Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Dupont Circle Metro Station

I love the DC Metro. Not only is it a good way to get around much of the city, but I think the stations are amazing places for photos. I love the perspective, the motion of the cars, the dim lighting that allows long exposures to blur the cars and create light trails.

National Zoo Metro Escalator

Monday, July 12, 2010

Points of view

Disneyland Rollercoaster

The same ride, different frames of reference. What does this say? I'm not going for anything deep, but riding on roller coasters, and watching them being ridden is fun, but generally too short.

Wild Ride

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Washington Monument by night from a train

Washington by night and by train

Most of the photos that I take from moving vehicles at night are composed of wild, violent streaks of light, however in this case the slight gentle motion of the train made for a pleasing painting with the light. The landmarks, are recognizable if you know the scene, to left is the Washington Monument and to the right is the Jefferson Memorial. I don't have much else to say, but take chances to find the happy accidents.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Monkey's inmonkeyity to monkey


This is Duke. He is a mantled howler monkey living in Costa Rica. He was found abandoned on the forest floor as a baby and brought a local animal sanctuary. He is a perfectly healthy male, so why did the staff at the sanctuary hypothesize he was abandoned? You can't see it in the picture, but he has white patches of fur on this tail. The staff suggested this difference might be enough to make his mother reject him.

Living around three species of monkeys for a week was quite an experience. I had always thought them interesting, but I had not thought much about them beyond that. In observing them, it became clear to me that there are so many traits that I thought to be human that are distributed more greatly in the evolution of primates. Their ability to learn and reason, to predict. Even the expressiveness of their faces surprised me. Sadly we saw evidence of their response to abuse which seemed "human", and happily their ability to recover.

One of the many episodes I remember that demonstrated just how smart they are occurred in our last few moments at the facility. We were paying our bills and had put out some money as a gratuity for the staff. One of the spider monkeys saw the money grabbed it and reveled in the commotion it caused. She only ate a portion of the bills. After it had settled down and the money was recovered, my wife tucked the money away in what she thought to be a safe place, inside the pocket of a folder. Well, the monkey had been playing non-chalant but keenly observing. When we moved from the table, she sprinted across the yard, jumped to the table, opened the folder, and the entire scene replayed itself. Monkeys are, unsurprisingly, human-like.

Returning to Duke, it is interesting that that difference may have such terrible consequences in monkey society, and sadly it something apparently shared with humans. But as my friend Jeff often says, while we are products of evolution, one trait we have is our ability to transcend our evolutionary past, if we try. I have seen our ability to move beyond what once might have been adaptive. I hope we can do it more often. I wonder whether that ability is more broadly distributed in the evolutionary past?

And, Duke? He apparently got over his rough start in life and is leading his own troupe of "misfit" howlers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Putting Madison in a good light

The Isthmus

I am preparing materials to used when inviting my colleagues to Madison for a conference. I am having a bit of a hard time determining what might be short enough to be effective but not so long that it bores people. Then, I look at this picture. I think in many ways the city sells itself (at least in the right time of the year).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Best viewed large


I like this photo, but I encourage you to view it larger. Look at the eye of the bird in this size and at the larger size.

One frustration I have about looking at my photos in Flickr, and most sites that resize images is that I optimize the brightness on a larger view. As such, they are suboptimal and generally appear darker than I would like at the reduced size. If I optimize for viewing at the "normal" Flickr size, they are washed out at larger sizes.

Just a little whine for the evening, but perhaps a suggestion in there as well. Do others experience this? Could Flickr develop an algorithm that boosts brightness of images just bit the images that they are rendering down to a smaller size.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Even when enjoying the view, keep an eye on the details

Scarlet and yellow columbine with guest

As a parallel discussion to my previous post on being sure to keep a broader view, the converse is just as true. In this case, I was outside Glacier National Park, the columbines were blooming, and the cottonwood trees were shedding their seeds, so everything was coated with a coating of down. It was was a striking scene and I thought this particular variant was stunning.

It is easy to become so enamored by a situation that it can cause you miss important details. Some are only interesting, others may be remarkably important. In the case of this photo, if you were a bee or other pollenating insect, a small detail could be a matter of life and death. Look closely in the flower. If you don't see anything, view the photo larger on the flickr page. So when you are drawn into a situation, be sure to keep an eye out for important details, both for potential threats, but also the opportunities.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Keeping a broader view even when focusing on a subject

seagull and opera house

This is another "almost right" shot that I have from my photostream. There is nothing wrong with the picture. We were in Sydney on the ferry from Circle Quay to the Toronga Zoo. We passed the Opera House and was taking pictures as we went by. This gull was drifting along side almost within touching distance of the side of the boat. So, I took a picture and missed the one I should taken.

I have this thing about photographing animals. If there is animal within camera shot that is what I am thinking about photographing. This is one of those cases where I missed the bigger opportunity because of it. My personal depth-of-field was not set nearly as wide as the camera's. If I had been keeping my eyes wide open, I would have seen it. The classic B-horror/sci-fi shot of an giant animal over a major landmark. If I had dropped down and moved a bit to my left I could have filled the sky with the giant gull as it searched the grounds of the opera house for its next victims. As it is, it is a adequate shot of a gull, and you know where it was taken. If I had kept just a little bit of my thinking on the look out for the possibilities, it could have been so much more.

Friday, May 7, 2010

One perfect moment

Macaws in flight

Photography is living life 1/250 of a second at a time (or whatever your shutter speed is). There is nothing more rewarding than catching the image you are seeing the way you want to remember it. This is one of those cases. We were at staying at an animal sanctuary on the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica. One of the specialties of the facility is rainbow macaw rehab. They had several mated pairs that had developed their attachment after their rescues. They would at least twice a day, once just after sunrise, and then in the late afternoon, take a paired flight over their territory.

It is a spectacular thing to watch. These rainbows of color flying in synchrony. It is hard to miss. For along with the aerial show, is an incredibly loud set of calls, especially in the dawn flight (there is no sleeping late in Costa Rica).

I tried several times to get this right. I had my zoom out to the max, and it still was not enough. I had to crop it to get the composition I wanted, and play with the pulling detail from the shadows. It is not a perfect photo, but it was taken at the perfect moment.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A favorite snake moment


This is a brown vine snake in Costa Rica. I have seen a fair number of snakes in my days, but this was an interesting encounter. We were hiking through the forest surrounding an animal sanctuary. I had seen something move in creek ahead of us. Beth was following behind me, as I rapidly moved to the creek. She called to me saying, "Did you see this". I turned around and saw saw thin vine moving through the undergrowth. Then, I saw the vine's head. It was the first brown vine snake I had seen in the wild.

Of course, I had the wrong lens on my camera. I took a few shots because I was sure that the snake would rapidly slide off before I could change to my telephoto lens. I, then, went to change lens and a funny thing happened. The snake seemed to wait. It sat there as I changed lens, I took a few photos of its profile, and it then, almost as if on cue, it faced me. After a few more pictures, it was done, so was I, and it slipped off further into the forest.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thinking about a revisionist future

Tiny pupils

I love how the sloth's face emerges from the darkness. I wish my hand was not in the photo. I am looking forward to trying the contextual fill in Photoshop CS5, but I am also torn about its apparent power to bend reality. How will we know what is real?

Don't get me wrong, I think it is fine for photo as a representation for photographer's vision, but it problematic as photography is also used as a recorder of events. The use of tricks in photography have existed since photography started, both in the recording of images and their processing. In most cases these fabrications were obvious in their creation, and those that were not required a level of sophistication beyond all but the most practiced photographers and masters of the dark room.

The advent of digital photography did not alter this balance much, the people who had the skills to create realistic fabrications might have been different people, but still a rare breed. However, more and more, the software is encapsulating this expertise in easy-to-use tools that take next to no time to use. This is not a "in my day" post. I would just like to consider how we operate in this new reality where images may be based on real ones, but have been significantly altered. Not just by a select few, but anyone with access to the software.

Now, if you want your images to be accepted in some legal cases, there are special add-ons you can use with higher end digital cameras (most higher end Nikons, and 1D series Canons). So yet another reason television shows like CSI make me cringe in their use of P&S cameras for crime scene photos, which might lead to issues of authenticity (though not as badly as representation of DNA processing is handled). Still most of these are out the reach of most photographers, and most do not care, but it would seem that having a way to mark photos as unaltered would be of growing importance.

Until our cameras mark photos as original, this will come down to ethics. We will need to note when a photo is altered, especially when that alternation is significant. I run my photos through a workflow that typically does not alter the content much, but I do often modify the saturation and lightness and contrast, but occasionally more. I have been a Photoshop user for 20 years. I have significantly altered many photos in a humorous way or for aesthetics, but I was forthright with viewers if they asked, but I know I need to do more. Ideally, this would be embedded in the file so it it is not lost if it is moved around, or perhaps even allow the viewers to see the original image. With this coming future, I think it will be crucial to have the ability to mark photos as altered in a way that the viewers can find out if they would like to know.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The power of holding something in your hand

Our first cartoon model

Holding something in your hand can have a powerful effect. I hate to generalize based only on my experience, but it is my hypothesis. But, I am in good company Louis Agassiz the 19th Century naturalist said, "Go to nature; take the facts into your own hands; look, and see for yourself." In the photo is a "printed" model of a protein. I don't remember which protein, but that is not the point. The object pictured was directly fabricated from the collected data of the position of atoms in the molecule. It is rendered in "cartoon" format where the shape of the structure provides information about the structural nature of sequence presented. Anyone is able to hold onto this structure, spin it, see the relationships between to portiions of the structure, and stick a finger into the structure to literally get the feel of the stucture of a protein.

We have been making the models for about 5 years and have made them for researchers how use them to better explore the structures on which they work and share them with their peers and educators use them to teach college students, k-12 students, and the general public. And, we are not limited to building molecules. We have built models for physicians, engineers, artists, and designers. The common denominator being they have something to present that maybe significantly different to view and hold an object instead of viewing it in two dimensions on paper or a screen.

The "printer" that makes our models is not terribly common and the lowest priced version right now will cost you about $35,000, but their are models coming to market that will hit the sub-$5000 price point. They do not print in multiple colors, but they make a more durable model. I think we will come to a day where we create what we need when we need it and these fabricators will be very common, and it maybe here sooner than most of us think.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My second favorite species of turtle

In the glow of a Summer sunset

I love Blanding's turtles. They are my favorite. Softshell turtles, like this spiny softshell are a close second, despite their foul temper when caught. It's not that I blame them. Being plucked from your lake a poked at would likely make me cranky too. This female had a carapace length of about a foot, so she was medium sized for the ones I saw in this lake in the 5 or so years we lived there. They have fantastic long necks and very sharp beaks under that pig-like nose. I was trapping the lake to monitor the species in it, so when I caught her, I took the opportunity to take a picture before letting go.

The reason they are a favorite comes from the time I spent swimming with them around. During the summers we lived at Fish Lake in Michigan, I would swim almost every day for as long as an hour. These turtles hated me on land and rapidly shot away from boats and canoes, but I could swim very close to them. Watching them from the water is the only way to go. It was a fantastic few years, doubt I'll ever have a time like that again, but I only need to look at this photo to have all the memories flood back.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Looks comfy

Sleeping sea lion

The sea lion was napping on Seal Beach on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. She looked comfortable, and earned the rest. The water is very cold, and there are white sharks patrolling just off the beach waiting for the unaware animal going out or coming in. I hope that she is still soaking up the sun.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

City between the lakes

The Isthmus

I have a habit of taking pictures out the window of planes, Mostly of clouds, mountains, interesting refraction patterns in the scratched up windows, and the occasional glory. Usually when I fly out of Madison, I am leaving very early and returning late and it is too dark for photos. Every once in awhile I fly in or out during good light. I am still trying to time something so that I can use my SLR to get a really good shot, but until them this will need to do.

I think I was flying back from Denver so we came in to the south of the city, and by the isthmus. When you see it like this it is pretty spectacular (more and more, but frozen). I try to temper my in flight photography, but I am hoping for a few more good shots of the city.

I miss work that takes me outdoors

Morning on Mead Creek

I spent a considerable number of years as a field biologist. This photo was taken at the Mead Creek State Forest campground in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, late August. It was already turning chilly at night. I was making a last ditch effort to find mink frogs. Fortunately, for the timeliness of finishing my degree, I did. For getting to spend time in places like this, I guess I was not a fortunate.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Something new, something old

April showers, April flowers

Timing is everything, at least with bloodroot. Bloodroot is an early blooming flower native to the Eastern United States and Canada. It is a sign of spring in our back yard. The bright white flowers pop up before most everything else, and the leaves follow soon after. The interestingly shaped leaves with the striking net venation last through the summer, but the flowers only last a couple weeks. I have tried in the past to get a photo that I like of this flower. This still is not right, but every spring I have another chance and that is something to look forward to.

Friday, April 9, 2010

What is beautiful to you?

Testing the air

A gila monster, one of two venomous species of lizards. Taken at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wi. Its teeth are under the gum tissue, but you can see their impressive chompers at this site. Their venom is not particularly dangerous to humans causing pain and local damage, but the injury and reaction to the venom can cause the bitten person to go into shock.

I was at a meeting of herpetologists when an award was being presented for lifetime contributions to the field, and the presenter spoke about the difference between taxon specific biologists (those of us who specialize in the biology of a group like herps) and other biologists who study a process like genetics or physiology. One differences she had found between the groups is that taxon specific biologists see members of group of their interest as beautiful. I went through this long explanation so viewers might understand that when I look at this lizard, I am fascinated and awestruck, and I do find this lizard beautiful.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Golden eye

Golden eye

Close up photo of a jaguarundi. From the same wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica as other photos in my Flickr stream or this blog. The cat had been rescued from the illegal pet trade. It was not clear it would ever be in a condition where it could be released. Some of the sanctuary monkeys decided otherwise, watched how the cage was opened, and used that new found knowledge. The monkey was right. The animal seems to be doing ok and they are seeing signs that it is around their property.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Viral goats

Leap of faith

You never know what is going to going to catch someone's eye. This photo is from Goat Lick Overlook in Glacier National Park, called that because goats go there to lick the rocks for the minerals. The mother was leading the kid along the cliff face to the mineral lick, and kid had to jump across a small gap. It thought over the jump carefully before proceeding giving me a lot of time to get ready. It is an okay shot, but could be better, especially a longer lens would be nice.

For some reason, this got picked up by someone on Digg. I check my viewing stats on Flickr from time to time, and it was a shock to watch a photo that had about 1000 views get 40,000 in one day. I still don't know why this became as popular, and I agreed with the commenters that it was not clear why this deserved to be Dugg, though some of the comments were nastier than was needed. For brief and shining moment I had a taste of my media going viral, and, I have to confess that I enjoyed it while it lasted.

This out of focus photo started it all

Tumbling Pandas

This is the first photo that I posted to Flickr. I liked this photo because of the moment it captured, and I did not care that it was much less than perfect. If you read the about me page, I warn that the photos that I am writing about might not be good, but instead, be special to me. This is one of those cases. I was just trying Flickr, I told myself. I love taking photos, and I thought it would be a good entrée into social networking, much like I am trying to use my love of photography to make a serious try at blogging. I was not completely sure what I was going to do with my flickr stream.

When I started with Flickr, the ideal of social networking environments was still fairly new, and I was trying to figure them out. And, I still am. I created a user name that I could use and disavow later, if I need to. For a long time, I did not use my name in association with this user name. When I started with Flickr, in the pre-Yahoo days, it was small community. If you tried hard, you could see most of the photos added each day. For the most part, people were putting selected photos into their collections, rather than dumping every photo on their camera. I communicated and became connected with people who were interested in what I cared about and what I liked to photograph. My contacts are all over the world. It was a very encouraging environment, and generally continues to be one. I have drifted away from posting as much, but I still take time to add carefully selected images and to see what my contacts are posting. My association with Flickr has been very positive, and has helped me better understand the power of social networks, and become a better photographer.

Okay, now a bit more about the photo. These two are Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the parents of Tai Shan, the pandas at the National Zoo in Washington DC. This was taken in the months leading to Tai Shan's birth. It was amazing to watch these two interact. They were wresting, pushing each other around, and more, if you know what I mean.

If you have been to the older panda enclosure at the Zoo, you will remember that it is sloped towards the viewing area, much like the new enclosure. In this photo the couple were part way up the slope, and one would give the other a push sending its mate rolling down the hill legs extended. This happened several times, and each time the one that had been pushed rolled with its legs extended. I wish this had been in focus, but I still love this image.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Controlling depth of field

Loop upon loop
Coluber constrictor (blue racer) Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County Michigan, 1997

I love this shot; especially that the depth of field (DOF) is shallow and dead on with the eye. If you look at the large version on Flickr, you will see that the tip of the snout is just at the end of the area of focus and is a bit fuzzy. The out of focus parts of the snake exaggerate the length and draw your attention to the obvious glare of the subject. DOF is the phrase that describes the area in front and behind the focal point that are would be described as having acceptable sharpness.

I had everything going for me. It is a pre-digital taken with Minolta X370 and a Tamron 70-300SP on Ektachrome 200. I was about 5-6 feet back with the lens at 300mm, it's not recorded, but it was a cloudy day so I'm sure that I was shooting with the aperture pretty open. I was going to launch into a long discussion of factors controlling DOF, but there are others who have done a better job of explaining than I could. They involve issues of constant magnification, circles of confusion, and effective apertures.

Still for most, there are three classic factors to consider when controlling DOF, and the greatest impact is on those who use digital SLRs and SLRs. Point and shoot cameras are at a disadvantage for creating images with shallow DOF. These are the focal length of the lens, distance from the subject, and aperture (how much the iris is opened for the shot). To minimize depth of field, long focal length (telephotos), being closer to the subject, and large apertures (actually the smaller numbers f/1.8, f/2.8 rather than f/16) are better. Of course, the opposite is true when trying to broaden the DOF.

An important fourth factor that has more relevance with the advent of digital photography is the size of the sensor. If you have ever tried to get shallow depth of with a point and shoot digital, even if you can control the aperture, you have likely been left wanting. It hasn't been talked about much because a camera owner can do little about sensor size, whether that sensor is electronic or film, and on many less expensive cameras you have little control over the primary controlling factor, aperture. I shoot with cropped sensor cameras, that is cropped compared to 35mm film equivalent sensors like ones found in the Canon 5DmII or the 1DsmIV. This smaller sensor means with all other things being equal, the area of adequate sharpness is going to be about 1.6 times greater than "full-frame" cameras. So, if you want to take photos where you can easily control DOF, think bigger, and generally, more expensive. The larger the sensor, the easier it will be for you to control what is rendered as being in focus and what is not.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I can tell that it is spring

Blue spotted salamander egg
This is an egg of Ambystoma laterale at Black Pond Woods Park in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Even if I lost all sense of time, I would be able to tell the seasons. In the winter, photos of warm spots become popular, in the fall photos of changing leaves and pumpkins, and in the spring photos of amphibians and their eggs are searched for. This photo, rarely looked at, was a hot commodity today.

Mole salamanders (like tigers, spotteds, blue-spotteds, etc) tend to move to the ponds to breed when the ground begins to thaw. The migrate to ephemeral ponds that form in the spring from the melting snow and spring rains. They rarely seem to use ponds that don't, at least occasionally, dry up. Drying up keeps out fish.

These salamanders pick tend to pick the most miserable night of the year to move to the ponds. It is still cold, but just above freezing, with pouring raining. Still, watching them make their march, and then seeing them in the ponds doing their courtship dances is a sight to see and I forget the cold. For many years, watching the salamanders, listening for frogs was spring for me. From people using my photos and recordings, I see that it is still spring for many. I think I need to take an evening drive this weekend. It has to be rainy, though a little warm. I won't see the salamanders, but frogs like to travel in the rain, too.

One last thing... oddly, well maybe not, in the summer no one is looking for pictures of blizzards.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The price of a Creative Commons license

I didn't do it

I took this photo at wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica. This white-faced monkey had been injured and was recovering from surgery. It had been flown to San Jose to the veterinary school for the operation, flown back, and cared for weeks. When cleared by the vet, who would travel from San Jose, it was to be released back where it had been found. An amazing amount of time and effort had been devoted to this monkey so it could be released back to the jungle. So, what does this have to do with Creative Commons licenses?

I release the majority of my photos on Flickr under a CC-BY-NC license. What does that mean? If you would like to use my photos, you may do so without asking as long as you attribute the image to me, and as long as the use is not for commercial gain. I find my photos all over the web, and I like that. I have been able to go places and do things that I want to share, and if those photos help others, especially educators, I like that. I don't even need to agree with the person using the photo. For example, several of my photos are used on a creationist web site. I am an evolutionary biologist and have seen no evidence that supports their ideas. That said, they are in full compliance with the terms of the CC license. This was use was test of my resolve to use open licenses for my content. I thought of ending my use of CC licenses, but there is an honesty in their use. I did not agree with their interpretation, but they were true to context in which photo was taken. I am glad this was the first case where I disagreed with the party's use of my image, but, in the end, support their right to use it.

This brings me back to the photo. Every once in a while I do a vanity search. Given that attribution is a requirement of using my images, it allows me to find them. It is really a thrill to see your images used by the World Wildlife Fund, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and personal blogs. Well, I found a case that is again testing my resolve. Well, okay, not really, but I am less pleased with this use than the use of my images by creationists. An poster in a discussion board (that I will not link to so that I drive no traffic to the site) has taken this photo and is using it as an example of the illicit animal trade. It is not that they used the photo. It is not that they have placed photo in another hosting service so people can't find my other images. It is not that the attribution does not lead people back to my other images. They are in compliance with letter of the CC license. What makes me angry is the author's invented context for my image. The person suggests that this animal was part of that despicable trade. The person says you can see the sadness in in its eyes, or some other rot. What you see in that monkey's eyes is greed. It was trying grab my camera. This image is not of a monkey in the illegal animal trade. This animal is being well cared for, and who will get a chance to go back to wild.

As I think about how others use of my images, context may be as important to me as attribution. Inventing a story as a work of fiction and described as such, it fine. Inventing a story and portraying it as fact, even when plausible, is not. Fortunately, it is rarely a problem. I think most people understand that the story behind the image can be as important as the image itself. I don't need to agree with the user, but I want the honesty from that user. The occasional uses of my images by people with whom I disagree, and by the dishonest is a price I am willing to pay to see my images used for good causes, and in fun and creative ways.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

You can't go back again

Wish I was here

This photo has been used in many places around the web: travel sites about Costa Rica, people dreaming about a vacation, people just dreaming. It was a place to relax and wait for the monkeys come and nap with you or, more likely, flip you out. I love to look at the photo and dream, but the thing is, when I was there, I couldn't sit still long enough to enjoy this. There were things I had never seen before behind every tree, and sitting still while that was happening seemed a waste. For me this was the ideal place, half accommodations, half wildlife rehab facility/sanctuary. Happily for the animals, the Crews have been able focus entirely on the wildlife mission through the Fundacion Santuario Silvestre de Osa . Sadly, for us, we can't go spend another week with the animals, having breakfast with monkeys and macaws. Still, the Crews have used my photos in many of the promotional materials, I wonder if they would take me on as a volunteer photographer for a week some January or February?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rana aurora

Rana aurora II

This reminds me of different times. I was still a herpetologist. I was working on the evolutionary relationships of a group of North American ranid frogs and needed some related specimens from the Pacific Northwest lineage. I was attending the ASIH/SSAR/HL meetings in Seattle and colleague from Washington had brought a few tadpoles of Rana aurora and Rana muscosa for the live animal exhibit that is a feature of the meeting. That was just what I needed to fill things out, so at the end of the meeting he let me take them home.

I carefully carried them back to Ann Arbor in a plastic soda bottle in my carry on luggage. You can't do that anymore. From most of the specimens I collected tissue samples, and submitted them to the museum. But, I studied frogs because I like frogs. They fascinate me, and seeing tadpoles was not enough. I wanted to see what he would look like grown up. I took a pin head sized chunk of tissue from the margin of his tail, and proceeded to raise him. It was easy to get him to metamorphosis, but that is not the hard part.

I now had a very small, very hungry frog. What do you feed a very small frog? Well, they eat very small insects. They are harder to find than you might expect, but being in a biology department has its advantages. I popped down the hall to one of fruit fly labs. There are mutants of fruit flies that do not have wings or their wings are deformed so that they can't fly. I got a couple vials of curly wing flies. The adults were a bit challenging for him to eat at the start, and getting him to grow quickly would make the job of keeping him fed easier, so I trained him to eat the fly larvae off of a needle probe.

From the picture you can see that he grew into a fine young frog with amazing colors. He lived for more than 10 years, a very respectable age for a frog of his kind.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Phantom Ship, the right place at the right time

Phantom Ship, Crater Lake

The Phantom ship is one of two islands in Crater Lake. This one apparently reminded people of a ship, especially on misty days.

I don't think you can take a bad photo at Crater Lake, but we reached the area at just the right time. It had been snowing and most the road around the crater had been closed. We did not know, but we drove up to back gate with a couple of cars ahead of us. We didn't understand what was going on, so we waited a few minutes and a National Park Service vehicle drove up and opened the gate. We drove around the crater with untouched snow all around. Absolutely spectacular. Go if you can, whenever you can, but I hope that you can see it with fresh snow. More photos...

Studies in light and dark

Grinnell Point

Grinnell Point in Glacier National Park

Photography is painting with light, we take light through a lens and let it fall across a medium to record it, whether it be film, a CCD, or CMOS. The challenge of photography is that there is a issue of sensitivity to light and dynamic range. Each of these capture media have range of light that they will capture, and that range can be adjusted either by changing film speed or changing the settings of your camera's sensitivity. Generally, the higher the sensitivity, the greater visible grain (film) or noise (digital). In digital photography, that noise is amplified when you try to pull details out by making adjustments to the photo to extend the dynamic range in a photo. Ideally, you make a perfect exposure every time, but life doesn't work that way. The other two options are to fix it in software, or to move high dynamic range techniques (HDR). HDR takes multiples of photos is exact,or at least close, registration and overlays them and in software you choose which layer to reveal to give you a broader range of exposures to work with.

In this case, I was trying to boost the exposure in ways that minimized blowing out the highlights, while pulling detail out of the dark. You can see the amplified noise on the dark side of the mountain. Part of that might be further amplified by the processing that Flickr does in rendering versions of the image that is uploaded. I don't have the aligned multiples, I wish I did as these were great conditions for HDR. Looking at this makes want to go back to the original and reprocess it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Long exposures

Ghosts of games past
Ghosts of games past
Wynkoop Brewing Company 8s f/5 ISO 80

I love making long exposures that contain movement. I was in Denver for the NSDL in 2005 and we had gone out to try the local beer and play some pool. This was a great place for long exposures, dark, great warm colors, interesting features (in this case repeating elements in long lines - another angle), and lots of movement. The people moving about the tables become ghosts in the photo. I tried this at 15 seconds and it was too long, people were not in one place long enough to render a trace, and shorter made the people too "solid."

Pups on the beach

Sea lion pup waiting for mother

This Australian sea lion pup is on Seal Beach, Kangaroo Island.

Not much to say, but sea lion pups sure are cute. Ok a little more. The male sea lions are pretty hard on them. This one was waiting for its mother to get back from feeding and a young male chased it into the mallee.

Hawksbill turtles

Hawksbill Turtle

Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered sea turtles, so seeing my second one in the wild was a thrill. We were snorkeling at the Indians just off the coast of Norman Island, BVI. The first time I saw one was last in while snorkeling at Jost Van Dyke and that one spooked when it saw me. The one pictured ignored me and slowly swam around the reef eating while I followed at a safe distance. I followed it for about 5 minutes before it decided to move on. A couple quick strokes and it far out-distanced me and faded into the blue.

Sunset at the Caves

Sunset at Norman Island

I can't get enough snorkeling, and it usually means that I am trying to squeeze every last minute of time that I can from companions. I was pushing the limits of the day at the Caves on Norman Island. Beth had gone back the dingy, and I was trying to get a few more shots of the amazing creatures around the reef. The sun had set and it lit the sky a brilliant orange. I was swimming back, when I saw this lovely shot. This was taken with my underwater camera, not the best camera, but it sure worked here. More orange-y Norman Island sunset goodness.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Who doesn't love an egg-laying mammal?

short-beaked echidna

This is a short-beaked echidna. This one is a resident of the Toronga Zoo in Sydney. It was the first first time seeing a live specimen. It was great fun to see it emerge from the clumps of bunch grass. Only thing better would be seeing it live in the field, maybe the next trip.

This was another case (like the bat photo), where the Optio 750Z's swivel screen was a useful way to frame the shot as I had to reach down to get this ground level shot. I love the face-to-face perspective.

Sunday, March 21, 2010



These are disk winged bats in Costa Rica. We were hiking the trails in forest around the place we were staying, and I was peeking into heliconia leaves looking for frogs when I found these most unexpected residents. I had just bought my first digital SLR and was snapping like a mad man, but I was stuck. The top the the plant was about two meters, and I did not want to bend it down further than I had to peek in, which I would need to do if was to use my shiny new 20D. I had not yet had enough practice to shoot blind with that camera. Then, I remembered we had along our first digital camera, a Pentax Optio 750Z, with its lovely tilt-swivel LCD screen. I could take the picture while minimizing the disturbance to the occupants. It is still one of my favorite photos from the trip, even if it isn't a frog. Even with the thought put into getting the shot, the photo's quality is really a case of a blind hog turning up a peanut. This photo has been republished all over the web and used in several exhibits about bats. I like that.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Three toes on a two-toed sloth

three toed two-toed sloth

This was the first time I saw a two-toed sloth up close. This was one of two orphaned sloths that were being fostered until they could be released. To keep them safe they were in a tub with the bamboo lattice that they could hang from. This is the hind foot of one of them. Two-toed sloths have two toes on their front feet, and three on the back. The surface of the sole of the foot has an amazing texture, so soft. Caña Blanca Resort and animal sanctuary, Costa Rica.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Polar bear

Polar bear

Winter is fighting for a couple more days. We have a little new snow on the ground, so it seems like a good day to pull out a wintery scene. This polar bear at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison Wisconsin was simultaneously enjoying the cold and the sun. I converted this shot to B&W because the bear was a tan color and polar bears should be white.


I love getting views of my photos on Flickr, but that leads to a select audience seeing them, and the oldies but goodies being left behind. I have been trying get into blogging for a while, but I needed something that is easy for me to write about. I will use this space to write about my photos and tell a bit more of the story.

In this case the photo below is my most viewed image on Flickr. I am not sure why, but it has more than 60,000 views. It is a midland painted turtle hatchling found in Dolph Park in Ann Arbor Michigan. I took it when it was my job to walk around in parks and find things like this. I miss that job. The turtle was photographed and released.

midland painted turtle hatchling

This was taken on film in the late 1990's with my old Minolta x370. I wish my finger behind its head was a little more centered as it would look a bit more like a halo.

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