A Different Kind Of Bird

While at Longwood Gardens last year, in the meadow, I heard a loud plane going over. Many times Military aircraft fly by, jets or helicopters. But it sounded different than a usual plane. Looking up I was surprised to see an old Ford TriMotor flying over. It made several passes during the time I was there. I only had a 150mm Macro lens with me at the time, so this is a pretty heavy crop. Longwood Gardens Meadow Garden is 86 acres and offers guests a chance to see wildlife, native wildflowers and grasses, and a historic Colonial home that tells the story of how the land has evolved from the 1700s. It is great for walking and looking for flowers, plants, butterflies, bugs and basically a wide variety of photo subjects. From landscapes to macro. It is sort of a challenge or treasure hunt to see what you can find to photograph. Or more what you can do to make the most interesting images from what you do find.

Years ago I used to do a lot of Aviation Photography. It became “Old” though, same planes, baking on hot tarmacs looking up at the sky. And at Airshows everything was overpriced, even a bottle of water was $3 to 5. Then after 9/11, many of the military events limited you to 1 camera, 1 lens. So I moved on to birds and other subjects. Definitely more challenging and for me more fun and satisfying.

Being curious, I looked up registration number of the TriMotor that had flown overhead, and it had quite a history:

This Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor (c/n 4-AT-69), registered as NC8407, was the 146th off Ford’s assembly line and first flew on August 21, 1929. It was sold to Pitcairn Aviation’s passenger division, Eastern Air Transport, whose paint scheme is seen on the aircraft today. In 1930, it was leased to Cubana Airlines, where it inaugurated air service between Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The airplane was later flown by the government of the Dominican Republic, and in 1949 returned to the U.S. for barnstorming use. In 1950, it was moved from Miami to Phoenix and was refitted with more powerful engines for use as a crop duster – with two 450 HP engines and one 550 HP engine, it became the most powerful Model 4-AT ever flown. In 1955, it was moved to Idaho and fitted with two 275-gallon tanks and bomb doors for use as a borate bomber in aerial firefighting. Then in 1958, it was further modified for use by smoke jumpers. After working for a variety of crop spraying businesses, it was moved to Lawrence, Kansas, in 1964, where its new owner flew barnstorming tours. In 1973, a severe thunderstorm ripped the plane from its tie-downs, lifted it 50 feet into the air, and smashed it to the ground on its back. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) subsequently purchased the wreckage, and it was restored over a period of 12 years. It was displayed in the EAA AirVenture Museum until 1991 when it began annual tours during which rides are offered.

Hummingbird Moth – Longwood Gardens Meadow Gardens


Bee On Milk Thistle

I liked the blue behind this Milk Thistle. While I was working on this shot, a bee flew in. I thought it looked more interesting with the bee, adding another element to the image.




Walking through the Meadow, we found this grasshopper. Usually if you stop to photograph them they jump away. This posed for a while for us.

Shot with a 300mm with extension tubes.




Milk Thistle With Crab Spider


There were many types of Sunflowers in the Meadow. Or I believe they were Sunflowers from my research. I could not determine the exact type, but they seem to be in the Sunflower family.















Buckeye Butterfly

Another butterfly we found in the Meadow Gardens. This one looked in better shape than most of the other butterflies we saw in the meadow.





Swallowtail On Milk Thistle

There were quite a few butterflies in the Meadow at Longwood Gardens also. They seemed to like the Milk Thistle as did the Hummingbird Moths. And they were a lot slower and easier to photograph! Being the end of the season you can see the wear & tear on these butterflies.




Black Swallowtail Butterfly Takeoff

I was photographing this Black Swallowtail Butterfly and as it took off I followed it along to combine into a Take Off sequence. Combining 3 images into a panorama. I had a few more, but it just added a lot of blue sky which looked empty. It stayed in the area for a while giving me the opportunity to get quite a few shots in different poses.


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Hummingbird Moth on Milk Thistle

We went to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania to go through their 86 acre Meadow Gardens. It is more known for their Formal Gardens and Conservatory, but we enjoy the Meadows. With more than three miles of walking and hiking trails which lead visitors to the diverse habitats found throughout the Meadow Gardens terrain. I found a few Hummingbird Moths working an area with a lot of Milk Thistles. I raised the ISO to 1250 and was shooting at 1/500 sec to 1/1000 sec, and a few above that, but could still not capture their wings. They were really fast movers, but they really liked these Thistles so they stayed for quite a while. They were darting back and forth so their was little time to compose and shoot before they darted off to another spot. They were still fun to photograph. Next time I could try fill flash, but they move so quickly it would be limiting because of the recycling time of the flash. All shots handheld, shot with a 300mm lens with extension tubes to get closer. These moths seem to be super active and non-stop movers!

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