Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Blue Dasher Dragonfly

I found this guy flitting around on the leaves of my Amaryllis flowers. I love their cute, little faces and have always had a fascination with dragonflies. This one is a male Blue Dasher.

He sits there, not seeming to mind me making his photo. I keep watching his little head turn to look at me every few seconds, but he doesn't seem afraid.

Do you ever wonder where all the "monsters" come from in the horror movies of yesterday? I've been photographing bugs for about 10 years now, and, as you can see, I get up close and personal with them. After photographing different bugs for so long, I began to remember how the monsters looked in the movies I used to watch and kept thinking, where in the world do these guys get their ideas. I've finally figured it out. They take closeup and/or macro photos of different kinds of bugs, and use their faces and other features to create their monsters. Just check out some monster movies and see if I'm right.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


This is a very strange rainbow. This is all there is to it; no arc, just this short rainbow in the sky. It wasn't even raining, and hadn't rained; but it started to rain soon after we spotted the rainbow. How weird is that?

Sunday morning, a few people from 2 of my combined meetup groups went to Ft Desoto planning on shooting daybreak, the sunrise, then going over to the other end and shoot the early morning birds.

We arrived at East Beach at Ft Desoto at around 6:00 am. There were 6 of us brave people who dared to get up early on a Sunday morning in hopes of getting a great sunrise. That we did. I wish I could display all the photos right here. It was a perfect morning. Lots of beautiful clouds and gorgeous light. We got amazing shots! If you want to see them, they are in the July album on my Facebook account. You can find my link here: Check out the other photos and let me know what you all think.

After the sun rose, we drove over to North Beach on the other side of Mullet Key, (but still in Ft Desoto), to try to catch the birds feeding. I have a favorite spot that I usually go to where I'm sure to get plenty of birds. As luck would have it, there weren't many birds there, but we did get lucky to see and photograph a Reddish Egret during his white phase. We don't see Reddish Egrets everyday like we do with the Great Egret and the Great Blue Herons, but to see a Reddish Egret in his white phase is a rarity. What a catch! We'd have missed him if a kind lady didn't come over to let us know he was there. We got some great shots of him that I'm still editing and even watched his dance.

They are the funniest birds when they're feeding. You'll see them stand very still until they spot their prey, then all of a sudden they run around in every direction, jump up and down, and spread their wings before going in to grab their fish. They use their wings to shade their appearance so the fish doesn't know they're there, but I don't know what the dance is for. It's the strangest behaviour and a blast to watch.

Watch my Facebook page over the next few days if you want to see the photos of the dancing Egret.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More of Ft Desoto Park

While getting my memory cards ready for my shoot last night, I found that I forgot I had some photos from last Sunday's Ft Desoto shoot. This was one that I almost missed.

It was made a little earlier than the previous post, probably an hour before sunset. I knew there'd be a marvelous sunset because of the beautiful clouds in the sky--if they didn't hide the sun, that is.

It's days like this that make me love Ft Desoto. Every time I go there, this is the atmosphere. It's always peaceful, quiet and I feel like I'm on my own private beach. Ft Desoto is spread out over so many miles that even on a busy weekend, there's plenty of beach for everyone. If you want to find that "private" solitude, there's a spot for everyone. On the other hand, if you're one of those people that like to people watch, and like to see many people on the beach, you can also find that there, too. It's just the perfect place.

It is also one of the only beaches you'll find that you can see the sunrise and the sunset from the same beach. It's a must visit if you're not from this area. If you are, then you already know about this beautiful place and have experienced all it has to offer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summertime at Ft Desoto

While at Ft Desoto the other evening, I saw this woman photographing something on the beach. I'm not sure if she was photographing the woman and boy walking in front of her, or just the beach in general.

For me, I saw a perfect shot with the Laughing Gulls flying all around her and the pink tinge in the clouds that can only be seen during sunset.

When photographing the sunset, we usually get mesmerized by the beauty of the sunset itself. Don't forget to turn around. You just might spot a much better image like this one. The light is warm, directional and the textures, forms and shapes are brought out like no other lighting.

For this image, the light was coming from the sun about a 90° angle to my subject which as previously mentioned, brought out the texture in the sand and sea grasses. I shot this image at 1/800 (to stop the motion of the birds in flight) at F5. Since there was a lot of light areas, I added 1 stop exposure compensation to keep the birds, skin tones and sky from being underexposed. For those of you who use point-n-shoot cameras, if you have a beach or snow mode, this would work well for this type of image. My ISO was set at 200 and I used my 55-250mm lens at 96mm. I used Aperture Priority mode and Partial metering.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

This Yellow-crowned Heron was wading in the shallows looking for food when I spotted him during low tide in the Safety Harbor Marina in Safety Harbor, FL.

Yellow-crowned Herons are not nearly as common as Black-crowned Herons in this area. Yet, I've seen many more Yellow-crowned than Black-crowned Herons. It is pretty easy to tell the difference between the two. The Yellow-crowned Heron has a white or yellow crown with a white stripe just under his eye. The Black-crowned Heron has a black crown, but the rest of his face is white. They are about the same size and their feeding habits are similar. They are both active during the evening and night hours as their name suggests. Both are resident in Florida.

Since they both are active during the night, it's always a treat to see them during the day. This one was spotted just after sunset. Unlike the Black-crowned Heron, this species preys mainly on crabs and crayfish and they tend to be loners, not nesting with other Herons.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

North Beach, Ft Desoto

Last night, I went to a conference at North Beach in Ft Desoto in Tierra Verde, FL. As I walked along the beach, I couldn't help but notice the quality of the light. There's nothing like the late afternoon light to bring out the best in a photograph.

I spotted this lone umbrella between the sand dunes. There was quite a bit of beach stuff all around, and the people it belonged to were no where in sight. They were most likely enjoying Ft Desoto's warm, summer water. If you've never been to Florida in the Gulf in the summertime, you would not be able to imagine how nice the water is. It's almost like taking a bath. It was a comfortable 84 deg F. No wonder the people weren't around their umbrella.

I walked around this umbrella trying to find a decent vantage point to make my photo without all the beach stuff around it, hoping all the time that the people who owned wouldn't return to spoil my photo. As luck would have it, I finally found a place to stand where the stuff wasn't showing--just a lone float and an umbrella. Perfect!

I made my image, satisfied with knowing that I had the perfect shot to show what I was feeling in my mind when I first spotted that place with that beautiful, warm, summer light.

My camera was already set at ISO 200, and I shot it at F4.5 at 1/200 sec. I probably should've shot it at F8 or higher, but it looked fine in the viewfinder, except for some dark shadows that I knew if I didn't add a little bit of light, they'd have gone black. So, I added 1 stop eV, and using about 79mm on my trusty 55-250mm favorite walk-around lens, fired the shutter to make a very nice shot. I was lucky to have that sand dune hide all the stuff around the umbrella.

It's times like this that makes me happy that I'm a photographer and can record beautiful scenes like this one. Florida is truly paradise.

Friday, July 17, 2009


This morning, while Scott was getting ready for a new job interview, he asked me to make a photo of him while he was dressed up. Scott is camera-shy, and not the easiest person to photograph. After several attempts of trying to get him to relax, he started to joke around. It gave me the chance to catch him off-guard and get a more natural image of him.

The sun was overhead, and it wasn't the best time to be shooting a portrait, but I decided to give a try, anyway. I'm also not the best portrait photographer around. I'm a trained photojournalist, so usually my photos of people are unposed and more natural-looking.

I didn't do much editing on this one--not even a crop. The compressed jpg looks like it could use a bit of warming, but the original file doesn't appear like this. We lose so much when we compress files. That's one reason I stress to my students to always begin with the largest photo the camera is capable of producing. If I wanted to take this a step further, I'd probably add a little bit of warmth to it, but it's late, I'm tired, and I already gave him the full resolution file which doesn't quite appear as cool (in temperature).

I placed him in the shade, so he wouldn't squint. Because the sun was overhead (11:41 am), I chose to use a bit of fill flash so he wouldn't have "raccoon eyes". My flash is set on -1 eV and in my camera, I underexposed about -1/3 stop so as to not blow out the whites in the sun. My camera was set at ISO 200 (because I forgot to set it to 100; shame on me), in Aperture Priority mode at F5.6 and my shutter speed set to 1/250. I used my 18-55mm lens at 55mm. If he had looked directly at the camera, as he did in some of the others, he couldn't relax. Sometimes it's better to have them look away from the camera.

He calls this one "looking to the heavens for his next girl friend". I don't know if that tactic will work! :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Limpkin and Chicks

This is the last image from my Lettuce Lake Park meetup. From the edge of the overlook tower, there was a crowd of people looking over the edge down onto the grass below. An Asian man came over to me to show me the photo he took on his Blackberry. Once I knew what they were looking at, I waited until most of the crowd dispersed and went over to get my image.

It was getting close to closing time (7:45 pm) and I knew I wouldn't have much time left to capture the image I was hoping to get. The Ranger had already arrived and started to let everyone know the boardwalk was closing. The grass was long, and I had to find a good vantage point where the grass wasn't covering the chicks. Finally, after several attempts, I was able to setup my shot. The mother and chicks were in a good position so I could capture them all; and the lighting wasn't too bad, either.

My camera was set at 400 ISO with Partial Metering in Aperture Priority mode. All I had to do was be patient while I got the shot. I chose F11 at 1/60th second, which gave me enough depth of field to get good detail in the chicks and a fair shutter speed to hand hold my lens at 154mm. Thank God for image stabilization (IS) lenses. It held steady at this rate, and I was able to capture the image I was looking for just as the Ranger let us all know it was time to go.

Limpkin are very shy birds. I'm surprised she stood still for all of us long enough to make our shots. The Ranger explained that there are so many people in the park that this bird has lost most of her fear of humans. That's pretty amazing, since I've lived where I am for more than 2 years and there's a couple of Limpkins that live in the tree at the edge of my property. I've never been able to get close enough to either of these birds to get off not even one decent shot of them. I find them very elusive. One would think that after 2 years they'd be used to me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Paper Wasp

This was made on our meetup night on the boardwalk rail at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, FL. Since I'm allergic to insect stings I try to keep my distance, but it's so hard when I love to photograph anything nature. I'm particularly partial to bugs of all sorts.

After I shot him and looked him up on the internet, I found out that they can sting, but they're not aggressive like most wasps, bees and hornets. They won't sting unless they feel threatened by you. I'm convinced bees sting for the heck of it. I've had them fly into my car and just sting me for no reason. Other times, I've been stung just sitting on my patio. It's ridiculous that bees can't find another way to commit suicide.

Anyway, I digress, since I couldn't get close, I shot him with my trusty 55-250mm lens. I chose to use F11 for more depth of field, which, as you can tell it just about covered it at that range. It was nearly 8:00 pm and getting pretty dark with all the trees above us, so I opened up the eV to +1/3 stop for just a little more light. With an ISO of 400, that didn't leave me with much of a shutter speed. It was shot at 1/25 of a second. I'd rather sacrifice the speed so I don't have to deal with noise in my photos. My lens has image stabilization (IS), but at that slow of a speed, I was pushing it. I shot a burst of 3 and this was the best one of the batch. I put my elbows down on the rail and used them and my face for a tripod.

I'm lost without my tripod. but I left it in my friend's car in NY not once but twice! He was here and I forgot it. Then he went home to NY and it was in the back of the car. I went to NY, we went shooting, and I forgot it there again! Don't get old... I'll have to make do without it until he comes back to Florida in September. I hope I'll remember it then.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Squirrel Treefrog

This very small (about 1 1/2 at most) was sitting on the little leaf near the boardwalk at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, FL.

I would like to have gotten a front view, but I was limited by the boardwalk; and after about 10 minutes and the Ranger telling me twice the boardwalk was closed, I had to take what I could. He was sitting roughly 15 ft away when I made this shot with my 55mm-250mm IS lens. I think I cropped about 20% off the original to produce this final image.

This image was taken at about 8:00 pm under a heavy canopy of trees in pretty low light conditions. I set the ISO to 400, I could've gone higher, but I knew I'd have to crop it and I wanted to introduce as little noise as possible. I chose to use F9 to get a little more depth of field and was forced to hand hold my camera because I didn't bring my tripod at 1/40th of a second. The lens was racked all the way out at 250mm. I'm very fortunate to have pulled this one off. I shot it in a burst of 3, knowing the 2nd one would probably be the sharpest, since I wasn't pushing or letting go of the shutter button.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mr and Mrs Chicken

While at my Newbie Workshop Meetup last night, we always end our lessons with a little shoot to practice the skills I've just taught.

To my surprise, at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, Florida, these two chickens were wandering around the park. I couldn't believe my eyes. I don't know what kind of chickens they are but these two look like show chickens, judging by their coloring and grooming. Either they "flew the coop" or someone got tired of listening to this rooster and let them go in the park.

They were fairly tame because they didn't mind us getting close to them to photograph them. The just seemed to go about their business, completely ignoring us.

I'm in various nature parks throughout the Tampa Bay area at least once a week, if not more with my friends. While I'm always looking for something different to photograph, never in a million years did I ever expect to find chickens in a nature park. What a surprise!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Buttonbush Blossom

When I first moved to Florida, this is one of the flowers that fascinated me the most. It's the blossom of the Buttonbush shrub or small tree. These flowers are only about 3/8" in size, but they are bunched up together to form a tight ball cluster. The cluster is probably the size of a quarter in diameter without all the "pins" sticking out.

They have no noticeable fragrance, but I like the way they look. When the shrub is in bloom, these are pretty much covering the whole shrub. The shrub grows to about 10' high and blooms from June through August. It can be found in wetlands, swamps, pond sides, and stream sides, since they are aquatic. According to the National Audubon Field Guide to Wildflowers, Buttonbush shrubs range from Ontario east to Nova Scotia, south to Florida, west to Texas, and north to Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

It has the ability to withstand flood conditions and will still thrive. Mallard Ducks are attracted to its fruit which is tiny and seed like. Apparently, Mosquitoes like the flowers as well.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What is This?

Of all the time I've been on nature trails and for how long I've lived in Florida, I've seen these on trees many times, but for the life of me can't figure out what these are, or what kind of tree this is?

I'm so confused about this because I don't know if this is a flower bud, a nut, a fruit or what. I'm posting it here in hopes that someone who sees it can identify it.

I love the furry texture when I touch them, and I think they're beautiful--what ever they are. They are in bloom now and I'm in St Petersburg, FL.

Any help to identify this would be appreciated. I can't even Google it because I don't know if it's a flower, a nut or a fruit. It's pretty hard to Google something if you don't know what it is.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


This one's for my friend, Jim. I know how much he loves cloudscapes. I saw this one last night on my Newbie Meetup. We were walking through the park and the clouds just started to come in.

I spotted this one and for once didn't play the walk-up shooter. I actually walked around looking for the best vantage point to shoot it. Most of the time, I see something, shoot it and walk away, satisfied. I've been trying to slow down and actually look for the shot. I think I got it this time.

I had to shoot this one just right because there were a lot of trees in the way. I first thought about shooting it between the trees, but they just didn't look right. Maybe since I'm teaching this group, it's making me slow down as well. I need to practice what I preach.

This was a straight shot in the camera. It was taken just before sunset in aperture priority mode at F5, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 Ev at 55mm with partial metering directly off the sky.

In post-processing I darkened the blue a little bit and added saturation. I also darkened the tree on the right side. Nature did the rest.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Safety Harbor Pier

This is another photo from last night's Meetup. It was raining and I wanted to make a different mood shot of the pier we've all photographed so much.

This is the result of a little bit of digital playing in Photoshop. While the nature of this photograph was already moody, I was looking for something more. I added a texture that resembles a soft rain (at least I think so) and added a simple frame.

Tell me what you think of this one by leaving a comment. I'm more of a realist and this is a little bit out of my comfort zone, but I kind of like the results. Click on it to see it more clearly.

Monday, July 6, 2009


We had our regular Monday Night Meetup in Safety Harbor tonight and it would've been a good meetup if it hadn't rained off and on all evening.

The highlight of the night was this guy trying to windsurf in the pouring rain. He didn't get caught in the rain; he went out after it started to rain hard. He wasn't very good at it. It took quite a few tries before he made it out of the channel into the open water. First of all, he has sneakers on and I don't know how he'd have swam in them. There was no wind to speak of, and it was raining. He fell a few times as we watched and of course, we kept right on shooting.

If you look at his face closely, he doesn't look very happy. I'm not sure if it was because we were taking his picture while he was looking stupid, or if he was feeling stupid, or just inadequate. Either way, his face says it all.

After we shot enough of him, we all headed to Crispers for a bite to eat, since the Whistle Stop is all outside and we didn't want to get rained on while we ate. It cleared up after we got done eating and there still was some light, so we headed right back to the Marina to shoot Kathy's disabled squirrel and Biz.

Even with the rain, it was a pretty good meetup.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

4th of July

These little kids said it all for me, between the little girl's dress and everyone carrying flags. This is Patriotism! I like the young girl's expression on her face as she talks to the boys. It's so typical at that age. These girls were part of the huge crowd at the Safety Harbor 4th of July Celebration. It seems that everyone in Pinellas County was there for the big event.

Of course, the 4th wouldn't be complete without fireworks and there were plenty of them! I've just posted one of my favorite shots of the evening, but there were many. It was hard to find a place to set up away from the crowds, but my friends, Lyman and Tony managed to find a good spot where no one could get in front of us. They even spoke with one of the people responsible for the fireworks show, so we'd know which direction they were going off. It made it easier to set up our cameras in advance.

I started the show with my 55-250mm lens, but soon found out it would be too long. I quickly switched to my 18-55mm lens to shoot the remaining fireworks. They were shot into the sky fast and furious and it was a magnificent display. There were 14 of us from my photography group all together and we had a great time.

I set my camera on ISO 200, F16 and the Bulb setting for the shutter speed. I manually counted off the seconds, with predominately white colors for less than a second, red about 2 seconds and blue 3 seconds. It worked pretty well.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Church Overlooking Oswego, NY

I took this photo from the City of Oswego Library through the second floor window. The name of this church escapes me, but for this image, it isn't important.

I love the way it seems to be overlooking the city--sort of like it's taking care of it. The old architecture is also beautiful. In the Winter, when all the trees are bare, it's a lot easier to see the design, but this is the first time I photographed it in the Summer and I like the way it looks with the trees and only the tops of the houses showing.

Beautiful Lake Ontario sits just behind the church, where one can easily see the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse. I love the City of Oswego, just not in the Winter. It is hilly, cold, slippery and with the narrow streets, it's hard to get around. Because it's so close to the lake, it gets lake effect snow 9 months of the year and it's not unusual to see more than 5 ft. of snow on the ground from January through April. It also snows everyday. The city is very good about keeping the streets free of snow and ice with their sand trucks and plows going out on the first sign of snow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Insect Porn

I promise this is the last of the bug shots for a while. I thought the title would get your curiosity going.

These two Rambur's Forktail Damselflies were so busy "getting it on" they didn't seem to mind my lens close up to them. This is the first time I've ever seen Damselflies mating, and I was lucky to have enough time to run into the house, grab my camera and come back to make the photo. Actually, I took several of them and this was the best of the bunch. Once they flew off to another blade of grass, still in this position while flying, I left them alone.

Forktails, genus Ischnura, are a small group of damselflies in the narrow-winged damselfly family, Coenagrionidae.

Immature female forktails have a characteristically orange throax. Species identification can be done by examining the striped pattern on the thorax and the length of the orange coloration down the abdomen.

Rambur's Forktails are a common Southern species and can be found from coast to coast in wetlands and on pond edges. These were found on the bank in my backyard.