Readers’ wildlife photos

October 19, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your photos. You have good ones, and I know who you are!

Today we have botanical images from Rik Gern. His commentary is indented.

A popular decorative plant here in Austin is the Peacock Flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  You can find at least a half dozen examples just by taking a walk around the block.

I’ve taken a few pictures of them over the years, but always found them hard to photograph because they bounce and sway with just the slightest hint of a breeze, but I recently got a new/used camera, my first that’s not a simple point-and-shoot, and thought I’d try it out on the peacock flowers. Trying to wrangle a “real” camera is a whole ‘nuther challenge, so as usual I photoshopped these to within an inch of their lives in order to wrest some silk purses from sow’s ears, digitally speaking. Half a dozen of these were taken with a CanonEOS T2i 550D, and the rest with the old Canon Powershot SD400.

The petals are flamboyant and attention grabbing and seem to come in either yellow or orange variations. The stamen are huge, and usually stretch out in a graceful arch, though sometimes they flail wildly in the wind.

Naturally the plant attracts insects, and I spotted a bee (Diadasia diminuta), but almost missed an American grasshopper (Schistocerca americana). (Not sure about the americana part.)

The bird (Pixelus manipulus) in the neon-tinged picture is really a seed pod, but it was bugging me until I saw it as a bird, so I cheated in a beak and eye.

The leaves of the Peacock Flower have a nice lacy look to them. Here’s one that I obsessed over for a few days, as you can see from the before-and-after. The heart in the center of the final version is actually a scar from a cut limb on a Mexican White Oak tree (Quercus polymorpha).

Here’s the psychedelicized version of the peacock flower’s leaf.

10 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Nice photos.

    @Rik Gern: I don’t know if you want advice from a fellow hobbyist but here goes nothing. You can either buy a flower clamp for macro photography or make one on your own (there are YouTube videos for DIY flower clamps).

    For outdoor flower shots, I’m usually patient (winds are seldom constant, and within a few minutes, a given flower will stand still for a few seconds in between gusts – just set up where it normally is when the wind isn’t blowing) and shoot at high shutter speeds with auto ISO and f-stops in the f/16 to f/22 range (I’m not a fan of shallow depth of field) . The shots are often “noisy” but modern noise reduction programs are very, very good.

    However, if I don’t want to waste a lot of time, I have a flower clamp for macro shots (there are versions that will anchor anywhere, even your camera).

    The center part of the clamp is a very soft foam that will hold the stem without damaging it. If it’s high up, I can hold the ground stake in my hand (with the camera, so that the subject is at a constant distance from the lens).

    If you want a versatile system, Flex-Arm offers modular systems, but a bit pricey.

  2. Super photos, but I think your grasshopper is not Schistocerca (in the family Acrididae), but a member of the katydid family, Tettigoniidae. Thread-like, long antennae are a key feature.

    1. And a female, note the dagger-like ovipositor at the bottom. Looks like it might be one of the Phaneropterine group of katydids. Incidentally, the English name for what we call katydids is more appropriate, “Bush Crickets”, which reflects their closer relatedness to crickets (who also have long antennae, stridulate by rubbing the front wings together, and have ears on their front legs) than to grasshoppers, and their usual habit of living in above-ground vegetation. “Katydid” comes from a not-very-accurate description of the sound of one eastern North American species, subsequently applied to the thousands of tettigoniids worldwide.

  3. Excellent tip, disperser, thanks!

    Douglas, that’s one thing I love about this site; there are people who know enough about biology to point out mistakes like that!

    Paul, the bee, the ferris-wheel looking picture of the buds, and the leaves were shot with the old camera. The mechanics and size of the newer camera are still a little daunting, but that’s half the fun. I still like the tiny little Powershot though, since it’s easy to take anywhere and allows for a lot of spontaneity.

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