Monday, June 27, 2011

Attracting Birds, Bees and Butterflies

Flowering Plants in a High Desert Yard


Trying to accent a yard in the Great Basin Desert with attractive wildlife friendly plants has been a learning experience of trial and error for me.  The Great Basin is the largest desert in the U.S. and is considered a "Cold Desert" due to its northern location and higher elevations that average between 4,000 feet 1219.2 m to 6,500 feet 1828.8 m.  The more southern area of the Great Basin where I am located averages less than 7 inches 17.78 cm of perception a year.  Nestled between the Wassuk and Gillis mountain ranges, the winters can be cold with temperatures reaching below freezing and the summers can be harsh with the sun shining down through the clear blue sky. 

Trying to grow the usual flowers and shrubs that adorn most yards just ends in disappointment when the plants struggle for survival and eventually die.   However being a wildlife photographer, I wanted a yard that was attractive for the various birds and insects and would offer me a place to relax and enjoy the scenery. 


  Pygmy Blue Butterfly on Rosemary Blossom


The flowers and shrubs that thrive and bring so much color and various forms of wildlife to my yard are as follows:

One of the most unusual flowering shrubs is the Caesalpinia gilliesii or commonly known as Bird of Paradise Bush.  A member of the legume family, the Bird of Paradise Bush is native to Argentina.  It thrives in my area, especially with some extra water during the hot summer.  The yellow flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.





Apricot Globe Mallow is an annual flowering plant native to the southwestern desert. Growing along washes, the orange flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.  It is also a staple in the diet of the Desert Bighorn Sheep. 




The deep blue Salvia of the mint family thrives in full sun and will keep flowering with a little extra water during the dry spells.  It is a favorite with the hummingbirds and butterflies, but repels deer and rabbits.




Gaillardia or blanket flower accents the planting beds with large daisy like blooms.  A sun and heat loving plant, the blanket flower attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and small birds that eat the seeds.

 


Sunflowers are my favorite flowers and just happen to do so well here that I have to thin them out.  They come up all over the yard from seeds blown by the wind or dropped by wildlife.  The seeds are a food staple for birds and ground squirrels.  Bees and butterflies are drawn to the flowers and I have even watched hummingbirds visit the flowers.




Desert Willows are native to the Mojave Desert. They reach a height of 25 feet, 7.6m and grow along washes at elevations between 1000-5000 feet, 305-1524 meters.  I brought some small Desert Willow transplants from my yard in Las Vegas and they are thriving here!  The hummingbirds, moths and butterflies are drawn to the nectar.   What a wonderful tree that decorates the landscape while providing shade and shelter.




I have many other different varieties of plants in my yard including junipers, elms, various grasses and an almond tree. However, the plants that I've focused on in this post are the summer flowering kind.  A few years ago, the yard was certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife friendly habitat.  So I can just sit back, relax and enjoy the outdoors whenever I feel the urge.

For additional reading:
http://bonnierannald.blogspot.com/2010/09/xeriscaping-in-high-desert.htm



No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.
 
 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.

"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"

Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Visit our website at: http://www.bonnierannald.com/





Monday, June 20, 2011

Bad Photos Exposed


How Not to Take a Bad Photo

I'm writing this entry in reference to a comment on one of my Facebook posts from a friend who wrote "Can't you just post one lousy crappy photo? Just once?!"  Well my friend, you've given me some food for thought and the more I thought about your comment the more I realized that yes, I’m always talking about the good photos.  Now it's time to confess, show off the mistakes and ones that do not make the final Save As file.  It took me a while to locate some bad ones because they usually are sent to the delete bin after processing. 

One of the most difficult decisions for a photographer is to delete the poor ones from the good quality.  Below are some examples of my photographs that have technical problems and will not make the cut!

On first glance, the dancer's photo appears to be nice and strong; however a closer look at his body shows exposure problems.  With much of the editing software, including Lightroom, the exposure problem can be fixed, to a point.  However with digital, once the highlights are blown out or clipped, they can not be recovered.


The wild horses and coyote at Walker Lake would have made a nice photo had the wind not been blowing so hard to cause camera shake. The white streaks in the background are white caps on the lake. Even by increasing the ISO, the force of the wind was just too hard and the photo is not sharp.



  The Northern Flicker would have been a nice photo if the background was not so busy and distracting.  A slight move to the right or left might have remedied the problem.



Ah, a grave site at the historical Aurora mining town cemetery. The contrasty lighting makes the image hard to see and the brick pillars create a barrier.  Photographing the scene when the sun was at more of an angle would be nice.  However if time will not allow, firing the flash and a side view would give a much stronger image.


An overexposed full moon lacking any detail was caused from rushing the photo without taking in to consideration the overexposure tendency of the digital camera and also not using spot metering.  The moon is so much brighter than the sky or landscape and spot metering will allow for a more accurate setting.




One of my favorite mistakes and what I call: "Premature Shutter Clicking".  I do this quite often by clicking the shutter in anticipation of the shot before I am in focus.




So often with wildlife, we are rushed to get a photo before the animal disappears.  However, a little patience and tracking the animal in focus usually rewards me with a better image.




I just can't seem to get past the obstruction of the leaves in front of the robin, so I click the shutter, hoping for the best.  Well in most cases the best just is not good enough when you are working for a sell-able commercial image.



Hum, what was the main subject that I was trying to portray in my photo?  This scene has so many different subjects that it's hard to tell.  All I needed to do was step back and decide what message I was trying to send to the viewer.


This is one of my favorites when trying to photograph a fast moving subject.  I've seen more out of focus and blank frames that go straight to the delete file.  The beauty of digital is, you can take numerous images and not worry about having to change film.

I was trying to get an action shot with a Costa's Hummingbird, but the lighting was wrong and the projectiles sticking up create a barrier and are distracting.  Sometimes nature just doesn't want to cooperate.


When the distance is too far and exceeds the limits of the lens, all you can do is take a shot and hope for the best.  Sometimes you can crop in and the subject will be sharp enough for a decent photo.




My favorite of all poor quality photos is not using a tripod so that I can get the sharp focus on my subject.  Tripods are inconvenient and have to be set up, however the sharpness of the image is worth the extra effort.

So yes, even I take lousy, crappy photos sometimes.  But I also know that the true difference between taking photos and creating images is the finished results within the scene.




No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.
 
 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.

"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"

Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Visit our website at: http://www.bonnierannald.com/





Monday, June 13, 2011

Photographing Butterflies

 The Illusive Butterfly
Trying to freeze the illusive butterfly in the lens of the camera can be both a rewarding and frustrating experience.  I was in southern New Mexico one summer when the Western Tiger Swallowtail butterflies were out in mass, feeding on the flowering thistles.  All I had to do was just stand nearby, clicking the shutter.
 
Western Tiger Swallowtail 

Most of the time, it is not so easy to get up close and the butterfly just refuses to be still.  Due to its survival instinct to flee from predators, the butterfly reacts to any movement, especially when the shadow from a moving body comes near.

Monarch

 
The time to photo a butterfly when it will remain still is in the early morning, before the sun catches its wings.  The butterfly’s metabolism slows down at night or when it is cool. In the early morning, the wings are spread to absorb heat before the butterfly can start moving them to begin feeding. 

Mourning Cloak

Having the camera on a tripod with a macro or telephoto lens allows you to get close to the butterfly and concentrate on the areas for sharp focus, which are the body and wings.
 Pygmy Blue
 By increasing the ISO, you can get a faster shutter speed in order to freeze the movement of the wings.  As in macro photography, I try and keep the lens parallel to the area of sharpest focus. 



Painted Lady

Frontal lighting is important to highlight the butterfly and bring out the accents and beautiful colors.

Pygmy Blue
Most often, if you remain still the butterfly will return to the nearby flower.  A little patience and preparation by pre-focusing on the flower also has given me good results.  I have heard that butterflies will not fly away if you wear dark clothes.  However I can not guarantee this since most times when I'm doing nature photography, I wear light, neutral colors.


 Zephyr Angelwing





No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.
 
 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.

"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"

Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Visit our website at: http://www.bonnierannald.com/





Monday, June 6, 2011

Calliope Hummingbird on Nest


From Nesting to Hatchlings 

One summer day when I was hiking in the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area on Pine Creek Trail, I spotted a very small bird sitting on a nest in a willow tree by the stream.   I quietly set my camera on the tripod, focused in with the Nikon 80-200mm lens and realized that I was looking at a very small hummingbird.



On comparing my prints to the hummingbirds in my bird identification book, I discovered this was a Calliope Hummingbird, the smallest bird in North America. The Calliope migrates from Mexico to breed and raise its young in mountainous areas where there are streams with wildflowers growing along the banks.

In a few days, I anxiously returned to find the Calliope patiently sitting on her tiny cup-shaped nest that was made from the buds of a creosote bush and bound together with spider webs.



Every few days I hiked back with my backpack of camera equipment across the hot desert and over the rocky path to check on the progress of my tiny friend.  At the end of the second week I was amazed to see two small pointed beaks sticking up from the nest.
 

Each time when I came to visit, I would sit on a near by rock, eat my lunch in the shade and keep a close watch through the lens to snap the shutter when there was any action.
 

Finally after many hikes and a lot of exercise, I found the nest empty.  I spent the rest of the day watching the hummingbirds flying around, sipping nectar from the Desert Paintbrush and Penstemon plants and I wondered which ones were the offspring from my Calliope.


A year to the exact date, I made the hike back to see if the Calliope had returned to her nest.  Hummingbirds are known to re-use the same nest.  I located the exact willow but to my disappointment, the small cup-shaped nest was no where to be found.  I spent the rest of that day looking in the branches by the stream and did not find any other nests.  While I was searching the area, I became flooded with emotions and felt an immense sense of gratitude that I was allowed to witness this rare and unique sage of nature.



No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.
 
 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.

"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"

Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Visit our website at: http://www.bonnierannald.com/