Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 2 of 2)

Welcome to the 6th post for this month which successfully puts another check in the monthly post commitment and thankfully this one comes earlier than usual.  As you probably know I am usually rushing to get these babies done before day 30ish comes to a close.  Not this month, but that is primarily due to focusing on getting these done in order to spent the rest of the month (and some into the next month as well) focusing on a big personal event that is scheduled for September 11th.  Not really talking about it at the moment to keep from jinxing myself so we’ll just let that go for now.  On a side note, thanks to the ass Don Henley finding the need to come out in favor of the PROTECT IP Act (and using invalidated studies and hyperbole fear as a basis – must be learning from Gore), today marks the first day of never giving a penny to anything that funds the Eagles or Don Henley in any form.  This of course includes additional albums/CDs/DVDs to those already sitting in our shelves and god forbid anymore $75 tickets to their concerts.  Just my little way of helping make Donny-boy’s fake claims as real as I can – say, won’t you join me?

Enough ranting, you are hear for one and only one reason.. to fill the empty void when you found out there were even more phoadtography pictures from our Indy trip!  So, picking up where part one left off (link) I give you this sign found on a building as we were driving through a city.

Talk about a bad signage planning.  Reading this to someone would put them in a quandary.  Those Damn Pentecostals! or those Pentecostals are one Damn Ass Company.  If their lucky they would have seen the name of the city (Damasco) as they drove through.

As we drove into Indianapolis we spotted this hotel rising up above the trees.  From a design perspective it was pretty stunning and blended nicely with the environment.  Turns out our hotel was right near this Marriott and could have used it to navigate directly where we needed to be.  The construction around Indy had us uncertain we were on the right road and quite frankly the neighborhoods we were passing through had us a little concerned.  It all turned out okay, but simply heading for this landmark would have probably worked better.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the Indy Phoadtography Collection

Continue reading Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 2 of 2)

Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager

Can you tell I’m !#%!@@#$@ cooped up in the house this weekend with a hell spawned cold?  If memory serves (and it is on the fritz at the moment) this is the third post in three days.  Blogging at least keeps my mind off of the missed training runs this has caused which couldn’t happen at a more inconvenient time… but more on that in less than a month.  To be honest, today’s post is really more about a half check than a full check on the Life Birding List.  Linda and I headed out to a photo shoot at Wildcat Den about 30-40 minutes outside of Davenport in Muscatine County, Iowa.  We were in Davenport for our 3 day concert extravaganza (yes, that will be a future post topic) and figured it would be a good opportunity to take some shots at the State Park.  So we strapped on the backpacks, cleared out the memory cards and grabbed the cameras.  Needless to say with opportunities for wildlife, The Beast was in tow.

For the first hour there was not much action in the feathered category.  I decided to focus on some large butterflies while Linda busied herself with some water landscape shots.  From there we moved deeper into the State Park when Linda (so she says) pointed out a reddish bird sitting in the dense trees.  Having learned from previous mistakes, I dropped the tripod down and did my best to get a preliminary shot so I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed.  Once I had sufficient attempts  from afar, I slowly moved in to try and better the shot.  Out of all of them, this is probably the best one.

Hit the jump to see more pictures of this distinctive bird  … prepare yourself, some are a little scary

Continue reading Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager

A View from the Zoo

Greetings from the road to Terre Haute.  Linda and I are on our way back home from our trip to French Lick (chuckle) and thanks to being so far behind on posts this month I have resorted to using our travel time to pump a few blog posts out.  Today we have a special treat and by that I mean a guest photographer.  The first stop on our mini-vacation was to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Linda and I loaded up all of our camera equipment and headed out for a day of mirror slapping.  Later that night, Linda post processed some of her pictures for her peeps on Facebook (sigh).  I must say, she produced some amazing shots and thought I would share them with you.  Let’s start with the big cats.

That cat came out tack sharp with nice detail in the fur.  The tiger also has a look of intent as it stares down a small child with a face painting of a deer… kidding, it was actually watching his mate (below) taking a morning swim.  In truth, I would hate to be a deer that came face to face with that killing machine.  The composition isn’t the only thing that impresses me about this particular shot.  The fact that it even came out at all is a credit to Linda’s photographic abilities.  The tiger was actually behind GLASS at high sun.  One might be able to dismiss this as pure luck (hints of a certain sunflower picture), but then she pulled out this shot.

She also captured the tiger’s mate taking a swim in their pond.  Again, tack sharp (check), captivating expression (check), difficult lighting (check) with the added composition element of reflection (score).  All that is plenty enough but yes, it was taken through the very same glass protecting it from us.  She actually manually focused these shots to compensate for the false glass readings.  My only credit point is I taught her how to take pictures in full manual exposure mode which she is now downplaying as just a refresher from her 35mm Pentax days.  This is probably a good time to point out that it was extremely hot the day we were there which is probably why a cat (notorious for not really liking water) decided to seek relief in the stream.  “How hot was it?… it was so hot, even the cheetahs had their sneakers off and lounging in the weeds.”

Although not through glass, this big cat shot was nicely done as well.  It was actually in mid sentence asking us if we’d be willing to get it a slurpy (antelope flavored) to help cool down.  One of the features at the Indy zoo was to test your speed against a cheetah.  I had heard the programmed announcer (Tony Stewart who helped fund this exhibit) initiating the races which were going off about 3 minutes apart.  I was actually feeling sorry for the poor cheetah having to continually race in blistering heat until I came upon the race site.  It was just an electronic simulation consisting of lights representing the cheetah’s speed above a single lane track for the human to run on.  If those lights were accurate, that cat can move!    The heat was getting to everyone that day and most of the animals were seeking any shelter they could find in their natural pens.  The polar bear below was taking a snooze when we first arrived at the zoo around 9:15am.

Hit the jump to see a few more great pictures of wildlife at the Indy Zoo

Continue reading A View from the Zoo

Night Dwellers Part 3 – The Big, The Hairy and The Scary

So last post we brought out the big guns and showed you what the 200-400 Beast is capable of pulling in.  To contrast that, I figured I’d go all the way in the opposite direction and feature the 105 Macro glass for this post.  And the best picture opportunity for the Macro is?.. you guessed it, my porch.  Continuing the Night Dweller themed posts (here, here and here), I bring you the latest set of arachnids found late at night out here in the Midwest country.  Thanks to our toy poodles we often have the opportunity to check out the creatures that visit our house late at night.  As of late, the spiders look like they’ve been on a steroid kick resulting in some rather large specimens.  One night I stumbled on this huge spider and ran for the camera.

It always creeps me out a bit when looking through the macro glass.  The unassisted viewing reveals enough features to make your heart skip a beat, but add the full blown macro magnifications and it’s like you’re staring at creature from a bad B-Horror movie.  So there I was laying the ground taking pictures of this spider when a large moth dropped out of nowhere in striking distance from a natural predator.

This might get very interesting.  Both subjects remained very still which might have been due to my presence potentially interfering in the survival of the fittest experiment.  The small macro depth made it difficult to get both creatures in focus but it did create a nice effect.  (Yes, I had to manually fix the moth due to pet eye, but for my first attempt ever at it Photoshop it turned out pretty good).  After about 10 shots, there still wasn’t any movement between the two.  It reminded me of an Old West quick-draw, each waiting for the other to flinch.  Low and behold, another visitor showed up to take part.

The first thing that came to mind was the Mexican standoff from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Unlike the Eastwood show, only one of these competitors had a loaded gun in terms of a bite and venom.  Now I am officially way beyond the  field depth for an eye level view so I moved up higher in an attempt to bring a little more focus into the shot.  The Opilione (or as we call them around here – Daddy Long Legs)  and Moth are still on the wrong end of this fight for survival, unless they can team up – maybe the moth does a 360 maneuver to land on top of the spider while the Harvestmen (another common name for the Opilione) pokes the spider’s eyes out with its long legs.  Although this might be more difficult that choreographed since the Harvestmen can’t make out images with their eyes and thus have to use the second set of legs as antennae to navigate the world.  Come for the pictures leave with trivia – what a deal!

By the way, I generally try to provide some reference for size since the macro has the ability to distort reality.  There was no way I was going to stick my finger in that mess.  Instead I tried to get the old standby penny visual in, but even that proved difficult due to my reluctance to get real close to the wolf spider.  Here is the best I could do … sorry!

I have a lot more pictures of our eight legged friends after the jump (if you dare)- most of them have the more traditional macro shots showing them up close and personal.

Continue reading Night Dwellers Part 3 – The Big, The Hairy and The Scary

A New Checkmark for the Birding List

As a note, I highly recommend checking out this particular set of pictures on our SmugMug page at http://eddiesoft.smugmg.com.  The reason for this is the required size reduction for this blog really takes away from the detail and coloring found on the full sized shots up on smug – you can pick any size you want to view by putting your cursor inside the border for the picture and picking from the menu that comes up on the right.

Today is the true unveiling of the capability of The Beast.  We took it out one morning to see what we could find.  For the most part, our attempts to capture some interesting sunrises fell short.  A few of our favorite locations were either weak with color or there was nothing real interesting going on in the cloud front (trust me, sunrise pictures without anything to add to the composition are pretty boring.  Striking out there, we headed over to Jubilee Park to see what kind of wildlife was out and about.  That ended up being a great shoot, but more about that in another post.  I was elated that we didn’t come away empty handed and was feeling pretty good about the outing as we drove the short distance back to home.  That’s when the day turned from great to awesome.  It is a fact I am always looking around for any interesting wildlife.  To my surprise, this little guy was busy running alongside the road!

What luck.  Not only have I not been able to capture this particular bird on camera yet, but The Beast was already attached to the camera.  I quickly yelled out our code word for “Stop the car I see something worth taking a picture” (yes, we have a secret code for that since the time it would take to say all that could spoil the whole shot).  In immediate recognition of the command, Linda pulled to the side of the road and I brought The Beast into firing position through the open car window.  The added stability of the car frame to rest the camera on turned out to be a big plus.  This was the first outing with the big glass so there was some quick learning going on to figure out how to get the focus points where I wanted on a moving animal.  The size of the glass barrel may have alarmed it a bit since it tried to keep an eye on me as it ran around in the tall grass.

Again, it is hard to really see the detail in the small pictures here, but a quick crop should give you an idea of how pleased I was with the results.  Nice to know this huge investment pays off when it comes to the quality of the glass and the ability to get close enough to wildlife to see this level of eye detail. For the record, this is a Ring-Necked Pheasant for those keeping track and more importantly, a new check mark in the bird shot list.

Hit the jump to see even more pictures of this bird and more examples of the clarity the big glass brings to the table.

Continue reading A New Checkmark for the Birding List

When Man and Nature Collide

looking back, I have probably shot at least a thousand birds over my life.  Luckily for my winged friends (with the exception of two) these shots have all been with a shutter release and not with projectiles.  However, I must confess that indirectly I have shortened the life of a few.  Call me a softie, but this always saddens me a little when I think about how much pleasure I get from watching them gather around my feeders.  The irony of it all is that the feeders are often the catalyst for their accidental demise.  To fully experience living in the country, we architected our house to provide nice views into the surrounding woods.  This translated into a large amount of glass, the evil nemesis of all Aves.  Every once in awhile we hear a loud bang in the living room.  Being familiar with the common cause of this startling noise, I reluctantly head towards the windows.  Inevitably, this is the typical scene:

A perfectly good bird cut down by the magic of sand and a small cavity for brain matter.  Actually, I’ve seen humans walk into glass doors as well, so not sure how much the brain size plays into this particular situation.  By a general rule of thumb, the survival rate is directly proportional to the volume of the impact.  Through extensive trial and error, I’ve been able to improve this rate at least a little bit.  The success is dependent on how quick you can come to the aid of the injured bird.   Upon impact, the bird often loses consciousness and drops backwards onto the porch – the reasoning behind this still needs further research.  If the bird doesn’t snap it’s neck, it will show signs of convulsions both with fluttering wings and spastic feet.  This is exactly the state I found the bird pictured above (note I had the camera in my hand already taking pictures of some other subjects).  If you can get to the bird in this state, you must immediately flip it back over on its feet/belly.  If you leave it upside down, it will die every time (my apologies to all the failed experiments before this was figured out).  Kind of reminds me of my mode of operation with my drunk friends in college, but let’s stay on topic.

Hit the jump for some good news!

Continue reading When Man and Nature Collide

A Surprise Thrashing

Since the moment we started building our house in the woods, I’ve been busy taking photos of all the birds that drop by from time to time.  After awhile the diversity of species begins to fade as the same bird types tend to inhabit the same area year after year.  Some become so familiar that their tiny imperfections allow you to actually give them names.  Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy taking their pictures – if nothing else, the light settings and perch choices are always unique so there is always a challenge.  The main point of mentioning this is it makes new arrivals a big deal around here.  As soon as I spot a new bird type, I scramble for the camera in the hopes of getting a least some sort of picture to capture the moment (and to have proof for adding another check to my watch list).   As you can probably guess, I spotted a new bird to the homestead a few days ago.  Luckily, I was able to get a few shots.  As with all my pictures, the full versions can be seen on our Photography site at eddiesoft.smugmug.com. If you go there, you can view them at any size you want up to the original size (note, I always use medium for images in this blog).

So, after dinner I looked out and noticed a strange bird a ways out from the house.  Immediately thinking this might be a new find, I grabbed the closest camera (D7000) and headed out to the porch in hopes of snapping a few shots.  Our Beast was not currently on this particular camera having stored it away after our last photo shoot.  Luckily, the 80-200 glass was attached giving me some reach into the yard.

I was fighting the light going down as well trying to steady myself while hand holding the camera – must have been all the excitement of the chance to capture a new bird.  On full manual, I had to bump the ISO up to 800 for most of the shots in order to get the shutter speed I needed to help compensate for my shaky hands.  The shot above is a full shot giving you some perspective of the distance I was dealing with (this was at full 200mm I believe).  As you learn pretty quick taking bird pictures, any distance at all causes that bird to appear pretty small.  However, with the power of crop, we can take you a little closer in.

Hit the jump to see a lot more (and better) pictures of my feathered friend.

Continue reading A Surprise Thrashing

So Big They Have Two Names

This is your heart … Thump …….. Thump……….. Thump ………… Thump ………… Thump. This is your heart when the month is nearly over and you have not met your blog quota ..Thump.Thump.Thump.Thump.Thump. Good thing a Boy Scout is always prepared (and for the record, by Boy Scout I mean the one month I actually lasted in that organization but hey, something sunk in.. that and hitch knots). Today’s subject is one of those animals you tend to stand there in awe over.  Are they capable of blinding speed, gifted jumping abilities or possibly grace in the water or sky? Not so much. To be honest I think it tends to bring back memories of our country’s heritage, a reminder of our past both good and bad.

If you are from the heartlands of America (with a slight lean to the West), you will recognize this animal as the Bison or the Buffalo depending on your history books. These hoofed animals are simply huge and can be seen quite far away as they move their bulk around the grasslands. These shots were actually taken at our local Wildlife Prairie Park (Edwards, Illinois) featuring animals historically native to the great plains.

Linda and I watched this particular animal stroll in from afar. It didn’t take us long to figure out the reason for soon after spotting it, we noticed the park workers spreading out the grain to our right. Another fine example of Pavlovian Training.  I have no idea how many times they eat a week, but clearly the number of buckets they were spreading around was not sufficient enough to fill up this guy, much less the rest of the herd that was following a little behind.  The next time I am at the park I’ll try to hunt someone down that can give me the full story on their eating habits.  It is possible this is just done as a treat to bring them closer to the public and the real feeding happens out in the back fields.  I’ll let you know what I find out.

One of my observations from numerous encounters while visiting the park and on various vacations out West is how calming these animals are. They never seem to be concerned about anything and go about their business pretty much oblivious to their surroundings. This is likely due to their size relative to their competing food chains, but those horns might make a few of the more aggressive predators a little squeamish. This doesn’t mean they are not keeping an eye on you.

Okay, sometimes they have to squint a little … but they are still open enough to size up your scrawny body. Oh, I just remembered one amazing scene we experience out in Yellowstone a couple of years ago. Linda and I were out on a trail snapping some pictures of elk and and few Bison that happened to be shading themselves under a grove of trees. All of sudden I heard a commotion in the parking lot several hundred feet away. Eventually I pinpointed the source. A huge buffalo was actually running across the parking lot somehow dodging the incoming cars and avoiding the parked one. Definitely not gazelle speed, but they can get moving far faster than previously expected. Just imagine that bulk moving at you… yikes, let’s hope they keep that docile gene.

They next time you have the pleasure of encountering one of these majestic creatures, take a few minutes to just enjoy the moment. Yes, I know they were a victim of America’s advancement and there is absolutely nothing you or I can do to change the past. Instead focus on the proud heritage of the creature and what it has come to stand for.  A great representation of how proud we are to call America our home.

And if you have a differing opinion of our country…. well, I can’t say it any better than this:

Know Thy Enemy

My mini vacation from blogging duties has come to its end. Truth be told, I have not written a new blog entry since January. Thanks to the scheduling capabilities in WordPress I was able to write all 6 of the February posts in January and simply queue them up for release at various times throughout the month. I even added an additional book recollection post to kick off the March posts just in case I did not get back in the swing of things in time. Enough slacking, it’s time to get back into the groove. The good news is the blogging downtime was filled with working on the photo backlog. While hunting for the Maine vacation pictures I stumbled on a set of Wildlife Prairie Park pictures we took last year. Those turned out pretty nice so I figured you might want to see some of them. This particular set focuses on an animal that is not one of my favorites.

For the city dwellers, this specimen before you comes from the coyote family. Unfortunately, I do not remember the specific species, but will make a point to track that down the next time we visit Wildlife Prairie Park. One might be under the impression that I as an avid Wolf enthusiast would have an equal affinity to these particular animals. This likely due to them both having four paws, a tail, tend to group in packs and have other similar canine features. If you happen believe this, it is my sad obligation to inform you that you are wrong. There are a few outward differences, the main one being stature. Wolves are generally much larger than coyotes and their legs tend to be longer relative to their overall body size (this is actually my first indicator when trying to distinguish the two).

To see the rest of the coyote collection, just hit the jump

Continue reading Know Thy Enemy

Phoadtography Gallery: Maine Trip 2010 Pt 1

This year is quickly coming to a close, but the blog queue is still deep with 2010 photo collections.  I try to keep it fresh and maintain a balance of photos, interesting viewpoints, service complaints/rants and things that make me go huh?  Linda and I were lucky enough to go on some pretty nice trips this year which means our hard drives have been riddled with photos this year.  It is far easier to make comments on things if they are still in short term memory so rather than push this off to next year, let’s go ahead and dump the Phoadtography collection from the Maine trip we took in June.  There are a lot of them so be warned, your browser cache is going to get a workout.  For sanity purposes (yours and mine) this post will actually be a two parter.  For those who don’t know what Phoadtography is please check out my previous post… especially if you are preparing to unleash your fury on how bad some of these shots ended up being.

Starting off this set is every kid’s favorite toys and more importantly, the machines that pay both our salaries.  Guessing due to the stimulus money (that actually got spent on job creating projects), we encountered a lot of construction on our way out and back to Maine.  Most travelers probably cuss the slow downs and stoppages, but in the case of my wife and I the sound of Caterpillar machines in motion is music to our ears.  As mentioned in the introduction Cat machines are always a good target for Phoadtography shots.  This vehicle is one of our articulated trucks that, if I remember correctly, are produced in Waco TX.

Pretty cool machine if I say so myself.  Hit the jump to see the rest of the pictures in this post.

Continue reading Phoadtography Gallery: Maine Trip 2010 Pt 1