Chinese Mantis

We always called these “Praying Mantis” when I was growing up. A little research this morning tells me that we have two species in New England…European and Chinese, both introduced, and both common. The large size of the bug and length of the antennas (antenni?) make this Chinese. We found it in the lower meadows at Laudholm Farm on Saturday.  It flew in right in front of me and landed. The flight is highly distinctive and surprisingly unlike the bug when it lands. My wife did not see it land and could not find it, even though she believed me (I think) when I said it was there. :)

Sony HX400V at just over 1000mm equivalent field of view. ISO 200 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. Program with -1/3EV exposure compensation. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Orb Weaver on the Kennebunk Plains. Happy Sunday!


I got to the Kennebunk Plains and Day Brook Pond early enough this week to catch the dew on the spiderwebs, and there were some spectacular webs. :) The angle of the sun was just right to light them up. After photographing this particular web for effect, I noticed that it, unlike most of the others, was still inhabited, so I took a little detour off the path for a closer look. It is clearly some kind of Orb Weaver, but I can’t pin it down more than that. This is, to me, a very satisfying image…I love the light caught in the droplets on the web, the detail and color of the spider, and the out-of-focus landscape in the background making a horizon.

Sony HX400V at about 68mm equivalent field of view. Macro. ISO 80 @ 1/1600th @ f3.5. Program with -1/3EV exposure compensation. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

And for the Sunday Thought: I know many people have a thing about bugs, and spiders in particular. It is perhaps (as I am pretty sure has been suggested many times by better men than I) a residual fear based on the fact that some of them can hurt us, and a very few of them can kill us. Same with snakes. It seems to be more a female thing…perhaps maternal, as in protecting the helpless infants and hapless kids from all that might harm them. If it is not instinctive in males, it can certainly be learned. To really see a spider we have to sidestep that fear if it is still in us. Then too, spiders break the leg rule. They have too many legs, too many limbs. Everything we love has 4 limbs. Spiders have two extra. What’s up with that? Creepy.

On the other hand, who does not love a spider web jeweled with dew? Logic tells us that a web needs a spider, but we are not always logical…we are rarely logical when it comes to what we like and dislike, and almost never logical in what we fear.

On the other hand, the spirit compels us to view all that lives as beautiful, because it was created by a loving God, the same God that created us. The web of life should be as appealing as a spider web jeweled with dew in the morning sun, and each creature a drop on the web, refracting the pure light of creation in its own unique way. The spider has its beauty if we are willing to look closely enough. If we are willing to know spiders.

And of course, one of the things we learn to know is that a few of them can, if we do not give them their space, hurt us. We know who they are and learn to respect them, and, unless one ends up in your sleeping bag, as a Brown Recluse did in mine on a trip to Arizona, they will not bother us. The scar on my leg is a good reminder to check my sleeping bag before getting in. We learn to give all spiders, all creatures, the space they need to live. Not simply because they might be dangerous, but because they are, each one in its own way, lovely…created with love.

Happy Sunday!





Color Pocket

Continuing the theme of autumn color…which will very likely continue well into October :)…here is a little pocket of color along the edge of a pool were a small brook enters Old Falls Pond on the Mousam River. One of my readers informed me yesterday that the trees along the water’s edge are more susceptible to an early turn because the wood is saturated with water. Certainly that and the fact that cold air pools along edges and in little coves like this, accounts for much of the early color we are seeing in Southern Maine. I like the contrast here between the layers. Peat-brown water, green vegetation, golden cattails, and the greens, reds, and oranges of the small saplings.

Sony HX400V at 24mm equivalent field of view. In-camera HDR. Nominal exposure ISO 80 @ 1/250th @ f5. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Fall Impression

Autumn in New England is full of these spontaneous tapestries…accidental abstracts. These trees were across Day Brook Pond from each other, clearly effected by their position on the shore, where I have to assume the pond was just wide enough to catch and hold a pocket of colder air. Moderate tele on the zoom to compress, and Program Shift to deepen the field, puts the color in the same plain of focus, and framing the image adds the intention which lifts this from accident to art. :) Okay, so that is a bit over-the-top, but fall color always brings out the poet in me.

Sony HX400V at 122mm equivalent field of view.  Nominal exposure: ISO 80 @ 1/125th @ f6.3. In-camera HDR. Processed in Lighroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Snowy Egret

It is rare in Maine to get this close to a Snowy Egret. I have photographed them close in Florida at places like the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera and Merritt Island NWR many times. It is easy. In Maine, though, they are generally way out in the marsh, well away from any path I can walk. On Monday, I came upon a group of Snowys feeding in the marsh pools right off the observation deck on the forest boardwalk at the Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farm in Wells. Such a treat! (And while I was photographing the Egrets, a group of 15 Whimbrels flew in just beyond them!)

Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view (1200mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). ISO 80 @ 1/640th @ f6.3. Program with -1EV exposure compensation. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Green Darner Invasion!


I have never seen as many Green Darners as I have this fall. For weeks now, on a good day, you can see hundreds (probably thousands if you stayed in the right spot long enough) coming through on their way south. They come in swarms. There will be a few Wandering Gliders mixed in, and the occasional Black-saddlebags, but mostly they are all Greens. They bring out what I assume are our resident Canada and Green-striped and Black-tipped Darners to do battle over their territories, but the Mosaic Darners could be migrating with them. Hard to tell. And hard to find one of the Greens perched. I did find one male and one female that sat long enough for photos on my last trip to Laudholm Farms. This is the male.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm and 2400mm equivalent field of view. ISO 250 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. Program with -1/3 EV exposure compensation. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet. Assembled in Pixlr Express (web version).


I know it seems odd, but I have been waiting patiently for the Milkweek pods to burst. There were great fields of them at the Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farm. They have, as of yesterday, only preserved one small section below the house. The rest have been mowed before the pods could burst. It will be another week before they all ripe and ready for release, but I captured this early pod, just in case they get the mower down there in the next few days. I love the fine silky fibers and the way they catch the light. The seeds themselves have an interesting shape and texture, and the wind is always making new patterns. What is not to love?

Sony HX400V at 55mm equivalent field of view. Macro. ISO 80 @ 1/400th @ f7.1. I used Program Shift for greater depth of field. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Slender Spreadwing

The meadows at Emmons Preserve have been very good this summer and last for Odonata. Still a beginner, I have many first sightings and first photos from Emmons. I have, if memory serves, at least one other photograph of this species, but it is rare enough be just a little exciting when I get another. The total lack of pruinocity on the tip of the abdomen and its length and thinness make this almost certainly a Slender Spreadwing, and the light tips on the wings are good for that species too. :)

Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view. ISO 160 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Different Drummers. Happy Sunday!

We have had a number of Great Egrets gracing the lower Mousam River marsh this summer. The first arrived while the marsh was still covered with ice from our winter-without-end. Of course, it did end, and more Egrets joined the first. Yellowlegs, in the past few years, have been rare here in summer, but we get fair numbers stopping over on their way south. (Attracted undoubtedly by the low post-Labor-Day motel rates. :)

I like this grouping. Apparently random. Putting a frame around it, however, gives it instant significance.

Sony HX400V. 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 125 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro tablet.

And for the Sunday Thought: Two thoughts occur. One I started above with the comment about randomness and the frame. Actually I started it when I wrote the title of this post. Different Drummer is an interpretation of the image…a meaning read into it...that is certainly not intrinsic to the scene. We see a pattern in the positioning of the birds, and immediately attempt to give it meaning, or the find meaning in it, but the birds, of course, had no such intention. And, of course, that is what photography is all about. We have only the frame and limited range of manipulation of focus and exposure…but in simply putting a frame around any segment of the world, we demand that the viewer find meaning in it. We have confidence that the viewer will find meaning…because we do. It is an essential aspect of our humanity: this ability to see patterns and to find meaning in the patterns we see. More than ability…this imperative. It seems as necessary to us as breath itself.

And the second thought is in the title, in the meaning I assigned to the image. Different Drummers. It is inspired, of course, by the simple fact that the three Yellowlegs are intent to the left, while the Egret is so intent to the right. The overlap of the two birds only makes the dichotomy stand out more. And of course “Different Drummers” is a loaded phrase. Like most cliches it has a deep context, with rich set of historical cultural reference. It has an emotional burden as well. You either respond positively to those who “march to a different drummer” or you respond negatively. It is generally used to describe an acceptable, even an attractive, eccentricity. Different, but no so different as to be threatening. And certainly not aggressive…those who march to a different drummer are not in the business, or even the habit, of convincing others that they should march the same way. They are simply happy going their own way. And most of us admire that. If you are at all like me, you would be secretly pleased to counted among their number.

And for me, marching to a different drummer perfectly describes the life of faith and the faith in a loving creator, which for me is embodied in Jesus Christ. I do not choose to be different for difference sake…nor do I attempt to convince others that they should be different as I am…I simply move to the beat I hear…the beat of love and creation that is the heart of the world, of the universe, of all of space and time as I experience it. And I move so imperfectly that I am not tempted at all to expect others to follow. I know my limits. But it is okay. I hear the drum, and the drum gives rhythm and meaning to every move I make. It makes living a satisfaction, an appreciation, a celebration.

And that is something I could wish, that I could hope, for you. Happy Sunday!

Fall is Coming!

When I was out by Day Brook Pond I could not miss the first touches of fall color. I have seen a few other patches of exposed forest edge that are beginning to turn, and the temperature this morning is hovering right around the freezing mark…but we are still a few weeks out from true fall color in Southern Maine. This branch, isolated against the dark surface of the pond, is a real reminder, though, that fall is certainly coming, and coming fast.

Sony HX400V. 285mm equivalent field of view. ISO 80 @ 1/400th @ f5. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.