Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Time for us to pause

The time has come for us to pause
And think of living as it was
Into the future we must cross (must cross)
          "Genesis" by Jorma Kaukonen

After 42 years working in West Virginia higher education, I'm going to pull up my stakes and retire on December 29st this year.  

Since I won't be tied to a computer for 7-1/2 hours a day, five days a week, maybe I might have time to update this blog more often than I have in the past.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Working on the Pipevine

 A few days ago, the weather was fine and I had decided to play hooky from my job. Don't worry, I requested the time  I grabbed by camera gear and set out for nearby Coopers Rock State Forest.  Out near the trout pond, I came across a beautiful butterfly that I managed to shoot with my telephoto lens:

Meet the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor).  

The angle of this shot must have been just right, because the blue iridescence isn't always apparent, as noted in the following shot:

Same butterfly at a different angle.

The name of this butterfly got me curious.   Pipevine Swallowtails aren't all that common around here, and what is it with the name "pipevine" you ask?

Well, I'm glad you asked.

After a bit of Googling, I came across this site Butterfly Garden and Habitat Program, which gave a bit of background on the history of the pipevine in American horticulture.  It explained that the pipevine is the sole food of the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar. It turns out, however, that the pipevine genus, Aristolochia, has more than 500 species.  But there is only one native American species upon which the Pipevine caterpillar will dine: Aristolochia macrophylla.

These day, my go-to for natural science is iNaturalistHere is what they have to say about Aristolochia macrophylla.   Now one of the neat things about iNaturalist links is that the page for a specific species has links to a map, which shows the locations where something specific like Aristolochia macrophylla.  have been found.  Zooming in on the North American continent and down to West Virginia, we find many sightings.  Some of the local sightings are at the West Virginia Botanic Garden  along the Access Road Trail.  Sadly, there is only one other sighting, and that is along the Mon Chateau Trail from Coopers Rock.  My goal is to go back to the trout pond and see if I can spot the wiley Aristolochia macrophylla near where I took my photos.
I found a few more interesting links, among which are

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Fern, Interrupted

 On my hike around Coopers Rock state park last weekend, I came across some interesting looking ferns.  They had typical green fronds, top and bottom, but the middle was taken up by a dark green band of spores.

Interrupted Fern (Claytosmunda claytoniana)

I've identified it as an Interrupted Fern (Claytosmunda claytoniana).  According to Wikipedia

The Claytosmunda genus has only one species, Claytosmunda claytoniana .  The interrupted fern is native to Eastern Asia, Eastern United States, and Eastern Canada.
Fragmentary foliage resembling Claytosmunda claytoniana has been found in the fossil record as far back as the Triassic.   C. claytoniana is a paramount example of evolutionary stasis. Paleontological evidence indicates it has remained unchanged, even at the level of fossilized nuclei and chromosomes, for at least 180 million years.

Now I want to talk a little bit about the picture, itself.  I had a bear of a time capturing a decent image.  I was trying to take a hand-held shot in somewhat low light, and a slight breeze gave the image even more shake.

I wanted decent depth of field with my macro lens, so I tried to shoot at f/18.  This was one of those rare times when I changed the ISO to 3200.  I was able to use a shutter speed of 1/100 sec.

You can well imagine the amount of "noise" in the original picture.  This was one of those time that I appreciated the image editing software from Topaz Labs.  This was definitely a job for DeNoise AI.   I followed up that process with Sharpen AI.  The results up above really speak for themselves.

Here's what it looked like before the DeNoise and Sharpen:

Monday, May 17, 2021

Slipper Time

 This past weekend I took a drive to Coopers Rock state forest in search of the elusive Pink Lady's Slipper orchid.  In previous years, I had found the orchids just below the handicap parking sign of off the large parking lot.  I was disappointed that there wasn't a single one.

I drove on to the head of the trail that leads down to the Henry Clay iron furnace.  It was here that I had hoped to catch the Rattlesnake Plantain orchid in flower.  Go figure, I didn't see a single one this time of the year.   What I did see, however, was a lovely stand of Pink Lady's Slippers.   I had a field day with my camera there.

Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

I seem to have captured them at their peak.

Another plant that I recognized is the Halberd-leaved Violet (Viola hastata):

Halberd-leaved violet (Viola hastata)

I also took this shot of a pair of mushroom growing out of some moss:

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Getting Creative

 I've been exploring a little bit more of  the bells and whistles on my Canon 77D.  With few exceptions, I've been pretty muck locked into using the camera's Aperture Priority (Av) mode.  Recently, I've tried shooting something with the Creative filters.

Here are some of the filter effects that you can use:

  • Grainy B/W 
  • Soft focus 
  • Fish-eye - processed to simulate fish-eye lens shots
  • Water painting - for images that look like water paintings
  • Toy camera - simulates distinctive colors and vignetting of images from toy cameras
  • Miniature - process to resemble miniature scale models, similar to tilt-shifting
  •  HDR art standard - images resemble paintings with low contrast and flat gradation
  •  HDR art vivid - images resemble vivid graphic art with flat gradation
  • HDR art bold - images resemble oil paintings with vivid color and depth
  • HDR art embossed - images resemble old, faded photos
Yesterday during my lunch break I tried the fish-eye effect on some daffodils.  Here's the result:

I'm going to have to try some of the other effects.   Since I rarely carry my LensBaby  Composer around, I can see where these creative filters will give it some real competition.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Repairing the focus on an SX-70

 First a little background.  Back in the summer of 2019, someone gave me a very unusual Polaroid SX-70 that was customized for scientific photography.  Later, in September, I removed the customization hardware and gave the camera a new skin.  

I then discovered that there was a problem with focus-to-infinity with this camera.   You can see the problem with one of the shots that I posted on my Flickr account.  Out to infinity, there has consistently been a bit of lens blur.

This brings me to a couple of weeks ago, when I searched for some repair solutions.  Flickr came to my rescue with some basic instructions.  All I had to do was remove the front housing rectangle around the lens opening.  I was able to pry it off quite easily.  Then I ran the focus out to infinity, where I could easily see the blur in the split screen focus.  I depressed the "idler wheel" as described and with a very slight turn of the gear, I was able to regain the focus-to-infinity.

Although I have a fresh pack of film, I'm waiting until Spring, when there will be much more to photograph in color.   I'm confident that I'll be able to achieve decent focus this time around.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

A Pelican (can hold much more than my belly can)

 I had no serious intentions when I was browsing on eBay a couple of week ago.  Someone was selling a large number of  used cases for $50 each.  The Pelican 1520 Protector is a nice-sized case for my camera equipment. A new one is in the $150 range.  In order to add my own equipment to this case, however, I needed to by a new foam insert.  For $23, I was able to get Pick and Pluck Foam for a Pelican 1520 case on Amazon.

This all turned out to be a sweet deal.  I have room for a little bit more, but I'm taking my time to decide on the final slot.

Pelican 1520 case with camera equipment

From the top, circling clockwise:

  • 50mm f/1.4 primary
  • EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro 
  • 70-200f/4 L telephoto
  • EF-S 18-55 IS 
  • Canon D77 camera with EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM "pancake"
  • Canon Speedlite 580EX flash
I'm thinking of cutting a hole out for my LensBaby, but I'm going to let that thought marinate.  On the plus side, it would give me something with tilt-shift and fisheye capability.  On the other hand, I'd like to be able to store a few specialty filters, too.