An errand took me back to the town in which I was raised, and I brought a Pentax LX loaded with my next to last roll of Kodak HIE. It was almost 3 years out of date, but even under a gloomy sky the IR effect was noticeable. Here’s a shot of a memorable memorial (click on the picture for a larger image):
Autumn is upon us here in west Michigan, but even as the trees turn color several warm, sunny day shave descended upon us. I have a new camera - a Pentax K5 - and so this weekend I set out to run it through its paces with a series of insect macros.
Yesterday it was the Allegan Forest. Autumn is the only time of year when you really can’t be alone in the forest. Hunters converge on the game areas and it’s hard to find a quite place where you can stomp around on your oddy knocky. But I was fortunate that no one was hunting in my favorite field off 48th Street, and I wandered through it and down to the pond.
The grass was all brown and ochre with autumn color, and a fair number of the trees were changing already. Summer’s dragons have fled the field - it is amzing how quickly they vanish when the days get short. All we have are autumn meadowhawks - here are three shots from this visit, I have a few more to post later:
At home my weed garden is bursting with autumn asters. We have several tall blue asters - 6 to 8 feet tall - and two variants of white asters. Bees converge on this small patch of flowers - a feast has been prepared for them at a time when they need it the most. Dozens (if not hundreds) of honey bees and bumble bees keep the flowers dancing on warm days like today. So, here are to snaps of honey bees - good ole apis mellifera - may they thrive:
Last week I spent a day wandering along the Lake Michigan shore. It was windy and I stopped in South Haven and took a few snapshots of the South Haven lighthouse in the gale. I didn’t bring a digital camera, so I shot with the Pentax 6x7 - just two rolls - and then several rolls of 35mm B&W film in the Mz-S. I wanted a grainy look, and I needed fast shutter speeds, so I pushed Fuji Neopan two stops to ISO 1600.
Haven’t developed the 120 film yet, but here’s one of the better 35mm shots. The Neopan was developed in HC-110, Dilution B, 12 minutes for the 2 stop push. The grain came out real nice - smooth and not clumpy - it was a good combo.
Click on the image for a larger picture.
The last weekend of summer… seems like it just got here. Looking back I wish I had taken more photos. Well, here are some pictures of trees from this summer, in no particular order.
First - an infrared shot of a fine oak tree, not even middle aged as oaks go, again in the Allegan game area:
Morning at the Pierce Creek Institute near Hastings, Michigan:
My favorite walnut tree in the Allegan game area:
And lastly, a windbreak at sunset in rural southern Indiana:
In a few weeks, autumn trees, and after that, bare trees of winter…
It’s late August and the sun is already hanging low in the sky… In the wee hours crickets chirp and the morning chorus of songbirds is gone for another year.
And the red dragons fly around in the grass, as if they owned the place:
Last Saturday my wife went to her high school reunion in the small northern Michigan town where she was raised. I agreed to go along, but having been to these class reunions before I decided to just spend the day knocking about the countryside, looking for places to photograph. I didn’t’ know it at the time, but I was in for a real treat…
My wife was attending the reunion with her lifelong friend, and her friend’s father owns a working farm about 20 miles out of town. He offered to show me a more wild area of the farm - an area left for deer hunting in the fall, where beavers have dammed up a small creek and made a little pond in a low place.
I followed him out into the Newaygo County countryside. A ways out he turned onto a small two-track leading back into some fields. The road cut into a small wooded area and then ended at the edge of a hay field, a few weeks past its last mowing. We then drove directly across the field, through one low laying area near the beaver pond, and into a small field, also a few weeks past cutting. That’s where we stopped - and where I stayed for several hours.
Here’s a pano of the field where I spent the afternoon - click here for a much larger view. (This is made from 9 stitched together hand-held shots taken with a Nikon P6000.)
And here is a shot of the beaver pond… The pond straddles the boundary with a neighboring farm, and a barbed wire fence - not really visible in the web-sized image here - runs through the middle of it:
The field inthe pano is visible in this shot of the pond - it is the small area in the upper center of the fram, just above the pond and to the right of the large, dark mass of trees.
The owner of the farm went on his way after leading me back to this place. After a few minutes I spotted lots of dragonflies and other interesting subjects, and decided to start shooting. It has been some time since I found red meadowhawks in abundance, but I found a lot of them here. Here are a couple shots of Whitefaced Meadowhawks:
It is virtually impossible to identify most meadowhawks from photos - or even from casual observation - so I don’t know what this one is, but his bright red face is striking:
Here are two more unidentified red males:
And of course - for every male there is a female, more or less. Here are three females (or immature males) who retain a yellow-brown coloration:
And lastly a close-up of a summer coneflower:
It was a fabulous place to visit and I really enjoyed spending some very quiet hours out in the fields.
A while back I mentioned that my main workhorse lens - a Pentax A* (star) 200mm f4 ED - had stopped working. I sent it to Pentax Repair, who were unable to repair it due to a lack of parts., and so they returned it as it was.
Enter Eric Hendrickson at pentaxs.com… He disassembled the lens and, determined that it was essentially worn out A crucial part that operated the aperture blades had several hole worn out of round, and it was the primary reason why the aperture mechanism was no longer functioning correctly. But the lens. This lens has seen heavy use since I bought it new in 1998, and that use had caught up with it. In addition, several internal screws had simply worked their way loose over the years, making disassembly of the lens a real problem.
Since parts were not available Eric found somebody who could fabricate the worn out piece. There was no guarantee that it would work but I was willing to pay up front on the hope that it would. A few weeks later the lens arrived and is working like new! The shots in this post were taken with the repaired lens - it is meting accurately and the aperture blades are running smoothly! Since there is no longer any 200mm class macro lens made for Pentax, it was well worth the repair. All in all, the repair cost less than half of the only close match to the 200mm macro - which as of this writing is still not available.
Eric proved to be a great resource and I have more stuff to send his way. He can be reached at email@example.com.
And just a few more photos …
It’s mid July and the long sweet days of summer are upon us. I haven’t had the chance to blog much these last few weeks, but still I carve out a few hours on the weekends to visit the Allegan Forest and mark the passing of the season.
A midsized pond located in a field of 48th street is a frequent destination during these visits. When I first started photographing in this area the pond was just a vernal marsh. In 2006 it even dried up enough that I could walk through it. A mucky spot with a few reeds was the only sign of the water then. Now it is dozens of yards across and full of open water. Many larger trees have their roots submerged, and have finally succumbed to the rising water.
The pond is home to lots of odes (odonates), but also many frogs and toads. Usually, they scatter as I walk along the water’s edge – green frogs in particular cry out “eeeeee!” and then jump out into the water. Below is one green from that was unimpressed by my presence, and let get me get down to eye level with it for a portrait.
As I mentioned, the pond also hosts a large number of Odonates. Here’s a very large damselfly – these are about two inches long and are very numerous around the pond. I don’t know what kind of damsefly it is, and my field guides don’t show anything this large in Michigan (at least that I can find.)
Meadowhawks arrive at the peak of summer. It’s great to see them appear in their crimson glory. So far this year I have not seen any red ones, but it is still early. I have, however, spotted a few of immature meadowhawks – signs that the red dragons are not far off. Here’s a shot from this morning:
Of course, as the days progress the spring dragons start to waiver. This year’s cold and wet spring meant that many early dragons appeared later than usual and many are lingering longer than usual as well. Of course, some – like the dot tailed whiteface – will be around for several weeks yet. Here are three spring dragons taken on earlier trips in recent weeks. First, Dot Tailed Whiteface:
A Calico Pennant:
And lastly, a four spotted skimmer:
While the water level in the pond remains high, the last few weeks have seen little rain and the field is taking on the burnish of the drier months of summer. I hope to have some summer dragons – brilliant red dragons – in the near future.
There’s a new cat in my house - a male tiger a couple years younger than my two black females. So far they are getting along remarkably well. Here’s a photo, taken in April, 2010:
Last Sunday, June 19th for those who count the days, I went out to the Allegan Forest to look for dragonflies. I headed to the most westerly fields, about 8 miles past the actual town of Allegan. This is the west side of the high banks area.
I pulled up to the usual entry point. This is a popular place for folks to come and target practice, and whoever comes here brings the most interesting targets. Today we had bowling pins, blown to bits. A layer above the plastic WWII soldiers and computers and other stuff that has been brought out to be shot up. The dragonflies don’t care - they just buzz around. Today someone was off shooting in the woods,and the dull ‘thud thud thud’ of shotguns in the background music for anyone hanging out in the area.
Here’s a brown spike tail which is always in this field in the spring.
Wandering around a bit, I find the common blue dasher, with the markings of an immature male or female:
I wandered through the fields. There are a few large areas, mowed every few years and separated by thin bands of trees. A dashing blue eyed darner teased me incessantly, no luck getting that photo.
I wandered for a good half mile through the connected fields, over an hour, without getting a decent shot. On the way back I walked along the wood line and encountered a short but fat hognose snake. It was charming and entertained me with its impressive cobra hood affect and startling loud hiss. I’ve never seen one of these play dead, and it seems cruel to scare them to point where they do so, so I just snapped away until it got tired and settled down, ‘cobra hood’ still intact, looking rather happy in a goofy sort of way…
I stumbled back towards my car and ran into this most sedate brown spike tail, which even let me get very close:
Sitting next to it was this fine blue dasher:
Looking down, I saw another medium sized hog nose snake, this one right under my feet, With it’s cover blown it whipped into the underbrush. I should comment that I was just a few yards from where I ran into the baby hognose photographed in 2009 and noted in this post.
Wandering back towards the river, I ran into several more dragonflies - like this maturing white faced spot tail ("hand’s up, dude!"):
Yet another brown spike tail dragonfly (in most places I visit, it would be rare to see one, let alone three):
And a tiger swallow tail butterfly (I hope someday find one of these with both ‘tails’ intact):
And finally - mature male blue dashers:
Las summer I was able to get just a couple old battered male blue dashers, very late in the season. Old goats who just would not give up. This year I’m glad to see the young ones, bright in color, strong of wing, early in the season…
And lastly - a female blue dasher:
That was it - 3 hours north of the river, my plans to hit some familiar fields to the south were set aside. But it was a good fun trek through the tall grass. All of these shots were taken with the D-FA 10mm lens and 1.7x AF converter, as my 200mm macro lens is still broken.
Soon, I am sure, the red dragons will appear….
Here are some more spring wildflowers from 2009.
Here is one of the very first sping wildflowers - though it hardly looks like a flower. Skunk cabbage is one of the first plants to emerge from moist soil The flower smells like carrion and attracts flies for pollination:
Another fiarly early wildflower flowwer - Marsh Marigold:
May Apple Blossoms:
False Rue Anemone:
Thats it for wildflowers for now…