Some insects of the dry country

Images of undisturbed subjects in their natural environment. All subject types.

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rjlittlefield
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Some insects of the dry country

Post by rjlittlefield »

This is bunchgrass and sagebrush steppe country on top of a hill near my house. It's pretty dry this time of year. Nonetheless, there are still things crawling and flying around.

Grasshopper, about 30 mm long.
Image

A praying mantis, about 60 mm long.
Image

This was probably the strangest find all day. It's a female black widow spider, body length probably 10 mm. Normally I find these things in my garage or in garden debris, always in the dark or under something. But this one was just hanging out on top of this bit of grass. At first I thought, "This has gotta be one of Ken's fungus victims!" But no, it seemed to be just fine, moving kinda slow at around 105 degrees F in the shade (what shade?!), but there it was. You saw it here first...
Image

And this, of course, is just a chunk of bug. Looks like a hind wing of a Strymon melinus, the Gray Hairstreak butterfly, probably dismantled by one of those mantises. The plant is yellow rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus, one of the few species that is still relatively green and lush this time of year.
Image

There were also a bunch of big black wasps, way too fast and flighty to get close to. A green skinny katydid, a very robust brown one, numerous flies, all on top in the dry stuff. And down at the bottom, of all things, a whole cloud of damselflies hovering around some green bush on the edge of an irrigated lawn. I don't recall having seen that before, and I have no clue what was attracting them.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

--Rik

Technical: Canon A710 IS, auto everything.

puzzledpaul
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Post by puzzledpaul »

No idea abouut the specs of the A710 (without a trip to dpreview) ... but, judging by these pics, it's doing a good job in your hands, Rik :)

#1'd get my vote - fwiw - more oof bg, bigger subject, comp / pose - any chance of seeing the technicals on this, please?

pp
Boxes, bottlebottoms, bits, bobs.

ChrisR
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Post by ChrisR »

Well I like the backgrounds as they are, telling us something about where the animals live. Maybe closer with a wider lens to get more background for the same size subject.
Pics like these look appealing to me in groups, each adding to an overall sense of place ...
Awooogah - bull* alarm!

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

pp, since you asked, I'm going to 'fess up. :wink:

Image #1 is a serious crop. Here's the full frame:

Image

The Canon A710 IS is a small point-and-shoot, 7 megapixels with a 6X zoom lens and builtin macro with good autofocus. Macro focusing only works at widest angle, which is equivalent to 35 mm focal length in a 35 mm camera. But the lens is quite sharp and for web presentation I have no reservations about serious cropping. Even with the crop, the camera shot 3 times more pixels than what I posted for this picture.

One of the drawbacks of this camera is that its background bokeh is a bit harsh. So I often apply a gaussian blur to the background to smooth it out. Layers and masks, of course, so it's reversible.

At the same time, I usually sharpen the main subject.

All sharpening and blurring are "to taste" -- no recipe.

If this all seems a tad synthetic, well, all I can say is that nothing's painted except the masks. The images accurately reflect what I thought I saw at the scene. :)

I have two goals on these trips. Goal #1 is to get some good exercise in pleasant surroundings, and goal #2 is to bring back whatever pictures make sense given goal #1. Goal #1 also involves carting around about 45 pounds of wilderness backpack that I'm reluctant to take off and put back on, so the pictures are mostly shot as "arm's length macro" relying on the live view display and the blessings of autofocus indicators. Frankly, I'm thrilled that the pictures come out as good as they do!

Now let's see, technical specifications...
All images: ISO 80, f/8, focal length 5.8 mm (35 mm as 35 mm equivalent), no flash.
Image #1: 1/250 second, crop to about 22% of image area, background blurred in post.
Image #2: 1/250 second, no crop, no blur.
Image #3: 1/250 second, no crop, background blurred in post.
Image #4: 1/80 second, crop to about 35% of image area, no blur.

Here's the full frame of #4:
Image

Hope this helps!

--Rik

Planapo
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Post by Planapo »

Jeez, that is looking really dry where you went hiking, Rik! Is that's how it looks like there usually at this time of the year?

As always, I appreciate being shown around at far away places on our gorgeous planet by people I'm somehow aquainted to. :D

--Betty

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

These images are from a training hike last week, only a few miles from my house. Total annual precipitation here is only about 7.5 inches (19 cm), and most of that comes in winter and spring. Summers are very dry; what you see here is typical for non-irrigated land at low elevation.

For mountain hikes, I have to drive a couple of hours to the Cascades, for example my favorite location at Conrad Basin. I had intended to go there this week, but the roads in that valley are closed due to a forest fire. Instead I went to another area a few miles up the road from Conrad. It was disappointing. The flowers there were mostly gone by and most of the insects were mosquitoes and other flies that think of humans as food. I hiked in, looked around, and hiked back out again. 13 miles, most of it in forest so thick that for one full hour my GPS unit didn't know where it was!

At least in the dry country, visibility is seldom a problem! :) :roll:

--Rik

puzzledpaul
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Post by puzzledpaul »

<< Hope this helps! >>

Yes, thanks for taking to time to post it.

<<If this all seems a tad synthetic, well, all I can say is that nothing's painted except the masks >>

To me, not at all ... I'd do (and I do do) the same / similar in a heartbeat if I thought the image'd be better for it (in my eyes)

I've also got no qualms about 'painting / adding' a bit of background - esp. when new canvas is exposed by a crop + rotate ... one of the additional joys of having a plain / unbusy bg - imo.

(Obviously wouldn't do any of the above in circumstances where it wasn't allowed.)

Cam seems a good choice for the task at hand :)

pp
Boxes, bottlebottoms, bits, bobs.

Aynia
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Post by Aynia »

Grasshopper is super, Rik! :D

MarkB1
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Post by MarkB1 »

Nice shots Rik. It's also interesting to see where others are and what they do.

Planapo
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Post by Planapo »

:idea: Ahh, now I've got it what's going on in the far background of the picture with the black widow. At first I was puzzled as it looked like some lowland Amazonian river delta to me. But now I see that it's those unfamiliar (to me at least) round patches caused by the irrigation machines going in circles, leaving dry land without lush green in-between. The satellite photos from the area show this pattern nicely.

Rik, as those "famous" black widows are quite abundant at your place: Does it often happen that people get bitten, and does this cause injuries/casualties?

--Betty

ChrisR
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Post by ChrisR »

the irrigation machines going in circles
I remember spending an hour at one of those in Zambia, there called a "Centre Pivot". Oases for local wildlife.

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

Thanks for the comments, everyone. :D

Betty, you are exactly correct.

Go to this URL:
http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UT ... 39217&z=13

My photos were taken from the top of the hill at the center of the map, looking south-by-southeast. The irregular strips of green near the hill are orchards; the irrigation circles are field crops of various kinds. The largest circle in my photo is the one that appears large and in gradations of green in the Google satellite image (as the satellite image appears right now).

The hill is called Badger Mountain. A few years ago, it was up for sale as "view property" for housing development. But a bunch of us locals banded together and managed to find funding to turn it into a nature preserve with hiking trails.

About the black widows, they're no big deal. People are generally cautious but not fearful. I cannot recall hearing of a bite, and a quick search of the local paper's website found nothing.

--Rik

beetleman
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Post by beetleman »

Excellent photos Rik. I havn`t seen a black widow since I left NY. New Hampshire I assume is past their northern limit. With the blurry backgrounds, it makes the forgrounds look more 3D.
Take Nothing but Pictures--Leave Nothing but Footprints.
Doug Breda

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