Still Life Images with Flowers and Shells

•July 3, 2017 • 12 Comments


Thatcheria with Red Rose

Once upon a time circa 1969 I lived in the Philippines and learned to love shell collecting. In the vast Pacific Ocean, Philippine and South China Seas live multitudes of species of sea shells and to one interested in the exotic mollusks every single dive brought personal experience of something new and beautiful. I can still remember the excitement when I noticed my first large tiger cowrie covered up in its mantle and the glorious color and detail revealed when the mantle retracted at my touch. It was amazing.  I fanned the sand all night long in my dreams the day I found a Murex haustellum siphon canal buried in the sand and fanned away to reveal the shell. Or the time I forgot I had a tented cone in my collection bag after a dive and was lucky enough that it didn’t send one of its poisonous barbs my way when I reached in.

So that is one reason in my effort to do some flower still life pictures, I ended up abandoning my plan for a voluptuous display of loads of flowers for some images like you see here with a simple flower contrasting or complementing with some sea shells. I have intended for a long time to take pictures of some of my shells, and now maybe will get to it. I am open to any kind of critique with these as I spent an inordinate amount of time waffling over how to stage my still life set ups. These are only a few.  I find it is harder than it looks and available light and where to find dark is something to figure out. For these I mainly used the light coming from my sliding glass doors and put a wooden table in front of door of the den which is nice and dark inside to serve as background. To do still life scenes I think it is best to set up spot properly with a dark or light backgrounds and a tripod and maybe even some reflectors or lighting in order to have more control. But, this is just using a camera, hand held, and with in situ availability of light and dark with a 100mm macro lens. I am going to learn now to do this effectively as I enjoy working with flowers and natural things.

Spondylus-Thatcheria-with Red Rose-Still Life


This scene features some scratchy looking greens that I don't know
 the name of with a red rose, a Thatcheria mirabilis shell, and a Spondylus 
(probably S. americanus)  which had cemented itself to a coralliferous rock to
 which it is still attached.  Spondylus is sometimes called a spiny or thorny
 oyster but  it is related to the scallop and not an oyster at all. I never did 
clean this  specimen as I liked the natural  mess and was also reluctant to risk 
damaging what spines there are. It has been  on my book shelf since college.
Thatcheria mirabilis is not one I collected but  rather was a gift. It is well
 known for its unique and elegant lines and might  come from Japan.


Wentletrap-Thatcheria-Red Rose-Spires and Spirals Still Life


This set up includes a rose, the Thatcheria, and a Precious Wentletrap shell. 
All to contrast and compare with the curves and spirals of the flower.
The way I heard it was that the Wentletrap was once considered very rare
as it was difficult to get at in deep waters. Rare enough that in China they made 
copy Wentletraps out of rice paste. Over time diving capabilities
made the shell more accessible and so now the rice paste fakes are the rare
commodity. That is the story given me so there you have it.
This one is real.

Spondylus-Thatcheria-with Mum


I started this scene with the idea of putting spiky things together.
The Spondylus, the Mum and the spiky greens. Added the
Thatcheria for grace though one could say it is kind of 
spiky too.

Glenmore Whiskey Bottle with Mums and Wentletrap & Thatcheria Shells Still Life


Lastly is a more subdued still life with mums and the shells using a bottle 
that belonged to my grandmother. I don't know if she drank the Bourbon 
or not but I always kept it for a still life of some kind. Never used it 
til now.


A nice way to spend the day before Independence Day when I thought I’d be at the office!!! Yea, a day to play!!



Great Blue Heron Pair-for the dramatic pose

•June 11, 2017 • 21 Comments


It is not often, rather never before, that I post an image I feel is lacking in sharpness. However, I think we all have those images taken over the years that every time we run into them again you have that pang of regret that you missed because of such a wonderful pose or composition. This picture from 2012 is one of those images for me. Looking at it I still remember the sound of the powerful wing beat as this Great Blue Heron flew in with a twig for its mate to work into the nest they were building. I thought the image of the Great Blue Heron male dropping in with wings positioned as they are quite magnificent. I love the way the feathers are curled and ruffled by the wind in landing , the way the wind separates them,  the way the alula portion tips upwards from the flight feathers, and the spread of the tail feathers..  Add to the birds a backdrop deepening blue of a potential threatening sky, it was a shame to miss in the fast action of the pair.

To try and clarify some in order to share the image I did used an old Photoshop artistic filter called poster edges, not to posterize, but to drop a little ink on the edges. I also made some color and contrast adjustments for clarity. However, close scrutiny will reveal the lack of sharp focus on the birds.  In hopes you enjoy the idea of this image. And, sure there are many other opportunities to take more images of nesting Great Blue Herons, but I also find that looking for exactly something to happen in the exact same way again no matter the subject is not very likely. Every run at it will bring something entirely new and fresh and life isn’t meant for things to happen just the same or even to dwell unduly on your misses.

Live, Learn, and Look Forward to the Next!!



Louisiana Heron at nest within Giant Leather Fern

•May 29, 2017 • 14 Comments

Most of us enthusiastic photographer types have far too many images buried in our digital folders and files, many of which for better or worse, languish unattended to until they are rediscovered looking something else. Always when I go shooting I am inherently attracted to certain images I work on right away. Sometimes a new species I’ve never shown before or just something of a wonderful pose that cried out from the get go and which occupied my thinking at that moment with all else ultimately forgotten.  I find I will leave an image unattended when I have shown many of the same bird already, especially the Egretta tricolor which has admittedly filled my viewfinder many times. So scrolling through, this Louisiana Heron standing at its nesting area buried within a Giant Leather Fern caught my attention. Guess I am a true “bird nerd” as I like the textures and colors with this setting as the bird makes its way through such tight quarters. The ruby eye caught by the westerly light and the same backlighting on the green fronds at its neck makes for a pretty portrait of this diminutive heron in its mating colors.


A closer up view for convenience of detail of the
Louisiana Heron and backlit Giant Leather Fern fronds.

A Very Special Memorial Day to everyone as we remember our warriors who gave so much.


Some Monochrome Madness – Florida Style

•May 21, 2017 • 14 Comments


Any who have been out to sea on vessels large or small
know those days of natural near monotone sea and sky. Times when
the horizon is barely perceptible and despite dark clouds
and cast shadows there is blinding white brightness and brilliant
water shine.

I enjoy delving into the world of monochrome images from time to time, whether pure black and white, sepia or any other mono-toning choice. Sometimes the natural contrasts and textures of an image cry out to be toyed with in this fashion and other times it is a trial and error experiment in conveying mood just to see what can be made of a thing. Leanne Cole in her beautiful and educational blog has been encouraging photographers of all experience levels to remember the values of black and white and to see what may be done with an image with that in mind through her weekly Monochrome Madness posts. Just an encouragement to play a little with those nuances in our often over saturated world of digitally enhanced color. In can be beautiful and it can also tire the mind and senses. So remembering the textures of black and white without the distraction of color can enrich our perceptions of textures and shapes we barely acknowledge when enjoying the brilliance of color. For this reason, as we all need reasons and deadlines, I wanted to participate in Leanne’s project with a few monochrome contributions.

These are some I played with from various boat rides around south Florida two of which I shared on Monochrome Madness. So check out Leanne’s blog here and enjoy. Her low light, slow shutter speed color images are quite amazing and her area of Melbourne, Australia offers so much in interesting natural and man-made architectures.  Any who have not yet done so, do check out her site!


This is one is a contribution to Leanne Cole's 
Monochrome Madness. I liked the stillness of it yet with the
hidden power as the cloud formation builds. We have
great clouds in Florida.



This contribution to Monochrome Madness was under the
theme of Motion. I thought is a double whammy with the speeding
wake and the windswept clouds. Never a dull moment in sea or sky
boating around South Florida.


This swirling mass of clouds was interesting to shoot, but full
of the kind of potential that has you thinking of ways to 
direct your vessel to avoid any direct consequences. The limited clear
 space ultimately closed in. It was a great day on the water though.


Thanks Leanne for an excuse to play with some black and white clouds.


Adult Wood Stork Portrait with Canvas Texture

•April 30, 2017 • 22 Comments


I had planned on working with some of the other species from my last shoot but before moving on from the Wood Storks, I was attracted to this handsome adult Wood Stork image with its lovely late day lighting.  While I first planned to crop tightly for this image, I liked its body position relative to  the branches and just treated it as a whole. This did mean getting rid of some distracting elements so that the lovely light and texture of the bird were the main focus. My one concession to art in this one was the addition of texture layers just to give it a canvas look.  I find when I visit the rookery, the light in the beginning is not the same as just before sundown, and I often find myself stopping at the same nests just because the light is prettier. Luckily the birds are pretty cooperative about the whole thing.

Hope everyone’s weekend was relaxing as the work week looms!!




Thriving Wood Stork Colony

•April 29, 2017 • 7 Comments


As a follow up to Friday’s little exhausted wood stork chick, I’ve gathered a few other images from the rookery visit to show a little more of this amazingly thriving colony! Wood storks have been downlisted on the Endangered Species list here in Florida, something we can be grateful for as it means this interesting and elegant species is doing very well. I can remember when I did not know what a wood stork was and any view of one when I finally did know was very distant and few in number. I’d stop the car on a roadside swale if I ever spied one of these large wading birds fishing in a canal. To be able to watch them raise their families is a treat!!

The image above is yesterday’s chick with it parent at the nest. There is a sibling there as well.

Another wood stork nest with three siblings. I particularly
liked the leg foot hold on the chick to the upper right.

I admit I am fascinated with bird's feet. This just
a closer up view of that foot hold pose.

Here we see yet another nest and this shot demonstrates
the reverse knee bend of the wading birds (at least
as compared to humans). The white streaks you see
down the legs of wood storks are urates, a combination of
urine and feces which they squirt upon themselves for
cooling. This habit starts right away.

I often say that if I could paint the birds I would and not having that
talent...I take pictures. This is just a little bit of play
with some photoshop water color brushes to give a painterly
feel. The image was converted to black and white first and masked.
Color was added back in selectively on the face of the bird,
 the leaves, branches and the water color brushes were used to 
splotch the blue sky back in with a painterly look. This is only
for what it is worth as I have lot to learn if I want
a photograph to actually look like a painting.


TGIF – Baby Wood Stork Says it All !!

•April 28, 2017 • 12 Comments

Baby Wood Stork Says it All!!

It’s Friday!! A long exhausting week of sibling rivalry and food getting. At the end of a long, hot Spring day with remnants of daylight filtering in to brighten green leaves and fern around the nest, this Baby Wood Stork says it all. I can hardly hold my head up myself!!