Yesterday on the return leg of a hike up some small mountains in southern NH, I spied this beauty on a striped maple. It’s a rare and wondrous luna moth and the backlight was a bonus. Judging by the bushy and feathery antennae, it’s probably a male. It had newly emerged from the cocoon and was at its most vulnerable stage; pumping up those glorious wings. It was so fuzzy that I wanted to touch it, but didn’t. Just look at those purple legs! Tremendous. I felt so privileged to have found and photographed him.
I was so excited because it’s only the 2nd one I’ve ever seen. A bit of research turned up the usual fact of human poisoning of the world and they are now an endangered species in my state as a result. Hopefully our last-minute conservation efforts can bring them back from the brink.
Another thing I learned is that they are only found in the eastern half of North America and, depending on the latitude, have one to three broods each year. In the north, the first brood is in May while in the south it is in March. Each brood is marked by a change in color to the upper and lower borders of the wings. First broods usually being pink or lilac, second and third more orange or yellow. The southern specimens are smaller than the northern whose wingspans can reach 4 1/2 inches. They only fly at night.
One of the more puzzling and intriguing things about them is they seem to exist primarily for their larvae stage, since the adults only live about a week and have no mouths and thus cannot eat. I wondered for a while just where this beauty came from since it’s early in the season and since it’s obvious the adults could not possibly have over-wintered or migrated anywhere. The cocooned caterpillar did the overwintering. If it pupates too close to winter it waits until spring to emerge where it will eat and eat and eat, eventually going through 5 separate instar stages before the final transformation into the stunning adult.
Nature always surprises and enchants me, but somehow this also made me sad, thinking of those mysterious night fliers, doomed to their short lives. It shouldn’t, but it does.
Earlier today I took a quick stroll around the yard, looking at this and that, checking on things that might be emerging. It’s not officially spring, but it sure feels like it out there. We’ve got spring peepers peeping already and I saw a garter snake around the 10th. Amazing.
Anyway, on my quick stroll (believe me…I’ve got a tiny yard) I noticed that some moss had already sent up little pods containing spores. These are one of my latest obsessions and I’m going to make you all sick of moss before long. ; P
I loved the light and the contrasting colors. And look how each pod is losing its little paper hat. Soon the spores will be free. Each tiny stalk is only an inch high (give or take a smidge) and so slender as to be almost invisible when you look down. I had to run my hand gently over the top to make sure they were really there. Except when the sun hits them just right that is. Shot with my trusty Olympus 90mm macro at about f8 if memory serves. Anyway, I hope you like it and hopefully I’ll have more shots to share soon. If anyone can point me to a good moss ID website, I’d sure appreciate it.
You know, I think I spend more time with my backpack off and it lying on the ground than I do actually wearing it! Being that I spend so much time way down on the ground, photographing tiny things I think I need a different rig. Or one that allows me to work differently. But that’s another post.
Before I get into new stuff, here’s a leftover from May that somehow got stuck. I love it. Of course I do, it’s a fern!
And I’ve been using the square crop more and more lately. So many things just seem to call for it. I’ve never been a strict aspect ratio sort of person, instead I adapt each crop to fit the subject and mood.
I have been out and about, focusing on my major; woodland photography. The bugs have calmed down and are manageable with an appropriate layer of anti-bug goo on. Today I noticed a ton of the tiniest toads I’ve ever seen, but I was too pooped and the light was too dark for me to photograph them. I did wish each one luck on his or her way; they seem so vulnerable at this stage. Another creature that’s out and about are newts. Oh how I love these teeny dudes.
This is their only terrestrial phase; they’re still juveniles and as adults will return to the water and live for up to 15 years. So long for such a small creature.
I’ve also been chasing light and some tiny moss spore things…I don’t know what they’re called…pods? Anyway, I think I’m getting closer to the shot I want.
It’s mushroom season and they’re literally popping up everywhere, in some surprising colors –
Aside from new and interesting mushrooms, I also found this pink lady slipper flower –
I’ve never seen one like this before. I always thought the flower and stem died back completely, but I guess sometimes they don’t. I love finding new stuff in the woods.
And just so you don’t think I’m always looking down, here’s some water hemlock (yeah, the poison stuff a la Socrates).
But sometimes I’m lazy and stay close to the house. I’ve always got company.
Phew. Our most recent heatwave is over and I can probably get back outside. I say probably because it’s horse and deer fly season and those just make me miserable. They’re relentless and will bite you to death if given half a chance.
Lately I’ve been playing a bit more deliberately with bokeh and its effects. Whenever I’m shooting I’m extremely aware of my f-stop and its relative depth of field, but I rarely shoot wide open with any of my lenses. Generally a lens’s sweet spot for sharpest focus is in the middle of its f-stop range. Many lenses are soft at their largest apertures, especially kit zooms and even some primes. Macro lenses are designed to be shot wide open and so usually hang onto their sharpness. My legacy Olympus 90mm macro is probably the finest lens I own so I left it at f2 the other day and here are a few that I like. The bokeh is buttery smooth.
First some moss spore pods poking up over the foliage looking like alien robots hunting for intruders. Each of those little pods are 3-4mm long and I think the first one has its hull off while the second still has it. You can sort of see the internal structure of what’s underneath and it looks very like the one in the first shot. I know zilch about moss though, so it’s just a guess. And I also don’t know why this particular species produces these pod things and flowers, too. Weird.
Ok, that second one might be at f2.8. I can’t really remember, but it looks like it. Later I was sitting by a beaver pond watching the light play in the ferns. What? You thought you could get through a whole post without ferns? Ha! I still had the 90mm on the camera and shot wide open again, focusing on the nearest fronds. I kind of like the effect.
Wow, green overload, what?
I’m working on another project, but haven’t been able to get the shots I envisioned so I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. It’s something I’ve had in mind for a while now involving one of my favorite wildflowers that I’ve never photographed well – indian pipes. Maybe I’ll hit the woods today or tomorrow and if the biting flies leave me alone, I’ll see what I can find.
Let the microscapes begin!
Not the most beautiful or delicate of wildflowers, but one of the first to appear. I went wandering in one of the many nature preserves in Andover, Massachusetts the other day and one section of the swamp was covered with skunk cabbage. I read that they can come up so early because they actually generate heat with their cellular respiration and can melt snow. Amazing. Oh and I just saw the photo on the wikipedia page – creepily similar to mine.
I found this one just off the wooden walkway and was struck by the excellent mossy foreground. I’d been scanning for a plant to photograph and none looked so well-situated. The big tree as background and the afternoon sun lighting up the flower itself were perfect to help this shot work. I debated whether to leave last year’s flower in or not, but since I’d already tidied up the scene by removing some distracting twigs, I left it.
I didn’t see the spider thread when I shot it, but I like it now I do. Ditto for those tiny sprouts near the main plant itself. Amazing what is revealed in these kinds of photos and one of the reasons I keep doing them. This one I basically handheld, but kept the lens hood on the moss itself to anchor the camera. My husband looked on bemusedly. He’s used to it.
The berries that I’ve been watching turned orange before I have to go on hiatus. I spent the last few early mornings photographing them and some of the leaves. Am pretty satisfied with how things came out, but I’m irritated that a certain shot just won’t come crisp. Given the lens I’m using and my previous results with it, I can’t understand why it’s not coming up sharp. Bah.
Anyway, here’s what I do have –
The light in the morning really brings out the warmth of the colors. Yesterday the left over rain made that second image a tad more interesting.
Here is a look at how the leaves and the plants as a whole are looking. Bedraggled about sums it up, but I like the color variations in the leaves themselves and think isolating parts of them still works. Those weird spots on the upper middle leaf are spiders. Will have to go out to investigate more.
I really like that last one for some reason. I think it’s the texture of the leaves.
Oh and look who stopped by to check out what I was doing.
Even down to 6 legs it was still able to evade another daddy long legs that came by.
Anyway, I hope I can continue with this project, soon. Although the plants aren’t getting any prettier I am committed to documenting them all the way to full die back. It’s been a fun project and thanks for keeping up with it.
The other weekend we took a road trip to Vermont. We had destinations of sorts, but it was really just an excuse for my husband to get some seat time in his new Audi S4. I brought the camera along as usual even though this wasn’t a photography trip per se. He’s used to it by now. It was sunny with a few clouds in the sky and pretty warm.
This first one is so quintessentially Vermont that I’m almost embarrassed I took it.
Not the same barn, but this is what happens when they fall into disuse –
We got out of the car for a bit to stretch our legs in a new little park on Route 2 in Marshfield. The restored covered bridge went up last year and spans the Winooski River. It is one of the only agricultural bridges left.
There’s a meadow with a funny little henge in it –
You didn’t think I’d get through a whole post without a black and white did you? I particularly love this one. It’s a slight crop from the original – to get is square essentially and even though the color version works well, monochrome works even better. I spent a lot of time in Lightroom getting it just the way I want it.
Anyway, that’s it for the moment. I’m thinking of heading into the woods today to see if I can find some microscapes to shoot, back willing.
After some weeks of relative sameness, the plants are beginning a new phase – the die back.
I love the contrast between the still verdant leaves and the dying leaves. The textures are still terrific.
And of course I couldn’t resist a monochrome conversion. The shapes and light variation in the early morning is perfect for this kind of interpretation. A square crop adds to the classical feel I think.
I also noticed that the berries from the last session are still hanging in there, although they haven’t changed in color enough to warrant new photos yet. Keeping my eyes peeled though.
Overall I’m pleased with my messy little patch of flowers and the project so far. As the die back continues I’ll be out there again. There’s one more shot on the SmugMug Gallery if you’re so inclined.
A couple of summers ago I noticed a pretty plant in the backyard. It’s a floaty vine with beautiful flowers. The bees love them. I didn’t give it much thought until I tried to photograph it –
Very difficult. Those leaves are like sails and catch the least little breeze. What a PITA, honestly. But the flowers were so pretty and reminded me of Shooting Stars though I knew they weren’t. So I did some checking and discovered what I had on my hands is Bittersweet Nightshade also called Deadly Nightshade although I think they might be different species that only look alike. Either way it’s poison. Bittersweet nightshade won’t actually kill you, but I it will make you wish you were dead for a while.
So I kept an eye on it and after a few weeks I saw this –
Aren’t they the cutest things? They look just like tiny tomatoes. No wonder since tomatoes are in the nightshade family. Not surprising people thought they were poison for centuries. After a few days they look like this –
OMG aren’t they awesome? Don’t you love how the stems turn black and evil looking? I want to eat one they look so appetizing. I won’t, but something does. When they all turn red they disappear quick just like the leaves which get eaten down to nothing. Deadly sure, but only to us.
Strange that I haven’t posted more from my large collection of cemetery images. I shoot cemeteries all the time and really enjoy spending time in them. New England is littered with old ones and many of them are tiny and very picturesque. Recently on a trip to upstate New York, I saw this one in Stillwater right on Route 423. It has no name and appears to be used by only a handful of families.
Many of the stones were illegible due to time and weather, but the ones I could read dated from early to late 19th century.
I shot with my legacy Zuiko 24mm f2.8 lens this time and wanted to capture the green lushness of this little burial ground. The huge trees spaced throughout added to the intimate feel. I reduced the clarity slightly in two of the photos and only sharpened slightly. Color saturation and vibrance was left alone, but I did reduce the luminance in the greens a bit. I think it works.
I know this is sort of an unusual subject for some people, but if you like it and don’t want to wait for my next cemetery post, you can visit my Graven Images Gallery on SmugMug.