From Shooting Stars to Painted Turtles

For those of you who view Earth Images by clicking on one of the automatic links that we are connected to, and for those of you who receive Earth Images in your email box, I must apologize for the amount of typos you have been seeing lately. I usually find them moments after I hit the publish button. I can edit them out after the fact for future readers but it is too late for you guys.  The errors are unprofessional and any explanations would understandably sound like excuses.  Sorry about that!

I think you can describe this shot of Shooting Stars as willowy or wispy.  Shots of this same species with deeper tones or images containing more contrast and all sharp blossoms immediately convey a crisper but equally pretty message.  How we interpret our subjects can alter how people view those subjects.  Of course the wind-blown look of the front blossom does aid in the conveyance of wispiness in the image.DSC_3881

I have shown a lot of images of male Eastern (and Western) Meadowlarks in mid song. Here’s an old image of one just posing for the camera.  They are not always easy to get close to. I was actually sitting on a bench with my camera equipment  and this one landed just above me.DSC_5584

Here we have an (another) example of two consecutive images of the same subject.  The differences in pose seem small but they are significant. This Short-eared Owl only moved slightly from one frame to the next.  Just the same these two frames have a different feeling. The owl is not only looking in two different directions, but the light strikes the face in the “here’s looking at you” picture but not in the second picture.  Notice the slightly different comps in these pictures.  In the second image you see that the is bird placed slightly left of center giving him some more space in the direction he is looking.  These pictures are a little busy because of the brush, but they work well in showing the late winter/early spring habitat that the bird is living in.  Of course notice that there are no out of focus branches obscuring the subject.  Sometimes you just get lucky.DSC_4870DSC_4871

I love those migratory birds that reside in my summer homeland in enormous numbers, and then are just gone.  Our largest nesting population is the migratory American Robin and certainly Red-winged Blackbirds fill that bill.  The problem is I can find some robins in mid winter and I have seen birder reports of wintering Red-winged Blackbirds.  I have yet to see (or hear) of a healthy Killdeer wintering in Wisconsin.  They are gone, and then they are here.  Really hear.  This bird is our most common Plover and can be found everywhere.  In the fields, in suburban neighborhoods, at our roadsides and sometimes you can even find these shorebirds in marshes and along the shores of lakes.  I have found Killdeer active during every hour of the day and night.  Along with crows, jays and geese they are sentinels.  Just get close to one and you will hear kadee, kadee.  Despite their alertness and warnings they are not difficult to get close enough to make pictures.DSC_0161

Over the past few years I’ve shown a lot of pictures of dew covered webs with perfect black backgrounds. They are natural, and when I show them I explain just how I find them and how I make the image.  Not all my dewy web backgrounds are black. A lot of the time there is no deep shade in back of a web.  I also don’t want all of my backgrounds to be the same.  Below we have two more dewy webs.  The first has out of focus grasses or green plants in back of it, and the second has sky in the background. Using sky as your background is tricky on many levels, but the hardest part can be finding an angle that you are capable of maneuvering into.DSC_6287DSC_6339

Macro Kit

I always loved making macros but I must admit, when I would head out for a day or even a morning of close-up photography, my camera bag would be extremely heavy.  I carried more gear with me for macros than for any other type of image making. I was always grateful for subjects near my car, but I would hike for miles when necessary.

I always had a macro lens.  I had a Canon 100mm Macro when that was my brand, I carried a Pentax 135mm Macro for my medium format shooting, and for many years I have used Nikon’s outstanding 105 Micro lens.  It was dubbed Micro, because with 35mm it focused down to true life-size. I also carried a lens ranging from 200-300mm to give myself some space, or to narrow down the background.  Some of these were your typical macro zooms.  Of course I carried a tripod that spread down to a very low height.  I also always carried a cable release so I could keep my fingers off of the shutter button for long exposures. I used the camera’s self timer set at 3 or 4 seconds in the digital era. That might sound like a lot of stuff but it was only the beginning.

I had a small flat piece of wood with a screw protruding up that matched my tripod head. I could mount my camera at a distance no higher than the head.  At times I carried up to three small electronic flash units with a bracket that allowed me to mount (and sync) those flashes for use all at the same time. One strong flash a little off-center left or right as a key light.  Another fairly strong unit (sometimes dialed down)  that was extended to light the background, and finally a small flash to fill in the shadows created by the other two. If that sounds more like studio photography than nature you are right.  I stopped using that when I switched to digital.  For my entire time as a nature photographer (including last year) I carried a set of extension tubes. They extend your lens even farther allowing you even more magnification.  Through 2009 I carried a studio umbrella. They are used in studios to soften flash on human subjects.  I also used it for that purpose only with flowers and insects, but mostly I softened the sun on my subject or shielded a subject from the wind. I periodically used and always carried a foldable reflector. It was silver (cool) on one side and gold (warm) on the other.  A flower that was only half in shade could receive all the balanced light it needed from aiming that reflector properly.  For many years I carried an 18% gray card.  Remember slides had a very narrow latitude and very little room for error.  I rarely used it but it stayed in my bag to the end so I could use it to help me teach workshops.

Our final photo continues a recent trend of mine in showing less than stellar images that not long ago, I would not have shared.  There are no less than seven Painted Turtles on this log of all different sizes and ages.  The light was hideous and there was no way to stretch my depth of field to cover every turtle.  I should have sacrificed the focus on the final two animals but instead you find the first and last out of focus.  No matter how long you are a photographer there is always room for an occasional screw up.DSC_1926


I am thrilled to be recently friended on Facebook with my favorite black & white landscape artist John Sexton and one of my favorite color large format landscape photographers ever, Pat O’Hara.  His coffee table book Wilderness Scenario was in my opinion, the best ever.  I would love that book even if there were no images. His words capture the essence of a photographer/artist in the wilderness like no other.  I never forget those who were doing something while the rest of were snoozing.


We live in a very confused and chaotic world today.  If you’re over the age of 30, you are being told that everything you’ve known to be good is now bad, and that everything you’ve known to be bad is now good.  Those who preach that message present themselves as the enlightened ones, while they camouflage the massive egos that truly drives them.  We need not worry, they will take care of us……or so we are told.  We are driven deeper into the hole, and are told there will be a light at the bottom.

Seems to me, it’s better to live where the light shines, and trust your common sense and moral values.

Have a great day,                                                                                                                           Wayne

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