Archive for April, 2012

Requiring Some Delicacy

They aren’t showy or rare, but I couldn’t resist the artful arrangement of leaves in the early morning sun.  I have shot them before, but not with a flower closed like this.  I think it adds a tiny bit of the unexpected.  Some tension maybe and makes you imagine the days to come.

Wild Oats



The Highs and Lows of Woodland Photography

If you hang around this blog you’ll quickly realize I love the woods.  Forests of all stripes and ecologies fascinate and enchant me.  Mostly I look for the small scenes and tiny things that are often overlooked.  This year I want to also try to show the larger view of why I hang out in the woods so much.  The trees, the stone walls (at least here in New England), the boulders and rock formations, the light – all of it comes together to soothe and enliven.  Here are some recent shots that I hope get the point across.

This first one is kind of experimental.  I was out with the OM 35mm f2 lens and playing with depth of field and while it isn’t perfect, I like the freshness and the ‘good dream’ quality.

I don’t know if it works, but I’ll keep trying as the season progresses.  As always I have my eyes on the ground, too.  Better to keep from tripping over roots and rocks and for spying some of my latest obsession – sporophytes!!

Spoonlike sporophytes

These are wicked small – the tallest is barely 1 inch.  I was attracted by the red color and was delighted to see they look like wee spoons.  Never saw them before and the light was just so amazing I had to try for a shot.  I wish I could have gotten a bit more depth of field, but this shot is already at f16 which is the outer limit for the 90mm’s sweet spot, so it will have to do.  I am still torn about those white pine needles in the foreground; do they distract too much??  I left them in to show scale and the light changed so quickly that just a few minutes after I took this, all was in shade so I moved on without taking a shot with them removed.

The light is what attracts me to shoot these and when I spied this next little group I had to move fast.  At these small scales pockets of sunlight disappear in seconds.  Really keeps me on my toes…or should I say knees?  I’d have liked to frame this one a bit better, but literally ran out of time.  In about a minute, the earth turned and those snakey little sporophytes were in the same shade as the background.  Isn’t the color just fab though?

Snakey sporophytes

I hope that this kind of pressure situation improves my initial instincts for this type of photography.  Part of being a good photographer is developing a kind of muscle memory about certain conditions – you know, that grab shot that is so hit or miss that most of us miss.  Sometimes though, I catch a break, and the light remains long enough for me to finesse things.  This next shot, while of a flower that is everywhere (ubiquitous…don’t you love that word??), I worked it pretty hard, changing lenses, angles and finally the background to isolate just two blooms.  Quotidian, yes, but I like it anyway.  Bluets just seem so cheery to me.

Eternal Optimism

So back to one of my original thoughts in this post; showing the larger view.  Here’s a shot, again taken with the OM 35mm f2, of one of my favorite sections of trail in my local conservation area.  The white pines are packed in so tightly that only their upper branches have life.  Almost nothing can live in the highly acidic soil that is almost constantly shaded.  The inches deep mat of needles is soft and springy underfoot.  I always stop here and bounce slightly on my toes enjoying the feeling of hiding in plain sight.

Overlook tunnel

Again, I’m not sure it works, but because I walk there often, I feel its effect on me.  Encapsulating and secretive.  I just found a disused trail in this area, and since it’s high up on a granite ledge, I think that some leafy/canopy views might be possible as the trees leaf out.  Stay tuned!

Elusive Wildflowers Part 3 – Wild Columbine

Do you remember me stalking a plant that wasn’t blooming and me not knowing what it was?  Well today was my lucky day and I finally found it blooming.  It’s columbine!   Yay!!  Another one I’d never shot before.  I don’t remember even seeing it outside of books.  Sa-weet.

Royal Portent

The light was really spectacular, but the terrain was challenging.  When I read in my guide book that these flowers thrive on rocky, wooded slopes I knew they weren’t kidding.  I was at better than a 30 degree angle shooting these and on a barely covered granite slab; pretty unsteady.  But oh, it was lovely.

Mithradates's Comet

I’m not 100% happy with the results, but I gained some valuable experience on my first attempt.  I need a slightly deeper depth of field than I achieved here, and I’d like to change it up with some landscape oriented shots.  Luckily there’s another plant in the vicinity that isn’t blooming yet, but will most likely do so next week.  I also spotted tons of another wildflower I’ve never shot before, so it will be a double bonus.  I think I’ll have to get there a little earlier than I did today though, so I can  play longer.  Oh and you can probably guess which lens I used.  : )

Elusive Wildflowers Part 1.3 – Hepatica in bloom redux

“It looked like I had another chance at the twenty dollars.”  – Philip Marlowe, The Little Sister 

There’s never a bad time for Raymond Chandler now is there?  When I went to see if another flower was blooming, I found that the hepatica still were and this line from my favorite Chandler came into my head.

I almost didn’t go. The light has been pretty lousy this week; especially in the afternoon.  For the shot I want I need late afternoon sun. I was all set to go out yesterday afternoon, but the light quit at about 3:00. Bah. So today I decided to see what I could do in the morning, if the darn thing was in bloom yet.  Then it started to sprinkle just as I got the car out of the garage.  I dashed back in for a quick look at the radar.  Just pop-ups and passers, nothing that would linger so out I went.

After checking the flower I want to shoot and seeing it wasn’t blooming, I decided to check out what else was doing and found myself on the hepatica hill again. Before I could get going another gentle rain shower started. I waited it out under a spreading hemlock and when it was over, I found these beauties –

If she should turn away

In the moment

I have a ‘how to shoot wildflowers’ ebook and it states one should never shoot wildflowers in direct sun.  Really?  And miss a shot like that one?  Not on your life.  I think working within absolutes is quite limiting and I’ve never been a stickler for the rules.  There are always exceptions.  It’s learning how to recognize those exceptions and figuring out how to turn them to advantages.  I’m not an expert in all of them, but I think I know enough to be dangerous.   : )

Anyone have any photography rules they like to break and have them work???

Elusive Wildflowers Part 2.1 – Bloodroot in bloom

I was right.  It took two trips to get these in bloom.  Somehow I’m not satisfied with my work, but for now it will do.  The light went from terrific to flat in a short time and since it was still pretty breezy, I packed it in.  Here’s what I got though. Shot with a combination of my normal ZD 12-60mm f2.8-4 and the trusty OM 90mm f2 macro.

Milady’s Secret

Buckingham’s Object

Joys of a Rival

Of the Robe

Elusive Wildflowers Part 2 – Bloodroot

My photographic journey with this flower has been an interesting one. Despite the long hours I spend in the woods and my quest for wildflowers to photograph, I’d never seen these beauties except in the photographs of others.  A photographer acquaintance of mine even refused to disclose the location of the flowers a couple years ago, so I fruitlessly looked for them since.  Recently another photographer acquaintance posted a few shots and I said I was jealous.  He did share the location and I was overwhelmed with the sight of literally blankets of them covering the ground –

Beau Mond

As I turned 360 degrees it was all like this – a carpet of bloodroot so dense I could hardly walk through it without crushing them underfoot.  I must have looked hilarious while I carefully craned my neck to look for a safe foothold among the flowers.

Which, unfortunately, weren’t blooming.  Like the hepatica, I think this is going to take a couple of trips to get what I want.  Still, even furled these flowers are intriguing.  Each one comes up from the earth wrapped in its own leaf.  Like little capes, they stay wrapped around each tender blossom.  It’s named for the color of the sap that flows if you cut the stem or root – a deep, rusty orange.  American Indians used it as body paint and to treat fevers, sore throats and rheumatism. Strangely, it has also been used (with reported success) to treat some forms of skin cancers.  Whatever its efficacy, it spreads via rhizomes and even grows on top of stone walls which is where I found this grouping.

I hope I find it in bloom.  If the sun ever comes out again, I’ll make a return trip.

Elusive Wildflowers Part 1.1 – Hepatica in bloom

Phew.  A second trip got me what I wanted.  Hepatica in bloom.  The wind though was relentless and the light harsh, so my photographic options were somewhat limited, but I got a couple that I’m happy with.  This first one is the same group of flowers in the trail that I shot on my first attempt.  So lucky they weren’t crushed by an inattentive hiker.  I had to wait until they were in the shade of a tree so that the detail wouldn’t be blown in the petals.  The light is kind of strange; usually people put the shadow in the background, but I like the contrast.

The Court rejoicing

This second one is bit unusual for a hepatica shot.  I find that most people shoot them at the angle of the one in the background where the petal separation isn’t as obvious.  But this little duo was in a perfect location, light-wise and I love those leaves so I had to include one.  Standing on the hill, waiting for the wind to die down for a second so I could shoot was pretty peaceful.  So much so that an enterprising and friendly garter snake came by to say hello.  It wasn’t even aware of me in a way that threatened it and never stopped in its snakey glide on by in search of lunch.  I love it when that happens.  It feels so harmonious.  Like I’m meant to be there and am not an intruder at all.

Precious and Grace