Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Me and my bumble bees, up close and personal.

This is one of my garden bumble bees having dinner on a pink zinnia. (I think he was looking at me.)
 He is a California Bumblebee... Bombus californicus. He is a "he" because he doesn't have a pollen basket on his back legs.Only the females have that big yellow sac on their legs.

 The Nikon 105mm macro lens is what allows me to get this close without endangering my life. (Yes, bumble bees do have stingers, and yes they do hurt.  Unlike honeybees, bumble bees' stingers do not detach from their bodies so they don't die after they sting you.) I'm still learning how to use this new macro lens, but sometimes I do everything right and this photo is the result.
I can't tell you how many shots I took before I got this one... multitudes, believe me. I normally use a tripod but with bees it's best to have some mobility, so I use a monopod or just hand hold the camera.
The image size changes significantly as you focus in the macro range, which makes it very hard to get clear framing. Your DOF (depth of field), the part of the picture that is in focus, is very small.  It's enough to drive me crazy trying to get precise focus on my subject. But this one worked.

I love these flowers. Zinnias come in such beautiful colors and are a lot easier to shoot than bees. They stay in one place.
You can see some of the pollen on this one above and something like glitter on all the edges of the flower below.
I love the world of Macro photography. All these small parts of the flower can be seen and studied. The insects become monsters. "Mothra" becomes real. It's a hidden world waiting for discovery.

No wonder the bees look like this. The pollen is everywhere. It's like a snowy day.
Here are two of them (Yes, one is behind the other.) trying to collect pollen out of a hollyhock flower. They're covered with pollen.. It's like snow.
These are the edges of the hollyhock petals. I love this color... It's the palest pink, almost white.

After the leaves die back, what remains is the seed pod. I have many colors of hollyhocks in the garden but this pale one has the darkest seed pod. Seems odd, doesn't it. 
You can see the seeds very clearly. I think they're beautiful. I'm collecting the seeds as they dry. If anyone would like some seeds just ask when you comment. I would be glad to send you some. I'm starting to lay them out on the table to continue drying. This pale off white one is the most lovely, even when it starts to dry. 
These little "bumbles" are wonderful to watch and photograph.  When night comes they all find a place to sleep. Tonight they will all try to sleep inside a flower. It's funny to watch them vie for position. One flower  tonight had five bumblebees trying to find a place to sleep.
This little bumblebee has settled in for the night. They sleep inside the flowers and between the seed pods. He's all snuggled in. Good night little one. See you in the morning.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The tough old bird in Florence

Did you ever feel like a bird had human qualities? Have you ever seen your own behavior in some wild critter? Well, when "D" and I started down the coast of Oregon two weeks ago, we saw lots of birds, mostly seagulls. They're everywhere and one, in particular, reminded me of myself when I'm having a bad day... or when I just want to be alone and someone arrives at my door, uninvited.
When we reached Florence to spend the night, we decided to drive out to the ocean and watch the sun set. Not having been in Florence for a very long time, I forgot that the Siuslaw River comes down and flows into the ocean here. We looked for a road that went west toward the ocean, from the highway, but we found ourselves on a road that ran along a marshy, estuary instead... for miles.  It was called Rhododendron Dr. and we thought it would take us to the ocean. When it finally dead ended we had to make a decision. We turned toward the west again, hoping that the ocean would be somewhere out there (I was sure we couldn't miss it.) and that we would reach it before dark. This road was called N. Jetty Rd but it headed west.
Finally we saw water.
This was not the ocean. It was still the estuary but it was a wonderful tidal area with shallow land and water... and quite a few interesting birds. We decided to stop and set up our tripods.
There were lots of crows that seemed more interested in their reflections than us.
They didn't even seem very curious. They just walked around looking for free food, then walked away acting annoyed, that we didn't give them something delicious. We did give them some pieces of bread but this was obviously not enough.
These crows, and some seagulls, started landing and hanging around. Some folks on the sand had started a fire and I guess the birds thought there might be food. All the birds were hanging around, hoping for some kind of offering.
This is when I spotted this seagull.

It seemed kind of old. Its eyes looked tired. This was a seagull that had a worldly look to it. I noticed that it seems to be by itself. It stood out. No other birds bothered this one. It kept looking toward the west as if it was waiting for the sun to set. This was a bird of many sunsets. This seagull understood things. I felt an affinity to it.

Then another seagull, oblivious to some invisible territorial perimeters. flew in and joined the group.
 This bird was prettier, younger looking, had similar coloring... but made the mistake of getting too close to the old bird.

That's when...(I'm going to call her Florence),  Flo started getting annoyed.
She flew into the air.
Angled around behind the unsuspecting seagull...
Made a big, "I'm the alpha boss around here." cry...
and attacked the other bird from behind.
WOW! That other seagull didn't even see it coming. I think they both got a mouthful of sand.
They both had very similar coloring. Maybe this was just a case of sibling rivalry. Maybe not.
 All I do know is, that this other bird flew to an alternative location, not too far away, to nurse its wounds and watch the sunset at a safe distance.
Ever have one of those days when you just aren't feeling OK about anything? When no matter how nice or quiet.. or non committal someone else is being, you just don't want anyone around. I hate to admit to this hermit like conduct, but I did recognize it in the intolerant attitude of this old seagull. For myself, I can't blame it on menopause, hot flashes or  lack of estrogen. I'm beyond all of that. It's just old age, impulsive behavior. I don't know what Florence's problem was, but the behavior was familiar and mirrored my own. Mind you, I have never struck anyone from behind or pushed them into the sand, but it was an enlightening moment.

 Flo folded her wings, looked around, and settled in to watch the sunset. She had done what needed to be done, I suppose, to maintain her position. It was a matter of territory and she had taken care of business.
Flo... you and I need to talk. That was a bit of an over reaction, girl.

"D" and I took many photos of the birds and then we drove on to find the ocean. We drove to the end of the road and it was getting dark. There were a couple of cars in the parking area so we parked and set up the tripods again. The sun was ready to drop into the Pacific Ocean but it was still a long walk to the beach from where we parked. The car was up near that watch tower in the photo below.

That's "D" taking shots of the sand dunes and checking her settings.That's my shadow on the right.
It was getting cold but the color of the reflected sun on everything was warm and beautiful.
 This view is looking north. The ocean was out, over the sand dunes, to the left.
 This photo below, is the grass moving in the wind. Amazing how it holds on in the sandy soil. I love the last light on the grasses.

This is the same photo that I did some post production work on in Picasa, my photo storage and editing program.
Which do you like the best? I'm curious. They both have a very different feel.

The area was getting darker and the color around us was becoming deeper and more lovely.
 The sand shadows changed with each second creating moving artwork and endless opportunities.
 The old driftwood log pointed to the illusive beach, but we thought it safer to watch from this area that was closer to the car.
 Below... footprints create a moonscape on the sand.

 And finally the long awaited sunset.
More clouds would have made for a better photo but the sky was beautiful and we were thankful for a place this beautiful, to watch the lovely "remains of the day".