It was a rainy day today, not raining all day but off an on. We did go out on the beach but the surf was rough and the cross-beach current strong so we didn’t stay out in it very long. This picture is from a walk along the beach, looking down at a bit of sea foam washed in with a wave. From a distance, the foam is a fairly uniform grey, but up close it’s a rainbow of colors. I think that’s like a lot of what we see in life. From a distance, it isn’t very interesting. But when you get to know a subject or even more so a person, you start to see all the various colors, which is what makes the subject, or person, really interesting.
Monthly Archives: August 2014
Well, we drove home from the beach today. Days mostly spent driving, especially when you’re more interested in trying to get home than see the scenery, are tough days photographically. It rained quite heavily as we left the beach and until about the time we got onto I-95. Then traffic was characteristically heavy all the way home, particularly on the stretch between Richmond and Washington. One of the worst routes in the country, I suspect.
Anyway, I did go out back when we got home, because the butterflies have appeared. I’ve seen a few before now this summer but this afternoon there were a couple swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) and a monarch (Danaus plexippus). They are surprisingly hard to photograph well, for a number of reasons. They don’t like to be approached too closely. Also, they are often overhead in the buddleia, putting them against a bright sky background. Finally, they hide on the other side of flowers and turn so that their wings are seen from the edge, instead of nicely displayed. This picture does a pretty good job of showing the pattern on the underside of the wings of this male monarch.
Cathy and I were out in the back yard late this afternoon. Normally, when I want to find wasps to photograph, I head for the mountain mint. Today, I was sitting at the table on the patio and noticed a few things on the black-eyed Susans on the other side of the gas grill. I put the camera on the lid of the grill and was able to get reasonably steady shots of this potter wasp. In 2012 and again in 2013 I took pictures of a potter wasp named Eumenes fraternus but this is the first time I’ve taken any of Zethus spinipes. It’s quite a beautiful little wasp, I think.
More butterfly pictures today. There were a couple eastern tiger swallowtails on the Verbena bonariensis although I had a bit of work to get close to them. Eventually I managed to do it, though, and I think the results were worth the effort. This butterfly was moving from one flower head to the next, sucking nectar through its long proboscis. Here you can see the “drinking straw” as it’s moved from one flower to another.
Back on August 21, 2012 I took and posted a photo of a dogwood borer (Synanthedon scitula). This is an closely related species, the red maple borer (S. acerrubri). I found it feeding on the black-eyed Susans (obviously) and managed to get a few pretty good pictures of it. This one isn’t actually the best in terms of identification, but I like it the best as a photograph. The most obvious difference between the two species is that this one has a bright orange tuft at the end of it’s abdomen. It’s the larvae which damage maples, boring into branches. Apparently they prefer red and and sugar maples.
I hope you aren’t getting tired of insect photographs. When I get home from work, going out back and watching the wasps is something I’ve come to enjoy, so I hope you don’t mind. I’ve seen this one, a wedge-shaped beetle (Macrosiagon limbata) once before and posted a picture on June 28, 2012. The feathery antennae on this one mean it’s a male. The female, as in the picture from 2012, has much simpler antennae.
Sometime mid-morning Cathy sent me a text saying that there was a pine tree by her parking lot with cones dripping with sap. She sent a picture taken on her phone (which was probably as good as this one) and said I should come take pictures. So, I did. It was pretty windy today so getting the cones in focus was a bit hit or miss, but this one is pretty sharp. When I first saw them, it looked like they were covered with ice, which really didn’t fit the weather we’re having.
I’m not entirely sure why they drip sap and haven’t actually looked it up, but I suspect it’s to keep insects and other critters away from the seeds while they develop. I do know (or think I know, which isn’t exactly the same thing) that the seeds take until the second year to mature. Given how long they need to survive without being eaten, the sap provides a bit of protection.
When I took this, I assumed it was a cabbage white (Pieris rapae) but when I went to check just to be sure, I realized that it doesn’t have the tell-tale black spot. The wings are not as pure white, either, with all those brown marks and squiggles. So I had to look it up. It’s an azure and I’m pretty sure it’s a summer azure (Celastrina neglecta), which is one of the blues in the family Lycaenidae (the blues, coppers, hairstreaks, and harvesters). The cabbage white is in family Pieridae (the whites, sulphurs, and yellows). Pretty little thing, even if it isn’t as showy as the monarch or swallowtails.
We went over to Albert and Brady’s house early this afternoon and spent a while in their back yard. They have quite a vegetable garden and are discovering the joys of too many cucumbers and zucchini. This is fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), which has pretty but very small yellow flowers arranged in what looks to me like little exploding fireworks. Each of these little explosions is about three quarters of an inch across, so the individual flowers are really tiny.
Dorothy wanted to go to the County Fair this afternoon to meet up with a group of her friends. Cathy and I decided we’d go, as well, and see the place on our own. We started by walking up to the art building and saw some work of a few young people that we know. There were a few very nice pieces. Every year I think I should print a few photographs and enter them in the fair, but I usually think of it the week the fair starts, which is a bit late.
We wandered around a bit, looking at this and that, and stopping for a cone of ice cream. This is a picture of Cathy with a friend she made during our brief visit there. I don’t actually know his name or where he works, but I’m pretty sure he makes pizza.
Of course, we also visited the animals. That’s probably the thing I enjoy the most about the fair. The “new” Old MacDonald’s Barn, renovated in time for the fair last year, was very crowded but it was fun to see a camel, a fairly large Brahman, and a cow and her four hour old calf.
Walking past the farm equipment display, memories of my childhood came back. In fact, one of my fondest is when, as childred, we climbed over the tractors and associated farming machinery. They are like carnival rides without the cost. I suppose if we had grown up on a farm they might not have the attraction, but we grew up in the suburbs.
I enjoyed seeing these children sitting on the line of bright, shiny, new lawn mowers. Show me a kid who doesn’t enjoy sitting on new farm equipment and I’ll show you a kid who needs to get out more often.
Of course, the carnival portion of the fair is extremely popular with the crowds. I like rides as much as the next person and in fact probably more than most. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of waiting in lines. Anyway, we weren’t really there for the rides, but I did take some pictures (I know that will come as a shock to you). This is one that Dorothy enjoyed from a very young age. I think she first rode on one at Hershey Park in 2003.
This part of the fair is always quite crowded, of course, and even more so if you wait until dusk, when most of the animal exhibits are going dark for the night. Then it really gets jammed. Moving through the sea of people is a challenge, but if you enjoy people watching, this is a great place to be. But we were on our way out by this time, and I didn’t hang around longer than it took to get a half dozen photographs or so.
This is a large bug (using the term “bug” in its technical sense—this is one of the “true bugs,” order Hemiptera, suborder Heteroptera—and a hansome one, at that. Not surprisingly, I found this one on the Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed, one of the milkweeds. From BugGuide.net, “In the course of feeding these bugs accumulate toxins from the milkweed, which can potentially sicken any predators foolish enough to ignore the bright colors which warn of their toxicity.&x201d;
There is a fair amount of variation in their color intensity. This one is a fairly pale orange, but I’ve seen them much brighter and pictures of them that are more red than orange. This photo was taken with flash, which I should do more often when taking insect pictures, because it allows a smaller aperture and shorter exposure, giving a sharper image with greater depth of field.
No insects today, just flowers. This is the predominant color in our back yard right now. The great thing about black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia species) is that they bloom late in the summer, when many other plants have finished. They are also prolific and don’t need any care, to speak of. They happen to be the Maryland state flower, so I guess that makes them particularly appropriate for growing here (in Maryland).
On a technical note, photographing bright, yellow flowers with a digital camera set to automatic white balance it a challenge. Pictures with one predominate color tend to fool the on-board computer into thinking it needs to correct the color balance and yellow seems to be the color that fools it the most. I almost always need to adjust the color of pictures of black-eyed Susans, unless (and I didn’t do this here) I take a shot of a neutral gray subject first and use that to set the white balance. That’s worth knowing how to do, if you take a lot of pictures of brightly but monochromaticly colored subjects.
We’ve had an amazing summer. After a rather cold and gloomy winter, which ran over into spring, we’ve had a particularly mild summer. There have been a few hot spells into the 90s, but for the most part it has been quite lovely.
Normally by this time of the summer, the grass in the lawn would be partially brown and the flowers, even the black-eyed Susans and coneflower (Echinacea species), would be bug eaten and starting to dry up. This week, leading up to the middle of August, has been particularly spectacular. The high temperatures have been in the mid 80s and it has been relatively dry, in terms of humidity. And, we’ve had plenty of rain. In extreme years we go most or even all of July and August without a shower.
With the fox that we had in our yard over the winter, I had hoped that we’d have fewer rabbits this summer. Cathy saw the fox this week, so it’s still around, but we’ve had as many rabbits as ever. Of course, for all I know, we’d have twice as many if the fox were not around. Anyway, this fellow (or lady, I don’t know) was sitting out in our back yard, happy as you please, this afternoon when I came home. The grass is lush this summer and they haven’t done as much damage to our garden as in some years, because of that, but I still wouldn’t mind having fewer of them.
They are cute, though. That’s something in their favor.
Zinnia flowers are interesting. As members of the aster or sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae), they have composite flowers—flowers made up of many little flowers. There are actually two different types of flowers on each single” zinnia flower. Around the outside are ray flowers which have, in the case of the flower shown here, a single petal. Sometimes they have multiple petals, making the overall compound flower “double.” Then, in the center of the compound flower are disk flowers. In the picture here, these disk flowers have orange in their corolla lobes. The little question mark filaments at the base of the ray flowers are their stigmata.
It felt like fall today, starting out in the upper 60s and only getting into the low 80s, with relative humidity levels below 50%. We went to Great Falls today and were not at all surprised by the number of people there. We walked to the overlook on Olmsted Island. The water level is pretty low, but that’s usual this time of year. In fact, it’s probably not as low as many years this late in the summer.
The youth group had a pool party this afternoon and we couldn’t have had better weather. It was warm but not too hot, the sky was a beautiful blue with a few clouds, and the water was cool and refreshing. I took a lot of pictures but the one I’m going to share with you all is a butterfly. There was a little cloud of these, four or five, fluttering around an shady spot where water had been splashed onto the concrete around the pool. They are quite small, not much more than about one centimeter tall (about 3/8 of an inch).
A week ago (August 11, 2014) I posted a photo of a large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). These are nymphs of the same thing, also on the Asclepias tuberosa in our backyard. They feed on the seeds of the milkweed but don’t seem to do any harm to the plants, so I don’t mind them. Also, they are quite pretty, in a creepy, crawly sort of way. The adult bug is fairly large, more than 2cm long. These nymphs are quite small, though, 3 or 4mm long.
This rose, just outside our front door, has done reasonably well this year, all things considered. I had to cut it back pretty hard after the cold winter we had so it’s not nearly as pretty this year as last, but it’s had flowers on it most of the summer. They are not big, bold flowers but small and quietly pretty. One area where it is assertive is the fragrance. On a warm, humid summer morning, when you open the door, its aroma fills the air and it’s lovely. Rose ‘Perle d’Or’ is a China rose, bred by Joseph Rambaux in France, 1884.
Shortly after I got home this evening, Dorothy went out into the back yard and cut some flowers. We have quite a few right now, particularly black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Buddleia davidii, Verbena bonariensis. She was putting the flowers in a vase and stopped long enough for me to take a few pictures of her. I like this one.
She colored her hair today. She’s done that before, so it’s not a big deal, but this time the die was purple colored. Actually, with her darkish hair, it’s not really all that unnatural looking. Since I was expecting purple, I have to say that I like the way it turned out.
I’ve been looking at portraits lately. Generally we think of a person smiling at the camera as the right thing for a portrait. Many times, however, a relaxed expression, not frowning, but not actively smiling, can be very nice, as well. I like the expression in this portrait, as well as the soft lighting from the overcast sky.
I didn’t take many photos today but went out front after getting home from work. These are flowers on a fuchsia growing in a small container on our front steps. The flowers are pretty, even though the plant could be heathier—it’s just a small thing.
I try to write enough to at least fill the space besind each photograph I post. This time, I just don’t have much to say (so I’ll write about not having anything to write).
In the past, particularly in my first year of taking a picture every day (2011), I often went out into the “empty” lot next to my building. I put empty in quotes because it is only empty in the sense that there is no building on it. It’s full of other things, like trees, herbaceous and woody perennials, and annuals. There is a stream that cuts across it, as well. Anyway, I went out this afternoon and looked around for something to photograph. This time of year isn’t all that interesting, photographically. The plants are mostly starting to turn brown, flowers are mostly finished but seeds have not yet developed. This plant is an exception. It is, I believe, commonly known as wingstem or yellow ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia). If not, it is a closely related species. Anyway, it’s quite pretty, especially at this otherwise drab time in the woods. The two difficulties photographing this are that it’s relatively dark where they are growing, under a canopy of trees, and they are mostly about eight feet tall, making them a bit hard to see from a good angle.
It rained quite a bit this afternoon. I had planned to doing a bit of yard work but didn’t feel like getting soaked. Cathy actually did a fair amount. I preferred to sit on the back patio, under cover of the roof, and read. I took a few breaks to take some pictures, including this one. There is a pile of patio chairs and water was dripping through them, making very nice rings. I like this one, partly because of the extra little rings around the main one.
It was another beautiful day, a bit warmer than it’s been, but then it is August. I worked in the yard quite a bit this afternoon, doing a lot of weeding. It was mostly thistles and fleabane, ignoring the smaller weeds. I also cut a fair amount of dead wood out of a few of the roses. The pink multiflora rose was an absolute thicket of canes and my arms are a bit worse for the work, but the rose will be happier for it. When I had filled two barrels with yard waste (packed down quite a bit), I took a break and sat in the shade with a good book and a cold drink. I didn’t get very far in my reading, though.
I noticed a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on the Verbena bonariensis growing in the middle of our back yard. I was able to get pretty close and picked this one as the best, partly because of the bright background of black-eyed Susans. While I was taking pictures of him (it’s a male) I noticed a fairly large bee. It’s about an inch long and is a Sculptured Resin Bee (Megachile sculpturalis). They were recently introduced to eastern north America from their native Japan and eastern China, having first been seen in North Carolina in 1994.
It was another gorgeous day today, again a bit warming, up near 90°F, but a fabulous, blue sky with a few scattered clouds. As the sun dropped into the west the sky darkened to an even prettier, deeper blue. Then the clouds began to light up with a wonderful orange color.
This was the view out our kitchen door at two minutes to eight. Not bad, eh?
It’s been hot the last few days and the forecast is for even hotter today, but it was cool this morning and there was a very heavy dew on the ground. We have a glass table on our patio that was covered with large water droplets and I took some pictures of it this morning before heading to work.
I actually took the opportunity to take some pictures at different apertures that illustrate depth of field. This one was taken at f/32 and, as you can see, it’s pretty much all in focus except the extreme foreground and back edge.
Dorothy drove us to church this evening, freeing me up to take some pictures while we were on our way. The sun was low in the sky, so I put the long lens on and took a few pictures when I had a break in the trees. It’s not the sort of sunset picture that’s going to win any awards. In general, I recommend finding a good location, stopping the car, and setting up a picture like this, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. Considering how it was taken, though, I think it’s reasonably pretty
The sun was hot today and the insect activity out back was intense. On the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) there were bees and wasps of all descriptions. Out in the middle of the yard, on the patch of purple vervain (Verbena bonariensis) there were dozens, if not hundreds of skippers and a handful of cabbage whites (Pieris rapae). This is a Peck’s skipper (Polites peckius) that let me get close enough for a pretty good portrait.
I had to go the the next building over this afternoon so I took my camera with me. Then, on the way back to my office I walked through the woods for a little while. I nearly walked into a spider web, which I don’t particularly enjoy, but stopped in time. Then I got some pictures of the little lady minding the web. Actually, I took about one and a half dozen pictures, but all of them are blurry or out of focus except two. First, it was fairly dark in the woods. Then, the web was moving back and forth a little in the breeze. Finally, I was standing on a fairly steep hillside, trying to avoid falling into the spider’s web. When I went around so that the sun was behind me and when the spider moved into a very small shaft of sunlight, I was able to get this picture, which I’m pretty pleased with.
Dorothy and I went out the Rocklands Farm this afternoon. We were mostly there to pick up a few things from Janis, but as usual, I took the opportunity to take a few pictures. The first of them is this sphinx moth, a Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis). I’ve seen them many times, usually hovering around flowers and posted a picture of one back on July 07, 2013. This one was down in the grass on the edge of a field and I’m not sure how I even spotted it. I’m glad I did though, because I was able to get quite close. I took some of the entire moth but I like this close-up, that shows the details of the wing.
Here’s a second photo from our brief visit to Rocklands Farm in Poolesville. Many of the sunflowers have passed their peak and were starting to dry up but a few were still in fine form. Dorothy and I particularly liked this one, with the red added to the petals. Photographing sunflowers can sometimes be tricky because the are so tall. You often end up with very bright sky behind them. In this case, I moved around until there were at least a few trees behind the flower to put a little something in the background.
Dorothy and I went in to church early this morning because she was singing and needed to be there for practice. I forgot to bring my book, so I had some free time. There are two small islands in the parking lot planted with caryopteris, which is quite happy there and blooming quite profusely. That’s another good insect magnet and I decided to go see what I could find. I like the head-on pictures I took of a small skipper on the top of a caryopteris stem. It’s a little thing, only about 1.5cm across.
Update: I originally labeled the flower this skipper is on as Caryopteris. It’s not. Instead, it is Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). I often get those mixed up in my head, but fortunately, Cathy keeps them straight.