Saturday, September 27, 2008

Camera Critter Meme #25

For Camera Critters this week, I'm gonna take everyone back to April 2007, and the Lost Maples State Natural Area northwest of San Antonio, Texas.

The park was the second place I visited on that road-trip photo safari. We were there looking for a certain bird which I can't remember the species right now, but it turned into a wonderful place for a nature photographer.

At one point, the path we were following crossed a boulder field and I could have spent the entire day there. Dragonflies and damselflies were everywhere and not just one or two species. At one spot I could see five different species sitting on boulders, enjoying the sunlight. However, in my excitement, I got a little too eager and scared them off before I could get in position for a photo.

But that wasn't my only chance to shoot. I spied a beautiful damselfly flying around and followed it with my eyes until it landed. I then carefully moved into position and made the shot. During the shoot, another damselfly landed near the first one I was shooting and I was treated to a two in one shot.

The larger damselfly is commonly known as an American Rubyspot. Scientifically, it's known as Hetaerina americana. It is easy to identify whatwith the striking colors of the body and wings. Also seen in the photo is a Variable Dancer, or Argia fumipennis, a much smaller damselfly.

My trip to Texas was the highlight of my nature photography career (so far) and I enjoyed everywhere I went on that trip.

Nothing can beat south Texas in the springtime and I hope to someday again, be able to shoot to my heart's content in some fantastic country.

If you enjoy photos of critters, please stop by Misty Dawn's Camera Critter Meme check out the posts. Better yet...join in the fun.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Camera Critter Meme #24

For this week's Camera Critter Meme, I thought I would pass on my favorite way to shoot when I go out. I didn't start shooting this way, but I have come to rely on it every chance I get. When I began shooting the smaller forms of wildlife where I live, I would stick my camera on Aperture Priority, the lens on f/8, the ISO at 200 and proceed to shoot to my heart's content. I was pleased with the results and continued shooting that way until...

Early last year, I read an article in a photography magazine which got me thinking. The author mentioned that in the studio, he always shot using manual settings based on the lighting around the subject. Most studio photographers shoot that way. But it was his usage of manual settings which caught my interest. I then refreshed my memory on manual shooting which was a style of shooting I used during my film days, grabbed my camera, set it up using the Sunny 16 Rule and off I went to my favorite shooting site, Dry Canyon Trail of Redmond, Oregon.

I came across a number of subjects to test my new style of shooting on and began snapping away. I shot the entire time with my camera set using the big "M" settings and never touched the dials all day. When I came home and looked at my photos, my eyes popped out. The contrast and colors were vivid and gorgeous, better than I thought my camera could accomplish. I was suddenly very sold on using Manual settings as often as possible.

California Tortoiseshell

Zephyr Anglewing

I set the camera initially with settings of ISO 200, Shutter Speed of 1/200 and aperture of f/16. I then turned the shutter speed to 1/400 a second which is a good quick speed, and increased the aperture to f/10 which was the same number of clicks I adjusted the shutter speed. The photos, as I mentioned before, were spectacular. Today, I shoot at ISO 100, a shutter speed of 1/400 and with an aperture of f/8 (which is the sweet spot aperture for the lens I shoot with). My camera is set to adjust exposure in one third increments, which differs from the listed settings in the charts below. However, following the suggested guidelines as mentioned below will provide similar results to my photos above.

More information on the Sunny 16 Rule can be found at the site linked above, or here:

For those interested, more in depth information on manual exposure can be found here and here:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Camera Critter Meme #23

Those who have followed my photography, know one of my favorite areas to shoot is along the Dry Canyon Trail centrally located on the north side of Redmond, Oregon. The trail is more than three miles long and winds through typical high desert lands with high desert plants and creatures.

When I arrive at the bottom of the canyon, my eyes immediately go into scan mode, watching everything which happens around me. A little less than a month ago, I was glad I was in scan mode.

I had been watching a beetle walk around a sage plant when I caught something flying by out of the corner of my eye. I glanced in the direction of the movement and noticed a Thread-waisted Wasp sitting in a nearby sage plant where it landed. But it didn't look quite right.

At first I thought the wasp had a stick in its mouth. As I looked closer and watched, the wasp began to move around with the "stick." It was then I noticed the "stick" was actually a caterpillar, most likely that of the Common Oak Moth. Curious, I continued to shoot and watch in an effort to find out what was happening.

One of the things I was most curious about, was the caterpillar wasn't putting up any type of resistance. I assumed the wasp had stung it or bit it and it was now incapacitated. Then the wasp dropped to the ground, still holding the caterpillar.

As I tried to get into position for a photo, the wasp began to back up. It was then I noticed a nearby hole and realized the wasp was moving towards it.

While trying to get into good photo position, I realized the wasp had repositioned the caterpillar. It had moved around to the back side of the caterpillar and was now dragging it backwards towards the hole. The last I saw of the wasp was its head. I then watched him drag dinner down the hole and disappear from sight.

Had I not been watching the going-ons around me, I never would have witness an everyday happening in nature. And by being in the right place at the right time, I was able to bring it to everyone through Misty's wonderful and fun, Camera Critter Meme.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Camera Critter Meme #22

In the spring of 07, I left Oregon for another state I have enjoyed...Texas.

I spent a number of years living in the San Antonio area, but I wasn't a critter photographer then. So when I went back this time, I had two goals...visit with my brother and his family, and get nature photos I couldn't get here.

Both goals were accomplished and I was able to collect a nice variety of Texas critters.

Two areas were my favorite. The first was the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center south of San Antonio. I visited this area twice and came back each time with a nice variety of photos.

The second area I enjoyed was the Lost Maples State Natural Area northwest of the city. Trails led throughout the park and at every turn, something new would appear, whether it was bird or bug. But one particular sighting really got my "trigger finger" itching.

We were on the east trail at the park, approaching a quiet area of the Can Creek Ponds. In the distance I could see something moving quickly around a small field of wildflowers. As we got closer, I lost sight of the critter and started scanning other areas for more wildlife. Suddenly, my nephew tugged my arm and said, "Uncle's back."

I looked back to the wildflower patch and sure enough, there was the same critter flying around I had seen minutes earlier. I quickened my pace and as I neared the patch, I realized what it was I had seen at distance.

Known as the White-lined Sphinx Moth, this large, and quick lepidoptera is also called as a Hummingbird Moth because of the way it hovers at flower, obtaining nectar. The moth's wings even sound like a hummingbird's wings. Everything about the creature gives it the appearance of a hummingbird...except the way it looks.

I hope you enjoy one of the few 'in focus' images of this marvelous critter. And yes...there was a reason this one was selected. 8v)

If you enjoy photos of critters, please stop by Misty Dawn's Camera Critter Meme during the weekends and check out the posts. Better yet...join in the fun.