Against all my internal warnings I opted to head out to do some Black Friday shopping earlier in the morning. I put full blame on Linda. She was the catalyst for this insanity and she only made part of the overall excursion. It all started at 10:30pm Thanksgiving night when we gathered around the table for our annual perusal of the ads to see what the hot deals were this year and more importantly, compile wish lists for others. At midnight Linda puts the option on the table that if we headed to Target we could get a big jump on gifts for our relatives based on a positive assessment of their ad. We had just come from a trip to see the family earlier in the evening and I got a 6.5 mile run on the treadmill after that .. so sure, why not. By the time we got back it was 2:30am (we hit BB while we were at it). Home Depot opened their doors at 5:00am meaning there was really only 2 hours before I would have to leave the house to get there. Not really tired yet I opted to do that and hit Menards as well – mainly to buy gifts for Linda to give me for Xmas. Those adventures could probably be a post all by themselves (and they likely will), but let’s just say I rocked it, getting essentially everything on my list! Once again Linda owes me (anyone keeping track .. besides myself). The best part of it, I used the 2 hour wait to crank out the last set of pictures for the November quota. My drive is still being restored thanks to the crash but had these images lying around from the UB 2013 prep (link here).
On this last post for November, I introduce you to the Brown Pelican.
These first two shots were in the running for the UB competition but I am pretty sure I opted against entering them in favor of what I thought were better candidates. The courting Willets on the shoreline that were entered that year were from the same shoot. My brother Ron and I were down in Fort Myers, Florida to drive my parents back from their Winter stay. A couple of birding references indicated there was a lagoon nearby that was fantastic for bird shooting. Just meant hauling the 80-200 glass down there to see what they had to offer. It did not disappoint. There will be a multi-post series on the results from that trip as soon as my drive gets restored, but consider this a teaser. Admittedly, we had our doubts while trying to locate the lagoon since it a) isn’t marked and b) is tucked behind hotels lining the shoreline. Sure enough, when we followed the source’s directions we ended up standing on a lagoon teeming with wildlife. Ospreys, crabs, Herons, Gulls and Egrets were abundant – all hanging out around or hunting for fish in the lagoon. My Father rightfully warned us about the potential presence of alligators but we never encountered one (bummer).
Hit the jump and read more about this intriguing bird.
Continue reading The Pelicans of Fort Myers
Well, I woke up on Thanksgiving Day feeling pretty good and looking forward to traveling to see the family and giving thanks for friends and food. I needed to process some pictures for pending blog posts (including this one) and opted to get those out of the way before loading up the car. Soon after that my morning went sour. My Western Digital 2T MyBook was no longer responding. This was my working storage for my photography work. We have a raided NAS for the long term storage, but the MyBook is where my active processing happens. Unplug USB and replug into computer – nothing. Cycle power on disk – nothing. Reboot computer and plug everything back in – nothing. Curse it, punch it, kick it, shoot it – nevermore. Now I’m pissed not just because I now have to restore 1.3T of photographs, but now I have to scramble for images for the blog. Luckily the shots for this planned post were still on the camera cards. Saved for now, but long hours of bit transfers ahead and some shopping on Amazon to acquire some new NAS units – damn you Western Digital.
Let’s stop whining and get to the post shall we. Today we are going to talk about the latest Halloween project. If you are like Linda you just said “Why the hell are you working on Halloween projects, it’s more than 300 days away!” I strike when the iron is hot which translates to “do it while the idea is still in your head and besides, every year I am scrambling to get things done ahead of the big party anything that can be done now helps. The latest addition to the Haunted Trail is motion detectors that can be used to trigger my scary props. This is something I’ve wanted to do since starting the trail, but the units for sale seemed a tad too expensive. I had no idea how easy it was to make your own until a little web investigation. I want to give full credit to the originator of this idea (not sure if he was the originator, but his tutorial on the web was excellent! It can be found on YouTube (link here) or on Pinterest (yeah, I said it). His approach is very straight forward but he does admittedly make a few mistakes which makes the 20 minute video slightly longer than it needed to be. The first one may take a little longer to get familiar with the process, but after you do one you should be able to crank them out in 10 to 15 minutes depending on your skills in the electrical discipline. Here is a look at the finished product.
I made a small tweak to the design having confirmed that the metal spikes that screw into the box cannot be found anywhere. Here are the materials and tools that were needed to complete the build process:
- Motion detector replacement ($16 at Menards)
- 5 way outdoor electrical box (~$4)
- Outdoor receptacle cover (~$2.50)
- Standard 15V outlet ($0.60)
- 1/2 inch wire clamp
- Electrical box PVC adaptor ($0.25)
- Computer power cable or small extension cord
- Wire nuts
- 1/2 electrical PVC – length dependent on high off the ground you want the sensor)
- Volt meter (optional depending on your power cord)
- Wire cutters
- Needle nose pliers
- Philips screwdriver (possibly a standard one depending on your screw situation)
- Electrical tape
- Utility knife
- A piece of 12-2 gauge solid wire (optional)
Hit the jump to see how to put this thing together
Continue reading Project: Trip My Scare
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Things have been busy around Brianland lately thanks to some creative work going on in the Halloween Decoration arena, Project Auunoooold activities (yes, that effort is STILL going on) and. of course. the general holiday gatherings and such. As a result, my throughput on the Blog has suffered a little and for that I apologize. I was a little shocked today when I looked at the calendar and noticed a) I only had three posts so far this month and b) there wasn’t a whole lot of boxes left on there. Good thing is whenever I get in a bind I can always put a bird post out and that is exactly what we are going to do today. Ladies and gentlemen I introduce you to…
The “laughing” Gull. Actually, that isn’t the technical name of this bird (thus the quoting), but thought it would be a clever play on the picture above. It does look like it is having a fun time hanging out on the shores of the Mississippi River. Linda and I were up there on a shoot in the Quad Cities. For the curious, the Laughing Gull pretty much hangs out along the Southeast coast of the US which puts it out of range for this particular shot.
I was out taking some shots along the shore when noticed this specimen foraging alone. Usually I don’t spend much time on the Gulls because of their abundance and the number of times I’ve been given rude looks by locals who spot me giving them any attention at all – one things is for sure, shoreline locals HATE the Gull and don’t appreciate it when they see someone that might be encouraging them to hang around for any length of time (this especially refers to people on Mackinac Island who openly chastised me for taking a picture of Gull there – I looked at them, listened to their whine and then continued shooting but good to know where they stand).
Hit the jump to read more about this colorful Gull.
Continue reading Frankly It’s a Gull
And now for something complete different. Thought it was time to switch it up a little on the Blog and probably more of a driver to finally get a collection from the small world out of my queue. This is one of those posts that makes me cringe through the entire process. First, taking the actual picture puts you waaaay to close to these creatures. Second, processing them forces you to zoom even closer into the shots to check crispiness and worst of all, researching what it is we are staring out gives me a serious case of the heebee jeebees. Taking that lead.. here’s a bee
An immediate confession is needed here. I suck at identifying insects and arachnids so be forewarned, I’m going to leave you hanging on some of these but most of the time I should be able to get you close. In this particular situation close means I can identify the subject as a member of the bee family, but much more than that would be a stretch. If threatened with waterboarding I’d take a guess that it is a Common Eastern Bubble Bee based on numerous reference shots. On the learning side, that beige blob on the hind leg of the bee is called a Pollen Basket where the Bee places pollen grains (who’d a thought) in for the trip back to the hive.
Next up one I probably owe a HUGE apology to. I believe this is a Big Dipper Firefly or more commonly referred to in my neck of the woods, the Lightening Bug.
The Insect Identification website (link here) makes a point to mention how harmless these creatures are and how you should never put them in a jar because it stresses them. The good news I didn’t STRESS them by putting them in a jar. Nope I basically slaughtered them by the thousands when I was growing with a yellow wiffleball bat. Literally thousands if not millions. Midwest kids are generally damn good baseball hitters for what I believe is due to the bioluminescence of these bugs — err more correctly “beetles” posses. Every Summer night we were out in the dark smacking the hell out of them with our bats (or tennis racquets if that happens to be your sport) in order to watch the chemical light show splatter into the darkness from a well place swing. If you can nail a lightening bug in the dark you can hit a giant baseball with ease.
I can still remember putting the bat away at the end of the night and it still glowing brightly from the night’s home runs. It may not have been eco-friendly but it kept us from planning more devious activities.
Hit the jump to see bunch more insects collected since my last bug post.
Continue reading Bugging Out
I’m back with another request for bird identification help. I shot this Hawk while on a shoot along the Mississippi River up in the Quad Cities.
To be more specific, I took this on Credit Island in Davenport in the December 2012 timeframe. Yeah, yeah, I’m waaaay behind but the good news is I’ve been able to start processing again (now completed Jan and Feb of 13 in a desperate attempt not to fall more than two years behind). Enough about my struggles … we have a bird to talk about!!!
This particular Hawk was a surprise find while out on the island looking for Eagles. They tend to congregate along the Mississippi providing an excellent opportunity to expend the portfolio. Having hit our standard shooting spot, we took our normal loop through Credit Island. The Eagles along that stretch of the island have figured out they can hunt in peace in the large trees across the channel so pickings there are usually thin – from the Eagle opportunities. That doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunities for other feathered friends and sometimes even those with fur.
Hit the jump to read more about this Hawk.. oh, and my guess to what it is
Continue reading Tell Tail Hawk
Figured it was about time to tear myself away from robotics and animatronics for a bit to at least get a quick post out. I’ve been spending a lot of time working up some new Halloween prop structures to add to my Haunted Trail collection next year. I know, I know it is a long way from now (Linda reminded me of just that fact earlier today), but my new PVC form structures design is now fully jointed and just begging to have some servos added to it. I haven’t worked with this stuff since college so a little rusty on – watching a lot of videos and reading what I can to figure out what options are out there. Tomorrow is a run to Menards to get some materials to make a few motion sensors as a start. When I noticed it was suppose to snow (again) tomorrow including our first accumulation. I thought it was fitting to feature a post on one of my favorite Winter subjects.
That’s right, the Northern Cardinal. There are a few things I always find very pleasing from a composition perspective and one of them is photographs of Cardinals in the Winter months. Typically the Winter days can range from a rather drab day to an all out white out depending on how the season is going.. oh sorry, maybe I should refer to it as “how the ‘climate change’ is going” just to fit into the cool crowd that doesn’t realize climate is suppose changes when you move out of California. The best part of photographing Cardinals is it doesn’t matter how bad the weather is, the Cardinal always stands out against whatever backdrop you happen to be around.
These happened to be taken in our backyard a year or so back. If there is one bird we have plenty of here in the Midwest it is the Cardinal. I think my record for number of those fiery birds is 26 at one time. They definitely like our feeders with Sunflowers. By nature, these birds tend to hit the feeders, grab some seed and then fly back to the safety of the branches in the trees just off the porch – definitely not at the same skittish degree as the Nuthatches or Chickadees). It is always better for us nature photographers when you have a predictable subject.
Hit the jump to see some more shots of this beautiful bird .. and maybe I’ll throw in bonus bird!
Continue reading Seeing Red