Morning Glory

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I went to the kitchen yesterday morning for my tea, and was confronted by this in the backyard. Glory! I ran for the camera and snuck out on the back deck, still in my bathrobe, to catch a few shots. It was just the right combination of color, mist, and sun to make magic…to strike glory in the backyard. :)

Sony HX400V. In-camera HDR. Processed in Adobe Express on my new Surface Pro tablet.

Flower Crab Spider on Blazing Star

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When I checked the Blazing Star bloom after getting back form a week in Tucson, it was looking well past prime. There were still flowers in bloom, but they were smaller, and somehow drier, than the week before. I was on my way back to the scooter when this well posed Flower Crab Spider caught my eye. I might not have seen it but I was pretty much checking every remaining bloom for Clearwing Moths, since I had a fleeting glimpse of one taking nectar at a flower just before heading back. Serendipity! I am still amazed by this particular color contrast.

I love just being able to zoom in for a macro like this with the Sony HX400V. At 80mm or so you can get to less than 5cm. As it was I only got the one shot before the spider scuttled down over the shady side of the blossom. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

Art Shot. Black-tipped Darner. Happy Sunday!

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I photograph dragonflies for two reasons: 1) as an alternative to capture so I can learn identification of the hundreds of species that occur in the places I travel in the course of a year, and 2) because they are, or most of them are, in my opinion, beautiful. Actually there is a third reason: because I can! The long zoom range on the superzoom Point & Shoot Cameras that I carry make it possible to frame the creatures for both identification and appreciation of their beauty…making an opportunity of every reasonable momentary perch, and without getting close enough to startle them away. An intimate shot, an art shot like this of a Black-tipped Darner, taken from as close as I could physically get, which was still between 10 and 12 feet away, would not be possible without the 2400mm reach of the long zoom (equivalent field of view). And anything less, in my opinion, would not do full justice to the beauty of the dragonfly. The art shot.

Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view (1200mm optical plus 2x digital Perfect Image zoom). Processed for HDR effect in Snapseed on my tablet.

And for the Sunday Thought. This shot is from a Friday afternoon visit to Emmons Preserve on my scooter. When I got there I could see the dragons in the air over the meadow behind the Conservation Trust building. Lots of Darners in flight. I like to see lots of Darners, but the fact that they were still actively hunting did not immediately promise many photo ops…and indeed I was convinced I would not find anything to photograph by the end of my first full loop of the meadows trails. It happens.

Photographing dragonflies is a work of faith. Faith is the only thing you have when circumstances are so clearly out of your control. You might be able to pish a reluctant bird to a better perch for photography by making the sounds of other birds harrassing a predator, but there is no way…short of catching it, cooling it, and posing it…of convincing a dragonfly to perch and pose. I do not do the catch and pose thing. (For one thing I do not want to carry ice into the field.) And besides, most days I enjoy exercising my faith.

This day for whatever reason my faith was flagging. By the end of that first loop I was thinking that I was waisting my time, and an hour on the scooter to boot. And then, of course, in a little alcove in the brush and trees surrounding the meadow, made warm by the slanting afternoon sun, I caught my first Darner perching. It only landed for a moment…right behind a Great Spangled Fritillery I was already photographing as it happens…so I was both able and only able to get off a single shot. I had been headed back for the scooter, but this single bit of evidence made me think that maybe the other dragons might be ready to rest. I thought about similar sunny alcoves around the meadows, especially in the meadows beyond the woods to the south of the Trust building which I had not yet checked. Worth a try. I was already there after all.

There were few dragons in the further meadow. My faith took another hit. But then I caught a glimpse of at least three large dragons patrolling the mown grassy lawn the Trust maintains for some reason in a clearing surrounded by big Pines off the overgrown meadow. Half the clearing was in shadow from the Pines, but half, and the wide border of brush and the taller trees along one side, were still in sun, and the dragons were limiting their flights to the sunny area. I went in and stood where they were flying. They paid me no attention…just one more obstacle to maneuver around…and soon I was rewarded when one perched long enough for some photos. It was beyond that wide border in the taller trees, but just in reach of the long zoom. I stayed there more than hour, and caught the Darners perched another dozen times. Oh me of little faith!

The thing about working faith, is that it ought to be constant…not dependent on circumstance. It should not require frequent bolstering by events. Sadly mine is not, and does.

Actually I am thinking there is such a thing as faith in faith. My faith in the loving creator of all might, in fact, not falter, but my faith that faith is always, in every circumstance, enough, does. My faith that the loving creator will once more, right here, right now, for unworthy me, demonstrate love by sending me what I need or want…by intervening on my undeserving behalf in the multitude of circumstances which are beyond my control yet again…that faith in faith does waver depending on my mood, and on how good I am feeling about myself. It should not! Faith has nothing to do with how good I am, and everything to do with how good God is. And yet, once more in a half-sunny clearing in the woods, God sends dragonflies and they perch to reassure me. God is good!

So I walked back once more to the original alcove where the first dragon had perched. And it landed once more, no more than 12 feet beyond the edge of the brush full in the slanting afternoon sun and sat long enough for me to take the image above. The art shot. God is good indeed! Which makes, in fact, the forth reason I photograph dragonflies.

Eastern Phoebe

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Sitting on the trailhead sign at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm in the afternoon light. The bokeh is out-of focus grass from the lawn behind. I could not have positioned the bird better if I had posed it :-)

Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view. (1200mm optical plus 2x Perfect Image digital zoom.) Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

Life Bug!

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Since beginning to photograph dragonflies seriously a few years ago, I have become much more aware of all insects…wasps, bees, and beetles will catch my eye and bring the camera into play. I am sure I have seen many new bugs in the past year, but most were wasps and bees and beetles that I might have looked at hundreds of times in the past and never given a second look. This bug however stopped me in my tracks. Not only had I never seen it…I had never seen anything remotely like it! Life Bug for sure.

Taken at Emmons Preserve in Kennebunkport ME.

It turns out it is an American Pelecinid, a wasp relative, and a female at that. Though females are apparently fairly common in late summer across a range that stretches from Central America up into Canada, males (with shorter abdomen) are so rare that it is assumed they are not needed for reproduction (which begs the question: why are there any males at all?). That ferocious looking abdomen is in fact pretty harmless…no sting…and the bug itself is not aggressive. No bother at all unless you are a scarab grub larve, in which case you could become a unwilling host to Pelecinid eggs.

Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view. ISO 80 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

Downy Woodpecker on the suet.

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The birds have been coming to the back deck feeders more frequently over the past few days. Maybe there is a lul in the native seed harvest, or they are already feeling the urge to bulk up for the cooler weather coming all too soon. The is an early morning shot, with the sun still not fully up over the trees. Though the light was challenging for photography, I like the subtle detail.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 1600 @ 1/60th @ f6.3. Processed in Snapseed and Photo Editor by dev.macgyver on my tablet.

Butterflies of August

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And late August in Maine at that. The Common Buckeye in the upper left is a late summer migrant in Maine. In fact it does not breed anywhere in New England. It wanders north seasonally. And then we have the Monarch. Monarchs have been rare in Maine this summer so far. This is maybe the third one I have seen. There is no lack of Milkweed. The fields at Laudholm Farm, where all these pics were taken, are full of ripening Milkweed pods. Just, for whatever reason, very few monarchs. Next (bottom left) we have a very worn Red-spotted Purple. Amazing that it is still flying. Finally my first Black Swallowtail of the season, though I am sure that have been flying for many weeks now. This one is certainly already showing signs of wear.

Sony HX400V at 600-1200mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Assembled in Pixlr Express.

Bug’s-eye View of Cedar Waxwing

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This is what the mild mannered Cedar Waxwing looks like if you are a bug! :-) Super predator. We have more Cedar Waxwings this summer that I have ever seen before in Southern Maine…and less Dragonflies. Do you suppose there is a connection? This one was hunting the edge of a meadow at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm yesterday afternoon. I was shooting a sequence of shots on the branch when he launched.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 80 @ 1/360th @ f6.3. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Cropped slightly for composition.

Nectar

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Great Spangled Fritillery taking nectar from a Clover flower. All business :-) I never noticed that GSFs have furry eyes until looking at this shot, and confirming it in others from yesterday. Emmons Preserve, Kennebunkport ME.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 100 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

The Blue Beyond. Happy Sunday!

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A week ago today in was still in Tucson for the Tucson Birding Festival and, since it was the last day of the festival and we were both tired out, my colleague and I made no plans to go out before the show hours. Still I walked along the river behind the hotel and, when the chance occurred, borrowed the car for a short drive to a city park that one of the locals had recommend. There was nothing much happening at the park…it was nice as parks go, but the promised birds were simply not there. There were of course Mallards, tamed by the daily proximity to the park patrons, and as I walked by one (you practically had to shoo them out of the path) I looked down into this amazing window of blue on the wing. Zoom. Snap.

Sony HX400V at about 900mm equivalent field of view. ISO 200 @ 1/250th @ f5.6. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

And for the Sunday Thought. For me the patterns of color in bird plumage, and the structure of the feathers themselves, will always be testimony to the actions of a loving creator. I simply can not believe that any sequence of random mutations could have resulted in anything as intricate and beautiful as the feathers on a Mallard duck. I can not conceive of any evolutionary advantage to the contrasting patch of blue fire that flashes when the wings are held just so…that glimpse of the pure blue beyond. Personally I find it that I am forced to consider the possibility of an intelligence behind the design…a loving intent expressing itself in feather and color…in the living being of the duck under foot. I take our ability to see and appreciate such pattern and such intent as central to who we are and to the nature of the universe we live in. It was exactly at the moment when I came to that conclusion I my life, that the Creator broke in in Jesus Christ and demanded that I consider his claims to be that intelligence, that person…the one who spoke the love in the blue beyond the structure of the universe. Honestly I resisted the idea, but when he offered me, in the simple act of opening myself to belief, whatever proof I might want, I surrendered, and he has been proving the truth of a life of faith ever since…one day at a time…speaking in every second in every circumstance…in every encounter…in the blue beyond the beautiful feathers of an apparently random semi-tame duck on a pond in Tucson AZ on a Sunday morning in August. And I have every reason to believe he will prove himself again today. And I an confident he will do the same for you if you can open yourself to believe. His love is always there, speaking in the blue beyond. Happy Sunday!