For many years, I collected shells from the beaches around Port Aransas, Texas when I visited my friends Chris and Susan there for a couple of weeks each January. The shells have languished in boxes with no purpose. Acquiring my new Nikkor Z MC 105mm lens reintroduced me to that haphazard collection of sandy, broken shells. I remember one day when Chris dropped Susan and me off on an island to gather shells while he went off to fish. The island (I don’t recall its name) had so many shells that the sand was not visible and oddly, it looked like many of the shells had been there for quite a few years as they were bleached white from the Texas sun. This is a trio of shells collected that day, all bleached white. A color photograph didn’t seem that it would do these intricate shells justice so I set my Nikon Z6II to my favorite monochrome setting, Graphite (Picture Control No. 18). This setting brought out all of the intricate details of the shells even though there was no color in them. The two shells on the right are Lightning Whelks, the Texas state shell.
My new Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 lens, a macro lens, has me venturing into new territory. Macro photography intrigues me. And this new lens has me thinking in “what ifs” especially after seeing what Nikon Ambassador Joey Terrill has done with the lens. Inspired to dig around into kitchen drawers for what might work, I found a package of reusable straws that I bought for some reason even though I rarely use a straw and don’t think I’m too keen on keeping a reusable one clean. But they’re colorful and I thought they would make a good abstract subject. First, I bundled them with a rubber band and shot them straight on. Not too interesting. Then, I thought, “what if use a flash?” I did lots of ‘what if” scenarios with flash including directly behind the straws, so the light came through them. They were all intriguing but not quite right. Then I thought, “what if I pull one of the straws out a little bit?” Bingo! That made all the difference, with and without flash. It’s not really obvious that these are straws which I think is good. I like the abstract nature of it. And, in the end, my favorite image used ambient light and no flash.
Six years after declaring our independence from Great Britain, we chose the Bald Eagle as the emblem of the United States of America, because of its long life, great strength, majestic looks, and because it exists only on this continent. A magnificent emblem, indeed! Happy Birthday, USA.
My new Nikkor Z 105mm Micro lens arrived yesterday after languishing for severals days in a FedEx facility in Southern California. I have read so much about this fabulous new Nikkor lens, especially from Nikon Ambassador Joey Terrill whose macro photography has fascinated me for the past couple of years and I am excited to try lots of new techniques with this lens that are outside of my comfort zone. It offers so many unique possibilities and I look forward to venturing into new territory. I usually use my macro lens for flower photography but Joey Terrill has given me lots of ideas to try new and different things. This is my first subject for my new lens. It is a purple sea urchin shell. I have had this shell for many years but I am sorry to report that purple sea urchins have begun to devastate the once-lush kelp forests of seaweed that used to hug the California coastline. Shockingly, since 2014, 95 percent of the kelp has vanished across a large part of the Northern California coast. Despite this devastation, I decided to use this shell as my first macro subject for my new Nikkor 105mm Micro lens because of its color and because of the radiating pattern on the shell. I wanted as much as possible in focus so I took this shot at an aperture of f/40 and used Nikon’s vivid color space to emphasize the color of the shell.
It was late in the day, almost 7 PM when I took this photograph in Custer State Park in South Dakota earlier this month. The Bison is backlit but I really like the effect of the rim lighting from the setting sun on the Bison’s fur as well as the fact that she is looking into my lens. I always love that direct connection when the critter looks straight into the camera.
This is a Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel. Wait! Is it? It’s a ground squirrel all right but maybe it is a Mexican Ground Squirrel. When I took this photograph near the Rio Grande in South Texas in May, I thought it was a Thirteen-lined Squirrel, a type of ground squirrel I recognized from seeing it elsewhere, including in South Dakota. A couple of days later, someone pointed out that the area also has Mexican Ground Squirrels and they look almost identical to the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel. I suppose there is a way to tell the difference but a quick look into their ranges shows that they overlap in Texas so short of an expert’s opinion, I’ll probably never know. I’m actually leaning toward Mexican Ground Squirrel because we were so close to Mexico and the location I shot this image was in the middle of that squirrel’s range. So, what’s in a name? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell what is the name, let alone why the name.
The male Bronzed Cowbird, native to South Texas, has iridescent feathers and a distinctive red eye. This blackbird has a fascinating mating display but it is also a parasitic bird that lays its eggs in the nests of unsuspecting birds who then raise the young.
It’s impossible to know what this Kodiak Brown Bear might have been thinking when it stuck its tongue out at us when we were photographing it last month in Alaska. Its mouth agape, with a look somewhere between rudeness, disgust, or maybe just a Gene Simmons impersonation it stared at us with its tongue lolling out of its mouth for a few seconds, then it got up and strolled down the beach.
Watching raptors from blinds at the Santa Clara Ranch in South Texas a few weeks ago gave us lots of opportunities to photograph the action. There was plenty of competition among the several raptor species that visited the area. By the numbers, Crested Caracara were the most common visitors but Harris’s Hawks and Black Vultures also competed and even a few Turkey Vultures. It was a real challenge to recognize the patterns so we’d know when the birds were going to leave their perches in order to get the best flight shots. This shot shows off the bird’s wing structure and the patterns of the feathers as it leaves the perch.
In 1927, state legislatures began to designate state birds following a campaign to do so by a large confederation of women’s organizations. Texas and Florida were among the first several states to do so that year, each designating the Northern Mockingbird as its state bird. To date, I have photographed birds that have been chosen by 44 states (many states share a bird) but I have photographed only three of those birds within their respective states: the Nene in Hawaii, the Cactus Wren in Arizona, and the Northern Mockingbird in Texas. I’ve photographed many birds in Florida, but never a Northern Mockingbird there. Five states have designated the Northern Mockingbird as their state bird. Here is a link to a list of all state birds. I think it’s fascinating that the Northern Mockingbird was chosen by so many states (the Northern Cardinal is the choice of 7 states and the Western Meadowlark of 6) when I have seen and photographed so many other types of birds, especially in Texas and Florida, that are unique to those places. Ironically, I have yet to photograph a California Quail, in California or anywhere.