The Backyard

An unexpected snail from the backyard

I don’t manage to get out and take photographs as often as I’d like.  When I do have time there’s generally not enough of it for an extended trip to exotic locations and breathtaking vistas.  No, most of the time when I do get out I’m sticking within a day’s drive of home at the most.  It’s easy to wish for more time and money to visit faraway places.  But wishing doesn’t get any pictures taken.  And I’ve found that sometimes the most unexpected opportunities can arise quite close to home, if you keep an eye out for them.

This picture of a snail shell is a perfect example of that.  I was cleaning up in the backyard and flipped over a bucket I’d tipped upside down the night before to dry out from recent rains.  To my surprise I discovered a snail had found its way up the inside of the bucket during the night.  The snail was small, the shell was perhaps a quarter of an inch in diameter.  I immediately thought this would be an excellent model for my macro lens that I find every excuse to use.  With all other chores for the day forgotten I plucked the snail from the side of the bucket (it was inside its shell at the time) and hurried inside.  I don’t have any fancy lighting equipment so I jury-rigged a setup with a very bright LED flashlight and a headlamp.  I put the snail on a sheet of paper and began shooting away.  It came out at one point and wandered around the paper before becoming bored (or annoyed with the lights, I suppose) and retreated back inside its shell.  I learned a few things: snails are excellent models for macro photography because they move so slowly (but faster than you’d think) and my shutter speed was limited to less than about 1/200.  If I shot with a faster shutter speed it was fast enough to show banding from the LED lights.

The snail came out of its shell and wandered about for a little bit



Another time I was out in the backyard again and found a praying mantis on the back gate.  These are also excellent macro subjects by virtue of seldom moving.  I took the occasion to experiment with focus stacking (and failed miserably) but was happy with some of the other shots I got.

Praying manis on the back gate



Yet another time I found a rather large lizard had found itself trapped in our compost bin.  This presented a unique opportunity to photograph the bright iridescent scales on the lizards stomach – an aspect that is almost always out of sight.  While the photograph below is not exactly award winning I rather like it for the unique perspective and reminder of the variety of color to be found in a desert seemingly composed solely of drab browns and greens.

Iridescent scales on the stomach of a lizard

I can’t go to Yellowstone every weekend, but my backyard is always close at hand.  Sometimes I don’t need to go any further than that to get some good photos.