I recently purchased a Pentax Q compact interchangeable lens camera. Aside form a wanting a fun and compact camera, I was intrigued by the prospects of excellent macro capabilities using this camera and K Mount macro lenses - along with a K to Q mount adapter.
Here are a couple shots of spiders from earlier today, taken with the Q and D-FA 100mm f2.8 macro lens. The tiny sensor size means great depth of field at open apertures, which also means high shutter speeds and lower ISO settings. I hope to be doing some more macro work with the Q in the days ahead.
These were both out in my wildflower garden, which is now completely overrun by non-wild Sweet Autumn Clematis. I’m certain that the first subject is a Nursery Web Spider, mostly likely Pisaurina mira. I’d guess that the second one is another species of Nursery Web Spider as well.
Click the images for larger files.
Bull thistles have popped up all over my wildflower garden this summer, and Goldfinches have been watching them closely all season long. The bull thistles started blooming a few weeks ago, and when I look out of my upstairs office windows late in the day I see the finches reveling in the thistle seed. They also gather the down for their nests, and this is the time of year when they lay eggs and raise their young.
I took a few lazy stabs at photographing these guys in past years and in the last few weeks, but recently decided to get serious. I broke out the Pentax SMC A*400 f2.8 and 1.7x teleconverter / autofocus adapter, and rummaged through my closet for a suitable flash bracket. It’s been years since I used this setup!
Last weekend I did not have much luck - every time I stepped out the door the finches flew off. So this afternoon I setup the camera and big lens peeking around the corner of my wife’s car, grabbed a book and some beer, and sat back to enjoy the afternoon, reading. It took a few hours but eventually the finches came back to the thistles, and when they did they no longer seemed concerned about me or my efforts to photograph them. With a little luck, I’ll get a few more shots before the summer is over.
Click on the images for larger files.
West Michigan sweltered under the great drought of 2012 throughout the early summer, but in late July we began to get sporadic small rain events, in the last week we were blessed with a 24 hour soaker. The brown lawns are now green again, though the stunted and withered crops are unlikely to recover.
Today I drove out to the Allegan forest to see if the red dragonflies have appeared. Some summers they are early, others they are late. This year, they are running late. In August 2011 the red dragons were well established and darted through the sky like crimson joys. Today I found the undifferentiated yellow amber dragons that someday will turn red, but no bright red subjects yet.
It’s been a while since I posted some dragonfly shots, so here are a few photos from late July and early August. Click on any image for a larger file.
First off - some Blue Dashers - the first two from July, the last one from today:
And here is a somewhat rare visitor - a Red Saddlebags. They seldom perch but this one landed high up on a mullein stalk and let me take its photo:
A Green Darner, perched low in vegetation:
And lastly - the red meadowhawks, still young and yellow or amber, surely to be brilliant red sometime soon:
For a detailed look at this guy’s face, click here.
Let’s hope for some brilliant red ones in the weeks ahead!
2012’s unusually hot and dry June and July have kept the dragonflies (and other critters) at bay, so I have few new shots to share. In the spring this year looked like it would be a great season, but my hopes are shriveling up like the brown grass in the fields. The pond I like to frequent in the ALlegan Foest has dropped over 4 feet from its peak last fall, and may be back on it’s way to becoming the vernal pond that it was when I first found it over 10 years ago.
I’m awaiting the arrival of summer’s red dragons - the various red meadowhawks - but in the meantime here are some lingering early summer species:
I seldom am able to photograph males in the their full glory - blue/grey body, white bands on their wings. Here is a fully matured male and a male starting to mature below:
These are still abundant - male and female shown below.
Let’s hope for a little rain and the arrival of the meadowhawks.
A few photos from the St. Louis Zoo, taken last week (June, 2012). For all but the last shot I used a Sigma 135 - 400 f4.5 - 5.6 lens and Pentax K5 - which proved to be a great combination. Click on the images for a larger file.
Not an animal on exhibit at the zoo, but one who was just visiting:
Oops - pulled out the Infrared Converted K10D by mistake at first:
Well, here it is a couple hours past the summer solstice… a good time to post a few odds and ends of Spring Odonates.
First off - a Dot Tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta). These early dragonflies will be fading in numbers soon and in a month will be rare or absent.
Second - a male Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) in his full red colors - even with the red face:
And lastly a male Twelve Spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) - a common but striking dragonfly.
Another installment of spring Odonates…
Since the last post left off with a photo of a female Spatterdock Darner, it seems fitting to open this post with shot of a male:
This is only the third time I’ve photographed one these - several (at least 6) were flying and perching in a field north of the Kalamazoo River in the Allegan game area. Their distinctive blue markings, in particular their blue eyes, make them stunning.
These were abundant everywhere I visited this past week. They are always common, but are particularly numerous this year. So far, I’ve not spotted a mature male with the solid blue body. These are either females or immature males.
A beautiful species and one that likes to perch on the tips of grass stalks - making them fairly easy to photograph. Again, only immatures or females, and no crimson red males yet.
A large dragonfly that I only see in a few places, though it is considered common:
Here’s what I *think* is a Midland Clubtail - these are common in some parts of the Allegan Game Area in the spring. The yellow triangle in the middle of the 9th segment of the abdomen is what I’m keying in on to make this speculative identification:
And here is an unknown clubtail, photographed on the McLinden Nature Trails near Comstock, Michigan:
Blue Dashers are quite abundant this year - hard to believe that in a few recent years I seldom saw any mature males. This year they are out in force. Below are some shots of the males with their colorful blue bodies, and females with their striking black and yellow coloration.
In southwest Michigan the last days of May long, warm and dry. I made the rounds in some of my favorite insect shooting locations these last few days, and made a few images of spring odonates. Here’s the first installment -
This stunning damselfly appears only in the late spring and early summer, and I just saw the first of this year earlier today. Both of these are males - the females have white spots near the ends of their wings. (Click on images for a larger file.)
These insects are a blend of pure, light absorbing black with incredibly iridescent markings. They also like to hide out in the shadows, but are striking when they venture into bright sunlight. The challenge in photographing them is getting the flash just bright enough to bring up the shadows a bit, but not so bright as to invoke too much iridescence. I’m satisfied with the lighting in both of the shots above, but particularly with the second one, where the insect’s shadow, cast by the sun, is still visible despite the flash. I *think* that the flash was set to minus 4 or minus 5 stops (combination of the on flash exposure compensation and in-body exposure compensation.)
The very first dragonflies to appear in Michigan are often Green Darners that migrate into the state even as early as April. But the Dot Tailed Whitefaces are among the first locally hatched dragonflies to emerge. Although somewhat smaller than many of the pennants and whitefaces that appear in the summer, they share the habit of perching on branches and grass stalks in warm weather. Here’s a shot showing what I believe is a nearly mature male with the dot on the tail becoming visible:
And a couple of other shots of either immature males or females:
I see these locally much less frequently than the Dot Tails. Or it may just be that I don’t recognize them and confuse them with Dot Tails. Here’s a dorsal shot showing the distinctive white ‘frost’ on the thorax and abdomen that give these critters their name:
And, as I said, it can be difficult to tell the Dot-Tails from the Frosteds. In fact, it is difficult to impossible to clearly identify dragonflies in the field or from photos. Here’s three examples - my guess is that the top two are immature Frosted Whitefaces, since they show some signs of white on the top of the abdomen. As for the third - I can’t say…
And on that note of uncertainty, here is a darner that breezed by me in the Allegan Forest and kindly perched at eye level on a small tree for a few minutes. If I had been thinking I would have tried to get some photos showing the markings on the sides of the thorax, but I was thinking I photographing and just banged away…
Well, given the time of year and the markings my best guess is a Springtime Darner, (Basiaeschna janata) - but that is a guess, plain and simple. Update: After a little more research, I’m now leaning towards this being an immature female Spatterdock Darner, Rhionaeschna mutata. I saw several mature males today (May 30), which are much easier to identify. See http://michodo.blogspot.com/2012/05/one-darner-of-day.html for more (and for a better photo than mine.)
Part II in a couple of days … Spangled Skimmers, Calico Pennants, and an unknown Club Tail.