Archive for July, 2017

Mushroom mystery

Normally at this time of year, you’d be awash in pictures of mushrooms on this blog. I love them. I love photographing them and now I have a focus stacking application, I want to work with greater depth of field with these images. But a strange thing has happened. The mushrooms haven’t fruited.

Not everywhere, but locally. In my yard for example. Last year all I had to do was step off the lawn or the driveway and there would be dozens of different species and specimens; on stumps, on logs, on the ground – basically everywhere. This year, almost zip.

And when I went to check my mother lode chanterelle spot there wasn’t a single one to be seen.

Last year there were dozens upon dozens.

I should have been more worried on my 1-hour walk to the site. There weren’t any mushrooms. Seriously. I saw 3 not including shelf or fan species that overwinter. Nothing on logs. Nothing on the ground. It was creepy since on previous visits to this trail I’d taken many mushroom shots and a lot of them are my favorites. Amantitas. Russulas. Hygrocybes. All absent. Very weird.

When I checked another chanterelle site in early July, those mushrooms were doing fine. They were small still, but they came up in their usual numbers. That site is many miles from where I was the other day and across the other side of the Wisconsin in another section of the county. How could conditions be so different so close together?

Googling is problematic because any use of the word death/dying etc, just gives me dire warnings about eating wild mushrooms and accidental poisoning. My giant book about mushrooms by David Arora doesn’t seem to have a section dealing with why mushrooms would universally fail to fruit. My only guess is that the cold, wet spring had something to do with it. We lost our snow cover early and never got it back so it’s possible that the frost got too much for the mycorrhizal  mat to deal with. But again, why only in this immediate area? It’s very strange and worrying. I know that many animals use mushrooms for food (including me!! My chanterelles!!) and I hope this doesn’t distress them too much. Maybe the shrooms will catch up. I don’t know.

So, here are the only mushroom photos I’ve managed to take this year and they’re all from my Door county trip in June. All shot with the Olympus 90mm f2 legacy macro lens. Of course!

Marasmius rotula

 

Skirt the rules (mycena species I think)

 

Putting on a smile (possibly a bay brown bolete)

I certainly hope I can find some areas that still have a healthy bloom of mushrooms! Maybe a little north of here. I’ll give it a try maybe later in the week.

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Wordless Wednesday – 7/26/17


A couple days in wildflower country

Moving from NH to Wisconsin means there’s lots of new territory to explore. Being a nature nut, one of the first areas to get my attention was Door County, but I didn’t get there until this year. Ok so it wasn’t that long a wait, but I knew I’d need an overnight trip at least and I was right. Next year it will probably be a couple of nights. There’s a lot of conservation land even on this relatively small peninsula on Lake Michigan.

First I started with The Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey’s Harbor. It is very easy to get to and although parking is tight, I got lucky both times I visited. The organization was founded to protect 30 fragile ridges that formed on the lake over 1000s of years and created subtle, yet distinct, micro-environments. That effort expanded and now the group protects 1600 acres in and around Bailey’s Harbor. Mainly I went for the wildflowers!

Striped coral root

Wisconsin is host to many native orchids including coral root which is a saprophytic flower and you know how much I love that! Alas they weren’t blooming quite yet when I visited because the spring was so cold and rainy everything was late.

Even though the bigger and showier flowers are what get most of the attention here (like lady slippers), I found plenty of shy retiring types that were just as lovely, including twin flower which I’ve wanted to photograph for years, but never found any.

Herb Robert

It was raining very slightly when I shot the twin flower. I’d hidden out in my car while a small thunderstorm cell came though then went right back out. It was fresh and lovely and there were even fewer people around than before the rain.

Twin flower

Being a photographer of very small things, I often have to wait quietly while the wind dies down or the light shifts and while often not exciting, things can surprise you. While I was hunkered down waiting out the breeze I heard a persistent scuffling just in front of me. I didn’t move, but kept trying to see what was making the sound. Lo and behold, a porcupette climbed down one tree, moved to another and made its way up. I didn’t see mom, but she was around as a later conversation with a fellow visitor would bear out. She was on the same path and saw them both. Very cool. I also spotted this lovely water snake when many people just rushed past or gave me a strange look wondering why I was taking a picture of ‘nothing’.

Local hang out

My second day in Door County brought me to another of the Ridges properties, Logan Creek. I didn’t shoot much, but enjoyed my time there and on my way back to the car ran into another photographer who suggested I visit Toft Point for my final stop as it has tons of wildflower, is right on Lake Michigan and was easy to get to. Good suggestion and I got a few more shots I like despite the harsh light in some of them.

Toft cabin

 

Toft barn

Toft Point is a State Natural Area and covers a bit over 700 acres which is amazing in this part of the lake where you just know if it hadn’t been set aside, would be covered in houses. It was given to Kersten Toft in lieu of money for work done at a local limestone quarry. The family loved it so much they didn’t clear it of trees or exploit its natural resources or beauty. Yes they did live there, but lightly. While many outbuildings survive and have been restored, the original Toft house is only a bit of foundation. The meadows are beautiful and there’s even an old kiln made of stone. Many of the cabins look habitable and I don’t know if they’re rented out, but I think they were previously used by students conducting various studies and projects.

It is a haven for flowers. You do have to go off trail to find them, but they are there.

Hidden before your eyes

 

Indian paint brush

 

Wishes granted

So there you have it – my first, but not last, trip to Door County.


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Wordless Wednesday – 7/18/17


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Wordless Wednesday – 7/11/17


Repeat at Ripley

If I’m organized and I get my brain in gear, an overcast day is a terrific time to find a woodland stream and take some of my favorite pictures. Again I headed to Ripley Creek because it’s accessible, close and pretty, but this time I decided that I’d get into the water. What with it not being winter it’s doable and so sandals it was. It wasn’t even that buggy.

This first shot though is up a steep-ish bank at the base of an enormous tree that is down over the water. There wasn’t much choice as to where to put the tripod, but I got it set and it’s probably 12-15 feet off the ground for a sweeping view upstream. If you click the link to the winter post up there, the first image there was shot just where the log is in view here –

Inflected by consciousness

Not only did I get the view I’ve wanted for a while, but I used a few subtle processing touches in Lightroom and I think it sings. It’s a 10-second exposure and because the clouds were thick and the light low, I only had to use a polarizer.

Composition of the senses

This one got my feet wet! And I discovered I need a carabiner to be better able to hang my camera bag from the bottom of the tripod legs to keep it steadier in moving water like this. It’s a tight fit right now and a bit of a pain to get it hung, but it helps to keep the vibrations down.

The flow this time of year is amazing because of how much rain we’ve had – 17 inches in 90 days! So it was deep and swift and made for some lovely compositions.

Wishing for nothing else

If you compare that shot with the black and white below you’ll notice some of the same rocks, but the feel of the image is completely different in monochrome. The light in the leaves is almost like an infrared photo, but not quite. I think it’s a surprisingly dreamy image for B&W and I’m glad I gave this type of processing a try instead of leaving them all in color. It never hurts to experiment.

In that second

I nearly had to break out the neutral density filter for that one, but instead I stopped down a little more and could keep a 6 or 8 second exposure. The contrast between textures is pretty great.

Just to the left a seasonal stream runs in and when I noticed this stump, I had to get a shot of it. The way it grew over the boulder and the different shapes and textures were too much to pass up. You can also see it on the left in the last color water image.

Gloriously insignificant

I was only out two hours, but I think I got several terrific images. One of them just might end up being one of the best of the year.


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Wordless Wednesday – 7/4/17


An unexpected trip to a surprise island

For many years now, we head to mid-coast California on vacation. Monterey, Big Sur, Carmel Village, Salinas valley, Paso Robles – we love this area, but now that Big Sur is basically an island it’s a little harder to get around.

If you haven’t heard, the recent landslides on the coast have taken out big sections of US 1 which is the only main road in and out of Big Sur. There’s a resort there we’ve been to that we love and when I got an email saying they were flying people to and from Monterey airport in a helicopter, we decided to go. When are we ever going to do this again? Fly over Carmel Valley or Big Sur just a few hundred feet off the ground? Never.

And it was worth it. I didn’t get many good shots because the movement of the helicopter was sometimes erratic and the reflections off the curved glass were a challenge. This first shot is taken looking toward the Pacific from Carmel Valley, basically the backside of Big Sur. The low clouds come in almost daily from the action of the warming air and the cool ocean. They played a little havoc with the helicopter, but our pilot was a pro and completely unshaken by the need to dance around a little.

When we landed on the lower lawn of the property we were greeted as warmly and attentively as usual and we had some snacks and champagne while we waited for our room to be ready. Here is the view from the room’s patio the next morning while I was enjoying my coffee.

Yeah, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. lol.

The resort was functioning, but in a little more relaxed style than usual. A rough road through the valley and hills was opened through the back of Big Sur on a military base near the 101. It’s VERY slow and dangerous going, but it is literally the only way to get supplies and people into the property and Big Sur as a whole. There is staff housing on property, but the people still had to hike 2 miles to a parking lot where they could get a ride out this road and to their homes and families. One night we noticed the sommelier was a bit roughly shod. He explained that he hiked in that day, but forgot his dress shoes so was wearing hiking boots in the restaurant. No one minded, everyone understood and we proceeded to help drink down the cellar. How can you get wine in with conditions like this? Crazy. But it seems to be working and we spent a couple of lovely days on the island of Big Sur.

For a bit we hung out by one of the pools and this was our only company –

Before we knew it, we were whisking off to Monterey airport again. Different helicopter and different pilot and wow, a different view!

That is the Point Sur lighthouse sticking out there and on the right is US 1 where it is still open and functioning. We’ve driven by this little point a bunch of times, but never dreamed we’d see it like this! Sometimes there are cows grazing in the fields between the rocky outcrop and the highway. It’s so beautiful. If they ever get US 1 open again, drive it while you can. You won’t be disappointed.

One of the big challenges is going to be to replace a bridge that got wiped out near the southern reach of Big Sur. There are many small creeks and rivers that wind through the hills and down to the ocean. Even though they are tiny, the hills and valleys are enormous and require substantial constructions to span them, like the Bixby Creek bridge here –

We’d never even thought of the chance to see it like this and so it was amazing. Those little specks are cars and trucks. The beach is nearly inaccessible, but I think there is a steep path leading to it. So amazing.