Friday, December 26, 2008

LET IT SNOW! The Storm of the decade!

Alina and I walking in of a winter wonderland. Here we did our shopping before the snow got really heavy. In less then a week, it went from temps in the 50s and looking like we are having no winter, to the hardest winter and deep freeze in years.

The first thing I do when there is snow is go out and take night shots, and long exposures. This tree was a 20sec exposure at iso100 or so. Focusing can be difficult if your using a digital SLR. My best advice to set your focus quick and easy is to use a pocket laser pointer. The red dot will give the camera a point. Make sure one of your AF area points is focused on the dot and you should be able to focus in on things at a distance in darkness where otherwise use auto focus would be impossible and manual focus just as impossible because it's too dark. Another way is to use a flash but often these light pulses are not bright enough to focus the camera. Expensive flash units have IR or light focus systems built into them. If they do work for you, just get the right range and then switch your lens over to Manual focus. Then the camera will stay focused until you put it back on so you can take several shots and find the best exposure time. Be sure and turn off the flash unit or close your pop up flash before you take the shot if you want it to be a true night exposure. I find a small pocket laser-pointer an easy system to focus my SLRs and DSLRs in the dark. Some cameras have IR focusing systems that make it even more easy, especially compact cameras.

Every nightshot needs good white ballence. Sometimes however, I just let the camera select for me or set it for daylight. This produces off colors but also can show interesting effects and add color and feel to pictures. White ballence setting here should have been twards the 60hz range. The "light blub" setting. Your digital camera will show. If you shoot film, you won't have much choice in the matter unless you go to speical mesures. So this winter Cathedreal I just captured and left exactly how I shot it. However, since it was shot in RAW, like all images shot in RAW, white ballence is not fixed. You can adjust it with a simple mouse movement into the right colors. Sometimes however, effects like this can be cool so I don't change them. It's this color because of the color of the light it is picking up on. Street and home lights.
Ice cycles get longer and hard enough to become dangerous! These are more then 3ft long.
This is how it started..
Like the calm before the storm, I went out because it was nearly 60F in Decmeber! I took quite a few shots one day. Not knowing yet that the biggest winter storm in over five years here and 40 years in Oregon was about to hit!

Grass was growing and dew formed making for springtime shots. Just a week after this picture was taken, this grass was barried in snow and it was about 15F.

Moss before the snow was green as spring.

A new flash lets me take better macro shots. This female Sheetweb spider made it inside before the cold weather. Prolonged below freezeing weather kills spiders and insects. If there are a number of hot winters, many species survive through the winter well.

This was the most amazing, taken just before the snow storm, this maple bug feeds on a blade of grass. You can tell from it's long mouthparts extending. Maple bugs overwinter communally. They often live under houses but pose no threat to homes.

Then the snow came.

A shot from one of my favorate lookout points as the storm started with severe cold and a light dusting of snow in low areas. Your looking at Washington state and the town of Dallsport.

Ice cicles formed in the coldest of times. These were probubly created by my dryer. Melting in only one area when it was very cold all day and night.

Then the snow came. This was a few days in, we got a total of about 2 and a half feet solid. That is not as much as we got in 2004, but very close. The news in Portland where they got over a foot (uncommon there) said this was the largest storm since the 1960s. Most notably the coldest. My digital thermomiter got as low as 6 degrees.


Snow piles over 6ft high in parking lots.

I hiked over a mile in the snow just to capture these shots of MillCreek. In The Dalles, 2 feet of snow seems to come every few years. However, this cold made for some awesome creek shots and the coldest photo-walk I've ever done. I protected my digital SLR with a special camera sack that fits over the entire camera. You can operate the controls in rain, snow, cold and all. It works well but like everything in photography costs too much!

Another shot, be sure and click on this image to see a large image. Use your <-- explorer's back arrow to return to my site. Over a foot accumulated in less then a couple of days on this picknick bench. People cleaned them off, but it kept pileing up. When I got here after my long hike, I bought a cup of coffiee and sat at the bench outside. Even though it was only about 12 degrees, I was hot, and too covered in snow to stay inside the store so I waited for my cab out here.

And here we have a nightshot, one of nearly 100 shots I took at night. These exposures range from 5 to 30 sec. The art of taking nightshots has been awesome this year and is really fun when there is snow. I need to go through allot more of my pictures to find more of the better ones. One peace of advice I have to give to photographers.. don't take too many pictures but take enough. Finding that ballence is difficult in the digital age.
Another area of millcreek. The snow and nice makes this look like somewhere up in the mountains. It was a fun hike. I had to use garbage bags to keep my feet warm and dry. Took a cab home, it was a long hike! With my dissability (chorinc pancreititus) I was also in allot of pain to take these pictures. I just did it because I love it. And am proud of the shots I got because I decided to make this difficult and dangerous hike. I stated in constant contact with Alina (My feioncee) with a 2 way very long range VHF radio cliped on my backpack.

Some ice cycles were incredible but I am a bit afraid of showing them because in doing so I put other people's houses on the internet. As a photographer, I should not do that. So I will have to go through my pics and see if I can find some more that are generic enough to post once cropped.
More millcreek views.
As I left, this was the view looking back. Public and private people were getting arround every way possible. This guy was right in thinking his tracktor was a better idea then his car!

This kind of ice can be dangerous when it thaws out. Not just to hit people, but ice cycles can break windows.

Another shot from one of my favorate lookout points here. In walking distance, I was able to shoot the Washinton state view so often shown in my website. Now with well over a foot of snow on the ground this was a cold but beautiful night. This was a nighttime exposure set for about 20sec. I finally got the colors right when I set my white ballence for 60Hz or so. Your going to want to manually set your white ballence when doing nightshots.

A nearby house really was in the Christmas sprit. Against this dark background, it can be seen how hard it was snowing. It snowed like this, and harder, for days.

Dark as night but yet brighter then day. Nighttime exposures are fun and one of my favorates. You never really know how it will turn out.
Taken completely late at night, things get bright the longer your exposure. The camera has to be absolutly still. I have many other shots, some showing litghts from passing cars I plan to add to this article. I need to process more pics for that.
It was so cold that this long exposure captured my breath. I had to learn how to hold it for a while when taking long exposures. It was very bright however, so most of them did not have to be very long in this environment.
The key to captureing snowflakes in a picture is to use your flash unless your background is sufficiantly dark to show snow. Set your flash to a low setting and see snowflakes!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bali Flashbacks 2007

The largest orb-web building spider in the world. As big as a small dinner plate, the Nephila. This one is probubly the Nephila maculatl, however, I'm not entirely certain. It has smaller but still quite large relitives in Florida. Also called the Golden silk spider, she is a true wonder, females can have a 6 foot wide web and a 1 and a half inch long body. Legspan on some species I've found near the Palau islands gets to about 8 inches. They are not considered dangerous to humans dispite there large size. Locals do not kill them, as they catch insects and are considered part of nature. We could learn allot about pest control by listening to other cultures.
In some places the very strong silk is collected and actually used to make fishing nets. It is strong enough to floss your teeth with and was also used in WWII for very precise bomb sites.

Oxyopidae sp
This spider has a relitive common in the USA. Oxyopes lineatus. This one I happened to find hunting. They do not spin webs but rather hunt like there namesake, the Linx. Useing there very sensitive hairs to detect flying insects and a drop line to escape danger with.

He's waiting for something to come by and he will pounce. Those spiny hairs are very sensitive, capable of 'listening' to sounds probubly from several feet away.

And here is a female of a different species. Just slightly. This Linx is guarding her eggsack. Spiders are usually very good mothers.

This is a male as can be seen by it's palps, in the case they are black. The bulb look of these small legs near the mouth indicates sex in mature spiders. The body size here is about 1cm or so.
This large butterfly was one of only a few shots I got of butterflies in Bali. They move fast so I had to have my SLR set on the right settings and be ready. Catching butterflies in flight is not easy, especially when they are shy. I caought this one with my 300mm lens and an extention tube. A great way to capture shy insects. Extension tubes can be very useful for your SLR. Just one can make for awesome macro shots. Don't forget to click to see larger view. To return to my site use your back <--- (arrow) on the top left hand side of the screen. Another shot of only about 3 butterfly shots that turned out.

There were many dragonflys down there. This one I shot from some distance away with my Cannon digital SLR. It's resting in the sun right now. Dragonflies are fierce hunters, but I saw one taken down in less then a second by army ants. It landed and was covered instantly. Taken apart alive. I need to find that picture, I've never seen anything like that for real. Yes army ants are that fast. I was attacked by them in the jungle while shooting. Before I even knew it I had about 50 of them on my back and neak, legs and all.. biting and stinging. It hurt really bad but luckily I kept my cool and they were not highly toxic. Never jump in water or panic. I used my cloths to swat them dead as quickly as possible and got myself away from the area. They were on me before I even knew I was near a nest.

A scarab beetle. This one sitting on my thumb. I set my aperture low here, like F3 or so. This way only the head is clearly visible. I did not create this effect in photoshop although it is possible to do it that way. I like to keep my pictures as true to reality as possible and do the optical stuff for real. I went to Bali it will be 2 years ago this march. I hope to take my Fiancee
Alina to Guam and Bali someday, but we just don't have the money. Airline benefits are not enough anymore.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Times change!

I have had a lot of amazing moments in my life. This one has to be the most. The first time I ever really "officially" purposed to anyone (with a ring and all). On my knees, she said "YES" and the rest is a love that I feel will last forever. Our wedding is planned in about 2 years because of family factors and of course, cost. Low budget, we want to do it how we want it and that means doing most of the work ourselves for our custom wedding.

I Still need to do a proof-read of the following articles. I thought I'd go ahead and publish anyway, please excuse any errors for now.

BE SURE TO CLICK ON THIS TO SEE A 1080 pic of it. USE the <-- (back) arrow in your internet explorer to return to my site.
The Columbia river was very calm on this day. I happened to be out for an appointment when I got a chance to take this shot. It was taken with a Cannon 10D DSLR at ISO200. I did very little Photoshop work on it, I stuck to the rule I usually use which is "if you can't do it with film in the dark room, you don't do it with Photoshop". For example a couple of power lines were slightly visible and removed, and I increased the contrast and levels to make the image more vivid and clear. I use the minimum or no Photoshop on my pics. I think that many photographers have lost the art of Photography in complex photoshop fixes and very simple ways to get "perfect pictures". Photography for me would be no fun if it were perfect pictures every time.

Another shot, this was very hard because the contrast and lighting was so low. Foggy and rainy the river however was dead calm. More calm and still then I've ever seen it. This is the Columbi just before Hood River Oregon. This place is world-known for excellent wind surfing. Usually this area is covered in "whitecaps". Small breaking waves usually caused by high winds.

And here I captured a shot just by chance of a creek going into the gorge. I forget exactly where this was, I took it from a car so I was lucky to get it at all. Sometimes the fog can be
spectacular and remind me of myths and stories like The Lord of The Rings.

Some may call it the "garden spider" or an "orb weaver". You can't get more generic then that. Since this spider is hard to spot in person, I dubbed it the hide-out spider. For the longest time I've been finding webs built by an obvious Aranidae but I had no idea what kind. Finally I found one in the most unlikely of places. While swimming in the River with my Fiancee I decided to check out a large empty barge that was close by. I swam to it and where it was docked. Climbed up only to find dozens of webs. Finally, the chance to capture one of these illusive spiders.

So I climbed up the rigging as much as my health would let me, and that was just enough to uncover under an old tire, the hideout of one of these spiders. She jumped out but was well aware of the watter benethe her. Dispite being afraid of me, she knew not to drop at the wrong time. I was surprized by this. She dropped when she knew she could, and I managed to get her into a small sample container for further photos. At the time I was useing a compact camera shooting low-res HD video of the event with an underwater camera. (I may post this video later but it's really big so I need to work with it). Anyhow, the video was great underwater. I just bought a watterproof housing for another kind of camera, a box-large 35mm camera. It held my small Cannon Powershot very well. It's pro-quality video is one of it's trademarks. Better then any other camera I have, even my newest DVC camera! IT can shoot video in high res mode for as long as you have space, I got over 45min out of it which was really great. Using
even higher res, I would only have gotten 15min but it would have been totally pro. I set the
fps down to 24 to save space at 800x600 which is much better then regular TV. Low grade HD and really good quality. Truely "pro". Unlike the other video cameras I have from VHS to night
vision HI8 to even a nice mini-DVC.

Try using your new digital compact camera for video, you might be very surprized by the results. Latest models shoot in 1080. One thing though, be sure you get a big memory card and manually setup the video mode or you will probably be shooting in economy mode and that would be really bad. Either low quality image or really choppy like 10fps. 24fps is plenty, going t 30 is more like total pro.

That little Cannon Powershot (slim about the size of a cigarette pack) amazed everyone with that little Cannon that only cost me about $180 I think. It's much smaller then a mini DVD video camera and has much higher quality videos that can be burned to DVD on my computer. I see n need to even buy a camcorder anymore. My compact camera is better at video. Some older models have limits, but most will run until your card is out of memory and sound quality is usualy really good as well. The main thing you need to be able to do is convert the video into something you can work with. That's important for editing of course. If you can, I recommend getting a compact that shoots good video, you'll have pro-quality video for far less then a DVD camcorder! Just be sure your compact cam has eiether LI-ION rechargables or can take MORE THEN 2 AA rechargeables. A recent Kodak model made allot of people mad. Great camera, but the batteries with the screen on only last about 15min. With it off, 20. It's not really worth using and I plan to use it by adding my own battery pack to it since you can't get one that lasts very long. Even the best NIMH batteries are too small. And be sure to keep the screen off when your shooting long videos. This gives me up to an hour more use time at least on my Cannon Powershot. It's got a nice Lith-ion battery that can be recharged and replaced.

Anyway, got off on a tangent there. Here is a shot of the spider from up top. This species is common in California and all through the northwest where there is a good food supply. Probably widespread all across the USA. Myistory solved, the webs have a signature look. These spiders pretty much re-build a new web every night. Finding them however during the day is very hard since they hide out in very elaborate ways. They will have one line from the center (hub) of the web, and then one line to another leaf, and then another barried deep in shrubs. They could be so far removed from there web you would not think that they have one if you found the spider wrapped up in a careful spot. What surprised me is how aware she was of land and watter. She knew when she was over watter and the danger of that, she also knew when she was on land an used the typical drop and dash technique as soon as she was over land. I let her go in a good are for insects and she lived out the remainder of her life on my pourch. I very rarely relocate spiders because it usually results in there deaths. It's a complex matter. In this case I finally wanted to get some decent pics however and could not catch an release in the same day as I had no way to get my gear for good macro shots all the way out to her. A mistory has been solved here, but good luck in finding this spider, if you find a web and no spider, chances are it may well be a number of species. For some reason however if you cant find it in a typical one lined hide out.. it's probubly the "hide out spider". As they often make more then one hide out connected by silk to detect pray possibly captured during the day. Why they are so "paraniode" comparied to related species with similar tactics, I have no idea, but finally I've figured out who's there. Most spider webs can identify the species of spider or at least you can get close. Espeically if it's very new and a complex kind of web.


This has been a long time comming. I've done so much work on the daddy long legs. This is a bizzar find. This spider is the "sun loving" daddy long legs. Your typical daddy long legs loves cellars and dark places. This one is nearly exactly the same, web type, size, everything.. except coloration and the fact that it seems to not mind and even prefur being in brightly lit shrubs and places. A daddy long legs that loves the sun.

Here is one taken in full sunlight. She's got her eggs in her mouth as the normal moma long legs does. However, there are other species besides these two related species that are called "daddy long legs". They are not even spiders.

This is the first one, sometimes called the "gran-daddy long legs" because of some species large size. It also enjoys the sun, but it spins no silk, has no web, has only 2 eyes, one body segment, and anatomny that puts it closer to crabs then spiders. It's called a Harvestmen. There are man of them, some get huge, however they are completely HARMLESS. To my knowledge they don't even poses venom glands of any kind. They eat vegetable matter to already dead creatures. Omnivorous, they also have somewhat different mouth setups them spiders.

They have two simple eyes, often on complex and elabrate stocks that go up from the main body. They are related to sqarpions, crabs, and pillbugs.

And here is a telltale sign of sex in all cases. The males have mating organs called palps that are elongated and enlarged both in Harvestmen and spiders. The classic look can be seen surprisingly in both entirely different families and species. Somewhat of a coincidence. Anyway, this is your typical Daddy long legs here, a very closeup shot I actually took from a live spider in my basement. Useing high-powered macro gear, I captured this shot from nearly a foot away.
Another shot showing the male daddy long legs look. The only other species commonly called "daddy longlegs" is the Cranefly. It is clearly not a spider as it has wings and looks a lot diffent then these two. Pictures of several are in this website, includeing a recent extreme closeup o it's mouthparts and eyes. But I am talking about Arachnids here, so I left out pictures. They al share some qualities. But I admit finding a species that loves the sun was a real surprize that I was surprized I'd never read about. I still have not identified this species which I found in California in the San Jose area. It's very common there. Above is your typical daddy longlegs.Big moma pest control. Seen here ready to burst with eggs, the male and female were shareing a web. I noticed them mate several times, and she ate this entire asasin bug herself.
Here's moma and daddy long legs. Together and without fighting, they remained like this for over a week until they both got scared of my camera and fled. I'm not sure if they "hooked up" again. Another shot showing clearly how to tell males from females. F30+ needed for shots like this and a big flash.