Archive for the Evenimente Category

Best of Maximus Photography 2018

Posted in ASTRO, Evenimente, EXTREME macro on December 31, 2018 by maxpho

Following are what I consider my best results in terms of Photography for 2018.

Some are high resolution images (lunar craters, insects at high magnification), some are colorful (nebulae, butterflies), and some present interesting events (like the International Space Station transiting the Moon or the Sun, or planet Mars at opposition, or my baby daughter Zara 🙂 ).

Hope to have a great 2019 too 🙂

Happy New Year!!!



























A butterfly for Christmas

Posted in Evenimente on December 24, 2018 by maxpho

A lovely symbol of the Insect World, and why not of the Christmas also.

Parnassius apollo, one of the most beautiful and unfortunately threatened with extinction, with its trademark colors and spots: white for the snow, black for the longest and coldest nights in the year (for the Northerners at least), and red for…the Coca Cola trucks? It actually has the same colors as Santa 😉

Merry Christmas!


PS: The image is a multi-stack multi-frame mosaic, done with a Canon 550D, Sigma 50mm and Wemacro rail.



Finding the Apollo in Bulgaria – July 2018

Posted in Concedii, Evenimente, Specii rare on July 17, 2018 by maxpho

This post is about finding the Mountain Apollo, one of the most beautiful and large butterflies in Europe.

The quest for the fantastic Parnassius apollo butterfly began when I was very young, while receiving a book about insects; on the front cover it stood very proudly the big whitish black-and-red spotted Apollo. This image remained with me for so many years…

My first big disappointment came in 2012 when, together with my wife, I went to the Bicaz Gorges (for the second time in as many years), in my own country, Romania. Despite knowing that most Romanian lepidopterists accepted that P. apollo is considered extinct in the area, my hopes were very high. Of course, no Apollos were seen, despite visiting many of the known sites for this species…

The next Apollo-targeted trip was in 2017, in Croatia, again with my wife, and her brother. There we went first on the Velebit Mountain. Unfortunately, the weather was a bit ahead of time, and we’ve arrived a bit too late at the meeting…Most probably a couple a weeks too late.

A second trip towards the east of Croatia resulted in a bigger disappointment: the wildfires encircled one of the best areas for Apollo in Croatia, so my hopes to meet the species were, again, ruined.

The last trip dedicated to finding the species was in Bulgaria, at Trigrad, also in 2017, in August. Not learning from my mistakes, I’ve decided to check the area despite being very late in the period. Again, no Apollos, but the area was truly peppered with its main food plant, Sedum album. The region is characterized by steep calcareous walls, sub-alpine vegetation in some areas, and a lot of space for butterflies to fly in, with many species of plants around this rather quiet village.  A few interesting butterfly species were observed, and comparing their usual flight periods with the Apollo’s, I’ve concluded that we’ve arrived too late, perhaps with as much as 3 weeks…To be honest, this was already in my mind before we departed towards Trigrad: exchanging a few messages with the renowned lepidopterist Levente Székely, I’ve found out some general areas where the species flies, and also their main flight periods for each location. He told me that basically it was too late to find the Apollo in that year…I did not listen :(. After the big disappointment with Croatia, I needed badly some evidence of the Apollo. But it was not to happen in 2017.

So, this was the story of Apollo for me…until 2018.

Bulgaria July 13-15, 2018.

To begin with, the team: myself, my brother-in-law, Mihai, and my uncle, Leonard. All of which never saw an Apollo butterfly in the wild before…

Day 1:

Our trip started in Bucharest, with the team gathering at about 5:30 in the morning. We drove to the Giurgiu-Ruse bridge over the Danube, and into Bulgaria. By 12:00 we were in Sofia, and by 15:00 at Melnik, a nice little vacation village, situated at around 400 meters above sea level. The area was surrounded by calcareous walls, and the nearby grass fields looked very similar to the Retezat Mountains fields back in Romania.  A lovely location.

pirin melnik.jpg

Our first stop was right next to Melnik, in a small opening where a light shower cooled the air from 34 Celsius to around 24 C in a matter of minutes.


And the very first invertebrates: a spider (Lycosa sp., to be determined)…


…and a few individuals of Scarabaeus pius/sacer (yet to be precisely determined):


Also, a few butterflies were observed, including one Limenitis reducta female, and the only Polygonia egea observed in the entire trip.

The next few stops were on the road from Gorno Spanchevo to Pirin, a mountainous road recently “refurbished”. Being late in the evening, not much was to be expected. Yet hundreds of Cetonidae were flying around, with as many as 40 on a single plant. A few scarab beetle were also observed.

pirin 3.jpg

The first big “wow” of the trip came from Mihai: a couple (really a couple, a male and a female) of Palpares libelluloides, perhaps the largest species of ant-lions in Europe:



The last stop, an hour before sunset. This time at the side of the road a large grass-rich opening offered no more than 10 individuals of Libelloides macaronius, or owlflies:


This short trip had to end, since all of us were quite tired, and the next day was to be dedicated to the Apollo.

Day 2:

Again, early in the morning, 6 AM, and we were already making the plan for the day. A short breakfast and up we went. This time, the road to Pirin showed its true colors:

pirin 2.jpg


At an altitude of 900 meters and rising, the number of butterflies was increasing rapidly. Here I’ve managed to observe the only Chazara briseis of the trip. Lots of Colias sp. individuals were flying in the morning Sun, as were a few Satyrinae. Melanargia galathea and Brintesia circe were the most common species in the area. No larger butterflies. Yet 😉


Further along the road, on the calcareous walls, tens of Sedum album plants were giving us the sign that Parnassius apollo should be…close.


Our first larger butterfly was…well…we still don’t know for sure. A whitish large shape flying above our car. With the Sun in our eyes, we could not discern the true nature of this back-illuminated butterfly. (We can however assume it was actually our first Apollo observed, since no other species encountered in our trip were similar to it.)

Many of the visited locations were filled with Carduus sp., the main feeding plants of the Apollo:


The next few stops were rather brief, with all of us looking down the valleys or up the cliffs, but with no luck…

I was again a bit disappointed, and thinking “Croatia all over again…”.


Another stop, and another one and…WOWWWW!!!

Ten Apollos were flying in front of my eyes down a cliff, all on a small patch filled with Carduus. What a sight! “I’ve finally found it!”. Shouting to the other members of the expedition: “Get over here, tons of Apollos here!”.

The next three hours were dedicated to this area alone, with the Apollos flying up and down on a rather steep stony wall. Pretty hard to photograph the species here:


Next stops along the road revealed another 8 Apollos, some observed at an altitude of 1600m. By the time we’ve got back to the first Apollo location, the bulk of the species was already gone. Still, a couple of females were laying their eggs on a few stones close to the larval food plant.

The Gallery presented below is the result of some 2 hours of photography.

apollo 7 si 1.jpg













On the road back to Melnik, we’ve observed another two Apollos, at an altitude of only 900 meters. This was the lowest altitude where the species was observed on the trip.

We went back to the Hotel, and celebrated our success with a couple of beers and a nice big stake. What a memorable day…

Day 3:

Again, early in the morning, and up to the mountains. Same locations were visited, but due to the earlier time of the day, only two Apollos were observed. These were the only individuals of the day, adding to a total of 22 (perhaps 23) Parnassius apollo individuals observed on the entire trip. Not bad, not bad at all 🙂

On our way back from the mountain, stopping again at around 900 meters of altitude, Leonard finds an ant colony, with some rather large individuals. Some were gathering at the entrance of the colony as soon as we were approaching it. Their bite on the camera’s lens cap was proof that these were no ordinary ants, but some rather ferocious ones (Cataglyphis nodus, ID: Leonard):


The very last insect, found by Mihai just a few hundred meters from the ant colonies, was also the giant of the trip: Saga natoliae. What a magnificent bush-cricket.




saga comparatie.jpg

The way back home was long, delayed for a couple of hours by a terrible accident (in which a truck smashed a small car in a wall…not a nice sight to remember), but it made all the drivers a bit more careful on the sinuous road to Sofia…

The long way back was rather quiet, with only a few cars passing from Bulgaria to Romania. It was a relaxing returning trip from a very tiring expedition.

Must get back there again…



-This post is dedicated to my wife, who couldn’t come with me on the trip. She stood back home, preparing the next generation of astro/ento/photo enthusiasts ;).

-I must thank Levente Székely for all the information regarding the general locations and flight periods of Parnassius apollo in Bulgaria. Without these details, I could still be only dreaming of one day meeting the superb Mountain Apollo. Thank you!

Papilio machaon – March 14, 2018

Posted in Evenimente on March 14, 2018 by maxpho

Another species emerged today in my balcony. This time from a larvae found in September last year. The species name is Papilio machaon (Linnaeus, 1758). It is found in all of Europe but their numbers are declining due mostly to human activities…

Papilio 1.jpg


And a second individual…in a higher resolution shot.


Eudia pavoniella – March 2, 2018

Posted in Canaraua Fetii, Evenimente, Experimente, Specii rare, Uncategorized on March 2, 2018 by maxpho

Spring is coming, and the first sign was observed in my balcony where I keep a few cocoons of a lovely medium-sized moth. A single female emerged today from one such cocoon. The species name is Saturnia pavoniella (Scopoli, 1763), a moth occurring in Europe. In Romania, I’ve found it in three locations already, in almost all the evolution stages: eggs. caterpillars and more recently as adults. It frequently comes to light during the colder nights of March-April, and sometimes in May, depending on altitude.

This species is not yet threatened, but it seems that its range is changing in recent years.

Eudia pavonia March22018.jpg

Also, the male. The following shots are of a freshly emerged male from March 10.




The transit of Mercury – May 9, 2016

Posted in ASTRO, Evenimente on May 9, 2016 by maxpho

Sometimes objects fly in front of the Sun: bees, birds, planes, the International Space Station…and sometimes planets also.

Today it was Mercury that transited the Sun.

Not the best conditions for this imaging session, but I did manage to observe the event with my wife, Eli, from the Comana Woods, south of Bucharest.

For now, only a few shots are posted, since the 200Gb of data will take some time to analyze.

The image below, was acquired using the 115mm F/7 APO Refractor and 3x Barlow lens, full aperture Baader solar filter, ASI 174MM camera and a Baader Red filter. Seeing was 4/10, with a lot of clouds passing rapidly.



Eli did a time-lapse transit evolution with Mercury in different positions. Note the unequal distances between the positions since she captured the shots between the clouds:


And a short animation showing the great differences between white-light and H-alpha  in solar imaging:


Thanks to Adrian Sonka, I could use a Coronado PST (40mm) which “sees” only the light emitted by the Hydrogen atoms. It offered the best views while observing the event at the eyepiece.

A wide view with moderate resolution (for 13:42 U.T.):

MercuryTransitMax1342ut May9.jpg


Zerynthia polyxena – February 21, 2016

Posted in Evenimente, Experimente, Specii rare on February 21, 2016 by maxpho

One of my “back to Nature” activities (involving breeding some insect species for re-population of areas that had these species which are now critically endangered) is up and running well I might say:

ZERY 1.jpg

This year’s species is Zerynthia polyxena, one of the most beautiful butterflies in Europe, and one of the earliest ones to emerge in March.  Last year I’ve reared almost a hundred caterpillars of this species, collected either as larvae or egg from two locations with very large populations (one of the locations had around 1000 larvae !!). The reason for this was to repopulate one area that had the species until a few years ago (but was eradicated due to very stupid and fast urbanization) and to increase the very fast declining numbers of individuals at another location (the very stupid way that agriculture is done is the main reason for this population’s decline).

Of course I had to make a few investigations regarding the future habitats where the butterflies will be released, and as for any other projects of this kind, I can only hope that the locations I have in mind will remain the same for some time (that is, not to be destroyed by humans in the next 5-10 years at least).

At the moment, due both to very warm temperatures for this period of the year (+15 to +20 degrees Celsius!!) and a warm winter from my part (the location for the butterfly pupae had temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius in December and January), some of the individuals have started to emerge. This is good but not very good, since their host plant is still mostly underground at the predicted locations. I have to ensure some good conditions for this adults until I’ll release them back to Nature.

For now, a few shots with some of the freshly emerged butterflies:

ZERY 2.jpg

ZERY 3.jpg

ZERY 4.jpg