“Oak Tree Graveyard” – Our First Night Photograph

Last updated on December 2nd, 2019 at 09:31 pm

When we discovered Big Talbot Island State Parkwebsite north of Jacksonville one morning toward the end of April, 2010, Nancy saw Boneyard Beach and decided we needed to come back late in the afternoon for further investigation.  The elevation for most of the tree-clad island is about twenty feet.  Atlantic storms over the millennia have eroded the bluff to the beach and continue to knock trees down to the beach.  We returned while it was still light, worked our way down to the beach and took “Trees In Their Twilight” just a few minutes after sunset.  The camera was on a tripod for the 0.8-second exposure.

Since we expected a near-full moon to rise within the hour, we stayed around and took “Oak Tree Graveyard” less than an hour later, one third of the way through nautical twilightdefinition.  It was so dark we needed a flashlight to change the settings on the camera.  That picture took a 65-second exposure (about 8,000 times as long as your average selfie), which gave the sensor a chance to pick up light you didn’t even know was there.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
This is the one area that the sensor is better than your eye. As I mention in Limitations You Should Know About Your Digital Camera (Or Phone)!, your brain doesn’t benefit from staring at something longer than 15 secondssource.


During that 65 seconds, I took our little LED flashlight (so as not to overpower the almost non-existent ambient light) and shined the light back and forth over those nearest three trees in the foreground.  I recall “painting with light” like this the whole 65 seconds, but Nancy distinctly remembers stopping after fifteen seconds 😕.  If you sweep slowly to cover the target in one pass, you might miss a spot. Or if you linger too long in one area, you will create a “hot” spot.  I recommend sweeping faster and making as many passes as you can to take advantage of the averaging effect.

What amazed me when the image finally appeared on the back of the camera after the shutter closed, was that the orange glow was still there. We’ve since gained more experience with night photography (for example, see Nautical Twilight In The Glades, Seven-mile Bridge At Twilight, Midnight In The Pinelands). Now we know that there are enough photonsdefined bouncing around at even the darkest hour so that if you left your shutter open long enough you could make it look like a bright overcast day (there would be nothing casting a shadow). At midnight, the light level could be about 1/160th that of “Oak Tree Graveyard”, meaning you would have to increase the exposure time, aperture, and/or ISO to gain over seven f-stops to get its sky to that same level of brightness. But the horizon would be blue again by then because the orange glow only lasts an hour or two, depending on atmospheric conditions.

Epilogue

After getting “Oak Tree Graveyard”, we headed back up the bluff and back along the trail to the van. In an open area in the woods along the way, we saw an unbelievable firefly display as we have never seen before (or since), but were too tired to stop for pictures. Nancy has been kicking herself about that decision ever since.

Englewood Bank & Trust Invitational Thanksgiving Art Festival

Last updated on November 26th, 2019 at 11:28 am

We have been invited to this festival for the first time. It will be put on by the same local artistartist who put on the Boca Grande Invitational Art Festivalannounced in June (which reminded us why intelligent artists in Florida stop participating in art festivals after the first weekend in May – it is hot, and people tend to stay inside with the air conditioner (and their wallets)).

This festival will be held on Saturday, November 30 & Sunday, December 1 – Thanksgiving weekend. (For what it’s worth, Nancy & my anniversary falls the day before Thanksgiving this year). There will only be sixty artists on the grounds of Englewood Bank & Trust, 1111 S. McCall Road in Englewood. Hopefully, you can find more information on their Facebook page @EnglewoodArtFestival as it becomes available.

Space Coast Art Festival In New Location Again

We have been accepted into this art festival for the fourth timeprevious. This time the festival, which will be Saturday, October 19, from 9 am to 5 pm, and from 10 to 4 on Sunday, will be held at Space Coast Daily Park at 6091 Stadium Parkway in Viera, Florida (32940). This is a new 30-acre outdoor event and entertainment venue for Brevard County.


In addition to the 90 artists, they will have live art & music performances, a food court, kids entertainment, and a student art show. You can find more information on their website, Space Coast Art Festival, as it becomes available. They are expecting only 14 thousand visitors this year, but we are still looking forward to a good festival.

For what it’s worth, the people putting on this show have been scrambling since the City of Cocoa Beach wrongly started messing with them five years ago. Last year we had the opportunity to work with their new competition, the Cocoa Beach Art Show. Dealing with the lady in charge was not exactly a pleasure; she claimed to have well over ten years of experience in running a five-year-old festival and still didn’t understand her own festival rules as they were written (she made us take down Nancy’s hand-made notecardssample because notecards were mentioned as an example in a rule prohibiting mass-produced merchandise).

Now that Space Coast has a stable new venue and time, I fully expect them to return to to the highest level, as established by over fifty years of greatness (as indicated above, we haven’t been there all of those fifty years).

Giant Swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes)

Last updated on September 9th, 2019 at 06:27 am

For the last couple of summers, Nancy has been working hard to ‘branch out’ with a larger selection of (native) butterfly host and nectar plants around the yard to bring a greater variety of butterflies to the neighborhood. It is starting to pay off. Besides our Monarchs, we’ve seen more Zebra Heliconians (our state butterfly, formerly known as the zebra longwing), we’ve seen Polydamas and Giant Swallowtails, we’ve seen one of the Duskywings (the Zarucco, I think), a few Sulphurs, and even some Atalas. We’ve recently seen chrysalises of the Atalas and then the Giant Swallowtails. Earlier this month, I expanded our explanation of the Atala Butterfly life cycle on that page of our website (www.BeeHappyGraphics.com/gallery/atala.html). Now I’m going to tell you a few things about the life cycle of a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly.

The Egg

For this discussion, we will start with a single, 1 to 1.5 millimeter (just under 1/16“) cream to brown colored egg with orange secretions, on the upper surface of a leaf. It is laid on members of the citrus family, the giant swallowtail’s host plants, represented in our case by wild lime. The egg lasts four to ten days before hatching, depending on the temperature and host plant.

The Caterpillar

Small Larva of Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
Figure 1: early phase (instar) of giant swallowtail caterpillar. Its head is to the right.

The larva (a.k.a. caterpillar) then goes through five instars (periods between molts) which, unlike the monarch butterfly instars, all look different. The first instar has hairs. The next instars have been compared to bird poop. The younger instars are more realistic-looking as bird droppings with more contrast than the later instars (shown in Figure 2). They rest on top of the leaf and are nocturnal (which makes sense – being seen moving around during the day could blow their disguise). The more mature instars rest on the stems and have been theorized to resemble small snake heads. These caterpillars also have a red, antenna-like osmeterium, which is not usually visible (and which we have not yet seen).

Larger Caterpillar and Chrysalis of Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
Figure 2: larger giant swallowtail larva on the left side of the branch (head up) and chrysalis on right side.

The Chrysalis

After three or four weeks, when it reaches a length of about two inches (5 cm), the larva will pupate. It could form the chrysalis (not to be confused with a ‘cacoon’, which is just an outer protective cover spun by a moth larvae for their chrysalis) right on the stem of the host plant (unlike the monarchlife cycle, who because its host plant is an easily devourable species of milkweed, must travel up to twenty feet to find a safe place to pupate, or the Atala, for which all sibling larvae pupate together so they don’t have to worry about their late-developing siblings coming by and eating them onto the ground), or it could travel a short distance to a vertical surface. As seen in the above picture, the chrysalis hangs tail-down at an angle of about 45° to the structure with its top suspended from silken threads. The pupa (a more general name for chrysalis that can be also applied to all metamorphizing insects, not just butterflies and moths) will last from ten to more than twelve days before emerging into an adult. Unlike the monarch, we have not noticed the giant swallowtail chrysalis changing color over time.

The Adult

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
Figure 3: adult giant swallowtail butterfly. (Notice chrysalis below it.)

As shown in Figure 3, the adult is black with yellow trim on the top, and could possibly be confused with other black-and-yellow swallowtails like the Black Swallowtaildescribed (and very-rarely-seen species like the Schaus’described and Bahaman Swallowtailsdescribed). The underside of this butterfly (not shown (yet)) is predominantly a light yellow. The adult lives six to fourteen days. This butterfly lives in the near-coastal areas from Florida through the Carolinas (compared to the black swallowtail, which extends north just beyond Massachusetts).

Epilogue

Nancy took all of the pictures shown in this article. As you noticed, we haven’t yet photographically documented the entire life cycle of this butterfly, and I don’t know when Nancy will be satisfied enough with her pictures to add an image of the giant swallowtail to our commercial collection. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Besides our personal experience, we have relied on a number of resources, including University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department and Butterflies of the East Coast: an observer’s guide by Rick Cech and Guy Tudor, as well as the links highlighted throughout the article.

Everglades Update

Last updated on July 23rd, 2019 at 04:53 pm

We were in the Flamingo campground of Everglades National Park for Christmas. We had made our reservations in August, but when the federal government shut down we were concerned, so we called them. Turns out there were no rangers, so nobody was collecting the $25 park entrance fee (we had already paid the campground fee), but the gates were not locked and their concessionaires were manning the visitor center and keeping the facilities functional. This is considered the busy season for this park and they get a lot of international visitors (who were predominantly Chinese on this trip).

The first day we went canoeing to Snake Bight, which is the bay to the left as you paddle out the channel. We followed that small unmarked channel along the shoreline as far as it would go – technically further, because for the last half of our route the water depth was probably about an inch less than our draft. It is really soft mud in that section, which cut our cruising speed to below two miles an hour. It was an incoming tide; otherwise one would have to be careful not to get stuck. If you tried to get out of the canoe you would sink up to your knees, so if you did get stuck you would have to wait for the next high tide, which could be up to twelve hours later. We did see, and get pictures of a number of birds feeding on the flats, including plenty of roseate spoonbills (sorry, no flamingos this time). Below is a picture of Nancy at work. As you can see, the “channel” is to our right and the mud to the left. Ahead is a flock of white pelicans. This channel would peter out just a little ways ahead – still a little too far away to get good pelican shots.

Fate Of The Osprey Nest

The osprey nest that was the subject of Nancy’s current favorite image, Osprey Family, is gone. The whole snag was blown over during Hurricane Irma fifteen months ago.

My Answer To “What’s Wrong With This Picture”

Last updated on December 19th, 2018 at 10:09 am

Background

Several days ago, I showed a photograph and asked: “What’s Wrong With This Picture”.  Here is more information.

Sideways Moon (overview)

Nancy took this overview a minute later. Both were taken in March 2016, while we were on a trip to Antarctica. The mountains (and snow) in the first picture should have told you “we’re not in Kansas (or Florida), anymore.”video The moon in both pictures is waxing (growing) gibbous (more than half full), meaning the full moon would be five days later. Those are Gentoo penguins you see in this picture. She took these photos on the way back to the ship after our morning excursion, as I remember.

My Answers

Although I was a bit surprised nobody mentioned that the moon, as the subject of the first picture, was too centered, thus violating the rule of thirds, one member of my camera club did think the image confusing because she wasn’t sure what the subject was.  That was a completely valid point and was probably why Nancy had to be coaxed into taking that picture.    The overview shown above might be better in that respect, but here is why I (the technical support guy) found the image interesting:

The moon and the sun follow similar paths across the sky and the lighted part of the moon always points directly toward the sun along that path.  Every time I’ve ever seen the moon just above the horizon, it was pointing almost straight up (or down).  The moon in these two pictures is pointing to the left, a difference of almost 90° from my normal.

The mountains give almost no locational clue, but the snow at sea level tells you that we are not that close to the equator and the penguins tell us which hemisphere we are in (the specific species will narrow down the possible locations even further).  The angle of the moon does the best job, however, of narrowing the geographical possibilities – showing that we were close to the (Ant)arctic Circle.

To get the same effect with Photoshop wouldn’t be that hard, but would take more than just cropping.  And this effect doesn’t fall in the impossible range, like a star between the tips of a crescent moon, or maybe either type of eclipse during the quarter moon, so it is unlikely to be found in a unicorn shot or the like.  It is just a very unusual perspective that I wanted to appreciate for what it was and share with my friends.

By the way, this is the third article (set) I’ve published in the last three weeks involving the moon.  But fear not, I’m ready to move on.  Thank you for listening.

“Red Panda” Added To Website

Last updated on November 15th, 2019 at 09:24 pm

Red Panda
This picture of a red panda was taken on our trip to China

Nancy took this photograph at the second of two giant panda breeding research bases we visited around Chengdu, China on a tour with our second favorite tour group, Natural Habitat Adventures.  It was at the first base that we got our Giant Panda in Tree and Giant Panda in Tree, which we made available a couple of years after the trip.  We made this red panda image available just recently. For more information, go to Red Panda.

While at this research base, we also had the opportunity to hold a red panda.  Here is a picture of Nancy taken by our guide, Philip He.

Nancy Holding Red Panda
Nancy Holding Red Panda