A couple of weeks ago, the Piscataquog Land Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy hosted an event at the Manchester Cedar Swamp preserve. Since it was in one of my favorite bits of protected property and was about mushroom hunting, I was all over it. Reta McGregor kindly donated her time and expertise and I learned quite a bit, including which parts of a bolete mushroom are edible (hint, not the spongy part). I even found a mushroom she’d never seen before. It was a toothed mushroom and very lovely. Anyway, I got there a bit early and did some scouting with the OM 90mm. In addition to a bounty of mushrooms, there were newts and indian pipe. Alas, no newts would pose for me, but I still had a nice time and found some worthies.
Two different species in the same genus and they were everywhere. I didn’t manage to ID everything though. These two still elude me. I think I need to get a few more mushroom books. They can look so different during their lives, that I think you need to have many photos to compare with. With my one book, it’s hit or miss.
In one section of forest there was a good crop of late-flowering indian pipe and a few of them were blushing mightily.
It’s the year for arriving late to the pinesap party. After years of looking for this unusual flower I found the mother lode in Weare, NH. OMG they were everywhere, but just past their full bloom stage. Darn it. You can bet I won’t be late next year.
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.
I took a day off this week to do some spring shooting. It ended up being a pretty perfect day. Overcast and not too hot and it didn’t actually rain. It had just done though so the colors really popped. Yeah, I was pretty much surrounded by mosquitoes in the Musquash the whole time I was there, but I doused myself in anti-bug juice and they didn’t bite. Of course I had to get in a trail shot –
I liked the perspective of this one. The mystery of the trail disappearing under the canopy. And the canopy itself. Fresh, new leaves. Everything seeming to drive upwards towards the sun. Springtime has a feel of energy being released all around you. Also of hurry. You can feel the rush to reproduce all around you. The urgency to get it done before winter arrives again. One of the best places to feel it is at a vernal pool.
I have an idea of working a project around these. They’re so vital to the ecosystem of a forest, providing breeding grounds for many reptiles and amphibians. And regular water sources, too. I just love how still and hidden they seem even though they’re teeming with life. Just moments before I took that shot above, I scared about every frog in the place. When the ripples subsided, I leaned against a tree and composed. Such a perfect reflection. I flipped the image upside-down and it looks really weird. Like a regular forest scene, but something is just so slightly off. The only drawback to photographing vernal pools is the bugs. I have a few shots with mosquitoes just hanging in the air in front of the lens. Sometimes they land on it, too. I have to remember to spray my hands because they always try to bite my fingers. Bah.
Being May, it’s wildflower season and even though I’ve shot pink lady slippers before, I couldn’t pass this one by. The leaves remind me of wings and the bent stem reminds me of a swan’s neck so I spent a bit of time shuffling the beanbag around hunting for just the right angle. So lucky to get that backdrop, too, a big pine. The flower really stands out because of it. The OM 90mm is probably at f8. It likes it there.
So that’s what I got in the morning of my day off. Wait till you see what I got in the afternoon. OMG. But before I sign off, here’s another shot from my sunset shoot with friends on top of Mt. Foss.
It’s me. The phantom photographer.
Funny how working full-time makes it hard to get out and shoot. I can’t just stop and go out when the light is nice. I can’t cancel meetings because it’s suddenly overcast and I could go to a waterfall. Even if I do have intentions of going out before or after working hours, I’m sometimes too tired to actually go.
I did yesterday though. I was at Pawtuckaway investigating the hepatica and other flowers and I shot some, but my batteries were so unused that they just died on me one by one. So drained they wouldn’t even register or power on the camera. But I knew I’d have to go back. The flowers last year were wicked pale, but this year are full to bursting with color.
Aren’t they gorgeous?
Hopefully I have a few more in the memory card. It was very trying because my camera, despite factory service, has begun to flake on me. EXIF data says this was shot at f7.1. Uh. I don’t think so. The camera isn’t stopping the lens where I set it and I know this was shot wide open. It also wasn’t metering or firing properly. I have no idea what’s going on. I need to get a hold of Olympus again, but I’m betting my old E-30 is toast. Which bums me out like crazy. I like the dumb thing.
Hello and welcome to my…what is this…the second or is it third? Well, whatever, welcome to my Best Images of the Year post. It was hell.
Either I’m getting worse as a photographer or I’m just more picky about my images, but damn if it wasn’t hard to compile my best shots this year. The fact that I didn’t get anything decent until May is a pretty good indication of my mediocrity. Whenever I edit a batch of photos in Lightroom, I make a point to rate them with the 5-star system. Sometimes my ratings change over time, but mostly they stay the same. I think I had one 5-star image, but downgraded it later leaving none. Overall I think I did a better job with light this year, but my narrowness of subject began to bore me. Still, I did manage to generate images that I like and without further whining, here’s what I’ve got. As always they are in the order taken during the year.
This waterfall is in Pulpit Rock Conservation Area in Bedford, NH. I shot it from this angle for the first time this year and was amazed at my stupidity at not finding this view before. While steep and off the main trail, it isn’t hard to get to. The composition is very strong and came together naturally. The light was kind and the balance and heft the trees contribute adds a lovely symmetry, vigor and depth. Even the rocks cleaned up for me.
Next is a shot of High Bridge over the Piscataquog river in New Boston, NH. It is now repaired, but when I shot this the deck still had some holes and the I-beams were pretty rusty. I did not set foot on it. I love this shot because it’s powerful. I chose and set up carefully to emphasize the amount of water while also showing the gorge itself and of course the bridge. A fair amount of planning went into this shot and I picked my moment pretty well for maximum white water. I also managed the post-processing to bring up the new leaves on the trees and I like the effect.
I love this shot for a lot of reasons. First is that it is a relatively rare Luna Moth and only the second I’ve ever seen. Second because I did see it, which was an amazing piece of luck. I was on the last leg of an afternoon hike, coming pretty fast down the trail at the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, NH. Somehow I noticed a difference in the green or the shape in the undergrowth and stopped to check it out. I was flabbergasted to see this gorgeous creature just emerged from its chrysalis and pumping up those glorious wings. The light was perfect and I shot and shot and shot. What a fantastic experience it was and I’m so glad to have been a witness to this insect’s very short, but intriguing life.
The next one just happens to be an insect shot, too, although it didn’t start out that way. I went to shoot the sundew which are tiny, carnivorous plants. They secrete minute droplets of basically sugar to attract bugs which are then trapped and are gradually subsumed and digested by the plant. This one is one of millions in the Ponemah Bog Conservation Area in Amherst, NH and at first I didn’t notice the tiny whitefly, but I’m glad it’s there, even if it was probably doomed. The clarity (thanks to the OM 90mm macro), the complexity and the strangeness of the shot just make it for me (not to mention the light which is pretty fab). Next year I hope to work more with these little wonders and photograph them in bloom.
This is kind of a strange one for me even though I fly a few times a year. I just happened to look out the window as we arced over the American west. The color just knocked me out and when I saw the big bend coming up in that ribbon of river, I hauled out the camera (and lost my eyecup in the bargain, doh!). Luckily the window wasn’t too filthy and I managed a relatively clean image. A square crop gives it some tension and balance to my eye and I like how bold it is.
If you’ve been following along this year, you’re no doubt aware I caught a mega-dose of Mushroom Madness and even though there were a lot of good shots, I think you’ll agree this one takes the prize. While out to do some waterfall work, I found a huge swath of these coppery beauties. After a few failed attempts at shooting little groups of them, I spied this loner. With the soft light and the contrasting color of the moss it really pops. I love it and the OM 90mm shines as usual.
Funny how many of my abstract shots involve water. On a meetup to do a waterfall shoot at Garwin Falls in Wilton, NH, I ended up at this pool below a small cascade. The ripples and the reflection of the sky and leaves overhead was mesmerizing and I followed this little leaf around until I had it where I wanted it. Who am I kidding…I was totally at its mercy! I used the OM 90mm which is also a pretty terrific medium-telephoto and it sure was challenging to manage the focus and track the leaf. It’s on the list because it is a bit different for me and I was glad that I saw the image even before I shot it. Plus it’s just fascinating to look at…soft and ripply and the colors are so vivid.
Ok. You caught me. Another mushroom shot, but damn, just look at it! That light just knocks me out! Plus it’s a microscape which is something I’ve been working on for a while now. These little slices of the forest floor are so magical to me and mostly I shoot them as I find them. This one though got a little clean up on top of the log. The leaves though were artfully arranged by nature in the Henderson Swasey Town Forest, Exeter, NH. I like it because it’s playful and has good composition, focus and light.
Another waterfall shot, but very different from Pulpit Rock falls. This one was an unexpected treat and I raced the sun clearing up debris that really ruined the shot. With tripod precariously placed I managed not only to have great light in the trees, but also in the stream itself. No direct sun on the falls meant no blown highlights, but it just skims the rocks and I really like the added zip. I think this represents my ability to see and compose quickly enough to take advantage of excellent light that doesn’t last, something I have improved over the last couple years.
And now for something completely different…well kinda. Yeah it’s another waterfall, but the whole feeling is altered. The drama is more stark and austere and I love the deep contrast between the dark gorge walls and the water itself. I have shot these falls before, but the mood is so different that it might be another place altogether. The camera was so low and close to the flow that the lens kept getting splashed and I had a lot of do-overs. The results are strong for composition, interest and exposure, so it goes on the list. I dig how that closest rock seems to float. Oh this is Upper Purgatory Falls in Mont Vernon, NH.
This next one is from a group of images that I haven’t shared on this blog before, but will soon. Earlier this year I found a dead crow on my lawn. Being the person I am, I left it there because I had a feeling it would yield excellent photographic possibilities and I wasn’t wrong. The morning of our first hard frost I went out to see and wow, it was pretty awesome. Check out the detail in the feathers – such fantastic texture (thanks again to my old OM 90mm). The sun went to work melting the tiny crystals, but I got there first. Yes, it’s a dead creature, but I did not kill it and I think if you look hard enough you can find beauty in almost anything nature brings, even death.
Last is another shot I haven’t shared here yet and another one involving death. Frequent readers will not be surprised at my inclusion of a cemetery image in my top picks. Even without the fog, this would be a pretty intense shot, but the fog just wraps everything close and confines your view, if not your imagination. While I was driving to this location, which is Old Hill Cemetery in Londonderry, NH, I knew I’d include the wall in the shot because of the scrim of snow and because stone walls are so typical of old cemeteries around here. I like how the big branch balances the wall and frames the scene. I think I had to stand in the road for this one, but it was worth the risk.
So that’s the lot, the best images I made in 2012.
2013 is going to be a VERY different year, that much I can tell you. See, I got a job. Full time. I haven’t worked for a few years now and have been able to devote a lot of time to photography. It’s been an incredible opportunity to rekindle my old love affair with it and to develop my skills so that I’m a pretty passable art-teest these days. But it’s time for me to go back to work and the absolute perfect situation landed in my lap over the Thanksgiving holiday. Earlier this month I completed all my meetings with the decision makers (one of which I had to fly to Atlanta for), got an offer, finished negotiations and should begin work on January 7 (pending a bg check). I’m really excited about it and I know it’s the right next step for the career I’ve ignored for too long.
So where does this leave me, my photography and this blog? Hopefully with new possibilities. No, I won’t have my days to myself anymore and will no doubt turn into a weekend warrior. I will be traveling a bit more though, and while I probably won’t be toting my big rig around much, I will have an iPhone and boy won’t that be something different? Yeah, old hat to most of you, but not to me and I’m pretty psyched to be able to have a camera in other situations besides hiking. I’m looking forward to exercising my photographer’s eye outside of the woods and nature. To take more slices of life I guess. I promise not to take pictures of my lunch.
Anyway…that wraps up 2012. Thanks to all my readers and followers who enjoy the blog give me feedback. If you haven’t, don’t by shy. I don’t bite.
Happy New Year!
Yeah, fall is supposed to be all about the foliage, but I always like to buck a trend.
Mushrooms offer endless subjects these days and hiking with me is basically an exercise in watching me put the camera on the beanbag and shoot another one. Since I always use natural light, sometimes I have to wait for the light to be right, or use things to hand to adjust and filter the light. Hemlock branches and ferns are the best for this since the patterns they make are broken up and variable. For this one I used the branch of the tree I was crouched under to ease the harshness of the sun, which I needed for the shot, but wanted to soften.
Even though I take a naturalist approach with microscapes and close-ups, I do clean up a scene when I need to. Pine needles, leaves, sticks – if they’re distracting, they go. It’s unusual that I don’t have to do a little primping on every shot, but I didn’t need to do any for this one. Just had to wait for the right moment. The light was shifting madly with the wind in the trees and the passing clouds and so I just waited until it gave me what I wanted.
This next little scene is one of my favorites. I did get rid of a couple of sticks on the log that were sticking up into that greeny/golden glow, but the leaves were exactly as I found them and again waiting for just the right light paid off. I didn’t want it too bright and total shade was just flat and dull. Backlighting just adds a luminosity that only natural light can give.
I should really try to find a good mushroom guide. Not that I’m planning on eating any (not that brave or suicidal), but I like to know what I’m photographing and other than Hemlock Varnish Shelf, Chanterelles, Amanitas and a couple others, I have no clue which is which. I have found a decent online resource, but even that is confusing. So many types are so similar to each other that I can’t tell the difference. If anyone knows of an online resource that’s easy to use and accurate, or can recommend a book for the northeastern US, please let me know.
Anyway…mushroom season will continue for a while yet. Until the first hard frost at least, so you probably haven’t seen the last of them.
By now you must know how much I love indian pipe wildflowers and how even though my original project was for one season, I still shoot them almost every time I see them. Usually they bloom in June and sometimes spill over into July. But October? October?!
Yes, I did place one of those leaves back there, but not both. And they were right to hand. I’m not above a little manipulation to make the shot work better. Don’t you dig the pine needles though? Oh I love this one. It’s funny, I noticed an older one first; one that had already turned brown and then this one showed itself and boy did I go to work. So much fun.
Lately I have been a bit starved for inspiration. The same-old-same-old just isn’t doing it for me. As a result, I shoot less. I’m not bothered by this. Ups and downs are part of my normal. When I do go in the woods I just can’t see if you know what I mean. I think it’s because I’m there so often. I need a new venue. Luckily I’m heading to California for a week on Saturday and that might give me the break I need. In the meantime, I’ve got some more fungus for you.
That one kind of blows me away. The sun picked out the web behind and gave it another element of surprise. The light was lovely, and fleeting as usual. I’m getting better at being quick and effective with compositions, framing and focus. This time I opened up very wide to focus on that wee cap (the whole thing is about 1 inch tall) and then closed down to f11. Minimal clean up required. The camera was on the beanbag which was on a log, braced by a branch set crosswise under it all.
These two I shot while out with a group of explorers on a Piscataquog Land Conservancy walk. It was all very relaxed and no one seemed to mind my obsession with very small things.
I think it’s time for me to look into focus stacking. Given the narrow DoF of macro lenses, it’s impossible to get important elements in focus simultaneously even if I stop down to f22, which I don’t like to do since it’s out of the lens’s sweet spot. This next shot would be a perfect candidate. That little critter under there is a springtail, not a spider as I first thought. Even though the distance between the leading edge of the cap and the little bug is only millimeters, I couldn’t get both in focus in one shot. Maybe modern technology can help.
Sorry for the abundance of portrait-oriented shots in this post; it’s just the way things shook out. If anyone has experience with focus stacking and has any advice, ideas, tips etc, feel free to chime in with a comment.
It’s raining now and probably will for most of the week. That means more mushrooms, but it’s not like we have a shortage now.
All were shot with the OM 90mm. I don’t know what I’d do without that lens.