In Pursuit of Pitcher Plants 2017

We decided to take a week-end trip to the Panhandle to see if we could find Pitcher Plants. We were not disappointed! [Gallery] Here I am standing along Highway 65 in the Apalachicola National Forest

 

Those are Trumpet-Leaf Pitcher Plants that grew and bloomed between pretty severe mowing and spraying (see below). Here’s a closeup of the flower and insect-trapping pitcher…

Next we drove to Wright Lake and took a long hike. We were surprised to see Lupines blooming under the pine trees…

 

There were many burned patches in various states of recovery. In one we found this interesting flower. It starts out all white and then “burns up” with purple (or perhaps the other way round?). Adapted to follow fire into cleared areas I think.

 

There were little clusters of pitcher plants here and there, and then we found this large group in a damp semi-open area…

The next day we went back for a second look along Highway 65 and bumped into Tim (not his real name) who is somewhat of an expert on carnivorous plants. He helped us find these beautiful Purple Pitcher Plant blooms…

Unfortunately whatever entity maintains that bit of highway is very aggressive with spraying herbicides to keep the growth down. There were dried up and dead pitcher plants in abundance. <frown> Tim said he had been coming to the area since 1971 and there used to be magnificent spring displays along this road. The flowers above were down in the bushes beyond the spraying.

After that we poked around a bit back in the woods but didn’t find any more pitchers. I did find another type of carnivorous plant, the Sundew

There were thousands in a “borrow pit” area. No chlorophyll but lots of little hairs each with a drop of sticky glue. You can see the remains of a few ants if you look close. There was also this strange plant, I have no idea what it is…

 

Looks like a cross between a fern and a sundew!


A week later we visited Buck Island Pond and saw a third species, the Hooded Pitcher Plant


There are more photos of a fourth species, the White-Top Pitcher Plant, I took in 2013 in a separate gallery.

 

Enjoy!

Birds of Sweetwater Wetlands 2017

It doesn’t get better than this! Recent outing to the Sweetwater Wetlands Park was packed with birds, including the Limpkin above. (I saw more limpkin in one hour than I’ve seen elsewhere in my entire life!) [Gallery]

Here’s a stunning Anhinga drying his wings. (I think this is a young male just molting into adult plumage.)

 

There were many Blue-Winged Teal on their way north mixed in with the local gallinules.

And the real surprise, a pair of American Bittern! (It’s only one of the most cryptic birds in North America.)

There were about a dozen Sandhill Cranes moving about and trumpeting.

Many male Red-Winged Blackbirds were out defending their territories.

And finally one of my favorites, a Pied-Billed Grebe having a stretch.

Go to the entire gallery for more!

Everglades (Sail) Kayak Trip 2017

Everglades time again! This year I went for five days/four nights with my sister Diana Pray from LA. We did a lazy double figure eight route around northeastern Whitewater Bay and the Gulf. [Gallery] With the exception of a few distant motorboats we were completely alone for four days, quite remarkable!

 

The wind was southerly the entire trip, so the first day we started out sailing almost all the way to the Roberts River Chickee.

 

I brought along a 360° panoramic camera and took some impressive shots! Here we are on our own little planet.

 

The next day we took The Cut-Off over to the North River and ate lunch on the Watson River Chickee. Then we got lost in The Labyrinth on our way to the Shark River.

Surprisingly we ended up on what I call “Dad’s Creek” where my father and I dumped the canoe in 2005. This set us up for a very pleasant twilight excursion up stream to the Shark River Chickee.

The next day the water was like glass as we headed into one of the northern channels of the Shark River to set up our boomerang out to the Gulf of Mexico. [The river reverses flow twice a day, down with the outgoing tide and up with the high tide. So if you time it right you can ride the current both ways! I call the upstream flow the “Everglades Escalator!“]

This trip was remarkable for how many sea creatures we saw! We watched dolphins feeding/cavorting at least ten times, including their habit of laying on their side in the shallows and splashing fish onto the shore.

We saw a Manatee come up for air and then swim under us in the Labyrinth. But the highlight was returning up the Shark River where we were in the middle of a group of Sea Turtles (maybe ten!) who would popup randomly for air and be gone in a second. [It reminded me of whack-a-mole!] One actually ran into Diana’s kayak!! The heads were huge so I think the were Loggerheads.

We got back to the Watson River Chickee at dusk, promptly ate and went to bed. The next morning we were greeted by dolphins feeding a few feet away!

The next day was a leisurely float down the eastern side of Whitewater Bay.

We got to the Lane Bay Chickee well before dark and had some time to relax and swim. The breeze finally kept the bugs off <smile>.

 

The next day we worked our way down through the maze of Hells Bay.

Back on Whitewater Bay we encountered a 10-15 mph headwind. It was a bit of a slog but so much better than a canoe!

A quick return trip across Coot Bay finished our most excellent adventure!

Intro to Spherical Photography

I’ve always been fascinated by 360° spherical photographs (sometimes called “mirrorballs, planets or wormholes”). [Click to Enlarge]

I bought a Ricoh Theta S with two 180° fisheye lenses pointing in opposite directions. The raw photographs are similar to equirectangular maps where the equator is “normal” and the poles are stretched. To prove this point I took a random map from the web and transformed it into a globe…

Here is the Theta S equivalent of the source map above…

The camera is controlled from a smartphone, and comes with software to turn the flat image into a sphere (top), a planet, or a wormhole (below).

The photos above were taken with a special tripod that is mostly invisible. The camera does have a physical shutter release so it can also be used as a handheld. [Note the giant hand, but where’s the camera?!]

 

You can flatten the horizon for an ultra-wide angle panorama.

Or bend the photo into a 360° planet

 

In the two photos above, the camera is mounted on a two foot mast just in front of my feet.

Trim the top and bottom and you have a 360° conventional panorama

You can also hold the camera above your head for an interesting effect…

 

I finally understand how these Mars Curiosity self-portraits are possible, again where’s the camera?!

Denver Colorado 2016

We are enjoying the fall colors in the Mile High City. Most of the flower photos in this gallery are from the Denver Botanic Gardens.

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The temperature is abnormally high due to the global warming “hoax” and the pollinators are still hard at work! Notice her little red tongue!

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More bees at work on this huge white waterlily

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And here’s a very large and colorful bromeliad

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And finally here is a vertical panorama of a magnificent cottonwood

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[All of these photos were taken with an iPhone 6se.]

Summer 2016 Guttenberg Iowa

New Photos from my midsummer vacation in Northeastern Iowa

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I hiked from the river to the bluff at Pikes Peak State Park. The photo above shows the Wisconsin River as it meets the Mississippi.

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This was a good year for birds! We were entertained by Cedar Waxwings flying back and forth hunting insects…

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White Pelicans were in abundance…

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I have heard but never seen the Eastern Wood-Pewee

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Finally there was this little Downy Woodpecker by the side of the road feeding on Mullein seeds. The first day I saw him I only had my iPhone. I got some pictures but nothing great. The next day I was prepared and there he was, ready for his photoshoot…

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Little guy let me stand ten feet away with no apparent concern!

Ephesus Museum, Turkey

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For obvious reasons the finest artifacts have been removed from Ephesus and placed in a museum in a nearby city. The bust above is of Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 CE). [Gallery] The image below shows a Satyr pursuing a nymph or maiden.

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There were two statues of Asclepius (the god of healing). Unfortunately neither one is intact. [Notice the single snake on his staff, the symbol of medicine.]

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At the ruins we saw a line of eroded Bull’s Head Column Capitals. In the museum we got to see a better example up close! I love the anatomic detail including the bulging veins!

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The penultimate artifact was found carefully buried nearby (to hide it from vandals?), but did not originate there. This Statue of Artemis was originally housed within the Famous Temple to the Goddess (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!).

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To say this Fertility Cult figure is bizarre is to put it mildly! I can’t remember seeing an object with so much symbolic detail. One obvious question is “are those all breasts?” Our guide said they were thought to be Bulls’ Testicles (that’s right, testicles!). Lions, griffins, winged humans, bees and the signs of the zodiac are just some of the decorative motifs. [Gallery]

Ephesus Ruins, Turkey

The Ancient City of Ephesus dates to about 900 BCE. It was Hellenized by Alexander the Great and ultimately became the regional Roman Capital in 129 BCE. The ruins today are only 10% restored. The first photo shows the Greek-Style Theater (with up to 25,000 seats!) and the wide avenue leading down to the port (which has silted in). [Gallery]

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Here I am standing next to a Statue Honoring a Physician of that time…

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The Terraced Houses of the elite had fantastic mosaics and other artworks…

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The Library of Celsus was one of the largest in its day…

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The wonders were literally too numerous to count! [Gallery] [Museum]

Termessos Ruins, Turkey

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Termessos was our first encounter with the ancient world of Turkey. Originally built by the Pisidians sometime before 500 BCE, the city is situated on a mountain pass more than 1000 meters above the coastal plain. Our guide told us they were raiders who periodically preyed upon the people below. In 333 BCE Alexander the Great surrounded Termessos but could not conquer it. After that the site was Hellenized and later improved upon by the Romans.

We had to hike up several hundred feet to reach the site. The Inner Wall that stopped Alexander is mostly intact, as is the spectacular Greek-Style Theater at the top. This is also where we first saw the Wood Fairy (or Thread-Winged Lacewing), a beautiful insect that flitted around several of the ruins we visited.

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This Gallery includes panoramas, HDRs and a site map (in Turkish).

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Turkey

Hagia Sophia is one of the most historic buildings in the world! I’ve always wanted to see it up close and now I have. It is a strange syncretism of Islam superimposed on top of Orthodox Christianity. Finished in 537 CE, it was the largest building in the world for a thousand years.  This Gallery contains HDR and Fisheye photos.

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