Photographs by Frank

10 December 2010

Massachusetts Wildlife

Back in September, I entered ten images in a photo contest sponsored by Massachusetts Wildlife magazine, a quarterly publication of Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

I had pretty much forgotten about the contest and my entry. However, I was pleasantly reminded about it when I recently received email informing me that four of my photos have been given awards!

According to the email from Peter Mirick,  the editor, there were “1,137 entries received from 183 individuals living in 149 cities and towns, some as far away as Florida and Arizona.”

No large cash prizes! Just a subscription to the magazine and a few extra copies of the  issue in which the images will be published.  However, it is nice to have ones work recognized this way.

Here are the four images that were selected:

And here are the other entries:

Thanks for “wandering by”.


17 September 2010

Hanging Out with the Ecologists

Filed under: Odontates,Other Insects,Southeastern MA — Tags: , , — Frank @ 12:07 PM

My friend Kevin teaches ecology lab on Thursday’s. I had some unscheduled time during the middle of the day yesterday, so I tagged along to see if I could get photographs of the critters they caught… better than sitting in my office working!

The field work for the lab takes place in Wyman’s Meadow, a parcel of conservation land near campus. I arrived at the meadow about 10:45, a half hour before Kevin and the students, and was treated to the sight of a red-tailed hawk lazily circling high above the fields… too high for photographs. I watched “him” make three circuits of the fields before heading off. There were also a large number of dragonflies (mostly darners) moving rapidly and feeding fifteen or twenty feet off the ground in the warmth of the bright mid-day sun; also too high, and too fast, for photographs.

I stalked dragonflies and butterflies while waiting for Kevin and his students to arrive and got a couple of shots of a female common whitetail and some other small insect sitting on a milkweed pod. I also got a few shots of some of the vegetation… although the harsh mid-day light was not ideal.

The day’s task for each group of students was to lay out two distinct 24 square meter plots of ground and to sample the insects in each area three times. Sampling insects involves rapidly sweeping a large net back and forth through the vegetation and collecting whatever is caught in a zip lock bag. If preying mantis are caught, their presence (and number) is noted but these insects are released; the other insects caught are taken back to the lab for further analysis.

The students did sweep up a number of preying mantis and I did get a few shots… the combination of the harsh light and the fact that these critters were fairly well “spooked”, having just been swept up into a budding scientists net did not make for ideal conditions… but then again, one rarely gets ideal conditions when photographing wildlife! Any way, I did get a few usable frames.

After a couple of hours, I headed back to my office for a 1 PM appointment and Kevin did the lab a second time with another group of students.

As I was packing up to head home around 5 PM, I had passing thought of heading back out the Wyman’s Meadow on the way home just to see what was there and expecting better light, at least for a short while. Feeling tired and noting the heavy overcast, I decided just to head home.

I was headed out the front door of the building, I ran in to Kevin who about to return the van he used to shuttle students around all afternoon. He informed me that he had tagged a milkweed plant covered in engorged aphids if I wanted to try to get some photographs.  I guess that my “second wind” must have kicked in since I pointed the truck in the direction of Wyman’s Meadow instead of home. I spent less than an hour there in the fading light, but I did indeed find the plant Kevin had tagged and got some interesting shots of the aphids.

As I packed things back into the truck a few minute after six, I noticed a few raindrops on the windshield. A few minutes after I arrived home (it is a very short ride, five minutes at most) the rain began in earnest.

Anyway, here are the day’s photos:


12 June 2010

Ants Herding Aphids

Filed under: Other Insects,The Yard,Wildlife — Tags: , , — Frank @ 9:11 AM

Yesterday after work Joan went out to inspect her vast flower beds. At one point she stuck her head back in the door to say “There are ants herding aphids out here.”

I have learned over the years that when your wife spotter announces a find I am required go get the camera and investigate.

For those of you who have not heard about or seen ants herding aphids, it is an example of biological mutualism. You can read more about it here.

As you know, ants are very small (these were about one quarter of an inch long) and (most commonly) black. This makes for a difficult photographic subject. Thus,  I had some experimenting to do.

To get high magnifications, I used my extension tubes… this was the first time I had a need for all three at once.  The camera was mounted on the tripod… no hand holding at this magnification.

Light was provided by an off camera flash diffused with a soft-box. This was lying on the ground off to one side or hand held off to the side more-or-less at the level of the subject.

This  photo was taken using my 70-300 mm lens with three extension tubes (36 + 20 + 12 = 68 mm):

Ants Herding Aphids 1

For this photo, I switched to the 90 mm macro lens and ended up using just the two larger extension tubes… all three tubes gave too much magnification:

Ants Herding Aphids 2


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