The occasional high tide floods the marshes next to the Kennebunk Bridle Path and, as the water swirls off the Marsh as the tide falls, it leaves the marsh grasses in an interesting tosseled wave pattern. Right now the marsh Grass is as tall as I have ever seen it…fully living up to it’s local name of "salt hay", so the patterns are particularly bold. I zoomed out some on the Canon SX40HS to frame this section with the diagonal of the slightly higher, dryer ground. The reddish color there is shorter beach type grass and heather.
Canon SX40HS in Program with – 1 /3EV exposure compensation. 65mm equivalent field of view. f4 @ 1/500th @ ISO 100. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness. Reprocessed on my Xoom Tablet in PicSay Pro for HDR effect.
Nature red in tooth and claw! This is a Twelve Spotted Skimmer devouring what might be an Eldeberry Borer…a smaller beetle at any rate. The 12 Spots are the most present Odonata species in Southern Maine this year. They have been flying more than 2 months now, they are everywhere there is even a large puddle, they are big enough so you can’t miss them, and they are supper aggressive…chasing and driving off all other dragonflies from their patch (or attempting to). And as perch hunters, they are relatively easy to photograph. They spend at least a third of their time hung up on a branch or reed that gives them, and therefore me, a good view.
This one zipped by me at eyelevel and landed on a bush about 4 feet from me. I have hundreds of photos of 12 Spots from this year alone, but I figured I had better shoot it as it was so cooperative. Only when I got the camera up and focused did I see that it was devouring prey. You could almost hear the mandibles click. While it is a bad moment for the beetle, it was a very good moment for the dragonfly.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. 1680mm equivalent (with the 2x digital tel-converter function). f5.8 @ 1/500th @ISO 200. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Down at the ponds on Back Creek yesterday on my photoprowl, there were lots of Northern Spreadwings, and several mating pairs. It was a still day, with subdued light..patches of sun but mostly clouds…waiting for a font to arrive…and the reflections on the pond were lovely. There is a lot going on in this image. The surface tension dimples around the stems of the delicate yellow flowers are fascinating. I think the deep one under the damselflies is caused by the weight of the flies on the adjacent stem. Their weight is pushing water “up” the stem and it is flowing into the dimple next to it, forming a small vortex with is pulling the dimple deeper. That is my theory anyway. Whatever is causing the effect, it adds visual interest and beauty to the image.
Then, of course, you have the damselflies themselves, perfectly mirrored in the still water for a shape that is simple in its apparent complexity…once the eye sorts it out. Finally you have the surface of the water, laced with what might be spider webs, or lines of pollen, or underwater vegetation…whatever…they add texture to pale silver-blue and delight the eye. All in all, this is an image I could look at a long time.
It is not perfect. It was taken at the full reach of my SX40HS…1680mm equivalent, with the digital assist of the 2x tel-converter function. The digital tel-converter works really well on highly detailed subjects like birds or close-ups of dragonflies…but when, as here, you have large areas with little detail, the digital artifacts are fairly apparent. I used some noise reduction in Lightroom, but if you were to blow the image up too large it would basically fall apart. Too large is say, to fill a 24 inch screen or larger, or to make a print at 11×14 or larger. I know the limits of my camera…but still…I would not have gotten the image at all with any other rig (can you see me on my electric scooter with DSLR and enough lens to reach this shot?). I might have come close with a very heavy crop, but that would have left me with about the same image quality. So I am happy to view the image at “regular” sizes and enjoy.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. 1680mm equivalent. f5.8 @ 1/640th @ ISO 400. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness. And I did crop it for composition and apply the noise reduction.
And for the Sunday thought:
I never took as many local images as I have since starting my Pic 4 Today blog, can it be…four and a half years ago…and I have never worked my local patch as hard as I have these past months when I am on “travel restriction” in my job…all my summer trips are canceled. If I want to take pics, it has to be fairly close to home. And on my electric scooter (my primary photoprowl transport in this summer of car complications) with its range of 10-12 miles round-trip, and I find myself visiting a few local locations over and over…and enjoying it. It is surprising the range of photographic interest such a small radius around my home can provide. I am loving it.
My fairly recent interest in photographing Odonata has helped, of course. It gives me motivation to go back to the ponds today, since there may be new dragonflies and damseflies that were just not there yesterday. But the real delight is finding images like this one…that transcend the subject to create a thing of beauty in itself. It might be the grand landscape of the Kennebunk Plains under stacked cumulous clouds, or it might be the patterns the high tide as made of the tall marsh grass, or it might be a Song Sparrow on a branch with a bug…or it could be pair of mating spreadwing damselflies reflected in a pond…but just about every day I find one image that makes me say “I love that!” That image touches my center of delight. You see there, I have just defined at least the surface level of love. We love what delights us.
Of course, we know that beyond delight, love must move us to commitment…to commitment to the good of what delights us. Love that does not move us to serve and preserve what delights us, is not love. Ultimately love that does not move us to delight even in the unlovely is not love, according to the best example we have been set in God. Hence the question mark in the title today. It is a challenge as much to me as anyone else, and, honestly, an open question in my life. Is it love? Is that what I see in Northern Spreadwings reflected in a pond. Is that what I am finding as I work my local patch these days?
Time will tell.
What we have here, I think, is a triple treat. The Song Sparrow is eating a Katydid, who in turn had just captured some kind of beetle in the larger Lady Bug family. The food chain in action! I have provided a link under the image (click it) so that you can view the image at larger size of blow it up. Be warned. It was taken at full zoom on the Canon SX40HS and with the 2x digital tel-converter function, so there is a limit to the detail available. Still an interesting image I think.
As above, Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. f5.8 @ 1/320th @ ISO 160. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Continuing the theme of bugs on buds and blooms, here we have an Northern Sawfly on Northern Blazing Star, again from my photoprowl to the Kennebunk Plains last Saturday. Blazing Star is a thistle like flower, and begins life as a tightly furled bud that has to remind you of artichokes if only artichokes were purple. I like the contrast of the bug with its hard bright striped shell, and the emerging softness of the flower, but what really makes the image work, I think, is the bokeh…that lovely pattern of greeny yellow out of focus behind the flower. That is the advantage of an extreme telephoto macro…this shot is at 1680mm equivalent field of view…though the actual focal length is a more reasonable 150mm.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. As above. f5.8 @ 1/400th @ ISO 125. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Sometimes you just have to be fast (as well as in the right place at the right time). I saw this Pearly Crescent fluttering around and thought to myself, even though I have lots of pics of Pearly Crescents, if it lands on that Sunflower I will take the shot. It did, and my camera was half way up. I had to back off on the zoom for the framing. I got the shot only a second before the butterfly moved on. Sometimes you just have to be fast.
This is another shot from my Saturday, electric scooter powered, photoprowl at the Kennebunk Plains. The Sunflowers were growing wild down at the pond on Nature Conservancy property on the back edge of the Plains, where I also found a few dragonflies.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. 856mm equivalent field of view. f5.8 @ 1/200th @ ISO 100. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
This image is only…can only be…a tease to get you to open it the full width on your screen. Click the image and it will open in the Smugmug lightbox on my WideEyedInWonder site, automatically resized to make the most of your machine.
This is another shot that depends on the amazing skies we have been having in Southern Maine this July. When I got to the Plains on Saturday (see Northern Broken-dash on Northern Blazing Star) these clouds were barely peaking up over the western horizon. Two hours later this was the scene. If you need further incentive to view the image large, it only really works that way. Here, where the foreground detail is obscured by the size, the image is too static, with the horizon splitting the fame. If you view it full sized though you will see that the rich detail of the plain makes it a much more balanced, and dynamic, composition. Just saying.
This is almost 180 degrees. If I am facing straight ahead in the center, I have to turn almost full right and full left to photograph the far edges. It is, therefore, what our naked eye would see, if we looked at things that way (and if our view were rectangular
Four 24mm equivalent frames from the Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. Blended in PhotoMerge in PhotoShop Elements 10. I cloned out a sign that filled the lower left corner. Final processing in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
We have been having some amazing skies lately. This is from a Saturday afternoon/evening photoprowl along the Kennebunk Bridle Path. The Heather is coming into bloom in the wet salt-marshes and on the dunes along the shore. This was an experimental shot, to see if I could catch the sky in sharp enough focus to work with the close-up of the plant.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. 24mm equivalent field of view. f4 @ 1/1250th @ IS) 160.
Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
The last week or so, White-faced Meadowhawks have been protecting territory along the edge of Factory to Pasture Pond. There are quite a few there, each male with its 5 feet of brush and shoreline. They get into little tiffs where territories touch…the males facing off in aggressive spiral flights, almost too fast for the eye to follow.
The Meadowhawks are smaller members of the larger Skimmer family and there are quite a few possible in Southern Maine. The White-faced is one of three bright red Meadowhawks, which differ primarily in the color of the face. The Cherry-faced has a slight red tinge to the face, while the Ruby tends toward a tan color. Other than that they are pretty hard to tell apart. I suspect I have a shot of a Cherry in amongst my White-faced shots, as I remember seeing a darker face, but I have not found it yet It is certainly not among the images I have processed so far.
Second image is the female of the species, and what all the fuss is about among the males.
Then we have one from above, and one side on. The last shot was taken along the edge of the pond that is forested, so the Meadowhawks seem to establish territory even in taller trees.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. Shots at 1240 and 1680mm equivalent field of view using the full optical zoom, and either 1.5x or 2x digital tel-converter function. f5.8 @ 1/200th @ ISO 800, 320, 320, and 100.
Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
My little electric scooter and I took our longest trip to date yesterday…from the house to the Kennebunk Plains, about 13 miles round-trip. That is the absolute limits of its range, at least up and down hill and carrying my considerable weight. I got back under power, but I was down to about 8 mph at the end.
I wanted to try for the Plains in part to test the limits of the scooter, but, of course, in part to see what was happening on the Plains. I have written about the Plains before, but essentially they are sand plains, kept open as kind of tall grass prairie, well out of place in forested Southern Maine, by a combination of natural wildfire (now managed) and soil conditions, and home to several endangered species. Grasshopper Sparrow, Clay-collared Sparrow, and Upland Sandpiper all reach range limits on the Plains, but it was first protected, by the Nature Conservancy, because of the presence of the Northern Blackracer snake and Northern Blazing Star wildflower. Management and ownership of most of the property has now been turned over to the State of Maine, and lumped together into a larger conservation area that embraces almost all of the habitat.
The area where Route 99 crosses is known locally as the Blueberry Plains, and it is still about the only place in Southern Maine where you can fill a bucket with wild low-bush blueberries. Picking is allowed during the month of August, but I saw a few people (who apparently believe that the law does not apply to them) picking yesterday. These early berries are supposed to be for the wildlife. Of course maybe these folks just did not read the numerous signs to that effect.
The Northern Blazing Star was just coming into bloom yesterday, but I could see that the show should be spectacular in another week or two. Lots of plants, tall and well grown, covered in buds about to open. The one in the image is only about half open, but already it had attracted a Northern Broken-dash Skipper, who was extracting nectar…sipping nectar…from down deep in the flower.
The other thing I was looking for, of course, was dragonflies. There were a few, but they were flying high yesterday and not perching. I did hike down to the pond on the backside of the Plains along Cold Brook, where I found a female Common Whitetail (a first for me, and pictured here) and a newly emerged Widow Skimmer, along with a few Ebony Jewelwings haunting the stream where it leaves the pond.
The most common Odo at the Plains yesterday was some kind of female (I think) damselfly of the Bluet variety. The female bluets are mostly all similar enough so it is not safe to make an id without a specimen in hand, and way more knowledge than I have.
And we will return to the Blazing Star for the final image. This one with one of the smallest metallic bees (or hover fly maybe) that I have ever seen.
I will, of course, be going back to the Plains some Saturday or Sunday afternoon soon, to catch more of the Blazing Star show, and maybe find a few perched Meadowhawks. but for now, the Sunday Thought:
My tag line on Google+ is “kind of walking the line where technology and spirituality meet”. By that I mean that I am pretty much a geek when it comes to technology. I like camera tech, computer tech, tablet tech, phone tech, and even electric scooter tech. I want stuff that works…and it has to work because, maybe beyond geekdom, I actually do use the tech. I take pictures and video, I record sounds, I write words…I process the same on the computer…I show it off on my tablet…I tell people about it on computer, tablet and phone. And I get to the places, these days, at least locally, on my electric scooter. So I am geek who actually uses the tech for what it was made to do.
But way beyond that, nothing I do is complete until it is shared. Yes I show my stuff to friends and family, but I also blog (here and elsewhere), I twitter, I Facebook, I Google+. To me the miracle of modern technology is how easy it makes it to both create and share content…to catch your bit of the world and life, make a bit of meaning out of it, and broadcast it to a, relatively speaking, wide audience. Almost 27,000 people have me in circles on Google+. That is a small number compared to the super-stars of the internet, but it is a huge number compared to the number of people I could have touched even 10 years ago (without being noticeably rich, famous, or powerful).
And that is where the spirituality comes in. It is, I am certain, a spiritual act to catch your bit of the world and life, and to make a bit of meaning out of it. It is, I am certain, a spiritual act to share whatever meaning we make. And, for me, the more I share, the more certain I become that there is only one Spirit that gives meaning to all of us, and that my only value in life or in the world, comes from touching that Spirit, and sharing that Spirit. Personally, my experience has lead me to identify that Spirit with what most of us call God, and specifically with the God of love who we know, who we can come to know, in Jesus Christ. That is my experience, and, for me, it gives a whole new layer of meaning to what I make of the world and life.
So I take a moment, each Sunday, as I continue my walk along the line where technology and spirituality meet, to celebrate the Spirit that moves us all…with digital images and word-processed words…on a computer, through the internet, and out to you…so you can experience a bit of the meaning I made of a Northern Broken-dash Skipper sipping nectar from a Northern Blazing Star on the Kennebunk Plains.