Trying to open the pitcher?

In front of the Visitor’s Center at the State Botanical Garden is a water garden full of lilies and pitcher plants.  On a hot July day, the water and plants attract quite a few dragonflies that are not all that concerned with people passing by.  This particular one had laid claim to a bright red pitcher plant and stayed there for quite a while so I could get his portrait.

I had put my long lens on the camera with hopes of seeing hummingbirds but it turns out that this is a pretty good tool for close-up shots as well.  The only problem was that I kept getting closer than the minimum focus distance and had to back up a number of times.

I thought this came out really well since I was hand-holding the big lens and got some fantastic sharpness on the little details like the hairs on the dragonfly’s legs.  I kind of wish I had set my aperture a bit smaller to get the whole of the wing-span in focus but I wanted to blur out the background for a smooth look.  The green background was provided by a lily pad in the pond behind the pitcher plant.

State Botanical Garden of Georgia
2450 S Milledge Avenue
Athens, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/6.3 – 1/640 sec – ISO 400

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Mississippi Kite

I experienced a new bird breed yesterday when visiting the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia.  Joyce saw this elegant bird flying by first and we spotted where he landed, high on a bare branch.  It was very had to figure out what it was for a number of reasons.  First, I had never seen one of these before and second, it was approaching high-noon so, it was hard to pick out details of a white brested bird against the clouds and brilliant sun.

Joyce thought it may be an eagle and I thought it was a hawk of some sort until I saw it through my lens.  When I got a better look, I thought it might be an Osprey but, they don’t have the white head like this.  I have to credit David Akoubian for identifying this bird for me.  Being the great “bird nerd” that he is, he came back quickly with an ID on it.

I was lucky that I brought my long Tamron lens on this trip.  We heard that there were lots of hummingbirds at the gardens so, I hauled the big gun along.  Never expected to see this kind of sight but I’m glad that we did!

Mississippi Kite
(Ictinia mississippiensis)

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/11 – 1/1000 sec – ISO 250

Snakebird

I first saw this bird sunning on a branch along the edge of Woody Pond at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.  It was not a familiar species to me and I initially thought it was a cormorant.

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Anhinga sunning at Woody Pond

The Anhinga’s name comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird. The origin of this name is obvious when the bird is swimming. It swims with the body submerged and just ‘s long, slender head and neck the above the water so the bird looks like a snake ready to strike.

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The “snake bird” with catfish

The Anhinga pictured above had just caught a catfish and was swimming back and forth with the prey speared on the end of its beak.  At first, the fish was flapping about but the bird held it and waited for the wriggling to stop.  The Anhinga then flipped the fish up quickly to release it from the beak. After a little juggling to re-position, the fish was quickly swallowed whole.

This was quite a process to watch.

 

North American Anhinga
(Anhinga anhinga leucogaster)

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Townsend, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
420mm @ f/9 – 1/80 sec – ISO 320

Things are looking up

Here’s a lesson to remind us to always look around when deciding where to find your next image.

The story in this case is as follows: I was enjoying a beautiful morning at the Helen Balloon Festival with the North Georgia Photography Club when one of our group struck up a conversation with some of the people running the tethered balloon ride.  It turns out that they were major sponsors of the event and wanted some photos to use for publicity.  We, of course, were happy to help and so, they offered to send a few members of our group up in the balloon to get the view from above.

Helen Balloon Festival-5092

I got a series of shots from the ground and some nice views of the surrounding area but then I turned around when the burner came on.  I noticed what a great view it was to look up through the balloon from inside the basket.  To make it even better, this balloon had a smiley at the center!

Helen Balloon Festival-5081

It was never my intention to take this shot but by paying attention and being open to the unexpected, I got something unusual and interesting.  Gotta be one of the most important lessons I have learned about photography.  It’s always good to do your research, plan, and show up at the right time but sometimes it’s the things you didn’t plan on that turn out to be the best images.

Always look around and work the scene.  Life is what happens while we’re making plans.  Don’t let your plans cause you to miss the opportunities that surround you!

44th Annual Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival
Helen, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
10mm @ f/9 – 1/1250 sec – ISO 400

Gotcha!

So, I just pounded my head on the side of a tree to get some bugs to peek out of their hiding place then, Zap! I snag one with my tongue and there’s a mid-day snack.  The life of a woodpecker is so glamorous.

I don’t think I ever gave any thought to how a bird would snag a moving insect.  Kind of thought it would be like the Karate Kid catching a fly with chopsticks.  It’s more like an anteater burrowing into a termite mound but actually, the woodpecker’s tongue is like a spear with barbs on it.  They impale their prey with the tongue and the barbs pull the insects out of their holes and into the bird’s mouth.

The wonders of nature are all around us.  I love learning about this as part of my photographic journey.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
(Melanerpes carolinus )
Alpharetta, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/15 sec – ISO 200

Pine Warbler

It is amazing what diversity of birds are visible in Georgia and how you see different species appearing in one area and then not in the next neighborhood over.  We went over to our friends home in Alpharetta to see if I could catch a shot of the yellow-variant of a Red-bellied Woodpecker that they have been seeing.  That rare bird did not show but we got a range of other birds some of which, like this beautiful yellow Pine Warbler, I never see at my house in Roswell.

We got a nice variety of birds who came up to the feeders and posed in the nearby trees.  There was also a great symphony of bird calls which ebbed and flowed with the birds moving around.  You could tell if a bird of prey passed by when the songs suddenly stopped and then soon after, the sound would rise and the little birds would quickly re-appear.

I guess this wouldn’t be an exciting Memorial Day for too many people but I sure enjoyed it.

Pine Warbler
(Setophaga pinus )
Alpharetta, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/30 sec – ISO 200

How’s it look outside?

These twin smokestacks coming from massive industrial boilers are the main landmark of the Lindale Mill plant. This is a view is from the other main building that housed the weaving and dying machinery through a transom window with painted-over green windows.

It it easy to imagine what this must have looked like when the plant was operational.  This was certainly a hub of activity, with people and machines buzzing away.  Now, it’s a ghost town except for the occasional group of photographers and workers cleaning out the broken and abandoned bits of the old facility.

This is quite a piece of history and one of those things that can serve to remind us of the past.  I hope that it continues to be a place for people to go and connect to how things were in days gone by.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
10mm @ f/16 – 1/125 sec – ISO 100

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