Who Loves Butterflies?

Sometimes the best photo-ops are the ones you never set out to capture. Oftentimes I’ll be sitting on the bench in the backyard and suddenly an unanticipated photo-op occurs. It is these moments that keep me with a camera by my side whenever I am in the yard.

This past weekend while I was shooting images of house finches and house sparrows enjoying the bird sanctuary, I was able to grab a few photos of different butterflies that were fluttering around the small patio garden.

As you have undoubtedly heard, there has been a population and migration decrease of many species of butterfly. Many experts in the fields of climatology and entomology concur that the heavy usage of pesticides and changes in climate have had a severe effect on the population.

Whether you subscribe to climate change or not, one has to admit that the butterfly population is suffering. Like many, I remember being a child and being all but swarmed by butterflies in the spring while playing near gardens and the like. I could have used the work frolic in that last sentence, but little boys don’t frolic… so I didn’t… even though I could have.

Anyway, I was able to capture a few images of various butterflies enjoying the garden and one even landed so close that I was able to capture an image with some great contrast. Oh and a dragonfly landed on the tip of the sundial so I shot him too.

As always, you never know just what you might see in your own backyard. Enjoy!

Paradise is a Beach in Honduras

Imagine lounging on the beach under the shade of palms, the sounds of waves gently lapping along the shoreline all the while sipping on an ice cold domestic beer with a little lime wedge bobbing around inside. During this semi-seaside-siesta, you spot local children peddling conch shells and an old man with a small monkey on his shoulder selling photo-ops. As you fade in and out, time seems to stand still… this is the Tabyana Beach I know and love… this is why Roatán is my favorite Caribbean destination (thus far).

Located on the far western end of Roatán Island, Tabyana Beach has a few resorts and an impressive panorama of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second largest reef system in the world). Like any small private beach, there are seaside massage tables, small tiki bars and all manner of water related activities to choose from. Apparently snorkeling and scuba diving is the biggest draw here as the aforementioned reef is just a short boat ride away. This day however, the water was a bit choppy which kept the small boats docked.

During this particular trip to the island, there was a squall brewing miles off the coast which gave us fairly overcast skies, choppy seas and a heavy scent of rain on the breeze. The incoming storm had slowly chased all the other tourists from the beach and left Kris and I to enjoy the atmosphere in privacy. If I’m not mistaken, we spent about two to three hours lounging in our chairs enjoying cold Barena Beer from the bar. Eventually, the storm was close enough that the locals began to shutdown the shops and rental facilities. At that point both Kris and I decided we ought to catch the last bus back to the port. 

On the bus ride back the driver went through Coxen Hole which is the largest city on the island.   While generally safe, I have to say I don’t think I would want to wander around here alone or at night. Not only is the grid confusing, but some areas looked down-right sketchy and would be easy to get turned around and lost in. We did get off the bus without incident and grabbed a couple of iced coffee floats (which were absolutely divine). 

Anyway, should you ever wind up in Honduras on the island of Roatán, check out Tabyana Beach; you will certainly be glad that you did. Oh, and bring some cash for the peddlers and monkey man.

Photography at 40,000 ft.

Doesn’t that person snapping photos from the window on an airplane annoy the hell out of you? Well, if they do… I’ll offer an apology to you right now cause that person is me. I’ve always loved the perspective, and find that some pretty amazing images can be captured during commercial flight

Over the years I’ve snapped some pretty cool images of both urban and rural landscapes as well as (what I would consider impressive) views of the front range high above Colorado. I mean, why not pull out the iPhone and take a few pictures, what the heck else are you doing? 

Below are a few images I captured from a short trip from Austin to Dallas and another from Austin to Las Vegas that I thought might be fun to share.

Backyard Birding: Our Home Birding Sanctuary

As you already know, I really enjoy nature photography. I enjoy it so much that when I am not out in the “field” with my camera and gear, I will be in the backyard ready and waiting for a photo-op. Yeah, I’m a pretty big camera nerd nowadays. With that said, I decided this past weekend to create a birding sanctuary in the backyard to hopefully create a greater number of photo-ops.

The way our property and home are oriented, the backyard is narrow and long (24’x60’ approx.) which tends to keep birds away when anyone is on the patio as it is in close proximity to the majority of the yard. Having noticed that most of the birds have been loitering around the far end of the yard, I decided that was probably the best place to construct the “sanctuary.”

I began to channel my inner-avian to create a mental image of what would be ideal for the neighborhood birds. I came up with several ideas and began the hunt around the yard and the house for items to implement for this project.

I just love to repurpose items from around the house after they have outlived their usefulness. A few weeks ago our clothes dryer burnt out and had to be replaced, so I’ve had a large appliance taking up space in the garage. After stripping the dryer of parts and pieces, I decided to keep the large drum to paint and use as a planter in the backyard bird sanctuary. I am so frigging clever huh?

Next, I used some landscaping stones that had been stacked away in the corner of the yard to build a small retaining wall around the aforementioned planter. I then moved an unused shepherds hook as well as some plant hanger hooks I’d had in the garage collecting dust into that area of the yard. With things beginning to come together, Kris and I visited the Home Depot and picked out some hanging plants, summer flowers, a bird bath and new bird-feeder (the old one broke horrifically from a close encounter with a diabetic squirrel earlier in the day).

The Backyard Bird Sanctuary with new bird-feeder

With all the items in place, I planted myself on the patio bench with camera in hand and captured some images.

Inexpensive Macro Photography

Having spent the last few weeks birding in the backyard with a zoom lens, I thought it might be fun to change things up and shoot “fixed-macro.” Always on the lookout for a new lens to purchase, I hit Amazon to view the refurbished selection of Canon EFS Macro Lens’ and was shocked by the cost. Turns out that shooting macro is extremely cost prohibitive (even using refurbished equipment).

After reading some articles online, I learned that there are some work-arounds to shooting extreme close up images. Apparently there are these fabulous little gems called “extension tubes” that magnify an image by minimizing the focal distance. The best part, there are so many to choose from and they are a fraction of the cost of an actual dedicated macro lens. I learned that some folks will utilize a fixed portrait lens (24mm) and attach either a 12mm or 20mm extension tube to reduce the focal length thus magnifying an image.

With this knowledge in hand, I went back to Amazon and found a set of extension tubes that covered the range I was looking for and placed my order. About a week later, and with tubes in hand, I set up my pancake 24mm portrait lens with a 12mm extension tube. After a brief trial and error period, I settled on some items around the house to practice with. 

In conclusion, this is a very inexpensive and impressive option to enter the world of macro photography. I’m sure with time and practice one could achieve some high quality images. I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert, but you certainly don’t have to be an expert to have a good time!

DTW… A Royal Layover

What, you’re writing about a layover in Detroit? Yes I am, and for a very good reason. I simply love the “Wayne County Airport,” known as DTW. Oftentimes on trips back home to New Hampshire I cheap out and avoid direct flights and instead stop off either in Atlanta or Detroit. Now, if I have a choice, I will pick Detroit every time due to several reasons.

First, DTW shares my initials so I consider it to be “my” airport. Yeah, lame I know.

Second, it is all about Motown. If you have been to the airport and travelled between concourses you have undoubtedly gone down the escalators into the LED tunnels that crank the Motown jams. I’ve always enjoyed the light-show timed to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and The Supremes. 

Third, one of my favorite airport “diners” is located along Concourse A; Cat Cora’s Tap-Room. I swear they have the best Bangers and Mash ever plated and their servers have the innate ability to forecast the completion of a 16oz Guinness and provide a glacial replacement prior to the vessel ever touching the tabletop.

If all that weren’t enough, you can easily get your daily steps in by walking the lengths of each concourse where you will be greeted by some pretty cool bars and cocktail lounges. I believe it was Concourse C that had the restaurant with, by far, the best name, “Earl of Sandwich.” Seriously, what a name… I wonder if there exists somewhere a “Duke of Danish,” or maybe a “Marquess of Mahi Mahi” or better yet a “Viscount of Vindaloo.” I would, without hesitation, dine at any one of those restaurants.

Anyway, I love DTW and will plan my next trip back home to New Hampshire accordingly. I may even dine with royalty next time out.

Hermaphrodite’s Love Dart

I was out in the back garden doing some pruning of the Eunymous and stumbled upon a little snail who was just doing his or her thing. Never one to miss a “photo-op,” I whipped out my camera and grabbed a few images of the little fella. 

I’d be lying if I said I was some kind of “Helix Aspersa” expert, but I may know a thing or two. As a budding mollusk aficionado, I’ve come to learn that this specimen is in fact the most common garden snail in the western world and is known as a “European Brown Garden Snail.”

As all mollusk-enthusiasts know, this particular snail is an air-breather, has one lung and tends to perform most of it’s activity in the evenings or early mornings. Dubbed the Usain Bolt of snails (by me), this little one can travel at speeds of upwards to 1.5cm. per second. Hold onto your hats, cause that comes out to about 15 inches per minute! 

Other Helix Aspersa facts you should know are that these little hard-shelled/soft-bodied specimens eat all manner of organic matter and are fiercely territorial. It is not uncommon for these snails to attack humans or other predators on site. There are many tales of severe injury or even death resulting from run-ins with this particular species. 

Okay, that last little bit was mostly bulls**t. I’ll leave you to figure out which parts…

In regard to reproduction, these gastropods are hermaphroditic. To the un-woke, that means these little ones carry both male and female reproductive organs. According to “Snail-World.com,” this doesn’t keep them from mating. Apparently a pair of snails will mate somewhere between… 4 and 12 hours! I’ve included a screen-capture of that fact from Snail-World.com because… they use the phrase, “love-dart.”

Anyway, you never know what you are going to find in the nether-regions of ones own garden and what you will learn with further investigation. 

“Waning Gibbous,” I’ve been called worse.

I have been a bit restless this past week and have had difficulty getting to sleep. I’m not sure what is causing my restlessness, but sometimes I just cannot clear my head and get solid rest. Fortunately, this time of year, it is quite cool at night still and mosquito free. With that said, I’ve been spending some time outside at night relaxing before bed.

Anyway, the other night I scooped up my camera from the kitchen table on my way outside during one of my semi-sleepless nights and captured a great image of the Moon that I wanted to share with everyone.

Canon Rebel t6 with 18-55mm Kit Lens (Autofocus/ISO etc)

I’m not terribly familiar with the phases of the Moon, but I can say with some certainty that this phase is called, “Damned Near Full.” Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share some little known facts about our Moon.

First, the Moon is tidally locked to our planet which means that it always shows the same “face.” Although it only shows this same face, there is plenty of light on the other side. If you want to get technical, the Earth-facing side does get a touch more due to “Earth-Shine,” or the reflection of light from our planet.

Second, only twelve people have ever walked on the surface of the Moon. If I’m not mistaken, only four of them are still alive and all were from the United States. Additionally, three nations have landed on the planet (US, USSR and China respectively). On a side-note, I am very excited to see that there are now many joint ventures between governments and corporations to bring humanity to the space station and hopefully portions of the inner solar system in the coming years/decades.

Lastly, there are many interesting theories as to how the Moon came into being. Some estimate that it was created by an impact event, while others believe it was captured by Earth’s gravity. Deeper still, some suspect the origination occurred by an explosion within the Earth that jettisoned out a portion of rock that formed the planet. Anyway, there are some really interesting theories out there, some of which are outlined in this article.

What I can say with certainty is that at roughly 238,857 miles away, and despite slowly drifting from Earth at about 4cm per year, you can still pick up a lot of detail on the Moon with a steady hand and a kit lens. 

Have a wonderful and safe weekend everyone!

Isla Pasión

At one time or another I think everyone dreams about a white sand tropical island getaway. Kris and I were fortunate enough to have lived the dream a few years back when we visited the enchanting Isla Pasión out of the port of Cozumel Mexico. A quick disclaimer, we were on a five day cruise out of Galveston and this trip was a full day shore excursion where we would take a crazy high powered boat across to the island. The boat was called the “Twister” and it was a sporty vessel that would achieve great speed and suddenly turn in a 360 degree motion kicking up a ton of water and drenching the occupants. Needless to say it was exhilarating and upon enduring thirty minutes of this all passengers (about 20) were ready for the peaceful white sand beaches to come.

Upon disembarking the vessel onto the shore, it is a short jaunt through the palms to the recreation area where you find nearly a half mile of white sand beach, lounge chairs, hammocks and (for the more adventurous) water toys and inflatables. I feel like maybe I’m forgetting something… oh yeah, RUM PUNCH! If I’m not mistaken the rum punch was a dollar for a large plastic solo cup full and oh my goodness was it potent. To go along with the initial disclaimer, this shore excursion is one we have gone to multiple times as we just have so much fun during our time on the island and since we go on a ton of cruises and all of the ones out of Galveston stop in Cozumel this one is always on the top of our list (I mean how many sets of Mayan Ruins can anyone visit in one lifetime).

Okay, disclaimers aside, once on the beach and with rum punch in hand it is time to retire to our beach lounger. As long as the wind isn’t howling the back is the place to be. Oftentimes we will snag one of the island waiters who stroll along the beach (give him a nice tip) and ask for him to visit us every twenty to thirty minutes with fresh cups of punch. We snagged a really cool guy our last trip who kept the beverages flowing all afternoon. Oftentimes, after we have worked up a good punch buzz, both Kris and I will wander up and down the shoreline collecting shells and little hunks of coral. We like to collect little natural treasures on all the beaches we visit (by far the coolest find was at the White House in Grand Cayman in Bodden Town where we found a ton of interestingly shaped coral).

Eventually, after about half a day of drinking and wandering the beach our appetites kick in and it is time to visit the cantina. Fortunately on these excursions a buffet style Caribbean lunch is included and whoa is it good! I typically opt for the Ahi Ahi tacos or the Jamaican jerk chicken and Kris munches on either the chicken nachos with rice and beans or a fresh chicken jerk chicken sandwich. I had some reservations about the food the first visit to the island, but I’ve since spied around the margins and have found their food handling and culinary actions to be more than acceptable. I’m kind of weird with food handling and I set the bar pretty high as to where and what I will eat. I have no concerns on this island and would strongly recommend this cantina and all its offerings.

Several visits in the past we arrived in the offseason and there were only about 40-50 people on the island. As you can imagine that provides a much more casual and comfortable environment. I’ve only been on the island once where there were a few hundred people and the atmosphere at that point is a little more “interesting.” I’m sure depending on the type of people who show up from the ships it would vary greatly. I believe the main attraction that crowded visit was the water trampoline and volleyball court. If I’m not mistaken there was a small tournament that had been ongoing that week and we were nearing the “finals.”

Anyway, Kris and I highly recommend Passion Island to anyone on a cruise that disembarks in Cozumel Mexico or anyone who finds an opportunity to visit. 

Curious Cotton-Tail

As we all know by now, I love to spend time outside in the yard these days. Hell, even before these Covid-times I could often be found staring at something discriminately out in the back of the house. This tale is only a few days old and not of the avian variety that I have been sharing of late.

Kris and I live in a fairly typical suburban home on a quiet street and have a small water easement behind our fence in the backyard. Our location near a constant water source and fairly wooded area offer a pretty wide variety of wildlife. Sometimes the wildlife is a bit slithery, but more often than not, we see a variety of birds and small furry mammals. In fact, I’m currently doing battle with a Nutria who enjoys eating the buds off of the roses and depositing them several hours later under a Mountain Laurel. I suppose that is a tale for another time.

Anyway, I was in the yard this past weekend with a Corona (would you believe there is a wiki on how to drink a Corona Beer?) in hand firing up the grill when I thought, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted that same Nutria. Knowing that this may be an opportunity to eliminate that fertilizer spreading rodent, I grabbed my tongs firmly in hand and began to turn in the small hairy mammals direction.

Forgetting there is about an eight inch drop-off from the patio to the ground, I capsized. Beer spilling and lime wedge half out of the bottle, I staggered off the back patio in what probably looked like a drunken stupor to anyone fortunate enough to witness it. I don’t know what it is about me, but I am always tripping, falling or otherwise defying gravity in comical ways. I often wonder if I have always been like this and am only realizing it now…

Having become heavily grass-stained, losing a flip-flop and becoming curiously heaped into a small middle-aged ball; I looked up to find that at least Kris wasn’t present to have witnessed my “excursion.”

With the necessity to concoct a story about how I wound up in my current state upon Kris’ return, I once again caught a glance of that nutria in the bushes. Back on my feet and crouching to see beneath the thorny depths, I caught more than a glimpse of the furry brown mammal. Tongs held high and charging into the verge like something out of Brave-Heart (I’m pretty sure I screamed, “FREEDOM!”), I reared back to take a swing at the nutria and at that moment realized it was just a small bunny. 

The bunny, just as disheveled as I, stared at me with a blank look. As my gaze met his beady black eyes, I lowered my tongs, backed away slowly and scooped up my camera. 

I named him Everett and he pretty much just eats weeds and lives under the shed in the backyard. I’m cool with that. Oh and Tide to Go Pens are awesome and work really well on grass stains, or so Kris says.

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