Saturday, September 17, 2016

Monsters at the Door!

Late Summer is prime time for observing our other "little pets" - the gecko colony in front of the house! I've posted about them last year - you have to be quite observant to see any of them - they are quite shy and retiring. Walking up to the house when arriving after dark, you might spot one or two behind the glare of our porch light before they scurry off. I had to go to great lengths to capture the family portrait at left - do NOT go out the front door, but rather out the side gate from the back yard, walk around the car parked out front, and sneak close enough to take a flash picture. But I was rewarded by capturing 10(!) of them! My previous record for visual spotting was 5. You can play "where's Waldo" by clicking the left image to view at full size before going to the labeled version at right where they are all marked. They can penetrate quite narrow cracks, so have plenty of places to hide around the eaves of the front door, and will all disappear in seconds as they are approached.

I also mentioned in the above post that these are Mediterranean House Geckos - not native to Arizona. They are evidently imported for the pet trade, and after escaping or being released, set up shop in the urban areas, like in front of my house, feeding on insects attracted to exterior lighting. At left is a wide shot of another before he scurried away for the nearest opening. The eave vent hole at bottom is about 2 inches in diameter, providing a bit of scale - these aren't large at all, topping off at about 5" long or so. Because they are so shy, I've never been able to observe their hunting technique. While they were all running for cover, this little fellow paused at the rear end of a Moneilema gigas - a cactus longhorn beetle. I can't tell if it was considering taking a bite of it, or was attempting to hide behind it, but he continued scurrying away after taking the photo at right.


Anaglyph 3-D - get your red/blue glasses!
Anaglyph 3-D, get your red/blue glasses!
But fortunately for me, when they hide in the latticework of our security door or look out from one of their hiding cracks, they seem secure, allowing me to ease in for some close-up images. Of course, you know me - one of the things I go for are the 3D stereo images! With a subject quite still and used to me taking flash images of it, I took a pair of images from slightly different vantage points. Presented as anaglyph images here, you need your red/blue glasses to see the 3-D effect. In these extreme close-ups, they lose a lot of their "cuteness" and appear much more reptilian! Both of these 3-D images are from the same image pair, but with different crop factors. The left image is displayed at full camera resolution, and the image at right made from a larger section of the image. The eyes are quite amazing - instead of eyelashes, they have a row of inclined scales that can be spotted in the closer version. They evidently don't blink, licking their eyes to keep them moist, though I've not seen that action...


Their feet and pads are equally amazing. While the local lizards we've had the privilege of imaging close-up have little fingernail claws - like the horned lizard shown here, these geckos seem to have little scale-covered fingerlets. This effect is shown in close-up at left, showing one of his front arms from shoulder to toe-tips. This is a 3-frame focus stack to extend the zone of sharpness over the full image...   Similarly, the image at right used 10 frames, all with a slightly different focus point, combined to make a sharp image.


I'm closing with one of the favorite photos taken this week - a 6 frame, hand-held image stack in close-up of a gecko hiding in a crack about a quarter inch wide between our security door and adobe bricks. The detail in the eyes and head are quite amazing, taken with pretty simple equipment - my nearly decade-old Canon XSi, plus a few cm of extension tubes with the 100mm macro lens and on-camera flash. I'd use the newer 6D, but I don't have a flash unit for it and it doesn't sport the standard on-camera unit... It would be nice to get this close to all of them w/out them hiding from me, but themz the breaks! We love our little bug-eating reptilian monsters, and I like the challenge in catching them in photos!

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