Mystery “butterfly?”


About a week ago, I went for a stroll down the little nature trail in a local park. This little guy obligingly held still, checking the ground for minerals while I shoved my ridiculous cell phone right up his antenna to get a clear shot.


A nearly clear shot.

I miss my camera!



I am having no luck identifying this little bug, though. It was light brown, held itself like a butterfly, flew like a butterfly, seemed to be hunting for minerals like a mud-puddling butterfly… and yet, it doesn’t look quite right for a butterfly. It was out around 2pm in the afternoon. I can’t find it in any guide to the mid-western or eastern U.S. It was small, only about the size of a blue or hairstreak.


Ah, well. I wandered the forest path, blissfully unaware that my keys were missing. It wasn’t until I arrived at my car, still luxuriating in air golden with heat and humidity, that I discovered the loss. People talk about sound shattering the air, but that air, in the triple digits on the heat index, was impervious to the mere blare of a car alarm. The blanket of muzzy gaseous water just wrapped around the sound and smothered it. Shatter smatter, nothing would break that clingy heat.

It wasn’t as enchanting of a walk the second time round. I was just happy I didn’t get sick or faint. I stopped where I’d photographed the bug. It was gone, but my keys were there. One discovery!

One more to go… if anyone knows what type of wee beastie this is, I’d very much like to know.

Camera Woes

I haven’t posted any pictures for quite a while. There’s a good reason for that.

20170811_142826.jpgI broke my first memory card! One of the first ones I ever owned, judging by the low number of gigs it stores. You can’t quite tell from the picture, but the card is bent slightly, the top and bottom have become separated, and the top corner’s plastic is broken.

The good news is I had already pulled the pictures off.

The bad news is the card at least partially broke inside my reader, and the reader, despite my best efforts, remains stubbornly jammed. Something, something small and evil and black plastic, has insinuated itself into the drive and refuses to become dislodged.

Finally, my long-range camera lens is being quite uncooperative. You all know, the heavy ones that stick out like gun barrels and cost as much as the standard pizza delivery car. To be honest, mine isn’t quite that expensive, but it’s valuable to me. Periodically it’s been getting out of alignment, or something that causes it to grind and fail to focus. It doesn’t matter how I beg or plead — or somewhat more productively, carefully clean and work my way gently through the settings — it sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. If you don’t want to disturb the wildlife you’re shooting, a long-range lens is vital. I know several photographers who work with different subjects and speak disparagingly of the long lenses, but they’ve never taken pictures of a wasp nest or a badger. I LOVE my zoom. I want it back!!

Too bad there are no camera stores in our area. Sending the lens to Nikon would cost as much as a new one, or very nearly. It doesn’t matter, though, because for a graduate student at the end of summer, it might as well be the cost to go to Pluto for summer vacation. So if anyone out there has had a Nikon lens suddenly grind, freeze, and fail, but only intermittently, let me know what the fix was!





Zebra Butterfly – Fan Submission


This shot was shared with me by a friend (whom I haven’t gotten to see in a long time). She saw the butterfly, thought of me, and then discovered the delights (meaning utter frustration and blinding satisfaction) of insect photography.

I’ve yet to get on on film myself (camera lens is acting up again, sorry folks!). I’m very happy she decided to share this one. There’s not many in our area. 🙂


First “hike” !!


It was more of a slow saunter, really. I’m not actually physically capable of much more than that, but realistically I wouldn’t have wanted to rush the first enjoyable walk back home. Our footsteps were hushed by the fall of leaves and bark from stands of eucalyptus trees. The air was scented with sagebrush and manzanita baking under the sun, dust rising from the well-worn path, and water. Although it’s been such a wonderfully wet year that the grasses are just finishing their turn from green to brown – something that usually happens a few weeks earlier in the year – even humans with their puny noses can still smell water in the air. It doesn’t matter if the water is being sprayed by someone washing their car in the early morning hours, or if it is the reed-choked pond that comes into view around the bend in the path.


We take a break there for my sake. I’m the only member of the party the mosquitos don’t bother, funnily enough. Instead they head for the repellent- and sunscreen-doused figures of my mother and sister. The pond’s shallow edges are a fascinating microcosm; tiny fish and tadpoles dart just under the surface of the water while dragonflies zing and stall in iridescent steaks above. The water spills into an irrigation channel dug and paved with carefully selected stones; the channel was first built in the early 1800s. It leads to cisterns and adobe houses, still maintained but now mostly for the benefit of the wondering public than for habitation… with a few exceptions. The whitewashed houses with red-brick roofs standing on the opposite hill still house the rangers who watch over this preserve.

We take a slightly different path on the way back. There are blackberries on the bushes, tiny flecks of color among the prickly thorns and the glossy green-and-red leaves of the poison oak that is intertwined with the bushes. I leave them alone. Some other creature less sensitive to poison oak will eat them before long.

The beetle blight and drought has taken a toll on the stand of old pine trees at the crown of a hill covered in waving dry grass and mustard. The huge bones of the trees lay fallen on the ground. Others stand, dry skeletons. They’re a tremendous fire hazard. The only comfort is that all around this area burned the year before, so at least the inevitable burn, which will be hot when fueled by that much dead timber, might be contained. Perhaps. The wind is already coming up, just like it does every day. It will usually reach 20 mph, more than enough to drive any wildfire quickly through the terrain and spot it into other areas. There’s a surreal sensation of looking at a future battle zone.


We walk down the hill and cross the creek at the bottom. The last stretch is bordered by ancient pecan and walnut trees. Nestled among them are native flowers, and poppies bloom in the rocky soil on the opposite side. Hawks cry in the air and the brush rustles as cottontails burrow deeper. The butterflies dance on, unknowing, uncaring, and unafraid.


It is good to be back.

Water A Flower Day

Yes, that’s right! Today is Water a Flower Day.

In the physical world, I’m all out of flowers to water. My orchids are stubbornly remaining barren, and the garden boxes are similarly devoid of blossoms. Instead, I have pictures of the beautiful flowers at a local arboretum a friend and I visited recently, armed with suddenly flimsy-feeling cameras against the hissing guards of the garden.



Happy Water a Flower Day!!

Skipper on a Bloom

20170416_131522It’s been a rough spring for flower pictures, to be sure! Torrential rain, late freezes, and gusty winds stripped scraps of white and pink from the trees, and if it wasn’t snowing stinging flakes of ice, it was snowing petals.

But then on Easter Sunday I ran into a little tree in a park in a protected corner, and then bemused several visitors by chasing around it in dizzingly little circles. I wasn’t really prepared to go shoot butterflies that day, so the picture quality is not the best.

Butterfly photography to me is a weird mix of the childish and the mature. I get a lot of odd looks when someone says “she is very into taking pictures of butterflies.” Chasing them at times does seem to be the most childish of hobbies, but it is so enjoyable. I often lament that many seem to feel doing things that are innocent fun and then loving it is childish; standing on one’s dignity only for the sake of appearing to be “adult” is so limiting. Stand on tiptoes, chase a butterfly, blow bubbles! And along the way, reach what you need, promote awareness of the role of pollinators and learn about photography, and expand your lung capacity to really handle those long melismas for an important performance. Even though the picture quality isn’t what I wanted, it was still a wonderful moment.




Early Blooms

20170313_181119After a week of balmy weather, we were hit with a cold spell and late snows. I couldn’t take my nice camera out – at this point the “snow” was still that blend of frozen diamonds, glittery chips, and zinging pellets known as “wintry mix.” Too much wind and wet to risk the bigger gear.20170313_181137

I’m also re-adapting to using my bigger, heavier gear myself. Like the poor blooms, I’ve had an occasionally  irksome winter with unpredictable health gullies and mountains. One fallout from this health storm is my apparent inability to hold still while taking a picture and/or to focus the stupid thing. If I stand too long, my body’s automatic “we’re vertical now, folks!” system starts to fail. My heart rate soars and then tanks, my vision blurs, and I’m usually to into my work to notice the focus gradually slipping away from me. The muscle fatigue and pain is immediate and harder to ignore, but the result is the same. A jittery, messy, mucky picture. Anyone out there have any tips? I shoot with a Nikon D5000.