Monday, August 31, 2015

No Skippers Today, But....

 I said yesterday that my main goal today was to photograph skippers on the Rabbitbrush by the main entrance to the FRC library.  I was too late.  The bushes were in the shade and it was a bit windy.  So, I'm showing here some activity around said Rabbitbrush last Saturday night.  I made a rushed stop just before the football scrimmage.  Saw no skippers, but did find a friendly lizard (above), and some
 of the Rabbitbrush still looked fresh like it did in early summer, although most of it had gone to seed.
 The light wasn't very good when I got this shot of some sort of wasp or fly on a blooming Gumplant.  Actually, I was more intrigued by the sepals and bracts on the unopened flower in the background.
This close-up was a test of how much cropping I could get away with.  This image represent around 1/10 of the area of the original.  Tomorrow is a new month.  I'm seeing a hint of fall colors.  I think tomorrow I'm going to get some shots of a maple tree in the neighborhood that's starting to turn red, and maybe see what I can do with a full moon..

Cropping = Telescope?

The image of which this is but a small fraction appeared a few days ago.  I cropped it even further, mostly as a test of just how much cropping I could get away with when I have a 24MP sensor.  Evidently quite a bit!  I love the details in the Dandelion head that's gone to seed.  In fact, several times this past week I have come in close to a flower to photograph a bee or grasshopper and only when I opened the image on my computer screen did I see other bugs.  I don't have a high-quality telephoto lens, so it's nice to have a tool that can see better than I can.  More tiny discoveries await.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

I Love Water and Hate Noise

 The drought we're experiencing has given me a greater appreciation for water in all forms.  We had a short spell of light rain yesterday, but it seems that more drought lies ahead.  So, this morning I greatly appreciated the small patches of dew I found on some leaves in a neighborhood flower garden.  And, every time I looked up at the clouds I imagined rain. 
 Then my attention turned toward red and white flowers.  Both of these colors in flowers tend to overwhelm the sensors of digital cameras.  There are adjustments that can be made, but reds and whites are still a challenge.  The "graininess" that results in the prints or in projected images is called "noise."  I disliked noise in the auditory sense from a very early age.  I was the weird kid who preferred Benny Goodman and Hoagy Carmichael to Elvis and Chubby Checker.  So, today I was hoping I could get some decent photos of the red and white flowers with a minimum of noise.  The above photo is a cluster of roses near the Veteran's Memorial in Dame Shirley Park.
 I am not entirely satisfied with the roses, but the Hollyhocks, above and below, came out better.  Click on any of these images to see more detail.
 I am particularly pleased with the white Morning Glories.  I can actually see some detail in the petals instead of just white blobs.

My one photographic goal tomorrow is to capture Skippers on the Rabbitbrush by the FRC library.  They've been gathering there every afternoon, but summer is nearly over.  I love capturing shots of them with their "tongues" inserted deeply into the flowers. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dellinger's Pond Reawakens, Part I

 A very brief rain occurred this morning when I was at the coffee shop.  I didn't know it was happening until I went outside.  I took a quick drive over to Dellinger's Pond thinking I might get some good photos of rain drops and check out the resolution on my new camera.  My plans changed right away when I noticed that the whole pond (above) and surroundings seemed to be freshened by the rain.  The dust was washed off the leaves, the fragrances of flowers and leaves and even the soil were awakened also.  And a better variety of insects than I've seen in weeks suddenly reappeared.  I wonder where they were hiding out?
 There's a small California Black Oak right at the entrance gate, and an acorn I had photographed a couple of months ago had grown considerably and was still healthy-looking with no ant holes or other damage. (above)
 There was a lot of fresh-looking Chicory at the roadside, so I chose one to photograph that had an attractive little wasp on it.  I didn't even see the aphid until I put the photo on my computer screen.  Click on it for a closer view of both bugs and the details of the stamens and pistils.
 A little way down the pathway, which is actually the dam that creates the pond, I found some nearly-dead Tansy on which was resting a very large Grasshopper.  He must have not yet been warmed by the morning sun as he made no effort to hop away when I picked him up. I got several photos from different angles, then placed him back on the Tansy.  For all I know, he might still be there.
Last, I came to a huge patch of thistles, nearly all of which had gone to seed.  The few remaining blooms were getting frequent visits by bees.  It felt like early summer again, although there has been no rain since, and we didn't get nearly enough.  I hope it stays dry through the early evening for FRC's football scrimmage, then rains all day tomorrow.  We need the rain, and I need the incentive to stay indoors and grade all my students' papers.  I love my new camera, but I won't talk about it any more.  I'll just take pictures and share stories about the things I see.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Some Late Summer Color with a New Camera

 The above lichen was growing on the large Ponderosa Pines near the South Park trailhead just north of Quincy.  This caught my eye as I was wandering around, looking for photogenic items in a basically parched landscape.  Click on the image to see more detail.  I'm very happy to have my new Nikon D3300, but I am admittedly just beginning to learn how to use it.  It's similar to my old D40 in many ways, but with 4 times the number of pixels, it's a little intimidating.  Knowing I have that increased resolution, I can feel myself looking at my subject matter differently.
 Here's an example of what age, wind and rain can do to a Mountain Dandelion.  A different sort of beauty than the blooming flower.
 One of the few remaining daisies still blooming.
Peavines mostly gone to seed by now, but a few patches still blooming might indicate some moisture not far below the surface.

How did they know????

Just checking out my new camera, a Nikon D3300.  Jumping from 6MP to 24MP is sort of like switching from a Geo Tracker to a Ferrari, I think.  It arrived yesterday afternoon, and I'm excited about getting back into some close-up nature photography.  But, on this first day, I just shot random items to check on resolution and other factors.  The above statement was on a USFS map at the beginning of the South Park trailhead. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Forensic Etymology, 101

For an introduction to this topic, scroll back to August 9 and my post titled "Word Crimes."  More later this evening.

So much for "later this evening."  First week of classes has been intense and rewarding.  So now it's Friday, and I'm hoping I can remember why I posted these photos.  First, when I saw this poster, and had not heard of the performers, I started reading the "fine print."  The above quote bothered me because it represents the same sort of sloppy thinking, or non-thinking, that I try to cure in my writing classes.  The phrase "sometimes Fate, or God, or the Universe or whatever you want to call it" implies that there is a common understanding of the "it," but that we call it by different names.  This is wrong.  If you say "God = the Universe" you obfuscate any serious meaning of God or Universe.  As astronomers and astrophysicists continue to probe the "depths" of the Universe, both they and the general pubic at least agree on a vague definition that the word stands for "everything that exists."  We just don't know the size of it all, and there remain tough scientific/philosophical questions as to what might its size be, and, if it actually has boundaries, what's on the other side of the boundaries?  Other universes?  And what could that mean?  Only a small percentage of people, I suspect, allow their inquiring minds to go beyond this point and just grab another beer or cup of coffee and tralk about something else.
On the other hand, when we use the words "God" or "god," it opens up a discussion - or battle - in which all sorts of warring claims tend to cut the discussion short.  "Fate" is probably the least useful word in the bunch.  I won't comment about it further here.  However, when I put my scientific training aside and check into the Alvin brothers' music, I found it mostly pleasant, and I realize the above quote was mostly a friendly statement, not meant to enter the science-vs.-religion wars, and refers to a long period during which they did not record anything, and they are now on a resurrection (sorry about that) tour.  We all know you can't really "lose time."
So that I wouldn't forget where I got the quote, I photographed the entire poster.  I think I'd like to go to their Quincy concert.  Any friend of (the late) Bib Bill Broonzy is a friend of mine.  Another reason I posted this is that I love the photo accident that looks like I am a master of Photoshop - that is, the reflection in the window of me taking the photo.
P.S. My new Nikon DSLR arrived last night.  I hope to be ready to photograph nature and post some new, better images soon.

Views from the lesser camera

I don't mean to beat this story to death.  That is the story about my dead Nikon DSLR and my depending on an inadequate little Canon point-and-shoot while I await the arrival of my new DSLR.  The latter is supposed to arrive tomorrow, but I couldn't wait.  These first two photos are long overdue anyway.  They are Blazing Star that is still blooming in spots along Highway 70 between Quincy and Reno.  These were shot at the roadside just before ascending the grade to the bridge by Williams Loop.  They're been blooming for two months and I keep driving by on my way to Reno without time to stop. 
Also during the past week I checked the status of flowers and other interesting items along the FRC nature trail.  First is a nice specimen of Pine Drops, a saprophytic member of the wintergreen family.
Then some evidence of a visit by a young bear.  Good Chokecherry crop is one thing that attracts them.
Then some Dodder climbing on Serviceberry.  This is the first time I've seen Dodder in bloom.
Then, when I checked the Tansy in my backyard I spotted a nice little bug in the Pentatomid family.  Shield Bug, Stink Bug, and many other names, mostly unbecoming.  My new Nikon is supposed to arrive tomorrow and I should be able to get some new, hi-res photos here by Saturday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Giardia anyone?

 While I was taking a course in parasitology many years ago, a scene like this excited me in a different way than it does now.  I remember writing a paper on the flagellates I found living in the gall bladders of tree frogs.  Then one on the trematodes found lining the mouths of Cottonmouth Water Moccassins.  Now this scene just reminds me that when I first came to the Sierra in 1965, there were many places where I could safely drink the surface water, and I never got sick.  Now I know I can't safely drink surface water anywhere.  This little dammed up pond is by the side of Golden Eagle Avenue, and I often stop there to look at the Bullfrogs and dragonflies.
 But now, when I look at the frogs, I imagine the dozens, if not hundreds, of different parasites I might find in each frog.  When I was studying parasitology, that was actually fun.  It was an adventure in discovery.  I still have my 40-page, take-home semester exam from that class, and I get a nostalgic feeling whenever I read it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back to the Canon, and I don't mean Pachelbel's

 I'm getting a little better with this Canon Powershot Elph, but I am not enjoying it.  Too damn small, and too much glare on the viewing screen.  My previous post includes an update on my broken camera adventure.  These photos were taken this afternoon on a hike from the northern end of Oakland Camp out to Gilson Creek where it crosses the Forest Service Road.  As we approached the creek crossing, I saw the first wildflowers that were not yellow.  I say that because along the way were the usual late summer suspects: Star Thistle, Goldenrod, Gum Plant, and a few Arnica.  All five species of Milkweeds had gone to seed or beyond.
 Here's the scene as we approached Gilson Creek, my wife wondering why we took this walk - it was so hot and dry, not fun for walking.  Oh, yeah, it was to exercise the dog, who didn't mind.  She just jumped into Spanish Creek as the need arose. 
 Here are some ripe Rose hips hanging over the creek.
 This California Sister butterfly did not want to sit still.  I wasted a dozen or more shots before she stayed in one spot for more than a few seconds.
 More Rose hips, this time hanging over Spanish Creek proper, a hundred yards upstream from the mouth of Gilson Creek.
Here's a view looking downstream over Spanish Creek.  The Keddie Cascades begin a few hundred yards further downstream.  I saw lots of Bullfrog tadpoles scurry into hiding as I approached the edge.  There was no way I could photograph them with this little camera.

I Don't Believe in Miracles, but...

 ...I do believe that my old Nikon D40 is messing with my mind.  I wrote here last week about its apparent demise, its resurrection, and its second demise.  It has sat next to my bed for a week, goading me to check camera reviews and plan for my next DSLR while struggling along getting blog photos with that little Canon Powershot.  When I woke up this morning, around 5:30, I picked up the D40 on a whim and turned it on.  I got that same error message that said "internal error; push shutter release again."  Been there, done that.  But, I pushed the shutter button again and the error message went away.  I pushed it again, without aiming at anything in particular, and I got this great photo (above) of my bedroom ceiling!  Resurrection #3?
 I decided that I'd bring the camera along on my morning coffee shop visit and give it a test run afterwards.  Thus, the remaining photos you see here.  I took the Nikon out to Dellinger's Pond and photographed Tansy (above), California Thistle (below), and....
 ...Mullein at the pond, then...
 ...Chicory at the roadside by my car.  It felt sooooo good to be using the Nikon again, although I was saddled with the anxiety that each shot might be the last.
So, the dilemma continues...should I pay to send the camera out to get inspected and fixed?  I had considered its age and limitations and compared to the lower price, additional features - especially HD video - of a new D3300, and also the likelihood (I believe) that my D40 won't last much longer anyway.  Another rationalization comes from the fact I'm about to undertake an educational video project, and the little Canon Elph, or one of the family's cell phones, simply will not do.
This afternoon, I had the opportunity to hike with my wife and her dog out to Gilson Creek, formerly one of my favorite places for nature study, but now famous as a place where the drug cartels have been growing a lot of pot and polluting the surroundings.  I decided not to jinx the fickle Nikon, so I only brought the Canon.  My next post will be a few shots from that adventure.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Better with the window open!

 This morning, in anticipation of some Goldfinch action, I parked a bit to the right of the thistle I thought he might land on.  It worked out.  I was able to roll down the driver's side window and photograph the bird without opening the door.  These two shots are passable, to me, under the circumstances.
If the bird is still around when I get my new SLR, I'll park further away and walk carefully toward the thistles with my telephoto ready.  Meanwhile, I've added overdue text to a couple of my recent posts, and tomorrow I hope to get back to finishing the stories of our recent high-altitude hikes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fixing Memories

 I really miss my Nikon camera!!!  Since I can't present these eight photos as examples of high-quality photography, I figured my title would be my excuse.  Right after typing "fixing memories" I realized the possibility for two meanings.  Maybe both apply.  I don't mean "fixing" as in repairing a faulty memory, but, if I hadn't had a back-up camera handy, the memory could well have become faulty.  What I intended was the idea of "making more permanent" a memory that might otherwise be ephemeral. Even a mediocre or even a terrible photo or sketch can at least serve as a reminder to do further investigation, to tell a story, or do a drawing, or even go back with a better camera and hope to find the subject again.
Every time I go to Feather River College, I park in front of the California Thistles where I usually take a few minutes to see what sorts of critters might be visiting them.  This morning I found a Consperse Stink Bug, then found that the word "consperse" is not in any of my dictionaries.  The scientific name of this bug is Euschistus conspersus.  It's in the Family Pentatomidae which name is a reference to its resemblance to a pentagon.  As with this whole set of eight photos, taken with my substitute camera (a small Canon Powershot Elph), I shot from several distances, hoping that I'd get at least one passable shot for the blog.  I cannot properly judge the focus on a viewing screen with all the ambient light flashing.  In this set, the only ones that are reasonably sharp are those of the Praying Mantis.  I can hardly wait to get a new DSLR!
 When I first pulled into my parking slot, I spotted a tiny yellow bird methodically picking over the seeds of a thistle.  I knew that as soon as I opened the car door the bird would take off, so I took a few shots through my windshield.  First on regular aperture, then zoomed in a bit. You might need to click on the photo for an enlargement in order to spot the bird.  I'm not a bird expert, but I'm guessing this is a Goldfinch of which there are several local species.  He worked on this particular head of seeds for quite a while.  I was wishing I were outside and closer to watch and photograph the action.
 I did read recently that MIT in collaboration with one or more other entities has come up with an "app" that can remove glare from photos taken through windows.  That makes me a little sad because it will probably lead to more and more photography being done from car seats and making people even less likely to get out and walk around.  Hell, why not just buy photos online and stay home!
 As I headed up the hill to my office, I was greeted by our new head football coach, Scott Brade.  Scott had just found this Praying Mantis while preparing for a barbecue welcoming our new crop of athletes (note the props in the background).  While holding the mantis for photos, Scott introduced me to new members of his coaching staff.  It's great to have a coach who is not afraid of large bugs because I've found that many of my student athletes are.  At FRC, where we try to develop scholar-athletes, it will be great if we can start a new trend and recognize Scholar Athlete Environmentalists!

 After a couple of hours in the office, I headed back to the car and found a beautiful Western Swallowtail Butterfly on one of the thistles.  Again, two shots, near and far, neither one as sharp as I'd like, but the memory is "fixed."
 I actually got to within 10 feet of the butterfly before it took off.  If I'd had my Nikon that close, you'd be able to count the scales on the butterfly's wings, or maybe count the segments in its antennae.