Vipers

Posted in Canaraua Fetii, Concedii, Plimbari, Specii rare on December 1, 2017 by maxpho

For some time now I’ve been waiting for the right moment to write a post about some of the reptiles I’ve met during my field trips in Romania.

I believe that the “right moment” is close, so I’m slowly starting to post a few shots of some of the vipers and other snakes.

The first one, showing perhaps the smallest of the viper individuals I’ve ever, a young Vipera berus, with an interesting “scale bar” near-by:)

It was found in the Retezat Mountains, near the “Pietrele” cabin.

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And another Vipera berus individual, also from the Retezat Mountains, this time a fully-grown adult, of a very interesting coloration:

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One of the first Vipera berus found in the Retezat Mountains, back in 2011. This specimen was again found in 2012 and 2013 at the same location.

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A shot of my very first viper species ever found in Nature, back in 2010. This individual is of the species Vipera ammodytes mondandoni. It is found only in Bulgaria and South-Western Romania. I think that after meting this guy, handling it and take a few photographs, I was totally devoted to finding vipers and snakes in general wherever I went. “Thank you little one!”. It is also quite sad to find this shot, since, after 2011, I was not able to find any other vipers at the same location…I do suspect human activities were the main reason.

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A few shots of a young Vipera ammodytes ammodytes, a species found in south-western Romania, and one of the most recognizable vipers in Europe due to that little horn on its nose. This individual was found in 2013 while basking in the Sun; when approached it remained perfectly still, playing dead. It took some time to have it move and be friendly enough for some closeups.

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And another young of the same species, at almost the same location, but this time in 2016.

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And this time a large, actually very large, individual of Vipera ammodytes ammodytes. This guy was found hiding under a large boulder; after persuading him to come out, I’ve noticed that it was badly injured. Apparently it did recover, at least partially, and now was preparing to molt.  This is the reason for its blue eyes:

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Another viper species, one that made me travel a few hundreds of miles from home in order to find it. Rather difficult to observe due to its small size and perfect camouflage, so after two years only two individuals were found. One of them was spotted as it was rushing towards me in the grass. Its name: Vipera ursinii moldavica.

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Insect numbers decline

Posted in Specii rare on November 29, 2017 by maxpho

For some time now (20 years), I am surprised just how fast the number of insects (especially butterflies) observable each year is rapidly declining. It seems that year after year less and less individuals from each species are observable at the same locations I visit for decades. And it is not just me; many others see this phenomenon, despite not being in the field of studying or photographing the butterflies.

I do know of a few species that are now almost completely extinct in some locations, and as far as I can see, the main reason for this is the rapidly intensifying agriculture, which translates into more and more use of chemicals and loss of habitat. This is true at he moment for at least 4 locations in Romania that I often visit. I am sure this occurs at a much larger scale. And the problem is that most of the affected areas are actually protected ones, in which the logic of the entities managing them is to let intense agriculture to be maintained over ever larger areas inside this protected regions. The loss of habitat inside the areas (which by itself is illogical) is amplifying the effect of the very strong and widespread chemicals used for repealing or the destruction of pests.

One such “protected area” that I’ve visited year by year starting with 2011 is located near the village of Nucsoara in the Retezat Mountains. Here, the main reason for habitat loss is a combination of intense grazing and new “modern” roads that are being constructed on top of the old ones. The new roads are of course made of materials that have to endure the weather, but in return they destroy some of the most important habitat for butterflies: most of this insects fly at low altitude (30-100cm) above the ground and over the mud roads in order to get a good location for drinking water and basking in the Sun, two extremely important parts of their behavior in order to survive and find a mate. Now, in order to have good driving roads to get high in the mountains with no problems (to different huts or restaurants), those stone/mud/water-made old roads (with naturally imposed speed limits of around 10 kph) are, year after year, being transformed in highway-speed roads; each summer I see tens of butterfly individuals being killed by  cars. The roadkills are only intensifying. Some of these  species are already on the verge of extinction due to global warming (which by the way- IT IS REAL!!!) so the ever faster large sized objects (cars) moving at 60mph or 100mph, offer no chance for some of the most important behavioral activities of these beings…

I can only hope that there will still be a few spots in these areas for such beautiful insects to survive. The Retezat mountains have some of the most striking butterfly species of Europe, which can be still found on the continent, but ever more rarely.

I’ve created the following poster some time ago, for one of the mountain huts in the area of Nucoasara, in order to have the tourists informed about the great diversity of these creatures in the Retezat Mountains. Some of the most threatened species are also present on this poster, as I was doing some intense insect photography in the area.

Hope to still be able to see them the following years…

And some links about declining insects in Germany. Unfortunately this occurs in most of Europe.  Link one. Link two.

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The Moon is spherical

Posted in 3D, ASTRO on November 13, 2017 by maxpho

On November 2nd, I was out with my scope for a lunar imaging session, at my usual observing location just south of Bucharest, Romania. At almost the same moment, another lunar imager was doing the same thing, but 2200km away. His name is Pete Lawrence, award winning astrophotographer, who does his lunar work from Selsey, UK.

Just by chance, posting my own images on the same Facebook Group as Pete, I’ve noticed that his images show the same lunar areas, at the same observing time and with similar resolution. So an idea came to my mind: would it be possible to combine my data with Pete’s and process the images in such a way that a true tridimensional lunar image could result?

The core of the idea was that the Moon, being so close to Earth, exhibits a rather strong parallax effect.

The parallax effect can be easily noticed on images depicting the whole Moon against the background stars, but no such effect was observed, until now, on amateur high magnification images. To accomplish this, the observers must have similar seeing conditions and equipment, and also to observe at the same time. This is, just by chance, what Pete and I did on November 2nd.

So, after some talks with Pete, who offered his images and encouraged me to try and see if any effect is noticeble, I’ve started the work. A bit of processing, resizing, aligning and…WOW:

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The parallax effect is more than obvious! Craters Struve, Russel and Edington show different viewing angles!

Combining the two shots in a 3D analigraph, the result is a bit more interesting.

The following image requires Red/Blue glasses.

HINT: use your mouse and move on the image, this way you will feel the depth of field much more easily 😉

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And another area which we’ve both imaged at the same time: crater Pythagoras.

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And the 3d analigraph (don’t forget to move the mouse on the image to accommodate your eyes/brain):

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As far as I now, this is the first time amateurs succeeded in this kind of imaging (parallax lunar imaging in High Resolution).

Our results show that, indeed, the Moon is spherical 🙂

Next project is to prove that the Earth is not flat :))), but this requires two lunar imagers to go to the Moon, and image our planet from two different lunar locations.  It may take some time to finish the project…

 

Many faces…and eyes

Posted in Salticizi, Supermacrofotografie on November 13, 2017 by maxpho

A collection of spider faces acquired during the last seven years. All these nice eyes belong to spiders in the Salticidae family, or better known as “jumping spiders”. Somehow the reason for such large eyes is obvious from their popular name: in order to get a good measurement of the distance to subject, they need some rather good resolution and thus large lenses 🙂

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And my personal favorite, with a 2 mm head width, an individual of the species Mendoza canestrini.

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Some Macro-Photography

Posted in Supermacrofotografie on November 12, 2017 by maxpho

 

A few test images using a rather cheap macro setup. The goal was to test a new technique (new for me) in which a large mosaic showing a subject can be made from multi-frame stacking. The setup: Canon 550D, macro tubes, SMC Pentax M 1:2.8 28mm used as an inverted lens, and a Nissin MF18 Macro ring flash. Individual areas are stacks of 10-15 frames, and each mosaic is a made up from 8 to 12 images. Stacking software: Zerene Stacker. Mosaics were assembled with Microsoft ICE. All images were resized to about 30-40% from originals.

The head and antennae of a male Polyphylla fullo. Length of the individual approx 28mm.

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The head of Carabus gigas. Length of the individual: approx 54mm.

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A species of “Jewel beetle” (Fam. Buprestidae). Length approx 14mm.

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And the hindwing of a small butterfly (Fam. Lycaenidae). Wingspan of the individual approx 35mm.

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Entomological plates – Moths of Romania

Posted in Specii rare on November 9, 2017 by maxpho

Romania has a rather rich insect fauna, but despite this, there is not much information on the Internet regarding the species present in the country. Any amateur photographer may find in Nature some species that he or she will not be able to identify due to this lack of information.

Of course, the most photographed and observed insects are the butterflies and moths, since they have larger sizes and fly often around flowers or at night around light sources, and they are also widespread in different habitats.

To try and give some information regarding these species, I’m starting to post here a number of plates which will present different species with their scientific names. In this way anyone interested will be able to find information more easily on the internet, just by searching the name of the insect.

First, a plate showing some of the moths species from the Family Sphingidae:

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High resolution lunar images – November 2, 2017

Posted in ASTRO on November 3, 2017 by maxpho

A new imaging session under the light of the Moon…

The almost full Moon phase is only rarely imaged by me. So this time, with our satellite at an respectable altitude above the horizon of 50 degrees,  I’ve decided to image some of my least observed lunar craters. The seeing varied greatly, but on some occasions it reached estimated values of 7-8/10.

First, three large craters, Grimaldi, Riccioli and Hevelius. Note the many terraces inside Riccioli and near Grimaldi.

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Craters Russel, Struve and Eddington in 7/10 seeing conditions. Note some small rilles on their floors.

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Crater Pythagoras in RGB colors. This sequence was acquired in 6-7/10 seeing conditions:

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And the Red image:

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And another image of Pythagoras, this time under very good seeing conditions, despite low transparency due to cirrus clouds. Note the very sharp mountain slopes inside the crater, in great contrast with all the rest of the area.

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A mosaic showing a large part of the South-Western areas towards the limb. So many interesting craters, especially Wargentin with its lava-filled floor. One other interesting  crater is located to the right of Schickard: a small striped floor crater. Can you locate it?

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Another area which I might have never imaged until now…Lavoisier craters.

There is a nice rima and something that looks like a small lava lake at one end. The rima is about 600-700 meters wide. Also managed to get most of the gigantic volcanic dome of Mons Rumker is this shot…

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Perhaps my own personal favorite lunar image of the year: another infrequently imaged area showing so much diversity in lunar formations. A wealth of rimae and some rather strange looking terrain. Most is due to ejecta material resulted from the formation of the large impact named Mare Orientale.

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And the last mosaic of the session, in very good seeing, showing again Pythagoras but also a lot more of the North-Western lunar areas.

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