Tag Archives: Photography

Critter Cam | February

The trail camera was out for a couple of days between rain and snow events. There always seems to be plenty of traffic. The camera was set to take 3 images when it detected motion. One or two of the three were sometimes good for sharing here. Some critters move fast and are just a blur. Click on galleries for larger versions.

Raccoons are always making the rounds.

Deer are plentiful all over town and on this path.

Grey squirrels are everywhere.

Possums are plentiful. One image is enough.

Cardinals are a favorite with their red coats and black trim.


ISS Passes Orion’s Belt

Earlier in the day on 2 Feb, my phone notified me that the ISS would pass nearly overhead and go through Taurus and Orion a few minutes after 6:30 pm. I prepared my iPad with the NightCap app. I placed it on the sidewalk in front of the house and started the exposure.

Four minutes and sixteen seconds later I got this result. Not only the ISS, but three airplanes passed by as indicated by the blinking lights. One of them is hidden in the tree branches lower right. While I watched the ISS pass overhead, I noticed a very faint object moving a short distance ahead of it, in the same direction, and almost on the same line. It was barely visible and left a faint trace on the image. This version of the image might not show it. My original image does show it faintly.

NightCap ISS mode, 256 second exposure, 1/2s shutter speed

My photo compared well to the predicted path provided by Heavens-Above.com.

Critter Cam in Winter

Our trail camera was out for the past week behind our house. Because of rain and snow, I covered it with a clear plastic bag to keep it dry. The images are a bit out of focus. Lots of squirrel activity. A few possums and raccoons. Several deer passed by. One of them got in very close. A fox trotted by the camera. In 20 years, it is only the 2nd time I’ve ever seen one back there. I’ve never seen that black dog before. Dogs are supposed to be on leash. Lastly, one of the local black squirrels posed for a shot. Still no bobcats or cougars. Click for bigger images.

Critter Cam

There is a wooded acreage directly behind our house. Deer have made a path over time that conveniently connects our house to a city trail system about 50 yards away. There is daily traffic of various animals along it.

A month ago our next door neighbor said he was certain he saw a bobcat in his back yard not far from the deer path. It is a real possibility. I know some locals who have seen them in other parts of the county. I bought an inexpensive trail camera in hopes of seeing it. After hundreds of images in both day and night time, I have yet to see a bobcat. Lots of house cats, though.

There are plenty of grey squirrels.

There is a very chubby ground hog who waddles by once in a while. That short tree stump is 1 foot tall.

Deer will become more numerous during the winter months as they forage around bird feeders in the neighborhood.

There are many possum, raccoons, birds, and a few chipmunks and mice.

The hunt continues.

Hummingbirds vs Shutter Speeds

Our feeder hangs not far from the front window. The tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds come and go quickly. Sometimes there are aerial duels. Wasps and hornets are carefully avoided by the little birds. I hear the birds swoop by me as I put fresh sweet water into the feeder. They have a wingbeat rate of around 50/sec (50 hertz). It is a little lower frequency than the 60 Hz hum of electric current signals I sometimes hear on audio equipment. Here is a link to an audio recording by David Eberly of two Hummingbirds near a feeder. Turn up the volume.

I was curious how different camera shutter speeds would capture the wingbeats. The camera was set on a tripod, focused through the window, and zoomed in all the way. A remote shutter let me get shots without camera shake. This first image used ISO 100 and shutter speed of 1/125 sec. Lots of blur. Even the tail feathers are blurred.

ISO 100 | 1/125 sec
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American White Pelican

It is springtime in the midwest. Great flocks of American White Pelicans Pelecanus erythrorhynchosare fly north toward breeding grounds. We are fortunate in Iowa to have many of them visit our lakes and rivers. Dozens of the great birds were on the Iowa River in downtown Iowa City today giving residents close views. These birds are the biggest in the state at up to 20 lbs and with 9 ft wingspans. The loud roar heard in the videos is from water spilling over the nearby dam.

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Optics Lesson

Seasonal changes occur very slowly. I enjoy watching for them as the year passes. Last fall, I did a simple set of observations to record how much lower the path of the Sun was tracking as the weeks went by. That post is here.

An unplanned seasonal change got my attention in recent weeks I looked out the north window toward out neighbor’s house at about 3 pm on 25 January. It was a very cold and sunny day. It was obvious from the direction of the shadows that the Sun was in the upper left, over my shoulder, out of view. Something bright caught my eye on the snow in the foreground.

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Crows vs Bald Eagle

Lots of commotion from the Crows this morning. Several of the them were scolding an immature Bald Eagle in the tree right behind our house. It is a BIG bird. It didn’t seem bothered. We have a lot of Bald Eagles around here. They congregate on the Iowa River below the dams to grab fish. It flew away and all was quiet again.

Venus Crescent

We went to a spot with a clear southwest view hoping to see comet Leonard. The conditions weren’t quite favorable. Instead, we admired the alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus. I pointed my camera on full zoom to Venus. It is currently rounding its orbit and passing us between the Sun and Earth. See the orbit diagram below.

We are seeing mostly the shadowed side of Venus. A thin crescent reflects off its surface. In the early days of January it will be almost directly between us and the Sun and not visible in the glare. It will emerge in the early morning hours by mid-January. It will remain our morning companion until October. This thinning crescent remains as our last view of 2021. The crescent will reverse next month.

Canon PowerShot SX60 HS | ISO 800 | 1/400 s
© Dominic Ford 2011–2021

Leaf Abscissions

Many of the trees here in eastern Iowa have continued to hold their leaves this year. It is a little later in the year than normal. Last night, the temperature got to 26˚F which prompted a phenomenon called abscission. This morning in the warm sunshine, the leaves started dropping quickly. We’ve watched this occur each fall for many years as cold weather approaches.

I have an app on my iPad called NightCap Camera. It is normally used for low-light and night sky photography. One setting is for lines left by moving objects. The iPad is set to be stationary while the exposure takes place. It captures sequential images recording locations of objects that moved during the exposure. It works in the dark or daylight. This first image was about 20 sec. Exposures of 1/288 sec were recorded as the leaves dropped.

NightCap Light Trails mode, 19.46 second exposure, 1/288s shutter speed.

Here is a second image lasting about 2 minutes. This a visual definition of fall.

NightCap Light Trails mode, 113.78 second exposure, 1/273s shutter speed.