Categories: Michigan, Allegan State Game Area, Allegan Forest, Jordan River Valley
I’ve been visiting the Allegen Forest quite a bit these past few weeks, mostly shooting medium format film. I’m waiting for the negatives to come back from the lab - hopefully by the end of this week. In the meantime, here is a digital snap of a sole maple tree, pushing its way up in a forest of oak and pine (click on the image for a larger view):
Here’s an older image - from 2004 - taken on Portra film, 6x7 format - I walked by this very stand of trees this morning and can report that nothing much has changed. I’m looking forward to scanning this year’s film and seeing what it holds!
One thing I love about autumn is that (these days) it is one of the few times of the year when I feel inspired to shoot medium format color film. As great as DSLR’s get, autumn landscapes just seem to be better on a big beefy negative. Large format photographers are no doubt sitting in butter this time of year…
An autumn scene from October, 2013 (click on the image for a larger view):
Pentax 6x7 with SMC 67 55mm f4 lens, Portra 160.
If the rain holds off I’ll be out tomorrow, looking for fall colors!
It’s July so I am out trying to get insect shots… Last week’s cool snap - oh wait, we call those Polar Vortex’s now - (everything is bigger than life in the XXI Century) - well, the cool snap put a damper on things and the weather is still cool now. So I haven’t seen many dragonflies at all.
Today was humid but cool, cloudy and dark. I wandered for an hour through familiar fields in the Allegan Forest, down to a hidden pond, up through the oak savannah. Everything is lush and green and the
iron weedbergamot is in bloom, big time:
(Click the image for a larger file.)
Walking down to the pond I saw only a few green darners and no other dragonflies. The air over the pond itself was still - not a dragonfly to be found - it should be swarming with them!
I trudged back to the car. Taking a shortcut through the woods I stumbled into three meadowhawks. Here is the one that was the most cooperative with regards to photos:
Here is one that allowed a good dorsal shot - maybe a red meadowhawk jsut now adopting mature coloration? Maybe, but there is no telling:
I said I saw three meadowhawks and of course, one got away. It was the best of the three.
And lastly, here is a robberfly from last Saturday. I felt that the trip to the woods was such a wasted effort that I did not ever bother to remove the memory card from the K-3 and review the photos I took (all 15 of them.) Turns out that this closeup of an ugly fly came out rather well, technically at least:
That image is an extreme crop…
The Ricoh /Pentax K-3 paired with the A* 200 macro continues to perform well.
I’ve been experimenting more with stack focusing… One of the challenges that frequently comes up in photographing insects is that they perch just a few inches (or less) above the ground. This makes getting a nice, smooth, out-of-focus background almost impossible. If you stop down enough to have enough depth of field to cover the subject, then the background starts to coming into focus and looks distracting…
So… stack focus to the rescue! While dealing with this problem last weekend and again today, I realized that by opening the lens up and working with an extremely shallow depth of field, and then stacking only the shots that cover the subject, you can have both the out of focus background and a nice sharp subject. Here are a few test shots…click on the images for a larger file.
From last weekend - a Dot Tailed Whiteface dragonfly that was perching on a stick about 3 inches over the soil. Taken with a the Pentax K-3 and A* 200mm macro at f 4.5, 8 exposures stack focused:
And here is a male and female Calico Pennant. These were perching on grass stalks earlier today, probably sensing the rain that was heading our way. Both were shot with the K3 and A*200 macro wide open at f4. Fourteen and eight stacked images, respectively. In the shot of the male (top shot, the more orange insect) the blade of grass beneath his lower left wing shows how shallow the depth of field was and how quickly it drops off - but by stacking enough shots to cover the dragonflies’ bodies and wings, they come out sharp and to some extent the background is less distracting. In the shots of the male he was scarcely an inch above most of the grass blades in the background, and stopping down to even f5.6 would have made them much more distracting.
The first meadowhawks of 2014 have appeared over the last week or so - still in immature colors but I am hoping to see some of the summer’s red dragons soon…
Just a few dragonflies from June 14, 2014 - first, a few shots of a Carolina Saddlebags:
I am reasonably sure there are Carolina Saddlebags and not the very similar Red Saddlebag Dragonfly based on the red pattern on the lower wing - BUT - there is the possibility that this is a Red and not a Carolina.
And here are a couple of documentary shots of Dot Tailed Whitefaces - mature males, showing the Dot Tail and White Face markings clearly:
Taken with Pentax K-3, A* 200mm macro, flash, etc.
Back to an old project… A few years ago I experimented with B&W film exposures of sunlight in the woods, usually in the middle of the day and by definition in full sunlight. The project had mixed results but I feel a call to get back to it and to try to capture what I see and feel at those times. A couple of weeks ago I took another run at it and took a few rolls of 35mm B&W film in lush green foliage using an #11 (XI) green filter. Films is so slow - developing, scanning, printing to a digital file… I have more to go but here is a promising photo:
Pentax Mz-S, FA 20-35 f4, TMax 100 (expired 2010) stand processed in Rodinal 1:100 for 1 hour.
Pam and I took the Hidden Kalamazoo tour today, peering into some seldom seen aspects of Kalamazoo’s architectural past. It was a fun afternoon… Here is a grab shot of the interior of the State Theater, a “palace theater” built in 1927, originally hosting silent movies and vaudeville acts. (Click on he image for a larger view.)
The theater still brings in a great mix of live performances. It was designed to simulate a Mediterranean villa where you are sitting under the open sky, and the ceiling is adored with stars in an dark blue sky like you’d see at late twilight. I recall going to shows there in the mid 1980’s and they used a cloud projector to create the image of high overcast clouds gently rolling by.
Pentax K-3, DA 17-70 f4 zoom. Hand held 1/8th of a second at ISO 3200.