Archive for June, 2009

Bad Tempered Wildlife; Snapping Turtle

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Snapping Turtle Hanging About

Yesterday, Roger and I decided to wade up the creek in the valley behind my parent’s house. The creek is healthier than I have seen it in decades; full of wildlife, including fish, frogs, tadpoles (big fat ones!), crayfish and the occasional turtle.

“Hey, Dad, there is a turtle over there!”, Roger exclaimed. I looked and I didn’t see a damned thing. At first. When Roger makes such an observation, I know better than the doubt him.

Now, you might look at the picture at the right and think, “well, duh, it is obvious”. That picture is the product of modern technology! The reality was that said turtle was under some tree roots (seen at the top of the picture) in a deep shadow near the bank of the river. Not terribly obvious.

Moving a bit closer, fortunately not too close, the turtle became quite obvious. It was a snapper and a pretty good sized one, too!

Roger and I had talked about snapping turtles earlier in the week and I said that I knew how to pick one up. Of course, that meant that I was going to have to pick this particularly ornery beast up.

Can’t disappoint the son on Father’s day, after all!

Angry Snapping Turtle

Snapping turtles are one of the angriest of critters around. These are some seriously bad tempered critters. And they are well armed.

When something said turtle doesn’t like (or wants to eat) passes within about 6″ of its face, it’ll sit motionless until the target is within range. Then the turtle will shoot its rather rock-like head out with jaws wide open and then snap them shut. Flesh and bone is no match. Neither are shovel handles, if the snapper is big enough (this one wasn’t).

Given that they can also move side-to-side fairly fast and those are some really big/sharp claws on its feet, the safest way to pick up one of these is by the tail.

So, tail grab it was!

In the photo at left, I’m actually holding the turtle by the tail with my left hand and shooting the photo with my right. It is a little over a yard long from tail to snout.

Little did I know that snappers can flex their tails enough to swing a bit to get a bit of extra range for their head-thrust-and-snap attack. That was an exciting discovery.

I really need to teach Roger how to use my camera. It would have been easier.

One thing that is not conveyed in this image is just how bad the damned thing smells. Think stirred up sewage lagoon in the hot sun.

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Canon EF-S 55-250mm Telephoto Lens (or Surprisingly Good At Making Far Things Close!)

Saturday, June 20th, 2009
Duck Landing on Water
Canon EF-S 50-250mm — 200mm 1/250 f/5.6

Of the handful of lenses that I had, none could reach further than 100mm. In the past year, I was kindly loaned a Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L, but simply could not justify dropping close to the $2000+ it would require to add such a beast to my kit.

Frankly, I’m cheap. I don’t make a living — don’t make any money to speak of — doing photography and can’t justify dropping huge wads of cash on my photo kit.

Fortunately, Canon caters to the cheap /frugal /broke /hobbyist prosumer crowd and my recent upgrade to the Canon Digital Rebel T1i also gained a significant boost in low light / high ISO performance vs. the Rebel XT.

Enter the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens. This is a relatively new ~$250 lens that features image stabilization and can only be used on compact sensor bearing Canon cameras. Because it targets smaller than full frame sensors, the lens contains less glass and is of a cheaper build.

With a compact sensor, the lens is subject to the 1.6x multiplier and, thus, performs like a 88-400mm lens on a full frame sensor. Sort of (the full story on performance between EF and EF-S sensors is considerably more complex).

Great Blue Heron Walking on Dam
Canon EF-S 50-250mm — 250mm 1/250 f/5.6 — ISO 250

In the short time I have owned the lens, I have captured photos that would not have been possible with my other lenses or would have required more patience than is compatible with “fun photography”.

At left is of a Great Blue Heron. These are some seriously skittish birds and this was taken from 200 feet away.

When photographing moving wildlife, the key is to dial in a shutter speed that can capture the animal. Having a camera with decent high ISO performance compensates greatly for the relative slowness of this lens, obviously.

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Reflections on a Black Widow

Saturday, June 13th, 2009
Black Widow Reflection

At left, is tight crop of a Black Widow that I found this morning.

If you look closely, you can see my reflection on its back (below the mouth bits — it is upside down).

The ring like reflection is the ring flash on my the Canon 100mm macro lens used to take the picture. The bluish-white blob to the right of that is me; my shirt, mostly.

Black Widow Stalking Prey - Version 2

Same shot. Not so cropped.

This particular Black Widow is living in the neighbor’s bed of clover. She is clearly quite hungry in that Black Widow’s are rarely so aggressive. This one would pop out of her hidey-hole at the slightest bit of motion on the web.

I got this particular shot by using a stick to jiggle the web like an insect would.

Beautiful creature, really. Just wish it didn’t live quite so close to where the neighborhood kids play. Thus, it’ll likely be dead by sundown.

15 MP of Black Widow!

A went back and visited Ms. Widow a bit later and discovered that I could get her to come out in the open by jiggling her web with my finger. Slightly unnerving as she approached my finger, but then she decided to hang out in the open.

Thus, I was able to capture the image at left. It is an uncropped, full 15 megapixel, image of the black widow as she hung upside down in her web.

Best viewed at full size and then scaled to fit your monitor.

She then proceeded to hang out and fix her web. Thus, I ended up with a gallery of action shots, spinnerets and all. I didn’t know that black widows have hairy backs.