Visibly different, part 40

juvenile possible black-crowned night heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Our opening image this week once again comes from Florida, but I’m not exactly sure where in Florida – Atlantic coast, definitely, but I just can’t remember where I took it. Given the appearance of the rocks, this may well have been right where I frequently snorkeled, though the obscure, defocused foliage at the edges tells me I was shooting through a gap and there weren’t a lot of screening plants near that area. And yet, the subject indicates that I probably would have tried to use whatever cover I could, since this is an immature night heron, probably the first I’d photographed, and I wouldn’t have wanted to spook it off.

‘Night heron’ is a little vague, though – there are two night heron species in the region: the yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) and the black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax.) The juveniles of both species are nearly identical, differentiated largely by the color of their bill – the yellow-crowned has a “mostly dark” bill while the black-crowned has a “yellowish” bill. Though if you look at the images at those links, you’ll find that their photos aren’t as clearly-defined as their descriptions – they’re not that visibly different at all. But given this, I’ll tentatively identify the image above as a black-crowned. The first scan that I have was created in 2004, which is right in line with my tenure in Florida. Now we jump ahead sixteen years to 2020.

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron Nyctanassa violacea in profile
This was at the neighborhood pond, and while this is a cropped image (I’m recycling it from a post back then,) it’s only cropped to a vertical – it’s using the full height of the original frame. Obviously, both closer now and using a longer lens; I’m not sure what was used for the first image, but knowing my habits, it was either the old Olympus kit with the 75-260mm zoom, or the Canon with the lightweight 75-300mm, because I typically biked to the snorkeling area with the camera stuff in a waistpack. The bulky and heavy Sigma 170-500mm was carried during dedicated photo trips and not on the bike. But the latter photo was definitely with the Tamron 150-600mm and I was ridiculously close, because the bird was being remarkably mellow. Given that bill color, I identified this as a yellow-crowned instead. The neck lends a little support to this: yellow-crowned have longer necks, but all of the herons can make them appear much shorter, so this is not a reliable metric.

It’s much easier when they’re adults.

black-crowned night heron Nycticorax nycticorax preparing to strike
Black-crowned above, yellow-crowned below.

yellow-crowned night heron Nyctanassa violacea peering down from tree
Even from a great distance, those heads can be differentiated, so the key for distinguishing the juveniles is, wait around until their adult plumage comes in. Subscribe for more handy tips.

Meanwhile, the primary difference between the success of the two initial photos? Nothing deep or poignant, just the opportunity presenting itself. And carrying the camera as frequently as possible – that bit can only help.

Enough without

A week ago the Incorrigible Mr Bugg and I did an outing to Jordan Lake, with the consideration that it would be a sunset shoot if the rain held off. Despite some issues which greatly reduced the number of useful images (which I’ll get into shortly,) there were enough for more than one post and I had to decide how to break them up. I ended up separating out all of the raptor images, so they’ll be along in a later post while this one will be devoid of birds of prey entirely. Well, that all depends on your definition of “prey” I guess. But first, some eclectic finds.

The lake level was down significantly, allowing us to skirt the shore away from the thick, briar-laden undergrowth a lot farther than normal. We’d seen such areas from kayaks, but this was the first opportunity to do some detailed exploring, as well as carrying some proper photographic equipment – neither of us will carry our normal camera kit in the kayaks, so that leaves only the waterproof sport cameras. And the low waterline revealed something normally hidden.

entrance to lake bank beaver lodge
This is, I’m almost certain, the entrance to an old beaver lodge. Most people are familiar with the idea that beaver lodges are mound-shaped structures sitting in the middle of a pond created or expanded by damming, but I can’t say that I’ve ever seen one; every lodge that I’ve come across in NC has been a hollow into the banks of a pond, lake, or river, and this is the first that I’ve been able to get a good look at. Usually tucked in among roots that help maintain the structural integrity, they lead from under the surface along and upwards into a chamber above water, shielded from all predators. For perspective, I was shooting from a standing position on the edge of the current water level, with the ‘normal’ lakeshore at nearly chest level, 1.5 meters higher; the opening that you see here is about 30cm across. This is not as deep under water as I would have expected, but perhaps they were relying on the thicker root cover that existed then. It’s clear that it’s been abandoned for years, which is testament to the beavers’ abilities, especially given the fluctuating water levels and significant erosion around the lake. Here’s a closer look:

close look of entrance to abandoned beaver lodge
Seems almost a bit haphazard, but my understanding is that the entrance is structured so that most of the water is squeezed out of the beavers’ fur as they enter, leaving things relatively dry in the sleeping/birthing chamber. I’ve also heard that they have an air opening someplace well back from the entrance, one that can probably be quickly expanded to an emergency exit if something does start digging at the entrance, but I have never found distinct evidence of this myself and, if you look at that top photo, would have a devil of a time trying to this time. Obviously I couldn’t see very far into this one, but it remains the best view I’m likely to get of one without an underwater camera and some decent lights.

A little further away, the season revealed something that I’ve been kind of keeping an eye open for.

lone persimmon on treeThat’s a persimmon, and they grow wild around here sporadically; usually I come along after the fruit has ripened and is gone, because a lot of critters like it. Unfortunately, this was in an area that it would be difficult to access again and thus keep an eye on, nor was it enough to distinguish persimmon trees from others to me – there are way too many trees with leaf-shaped leaves. But the reason why I’d like to identify them is that it provides a dependable bit of activity at nights when the fruits ripen, making it possible to stake out the area; most times, the peregrinations of wildlife are semi-random and not routine, so trying to set up a blind may be a really boring night or three. But the brief ripe season attracts lots of foragers like raccoons, opossums, foxes, and coyotes, and the only other place I’ve seen them doesn’t allow access at night.

Along the shore a few hundred meters came proof that the concept is valid, at least:

feces, likely fox scat, showing significant load of persimmon seeds
Given the size, shape, and texture, this is likely fox feces, and it’s absolutely riddled with persimmon seeds, explaining why I only found one persimmon, and a fresh one at that, at the base of the tree. Hey, you always said you come here for the shit photos…

The day was actually pretty good for the raptors, but we obtained enough images of egrets as well, and a couple of herons. Two images stand out for me.

great egret Area alba cruising over trees
This is a great egret (Ardea alba,) and it was part of a minor altercation. This one cruised in and intruded on another’s territory, and after it disappeared beyond the trees it reappeared about ten seconds later with another in pursuit. But for now, we take a long look at the symmetry and patterns of those backlit wings; along the lower (left) wing, you can even clearly make out the bones, the elbow sitting close to the torso.

When they reappeared, I snagged a handful of images of them both while the chase was carried out silently, which is rare in my experience. One image had to be cropped close for display:

great egret Ardea alba in flight profile
This is actually full resolution of a frame at 600mm from quite some distance away, so I’m glad autofocus behaved itself for a few frames. While I like the lines, I especially like the feathers standing up on the back of the neck, looking windswept but more likely a factor of the territorial chase being enacted, and I can’t recall if this was the chaser or the chasee. There’s also that angular evidence along the throat that their vertebrae are much longer than ours.

As I said, we were considering sunset but the weather reports and the sky itself rendered this highly questionable, though we stuck around to see for sure. Not long before it was to occur, the rain started and we began heading back to the car, but kept an eye on the conditions because the clouds weren’t really indicating a heavy storm, and sure enough, it stopped after a couple of minutes. The sun had remained hidden for most of the afternoon, but as it neared the horizon it broke from cloud cover, still out of sight from us, but lighting up the treetops just behind us. Within minutes, it started illuminating the clouds from underneath.

sunset colors with crepuscular rays
This is where I screwed up, twice. The first was in not bracketing heavily, including with the contrast and saturation settings within the camera, because the images I have don’t show one of the details that I desperately wanted to capture. You can make out the crepuscular rays coming over the trees, but what doesn’t show is the narrow patch of falling rain from a different cloudburst off to the right, appearing in the sunlight as sheets of vertical mist glowing orange. They’re there, just right of center, but not defined enough.

rainbow over Jordan Lake and sailboatI also failed to realize that the image stabilizer had gotten turned off on the lens somehow, and with the lowering light, too many of the images suffered from motion blur – I’ve gotten spoiled by the technology. So when we turned and looked behind us to see the rainbow, I only captured a couple of frames even as the rain (that had just passed us) moved on and the rainbow faded.

I do have the habit of checking the lens settings as I take the camera from the bag, most times, anyway, but I admit to not checking them every time, and got stung by it. I’m also about to make a small modification to my lenses to differentiate the autofocus, stabilizer, and limiter switches by feel, because too often I’m attempting to change them on the fly as I’m viewing a subject that I want to capture, and lens manufacturers haven’t felt obligated to put these switches all in the same places. I can’t tell you how many little things I would change on equipment if I had the chance, though it really is on me to accommodate things as they are.

Coming up: the raptors from the same outing.

Who am I kidding?

unidentified conifer conesAs Hurricane Ian passed through the area, we fared pretty well overall – we’re far enough inland and, even though it passed closer than all predictions up until less than a day ahead of time, it had lost most of its energy by the time it hit central NC. We heard gusting winds from time to time, but not terribly fierce, and all that dropped in the yard were small branches (and acorns – thousands of acorns, from just one tree.) Power blipped several times, preventing me from tackling any computer projects because the sudden disappearance of my work was something that I wanted to avoid, but it never stayed out more than a minute; I spent more time resetting clocks (multiple times) than that.

The storm did halt some of our plans, but so did some unidentified illness that sapped all of my energy, so it shares the blame. No, the noticeable impact came from losing internet connection, which lasted for two days – I’d say that’s why you weren’t seeing posts, but I’ve gone longer than that with no good excuses so I’m not going to draw your attention to this. And while I’ve always felt that I could fare reasonably well without being as ‘connected’ as most people with their Instashit and Spybook and burying their noses in their dicks smutphones constantly, this kind of drove home how much I actually rely on the internet. Not social media, but it’s my main info and entertainment source, and I spent a lot of time thinking, Well, I could – no, that won’t work, and, I’ll just look up – no I won’t either, and, Why don’t I – nope, forget it. I still had a data connection on my own smutphone, but this is a remarkably frustrating experience because it’s incredibly slow and sporadic, partially from a weak connection here, but also because phones fucking suck for browsing the internet or, indeed, typing any damn thing at all into them. I can say that the outage at least held off until I got past a semi-emergency session of harassing both Travel Inn and over their inability to provide the basic services that they advertise, and thus will heartily recommend that you never do business with either of these corporations.

This outage/delay really did have an impact herein, however, in that I finally had some decent stuff to post about and could only edit the photos and consider what I would write – that’s coming up shortly.

What does this have to do with the image here? Oh, not a damn thing – I just had it sitting in the blog folder for not quite seven years and decided to finally use it, since nothing topical had arisen in that time. Just a simple image, but you find a spot where such funky little pine cones all line up so nicely. Until then, save your sneering.

Oh, yeah, forgot about this one

We have a late entry for the month-end abstract:

dispersing milkweed-type seeds
Technically, it’s an early entry, since it was shot on August 31st, though after the month-end image for August had already posted. I’d cropped and saved it just for this purpose, if I didn’t find one more appropriate in the interim, and then forgot about it until I was skimming the blog folder. It comes from the same outing to the NC Botanical Garden seen here, and I can’t tell you what these are seeds of – they have the appearance of milkweed (and I named the image that way) but I don’t think that’s correct. I mean, do you really want to know? I could find out, if it means a lot to you [read: you are willing to pay money for the knowledge.] Let me know.

Meanwhile, don’t you like the definition of those ‘feathers?’ Mamiya 80mm macro all the way, baby! Plus the forethought of using them as the focal point, of course. Are you sure you don’t want to know what they are?

It is an ex-September

Yes indeed, despite the scarce posts this month, we can let it go on no longer – you had more than enough time, September, so the fault is all your own (which nicely deflects the blame from me.) What kind of abstract have you produced?

osprey Pandion haliaetus cruising past with fish in blurred pan
Hmmm, well, we expected more after all this time, but a C for effort anyway.

This was another snagged during that trip to Jordan Lake the other day. The exposure compensation was still set for shooting against the sky when the osprey (Pandion haliaetus) appeared against the trees with no time for adjustments, making it overexposed for the conditions, yet the blur from the pan and the wings was semi-interesting, so here we are. There may well have been others images that worked better for the month-end abstract, but this is being re-edited only an hour before it’s due to post, so not a lot of time to go searching if I want to keep to my meaningless and almost-certainly-unnoticed schedule for no reason that anyone can determine. Call it a reflection of my mood right now – I’ll work on it.

A little bit here

I have a handful of images from a recent outing – well, four days ago – to feature here, but other things have been taking priority and I’ve been finding myself overextended, which I am now correcting. This does mean trashing some major plans for the time being, though it’s probably for the best. Which doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

But to make up a little bit for a slow posting month, I’ll throw down four photos here. Well, two photos, with edits, because it seemed warranted.

Jordan Lake was unusually gusty the other day, to the point of producing breakers, and these could be used as additional elements in some compositions – a lot of it was down to the timing. Having a great egret (Ardea alba) as a main subject helped of course.

great egret Ardea alba against breakers on Jordan lake
The day was partly cloudy and often took on the appearance of light overcast, so it muted the colors a bit, but that’s okay – with the waves, it spells out an impending or passing storm, a blustery day with a bit of chill in the air. It wasn’t chilly at all, but we won’t talk about that, just the impressions, and this was evocative enough that it may become a bigger print someday.

Curiously, the image also contains a lot of different colors – not at all strongly, true, but there are a lot of very subtle variations in there, and so I boosted the saturation significantly just to see what it produced:

great egret Ardea alba against breakers on Jordan Lake, oversaturated
If you were to flip back and forth between them in the editing or thumbnail programs as I was doing, it seemed more drastic, but here on the page it isn’t too bad at all, though it does seem to reduce the ‘blustery’ aspect of it. All I did was increase the saturation, no color tweaks at all, but the blue reflected from the patches in the sky comes through stronger now. It goes well against the sand background color of the blog at least.

Now the next:

great egret Ardea alba against breakers on Jordan lake
I like the breakers better here, though the egret is looking away. Now there’s this ‘consideration’ aspect to me, as if the egret is contemplating whether to fly off or not, its attention no longer on potential meals – the angle of the head changes the impression that easily. But yeah, a little more profile would have been better, and I waited and watched, but the egret wasn’t that cooperative.

Again with the saturation:

great egret Ardea alba against breakers on Jordan Lake, oversaturated
This was twice as far as the boost for the last, ‘against the stops’ as it were – I don’t know what exactly the numbers mean in GIMP, but I’m guessing a 100% increase. Now the contrast between the reflected sky and the natural water color is much more evident. It’s a little too much, as far as I’m concerned, and I should dial it back halfway like the other frame if I’m going to consider making this a print, but I uploaded this one just to illustrate. Often enough, boosting saturation this far looks way worse; it’s only through the low contrast of the original frames that this doesn’t look garish.

That was just a few minutes of fooling around out of curiosity – more are on the way, as I get more time to write it all up. No editing tricks beyond the normal cropping and occasional contrast tweaks for those, I promise.

Visibly different, part 39

ctenophore possibly sea walnut Mnemiopsis leidyi
Our opening image, as confusing as it is, comes with a story. While living in Florida, I was running a small fishnet (probably a bait net) through the water off of a dock trying to capture some minnows when I realized my empty net wasn’t actually empty, but contained a transparent blob. With care, I transferred this into my holding jar, recognizing that it was probably a jellyfish, and deposited it into my little saltwater tank at home. Therein, I could see that it had a complicated shape while roughly spherical, about 30-35mm in diameter. I also found that the minimal flow of the circulator was still too strong for it and it quickly got pinned against the intake pipe, so I had to shut this down. I endeavored to get decent photos of it, but what you see here is the result, not very clear.

Ha! That’s a joke, because this was easily the clearest, most transparent species I’ve ever found, initially evidenced by the fact that I had no idea it was there while I swept the net through the water after other subjects. I eventually released this one, but had another encounter the next year I believe. At that time, I was snorkeling in the Indian River Lagoon, heading away from shore into more open water, and suddenly found my vision getting blurry and spotty. It took me a moment to realize that this was because it was obscured by things in the water, and once I changed my focus much closer, I realized that I had one of these only centimeters in front of me – in fact, on looking around, it was an entire herd of them, or ‘smack’ of them, the proper term of a collection of jellyfish. With great care because I still didn’t know what species this was, I backed away and tried to avoid contact, though I was almost certain that I brushed against a couple with no ill effect.

And there would not have been, because I eventually found these were comb jellyfish, or simply comb jellies, which are not actually jellyfish but ctenophores instead. They lack venom of any kind and simply engulf their prey through an opening at one end, digest what they can, then eject the remains back out the same opening – a glorified mobile bag, as it were. Granted, nearly every other species, us included, is a glorified tube, so let’s not get high-handed here. Just barely visible in my photo, as they fall into the short focus range, are the tiny little fins that run in medians down their bodies, serving as the means of propulsion for the ctenophore – obviously, they’re not gonna chase down any dolphins. The same info source revealed that they could be bioluminescent, and so I had great reasons to capture another.

This eventually happened, but only by spotting one against a dark background where the minimal reflection of sunlight from their bodies could be discerned – seen against a sandy bottom, they vanished, and I had to shift my gaze back and forth a lot before I snagged a new specimen. Once again in my aquarium, I soon noticed that in bright light the little fins (cilia) would refract the light and send rainbow ripples down the body in a captivating manner, and of course I had to photograph this. In time, I was successful, though it took standing on a chair high above the tank and shooting directly down through the surface while the tank sat in the light coming in the window.

ctenophore possibly sea walnut Mnemiopsis leidyi showing refraction from motive cilia
I had no means of doing video at this time, which is a shame because you really should see this, but others have captured it. Despite many attempts, I saw no evidence of bioluminescence, and suspected for a while that what they actually meant was that refraction, but no, the species really can emit its own dim blue light. To the best of my knowledge, this is a sea walnut (Mnemiopsis leidyi,) which seems to be the most common species in that region.

Many years later, I had a client looking for Florida species, only in a ‘banner’ format (much wider than it was high,) and I sent along a variation of this image for consideration.

same image in banner format
Except, I never got this wide in the first place – what you saw above this was pretty close to full-frame for the one photo that showed the refraction clearly. To make it into a banner format took a lot of editing work, especially to prevent it from looking like I’d pasted everything on either side in from other portions of the same photo. I was pretty proud of the results, because even now I have to look closely to spot the repetition of certain patterns and details – I flopped, reversed, and inverted, and overdubbed more telltale details like bright points of sediment. Notice, too, that either side has its own color register, the left being more brown and the right more green, so I couldn’t swap these – I could only use right fragments on the right side. All that, and they never used that image anyway. Maybe it was more obvious than I thought…

The curious upshot of this was, I had never even tried cropping any of my images down to banner format before that client requested it, not really liking the idea, but after examining a lot of photos for the potential of such cropping, I started using it more often, and not too long afterwards chose a theme for the new blog that featured rotating banner images at top – and insisted on keeping them even as I changed themes. Though I pretty much stick to images that can be easily cropped and don’t require extensive editing work to fit.

Curious origins

Back when I was young and impressionable (as opposed to now when I’m old and cynical,) The Six Million Dollar Man debuted, and like many kids of that time, I was hooked. Not only did I make it a point not to miss an episode, my friend and I ripped around doing great feats of strength with items that gave the barest impression of being heavy and/or sturdy (and only occasionally running really fast – there aren’t as many opportunities for cool storylines regarding that.) This would continue, off and on, until Star Wars came out and we started blasting things instead. Don’t ask me why we never had any crossover adventures, nor why I was kind of annoyed when Luke received a bionic hand instead of a lab-grown organic one…

But there were two curious paths that this single influence led down for me. The first was noticing that the show was based on the book Cyborg by Martin Caidin, and some years afterward at a garage sale I found several books by the same author, including Cyborg IV, and so snatched them up. Cyborg IV was interesting and more than a little philosophical, but it was one called Thunderbolt! that captured my attention more. Caidin assisted with the autobiographical accounts of Robert S. Johnson, an American WWII pilot assigned to the European theater flying the Republic P-47 ‘Thunderbolt,‘ a single-engine fighter of massive proportions; it was predicted to perform poorly against the Luftwaffe’s Focke-Wulfs and Messerschmidts yet defied these expectations, becoming a major asset to the Army Air Force and one of the top fighters in the European theater. The firsthand accounts of the air war in Europe and the life of a fighter pilot fascinated me, starting a minor obsession that remains to this day. I even received a larger-scale model kit of the P-47 for my last birthday, soon to be reproduced faithfully as I get back into working on kits occasionally.

Affectionately nicknamed “Jug,” the P-47 was one of the most famous AAF fighter planes of WW II. Although originally conceived as a lightweight interceptor, the P-47 developed as a heavyweight fighter. [Source: USAF public domain]

Another book, again by Caidin and obtained at the same time, assisted this path: Whip, which was a fictional account of a B-25 Mitchell squadron that removed the bomber’s station in the nose of the aircraft to replace it with guns, making the medium twin-engine bomber a strike fighter instead; this was an actual modification in WWII, though the events in Whip are fictional. Both of these books fostered my knowledge of WWII aircraft and tactics, not as much directly, but more that they provoked the interest that led to further reading. My attention to military weaponry has waned significantly, given the pacifism that I’ve largely adopted in the past decade or so, but the historical aspect remains, and the dogfights of WWII were a very specific moment in time that won’t be repeated: aircraft and tactics have changed drastically, and air combat now, when it takes place, is more often accomplished at significant distances, often completely out of visual range.

And then there’s the other, trivial thing from the opening credits of The Six Million Dollar Man: the crash that led to the bionic replacement limbs. The pilot episode also showed a few tantalizing glimpses of the aircraft, an experimental lifting body, which is an aircraft without wings that derives lift from the fuselage shape instead. This was a real NASA program, though it would be years before I could find out more about it, and the footage of the crash used in the opening credits was NASA film of an actual crash, as I was to discover long after my interest in Steve Austin’s slow-motion antics had faded. The lifting body program throughout the sixties was intended to design the next generation of spacecraft, able to land on a runway on return rather than necessitating an expensive and complicated water recovery, and I’ll spare you the engineering aspects of aircraft without wings or why they were necessary, despite having read quite a bit about them. The crash seen in the opening was of an M2-F2 piloted by Bruce Peterson, and his injuries were notably similar to Steve Austin’s – Caidin took his cue from this accident for his book, though Peterson recovered much better than Austin did and without the need of any prosthetics.

Yet the aircraft shown in the pilot episode, attached to the underwing of its mothership, was instead an HL-10, another aircraft in the program, and as far as I’m concerned, a much better-looking one. Both of these aircraft, and several others besides, did numerous flights examining the feasibility of lifting bodies, and this research led to the Space Shuttle Orbiter even though they scrapped the lifting body idea for that.

Source: NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Photo Collection.

The HL-10 became a mild obsession for me, most especially trying to obtain a physical model – only one company has created one in a decent scale, and that’s rare, expensive, and made of resin (not my preferred medium.) The only detail plans that I’ve ever found are a bit sparse, but perhaps sufficient to create my own computer-model, and from there… what? Attempt to produce one on a 3D printer (which I do now have, though the results aren’t optimal)? Or hash it out the old-fashioned way with a superstructure of balsa and finishing putty? Perhaps something else entirely – but the intention is to produce a display model in some manner, and I know it won’t be easy.

But it is amusing that both of these minor obsessions were sparked by minimal references within an iconic yet cheesy action show from the seventies. Yes, we’ve long-ago established that I’m weird, stop belaboring the point…

Not a fan

Another holiday has rolled around, and I’m letting you know about to celebrate if you see fit – I am, but reluctantly and perhaps not even for the entire day. Yes, it’s Put On Long Pants For The First Time Since, What, Early May? Day, and with due observation, I set aside the shorts and sandals to don actual slacks, sneakers, and socks to go around the neighborhood pond briefly this morning, since the temperature had dropped into the low teens – that’s Celsius, for all you American Neanderthals, figure it out. Even the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) was displaying its feelings about the chill.

chilly great blue heron Ardea herodias perched on piling
It’s supposed to get a bit warmer later on, so perhaps I won’t even betray my shorts and sandals for the entire day, and they certainly aren’t abandoned for the season yet, but damn, I felt bad about it. I can’t even hang out with people that own more than one pair of dress shoes – just makes me itch.

But because we might need it, (and because I’ve been slack in posting,) I offer another image from happier days.

butterfly bush Buddleja davidii blossoms with something else
Just a blossom cluster from our recovering butterfly bush (now Buddleja davidii, because yet another scientific name has been changed.) Yep, just a flower cluster – nothing else to see.

Visibly different, part 38

I know, it’s been a slow week. Well, it hasn’t really, it just hasn’t been a posting week – my time is being spent doing such fun things like cursing at contractors who thought that using fourteen nails from a nail gun set at 200lbs was proper procedure for attaching a measly riser on deck stairs, but that’s not important right now. Another project is waiting on a replacement part and will be a while. Meanwhile, the photos I’m getting are largely the same damn things because I’m in the same damn places. At this very moment, I’m installing a new graphics driver which is taking forever, and I have my doubts that the monitor colors presently being displayed are accurate. So this week, a quick one (that might be a little off in color register.)

pair of eastern tiger swallowtails Papilio glaucus in two color phases, likely male and female, on thistle blossom
I think this is the only time that I’ve accomplished this, and it occurred in Florida in 1999. These are not two different species, but just one, eastern tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus.) The black one is a female, while the yellow one is likely a male, though the females also have a yellow phase – this can only be differentiated with a look at the top surface of the hindwings, facing away from us here. I was pleased to get both color patterns in one shot, and if memory serves, this was taken almost exactly 23 years ago, this coming Saturday – I have reasons for remembering the dates on this trip. It was a roadside field where the pollinators – mostly butterflies but a handful of moths and wasps – were ridiculously active, and I think I shot an entire roll of slide film while standing amongst the flowers.

With digital I would have undoubtedly shot more than 36 frames, but that’s because each frame doesn’t cost in terms of film and processing, so I’m far more inclined to take chances and discard what doesn’t work – that hurts a bit with slides, so I tended to fire off frames only when I was fairly confident of getting a keeper. There’s something to be said for both approaches: I probably would retain more images overall (while a lower percentage) from shooting digital in the same situation, but making the effort to lock in a good image is far better than simply hosing them around in the belief that something will be useful. Large format, for instance, is so labor-intensive and costly (in comparison at least) that photographers using it tend to be meticulous, virtually guaranteeing that everything is a solid image. And of course, such a format is a really bad choice for subjects as fleeting as this, so large format images tend to be landscapes or carefully-crafted portraits. Play to the strengths.

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