Thought I’d missed one, didn’t you?

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that there is a major holiday featured here every month this year – except June. But there was a distinct reason for this: today is National Celebrate A Holiday From Earlier In The Year Day, and so we’re going to celebrate International Feature A Photo Series From The Previous Month Day, which normally falls on June 24th. All of this was very carefully planned. And I know we already had a holiday for September, but there’s nothing that said I had to feature only one, and today is a good day for celebrating anyway.

On a photo outing with the Inevitable Mr Bugg in May, he’d decided that we needed to do some more light trail work, which put us out on a freeway overpass directly above where two interstates merged. Now, he had every opportunity to post his own photos ahead of me, because he likes that kind of thing and I, of course, had this whole holiday bit scheduled and really couldn’t post the photos back then. But he never did show his own off, so…

long night exposures of light trails on merging interstate highways
In theory, such exposures are pretty easy. Go for manual settings, usually ‘Bulb’ shutter speed and f8 aperture, switch to manual focus and pin it down, then lock the shutter open and wait for the cars (or planes, or boats, or alien spacecraft) to whiz by. In practice, there’s a little more to consider. Starting or ending too soon means partial trails that end abruptly. Too many cars in the same lane makes things muddy, while no cars in a particular lane can make the road empty and the frame unbalanced. Too short of an exposure, and there’s not enough light hitting the surroundings to give context, while too long can overexpose the frame. Headlights hitting the lens directly can produce a lot of glare (see the oncoming lane near the top.) So, getting a good frame may take a lot of tries, especially while waiting for cars to come by with the right distribution.

By the way, rigs with a full complement of running lights can fill a frame with lots of lines, more so if two of them pass like above; again, very easy to overload the exposure. But when you’re shooting down at ground level, they can add a more vertical element to the frame.

Something curious that I noticed when editing the photos from this session is something that I’ve seen before: LED taillights (all LED lights, actually) blink on and off very rapidly – too rapidly for our eyes to distinguish, but readily visible as they move across the frame. This car in particular had them firing in sequence:

long exposure of passing LED taillights showing blinking
And there’s also a particular thing that I’ve been wanting to capture for quite some time now – like, 20 years or so? That is, a time exposure of a passing emergency vehicle with strobes ablaze, especially from above like this. I’ve gotten a couple of eye-level examples, nothing too distinctive, but I have yet to be on an overpass when an EMS vehicle passes underneath. This session, however, I got kind of an example, as a flatbed wrecker with its orange strobes came through. They even illuminated the immediate surrounding portions of the vehicle itself.

long night exposure of a passing wrecker with strobes
You get the idea: wouldn’t this look much cooler with alternating red and blue lights? I suppose I should find an overpass near a typical speed trap.

Another note: we’d chosen this particular overpass because it was a road that saw almost no traffic at night, which is a hell of a lot safer. There’s a certain risk to standing on a bridge at night, and all it takes is one moron dicking with their toy phone, or too deep in their cups, and you’re toast. I warily watched every car that passed on our side of the road, and even had a local cop stop by and check on us. He was cool with it (this isn’t the first time it’s happened for me, either,) but made a good suggestion: wear a reflective vest. Not only does this alert drivers to your presence better, but they tend to think you’re either a cop or construction worker and drive a lot more carefully.

One last one, with a special addition:

long night exposure from overpass showing light trails and shadow of waving photographer
I took this one specifically with the blog in mind. The moon was full and behind us, which assisted with some of the exposures as it threw a little light onto the entire landscape. However, in most cases the effect was trivial because the exposure times were too short for the moonlight to add much; wait too long, and too many cars would pass through and overload the frame. So it took several tries to get just the right one as a longish period went by without vehicles. If you look closely down at the extreme lower right, you’ll see a shadow of me waving – well, holding still with arm raised for the 41-second exposure time. Mr Bugg’s own shadow is obscured by the light trails immediately adjacent, but you can see the line of the bridge’s shadow stretching off to the left. At some point in the future, I’ll do something a bit more elaborate along these lines, but again, timing is an issue, since it can really only be done when the moon is near full, low enough to cast a shadow outwards a bit, and of course on a clear night. We’ll see what happens.

Sunday slide 39

medium format slide of lily pads in raised pond
As digital photography became more and more prevalent (before even smutphone usage was common,) the price of medium format equipment dropped precipitously. If you’re not familiar with it, medium format is still roll film, but with frames ranging from 60×45 mm (commonly called 645) to 60×90 mm – you can run the same film through multiple types of camera bodies, with the body dictating how big the frame is and thus how few frames you can get from the roll. I’d always wanted to get into medium format but couldn’t afford it before, because it was always considered the realm of the high-end professional and was priced accordingly. But as the format fell in popularity and the costs with it, I finally took the chance around 2006 or so and got my first Mamiya 645E body and couple of lenses. By 2010 I’d traded up to a slightly better body, and added a couple of lenses.

I’m fairly certain this one was a test taken soon after I’d gotten the 45mm lens, which is somewhat wide angle for 645 – 80mm is considered ‘normal,’ about how our eyes see things. I didn’t shoot a lot of slide film through the Mamiya cameras before getting slide film developed got much more difficult and expensive, and I followed the trend and stuck largely to digital. I will still, however, throw some monochrome print film through the camera, because I can process that myself. Maybe, at some point in the future, I’ll build a darkroom in the corner of the garage here at the new place.

The nice thing about the drop in MF prices, however, has been the quality of the glass that can now be found for a song. Those same professionals demanded superior results, and so the lenses for just about any MF line are excellent, and as long as you don’t mind focusing manually and closing down the aperture before firing off a shot, you can adapt them to current cameras fairly easily. For about the same price as the basic kit or ‘tourist’ lenses you’ll get much better results, and the 80mm macro that I purchased for the 645 film bodies sees regular use on my Canon digital bodies, being the sharpest macro that I’ve ever used.

By the way, I also have a large format camera, an ancient Graflex Graphic View II – this is the kind with the bellows, that you focus with your head under a hood like you’ve seen in the old silent films or if you’re familiar with Mathew Brady’s equipment. The film is a single sheet of 100×125 mm (usually referred to as 4×5 for the inch measurements, because consistency wasn’t considered important,) housed in a double-sided flat box, so you shoot one frame at a time – action photography this ain’t. Basically, you ensure that everything is perfect before you take the shot, but such a large film frame means very nice detail and the possibility of huge enlargements. At some point I’ll be back and talk about what can be done with a full-movement large format rig – it’s pretty creative stuff.

Okay, here’s something stupid that I just discovered. When I typed “4×5” the x was smaller and would center within the vertical line space, but when I wrote “100x125mm” it wouldn’t – apparently there’s some HTML formatting thing where the x is recognized as a mathematical multiplication symbol only if there are no other letters appended. I cannot wait to wield this newfound knowledge in myriad ways.

A quick one from last night

Mostly, I wanted one to break up the numbered post titles, so this is a ‘Just Because’ pic, but those are numbered too, so it’s not. The ‘one’ in this title doesn’t count as a number, just a noun. Or pronoun maybe. Whatever, it doesn’t count. We’re not counting here.

a pair of great blue herons Ardea herodias posing against sunset colors on Jordan Lake
We did a quick session of sunset shooting, which didn’t produce bupkiss due to a near-cloudless sky, before heading off for night exposures elsewhere, but while out on Jordan Lake, a pair of great blue herons (Ardea herodias) posed curiously against the colors. Which I tweaked a little here for stronger fartistic effect.

Jim pic 45

multi-colored slope, Badlands South Dakota by James L. Kramer
This has been a largely missing week for me – I’ve had the time to do stuff, but not the inclination. Ah well.

On the previous Jim pic, Jim himself stated, in a cameo, that he liked the “upcoming images” better, and so I had to delay posting them for a while, because. But I’m not in total disagreement, either – the odd colors for a hillside are rather compelling by themselves. They actually come from a series of explosions that occurred nearby in the grain storage region of South Dakota, immediately bordering the Badlands; first a number of wheat storage silos suffered a dust explosion, followed only a year or so later by a buckwheat accident. Thus the yellow and carmine layers. Less than three years later, a plane had to make an emergency landing at adjacent Badlands Regional Airport, and dumped its cargo of kitty litter to lighten the load. This caused a dramatic upsurge in the feral cat colonies within the region.

You’re not buying any of this, are you?

So I have no idea what produces the colors in these layers – probably sulfur and manganese. Maybe theodolite and parchesium. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Look, just marvel at the colors, okay?

And I’ve looked at high magnification – there’s no fucking car in this one.

Change of plans

fishing boat against looming sunrise, Wrightsville Beach, NC
Okay. So. The plan, which we’d had for close to a year, was to spend this past week down on Jekyll Island, Georgia, and we’d chosen this time to maximize the chances of seeing a sea turtle nest hatching out, because this is the season. So we watched the predictions for Hurricane Irma with some misgivings, obviously. We were supposed to drive down Saturday September 9th, but by the previous Thursday, we were sure it wasn’t going to happen; landfall in south Florida would occur early Sunday morning, and even if Jekyll Island somehow avoided anything serious in terms of weather, the mass migration out of Florida meant that gas, at least, could be very difficult to find. But soon afterward, Jekyll Island was evacuated and closed anyway.

The Girlfriend, as she herself put it, was following the old saw: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and so she was finding various things for us to do around here since the three of us (her, her daughter, and I) had all long ago scheduled the week off. On the other hand, I’m stoic but still grumpy, and I was more inclined to hurl lemons at other people just for the hell of it.

[I am well aware that a lot of people had, and still have, things a hell of a lot tougher than I do because of this storm, and am not minimizing their problems at all in favor of our trashed plans. And there’s no way that this isn’t going to sound petty in comparison, but this was a major trip for us, another opportunity to lay in some serious shooting and relaxation before the winter dead season hit, and I was pretty depressed about losing it, not at all helped by the lower temperatures, overcast sky, and constant drizzle that seemed to indicate that autumn was already upon us. Yeah, yeah, bitch and moan, I know, but it’s a blog, and I’m not taking photos of my food, so…]

After a couple of days when the hurricane had passed and was no longer a threat, we decided to do a brief trip to the closest beach to us, which is the Wilmington area and Wrightsville Beach. This is far from our first choice, because Wilmington is one of NC’s bigger cities and even the beaches tend to be overdeveloped and crowded, but at least we were getting out. From a photography standpoint, this wasn’t terribly productive, largely because of the issues that I’ve gone over here, but it produced a lot more than simply staying around home.

burrow on unidentified animal through sandThe one goal that I had firmly in mind was a crab hunt. On a previous trip many years ago down at the end of the strand at Fort Fisher, we had come across numerous hermit crabs, and I wanted to tackle them with more time and effort. However, timing was an issue, and we didn’t got out early enough in the morning when we were heading down there; when we did arrive, it was with just enough time to catch the ferry over to Southport, so I left the hunt for later.

Southport itself wasn’t too conducive to my kind of pics, but I did split away from the ladies to scour the waterline while they checked out a museum nearby. Eventually, I unearthed a couple of crab species and a sweet LED flashlight that had obviously washed ashore, still working fine. I did a few initial pics of the crabs in the open hatch of the car, because I’d brought the macro aquarium along, but I also hung onto the critters to do a more dedicated shooting session back in the motel room that evening.

When we returned to Fort Fisher, I got out for a brief exploration in the same marsh areas where I’d found the crabs, but it was now mid-afternoon and activity was typically scarce. I saw a select expanse of sand that bore the traits of fiddler crab feeding, the little pellets of loosely-packed sand that they leave behind, and a curious burrow through the sand, typical of moles though I never thought moles would have the slightest interest in a brackish marsh, so I’m inclined to think it was from something else. I did, however, locate a couple of hermit crabs and did a few quick portrait sessions, but between the conditions of the day and the fact that the ladies were waiting back at the parking area, I kept it brief.

thin-stripe hermit crab Clibanarius vittatus eyeing the photographer with suspicion
It’s funny, the different ‘personalities’ one runs across in wildlife, not just between species but among members of the same species. The larger one that I found was exceedingly shy, and I had to wait a short while for it to emerge, only to send it immediately back into its shell for an extended period when I made an incautious move. I heard someone approaching on the paths while I was in my typically awkward position waiting for the re-emergence, and whether they saw me lying sideways across a driftwood trunk, motionless, camera pressed to eye, I can’t say, but I imagine the scene was rather curious. But getting back to personalities, the crab seen here, half the size of the shy one, wasn’t even inclined to remain in its shell while it was in my hand, and didn’t wait for me to get into position after I placed it on the trunk in good light and angle to photograph it venturing out. Behavior is in many ways shaped by experience, and the larger one might have only been as big as it was because of its shyness, a lesson that this one had yet to learn. Or it could be simply genetic variation. Or the need for a restroom.

unidentified snails on marsh grass stalks
In the same region, patches of snails could be found, clumps of them appearing in certain areas but not in others that appeared identical, and what the difference was I cannot say (I have been forbidden by The Elders.) What I will say is that the hermit crab above is probably sporting a shell from the same species, despite the outward difference in appearance, since the living snails are usually coated with an algae or fine weed that dulls their appearance and helps them to blend in. Though how much this helps, when they’re obvious clumps on thin reeds, I can’t fathom.

But there were plenty of them.

unidentified snails on marsh grasses
Seagulls aren’t among my first choice of birds to be chasing on the beach – I have way too many images of them, really, and so does everyone else. But I’ll still take the opportunity for a fartistic shot when it’s available.

laughing gull Leucophaeus atricilla in winter plumage on post against clouds
I’m fairly certain this is a laughing gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) in winter plumage; in summer, their heads are black. They are easily the most numerous birds on the NC coast, and pretty raucous – their name is taken from the derisive sound of their calls, the mean kids on the playground.

I’ll take a second to point out something. Most times, the composition ‘rule’ is to leave space in the frame ahead of your subject, in the direction that they facing or moving – in this case I should have aimed to put the gull at the left side of the frame. Or so it says, and for many cases it works. But the clouds were an important aspect of the scene, and I wanted a certain portion of their shapes to be evident, and accenting the bird in position. As I look at it now, I kinda wish that I had shifted slightly more, getting the top edge of the clouds to fall under the body and tail of the gull, with the legs falling into that dip just visible between them. Maybe I can rush back there…

juvenile American white ibis Eudocimus albus still showing evidence of fledgling coloration
I was pleased to spot an American white ibis (Eudocimus albus) right next to the gulls – they’re much more common in Florida. No, they’re not misnamed, nor is this one especially dirty; the juveniles are brown, to blend into the marshes where they nest, and only in adulthood do they develop the nearly completely white coloration (their wingtips are black, which makes them easy to tell apart in flight.) I got just close enough to this one that you can distinguish their blue eyes.

One type of bird that I am still seeking images of are the pelicans, and they’ve been pretty scarce on my last few beach trips. A flight of three passed immediately overhead on the ferry ride, when I was unprepared, but otherwise they were maintaining a distance every time I saw them. Save for this one.

brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis with ruddy turnstones Arenaria interpres and unidentified sandpipers
The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) on the pole wasn’t inclined to give me any other poses – it was difficult enough just to get this light angle, since solid land was some ways behind it off to frame left, and I was venturing out on the slightly submerged retaining wall alongside a boat ramp just to get this far (the same wall, in fact, seen under the ibis, just further along as it disappeared into the water.) Among the smaller birds on the rocks, the darker ones mostly to the left are ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpres,) I’m almost positive anyway, while the paler ones remain unidentified – too many species with similar appearance, not enough detail to distinguish them. By the way, my normal standing position put the pelican about even with the horizon, so I had to crouch slightly to place it against the sky in this way. It’s funny – you don’t think it would be hard to maintain a partial knee bend for a short while until you try it, and realize that your muscles aren’t accustomed to such things. I would easily believe it’s just me, but some of my students can’t hack it either. But go ahead – show off, prove me wrong.

Back at the motel in the evening, I did a more extended session with the crabs and aquarium, sequestered once again in the bathroom so the repeated flashes wouldn’t bother anyone.

porcelain crab posing briefly
porcelain crab Petrolisthes armatus or Porcellana sayana showing belly and extending feeding appendagesOne of my captures was a porcelain crab (either Petrolisthes armatus or Porcellana sayana,) which I had only before seen in Florida, but I maintained several in the tank while I lived there. This trip, I was hampered by the brief time that I had and the shyness of the crab to pose near the glass, with the murkiness of the water contributing as well, producing a lot of obscuring glare and making me constantly reposition the flash unit for better effect – even then, this image has been tweaked for improved contrast. I came prepared, but getting better shots would still have required a lot more time and preparation. So it goes.

What I did manage to capture was the brief extension of its feeding appendages, folded in the top image and looking like two plates near its mouth, but starting to unfold in the lower image; go to that link above to see a video of the feeding seines in action, because it’s pretty cool.

Since we were at the beach there should be, you know, pictures of the beach, right? And I’m getting to that, but it even took me a bit while there. First off, Wilmington isn’t exactly a beach city, and the place we stayed at was about 20 minutes from the ocean, given traffic and all. We did a quick visit to the shore right after we arrived, but it was a typical touristy area with little to photograph. And for the two sunsets that we would have on this trip, we were nowhere near a scenic area at the times, and the first morning we simply didn’t get going before sunrise, even though I had scheduled an appropriate post ahead of time to appear then – like, right then, the time of sunrise for that day, because I do stupid things like that. I won’t announce trip plans here, partially because of just what happened, with the trip falling through and all that, but mostly because I won’t admit online that the house will be empty, or that I can be found at a specific area – you know, rabid fans. Anyway, I made it a point to get up and steal the car on our last morning there, knowing the ladies would sleep in for a bit longer.

probable willet Tringa semipalmata silhouetted against morning seafoam
For this session I had two cameras, one on a tripod with the 17-85 lens for broader shots, and another handheld with the 100-300 L lens for details and wildlife. But I made a mistake with the image seen here: when shooting the sky and horizon, I had the exposure compensation darkened down a bit, underexposing to bring out the colors, but hadn’t switched it back to normal when this willet (Tringa semipalmata) was scurrying along the oscillating foam edge. Still, I consider it a nice moody piece.

I had decided to go straight to Wrightsville Beach pier to have something to work with in the frame, but this had its shortcomings too. The primary one being, this is where everyone goes, and before the colors had even come up very far, there were surfers getting into the shot, conveniently ignoring the “No surfing” zone because, you know, the waves were identical all along the entire fucking coastline, and pretty pathetic at that, the curlers getting about a meter in height. This is why I aim for areas where few people bother to go.

But anyway, as I waited, realizing that the sky wasn’t likely to do anything interesting that morning, I got a couple of frames that were curious in comparison.

two sunrise frames showing changing color register
First off, note the cloud line across the horizon, pretty much aligned with the top of the pier, while the water line and ‘true’ horizon runs at the bottom of the pilings. But the distinctive thing is the color difference. Taken just six minutes apart, no settings were changed between these two images; the only difference was the shutter speed, becoming shorter for the bottom image as the sky brightened. White balance was set for Full Sunlight (or, as the EXIF info has it, Manual, which is the same thing – no correction by the camera.) The color change came from the sky itself, as the sun reached a higher angle in relation to my position and had less atmosphere to pass through.

Astronomical sunset came and went without note, since the sun remained behind those clouds and had none higher than it could play color games with, but eventually it rose above them and peeked out, and I had a fishing boat to use at the time.

sun peeking above clouds behind fishing charter, Wrightsville Beach NC
I was a bit too far down the beach to line the sun up with the pier, but at that point I wasn’t inclined to move, since the sky wasn’t going to do much and the surfers were already dicking around, so I kept it simple. I’ve said it many times before, with sunrise and sunset you work with what you get; often enough, you’re just counting on another day to be better.

I did, in fact, put the surfers in the frame, shot vertically now to get the reflection on the foreground water and sand.

lame surfers and fishing charter against sunrise, Wrightsville Beach NC
Yes, the boat was circling at that time, possibly because they’d found a promising region for fish, but possibly because someone with binoculars on the boat recognized me and they were trying to stay in my frame. You know how it goes.

And I leave you with my last frame from the trip, taken just a wee bit later as I strolled the beach for a couple of minutes before heading back to the motel. We still spent more time there, mostly touring the battleship USS North Carolina, which was interesting enough, but not my typical subject matter – you can ask The Girlfriend’s Sprog for pics, since she took a few hundred I believe.

It wasn’t what we’d been planning, but it was something, and served the purpose of breaking us away from work and the area for a bit.

tidal pool and channel, Wrightsville Beach NC

Do I know you?

juvenile Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis on rainbarrel
I passed one of the rainbarrels yesterday afternoon and glanced down to see this guy hanging out in the bare patch of sun that was breaking through the backyard trees. With this coloration, I have no doubts that this is a Copes grey treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis,) and it was the same rainbarrel as this little spud (the one on the dime) so, same one, now sporting more adult coloration? I honestly can’t say – I didn’t have a dime handy to show comparative scale, but this one is roughly twice the size of the one in that post. And you’ll notice, it has no green on it at all, unlike the one seen here. They’re really not making my job easy, are they?

Sunday slide 38

juvenile American alligator Alligator mississippiensis with just head showing among reeds
I think the reeds give a pretty good indication of scale, but just in case, the first thing I’ll point out is that you’re looking at the head of an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis,) and a small one at that – much less than a half-meter in length, probably closer to 35cm. Most of the gator is submerged, and you’re seeing just the top of its head and snout, and the reflection of the same.

It’s getting to the point where I don’t remember where I took every photo anymore; this is not so much a function of age (I don’t think,) but of numbers – there are just too many images in the folders, and no small amount of them are gator shots. Since I’d scanned this one a long time ago for other purposes, I had to go back and find the original to spark my memory, which worked nicely because it not only had a date, it had a selection of other images from the same session. So I can confidently say now that this was shot in 2002, on Blackpoint Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge (immediately adjacent to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center,) and my sister and her husband were standing nearby. I’d taken them up there specifically to see Florida wildlife, alligators chief among them, but my sister was unimpressed with the small size of what we found (including another twice as long and much closer,) despite them being completely wild. A day or so later, she opted to visit one of those ridiculous tourist traps which promise live alligator shows so she could see big ones, and of course all of the shameless pandering to yokels that this entails. So much for authentic experiences…

Regardless, I’ve always liked this image for the abstract nature of the ‘floating’ reeds and head, perhaps slightly confusing at first but easy enough to fathom once one looks closely enough. Having the viewer want to spend time on the image is always a plus.

Just because, part 24

residual foam from surf during sunrise
This is just a leftover from the North Topsail Beach trip in May, one of the shots that I liked but never posted then. Seemed like a good time for it – you know, if you refer back to a year ago.

They are if I say so

I have a tendency to lump reptiles and amphibians into the same general classification, including within my stock categories, even though either is just as close to, say, badgers – the phylum Chordata is the last common point for all of them. But fine – you want me to make a separate post to break them all out? Is that what you want? Because I’ll do it if you want.

On a trip to the NC Botanical Garden about a month ago I was, of course, on the lookout for the green anoles. It turns out that I didn’t see one, even when I thought I did. And in fact, the opportunity to see them has now entirely passed. No, they didn’t go extinct, but the name did – they are now, apparently, Carolina anoles (yet still Anolis carolinensis) – another reason to check up on species even when I know what the hell they are. But of those, I saw a couple.

Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis deep in shadow among leaves
This one, a juvenile about half adult size (or maybe simply a half-adult – I can never keep those two apart,) was being more shy than usual and scampered for cover almost as soon as I saw it, going deep into the leaves. Since the day was overcast with the occasional raindrop, this was pushing the limits for useful results while handholding. The photo still makes the lizard obvious, but anyone there in person would have had to have been quite sharp-eyed to see this one in its hiding place.

Another had initially been overlooked by me as I perused the foliage, and might have escaped attention entirely had it not moved its head suddenly when it could register on my peripheral vision.

Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis posed against mixed foliage
This one was a bit large even for an adult, and out in plain sight, so how I missed it on my initial pass I can’t say – since I was looking for just this species (okay, kinda,) I can’t figure how I overlooked it. But I probably would have seen it on second glance, so it jumped the gun by drawing attention to itself, like a little kid playing hide-and-seek. Good thing they don’t have the ability to giggle.

One more, because.

Carolina anole Anolisis carolinensis in even deeper shadow under flower
This is likely the same anole as the first pic up there, but I saw it on my second pass through the area. It was out on the upper surfaces of the leaves right near those flowers and I wanted to coax it towards the blossoms for a more fartistic composition, but it was having none of that. Still, after it dove for cover I still managed to put the frame together in a way that worked.

It does – stop backtalking.

green frog Lithobates clamitans lurking among lilies in pond
In a nearby pond planter, a green frog (Lithobates clamitans) or maybe it’s a Carolina frog, was hanging out in reasonably good cover among the lily pads, and stayed put as I maneuvered around for a portrait shot. I’m fairly certain that giant ear drum means it’s a male, and I’ll let you make all the comments that you want. Certainly nothing of the sort occurred to me.

This other one is a little freaky – I didn’t notice the crucial details until I got back and was unloading the card.

tadpoles feeding off skin of dismembered frog
Now, the state of the frog hadn’t escaped my attention; I do shots of this nature just for illustrative and ‘authentic’ purposes, because nature isn’t always pretty (or ever, if your only exposure is my stuff.) What I’d missed are the tadpoles clearly feeding from the skin of the dismembered frog. I mean, what the hell, guys? I thought you were vegetarians at this stage?

(They likely are, but the decaying frog is playing host to any number of pond growths, and that’s what they’re eating.)

We’ll head back home for some more savory images. I mentioned before that I was hoping to establish some green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) in the area, and it appears I have been successful. Even as the heat of summer caused most of the frogs to seem scarce and the common Copes grey treefrogs hadn’t been visible for a while, one night I suddenly found two of the green treefrogs, hanging out on the pokeweed plant in the backyard.

Green treefrog Hyla cinerea perched on pokeweed Phytolacca americana
The frogs seem to know what they blend into the best, and the pokeweed is the closest thing we have in the yard to their coloration, but it also attracts countless other species like varieties of marauding caterpillars, so they’re getting food there too. Every once in a while, I find their daytime hiding place somewhere near the back porch, often enough under the grill cover – I have to check the grill over carefully before I fire it up.

Not too far away, closer to the backyard pond, sits one of our rainbarrels, and for a couple of days I was finding a minuscule variety of frog hanging out there.

tiny juvenile frog, possibly chorus frog, on dime for scaleThis one was pretty shy, which is good because it means it will seek shelter when danger threatens, but it makes my job a bit tougher. I wanted a scale shot and had the dime handy, but the frog wasn’t taking direction well and kept hopping further away, making me place the dime in a new position ahead of it in the hopes that it would cross it. Eventually, with many false starts, I got what I was after, even th9ough the flash angle wasn’t ideal. Based on the size there’s a good chance it’s a form of chorus frog, which are much smaller than the either of the treefrog species.

More fun has been the trio of tiny frogs that have taken up residence on the front porch. The Girlfriend has gotten a pair of ornamental sweet potato plants with large pale green leaves, and a few posts back I said something about them attracting the golden tortoise beetle. But the frogs seem to like them too.

unidentified juvenile frog on ornamental sweet potato leaf
Again, I’m not sure what species these are. The leaves run roughly the size of your palm, so the frog itself is literally fingernail-sized – yes, even smaller than a thumbnail. Since the nights have been getting cooler now, the frogs are often seen during the day, venturing out to bask in the sunlight. They’re semi-wary, not real wild about my leaning in close, but if I go slow they’ll often stay put. Of course, I discovered the limits of their patience to determine what I could get away with.

unidentified juvenile frog deep under leaves
One of them seems more shy that the others, too. And one of them is more gold-hued, making for a colorful portrait.

unidentified juvenile frog portrait
But yeah, I can still get close. It seems likely that these are new emergents from the backyard pond, so quite possibly the same species that I was photographing as tadpoles, but I have no easy way of telling – there were several species in there at the same time and I see them sporadically enough not to be able to trace lineage.

As I close with my favorite composition (so far, anyway,) I’ll point out a little detail. There’s a pale spot under the eye, and this might be an indication that these are juvenile Copes grey treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis) – they have a telltale light spot edged with black as adults, and I’ve seen it in a juvenile, albeit one a bit larger than this. So, maybe? Either way, they’re nice little accents on our front porch plants – when anyone is sharp-eyed enough to distinguish them.

unidentified juvenile treefrog, possibly Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis, on ornamental sweet potato leaf

Jim pic 44

painted hills under wispy clouds, Badlands South Dakota by James L. Kramer
This is probably my favorite of Jim’s Badlands shots, because of the light quality and the clouds in the sky – most of his other shots show skies that are brilliantly blue yet bare, in need of something to offset the solid color. Here, however, the color has softened, and not just in the sky – everything has a pastel appearance that comes very close to making this look like a painting. You can even see the brush strokes in the clouds and on the rock faces.

Wait a second. I think Jim might be trying to pull a fast one here…

[Want some irony? Often enough, painters try to make their images look like photographs, while occasionally photographers try to make their images look like paintings. Yes, art is weird.]