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I’ve been breeched

You know how you can walk past something again and again and not notice it or what it is, but when you do you feel like a dope? I had that experience recently when I hit part of the Ice Age trail in search of a particular wildflower I knew was there, but ended up being bowled over by one that I didn’t.

Well kind of. Sure, I noticed its bright green, feathery leaves and thought them beautiful. The problem was when I noticed the flowers were long gone. Check out what it was –

Dutchman’s breeches!!

I’ve long known about these guys and how they’re supposed to be so common, but I’d never seen them before. They were right under my nose the whole time, I just didn’t recognize them without their pants on. Once I did though, I spent a lot of time looking and photographing them. Here’s what they look like when they’re young –

Baby breeches

As you probably can tell, they are in the same family as bleeding hearts. My guidebook tells me they are only pollinated by bumblebees since they are the only ones to have a proboscis long enough to get in there. I saw plenty of girls on them, but wasn’t lucky enough to capture one at work. Al Mullen was though –

Hang In There Baby

Isn’t she great?? Early spring wildflowers are so important to bees emerging from hibernation like the bumblebee. They do not store food for the winter and so finding it quickly and in abundance is key to their survival. In return, they specialize in certain flowers and are key to that species proliferation as well. Wonderful how that works, huh?

Something else that works is black and white for these flowers. Check it out!

What’s your perspective?

The tonal range here just nails a black and white. The texture, too, adds a richness that I think is needed in a monochrome photo.

We interrupt this blog

Recently I almost lost my dad. Nearly half-orphaned I was. Me. At close to 50.

No matter what your age, if you get along at all with your ‘rents, losing them is traumatic and I’ve been spoiled by very healthy ones so this disaster really made me mental.

Not to mention I’m really far away now and couldn’t be there at all to aid and comfort.

He’s home now, but boy is there ever a long road ahead and a huge pile of bills.

So. Partially because my dad is a curmudgeon about the internet, I’m using it to help him. (See that, the internet can be used for good, dad!)

Well, you’re going to help him. At least I hope so. After all, how many casseroles can mom and dad eat?

Please consider giving a few dollars towards his Recovery Fund.

I know, I know. You’ve got a million other things to do and a million other things to spend your money on.

But how many of those things will make me cry? Go on. Make me cry. I dare you.

For those who missed the URL it’s here – Dick Smith’s Medical Fund

And if you want to share this post – reblog it, tweet it, facebook or instagram it. Feel free. That will also make me cry.

Vernal pools part 3

On this trip to the pools I played with my polarizer a bit to get different looks at the same scene.

I’ve always found the polarizer an important bit of gear for most of my photography. It has an effect that can’t be duplicated with post processing software and with a little practice and experience, you can produce big changes.

Overhead and under water

And with a little twist we get this –

Pause for the effect

Isn’t that great? Not only can we see down into the giant cup of tea that is a vernal pool, but those rocks just pop out. I really like both images and I hope this pool stays wet. It hasn’t rained in a while (unusual here in northern Wisconsin) so who knows, but I think the area in the back of the image does stay full to some extent. There is a lot of peat moss back there in addition to the grass, so I think it does.

Here’s a view I quite like of the other pool I’m keeping an eye on.

So to the woods

The downed trees are so great. I imagine turtles basking in the sun, but I doubt it. Vernal pools don’t host those guys year round. Painted turtles need permanent bodies of water, like the Wisconsin and other lakes, ponds and flowages.

When I was there the ferns had just come up and by now must be unfurling. I’ll have to get back over!

Spring in your backyard

Wisconsin winters certainly seem longer and bleaker than NH winters. When things turn it seems so slowly that I think I know for the first time what spring fever is. Being cooped up with hardly any color or seeming life around can get on me a little even though I do enjoy winter quite a bit. Spring though. There’s nothing like it. And of course the flowers.

Round-lobed hepatica starts us off!

Breathless exchange

These are both shots from the yard. I used to have to drive 45 minutes to find these little lovelies, but not I just walk outside. They’re everywhere, but I love them still and marvel at their proliferation and toughness.

Clarity of purpose

Sometimes the choice to go to black and white isn’t obvious. With this next picture I was playing with a moonlight simulation in Lightroom for a while, but it kept getting paler and paler until I finally knocked all the color back. I like the mix of detail and blur, the solidity of the stems and the muted exuberance of the flowers themselves.

We wouldn’t dare impose

Bloodroot is another flower I used to travel all over to find and now just have to step outside to see. My yard and the surrounding area is covered with them. They’re hard to shoot, but I keep trying. Those leaves are just so wonderful that when the light catches them just right, they become the focus, not the about to bloom flower.

A season anew

Of course, finding wonder and joy in my own backyard isn’t new. I used to do it in New Hampshire all the time even though my yard was much smaller. Curiosity is the key to staying engaged in photography even though your horizons may be limited, either by the weather, time, physical ability or whatever. As long as you can keep your sense of wonder intact, subjects for your sensor will keep appearing and, more importantly, keep appealing.

We get a lot of rain up this way and so when I found some collected between the leaves of as of yet still unknown flower, I got right down on it and just look at what I found –

Not beneath notice

A reflection of the trees above and yes, my camera. It was fascinating to me and I’m glad I slowed down to explore my yard in more detail. I ducked out of the frame and so now it looks like some alien probe from Star Wars checking out what’s down there.

So that’s my first wildflower post of 2017. There will be more. As of this writing I’ve found a spot that was literally carpeted in spring ephemerals and I shot some flowers I’ve never photographed before. I’m also planning a trip to Door County in June to visit a wildflower preserve so that should be really fun. Stay tuned!

Vernal pools part 2

After discovering that the woods across the street hosts many vernal pools, I decided to explore further to see if I could find a couple that I could work with over the course of the weeks or months they stay full. So far I found two, possibly three that will work. And boy are they popular. Lots of deer scat and frog song.

Richness

I need to wear some tall boots to get into these properly and explore what looks like a tiny sedge meadow in the back of that first picture.

Subtle splendor

Things are moving slowly this spring, but at least the snow has melted. I have a feeling the view in the shot above will be something I return to as the pond develops. Even though I have no exact plan for how I want to shoot these, I want to try to show them in all their messy glory. This includes some unusual views –

Aftershock

And smaller slices. I love the way the sun lights up these tufts of grass. I forgot my medium telephoto zoom so shot this with the legacy Olympus macro lens. It works just as well out of macro mode.

Inner workings

No ferns were up yet when I shot these (April 19), but I’ve been back over since and they are up now. Cinnamon fern for sure and possibly Royal fern, but it’s too early to tell. Also I didn’t notice any egg masses, but I’m sure there will be some soon when the critters start getting serious.

 

 

Picture me in spring – Vernal pools part 1

I have long had a love of vernal pools. Almost every time I see or hear one near a trail I go to take a look. They come in many shapes and sizes, and not all will last through the season, but all are important to wildlife during breeding season. Especially invertebrates and amphibians. How wonderful is the sound of a poolful of spring peepers? It’s one of the best parts of spring.

What is a vernal pool? It is a temporary body of water often created by melt and rain water in spring. Sometimes they are called ephemeral ponds. Naturally occurring depressions collect this water but, the important part is that they don’t last. Eventually they dry up.

Some pools are large and run together eventually forming small streams at times. Some are tiny and fleeting –

But they are notoriously hard to photograph. I mean, basically they’re just big puddles with leaves at the bottom and plants hemming them in on all sides. They form in dense woods which can be rather flat which doesn’t get you much perspective. For that first shot I stood on a little hillock to get a tiny bit of elevation which works ok I think. The second was shot from my driveway which is a foot or so above the tiny pool, beside which grow ferns including my beloved maidenhair.

Ferns will be a big part of the landscape so I’ve given some thought to them in terms of the kinds of images I want to make. Reflections. Moss. Logs. Grass. All can be part of what makes a vernal pool vital. Discovering more about them is sure to bring me some surprises.

All of these photos were taken across the street from my house in a bunch of vacant land so it will be easy for me to visit often and document changes. That is the main reason I want to try my hand at this; ease of access. I dread bug season, but I will brave it for the sake of giving it a go. As a matter of fact, as I write this I already have a second visit done and I think I’ve found a couple of pools that will last long enough to show their cycles. I hope I can show how special and interesting these little habitats are. It certainly feels challenging and hopefully my creative spark ignites and I can break out of my rut a little bit.