The Dog Days of Summer, Version 2010

The only thing that seems to like the fact that the heat index has been over 100* (much of the time over 110*) this summer is our dog, and the Lantana.  I couldn’t think of a better shot for “dog days of summer” than Ebby sitting on her heated bed.  The dog days of summer are certainly here in south Alabama, the grass is all brown from lack of rain, the pond is all dried up, and you can’t go outside without getting swarmed by deer flies.  Some people like this time of year (I am guessing those who live in Montana, or Wisconsin, or Colorado, where the temps are in the mid-60’s right now), but down here, all I can think about is being able to walk without feeling like I am going to die, and being able to sit outside with a fire going in my fire pit.

I know those days are coming, because football season is the only thing being talked about down here now.  Only about 2 1/2 more weeks before Auburn kicks off the 2010-2011 football season, but at the moment, I am just thrilled the first game is at night.  With the temps at night still in the 70’s and 80’s, they should kick off this game at midnigh, but at least Auburn now runs some of the games like Talladega (they use to run that late season race during the day, and it was miserable too).

Fall is coming, probably 2 days in mid January, but the sun and the calendar says cooler weather is coming, but I think Ebby likes it just the way it is right now.  I still feel like she looks, and I am ready for something more like –> Samford Hall and Auburn University in the Snow.

How To Make a Milk Carton Flash Diffuser Video

This past weekend Deb and I went to Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Georgia to go for a bike ride and do a little photo and video shooting at the Butterfly Day Center (see my Callaway Gardens Butterflies // Friday Feet).  Generally when you are shooting butterflies in an enclosed area you will need some type of flash, and to get a nice even smooth light across your subject, you need to diffuse the light source.  It is all in how you want the end result to turn out, you can shoot with a more harsh light (no diffuser) and get a nice solid black background with a brightly lit subject, or use a diffuser for a little softer look.

You can buy several very expensive diffusers and there are some very good ones on the market, but if you are looking for a cheap and quick fix when you don’t have any diffuser, or any money to buy one, try a milk carton.  They are cheap, and quite effective, and can you make one in about 5 minutes.  I started cutting up this milk carton on Friday and realized some video would be a good idea.

How to Make a Milk Carton Flash Diffuser from Scott Fillmer on Vimeo.

The tools you will need are a semi-transparent milk carton (not a white one), a razor blade, some tape, and that’s about it.  The equipment I used in this photo shoot was a Nikon D90 and a Nikon SB-800 flash (borrowed from Jak Blount) a flash braket and flash extender cable.  The video is about 4 minutes long and includes some images from the shoot as well.  Hope you enjoy.

Callaway Gardens Butterflies and Stained Glass :: Friday Feet

Deborah and Scott Feet

Butterfly at Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens Biking

Chapel in Callaway Gardens

Scott Gets a Coke

Today for Friday Feet Deb and I took the short drive over to Callaway Gardens.  The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is a great place to spend a few unique hours with the butterflies.  I have been to the Butterfly Center 3 or 4 times before, but not for about 10 years or so.  I had not been since I switched over to digital shooting so today I finally got some of what I have on film from years ago.

The Cecil B Day Butterfly Center has 1,000 tropical butterflies, representing more than 50 different species, flutter freely through the air. Tropical plants and birds, reside peacefully with the colorful winged jewels in North America’s largest, glass-enclosed tropical conservatory.

It is a different kind of setup to get some good shots over there and a flash is almost a must so thanks very much to Jak Blount for letting me borrow his Nikon SB-800 (I’ll return it with a nice new diffuser for you).  There is a lot more over at Callaway than the butterfly center of course and if you like to ride bikes, they have a great 10 mile paved trail through the park.

Once we were finished over at the butterfly house we got on our bikes and peddled through the rest of the park, something I haven’t done in all my other visits.  To my surprise, there is a lot more to see over there than butterflies.  About half through the trail we came upon a beautiful Chapel that the Callaway’s had built back in the mid 1960’s.  The stain glass was original and is still maintained by the company that installed it over 40 years ago.  Just an incredible display, and a 1,300 piece pipe organ to go with it.  I bet the acoustics are great when that organ gets going.

We finished up the bike trail stopping at various attractions that Callaway Gardens has to offer and ended with an early dinner in Columbus.  As I sit here writing it is pouring down rain and the temps have dropped at least 20 degrees from this afternoon.  We managed to spend the day in 70* sunshine.  If you have a chance to get to Callaway (especially during the Spring bloom) it is well worth the trip.

I will upload all of the photo from the shoot to my flickr account in the Callaway Gardens gallery some time tonight, the stain glass close up shots are pretty cool.  Have a great weekend everyone.

Callaway Gardens and Cecil Day Butterfly Center

Callaway Gardens Butterfly House

Butterflies make great subjects. They stay still for you, or at least, they land some place long enough for you to usually get a half way decent image. You can also be creative when shooting butterflies.  Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Georgia has one of the best butterfly displays anywhere in the country.  They have over 1,000 butterflies and more than 50 different species that are free flying as you walk through a jungle like home, made just for the butterflies.  It covers about 4 1/2 acres with a waterfall and ceilings that go from 16 feet up to 42 feet in hieght.

The Cecil Day Butterfly Center in Callaway Gardens is a must see if you are going to be anywhere near the area.  I would recommend going during the week when it is a little quieter, and I would try to be there as early in the morning as possible, especially if you are interested in photograping the butterflies.

Using a flash will give you a nice blacked out background and using a small depth of field without a flash will give you some nice greens and solid colors. This image was taken in August at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia at the Cecil B Day Butterfly Center. Yes the same place that has the most beautiful golf courses also has butterflies.

Image Specifications

Body – Nikon n90s
Lens – Nikon 105mm Macro
Filter – Nikon No. 6T Closeup
Flash – Nikon Mount on a cable with a shade filter
Subject – Paper Kite Butterfly (Idea leuconoe) on a Candle Plant

Other Posts About the Paper Kite

There were a few other blog posts and images about the Paper Kite that I found. Such a beautiful butterfly, easy to get quality images, but not very many websites that showcase this little guy. Here are some: Rice paper Butterfly, Butterfly photos, Tree Nymph Butterfly.

Sumertime in Alabama Equals a Butterfly on Lantana

I thought I would post an image of the day post once in a while here so here is the first one. This was taken about a week ago in my back yard on some very overgrown Lantana (see description below). A good photographer and teacher once told me that you don’t have to go to exotic places to take some great photos, sometimes you don’t have to look any farther than your own house.

Some times it is very hard to find those images when you are looking at the same place day after day, but there are usually all kinds of great opportunities that we overlook just by looking at the same thing every day.

These butterflies come to this plant all day every day, and have done so now for months, I just didn’t think about taking a photo of them until the end of the summer.

Butterfly on Lantana in Alabama Summer

Images Details

  • Camera Body : Nikon D100
  • Lens : Nikon Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Macro
  • Mount : handheld
  • Exposure Value : -1.0
  • Focal Length : 157mm
  • ISO Speed : 400 (this was a mistake, didn’t check the setting)
  • Aperture : f/8:
  • Shutter Speed : 1/1000
  • File Format : NEF converted to .jpg

Characteristics of Lantana Plants: [Lantana camara (sometimes misspelled Lantana camera), ‘Spreading Sunset’]
Known for their hemispherical clusters of small, bright-colored flowers (see picture above right), lantana plants can reach 6′ high (with a spread of 8′) in Florida landscaping. The flowers may be yellow, orange, white, red and purple, and often colors are mixed within the same cluster. Most people dislike the smell of lantana flowers, but the foliage is quite fragrant, smelling, in fact, like citrus. Lantana plants are salt-tolerant, and they’re drought-tolerant once established.

For those of you who were looking for a ham radio type of entry, the butterflies often land on my vertical high gain VHF antenna that is mounted at about 50 feet. If you have any comments or questions just post them below.