(Updated 07/04/10)

All Web site photos, maps, charts & text © Hilton Pond Center

Crab Spider consuming a Hoverfly (AKA Flowerfly) on a
Black Elderberry flower head

The Web sites for Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project were designed and are maintained by executive director Bill Hilton Jr. The sites are housed on Comporium servers in Rock Hill, South Carolina USA as an in-kind gift to the Center. Some hardware and software products mentioned below were donated to the Center in support of our work.

Both Web sites were constructed exclusively with Adobe PageMill (now GoLive CS 7.0.2) on Apple Macintosh computers and currently on an iMac (left) with 2.66 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, originally using Mac OS 9 and now OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)--the only way to fly.

Prior to the fall of 2002, on-line photos were taken with an Apple QuickTake 150 and then a Sony Mavica FD83 digital camera at "standard" resolution; for the latter, the macro setting was used for close-ups with an initial image size of 1216 x 912 pixels. Since then we first used a six-megapixel Canon D60 digital (right) and then a Canon 20D (8.2 megapixels); these cameras allow attachment of various interchangeable Canon single lens reflex lenses. In June 2008 we received donation of a Canon 40D (10.1 megapixels); a year later we traded up to a Canon 7D (18 megapixels) that is ideal for macrophotography because it has easier access to Live View through a large LCD screen on the camera back. (As a plus, the Live View is kinder to our back when our subject is low to the ground or in an awkward location!) Images are captured in JPEG and RAW format with the 7D, which also has full high-definition video.

All Web site photos, maps, charts & text © Hilton Pond Center

Albino hatch-year female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (above)

Most close-ups are taken with Canon's 60mm f2.8 macro. Hand-held photos of birds bigger than hummingbirds and warblers are taken with the Canon 50mm compact macro (with or without the optional 1:1 adapter); our arms are too short to get bigger birds in the frame when we use the 60mm! For some close-ups we may use a Canon 180mm f/3.5L macro or, more often, the lighter-weight Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro--particularly for butterfly and other insect photos. With the 100mm macro we sometimes attach Canon's EF12mm II or EF25mm II extension tubes to allow closer focusing.

The Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 internal stabilization zoom serves as a multipurpose lens, especially on walk-abouts. Distant shots employ the 100-400IS f/4.5-5.6L telephoto zoom (occasionally with 1.4X or 2X extender). A Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L wide angle zoom is used for certain landscape shots.

Most photos are taken when we serendipitously come across an interesting organism or object as we walk the trails around Hilton Pond. We much prefer the effects of available natural light, although we sometimes use built-in flash or a Canon MT24EX Macro Twin Lite electronic flash (left) in low-light situations or to offset the effects of wind by allowing faster shutter speeds. A Canon Speedlite 580EX is employed if a stronger flash is need for general photography; a Visual Echoes Better Beamer attachment allows the light to be focused when telephoto lens are used. Rotating polarizing lenses are used for some outdoor shots to reduce glare and enhance color. Occasionally we bring an organism or object back to the lab for tabletop macrophotography, in which case the light source is often an Ott-Lite daylight-balanced fluorescent lamp. For this set-up we sometimes employ a Canon MP-E 65mm 1x-5x macro zoom lens for ultra close-ups.

Almost all photos in the field are taken with camera and lens mounted on a Really Right Stuff B55 Pro ball head or Arca-Swiss B1 Monoball head on a Gitzo Mountaineer 2227 carbon fiber tripod with tilt-column (now in the Explorer series, below right), providing maximum stability and enabling unusual shooting angles. (NOTE: After camera and lens, we consider the tripod to be our most essential and important piece of equipment.)

A Really Right Stuff L-plate (below left) securely mounts the camera to the ballhead and allows quick change from horizontal to vertical perspective. On close-ups, a gear-driven Novoflex Focusing Rail enables for a shift in camera position in two axes (right/left and forward/back) without moving the tripod. For desktop work--and some ground-level work in the field--we mount the focusing rail, ballhead, and camera on a Kirk Enterprises Low Pod; sometimes we remove the standard column from the Gitzo tripod and replace it with a short 4" column to get down to ground level. In the field we may use one or two Wimberley Plamps (below right) to move objects into--or out of--view and to stabilize plants during windy conditions.

Away from Hilton Pond Center we download photos from a Lexar Professional 4GB 133x CompactFlash card to a 160GB Mercury On-The-Go Firewire/USB combo portable hard drive via a Lexar Firewire card reader attached to a Mac PowerBook G4. We back up photo files onto various hard drives and also to DVDs and maintain duplicates using the Time Machine component of Mac OS X.

A few of our Web site images are from 35mm slides taken 1975 through 1999 with +1, +2, +3, and/or +10 close-up lenses attached to a 50mm lens on a Nikkormat EL or, much less commonly, a Canon Elan II. Slides (and a few prints) were scanned with an Agfa DuoScan T1200 flatbed/slide scanner--more recently with a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000--and imported into Adobe Photoshop CS4.

All Web images are cropped and reduced to 72 dpi resolution in Photoshop and most are compressed with freePhotoConverter 3. Some images are color-adjusted with Intellihance Pro 4.2 or fine-tuned for sharpness and "grain" with FixerLab's FocusFixer and NoiseFixer. The Hilton Pond Center logo was designed using Strider Software's TypeStyler.

All Web site photos, maps, charts & text © Hilton Pond Center

Green Frog

Uploading of the site is accomplished by Fetch, a user-friendly Finder-like FTP client for the Macintosh. Images are imported and catalogued using Apple's iPhoto. The comprehensive on-site search engines for both Web sites are provided courtesy of LookSmart; we use Amazing Counters to tally page hits.

Links to most software developers or manufacturers who have donated currently used applications or equipment to Hilton Pond Center can be found on the Supporters page.

Our goal is to assure that the Hilton Pond Center Web site and its images download quickly and are easily navigable; thus, you will not find a lot of "bells and whistles" in the form of sounds or animation. All individual pages are set at 635 pixels in width to be printable on standard 8.5" x 11" paper; this format also makes the pages easily readible using Apple's iPhone. The font of preference is Comic Sans MS. If you have problems with viewing any images or pages or have technical questions about the site, please contact the WEBMASTER. (Photo above left is a Northern Copperhead.)

Pinxter-flower, A Wild Azalea

Contents of the Hilton Pond Center website--including text, photos, maps, charts and other graphics--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in ANY way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. In general, to maintain control over our images we do not allow them to be posted on other Web sites, but we can make them available for fee-based one-time use in print publications. All rights reserved worldwide.

All Web site photos, maps, charts & text © Hilton Pond Center

Ventral View of a Lightningbug

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.