Fun Friday: Fresh Fledgling

A couple of days ago, while I was walking to one of my wildflower gardens to photograph wildflowers and dragonflies, I flushed a new fledgling bird from the dense woods that runs along one side of my long, gravel driveway. Surprisingly, it was not too frightened of me. Fortunately, I had my 100-400mm lens on my camera. Here are a few images I captured of this newly-fledged bird:

Fledgling bird (Blue Grosbeak?)

Fledgling bird (Blue Grosbeak?)

The images were tough to capture, as I was shooting without a tripod and shooting into the heavy woods (low light), so my shutter speed was extremely slow. And the woods are very dense in places.

I would appreciate any species identification that anyone can supply. Being so small, it was very difficult to spot any clear colors or markings that would help identify it. However, I’m leaning towards this being a Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea). I say this because I observed a male Blue Grosbeak on an overhead power line, just above us, that was very intent on watching me as I photographed the fledgling. And another, similar-sized and brownish (female grosbeak?) bird flew into the woods with a caterpillar in her mouth … probably to feed this hungry, new explorer of the world.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 telephoto lens + Canon 1.4X TC, totaling 560mm used
  • Handheld
  • ISO 800
  • Aperture f/8
  • Shutter 1/25 sec. and 1/30 sec.
Posted in 2015, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Wonderful Widow Skimmers

While being a bit constrained with my physical activity, I’ve been trying to get out and photograph some of the natural world around my rural home. Having 9.5 acres of wooded/non-wooded land, there always seems to be something happening. So, it is quite easy to walk outside and have something of interest to photograph, without the need for long hikes (which I’m still restricted from doing, although I’m working my way back to that point).

One of the things that is abundant around my home, are dragonflies and damselflies (Link to Ebony Jewel-winged Damselfly post). Today’s post is about the Widow Skimmer dragonflies, which are very abundant around my wildflower gardens right now. Here are a few of my favorite images I’ve captured over the past day or so:

Widow Skimmer dragonfly

Widow Skimmer dragonfly

Widow Skimmer dragonfly

Widow Skimmer dragonfly

Widow Skimmer dragonfly

 

 

 

Some interesting facts about the Widow Skimmers:

  • Widow Skimmers are a large dragonfly, with a wingspan up to ~8 cm and a body length of ~4-5 cm.
  • Males are typically a bit different than the females and juveniles in coloration. The males’ abdomens and front of thorax are white and have a powdery appearance. The females and juveniles have a dark body with a yellow stripe which extends from the upperside of the thorax to the base of the abdomen, where it splits into two lines.
  • Males wings are uniquely patterned wings, which are dark at the base, white in the middle and glass-like on the tips. Females wings are similar, but have a dark “smudge” appearance at the tips.
  • Widow Skimmers are often active from April thru November
  • Male Widow Skimmers actively protect their rather large range, chasing away other males, as well as other dragonfly species.
  • The widow skimmer commonly inhabits areas surrounding ponds, marshes, lakes, pools and slow streams, but are often found far away from water in open country, meadows and roadsides (and in MY wildflower patch!).

Using the above information, can you identify the males from females/juveniles in the above photos?

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 telephoto lens + Canon 1.4X TC
  • Handheld
  • ISO 800 (all)
  • Aperture f/8 (all)
  • Shutter 1/250 sec. to 1/320 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Blog, Insect Photography, Nature Photography, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Blackberry Lily Wildflowers

After returning home from my weekend art show in Des Moines, Iowa, I noticed some of my Blackberry Lily wildflowers (Belamcanda chinensis) were beginning to bloom. Being close to the house, so I wouldn’t need to exert much energy to capture some images (I’ll share more on my progress at the end of this post), I decided to spend a few minutes and capture some images of these lovely wildflowers.

All of the following images were captured via the “focus stacking” technique, capturing multiple images of each specific shot, each with a very shallow depth of field and varying where I focused on the subject. Then, the individual images were combined into a single “stacked” image, with a greater depth of field in each image, while still retaining an out-of-focus background. Here are a few images I captured:

This first image is the Blackberry Lily flower:

Blackberry Lily wildflower

The next image is a capture of some flower buds, before they begin to unfurl into a flower:

Blackberry Lily wildflower

As the buds mature, they begin to mature, as in this next image:

Blackberry Lily wildflower

Coincidentally, I noticed a few “blackberries” still on an old, dried foliage from last year:

Blackberry Lily wildflower

The Blackberry Lily grows statewide in Missouri, in rocky, open woods and glades. This plant was brought to the U.S. by clipper ships, probably from China. The Blackberry Lily needs good soil drainage and does best in the absence of other plants.

I’m thinking about returning to the nearby natural prairie next week. There is a patch of these beauties there and I’d like to see how they are progressing.

Regarding my progress from surgery, I am feeling better and stronger every day. I was a bit reluctant to do the Des Moines art show last weekend, but being past the deadline of being able to get my booth fee returned, I decided to give it a shot. The only real concerns I had were loading/unloading my booth setup and artwork, and the loading up at the end of the show. The show was inside a large, air conditioned exhibition hall, so heat was not a big problem. My wife’s cousin volunteered to help us unload/setup/load back up at the exhibition hall, and I backed my truck to the covered front porch (allowing us to “slide” the booth fixtures and artwork to the truck, and inside the covered bed, so no real lifting was needed. Thus, I decided to go.

After setup on Friday evening, I was feeling very exhausted and was beginning to think maybe I overdid it. But by Saturday, I was doing fine and the rest of the weekend went extremely well. I was once again eating well, not feeling so run-down, and really enjoyed meeting other nature lovers and discussing my artwork with them. All in all, it turned out to be a wonderful weekend! And after returning home on Monday afternoon, we unloaded the truck (again backing up to the covered front porch) and I’ve continued to feel quite well. Now, I just have to keep my activities to a low, manageable level until my next CT scans show reduction of blood from around the brain!

It’s great to feel “normal” again!  :o)

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 180mm, f/3.5 macro lens
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Graff StudioBall head
  • ISO 400 and ISO 500
  • Aperture f/3.5 to f/5.6
  • Shutter 1/30 sec. to 1/60 sec.

 

 

 

Posted in 2015, Blog, focus stacking, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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A Little Time with the Camera

Things have been awfully slow around my home lately, following my head injury and subsequent surgery. And once home, the restrictions placed on me has been a real drag, compared to my normal high level of activity. But with the recent restrictions being slowly phased out, I ventured out a few days ago and took a short walk around my rural property. I was pleasantly surprised to find a pair of Ebony Jewel-wing Damselflies (Calopteryx maculata), also sometimes called Black-winged Damselflies. The pair I saw were foraging along a water runoff from my neighbor’s pond, across the road from my home.

I last saw some of these beauties a couple of years ago. They are quite difficult to spot as they tend to blend in quite well with the green leaves of the woodland edge plants. But they are often active, flying from their perch to capture a small (incredibly small!) insect in midair, then returning to the same perch. This is how I often spot them. It was getting late this evening, so I returned the next day to this location, to photograph them. With my wife’s help (she carried my tripod), while I carried my camera/lens, we walked to this location and they were still there. Here are a few images I captured of the pair:

The female has a brown, nonmetallic body with brownish wings with a glistening white spot (called a stigma) near the end of the forewing:

Female Ebony Jewel-winged Damselfly

At times, the damselfly will spread out their wings:

Female Ebony Jewel-winged Damselfly

Female Ebony Jewel-winged Damselfly

The male has a metallic green body, with no spots on the wing:

Male Ebony Jewel-winged Damselfly

Male Ebony Jewel-winged Damselfly

And the male, with it’s wings spread:

Male Ebony Jewel-winged Damselfly

Every late spring/early summer, I watch for these beauties!

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 7D body
  • Canon EF 500mm, f/4 lens + Canon 1.4x TC (I needed to use the long lens as the damselflies were down an embankment that was not readily accessible)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Wemberly Gimbal head (version 1)
  • ISO 800 thru ISO 1600
  • Aperture f/5.6 (all)
  • Shutter 1/100 sec. to 1/160 sec.

 

(Note:  I will not be posting very regularly for a while. Since I’m somewhat limited to my activity, I won’t have the chance to get out very often, until I’m feeling stronger and can better move about. But I will share when I can)

 

 

Posted in 2015, Blog, Insect Photography, Nature Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Getting Closer to “Normal”

Finally … I heard back from my neurologist’s office, with an update to my health status, following my recent accident and neurosurgery. For those not in the loop, after experiencing extreme headaches in May, my doctor could not find anything to cause this rather unusual condition for me, so he ordered an MRI of my head. During the test, the MRI was stopped and I was rushed to a Kansas City hospital for emergency surgery, as I wrote in a recent post (“20-Cent Neurosurgery”).

About 10 days after leaving the hospital, I went back in for removal of stitches and a general checkup, also posted in a post (“Neurosurgery Update”). And just last Friday, I had a followup CT scan to check the status of my head injury. After waiting for nearly a week, I contacted the neurologist’s office on Thursday afternoon to get the results of that test, as well as check on my many restrictions (no driving, limited weight (lifting), no long hikes, etc.). After determining that the office had overlooked my notification to them of the CT scan, they gave me the results.

The latest CT scan showed a small amount of blood still pooled around the brain (this is probably what’s causing my low level headaches that I now sometimes encounter), but the brain is pretty much back into it’s correct position, within the cranium (when first caught, the pressure was so intense that the brain was a bit “distorted” out of position). But overall, everything is looking good. I also found that this is quite common; although the “burr hole” surgery relieved the pressure and removed the large pool of blood, once the pressure subsided, a small amount of residual blood remains in the cavity. Over time, this blood is “re-absorbed” back into the brain. From this point, a CT scan will be performed ~ every 6 weeks to monitor the re-absorption process. Apparently this process will take 2-3 months. Once my brain is free of pooled blood, and “normal” again (yes, this is debatable, as some as my “friends” will tell you!), I will be released by the neurologist.

So, how are my restrictions going?  Some great news here!  One of my biggest concerns was being able to attend the “Artfest Midwest, ‘The Other Art Show'” in Des Moines, Iowa, next weekend. Since I’ve arranged for someone to help me load/unload/booth setup, I am being allowed to show my artwork! The only stipulation is that I have to use “common sense” and be careful, which I’ll gladly do!

For all other restrictions, I have been cleared to “ease myself back to my normal activities” … Yippee! It has been getting awfully boring and depressing to lay around and do essentially nothing.  I’m still very weak and still not much of an appetite (I’ve now lost ~ 15 pounds since this incident happened, plus 5 pounds that I conscientiously worked at losing before the accident). So things will be slow and I’ll likely not be doing any long prairie hikes for a while (although I’ll likely try to do some short ones, with someone else around to help if I run into any issues, after I return from the Des Moines show). But at least things are going the right way and a full recovery is in sight!

I just want to thank everyone out there who has been praying with/for me and for all the positive messages, thoughts, and concerns you’ve voiced on my behalf … many thanks!

I’m hoping to resuming some nature posts very soon. My biggest issue is that I’ve not been out to capture some more nature images. I’ve been seeing lots of beautiful wildflowers along the roadside (while being driven somewhere), but just not able to get out and do what I love to do … hopefully, very soon!

 

 

 

Posted in 2015, Blog | Tags: , , ,
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Neurosurgery Update

I want to issue a sincere Thank You to everyone who responded to yesterday’s blog post, or on Facebook. It is so wonderful to have so many, great friends.

Earlier today, I had my followup doctor’s appointment with my neurosurgeon, Dr. John Clough. Actually, the doctor was in surgery, so I met with his head nurse. As reported in my previous post (“20-Cent Neurosurgery”) a couple of days ago, I recently experienced a subdermal hematoma and needed corrective, neurosurgery to removed the pooled blood from around my brain. Here are some of the results of the meeting with the neurosurgeon’s nurse today:

  • Effective immediately, I am now able to lift more than the previous limit of 5 pounds. I walked into the meeting with a calculated weight 0f 13 pounds for my camera body, macro lens, tripod, and tripod head. I was told that this seemed reasonable, as long as I used common sense (i.e., if any difficulties, stop carrying that amount of weight, don’t carry that amount for long distances, etc.).
  • I can only do prairie walks with someone else by my side, or when it is only a short distance from the parking lot.
  • I got approval to do the upcoming “Artfest Midwest: The Other Art Show” in Des Moines, Iowa on June 27-28. I just need to be prudent while packing/unloading, and in doing the show.
  • I got tentative approval for an much anticipated shoot in August at Devil’s Tower in northeast Wyoming (will be shooting the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, as well as a “new moon” (i.e., totally dark) with the Milky Way.
  • Continue taking anti-seizure medication (as a precaution) and continue not taking my daily baby aspirin, until everything is totally resolved.
  • I can now drive, as along as I “feel good”. If I start feeling dizzy, dazed, etc., I am to discontinue driving.
  • I have to continue to refrain from mowing or riding my tractor.

In addition to all these precautions, I will be having another CT scan done, within a couple of weeks, to see how the injury/surgery are is healing. Once healing is shown to be “normal” (that could be this next CT scan, or a subsequent scan), then additional restrictions will be lifted.

The nurse was pleased with my current status and said she could tell that I was pretty much back to normal. Hopefully, that trend will continue :o)

On the way home, we stopped at a computer store and I was able to find a Mac-compatible keyboard that has “high profile” keys, making it easier to type and with my fingers remaining on the keys. I hope to get it installed later this evening, or tomorrow.  :o)

 

 

Posted in 2015, Blog | Tags: , , ,
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20-Cent Neurosurgery

Looking back, I see it’s been even longer than I thought since I published my last post, “Wary Little Jumper”, on May 12.  I knew it would be a while until I posted again, but wasn’t sure when that would be, due to some medical issues.  Not knowing what was going on, I didn’t want to give out erroneous or unsure information. But now I have the situation behind me (mostly) and can let you know exactly why I have been absent from my blog posts, Twitter, and Facebook. So here is a timeline of the events I have been experiencing:

May 08

On May 08, after having experienced very severe headaches for 3-4 days (I’ve never been prone to headaches, only having 2-3  “regular” headaches over a year), I contacted my primary care physician’s office for an appointment. The headaches I had been experiencing, were debilitating headaches, with a heavy pressure feeling, always on my right hand side, just above my ear. I ended up getting an appointment for Wednesday, May 13 at 9:15 am.

 

May 13

On May 13, I met with my doctor (who is only a couple of years younger than me, and has been my primary care physician for about 25 years). After playing the “50 Questions Game”, he pretty much gave up at making a diagnose. He prescribed me a week’s worth of migraine headache medication and scheduled me for a CT scan of my head, for Wednesday, May 20.

 

May 14-May 19

In this timeframe, I used a total of 3 of the prescription pain pills (for migraines). After the first couple of days, the headaches failed to appear … a wonderful thing, until that the headaches were being replaced with other, negative symptoms. I started noticing that functions associated with my left side (hand, fingers, and to a lesser degree, walking) were getting out of control and I was not able to control my left side very well. Most notable was my typing. My right hand seemed to type pretty consistently and accurately, buy my left hand typed “jibberish” and what looked like a foreign language.

 

May 15

I received a phone call from the clinic, saying my insurance company had denied my doctor’s request for a CT scan, but had recommended (and would cover an MRI). So we changed the May 13 appointment to an MRI exam, both with and without dye. This was not an issue for neither my doctor, nor me, as the MRI gives a lot more information.

 

May 20

In the morning of my MRI, I could definitely tell a difference with my left side. In fact, I asked my wife to help me get dressed. I had much trouble putting on a t-shirt, a pair of sweatpants, and my socks.With her help, I got dressed and she drove me to the MRI test. After arriving and being placed on the cart to enter the MRI chamber, the test began. The first 17 minutes were “no dye” testing. After this portion of the test was completed, I was removed from the chamber to have dye injected, so I could then have “contrasting” images made. But no dye was added. I looked up and saw my wife in the control room with the MRI operator, and she was on the phone. This was my first clue something was unusual. A few minutes later, I was joined by my wife and the MRI operator. I was told that an ambulance was on the way, to pick me up for transport to a local (Kansas City) hospital. They had found a subdermal hematoma on the right side of my brain.

After ~ 15 minutes, we reached Research Hospital, where I was admitted into the Emergency Room. The ER doctor sent me for a CT scan, for additional information. A little later, I was moved to a room on the 4th Floor.

About mid-evening, my new neurosurgeon, Dr. John Clough, visited me and discussed the options we had. I voted for immediate surgery (early next morning) as this was presented as potentially the quickest recovery and most likely to be successful. It was called “Burr Hole” surgery, and consisted of drilling 2 holes, via a drill and bit, and each about the size of a dime, through my skull in the area of the pooled blood. The doctor would inject a sterile saline solution into one hole. This solution would dissolve the blood in the solution, and would then be forced out the second hole. After draining, the 2 holes would be stitched to heal the wounds.

I was scheduled for the first surgery of the day, 7:30 am the next morning.

 

May 21

At 6:30 am, I was wheeled down to the Operating Room prep area. Dr. Clough prepped me by shaving a strip, where the holes would be drilled (by the way, Dr. Clough is a wonderful neurosurgeon, but he needs to stick to his day job … he is a terrible hairstylist!). The surgery took about an hour and I was wheeled up to the 6th Floor (NeuroSurgery) after recovery from anesthesia/surgery. My first 24 hours were quite rough. I had to lay totally flat on my back (to help my brain to move back to it’s normal position) and could only sit to eat and stand to go to the bathroom.

In the evening, Dr. Clough stopped by and said he was very pleased with the surgery and the results (I should add that my recovery during the day was totally surprising to me, with a turnaround in my left side functions, getting stronger with the use of my left hand, all day long! He mentioned I would be restricted from mowing/riding my tractor for 2 weeks, and would be restricted to carrying 10 pounds for 2 weeks. And he specifically mentioned that I couldn’t pick up/carry my photo backpack. He also restricted me from hiking the prairie (afraid I’d get disoriented and forget where I was).

Here are a couple of images that one of my daughters captured after surgery (fortunately, I was allowed to take a shower prior to these images. Otherwise, some of my hair/scalp would have still been orange, from the antiseptic prep before surgery):

Sutures, after Burr Hole neurosurgery

Sutures, after Burr Hole neurosurgery

Not pretty, I know! Sorta reminds me of the famous Nick Nolte photo (I believed it was a booking photo, taken a few years ago) :o)

I was also assessed by the hospital’s speech therapist (was given a clean bill of health!), the hospital’s physical therapist (we took daily walks around the hospital, and they cleared me for using stairs), and the hospital’s occupational therapist (we worked with manual dexterity and regaining my typing skills).

 

May 24

In the morning, one of the Research neurosurgeons visited me and said someone would take me downstairs soon, for a final CT scan. Following the scan, I was given my final papers and was able to check out/go home! But this doctor placed more restrictions on me:  no driving, can’t lift more than 5 pounds … yikes!

Since then, I have continued to gain strength, and am looking forward to being able to type accurately and quickly again! I phoned the doctor’s office and have a followup appointment this Tuesday, June 02, with Dr. Clough. He will remove the sutures and (hopefully) remove some of the restrictions I currently have (can’t pick up more than 5 pounds, no lawn mowing, no driving). I’m starting to get a bit stir crazy and am longing to get back to photographing on the prairie!

My time on Twitter and Facebook will likely be sparse while I continue to regain strength and heal, so please be patient. While I’m out for my doctor’s appointment this Tuesday, I will be looking for a better keyboard for my Apple iMac 27, one with higher profile keys that should make it a bit easier for my brain to relearn the locations of keys, and to help my typing hands stay in the correct positions on the keyboard (if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!). I hope to share more posts soon, although they may be a bit shorter, and with less typing :o)

I also thank those that have been praying and sending positive thoughts my way. They’re much appreciated and are helping make a difference!

I also wish to thank the entire team at Research Hospital; all my nurses and staff were extremely pleasant and helpful! And a hearty thanks to Dr. Clough and his staff … a great group of neurosurgeons … but please get more training in hairstying!  :o)

 

Posted in 2015, Blog | Tags: , , ,
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Proverbial Needle in a Haystack

During my recent Misssouri woodland wildflower workshops, we found two Striped Cream Violets (Viola striata) along the rocky hillside where the Columbine wildflowers grow. Here are a few I captured during a couple of the workshops:

Striped Cream Violet wildflower

Note: the bud just to the left (in the above photo) is a Violet Wood Sorrel, which grow rampant among this rocky slope)

Striped Cream Violet wildflower

Striped Cream Violet wildflower

These wildflowers begin flowering low to the ground. But as the season progresses, the flowers grow smaller and the plant grows taller … up to 2-feet tall! Beautiful littler gems to find! Guess we were living right to find our “needle in the haystack!”

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 180mm, f/3.5 macro lens + Canon 1.4x TC
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Graf Studioball ballhead
  • ISO 500
  • Aperture f/8 (top photo f/16)
  • Shutter 1/160 sec. (top photo 1/30 sec.)

 

 

Posted in 2015, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Photography Workshop, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Wary Little Jumper

Warning to Arachnophobics:  Spider Images!

From one of my last trips to the nearby natural prairie, this little Metaphid Jumping Spider (Metaphidippus spp.) who was hiding under the shelter of a May Apple wildflower leaf. As he continued to hide, he would often peer from under the leaf at me:

Jumping Spider

Jumping Spider

Jumping Spider

I found this little guy while photographing wildflowers at the edge of the prairie. I see Jumping Spiders quite frequently. They are such fun to photograph as they forage around the prairie.

 

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark 3 body
  • Canon EF 180mm, f/3.5 macro lens + Canon 1.4x TC
  • Bogen 3221 tripod, with Graf Studioball ballhead
  • ISO 500
  • Aperture f/6.3 and f/8
  • Shutter 1/800 sec. and 1/320 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Blog, Insect Photography, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Fun Friday: Day Dreamin’

Just sitting here, day dreaming of some of my Alaska travels … and wishing I was back in Hallo Bay !

Triplet spring Brown Bear cubs

This image was made during one of our excursions to the beach area at Hallo Bay, Alaska. In late May/early June, everyone waits with anticipation as the brown bear sows move from their dens, high in the mountains surrounding Hallo Bay, to the beach at Hallo Bay, with their brand-new, spring cubs! These triplet cubs had just arrived at Hallo Bay with mom (she’s there, but just out of the frame), and was captured nearly 10 years ago. Spring cubs are so much fun to watch, constantly playing and jumping on each other! As I write this post, I’m longing to be back at Hallo Bay!

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 1D Mark 2 body
  • Canon EF 100-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens, with Canon 1.4x TC, shot at 560mm
  • Handheld
  • ISO 200
  • Aperture f/8
  • Shutter 1/250 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Blog, Fun Friday post, Mammals, National Park, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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