Per the ancient lore, part 20

West Indian manate Trichechus manatus in shallows of Indian River lagoon, Melbourne, Florida
Whoopsie! Here it is, mid-afternoon on Friday, and I usually have the Ancient Lore posts appear at like 6 AM. Somehow, I was not hounded with thousands of e-mails from eager readers who wanted their weekly photo post with their morning coffee. I wonder if the e-mail server is down?

But better late then never, goes the popular saying, except when it comes to menstruation. This week we’re plundering the Lakes/Streams/Waterfalls folder to present a West Indian manatee, sometimes simply Florida manatee because the West Indies is a concept created by Columbus being a dipshit. This is a relatively small specimen, likely juvenile, a little under two meters long if I remember correctly, cruising in maybe a half-meter of water right off the causeway. This is the very same causeway that’s appeared before, but the opposite side where the snorkeling wasn’t half as good, don’t ask me why (I’m forbidden to say.) Even at this young age, this one displays the common traits of every adult that I’ve seen, which are scars from encounters with boats, as well as a few barnacles. Manatees are fairly common in the Indian River Lagoon, but so are boats (which applies to virtually every body of water in Florida – people even put airboats in some of the bigger puddles.) They’re vegetarians – the manatees I mean – and graze on the plants usually found in the shallows, but here you can see something that I’ve noticed more than a few times when they’re around: loose thin grasses floating on the surface. My guess is that these are plants that they don’t particularly care for, which get pulled up with mouthfuls because those lips don’t look especially adept, then discarded.

I’ve always wanted an underwater shot of a manatee, and back in those days it would have to have been accomplished with a film camera, in my case one of those disposable Fun-Saver jobbies, which I did occasionally carry with me. Some time later in almost this exact location, I spotted a mother and calf as I was biking past and skidded to a halt, since I also had the snorkeling gear with me. It took me a couple of minutes to put the bike someplace safe and get the gear on, during which the pair moved onward in their glacial way, and I slipped carefully into the water and started heading in their direction, very gently so as not to spook them. Visibility was two meters or less, at least for me, so I knew I’d have to be pretty close to get any shot at all, and I paddled along determinedly at slightly better than their normal pace (or whatever it is in the water.) Nonetheless, they either decided to cut into deeper water, or more likely, detected me coming and moved on quite a bit faster, because I made it to the base of the bridge, several hundred meters away, and saw nothing at all.

Now, I can’t remember if it was during the same attempt or not, but it was definitely the same general location. The rocks were large conglomerations of calcium and sand and shells ranging in size from maybe ten centimeters to close to a meter, piled up as a manmade support for the road between the mainland and the barrier islands, and the regions close to the water had countless gaps and crevices from all other materials washing away under the onslaught of wind-driven waves. I was stowing my gear and bumped the disposable camera, which dropped into one of these crevices and made a very disheartening series of clatters as it bounced down deep among the rock gaps, well out of sight. Despite not having underwater manatee pics on it, I knew it had other photos that I didn’t want to lose, and I started a search for it, first looking down from the gap it had disappeared into, then through every other gap that might be along its path, moving whatever rocks I could handle. I displaced quite a few, and had moved no small distance down the steep slope of the causeway edges when, shifting a small one, I revealed a little cave with a flat sand floor and my disposable camera sitting cozily within. It took a bit of stretching and scraping to get my arm in there, but I successfully retrieved the camera and all of its precious photos. Whatever they were. I mean, c’mon, you don’t expect me to remember every detail, do you? Sheesshh…

Right place, right time

Just to let you know, this is going to be a long post, mostly because of the number of vertical-format images, and there’s a good chance that you’re going to wear out the scroll wheel on your mouse (because you wouldn’t be so gauche as to surf this site on your smutphone or tablet of course.) This probably isn’t the best time to tell you that I’ve picked up a new sponsor for the blog: Logitech, maker of quality mice and keyboards! For the best choices of a long-lasting computer mouse, think Logitech!

Moving on. The Girlfriend and I took a walk around the neighborhood pond near sunset the other night, and on our return she glanced down and said, “Ooh, look at that!” What she was pointing to was a cicada, a fourth-instar nymph, which basically means one that has recently emerged from underground and is about to molt into its adult, reproducing form. This is what makes those largish brown husks that are so easy to find on tree trunks in the summer.

Now, it was dusk, under a full tree canopy, and the dirt-covered nymph was against a patch of dirt, so full credit to her for spotting it. Meanwhile, I have never gotten photos of any species as it began its molt, though I’ve caught a few partway through the process. So, I picked it up and brought it back home to begin a long photo session.

First off, the setup. I started by placing the cicada on an uprooted sapling we have in the yard, but it showed an inclination to heading into a thicket of small branches which might have hampered my views, so I removed it from there and placed it on a cedar stump, then quickly went to get all the equipment necessary. This included not just the camera and macro flash, but an extension cord to feed the AC power supply for the flash (what a marvelous option – more manufacturers need to be doing this) and the LED desk lamp, mentioned in the previous post, for a focusing light. All of this, including the stump, was set on a table on the back deck and I pulled up a chair because I knew from experience this was going to be a long session. The cicada wandered around on the stump for a bit before finally choosing a spot, which was a bit too close to another little spike of wood, so I carefully pried that away so it wouldn’t interfere with either the molting itself or my view of it.

unidentified fourth instar cicada preparing to molt
I toyed with the idea of setting up a second camera to do a sequence of time lapse images, but only had one AC-powered flash unit and knew it would require a lot of images, plus the fact that a tripod and light stand might be getting in the way, so I let the opportunity go this time around in favor of getting the details shots that I really wanted. The cicada was now rocking gently back and forth as if walking in place, and I was pretty certain it was either freeing itself from its exoskeleton internally or trying to produce the split on the back that it would emerge from, and I stayed put and kept a close eye on it. It was now full dark, so my focus and observation lighting was entirely the desk lamp, though the flash unit illuminated the images much better. I will refer you to the time markings on the images so you can see just how the activity progresses.

unidentified fourth instar cicada just before exoskeleton splits
Notable here is that you can see the coloration and faintly make out the false pupil of the compound eyes under that exoskeleton, which I believe have only just developed – the underground nymphs do not appear to have them, or indeed much of any eye development because, why? And while nothing visible was happening, I was pretty sure I was seeing a faint line down the center of the thorax that I hadn’t seen before.

unidentified fourth instar cicada just beginning final molt
Ah yes, there it is! I will point out here that the cicada measures about 30mm in length at this stage (the discarded exoskeleton, a few days later, was measured at 31mm,) so the peek of different coloration was subtle, but unmistakable if you’re looking as hard as I was for it – again, the flash brought things out a lot better than I was seeing by the desk lamp.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting
The cicada had stopped rocking by this point and, as the time stamps might indicate, the progress was only visible by comparing what it had looked like when you’d turned away a moment ago. This was not a situation where the frame-per-second rate of the camera was going to be a hindrance. Which was nice, actually, because I could pick my framing and even adjust the flash for better illumination.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting
Here the split has progressed to the head, and we get our first peek of the secondary eyes, three simple eyes that sit on the ‘forehead’ and are presumed to aid in orientation while flying. They’re red here, but will turn darker later on.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting
A view from a different angle, where we can see the geometric separation of the exoskeleton. The pattern is always the same, a natural perforation much more dependable than any pasta box. Not only can you see the primary false pupil now, but a hint of the surrounding secondary false pupils in the main eyes – you’ll get a better look a little further on.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting
A nice view of the bulging thorax and the flexing of the body segments; the legs are probably being drawn free at this point. You might expect at least some wiggling, but you’d be wrong. Everything seemed perfectly still.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting
Moving right along now. I was waiting for the eyes to pop free, and you can see that the eyes on the exoskeleton now seem empty, even though I couldn’t make this out at the time. I also couldn’t make out a detail that’s quite clear here: the wings have partially withdrawn as well, showing their crumpled nature right in the center of the frame. I know I kind of expected them to develop folded or curled, maybe like flower petals do, but they instead seem to form in the shape of a sock that’s slipped off and is crumpled inside the toe of a boot.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting, showing emerged eyes
Abruptly the eyes were visible, and even though I was watching for this aspect they seemed a lot further out than I expected. It’s possible that the exoskeleton snapped back a little when those bulbs popped free, but again, I saw no noticeable movement. While we’re here, I’ll point out the the pale blue regions will be flexible ‘skin’ while the darker regions will harden into the protective chitin that we’re all familiar with on virtually all arthropods.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting, showing emerging head
I told you that we’d get a better look at the primary and secondary false pupils, and for giggles see how they appear in the left eye away from us. Cicada eyes are dense and complicated, and we’ll get a better look at that aspect too. Maybe you’ll believe me this time. Until then, also check out the antennae.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting showing forelegs and proboscis
Now we can see the wings starting to spread out the slightest bit, and the proboscis is visible. The first pair of legs is completely free but the cicada hasn’t started to flex them yet.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting showing withdrawing tracheole lining
The money shot here is that white thread stretching to the side of the emerging cicada. That is, essentially, the lining of its ‘lungs,’ or more specifically the tracheoles that feed oxygen into the body. See here for details about this aspect of molting, and here for more detailed pics of the organs themselves than you ever wanted to see. You can see in this image that there also seems to be a lining to the proboscis that’s pulling free too. Now you have something to talk about at work tomorrow.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting
The tracheoles have all pulled free now, the first two pairs of legs were out and starting to flex a little, providing the first visible motion from the cicada, and the wings were unfurling almost visibly – the progress was easily noticeable. This is an odd angle for detail, because the cicada had anchored itself vertically and was now leaning back from its exoskeleton almost horizontally, an extremely slow trust fall. I was very glad I’d placed the stump on a table, because I could choose my shooting angle without any discomfort at all, a rarity for arthropod macro work.

It is now about 80 minutes since The Girlfriend had found the cicada on the ground, and an hour since I’d set up the ‘studio.’ I remember sitting back in the chair at some point and looking up at the small patch of clear sky that could be seen from our backyard, and the moon peeking through the trees.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting
A more natural angle, the camera being pretty much dead-level now. The legs are all free, though the last haven’t been flexed to bring them out of the opening in the exoskeleton. By now, the cicada had been making minute vibrations, as if it was gently being tapped or a T-Rex was approaching, and it is anchored solely by its lower abdomen. In fact…

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting, looking into the exoskeleton
… I tried to get a better look down there to see this, because I’m not sure at all how insects remain anchored this way for long periods, but all of them seem to do it. What’s going on down there? This was the beginning of several minutes where nothing at all seemed to be happening, save for the occasional feeble flexing of a leg and the continued unfurling of the wings.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting
Note the time stamp. The cicada had been so far back that its left eye was actually resting against the wood behind it, but now it had started to flex forward in an abdominal crunch even more painfully slow than my own. Which was good, because those wings were close to contacting the wood on that side and I was concerned about them opening properly. The legs were twitching a little more now.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting showing wing detail
Just a look at the wings in detail. I was expecting them to twitch or pulse or something but they simply stretched out infinitesimally slowly. Arthropods don’t really have a circulatory system as aggressive as ours anyway, so pulsing isn’t appropriate.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting
Leaning forward now – those legs are going to grasp its own exoskeleton aaannyyy second now…

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting, gaining leg purchase
That’s right, get a good grip before you pull your ass free or you’ll fall down, and your chitin isn’t hardened yet.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting about to free the abdomen
We have now reached the gripping action sequence, the fastest motion of the entire process – again, time stamps. The legs have a good grip, there’s some flexing…

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting with abdomen free
… and the abdomen pops free with a visible tiny jerk. I don’t mind telling you I was sweating at this point – but then again I’d been sweating the entire time, because it was still pretty damn warm that evening. At some point, I glanced up again and noticed that there were now thin scattered clouds across the sky, surprising me slightly.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting, now extending wings
Now properly supporting itself on its legs, the cicada shifted position slightly and the wings continued to extend. I knew that not a lot would happen for a while, as the wings filled out and the chitin dried and hardened.

unidentified fourth instar cicada molting showing secondary wings
A profile shot to show the secondary wings still curled a bit but moving along nicely.

unidentified final instar cicada drying out
Welcome to adulthood and sexual maturity – and, by the way, the introduction of predators. Admittedly, there were probably some critters like moles that might prey on the underground nymph stage, and perhaps some things that could scarf up the newborns before they made their way down the tree trunks to burrow into the ground, but this stage by far is the most dangerous. However, there’s sex.

unidentified final instar cicada showing wing detail
I have to say that the appearance of the wings by the light of the desk lamp was a bit different than the flash produced, and I tried several lighting angles to try and illustrate it, but I doubt I did a good job. Nonetheless, what you can see here are the faint indications of all the fold lines, like pretty much all of my own clothes because ironing is a pain in the ass. The first hints of the iridescence that the wings will display in the right light is now showing, and after a while the wings will tilt a bit and clasp close to the abdomen. I waited around for another fifteen minutes, but there was no visible change and I knew the most that I’d see would be a color shift as the chitin hardened, so I packed up the equipment, satisfied that I’d gotten what I was after. It had been two hours since finding the nymph.

Inside the house later on I passed the back door and heard the unmistakable sounds of a downpour, and went out after it had largely passed to do a followup image just for the story. The cicada was now looking mostly like a flying adult, and had shifted even more – you can just make out the abandoned exoskeleton at upper left.

newly-emerged adult cicada in the rain
Then, after unloading the memory card for the second time, I noticed some curious details and wanted to do them justice, so I switched lenses to the reversed 28-105 super-macro and went back out. Remember what I said about eye detail?

extreme closeup of cicada eye with drop acting as lens
A single raindrop was acting as a lens and magnified the surface of the compound eye much greater than even my super-macro was capable of – you can see why I had to do this one right. Also note the myriad patterns of the compound eye, fulfilling some purpose to the cicada but I’ll be dipped if I can tell you what. The entire eye surface is perhaps 3mm across, so you can do the math from here if you like.

Not done yet. While out there, I was curious if I could capture one of the tiny frogs that lives in the backyard at such extreme magnification, and went looking. Now, during setup I had come across two in the immediate vicinity, so of course when I wanted to find them neither was in evidence. Eventually, I located another atop a fence post a little further away, which was ideal conditions: the frog sat atop a small point that allowed a lot of positioning flexibility while also giving me the fence itself to brace against. Sharp focus range at this magnification is literally a millimeter or less, and believe me, I can’t hold that perfectly still on my own. But it seemed to work, you know, adequately

juvenile Copes grey treefrog in extreme closeup
This is the exact same magnification as the cicada eye above, just so you know. And while you may question my judgment, I really like this shot – it will be a big print very shortly. Just for the specs, the entire frog is 12mm from snout to tailbone, and the eye itself measures 1.5mm across, slightly bigger than a pinhead. And I will admit that this is a stacked image, a combination of two separate frames, because the depth-of-field at f16 wasn’t even up to this. So there’s one image that has the eye sharp, and another that has the side of the face sharp; you can just make out the soft demarcation between the two images along the top right edge of the curve at the base of the eye. This’ll give you an idea how short focus really is (and thus, how precise my position would have to be to achieve it.)

Another scale shot? Okay, if you insist. Right before starting this post, I collected the abandoned exoskeleton (the cicada had long since moved on in search of some action, because that’s what adulthood is for,) and found another of the froglets sitting atop a rainbarrel. I doubt this is the same one as the portrait above and it might be marginally smaller, but close enough for government work, you know? Anything to give the best impression.

molted cicada exoskeleton and juvenile Copes grey treefrog
By the way, exactly a year ago I engaged in largely the same pursuit, with entirely different results.

Let’s go down under for a moment

head-on image of tadpole with sand for scale
“Oh, boy!” you say, “Al’s finally done a trip to Australia [pronounced “Olls-TRAYYLL-yer” of course] and is going to feature something truly exotic for a change!” But no – Al’s still too strapped for cash to pull that one off (damn expensive mics,) and didn’t even leave the backyard for these. What I’m referring to instead is going down under the surface of the water. Hey, if everyone else can do clickbait headlines…

This saga all began when I went to a 18.927-liter bucket that I’d filled with water a few days previously, to be used for watering the various plants around the yard. As I approached, I noticed a strange pattern visible in the reflection of the sky from the surface, as if there were countless little beads of vegetable oil floating there. Close examination revealed these to be frog eggs; some opportunistic amphibian had eschewed the pond only a handful of meters away to plop its eggs into a far less hospitable location. Had I not caught the reflection, there’s a decent chance I would have deposited these eggs among the plants in the yard, especially given how they were perfectly clear with a speck the size of a pinhead within.

Now, on two occasions previously, I had found eggs in the pond and vowed to return and do some pics when I had a little time, but on both occasions they’d hatched before I had a moment to spare. This time I was more determined, but still lacking the necessary freedom; I would have the chance in the evening. When that rolled around, I showed the eggs to The Girlfriend, and a few hours later went out to collect a decent sample to shoot within the conditions of the macro aquarium.

Curiously, I was a little too late: the eggs had all hatched. I was fairly certain that they couldn’t have been there more than two days, and I thought the gestation period was longer than that (and so far, the sources I’ve found seem to confirm this,) but here we are. So the pics that I wanted of a developing frog embryo will still have to wait, but I was able to get some of the newly-hatched tadpoles anyway. I hasten to add that the image at top is not one of them, instead likely being a green frog (Lithobates clamitans) based on the size and developmental stage, being about ‘average’ size for tadpoles, roughly 25mm in length and 6-8 in width. Note the sand for scale, which makes for a good comparison with the next image:

newborn tadpole of Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis against sand
With about as much confidence as I can muster, short of seeing the eggs being laid, I’m going to say this is the newborn tadpole of a Copes grey treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis,) mainly because that’s nearly all that we have in the yard and what’s been calling routinely every time it rains, and roughly half of the evenings otherwise. Not to mention that, being in a deep bucket, the only other choice (the aforementioned green frog) would have had a much harder time getting within. What I’m not as sure about is whether those eyes haven’t even developed yet, or if they’re merely so fine that the light from the flash was bouncing through, giving them a faint glow through the pupil. Pardon the scratches on the glass; despite my best efforts to keep it photographically pristine, it still houses sand and is a few years old now. It’s probably time to replace the macro aquarium.

newborn tadpole of Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis vertically against side of aquarium
Here’s another view, one that was common enough since most of them seemed to want to rest vertically against the glass. You can see the mouth, and the tiny gills that will soon enough disappear. The air bubble was trapped within the transparent gel/mucus of either the hatched eggs themselves, or the stuff that holds them all together into a blob.

This might not help a lot, but other than saying these were only a few millimeters in length, they were virtually the same size as mosquito larvae, and from a short distance could only be distinguished from those by their swimming habits; mosquito larvae thrash through the water, mostly vertically, by curling back and forth, while we all know how tadpoles swim. The bigger issue was getting enough light into the tank to focus properly with the reversed Sigma 28-105, since it’s fixed at f16 and thus very dark in the viewfinder. I have a lot of missed frames.

While collecting them, I picked up anything else from the pond that looked promising, and among those was one of the shiny gold beetles that I had photographed last year.

aquatic beetle possibly Genus Laccophilus
Taking a moment to try and find the species this time around, I’m going to very tentatively identify this as genus Laccophilus, possibly a Laccophilus maculosus maculosus, which looks right but is listed as twice the size – mine was only a few millimeters, about half the length of a grain of rice. It would be tempting to say this is a juvenile, but juvenile beetles don’t have wing-cases (elytra,) and in fact look entirely different from the adults – which segues into the next set of photos.

If you check out that second link in the paragraph above, you can see some photos of the larval form, which aren’t exactly beetlelike. But while I found something similar, it was waaayyyy bigger than that gold beetle and certainly not the same species, though how close the relation might be is the realm of someone more entomologically-educated than I.

unidentified aquatic larva
This was more like 20mm in length, and seemed very inclined to be grasping something and not swimming freely; I introduced the twig solely for this reason. But it’s definitely predatory, since those pincers aren’t for slurping algae. I caught two, and they were a lot more cooperative in posing for photos, even when one of the tadpoles acquiesced to posing alongside for another scale shot.

unidentified larva with tadpole of Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis alongside
This also seemed to be a demonstration that the larva did not feed on tadpoles, though it might simply not have been hungry at this time. So while the tadpoles were difficult to get much detail about, I spent a few minutes on these larvae and did much better. Though I guess that’s all a matter of perspective.

unidentified larva profile
Light angle with aquarium photography can be crucial. It’s easy to get too little light from scatter of the water and simply aiming behind the subject, but it’s also very easy to get reflections from the front or rear glass and wash out all detail. Here, mostly by luck, I managed to get a nice balance to show translucence as well as getting a bit of direct shine off of the chitin to show a little texture. And we’ll see those eyes better shortly.

legs of unidentified larva
My focusing aid was a bright LED desk lamp on a gooseneck arm, and one of the techniques I used was to aim it through from the back, brightly outlining my subjects – it was better than trying to get enough light from the front while also staying out of my way for the extremely short working distance at this magnification. In fact, if you look at the two photos above, you’ll notice bright spots in the background; these are the individual LEDs in the lamp head. In this case, they seem to have assisted the flash in shining through the legs, which brought out some cool anatomical details (seriously, I don’t understand why you’re not as enthusiastic about this as I am.)

Now let’s get back to the eyes, et al.

unidentified larva portrait
In fact, I’m not even sure those can be called eyes – they don’t seem fully developed, and it’s possible that at this stage they don’t hunt by sight, but by feel or detecting water disturbances instead. But you have to appreciate the other details in there; I’m almost certain that you’re seeing the venom channels down the middle of those chelicerae (‘fangs’.)

I just have to note this in closing: it’s very easy, even for me, to get an impression from these photos of something aggressive, vicious, and even rapacious. Their behavior in the tank, however, was extremely docile, and perhaps a tad shy. They seemed a little anxious to get a leghold of something solid and, having accomplished that, largely stayed put, though I was able to nudge them into slightly different positions for better shots. The story might have been different had I seen what triggered them into feeding behavior, but what I observed was pretty placid. Just goes to show. For instance, I’m not as dashing in appearance as you undoubtedly imagine…

Podcast: The holiday is upon us

I’m not kidding – if you have to ask, “What holiday?” I’m going to smack you. Everyone knows this is National Pointless Podcast Day, specifically set aside to post audio files that have no purpose whatsoever. Now, if you’re at all familiar with the blog here, you know that I abhor frivolous posts and meaningless content; if you don’t have anything important to say, then don’t post anything, is my motto. But, you may also know how I feel about tradition, so it’s important to honor the holiday regardless. With that in mind, and at great effort, I put aside my normal standards regarding substantial and thought-provoking content, and produced a podcast in the spirit of the day, as much as it ran against my habits.

Walkabout podcast – So deep it’s shallow

When last we spoke of microphones

And so you know, one of the highly-recommended microphones, and another.

A mid-range recommended mic.

And the one I just got, and used here (for less than half the price listed there too.)

By the way, you know what’s funny about this? In the podcast, I mention not being able to ‘be creative’ with time constraints, as well as providing a quick list of potential post topics that may appear someday. Yesterday, I had a few hours before I had to be at work, and started a casual recording with the new mic, no real intentions, but I liked the results anyway. That’s what you’re hearing here, which I ripped off before work, as well as starting a post on one of those topics from the list. I finished that off after work and posted it last night, so that’s already appeared, then cleaned up the recording afterward and uploaded it to the server last night as well (or was it this morning?) That last bit may not sound like much, but it takes at least three times as long to clean up and edit recordings as it does to make them, not counting all the sundry bits that must go hand-in-hand. So, most times I don’t work well within time constraints.

Yeah, yeah, go ahead, I left that one wide open for you. But hey, if you think you’re so much better, there’s still time left on this holiday…

Per the ancient lore, part 19

I couldn't explain this enough for you to visualize it anyway
Before we go any further, I’ll let you drink this in and try to fathom just what it is you’re looking at. The only thing I will say is, though I cropped it a little tighter to draw more attention to some details, I didn’t remove anything that would help explain it more.

I’m thinking the only things that are recognizable, and perhaps not even then, are the snails, which is why this image came from the Invertebrates folder – far from being the most overburdened classification in my stock images. In fact, not only is this after I left Florida, it was taken using Jim Kramer’s Sony F828 (the follow-up model to the F717 that I was using for most of the Ancient Lore posts so far) while he was using his new Canon 10D – c’mon, this was 2004!

During an outing to the Eno River, there was a tree with twisted, exposed roots delving into the water, and upon those roots several rather large aquatic snails were exploring. If I was to guess from the photos that I obtained that session, I was not wearing anything on my feet that would facilitate wading (hard as that may be to believe,) and so I was working solely from solid land. Which was not the best of perspectives for this subject. I have, for instance, done better.

This one was included more for the vague, abstract nature of it than anything else – that, and the fact that I have so few photos in the folder to begin with. Basically, sometime in the past I decided that I had enough images of snails and slugs to merit breaking them out of the Miscellaneous category, but just barely. So now that I’m doing this by category, I’m struggling to stay more-or-less in a similar timeframe. That’s what I get for not thinking things through before I begin…

That’s not true!

dragonfly perched on tip of tall weeds
There is a plethora of different aspects that are going to come up in this post, which is perhaps amusing, because the topic is rather trivial. Bear with me a moment.

But right now, look at that image up there and tell me what’s wrong with it, or what “doesn’t work” or what have you – I’m talking from an aesthetic standpoint and not whether the species are anachronistic or anything. Does anything strike you as wrong or inaccurate?

Okay, how about now?

same image with slightly different color effect
Whoa, that’s noticeably different, isn’t it? Okay, fine, but… which one’s accurate?

“How am I supposed to know?” you protest indignantly. “I wasn’t there! I don’t know which one is the original, or what the camera settings were, or what the sky really looked like. Let’s be real!” And I accept that answer even though I think you could have been a little more polite about it. But even if we met all those criteria, you probably couldn’t provide a useful answer to begin with.

So okay, let’s assume that you were there, and I could show you the LCD immediately after taking the photo, or better yet, threw it over to a high quality monitor that was meticulously color-corrected and quite bright. Would you be able to tell accuracy then? Probably not, to be honest – no monitor made yet comes even close to the huge range of light levels that we encounter in real life. And this says nothing about the sensor capturing the image, either, which is limited because it really only captures a matrix of red, green, and blue values. Granted, so do our eyes, but the variations that they’re capable of perceiving are far greater than 36-bit color. Plus there’s the idea that my eyes might see colors entirely different than your eyes do – and there’s really no way of determining this effectively. It comes down to being entirely subjective, so the idea of “true” color is pretty much a myth.

Which brings us to these two images, one of which is altered from how the camera produced it, which itself might have had its own settings regarding saturation, contrast, and even ‘neutral’ point. If we concern ourselves with not presenting ‘Photoshopped’ images (and I usually do,) we wonder what’s acceptable to mess with, and how far? Sure, this is just a blog, so no big deal either way, fartistic license and all that yaya, but on the other side of the coin, I’m marketing my images, and to a certain extent editing is frowned upon. With my slides, I make the effort to hew as closely as possible to the original, because I don’t want someone deciding to publish my images based on what they see on my website and then finding out that the slide isn’t the same at all. Of course, we’re getting farther and farther away from that being any issue at all, because most places are working full digital now anyway, and a lot of them wouldn’t even be able to digitize the slide themselves.

For a lot of my purposes herein, I’m illustrating something in particular – this is not art, but journalism; we’re not after what looks the best, but showing how something really is. Is the mantis truly that vivid in coloration? Is this what someone can expect when they see it on their own? Again, where does one draw the line? The more I type, the more I can imagine you thinking I’m wound a bit too tight, especially when using those images up there as illustrations (yes, even I find the difference trivial in their case.) But it’s also very easy to get into the habit of ‘tweaking’ everything I put up here for ‘best effect’ or whatever, and soon having a site where nothing looks authentic or convincing – colors too vivid, contrast too distinct, all the backgrounds cleaned up to remove all the imperfections. Which is another aspect, one that hearkens back to my film days: getting the image right, in-camera, is a skill all its own, which requires paying close attention to the entire frame, and knowing how the depth will render or how the lighting will work. If I have to ‘fix’ everything, am I a photographer or merely an editor?

[There are probably people who could get a little miffed over my phrase, “merely an editor,” but this reflects how I see it, anyway: I find greater importance in wielding the camera over the editing program, even while both are important skills.]

So, as my own ethical outlook dictates that I try to keep things accurate in most cases, I still have to recognize that there’s really no such thing, and I have to settle for realistic or believable instead, even as I’m influenced aesthetically/emotionally with how much better an image might look if I give it a little nudge in some particular direction. But as for having any set of rules, any lines that I avoid crossing in any given circumstance? Nope, not gonna try to take it that far. I’ll just fret idly over it for no really good reason.

 *       *      *

A word of advice (which I’ve offered before) for any edits that you do end up making: be subtle. It is very easy to tweak colors, notice a distinctive difference, and tweak them even farther, and there’s a certain lack of objectivity as we do this – we compare against the previous state and not against any standard of realism (which is impossible for us to produce in our minds as we look at the image.) But then we come back to that image a little later on, having cleared our minds, and find we took it a bit too far, and it no longer appears plausible or unedited. Make small changes, and then come back a little later on and see how they look.

Odd memories, part 17

So when the Ancient Lore post started me reminiscing about the various birds that I’d had for a while, a few decades ago, I remembered two different anecdotes that, whether they bear relating or not, I’m going to go ahead and produce because I haven’t heard any protests. In fact, I’m adding a third.

When I’d recently moved to North Carolina and was working at the animal shelter, I was in an apartment with a specific pet policy, but they were pretty cool about birds, and when a pair of budgies got turned into the shelter, I thought they’d be a decent thing to have in the place. I’d grown up with animals all my life and was experiencing the first ever period without any; obviously it didn’t last too long. And so Max (blue, male) and Sprite (yellow-and-green, female) entered the picture.

two budgies and a cockatiel

That’s, left to right, Max, Rio, and Sprite (of course the smallest)

It soon became clear that Max was pretty mellow and undemonstrative, while Sprite was clearly the boss, very dominant and more than passingly aggressive. A little later on, I added a female grey cockatiel named Rio, and from time to time they were allowed out for exercise in the apartment. Rio naturally outmassed Sprite by a considerable amount (like 200%,) but didn’t see the need to contest the smaller bird’s dominance too often, as long as it didn’t become too enthusiastic. Sprite was very possessive of her cage, no surprise, and flew into a fit if anything else ventured inside, which Rio would do on occasion just to see if the food was better.

And then, one of my acquaintances from work wanted to know if I’d take over a large conure, which had been given to her by someone who could no longer care for it. The bird, unidentified in breed or gender, came with its own roomy cage, probably worth several hundred dollars between them. I figured I’d give it a shot. The conure was dubbed “Kublai” (you’ll get it eventually) and proved to be well-behaved and quiet, but a little more forthright than the others.

At one point, during playtime, Kublai was perched atop a bookcase when diminutive little Sprite decided that, no, this would be her perch. She flew over but veered off at the last second, realizing that the conure was many, many times her size, and took a spot further along the bookcase. But then again, she was the alpha bird in the apartment, so she sidled along purposefully with a distinct air of chasing off Kublai. I was watching with a bit of interest, because while it was easy to see that the large conure could easily contest the little budgie’s claims, so could the cockatiel, but she was largely disinclined to do so and accepted the little bird’s dominance most times.

Not so with Kublai, who looked down with disdain at this lemon-lime upstart, almost disbelievingly, but when Sprite made an aggressive move to chase the conure off the perch, Kublai casually opened wide and leaned down. I experienced a moment of horror, since he could easily decapitate the tiny budgie, but Sprite was more-or-less prepared. With an alarm call much like a minibike skidding out on gravel, she shot away from the conure to the relative safety of her cage and sat on top panting, recognizing that she had overstepped her bounds.

I never did learn what species of conure this was

C’mon, these negatives are like 27 years old – you’re lucky I still have them

A bit later on, I was eating lunch with Kublai sitting on my shoulder, where he could snag tidbits if he was so inclined and I had lowered my defenses; he was extraordinarily found of tortellini, and could snatch one off the fork on its way to my mouth. In this case, however, I had just finished something he had no interest in, and with the stereo playing, I was singing along. After a few minutes, I became aware that he was staring intently at my mouth, and I stopped singing and looked at him curiously. “What?” I asked.

In response, he vented the most horribly tortured sound that I’ve heard any species make, ever, as if he was getting tangled in the gears of a large truck. I stared at him in shock, but he seemed in no distress, still looking distinctly at my mouth, though he glanced up at my eyes for a moment before returning his gaze to my teeth. After another moment, he vented another, entirely different sound, exuberantly but with just as much torturous effect, the sound of someone gargling past an angry ferret lodged in their trachea.

“What the hell’s your problem?” I inquired, and he looked away unconcernedly, taking up the manically twitchy way of looking around the room that’s typical of the parrot family. After much thought and given the circumstances, I came to the tentative conclusion that he was attempting to sing, not as a bird, but as a human, or at least as me. Exactly how this reflects on my own abilities I’ll leave you to speculate upon.

There was a pet store that I visited on occasion, and they had a huge blue-and-gold macaw that had the run of the place. Anyone with experience with such birds knows they can be impish, stubborn, and a little emotional. This one had learned to mimic a sardonic chuckle, and used it to remarkable effect. One day as I was standing close to his favorite perch conversing with an employee, he leaned over and ripped a button from my brand new shirt, because macaws. And when it became clear to him that I was chagrined at this, he presented it to me, clasped gently in the tip of his beak, manipulated there by his tongue which (and if you’ve seen this you know I’m being perfectly accurate) resembled nothing more than a tiny black penis. I reached for the button, and with this adept tongue he whipped it down into the depths of his lower beak before my hand closed on it, then presented it again as I lowered my hand. I made another grab and he whisked it away again, then gave forth with his evil little chuckle: “Heh heh heh heh heh.”

Now, I have no reason to believe that he even knew what this meant, nor was using it as anyone would have interpreted it – birds just don’t have that level of cognition. But his timing was impeccable, and maybe he was a very good observer of humans. While I tried not to be mocked by a goddamn parrot, nonetheless that chuckle was irritating. Still standing close by, I began to ignore him and resumed my conversation. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him offering the button again, right there at the very tippy tip of his beak, but he could have it as far as I was concerned. Being ignored was not part of the game, as far as he was concerned, and he leaned closer, very much like an older sibling being a little shit, and offered me the button, tantalizingly, making soft grunts in the back of his throat in case I was unaware of his presence, the bird equivalent of, “It’s right heeeerrre, don’t you want it?”

And still I remained oblivious, or at least affected that air. But he was stretching out over my left hand now. As he attempted to lean into my line of sight, I brought my hand up from underneath his chin, slid two fingers quick as a flash along either side of his lower beak and snatched the button from his grasp. He did that little straighten-up-and-half-flap that startled birds do, and realized the button was missing; just to assure him, I showed it to him from a safe distance. “Heh heh heh heh heh,” I said in return.

Oh, shit, that bird was livid! He vented a very loud squawk and danced back and forth on his perch, pupils dilating and contracting spasmodically, daring me to come any closer, which I declined since I’m quite fond of my nose (god knows why) and all ten fingers. I have little doubt that I started him on a habit of stealing money from patrons of the pet shop so that he could afford a hitman; it might not have been so bad if I hadn’t returned the chuckle. But yeah, I kept a wary distance from him for every visit after that.

What do nature photographers carry?

This is a followup post that I’ve been meaning to do for a while, since the first part appeared here. I was finally inspired to finish it off after reading an article about what flight attendants carried for their job. Of course, that article title and mine are both misleading; flight attendants and nature photographers, hard as it may be to believe, are still just individuals and there’s virtually nothing that can be said to be universally carried, save for perhaps a camera (for photographers, anyway.) When that article said that flight attendants carried Airborne, the completely inert and useless snake-oil, to ward off the germs from all those sick passengers… well, I doubt most flight attendants are that stupid. And in like vein, I doubt most nature photographers carry everything that I carry, so we’re going with just the personal aspect here. If your idle curiosity is in desperate need of finding out the items that every nature photographer carries, you’re probably going to have to fund the survey yourself.

All that said, let’s dig into the bags and see what we have here:

Spare batteries and memory cards – This should really go without saying, but I’ll reiterate that you should have this with you always, regardless of what you’re shooting or how often. I’ve seen way too many memory cards fail, and of course batteries should be routinely charged, like on a schedule, but especially before any significant outing.

Remote release – Mostly for high-magnification tripod work (like telephoto shots,) but also handy for time exposures. I recently received a wireless version but inertia has kept me from trying it out yet, which is disturbing really, so the one in the bag is still a wired version, an intervalometer with a microcomputer that’s programmable for interval shots, specific long exposures (since the camera can handle 30 seconds at the most,) and so on.

Off-camera flash cord – direct flash is boring and does poor shaping, so having a flash at an oblique angle is much better. I’ve gone back and forth with my flash rigs and am presently using a macro rig with its own sync cord, but I still use a handheld flash occasionally, or get out the more elaborate flash bracket.

Brilliant green laser pointer – I use this for students, because it allows me to point out exactly where something is, even in bright sunlight, when describing it proves to be very difficult (“Go up to the seventeenth branch on the left side of the trunk, follow it to the third time it forks and take the upper fork…”)

Collection cans – Mostly film cans, but small containers for whatever I come across that I want to examine/shoot in greater detail. Watertight so I can collect aquatic subjects as well.

Individually wrapped hand wipes – A little amusing here, because I’m often not cautious at all about what I pick up, and am reasonably good at remembering not to go putting my hands in my mouth later on, but they’re there when needed. Not to be used as toilet paper though. Trust me on this.

Disposable rain poncho – Mentioned in an earlier post, but these are exceptionally handy, and not just for photographers. And along those lines…

Condom – Because if there’s one thing that porn has taught me, it’s that you never know…

Short coil of monofilament – Otherwise known as fishing line, and I bet you’re thinking this is a survival thing, where I can catch fish to eat if and when I get stranded in the wilds somewhere. But no – fishing bores me to death, so this approach would be self-defeating. Instead, this is used for tying plants and branches back out of the way, or emergency repairs, or occasionally to make a giant fake spiderweb to keep others out of my prime shooting locations.

Bottle of ‘flavor enhancer’ for ‘water’ – The manufacturers don’t like to advertise them this way, but when your legs are trapped beneath a boulder, these really make drinking your own urine much better. It cycles through, too, so one bottle lasts a long time.

Half-eaten Butterfinger from, uh, 1996 – I don’t really like Butterfingers, but I don’t like wasting food either. It’s now an experiment to see which emotion is strongest.

Spare keys – Let’s see, this one’s to the car I sold in 2001, this is to the place I used to live, been torn down now, and this is to that really cool padlock that I haven’t been able to find since I moved from New York. You never know, though.

Ticket to a Men Without Hats concert – I never attended, because I couldn’t remember the safe place that I stashed the ticket so I wouldn’t lose it. Damn, that’s where it was.

Button that reads, “Don’t vex me, Frank!” – I got this in high school because it seemed like something that the cool kids would wear. It did get me a thumbs-up from Sean Gaffney but that probably doesn’t count. I still have no fucking idea what it means.

A booger shaped like Trump’s hair – I couldn’t flick that one away.

A minibike from a 1/24 scale Honda City Turbo – In Japan, Honda produced a model called the City, a squat little urban runabout car, and it came complete with a folding minibike to use in areas where car access was difficult. The model kit that I got many years back also had the minibike, and I kept that as a curio, because it’s cool.

A loaded dodecahedron – Not failing any more saving rolls.

A pocket slide-rule – Everybody past a certain age remembers being told that they had to learn how to do long division and percentages by hand since “you won’t have a calculator with you everywhere you go,” and I immediately started carrying this. Shows what you knew, Mr. Farnelli!

Great A’Tuin hood ornament – I keep trying to figure out how to attach this to my camera.

A compass I stole from some college students while hiking in Maryland – This was from, oh, 1994 I think. They were noisy little shits doing some school project, and scared off the rabbits that I was attempting to photograph.

An almost-intact deer skull that I found in a river – This is really taking up a lot of space…

Two cans of white gravy – When traveling in undeveloped areas, the recommendation was always to have some colorful beads and trinkets to trade with the natives when necessary, but I’m in the South, so…

An audio recording of Björk’s Human Behavior Certifiably the best bear repellent known to man.

42 towels – If you’re gonna do it, do it right.

So there you have it: the additional equipment that makes this nature photographer, at least, as successful as he is. Always happy to share.

A last lingering look

This has been hanging out there for a lot longer than intended, but here, finally, is the last of the posts regarding the Topsail Island trip. I think.

As I said, fewer photos this time around, because we were doing more “stuff” – not as much time to be chasing subjects, and also less optimal conditions. We actually had some weather this time, mostly in the form of grey days, but a little rain here and there. Nothing serious for sure, and we were even out kayaking during one set of off-again-on-again showers, but certainly less interesting skies for the landscape shots, and poorer light overall that limited some photo ops.

seafom on a grey day at Topsail Island
I will draw your attention to the beach underlying the foam here and the consistency thereof, for future reference. Most areas of the beach were actually sand, but patches were made up of crushed shell like this, and others were larger shell fragments.

scattered clouds at sunrise on North Topsail Island
Since I’m determined to capture that green flash and might have missed it the one time it occurred last year, I was out at sunrise for most days, but the much higher humidity definitely affected the skies. Taken as a whole, the conditions were fine most of the time, but when it comes to getting sunrise, the buildup of moisture at the horizon isn’t ideal. Above, it’s easy to imagine that seeing the sun exactly as it rose might be challenging. But when it did, the effect was better than expected. Yes, these were the same day, only nine minutes apart (but significantly different focal lengths.)

sun peeking through humid haze at sunrise, Topsail Island
Not the conditions that can produce that flash, but I admit I wasn’t expecting to see the sun break through like this – that haze was a lot thinner than it appeared.

And yet, the sun only did a cameo, for the early morning anyway (later in the day it was brilliantly sunny.) A few minutes later on, the haze obscured it and muted the light and the colors significantly. Wandering the beach, I used those conditions, and a curious object washed up, to provoke some moody images.

single long-stemmed rose washed up on beach
I can’t provide the story here – you have to do that yourself. I’ve said before, a lot of photography relies on what feeling you get from the image, which is often immediate and in many cases subtle and hard to define. What contributes to it, and how can you manipulate this to best effect? I’m not saying this is a shining example, but there was a reason I went in low with the wide-angle lens, and you can imagine for yourself how different it would be if the broad empty landscape and sky wasn’t included, or if the sun were bright.

And just a little later on, a wandering sanderling (Calidris alba) provided some more impressions. I admit, I waited until it wandered close, and hoped that it would pick at the rose, but it wasn’t that cooperative.

sanderling Calidris alba near lone rose on beach
And by staying nearby and keeping an eye out, I got a different perspective about thirty seconds later. Which do you like best, and why? How different is the impression?

sanderling Calidris alba walking away from discarded rose
Okay, enough essay questions. How about another perspective on that foamy conditions from the opening shot?

straight-down view of seafoam on beach, Topsail Island
I boosted contrast and saturation a little for this one, partially because of the poor light conditions, but also to enhance the colors. I was about to say they were refractive, but stopped to look it up to ensure that I was correct. I was half-right; they’re both refractive and diffractive. And don’t ask me what particular elements in the water caused these prominent foam patches, but they occurred on a couple of different days, sometimes quite copiously and lasting for a long time after washing ashore from the breakers.

And as I look at this photo, I realize it should be rotated counter-clockwise into vertical format, since you can see my silhouetted reflection as I took the shot in the yellow, green, and blue bubbles at upper left: half-crouch with legs spread wide, bent over shooting almost straight down, right elbow sticking out pretty far. C’mon, don’t make me diagram it.

By the way, the opening shot from this post last year has been turned into two large prints on our walls here at Walkabout Headquarters, one on canvas. And so, I was keeping an eye out for even better compositions this year, but it was not to be. Not only was the light less cooperative (at least when I was on that side of the island to see it,) but the osprey (Pandion haliaetus) weren’t in the same connubial state; we watched their courtship flights this time, so we know there were no eggs on the nest, and it appeared that the female might not even have decided on which suitor would win out yet. So, I got a few frames, but they don’t compare to last year’s.

pair of osprey Pandion haliaetus on and over nest on sound, Topsail Island
A few days later, while down at the south end snorkeling, there was a solitary bird floating on the surface not far offshore, staying pretty distinctly in one position despite the strong current from the tides. I couldn’t leave this be, so I started stalking down there but, you know, proper stalking and not what most people picture when that word is used. I was a little worried that it had possibly gotten caught in some fishing line and couldn’t move from position, in which case former wildlife rehabber here was going to go for a swim. I managed to get quite close without the bird getting too disturbed.

adult red-throated loon Gavia stellata in non-breeding plumage
It took me a little bit to determine the species, after I got back and began digging through my identification guides, but I’m pretty certain this is a red-throated loon (Gavia stellata.) You may wonder why it’s called that, perhaps thinking that the ornithologist responsible was seriously color-blind, but this is non-breeding plumage – which is what it displays for more than half of the year. During mating season, ending just before we were there, they do indeed have red throats, which might have saved me twenty minutes of careful comparison of markings and ranges. And as I got close enough, this one demonstrated that it wasn’t relegated to just one area in any way – it simply seemed to like that one spot, so much that it would maintain it against the current. Hey, whatever floats your, uh, loon…

I did a little noodling around with video while we were out there – nothing serious, just touristy stuff, but I have a policy of not featuring anyone on the blog without express permission, the webbernets being what it is anymore. But during one of the days were we out fucking around in the surf, one of our friends decided to experiment with her smutphone video options as I was attempting to learn how to use a boogie board, and captured this little clip for posterity:

First, a note: The original video was shot purposefully in some slow-motion option provided by aiphone$, and I edited it back up to ‘normal’ speed, or as close to it as I could achieve anyway. And yes, that’s me wiping out – I’m especially fond of how quickly the board appears leaping into the air. I imagine I dipped the nose down too far, but it certainly took me by surprise and it was the only time it happened.

But I did manage a few successful rides, but the best came on another day, when no one was recording them. No, really. Anyway, pardon the edit issues – the original recording started and ended at normal speed before transitioning to slow-mo, and I tried to make it all normal but it glitches a little.

Remember above when I pointed out the crushed shell? It tends to be pretty hard on you when you slam into the bottom during a failed ride, and a couple of my knuckles are still rough from the abrasions they underwent; blood was even drawn a couple of times. Nothing serious – all part of the activity. I’ve done much worse catching thorn bushes while out chasing frogs.

two of our friends riding boogie boards skillfully
I’ll go ahead and post this one because faces are indistinct enough that I can’t be sued. And you will notice that both riders seem to have a peculiar color cast to them. The guy on the left was catching a reflection from his blue board, but the guy on the right really was that pink – he had a tendency to eschew the sunscreen…

But yeah – overall, they were doing better than I. It looks like they’re coming practically right up to the waterline, but this is a foreshortening effect from shooting close to water level; the waves were breaking a moderate distance out, but in a highly variable way. As can be seen here to a small extent, the swells weren’t terribly rhythmic, so the curlers might break just about anywhere, and at times you could just be standing out there while nothing happened near you. But there was a certain zone where, if the swells did start to curl and break there, they had the best carrying properties. I’m probably announcing my general ignorance of surfing dynamics to the world…

That’s enough of all these trivial subjects. Now back to the sunrises!

pre-sunrise sky without promise
On several days, things didn’t look very promising, but I waited out the sunrise anyway and would sometimes be pleasantly surprised. This particular one here looked like nothing at all was going to be seen until the sun had risen far beyond the horizon. And yet, I had to make an animated gif (pronounced “GOY-im“) of the actual results:

animated gif of sunrise sequence
I was surprised to catch the sun right on the horizon, clearly shining though all of the humidity that’s painting the sky, but it’s the distortion that’s so cool. Plus you can see the diagonal motion of the sun.

This is the second time that I’ve done this for the blog, and you’d think I’d learn by now. While many of these frames were shot from the tripod at the same focal length and all that, not all of them were, and so to have a full sequence, I had to resize and re-align a lot of frames to try and prevent jumps and stutter; obviously, I wasn’t perfect at it. And changing the zoom settings also affected the amount of sky that the in-camera exposure meter was reading, and thus affected the brightness of the overall frames, producing those ‘flashing’ variations. I did not get the idea of an animated sequence until well after I’d done all the shots, of course, and then had to fiddle around (a lot) to produce this. Please be absolutely wowed by it.

So if you want to try this yourself, leave the camera firmly fixed to the tripod, and don’t adjust the zoom settings at all, and for preference go with a fixed, manual exposure. You know, I even have a computerized shutter release made exactly for stuff like this, carrying it routinely in the bag, but I have to plan to use it.

And one last fartsy one, coming back to the seafoam.

moody sunrise with foam in shallows
This particular day later turned to rain, so I was probably lucky to get this. I purposefully underexposed by a full stop to keep things from washing out and to manage the colors, but it gave it a twilight feel that adds to the mood (for me at least.) And I included this little inset to the right because, in the larger frame, the sun looks defocused, but it’s not; it’s quite sharp, but the glow from the clouds mimics an unfocused effect and almost hides the distinct edges.

That’ll be all for now; we still have a trip to Jekyll Island coming up, with the hopes of capturing a sea turtle nest hatching, so more beachy stuff will be along in a couple of months. That is, if the hurricane season cooperates better than last year. We’ll see what happens.