October 26 – Aquarium fish

A few weeks ago I bought several books on marine aquaria.  Used books are really cheap online, by the way.  One of them, by far the best in many ways, had a diagram of a set-up for photographing fish in the aquarium.  It turned out that I had the required gear.  I must be recovering from my illness, as I had sufficient motivation to try it out on my freshwater aquarium at home.  Of course, after I was done scraping the algae and cleaning the glass the fish were freaked out and the water was full of debris.  I didn’t care too much, as this would be attempt 1.0, and primarily experimental.  At first I tried without the flashes.  The aquarium looks very bright, especially in a dark room, but the camera sure doesn’t see it that way.  After a couple of frames of dark blurriness, I activated the flashes, whereupon too much light became the problem, especially when the fish was in front of the big white geode.  These are not the kinds of fish that normally appear in this blog!

Black neon tetra

I originally got these after the first two batches of regular neon tetras died.  The black species retains some of the glow, but is a lot more robust.  They last a long time.

Hockey stick tetra

I got the first hockey stick when it was accidentally included with my first batch of black neons.  I didn’t even notice it at first .  I got to like it for it’s unusual color pattern and great longevity. 

Serpae tetra

This species provides some additional color to the fish stock.  Like the other tetras, they run in the middle of the aquarium.  I think I still have four of the original six I purchased a couple of years ago.

Hatchet fish

These hang around near the surface, helping to stratify the fish from top to bottom.  The deep belly is full of muscle, powering those long pectoral fins.  Sadly, that means when the water gets bad or they are spooked, they jump out of the aquarium like flying fish.  Last year when the filter quit and I was out of town, Savannah found a couple of them dried up on the living room floor.  I just like their look.

I have a few bottom dwellers: an Indian loach (maybe two) and a couple of algae eaters, but they only come out at night.  I waited up for them, but they never gave me a good look.

I’m going to write down my camera settings here just so I’ll have a record of them.
F/6.3, 1/250 s, ISO 400 , auto focus, remote shutter, two remote flashes (one on each side of the aquarium pointing down through the lid opening) .    Now that I look at them, I think I would go to lower ISO and higher F.    A black backdrop on the aquarium might help as well.  The most important thing I learned is that the fish has to be in a place that gets ideal light–not too close to the surface (too bright) or too close to the back (too dark), etc. 

October 21 – Fall wonders

The Hannibal Folk Life Festival was really big this year.  The weather was great, and it was a perfect day to ride the motorcycle.  I bought some stuff from the Leather Man, but I was most impressed by the hot roasted chestnuts at the Missouri Forestry Council’s booth.  The guy even gave me some large, unroasted ones to plant.  Of course, I passed them on to Lowell, who has already put them in the dry ground.  They’re Chinese chestnuts, of course, our native American chestnut having been wiped out by the blight.  Normally, I’d hate to introduce an exotic species, but they’re not terribly invasive.  And taste-wise they were awesome, unbelievably sweet. 

Now I know why “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” are such a big deal.

My ecology class did their bluegill sampling lab out at Lowell’s.  It was the most students we’ve ever had.  It was difficult to field enough rods (hard to believe, between me and Lowell), but that left a couple of students to take data.  I posted a bunch of pics on Facebook.  Here’s one of Heather.  She’s a genuine good kid.  Her bass didn’t count for our lab, but it was a nice catch.  I stayed after all the students went home and filleted all the bigger bluegills, plus the bass leftover from last weekend that had been waiting in the fish cage.

Heather lands a lunker.

Tonight we had ideal conditions for photographing the moon.  It was clear and still, and the Harvest Moon was at it’s fullest.  You can’t do it in the summer time here because the high humidity causes too much haze in the atmosphere.  It wasn’t too cold tonight either.  I hadn’t tried it in a long time.  I’ve learned some things since the last time, and I got good results much faster. 

Missouri Harvest Moon

Technical details: Canon 40D, Sigma 100-500 zoom with 1.4x teleconverter, remote shutter, mirror lockup,  F/11, 1/200s, ISO 200, manual focus with magnified live view.  Image stabilization off.  ~25% crop.

October 15 – nature bits

Just a few things to report.  The last few butterflies of the year are still around.  I saw a couple of monarchs on the 14th.  They’ll have a heck of a time making it down to Mexico unless they have remarkably good weather.

From Fall 2010

I don’t know if I’ve even seen a cloudless sulfur in the yard.  This one stopped for Stacey’s big lilies out front.

From Fall 2010

There are still a lot of skippers around.  This Carolina mantis found a silver-spotted skipper very tasty.  Both were on a butterfly bush, which is one of few things in bloom, along with asters, stonecrops, zinnias and a few other ornamentals

From Fall 2010

Out at Lowell’s these little mushrooms were blooming around oak stumps.  I had to get down on the ground to get these shots, but I was pretty happy with the results.

From Fall 2010

I was surprised that this ironweed was blooming so late. 

From Fall 2010

Things were pretty slow in the tree stand until I found this looper (also known as an inchworm).  He got spooked after I moved him, and I had to wait awhile for him to start looping. 

From Fall 2010

It was late in the day, and I loved the shadow effect I got here.

From Fall 2010

This is the same looper on the first knuckle of my index finger. 

From Fall 2010

Could this be the last bumblebee of the year?

From Fall 2010

We have gobs of skippers about, but I don’t normally pay them much attention.  I’ve not yet bothered to learn to identify them, and I’m not sure I ever will.  This is one of the common ones, but I liked this view of it, taking a sip of nectar from butterfly bush.

From Fall 2010

The checkered skipper is widespread and not uncommon, but I hadn’t seen one in awhile.  It flitted from flower to flower on the white heath aster in the back yard.

October 7 – puff balls!

One of our students brought in a bunch of puff balls–large mushrooms–that he found growing on North Campus.  It was quite a show for the other students, who had never seen anything like them. 

Student with puffballs.

This isn’t the guy who found them, but he is in my FYE class.  He’s a football player.  Some of those puffballs are as big as his head.

Sliced with a Ginsu

I brought one home to try.  They are supposed to be “choice edible.”  It had the consistency of bread.

Breaded and fried

Stacey breaded and fried them with some garlic powder.  They were delicious, and tasted like your average mushroom.  One of my students had asked if I was worried about “catching something”  from eating a mushroom from outside.  I said that there was a time when humans ate nothing BUT things from outside. 

October 3 – tree sitting

I got out deer hunting again on an early morning out at Lowell’s.  I did see six deer, which is encouraging, but they were all too far away.  One neat thing that happened was that a flock of thrushes moved past my stand.  I seldom see a thrush, much less four or five together.  After I got down from the tree I walked around for awhile.

Puffballs on a log. Orb weaver

The fall season is showing its colors, with mushrooms and spiders in abundance.

Ladies tresses Ladies tresses

I haven’t seen this flower in a couple of years, and last time I didn’t get very good images of it.  I took my time and waited for some good light.  Ladies tresses is one of our few orchids.  It grows like a surprise lily, producing a vegetative plant during the summer that dies back.  In fall, the spiral stalk emerges alone, producing the inflorescence.

When I got home that afternoon I checked the back yard and spotted this variegated frittilary.  I haven’t seen one of these in about three years, and never at home.

Variegated frittilary


October 2 – American Snout

I was in the back yard photographing butterflies on some asters.  It’s about the only thing left in bloom.  There were a bazillion skippers about, but I was more interested in the red admirals.  I hadn’t seen one in awhile. 

Red admiral on New England Aster Common Buckeye on White Heath Aster.

I couldn’t resist the buckeye, even though they’ve been abundant all summer.  As I was observing the scene, I noticed a colorful butterfly that didn’t match anything common.  On closer inspection, I was delighted to find it was an American Snout, Libytheana bachmanii.  It’s the only member of the family Libytheidae we have.  I hadn’t seen one in three years.  Apparently, they don’t overwinter in Missouri, so we probably only see them near the end of the summer when they’ve made it this far north.  Sometimes they migrate in large numbers down south.  In any case, I was happy to see it, especially with my good camera and long lens in hand. 

American Snout, ventral view American Snout, dorsal view

On the left, you can readily see the proverbial snout.  This condition is how you normally see them–wings shut.  On the right, you see the open wings, which I was fortunate to record.  Also visible is the true nature of the snout, made of two parts–mouthparts actually.  The adaptive value of the snout is debatable, but it does resemble a leaf petiole, so that if the butterfly hangs upside-down from a twig it is difficult to see.