I think I spent an hour or longer last night looking for a single wildflower to shoot and found nothing. We have had so little rain here this summer that nothing wild is blooming, until I woke up this morning and looked right outside my window. I always forget about these tiny little violet wildflowers. They open every single morning and are gone by about 9am. Of course they get more water than the rest of the scorched earth around here since they are close to the house. Ebby unwillingly sat among the flowers for me, so patiently. She can be like stone when you just place her somewhere, poor thing. If you want to see the EXIF metadata for the macro shots above go here or here. They were taken at “life-size” or a 1:1 macro. I love the reflection in the water droplet (and no I didn’t place that there, God provided a nice bit of dew on the flowers just for me this morning). You can actually see the house and my camera if you look close enough. Hope everyone has an enjoyable Saturday, and has someplace to stay cool.
Today for Friday Feet Deb and I took the short drive over to Callaway Gardens. The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is a great place to spend a few unique hours with the butterflies. I have been to the Butterfly Center 3 or 4 times before, but not for about 10 years or so. I had not been since I switched over to digital shooting so today I finally got some of what I have on film from years ago.
The Cecil B Day Butterfly Center has 1,000 tropical butterflies, representing more than 50 different species, flutter freely through the air. Tropical plants and birds, reside peacefully with the colorful winged jewels in North America’s largest, glass-enclosed tropical conservatory.
It is a different kind of setup to get some good shots over there and a flash is almost a must so thanks very much to Jak Blount for letting me borrow his Nikon SB-800 (I’ll return it with a nice new diffuser for you). There is a lot more over at Callaway than the butterfly center of course and if you like to ride bikes, they have a great 10 mile paved trail through the park.
Once we were finished over at the butterfly house we got on our bikes and peddled through the rest of the park, something I haven’t done in all my other visits. To my surprise, there is a lot more to see over there than butterflies. About half through the trail we came upon a beautiful Chapel that the Callaway’s had built back in the mid 1960’s. The stain glass was original and is still maintained by the company that installed it over 40 years ago. Just an incredible display, and a 1,300 piece pipe organ to go with it. I bet the acoustics are great when that organ gets going.
We finished up the bike trail stopping at various attractions that Callaway Gardens has to offer and ended with an early dinner in Columbus. As I sit here writing it is pouring down rain and the temps have dropped at least 20 degrees from this afternoon. We managed to spend the day in 70* sunshine. If you have a chance to get to Callaway (especially during the Spring bloom) it is well worth the trip.
I will upload all of the photo from the shoot to my flickr account in the Callaway Gardens gallery some time tonight, the stain glass close up shots are pretty cool. Have a great weekend everyone.
The image of the day is an image that is pretty much a symbol of lower Alabama area, the Golden Eagle. More than a mascot, this is a magnificent bird to see in flight. This is another photo that was taken at the Auburn University Raptor Center during a photography shoot. There were so many magnificent birds at the raptor center like a Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Falcons of all kinds and so much more, like this Great Horned Owl I photographed below.
Photographing wildlife, in the wild is very challenging and can require some expensive equipment to really get the shots you are looking for. A good way to get your feet wet in the wildlife area is to photograph in a controlled setting, like a zoo or wildlife sanctuary. These large raptor birds are so beautiful and seeing them up close is really something. If you have a chance, go down to the Auburn Raptor Center and see all the birds they have.
Sometimes when photographing wildlife you just have to be in the right place at the right time. This is no small owl, the Great Horned Owl is quite large, and their flight is so silent that I have seen them fly across a large pasture, right by my head, and never knew they were there until I saw the enormous wing span of this bird fly by.
Other times though, you would be best to make your own luck. This shot was taken at the Auburn University Raptor Center when my UAB photography class was invited to see the birds, and learn about wildlife photography while we were there. Proper technique in wildlife photography is important so as not to disrupt the animals behavior, but it also isn’t as simple as asking a person to turn and smile.
We have these owls all around our property here in Alabama. I would hate to have this guy bearing down on my head. His distinctive yellow eyes makes him look quite intense.
Other posts of note on the Great Horned Owl I found are: OWL: Great horned owls!, and Hatchling Great Horned Owl, if you ever have a chance, try to visit the AU Raptor Center, you won’t be disappointed.
This image of the day is a little different. This is a Coypu or Nutria, sort of like a beaver with a cat-like tail.
The coypu or nutria (Myocastor coypus) is a large, herbivorous, semi-aquatic rodent and the only member of the family Myocastoridae. Originally native to temperate South America, it has since been introduced to North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, primarily by fur ranchers.
This, not so little, guy just sat here with me for about an hour. Animals can be a lot of fun to photograph, if they cooperate, and they usually don’t. When trying out wildlife photography, best to use a very long lens if you can, at least a 200mm would be a good place to start. Isolate the background by using a very small aperture (stop all the way down to f2.8 if you have that fast of a lens).
The point of focus is almost always going to be on their eyes. You want the eyes to be in sharp focus and just let the rest of the image fall where it does. Even with the focus on his eyes here, you can see some pretty good detail in his paws.
If you can use a directional flash without disturbing the animal it will give just enough of a flash off their eyes to make them look more real, not like a wax figure.
- Body – Nikon D2X
- Lens – Nikon 80-200mm f2.8, with a Nikon 1.4x teleconverter
- Shot at f4 (due to the one stop loss from the teleconverter) @ 1/400 sec.
- Film – digital @ ISO-100
Butterflies make great subjects. They stay still for you, or at least, they land some place long enough for you to usually get a half way decent image. You can also be creative when shooting butterflies. Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Georgia has one of the best butterfly displays anywhere in the country. They have over 1,000 butterflies and more than 50 different species that are free flying as you walk through a jungle like home, made just for the butterflies. It covers about 4 1/2 acres with a waterfall and ceilings that go from 16 feet up to 42 feet in hieght.
The Cecil Day Butterfly Center in Callaway Gardens is a must see if you are going to be anywhere near the area. I would recommend going during the week when it is a little quieter, and I would try to be there as early in the morning as possible, especially if you are interested in photograping the butterflies.
Using a flash will give you a nice blacked out background and using a small depth of field without a flash will give you some nice greens and solid colors. This image was taken in August at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia at the Cecil B Day Butterfly Center. Yes the same place that has the most beautiful golf courses also has butterflies.
Other Posts About the Paper Kite
There were a few other blog posts and images about the Paper Kite that I found. Such a beautiful butterfly, easy to get quality images, but not very many websites that showcase this little guy. Here are some: Rice paper Butterfly, Butterfly photos, Tree Nymph Butterfly.
I had the first Bald Eagle sighting over our property today. A drought stricken pond gave up one of its last remaining fish for this Eagle, a magnificent sighting for here. I had been looking for raptors on the property since we moved in but the most common one is the Red Tail Hawks (and a variety of other hawks) that seem to like to hang around our bird feeders and pick off the ones that hit the window or some other problem. Not the Bald Eagle. He only wanted the fish and quickly flew off.
I took this photo here of a Bald Eagle at an Auburn football game. This is Spirit, one of Auburn’s Bald Eagles, but he looked just like this out here at our little pond. I am working on a list of wildlife seen on our property. So far, a home for several families of Fox Squirrels, a Fox, Coyote, Armadillo, deer, Re-tail Hawk, Coopers Hawk, Kestrel Hawk, Bald Eagle, and a large number of species of feeder birds.
What does this have to do with faith… well… God made all the creatures of the Earth, right.
Two weeks ago we left on our round trip journey and we are happy to be back home again. We left for California on March 16th with inventory in the car and motorcycles in tow. The trip to California would take us through Memphis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and finally Rosmond, CA (near Mojave and Edwards AFB). We decided to have a little change of scenery on the way home by going the southern route. This took us through San Bernardino, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, and Pensacola. Throughout the entire trip we recognized many, many places we had been repeatedly in the bus when we were vending at the national shows. One of the things that was very different this time though was that we were staying in hotels and eating at local restaurants. Not quite as inexpensive, or predictable. I will explain this one later.
We started out from the house in Alabama very early in the morning. Our mission for the day was to make it as close to Oklahoma City as we could before stopping for the night. Scott surprised me before we even left the house with his new haircut. I was so surprised and thrilled. It took a little getting used to, but I really love it.
Arkansas was beautiful, as always.
The first night on the road I gave Scott his second harmonica. This one is in the key of G. He loved it and played it throughout the trip. Below are some other sights along I-40 between Fort Smith, Arkansas and Albuquerque, New Mexico where we stayed the second night.
Leaving Albuquerque the next morning we headed out for our first planned (fun) destination of the trip, Las Vegas, NV. We arrived at the hotel, and after freshening up we headed over to our favorite place for ribs. This little casino is a couple of blocks off the strip and is loaded with locals. Inside the casino is a micro brewery that serves only two menu entrees. There are no menus as the entrees are posted on the hostess stand as you enter. There are a total of 12 booths/tables in the entire restaurant and we made the mistake of arriving right at dinner time. The wait was ultimately 2 hours for a booth, but the ribs were fantastic as ever as well as the (free) micro-brew beer. The total for dinner for the two of us came to a whopping $10. NO, I will not give the name of this place out. It is one of our secret spots.
The next day we headed out for a bike ride and eventually ended up at the the Bellagio casino to watch the fountains for a while before heading to dinner. The fountains are really incredible to watch and the choreography is fantastic. We love to stroll this part of the strip, watch the tourists and soak in the flavor of the city.
The beauty of the fountains on the outside of the Bellagio is rivaled only by the beauty of the seasonal flower displays on the inside. Every three or four months they change the decorations throughout the casino. There is a very large vestibule just off from the main check in lobby that is completely decorated in flowers always with a central theme. We have usually been here in the fall or winter so we have seen the Christmas display several times. This time we were treated to the spring display complete with gigantic butterflies, storks and frogs. There were fountains of water pouring from an enormous watering can (actually the water was flowing into the can) and a fountain archway. The crown jewel of the display was the glass butterfly house at the back of the room that you could walk through and view all types of colorful butterflies.
We spent a few hours playing video poker and eating Panda Express Orange Chicken, two of our favorite things to do. When we left the machines for the night the jackpot had reached a pretty high number so we decided to play the same bank the next day if the jackpot had not been hit. As our luck would have it the jackpot was still in tact the next day so we played for a few more hours until a man on the other side of the machines hit the jackpot. All was not lost though, since we had played enough to earn a free buffet lunch in comps. Cool. One last photo before heading to the Mojave desert.
As we traveled to our farthest destination on this trip we talked about the business we were selling and where we wanted to go from here. We decided to start seriously looking for a larger sailboat (one that we could keep on the coast somewhere) and to sell the bikes and our current sailboat. We really love our bikes and I will never forget learning to ride my Rebel, then upgrading to the Shadow. We have decided it is time to move on to the next thing life brings our way. What a coincidence to see this traveling through the desert. Is is a sign? HA HA
We made it to Moab and spent two full days training the buyer of our business on the ins and outs of eBay and online sales. It was a whirlwind course and I wish I had recorded it all because we could really do some serious seminars on this stuff. It is amazing how much you know that you don’t know you know. Anyway, after two exhausting days we headed back toward home. We were not at all interested in seeing I-40 in reverse so we headed down the southern route down to I-10. We knew we could dip down through Houston and the coast throughout Louisiana and Mississippi.
We trekked through El Paso and decided to take a detour through Austin instead of going down to San Antonio and back up again. Our goal was to reach the famous Threadgill’s restaurant where Janis Joplin got her start in Austin by lunch, hit Brenham between lunch and dinner for a dip of the famous Blue Bell ice cream and end up close to Houston for the night. The day went perfectly. The bluebonnets were in bloom all over the place. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch and a huge scoop of Blue Bell before ending up in Beaumont for the night.
At this point I must tell you that you should be very happy that we do not have such a thing as smell-vision. Let me explain. When we arrived in Beaumont it was time to stop for the night and we started hunting a room for a reasonable price. We found several hotels and all were full. The last one we checked was the Motel 6 and they had a few rooms left. There is probably a good reason for this. We checked in and Scott noticed the unusual smell oozing out of the lobby. He didn’t mention the odor until we entered our room and I remarked “This place stinks!”. Seriously, I have never and hope to never stay in a hotel room that smells that bad again. We had to leave by about 4:30am because we couldn’t sleep anyway. A word of warning, if you are ever in Beaumont, Texas and you are tired, drive past the Motel 6 and sleep in your car at the rest area. You will be better rested, save money, and a lot less stinky. Below is the photo of the room. Can you see the smell??????
With our new plan for the future developing we were anxious to start looking at the different boat options out there and frankly we were very desperate to see the ocean, or at least the gulf. Our first glimpse of salt/brackish water came at the Trinity River Waterbird Rookery. It is a little place near the border of Texas and Louisiana, just an exit off I-10 that is oblivious to the human traffic surrounding it. We saw alligators and wild birds every where. It was a refreshing pit-stop.
We took I-10 down through New Orleans to see the remains of the damage from hurricane Katrina. We were amazed to see that there were still complete subdivisions falling apart. One of the interesting things we noticed was that in the subdivisions that were rebuilding there were travel trailers or motor homes parked in just about every driveway. The amount of damage that is still visible two years later is just incredible.
Our final destination was Pensacola to look at a few boats before heading home. We were exhausted and happy to be home, but after just a few days we are already looking forward to the next adventure.
We went to a brisket cook out yesterday and the clouds and rain swept in as they always do around 6:00pm. The brisket was fabulous and as the clouds moved out we saw this:
After dinner, Scott and I went for a drive up towards Ivy Creek campground where a bull, cow, and baby moose have been seen practicly daily. Sure enough, they were there and here is what the bull looks like: