All Quiet on the Western Front

•Wednesday, 6 October 2010 • Leave a Comment

© jmillerphoto.com - Clouded Sulphur Butterfly

No shooting over the past week.  It was a very busy week at school.  I had some hopes to do some shooting this past weekend, but illness provided me far less mobility and far more medical attention than I typically desire.  Next weekend isn’t looking any better, so I guess my photographic pursuits are limited to grabbing spots here and there to work in the digital darkroom.  I have added some additional pictures to my Flickr pages, including the one that headlines this post.

Recent Photo Shoots: Not so much

•Wednesday, 29 September 2010 • 2 Comments
American Bullfrog

© jmillerphoto.com - American Bullfrog

No shooting over the last week or so.  Part of it has been weather, but a lot of  it has been that I’ve just been so gosh darned busy with schoolwork and other things.  I have had some evening time to go through this summer’s bounty of images, making sure I have tagged them properly and identifying prospects for digital darkroom work as the weather cools.

Some things on the outskirts of my radar coverage…

I should have the 2011 calendar ready to go in the next month or so.  This year’s calendar will be my summer’s favorite shooting subject:  Odonata.  Most will be dragons but I will slip at least one damsel into the mix.  Working title is Mostly Dragonflies and more news as to where to order it will be coming hopefully in early October.

I have picked almost all of the images for next summer’s photography exhibit.  The theme of that one will be strictly Dragonflies.  I will keep the where and when under wraps for a little while, but the regulars probably all ready know the where.  The when is still a little squishy as I wrap up my time in Ohio and return home. The goal is to start making prints in early spring, though I’m hoping to get some Texas shooting in upon my return to supplement the images I have selected.

Provided I can find some time I have two or three more images ready to go up for sale on the galleries.  Maybe this week…  I received some great feedback regarding the last image I put up for sale from the first person other than myself that owns a copy.

Thanks for stopping by.

Recent Photo Shoots: Disappointments…

•Tuesday, 21 September 2010 • 2 Comments
Fragile Forktail Damselfly (female)

© jmillerphoto.com - Fragile Forktail (Female, feeding)

The last couple of shoots have been disappointing.  Fall is certainly here and my summertime photo subjects have gone into hiding.  A heavier workload at school has limited my travels as well.  Two visits out to Siebenthaler Fen over the last week.  The first one started very promising–a Bronze Copper butterfly (Lycaena hyllus) was perched really nice in front of me on the boardwalk.  First creature of the day.  Looks like a great shoot.  Nope.  Murphy’s Law took over and after just 11 exposures I was headed back to the apartment to take care of some urgent business.  Unfortunately by the time I resolved the issue it was too late to go back out.

The second trip was four hours mostly wasted other than having a good walk around the fen and good conversation with some volunteers that were resolving a beaver-related issue that was threatening to flood over all of the boardwalk at the fen.  Very few flying creatures otherwise.  A little excitement with a Common Ribbon snake hiding in a water puddle formed on a section of boardwalk.  Four hours equaled about 95 exposures.  Disappointing, but oh well, a good day making images is better than a bad day doing just about anything else.

A couple of life list adds though.  I saw my first Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) dragonfly on the 2nd visit, though I did not get a good image of him.  The Bronze Copper was also a life list add.

Trying to get another image up on the galleries this week.  Busy week in my “real” occupation so we’ll see how it goes…

Recent Photo Shoots: Old and new again

•Wednesday, 15 September 2010 • 5 Comments
Question Mark Butterfly - ©jmillerphoto.com

© jmillerphoto.com - Question Mark Butterfly

Fall is definitely creeping up on us here in the Miami Valley.  Two afternoons of shooting lately.  One was a trip back to Caesar Creek State Park and then caught Siebenthaler Fen on the way home.  Second was a trip to Sara Lee Arnovitz Nature Preserve in Xenia and then caught Siebenthaler Fen on the way home.  So the pattern is, if I go east, I always stop at the Fen on the way home 😉

First the Fen… The dragonflies that were in great abundance two weeks ago have thinned to nearly nothing.  A small number of Banded-wing Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks have taken their place.  Amphibian and reptile life has disappeared as well.  Beavers are still active but shy.  Butterfly population is steady to dropping as well.

Caesar Creek State Park also had a very small number of dragons.  Damsels, especially Blue-fronted Dancers were in great abundance at the visitor’s center pond.  A few damsels at the the program pond at the Nature Center, a few frogs, one Slaty Skimmer, one amorous Common Pondhawk pair, and a couple of butterflies.  Images at the program pond were from a distance as they have sprayed some herbicide to try to eliminate some invasive plant life.

Monarch - © jmillerphoto.com

© jmillerphoto.com - Autumn Monarch

Sara Lee Arnovitz Nature Preserve was a pleasant surprise.  I wish I’d found the place earlier because I’m sure that earlier in the summer that the dragonflies were in abundance, but what was there was mostly new to me.  Decent shooting, reasonably difficult hike, and a good afternoon.

It was a good week for the life lists.  Added was a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Fen), Tennessee Warbler (Fen), Autumn Meadowhawk (Arnovitz), Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Arnovitz), Peck’s Skipper (Arnovitz), Eastern-tailed Blue (Caesar), and Common Checkered-skipper (Fen–carry over from last week).  Nice images as well of the Question Mark butterfly, Blue-fronted Dancer, Monarch, and quite a few others.

I miss the dragonfly shooting gallery, but the images have still been nice.  You will see more in the weeks to come as gallery images.

Staying Between the Darn It Sticks

•Monday, 13 September 2010 • 1 Comment

© jmillerphoto.com - Road 85, Northeast Iceland

Staying between the darn it sticks… a skill that those of us who have lived in Iceland learned very quickly in our time there.  Darn it sticks (or other words expressing similar interjection) were mostly rigid yellow posts with reflective material at the top that were on either side of the roads in Iceland.   The tops of the sticks were cut at a 45º angle with the low end being closest to the road.  In low visibility, you could use the Darn It sticks to determine if you were still on the road.  If you were on the wrong side of the sticks, you usually uttered the word Darn It (or other words expressing similar interjection and/or disgust).

I bring this up not necessarily to reminisce about Iceland, though I’m not one to need an excuse to do that.  I bring it up because in this blog I think I’ve found myself outside of the darn it sticks.  Knowing your audience and writing things relevant to that audience is one of the keys to successful blogging.  It is the concept of audience that has brought me to this post and under my breath I’ve said “Darn it” a couple of times.

I write two blogs these days.  My original blog is Texas Photo Blinds.  It is a topic that I remain passionate about, though being somewhere other than Texas makes updating it a little more difficult.  The audience for that blog is far different from this one–typically photographers who similarly enjoy making images of birds in concealed locations and the occasional birder who enjoys the associated photography.

And then there is this blog.  I started it as an avenue to get out the word about the photographic things I am doing, whether it be places I am shooting, images I’m placing in the galleries, or places where my art is being displayed and/or being sold.

Often in the last few months other topics marginally related to photography or the subjects I am making images of has nudged into view.  They’ve been good posts, but they’ve strayed off the road a bit.  They have not always been about things directly related to the original focus on the blog, yet was related to either photography, places where I’ve lived or made images, etc.  Darn it!

So back to the road.  I want to stay on the road.  There are, and always will be instances where there is crossover of concepts, ideas, etc.  But for the most part, there are sticks to help keep me on the road for the focus of the blog and I’m going to try to stay between the sticks.

So, from this point forward I’m going to try to stay more in the sticks with this blog.  Of high priority are new images for sale, exhibits and gallery showings, and appearances on the Art Fair and Arts & Crafts Fair circuits.  I will continue to talk about photo shoots because that gives you an idea of where my photography is going and what may be on the horizon.  But I will try to keep it to short stories rather than emulations of War and Peace.  There is still a place for photographic technique, photographic philosophy, thoughts about the goings on where I am at or places I have been, but just not inside these sticks.  Of course, like members of Congress giving a speech, I reserve the right to extend and revise these remarks as necessary 🙂

About once a week or so I will discuss move discussions like those (and likely a few more) between a new set of darn it sticks at a new blog tentatively called Jim’s Assorted Usually Photographic Ramblings.  I know from e-mail correspondence that there is interest in at least a couple of those topics, but now it will be within those new set of sticks.  And the Texas Photo Blind blog will remain in tact, with some renewed vigor coming to that blog with my time in/exile to Ohio coming to an end and the anticipation that I will return to the Lone Star State this spring.

New Image: American Bullfrog

•Thursday, 9 September 2010 • 2 Comments
American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)

©jmillerphoto.com - American Bullfrog

It has been a while since a new image went up, but I think it has been worth the wait. The latest image over in my galleries at jmillerphoto.com is my favorite non-dragonfly image of the summer and is awful close to being my favorite image period of the last three months.

Our good friend the American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) hanging out in a pond with great hopes that his next meal may be on the way.  If you will remember from a few weeks back, this image was made at the conclusion of what was a pretty lengthy and, at the time, unsuccessful hike on a reasonably cool but very humid morning.  All in all it was worth the long hike, even though if I had approached the loop from the other direction it would have been three minutes into the hike instead of 53 minutes into the hike.  But in retrospect, if I had hit the the pond first then chances are the frogs may not have been out.  But I digress…

Normally I do my test prints at 8×10 and I was very pleased at that size.  But given that it was one of my favorites I went ahead and did an 11×14 and it is an incredibly beautiful print.  This one will likely do very well at 16×20.  As always, all of my sale images are over in my galleries on the other side of the website.

Recent Photo Shoots: Wow did that calendar page change quick…

•Tuesday, 7 September 2010 • 4 Comments

©jmillerphoto.com - Eastern Amberwing

Cooling temperatures are definitely in the air in this neck of the woods, and that is not a good thing for my pursuit of dragonflies.  We had overnight low temperatures dip below 60ºF (about 15ºC for the rest of the world) for the first time in months, and it has had a (wait for the pun) chilling effect on the Odonata.

Two trips this extended weekend.  One trip was to Siebenthaler Fen and the other was a day trip hitting the Possum Creek, Twin Creek, and Germantown Metroparks.  In all cases, the number of dragons is down significantly.  Species spread is still pretty good, but total quantity is down.   I still managed 821 images between the two days so obviously there’s something to make images of.

The weekend resulted in a single confirmed addition to each of my photographic life lists, that is one each for butterflies, dragonflies, and birds (Silvery Checkerspot, Band-winged Meadowhawk, and Eastern Kingbird respectively).  For me, an addition means I can identify it (sometimes with an assist from a fellow photographer and/or birder) and I hadn’t made an image of it before.  I have a couple of butterflies that I am still trying to identify and that will be my quest over the next week or so.

The weekend also resulted in a large number of Bloodhound Gang/Bad Touch/Old School Discovery Channel moments as I was constantly bombarded with photo ops that were dragonfly or damselfly reproduction in action.  I made images of at least four different species procreating (2 each dragons and damsels), and could have made far more.  Looks like a bumper crop of Odonata for next year.

I have at least two more blog entries to come in the next few days.  I have skirted my responsibility to get a sale image online which I hope to rectify.  That should be the first blog entry early in the week.  And then likely an admin one changing the shape of this blog a bit and announcing a new one.  As always, stay tuned…

Recent Photo Shoots: New places and old…

•Monday, 30 August 2010 • Leave a Comment

© jmillerphoto.com - Halloween Pennant Dragonfly

It was an interesting and frustrating couple of photo shoots in the last week or so.

It looked like my schedule might facilitate a mid-week photo shoot this past week.  But in each case, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.”  It was frustrating in that I know the summer is starting to slip away from me, the dragons have all ready started to diminish in numbers in preparation for fall and winter, and I will not get another opportunity to make images up here in the foreseeable future.  But it is what it is.

Photographic friends of mine had mentioned that Twin Creek was another hidden jewel of the Metropark system.  I had been over to Germantown Metropark and enjoyed it a lot, but I was willing to take a chance on the new place.  What a find it was.

Find is perhaps appropriate here.  To get to the main parking area for the park is easy.  Finding the two places I wanted to go, well, not so much.  Rural sprawl has hit the area and I drove by the first pond I wanted to hit not once, not twice, but 5 times.  No worries, though.  I did find what was going to be my second place which is Lake George.  Lake is maybe exaggerating a bit–It is smaller than the Sunfish Pond at Germantown MP and smaller than Dogwood Pond which is the place I kept missing.

Regardless of the size/name congruence, Lake George was an awesome find.  Great luck with both Widow Skimmers and Halloween Pennants.  The Halloween Pennants are not necessarily a “Life List” add for me, but it is a portfolio add.  I saw one weeks ago at Spring Valley but made very poor images of it.

After about an hour of shooting there I moved on to my quest of trying to find Dogwood Pond.  After a couple of missteps I did eventually find it.  Interesting area that I will have to hit again.  Lots of Widow Skimmers here as well.  A good variety of other things I’ve seen other places, but no surprises.  Lots of damselfly reproduction going on–a sign maybe that even the damselflies are making preparations for fall.  A couple of workable images–things you may see in a future blog post.

I thought I might get lucky and get some time in on Sunday, too.  But with finals and final projects coming up, most of the day was shot.  After a study session in the afternoon, I did try to scamper back to Spring Valley Wildlife Area.  The boardwalk is open for a couple of days before it closes again.  I assume it is hunting season related, but regardless with summer slipping away I wanted to take a chance and see what was going on.  As it turns out it was a bust.  Very little action late in the afternoon and no usable shots.

The coming week will be busy.  Final exams, final projects, and the calendar page moves from August to September.  A new print will go in the gallery this coming week.  Stay tuned.

Recent Photo Shoots – A couple of walks in the park…

•Monday, 23 August 2010 • 2 Comments

© jmillerphoto.com - Calico Pennant Dragonfly

A couple of unremarkable photo shoots since I last made a blog entry.  Really, both trips could have been better with additional time and some cooperation from Mother Nature.  But we’ll take what we  can get and be happy with it and move on.

Shoot number one was at Germantown Metropark again.  No thunder, lightning, and liquid sunshine to shorten that visit.  But other tasks that had to be done that day did knock down the time available.  I finally got a Calico Pennant image that I was satisfied with, though I’d still like to go back and try again.  No luck with the Black Saddlebags, though.  I need to research their behavior a little more to help me track down where they’re more likely to land.

I made two images that have gone into the Dragonfly Exhibit pile for a show planned for sometime post graduation, to include this one of the aforementioned Calico Pennant.  I also made a dandy image of a Robber Fly that I may have a purpose for in a future time frame.

Photo shoot number two was a meandering journey in search of light and new places to shoot.  After wandering to Spring Valley Wildlife Area (the boardwalk is still closed…), Glenn Thompson Reserve (neat hike, no dragons), and failing to find Creekside Reserve, I ended up at Siebenthaler Fen where I made a few images once the sun broke through.  Unfortunately, this didn’t occur until close to noon and by then the light was unflattering on most subjects.  I did get a dandy image of a Viceroy butterfly and a few other images that I will develop over the next few weeks and months.  I wish it was a longer visit, but again a bad day shooting is better than a good day doing just about anything else.  Bring on next week 🙂

© jmillerphoto.com - Viceroy Butterfly

Siebenthaler Fen

Recent Photo Shoots – Frustration and Unintended Subject Matter

•Wednesday, 18 August 2010 • 5 Comments

© jmillerphoto.com - American Bullfrog

The last week or so of shooting has been frustrating.  First off, it has been blazing hot in this neck of the woods.  I carry a 1.5 liter insulated container with me for my summer beverage of choice (iced tea) and more than once on recent trips I have run that thing dry and tapped into my reserve of bottled waters to stay hydrated.

And second, what I’ve gone out looking for has been rarely what I have come back with.

This summer has been the summer of the dragonfly.  I’m really pleased with the images that I am making and I’m enjoying the variety that the greater Dayton/Miami Valley is presenting me.

However, the last two trips looking for dragonflies have been, by and large, busts.

Trip 1 was out to Spring Valley Wildlife Area.  It had been about a month since I had been out there and I had hoped to get out onto the boardwalk to make some images.  Unfortunately, when I got out there the boardwalk was closed.  I’ve been meaning to call the park folks out there to find out why it was closed, but other priorities have kept me from doing so.  Maybe I need to do that tomorrow… I did walk around the lake at Spring Valley and made a few images, but nothing special.

Trip 2 was to Germantown Metropark.  It is (I think) the furthest west of the Five Rivers Metropark system parks.  I went again in search of dragonflies.  I went to the Nature Center side of the park to start with.  I was there relatively early and it was reasonably cool so I hiked a couple of the trails in search of Odonata.  It was a great hike, but very little dragon action.  Most of it was time of day.  I eventually did find a pond that had a few dragons, but the numbers were pretty low and the angles were not good.  I did find a few photogenic amphibians (one of which is pictured above), and a bunch of fungi on the hike.  But it was not the best shooting I’ve had recently.

I eventually made my way to the other side of the river where I found a really good dragonfly pond.  For amount of surface area it was by far the best dragonfly pond I’ve found.  7 different species, to include a couple of Life Listers (Black Saddlebags and Calico Pennant).  Awesome spot, right?  Cue the thunder and lightning, followed by the stream of expletives as the rain started to fall.

It was not all doom, gloom, and wet gear.  I made three images in particular I was really happy with.  First was of the American Bullfrog posted above.  This was at the pond on the Nature Center side of Germantown Metropark.  Another was a Life List add of a Clouded Sulphur butterfly.  That was an outstanding shot that I will be printing at some point this week in hopes of adding it to my gallery.  And the third was an overhead shot of an Eastern Amberwing that, in spite of the small size of the insect, came out crystal clear.

So it hasn’t been bad shooting and my list of images to work as the temperatures cool and the weather becomes less hospitable continues to grow.  I’m hoping to get proofs of a couple of these images printed this week and maybe a new image or two will appear online.