Call me a Monarchist! I just adore this butterfly.

As a long time resident of the Dallas / Fort Worth area I’ve long been aware of a pair of fluttering orange and black wings that are seen during two key times throughout the year: Spring and Fall. The Monarch Butterfly winters in Mexico, but when temperatures rise in the Spring they begin their northern journey into the United States and the Southern most portions of Canada.

spring
Source: http://www.monarchwatch.org

In Autumn, the butterflies migrate south so they can spend the winter in Mexico.

fall
Source: http://www.monarchwatch.org

Their Winter nest is so laden with butterflies, it’s as if the trees in lieu of leaves have butterflies instead. Truly it’s a marvel. Scientists estimate that 6 out of every 10 butterflies die from starvation en route due to the loss of native habitat and native wildflowers that produce sustaining nectar. Here’s a short video on how you can help to preserve this annual wonder, plus some amazing photos of the Mexican winter home. Watch it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuMASSrli9A

There’s even a research site trying to tag and track them to more thoroughly map their migration patterns and routes over at MonarchWatch.org. Thanks to them you can get an idea of their Spring and Fall migration maps as seen above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Central Arts of Bedford – Me & My Critter – Gallery Show

For those of you in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, please come on out and support me as well as other local artists at the next themed show at the Central Arts of Bedford. I’ll have several pieces for sale in the exhibit featuring some of the ‘critters’ (Ravens, Ducks, Longhorns, and Bees oh my!) I’ve taken photos of in my nature photography. I will be on hand until at least 9pm to admire the works of others, and to talk about my own photographic works. I hope to see you there!

 

Me & My Critter

Saturday, July 8, 2017

7pm – 11pm

Central Arts of Bedford

2816 Central Dr. #140, Bedford, Texas 76021

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An Embarrassment of Riches

The Cleburne Camera Club’s 2017 Photo Contest and Exhibition Sale has an embarrassment of riches with striking photos from a range of photographers, including some very talented youth. And I’m not just saying that because I have 3 pieces in the show.

Awards were announced at the Opening Day reception on April 29th. The show runs through May 26th, and is free and open to the public for viewing from Monday – Saturday during 10am – 4pm daily at the JN Long Cultural Arts Complex located at 425 Granbury Street in Cleburne, Texas.

 

Texas Wildflowers – Part 5

It’s so amazing how in a period of 4-6 weeks the wildflowers can change so drastically in the Texas Hill Country. Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes have faded, and now up comes other flowers like Indian Blankets (aka Firewheels), thistles, Horsemint (aka Bee Balm) and Mexican Hats (a type of coneflower) . I found this field June 8, 2016 along 71 just west of Spicewood and Cypress Creek. I stopped off and from the fence was taking pictures of the field, when I heard an engine idling behind me, the owner had come home from one of his other fields they farmed. The farm has been in the family since the 1800s, and the farmer couldn’t remember a year where the field was so overtaken by the horsemint. He even insisted my friends and I go home with some.

 

 

Texas Wildflowers – Part 1

Texas has more than 5,000 flowering plants native to the Lone Star State, across a vast multitude of environs, and elevations. And every Spring the display most Texans wait for is when the treasure trove of Bluebonnets come out to play, sometimes offering spectacular fields of Bluebonnets that are more than a mile long.

I’m anxiously following the wildflower reports from well regarded institutions like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin and other obsessed outlets so I can plan this year’s photographic expedition throughout the state. Last year I ranged across the Texas Hill Country finding displays from Ennis, the Brenham/Independence area, Fredericksburg,  Pontotoc and other areas in the Llano/Mason area.

Bluebonnets while typically blue, also have a couple of other (albeit it rarer) varieties. Typically they grow to about a foot in height, but the variety found only in Big Bend National park can grow to nearly 3 feet tall. Here are just a few of the bluebonnets I captured in 2016.

 

Sunflowers…

There is a je ne sais quoi about sunflowers, they have this ability to just make people smile, to cheer and brighten. They are found scattered all over, some are wild species, and others have been cultivated for agricultural and commercial purposes. They’re also favorites of pollinating species such as butterflies and bees. There’s always a challenge when working with bees in your shot, you either focus on the insect and lose sharpness in the flower, or focus on the flower and lose sharpness on the bee. Also due to their similar color schemes, there can be a lack of sufficient contrast, let alone the challenges brought by objects in motion, sometimes competing objects in motion especially on windy days. But no matter how careful you are, and respectful, sometimes you still have a bee decide to fly up your shirt sleeve and sting you under your arm. They say pain is art, and I suffered for these shots I took on Father’s Day, June 19, 2016.

Location, Location, Location…

Thanks to a tip I found this sunflower field in Waxahachie, Texas. I was mindful not to go onto private property nor jeopardize someone’s livelihood as these are commercially grown sunflowers. So I worked the verge along the road to take these shots.

The first field can be found along the Northbound service road of US-287 between FM-878 (Palmetto) and Meagan Street. Near the Showbiz Movie Theater in Waxahachie.

A few things of note, this main field of flowers are facing away from US-287, so its hard to get shots of the front of the flowers except along the sides. But, if from US-287 you travel within a mile down FM-878 there’s another, smaller field of these sunflowers along the right hand shoulder, and those you can walk around to get front facing shots of the flowers there. And just after that field maybe 100 yards or so down the road is a stone building once used by the local prison system sans roof, doors or windows and you might be able to get some interesting shots from the fence line of the abandoned building.

Returning to Fredericksburg

One of my favorite spots to stop in the Texas Hillcountry during wildflower season is Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas. They’re part event venue, part gift shop, part nursery, and part commercial grower of wildflowers. You’re always guaranteed some wildflower pictures here during the season, and they have some fields boxed in with walking paths beside them. Depending on when you stop by for a visit, you can be greeted with an array of poppies, bluebonnets, horsemint, sunflowers, black eyed susans and so much more! Populated with all sorts of wildflowers you can also find an array of pollinators on site from bees, butterflies, dragonflies and birds (including hummingbirds).

Nearby are an array of wineries, and I like to pop over to Das Peach Haus as it has some lovely space between the store front and the orchards used for event space including a pond and water lilies, some beautiful piney woods. Not to mention some great wines and peaches!