Berry Go Round in August.

Welcome to the August 2014 edition of Berry Go Round!

Kinnikinnick Berries  (Arctostaphylos spp.) 27 August, 2014

Kinnikinnick Berries (Arctostaphylos sp.) 27 August, 2014, Halfmoon Lake Natural Area.

You may well ask, ” Why is a bug-biased macro photography blog hosting a botanical blog carnival?” (Say that quickly 5 times!)

While my interest is bugs, my background is in horticulture and gardening. The plant world is (almost) as fascinating as the bug world, so when I saw that Berry Go Round was short of hosts for the summer, I decided to offer Splendour Awaits as the host site. After all, we know that plants and bugs get along great! (Said the ant to the aphid…)

I’ll start off with some of the bug-free submissions…

  • Can we grow plants on the moon? Well, not without a lot of help.  Emma the Gardener looks at the science around the possibilities at Growing plants in lunar soil.
  • And staying on the astronomical theme for just one moment, please ask yourself, “Why do they do that?” These massive annuals have attracted artists for generations, and now the Sarah Shailes tells us more about why Sunflowers are turning heads.
  • Tim Havenith tells us of the history and folklore of the apple. And, if the mere suggestion of apples has you yearning  to sink your teeth into crisp, juicy flesh, first visit Anatomy of an apple – A Short Study to find out what just what an ‘enlarged hypanthium‘ is, and what it can do to you!
  • For plants, ESA protection is applicable only on federal land.  So while that means any plant on private land is subject to the whims of the land owner, plants on federal land get the royal  federal treatment! In the Colorado Butterfly Plant and the US Air Force, Hollis Marriott gives us an overview on the ups and downs of this protected pocket of plants.
  • Most people know that almost all dinosaurs were wiped-out in a massive cataclysmic event 66 million years ago, but few think of the effect it had on other lineages of life. In Planting the Cenozoic Garden, Brian Switek looks at how fossilized pollen gives us clues to how plants did–and didn’t–survive the Earth’s fifth mass extinction.

Of course, this blog is bug-centric, so what can I contribute to the Berry Go Round?

Yellow-jacket holds berry in high regard...

Yellow-jacket holds berry in high regard…  Vaccinium myrtilloides (Common Blueberry) 27 August, 2014, Halfmoon Lake Natural Area

After hours of searching (Honestly? I stole them off  Malcolm at Morsels for the Mind!) I managed to dig up a few blog posts which featured plant/bug relationships…

  • Sun grown coffee can produce up to 3 times more crop than shade grown coffee, however it is considered less environmentally sustainable due to the practices involved in raising it. Organic coffee is usually shade grown, where the plants grow under a canopy of trees which allows natural interactions to help protect the plants. See the how shade and ants help provide us with a more sustainable cup of coffee in Nsikan Akpan’s article, Feisty Ants and Coffee Plants.
  • Five years ago, coconut palms started dying in the Philippines. The culprit was thought to be Aspidiotus destructor, a scale insect already known to cause damage to palms in Indonesia.  Author Nsikan Akpan again, on how the real Killer bug behind coconut plague was identified, and which counter-tactic is being used to halt the destruction.

Ending this edition of Berry-go-round…

  • We know about plant galls and the insects that create them, but have you ever heard of jumping galls? See what’s going on under Californian oak trees in by Michael Marshall’s article in The secret hop of the Californian flea seed.

Thanks everyone for participating! See you at the September edition of Berry Go Round at Mostly Science.

Posted in Berry Go Round, Blog Link, Blog Roundup, Bugs, photography, Science, Summer Tagged , , , , , , , |


Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

William and Martijntje Thysse, July 1964, Wawa, Ontario.

The Exa, with William and Martijntje Thysse, July 1964, Wawa, Ontario.

I entered  photography in the 1970′s while living in South Africa. Just a teen, I was lucky to receive as my first camera an old Exa (version 4, manufactured between 1956 and 1959) that my father had outgrown. It came with a 50mm lens, extension tubes and a hand-held light meter. This was the camera my father had used to document the family since the early 1960′s.

Unfortunately, my allowance was meagre and film was not often purchased so I gained little experience from this camera except that it taught me the basic principles of exposure. It was auto-nothing: no auto-aperture, no auto-mirror return, no auto-exposure, no auto-advance…just a fully manual mechanical SLR with a vertical viewfinder that gave an inverted (left to right) image. Working with the hand-held light meter and having to twiddle all the knobs, rings and dials to get the settings right, soon taught me the essentials of exposure. Later, I was also given the oddball Zeiss Ikon ‘Movikon 8, a clockwork 8mm manual movie camera, that helped cement my understanding of exposure.

The Exa was the budget line of the Exakta series of cameras, made by Ihagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen & Co, Dresden, Germany. Even as a budget version, it was still well made, a solid camera strong enough to defend yourself with. It had a few quirks, even for its day, but if all you have experienced is digital SLR’s, the following features should amaze you:

  • It used 35mm film (pronounced ‘fill-um’)
  • It had an interchangeable viewfinders, although we had only the hooded vertical finder (as above), so…
  • …the image was reversed, side to side, when viewed.
  • There was a ‘Sport’ finder, just a rectangular hole in the hood, that allowed for quick, if not accurate framing.
  • You could replace the viewfinder with the ‘Special Prism’ , a pentaprism like on todays DSLR’s.
  • The shutter was a function of the reflex mirror, not independent.
  • Shutter speed range was immense: B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/150 (that’s it!)
  • The shutter release was on the front, on the left-side of the lens. If you pressed the button where today’s shutter release sits, you would have activated the film rewind.

The lens was likely either an early version of the 50mm f2.8  Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens, a four-element lens that came with either coated or uncoated glass, or the three-element 50mm f2.9 Meyer-Optik Görlitz Trioplan. (I can’t quite make it out from the few pictures we have)

The IHAGEE & EXAKTA PRODUCTS AND HISTORY website has lots of information on the Exacta and Exa cameras, and also has the pdf manual for our version.

pop22_om2I photographed everything I could then, mostly family outings and nature, within the limits of my budget. That Exacta was left behind in South Africa in 1977, when my father commandeered it and traded it in for the latest technology, the Olympus OM2. For a few years my only camera was the Movikon.

Back in Canada, sometime around 1980, my father tired of the OM2, which he thought too small for his hands. He moved to the heftier Canon A1, and I, in turn, inherited the Olympus. That was a camera designed for macro…but that’s another story.

Posted in Camera, Canada, Edmonton, Equipment, General, History, photography, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Introducing the Kunstkammer

Common Wasp

Common Wasp

Earlier this year I was thinking of occasionally adding old entomology prints to Splendour Awaits, but after dwelling on that idea for a while I though it better not to dilute the photographic focus of this blog and instead to nurture the old print obsession by starting-up another blog instead. I’ve built Museum Hadrianum to deal with this sideline, a blog where I will share a variety of old nature prints of a non-photographic origin, prints of those things which today many of us record with close-up and macro photography. Museum Hadrianum will be updated irregularly and un-systematically,  so if you are interested, it would probably be best to subscribe. I’ll try to dig out background information on each image, and categorize them, but the main criteria for inclusion is simply that they must draw my eye, and, in some way, inspire.

Posted in Art, Bugs, Collection, Exhibit, Inspiration, macro, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Red Leaf Beetles

Found these two red leaf beetles (possibly Tricholochmaea cavicollis) enjoying the view on the fringes of the pine sandhills at Halfmoon Lake Natural Area north of Edmonton. 

Tricholochmaea sp., possibly T. cavicollis

A natural history fail on my part, I did not note the plant they were cavorting on, otherwise naming them the cherry leaf beetle Tricholochmaea cavicollis (J. L. LeConte, 1865) would have made their ID more certain. 

Thanks to Gerald Hilchie, BugGuide and John Acorn for their contributions to the ID.

(12 June, 2014. Canon 5D Mk II with Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens and diffused Canon MT-24EX Twin Lite Flash. ISO 200, 1/200 sec. @ f16)

Posted in Alberta, Camera, Canada, Chrysomelidae, Coleoptera, Equipment, Flash, Habitat, in copula, Lenses, Mating, photography, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , |

Ellis Bird Farm Photography Workshops

Two repeat workshops are happening at the lovely Ellis Bird Farm in August!

For new and prospective owners of a DSLR, this workshop will help you understand your camera and how to use it. We will cover camera functions and handling as well as provide information on lenses, equipment and accessories. Then, we will work on understanding exposure, composition and techniques: all the skills needed to create the photographs you imagine. The afternoon session will include practice sessions on the grounds of the Ellis Bird Farm. If you already have a DSLR and other equipment, please bring it, otherwise some loaner equipment will be available for use.

  • AM Intro to the DSLR, Equipment and Accessories.
  • PM Understanding Exposure. Basic Skills, Composition,Techniques and Practice.
For photographers who already own a DSLR and are familiar with manual exposure, this workshop will introduce you to the fascinating world of close-up and macro photography. We will look at specialized equipment and accessories as well as simple ways to achieve great results, no matter what type of DSLR you own. Then, we will work on techniques to overcome the inherent difficulties of magnified photography. We will do an overview of basic composition and have opportunities to practice macro photography on the beautiful grounds of the Ellis Bird Farm. Some loaner equipment and accessories will be available. As a minimum, please bring your camera and lens, and if you have them, a macro lens, an external flash and tripod.
  • AM Equipment and Accessories, Understanding exposure.
  • PM Techniques with Natural Light and Flash, Composition and Practice.
Posted in Accessories, Alberta, Alberta, Camera, Canada, Equipment, Flash, Lenses, macro, photography, Season, Summer, Workshop Tagged , , , , , , , |

Wasp Nest Squatter

I was forced to destroy the wasp nest that had been growing on our garage door frame, as it was becoming a danger to us when we entered or left the garage. The morning after my dastardly night foray, I took a look at the remnants of the nest. While spraying had damaged the outer covering, the internal combs were undamaged, so I gently scraped it away from the frame and took it inside for a closer look. Surprisingly, while all the adults were killed, many of the young larvae, in a variety of stages, survived. And not just the larvae. When I pulled away the remnants of the paper maché shell, a movement caught my eye, and I was surprised to find a small pseudoscorpion scurrying about the inner surface.


Besides having rather effective-looking claws, each of which contain a venom gland in the moveable ‘finger’, …


..they have a formidable set of mouthparts, which also have silk glands for making cocoons for when they need protection when molting or during the cold season.

Glad this pseudoscorpion is only 2mm long.

Venomous claws and barbed, piercing mouthparts make this a formidable predator…

…thankfully, with a body length of only 2 mm, we have nothing to fear from this tiny arachnid.

How did it get into the nest? Most likely it was an opportunist, latching on a foraging wasp with a claw and getting a free ride (known as ‘phoresy) to the nest.

For more on these tiny terrors, head to Expiscor and read Ten facts about Pseudoscorpions.

(27 July, 2014. Canon 5D Mk II with Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens and diffused Canon MT-24EX Twin Lite Flash. Top photo, ISO 200, 1/125 sec. @ f11, two middle white background photos @f9 and last photo with mm scale: f13.)

Posted in Accessories, Alberta, Arachnid, arthropods, Bugs, Camera, Canada, Edmonton, Equipment, Flash, Hymenoptera, macro, MP-E65, Phoresy, photography, Season, Summer, Vespidae, White Studio Tagged , , , |