June 27th, 2008 - Minnesota Monkeys

It was one of those hot, wet, buggy June nights that seem to inevitably turn into a thunderstorm. There was still a little bit of light left in the night sky, our house was a veritable sauna, and the only creature enjoying things was the turtle so me and Hap decided to strap on the flash and venture upstream. I really had it in the back of my head to get down to Lake Hiawatha bridge right at sundown, because if it's a clear night the view from the bridge rarely disappoints. So we took the "wild side" of the creek, the one with no bike or ped paths, just a self-guided trail along the creekside which was becoming overgrown with reed-canary grass and puddling up some nice mosquito breeding sites. I could see a giant mosquito rave was beginning in earnest and of course Happy insisted on sniffing every tree, so I steered things along towards the pump house and a break for daylight. As it were.
As we were galumphing by one of the taller trees in that area I noticed a ruckus overhead, with shadows jumping and much clawing and shinnying.
I immediately thought "squirrel" and looked up to see a single, very young raccoon (Procyon lotor) staring at me in a non-plussed manner, attached to the tree like Koala bear.

I took a few shots of him that all looked exactly the same, Happy seemed not to notice. As I was turning to move on, I sensed more eyeballs and saw what was either a two-headed raccoon that had evolved to see around both sides of the tree at the same time, or two raccoons peering at me questioningly.

After snapping a few pics of them, swatting a few more bugs, itching a few more bites and giving Hap a treat for being so patient (he knows when he's been patient, right after I take the camera down from my eye, whether he's been lazing in the grass or yanking my arm off and making it impossible to take a shot) I again turned to go and noticed the two raccoons had become three raccoons.
A few more shots, check the flash batteries, itch, swat, itch, no treat this time, and fully expecting to see NINE raccoons, figuring they were multiplying exponentially, I looked up to see....
Nothing. Procyon lotor (which incidentally means "the washer" in Latin) had vanished, shape-shifted, or divided by zero.

We did make it down to the bridge just in time for the sunset, and we were not disappointed. Here's one shot with a little fill-flash for color.

June 26th, 2008 - Night of the Long Flash Exposure & The Death Star Allium, Part I

I realized I hadn't been out with the "big" flash after dark for awhile, and it was such a nice clear night I thought I'd harness up the HapDog and go have a lurk around.
I played around with some conventional long exposures, then got stuck on my camera's "Night Mode" (nothing to do with a Bob Seger song).
Night mode is where the flash goes off, then the camera keeps the shutter open as along as the meter thinks it should. I think it reads a little fall-off of the light from the flash so things don't get too over-exposed. You can set the camera to flash "front-curtain" (before the long exposure) or "rear curtain" (after the long exposure) or both. The result is you get some amount of front-lighting with a nice saturated image from the long-exposure. If the backlighting is just right it starts balancing out the flash.
These pics are all front-curtain sync, but I found I needed to play with my flash output a little. Sometimes I bracketed from -1 stop to zero, I don't think I had to go + on anything. The long shutter time depends on where you point the camera's meter too, so there are a few things you can play with.
When you have other types of light sneaking into the long exposure, it's hard to predict what you'll get. That's why I like it. I didn't PhotoShop these other than cropping and maybe a smidge of contrast and saturation adjustment.
The white spots in the foreground are a mix of spray and gnats. You don't even see them without the flash on. Nice ribbony water.

June 26th, 2008 - Night of the Long Flash Exposure & The Death Star Allium, Part II

A strange video screen glows in the downstairs laboratory of Longfellow Manor.
Hey, the Simpsons is on maybe we should hang out awhile.
Are there any flowers that only bloom under moonlight? Wolfsbane maybe.
Ahh! It's the Giant Allium DeathStar! Dah, Dumpty Dah, Dumpty Dah!
Onion, I am your Father. Or maybe it's the other way around, we'll have to wait for the sequel.
The Columbine even looks a little more menacing after sundown.

June 24th, 2008 - Back to the Lagoon

Hap and I hadn't been down to the Lagoon for a week or more what with the goings out of town and such. When we finally got back over there, many changes we did see.
The mesic (wet/upland) prairie grasses are springing up like a co-worker for free pizza. It's hard to tell in this pic but this grass is chest-high, the camera is up to my eye, standing. That little dark slot down the middle is the dog trail, barely established as the grass is dominating the number of dogs and walkers.
Happy is a little intimidated to start in by himself, the grasses are all swaying in the wind and making all kinds of noises with visibility point-blank down there a foot off the ground. He usually mopes his way in pretending he's sniffing around for a place to pee, and when he starts looking at me out of the corner of his whale eye, I know it's time to step over him and break trail. Birds start flying up from all sides, in disbelief that someone is actually walking thru this stuff right next to them.
The summer wildflowers are on the bloom. Daisy Fleabane tries to outreach the grasses for the sun.
I planted these! Well, most of them. Don't ask me what they are. All I know is the purple ones are purple Salvia (the hummingbird's favorite), one of the red ones is something like "Santa's on Fire" or something and it looks like some big Lillies are due up next. The planting was on May 31st.