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.
After a day filled with incredible views and geological wonders we were driving back towards our hotel for some much needed rest. Along the way we encountered several vehicles pulled over indicating an opportunity to see some of Yellowstone’s amazing wildlife so we found a spot in a nearby pull off and parked the car. After a short hike up the road we saw people watching a lone bison just lazily grazing nearby. Continuing to scan the landscape for bears or wolves I glanced towards this bison from time to time just watching and snapping a few pictures.
While watching this large animal for a couple of minutes I began to get lost behind my camera taking different pictures trying different compositions. It was getting better and better because I could get increasingly closer shots isolating this bison and highlighting its details until I briefly looked up from the camera only to realize this large, powerful animal was not within a few feet of me. The only thing between me and this bison was a low, wooden railing which would do nothing if it decided to charge me which I witnessed earlier in the day. That same morning I watched one bison charge after anther bison at full speed displaying just how fast and powerful they really are no matter how they may appear most other times.
Quickly I backed away seeking the cars behind me as a potential buffer between me and this bison. Fortunately it was more interesting in eating and continued walking away from my area. After a little more wildlife viewing we decided we were ready to get back in our car and continue towards the hotel only there was a little problem. This lone, powerful bison was walking along the roadside towards our car preventing us from leaving. Well, we might as well as relax for awhile until it passes our vehicle allowing us to drive away. Slowly we followed at a safe distance just watching as it walked among the many cars now stopped watching it. Do you think there is some amusement to the bison causing such an event? At one point it stopped and looked at our empty car. “Do you think it will find something irritating with the car and ram it?” I asked. How do you explain that to the insurance company? Glad we weren’t in the car at that point. Can you imagine how that would be? Finally it continued on down the road to meet up with a nearby heard allowing us to make it to the car.
Being one of the first cars into a pull off definitely has its advantages as you don’t have to worry about finding a place to park as within a few minutes the roadway fills with vehicles hoping to catch a glimpse and maybe a photo of nearby wildlife. Also you tend to have a front row seat for watching wildlife. Unfortunately if you decide it’s time to leave you may have to wait while the traffic jam caused by whatever wildlife you are watching has caused clears enough for you to get back onto the road and on your way to the next destination.
Once traffic began moving again we prepared to pull out just when that nearby bison heard arrived across the street from us once again stopping traffic. These are definitely not fast moving animals much of the time. This heard would walk a short distance, stop and scratch on the dirt or nearby trees, walk a few steps more, eat nearby leaves, and continue a little further. While it seemed like forever it was really only about 15 minutes before we were once again on the road heading to our hotel for the night. How frustrating must it be for those stuck in this traffic jam far enough down the road and not be able to see what was causing it? At least we got to enjoy it even though the bison were a little close for comfort at times.
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.
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.
It seems way to early but the signs of spring continue to increase with each warming day. Every day that I’m fortunate to be able to go out into nearby woods I see spring making its way more and more. By the end of February the days have gotten noticably longer and temperatures are increasing. Most of our snow is gone and the ice on lakes and rivers disappears a little each week bringing open water and a place for migrating ducks to land.
One day last week I was out hiking when little white specs caught my eye. On closer inspection it was pussy willows beginning to emerge. This is about 2 to 3 weeks earlier than last year. I keep hoping for a late season snowstorm or two but with each passing week that potential gets further and further away. I know many people are happy about the warm days and they do make every day life easier. Still a reminder of living in Minnesota in early March would be nice.
Tucked away out of sight there is the occasion sign of spring such as Silver Maple trees beginning to bloom without attracting much attention along with brightly colored mushrooms sprouting from a damp log and moss becoming a lush green almost like a soft, thick carpet covering up a decomposing log. Animals are also beginning their spring rituals as they come out of hibernation while others prepare nests or dens for another year of new creatures to enter the world.
In areas where the water is no longer covered by sheets of ice I see ducks, geese, and swans bobbing up and down as they find nourishment under the surface. This is just the beginning and March has a way of teasing spring weather and then reversing with a blast of winter stealing the motivation to venture outside until it all passes sometime in April. For now it’s fun to witness each new change as the landscape emerges from a long winter nap.