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Blogroll, topics, links and other organizational stuff is at the bottom. I like the wide space this allows for the photographs which are the whole point of this blog. Also, I've been slowly adding to the Best Work and Favorites page at the top. Check it out if you haven't been here in a while. Last update was October 25, 2012.

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Elusive Wildflowers – Part 14 – Pale Corydalis

Just a quickie. This one was really hard to photograph because the plant is a big, sprawling mess really. At first I thought it might have been some long-finished columbine. A little closer and I thought it might be a kind of bleeding heart, then I noticed the flowers were missing their other half and had yellow at the opening. Nope, not bleeding heart. Not having ever seen it before I had no idea and it took a couple flips through the wildflower book to figure it out.

Pale Corydalis

It was a little bit breezy and so even when I found an interesting couple of blossoms, it was a test of my patience to wait for the calm moments. That’s why I didn’t even see that mosquito until I got the shot into Lightroom. I was staring at the flower on my screen waiting for stillness. Plus I was on this rockpile, which is where these flowers like to grow according to my guide, and it was difficult to get into a position that was anywhere near comfortable. LOL. I had an idea to turn this shot 90 degrees to get the flower oriented correctly, they actually hang vertically with that little crest on top and the yellow opening on the bottom, but I kind of like it this way, especially with that little blood sucker in there. Actually, that may be a male mosquito given the color (dig the blue stripes) and the feathery antenna, and males eat nectar not blood, but I have no idea. After doing a bit of scouting on the web for a confirmation of my ID, I realized what a distinctive image it is so I went with it.

Wait, did I say a quick post? Oy. So much for that. As a bonus, here’s another shot -

Celebrants to the end

Elusive Wildflowers – Part 13.2 – Pinesap

I found some!!

I found some!!

OMG!

The clinch

I barely know where to start this post other than to say that anyone witnessing me photographing these would have thought me crazy. It was almost an act of reverence. The fact that they were in a messy state and jammed up next to a pile of dead branches made it difficult to deal with them, but damn, I found some. Like the nut that I am, I took a picture with my phone and emailed my husband about it. He was happy for me, but probably relieved, too, that he wasn’t with me and didn’t have to stand around doing nothing but watch me for who knows how long. He gets enough of that as it is.

A dash of heat

After I stopped my happy dance and restarted my heart (just kidding), the first thing that struck me is how different they are from the type I found earlier this year. Clearly there are big differences with this flower and what I found this time was the late blooming type, which in my book was pictured exactly this color and this size. They’re really that bright. Honest. No hue or saturation sliders were abused during the processing. And they’re little – the size of typical indian pipe which is 3-5 inches high. The other type is much larger.

A flicker of flame

Despite all my reference sources saying there are two genetically distinct varieties of this plant, they both have the same scientific name – Monotropa hypopitys.  There is also Sweet Pinesap (Monotropsis odorata) which only grows in the mid-Atlantic states. It mostly resembles the early blooming type, but also has two blooming seasons itself. The later one is lilac colored, but unlike its earlier blooming friends it has no fragrance (it hangs onto that name though). Its flowers come outof crisp little wrappers, too. That would be really cool to see. Maybe someday.

Across the moment

As you can see, not a scrap of green on these babies which makes them saprophytic. Like others in this family, pinesap is a mycotroph which means it uses fungus in the soil to facilitate the transfer of nutrients, sometimes directly from the roots of nearby plants.

Rendezvous with strangers

While I worked with the flowers, I lost track of time and luckily no one came by. Considering the number of dogs in this conservation property, I’m shocked the flowers were still there and not destroyed. They were right on the side of the trail.

A small miracle

When I left, I gently covered them with a fallen branch that still had leaves on it; better to protect them maybe, I don’t know. I hope they live to be pollinated and can spread their seeds around so they come up again next year. So long as the fungus doesn’t die, either.

Wisp

As you probably figured, the Olympus 90mm was on duty for this momentous event.

IMG_0314

Even with the naked eye they are fuzzy, unlike indian pipe which has smooth petals. I don’t  know if the yellow or early blooming pinesap is also fuzzy, but I think it is judging by the ones I found. Reminds me of the differences between nectarines and peaches. Both are sweet and talismans of summer and I hope I get to savor them again next year.

I can almost hear you sigh

The Penultimate Paddle

I thought it would be my last kayak outing of the year, but it turned out not to be. It might not even stay the penultimate paddle, but I like the alliteration so it’s staying. These are my rules, I make ‘em up.

Last year I don’t think I did much in the way of foliage shots from the kayak, but this year I decided to try. Trees in and near water are usually the first to change which is very handy for the paddling photographer. Having seen other photographers’ shots from Campton Bog in Campton, NH, I decided that’s where I would go. It was an absolutely perfect day. Blue skies with a few puffy clouds, great color in the trees and only 2 other paddlers on the water, whom I only saw one time and actually heard go by once when I was down a side channel. Summer temperatures, too, so I didn’t have to wear a lot of gear. Behold -

Did someone order the autumn special?

OMG, right? I think I had the camera in my hands more than the paddle. And actually, this isn’t really Campton Bog, that’s connected by a slim waterway (now reimagined by beavers) to this pond called Robartwood Pond. I’ve been here before in winter and had a good time walking on the frozen water and trespassing in the brook on the other side of the bridge. Eventually the landowner saw me (and 1/2 dozen friends) and threw us out. Not before I got some good shots though. Anyway, here’s more of my perfect penultimate paddle (see what I did there).

Robartwood Pond

The perfect mix

This year, in an effort to improve my kayak photography technique, I added a custom mode to the GH3 for when I’m on the water. Basically it’s shutter priority, auto ISO (which seems to have the pip and not be working the way I want…more investigation is needed), auto white balance and electronic level displayed on the screen. For the most part it works well and lets me concentrate on composition which, let me tell you, has its own challenges.

Don’t wake me

I also use a polarizer whenever I’m kayaking. It was especially important on this outing. I wanted good colors, but not that blackish blue of over polarization. Careful managing gave me what I wanted. It does shave about a stop and a half from the exposure, but for the most part that’s ok. This year I finally broke down and got a decent one, too, which helps with accurate color rendition. I’ve started to leave it on whatever lens I’m working with a lot, too. I used to do that when I shot my E-30/12-60mm combo, but somehow got out of the habit when I switched to the GH3. No idea why. Just weird that way. Taking the reflection off of plant leaves really brings up the color and this time of year, color is what it’s all about!

Danbury bog

Ok, that last one isn’t from Campton Bog/Robartwood Pond, it’s from Danbury Bog and the day wasn’t quite so wonderful, but I saw a moose on the dirt road leading to the put in. No pictures, but I got to watch its graceful lope up the road and away from my scary Subaru with the big weird thing on top of it. This shot is the only usable one because of the flat light and the mostly cloudy skies. I ended up scaring the same little group of ducks all the way up the channel. Sorry dudes. Then I got the tables turned on me. There was a really big beaver dam inside the giant culvert that goes under the bridge on Ragged Mountain Road. Normally, I think people can paddle through, but not with that there. So it was a much shorter trip than I planned. When I got back to the put in and had the boat all secured on the car, a truck with a rowboat in it went by on the dirt road, then slowed down, reversed and came back. The driver asked me if I was coming or going. Going. He laughed and said that was probably good as he and a crew were going to take the beaver dam out and there would be a big surge of water. That would have been exciting. Darn it. A day late! Oh well, there’s always next year.

 

Mushroom walk

A couple of weeks ago, the Piscataquog Land Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy hosted an event at the Manchester Cedar Swamp preserve. Since it was in one of my favorite bits of protected property and was about mushroom hunting, I was all over it. Reta McGregor kindly donated her time and expertise and I learned quite a bit, including which parts of a bolete mushroom are edible (hint, not the spongy part). I even found a mushroom she’d never seen before. It was a toothed mushroom and very lovely. Anyway, I got there a bit early and did some scouting with the OM 90mm. In addition to a bounty of mushrooms, there were newts and indian pipe. Alas, no newts would pose for me, but I still had a nice time and found some worthies.

Cortinarius corrugatus

Cortinarius lodes

Two different species in the same genus and they were everywhere. I didn’t manage to ID everything though. These two still elude me. I think I need to get a few more mushroom books. They can look so different during their lives, that I think you need to have many photos to compare with. With my one book, it’s hit or miss.

Leaving it all behind

The understudy

In one section of forest there was a good crop of late-flowering indian pipe and a few of them were blushing mightily.

Fit of shyness

Undammed!

Or how to get over beaver dams in your kayak without going swimming!

Sometimes my inner slacker tries to get the upper hand.

A while back in August I decided to rack up the kayak and put it in the water. Even that much I had to talk myself into since the rack wasn’t even on the car, much less the boat. But strap it up I did and headed off to a man-made lake I’d paddled before but with limited success. Limited because it was my first season as a paddler and I didn’t know how to deal with beaver dams. Last year it totally bummed me out because my favorite paddling is river paddling. I like the hemmed in quality of the banks and vegetation; never knowing what you’ll find around the next bend. This section of the lake is really a narrow stream and marsh, so it was wonderfully windy. The tranquility is like no other I’ve experienced. Birds, frogs, turtles and yeah, the occasional beaver or muskrat. I love it all. Sure, the open part of the lake has its appeal, but not like the back channel. So what to do about beaver dams?

Surface tension

On this 2nd trip to the lake, I knew one was there, but didn’t do any planning or research as to how to tackle them. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. And then when I got there the wind kicked up considerably and so I almost didn’t even get the boat down. I almost decided that it was too windy and I hate paddling in the wind. But I’d driven almost an hour and it was just plain stupid to give up. Plus I remembered how sheltered it can be on a narrow channel below the shrubline. In the water I went. Still no plan as to how to get past the first dam, knowing full well it was a really short paddle unless I could figure out a way to do it and not either dump myself or my camera bag into the drink. It’s a drybag, but still.

The first dam

The First Dam

So there it is. The one that got me. I could hear it laughing. So I sat there a while studying it and thinking. I probed the water depth with the paddle and found it to be about mid thigh. That’s if the bottom was solid. No way to tell. I tried paddling very fast and hard to see if I could build up enough momentum to clear and ended up wedging the boat in the breach. It was when I did that that I figured out how to get over. The water on the immediate other side is very shallow and sandy. All I needed to do was to get the kayak through the low part enough so that I could get my feet planted on the other side, well on the top of the dam itself actually. Then I could stand up (oh how it pays to do squats!) and use my hands to guide the boat between my feet. Step forward, slide boat, step, slide then sit back down and paddle. It worked. On my first try I didn’t walk the boat far enough from the breach and I was practically floated back down over the dam, but managed to stop myself in time. Woo hoo! I was on the other side of the dam. I did a little victory lap. Take that, rodents!

I felt so great after that I didn’t even mind when it started to gently rain.

A separate domain

After several bends I had to thread my way carefully though shallow water and pickerel weed to find yet another dam. Luckily this one had another water-level breach. That’s the key. The boat has to be able to get across the structure somewhere and it has to be low enough for me to get my feet onto it and be able to stand. Anything above the waterline wouldn’t be possible. Not with this technique. I had just barely enough room to make a running start at the breach, so to speak. Wedged the kayak, secured the paddle under the deck bungee, got my feet onto the top of the dam itself, raised myself to standing while gripping the sides of the boat and gave it a pull. Step, slide, step, slide, step, slide – this time a little further so I wouldn’t drift downstream too far. Back in the boat and paddling upstream. Not too shabby.

The second dam

The second dam

Upstream from this one there was a lot more evidence of the beaver population; lots of prints on the banks and little tunnels and openings in the bushes where they’d come and go. It was cool, but I didn’t see one. Bummer. I wanted to rub it in a little. Luckily I didn’t because they had the last word.

The third dam

The third dam

Curses, foiled again!

Then I found that going downstream over the dams was really fun, so I got a bit of my own back.

See you next year beavers!

Elusive wildflowers – Part 13.1 – Pinesap

It’s the year for arriving late to the pinesap party. After years of looking for this unusual flower I found the mother lode in Weare, NH. OMG they were everywhere, but just past their full bloom stage. Darn it. You can bet I won’t be late next year.

Unmask, unmask!

Elusive Wildflowers – Part 13 – Pinesap

Now this time I really mean it.

Elusive.

E.

LU.

SIVE.

Hard to find. Hidden. Fugitive. Intangible.

I’ve been hunting this flower ever since I became fascinated with its cousin the indian pipe. That was in 2011. Since that time I have found it once.

Once. (shades of Johnny Dangerously)

It was in Hollis NH and the flowers were long gone by. Just dry brown sticks. So I revisited the following year.

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

But then. On a spontaneous trip to the Musquash with my husband. Lo – Pinesap.

Earthlings rejoice – we have pinesap!

Irony of Ironies that I should find my most sought-after wildflower (well, kinda…the list is long) practically in my own backyard. My surrogate backyard is how I usually refer to the Musquash. It was right on the edge of one of the main trails, standing tall and proud in its pale glory. Stopped me in my tracks I can tell you. My husband thought I was nuts, but he understood as he’s heard me wax poetic about this strange flower many times. Good thing he didn’t have his phone with him or he’d have really good blackmail footage of my dance of joy. Pretty much for the rest of our walk he would hear me say, in a dreamy monotone “pinesap”.

Another irony is that I missed the blooming by days. The flowers are not quite dried up, but appear to have been pollinated and are past their prime. Like indian pipe, this flower lacks chlorophyll and so isn’t green and produces no leaves since without chlorophyll it cannot photosynthesize energy from sunlight. Instead it uses fungi in the soil to tap root systems of other plants to siphon energy for themselves. The plants I found are almost a foot high. I couldn’t believe how big they were.

My guide book says that there are early and late-blooming specimens and that they are actually different species. They bloom from June to November and I found these in August. That probably makes them early given the fact that NH is a northern state. In addition to being bigger, another difference from indian pipe is that there are multiple blossoms per stem. Check it out -

Pinesap

Sure, they’re not the loveliest things in the world, but they’re so interesting. They’re supposed to propagate well once the seeds have been scattered and judging by that group up there, we’ve got a lot of seeds to spread. I’ve already put a reminder in my calendar to check back next year. I know right where they are so can go to them fast.

Another name for pinesap is false beech-drops, another saprophytic flower that I’ve tried to photograph in the past, with somewhat limited success (mostly because I missed the blooming). The other day I founds some hanging out with ferns and it really made them stand out (plus they were actually fresh). Normally they blend right in with the undergrowth and because each flower is only 1/2 an inch long when bloomed, they tend to get really lost. This is as good as I could do given the conditions (basically I was on a slope of a ditch next to a snowmobile trail).

Beechdrops

Like other plants without chlorophyll, beechdrops exist as parasites on beech tree root systems. They’re self-fertilizing and spread like crazy.

So anyway…expect to see pinesap again next summer. I’m going to try to be diligent about finding them in their early stages with lush blossoms. I’m so excited!

 

Elusive Wildflowers – Part 12 – Purple Gerardia

While wide-spread with many varieties, purple gerardia is new to me. Mostly because I think it gets lost in the overabundance of late summer. That and it grows in some pretty poor soil, basically sandy areas which are largely seen as waste lots full of weeds. Be that as it may, I got right down with the macro lens as soon as I saw these little beauties. They were in the parking area of the Musquash where a lot of other messy wildflowers grow.

Purple gerardia

They’re part of the snapdragon family which also includes foxglove and speedwell. I shot a few images at the start of my walk in the woods, and I had a feeling I’d snag a few more at the end. Oddly I couldn’t find this same flower at first. Then I realized that the flower had fallen off the stem and was lying on the ground with a bunch of others. Seems that the flowers are either very fragile or only last a day. Luckily it had a few neighbors with more tenacious blossoms -

On the edge of a dream

They were sharing this little patch of the earth with some rabbit’s foot clover, which is really fuzzy and tinged with pink and green. It made for a really soft and billowy sort of background which I like for the delicate purple gerardia. Unfortunately the sun broke through the clouds for this shot and so my husband had to make some shade for me. I like the slight back-lighting. Ants seem to like this flower a  lot. Maybe the nectar is especially sweet. No doubt that is very important to a flower that relies on seeds for continuation of the species.

Treasure seeker

I may head back there soon because there were other overlooked little beauties there, too. Tiny yellow flowers, that when closed, are dark red, as are the edges of the leaves here on the gerardia. I’m thinking of abstracts and soft-focus washes of color. Something different than what I do with spring wildflowers. High and late-summer flowers seem different to me. They are less structured and more intricate with colors and shades. Maybe it’s just me, but I like the distinction.

Elusive Wildflowers – Part 11 – Black Nightshade

Nightshades are an interesting family of plants. Many of them are poisonous with lethality that goes mostly like this -

  • mmm, yummy
  • woah, trippy
  • eww, I don’t feel so good
  • omg, I wish I was dead
  • ugh, (clunk)

Even the non-deadly ones have deleterious effects for some people. Those would be potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers and eggplant. Basically, nightshades produce powerful alkaloids that can exacerbate inflammatory responses, lead to leaky gut and irritable bowel and auto-immune diseases, which is sad because they’re really tasty. Except for eggplant. Tobacco is also part of the nightshade family and we all know what enough of that does.

So what the heck am I on about? I can’t grow tomatoes, but boy can I grow the less edible kinds of nightshade. A few years ago I photographed the deadly or bittersweet nightshade (belladonna) that’s been growing in my yard for years. It’s a messy, sprawling vine with gorgeous little purple flowers and the fruit ripens to a deep red color. It’s pretty cool and I call them Dr. Evil’s tomatoes because I’m silly that way. So when I spotted this little baby in the yard -

Common Nightshade

I ran right back inside for the wildflower book and the camera. Isn’t it wonderful? Ok, sure, it’s a weed, but come on, it’s a stunner, right? The flowers in the shooting star pose are less than 1/4 inch wide and about that when 1/2 opened. This little cluster has almost the full range of the blooming sequence and I’m so happy I got lucky and caught it. Here’s the same little group with some backlight and in black and white.

Backlit nightshade

When I learned that they make tiny green berries that turn purple when they ripen, I knew this would become a mini-project for me. I kept a close eye on them and soon little green fruit appeared. Oddly, I never did catch the pollinator(s). Whether, bee, fly or ant, it remains a mystery although I do suspect ants have something to do with it since they were all over the plants, weirdly hanging out on the undersides of leaves. Ants, who knows?

I even spied a tiny jumping spider hiding in the green berries. He wouldn’t come out and give me a smile though. He’s hiding in this shot -

Mini-Me’s tomatoes

From my work with this plant and with the deadly nightshade growing nearby, and because I’m a veggie lover, I found a lot of similarities between species in this family. Take black or common nightshade – it makes tiny spherical fruit that start out green like tomatoes, but they don’t grow on a vine – the plant is self-supporting as are potato plants. The smell of the plant itself is similar to tomato plants, too and the way the stem attaches is just like them, too. They don’t stay green for long either. Check it out -

Mini-me’s eggplants?

OMG!!! Aren’t they cute? Like tiny, pea-sized eggplants. Because these are right by my deck in a planter, I could move them all around for the best light and backgrounds. I wish everything I shot was this easy to work with!

Do you dare?

Eons ago, when I was a girl, I read or was told that tomatoes were considered poisonous for a really long time before someone got brave enough to try one. When they didn’t die, tomato cultivation began. Like cousin the potato, this first happened in South America where it spread to Central America and what is now Mexico. When the invaders came, they couldn’t be convinced to eat them since they were so similar to belladonna, mandrake and others whose potency as poisons or hallucinogenics associated them with murder, witchcraft and weirdly, lycanthropy. It would take their exportation to Europe and re-importation to North America for colonists to do more than cringe at the sight of them. More’s the pity. Native Americans had been eating them for centuries.

As I did research about this plant, I discovered there are several varieties all commonly referred to as Black Nightshade which comes from the Latin name for the Solanum nigrum species native to Africa and India. What I most likely have growing in the yard is Solanum americanum because of the way the berries grow in an umbel cluster from a single stem and are shiny when ripe. Also, the leaves are uniformly light green whereas a similar species, Solanum ptycanthum, has purple on the undersides of the leaves. S. americanum and s. ptycanhum are thought to be New World species although that’s in dispute as well. It’s also rumored that Euell Gibbons used to make pies from the ripe s. americanum berries, but I’m not that brave!

Phew! Botany lesson over. You thought this was a photography blog, didn’t you? As you probably guessed, all of these were shot with the legacy Olympus 90mm macro. No extension tubes and all natural light. I continue to be amazed at the combination of that lens and my GH3. The detail is jaw-dropping and I’m so happy to have found these little beauties right in my yard. I hope I get a crop next year, too.

Salad anyone?

Muhahahahaha!

 

Doing that thing I do

More from the yard. Everything was shot with the legacy OM 90mm f2 macro except for the amanita.

My husband is used to it by now. If I see something, I can’t sit still until I shoot it. Sometimes just a new idea about how to shoot something will obsess me until I do it. Or the light will change and something will lure me off my chair. Our hanging out on the deck time is often punctuated by me coming and going with the camera. Just the other day though, we had a visitor -

Drat, I’ve been spotted!

I decided to leave the manual 90mm macro on just to see if I could work with it and a moving subject. It was challenging, but not impossible. The detail at this ISO (1000) is pretty amazing. Some of the softness is grass extremely close to the lens and out of focus. I just wasn’t able to get a lot of that out of the way for fear of scaring it. Never before have I had such an easy time with a garter snake. It was aware of me, but not frightened. I didn’t shoot it the whole time, but just watched it move and investigate a small section of my yard.

Stealth

On a curve

Some of our visitors join us right on the deck, like this little shieldbug -

Just passing through

Isn’t he great? The colors just knock me out. Check out his little pink legs! You know you’re a photographer when a bug lands on the deck and you run in for the camera. Another shieldbug came by yesterday, but it was too active to shoot – it crawled all over the place then flew off, crashed into the house, bounced off and landed in the lawn. Who knew bugs could be so entertaining? This earlier one posed for me quite happily though. When I was a kid we called them stinkbugs.

Then there was this mayfly that came by in June -

Golden mayfly

I love the detail in this shot. All the different structures and formations. I learned that mayflies do not have mouth parts and thus do not eat. The adults exist only to breed. And to serve as models for fly fishermen. The golden mayfly is the largest of the species and from head to the base of the body (not including that long whippy tail) it’s about 1 and 1/4 inches. It stayed on the screen door for more than 24 hours before I decided to send it on its way. I mean, no other mayflies were hanging out so it needed to find where the party was.

The mushroom population is a little thin this year, but this beauty is gracing us with its presence now. I’m no expert, but I think it might be an amanita farinosa.

For a limited engagement

This next shot is a couple weeks old. It’s a very common weed, but like many plants we call weeds, it can be very beautiful (especially after it rains, which was when I took this image). This one always catches my attention because the yellow is so very pale and soft. Not like garden loosestrife, St. John’s Wort, Butter-n-eggs and some other yellow flowers.

Rough-fruited cinquefoil

But nature isn’t all wonderful all the time. It’s rough out there for some. When I first spied this tiny bird’s egg by my walk, I was delighted. I love finding signs of new life and activity. Then I turned over one section and found the yolk still intact. Instant sadness.

A life unlived

It is all part of a much larger cycle though and within a few hours all traces of the yolk were gone. Ants found it and made short work of it. Some of those ants will feed a bird or two or other creatures that birds eat.

What kind of egg is it? I thought it would be pretty easy to ID, but lots of little birds make tiny speckly eggs. My best guess is titmouse. It’s about the size of my thumbnail – a little larger than a dime.

Yesterday I found something very cool in the yard, but I haven’t photographed it yet, so you’ll have to wait for the surprise.

 

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