of weeks snow has began to fall creating a beautiful white blanket covering the landscape. When looking out at this landscape it just looks like a white fluff everywhere that we have to shovel and drive over. Examining this white that covers everything shows some amazing micro formations, each one different from one another. Once again I’ve been trying to capture these snowflakes with a camera hoping to reveal the incredible structures many of these ice crystals possess.

Each snowflake has a unique design

Photographing them can be a bit of a challenge as it can be difficult to find a single snowflake in the camera among so many others with a macro lens because it is out of focus until the camera and lens are at just the right distance and then its unique and amazing shape begins to reveal itself as long as there is enough light reflecting from it. Once I find it in the camera it’s time to set up the tripod and again get the camera as close as I can and have the snowflake be in focus. These are sometimes difficult to get in sharp focus because their clear ice crystals so you don’t always realize if the snowflake is in focus or the sharp focus is behind it. And it’s such a small subject anyway which always makes things more challenging.

A single snowflake glistening in light

Before taking too many pictures it’s a good idea to make sure the snowflake is positioned correctly so the camera can pick up the detail in each segment. Once positioned well the camera needs to be adjusted to bring it into focus and stabilized so there is no movement in either the ice crystal or the camera otherwise everything becomes a little blurry. With everything finally set up its time to take the picture. Using the camera timer or remote shutter is a good idea as just the act of pushing the shutter button will most likely result in a little movement and a blurry photo.

A single snowflake appearing verying lopsided

One other element to photographing the incredible ice crystals is that is has to be done in the cold. This alone presents challenges. You need to acclimate the camera and lenses to the cold otherwise they can fog up and your out of luck getting good pictures so a little preparation ahead of time will help. Also you need to make sure you stay warm in order to successfully accomplish the fine movements necessary to capture a beautiful snowflake without breaking it. In addition what ever surface your using to hold the snowflake must be cold or it will melt before you can take the picture. Even with that wind can ruin the shot. Snowflakes are a subject that requires fairly quick reaction as they begin to break down within a short time of landing on the ground giving an hour or two to capture this great architecture created in the sky. With all of these challenges, snowflakes are a great source of amazement to view after they’re gone making them worth the effort to capture.

Single snowflake with each side just a point