Baby Mourning Dove by Todd Henson

I stopped by my folks place one day in early June, and was walking around behind their house when I saw my mother through the deck window waving her arms to get my attention. Then she began pointing at a spot on the deck. I had no idea what she wanted me to see, but I walked further around to look where she was pointing. It didn’t take me long to spot this small, newly fledged, bird resting quietly atop a box of sproutlings.

A young, newly fledged, Mourning Dove resting atop some sprouting plants.

The baby bird didn’t move as I walked around it, up the deck stairs, and inside. My mother gave me her camera and I went back out to see if I could capture a few images of this amazing little bird. It never moved as I approached, slowly and cautiously, not wanting to frighten it or draw the ire of its parents. I could see it following me with its eyes, but it stayed quiet and still. My mother had said it had been there for a while now, and that a Robin had landed beside it and she thought it had actually pecked at the little bird’s head. Interestingly, a nest of Robins directly overhead had just fledged the week before.

A side view of the baby Mourning Dove, seen through the sproutlings. Notice the red patch on the back of its neck.

If you look closely at the photo taken from the side and slightly to the back you can see a red spot on the back of its head. I’m not sure if that’s the result of the Robin or if it was already there.

I didn’t spend long photographing it. I didn’t want to draw the attention of any predators that might be attracted to a defenseless baby bird. There are outdoor cats in that neighborhood and any one of them would just love this little bird as a snack. I went back inside and began researching what it could be. Though a Robin had approached it, it looked nothing like a Robin to me. I thought it had the body type of a Mourning Dove, and when I researched online that is, in fact, what it was.

A parting shot of the young Mourning Dove resting atop the box of sprouts.

We waited and watched through the window, hoping to see it fly away or a parent return to care for it. Several times it stood, moved in circles, and stretched it wings, but then sat back down. We thought perhaps it was just resting and gaining enough strength to fly. Eventually an adult Mourning Dove flew into a nearby tree. That was all it took. The fledgling stood, stretched, and flew up into the tree beside its parent.

We never saw the bird again, at least not in its fledgling state. Who knows, perhaps it’s now one of the many Mourning Doves who frequent my folks yard. I cherish moments like these, when you have the opportunity to witness something special, something you don’t see every day. My folks had the same experience with the Robins when they fledged. Beautiful moments.

You don’t always have to travel to witness the wonders of wildlife. Keep your eyes open in your own neighborhood. You never know what you might see.


Favorite Books A - Z: Fiction by Todd Henson

Some of my favorite books, from A to Z. Missing books were borrowed or read as ebooks.

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From time to time I like to talk about things that aren’t directly related to photography, especially when they involve passion and inspiration. And I feel very passionate about and gain inspiration from reading, whether it be prose, poetry, graphic works, or non-fiction.

With this in mind, a couple fiction blogs I frequent recently posted lists with a favorite book for each letter of the alphabet. I thought this was a great idea and loved reading through their selections. It got me wondering whether I’ve even read a book for each letter, so I started going through my goodreads lists and my physical book shelves, and below is what I was able to come up with.

If you enjoy this then try to create a list of your own. It’s not easy, but it can be a lot of fun. And check out the lists that inspired my own:


A - Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds

I’ve loved Alastair Reynolds’ work since I read his first book, Revelation Space. These are far future stories often set in space but sometimes set on planets. Perhaps the fact he used to work as a space scientist helps him create stories that just blow me away.

 
 

B - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief was such a moving story. I couldn’t put this book down. Set in Nazi Germany, about a young girl who finds herself drawn to books. Very touching.

 
 

C - City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

This is the second book of a series, and I’ve still not read the first. But this didn’t stop me enjoying this fascinating fantasy story that felt very different from most others I’ve read.

 
 

D - Dracula by Bram Stoker

I grew up absolutely loving, and being terrified of, vampires. And for me Dracula is still one of the most compelling stories about them.

 
 

E - The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks

This was one of the very first fantasy books I read, and after I finished I couldn’t wait to find and read more. I’ve always had a soft spot for Terry Brooks’ writing, and it all began with the Elfstones.

 
 

F - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Sometimes you can’t beat the classics. Frankenstein, the book, was so very different from the movie versions I’d seen, and in my opinion, a much more compelling story.

 
 

G - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

What drew me to this book was the title. I was fascinated to learn what it was all about. And once I started reading I soon found myself reading the second and third books in the series. Very engaging and hard hitting.

 
 

H - The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

How could I possibly leave out Douglas Adams? Such a funny, fascinating, and strange story, it will likely always remain a favorite.

 
 

I - It by Stephen King

It may be my favorite Stephen King novel. He does such a great job writing kids, I just find myself being sucked into their lives and all the troubles they find. Granted, I was a little disappointed with the ending, but overall It still remains a favorite.

 
 

J - Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Recreating dinosaurs. What could possibly go wrong? The movies were fun, but as is almost always the case, I find myself much preferring the book.

 
 

K - Kabuki by David Mack

This is the only graphic work I chose to include in my list. I wanted to keep it just prose works, but Kabuki had such an impact on me I had to include it. David Mack has written a fascinating set of stories, but I’m also drawn to his incredible art, which is very different from anything I’d ever seen in comics. If I were to choose a prose novel instead of these graphic ones it would likely be The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan.

 
 

L - The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m treating this as a single novel instead of a trilogy. This is another work that had a tremendous impact on me growing up. After reading Terry Brooks I’d heard about Tolkien so I gave him a try. And I’ve been reading him ever sense, sometimes rereading this series, and sometimes reading from his other works.

 
 

M - The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian was a very personal story with a protagonist I immediately liked. How do you survive on Mars when you’re left there alone with limited resources? Great story.

 
 

N - The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss has a way with words, and this is one of my favorite books both for the story and the way in which he tells the story. I look forward to rereading it before the final book in the trilogy is released.

 
 

O - The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Such a short and beautiful story. Neil Gaiman is another who has a way with words, and whose works really draw me in. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully magical modern fantasy.

 
 

P - Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Pawn of Prophecy is the first book in a longer series, the first I’d read by David Eddings. I don’t recall much about them now, other than knowing I thoroughly enjoyed them when I was younger.

 
 

Q - Quarantine by Greg Egan

Quarantine was the first book I read by Greg Egan, and I loved it. He took science fiction in directions that were new to me. His stories can be very cerebral and full of ideas.

 
 

R - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I was the perfect audience for Ready Player One, having grown up with the games and movies referenced in the story. A fast paced and fun read. I had a hard time picking just one book for R, and so I’ll also mention Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, the first book of his I’d read.

 
 

S - The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I was entranced by The Shadow of the Wind and would very much like to reread it soon. I love books about books, and so a book about a hidden library of forgotten books was right up my alley. A magical story. As with R, I had a very difficult time choosing just one book, so I want to mention The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, a very different and personal sort of tale that has really stayed with me. Both beautiful books.

 
 

T - Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein

I had to include Heinlein somewhere in the list. I’ve not read one of his books in quite some time, but growing up I loved them, and Time Enough for Love was one of my favorites.

 
 

U - The Unreasoning Mask by Philip Jose Farmer

A strange but fascinating story, possibly the first I read by Farmer. I certainly hope it isn’t the last I read by him.

 
 

V - The Vagrant by Peter Newman

This book differs from most of the other speculative fiction I read, and it really drew me in. A main protagonist who never speaks? I wouldn’t have thought it would work, but it did. This was the strongest book of the series.

 
 

W - A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I had to include Ursula K. Le Guin in my list somewhere, and where better than A Wizard of Earthsea. Long before Harry Potter, this was my introduction to a school of wizards and the problems kids can cause, both for themselves and others.

 
 

X - Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler

I read Xenogenesis as a single book instead of the originally published series. This was my introduction to Butler, and it left me wanting to read more of her works.

 
 

Y - A Bad Spell in Yurt by C. Dale Brittain

I didn’t have anything that started with Y so I had to get a little creative. A Bad Spell in Yurt is a simple, fun, fantasy read. It’s perfect when you want an entertaining story that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

 
 

Z - . . .

I have nothing yet to fill the slot for Z, so I wasn’t quite able to finish the list. I do, however, own a couple Z books that may one day let me complete this. The most likely book to one day fill this spot is Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi. I have, so far, enjoyed everything I’ve read by Scalzi.


And, of course, this being a website mostly about photography, I’m also working on a list of photography books, as well as non-fiction books. I’ll post those in the coming weeks, though they may have more missing letters than did this list.


Cabbage White on Lace by Todd Henson

A female Cabbage White butterfly backlit on white lace curtains.

Sometimes you don’t even have to leave the house to photograph wild creatures. They just have a way of getting inside, so why not take advantage of this?

I was visiting my folks house and saw the cat moving around the front bay window. I didn’t think much of it until later when I noticed a little Cabbage White butterfly resting on the lace curtains well above the reach of the cat. The butterfly had seen better days. Perhaps the cat had done some damage, or perhaps it was just nearing the end of its life.

I happened to have my 105 mm macro lens with me so that’s what I used. I cranked the ISO up to 1000 since it was a little dark inside. It was afternoon and the sun was behind the house. The light shining through the window was not direct sun, but it was still fairly bright compared to inside the house.

Macro lenses can naturally give a very shallow depth of field when focusing up close. So I wanted to stop down the aperture to let me capture the entire butterfly in focus. However, I was hand-holding the camera so I couldn’t let the shutter speed drop too much or I’d get a blurry photograph. In the end I settled on an aperture of f/8 and a shutter speed of 1/160 second. This let me expose for the butterfly, letting the background go bright without blowing out any details.

My goal was to create a nice high-key image with the light-colored butterfly standing against a glowing bright white background. I wanted it to feel soft but still have the butterfly in focus. I’m happy with how it turned out. Even if I never do anything more with the photograph than post it here, it was great practice. I pictured how I’d like the image to look then worked on finding the settings that would get me there. I encourage you to practice in the same way.

When I finished photographing the butterfly I gently captured it and let it go outside. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done this, as I later learned Cabbage Whites are not native to this area and are considered a garden pest for the damage done by their caterpillars, and this did appear to be a female based on the number of spots on its wings. Oh well, native or not, it’s still fun observing and photographing these beautiful little creatures.