Archive for August, 2010

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens

Sunday, August 29th, 2010
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) Study: Portrait
Pelican (170mm, f/5.6, 1/1250th, ISO: 160)

Earlier this year, we went on a trip to the Galapagos with Linblad (National Geographic) with a goal of immersing our 9 year old son, Roger, in the natural laboratory that is the Galapagos Archipelago.

And, no surprise, one goal was to bring back tons of pictures as it is exceedingly unlikely that we will ever re-visit the Galapagos.

I don’t remotely pretend to be a competent photographer, but I do OK and I have dedicated some time to understanding the science of photography and learning the limits of my equipment. One limit, in particular, was no really long lenses of great quality. The 55-250 is a great lens for the price, but isn’t that long, nor of the world class quality that a world class trip demands.

Thus, I picked up the Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens
. That is, a zoom telephoto L-series lens with a minimum zoom of 100mm @ f/4.5, a maximum of 400mm @ f/5.6 that features image stabilization.

I.e. one serious piece of glass.

All images taken with a Canon T1i
and, obviously, the aforementioned lens.

Juvenile Greater Flamingo  (Phoenicopterus ruber) Feeding
Juvenile Flamingo (400mm, f/14, 1/500th, ISO: 500)

Of course, with such a long lens, the first question is “How well did it perform in capturing images of things really far away?!?”

In short, the lens performed very well in this regard. The flamingo at left was, maybe, 80 meters away; 200+ feet.

The lens focuses quickly at that distance and the camera + lens generally do a good job of selecting an appropriate aperture and ISO to achieve a pleasant picture (I generally use a fast shutter speed when shooting wildlife that is moving about).

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Hummingbirds, Pond Flowers and Dragonflies.

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
Hummingbird (Trochilidae) On Pickerelweed (Pontederia)

Mid-Missouri is a hummingbird destination.

That is, these tiny, but incredibly energetic, birds treat mid-Missouri as a destination for breeding and, as a result, are extremely territorial in their presence (I’m still trying to grab a few good frames of the epic battle around the feeder amongst 4 hummers).

Apparently, other hummers aren’t the only territorial species in this particular area….

Hummingbird (Trochilidae) On Pickerelweed (Pontederia) Buzzed By Dragonfly (Anisoptera)

While watching hummers feed upon the shore line pond flowers, I noticed that the birds were quite commonly being buzzed by dragonflies!

That dragonfly in the upper left followed ever move of the hummingbird and, beyond that, dove in to seemingly tag the hummer regularly. This annoyed the hummingbird considerably and much aerobatics came with each buzz-by from the dragonfly.

Dr. Seuss’s Pond

Monday, August 16th, 2010
Yellow Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) Taking Over Pond

We spent a good chunk of saturday wandering about mid-Missouri, touring the various homes and towns of my Mother’s family.

While wondering about Mom’s home town of Jamestown, Missouri, we found Cave Springs Road.

“Road” is a bit of an exaggeration; it is a rather winding gravel/dirt road through the hills and river bottoms of the area. It also happens to pass by one of my Grandparent’s old houses.

While continuing on said road, I caught something out of the corner of my eye and asked my sister (who was driving) to stop the car.

Upon seeing this pond, our cousin from Austria exclaimed, “This pond is being invaded by Doctor Seuss plants.”.

Yellow Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) Seedheads

The plants do look a bit Seuss-esque. Especially the seed pods.

They are American Lotus or Yellow Lotus. While considered a native species, they are extremely invasive and can easily entirely consume a pond in vegetative growth within a few years (depending on pond depth).

While “native”, the working theory is that these plants are not really naturally propagated nearly as widely as they are without human intervention.

In particular, much of the plant is edible. As far as anyone can determine, American Indians would carry seeds and/or roots of the plant as they moved about, planting any random ponds to establish a food source if the tribe happened to pass that way again.

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“So, I’ve douched Janis 4 or 5 times…”

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I’ve been meaning to write a proper eulogy for Janis Joplin since we had to put her down (cancer @ 14 years) last fall. But I still can’t bring myself to do so. So, a short story…

While living in Connecticut with my sister Ann’s family, Janis got skunked one evening. Now, the best way to deskunk a dog is some combination of tomato juice and/or vinegar & water.

This led to my sister and my lovely wife Christine heading out to the drug store to pick up several boxes of douche to cleanse Janis’s skunky funk.

Upon returning to the house, Christine proceeded to cleanse Janis’s skunky fur with douche quite a few times, smelling Janis in between to determine how much more douching was required.

Not surprisingly, Christine’s skunk detection skills were stretched to their limits at the end of this and she needed a third party opinion.

So, marching downstairs, Christine asks of the first person she sees, “I’ve douched Janis 4 or 5 times now, can someone please smell her to see if the stench is gone?”

The first person, though, happened to be our cousin Andy. Andy had not, in fact, ever met Janis. Nor did Andy actually know that Janis was a dog.

Andy’s facial expression really can’t be described beyond the popular emoticon:


Galapagos April 20, 2010 (4 of 4): Walk On Punta Espinosa of Fernandina Island.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) and Pelican

Of all of the excursions we took on this trip, I personally found this one to be the one that captured the essence of the Galapagos more than any other.

Life was abundant, the land was harsh, and the contrasts between lifeless and teeming were distinct.

This was also the hike that drove home exactly how harsh life on the islands can be for any given individual animal, while the population, as a whole, thrives. More on that in another post as the pictures are rather brutal.

Isla Fernandina is the most active volcano in the archipelago (and one of the most active in the world).

Thus, it is an island of many fresh lava flows intermingled with the green of new, and sometimes relatively old, growth.

As the rich sea upwellings strike the island, it supports a diverse and rich ecosystem at the shore.

Roger and Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)

Much of which we were about to see.

Looking across the lava flow and beaches from our Zodiac, it looked like the entire island was covered ancient weathered logs.

Not so! There were hundreds and hundreds of marine iguanas. Thousands, actually.

Piles of them everywhere.

And, oddly, in the late afternoon sun, they largely align themselves in the same direction towards the sun. As mentioned in a previous post, marine iguanas are cold blooded. They regulate their temperature by both pressing their bodies against the hot lava rocks and/or controlling the cross section of their bodies exposed to the sun.

As can be seen in this photo, the iguanas were entirely un-phased by our presence. Actually, the bigger risk was to us!

Namely, after the iguanas spend time feeding in the ocean, they sit on the rocks, warm up, and sneeze out salt water. If you are posing like Roger was in this photo, you run the very real risk of being sneezed upon!! No surprise, Roger spent a bunch of time trying to get sneezed on!

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Galapagos April 20, 2010 (3 of 4): Snorkeling off Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)

Sunday, August 8th, 2010
Galápagos Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas agassisi)

Not only did we do a Zodiac tour of the coast line and cave, but we also hopped in the water for some snorkeling in the calm, almost bay-like, shallows near the shore of Punta Vicente.

This particular area is well know for the vast number of Galápagos Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas agassisi) that hang out in the water. As there isn’t much in the way of sandy beaches, this spot didn’t really seem to be an attractive nesting grounds.

At least not for the turtles.

The flightless cormorants, penguins and other birds could be seen nesting all over the cliffs and rocky beaches.

Unlike other areas of the world, the turtles in the Galápagos showed no real fear of humans. They were perfectly content to float about.

However, there was one very absolutely strict rule; do not approach or touch the turtles. On the other hand, if a turtle decided to inspect you, that was OK!

Galápagos Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas agassisi)

And inspect they did!

While Roger and I were diving down to get a closer look at the ocean floor, we turned to our right and this rather grand turtle had swam right up to us for a closer look!

This particular turtle followed us around for a bit, getting within a couple of feet even though we were trying to keep our distance.

While an incredibly impressive creature, this particular snorkeling spot had much more to offer.

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