Saturday, September 23, 2006

CAMPING ALONE and The Sandhills Hornet

"The Dalles"
If I picked a picture that would show the great views out here--it would be something like this. One thing about living out here is the sun and mountains make for incredible views and colors. Just outside on my deck I can see for several miles all the way to Washington State--seen here in this picture shot through a long lens. These are mountains--a long ways away. I do love the views out here.

This shot is towards Portland down the Columbia river. The sun paints these mountain views in sometimes breathtaking ways. If you are a dedicated photographer--get up a weird hours and know you only have a few minutes to get a shot like this. Often by the time I get to my camera I've lost the shot because the sun has changed position or a cloud has quickly moved in. A nice shot can last less then 5 or 10 min out here.

Here is a more realistic view. This is what I see right of my porch here--in my house--out here in The Dalles. As I said, this place can be incredible. Here I had to take this shot quickly and all manual--I think the sun shines for about 10-15min like this before it goes behind the ridgeline behind me here.

I HAVE TONS of shots from my recent trip. I went on a 24 hour one day and one night photo-survey in the middle of nowhere. You won't ever see me at any camp grounds. In order to get decent pictures I have to get away from dogs and people. So I setup camp sometimes in dangerous places to get the shots of insects and spiders that are just not compatible with people. Those pay to camp places are to me like another Motel 6. I can't stand having to worry about other people, theft, and all that crap. I have TONS of shots to process before I can show you that trip I took a couple weeks ago---so checkout this incredible tiny Hornet. It is literally half-sized. I know very little about them and was able to snap a few shots before it flew away. These hornets are probably not a very common problem for people.

This hornet is literally half-sized as I said, it's only about 1.5cm or there about. Not aggressive, I was able to get in range. It is not a "baby hornet" as they emerge from there hives fully grown.

I took as many shots as I could get-a few of them turned out well. I have no idea where this shy hornet lives but I would love to find out. I doubt it is seriously aggressive. It is probably more like the somewhat-timid Sandhills hornet. Sadly people see those and think they are all dangerous and terrible like the far more aggressive yellow jackets. The tiny reclusive HORNET (ABOVE) is NOT one of the YELLOW JACKETS (below) and I do not believe it poses any serious risk to people.

I recently had to have a huge yellow jacket hive removed from my house. It became so bad that the City was going to force me to destroy it. I felt terrible because I love nature so much--but I had absolutely no choice. I made an effort to do away with them as soon as I noticed them but was unable to do so. Half of my wall is now full of bug-toxins. It makes me sick but at least I know it was not my choice. A bee-suit costs about $500--the only way I could have removed the hive and seen the queen. HORNETS are different from YELLOW JACKETS. The two often get mixed up. . And I nearly was able to touch a nest without being attacked with the local hornets here. This species of Hornet probably lives in areas that are not frequented by people. There are many species of small wasps and bees that do not effect people or rarely effect people exist. Don't over-react to a nest but if you have a huge buzzing hazard the city will make you remove it if you don't. That I can't stand sometimes. These things are really neat but they sting baddy. The one thing I do not agree with is the use of pesticides in any form. I was forced to remove this nest after shooting these pictures.

This was a really relaxed bee, iridescent and incredibly let me take nearly 20 shots of it. It did not fly away and I actually got tired of shooting it! That does not happen very often!

I used my closed Circuit TV system built out of a flip up video viewer and an old television camera that lets me watch spiders or anything else from at least 50 feet away. The male is in the background--blurry here due to depth of field. The female is in the foreground. This was nearly the last shot taken with my main macro lens. A short spill of Gatorade probably was the cause of it to lock at f16 and slowly stop working entirely. It's one very expensive lens--I am upset about it but very glad I bought a couple of cameras for backup. One is a super-zoom and the other is a highly technical Cannon compact which has everything from time-laps to very good in camera cropping. --but there are other ways to see things live and record them.

(BELOW) Now you get an idea of scale here--I could have zoomed into the spiders far more but I had to leave the whole web open to watch them. I did not get it on tape--but they did mate and the female is now going to have an egg sack when she's large. I know she did not eat the male because she gained no weight. He stayed by her web for several days and then apparently just left after they mated. It's incredible this very tiny and harmless house spider was able to find a mate at all. The male found her web--and shared it for a few days. If you see one of these in your house or basement--let it be! They are HARMLESS and will eat ants as well as other "pest" insect species. The monitor below shows the two tiny spiders so I can watch them when I am not in the bathroom from a distance--they are way to small to be seen unless you watch the screen. These are the pipes below my sink.

My closed Circuit TV system I rigged up with a 50ft telephone wire. Amazingly there is no noticeable noise and the picture is very clear. I could connect sound from this old TV camera but don't need to. It's a TV camera with far higher resolution that what you see in banks and small stores, it can operate continuously without needing a tape or anything but an outlet and does not require a battery. I can watch what's going on outside all day. The old TV camera does not have night vision, but I am really glad to have it as you can see here I can watch spiders from a distance. That's why I put it together in the first place. I could watch the bathroom in of course, REAL TIME (as it happens--live, that is what closed circuit TV is) from my computer area on screen shown here. The old TV camera was a gift and basically this system cost me next to nothing unless you count the video monitor and disk reader which I got from my mom a few years ago.

It's a really good idea to learn as much as you can because that knowledge can come in handy in the future. Without my electronics training--it would have been completely impossible to have closed circuit TV in my house or on my lights outside (what I built it for) let alone one in TV quality color. Buying a system like that even with low-res is way out of my budget. Building it myself cost me basically nothing because I know how and already had the stuff. I collect lots of junk and keep it on hand for ideas like this I know might happen.

This bee looks deceptively big. In fact, it is smaller then a honey bee. A little fat for a sweat be but that is almost certainly what it is. I need to spend some more time getting names for the insects I keep forgetting to look up. It takes a great deal of work to bring this stuff to you. I have to downsize the pictures, write this text in my word processor program, paste each caption in separately because my high-security Internet protection does not let spell-check work here. When it's all said and done on average--it takes me at least an hour per-picture to do this even with very small captions because I like to post lots of new pictures and not just one. I am a bit obsessive to say the least about Internet fears. To rebuild my main data-base would have been nearly impossible but now I have several hard-disks and a new DVD-RW DL drive. That is the latest in Light Scribe technology. You get twice the amount of data onto one side of a CD. The data is stored in these 10$ (approx) disks is not compressed and works by focusing on a different deeper layer on the disk. So two layers can be accessed by how the laser focuses. It’s awesome because I can nearly store 9GB on one disk but they are too expensive when it comes down to the basics so I usually use regular DVD-Rs.

This is a shot I am proud of. The ant here is less then 4mm long. This is a crop and done with my Minolta backup digital camera. The original has incredible detail and even cropped could be printed higher then 8x10' even as cropped as this. My high-def laptop screen gives me a very good idea of how well prints will turn out. Matching qualities to prints I can be very sure about myself when I go to make prints of how well it will do. (generally) I was told I was pretty dumb for buying a couple of backup cameras--but I was right, one big digital SLR is not all you need especially when it breaks down.

This tiny sweat be was really nice to me--acting as if it wants to be photographed I took dozens of flash pictures of her from several angles. She was un-harmed and I think what slowed her down was the cool air. It's feeling like winter here.

In this view you can nearly see all five or so eyes. Most insects have 3 extra simple eyes used for navigation. The two main big eyes are more or less there vision--but three eyes on top of there heads allow them to tell where the sun is in the sky.

Another shot with a bit more detail in other places. Notice the wings--they do get battered over a bees lifetime. This sweat bee is only about 7mm or so.

A very small fly I got near one of my lights. I have found a number of species I wonder about. When was the last serious entomological survey done out here?

MORE SHOTS FROM A SECRET SPOT of mine for camping. This area is right on a game trail and is ideal of wildlife shots of all kinds. From birds to deer to insects in and around the near-by creek that runs all year. It is an incredible place I will now continue to go out there again ASAP--I love it out here. This is no camp-spot for people who need necessities or comforts. You have to hike in fast from the road--not very far but with lots of camera gear it can be hard. I usually go armed just in case of animal or human problems but really have never had any in really remote or unspoiled places.

A full moon long exposure. I happened to be out there in a complete full moon. I should have brought my Minolta for a close view. It was beautiful out there and despite fears most people might have--it regenerated me. I love it out there. It's mainly high desert with one thing very important for insects and spiders--a creek.
Watter skippers--these guys are cool to watch. They eat poor insects that fall into the watter and can stride like this because they distribute weight not heavy enough to break surface tension. Water can be compared a bit like glass--you can stand on it without it breaking but if you jump you will break-through if it is thin--a better example might be an iced over pond.

The creek--I walked right out into the middle of it to get several natures capes. Very dangerous for my gear but I had to do it. THERE IS MORE TO COME ON THIS TRIP!

Wildlife was everywhere and this whole area was an untouched nature scape. I was completely enthralled and entirely alone. I can't wait to go back but it's getting cold and I may have to wait until next year as it gets rapidly colder and I have some serious camera problems. I need my grandma or ask a friend to drive me out there and then pick me up---for one thing I can't drive out there and park anywhere. I DO NOT camp in posted "no trespassing" And often do not make fires (generally). This is what camping really is. When your cell phone does not work anymore.

A regular camp-ground is about as interesting to me as Motel 6. I have a few ways to defend myself against angry wildlife but I worry far more about people! I don't worry about it much at all because I'm in the middle of nowhere. I'd take my chances with mountain lions anyway before I would with people in pay-to-camp-campgrounds! A note here-- camping alone can be dangerous and also can be psychologically difficult--even for one night. Especially during the night. For some people it is frightening and those who are not ready should not try it. It's almost like being on a drug to go out in the middle of nowhere or to a remote distant place and camp by yourself. You can't be sure how that will effect you until you go. Definitely have lots of camping experience with other people as I did, before you ever try to trek out on your own.

COME BACK! MANY MORE SHOTS OF MY TRIP THEN THESE including the crayfish shots and a spider called the “big jaw spider” for good reason! I went on this photo-camping trip for one day and one night in the middle of nowhere. You won't see me in any of those regular camp-grounds. I like to be able to leave my stuff in my tent! People and dogs and animals change and or scare wildlife off. So I camp near creeks wherever I can find a spot and hope I don't get shot by somebody for camping on there land (that would be murder in Oregon). I had a very good trip this time after my grandma picked me up the next day. I made a video record but I also took dozens of still pictures I want to post ASAP. I will get to those shots soon and do a special on this incredible trip. I have to do some work on the pictures first.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Steve Irwin, a tragic loss

The sudden and tragic loss of Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile hunter" struck me harder then I thought something like this could. My prayers are for Steve's family and friends who we have all come to know so well through his incredible TV shows. I want to express my condolences to the Irwin family, and say a few more things I did not get to say in my memorandum e-mail I sent into Animal planet. I've never done one of these before, I was not sure what to say.

Since I first watched his show, I have wanted to do the same stuff he did. I used to tell my mom "I want to be just like him someday, that’s the kind of thing I want to do". I have been inspired by his attitude and accomplishments. Steve showed me that you can raise up and do anything you want to with what you are into even if it's things most people are afraid of! Or it seems impossible to reach! And he showed the world not to fear or hate things just because they don't understand them. He taught respect for the natural world. My choice to build my website has at least some roots in the people who I looked up to from TV before I had a computer with Internet. I have many basic messages. One of the biggest is to get people to realize that spiders, insects, and other animals we hate or are afraid of should be understood and respected. It's sad--out here in The Dalles nearly every snake is a dead snake. People kill them out here because they don't know. Every spider is a brown recluse or black widow--I want to show the world what is fact.

So it effected me deeply when someone with so similar interests has passed away. I also probably met him if I recall. An energetic guy I recall the same age Steve would have been--at a reptile convention in Sydney. My mom, due to my interests, took me to this Sydney reptile convention. We went to two of the zoos but sadly not the Australia zoo, Steve’s place. All the top Crock and snake guys that were there in 1991 or 1992. There will never be anyone as good as him--but he has inspired me and many others to pursue natural history and photography of the natural world. Most of all--show it to people so that they want to save it. That was Steve's message and it works. My family and I send out our prayers to the Irwin family as I say, this hit everyone in my family. Below you can read what I sent to Animal Planet minus a few things I added and forgot to save before I sent in the message.

I am a self-described naturalist and photographer in The Dalles Oregon (USA). I have a large website called Mostly Macros. I believe I met Steve before he became a big hit on TV on a trip to Australia in 1992 when I was 13 at a reptile convention. I have been into “spiders snakes and lizards” since I could talk. Later, learning as a photographer I decided to try to do my small part to change attitudes about nature, especially insects and spiders and definitely snakes if they were more visible around here. The impact on snakes out here is huge--they are harder and harder to find and most people I meet tell stories about how many they have killed. I get angry at them sometimes and give lectures. Inspired in part by Steve, I began to show the world the facts about wildlife and why conservation and respect is so important even in the insect world. Someday, a compound in spider silk may make it possible for us to create a device that can save our planet from an incoming disaster, or venom may lead to a cure for terrible diseases.

God be with Steve's family and friends in this is a tragic loss. I really felt almost as if a friend or someone in my own family had died when I heard the tragic news. He will be will be painfully missed. We should keep in mind his TV shows and productions will live on to immortalize his incredible very rare ability to teach and tame the natural world for us. I am certain his TV shows will continue to inspire and educate future generations to come. God bless.


Anyway--I just want to say that I am a fan of the show --was after and when I was in was in the hospital. Steve Irwin invented a kind of nature show everyone can watch. That took allot of talent and more. It’s a very sad loss--and my prayers and hart go out to the Irwin family. I will continue to learn from his TV show--and remember in what ways his incredible and un-beatable style and ability has influenced my life as a Naturalist and photographer and no doubt, many others. May God be with Steve’s family and friends in these difficult times. He lived an awesome life. I am glad he died doing what he loved.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


"The smoke moon"

On a much lighter and awesome note--upcoming--my trip in the back-country of The Dalles! One day and one night--keep checking my site for clips and then the final post once I get it all put together. I had an incredible time and figured out how I really want to take pictures from here on. I really have to go to nature--and that's just what I did. I will post pictures, and my encounter with the “big Jawed Spider“--I got allot to do right now. Come back in a few days and check my site. I got allot to show! I spent 1 day and 1 night completely alone. No car. No way out. It was me and nature--and I returned well off, with pictures, stories--and can't wait to do it again.

When most people think of camping it's roasted marshmallows--or, an RV. Pay to park pay to pich and all that junk. NOT ME. I ONLY camp free-style. Somewhere out in the middle of no where. SO far away that I don't have to worry about what's in my tent being stolen. So far out there that I should be more afraid of the animals then I should any people. I like to go where there is no garbage, no crazy parties--no RVs and NO NOISE. A small creek fit the bill--and I camped on the edge of nature outside The Dalles. This one night stand cost me nothing and gave me freedom I really need. I can't wait to post more pictures, but I got to go for now. CHECK MY SITE in a few days.

Saturday, September 02, 2006



This is a high-res shot I got really lucky with. The right lens at the right time. I don't know what kind of butterfly this was, but I got in a good 10 shots before it flew away.

And this, this is why I love backyard natural history so much, I see it, it could fly away--got to get settings ready and click-click. It's a rush for me. I happened upon this beetle which I have no idea what it's real name is- and I have never seen it before. As I have seen with the giant beetles I call the "X-bugs", some species are uncommon, isolated in patches or seasonal every few years. This new beetle I call the Yellow striped beetle. I have spent many hours near this sunflower plant and only seen this one. As you might figure, I doubt it's colored yellow just because it is. There might be a serious link between the beetle and the Sunflower. I plan to do some work on some other pictures of this one to make it look much better--but I wanted to show you now. This is what I love about insect photography!

New life. A leaf grows from what people call a "weed". To me, it looks like an alien life form and thanks to my digital SLR I am able to get the depth of field to show it too you. Nearly all compact cameras only go to F8--actually ok for most bugs but not for long leaves like this one.

The summer is beginning to fade away. As this sunflower droops it's head in a final goodbye. I saw my first Christmas associated commercial a couple of days ago on TV. Come on--it's only firkin' August!

New Life 2. This is my grapevine, tender leaves grow out in hook-like formations. With no vision, they can cover a small tree as if a sheet had been thrown over it.

Another view of the Yellow striped beetle. It is a relative of the long-horns. That's all I can tell you since I took this picture today.

Some of my neighbors have an awesome back yard. I have one to thank for planting those big mini-sunflower plants and then letting me shoot there. This neat little summer hide-out with mini-sunflowers on the side of it contrast from real-sunlight hitting the flowers if I recall correctly. This image is sure not a paste-in or been changed at all with Photoshop. I like finding shots that work straight off the camera in manual mode. The patio-thing in the background is actually pretty awesome, the hideout has a hammock line and a great view. In construction it reminds me of my trips to Indonesia.

An old barn in Oregon. Out on Highway 30, the old road--you can see some incredible things from up here. And lots of old barns, buildings, and interesting stuff is out here too.

I grabbed this shot with a calculated combination of flash brightness and sun brightness. Even some compact cameras have serious control over your flash output. If you have one you can set manually that goes on your digital SLR you got it. If your digital SLR has one built in--then you should have a serious control of your flash. When balanced right it can become hard to tell if it's a ray of sun or flash.

A tiny fruit fly, apparently sucking up juices from this plant. This fly is about 2mm long.
For those who might be ambitious, I will tell you that you can build your own system like I did and take pictures like these. But don't ask me how--trade secret and a bit complex. I bought books and junk optics, and during my recovery from the very painful digestive system illness Pancreaitius-- for the first 6 months I did almost nothing but lay on my couch when ever I was not in too much pain and take pictures. Experimenting with 35mm film optics. I could not lift more then 25 pounds in the first few months and often it was very painful to sleep laying down. Being used to sitting up made me able to do experiments with my large desk and good lighting.

When I got well enough to take care of myself, I started processing my own film. I hate to see film go. I like the advantages of digital but still wish my picture was preserved on some kind of medium that I knew could be accessed simply in the future and can last. A negative. I am afraid of what will happen to all the digital images of our era. I fear the future will have a huge blackout of pictures after about the year 2004 when everyone started going digital. Upgrades and changes in formats, companies and most of all technology can cause huge problems for digital pictures or information stored in computerized media. If you left a 35mm negative in your attic for 50 years, as long as it was kept in a reasonably safe place you can have it re-printed anywhere in nearly any time with simple gear and chemicals which will almost certainly always be around. If you leave a CD, DVD or other memory device up there--in 50 years it is highly unlikely that you will be able to use any current technology to access it in any way. It may either cost a fortune, or even may be impossible to access due to unforeseen changes in technology and the fact that current technology does not last very well. This is my biggest fear for digital pictures. Up to 90% of them may be lost forever because they are not backed up automatically in hard copy as film always faithfully did. My choice to turn to digital has always been with serious regret for this reason. Just 25 years is too long--remember those old 360kb floppy disks that were nearly a foot long? If your as old as I am or older you do--and you probably also know that it's nearly impossible to find a computer that can access them today. The 8 track? Outdated systems and software used in images may cause many pictures to be lost forever as people often don't think of how important those negatives really are and most prints made today are poor quality so will only last a few years due to light damage and cheap paper. For me it's the price and the fact that the chemicals go bad so quickly which has me not taking as many film shots as I'd like. I still however shoot some film and plan to setup a new B&W dark room soon.

Seriously, I usually always show you life in these pictures. But the other day while driving with my mom less then two miles from my house and no more then a stones throw to the Columbia river I had to stop and take some pictures of this. Near the rail road junctions from here. 100s of huge oil drums. Marked only by color--with no warnings. Through my scope I saw no labels and no other info. What is this crap? I want to know--but I doubt anybody would tell me and if I did know I'd probably wish I'd have not asked. On a lighter note--my best guess is that these are empty diesel drums for trains. I normally do not talk politics on here--but I don't like this. We need to kick our suicidal fossil fuel habit, and LEAVE the mid-east to itself. The sad and terrible war in Iraq is a classic war that won't end for years unless we stop it. I see another massive influx of disabled and shell-shocked troops coming home with little or no help. I SUPPORT THE TROOPS. NOT THE WAR or the Bush administration. I am patriotic only to a point. If I were called to go I would. But that does not mean I must agree with the way things are running. I have watched many documentaries that opened my eyes on the Internet, PBS and Netflix. If you get a chance, watch them before you make up your mind and DO NOT let the news media make up your mind for you!

I shot this from a car on the way to The Dalles. Clouds hang into the top of the ridges here. It's like a scene from the Lord of the Rings. I called this one "Just East of Middle Earth".

This very small moth is an example of how colors and shades change. To get a true perspective, you must fire at least one flash on a wire or manually from all four sides several times to see how the light works at angles. This shot as you can tell because it has no shadow was taken with a direct flash.