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The drought has been continuing in southwest Michigan – though last night’s half inch of rain was a small relief. This past week temperatures in the mid 90’s F have only served to make the drought more acute.
On Friday I visited the Allegan Forest, looking for mid season dragonflies and opportunities for some landscape photographs. It must have been the oppressive heat, or perhaps the dusty dry soil, but there was nary a dragonfly or other insect to be found. For the first time in months I didn’t both with insect repellant, and not even a mosquito was to be found.
I decided to concentrate on shooting some digital infrared work. I’m seriously considering getting a dedicated digital IR camera – which unfortunately would mean moving away from using a Pentax since no one seems to do digital conversions of Pentax gear. But for now, I’ve been happy to work with the *ist-D and Hoya RM 90 filter.
Only one acceptable image came of the day’s IR shooting. This was shot at the edge of a restored section of Oak Savanna, right about where the deer can be seen in this shot from last summer. The image has been manipulated a bit more in Photoshop than I usually do, but the effect of increasing detail in some areas, while losing it in others, is interesting. Of course – the hot dry wind that made some branches wave during the 8 second exposure also had something to do the blurred areas of the shot.
This image was taken north of the Kalamazoo River. While there I took a few shots of one of the only large tree standing oak trees I’ve ever found in this so-called forest. Those shots were a disappointment – a plain tree, so what?
After working the areas north of the river for a while, I headed over to some familiar fields south of the river. I took the Allegan Dam Road, driving over the dam that backs up the river to make Lake Allegan. This turned out to be a scouting trip – it had been some time since I last drove along the dam – and I looked without luck for some promising areas in which to shoot.
After several visits to familiar haunts, coming up empty with regards to insect shots, I wandered down to the Ottawa Marsh. After all, if dry weather was the problem, than what better place than a marsh to find some moisture.
I saw quite a few bluet damselflies as I hiked down the dirt drive towards the board launch and the entry way to the marsh. Back in the marsh itself the effects of the drought were not as profound as in other areas. Of course – I was walking through areas that are probably knee deep muck during normal years - so that fact that the soil was still moist and vegetation as flourishing should be taken with some measure.
A ways in the marsh, following the river bank, I encountered an area of several acres thick with iron weed and joe-pye weed, all ranging from 4 to 6 feet in height. I wasn’t travelling light – I brought both the insect setup and the digital IR setup (complete with tripod) but I ditched the camera and tripod in a dense thicket, and wandered off into the iron weed.
Red spotted purples, spicebush butterflies, and more than a few giant swallowtails (lovely insects) were attached to the ironweed. It was difficult to get shots with a clean background - literally standing in flowering weeds as tall as me – but I managed a few good captures of giant swallowtails – to be included in a future insect photography update.
Wandering into a patch of vegetation that is pretty much growing over your head is usually not a great idea. Once you are ten feet into the patch, only your own trail leads you back out. But between the handy GPS system and noting a few large trees along the river, it was pretty simple to bee-line right out of the weeds once I was done shooting.
And from there it was a quick hop home.