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.
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 –
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 –
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.
Some of our visitors join us right on the deck, like this little shieldbug –
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 –
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.
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.
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.
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.
Woo hoo! Another fall-themed indian pipe shot. The brown stick phase of these little guys is so interesting, but I find it difficult to capture well. It’s the texture and the funny shape the seed pods take that attracts me. Their dark coloring is a challenge, too; hard to light. I think I did ok with these though.
I shot a few with a plain brown background (an old oak leaf), but then I decided to put a couple red and yellow leaves back there and bam! Another fall shot. Even though the flowers dry and stiffen like this in summer, their brown, dessicated crunchiness just seems more appropriate to autumn somehow.
Shooting-wise, this one was tough to set up. I used a tripod and had a heck of a time lining up the sensor-plane to the angle of the tops of the seed pods. I knew I’d need them both in focus for it to work, but since they’re separated and at different heights, tripod contortions ensued. All part of the process and I didn’t really mind seeing as it was a gorgeous day and I couldn’t hear anything except birds calling and the wind in the trees.
and you should know that by now. Here’s a group of tiny things that have found themselves in front of my lens.
oh and something a little different, from Ryan and Wood Distillery, based in Gloucester, MA.
Haven’t been shooting so much as last year, but I am going to California in September and so hope for some good things from that trip.
This little wonder hides in plain sight. For years I’ve been marching past stands of them, ignoring them as just part of the undergrowth. This year though I looked closer and wondered what they were. Then the other day I noticed they made the most delicately strange little flowers under those leaves. I wasn’t prepared to shoot that day, but knew I’d look for them again and go for it. Yesterday was relatively still wind-wise (rejoice!!!) and so when I found some by the Merrimack river, I got one shot that I like. And a bonus spider that I only noticed in post.
They stand on tall stalks with two levels of leaves that all grow from the same spot and look a bit like umbrellas with missing sections. The flower buds start on top of the leaves, facing up, but when they bloom they turn downwards into a nodding position. The blooms themselves are about 2cm wide including those enormous…stamens? Looking at them you could guess that they are part of the lily family, but would still be puzzled at why they’re called Indian cucumber root. It’s for the taste apparently. Indians did use them for food and I guess Europeans thought they tasted like cucumbers. I’m tempted to dig some up after they’re done blooming and taste for myself.
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.
Another reason I’m fascinated with Indian Pipe wildflowers is because they over-winter and I can photograph them in January!
This year I set myself a goal. A mini-project if you will. Borne out of the fact that I hadn’t been able to take a decent picture of indian pipes. Seriously. I tried. I’d see some next to the trail and set up. Everything sucked. I even shot some in winter and those are passable, but I know I can do better. That’s to come. But for now, I’ll share what I’ve got and some of the really cool things I’ve learned about them.
First of all – they are flowers. Many people think they’re some kind of fungus, but they’re not. They have a huge range that covers most of North America, some of Central and South America, Japan, China and the Indian sub-continent south of the Himalayas. Wow. It’s suspected it was because this plant evolved during the Jurassic before the continents parted for good.
They’re white because they don’t make chlorophyll which is the material that both makes plants green and gives them the ability to photosynthesize energy from sunlight. Plants without chlorophyll are called saprophytic. During my research I found out that the black marks often seen on the stems are from the places where the plant was touched. The flesh is very sensitive and will start to break down immediately. I feel sort of bad now for touching some of them now and then. I wanted to see if they felt waxy or slimy. They don’t. They feel dry and sort of satiny like rose petals.
See? One flower per stalk. Flowers that point downwards like this are called nodding flowers. You can clearly see the interior parts of the plant in this shot that’s one of my favorites of the project. No, I didn’t pull the petal off, I found it that way. I’m told lots of pollinators love them including honey and bumble bees, flies and even ants since I’ve seen several with ants on them. When they’re pollinated the inside of the flower, which becomes a tiny fruit, turns pink. Also as the flowers age, they lose the pipe shape they’re named for and stand straight and tall. Here’s a shot of one looking right down at it. I love the abstract weirdness of it.
So what’s a plant without chlorophyll to do for food? Remember that skeevy neighbor you had that told you how you too could steal cable? Yeah, kind of like that. The indian pipe practices epiparasitism. No not an east-Indian mysticism, but a parasitic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. It breaks down like this. American beech, white pine and eastern hemlock trees are big, shady and produce a lot of leaf litter that in turn becomes humus, an organically rich soil. The mycorrhizal fungi really like this kind of soil. They move right in. Then along come the indian pipes. With a shallow and delicate root system they basically tap into the root systems of the fungus and surrounding trees and steal their cable.
Here’s a close up of that 4-petal flower that shows the structure even more clearly –
Because of this dependence and the delicate root structure of the flowers, they cannot be transplanted and do not propagate easily. Many times I’d come across some of last year’s flowers with no new ones coming up beside them which seems pretty sad. I guess something happened to disrupt the chain. I was bummed, too, because one of the shots in my head was of new and old together. Attempts were made, but the results were crap, so maybe that’s for next year. I love the way the flowers eventually turn to little brown sticks. Wicked hard to photograph though.
Yeah, so there are still shots in my head that I have yet to take. Like a better one in snow than the one I have. It will be devilish trying to pull it off though considering the contrast issues. But I’ll try.
Oh and what would a ghostly pale flower be if not an excellent black and white subject. Here are some that I love for the texture and mystery they evoke.
Well I hope you liked my mini project and maybe even you’ve fallen under the spell of these ghostly beauties. Keep an eye out next July and August if you’re up north and maybe June if you’re in the south and you just might spy your own ethereal indian pipes.