Blaze of glory

A summer that at times hardly felt like its promise of heat and humidity is starting to wind down.  Erratic trees are showing signs of fall colors, flowers are blossoming out as if for one last fling, migratory birds are grazing continuously as if on a time clock counting down to the trip south.  Across it all the colors of summer are brilliant.

All images around Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin.

Side of the road – someone sharing job

Pending summer end

Lunch

Passing through toward south

Waiting for a bee

Purple veil

More fun from a distance

I keep returning to Horicon Marsh searching for a whooping crane.  Now that I’ve got the gear to reach out and touch this rarely seen bird, he seems to be avoiding me.  Just have to keep it up, I guess.

Not that the time there is a waste.  I’m learning more about the terrain, the roads, the wildlife.  Seems the swifts that hang around one of the viewing stands are starting to get used to me.  Not that they are any happier about my presence.

My photography colleague Steve Russell is building quite a portfolio of macro images – you should take a look the result of his effort.  His technique is usually the traditional approach – macro lens, solid tripod, lots of patience to get the subject framed and exposed to his liking.  I’m not as good as Steve at getting close nor as patient to wait for the right moment.  Fortunately with my 300mm lens I can stand back and fill the frame.  Great for getting tight with a subject you can’t easily get to.

Sure, I could have been like Steve and gotten to this with a macro lens but it would have meant wading through a foot of marsh whereas I was able to stand on the boardwalk and get just as close as I wanted.  Like I said, Steve is better at this than me.

The swifts are an interesting crowd.  They zip around the boardwalk chasing each other (or invisible insects) all the while chatting about something.  For a break, they sit on the rope banister for the boardwalk and chat with each other.  Must be lots of gossip to keep up with in the marsh.

At the other end of the activity scale are the egrets and herons.  Patiently waiting for the right snack to appear, not getting in a rush for anything.  It seems they even take their time talking with each other.  Maybe they are sticklers for using just the right sentence structure or word choice.

The marsh serves as a very large nursery each year, as parents raise kids to be a part of the huge avian world.  This time of year the youngsters are showing some post-adolescent plumage as they look forward to following their parents south to escape the chill that will cover the marsh with ice and snow.  This young sandhill crane, not yet with his red skullcap, is strolling through the fields with mom and dad.

With so much to see there are opportunities for a little abstract, countering the soft, rounded edges of the marsh with man’s insistence on linear and angular.

I’m very pleased with the performance of this lens – it stretches me to be a better photographer for composition, exposure, focus and storytelling.

Surprise – there’s more there

I’m continuing to learn the capabilities of my 300mm lens, specifically how to capitalize on the sharpness.  A long lens take practice to “dial-in” as far as technique to use it at the limits of its design.  I know a few things to look out for and am learning more about set-up and handling.  Still, even with my novice skills I get surprised.

While sitting in a marsh recently waiting for waterfowl to come by I practiced focusing on this guy:

Red-winged Blackbird

Seemed like the image turned out pretty good so while in Lightroom I zoomed in to see how much detail I could find in the bird.  That’s when I noticed this:

What are all those spots?  I thought, “Oh no, the lens has something inside it” before realizing anything in the lens wouldn’t show up for the most part.  I zoomed in a little closer and discovered these are small flies hanging around this tree.  Which is probably why the bird was hanging around as well.

This is one of the aspects I really enjoy with telephoto lenses.  You get your image downloaded and starting looking it over only to discover there are elements in the picture you didn’t see.  Lots of fun.  Especially when things are sharp enough to make sense of them.

So I discovered the lens is sharper than I expected, something to keep in mind while reaching out to pull in a subject in the distance.

Urban planning

In your past did you take things apart just to see what’s inside?

LG Cosmos cellphone

This is the guts of a small cellphone, a slider version with a real keyboard.  All these electronics packed into a space about the size of a deck of cards.  Enabling near-instant communication with the world.  What will this look like in 20 years?

Is it a coincidence we build at the micro scale much as the macro scale?  Is there some most efficient form of construction that we are biased toward?  I noticed how this cellphone is laid out very similar to the industrial section of many cities.

Flying into cities and viewing the assortment of buildings and roads has always fascinated me.  Is there a plan, a pattern, a model that drives us to assemble areas in that fashion?  And do we mimic that in the tiny world of personal electronics.  I look at the image above, ignoring the obvious signs of microelectronics, and I see warehouses, roads, parking lots.

Fly into Silicon Valley and you’ll see names on the roofs of office buildings and distribution centers, proclaiming proudly the companies they house.  Surrounding them are acres of cars, surrounded by even more buildings and roadways.

Large buildings connected to smaller buildings, all in service to the people who own the cars surrounding them.  Communication paths for people and vehicles, mirrored in the infrastructure of fiber cables and wireless towers.I’m speculating in 20 years science and technology will have discovered means of creating personal electronics at an even smaller level, reducing what is seen here to the size seen in the structure of microprocessors.  I’m also speculating that will good microscopes (or the cameras of the day!) viewing these incredibly tiny creations will reveal they continue to mimic what we see around us in the urban landscape.

Idealistic planners press for more greenspace, more walking paths, less reliance on automobiles and crowded housing structures.  Yet the developers who drive urban construction continue to default with this layout.

Are we as a race so organized?  Or is there some other force prodding our thinking and planning to this end?

What would a more organic approach look like?

Marsh scenes – summer

Continuing to learn how to get best results from a 300mm lens I recently bought.  The Horicon marsh north of us is one of the best places around to see a variety of birds and scenery so I wandered around a bit to see what I could practice on.  Most of the images below are cropped from a larger composition.  Where I used it best, the lens is sharp enough to allow significant cropping and still render detail.  Great when the subjects you want simply refuse to get any closer.

Great Egret

This bird appears to have been resting from a feeding session in the marsh just below the tree.  I was able to get closer by creeping up behind other trees and shooting through open spots in the leaves.

Sandhill crane and red-winged blackbird

Earlier I was walking a dike with a small cloud of red-winged blackbirds around me, all screaming warnings to everything within hearing distance.  Experiencing that I realized they are pretty bold but didn’t realize what they would take on.  A pair of sandhill cranes were slowly feeding across a shallow marsh when they wandered into the nesting area of a group of blackbirds.  At least a half-dozen of the blackbirds were swooping around them, driving them away.  The most effective method seemed to be landing on the crane’s butt and screaming at it, like the one above.

Swallows

The swallow on the left was patiently waiting on the right one for something.  As the cleaning proceeded past the limit of the left one’s patience it reached out and grabbed the other’s wing.  That got attention.

Mallard family

Families are growing this spring, as parents have just a few months to train the kids on survival and migration.

Lily still life

Before the wind gets up there are nice opportunities for some quiet scenes.

Egret hunting party

This group of egrets slowing moved across this small marsh, vacuuming up fish, frogs and other aquatic life.

Muskrat

He appears to be gathering moss or reeds since he’s carrying a clump in his mouth as he makes his way back to a small island of cattails.

Great egret

Always good in a portrait session to have shots from both sides.

Spring redux

Summer green has set in strongly now, replacing the spring flowers with lush foliage.  Saw some flowers at the store the other day and decided to capture some of the seasonal color.  Tried a little light painting to give the look I wanted.  Technique works really well on these type flowers with all the textures and bold colors.