Praying Mantis With Prey

I was looking for dragonflies in our gardens when I found this praying mantis with it’s bug meal. I was setup for dragonflies with a Canon 300mm f/4 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter. So I shot a series of images, handheld, to do a stacked multi-row panorama. I ended up with 7 images for my pano. 2 rows of 3 images and an extra shot for the center. The centered shot sometimes helps for a smoother blended area in the center of the composite layered Photoshop file. I loaded all files into 1 layered PSD file and let Photoshop align the files. Then I use auto-blend to blend all the layers and combine elements for the final file which goes to the top layer. I also save the Master Layered file (just in case I need to go back for a tweak here or there). I then flatten the file for the final image. At this point if I wanted, I would run the flattened file through Nik’s Detail Extractor, then use dFine to smooth out any added noise from the Detail Extactor.

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Golden-winged Skimmer Dragonflies

These Golden-winged Skimmer Images are from a previous trip to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. It is a great Refuge to photograph in, lots of photo subjects. Especially in the warmer weather – Bald Eagles, Ospreys and of course Dragonflies! There are many types of Dragonflies here and some we do not usually see in New Jersey. So it is fun to photograph some different types of dragonflies instead of the usual dragons. There are a lot of areas for dragonflies throughout the Refuge, but my favorite spots at Blackwater are the first Observation Platform along the Wildlife Drive and the Wildlife Drive area with standing water on both sides of the Drive. The Visitors Center has gardens behind the building which also is a good spot for dragonflies. At the Observation Platform there are lots of parking spaces there and dragonflies are prevalent all along here on the sides of the Drive. The platform has a long ramp to the main platform so there are lots of Dragonflies around the base and by the vegetation as you walk up.

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Golden-winged Skimmer, female 

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Golden-winged Skimmer, male

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Golden-winged Skimmer, female

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Golden-winged Skimmer, male

Lady Bug On Thistle

During a walk at Davidsons Mill Pond Park we noticed this Lady Bug on a Thistle. I thought it looked interesting against the textures on the Thistle. Also it sort of had the same roundish shape as the Thistle. I was traveling light with a 300mm f/4 lens on a Canon 1D mkIV.

Blue Dasher Dragonfly Focus Stacks

Here are two different Blue Dasher focus stacks. The featured image is made with 3 images. First image is focused on the head, then fore wings & then front of the hind wings. I was using a 300mm f/4 lens on a Canon 7D with a 1.4x teleconverter. I loaded each image into a layered Photoshop file and let a Photoshop align & blend the sharpest areas. The second image I wanted to mainly focus on the face but the plant was in the same focus plane as the face. I thought that might reinforce the roundness of the dragonfly head because of the roundness of the plant. I was shooting @ f/ 5.6 for a shallow depth of field.  I then focused on the fore wing because I wanted a sharp edge on the fore wing and let the rest go softer into the darker background.

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Blue Dasher Thorax & Wing Detail

I thought it was interesting to see the details of where the wings attach to the thorax on this Blue Dasher dragonfly’s body. I was using a 300mm f/4 lens with a 2x teleconverter and an extension tube to get a closer view. I usually carry extension tubes or closeup filters with me in case I come upon an interesting closeup photo opportunity. But I usually use extension tubes more than closeup filters because you are adding another glass element that might degrade the image. You can also experiment with the placement of the extension tube. Placing the extension tube before or after the teleconverter gives you different “focus zones.” Also the width of the extension tube gives you different focus zones. So it is best to see what combination works best for you and the lenses you are using. But it is fun to try different ways to get the image you want. Plus you never know when it will come in handy. Images below are a series of images using extension tubes & teleconverters with 300mm & 400mm lenses.

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Blue Dasher Dragonfly- 400mm f/4 DO Lens, extension tube, 1.4x teleconverter

New Growth On Evergreen Trees

It is interesting to see Spring’s Bright Green new growth on the evergreen trees by our sidewalk. The bright growth really stands out from the older branches. Also our flowers in the garden are starting to bloom. It is nice to see new growth and a new beginning with all that has been going on in the country lately. We seem to also have a semi-permanent resident Garter Snake in our garden now.

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Female Anhinga Reflection Panorama

We were photographing this female Anhinga at J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and I really liked the Anhinga’s reflection and wanted to include it in the final image. So I shot 2 images to combine in Photoshop. I manually aligned the 2 images (300mm) and did a soft edge mask to blend the 2 images into the final image. Sometimes when you blend 2 images automatically in Photoshop, it distorts or greatly skews one of the layers so it looks strange. So manual alignment sometimes works best.

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Closer Image, Single Female Cormorant Image with 400mm Canon DO lens with 1.4x Teleconverter , Canon 7D

Great Egret Landing

When we were photographing the Otters at Lake Woodruff NWR, this Great Egret flew in by the Otters. I liked the sunlight highlighting the feathers in the wing as it was landing. I was using a Canon R with a 300mm lens. The Canon R holds the highlight details much better than my other Canon cameras and has better shadow detail also.

 

Anhinga Drying Wings

We saw quite a few Anhingas at Lake Woodruff_NWR and got quite a few images of them for the couple of days we were there. This one had been fishing in the water and you can see it is shaking off some water drops above the beak on the featured image. It seems amazing they can hold on to branches with those large webbed feet. When they look right at you they seem to have a small head for such a large body. When fishing they use that sharp beak to spear their pray. Most of these images are of the female Anhinga.

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Male Anhinga that was off to one side

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Sandhill Crane 5 Image Panorama

Another panorama from Lake Woodruff NWR. This time is a 5 horizontal image panorama, stacked for a vertical image.  I was using a 300mm Canon f/4 lens. It was strange on this trip that they seemed to not be wary of people. They would walk right near you as they were feeding in the grasses or walking by. It was definitely a fun trip!

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