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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cicada Killer

Despite its frightening appearance, and 'Killer' name, this exotic and colorful wasp will generally not use its stinger on people – unless you are really asking for it.

The female will seek out some poor, hapless
cicada in its burrow and paralyze it with her stinger. Then she will lay eggs around the victim. The cicada remains there alive, and unable to move until weeks or months later when the eggs hatch. The wasp young will then devour the paralyzed insect.

I photograhed this one at OMSI's Hancock Field Station near Clarno in July. I spent a fair bit of time yesterday trying to figure out the wasp species. This is often very challenging with many creatures, but insects present a special challenge when it come to finding a precise i.d.. Sometimes it is impossible, but this time I found good references. I love the bold patterns and vibrant colors.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Curlleaf Fetish

I have a thing for a shrub. There is something about the mountain mahogany tree (also known as curlleaf mahogany, or Cercocarpus ledifolius) that I find irresistable. These trees always seem like sensuous sculptures to me. I have seen them in various places, never in any great numbers, around Oregon - and they always draw my attention with their graceful curves.

These two images I photographed at The Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge near Plush.

This last Spring, while working on a cougar project, I camped on a high ridge on Eden Bench near Troy. There was a little gallery of mountain mahogany, and I ended up staying up until 1AM photographing the trees while experimenting with lights. It was great fun, although i missed the sleep later.

As the evening progressed into morning I broke out my gel filters, and started playing with color on the lights. I have been told these are a bit over the top, but I am still fond of them. If you have a strong opinion, one way or another, feel free to let me know in comments. I need the feedback.

Friday, November 24, 2006


A friend who owns a farm let me know that she has a skunk that recently took up residence under her chicken coop. The skunk is hot to get to her chickens, and she has spent a fair amount of time shoring up the pen to keep the skunk from going on a homicidal rampage.

I am always looking for opportunities like this, where an animal has a den where I can use motion-sensing cameras. I have been using these types of cameras for years, and have managed to get some pretty interesting images of secretive and nocturnal creatures (I'll share some of these in future posts).

I set up a camera on the entrance to the creature's lair, and it will wait there for days (or weeks) until it recieves a signal from a motion sensor to snap a photo.

The whole set-up is rather complicated and time-consuming to get operational, but the results can be fascinating. Below you can see some of the equipment surrounding the den entrance. Everything is weatherized in acrylic and plastic, so it can be hard to recognize specific pieces of equipment. I'll be checking the camera in a few days to see if I have any photos.

From past experience I have found that skunks tend to completely ignore my equipment, even at close range. In fact, I had a foraging skunk go under a fence and brush past my legs while I was photographing bats. I didn't see him coming, and when I realized what was going on I froze like a statue so as not to startle the little darling, and he passed without incident.

Below is an image of a skunk that I made near Joseph with a motion-sensing camera.

If you know of any cool places I could set-up a remote camera, feel free to email me at

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Splash Dynamics

It seems to me that failure has been a constant teacher in my life, and with recent tight deadlines finally met, I decided to set out once again and try to photograph salmon - this time along the Lewis River in Washington.

You will notice that there are no photographs of salmon in this post. I came close this time, they were actually jumping up a large waterfall. In order to get a good image however, it is necessary to have the fish jumping with some regularity and on this occasion one would jump, and perhaps ten minutes later, another would pop out of the frothy water. After ten minutes, my attention would diminsh, and my reflexes would be too slow. Timing is everything, and so far mine has been not so good.

So what are the images below? A fun little study in water dynamics. It took quite a while to figure out how to pull this off and get the timing of the rock and splash just so. I like the results however, and I find it interesting how the rock pulls air down into the vortex created by its impact.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ocean Spray

The weather lately has, of course, been mostly terrible. It has been even worse at the beach, and as luck would have it, my family and I had to travel to the coast over Friday and Saturday. My daughter brought a friend along to alleviate the boredom of having to hang out with adults. We were trapped in doors for most of our visit, but on Saturday there was a glorious reprieve which the kids made the most of.

After having been trapped inside for such a long spell, the kid energy just erupted onto the beach and they had relentless fun. It was contagious fun too. Just being around them, camera in hand, I felt like a kid. Wind was whipping up a luscious whipped foam that looked just like the clouds in the sky. And turbulent weather added a bit of extra visual appeal.

This may not have much to do with wild Oregon, but my agents love these kind of images, as do kids magazines, and I try to get them whenever fun happens. It just happens to be blast for me as well. Lucky me!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Chinese Mantid

In my earlier post, I wrote about the rain and how I had been waiting for the salmon runs to begin, especially on the Smith River. But now the rain has flooded most of the coastal rivers, and I have been staying warm and dry in my office. Editing.

Current image folder: Chinese Mantid, or praying mantis. These can be found in Oregon every year, but they are not native. They were imported from China around 1896, and have flourished in the eastern part of the US. Many gardeners in the Northwest order chiniese mantids to control garden pests.

They grow quite large – five inches long. Some mantids can fly, others cannot. Chinese mantids can burst into flight which can be quite surprising, since when their wings are folded away, it is hard to see that they have wings at all.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Dancing Bluet

Current folder of Images I am editing: Damselflies. These are such delicate little insects, and so colorful. I usually spot them hovering close to the ground in close vicinity to water. Just a little strip of blue zipping around in the sun. (Actually, they come in a variety of shapes and colors, but blue is the most common). I photographed these close to Camp Creek on the Nature Conservancy's Zumwalt Prairie Preserve in July.

There are hundreds of species in the U.S., dozens in the Pacific Northwest, and many look alike. However, I narrowed down these two individuals to Argia vivida, or Vivid Dancer. The male is blue, the female is pale.

Photographed with a high-speed camera. You can see a little more about the process here:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Into The Misty Mountains

I've been waiting for the rain.

I was hoping that the first flush of rain water flowing down the coastal mountains would inspire the coho salmon to migrate up the Smith River. I left Portland early, had a long drive in poor visibility, and arrived at the river much later than I wanted. I waited for hours, and nothing happened. No fish. I had directions to a little waterfall that the salmon must jump up and clear to get up river. Good photo opportunity, however the timing is always tricky. And this spot was actually a little tricky to find (In fact, I'm not 100% sure I was at the right falls).

To pass the time I wandered around with the camera and made some scenics. It is something I enjoy doing, despite the fact that it is not really something I do very often, or very well.

My only results for the day...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Yellowjacket Frost

I spotted a yellowjacket in my backyard the other day. It is unusual to see them so late in the year, but this mild fall has kept them going. However, with the recent frost and cool temperature we have probably seen the last of them till next summer.

This is also the time of year when I am editing like a mad man in my office, going through image after image and preparing them for the catalog and my agents. I just opened a folder of images I had nearly forgotten about - yellowjackets.

I find yellowjackets just as annoying as anyone, but one of the cool things about this work is that I have a chance to discover new things about an endless list of fascinating creatures. I think yellowjackets are actually pretty cool looking insects, although it is hard to appreciate this when they are ruining a backyard BBQ. However, it might interest you to know that the common yellowjackets harrasing your picnic are probably german invaders. We have several species of yellowjackets that are native to the Northwest, and they can be aggressive also (none more so that the white-headed wasp).

The photos below were taken near Ochoco Pass. The yellowjackets I encountered there were strangely uninterested in my lunch, and in fact, were nectaring on flowers. They had large, stout bodies, and seemed considerably bigger than the yellowjackets I see in the valley. It gave me a chance to appreciate their bold coloring and sharp design.

By the way, this image was made with a custom high-speed camera and taken at 1/45,000 of a second. No photoshop manipulation was applied.

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Details About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
Husband, Father, Student Of Natural History, Photographer