Not about everything

November 17, 2012

Long exposure bird photography, II

In the past I have written about “Long exposure bird photograpy” with some self-made examples which were meant to be sort of funny. But I never came to show some self-made examples which I really like. So here they are. Shutter times are resp. 1/10 and 1/15 second.


October 17, 2010

Damselfly Valentine

Damselflies copulate in the form of a heart. Valentine is about love too. So why not offer some of my photographs of damselfly couples as a very special valentine card?

Here are some. Order them from Redbubble.

Love Dance

Emerald Couple

Hold Me

January 3, 2010

Flickr: my top 10 most interesting photos of 2009

Filed under: flickr,photography — takaita @ 08:21
Tags: , , , ,

Here it is again: what flickr thinks are my most interesting photos of last year (2009). This year there were no obviously popular photos in terms of favorites and comments. Nevertheless, flickr has succeeded in creating an order in the photos I uploaded.

#1. In the winter
In the winter
Taken in January 2009, this photo had lots of time to gain interestingness. Personally I am not particuarly impressed by this photo, but it is okay.

#2. Calopteryx splendens
Calopteryx splendens
I like this one. From the population in Utrecht city.

#3. The emperors clothes
The emperors clothes
An exuvia from Anax imperator, the Emperor Dragonfly.

#4. Wren, singing
Wren, singing
Taken with a 70-200mm lens + 1.4 converter. The converter was new in 2009 and it allowed me to do some more things with bird photography.

#5. Sneeuwkapjes
December snow on trees in the city.

#6. Coenagrion pulchellum
Coenagrion pulchellum
One of my first damselfly photos this year. It is not really in focus, but hey, who cares on flickr?

#7. Winterkoning
Another Wren with the 1.4 extender, in my garden this time.

#8. Butomus umbellatus
Butomus umbellatus
Flower with bokeh….

#9. Bittersweet

#10. Sympecma fusca
Sympecma fusca
This photo is probably the only one I would have selected myself. A frosted Winter Damselfly.

March 13, 2009

The Robin is a curious bird

Filed under: biology,bird,nature,things to do — takaita @ 22:30
Tags: , , ,

The Robin is a curious bird. I only found out since the time I usually carry around a camera on my walks.

European Robin

Currently I am more into dragonflies than into birds. Mainly because dragonflies are easier to photograph, but also because there are fewer species of them which makes them usually easier to identify. But because the dragonfly forum which I frequent, is on the same site as a bird forum, I sometimes read go to read that bird forum. Especially in the winter when there is not much to do at the dragonfly forum.

That bird forum is interesting. When I was young I had some interest in birds and bought a quality bird guide (from my own hard-earned money) in order to identify the species I saw. I still have that guide, but it is totally out of date. It seems that every species in that guide now has been split into several species or subspecies. Of course that is mostly done to satisfy the need of the bird watchers. They love to have a check behind as many species as possible. Did you know that there is a special word for this kind of people? They are called “twitchers” and it is not easy to become a fully accepted twitcher. There is a long trajectory, in which you first see only common species, then find out that there are rare species too – which you apparently start seeing everywhere until you realize that you are just fooling yourself (and others) and return to seeing common species everywhere with only very occasionally a rare species (after which that sometimes gets eaten).

An essential part of bird watching is bird listening. I remember reading a story on mentioned forum about someone who though he had seen an extremely rare species (at least for the Netherlands).¬† Because many bird species migrate between their summer and winter residence, bird listeners spend a small capital on microphones and spend days and nights on locations where these migrating birds fly over and occasionally come to the ground to feed. With these microphones they try to identify migrating birds by their sound. I don’t know how hard that is. I have trained myself to recognize about 10 or 20 bird species by their sound. It always makes me happy to hear the first Chiffchaff again in spring – and it can surprise me sometimes that others don’t notice. But the real twitchers take that to another dimension with their microphones. So this person wrote on the forum about a sound he heard, which was familiar, but then he swa the bird and it did not look like the species it sounded like. Then he remembered that there was this species which sounds like the familiar one, looks a bit like another (also familiar) species, but is very, very rare. Did he see that very very rare species? He could not be sure, because he heard nor saw it again. But he wrote a long story on the forum with remarkable details such as how many meters away he saw the bird (he measured it very precise, something like 84.5 metres), wrote about the sound he heard and what he thought about it at that moment and then what he thought when he saw the bird and if he could be sure if the bird he saw was the same one as the bird that made the sound. I was impressed. True, not everybody on the forum was as impressed as I was.

Anyway, these kind of stories are what keeps me interested in the bird forum. People want so much to see some rare species and at the same time are aware that they are probably mistaken when they think to have seen one. This tension between desire and self-control and an effort to be ‘scientific’ gives many contributions on this forum a great suspense.

The Robin is a curious bird. I only found out since the time I usually carry around a camera on my walks. First time was when I took the photo displayed at the top. Walking in the dunes I noticed a Robin. I prepared my camera in a reflex, but mosty expecting that the bird would have flown far away by the time I had it in focus. To my surprise it did not fly away, but kept sitting there, seemingly watching me.

Last week I must have remembered that moment, when I was in a city park which has some pretentions to be natural, and saw another Robin no too far away. The thought came to me that I should just stay there with my camera ready until the bird would come to watch me from a bit closer. Half to my surprise that was exactly what happened. The bird came to me to have a closer look. And this was the result.


January 2, 2009

Flickr: my top 10 most interesting photos of 2008

For what it is worth, because flickr’s interestingness rating usually does not agree with my personal choice. Nevertheless, except for one I do understand that these photos did get a certain interestingness rating.

#10.Viola arvensis
Viola arvensis
This photo is taken with multiple extension tubes in a cleared part of a forest. The background is a cloudy sky, nothing artificial. Indeed the flower itself is sort of tiny – there are very big pansies growing in gardens, but wild ones aren’t that big where I live.

#9. untitled

Well, people on flickr love this kind of photos. It’s fun and quite easy to make, but I do not regard it as anything special.

#8. Sturnus vulgaris
Sturnus vulgaris
Portrait of the European Starling. Taken in my garden. In the days I made this, I was happy with it, because it was showing that my plans for backyard bird photography were working. Although there is not much wrong with it, this photo would not be on my personal list of 2008.

#7. Aegithalos caudatus
Aegithalos caudatus
Long-tailed Tit. Taken from inside my car. While spending a weekend somewhere nice, I noticed that some birds were really interested in their reflection in the car mirrors. I wanted to make a photo of that. To do that, I sort of hid myself under a blanket on the back seat of the car and made this photo. It belongs to my personal 2008 favorites, so much bokeh and I like it that the bird is undisturbed by my presence.

#7. Coot vs Great Crested Grebes
Coot vs Great Crested Grebes
The fight for a nesting place between two species of birds. I witnessed this fight and took a number of photos of it. The nice thing is the expression of the Grebe in the middle of the photo.

#6. IMG_4441
Not sure why flickr thinks that this photo is so interesting. It has been viewed twice and one of the viewers made it a favorite. Personally I never bothered to change the title of the image. Just an average damselfly photo.

#5. Sympetrum danae
Sympetrum danae

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae). This photo made me happy. The first time I could photography this species from close by. I even had the time to use my extension tubes.

#4. Mushroom


The autumn, when most dragonflies have died, always brings me to photograph mushrooms. This photo has an emphasis on “atmosphere”, and that probably is a result of the course in Landscape Photography which I followed earlier in 2008.

#3. Aeshna viridis
Aeshna viridis

The Green Hawker, a rare species of dragonfly in the Netherlands. I was excited to find it close to where I live. Not a groundbreaking photo, but it made me happy to have it.

#2. Aeshna isoceles

Aeshna isoceles
This year I took the time to make flight photos of dragonflies. I agree with the masses that this one is the best of my efforts this year.

#1. Hello!
This is all about cuteness, one of the things which do so very well on flickr.

January 5, 2008

Nature photography scandals in the Netherlands

Again there is lots of talk in the Netherlands about misbehaving nature photographers. This time a fox has been shot by a nature conservation organization, because it had been tamed by nature photographers. The reasoning behind shooting the fox was that it could get dangerous for children, because it lost all fear for humans. Of course there is lots of discussion about the need to shoot the fox.

Nature photographers spraying tree frogs

Earlier in 2007 there was a scandal about some nature photographers spraying tree frogs with some substance (possible liquid nitrogen) in order to make a nice photo.

In the age of digital photography, it shows that the Dutch have a disturbed relation with nature. Nature in the Netherlands is perceived as a free Zoo.

Nature in the Netherlands
Here in the Netherlands we have replaced our nature long ago with parks. Some are called a National Park, giving the suggestion that it is wild nature. But it isn’t. Potentially dangerous animals have been killed long ago. All original forests have been cut, the last was the Beekbergerwoud (sorry, I could not find a link in English), destroyed in 1871.

Of course there are several organizations in the Netherlands that work on nature conservancy. Their work probably looks a bit different from the work of nature conservancy in other countries. Their work in the Netherlands is not nature conservancy, but natuurontwikkeling (= nature development, the Dutch wikipedia is the only one to have an article about this). It means in short that nature is being created. The big example for nature development is the Oostvaardersplassen, a wetland created in what was formerly a sea, but has been turned into land by dikes, pumps and mills. To make this area more natural, the nature conservancy organizations have released some big half-wild animals in there such as Konik horses and Heck cattle. And now this area is the Dutch pride of nature.


Not only is it the Dutch pride, it also serves as an example for management of other “natural” areas. That means that in areas that are called nature, projects have been done that include digging of lakes, releasing cattle, cutting of mono cultures of trees, releasing of beavers etc, all in an effort to create nature. At the same time the latest more or less natural area of the Netherlands, the Wadden Sea, is more and more being exploited for economic purposes.

You might understand that the Dutch have a very interesting relation with “nature”. Nature isn’t wild and dangerous. Our nature is a garden. We are building things like a “fauna passage” under highways to connect one area to another (see photo). In this case on one side of the highway there is a city park and on the other side there is agricultural land.

It is not that such areas are totally uninteresting. Last year (2007) I photographed over 20 species of dragonflies in the city park (see here). But it is just a park. We, the Dutch, have not much better left when it comes to nature.

It might come as a surprise, but actually the Dutch approach to nature conservation serves as an international example. More and more countries loose their natural nature. The pressure of the ever-growing number of people and their ever-growing economic activities pushes nature back everywhere. And because here in the Netherlands we have nothing left to loose when it comes to nature, we are in fact the front runners of nature conservation. The current situation here might be the future for all countries. So people come here from abroad to see how the Dutch recreate nature. How the nature conservancy organization try to raise interest in nature and how they use iconic species as representatives for ecosystems.

The Tree Frog and the King Fisher have gotten an almost holy status. The side effect is however that every nature photographer needs to make a photo of these species. I have read questions on forums from people who wanted to photograph a king fisher, even though they had never seen one in their life. There are currently ab0ut 450 King Fishers in the Netherlands. Each of them must have been photographed hundreds of times. There are special excursions organized for nature photographers to areas where Tree Frogs can be found. People pick them up to put them on blackberries and other spots that will make a good photo. Others don’t, but their photos are considered suspicious anyway.

Photography nature reserves
Maybe the best is to create special semi-natural areas for nature photographers. A bit like a zoo, but it should look a bit more natural. Next to it an animal nursery where iconic species are bred and released into the area. Photographers pay an entrance fee and can walk around and photograph the animals. If they happen to harm some individuals, it does not matter that much.

October 18, 2007

My efforts to get some money (from selling my photos)

It is 2007. There is the internet. Everyone seems able to get rich. Except me.

I have been wondering how to get some money from selling my photos. My photos aren’t that bad, although they probably aren’t that good either – still improving I hope. But on the other hand, who would not want to buy a print of this incredible photo.

In the forest (Mycena arcangeliana)
Mycena arcangeliana buy a print

The problem is twofold: how to make photos that people will buy and how to advertise those photos (how to find the people that will buy). I have been focusing on making photos that I like. I am not sure that I want to focus on making photos that others like or on marketing my stuff. Making “friends” all over internet to in the hopes that they will become my “friend” but in the meantime just hoping that they will buy my stuff somehow is not what I like to do. Yet I have made some marketing steps, and to be honest I have actually sold one single print so far, which gave me the mere sum of $1,29. If you are interested, check out my Nature photography on Imagekind. I have tried to increase traffic to that page, in different ways, but not with great success and also with increasing inner resistance. There are so many blogs, so many people on flickr, so many photosites. Some people seem to be able to make their weblogs into a success. Not me.

Maybe I should try to join an agency that will take care of selling my photos. But then again I am not sure if my photos are good enough. Gotta try that some day though. And then there is stock photography, but do I really think that my photos are worth $0,20 each?

So tell me please what I should do.

October 17, 2007

Bird photography

Filed under: nature,nature photography,photography — takaita @ 17:04
Tags: , , ,

As a boy I always wanted to be a bird photographer. I borrowed an old camera from my father and walked around or found a hiding place with a view on birds possibly passing by. Still I have a couple of these photos in a box, and when I joined flickr I scanned in one of those old photos and posted it.
Bad Wildlife PhotographyIt became an instant hit on flickr and still today it is my most viewed photo there. It helped probably that I explained my childhood passion, and yes, I made the circle to indicate where the bird is at that time. I do not remember exactly when the photo was taken, but it must have been in the early seventies.

About two years ago I started with a digital compact camera, then after a years a DSLR – because I loved it so much. I bought a macro lens, mainly for dragonfly photography, but never forgot about the birds.

Last winter I spend lots of hours on my toilet, peeping through the small toilet window into my garden. Because that – I had decided – was the best place to make photos of birds. I had placed some food in my garden to attract birds and kept track of the species I saw. As I live in a city and my garden is tiny, there are not really exciting species to be expected. The macro lens has 100mm focal length, which is nice for dragonflies. But birds are different, they won’t let me get so close. All shots I took had to be cropped. Still it would turn out to be a large improvement over my earlier work, although it was never more remarkable then the shot of the encircled bird.

Parus caeruleus Greenfinch
Blue tit and Greenfinch, last winter, in my garden

So now I bought a new lens. A 70-200mm zoom. Also in the hopes that I can get the birds in my garden a bit closer this winter. I know, 200mm is not the best focal length for bird photography, I’ll need more, 400mm at least I think. Someday, when I’ll be rich….

What was it that I wanted to tell? Something about this lens. Yes, that it is so different from the 100mm macro. And about the birds that really don’t like to be photographed. As I did with dragonfly photography I took my bike and went out of the city. I did not make it hard for myself, just shooting a common duck would be fine. But these birds always see me before I see them, and after I have parked my bike and readied my camera there are no more birds in range. Dragonflies are so much easier.

August 12, 2007

The birth (and death) of a photographic style

Filed under: nature,photography — takaita @ 19:31
Tags: , , , ,

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis)The Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) is a dragonfly that is hard to miss when present. It is big, brown and flies around all the time.That, at the same time, is the trouble when you want to take a photo of it. To be honest I should say that it does sometimes rest and that at such moments it is possible to shoot it. There are plenty such photos and I even did one or two myself. Anyway, I have been trying to shoot it in flight. Shooting dragonflies in flight is something that I find very hard. I have seen photos of others which seem just perfect, and they are sometimes presented as if it had cost no effort to do. I am not one of those.

This is how I do it. First find a place where the dragonfly regularly flies along. They patrol their territory, so it is not hard to find such a place. Then set my camera to manual focus, and focus it to a distance at which the dragonfly approximately passes by. Then wait until it flies along. There is no time to refocus, because it moves too quickly and changes course very often. It is a matter of pointing the camera in the right direction and click, hoping that the dragonfly is in the frame and that the focus distance was right. Of course that usually goes wrong. But once in so many times it goes more or less right. I am sure that others have found better techniques (judging from their photos). Please let me know.

One of the photos that completely missed the dragonfly was actually quite nice. It showed some totally out-of-focus vegetation that was growing on the other side of the water. I put it through some processing with photomatix (which is mostly used to create dreadful-looking HDR photos, but it can be used to proces single RAW photo files too) and created some extra grain by sharpening it.

Vegetation Impression

I liked it. And at the same time I thought I could try to make such photos on purpose. All I had to do was to find a nice piece a vegetation, with some structure and some colors, set my camera to manual focus and make sure that the vegetation is quite out of focus.

Yes, I know. Maybe others have done this before. I haven’t seen it, but that means nothing. It is ok if you tell me who did this before. But this was my accident, not somebody else’s.

Anyway. I went for it. While hunting for dragonflies with my camera (which I do all the time these days), I sometimes took the time to look around for some vegetation that I could shoot out-of-focus. Coming home I’d process them as described and post them to my flickr account. Nothing special happened, a few views, a scarce comment.

In just a few days I created a dozen of such photos, and already now I am bored of it. Not because it is not nice, or that I don’t like it. But because it is too easy. Almost anywhere I stand in low vegetation I can see something that would produce a result like this. Or maybe I just lack the education (in arts) to define an idiom for this, some way to make it harder.

Maybe one day I’ll come back to this, or find a way to use it a bit differently. But for now you can look at the dozen Vegetation Impressions. And I’ll go back to pure dragonfly hunting.

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