February, being cold, blizzardy, snowy and miserable I didn’t get out much. March is different. I’ve been out a couple of times and look what I saw –
Sunlight in the snowy forest can take on so many aspects. Shadows on smooth snow is one of the best though. This one is from the Pulpit Rock conservation area in Bedford. It’s an easy place to fall in love with and I go there several times a year. This time I noticed a new trail that I’ll have to explore come spring.
The brook at Pulpit Rock was mostly covered in snow and ice. You’d never know there are a few nice waterfalls along its course so muffled was the water channel. At Tucker Brook nature preserve in Milford, there was a bit of open water now and again. Few and far between though.
This scene is just downstream from some mill ruins I’ve never seen before. They’re far above the famous falls, but I’ve hiked up there and don’t remember seeing them. Knowing my near obsession with colonial hydro-mills, I know I’d have shot them if I’d seen them. Oh come on spring!
Another reason to long for spring. Well, summer really is the mountain laurel. The Tucker Brook preserve is jam packed with them and I think I’ll try to get to them while they’re flowering. They’re such a New England staple. Here they are sleeping the winter away. I’m really trying to capture sunlight in snowy forests and I think I’m making progress. I love this look up the slope with the shadows and snakey shapes of the laurel trunks.
I did more than shoot landscapes, but I’ll save those for another post. There’s lots of detail out there in the woods if you just look for it.
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 –
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.
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 –
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 –
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!
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.
Are you dead from the suspense yet? Sorry about that. Here is some more from my latest dawn trek to the bog. The wider views are all done with my regular 12-60mm lens, but I spent some time finding some landscape slices which was pretty rewarding. It’s a fun way to see things that is in between the sweepingly large view and my normal, tiny, macro view. But there’s a good macro in here, too so don’t worry.
The day of my epic face-plant yielded another present that I would have definitely missed had I gone home. All three of you that read this thing know that I had (have) a mini-project (obsession) going with Indian pipe flowers. I don’t know what it is about these luminous beauties, but I am so drawn to them. So when I was walking by the Piscataquog I found the biggest, most densely-populated swath of them I’ve ever seen. Seriously. There were so many little groups it was like a game of twister for me to not step on any while crouching under hemlock branches trying for microscapes. It was worth it though because not only was the light lickable, but the flowers were almost all pink! Pink! I don’t think in all of the time I’ve been photographing these have I seen really pink ones. So great.
Granted it’s not the only type of fern to remain green in winter, but it just looks so pathetic sometimes that it’s irresistible.
I found it while exploring some ruins in the Townes forest in New Boston, NH. We’ve had so little snow that I noticed swathes of evergreen fern all over the foundation. They all drooped over so artfully, like waterfalls, that I began hunting some to photograph. This one had the best light and was nicely isolated by a large indentation in the stone foundation of the barn that used to stand here. The comparative darkness of the rocky cave made for a great backdrop for the fern in the soft morning sun. I especially love how the curled leaves form a repeating pattern and how the exploded spores stand out against them. Ah nature, thou art so cool.
Another reason I’m fascinated with Indian Pipe wildflowers is because they over-winter and I can photograph them in January!
In the course of a day I look at hundreds of photographs. By participating in Google+, forums, flickr, 500px and other photo communities it’s easy to do. One thing that has been getting my attention is that people don’t seem to understand white balance and its importance. Mainly I notice it when there is water involved. Blue waterfalls everywhere. Is the world running with mouthwash? Crazy. I also notice it in woodland shots that are clearly taken in daytime, but look really odd and blue. Too cold by far. Mostly it’s white balance which is nothing more than color temperature and can be easily adjusted. Correct white balance and overall color temperature is the most important thing in making sure your colors are accurate. Well, that and monitor calibration, but since you can’t correctly calibrate every monitor in the world, just do your own and let it go.
Folks who shoot in raw often don’t care about white balance in camera because they can always fix it later. To some degree I’m guilty of this, but try to match my wb in the field to what the light actually looks like. It’s tons easier to do it there than after the fact when you might be too removed from the moment to remember what your eyes saw. Most cameras have auto-white balance which is a place to start, but be aware that most cameras aren’t accurate. Here’s an example:
This is my friend Melissa coming down through the Magical Birch Glade in the NH White Mountains.
It was early afternoon and while there weren’t a lot of leaves left on the trees, there were quite a few. The light in autumn afternoons around here is golden and soft. At this time of day it’s not as warm as it gets later, but the yellow leaves made it more so. Take a look at the birch trunks…they appear sort of blueish. They didn’t really look that way. To anyone not with us that day, this picture would be fine, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For an October day it was warm; in the 80s. Does this picture convey warmth to you at all? And that golden afternoon light I talked about, don’t you want to see it?
The first thing to do is to check your scene in the field and try to match it in your live view screen to as best you can. Probably you won’t get it exactly, but close is good. Try daylight, cloudy, shade, flash – all of them are different temperatures and you can see their effects in the LCD screen. When you get your shots into your computer the first thing to do is adjust the white balance. Many photo editing packages have set their tools in order of precedence, in other words they are in a rough order of how you should use them with white balance at the top of the stack. So with all other changes being the same between shots and only the white balance changed, here’s the Magical Birch Glade –
OK, maybe that one was too subtle. Check this one out.
This is the Little River in Twin Mountain where the Twin Mountain north trailhead is. It was taken just a few hours after the shot in the MBG; farther into that mellow warmth. You wouldn’t know it from this though, would you? This is really the bane of my existence when I look at other people’s images. Blue water. Blue rocks. Blue tree trunks. Come on people. Pay attention! Unless these things really were blue, adjust your white balance.
It’s easy to do. Most editing packages have presets like daylight and cloudy as well as a slider that will let you put the temperature somewhere in the middle. It’s not hard. And look what a difference it makes.
Check out the trees, too – the color pops a lot more and the whole scene is more inviting. Only the white balance is different between the two shots. Here’s another one that’s even more dramatic.
My husband and I went walking in a state park the other day. Unfortunately it’s been closed due budget constraints, but we jumped the fence (as everyone is free to do, you just can’t drive in anymore). What have I been banging on about in this whole post besides white balance?
What are we trying to photograph, folks? Light of course. And nothing is more wonderful than soft, warm late afternoon light in October. It’s truly special. Believe it or not that’s what I saw in the shot here. But the camera doesn’t see like the brain sees and so it’s off. Way off. If you weren’t there of course you wouldn’t know, but the whole point of sharing photos is to bring other people into your world. To show them a little of what you experience and find delight in. Personally I don’t find much to delight in with the before picture. Straight out of the camera be damned. Now for the correction –
Now that’s the scene that made me stop. The trees and their shadows, the couple and the light all made me stop and shoot. Look at that light, would you? It’s lickable. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
If you didn’t know before, you know now –
Some from a nearby apple orchard. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of these two. Plus the light was great!
Some watery views from my hike up Mt. Hale this past weekend. The light was direct sun and rather harsh and contrasty, so I did the best I could –
My eyes aren’t always turned downwards, finding tiny details to show to the rest of the world. No, sometimes I pretend I’m a landscape photographer. Here are a sunrise at the coast and a sunset at a lake. Unfortunately there were no clouds in the sky for the sunrise, but when I saw the clouds yesterday afternoon, I knew they’d light up well.