What a busy week I’ve had! My camera has been working overtime. So much, in fact, that the auto-focus motor on my favorite lens burned out. I am not happy about this. It’s a $1200.00 lens and I’ve had it for four years. It’s an INVESTMENT, not some throwaway electronic. I’m probably going to have to send it to Canon to be repaired. This puts a serious crimp in my photography, as I will now have to be traveling without it. I do have the new Tamron lens I bought a couple of weeks ago, and it will fill in for the malfunctioning lens, but it’s not *L* glass, which is some of the best glass made. While it takes good photos, it doesn’t take the same quality photos my good lens does. I’m really rather upset about this - especially as I head into a very busy travel year. I wish it would have happened in the winter. But enough of the bad news…
TRANSIT OF VENUS
Back on June 6th, an amazing thing occurred - a transit of Venus. A transit of Venus occurs when Venus passes directly between the sun and earth. This alignment is rare, coming in pairs that are eight years apart but separated by over a century. The most recent transit of Venus occurred in 2004. After this recent transit of Venus (the last one in our lifetime), the next such alignment will not occur until 2117.
Fairbanks was a very popular place to watch the transit from because at the time of the transit, the sun was high in the sky, and remained high in the sky until later in the evening. The local library hosted folks from The Fairbanks Astronomical Unit, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Alaska Space Grant Program, and the Geophysical Institute. There were activities for the kids, telescopes set up (with solar filters) to watch the transit, and other exciting and informative events going on.
I didn’t make it to the library, and in fact I didn’t even think we’d be able to see the transit, as clouds had rolled over North Pole, blocking the sun. I went about my chores, not even thinking about going out to photograph the event. And then the clouds started to blow off, and I scrambled to get my camera set up.
I used my 100-400mm lens, on which I stacked my ND8 neutral density filter and my polarizer to cut down on the brightness of photographing the sun directly. I used Live View to compose and focus my camera, and then just pressed the shutter button periodically. It was so bright outside, that I wasn’t even sure if I was capturing anything. Fortunately, there were intermittent clouds which helped with filtering the light of the sun too. It wasn’t until I got back inside and downloaded my memory cards, that I saw I had indeed captured the dark disk of Venus on the face of the sun!
Clouds surrounding the sun above my house, with the shadow of Venus on the face:
Close up of Venus passing in front of the sun:
FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLEBEE
I took my camera out for a walk in the yard. I noticed that the bumblebees were out in force, flitting from one bluebell to another. I was determined to get a nice closeup photo of these insects at work pollinating the flowers. I had to get pretty close to them, but they didn’t seem to care I was nearby. Their fat yellow and orange striped bodies landed on bloom after bloom, where they’d stick their head far up inside, to get to the stamen. Their hind legs had heavy pollen baskets on them. So amazing!
From Wiki: The pollen basket or corbicula is part of the tibia on the hind legs of honey bees, bumblebees, stingless bees, and orchid bees. The corbicula is a polished concavity surrounded by a fringe of hairs, into which the pollen is placed. A bee moistens the forelegs with a protruding tongue and brushes the pollen that has collected on head, body and forward appendages to the hind legs. The pollen is transferred to the pollen comb on the hind legs and then combed, pressed, compacted, and transferred to the corbicula on the outside surface of the tibia of the hind legs. A single hair functions as a pin that secures the middle of the pollen load.
GAZEBO NIGHTS at PIONEER PARK/ALASKALAND
Now that summer is upon us, there are a lot of events and activities to enjoy in town. One of my favorites is Gazebo Nights at Pioneer Park. The belly dance community is performing on Thursday evenings in June. If you’re local, head over there and see some fabulous dancers. I wish I could dance with my group, but my schedule this summer is too crazy for me to make rehearsals, so they will be dancing without me. They’ll be performing at the Tanana Valley Fair this summer too. (Here’s the schedule for this summer. You can enjoy singing, dancing, musicians, and more. And it’s all FREE!)
Before the performance, I was people watching with my friend Julie, and we happened to see this adorable little girl dressed in a fairy princess outfit, picking dandelions. I just had to take photos of her. I caught this image of her, holding her bouquet of dandelions out to her mama - who was one of the dancers. She later told me the image brought tears to her eyes.
More photos from the wonderful performance:
Final bow at end of show:
A WALK AROUND WANDER LAKE
I had to run a few errands and my friend Julie said she’d go with me. After doing what I had to do, we decided to take a walk on the path around Wander Lake at Wedgewood Resort. We had her son Brayden with us, so we put him in his stroller, clipped on an OFF repellent fan, and sprayed him down with some organic bug spray I carry in my car. The mosquitoes were HORRID!
The path through the woods is really pretty, with several footbridges, split rail fences, wildflowers, towering spruce, and beautiful views of Wander Lake itself. It’s really a beautiful walk, but you’re not permitted to take dogs on the trail, so I don’t go very often.
There is a photographer’s blind set up on the lake, so that you can view and photograph waterfowl without startling them. The day we were there we only saw some gulls and a goose. But the dragonflies and damselflies were very abundant. Julie and I spent about 45 minutes standing at pond’s edge with our cameras, trying to capture the fast-moving insect ‘helicopters’.
One of the dragonflies we photographed is the Four-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly, which happens to be Alaska’s State Insect.
I found this information at this website:
The four-spot skimmer dragonfly (Libellula quadrimaculata) was designated the official state insect of Alaska in1995.
The four-spot skimmer dragonfly won among 4 insects voted on by Alaskan schoolchildren. The runners up included the Unmarked slender mosquito, the mourning cloak butterfly, and the bumblebee.
Excerpt from Dragonfly Wins State Title; Mosquitoes Miffed by Ned Rozell:
“After an energetic campaign by students from the Auntie Mary Nicoli Elementary School in Aniak, the winner is the four-spot skimmer dragonfly. It mauled the mosquito. It battered the butterfly. And it bested the bumblebee in a tight contest to be the Last Frontier’s official insect.
Dragonflies, also known in some parts as mosquito hawks, horse stingers and devil’s darning needles, dart through the Alaskan air, tiny helicopters in search of mosquitoes and other prey. Actually, it’s an insult to compare the flying ability of dragonflies with any man-made aircraft. Dragonflies can stop on a dime at 35 miles an hour, fly backward, and cut turns that are too abrupt for any human pilot to stomach.”
Dragonflies live in many parts of North America around lakes, ponds, and slow-moving or still water. They eat mosquitos, midges and black flies. It has been jokingly said that the children voted for the dragonfly because they prey on Alaska’s “unofficial state bird” (the mosquito), but state representative Irene Nicholia said it was because “The dragonfly’s ability to hover and fly forward and backward reminds us of the skillful maneuvering of the bush pilots in Alaska.”
Information about Blue Damselflies:
During mating, the male clasps the female by her neck while she bends her body around to his reproductive organs – this is called a mating wheel. The pair flies together over the water and eggs are laid within a suitable plant, just below the surface.
The eggs hatch and the larvae, called nymphs, live in the water and feed on small aquatic animals. Nymphs climb out of the water up a suitable stem to moult into damselflies.
After our walk, we drove around Wedgewood Resort’s property, checking out some of the neat things they have on display (old vehicles, a small plane, a cabin, beautiful flower beds and hanging baskets, and much more.)
THIS AND THAT
I drove down to Delta Junction yesterday, with my friend Deena. My friend Karla has an adorable new baby boy and asked me to take his first photos. Little Grayson is a sweetheart, and I enjoyed capturing his tiny feet and hands, and his sweet little face, with my camera. I hope to share a few images with you in my next blog entry.
Steve and I are roadtripping this weekend. We’re driving up the Haul Road (officially the Dalton) to Deadhorse/Prudhoe. We did this trip in June a couple of years ago, and are looking forward to doing it again. Well, except for the mosquitoes. Hopefully the cooler temps up north have kept the mosquitoes down. I heard there was fresh snow at Atigun Pass.
It’s a long drive (about 1000 miles roundtrip), and we’ll be taking a few days to do it. My friends Deena and Lea are following us in Deena’s truck. They’ll be doing the Arctic Ocean tour when we get to Deadhorse. Since Steve and I have already done that, we’re not going to do it again. But we do plan to eat some chow while we’re there. They sure do feed the oil field workers well!
We’ve had a lot of rain lately, with periods of sunshine. If it’s going to rain on this trip, I hope it’s brief. I’m really tired of gray skies and rain, although my flowers are loving it. And they are keeping the wildfires down, so I guess I should be thankful for that.
I’ve got a Girls Camping Trip planned for the weekend after July 4th. Five friends and I are going to Kennecott/McCarthy for a long weekend. We’re tenting it and I’m the only one who has been out to the Kennecott Mine, so I’m really excited to be with them for their first time. It’s such a cool place! I just hope the weather cooperates. Rain and tenting doesn’t always mix very well. I’ll be taking the screen house so we’ll have some protection, but no rain would be better. I’m really looking forward to going. I met all these gals through our photography group, so no doubt there will be more camera gear than food!
The next group of photos were taken here and there:
I really like the mix of wildflower colors in this photo. God/Mother Nature is such a fabulous gardener!
Until next time…