Monday, September 24, 2012

Uneventful? Maybe Not

I'm back! I'm back! Hooray, hooray! I'm back!

So, what am I so excited and happy about? I was just thinking about how good it is to be here. Where else would I rather want to be than to be writing about my favorite thing, nature. I also had a fun, but rather uneventful day out taking pictures. And I actually made a little bit of progress on a few things.

I went out with the full intention of taking pictures of plants. I also wanted to use the focus on my camera in only manual mode, which I did. I thought this would help me learn how to always get good pictures of my more closeup subjects.

You can see that better focus in my picture of the bug-eaten leaf above. The leaf is nothing special, but I wanted to share a really good look at the plants I'm studying. I've learned absolutely nothing about the plants, but I'm learning to study their details a bit more.

The second picture shows the fluffy seedpods at the top of another plant of the first one's kind. I find it interesting that it was hard to focus on the seedpods. I think I did a good job in the end, but it lost a lot of the sharpness and detail when I resized the image.

I was able to put some of the sharpness back, but most of the detail seems to be lost. I'm not sure there's anything I can do to keep that when I resize something like this. It's a shame I have to do it.

I have to resize the images to 800x600 for two related reasons. The first one is to reduce the image size so you don't have to wait forever for my images to load. The second reason is because if we reduce our images down to 800 pixels or below then Blogger doesn't count the image size against our storage space. We could theoretically upload unlimited images that way.

This last picture is what I consider a bit of a failure. You can see by the stems of these little flowers that the picture is plenty sharp enough, but the flowers came out way too bright, and all the detail of them was lost. That's a shame. That's something I think I need to figure out how to more easily correct.

So that's all the little stuff I'm excited about right at the moment. It's not much, but I'm making progress on my photography and learning plants. I'll make bigger leaps as I begin to put the smaller pieces together. It won't take long at all for someone like me who can become obsessed with things like this. It's gonna be fun!

One more thing I want to let you know about is a guest article we have over at Nature Center Magazine today. The article explains which plants can help attract hummingbirds. Take a look if you want some of those little wonders to come around.

I'll be back soon!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Three Of A Dragonfly

I'm back here a little sooner than you thought I'd be, aren't I? I'm trying to get back to posting a little more often again. I'm always in a much better mood when I do. Writing a post, no matter what it's about, gives me the feeling that I've been able to get something off my chest. So let's get to it!

You may have noticed that the three pictures of a dragonfly that I have here today look almost identical. I have to admit that they are the same original picture, and it's hard to tell the difference between them if you just look at them in the post. But they are indeed different. You have to click on the pictures to really see it well.

The difference is in the editing. I edited these pictures in a program called Gimp. It's a free editor in the style of Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. Do a Google search for it. If you want a good editor you don't have to pay for then you won't be sorry.

Anyway, like I said, I edited these pictures in three different ways. The first one was done with an addon that is supposed to do what's called a simulated HDR effect. It supposedly makes the colors pop out and give the picture almost a 3D realistic effect. This addon is kind of hit or miss. What I liked about it in this picture is that it made the dragonfly pop out a little bit.

The second picture was done with an addon called natgeo. It's supposed to give the pictures a similar quality as the pictures you might often find in National Geographic. I think this one actually works pretty well. It really brings out the details well.

The last one was done with adjustments that I did myself. I adjusted the levels of some of the colors just a bit and I sharpened up the picture to make it easier on the eyes. I think it turned out well. I guess they all show some of the things you can do with an image editor. I like all three, but I can't decide which one is best. Which one do you like best?

Editing pictures is of course not all I've been up to. This took me only a few minutes to do these. I feel that we should have many different interests. It keeps our minds active and sharp. I'm still on my quest to learn more about plants. I haven't learned much so far, but I know that one of these times I'll make a huge leap in my knowledge.

I'm also still trying to get a little better with my photography. Basically, I want to become a little more organized and thoughtful while taking my pictures. I think that can make a huge difference in the number of quality pictures I end up with. I hope the combination of my learning all of this stuff will make some new interesting posts I can share.

And I'm still on a quiet quest to catch a Sasquatch. I plan on keeping him in my basement. Maybe he can learn to play video games or something. I've got big plans. Big plans. You'll find out one of these days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spotted Cucumber Beetle

I meant to have this post up a week ago. It seems like there's so much to do around here, but also nothing to do at times. As you can see by the title of the post, my mystery bug is a spotted cucumber beetle.

This bug turns out to be a very destructive little creep. As you may have guessed, it likes to eat things like cucumbers. It also likes watermelon, soybeans, and many other similar plants. They can destroy crops pretty quickly.

It's really a shame because these beetles sure are colorful little guys. That's how I noticed it in the first place. I saw that yellow color in one of my pictures. I immediately ran back outside hoping the little yellow bug was still there. The rest is here in my pictures.

I recently discovered that I'm afraid of heights, or at least afraid of being high up on a ladder. My dog Isabella has a dog run that consists of a cable that runs high up from one tree to another. Her chain comes down from that cable. That way she can move around in a much larger area.

The other day she got her chain stuck on the cable right at one of the two trees. I had to climb up the ladder to unhook it so it would work right again. It all started off just fine. I never anticipated that I would be afraid. But when I got about two steps from my destination I completely froze.

I had no idea I would be afraid, but I ended up having to go back down the ladder to gather myself. The second time up the ladder was a bit slower and shakier, but I finally made it up all the way and unhooked the chain with quite a bit of fear. Being up so high on that narrow ladder was not a fun experience. I'm happy to say that I got the job done though.

My quest of learning about plants was something else that was paused this past week. It's just that I got so busy that I kept putting it off. I need to hurry up and examine a few of the plants around here before they all go away for the winter.

I did get to work on my photography a little bit though. That really consisted of me playing around in the house with taking pictures of Isabella. I didn't get anything very good. I was just getting some practice with the manual focus on the camera. It might help me get clearer pictures. That's a good place to start.

I hope to have a few posts up a little sooner next time and I'm trying to get caught up with reading a few blogs too. Hopefully I won't get busy with other stuff this time. How can all that other outside junk keep getting in the way of my blogging fun? I hate when that happens!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Little Plant Photography

I'm on a  bit of a new adventure now. I've decided to begin teaching myself more about plants. I hope there's still enough time in the warmer part of the year to accomplish something with this new quest. Along with learning about plants, I've decided that I want to also improve my photography.

I want to go from shooting anything that moves as quickly as I can to actually knowing and understanding better how to set up my photos. I want my pictures to look beautiful when I want them to. I already get lucky sometimes, but I mostly end up with stuff that looks like what I have for you today. It can look nice, but I have some room for improvement.

I have no idea what the plant is in the photo above. I only know that it's covered in those sharp spines. It also has these purple flowers that look similar to clover. These are things I know now that I should be observing. I used a flash on the camera to bring out the spines. Very small progress in both areas.

I do know what the above plant is. Can you guess by looking at the picture? This stuff grows wild all over this area. I'll take pictures of it, but I will never even touch the stuff. It's not poisonous or anything like that, but it can be illegal in the right circumstances.

I didn't get a better picture of this hemp weed than this one. I was in too much of a hurry. That's something else I need to teach myself; I need to slow down a bit. I need to take the time to examine my subjects a bit and to decide the best way to get a good picture.

I used the camera's flash on this one, and it seemed to work the best on a few things. These plants seemed to evade the camera's automatic focus. I need to slow down and remember to use the manual focus on some things. I don't need to hurry so much on non-moving targets.

I did remember those lessons after a bit of time. One more thing to learn is how to better use the light around me. I'm paying more attention to that, but I'm still learning. All of that will also help give me better pictures so I can better examine just what plants I might have.

You may have noticed the little yellow critter in the picture above. He'll be the subject of my next post. After remembering a few good photography lessons, I got some better pictures of him. I have no idea what he is yet, but I'll be looking to find out.

Wait! After a quick check, I found the identity of the bug! I'll share that information with you, as well as some better photos, in my next post. See you soon.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tacos And Grasshoppers

The hot peppers I showed you in my last post were from the garden out back. I neglected to add that information in the post. The first thing I made from them was tacos. I didn't just make the American kind you get out of a packet though. I made the kind of tacos you get at good Mexican restaurants. That's what I call good food.

I only used to milder chilis for the tacos. I'll save the hotter ones for some good salsa or something similar. I've never made tacos like this before, and I was lucky enough to get it right the very first time. Maybe I'll try enchiladas next.

So by now I guess you're wondering just what that has to do with the grasshoppers in my pictures today. Well, I ground them up to make the taco meat... Just kidding! These pictures have nothing to do with my taco story, but I'm getting to the subject of them now.

These two grasshoppers are really the same one. I found it hopping around on the road by my house. I took the time to get these kind of bad pictures of it, hoping they would turn out better. This grasshopper was the only critter I saw out there that day. Actually, there were more grasshoppers, but this one was ther only one that was kind enough to stop and let me take my pictures of it.

I'm going to try to focus a little bit on plants in the future, but I'm never sure what to write about them. I don't really know much about plants, and the internet isn't much help with trying to learn. I've bought books in the past, but the ones I've tried never give enough information to help either.

Maybe I'll give the internet another try. It's possible I've just never found the right places to look. Flowers can sometimes lead to information, but there aren't many flowering plants around here. Maybe searching for plant information will be my next big internet project. What do you think?

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Ate The Strange Plants

I came across these strange looking plants the other day, and I thought they looked pretty good to eat. I figure there wouldn't be anything wrong if I just popped one in my mouth and began chewing away. What do you think? Would you eat one of these?

Actually, I really am going to eat them, but I do know what they are. They are habaneros, and they're a particularly hot type of chili pepper. I'm also not going to just eat a whole one. I'm going to use them for cooking. I'm not really brave enough to try to eat these by themselves.

I've also had these green and red chilis above, and they're very good on tacos. I've eaten these whole, and they're pretty good that way. I'm getting ready to do a little experimenting with the flavors of some of these. I don't know for sure yet what I'll make, but I know it will taste pretty good.

These are some of the things I took pictures of since my last post. I haven't been seeing many animals out right now, so I'll focus on some other interesting things. I've learned that not many animals seem to come out this time of month for some reason. But there are plenty of plants around. Maybe one of these times I'll let you know what I made with these chilis.