Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Pelicans are large water birds with a large pouch, belonging to the bird family Pelecanidae.
Brown Pelican, Ft. Myers, FL. (The classic pelican photograph)
Along with the darters, cormorants, gannets, boobies, frigatebirds, and tropicbirds, pelicans make up the order Pelecaniformes. Modern pelicans, of which there are eight species, are found on all continents except Antarctica. They primarily inhabit warm regions, though breeding ranges reach 45° south,Australian Pelicans, and 60° North, American White Pelicans, in western Canada. Birds of inland and coastal waters, they are absent from polar regions, the deep ocean, oceanic islands, and inland South America.
American White Pelicans, Two Rivers NWR, Alton IL.
Of the eight species of pelicans, two can be found in the United States. The Brown Pelican, and the Ameican White Pelican.The diet of a Pelican usually consists of fish, but they also eat amphibians, crustaceans and on some occasions, smaller birds.They often catch fish by expanding the throat pouch. Then they must drain the pouch above the surface before they can swallow. This operation takes up to a minute, during which time other seabirds are particularly likely to steal the fish. Pelicans in their turn sometimes pirate prey from other seabirds.
Brown Pelican swimming at Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel FL.The white pelicans often fish in groups. They will form a line to chase schools of small fish into shallow water, and then scoop them up. Large fish are caught with the bill-tip, then tossed up in the air to be caught and slid into the gullet head first. The Brown Pelican of North America usually plunge-dives for its prey.
American White Pelicans sun and preen, Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel, FL.
Pelicans do not store fish in their pouch, but simply use it to catch them and then tip it back to drain out water and swallow the fish immediately. The American white pelican can hold some 3 gallons (11 1/2 liters) of water in its bill. Young pelicans feed by sticking their bills into their parents' throats to retrieve food.
Brown Pelican Portrait, Estero Lagoon, Ft. Myers Beach, FL.
Pelicans swim well with their short, strong legs and their feet with all four toes webbed (as in all birds placed in the order Pelecaniformes). The tail is short and square, with 20 to 24 feathers. The wings are long and have the unusually large number of 30 to 35 secondary flight feathers. A layer of special fibers deep in the breast muscles can hold the wings rigidly horizontal for gliding and soaring. Thus they can exploit thermals to commute over 150 km (100 miles) to feeding areas.
American White Pelican in flight, Twin Rivers NWR, Alton IL.
Pelicans rub the backs of their heads on their preen glands to pick up its oily secretion, which they transfer to their plumage to waterproof it.
Watching the sunrise, Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel FL.
Pelicans are really fun to watch as they feed and interact with other birds. When you first start into bird photography, they are a great species to start with. They tolerate humans very well, and since thery are very large birds, they fill up your view finder with a medium length telephoto lens in many cases. Most of my pelican shots are donw with a 70-200mm zoom and a 1.4 extender. Their flight patterns are fairly slow and steady so they are very easy to track in flight.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Stalking prey in the shallow waters of Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel FL.
The Yellow-crowned Night Heron lives in wooded swamps, fresh and saltwater marshes and thickets. The Yellow-crowned Night Heron breeds from southern New England south to Florida and west to Texas. It also breeds along the Mississippi River. It winters on the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts.
Soaking up some sun, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples FL.
The female lays three to five eggs on a nest of sticks placed in a tree or sometimes on the ground. Both the male and female build the nest and incubate the eggs. The eggs hatch in about three weeks. Both parents care for the chicks and feed them regurgitated food. The chicks fledge when they are about 25 days old.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Panoramic photography is a technique of photography, using specialized equipment or software, that captures images with elongated fields of view. It is sometimes known as wide format photography. The term has also been applied to a photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio. While there is no formal division between "wide-angle" and "panoramic" photography, "wide angle" normally refers to a type of lens, but this lens type does not necessarily image a panorama.
3 photos stitched together of the Mackinaw Island Harbor
Following the invention of flexible film in 1888, panoramic photography was revolutionised. Dozens of cameras were marketed, many with brand names heavily indicative of their time. Cameras such as the Cylindrograph, Wonder Panoramic, Pantascopic and Cyclo-Pan, are some examples of panoramic cameras. The techniues they incorporated varied by using rotating types of lenses or curved mirrors. Many would expose multiple frames of film to get one shot.
6 photos stitched vertically, Cumberland Gap, Smokey Mt. National Park
Digital photography has simplified the process of making a panoramic photograph to the point where it is really easy to do. There is specialized stand alone photo stitching software programs, or most photo editing programs have some stitching feature. I currently use Adobe Photoshop CS4, and it does an amazing job stitching you seperate photographs together.
3 horizontal photos stitched together of Honolulu HI.
The technique is pretty simple.For the best results a tripod is needed. Place your camera on the tripod and get it as level as possible. It is best to meter the scene and set your camera manually so you meter is not fooled by the changing light. Next take a shot and then rotate your camera and overlap the scene by 25 to 30 percent so the software has plenty of data to see and line up. Continue to shoot and overlap the photos until you have captured the entire scene. The photos are loaded into the software and they are stitched together. You will have to crop around to clean up the edges. In years past there was always some touch up and other corrections to fix, but the newest software does such a good job that it is impossible most times to find the stitch lines. They have gotten so good that witch good technique,you can do them hand held and the computer can line them up both vertically and horizontally.
Ft. Jefferson, Dry Tortougas National Park, 12 vertical sitch, hand held.
After climbing up to the roof of Ft. Jefferson, I decided to try an impromptu panoramic shot hand help. I took 12 vertical photos with a very wide angle lens. I overlapped the photos. 25-50 percent to give the software plenty to work with. Although it was pretty harsh mid-day sunlight, I was pretty happy with this result for a quick pano. There are no railings up there and you can see the little walking path. Two more steps backwards and it was about 60 foot drop.
A single photo cropped to a pano look. Mother goose and 16 babies.
Another option is to crop a single photo to make it resemble a panoramic looking scene. With todays large megapixel file sizes, you can crop out much of the top and bottom of your file to give you a unique looking photo and retain enough data to make a decent sized print.
Chicago IL. skyline at dusk. 12 vertical images stitched together
There is a lot of useful information on this subject available on the internet by doing a search. Some of the simple stand alone software programs are very reasonably priced. You should try these sometime. The results can be amazing.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Myth: "Arachnid" is just a fancy name for spider.
Fact: There are eleven orders of arachnids. These include the scorpions; mites and ticks, harvestmen, pseudoscorpions, whipscorpions, solpugids, and spiders.
Fact: Not exactly. Scorpions, harvestmen, ticks, and in fact all arachnids - not just spiders - have four pairs of legs.Insects have three pairs. Also, notice that I said "four pairs" instead of "eight." The number of leg pairs (one pair per leg-bearing segment) is more significant than individual legs, which can be lost.
Although spiders are often unpopular, the venom of most species is not very toxic to humans, usually resulting in no more than a slight swelling, inflammation, or itching sensation. Most spiders fangs are too small or weak to puncture human skin. Spiders usually will not attempt to bite unless accidentally trapped against the skin or grasped, although some species actively guard their egg sacs or young. The most harmful species of spiders in North america are the Brown Recluse Spider, and the Black Widow Spider. Several species of sac spiders (clubionids) are suspected of being responsible for most spider bites, especially ones occurring indoors. Sac spider venom is cytotoxic, causing tissues at the bite site to die. However, the vast majority of spiders are harmless to humans.
Even though I am an avid macro photographer, I do not have many good spider photos. I am just not a big fan of them.There are many macro shooters who specialize in them an have some amazing photos. I do like the photos where you can see their 6 or 8 eyes, but having suffered many, many bites over the years, I just mostly ignore them. Several of these shots are Argiopes, or Black and Yellow Garden Spiders, found almost everywhere in North America. I was shooting Butterflies when the tiny Jumping Spider appeared on the end of the Anthurium Flower. Not sure what the other one is, but he is making short work of the damselfly trapped in his web.
Friday, April 23, 2010
When I go to Florida and spend time photographing birds, one of the easiest birds to get close to and photograph are Snowy Egrets. Since they are now protected, their numbers have rebounded and they are very plentiful in the south Florida areas that I visit. These birds are wild, but they show little fear of humans and allow you to get quite close. When they are feeding, they are fun to watch and the actions can get pretty wild when a large flock of them are feeding in a small area. The Snowy above caught a shrimp and came up and landed right next to me. He was so close I could not even focus on him so I had to walk away to get enough distance between us for my camera to focus.
The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is a small white heron. It is the American counterpart to the very similar Old World Little Egret, which has established a foothold in the Bahamas.When full grown, the Snowy has a height of about two feet and has a wingspan of about three feet. It has white feathers, a yellow patch of skin around its eyes, a black bill and black legs with bright yellow feet. In breeding season, it has lacy plumes on its head, neck and back. Males and females look alike.
The snowy egret breeds on the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast and the Gulf Coast. It is also found in some inland areas. It winters from California south to South America on the west coast and from Virginia south to the West Indies on the east coast.
The birds eat fish, crustaceans, and insects. They stalk prey in shallow water, often running or shuffling their feet, flushing prey into view, as well "dip-fishing" by flying with their feet just over the water. Snowy Egrets may also stand still and wait to ambush prey, or hunt for insects stirred up by domestic animals in open fields.
At one time, the beautiful plumes of the Snowy Egret were in great demand by market hunters as decorations for women's hats. This reduced the population of the species to dangerously low levels.Now protected in the USA by law, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, this bird's population has rebounded.
Have A Great Weekend!
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the sea hawk, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching 60 centimetres (24 in) in length with a 2m wingspan. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts, with a black eye patch and wings.The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.
The Osprey differs in several respects from other diurnal birds of prey. Its toes are of equal length, its tarsi are reticulate, and its talons are rounded, rather than grooved. The Osprey and Owls are the only raptors whose outer toe is reversible, allowing them to grasp their prey with two toes in front and two behind. This is particularly helpful when they grab slippery fish.
The sexes appear fairly similar, but the adult male can be distinguished from the female by its slimmer body and narrower wings. The breast band of the male is also weaker than that of the female, or is non-existent, and the underwing coverts of the male are more uniformly pale. This is a good guide to determine the sex in a breeding pair, but harder with individual birds.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The tall, long-legged great blue heron is the most common and largest of North American herons.Great blue herons are waders, typically seen along coastlines, in marshes, or near the shores of ponds or streams. They are expert fishers. Herons snare their aquatic prey by walking slowly, or standing still for long periods of time and waiting for fish to come within range of their long necks and blade-like bills. The deathblow is delivered with a quick thrust of the sharp bill, and the prey is swallowed whole. Great blue herons have been known to choke to death by attempting to swallow fish too large for their long, S-shaped necks. Though they are best known as fishers, mice constitute a large part of their diet, and they also eat insects and other small creatures.
Great blue herons' size (3.2 to 4.5 feet/1 to 1.4 meters) and wide wingspan (5.5 to 6.6 feet/1.7 to 2 meters) make them a joy to see in flight. They can cruise at some 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 kilometers) an hour.
Though great blue herons hunt alone, they typically nest in colonies. They prefer tall trees, but sometimes nest in low shrubs. Females produce two to seven eggs, which both parents protect and incubate. Chicks can survive on their own by about two months of age.The all-white color morph found in the Caribbean and southern Florida is often called the great white heron, but it is in fact the same species.
The call is a harsh croak. The heron is most vocal during the breeding season, but will call occasionally at any time of the year in territorial disputes or if disturbed.
When I go to Florida and photograph them, they are fairly approachable and I usually have no trouble getting close to them. Around my area in the mid-west I have found them to be extremely skittish and will take off before you can get close enough to photograph them.
It is amazing how they survive the harsh winters. This fellow was on an ice covered log on the bank of the Mississippi River near the Alton Lock and Dam
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Like many people, I love lighthouses. Growing up and living in the heart of the Midwest does not give you the opportunity to experience seeing them unless you are around the great lakes area. Thankfully my parents loved to travel, so I was exposed to their charm almost every year. Sometimes it was vacations in the many states that border the great lakes region, and other times it was trips to the costal beaches.
Lighthouse to Chicago IL Harbor
A lighthouse is a tower, building, or framework designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire and used as an aid to navigation and to pilots at sea or on inland waterways.
Lighthouses are used to mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals and reefs, and safe entries to harbors and can also assist in aerial navigation. Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined due to the expense of maintenance and replacement by modern electronic navigational aids.
Sanibel Island Lighthouse, Sanibel, FL