Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Southeastern Lubber Grasshopper

This guy was really munching on this little wild flower. He didn't even budge a bit when I put my lens in his face. He must've been enjoying his meal.

If you live in Florida, then you're used to these huge guys; but for those of you who live up North, you can't imagine how big these grasshoppers are. They're too big to fly, so they have to walk everywhere.

Floridians see them everywhere this time of year. They'll walk down the sidewalk right next to you. They're all over your garden, in the grass like this guy was; everywhere.

Did you ever wonder where the movie makers of yesterday get their ideas for monsters? Have you ever looked at a bug up close? These are yesterday's monsters. I don't like bugs, but I love to photograph them. They're so interesting and I love their colors. I think what gets to me is that when I photograph them, I can see stuff I can't see with my naked eye; not even with my bifocals. They move too fast to look at them with a magnifying glass, and I can't (well, I can, but I won't) kill them to look at them under a microscope, so the camera is the best thing. Cool, aren't they?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Eastern Ribbon Snake/CORRECTION: Eastern Garter Snake

I found this (and 2 others) along side the mountain trail at the Salmon River Falls in Altmar, NY. Originally, I thought it was a Common Garter Snake, but on closer look, it is definitely an Eastern Ribbon Snake.

The Eastern Ribbon Snake is in the Garter Snake family and look very much alike. However, the Eastern Ribbon is much more slender than the Garter Snake, but you can't tell that unless you see them both together. The definitive identification is by looking just below his mouth and at his eye. The Garter Snake has a white elongated dot in front of his eye and black lateral lines extending from his mouth to the lower edge of his jaw. This snake has neither, so it is definitely an Eastern Ribbon Snake. It doesn't really matter, since neither are poisonous and not aggressive at all. I'm just a curious sort and need to know everything. Don't ask me why, I've always been like this.

As you can imagine, I have no fear of snakes, spiders and bugs. However, I'm terrified of the Palmetto Bugs we have here in Florida. I know they don't bite, but they're so fast and so hard to kill. It's probably the only bug I kill other than Mosquitoes and Flies. Palmetto Bugs are Cockroaches, but fortunately don't nest in the house, but like flies are filthy and covered with all kinds of germs; and we all know why I kill Mosquitoes. Other than that, I have a problem with killing any living thing. They're all here for a purpose.

Enough about my philosophy, I'll be back tomorrow with another post. Stay tuned...

UPDATE: 8/8/2009
After an anonymous comment, I did some research, that is after he researched, and it seems that this Eastern Ribbon Snake is actually an Eastern Garter Snake. After a closer look at the lips and his eye, this snake has dark lines on his lower lips and no white spot in front of his eye, so he is indeed a GARTER snake.

I must apologize for leading you all wrong. I don't remember where I read the information I got on the internet, or a book, but either I got it mixed up, which is entirely possible, or the information I read was incorrect.

This article, click here, which the anonymous commenter so generously pointed out, explains the difference rather clearly and shows a photo of both snakes together. When seen together, they don't even look alike; but apart they are easily mistaken for one another.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Joe on Vocals and Guitar

During my stay in CT, my son told me that he had to play in an emergency and was very sorry. It seems that another band that went on to play for them when Joe (my son) was sick had a death in one of the players families, so they had to return the favor.

Sorry... I was elated! I have only seen them play twice before other than practice, and was anxious to hear them play again. Well, they ROCKED the house.

This is my son, Joe, who plays rhythm guitar, keyboards, harmonica and vocals. He also writes music and lyrics. During this song, he's showing how tired he was. He really didn't want to do this gig, but he made the best of it, and in the end we all had a great time.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Plant Hall, UT Interior

Plant Hall at the University of Tampa is one of the most beautiful places in the area.

It was originally the Tampa Hotel, built in the late 19th century during the Gilded Age by Henry B Plant, a railroad magnate for over $3,000,000. The hotel had more than 500 rooms and was 5 stories high. It was frequented by the late President Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, Babe Ruth, Sarah, Bernhart, President Ulysses S Grant, the Prince of Wales, the Queen of England and a host of other celebrities of the day. This hotel was luxurious and a resort in itself. The rooms had their own baths, expensive furnishings, electricity and even telephones. It would be a 5* rated hotel today.

For a short time, Plant Hall was also the Hillsborough High School, then eventually became the University of Tampa's main administration building. It is an historic symbol of the city of Tampa.

This view is on the main floor where it has facing entrances on the East and West side.

This shot was made during the Wednesday night's Meetup with Jim Sykes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Marriott Tampa

I went out with my friends for a night shoot with Jim Sykes. You can find his photos here:

We went to several places in Tampa that are his favorite places to go. We started at The University of Tampa (UT), Plant Hall, then went to Harbor Island and over to Davis Island.

I forgot my tripod in my car and rode over to the islands in Jim's truck. I was very lucky to get the images since it was nighttime and I had to hand hold my camera. I solved the problem for the most part by balancing my camera on whatever stable device I could find and by using my Image Stabilized lens (IS), my new 55-250mm with a high ISO and shooting in bursts of 3 shots. The reason I chose bursts was because the first shot, I'm depressing the shutter button which causes a downward motion on my camera, the second shot, (no motion) I'm still holding the button down, while the last shot I'm releasing the shutter button causing an upward motion. The second shot was the sharpest.

This shot was taken around 9:30 pm after twilight. I balanced my camera on one of the poles around the fence on the sidewalk above the water. Most of the other shooters shot from below on a floating dock with their tripods.

In my opinion, this was the best of the 3 I shot. I chose to use a Fluorescent White Balance setting because all the lights, the sky and the water appeared kind of brownish yellow. I like the cool tones the white balance adjustment gave me.

So, there you have it for today. A little lesson combined with a nice image.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I love the sweet smell of Peonies and the size of these showy flowers. The Peony or Paeony (Paeonia) is the only genus in the flowering plant family Paeoniceae. They are native to Asia, southern Europe and western North America. There are many cultivars as well as shapes and sizes.

The most common are single peonies, which have one row of petals surrounding yellow stamen, semidouble types have additional 1 or 2 rows of petals, double which you see in this photo are very full with broad petals and the stamen are either absent or inconspicuous, and finally Japanese Peopnies have a single row of petals surrounding a central mass of thin, petal-like segments called staminodes. They also come in many colors and combination of colors ranging from red, to rose, to white, and yellow. Some smell like Roses, but are not in the Rose family.

This Peony (cultivar unknown) was taken in Oswego, NY at Ft Ontario overlooking beautiful Lake Ontario. It is by far my favorite variety because of its sweet fragrance.

I chose to create this image by allowing it to dominate the frame partially due to the beautiful lighting and to show it in all its glory.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Oswego County Courthouse

I lived in Oswego for nearly 4 years and never got around to photographing this beautiful building even though I was always drawn to it. It's a shame that we all feel that we need to travel to photograph things that fascinate us until we move away and think about all the lost opportunities.

There is so much old and beautiful architecture in the City of Oswego, but this is one of my favorite buildings. It is the Oswego County Courthouse and it is located in downtown Oswego, NY on Oneida St. It was built in 1860 and made the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

The Oswego County Courthouse at Oswego, built between 1859 and 1860, is historically significant for its association with the development of government in Oswego County in the nineteenth century and architecturally significant as an outstanding example of mid-nineteenth century Renaissance Revival public architecture. Designed by the noted Syracuse architect Horatio Nelson White, the stylish and expensively built courthouse reflects a period of extended prosperity in the county based in great measure upon the success of the Oswego Canal and the port of Oswego. Joining several other distinguished public buildings of the period including the Market House (1836), the United States Customs House (1858), and the Gerrit Smith Library (1855), the Oswego County Courthouse reflects Oswego's mid-nineteenth century stature as an important center of shipping and commerce. Continuing in use for 140 years, the Oswego County Courthouse stands out as one of Central New York's finest examples of historic civic architecture.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Salmon River Falls

While in NY I decided to take my grandson to the Salmon River Falls in Altmar, NY on CR-22. These falls are awesome. They drop into a gorge 110 ft. below.

This photo only shows 1 section of the falls. There are 2 other sets of falls to the left of this one. I don't get to see falls in Florida, so this is also a great treat for me. The last time I was there was in 2001 and all I had was a 2 mp digital camera. I wanted to see how they'd look with better equipment.

I must've chose the right time of year because they were really running fast. In 2001, I went in the Spring and there was only a thin ribbon of water dropping. The other 2 falls were hardly flowing.

These falls have a narrow trail leading up to them with only a small guide wire for fencing. Unfortunately, this has been the site of many teens committing suicide. It prompted the State of NY to close the falls for a long time.

As I look around the top of the falls, there's only small puddles of water on the rocks not more than 2 ft. deep--if that. The pool at the bottom is probably only about 3 ft. deep. I can't imagine where all that water comes from.

I'd love to go there in the Fall some time and see the colorful foliage. One of these days I'll remember to plan my trip for the foliage. I usually only go to NY in the Winter to see the snow and the Summer.

In order to get the falls so smooth I shot in Shutter Priority mode at 1/15 sec and F20 gave me really nice depth of field. I used my 18-55mm lens at 53mm, ISO 400 because of the low light. Exposure compensation was set at Ev +2/3 stop to keep the water white, and I used partial metering.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Favorites

During my trip, I had a chance to stop at my son and daughter-in-law's house. They have the most amazing yard and there are so many photo opps there, it's hard to figure out what I want to photograph first. So, I photograph everything. They have many little gardens in different areas. They're yard is shaped like the state of CT. The previous owners originally had 47 acres, which they sold off smaller parcels so they'd be left with a yard shaped like their state.

This little Tufted Titmouse is my favorite backyard bird. I like the way they sound like a car starter (at least to me). They're also cute with their little little crests. This one is eating berries or nuts from a tree. I miss seeing these little birds in my yard.

They also have a lot of flowering bushes and trees including my favorite, a Tulip tree. Tulip trees are more suitable for down south, but for some reason, this one thrives in their yard. It's a very old tree, but when it's in bloom it's just gorgeous! Unfortunately, I got there just as the flowers were done. Oh well, maybe next year. It seems I always go there too soon or too late by only a couple of weeks. I can never get the timing right to see everything in bloom.

I did get to see one of my favorite flowering bushes, though; the Mountain-laurel. I've loved these since I was a young child. Maybe I'm so fond of them because my grandmother loved them so much and they remind me of her. These are just starting to pass, but still beautiful. Mountain-laurels are the Connecticut and Pennsylvania's state flower, and they are protected in Connecticut.

Well, there you have it; my favorite flowering bush and my favorite backyard bird.

Both images were shot with my Canon 40-D, a Canon 55-250mm lens at about the same time of day. Both in Aperture Priority mode with partial metering at ISO 400, the Titmouse at F5.6 and 1/60 sec with +1 Ev (exposure compensation). I used a wide aperture (F stop) to blur the background which brought attention to the bird. The Mountain-laurel was shot at F5.6 at 1/500 sec, +1 Ev to bring out the white flowers and blur the background.

Friday, June 19, 2009


This cloudscape was taken from a moving car driving on I-95 in South Carolina. A heavy rain storm was just passing through.

I like the way the rays are coming down and the edges of the clouds in the mid area.

This road trip wasn't a fun trip or vacation; it had to do with unpleasant family business. But, like the old saying goes, "when given lemons, make lemonade".

There will probably be many posts from my road trip as I get caught up with my editing. Something tells me that I take way too many pictures. I get overwhelmed with the editing, and it rarely gets completely done from month-to-month. I try to edit my favorites of the day first, then if I don't get them all done, at least the good ones get done.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Reflections have always fascinated me and these of the Oswego, NY Courthouse on the window of the Oswego County Legislature Building are no exception.

I love how they bend and twist throughout the photo, yet manage to stay clear enough to show what building is being reflected. I also like how they contrast the old with the new or modern architecture.

My friend, Frank, a member of my photography group lives in upstate NY, not far from my grandchildren's home. He stays there 4 months a year and 8 months in St Petersburg, FL. It's always a thrill to visit him during the summer when I visit my grandchildren. It gives us just a little more time to shoot together. This was taken on our day. Frank came to Oswego with his nephew, Carl, and we went out shooting for a little bit. We didn't have a lot of time, but we made the most of it. After our shoot, we went to our favorite place in Oswego for lunch, Rudy's Lakeside Drive-In. It's just like the old Drive-In restaurants that were so popular in the '50's and '60's.

Rudy's is a hamburg, hot dog and sea food place near SUNY Oswego College. It's fairly large and a favorite of the locals. Since it's not open during the winter months, it's a big treat to go there for a hot dog by the water. He has inside and outside tables. The outside tables sit on a deck overlooking Lake Ontario. The only problem is one has to be careful the Gulls don't steal our food. They've been fed for so many years by people, that they think the food is for them. They've also lost their fear of humans, so the Gulls have no problem stealing french fries or a hot dog right off your plate. Here is a link to learn more about Rudy's (Click Here) If you're ever in the area, it's a must stop--you won't be sorry you did.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"He Didn't Turn Into a Prince"

One of the stops on my trip was to visit my grandchildren. This is 6-yr old Alexis, one of the twins. She found this little Leopard Frog in her backyard. Unfortunately, after she kissed him he didn't turn into a Prince, so that story is not true!

During my road trip I took tons of photos, now the job at hand is to edit them. I'll be posting some of them in future blogs. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bank of America, Syracuse, NY

This one was another drive by shooting. My grandson was driving about 65mph on I-81 through Syracuse, NY when I shot this past his face, through his open window. I was very lucky to capture this as sharp as I got it.

Syracuse is a very old city with some fabulous architecture. This shot never would have been possible from the crowed, narrow streets down below. By shooting from the highway, I was able to avoid keystoning due to the high vantage point (from a bridge).

The vibrance was boosted a bit with Lightroom 2.3, as well as the clarity in order to get the saturated colors. It was overcast, and blah, flat lighting. It was shot using ISO200, F5.6, 1/250th at 150mm. I normally choose F8 or more for architecture, but didn't really have time to change settings. The fast shutter speed is what allowed me to get this as sharp as it turned out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Barn in Scranton, Pa

First, I must apologize if my blogs are a bit behind during my vacation. At present, I'm on a whirlwind driving tour. I only have a week off, so I'm driving from Florida to Oswego, NY on Lake Ontario, then on to Vernon, CT and back to St Petersburg, FL.

I spotted this barn while my grandson was driving through Scranton, PA. I had been sleeping and I spotted this just as I woke up. I had to shoot it! The only lens on my camera was my 55-250mm and I shot this from the other side of the highway.

I love to shoot barns, but since I live in the city, about the only chance I get to shoot them is when I'm traveling. That's one of the reasons I love to travel by car. Usually I'm alone and I was lucky enough to have my grandson on this trip with me. He'll be staying in NY for a while, so I'll be driving home alone. I'll sure miss the luxury of having an extra driver.

Because of the travel, my internet connectivity will be somewhat spotty at times. I'll be blogging daily after I get home.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


While walking in Sawgrass Lake Park, I spotted these Spatterdocks floating above the water in the canal. I like the way they're grouped in this shot. Throughout the canal, there are many little groupings of these Spatterdocks.

There are many varieties of Water Lilies and this is just one of them. The blossoms look like little yellow unopened flowers and aren't very showy. What I like best about these are the various colors, ranging from yellows to greens to a pretty purple color.

Spatterdocks grow from Rhizomes and support much aquatic life. "Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. This invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food (called "detritus") for many aquatic invertebrates. Spatterdock is grazed by deer while the rhizomes are consumed by beavers, muskrats, and nutria. Seeds are consumed by ducks and other waterfowl." - http://aquaplant.tamu.edu/database/emergent_plants/spatterdock.htm

Personally, I just like the peaceful setting of the Spatterdocks floating on the canal. It's amazing how much we can find to photograph in nature if we just slow down and open our eyes and minds. Nature is all around us. We need to protect it for the future.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Golden Silk Spider

It's been raining, raining, raining here in St Petersburg all week; so I haven't had much of a chance to go out shooting. While going back through some of my unprocessed files from last month, I spotted one of my favorite spiders--the Golden Silk Spider.

If you live in Florida, you are very familiar with these spiders. They are huge, but relatively harmless. They won't bite unless picked up or pinched and their bite only stings for a couple seconds. Actually, a bee sting is more painful. The just look scarry because of their size. Their body alone is more than an inch in length not counting the head and those long legs. They are the only spider that spins a golden web stretching from 26-36" in diameter. They're usually spun between two trees or shrubs. Due to web support requirements, they are usually pretty spread out.

In order to show the golden threads of her web (yes, this is the female) I shot this using the Cloudy setting for White Balance. That's roughly about 6,000 Kelvin Degrees F. It also has to be shot with about a 45 - 90 Deg. lighting for it to show up. Fortunately, because of their size and the fact that these spiders need a lot of room for their webs, they're easy to spot in the woods. You don't want to miss spotting one, though, because that web is strong and sticky. YUK! Hunters hate them. That's OK, because I don't like trophy hunters very much, either. It's senseless killing. Shoot them with a camera--no one gets hurt.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

I got up this morning and went out on the patio like I do every morning to enjoy my cup of coffee and watch the birds hunting for their breakfast, when all of a sudden I look down and spotted this cute little caterpillar on the ground just beneath my feet.

He must be lost, since their host plants are the leaves of cherry, ash and poplar trees. He wasn't moving very fast, so I ran in, grabbed my camera and a +3 closeup filter for a rare opportunity to create a macro. Realizing that when using closeup filters or doing any kind of macro work, the depth of field is pretty shallow, I closed down my aperture to F11 and shot away. He hardly moved a bit. Once I was sure I made my photo, I picked him up and moved him toward the rear of the patio when he wouldn't be stepped on.

After my coffee, I checked my butterfly book to see what their host plants are and realized that I had none of them in my yard. The closest thing I have to any of their preferred trees are a couple of Malaleuca trees. These trees are in the Poplar tree family, but the foliage was too high for me to place him on a leaf. I just set him down near the bottom of one of the trees and I'm hoping he'll find his way to the foliage.

This is one of the most interesting looking caterpillars I've seen. As far as I can tell, there are no hairs on his body like we usually see when looking at caterpillars. Those black spots with yellow above them are not eyes; but they are called eye spots. The markings are there to fool predators. If you look closely, you can see small blue dots along his margin near his belly. I would think that these are the little blue smudges that are seen on the back of the butterfly's wings right between the little tails. That's only a guess, because other than that I can't see any similarity between the caterpillar and the butterfly.

Imagine what a miracle their transformation or Chrysalis is? Caterpillars and butterflies aren't even remotely similar in appearance, but after their pupa stage they emerge into beautiful flying flowers. How wonderful is that?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

This Yellow-crowned Night Heron, taken in Safety Harbor at the Marina, is wading through the muck at low tide looking for his favorite meal. They love crabs and crayfish.

These Herons stalk their prey and are mainly nocturnal. They are also secretive and are rarely seen, but not as shy as their cousin, the Green-backed Heron.

It's always a thrill to see and photograph these birds. In Florida, the Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons are used to people and allow us to get pretty close to photograph them, but the Black and Yellow-crowned Herons, the Reddish Egrets and especially the Green-backed Herons are much more shy and therefore much harder to get close enough to photograph them.

This particular Heron is so attuned to finding dinner that he didn't pay any attention to me. One thing to be careful of when photographing any birds is that you don't disturb them. I try using the longest lens I have, staying down low and moving ever so slowly. As I close in on them, I fire off a couple of shots then move a bit closer and keep repeating this action. It lets them see that whatever I'm doing isn't hurting them. If a bird seems to be stressed, I move away and find another that isn't so timid. It's best not to stress them out too much. I can always get another shot at another time. There are so many sea birds in Florida, on any given day, I can usually find more than my fill to photograph.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reddish Egret

This is another shot from my Safety Harbor Meetup last night.

This Reddish Egret was looking for food during low tide at the Marina. These Egrets are the funniest thing to watch when they're hunting. First you'll see them standing very still just gazing into the water like you see him in this photo. All of a sudden, you'll see him run around like crazy, then fly/jump up about 3 feet off the water, then start running around again this time with his wings half spread. I know I'm repeating myself, but it is so funny to see them do this dance.

They spread their wings for two reasons, they're trying to disguise their appearance from the fish, and their wings provide shade to reduce the glare on the water so they can see the fish better. I guess that's pretty smart even if they do look silly.

This one finally got his fish, so he won't be starving.

Here's a little tip when photographing Reddish Egrets. To bring out the red in his plumage, set your White Balance to Cloudy or Shade. That'll give you about 6,000 Deg. Kelvin and it'll warm up the entire photo a little bit.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Frisky Manatees

This evening at our regular Monday Night Meetup, we were treated to some very frisky Manatees. We were at the Safety Harbor Marina in Safety Harbor, FL and these Manatees were all over the place. We watched them playing or making love near the pier, they were at the docks there was some most everywhere we pointed our cameras.

It's not hard to figure out what's going on with these two. Manatees are so cute to watch. They seem to move in slow motion and they twirl and turn throughout the water. They are huge animals, weighing in about 1500-1800 lbs. and are about 10-12 feet long. There are only about 3,000 in Florida and are considered endangered. Manatees live to be around 50-60 years old in the wild. They are herbivores, which means they are vegetarians. They live on sea grasses and such. They have no known natural predators. The biggest danger to them is humans with their motor boats. Most Manatees have deep scars on their backs from getting injured from the propeller blades on boats. We need to be more careful and look out for these gentle giants in the water.

About the photograph; this was photographed around 5:00 pm while the sun was still pretty harsh. I overexposed this shot at 1 2/3 stops and in some areas the shadows are still blocked. I was shooting directly into the sun. I probably could've opened up 2 stops, but I'm not sure how much that would have helped. In times like this, it is better to shoot manual and watch the histogram closely. In tonight's case, I couldn't see the histogram very well and had to guess at the exposure.