On June 23rd, we had some fantastic weather (it was fantastic because nobody got hurt and there was no damage). We saw plenty of action, and some conical clouds that did not touch the ground; but a couple of towns over, in Wrentham, there was a documented tornado at around 6 pm. Sunset, around 8:30, was spectacular.
This is a good time to remind everyone that I try to minimize the photo processing on my photos, because in the end I want to go back to nature and see the patterns where they live. This particular set has no post-processing at all. (An exception, of course, is black and white photos, where I feel justified in playing with the contrast — it’s an honest form of lying.)
Cast the photo black and white, crank up the contrast, and pray for atmosphere:
Love Odonates! Especially love to get them flying, which is tough.
It was a big day for beetles, too:
Ground beetle? Tiger beetle? This seems an awkward angle:
This is genus Calosoma, ground beetles (Carabidae). Looking at this shell with and without flash was interesting — see where the color comes from?
What a gorgeous scarab beetle (June bug, Phyllophaga nebulosa?).
I turned over a rock, and saw a sowbug killer spider (Dysderidae); in fact, I’ve pretty much only seen these spiders when I look under rocks. Also some interesting unidentified ants.
And finally, plenty of very mysterious insect signs:
Note that in this next photo, the twigs were only on top and did not pass through the leaf. Perhaps from the bagworm, Psychidae.
A very shiny egg sac for somebody:
This is the cocoon of a parasitic wasp. There is a shrivelled caterpillar somewhere in this mess that has been eaten away by the wasp larvae.
A wet morning. The droplets on the grass and bushes were too inviting, so I took some time to take some photos.
I find it tough to properly frame and crop photos like these, as they are composed of an accumulation of lots of small but interesting elements. There’s not always a well-defined focus or flow to them. When you see an opportunity for a good photo then, go and grab it!
What I’ve noticed about photographing water droplets is that it’s critical to consider what’s behind the droplet, in terms of both background (flowers and leaves are nice!) and sunlight. Still trying to get better at this.
Finally, this one is the one that got away. I was really looking forward to showing the blades of grass skewing in all directions, each with its strand of droplets — unfortunately, I didn’t calculate for the foreground piece out of focus.
Here’s the best crop I could recover from it:
Another half an hour to kill while my son had guitar lessons. A trip to Devil’s Rock was the obvious choice. I saw a lot of wasps flying around, but they were very tough to photograph in flight.
I followed this particular wasp for almost the entire half hour. The long ovipositor identifies her as a “she”; she’s probably a Braconid wasp, and probably of the genus Atanycolus. No surprise, she spent a lot of time walking around a rotting log; no surprise, I followed her everywhere she went, trying to get a shot of her laying her eggs in the wood. Sadly, it was no dice.
What was she doing? While I don’t know anything about Atanycolus in particular, I have some general ideas of Braconids and Ichneumonids. They are parasitoids, and try to lay their eggs in beetle grubs, caterpillars, and other insects. Some Atanycolus species are wonderful at controlling the Emerald Ash Borer, which would mean a lot, since that is a major pest of our forests.
The beetles react by laying their eggs deep in the wood. The wasps fight back by growing long ovipositors and developing the almost supernatural ability to detect grubs deep in the wood and managing to aim their ovipositors directly into the grubs.
They tend to walk along the wood, tapping with their antennae, listening for sounds that indicate that there is something in the trunk that’s not wood, and searching for the smell. Being able to drill into the wood is very impressive — they’ve evolved to actually have metal in their ovipositors. Yes: you can call them bionic.
Here’s a closeup of the ovipositor, a little hairier than I expected!
It’s sometimes not pleasant to think of parasitoids laying their eggs in living creatures. But let’s not superimpose human standards onto these wonderful animals, and instead take the time to admire their amazing abilities.
I think of insects as wildlife that do home delivery. You don’t get orcas dropping by your house asking if you want to take photos of them, but insects and spiders are just as interesting, and are quite happy to hang out with you, whether you ask them to or not.
Summer means midges inside and outside the house. They’re pretty small, about 1.5 mm or so, so I see them all over the place, but have never got a good look at them to see what they’re like. That means I had to drag out the camera and take some photos.
The next few are presumably male, because of the feathery antennae.
A Gnaphosid spider:
I really loved this beetle, which belongs to the family Carabidae, or ground beetles. Iridescent colours and a wonderfully alien head.
Closeup of the head:
And here’s a closeup of the elytra (shell) of the beetle.
Continuing on the theme of experimenting with dandelions. As mentioned, I added the macro snap-on lens and I cranked up the aperture, in order to decrease the depth of field. This was so that the dandelion wisps in the foreground went bokeh and allowed us to see the center. Unfortunately, with the lenses I had available, this meant that I was unable to get the whole dandelion into the field of view. I should try again with other lenses.
Using flash, of course, made the background dark, which made them more dramatic.
I can’t decide which of these two (or the one in the previous post) looks best.
I had exactly half an hour to spare and was in the area, so a quick trip to Devil’s Rock was just what hit the spot.
Please forgive me for posting some more longish exposures of the stream. I’ll try to control myself in the future. Not as strong a flow as early spring, of course.
Found this dandelion at home. I cranked up the aperture to decrease size of the focal plane, and focused on the center of the flower, keeping the outside in the frame.