Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Last Unknown Bug Identified

It is interesting that I didn't get very many responses on the caterpillar image by Joe Porter below. So, I decided to just start looking at caterpillar pictures and found it in a few minutes of Googling. Click on this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/avian_pursuits/2824484555/ to see the image of the Sycamore Tussock moth caterpillar.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another Unknown Bug

Click on the image for a large view
Another unknown bug, but first here is what I've found out about the last one.
The last post "What Is This?" is a post that more people responded to then anything else. Quite a few know what this bug is. It is called an Assassin Bug. An appropriate name, because it truely seeks out and assassinates other insects and even goes after animals larger than itself. What I thought looked like a tooth, is really a segmented tube for feeding, called a rostrum. They use the long rostrum to inject a lethal saliva that liquefies the insides of the prey, which are then sucked out. Some people thought it was a "Wheel" bug, but if you Google wheel bug, you'll see it looks similar, but, instead, the wheel bug has a circular wheel like protrusion on its back. One of the 7000 species of these bugs is the "Kissing" bug. This gruesome bug has been known to suck blood from the lips of sleeping humans or around the eyes. Even with all this going against them, they are considered benifical, because they control unwanted insects. Benifical or not, I'm not touching one of these guys. Check out this video:


Joe Porter sent this note and picture of another weird looking animal: This was the neatest little creature I have seen in a long time.. We were on a QRP radio outing weekend at Twin Bridges, Oklahoma and as one of my radio buddies started to get in his truck he spotted this little jewel on the door glass. It looked like a fancy caterpillar.

Does anyone know what this is?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What Insect Is This?

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What I thought was a spider, on closer inspection I realized it was not. I've never since this little guy before and looking through my insect book I couldn't find it, although I think it is one of the beetle species. Does anyone know what this is? It is about 1-inch long and walked around with it's tail up like you see. The inset picture at top right shows distinctive markings on its body. The inset picture at top left is a close-up of the inset below it. This shows what looks like a long "tooth" at the front of its head. Any ideas what this is?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thunderhead Panoramic

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While camping at the Astronomical Society of Kansas City's Dark Sky Site last month, a few of us were enjoying some corn on the cob when we noticed a huge cumulonimbus building in the south. I grabbed my camera and took a bunch of shots. The storm stretched from due south to directly east, so it was not possible to get the whole thing in one picture, so instead I took 4 images overlapped slightly, then using Photoshop I combined them into the panoramic you see here. The colors come from the sunset in the west. The top of the cloud is lit by direct sunlight and the bottom of the cloud is lit by the light of the sunset. Make sure and click on the above image to see the larger view. Also, smaller monitors will require you to scroll from side to side.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

How To Take Pictures of Fireworks

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Here's pics from the great display at Lewis-Young Park, north of Louisburg, KS. If you would like to take pictures of fireworks, but don't know how, here is how you do it: You'll need a camera that allows you to take at least a few seconds exposure and to be able to set the focus to manual mode instead of auto-focus. You'll need to attach the camera to a tripod, or at least be able to place it on something to prevent the camera from moving (a beanbag on top of your car will work). A shutter release so that you can fire the camera without touching it is great also. The settings I will mention next are for my Canon XTi, but most digital SLRs will have the same settings. Even some of the better non-SLR digitals will have similar settings. Read your camera's manual to learn how to set all of the following.
Usually you want to adjust the lens to its widest focal length. The lens I used at it's widest is 18mm. You next want to focus the camera to infinity. Do this while it is still bright daylight. I auto-focus the camera on a distant landscape. I then turn off auto-focus with a switch on the lens. The reason you do this is that the camera will find it very tough to auto-focus in the dark, and even if it does find focus, you will miss many shots and the majority of them will be out of focus. Once auto-focus is switched off, do not touch the lens or adjust the zoom. Doing this will throw the lens out of focus. If it is already dark and you need to re-focus, focus on a distant streetlight or the Moon, if it up.
Now change the shutter speed dial to "M" (manual) and adjust the speed to "Bulb". Then make sure the f-stop value is set to the smallest number. In my case it is f/3.5. The ISO speed should be set to its lowest value. In my camera it is 100 ISO.
Now all you have to do is frame the camera and wait for the show to begin. You will find that getting fireworks is just a matter of timing and looking at your view screen to see what you got. Most of the time you only have to hold the shutter open for 2 to 4 seconds, depending on how bright the show is. It's easy to over-expose some of the brighter displays. It's all a matter of luck, but with these instructions, you should be able to get some good shots. I took about 140 images and got just a few that I liked, so don't be afraid to take a lot of images. With digital cameras, taking pictures doesn't really cost anything until you print them.
One thing to be prepared for is dew. Here in the Midwest, most nights are very dewy, so I sometimes wrap the lens barrel with a dew heater. I made the heater by soldering a bunch of resistors and covering them with wide velcro so they don't short out. The wires from the heater are attached to a 12-volt battery.
So you don't forget how to do this a year from now, write this stuff down and keep it with your camera.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pass the potato salad!

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. ~Erma Bombeck