24 August 2008

Macro photography from a distance

Okay, it's not the best quality, but it's not bad considering the way it was taken.

Usually when I do macro-photography I set my dSLR up on a tripod, I use extension tubes between the lens and the camera so I can focus much closer than normal and I use a decent flash to provide the extra light needed.

The picture below was taken with my Olympus C-5050z from our back verandah, about ten metres away from the subject using available light.

This is how I did it. The picture below is a spotting scope. They're usually used for birdwatching (of the feathered variety), they're also used by shooters to see if they managed to hit their target. This one is a relatively cheap one compared to what is on the market, but it certainly works well. Those flowers usually have ants in them collecting the nectar. If there'd been one in that particular flower you would have been able to see it. It zooms in to 60x magnification. The equivalent amount of power in telephoto lens for an SLR camera would cost many, many thousands of dollars.

That's why digiscoping is so popular with birdwatchers. Basically, you put your digital camera (even a point and shoot) on the end of a spotting scope and snap away.

I don't yet have an adaptor to mount the camera on the scope, I just hold the camera up to the eyepiece, but it's still pretty good I think.

I took the scope to the Boondall Wetlands with my nephew Joe yesterday as he's doing a school assignment about the wetlands. I think all the birds must have got prior warning we were on the way as there were hardly any to be seen.

The flower is on that bush up against the shed.

If you're interested in trying digiscoping, here is the scope I have. That's not the price I paid though, we know someone that works for a wholesaler.

17 August 2008

A friendly visitor

Fellow blogger Dave asked me recently if I had any pictures of wildlife in civilisation, other than the ones we're looking after. Well we've been getting a very friendly visitor to our backyard the last few days, so I thought I'd post a few photos of him.

We suspect he may have been in care at some stage as he's very tame. Wild kookaburras will eat from your hand once they get used to you, but this one let Sarah pat him yesterday. That's something you won't see very often.

It's an eerie feeling walking to within touching distance of a bird like that, a bird that hunts, and having him stare you right in the eye with that huge beak pointing straight at you.

It's got to the point now where he'll pretty much come when he's called. I only have to tap the railing on the back verandah and over he flies. I'm not sure where he spends the night, but he's in our yard nearly all day, just sitting on the clothes hoist.

The other day he sat on top of the lorikeets' cage and they all climbed up like ninjas and started pulling feathers off his backside.

Bath time

If you've ever tried to have a bath in a handbasin you'll know how hard it is. There's always parts of you that you just can't get into the water properly.

We're looking after four lorikeets at the moment, all of them came to us after suffering concussion and will soon be released. It's a nice sunny day, so they decided it would be a good day for a bath. Unfotunately, the bowl containing their drinking water is a little too small for bathing, but they tried anyway.

I've put a bigger container in the bottom of their cage now, so hopefully they'll realise what it's for and start bathing in that. More likely they'll just poo in it.

01 August 2008

My family are a buch of wildlife magnets

I'm sitting on the back verandah as I write this, watching a young male brushtail possum in one of our feeders and it got me thinking. As you probably know, we're right into wildlife here.

Many years ago, my brother Laurie and I were on holidays in the UK, visiting family, and a few people mentioned the fact that the main thing that bothers them with visiting Oz was the poisonous wildlife. Naturally, I reassured them that it's really unusual to see poisonous snakes and spiders, they're just not as common as the media make it out.

Anyway, a year after that particular trip back home, my cousin Mandy was over here for a visit and the day she arrived we found a redback spider on the doorstep. It wasn't even hidden, it was right where it could have bitten anyone. Call me a liar.

Fast forward to 25th September 2004. We had a few family members over from the UK, My aunty Cis, my cousin's wife Sue (Cis's daughter-in-law) , and my godmother Betty and her husband Blondie. The big occasion was Donna's and my wedding (anniversary coming up, remind me in case I forget). We had everyone visiting a couple of days before the wedding for a BBQ and someone noticed a koala sitting in a tree a couple of doors up from our place. We've never seen that before or since. We often hear them during the mating season, they have a deeper call than the possums, but we rarely see them.

I'm starting to think we need to get more Porters and Goodsons over here to encourage the wildlife.

Oh, and the old Aussie cliche about kangaroos hopping down the main road in Oz, Laurie has pictures of roos in his new backyard.

Come on over and bring your camera.

Solar cooking

A few months ago I saw an article in a magazine that showed a couple of pictures of people with solar cookers. I was amazed because the cookers were basically cardboard boxes with alfoil stuck to them.

I decided I was going to try it for myself.

The pictures below are the result. I got the plans from the solar cooking archive. Mine it the Fun-panel, chosen mainly because it seemed the easiest to make.

I found the hardest part was sticking the alfoil to the cardboard, probably because I assembled the cooker before sticking it on. Next time I'll try it the other way. You'll notice the cookers on the solar cooking archive's site all look a lot neater than mine.

Does it work?

Well as I write this I have a pot of gunpowder tea brewing out in the backyard, that's it in the pictures. Gunpowder tea doesn't need boiling water, 70 degrees Celsius is enough. I checked the temperature with a digital aquarium thermometer before putting the pot on. It got up to 53 degrees Celsius before I got sick of standing there holding it and I think that's as high as the thermometer would go anyway. The pot is inside an oven bag that acts like a greenhouse and keeps the heat in. They suggest you use a dark pot as it'll absorb the heat better, but I couldn't be bothered to look for one, I was too keen to try it out.

It certainly won't cook as quick as your electric kettle or stove top, but it's a fun and environmentally friendly way of doing it.

I'll let you know how the tea tasted later.

The finished cooker

A nice pot of chai... hopefully.

The other side. The box once contained a compost bin, how's that for recycling.

Edit at 12:39 - The tea was excellent. It was definitely hot enough, now to find some recipes.