Recently I’ve been out having fun with macro photography. Certainly this presents some different challenges but provides some great images. There’s multiple ways of accomplishing some of these close-ups and each provides a little different result. You can use macro lens designed for this type of photography or telephoto lenses zoomed in. Some people even use microscopes to get really close. My method of choice is to use a small telephoto lens with extension tubes for these images. Extension tubes allow you to get quite a bit closer to whatever you are photographing for some really close-up photographs.
Some of the challenges for this type of photography are getting adequate lighting, acquiring the right focus as the focus area becomes substantially smaller, and maintaining your desired composition. Lighting can be a challenge because your lens is so close to your subject that it blocks out light. Be careful of your camera placement or your own shadow may be in the picture.
For these images of Black Eyed Susans, here’s my setup: I move my camera around using the screen to compose a potentially interesting photograph until I find where I want to take the picture from and then I set up a tripod to position my camera in that location. Once I’m all set up I plug in a remote release so there is a little camera shake as possible and wait for good light as on this day there were clouds passing by. There was also some wind blowing around the flowers so I waited until they would stop moving after a gust. Also, I did this in the middle of the day as morning or evening light would reduce the amount of light for a sharp picture. I snapped the first photo and checked to see that the focus is where I want it. If it’s not, an adjustment to the shutter speed or aperture can help especially if your lucky and an insect enters the flower such as a couple of them seen here.
A few weeks ago the Perseid meteor shower was expected to peak providing a possible meteor every minute burning through the night sky. For the best viewing, the darkest sky possible is required so we took a road trip to the North Shore of Minnesota and settled in for a great, however short, astronomical show as a near full moon would be rising about an hour after total darkness descended across the horizon. As the sky grew increasingly dark I worked the camera to capture this annual event. Yes, the Perseid meteor shower occurs every summer near the beginning of August.
While taking in the meteors buzzing across the blackened sky I wanted to make another attempt at photographing the Milkyway as I’ve spent some time earlier in the summer trying to get a photo showing the arc produced across the sky by the Milkyway if there is enough darkness. Finally I successfully accomplished that with a photo that shows some of the amazing colors available in the night sky with the help of distant northern lights glowing on the horizon and a few city lights off in the distance.
While photographing the Milkyway, many of these photos caught a meteor or two and sometime more streaking across the sky. They may be a little difficult to see in these photos but if you look hard enough, especially in the one directly above here, you can see them. I can see as many as four in the photo just above but the sky is a little too bright to make them out easily. Unfortunately the best ones were not caught by my camera. There were a few that crossed almost the entire visible night sky leaving a trail of light for more than a second. In what seemed like a matter of minutes the moon began rising lighting up the whole star filled sky making it much more difficult to see these meteors however the brightest ones still left a bolt of light as they flew through the universe. While this may not produce the same excitement as a total solar eclipse it is still worth trying to view on a nice summer night. Just be prepared for mosquitoes if they exist where you are.
While getting ready to enjoy an evening of Fireworks to end the day of Independence Day celebrations another type of fireworks began. Storms off in the distance began displaying beautiful cloud lighting which became a distraction from fireworks being set off from the ground. It was a difficult choice deciding which one to watch as they were going off at the same time and both were interesting and beautiful to watch.
Most of the time I tried to pay attention to those being set off by nearby cities anticipating these approaching storms would continue after their fireworks were done. I did keep an eye on local radar just to make sure we weren’t in danger of storms catching us before the ground fireworks were complete. Once they ended I decided to drop off the family in the safety of our home and head out with the camera and try to capture this amazing display in the sky. Expecting rain to begin within 20 minutes of setting up I moved quickly to get the camera settings and focus correct and attempted to photograph some of this lightning. As it turned out the rain stayed away for over an hour while the lightning continued to flash in the sky resulting in some nice images.
I couple of weeks ago I was awakened by a bright flash of lightning. After watching out the window for a few minutes I realized the storms were passed us and then I saw a light flash. Being still partially asleep I wasn’t sure I saw that little flash of light as it was 12:30am and fireflies are typically done lighting up by this time.
Becoming a little more awake I continued to look outside only to confirm fireflies were indeed flashing in our back yard. A few minutes later I was out on the deck watching them flash repeatedly. More than we’ve ever had in our backyard. The following night I decided to head out to more wooded areas to see if the fireflies were putting on a show. The first location I tried really wasn’t providing as many fireflies as I wanted so I decided to try another area close by.
Luckily they were putting on a nice show but then another issue arose with a nearly full moon lighting up the landscape making it difficult to see any fireflies flashing. I was able to find a shaded area and get some nice pictures of the fireflies that night. Over the next couple of weeks I’ve been going to different spot when I can and photographing these interesting beetles as they displayed different flashing sequences and colors. Hopefully you can see their trails in the photos in this post. My next goal is to photograph a single beetle lighting up. We’ll see as that is a difficult task as they don’t like to stay in one place very long.
During the past several weeks I’ve been out enjoying the active wildlife and taking hundreds of photographs. Some of the most prevalent subjects have been dragonflies which are fun insects to photograph with all of their different colorations and patterns. People tend to get a little bored with dragonfly photographs as there are a lot of them.
In the main photo above I believe that is called a widow skimmer which is also in the second to last photo from the bottom. Directly above is a four spotted skimmer. After photographing a dragonfly it can be a bit of a challenge to identify it but fun to try and fun to learn what each one is.
These insects are amazing fliers often able to out fly birds to keep from being eaten and also catch insects for their next meal which is a great thing for those that don’t like mosquitos. Their acrobatics can entertain and amaze for hours on a nice summer afternoon.
Above is a blue damselfly hiding amongst the grass. While many people consider it a dragonfly it is actually a different insect in a group known as damselflies. Damselflies have their wings behind them while at rest and are not as skilled at flying as dragonflies. Also they typically are not as big.
During my time attempting to photograph these fun insects, one of my goals was to capture them in flight which proved more difficult than expected. Most of my pictures of dragonflies in the air out of focus or have a portion of their body cut out of the photo or missed them entirely as my reaction time is slower than their takeoff time.
In the picture above rests a 12 spotted skimmer. These didn’t seem to rest much while I was there so there is only a picture or two of them.
Above is another widow skimmer and below is an ebony jewelwing damselfly. These are probably my favorite damselflies because their coloration changes depending on the light they’re in and because of their black wings which flutter softly from leaf to leaf. There will probably be more dragonfly photos yet this year as I continue to have fun capturing them with a camera.
A year ago I was able to wonder around in a nearby forest taking in wildlife. You can read about it here if you would like. There have not been as many opportunities to get out with my camera this spring but recently I did get to spend some time taking in the ever greening forest in search on new life. On this particular outing my goal was to see if a mother coyote had taken up residence in a familiar spot to raise her little ones again and to find out if Eagles had once again laid eggs in their nest from last year.
While slowly making my way in the woods attempting to make as little noise as possible I heard a low growling sound coming from nearby. Scanning the area I saw a head hanging out of a hole in the tree. Watching for a minute or two I noticed this raccoon ever so gently resting its head in this hole looking exhausted from the day.
Enjoying this raccoon for a short time I heard a noise in leaves up the hill from me but couldn’t see what was making the noise. Shortly after a little deer made its way near me but hadn’t noticed me yet. Fortunately I was standing on a log right next to another tree so there was no shuffling of leaves to slowly turn to watch it. As I began to rotate, the deer spotted my movement causing us both to stop immediately. It was so dark in the woods that taking pictures of moving animals was a challenge and I was in a poor position to steady my camera so all I could manage was a few blurry shots and it was gone. This was ok because I wanted to focus more on the raccoon.
Once the deer had disappeared I hopped onto another fallen tree nearby trying to keep the noise down as I moved closer to this hollow tree being used for a home. Once on this tree I quietly removed my backpack and took out the tripod in order to steady my camera in hopes of getting sharper photos. While doing this out pops a bunch of tiny heads trying to figure out what I was doing. Now I understand why this larger raccoon appears to be so tired as to be almost lifeless. It was a mother with several little ones to tend to.
Almost settled in with my backpack and tripod, there was another rustling in the leaves near where the first noise came from but this time it sounded slightly different. I quickly frozen, standing on this log trying to look for movement and then I heard a sound – a turkey. Wow I’ve never had turkeys walk up to me. I always seem to come up on them and scare them away before getting a decent picture. Now what do I do? In order for me to get to cover so they wouldn’t recognize me I would have to move significantly. I decided to concentrate on these baby raccoons but tried to remain steady as to not disrupt the turkeys too much. They did eventually move on away from me so I could once again focus on these little critters right in front of me.
Now I was able to get the camera set up on the tripod and sit comfortably on the log I was just standing on and shoot away as this family would pop in and out of this larger hole in the tree. Enjoying my time watching these little fury creatures I heard another noise off in the distance. It sounded like thunder! I didn’t think there was really any storms in the area so I dismissed it as possibly an airplane overhead or something. Than I heard it again with a much longer rumble. That had to be thunder so I pulled out my phone all while being watched and check the radar. Now what should I do? I can pack up and try and get out of hear or wait it out since it appeared I was on the edge and may only get a little rain. Waiting it out seemed like the better idea as I could see sun near the horizon so this couldn’t last very long. Back to taking pictures of the raccoons.
While sitting there defying the weather, the thunder got closer and more numerous causing me to question my decisions to stay. Finally when it was almost overhead I decided it was time to pack up and leave. It must have been the right decision as the raccoons had all retreated back into their tree as well. Getting out to the edge of the woods I could see the storm which appeared to have just passed overhead. Now the wind was picking up at my back so the approaching cold front must have just came through. Do I go back to the raccoons or continue on to the eagles nest or keep going towards the car? My answer came in the form what sounded like a strong wind gust. But it wasn’t wind. I new my time was up and my choice now was to seek shelter among a clump of large maple trees just as heavy rains began pounding down. After a short downpour I decided to continue to the car and enjoyed watching the sun set behind this small spring storm. Definitely worth getting wet for.
While looking through some photos from earlier this year I came across some of this shelf mushroom with a unique shape. As I examined this fungus it looks as though it was growing on this tree while the tree was still standing and once the tree fell to the ground the mushroom adapted and began growing in this new direction. The photo below shows what a typical shelf mushroom looks like. In fact, I’ve never seen one growing differently than this. They grow horizontally on trees, usually dead trees but not always.
As I walked around this shelf mushroom admiring its form I began wondering several things. First, how old is this fungus? It has to be several years old to be this big as well as growing in one direction for a couple of yeas and then growing in the opposite direction for at least one year. Why did this mushroom continue growing once the tree fell down while others appear to have stopped on this same tree? In nature, and in life, being able to adapt to ever changing situations often brings longevity. How long did it take for this shelf mushroom to change directions once the tree fell over? Was it the very next season or did it take multiple growing seasons continue growing. I will have to find this fungus again and check in on it every so often just to learn more on how it continues to adapt and how its shape changes. Unfortunately my camera battery died so I couldn’t take more photos on this particular trip. Stay tuned for updates…..
I seem to be struggling with material at the moment so I thought I’d post a photo taken recently. This is one of a nesting pair of swans as it slowly drifted by me on the way back to their nest always keeping an eye on me. This pair has been nesting on this lake for a number of years and it’s nice to see them back.
While out on a hike recently I noticed this small pond full of ducks. Watching for a few minutes I could see a few different types of beautiful ducks but I had to keep going as rain was near and I didn’t really want to get wet. A few days later I got up just before sunrise and headed to this lake to watch these ducks.
As the morning went on I was amazed at the diversity of ducks in this little pond on a beautiful crisp day. While walking from my car to the pond there was frost on the grass and some fog in valleys which was burning off quickly under the warming sun. A perfect morning for enjoying the outdoors in my book.
After settling in next to a tree, the ducks began moving around the lake but seemed to always keep an eye on me. The morning started with me sitting in front of the tree trying to keep still waiting for them to come closer. After awhile I decided to move next to the tree instead of in front of it and ducks began to come closer but still far enough away to prevent close up pictures like the Ringneck ducks in the photo above.
While enjoying the great spring morning I could hear a Trumpeter Swan calling off in the distance. Eventually it flew closer and around the pond. Having watched these birds I was pretty sure it was going to make a pass somewhere on this pond if not land in the pond so I kept an eye on it and had the camera ready. The difficult part about preparing for the swan was trying to also keep on eye on the ducks and their position. Soon this Trumpeter turned and headed for the pond allowing me to shoot away. When looking over the photos this one caught my attention because of how close the wing feathers are to the water and the light reflecting off of the water onto its wings.
As the morning continued a beaver would swim around appearing as if it was chasing these ducks which worked great for me because these ducks would forget about me for a few moments and come closer. Another type of duck called Redhead moved to the area of the pond closer to me and allowed me to watch them for a little while until the beaver left the area they wanted to be. They were interesting to watch as at time they would fly in circles around the lake and fly into a tree for a few minutes before returning to the water. Also at this time wind was increasing taking away the reflective water from earlier.
After awhile I began watching some birds as they fluttered around me and even over the water. As I continued to do this I noticed some ducks coming closer as my attention was elsewhere like these Wood Ducks in the photo above. This was interesting to me as in other locations keeping still and as hidden as possible brought the ducks closer allowing for more detailed photos. As they seemed to get more comfortable with my presence I would slowly move the camera back in their direction and begin photographing them.
These male and female Hooded Mergansers eventually made there way closer to me providing a little entertainment as there was one male and seven females giving this group a little different dynamic from the traditional pair of ducks. It was fun as they stayed near me for a little while as they dove for food, chased each other around, and preened. Eventually they flew off to another area leaving me relaxed and satisfied with my time watching them.
The first ducks to venture close to me were Green Wing Teals as they scoured the shoreline for food. These ducks have an amazing array of colors which become more iridescent as the light changes while they’re swimming around, however, the best colors show up as their wings are spread showing off a light teal and bright green spot on each wing. During the morning I did hear Loons calling in the distances along with Sandhill Cranes but they did not venture close enough to watch. It was a very surprising morning at this little pond with how much diversity of ducks and birds hanging around making it difficult to leave. Hopefully there will be another opportunity to go back.
After seeing bare ground for several weeks we got a light dusting of snow and cold temperatures re-freezing soft ground so I wanted to get out and enjoy a winter sunrise. After watching the sunrise my goal was to photograph Eagles, which have been courting lately resulting in some spectacular flight displays. Unfortunately I did not see any of these acrobatics on this morning but I did see some interesting natural art.
There were several stumps with roots protruding from the ground covered in a light coating of snow making for fun and interesting patterns. I liked how the old tree stump contrasted with the snow and frozen creek next to it. It made me think of a landscape lost in time being frozen from an earlier millennium to be recently discovered. This is partially true as the area I was in has been covered in water for many years and recently has been drained exposing it’s true character from before it was damned and flooded. Another frozen tree reminded me of a Mammoth tusk further reinforcing these pre-historic thoughts. While my morning excursion was entertaining it was back to 2017 a few hours later.