Dew cute

Just had to post some very recent pics, since I was out in the yard during the wee hours of the morning (you know, about the time you often have to wake up and wee,) looking for mantids laying egg sacs. I saw none of those, dagnabbit, but did see the ubiquitous green treefrogs of course… and one other subject that I’m going to feature here. It was, in fact, the second such example of the species that I found, the other being much harder to spot, but these pics are by far the best. Moreover, this was right on the front walk in a potted gardenia of The Girlfriend’s.

juvenile Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis asleep on gardenia leaves covered in dew
That is, naturally, a very juvenile Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) snoozing on the leaves – almost certainly this one, given that it was the same size and coloration, and only three meters from where those shots were taken. That’s the full frame – we need to see the detail in a closer crop.

close crop of Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis covered in dew
That… is simply far too cute – I probably should have warned you. Anoles are diurnal of course, not active at all at night, and the temperature had dropped distinctly (thus the dew,) so this one likely won’t get moving again until some sunlight gets into play. It did indeed open its eyes and view my bobbing headlamp with concern, but that was the extent of its movement, and I let it be after a handful of frames.

Podcast: International Podcast Day

I knew this was coming for a week, and still wasn’t prepared, but it’s been that kind of month. So I kept it short, anyway.

Walkabout podcast – International Podcast Day

I know, I know, you’re a little skeptical about this, given the perhaps slightly questionable authenticity of some of the holidays herein, but this really is a recognized holiday. Recognized by whom, you may well ask, though I doubt that because who the hell uses “whom” in a sentence anyway?

And yes, I’m later than I should be, at least to provoke others into trying their own or something, but so it goes – all my sponsors are gonna drop me anyway (well, except for one perhaps, since I have a stranglehold on them.)

So, some related links:

George Hrab’s Geologic Podcast – always excellent, always professional, only occasionally enthusing about The Beatles.

Smartless – Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett; you should recognize at least a couple of those names.

The Bugle – Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver; ditto.

Doing your own (because my efforts are so convincing):

Audacity – Just a wonderful free program

17 Essential Podcast Recording & Editing Tips using Audacity – You may not use them all, depending on your own style and recording system, but you should at least be using some of these. Today’s recording was the first using Amplify, Compress, and Normalize, which seems to work fairly well, but the other filters either made no discernible difference or actually degraded things a little, though your kilometerage, as they say, may vary – don’t hesitate to experiment.

How to Make Your Voice Recordings Sound Professional Using Audacity is similar, but has a couple of other filters therein.

From the same source, Seven Tips That Will Make Your Microphone Sound Better When Recording, though I’ve been doing these for years now. I will add that recording while you are home alone works much better than doing so late at night when you may be self-conscious about your voice carrying too far (which was a factor with this one.)

I mentioned the ‘Ess’ filter in there and then sidetracked myself, but long story short, I’m not using one – just never got any technique to make a reasonable difference, and it doesn’t appear that my tracks are too bad in that regard anyway.

A good microphone will make things much easier on you, but mics are outrageously expensive. I got lucky and found a Samson G-Track used at a decent price, which replaced my CAD U37 (which The Girlfriend still uses for online meetings) – those are the only ones that I have personal experience with, but the CAD was great, and the Samson phenomenal. The Blue Snowball and the Blue Yeti always come recommended and are not ridiculously priced. It’s worth spending a little time with research before a purchase, however, so you don’t get trapped by an XLR interface that requires a phantom power source and end up doubling your expenses.

Anyway, however you choose to, enjoy the holiday and the paid time off from work!

Profiles of Nature 39

green iguana Iguana iguana Groft Smiel plotting
No, the Profiles haven’t ended yet, but hey – we’re on a schedule, so you at least have a little warning, or can pretend Thursdays don’t exist, whatever it takes. We could be doing this at random, more times a week even. Be grateful for what you get.

This week we meet Groft Smiel, seen here during filming and contemplating which method of eviscerating his foe would cause him (Groft Smiel, not his foe, unless he [his foe] is into that kinda thing) the most pleasure. Groft Smiel admits to being typecast, but let’s face it: with those neck wattles and that kind of long-dead-corpse complexion, he’s not going to be getting the romantic lead parts anytime soon unless it’s a Tim Burton movie. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Groft Smiel’s stunning portrayal of evil and sadistic characters can be put down to acting ability, though in the past he was a gym teacher, so all bets are off. Come to think of it, dodge balls find their way into the plots of his (Groft Smiel’s, not Tim Burton’s so far) movies surprisingly often. He (Tim Burton, not Groft Smiel) got his big break with Stalk of the Celery Monster, but that’s neither here nor there. Groft Smiel never had a big break, simply appearing in a progressively greater number of evil parts until casting directors started putting him in casts automatically, because finding new talent is too much like the job that they’re supposed to do. This makes Groft Smiel instantly recognizable and he’s constantly asked by fans to, “Say, ‘Never rub another man’s rhubarb!'” or simply to kill the DMV clerk. He considers this the price of fame, but if he never autographs another Tamagotchi, he won’t miss it. He once saved the life of a drowning child, but secretly admits that he wasn’t trying to – he mistook the child for a Members Only jacket, and is still a little disappointed. Groft Smiel’s favorite Excel function is HYPGEOMDIST, but we suspect he says that just to be popular with the ladies – c’mon, HYPGEOMDIST? Seriously?

The best thing we can say about next week is that it isn’t this week, or any of the previous ones. There’s probably a limit to horrible content. Probably.

*      *      *

I’m gonna do a small follow-up, because. The photo above (Groft Smiel is not his real name) was taken in my office, back when I worked at an animal shelter, because I was the only one ready and willing to tackle the care of green iguanas when they appeared at the shelter – I actually had several, at different times spread out over a couple of years.

author, likely Homo sapiens, with green iguana Iguana iguana on his shoulders, years back, by The GirlfriendThe image at right was taken within that time period, in the same office, but I’m not actually sure if it’s the same iguana or not – the EXIF info is long gone from these files. The blue blanket in the photo covers the iguana cage to keep it semi-tropical inside, which they desire, while you can see two of my photos on the wall in the background. But yeah, that’s what I looked like (I’m the one on the right) sixteen years ago. Save the comments until the end, please.

Is that all you got, September?

I really shouldn’t ask that, to be honest – it’s been an aggravating month on this end at least. This is posting in the early hours of the last day, so there’s still plenty of time for September to rise to that challenge.

But hey, it’s the month-end abstract – that’s a bright spot, yeah? And what do we have for that, Johnny?

dewdrops on backlit leaf details
Why, it’s… more dewdrops. How many months have I been doing these abstracts, and how many of those feature water drops of some kind? Best not to look into that. But on an outing not quite a week ago, I grabbed this strongly backlit leaf as I saw it, and frankly, the detail is slick enough that I still like it, trite as it (and I) may be. I’m also pleased that the dew was on the sunlit side, which made everything two-dimensional despite the distinct shadows, and also a fleeting subject, since the sunlight would evaporate the dew within minutes, though I suppose that’s only obvious to those who concentrate on such matters. I’ll let you determine the appropriate term for such people.

That’s a crop of the original frame, so we’ll take an educational moment to examine this process. Below is the full-frame, original image:

original frame of backlit leaf
I actually do some careful considerations when I decide how to crop a photo, and I’ll be the first to say that not everyone will agree on the choice – there is no right or wrong way of course, only what you feel is best. While this was done fairly quickly, I felt that the distinctive curving vein in the top half of my crop was a strong element and made sure that it was fairly complete, while also wanting to get a certain number of drops within and not too close to the edges, much less cut off, so the lower border was dropped to ensure that the drop at lower right was ‘in place.’ I also tend to ‘work the corners’ when cropping, having elements that go straight into them whenever possible, and I mostly achieved that on the left side. Again, this was casual and quick, because high art this is not, but when faced with exactly where to put the corners and edges, this was my reasoning. It should also be clear that I left out the large brown portion of the leaf, but also the regions where the light started bleaching out the details too much – the contrast of the shadows was important. And of course, this is the sharpest part of the frame, where focus was pinned – this was likely at f4 with the Mamiya 80mm macro, and so the short depth of field meant that both ends of the leaf were going softer since it was not flat to the focal plane. This also demonstrates that what you capture and what you display can be radically different in nature if you decide.

Meanwhile, you know what else this is? It’s the 233rd post of the year, which is the grand total of last year’s output, which set a personal record for the most posts in a year. Everything that follows is now gravy, or whipped topping, or superior hard-shell wax – whatever you like, but it’s a new record, with 1/4 of the year to go even. I am sure you’re appropriately amazed and stunned.

[Photo-wise, I think I’m running behind last year a bit, which also set a record, but you know, worrying about records is shallow and pathetic.]

A smattering

Had an outing the other day which wasn’t terribly productive, though it did net a handful of useful images. More importantly, it didn’t feature one treefrog in the least! So you get a little break here.

Can’t say the same about mantids, though,,,

pregnant female Carolina mantis Stagmomantis carolina seen in silhouette
A Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina,) ready to lay down a badass ootheca track, was spotted in the morning when the light wasn’t great, so I dropped lower and used the sky for a silhouette. She was observed for a short while to see if she felt inclined to start the egg-laying process, but apparently not – being this close likely didn’t speed those urges along. But I did shoot a more normal perspective in the existing light with a boost to the ISO, and a slight tweak to the color register afterward to account for the blue shade of the, um, shade.

pregnant female Carolina mantis Stagmomantis carolina in deep shade
I’ve been checking over the property at Walkabout Estates, and so far have found no sign of anyone looking to produce an egg sac, but the season ain’t over yet. We’ll see what happens.

The light peeked through the trees here and there, permitting some use of the spotlighting, one of which you’ll see a little later on. But this is another of the compositions that I shot while looking for decent subjects.

sea oat Uniola paniculata seeds and shadow
These are sea oats (Uniola paniculata,) though we’re a long ways from the sea, this being along the Eno River. They don’t have to be close to the sea, they just do well in salt spray and sandy conditions, so they’re happy in sand dunes and often used to stabilize them. But that one leaf catching the sun and the distinct shadow attracted my attention. Not great – a little too cluttered and contrasty, but hey, I was making the effort. Well, okay, it was more like playing around.

Like this:

spread of trees agaisnt sky with surrounding rocks
Actually, take a second to look carefully at this one. Go on. I’m not typing anything more until you do.

Okay, all set? Did anything look a little off? Was it hard to determine why some of the details seemed odd? Do you now feel your reality is crumbling all around you, and starting to remember that idiotic philosophy of being stuff that someone tried to impress you with years ago? No? Oh… okay then. I thought it might, but…

You may have gotten the impression that I was shooting straight up along a rock face, but the rocks at the bottom seemed a bit off, not to mention the contrast of the trees – or not, whatever. I was just dicking around. The original is below.

reflection of trees in smooth pool
I saw the smoothness of the water in this small pool, with the reflection of the prominent tree, and shot it for giggles, then tweaked it a bit once back home. Not just inverting it, but adjusting the color and contrast to account for the changes that reflections make. Fascinating, right?

Moving on.

female jumping spider possibly Phidippus mystaceus atop dried leaf egg shelter
I didn’t get a good enough angle on this jumping spider to snag identifying details, but it is most likely genus Phidippus anyway, and possibly even a Phidippus mystaceus, or high-eyelashed jumping spider – wild guess, so don’t quote me. It is definitely a female, however, and the cluster of dried leaves were all gathered together with silk, so likely it housed her egg sac, and she was perched there to protect it. You might think being out in the open wasn’t the best of moves, but this is a tight closeup and tighter crop, since she was 12-15mm long or so, and actually quite subtle against the leaves. As prominent as those eyes look here, from a normal viewing distance of a meter or two, she was only a mottled grey patch against the brown leaves, but that was enough of an anachronism to make me look closer.

And finally, what’s a river outing without a heron?

great blue heron Ardea herodias in profile along Eno River
A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) was spotted briefly as it flew overhead up the river, probably spooked by a noisy group of college students hiking ahead, but on the return leg this one was found standing complacently in the river despite the recent passage of some younger, yet still loud, kids (it amazes me how few people grasp the idea that being quiet while out in nature is not only more polite to fellow hikers, but will generate a lot more wildlife encounters.) I have more than enough heron photos, but I liked the unkempt nature of this one’s feathers, apparently having had a hard night – it was Saturday morning, after all. Naaah, I keed, this is likely evidence of recent fishing, plunging its head and neck well under the surface and not having done a ruffle and preen since. Or it could be a teenager thinking this looks cool – you know there’s no comprehending the mind of a teenager. The heron does have that kind of sullen glare of that age group. But naaahh – the posture’s too good.

[Yeah, I’m old, I get to do this. Obligated, even.]

Anyway, that was about all that was worthwhile for this trip. Better luck next time, though I honestly can’t complain about my progress this year.

Moments to go

Pushing this one a bit, but you know what today is? No, I’m not talking about that bogus gif holiday – please. You weren’t fooled by that, were you? I’m talking about Shoot The Moon Twice In Different Phases Day, and I’m happy to announce that I was successful in this.

First off, I was out about 1 AM, and did this one.

waning gibbous moon
Really, nice detail and contrast on that one, considering that a few nights ago, even at this time of night the moon was pretty yellow from the smoke of the west coast wildfires. I even did a few video clips, because something was flying around up there against the moon, though the focus was on the moon and not the somethings, so they’re too unfocused for good detail, but that means they were probably significantly closer than the moon (well, duryea!) and thus not very big. Actually, it means they were significantly closer than the focus point of that lens for the moon, effectively infinity, meaning they were closer than 100 meters or so. Anyway, not worth putting up the clips, but come on by if you want to see them.

And then, about 11 PM, I did the next.

more waning gibbous moon
Well, okay, technically the same phase, which is waning gibbous, but let’s be real: This is almost as far apart as you can have phases shot with 24 hours of each other, so you’ll just have to cope. Closer to moonrise on this one, even though it was well off the horizon, but a bit of yellow coming through, and whether that was normal humidity or more smoke, I’m not telling.

Both of these were with the Tamron 150-600 at 600mm, with the Tokina 2x teleconverter, so roughly 1000mm, and yes, they’re damn sharp. To prove it, we’ll see a section of the earlier photo at full resolution:

full resoultion inset of first photo showing terminator details
I’m not complaining about that at all.

But here’s something interesting. Go back and carefully compare the north poles of each photo, which are illuminated notably different. I suspect this is because some leaves were getting into the frame for the earlier one, since it was not far off disappearing into the trees from my vantage. Initially, I was confused by this, but then remembered I could see the leaves by naked eye, close to the moon, but they didn’t appear in the viewfinder. They might have been, but not distinctly enough for me to be aware at that time, and only visible in comparison with today’s shot (well, they’re both today’s shots, but later today’s shot, about 45 minutes ago.)

Anyway, gotta post this or I’m late, so word count will be lower than normal. You know, you really don’t have to look that relieved…

It’s been too long

Really, we should be celebrating this at least every year, but perhaps a couple of times each, it’s that good of a holiday. Of course, I’m talking about Beware of Strangers Baring Gifs Day, which we somehow missed last year, and I do apologize. Hence, a collection of various gifs (pronounced, “har-DJEE”) that I’ve collected during my exhausting, professional, online research efforts in support of this website. Some of them are actually short videos, since apparently this takes less memory, a curiosity all its own. But we can call them gifs if we want to.

The caption:

This is a cuttlefish, and if cuttlefish are not among your top three favorite species, you clearly have not heard enough about them:

Not only an excellent imitation, but watching her collapse into hysterics is simply icing on the cake:

This one cuts off too soon – I really wanted to see the aftermath. Look closely:

A little horror for you, even though it’s not October yet (I get really annoyed at this habit of ever-advancing holidays – you didn’t see me jumping the gun on today, did you?)

I have my doubts about the authenticity of the caption, but who cares?

Sorry, this one’s gonna freak you out a bit:

[I was trying to figure out why the one above seemed to have this menacing air, and realized, it’s the shoulders.]


Sometimes, what people add to existing gifs is masterful. I love this guy:

I can watch this one All. Day. Long:

Pay close attention. This is regret:

Smooth Criminal:

I don’t think this was how it was supposed to go:

This one may require several views to take it all in, but it’s great:

And finally, a combined gif – it may take a second to register. This never fails to make me grin stupidly:

Ah, hell, we need to see the two best from the previous holiday post again, because.

First sip of Coke:

And the best gif ever made, period:

But I close with a public service message, again, because people somehow keep forgetting this. Harder slaps may be in order:

Don't shoot phone video vertically dipshit

Enjoy the day!

Profiles of Nature 38

pair of southern fox squirrels Sciurus niger niger Tuyet-Hanh and Ighomuedafe scampering around tree trunk
Yeah, we just passed the autumnal equinox – we still gotta get past the solstice for all this to be over, so buckle in becau-… oh, yeah, you’re still strapped down from January anyway. So on we go.

This week we get to meet Tuyet-Hanh and Ighomuedafe, clearly ardent environmentalists who, uh, embrace their defense of the woodlands a little too enthusiastically – you’ll get it eventually. At the moment this photo was taken, Ighomuedafe could have sworn he heard the squeak of a straw in a plastic lid, and shit was about to go down. They originally met at an auction raising funds for disenfranchised Gallic video store owners, not that they cared in the slightest for the cause, instead there to protest it being billed as a “black tie event” – they have more triggers than a John Wick movie. For Tuyet-Hanh, this may be because she was raised in a fiercely conservative household where “Prius” was used as an expletive, while Ighomuedafe had merely tried to find the train to Hogwarts in his youth. They both like to think of themselves as fugitives from justice and the leaders of the revolution, though no one really cares about their antics, which to them is only evidence of government surveillance – they see a remarkable amount of drones cleverly disguised as birds. Given that, they’re unlikely to tumble to the bare truth that most conspiracy claims are actually started by The Government to disguise the fact that it can’t find its own ass with both hands and a fart detector. Sticking with their professional lives, however, Ighomuedafe is in high demand because he can arch his eyebrow in a stupendously expressive manner, except that he can’t do it consciously so directors have to find creative ways to provoke it, often by claiming that it takes talent to become successful in music. Tuyet-Hanh, meanwhile, can imitate anyone’s Resting Bitch Face effortlessly, so she has wicked contracts with Cosmopolitan and countless business magazines – she actually gets fined if she even Mona Lisas. They have a fascination with Walmart parking lots and so plan to purchase an RV when they retire. Tuyet-Hanh says the best type of locking washer is a split ring, which provokes the biggest rifts in their relationship because Ighomuedafe insists that it’s the ones that look like little cog wheels.

Nope, no holidays. Next week is on as usual.

Podcast: Nostalgia

Been meaning to get to this one for a while – just trying to find the right window. So here it is – completely unrelated to photography, arthropods, amphibians, and education. Let’s get all nostalgic now.

Walkabout podcast – Nostalgia

By the way, I speculated that this was the fourth for the year, which was way off, being half-again more advanced at sixth. Which doesn’t change that it should be the ninth, according to my resolve to do one a month, but hey – I’m yearning fondly for 2017.

The sources of some of the info within, should you be so inclined:

Speaking of Psychology: Does nostalgia have a psychological purpose?

The Psychology of Nostalgia; New studies show why we reminisce about the past

The Brother EP-20, my first electronic typewriter.

Nobody has the Wittnauer Challenger (35mm rangefinder camera from the 50s) – don’t ask me why.

But here’s what’s funny: the vast majority of my childhood and even early adulthood I don’t miss at all. Know what I was pointing out to The Girlfriend in some places? The roads I would walk on at night, and what I’d encounter. Seriously.

Pure thoughts and clean living

They had nothing whatsoever to do with my success early this morning, so I honestly don’t know what to credit it to, except that everything else sounds like superstition so I’m going with pure dumb luck. But while it was still raining lightly, I went out with the headlamp to check on erosion control measures and did a quick review of various haunts while out there. I found two green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea, c’mon, you can recite these as well as I can by now,) one that deserved attention simply because of the size, while the other was in a great pose. I did not of course have the camera in hand, and I knew that either one would have at least moved if I went in to get it, if not actually vanished, but I figured, Hey, if you don’t try…

And somehow, both had remained where they were up to my return, and were in fact remarkably cooperative models, and so, we have more green treefrog pics. Blame them, not me.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea perched awkwardly on trumpet flower Brugmansia plant
This was a large adult, and in exactly the pose that I first saw, which in my experience is held only briefly until they either realize they can be seen and tuck in along the stem in camouflage mode, or quickly jump away to a safer spot; holding it for the few minutes that it took for me to scamper across the yard, up the porch steps, into the office, grab the camera, and do all that in reverse is completely unprecedented. But you know? I shan’t complain. It maintained the pose as I did several frames at different distances, so we can go in and see that little toehold better.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea perched awkwardly
Is that the middle toe? It probably is, but fine. Seriously, the frog might have twitched slightly, and blinked to at least let me know it was either alive or a clever simulacrum, but I was able to move around at will and play with my options.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea perched among three blooms on trumpet flower Brugmansia plant
This is on a trumpet flower (Brugmansia,) the only one of three that have bloomed so far, but those blooms are vast, trying to destroy the scale in this photo, so I’ll tell you that my model is roughly 50mm or more in length, slightly on the large size for an adult. Still able to fit comfortably in a shot glass, because these are treefrogs we’re talking about, but for this one the shot glass would be quite full. For the next specimen I went more professional.

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea clinging to fence slat
This was a very small juvenile, a little surprising because all of the ones that I’ve been seeing are growing noticeably now and have well exceeded my desk decoration, but this one is still smaller than those sculpted versions. It is perched on a standard fence picket, billed as “1 inch” which means, in lumber terms, closer to 3/4 inch or 19mm because we have allowed such things to happen in our complacence. Ah, but I can go one better! I had my wallet on me, and I carry one of my paper scales within, because preparedness (and being a weird nature photographer,) so…

juvenile green treefrog Hyla cinerea holding millimeter scale helpfully
Yes, it’s actually holding the scale up for me – I slid the little strip of photo paper carefully under one foot, and it readjusted position slightly but didn’t pull away from the scale, much less leap away. Having my photographic models be so accommodating, twice within five minutes, is almost spooky – like, making me doubt the nature of reality spooky. I’m not used to this. Somehow, that shoe is gonna fall – the camera is probably gonna conk out on me within a day or so. When the posts get really thin and overly philosophical, you know what happened.

That’s a body length of 25mm, or one inch – true inches this time, not stupid wood inches (it occurs to me that guys should be using lumber inches to measure their, uh, themselves, to sound more impressive.) That makes me wonder just how accurate those wood rulers we used in school really were, but I digress. Anyway, no matter what, we’re talking small here (the frog,) and I was even able to retrieve my scale and put it back in my wallet. A roller-coaster morning.

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