Killing a killer

Where the farm borders woodlands, in grass tall and verdant and dense, two predators vie for dominance in a world that shows no mercy, for in the wildness of this place the instinct to survive and procreate is the only instinct that matters.  And being a predator does not guarantee that you won’t become something else’s lunch.

Female green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) in the grass with a female feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes) held in her mouth (20120720_02266)

So it is when a female feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes), a parasitoid, chances to meet a female green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans), an ambush predator.

Female green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) in the grass with a female feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes) held in her mouth (20120720_02274)

Though young and small, the arachnid hides in plain sight, her body color helping her blend with her surroundings, and there she waits with the patience only true ambush predators know, a stillness cloaking her like death, though her many eyes never cease looking, never cease watching, never cease measuring each chance to feed.

Female green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) in the grass with a female feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes) held in her mouth (20120720_02286)

A predator in her own right, one who lays eggs on other creatures where her young burrow in and feast on the still-living host, the fly perhaps ventures near the spider hoping to give her offspring an arachnid meal, or perhaps she does not see the threat lying in wait.  No matter the circumstances, the encounter pits one predator against another.

Female green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) in the grass with a female feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes) held in her mouth (20120720_02290)

As I circle, gently prying apart blades of grass hoping to snap a photo of the aftermath, the spider circles with me, protecting her catch yet not fleeing.  Lynx spiders do not run or hide easily, instead using their inherent stillness and stealth to hide, vanishing without moving.

Female green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) in the grass with a female feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes) held in her mouth (20120720_02293)

With enough images to identify her prey, I leave her where I found her, yet I do not walk away completely satisfied.  A mystery remains with her, one intrinsic in every such scene, one that begs answers when one killer kills another: What happened here?  How did the encounter unfold?  Was it luck or skill or a combination of both that created this result?

Female green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) in the grass with a female feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes) held in her mouth (20120720_02311)

Where the farm borders woodlands, in grass tall and verdant and dense, two predators vied for dominance in a world that shows no mercy.  Only one of them survived.

Epigraphs – Quote 5

The fifth random epigraph from Dreamdarkers, my first novel, this quote coming from the New American Bible, Job 10:20-22.

Are not the days of my life few?  Let me alone, that I may recover a little before I go whence I shall not return, to the land of darkness and of gloom, the black, disordered land where darkness is the only light.

Epigraphs – Quote 4

The fourth random epigraph from Dreamdarkers, my first novel, this quote coming from George Bernard Shaw’s Back to Methuselah (A Metabiological Pentateuch), his collection of five science fiction plays best described as wishful thinking.

You see things; and you say, “Why?”  But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”

New angles

I don’t always know what I’m going to photograph until I photograph it, and it’s never so much about setting up the shot as it is about capturing life in progress, nature in its natural state.  And I don’t care about the picture’s technical correctness but instead about how it makes me feel later.

A diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer) with its head above water while it rests its body below the surface (2009_03_08_012493)

Many of my photographer friends produce breathtaking images, much of it eliciting my jealousy for their skills and their access to that which eludes me.  Each of these people has a singular gift which translates into a signature, an impression felt as much as seen when their work is viewed.

A swift setwing (Dythemis velox) clinging to the tip of a twig (2009_07_07_026174)

But I hear so much about how to “setup the shot” so the picture is technically correct—rule of thirds and bokeh and all.  Nevertheless I’m left to wonder how much life goes by unnoticed while they’re setting up the shot.

A female eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) perched on a tree branch (2010_03_06_050806)

I’ve tried that method before, yes, and it can from time to time produce exquisite imagery that might otherwise have eluded capture, yet each time I focused on the mechanics of the thing, in the back of my mind I knew the meaning of the thing escaped me, for nature just happens, not posed or staged or manipulated, but rather real and visceral and now.

A female great blue skimmer (Libellula vibrans) perched on a dry reed (2009_07_19_027339)

I don’t mean technically correct images leave me feeling little or nothing.  On the contrary, often they grab my attention, cause my heart to skip a beat, catch the breath in my chest, leave me awestruck and inspired.

A male Texas oblong-winged katydid (Amblycorypha huasteca) standing in the bed of a pickup truck (20120608_00165)

Yet inevitably they leave me wondering.  Not about what the image shows, mind you.  No, I’m left to wonder about what the image doesn’t show, what might have been, what remained unseen and, therefore, unappreciated.

A female slaty skimmer (Libellula incesta) perched on barbed wire (20120624_00385)

The ubiquitous can be unique when caught in unexpected framing, the mundane can be marvelous when caught in the right light, and the everyday can be extraordinary when caught demonstrating life in progress.  Because—let’s face it—nature doing its thing, to me at least, is far more compelling than nature in a perfect image.

A female square-headed wasp (Tachytes sp.) perched on an old pipe (20120630_01137)

So unplanned and ad hoc, I will continue to photograph the wasp who turns her head to look at me, and that even if I’m unprepared.  I will continue to snap pictures of everything I see, and that even if I already have a million pictures of the same thing.  And I will continue to take notice of whatever nature throws my way, and that even if nature gives me no time to prepare, to plan, to setup the shot.

Crepuscular rays created by a distant thunderstorm at sunset (20120706_01357)

Because I’ve learned over many years that, with photos licensed for field guides and dissertations and government presentations and whatnot, when it comes right down to it, nature never shows the same face twice.  At least not when you’re willing to see it in whatever form it takes and at whatever angle it displays.

Besides, photography should never be about technically correct images but instead about seeing old things in new ways and new things in memorable ways, or at least that’s what I think.

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  1. Diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer)
  2. Swift setwing (Dythemis velox)
  3. Female eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis)
  4. Female great blue skimmer (Libellula vibrans)
  5. Male Texas oblong-winged katydid (Amblycorypha huasteca) in the back of my uncle’s truck
  6. Female slaty skimmer (Libellula incesta) perched on a barbwire fence
  7. Female square-headed wasp (Tachytes sp.) on an old pipe
  8. Crepuscular rays from a distant thunderstorm at sunset

Open letter to the FCC

It is bad enough that, living in Jefferson, TX, I am forced to watch news from Shreveport, LA, the vast majority of which means nothing to me.  And the occasional and incidental mention of Texas news stories on these stations does nothing to mitigate the alienation I feel because the FCC has determined we Texas residents should be subjected to meaningless broadcasts from Louisiana.  But when it comes to our political process, the Television Market Area (TMA) idea materially interferes with my ability to remain informed about the elections that matter to and affect me.

Quite by chance a relative picked up a newspaper from Longview and learned from it that we missed an important debate last night between the candidates vying to fill Texas’s open U.S. Senate seat.  As the debate was not carried by any Louisiana station—it was not even mentioned by them—only by mere chance did we learn of it from a newspaper we do not subscribe to but nonetheless picked up out of curiosity.

Am I required to subscribe to newspapers as well as satellite service in order to remain informed about the elections that matter to me—the elections in Texas, the state where I live?  The TMA with which the FCC has burdened me ensures I remain ignorant and disenfranchised since Shreveport news stations provide inadequate coverage about the issues and elections that affect me.

Interference with any election is a crime, yes, but to do so in a manner that is easily rectified is also an affront.  Texans deserve to receive news relevant to them, to wit news from the state in which they live.  This empowers the electorate and ensures the democratic process is open and available to those interested enough to pay attention.  On the other hand, hiding important information behind irrelevant TMA assignments blinds us from the government that works for us.

It is time for the FCC to negate interstate TMAs in favor of intrastate coverage.  Texans want to know about the drought in Texas, not crime in Louisiana; Texans want to know about emergency preparations in Texas, not hurricane preparedness in Louisiana; and Texans want to know about elections in Texas so we can exercise our constitutional rights by taking part in a government by, of and for we the people, and I don’t mean elections in Louisiana in which we cannot vote and for which we have only cursory interest at most.

Do us all a favor: Stop interfering with the electoral process in Texas and elsewhere.  Give Texans access to Texas news stations.  We don’t live in Louisiana.

Best regards,

Jason M Hogle
Jefferson, TX

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  1. This missive was sent to the FCC as well as every Senator and Representative who wields power over the agency via the committees upon which they serve.
  2. Several House of Representative members block communications from anyone outside their districts despite those representatives serving on national committees wielding power over the United States in toto.  Shame on them for thinking themselves above the American people to whom they answer.
  3. Any member of Congress who blocks communications from people outside their districts and who likewise serves on a national committee needs to resign their committee seat immediately.
  4. I will name names in the immediate future with regards to those Senators and Representatives who do not want to hear from anyone outside their districts whilst simultaneously wielding influence on a national committee.  They deserve to be kicked out of office for their selfish ways.