Shadow Play

Sometimes capturing shadows is just a happy accident, sometimes the photographer chooses to include them as an element of the composition, and sometimes our subject has chosen to make the shadow  more of the focal point than they themselves are.

shadow girls


Bugs | Waterloo, IA Nature Photography

blue dragonfly with green eyes perched on rock

I’ve lost count of how many times this summer I have heard, “Mom, you’ve got to come see this!”, “Come check this out!”, or “You have to get a picture of this!”  Usually it involves creepy-crawlies of some sort and while I’m usually willing to at least see what it is, I am not necessarily getting close enough to photograph it…

blue dragonfly with green eyes perched on rock
Eastern Pondhawk – Erythemis simplicicollis

If said “cool” species isn’t going to jump up at me, squiggle across my foot, or fly right at my lens; then I’ll pull out my camera and try to capture them.  When I have a picture, I can convince them to leave the living creature outside where it belongs!

Katydid – family Tettigoniidae

This guy below was borderline on my squeamish scale, but he was fairly slow moving and was kind-of fascinating to watch climb.  We don’t see many large beetles around our place (thank goodness), so maybe that was part of the attraction!

large black beetle climbing stick
Hermit Flower Beetle – Osmoderma eremicola

Occasionally, I even scope out bugs on my own.  For the sake of practicing the art of photography, of course!  Someday I will have  a true macro lens for this type of shot, but until then I work with what I have and enjoy the experimenting.

Bumble bee on Kale blossom
Bumble bee – genus Bombus

Of course after the photos are captured, I often have to head inside to research and try to identify just exactly what the subject is.  There are so many similar species that are often generalized, but it’s fun to puzzle out which ones actually live in our area and observe the little details that set them apart (i.e. Monarch vs. Viceroy).  Maybe I’m raising biologists?!

side view of monarch on phlox
Monarch – Danaus plexippus

Pollinator Planting – 1st Mowing

Allis Chalmers mowing prairieThe pollinator planting behind my house was mowed down for the first time the other day.  (Mowing is a management technique to avoid the establishment of unwanted species.)  It almost seemed a shame to be cutting down these blooms, but it will make for a stronger planting in the long run.

Hyssop Blooms in planting
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

And look, there were even pollinators out and about on the Bergamot and Coneflower.

Bumble Bee on Wild Bergamot bloom
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
American Bumble Bee on Grayhead Coneflower
American Bumble Bee on Grayhead Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

A plant new to me was the Partridge Pea, which, according to Wikipedia “is considered an excellent choice for planting in disturbed areas, as it will quickly cover an area, preventing erosion, while still allowing other plants to become established”.

Partridge Pea bloom and foliage
Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)

And I couldn’t resist a shot of the classic Black Eyed Susan or the non-native and technically invasive Queen Anne’s Lace that is growing around the perimeter of the planting.

Black Eyed Susan

non-native wild carrot
Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)

I’ll be back out there before the next mowing to see what else is new, and maybe even shoot some portraits out there =)

Pollinator Planting – 1st Blooms

Last winter, the field behind our house was planted as pollinator habitat.  This spring as it started to warm up, we anxiously waited to see new plants popping up, but it wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that we finally started to see measurable growth. (and something other than dandelions!)

My kids were out along that fence line picking mulberries with Grandma yesterday and finally  caught a few glimpses of yellow blooms!  2016-06-23_0003

So, after a night of thunderstorms, I headed out there this morning in my rain boots to document the progress.  I should have taken the bug spray too…those skeeters were hungry!drooping yellow petals under cylindrical seed head2016-06-23_00022016-06-23_0004

Vintage Lens Experiments

I picked up a vintage Vivitar 20mm wide-angle lens a couple of months ago at an antique shop in Galena, IL and purchased an adaptor to mount it to my more modern DSLR.  I’ve been hankering after a wide-angle for a year or two now (and even more so since we started planning a trip to the Badlands and Black Hills), and figured this was an affordable way to see if I liked it enough to invest in the Canon one I’ve been looking at.

With an adaptor between the lens and the camera, there is no electronic communication between the two.  In use, I set the aperture first, using the ring on the lens, then adjusted my ISO and shutter speed to get correct exposure.  Focusing was strictly manual, and either I am terrible at this, or the adaptor is preventing the lens from being able to focus beyond several feet.  I’ll be doing more research on that.  In the meantime, I wanted to share some images I’ve loved despite the poor focus!


Conclusion: Yes, I still really want a wide-angle!  I love the way they capture an almost 180 degree view, and I’m embracing the distortion common with wide-angles when you are close to your subject.  This particular lens can focus as close as 6” so it’s great for capturing small things in a big scene.

P52 Prompt: Motherhood

girl crouched on sandbar looking for rocks

Last week’s prompt for the P52 I play along with was “motherhood”. Of course my first thought was “self portrait with the kids”, quickly followed by, “that would require dressing nicely and doing my hair”. So instead as I flipped through my images from last week, I pulled this one to submit. Because, you know, it has one of my children in it, and she looks cute (picks her own outfits), and this was a moment when I was totally focused on her –observing her, listening to her, responding to her, and enjoying being together.  So, basically, I nailed motherhood for, like, 20 minutes.

Spring Wildflowers | Backbone State Park

Cutleaf Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) small pink flowers with four petals drooping from an upright stalk bearing 5 lobed toothed leaves
Cutleaf Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) small pink flowers with four petals drooping from an upright stalk bearing 5 lobed toothed leaves
Cutleaf Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata)

It’s always fun to revisit a favorite place, especially one that holds memories going back to our childhood.  As we drove through Backbone State Park I was recalling the times I’d picnicked there with my cousins, walked the river with my siblings, and hiked it as a teenager.  This time we were on a morel mission.

As we hunted the elusive fungus we came across several other subjects more willing to be found and captured– on film, not in a ‘shroom bag.

This Bellwort was a new discovery for me, and we didn’t see very many of them, just right past the trailhead of the Devil’s Backbone.

Bellwort (uvularia grandiflora) yellow wildflower with drooping twisted bloom
Bellwort (uvularia grandiflora)

This one below is a favorite of mine, although seeing it growing on the side of the hill put it at eye level which made for a different perspective.

Wild Ginger (asarum canadense) red and white 3 lobed flower on fuzzy stalk under leaves
Wild Ginger (asarum canadense)

And go figure we’d find a whole patch of these, and not a single true morel!  Ah well, an excuse to wander the woods another time.

red-brown wrinkled false morel
False Morel (Verpa bohemica)