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

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

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

Woodstock Is No More

I guess now it’s really official – after 36 years, the Woodstock Arts & Crafts Festival will no longer be in Welleby Park in Sunrise the first weekend of December. This is very sad. They actually announced that they were hanging it up several months ago, but maybe I was just having trouble accepting reality. This morning I got word that they took down their website.

We participated five times in Woodstock, won a few awards, and because of their character, they had become probably our favorite festival. And after we decided to stop doing shows in Miami, this Sunrise show became the best opportunity for our hometown friends to see us in action. Penni and her posse have done a lot of good for their community over the years and we will miss them.

For those in the Miami-Dade delegation for whom life must go on, your best chance to see Nancy’s work is now the fledgling festival in Tamarac. Their third annual get-together should be the first weekend next April (2018). They are another small show that is developing their own charm. I’ll have more information about that festival as it becomes available. By then, they will have updated their website.

Another Dumb Question Husbands Shouldn’t Ask

When Nancy was risking her life for your possible viewing pleasure by balancing on top of our canoe on top of our van in Flamingo, Florida trying to get shots of the ospreys for Osprey Family, I asked a really stupid question. I was on the ground (the ladder to the roof of the van has a 150 lb weight limit) and there was a lull in the picture-taking. Maybe the sun got to me, or maybe I had too much time on my hands, or maybe I was just trying to be clever or funny, but I asked her “If you fall, do you want me to catch you or the camera?” As soon as the words left my mouth I knew I had made a mistake. Immediately, she answered “Catch the camera!”

I’ve heard of husbands asking their wives what they wanted for their anniversary or birthday, and getting a reply like “Oh, I don’t want you to make a fuss”, or something like that, and the husband actually not getting or doing anything to make a fuss, only to find out the hard way that wasn’t exactly what their wives had in mind.  I thought I was too smart for that.  Now we know.  If any of you were to ask what I plan to do now, my official answer is “catch the camera” of course (so don’t even bother asking until after such a situation arises).  But you might want to keep in mind that, although it depends on the state of your marriage at the time, I’m guessing for most of you it would be a lot cheaper and less hassle and agony to replace the camera equipment than the marriage.  Just saying.  Act accordingly.  The only thing is that if you are stupid enough to ask a question like that, then either action will earn you some grief.  I’m sure you’ll recognize that the grief can only be considered self-inflicted and you’ll do the right thing.

Nancy at Lake Wailes Park taking pictures of great horned owl chicks in a nest in the fork of a tree.
Nancy at Lake Wailes Park taking pictures of great horned owl chicks in a nest in the fork of a tree.

My hands were full (as explained below) and I didn’t yet have a smart phone with a camera when Nancy got the osprey shots, so the above picture is for illustration purposes only.

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This picture was taken with the Samsung Galaxy J1. It has a 5-megapixel camera, which would be fine for things like this blog if the focus wasn’t so bad. Other things I didn’t like about the camera were the shortcuts constantly disappearing and the battery life deteriorating terribly in less than six months. I finally had to replace it with a Motorola Turbo after eight months because I outgrew the 8 GB of memory (I added a 32 GB SD card, but since apps typically stored only half of the program on the SD card, there’s no point in getting an SD card much larger than 8 GB).
This picture differs from the scene in Flamingo in two important ways:

  1. The baby owl she is taking a picture of in this picture is much lower in the tree and she feels no need to stand on the canoe behind her to risk her life for the shot.
  2. The flash is mounted on the camera. Normally, she uses a Pocket Wizardwebsite remote trigger, with a miniTT1 transmitter on the camera and FlexTT5 transceiver on the flash. The flash is then held by a voice-controlled semi-autonomous mobile bipod (that would be me). In either case, the Better Beamerreview attached to the flash does a good job of focusing the flash so it can reach farther into the canopy on her bird images.

Why You Haven’t Seen Any Painted Buntings

If you could imagine being a small bird (buntings, being medium-sized finches, are about five inches long) and sticking out like a sore thumb as the male does in these pictures Male Painted Bunting and Painted Bunting Pair with predators all about, you might be a little self-conscious. Painted buntings tend to be secretive and skittish, and can be found in thickets, woodland edges, shrubbery and brushy areas. They won’t venture too far into the open to get their food. From what I’ve seen, females are less reclusive than males.

If you are in the painted bunting’s range (the Carolinas south through Florida for the eastern population) and provide the right habitat and food, you can have your own painted buntings. Our painted buntings breed from about Jacksonville, Florida north through the Carolinas, but from October to mid-April they winter in southern Florida (as well as Cuba and the Bahamas). Nancy has always been a gardener and has planted a variety of plants to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, so we have plenty of cover. When she made it her mission to attract the buntings, she bought them their own feeder; it was a tube feeder (she likes the ones from Stokes or Droll Yankees)

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We don’t get anything from either one of these companies. Nor have we done an exhaustive research into all available bird feeder options. We are just giving you our experience, and providing these links for your convenience.  Comments on your experiences relating to this topic are certainly welcome.
with a squirrel cage, and the wire spacing on the cage was such that even the larger birds couldn’t get in. She placed the feeder in a small (Jatropha) tree right next to the flower bushes, not out in the open. Buntings like small seeds – sunflower seeds are too large. Millet may be their favorite but isn’t strictly necessary. Nancy uses a songbird mix that has a number of small seeds (including millet). Within two weeks of putting up the feeder, she had two males and seven females. Of course, trying to get a good picture is another storyblog.

How To Attract Painted Buntings To Your Yard

  1. Provide thick shelter. Remember, they are reclusive. The more flamboyant males are even more reclusive.
  2. Feed them. If your neighbor becomes jealous and starts to compete for your painted buntings, try adding a bird bath. I’ve been told this could give you the edge you need.
  3. Pray. Also keep in mind they are most active (feeding) in the early morning and late afternoon. Good luck.

If you live in South Florida you now have about two months to get your yard ready for these winter residents. You’d better get busy.

Epilogue

It is clear that the painted bunting’s behavior is affected by its physical characteristics. There are risks associated with flamboyance. Somewhere along their evolutionary path, male painted buntings had to choose between bright colors for better sex or more obscure colors for longer life. Speaking for males everywhere, that was a no-brainer.

Afterword

Concerned that I may be warping, or at least oversimplifying science (possibly by anthropomorphismdefined, among other things), I invited my editor, trained biologist, and authorBook 1, Book 2 April Kirkendoll, to keep me honest. Here are some of her comments:

As your blog is fairly informal, a few anthropomorphisms are allowed.

As to actual biology, in bird species where a one-night stand and hitting on multiple females is the preferred method of child-making, flamboyance is the rule. “Sex is more important than long life for playboys” might be the male perspective, while “Guys are only good for one thing, so who needs a lot of ’em around?” could be the female perspective.

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clearly more cases of anthropomorphism
One sprightly alert male can pass on plenty of wily genes, and if he’s still alive to court you, he’s a good candidate for fatherhood. As a bonus, if the hawk is attracted to the brightly colored male, it may not notice the female, so she can go about her child-rearing in peace. Or the predator could simply be full by the time it notices the female.

In bird species where child rearing is a shared business, males and females are similarly colored. Single momhood must be more difficult (or those females simply refuse to have sex without commitment, probably because single momhood is so hard). Males can’t just doink and run; they have to stick around and provide housing, protection, and/or food. They have to live longer in order for the species to continue.

Monogamy among birds ranges from 70-90%, depending on what you read and how you determine monogamy and pairing. Sexual dichromatism

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Sexual dichromatism is a form of sexual dimorphism. Most sources, like Wikipedia redirect to the more general term, where you can find your definition at the bottom of the page. Click here for the short answer.
varies according to the amount of work the male puts into child-rearing. Basically, the more the color differences between genders, the less child-rearing the mate does. Females aren’t always the drab ones.

Postscript

For even more information on April’s last point, I contacted Brian Rapoza, a world-renowned birder, authorbook, teacher, and field trip coordinator for Tropical Audubon Societywebsite.

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Again, although I can personally recommend the books of both of these people, they are our friends and we receive nothing for these endorsements, either directly or indirectly. Brian did use three of Nancy’s photographs in his book, so if you bring your copy of his book to our booth and can show us one of those pictures, I will give you five dollars ($5) off of any purchase. If you show us your copy of one of April’s books, we will give you four dollars ($4) off, even if you can’t find one of Nancy’s pictures.
As an example of birds of which the female was NOT the drab one, Brian pointed to birds in the genus Phalaropus. The Red-necked phalarope, the Red phalarope, and less commonly the Wilson’s phalarope migrate past Florida in the Atlantic Ocean to nest in the Arctic. Although not nearly as flamboyant as the painted bunting, the female of these species is more colorful than the male, and, consistent with April’s comments, it is the male who incubates the eggs and cares for the young.

A Case Of Over-planning On Our Africa Trip?

In November, Nancy and I went on a tour by Natural Habitat Adventures to Uganda and Rwanda to photograph mountain gorillas.  For native Floridians like Nancy, the “mountain” in the name hints that this would be no ordinary hike, so she decided to schedule the trip before she got too old (since you never know when that might happen). On the trip we did in fact hike on slippery mud trails in steep terrain, and Nancy was glad she didn’t wait too long.

Each person on the tour was assigned a porter on the gorilla hike to help with camera gear and stability. I had very specific instructions for my porter, but was concerned about our ability to communicate (whatever we said, they would nod in agreement, but they weren’t all that great on the quiz that followed). These were my intended instructions:

  1. Tend to Nancy first (since she had more gear than I did).
  2. If the gorillas attacked –
    • Save Nancy!
    • Then it would be every man for himself.
    • But if it did come down to a foot race between our tour guide and I, kick him in the balls and run like hell.

At this point, we wouldn’t be running from the gorillas because our guide should be keeping them occupied while we escape. We were running because if the tour guide somehow survived, he was really going to be pissed (of course I would disavow any knowledge of the porter’s actions). And I was so specific about the kick not because I wanted to be overly graphic or cruel (I could have just had the porter trip him), but because of my concern about a communication error – if the porter got it backward and saved the guide first, I needed something in the instructions to keep him from executing that last part on Nancy.

Because of those communication difficulties (and time constraints), I was never able to fully explain Rule 2 to the porters, but it was just as well. I later learned that there has never been a case in which the mountain gorillas encountered on these tours did any harm to a tourist.

As it turned out the trip was outstanding and we got some great pictures (and we all lived to tell about it). With any luck, I’ll have a few images to show you by the start of our next art festival season.

“A Future King” – We Have A New Penguin Picture

O.K! Nancy actually took this photograph around the 9th of January, 2004 while on the Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris‘ four-week “Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctic Peninsula” tour. We may have mentioned it before, but the Cheesemans are our favorite tour group and Antarctica is Nancy’s favorite continent.

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Keep in mind that Nancy was born and raised in Miami and thinks anything below eighty degrees Fahrenheit is cold. For her to say that Antarctica is her favorite continent (of the seven continents she has seen) should mean something. Antarctica is an entirely different world.

A Future King
A Future King

For this image, Nancy used her Nikon F3 35mm SLR with a Tokina AT-X 100-500mm f/5.6 telephoto lens. She used Kodak slide film, and I recently scanned a 4″x6″ print.

For more information (and a larger picture), check out our website.