Goodbye for 2022

Our last Monarch for 2022

We successfully raised nine (9) Monarch butterflies this season, leaving us feeling, “Let’s do more in 2023.” Today’s post cover is a portrait of the last. She flew yesterday, September 23rd, forty (40) feet up to the oak tree shading the back yard, lost to us in the leaves.

Her chrysalis is the second from right in the following family photograph.

Here are two videos of our last 2022 Monarch to emerge and the first.

Emergence of a Monarch butterfly from a chrysalis 4K UHD with relaxing music. A caterpillar attached itself with silk to hang by its two rear legs to transform to a green chrysalis. Fourteen days later the chrysalis shell becomes translucent. Inside the chrysalis the Monarch butterfly moves to shed the shell. The released insect’s abdomen pumps fluid, expanding the crumpled wings. The entire process takes twenty minutes, compressed in this video to about six (6) minutes.

A real time film of our first 2022 Monarch Butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, then expanding its wings in 4K UHD with relaxing music. The process takes twenty (20) minutes.

The butterfly emerges from the chrysalis about fourteen (14) days after setting. To the photographer needing to capture the moment a signal is the green, jewel-like chrysalis turns transparent, apparently darkening to reveal the compressed form of the butterfly. It can be hours before the insect breaks free, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr camera is used for this. I set it on a Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod (with ball head), a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens for optics. The Mark IV has WIFI and HD video capabilities, so I connected the camera to an Apple IPhone 7 using Canon software. Monitoring the transparent chrysalis in real time, I continually reset the video from the IPhone until the butterfly emerged. I used AVS video editor software to produce the film for YouTube publication.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Ready to Fly

Five wait off stage for their turn to fly.

This Monarch butterfly emerged from the chrysalis a few moments ago. A minimum of two hours is required for the wings to harden before release to the wild.

Five wait off stage for their turn to fly.

Rainy weather forced us to leave her resting a full 24 hours.

Here are two videos of a Monarch release from 2020.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Caterpillar to Chrysalis II

AKA the sixth moult

In my last series of “Monarch caterpillar transforming to chrysalis” time lapse photographs, the 30-minute time interval missed the moult. For this series, I set the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV to remote from a IPhone 7, tethering me to hanging around the house for an afternoon of waiting for the magic moment of “transformation” (more accurately called “the moult”), thinking through the nature of the moment.

A monarch caterpillar accomplishes seven body transformations shielded from view. Six within its skin: the first five retaining a caterpillar body configuration, the sixth transforming to chrysalis. For all six, an enveloping skin conceals the change. The same holds true for the seventh transformation. The chrysalis remains opaque green with bright gold spots until turning transparent after the transfiguration to butterfly is complete.

The sixth transformation happens when the fifth instar caterpillar, fully sated with milkweed, climbs to a perch, spins silk around a set of prolegs, affixing them from a horizontal surface from which to hang. For this set I captured the moult of two monarchs hanging side by side inside a mesh cage with an east facing window for light. Even though the day was sunny, with the f-stop set to the lens maximum (32) for the deepest field of view, ISO at 32,000 the energetic skin shedding movements of the chrysalis cause blurring.

For 10-12 hours of profound bodily configuration changes the hanging caterpillar hangs without movement. In the last image of this first set, the next caterpillar is blurred by initial moult movement.

My attempt to capture a video of the moult was frustrated by inadequate lighting, the result was too dark to use. I must solve this technical challenge as the motions of the chrysalis as difficult to believe without visual proof. That said, here is the second moult with the first completed moult in background.

An interesting fact is the caterpillar uses silk to attach the skin to a substrate for the first five moults to hold the skin back while it crawls out of the discarded skin. The first meal of the hatched caterpillar (first instar) is the egg, the shed skin is the first meal for instars 2 – 4. The shed skin of instar 5 drops from the chrysalis. This is why you should never remove a Monarch caterpillar from the leaf, as in doing so may hinder a moult in progress.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Iridescence and Impostors

“Here I Am”

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak, I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this fourth image of the begonia series, I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 100 mm f 2.8L IS USM variable lens.

Click photograph for a larger view.

Tiny Mirrors

Begonia flowers have no petals. The colorful structures surrounding the male and female parts are the structure in many flowers, such as roses, that lay beneath the flower petals and are green are called the sepal. These are the cover protecting the flower as a bud and, when open, can provide support. In begonias it is the entire flower and it glows.

The angle of morning light in today’s macro captures the reflections of thousands of tiny mirrors in the flowers, more noticeable in the darker undersides. Also present is a subtle iridescence, a shiny surface imparting, in this begonia, slight color changes. These are signals to the pollinators, “Here I am — this is delicious.” Also, in low light tropical environments iridescence can enhance light gathering of leaves.

Hoverfly

Woodland sunbeams are special places where I first noticed hoverflies, they have a behavior of staying motionless, beating wings a blur, in sunlight making its way to the forest floor. It was only after the fact, in the virtual darkroom of Lightroom, I noticed the tiny creature in today’s photograph.

On a quick look, it appears to be a yellow jacket, a type of wasp. Look closely and you will see the eyes are on the top of the head and touch in places. The wings stand perpendicular to the thorax, wasp wings fold along the thorax and abdomen and there are differences in the veining of the wings. The identify of this creature is a beneficial fly, a hoverfly, genus Episyrphus. The shiny black shield on the upper thorax suggests to me this is a Episyrphus viridaureus.

This fly is beneficial to humans in two ways. One we observe in the photograph, as flower pollination. It is one of the few flies with mandibles capable of crushing pollen grains and, in the course of feeding, some pollen clings to the fly to be transported flower to flower. The second benefit is less obvious. The larval form is a predator of aphids. After feeding, it transforms into a resting state, called diapause and survives the winter this way.

Human beings suppose the benefit of looking like a wasp is protection against predators who fear being stung, increasing survival of the individual.

The lens is designed for macro work and is a fixed focus, it can capture small details without needed to be close to the subject. I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the hoverfly. It was in writing this post I noticed the sepal iridescence.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Begonia Flowers and a Sweat Bee

shiny, bright green tiny bee

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this third image of the begonia series I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 100 mm f 2.8L IS USM variable lens. Click me for the first post, “Begonia Grandis.”

Click photograph for a larger view.

Sweat Bee!!

The bee on the right, in sharp focus, was a puzzle to me. I am familiar with it, they are very common around here, and striking with a bright green shiny thorax. For this post I decided to identify it.

After thirty minutes of poking around I found a list of New York Wild bees on the Cornell CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) site. It is in the form of an excel spreadsheet and very helpful. There are over 400 species listed. Using the “filter” feature I found the six families and, for each, did a web search. I am 98% sure this bee is in the family Halictidae, known as “sweat bees,” being attracted to the salt of perspiration they use for nutrition.

Next I looked as the first name in the species designation within the family Halictidae. Tjhis is the genus. There were not many, in a few minutes singling out Agapostemon, known as the “metallic green sweat bee.” I did not find it necessary to hone in on the exact species as members of the genus Agapostemon have defining characteristics.

There are four species listed on the Cornell CALS spreadsheet, all are ground nesting and solitary. Sweat bees are useful as crop pollinators. In Texas they can replace honeybees for pollination of cotton.

Agapostemon sericeus
Agapostemon splendens
Agapostemon texanus
Agapostemon virescens

The lens is designed for macro work and is a fixed focus, it can capture small details without needed to be close to the subject. I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the bees. The sharper focus is on the sweat bee

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Begonia Grandis

Macro!!

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this image I used a handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR with the Canon lens EF 100 f 2.8L Macro. This is the first post of this series. Click me for “Water Lily Flower with hornet,” from my photography gallery.

Click photograph for a larger view.

Begonia is a large genus of flowering plants, sub-tropical and tropical natives, adapted her to a hanging basket put out after the last frost, the end of May, Memorial Day, in these parts. The flowers are monoecious, both male and female unisex flowers bloom on a single plant.

Pictured are double male flowers composed entirely of stamens. This plant has a sour flavor enjoyed in parts of its range. Over consumption will produce ill effects as the tissues are high in oxalic acid, a poison to humans.

Here, the leaves and flowers glow in the gentle light of early morning.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Christmas Tableau

Cozy Snowmen dance round the candle

My dear wife Pam is the heart of Christmas in our home. Over the years we have collected a treasure of ornaments and knick-knacks she crafts into displays around our one. Pam completed the project well in advance of our grandchild holiday visits, before card writing and gift wrapping.

My contribution is a photographic time capsule. Here is some of my artistic output from this work.

This grouping of five cozy snowmen (three males, two females) are warmly dressed in knit sweaters and stocking caps; the women with long skirts. The five hold hands in a ring, rising from a common platform. We place a cup and devotional candle in the center.

The tiny group evokes community, harmony, amity. I captured them with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III dslr, a fixed Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens mounted on a Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head. Fixed lenses provide the sharpest macros. The mounting allowed precise framing and use of the widest aperture and a low ISO. The light sources were sunlight from a large north facing bay window, a Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt and the candle. When used, the flash was angled in various ways toward the ceiling.

I start with a tight shot, maximum aperture. A single figure is in clear focus, the remaining gradually lost in the bokeh. The flash was used. I can almost see then circling around the candle in a winter wind.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

Here the candle is lighted, aperture narrow to f8 using only the candle and ambient light (no flash). The group is visible within surrounding figures. I backed away and the viewpoint is higher.

The candle light enhances the perception of community.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

Viewpoint is closer, still only the candle and ambient light. Aperture widened to 3.5. I must remove the hair in lightroom.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

I backed off, aperture at the max with only the candle and ambient light. The figures are placed in a tableau with other snowmen and a structure, a birdhouse.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

For this overview I swapped in a Canon 24mm f/1.4L II USM with a flash, aperture f2.2.

Christmas Snowman Display
Christmas 2017 snowman display laid out in our den on top of the entertainment cabinet.

Waterfall Textures

Unrestrained chaos at the foot of Arizona’s highest waterfall

I received notice of IStock acceptance of select photographs from my last posting, “Wilderness Textures”, was accepted.  Click to view my IStock Portfolio, including  photographs from today’s posting included in the acceptance notice.

In this post I move up the Reavis Creek canyon from where the last posting, “Wilderness Textures”, was sited to the foot of Reavis Falls.  With the first photograph you look up at the falls from the head of the canyon carved by the creek over eons.  The rock wall, the canyon “head”, is thick with microorganisms, fungi, mosses.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

In the foreground is a jumble of boulders, some washed down at flood time, spread wide at the bottom of the falls, piled to a jumbled height of 15 feet. 

Talus is the geological term for this formation.  Derived from the Latin word for slope (talutum) the definition, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is “A sloping mass of detritus lying at the base of a cliff or the like consisting of material fallen from its face.” 

 

The ankle bone is also called talus, from the French word for heel, I bring it up because climbing this chaotic, unstable jumble is a way to break your ankle.  The route to Reavis Falls, a climb up one side of Lime Mountain then down the other on a non-existent (lightly marked) trail, is rated difficult and impossible with a broken leg or ankle.  I was alone and very careful to check each rock for stability before putting my weight on it.

A climb of the talus pile was necessary to view the pool at the waterfall base, for this photograph.

A more artistic vertical format version, below, captured with the Canon EF 100mm “macro” lens.  All shots are using the Kodak DCS pro SLR-c (the “c” designated Canon lens compatibility) and a Manfrotto studio tripod with a hydrostatic ball head.  The horizontal format shot was captured with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.   I prefer the vertical version, artistically, because the talus jumble is all but cropped out while the upper corner of the angular basalt boulder is left as an interesting focal point.  The boulder, not being in the spray, is in focus to contrast with the basalt wall behind the water.

I captured a series of shots from this precarious vantage point, working up from the pool to the brim of the waterfall.

My goals was a composite photo of the falls.  I have yet to succeed with this project.  Maybe I will give it one more shot in spite of having learned the hard lesson the best photographs are a single moment captured in a single frame.

I find in this series the vertical aspect is more artistic.  The water volume, of the falls, at this time of year offers only the finest of sprays with most of the basalt rock wall only moist.  The 100mm “macro” lens allowed me to include only the falling water with a bit of the moist wall for contrast.

In the following version I experimented with color, moving from the narrow range of hues, to more contrast.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography. License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Textures” Fine Art Gallery.

Here’s another of my Arizona wilderness adventures, “Racing the Sun.”

Wilderness Textures

Abstract Beauty of the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona

These abstracts are some of my photographic output from four days and nights spent alone in the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness.  For the first three days I met not a soul, all these images were captured on a single afternoon spent in the canyon below Reavis Falls, a jumble of landslides, flood debris and boulders.  There is no trail.  The few people who enter the canyon must negotiate around boulders, crossing Reavis Creek many times.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

My backpack kit included a full sized Manfrotto studio tripod with hydrostatic ball head.  The benefits more than outweighed the effort (I was a lot younger in 2008) when the Canon EF 100mm (macro) lens is mounted on a  Kodak dSLR body, allowing me to take crisp shots.  The tripod legs can be adjusted to precise positions for stability.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

I can feel the bright afternoon desert spring sunshine in this photos.  It was after the spring floods, the flow of Reavis Creek and ample still but slow.  Gathering in pools over the rough stones of the creek bed, the water absolutely clear.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

I held the shot over many minutes, capturing ever changing diffraction patterns.

We see in all these photos, not a homogenous blend of stones from a shared geology.  Reavis Creek washes over diverse geologies: volcanic, ancient igneous extrusions, sedimentary and metamorphic are jumbled together.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

This is a series of photographs of smooth, white igneous boulders with shadows of  still leafless sycamore and cottonwood trees.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Graceful shadows

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Strong, demonstrative shadows.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A leaning cairn, not a trail marker….

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A 15 foot high jumble of stones piled at the bottom of Reavis Falls, carried over by the floods.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A metamorphic conglomerate stone….

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Another metamorphic conglomerate.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography. License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Textures” Fine Art Gallery.

Here’s another of my Arizona wilderness adventures, “Racing the Sun.”

Emerge II

Watch a Monarch butterfly leave the chrysalis

For Father’s Day 2021 I received cages for raising Monarch butterflies. A large zippered door is a great feature, one side of the cage drops away for easier access and photography. Here are some photographs of the developing chrysalis and emergence.

In the first step of chrysalis development, the caterpillar climbs to a chosen location and weaves a silk pad from the abdomen. We are looking down on the caterpillar through the top of the woven material that forms our cage. The silk pad is a small white dot to the right.

Click photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-+ (press down Ctrl, hold, then click plus sign repeatedly) to zoom in closer.

After the silk attachment pad is complete, the caterpillar releases itself to hang in a shape of the letter “J.”

The caterpillar sheds the outer skin as the chrysalis forms around it.

Just prior to emergence the chrysalis turns from opaque green to translucent Iappears dark). Here the wing pattern and body markings (white dots) are visible.

I used a Manfrotto tripod, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr (high resolution video capability) and Canon’s EF 100mm f/2.8 USB macro lens for the following up close coverage of a Monarch emerging followed by wing expansion.

Click me for better experience viewing the following video. To do this from WordPress Reader, you need to first click the title of this post to open a new page. Note the replay icon (an arrow circling counter-clockwise.

Thank You for visiting. 

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved