Scaling back the Shoot Reports…

•Thursday, 12 August 2010 • Leave a Comment

© jmillerphoto.com - Midland Painted Turtle

I’ve decided that for the near future I am going to scale back the Photo Shoot reports.  I’m still going out to make images.  I’m just going to be a little less verbose about it.

So in keeping with that, over the last week or so I haven’t shot a lot.  In an attempt to get some fresh air and maybe make some images I went out last Friday afternoon.  Fresh air was good.  Had a great conversation with a local photographer.  But the pictures, well, did I mention the fresh air and the local photographer?

I tried to get out into the fresh air in hopes it would kick me in the backside a bit.  There’s been a cold floating around where I am going to school and it has slapped me around pretty good.  I tried to do a little work on Sunday morning, but after just a short amount of time I was back in the car wondering what the heck I was thinking.

With the academic quarter coming to a close and projects, reports, and finals on the horizon, I expect that photography will take it’s rightful seat well in the back until September comes around.  September will involve a lot of writing and researching.  Hopefully a day or two out and about making images if I’m lucky.  If not, then it means winter will be setting in and we’ll be back into hibernation mode until spring, graduation, and a new set of adventures to follow.

Additional news on the horizon about a post-graduation photo exhibit.  So as always, stay tuned…

Photo Shoot: August 1st at Siebenthaler Fen (Beavercreek Wildlife Area)

•Sunday, 8 August 2010 • Leave a Comment

©jmillerphoto.com - Twelve-spotted Skimmer

A couple of weeks back I chose between going to Caesar Creek State Park and Beavercreek Wildlife Area  after making a quick but relatively unsuccessful jaunt out to Spring Valley Wildlife Area.  Go with the known rather than the unknown I said at the time.  And really it was a very good trip out to Caesar Creek.  But I still had Beavercreek on the agenda.  So with reasonably good (though getting hot) weather on the horizon, I made my way over to Beavercreek Wildlife Area.

This is where I need to be reasonably careful in the way I describe things.  Beavercreek Wildlife Area is a designation made by Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources.  This particular wildlife area is actually a pair of tracts of land.  I chose to go to the southern of the two tracts which is known by the local residents of the area by a more appropriate and descriptive name: Siebenthaller Fen.  Siebenthaler Fen is a very marshy area that is accessed via a long boardwalk.  This boardwalk traverses most of the wildlife area in a sort of a balloon-type pattern.  The boardwalk goes from the parking area up to a loop.  That loop leads to an observation tower over the marsh.

What I found was true photographic gold in terms of a marsh that was accessible, but it took some time to develop.  When I first arrived at about 7:30 am, there was very little in the way of flying creatures.  A few damsels here and there, but you really had to look for them.  As it started to warm up, the place came alive with dragonflies, though the species spread was reasonably narrow.  The dominant species were Blue Dashers, Common (Eastern) Pondhawks, and Common Whitetails.  As the morning wore on, a reasonably new species for me popped up as well in big numbers:  Twelve-spotted Skimmers.  I made quite a few shots of this particular dragonfly.

In the realm of dragons, I had one other thing present itself that was an add to the portfolio.  I had noticed a pair of Common (Eastern) Pondhawks (Erythemis simplicicollis) flying low around where I was at.  One baby blue and one light green.  Two possibilities popped into my head.  Either it was territorial (light green can mean both female and immature male in the Common Pondhawks), or it was mating ritual.  It turned out to be the latter as they ended up landing right in front of me on the boardwalk and formed their mating wheel.  Thankfully I was in the right place in terms of lighting and I made a few images.  And no, I will not be sharing that image here…

Also in the area were a number of butterflies, including another for my butterfly list:  The Summer Azure.

As I was wandering up and down the boardwalk, there were some volunteers out trimming the vegetation away from the walkway.  One of them commented that I should come out in the early evening because the species spread would be a little different.  I did come out later, though I did not see a significant change in the roster.  But I did get one very cooperative Twelve-spotted male that was “willing to work with me” for a little while and I made a series of images that I was able to experiment with in an HDR environment which I posted in my “Playing Catching up” post a little while back.

The same volunteer who gave me the tip on coming back later in the evening also explained to me that this was just a small piece of a corridor of marshland that ran from north to south in this vicinity.  This loose conglomeration of wetlands is supported by the Beavercreek Wetlands Association.  Among other things, they provide manpower to various projects for the health of these marshlands (i.e. removal of invasive species, restoration, etc) as well as maintain the boardwalk on this tract of land and work towards making other wetlands more accessible.  Great folks putting in hundreds of hours to help nature and their local community.  Outstanding!

Frame count for the day between the two trips was approximately 450 images.  The life list expanded again, the portfolio undoubtedly expanded, and I was able to relax a little bit.  Win, win, win in my book.

Photo Shoot Report: July 25th at Englewood Metropark

•Friday, 6 August 2010 • Leave a Comment

© jmillerphoto.com - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Days that start out rainy can turn into photographic gold. Or they can be just so-so. I’d say the trip on the 25th was just okay.

I got out to what would normally be a late start for me.  A friend needed to get to the airport at 9AM which is a couple hours later than I normally want to start.  But there are a few things more important than photography, one of which is making sure that friends are taken care of.  Looking at the radar there was definitely rain in the area, but judging by the speed of the storm and the dry skies behind it, I knew that by the time I stopped at the airport and dropped my friend off that the skies would be more cooperative and the short trip to a number of possible photo areas would be enough time for things to clear out and allow me to get to making some images.

While I was in the north end of town, I figured that it was the perfect opportunity for my long delayed trip to Englewood Metropark.  The old-timers will still call this area by it’s original name: Englewood Reserve.  But it falls under the Dayton Metropark system.  I was impressed by what I saw up there.  The only thing that they don’t do all the well there is signage–I drove right past a couple of the park entrances without any idea that they were park entrances- – something that is very unusual for the Metroparks.  But then again, this park has been around forever so maybe there is an assumption that everybody knows where it is.

Once I figured out where I was, my goal was to go to the north end of the park.  This area is, by all accounts, a former gravel quarry that has been reclaimed into parkland with fishing opportunities and a number of hiking trails.   What I found were plenty of flowers, but fewer butterflies and dragonflies than I had hoped for.  I did make a very good image of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, a not so good image of a Red Admiral butterfly, and a few okay images of dragonflies, though as luck would turn out they were mostly the female gender of a lot of dragonflies I had made images of on previous visits to other areas where I’d only found males.  I did add one to the Dragonfly life list – A female Twelve-spotted Skimmer.  I had much more luck with the Twelve-spotteds in a later photo shot elsewhere, but I’ll get there with that story eventually.

I only made about 100 images at the north park.  The clouds were returning and I was losing my light yet roasting in the increasing heat and stifling  high humidity.  I wandered through the rest of the park area and made notes for a future visit, to include trying to stop by the Aullwood Audubon Center which unfortunately was still closed by the time I packed up for the day because they open relatively late on Sundays.  I did traipse through the Aullwood Gardens (which is run by Metroparks), but again the light was very poor and I quickly cut my losses and moved on.

All in all it was a decent day and I hope to get back there before my time in this neck of the woods disappears.  End result of the day was maybe two or three keepers, and one that may end up on a wall eventually.

Playing catch up…

•Monday, 2 August 2010 • Leave a Comment
©jmillerphoto.com - Twelve-spotted Skimmer

©jmillerphoto.com - Twelve-spotted Skimmer (HDR)

I am indeed playing catch up.  I have had some awesome shooting opportunities the last couple of weekends.  And I have had a stack of work at school.  So the writing here has taken a back seat.

Some things on the horizon.  I  still have an image to put out on the galleries for sale.  I looked at it again and I wasn’t happy with it so I went back to the digital darkroom to do some more work before I release it.  I have a couple of photo shoot reports to put out there.  Somewhere I also have a philosophy post that I want to develop, but again other things have understandably taken precedence.

So more to come…as soon as I can get some of these things off my plate.

Photo Shoot Report: July 17th at Spring Valley and Caesar Creek

•Tuesday, 20 July 2010 • 1 Comment
©jmillerphoto.com - American Bullfrog

©jmillerphoto.com - American Bullfrog

I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut when it comes to shooting locations.  Spring Valley has been very good in terms of dragons and damsels, though on this Saturday’s walk it was just okay.

I went into the trip with a little bit of an agenda.  I am very comfortable shooting at Spring Valley and I know more or less what I am going to find when it comes to the species and where they want to land.  Earlier in the week I was playing with a shot that concentrated on dragonfly eyes.  My thought going into the trip was “How close can I get with my lens set up to work in a set of eyes.”  As it turns out, even with my macro extension tube, not nearly as close as I would like to.  I can work about a 1200×1200 square and get the eyes and the legs into a shot or just 750×750 if I want just the eyes and the upper thorax.  It is at that point that my efforts are defeated by the lens combo’s minimum focusing distance.  I could still get significantly closer before intruding into the Blue Dasher’s circle of fear, but the optics would not allow it.  Sounds like next summer I will have to rent Canon’s new 100mm IS macro and see exactly how close I can get.

I shot in Spring Valley for a while before I packed up and moved to my next location.  I had the choice between going to Caesar Creek State Park (where a fellow photographer I know did some nice work on butterflies last week), or try the completely unknown and check out Beavercreek Wildlife Area.  I went with the known and headed out to Caesar Creek.

First stop was the Nature Center.  There were a couple of ponds near the center, but one of the ponds was not photography friendly at all, and the second one was good but the time of day was starting to get the best of me.  After making a few images, to include the American Bullfrog in the top left of the post, I walked into the Nature Center.  I talked a bit with the young lady working there and she told me there was a third pond very close to the nature center.  With directions in hand I went over there and hit the jackpot.  Widow Skimmers, Slaty Skimmers, Common Pondhawks, and Blue Dashers.  Great lighting conditions.  No other distractions.  Wish I had gotten there sooner.

Next I moved over to the Visitor’s Center and found another pond that was also blessed with dragonflies and damselflies.  Lighting conditions got considerably trickier, but I made good images of Common Whitetails and Slaty Skimmers.  Blue Dashers, Eastern Amberwings, and Widows Skimmers were present there as well.

I wandered back to Spring Valley on my way home, but light was difficult and I didn’t make very many shots.  By this point I had exhausted the supply of iced tea in my Bubba Keg, so it was time to head back to the oversized dorm room.

Very good day of shooting, though only about 60% of what I’ve been doing lately in terms of frame count.  But probably a half dozen keepers and at least one wall hanger.  More shots from the trip are over on my Flickr page, though I would bet that you will see one or two as images for sale when I get the time to work them.

A slight Flickr…

•Sunday, 18 July 2010 • Leave a Comment

© jmillerphoto.com - Widow Skimmer

I’ve branched out a little bit when it comes to displaying my images online.  Many of you have of course seen my Pictures from Iceland site.  And I post images for sale over at my galleries.  And with practically every web post I include an image or two here.  I am now also posting select images from my various photo shoots to Flickr.  Probably no more than 5 or 6 at a time, but just enough to give you an idea of what I’ve been doing lately ahead of a blog post…

Almost caught up…

•Thursday, 15 July 2010 • Leave a Comment
Pearl Crescent Butterfly

© jmillerphoto.com - Pearl Crescent Butterfly (Phyciodes tharos)

I’m almost caught up again with posts.  I still have a “new image” post to do some time this weekend and then it is back to the well.  I did not do any shooting last weekend–I was in Baltimore to attend a retirement ceremony for a member of my family and made the conscious decision not to bring photo gear that would enable me to do wildlife work.  The retirement ceremony and getting to see family members was far more important than making additional images.  But I do hope to make it back to that neck of the woods another time so I can do the tourist thing and make images of DC and the pretty things that Baltimore has to offer.

No concrete-firm plans for this weekend, though I’m hoping that there will be some photography involved.  Good weather is forecast for the weekend in my neck of the woods.  There is an airshow in town and there is definitely a tug in that direction. And I hear that the dragonflies and wildflowers are running very strong.  I guess it depends on how much homework gets piled on me between now and Friday afternoon and where my desires take me.

Photo Shoot Report: July 5th @ Spring Valley

•Tuesday, 13 July 2010 • Leave a Comment
Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa)

© jmillerphoto.com - Widow Skimmer Dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) - Male

The long holiday weekend afforded me a little bit of free time which I gladly spent again at Spring Valley Wildlife Area.  I managed to achieve the early start that had escaped me earlier in the weekend and got there around 7:30AM.  There is a trail along the west side of the lake which I had not explored as much as I wanted to, so while it was still relatively cool I took the chance to do so.  As it turned out, there was not much to be found further down the trail, but at least I could resolve my curiosity on the subject by saying I’d been there.

Plenty of dragons to be found, though the damsels were not nearly as prolific as they were on my Saturday walk.  But the walk did provide me with a good butterfly image or two, to include a species that I did not have a picture of.  Thankfully the butterfly was very cooperative and I made what I think was a very good image of it.  You should be seeing that image in future posts.

As I walked back to the vehicle, the cool early morning was turning into a blast furnace of a mid-morning.  By the time I made it back to the parking area I was very glad that I had filled the thermos full of iced tea so I could rehydrate and hit the trails a little longer.

When I did make it back out there, I noticed that the Widow Skimmers (Libellula luctuosa) were out in full force.  I had spotted my first one on my Saturday walk, but I couldn’t get a pleasing angle on one before I ran out of frames.  This time I had plenty of ammo left and made some images that I was very happy with.  One is posted here, but also expect more the pop up in the weeks to come.

By the time 11am rolled around, there wasn’t enough cold iced tea to keep me out and about in the heat and humidity, so I packed it up, headed back to the vehicle, and rolled back to the oversized dorm room.

The highlights of the day included the Widow Skimmers, my first view of a Halloween Pennant dragonfly (though I did not make a very good image…maybe next time), and a few Ebony Jewelwing Damselflies with at least a couple shots of a female Jewelwing that I expect to be hanging on a wall very soon.

Another 500+ image day with probably a half dozen keepers in the set.  A very good morning of shooting.

Reflections: How can I keep shooting? I only have 36 images left on the card?

•Friday, 9 July 2010 • Leave a Comment

©jmillerphoto.com - American Bullfrog

Towards the end of a recent photo shoot I looked down at my camera and saw that I only had 36 images left on my memory card.  It was the only one I brought that morning for reasons that I think I talked about in that post.  The number was a bit jarring because at the start of my walk it displayed 432 images left on the card after I had reformatted the card and started fresh.

36 images left.

There was something about the number 36.  As I was walking back to the car (and multiple times since), I reflected on the fact of how much photography has changed (both in general and for me)  in just over 5 years or so.  I bought my Canon 10D, my first digital SLR, in the fall of 2004 (a camera which at 6 megapixels is still a very fine backup body, by the way…).  I purchased it as the Canon 20D was coming out so I got a good deal on it. The primary reason for picking it up was that I was tired of feeling violated every time I had to take film into Keflavík to be processed.

Please don’t get my wrong–I loved my friends at the Kodak store in Keflavík.  Wondeful people who did marvelous things with the images I made and were always exceedingly kind to the young American who had no bloody clue what he was talking about.  If I needed an image done right, I knew I could trust those folks without hesitation (as opposed to taking them to the Navy Exchange, where I knew they would make lousy prints and might destroy my negatives in the process).

But with exchange rates being what they were, I was paying about $25 a roll to get single prints and my negatives (in 2 to 3 days).  In my American “double prints in an hour for $7.99” mind, $25 a roll should have come with 3 minutes of snuggling and a kiss.

And then when I got the images home, the prints would go into a drawer and I’d pull the negatives out and scan them with my film scanner.  That in itself was another hour or so wasted that I could use spending time with the family or going out and making more images.

I bought the 10D for right around $1000 and dropped another $100 or so on a 1Gb card.  My math told me that 45 roll equivalents and I would have made my money back on the deal.  By the time we left Iceland 18 months later, I had shot the equivalent of about 110 rolls.  I think my return on investment was a good one.  For what it is worth, I’ve exposed maybe a dozen rolls of actual film in my old Canon Elan 7e since.

Back in film days, the largest canister available (unless you rolled your own B&W) was a 36 exposure roll.  On a good day trip in the back roads of Iceland I would probably go through 3 or 4 rolls of film.  So maybe on a really busy day of shooting I would expose 140 images or so. When I got my 10D, I treated it like a film camera.  I would stop at a church and make 7 or 8 images and then drive away.  Maybe a dozen if I really wanted a wide variety.  Part of this was because memory was still pretty expensive (and I only owned two 1Gb cards).

Flash forward to today.  If I don’t shoot at least a couple hundred images in a morning of shooting, I’ve probably had a really unsuccessful morning.  Much of this is a change in shooting style.  I’ll blame a Canon pro rep for pointing out that if I shoot in burst mode, then the mirror goes up and stays up until I’m done shooting my burst, meaning less vibration and theoretically a sharper image after the first.  And it isn’t like I’m exposing film that I have to have developed.  Of course, his tacit agenda is the more you shoot, the quicker that shutter mechanism is going to wear out and the sooner you’re either going to have to send it back to Canon for servicing or the sooner you’ll talk yourself into a new camera.  But I digress…

For the shooting that I do, it makes sense to make multiple shots at a time.  If I shoot three or four, I may get a change to that bird’s expression that will make the difference between a ho-hum image and one that will end up on my wall.  Three or four may make the difference between being steady with my monopod with 2 or 3 of them rather than take the chance that I’m going to miss the shot entirely.

But what it also means is I can make a number of images and experiment with aperture settings, speed settings, and exposure adjustments and get a better understanding of what my art is capable of without the limitations of life in sets of 36.

36 shots left.  Holy cow, what am I ever going to do? I did what any respectable photographer would do.  I saved a few for the ride home, but I made a few more images while the light was still being kind to me…

Photo Shoot Report: July 3rd @ Spring Valley WA

•Wednesday, 7 July 2010 • 1 Comment

©jmillerphoto.com - Female Blue Fronted Dancer Damselfly

With homework taken care of, reading up to date, and household chores knocked out, I allowed myself to go out and do some shooting Saturday morning.  My plan was get an early start, go out to Spring Valley Wildlife Area while it was still cool, shoot for a couple of hours, and then drive out to one of the Metroparks to shoot something a little bit different.  Ten minutes down the road from my home away from home I realized that I had not put my memory card back into my camera and I did not have any spares on me after some photo gear rearranging I made in Texas.  A quick u-turn, many expletives, and one memory card later, I was back on my way to Spring Valley.

Once I got out to Spring Valley I found some great photography opportunities.  I stopped first at the boardwalk parking area and scoured the brush for dragonflies, damselflies, and other targets of opportunity.  There were a few dragonflies up and moving, but they were mostly things I all ready had pictures off.  It didn’t keep me from firing off some exposures, but I figured it was time to move to the south end of the lake.

Down at the south end, the subject matter was a little more varied and lot more populated.  I walked a good distance along the side of the lake and encountered a wide variety of both dragonflies and damselflies.  I also managed a few bird shots, to include Great Blue Herons (though sadly with unusable light) and a male Northern Cardinal (with way too much light) who made a quick swoop before he realized that I was there.  After two hours of shooting, I looked down at my frame counter and saw that I had on 36 images left on my memory card.  Now that was a productive morning of shooting.

I contemplating off-loading the images and then returning to my original plan, but it was getting hotter than I could tolerate and I knew that I had a lot of work to do to meta-tag and sort through 500+ images.

Of that set, you will definitely see at least a couple of them in the galleries for your consumption.