Don’t play Chicken with a Semi

‎Taken on November ‎17, ‎2012 at ‏‎6:31:18PM on Connors Highway approximately 1 mile from the 20 mile bend bridge in Western Palm Beach county. Anyone familiar knows the road curves for the first mile and then it’s a straight line which is shown in the photo.

The road is in horrible condition. A combination of heavy use by semis and dump trucks and a total lack of maintenance.

It was an effort that reminded me of musical chairs. The biggest difference is instead of children getting up and moving about I was grabbing my camera equipment and quickly moving to the side of the road!

Nothing good can occur from playing chicken with a semi.

20 Mile Bend

Mars Convergence

In my opinion some of the most spectacular sunsets occur just minutes after the sun disappears below the horizon. Under the right circumstances the sun illuminates the clouds and turns them into the most spectacular backdrop. This was taken on 11-26-2014 at 6:42pm at the Arthur R Wildlife Refuge.

I shot other photos beginning 45 minutes prior that I also enjoy. Place them side by side and the difference is staggering. It’s amazing how much our surroundings change in a matter of minutes.

The sky reminded me of Mar. It was as if I was this awestruck 5 year old. The enthusiasm. I was fumbling with my phone to snap pictures. I was nervously trying to study my camera settings to make sure everything was perfect. It was one of those moments that I had to act fast and I knew I only had s small window of opportunity.

If you look just above the silhouette of the land you will notice what looks like wavy plumes of smoke. It reminded me of the Aurora Borealis! It was dancing as I stood taking pictures. Taunting me to take more – so I did!

I think this was my closest experience to visiting another planet…
Mars Convergence

The Smallest Damsel

Damselfly
Order – Odonata

I have never seen a Damselfly this small. I have always enjoyed photographing them because they never seem to sit still enough to capture anything worth keeping.

This was the smallest Damsel I had ever seen and it clung to the tiny branch and didn’t seem to care about my inspection. It was as if the animals had mentioned that I am a regular and harmless.

The Smallest Damsel

When you are able to land a keeper it makes the entire process more satisfying.

Nothing that comes easy is satisfying to me…Especially when I shoot photos. There has to be an obstacle involved. There has to be a race of sorts or some proverbial monkey wrench or hurdle that takes effort to pass.

It could be purely logistical in nature. Having to race to beat the sun to shoot a sunset shot in a distant place. Like the time I had to race west close to Belle Glade because I had a particular shot in mind. When you have spent as many hours in nature as I have you start to understand the timing of the sun. This insight made things more urgent because I knew I had little time.

I finally found an area out west, but now I needed to travel parallel with a field to look for a clearing. The sun was getting low at this point which means my window of opportunity was running out. I still had to stop in a suitable place, erect my tripod, mount my camera, figure out how I would compose the shot, and other decisions only a photography would understand. So here lyes my obstacle. As far as the eye could see I was surrounded by mature sugar cane serving which only served to obstruct my view. I was beginning to think my frantic journey was in vain until I finally stumbled upon a clearing without a moment to spare. My celebration was short as I rushed to setup my gear. The photos that day were some of my favorite landscape photos.

Disciples of Light

Or the time I had envisioned a bumble bee. The angle on the flower, the composition, it was etched in my mind ahead of time and I knew exactly what I wanted the photo to look like. I don’t know if any of you have had much experience with bumblebees, but I assure you they do not take orders and could care less about your desire to photograph them. I spent a month going to a particular bush day after day trying to land this shot. It took an entire month, but knowing what I went through to get it always puts a smile on my face.

Bumblebee Closeup 2

Today was wet, windy, and cold. It was difficult to operate my camera because my hands were painful. It was tough to walk. Every year of my 40 years was reminding me of it and keeping me woefully honest… The experience today was a good one. We had to cover a lot of ground in the cold.

Riverbend Landscape 2/14/15

Riverbend Dew

For that I am grateful.
“When something comes easy, you usually let it go the same way.” – Nora Roberts
http://www.robertoaloiphotography.com

Capture before the sun takes it away…

We traveled to a section of the park that is typically ripe with insects for macro shooting. Instead this area just adjacent to the battlegrounds looks like it was sprayed with pesticides and run over with vehicles in the process. The bushes now lay flat and are dying. Luckily whoever administered the poison missed some sections.

There were small spiderwebs riddled with dew that were parallel to the ground. Here is an effort to capture the web prior to the sun evaporating the dew

Riverbend Dew

Valentines day at Riverbend Park

Jim and I met at Riverbend park at 6:30am just as the sun was making an appearance. We took the usual walk to Cow Pen Lake. Fog was slowly rolling off the lake and provided additional interest.

This perspective is from the South section of the lake facing West. Just to our right were more than a dozen whistling ducks wading in the water in tight formation. I have never seen so many in one place. We didn’t spot any deer or turkey this visit. Despite the painfully cold weather Riverbend was ripe with photo opportunities and the chance to converse with my old friend.

Riverbend Landscape 2/14/15

Marley – You talkin’ to Me?

Marley - You talkin' to me?

Marley is the typical bully breed. You don’t feed or walk him at specific intervals. He just doesn’t allow it. Instead Marley puts on a show of theatrics that would leave any seasoned thespian feeling somewhat inadequate.

It begins with a sigh. A very faint one. This is the stage of protest that makes it difficult to discern between the early evolution of his temper tantrum or his perpetually putrid case of the winds.

His plea starts innocently, but quickly escalates to an ear piercing bark that will have you up and ready to cater to his every need.

“Cappuccino Marley?”
“Filet Mignon?”
“Massage?”

I’ve often wondered how we can break him of this nasty little habit; one of dozens.

I took this photo with my newly acquired 50mm 1.4 Super Takumar. I quickly knew his demeanor was perfect to portray him as the gangster he has become.

Kayla’s Plight

Kayla's Plight

Kayla was clearly the head of the canine household prior to the introduction of Mia. Kayla threw societal tendencies and preconceived notions of male dominance out the window. She was the alpha no matter how many times Marley failed in his attempts to mount her and wined repeatedly about the pecking order that she firmly established. She lacks any trait whatsoever that would indicate subservience; it certainly isn’t running through her veins. She was always bigger, stronger, and meaner; albeit sweeter if you were on her good side.

Marley looks like a tough guy, but he is such a softy. Him sleeping early 12/4/2014
Marley - Sleeping as Usual

Then came Mia… Deanna had seen a couple different American bulldogs that were in need of loving homes. They were in differently places hours from south Florida. I had suggested we go to the local pound because we have dogs locally that need homes.

On the way into the facility we noticed individuals waltzing out and even happier dogs whose lives were potentially sparred from a death sentence. We entered the first of two large buildings that house the dogs. Keep in mind it’s towards the end of summer and the heat in south Florida is humid and downright staggering. Between the heat, lack of air conditioning, and smell emanating from the stalls of scared and sick animals it was borderline nauseating.

We slowly made our way past each dog. There were signs posted not to touch the animals, but we knew better. How can one not pet a dog? It’s even more of a challenge when they collectively give you their puppy eyes.

We noticed numerous that were cute and many that looked like they had very difficult lives. We went into the second building and it was a similar experience. I did my best to focus on breathing out of my mouth so I wasn’t fully enveloped in their condition.

We talked to an employee about the adoption process and she let us know her shift was ending. We heard her yelling at some of the dogs to pipe down. Not in a violent way, but when your mother tells you to be quiet. It was obvious she loved animals. She mentioned she had more than a dozen on a large piece of property. It was nice to know they were cared for by someone who had so many herself and truly loves and understands their personalities and concerns.

Deanna mentioned she was hoping to find an American bulldog and the woman’s face lit up. “American bulldog! Did you see the one over there?”  I thought surely she must be mistaken. Deanna could spot an American bulldog in a M16 going mach 1 past the eukanuba dog show with one eye closed.

She escorted us over to Mia’s cell. We noticed a dog, but it was no American. There was another breed in front of us at that point in time. Each cell has an entrance on either end of its long rectangular shape and there is some kind of gate in the middle to create two separate halves if necessary. She explained the dog was very scared and injured. She was trying to escape out of her cell and jumped straight up and got her dew claw caught between the bars and either broke it or tore it completely off. That particular detail escapes me now.

She called her pre-adoption name a few times and we finally noticed her down the long corridor. She must have been all the way at the other end during our initial pass. When she faced us it was obvious she was an American bulldog. Scared, but she was definitely what Deanna had been looking for. We were told she was recently picked up and they give the rightful owner a certain length of time to claim her. She said knowing the area she was picked up the owners would not be back to pay the $400+ fees to take her home again.

How could someone mistreat me? Mia playing with a toy shortly after she was adopted  
Mia Photoshoot

After speaking with the woman and starting the pre-adoption process we walked back over for another look. She was not responding to us and obviously frightened. I think I would be too if I were confined in an area like that. It was evident, aside from her current location, that her previous owners did not have her in the best conditions.

After repeated attempts I decided to do what Deanna normally despises. I pulled out the dog baby talk! Some background to be fair. Marley will start humping all humans in sight and Kayla gets excited and it just turns into a dog frenzy that often evolves into a fight. This time though it was welcomed. “HEY PRETTY GIRL!!” in my best falsetto. She slowly walked over and we stroked her sweet face. She walked away and almost seemed surprised she came to us. I did it again and she came over again and stayed a little longer to humor us.

The day arrived when it was finally time to rescue her from this dreadful place. She was scared to leave her cell. Maybe it was safer than her previous home? It took a little coercion to get her into Deanna’s car. I followed behind and our next fear was how she would react to Marley and Kayla or vice versa.

We were more cautious of Kayla because up to this point she was the alpha. She loves humans and is an amazing guard dog. God forbid you are a squirrel, dog, or human she doesn’t like and she lets out a very scary bark and can be ferocious.

The woman at the pound said she has had different doggy cellmates and was perfect with the animals, she just doesn’t seem too fond of humans.

One of us walked Mia by herself from a distance and another walked the other dogs. We just walked by and allowed Kayla and Marley to visually see her. They didn’t seem bothered. Why is my human walking this other dog?  Nope, didn’t seem to happen. They never skipped a beat. We repeated this process for what seemed like an eternity getting them closer and closer to Mia. Mia, at this point, would walk everywhere with her tale UP between her legs. Not just down, but somehow wrapped around underneath she was so absolutely frightened.

Eventually we had them all walking together and Mia was getting along great with Marley and Kayla. Well, not the other way around. Kayla was suspicious from the beginning. Marley I think sensed her puppy sensibilities and knew he finally had someone to play tug-o-war with because Kayla surely didn’t humor him anymore.

After a couple of months Mia now walks proudly outside. Her long tail seldom tucked. There are still times when the wind blows hard and she is scared, but it’s less frequent and she is getting better as the days pass. Deanna always wonders what she experienced that shaped her fear. I would rather never know the details.

Kayla mounts Mia on an almost daily basis, but Mia is not scared. I picture Kayla in this photo asking me why we had to get Mia?

The pecking order may soon change…

Mia playing with her toy on 12/4/2014
Mia playing with her Toy


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Everglades Black and White

I spent the day before thanksgiving at the Arthur R Marshall wildlife refuge which happens to be one of my favorite places to shoot landscape photography. Not that there is a huge variety here in Palm Beach county; unless shooting landscapes of homes and other man made objects excite you.

The temperature was starting to drop and it was quite windy. It wasn’t nearly as cold as some of our neighboring states, but when you are accustomed to sub-tropical south Florida weather the majority of the year even modest drops make us nervous.

Everglades Black and White

Umbonia crassicornis – Thorn Treehopper

Umbonia crassicornis - Thorn Treehopper
Umbonia crassicornis – Thorn Treehopper
Crassicornis is actually Latin for thick horn
11/22/2014 – Awesome camouflage. At a normal viewing distance they look like thorns on a tree until you get close and they begin walking around…

From Wiki:

Thorn bugs, due to their unusual appearance, have long interested naturalists. They are best known for their enlarged and ornate pronotum, which most often resembles thorns, apparently to aid camouflage. In some species, the pronotum is a horn-like extension, but can form more bizarre shapes. The specialised pronotum (or helmet) may not be simply an expansion of the prothoracic sclerite, but a fused pair of dorsal appendages of the first thoracic segment.

These may be serial homologues of insect wings, which are dorsal appendages of the second and/or third thoracic segments. Evidence for this theory includes the development of the helmet, which arises as a pair of appendages attached to each side of the dorsal prothorax by an articulation with muscles and a flexible membrane that allow it to be mobile. Also, the same genes are involved in development of the helmet and the wings.