Tag Archives: nature

Two Stories: Extirpation vs. Restoration

 

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Fossil fish, possibly of the extinct genus Knightia, which is only about seven inches long. This is typical of the fossil fish that are found in shale and limestone strata. Complete fish tend to be rare, and it is far more common to find just parts of fish, like the backbone with ribs and spines attached shown above, which came from sedimentary layers of the Eocene period about 55 million years ago.

 

The National Geographic Channel is currently airing a television series called One Strange Rock. The program talks about the history of life on earth and five mass extinctions on the planet [Earth]. In the series, host Will Smith narrated, “Ninety-nine-point nine percent of all species that ever lived are gone.”

That statement refers to all the dinosaurs and all the animals and plants of the fossil record. That’s in the past, for sure. But you must be certain, this process of loss continues even today. Let’s look:

Extirpation:
Sandbur prickly pear cactus, Opuntia Pusilla

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Long, prostrate chains of elongated pads are typical of Opuntia pusilla. These pads are easily detached, making the plant typically quite short.

 

During the field work and production of our 2009 book, Texas Cacti, I was elated to be able to find a little-known cactus, Sandbur prickly pear. This species is recorded to be found only in a small area on sand dunes and rocky outcrops, behind the beaches along the Gulf Coast only on Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County, Texas.

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Detail of Opuntia pusilla pads, or stems. These stems are usually low and are seldom more than 4 in.  (10 cm.) tall.

 

Making landfall over Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas at 2:10 a.m. on September 13, 2008, a category 2 hurricane named Ike caused extensive damage, with sustained winds of 110 mph, a 22 ft storm surge, and widespread coastal flooding.

The effects of Hurricane Ike in Texas were crippling and long-lasting. Ike’s effects included deaths, widespread damage, smashing and flooding an estimated 100,000 homes. Galveston was declared uninhabitable, and the Bolivar Peninsula wiped clean of boats, buildings and most vegetation.

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Aerial photograph of the Bolivar Peninsula at Galveston Texas the day after Ike. The 2008 hurricane Ike wiped most all vegetation and structures from this area.

 

After several visits to the Bolivar Peninsula after Ike, we are very disappointed to to be unable to find any remaining indications of this little plant of the species.

Restoration:
Tobusch Fishhook Cactus; Sclerocactus brevihamatus var. tobuschii

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Endangered Sclerocactus brevihamatus var. tobuschii is quite cryptic in its growth among the grasses of its habitat. Often pollinating bees may lead us to the flowers in season.

 

The endangered Tobusch fishhook cactus, named for its unique hooked central spines, is found in only eight counties on the Edwards Plateau in central Texas. This uncommon cactus spends the first five years of its life smaller than the size of a quarter before even producing its first flowers. This cactus is a low, deep-seated and very inconspicuous plant because of its diminutive size, and the fact it is camouflaged within the grass and limestone of its habitat. Therefore, it very difficult to find.

During the production of our same publication, I was thrilled to be shown a small population in Kerr County, Texas by Jackie Pool, a biologist from Texas Parks and Wildlife who monitors this critically endangered species.

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Inconspicuous funnel-form, greenish flowers are about one half of an inch in size and bloom in February and March. The hooked central spines give rise to this plants common name.

 

 

Tobusch fishhook cactus was classified as an endangered species in 1979, when scientists knew of less than 200 plants in the wild. At the time of my photos there were just over 2,000 plants identified. Today, numbers have since improved through the discovery of additional populations, research on threats, conservation efforts at documented sites, and teamwork between a host of partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, private landowners and many more.

Now, approximately 4,500 cacti are known to exist across the species’ range. In big news for a little plant, the Tobusch fishhook cactus’ federal conservation status was this week reclassified from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act as of June 14, 2018.

I have been honored to get to know this little cactus in the wild, to photograph the little plants, and to watch its recovery.

Change continues. Today there are reported to be over 1.7 million species of plants and animals described by science. And new ones are discovered every day. And, of course, we know nothing of the species yet to be discovered. Only time will tell.

Copyright © Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

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New Workshops for 2018

The Favorite DigiNite:
Starry Night Sky Workshop-
September 7-8, 2018
$195.00

The night skies are bigger in Texas! Join us during the dark of the moon for an afternoon and overnight photography experience that will be unforgettable. The workshop will be held at Mason Mountain in a very remote Texas location without light pollution to take advantage of the best night skies. The workshop begins at 1:00 PM the first day and ends after breakfast the second. Emphasis will be placed upon planning, locating dark sky destinations, and how to prepare for a night sky photography shoot. Photography techniques to be demonstrated include selection and use of the appropriate equipment, photographic stills of the stars and the Milky Way, star trails, time lapse star motion techniques and light painting with all the above.
Outdoor hands-on photography will include location set-up and star photos of the Milky Way, star trails and landscape features. Transportation, meals and lodging not included.

Only time scheduled in 2018.

Milky Way, Inks Lake, TX

Back by Popular Demand!
Macro & Close-up Photography Intensive in the
Texas Hill Country-
October 12-14, 2018

$695.00

Learn to photograph our small world around us in the heart of the magical Texas Hill Country for a three-day photography workshop geared to shooting close focusing images. This highly-praised workshop will be packed with hands-on instruction to help you grow your close-up photographic abilities with newfound skills, tools, techniques and proficiency. The workshop will feature one-on-one instruction and demonstrations with abundant native Texas flora and fauna. Techniques will feature creating the perfect exposure, use of flash and lighting modifiers, one-to-one life size magnification, focus stacking, macro panoramas, and also include collecting, management, and photography of small animals.  Photography will be in the field and lab setting. This workshop is held at Mo Ranch, a 500 acre facility located on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River with aquatic, woodlands, and limestone hill habitats. Meals and lodging included.

Few seats now available!

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Most Popular:
Bird Photography in the Texas Rio Grande Valley-

October 25-28, 2018
$1,495.00

Come to the avian rich Rio Grande Valley for a hands-on bird photography workshop in the heart of South Texas. The workshop features hands-on instruction and intensive shooting in some of the best birding habitat available and specifically timed for the best South Texas specialty birds and migrants. The workshop will be held at the 700-acre Laguna Seca Ranch north of Edinburg, Texas, a purpose-designed ranch for bird photography.The ranch is preserved with all-native plants and animals and features constant-level ponds, and permanent photography blinds oriented for the best use of light. Each blind provides outstanding photographic opportunities. A highlight of the workshop is the favorite raptor shoot, featuring Crested Caracara, Harris’ Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Black Vultures and more! At our workshop we bring the birds to you creating an outstanding South Texas birding and photography adventure! Meals and lodging included.

This one sells out fast! Only five spots remain.

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For more information see our web site HERE.

Copyright © Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

NEW- Photography Workshops for 2018

2018 Workshop Promo

Copyright © 2018 Brian Loflin
All rights reserved

2018 Wildlife Photography Exhibition at Texas A&M University – Kingsville

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Winners in the First Annual Wildlife Photography Exhibition at Texas A&M University- Kingsville include, left to right:  David Campbell, Best Habitat; Kelley Wood, Best in Show; and Alex Meza, Best Wildlife. The Best in Show was awarded a sizeable cash award. The Best Wildlife and Best Habitat winners both received a Rotational 180 Backpack from Mind Shift Gear.

 

The first Wildlife Photography Exhibition represents the finest of the images produced and selected by students of the new Wildlife Photography Program at Texas A&M University- Kingsville. Students created images to best depict Texas wildlife and its habitat. The class members produced these images during the Spring 2018 semester and printed and prepared the mounted images for the May exhibit at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Center in Kingsville, Texas.

AWARDS

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BEST IN SHOW- “It’s a Small World”- Kelley Wood

“This ladybird beetle was on a Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) inflorescence. I was looking at the plant because there were multiple butterflies and other insects that I wanted to take pictures of. It was in the shade, so the lighting was not as harsh.”

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BEST HABITAT- “Bobcat”- David Campbell

“I was on the ranch I work on near Cotulla, TX heading to one of our ponds with a fishing pole and cold beer in hand. As I got near the water I noticed this bobcat sitting on the edge of the brush and realized I didn’t have my camera. I watched him for a second and decided to go back to the truck (a couple hundred yards away) to get my camera. To my surprise he had not moved an inch which allowed me to take this and several other great photos.”

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BEST WILDLIFE- “Burrowing Owl”- Alex Meza

“Photographed in Granjeno, Texas, a small town literally at the edge of the Rio Grande River. This owl nests in crevices created by big boulders that are placed next to the levee to protect citizens from the Rio Grande River flash floods. The Burrowing owl was out in the sunset after a hot day in South Texas.”

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Exhibit juror, Shirley Loflin, critiques an image by student Kelley Wood. Shirley is a published photographer, author and naturalist and is a long time exhibition juror. She resides in Austin.

 

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Student Alex Meza describes cropping suggestions of one of his entries made by the juror to his wife Neyda Gonzales.

 

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY PROGRAM

The new Wildlife Photography program is an unique-in-the-nation curriculum providing classes to biology majors within the Range and Wildlife Sciences department at the university. The program was started through a generous donation by the Frederick J. Bremner Trust. Dr. Bremner was a former faculty member at Trinity University in San Antonio.

The program began this Spring 2018 semester with the first in a series of classes entitled Introduction to Digital Wildlife Photography. Additional classes include: Advanced Digital Wildlife Photography, Wildlife Macro Photography, Wildlife Photographic Technology, and Digital Post Production in Wildlife Photography.

The program was developed by Brian Loflin, a Austin biological photographer, author and educator who has taught similar classes at UT Austin Continuing Education and Informal Classes for the past eleven years and in seminars and workshops throughout the country. Loflin is a adjunct faculty member at Texas A&M University- Kingsville.

ADDITIONAL EXHIBIT ENTRIES:

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“Looking Up”- Kelley Wood

 

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“Rattlesnake”- David Campbell

 

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“Altamira Oriole”- Alex Meza

 

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“Colorful Flower”- Robert Dwyer

 

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“Greater Roadrunner”- Robert Dwyer

 

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“Sandpiper on Jetties”- Pedro Cesares

 

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“Ocean Current”- Pedro Cesares

 

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“Swallowtail collecting Nectar”- Jeanette Casanova

 

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“Mockingbird Chilling”- Jeanette Casanova

 

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“White-tail”- Crisantos Cesares

 

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“Gulf-Fritillary on Thistle”- Christos Cesares

 

All material Copyright © 2018 by Brian Loflin. Images copyright by their makers. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall photography workshops approaching

Four photography workshops are approaching fast. Each have just a few spots available.

For more information and to reserve your spot before they are gone, please visit the website at http://www.thenatureconnection.com/workshopschedule.html  .

2017 Workshop PromoB

Copyright © 2017 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Central Texas Endangered Aquatics

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Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) lives underwater caves within the Edwards Aquifer only in the San Marcos, Texas area. They retain their external gills and have only vestigial eye spots. Nikon D800, 105 mm F 2.8 Micro Nikkor lens, SB 910 Speedlight in softbox.

In late September I had the opportunity to visit the US Fish & Wildlife Service San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center to photograph several of the endangered aquatic species from the nearby Central Texas waters.

Located near the Edwards Aquifer, a prolific artesian aquifer, the center is involved with scientific research, including equipment and technology development, captive propagation technique development, habitat restoration, native species life history studies, and invasive species life history and control studies. The Center currently serves as a refuge for several listed aquatic species associated with the Edwards Aquifer and other Texas spring systems.

The hatchery also works closely with the faculty at local universities to provide volunteer, work, and research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students in biology.

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Artificial streams are the main aquaria for the center and use fresh water from wells drilled deep into the Edwards Aquifer. The water is filtered and chilled to temperatures suited for each species and circulated throughout the unit.

To facilitate the photography of these aquatic species, I used a macro tank photography technique with a small 2.5 gal. aquarium, an artificial habitat and background. To better confine the aquatic individuals, a second piece of glass in a vertical orientation was used to narrow the available space for the subject specimen.

Equipment included a Nikon D800 DSLR, 105mm F2.8 Micro Nikkor lens and a SB910 Speedlight in a Lastolite EXYbox softbox on a boom. A black cloth also on a boom with a opening slit for the lens was employed in front of the tank to prevent reflections on the front of the aquarium. The setup is illustrated below.

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Great care was given to the safety of every living specimen. Before introduction of any living subjects, the aquarium, any underwater props and gravel substrate was thoroughly washed and sterilized to prevent contamination of the endangered species. This procedure was also repeated between the introduction of each subsequent species. Water was that of the specimen’s home enclosure.

Over the course of a morning I had the pleasure to photograph the Texas Blind salamander (Eurycea rathbuni), San Marcos salamander (Eurycea nana), Fountain Darter (Etheostoma fonticola), all from the Edwards Aquifer near San Marcos, Texas, and the Devils River Minnow  (Dionda diaboli) from spring-fed streams in Kinney and Val Verde counties west of Uvalde, Texas.

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San Marcos Salamander

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Fountain Darter

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Devil’s River Minnow

Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workshop Report: Macro Photography Intensive

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Seven participants joined together in September at Mo Ranch for the three day macro photography workshop including in the macro lab (From left) Kelly Sile, Richard Bennett, Glenn Rudd, Gary Eastes, Diane Young, Tracy Curran and Dan Tonnison. Nikon D800, LAOWA 14mm F 4.0 Wide Angle Macro Lens.

 

The historic, 500 acre Mo Ranch at Hunt, Texas, was the site for a three-day intensive macro photography workshop geared to shooting in a macro studio/lab and in field settings. The workshop was located in a beautiful setting on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River  in the heart of the Texas Hill Country and centered in diverse habitats including aquatic, riparian areas, grasslands, oak-juniper woodlands, and limestone hills.

Award-winning naturalist and photographer Brian Loflin led the macro  workshop packed with over 20 hours of hands-on instruction and guided shooting where participants grew in their photographic abilities with new found skills, techniques and proficiency.

The intermediate/advanced level workshop featured hands-on learning and demonstrations with native flora and fauna of the area and covered many subjects including:

• Equipment for getting close   

• Perfecting Exposure

• Tools to make macro work easier

• Grip and support equipment

• Backgrounds • Wide Angle Close-Ups

• Lighting with Flash • High Speed Flash

• Multiple Flash • High Key and White Box

• Tank Photos • Macro Panorama

• Focus Stacking / Extreme Depth of Field

• Extreme Macro • How big is it? (Mensuration)

Everyone worked hard through the workshop to capture stunning, highly detailed images of tiny subjects difficult to observe with the unaided eye. Everyone brought home images to brag about. Here are a few examples of that work:

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Richard Bennett- Stick insect, above, and grass seed head (focus stacked), below.

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Glenn Rudd, Red Ant, above and Mayfly, below.

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Diane Young- Bark lice (Psocoptera) above and below.

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Dan Tonisson- Cactus stem, above (focus stacked), and Sunflower, below.

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The next Intensive Macro Photography Workshop is scheduled for
September 7-10, 2017.

Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved. Participant images copyright by the maker.