Sunday, April 13, 2014

Whale Bones

What to do when it's too windy to go out on the water to photograph? This weekend, I photographed indoors. Not having much experience with indoor photography, I thought I would experiment with the macro lens and lighting. And I had the perfect subject to practice with. Back in December, several pilot whales were discovered on Highland Beach in the Everglades. Heartbreaking to see, it was all over the news. About one month after several dead whales were left to rot on the sandy beach, we came there to spend a night during one of our paddling trips. By that time, the remains of the whale were primarily bones. I took a few teeth home with me and later, my friend Toby who had paddled to Highland Beach several times this past winter brought home a couple vertebrae, which he gave to me.

The vertebrae bones are exquisite in shape and I wanted to try my hand at photographing them. So I set up a "studio" in my house, gathered up a couple large black mats, a candle and couple miniature flash lights. And then I played. Never having done this before, my attempts at lighting were crude at best. But, some of the results were acceptable to me.

I studied the bones from several angle and went for some macro shots and some wider angle shots. The camera was on a tripod and I used the remote control. I closed the window blinds and kept the room dark. I experimented with a candle flame, which gave the bone a warm tone. I had a couple little flashlights that gave out a cool light. I had a fun time with my experimentation and have a higher appreciation for studio photographers.

Why the pilot whales did what they did is a mystery. All we can do is hope that one day we will know the answers to our questions. In the meantime, enjoy these images of the whale bones found on Highland Beach.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Love is in the air

I would not have guessed my next blog would be about the horseshoe crab, but a recent overnight trip to the Ten Thousand Islands was more about horseshoe crabs than anything else. As least as far as photographing wildlife is concerned.

At first, I found several of them washed up, mostly dead. But then right about the time of high tide, I began to notice several live ones washing in with the surf. They appeared along the shoreline for about 200 feet and there were a couple large clusters of eight or more. Upon seeing them in the nice afternoon light, I ran and got my telephoto and proceeded to hang out with them while they went about their mating procedures.

How do you photograph a horseshoe crab? I could have laid down on the sand and captured them at eye level. And this really would have been eye level, with their compound eyes that are located near the top on both sides of their round shell. This was the part of the animal that got my attention right away, that and the water movement around them. If I had laid down, I would not have been able to keep up with all their movements. But, I wanted to capture them in a way that would highlight those compound eyes. So I crouched down to capture most of them.

I rifled off about 600 shots within 20 min or so, as that is about how long the scene lasted. After awhile, they all went back into the water and disappeared. With the shots, I attempted to capture them in the surf, being attracted to how the water flowed over their shells. I always aimed at the eye and when possible, capture one as it moved directly toward me.

I did some research on these creatures as I really did not know much about them and I was particularly interested in their eyes. Apparently they have several eyes that sense various forms of light including UV light from the moon. The large eyes on the shell are compound eyes that are very sensitive to polarized light. The eyes that sense UV moonlight are also located on the shell, towards the front middle. With the position these eyes and the compound eyes, the shell appears to have a face. In fact, this photo below, which I believe is showing a female, really demonstrates this well. I love her "well drawn" eyes (a term I heard used by a woman who waxed her eyebrows and replaced them with liner).

Good to see these animals and to have spent some time photographing them. I did report my observations to the FWC that are trying to keep track of these endangered crabs. If you see horseshoe crabs mating, please help them out and do the same.