You Can Never Be Too Careful

It’s time to close this month out and I cannot think of a better way than displaying some wildlife pictures.  A few weeks ago, Linda and I headed out for a day of shooting at the Wildlife Prairie Park.  We happen to be members at this park which is located just outside of Peoria in the small town of Edwards (about 15 minutes from our house).  This park puts the residents in their natural settings with plenty of room to move and live out a fairly normal animal life in spite of the numerous visitors that come to admire their beauty.  It caters to the typical wildlife found on the Midwest prairies (this includes the historical perspective).  They have a nice heard of bison, a few cougars, looks like down to one bear, a few foxes, otters (although I can’t remember the last time they were actually out in view), a badger and two coyotes to name a few.  But most impressive of all, they have one of the best wolf packs I’ve found outside of the International Wolf Center in Ely Minneapolis.  Linda and I have traveled to many states to check out their captive wolves and always end up being disappointed because they never compare to what we have in our own backyard.  I’ll be rolling pictures of the wolves out soon enough, but today’s post focuses on another inhabitant of the park.

For the uniformed city dwellers out there, this is your classic bobcat.  Half kitty cat, half cougar and 100% kill you when you least expect it.  Basically look at it as a house cat skin covering of pure muscle that enjoys nothing more than to gnaw the flesh off of crunchy bones.  We happened to catch this particular beast at feeding time.  I really liked the contrast of the dead tree with the living animal and the brightness of the coat against the dreary setting.  It was very apparent this cat was nervous about someone messing with his catch and spent the entire time we were was watching him checking back and forth for any suspicious activity.  The interesting thing about this set of shots is the opportunity it gives to experiment with different cropping options.  Cropping is an art unto itself and one of those activities you can spend a day on just exploring the different configurations and the effect it has on the viewer.  In this set, I tried to let the cat drive the crop orientation.  In the shot above, the cat was clearing the upper left of suspicion so the crop was skewed in that direction. In this shot, the cat is checking if anything was lurking on the other side of the stumps.

To compensate for this new direction, the crop was brought down from the top and extended in the direction of the area being scanned.  At first I had the cat pushed closer to the right side to hit the rule of thirds, but it just felt like the cat was too confined in the scene.   I actually really like this shot since you can see more of the facial features and the concerned expression seemed to fit the situation perfectly.  Lastly, the subject gave a final inspection down the hill.

As before, the crop was adjusted to compensate for this new scan direction.  After debating for awhile and trying a few options, it was decided to sacrifice some of the stump in favor of the extra shift it provided to the left.  The stumps provided a nice anchor to the left side of the shot, but unfortunately it did put the focus of the photo too much in the center for my liking.  It would have also helped if the living tree wasn’t shooting right out of his head but I had to take what nature provided.  Although this one really shows off the strength of the muscles these animals have,  my favorite is still the middle one and likely the one I’m going to send out for production print.

I hope you enjoyed my little crop experiment.  If you get the chance, be sure and visit the park.  You will not be disappointed!  Just be sure and bring your longer glass and a full bottle of Off.

Night Dwellers – The Wolf Spider Revisted

What is becoming the norm with this blog, I am pushing to meet my post quota for the month.  I’ve been pretty busy as of late and my extra hours as of late has been spent in therapy and late night workouts.  Luckily, I have line of site to the rest of this month so no dangers on the content front.  This particular post is going to revisit a post I had made some time back.  Once again, I was out on the porch one night and came across another opportunity to drag out the camera.  Any chance you remember the previous post on the Wolf Spider?  Well, those were taken with a 70-200mm zoom glass.  Earlier this year, we purchased a macro glass (105mm) that provides a ton of fun.  I am still feeling my way around this type of photography and still have a lot to learn.

Once again, our dog Rizzi once again found the specimen.  He loves to check out all the creatures on the porch, but tends to get waaaay to close for my comfort.  When he found this spider, I ended up picking him up and moving him away as soon as I saw his nose going for it.

As mentioned before, spiders are safe around me unless they cross the Loon coin size.  This one was definitely beyond that limit by almost 2x.  I didn’t have a scale indicator and decided against sticking my finder down by it, so you will just need to trust me on that.  Again, still working on getting these shots down.  I needed to open the Fstop up to get the entire body in focus, but for the most part it came out okay.  It definitely has a different feel that the spider shots did with the zoom.  This image came out a little better.

Pretty creepy eh?  While prepping the pictures for the blog, something kept nagging me about these two shots.  Eventually it came to me what was odd.  Anything you know about spiders seem contrary to these two images?  Hint, it is in the numbers.  I ended up verifying my arachnid knowledge just to validate my initial thought.  Spiders do indeed have 8 legs, but it looks like this specimen only has 6.  Turns out, what I thought were leg shadows, were actually doubled up legs.  Not sure why it was doing this but it may have been a defensive posture in order to propel it out of the way faster if Rizzi’s nose got a little too close.

Since the macro was on, it was time to move in for the cool shots.  It became very obvious I needed to get some stabilization under the camera to get some quality shots… but it was late and I was feeling the pull of the pillow.  I did get one fairly decent shot… extremely creepy I might add.

I can’t image the fear an insect must face having this ball of ugliness bearing down on it.  I should mention that I am not an expert spider cataloger so if I happen to get these identified wrong, please let me know.  Typically, the wolf spider is a little more furry than this one, but everything else (coloring, size etc.) seemed to match.  Oh, and if you are wondering how this turned out for the subject, you may be happy (or not depending on your fear) to know that I let it live.  Of course, now it will probably mate with an equally sized spider resulting in 10 billion offspring the size of a CD.  My only hope is Rizzi finds them before they launch their plans to take back their woods.