Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Capturing Creatures

The critters that call our landscapes home are often elusive and hard to photograph. When we do foray into the world of animal photography, we try to make sure our images allow the creatures to stay in their habitat. Think about the difference between a studio portrait, and a candid shot. Both are representative of the subject - but the candid shot provides a bit of the real story.
The Great Egret (Ardea alba) in the photo above is an example of the "studio shot" I'm talking about. The bird is holding a perfect pose for me, and I've taken some liberties with the colors and light in order to create a mood. It's a pretty portrait shot - but it's a bit like touching up a posed senior photo, right? Still a nice image - don't get me wrong. In fact, I love this shot. It's just not what we are usually looking for.

Here are some shots that show a bit of habitat - and are more representative of reality. Jay photographed this cool little ghost crab (Ocypode pallidula) on Kauai - the locals call them 'ohiki. He used a 180mm macro lens to capture the tiniest details. It takes patience to get this close to these skittish little guys - they're very fast, and they disappear into their holes if you come too close. Jay sat near a burrow for a long time before this 'ohiki decided he wasn't a threat. The click of the shutter was enough to send him back underground, but Jay got a couple of nice shots in the end.
On another morning, we found ourselves on a sandy path en route to another beach. It was pitch dark, and we were navigating with flashlights. Suddenly, my light danced over one of these beautiful East African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) beside the path. These are an invasive species, and are considered pests, but they sure are pretty! We returned later to capture them in brighter conditions. They stayed in the cool shade, and pulled into their shells if we came too close. They avoided the sand - staying on damp, rich soil beside the path. Maybe they get kind of itchy if sand gets into their shells! :)

I used the 180mm macro lens to shoot this little guy. My depth of field was incredibly narrow, so I needed two shots to get both the shell and the body of the snail in focus. I combined the images in Photoshop when I got home... and also removed a distracting stick with the clone tool.
Here's an extreme close-up of a Female Widow Skimmer Dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa). She had settled on the side of our house, and I pulled out the camera to try for a few close-ups. I was thrilled when she decided to relocate to the garden - where I could capture a bit of green showing through those fantastic transparent wings. The light was pretty harsh that day, but she waited patiently while I went inside to get some thin paper to act as a filter. In fact, she sat perfectly still while I messed with my camera, and rattled the paper over her head, trying to keep it from blowing away in the wind.


Anonymous Suyog said...

#1 and #4 are simply beautiful! I have to get a macro lens one of these days.... :)

May 11, 2010 at 1:21 AM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

Thanks, Suyog! :) I really love my macro lens!

May 11, 2010 at 8:03 AM  
Anonymous jim said...


Just a general comment. Your blog is almost impossible to read due to the very light background along with the light colored text.


May 11, 2010 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

Thanks for pointing that out, Jim. When I view my blog on my own computer the text is white on a dark gray background. The text is easy to read. I wonder why your view is different from mine.

Is anyone else having this problem?

May 11, 2010 at 11:00 AM  
Anonymous jim said...

Hello again Varina. For me, the background appears to be a blurry image of a mountain that was shot through glass (or a windshield). The colors in this background are primarily light blue (with some gray) and almost detail-less white. Then you have very light text on top of that.


May 11, 2010 at 11:30 AM  
Anonymous jim said...

Hi Varina,

One more data point for you. If I start at the top of a blog entry, the background and text all blend together (i.e., no dark gray background). If I then use the wheel on the mouse to scroll down through the blog entry, the background will change to dark gray with white text as soon as I reach the "comments" section of the entry. Hope this helps you root cause the problem. -Jim.

May 11, 2010 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

Thanks again, Jim. Odd. That dark gray border should be behind the entire post - not just the comment section. I'm guessing that Blogger is having some kind of problem with their templates. Maybe it's time to return to our old design. :)

I appreciate the time you took to let me know about the problem. Thanks so much!


May 11, 2010 at 3:25 PM  
Blogger Dominic Gendron said...

Great images, the great egret is sublime!

May 13, 2010 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

Thanks, Dominic. He was sublime in real life too. Such beautiful creatures!

May 14, 2010 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

Jim - I made some adjustments to the template. I'm wondering if you can read the text now?

May 14, 2010 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger Cris0rtiz said...

These are awesome images...
The Dragon fly was taken with a macro lens?

July 14, 2010 at 8:56 AM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

Thanks Cris,

Yes - the dragonfly shot was taken with my Canon 180mm macro lens. Such a patient bug. ;)

FYI - the blog has moved to:

July 14, 2010 at 9:51 PM  

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