or perhaps at our feet.
Mushroom season of course. This year with a lot less rain, there will probably be a lot fewer ‘shrooms about, but those that are are rarin’ to go.
I shot a few in full shade, but they are so flat and lifeless compared to this shot with the sun lighting them up – especially the stems. I find working with dappled sunlight to be kind of a race. Can I set up, compose, clean up and shoot all before the sun moves? I’m getting a tad bit better at it, but it’s always a challenge.
If you hang around this blog you’ll quickly realize I love the woods. Forests of all stripes and ecologies fascinate and enchant me. Mostly I look for the small scenes and tiny things that are often overlooked. This year I want to also try to show the larger view of why I hang out in the woods so much. The trees, the stone walls (at least here in New England), the boulders and rock formations, the light – all of it comes together to soothe and enliven. Here are some recent shots that I hope get the point across.
This first one is kind of experimental. I was out with the OM 35mm f2 lens and playing with depth of field and while it isn’t perfect, I like the freshness and the ‘good dream’ quality.
I don’t know if it works, but I’ll keep trying as the season progresses. As always I have my eyes on the ground, too. Better to keep from tripping over roots and rocks and for spying some of my latest obsession – sporophytes!!
These are wicked small – the tallest is barely 1 inch. I was attracted by the red color and was delighted to see they look like wee spoons. Never saw them before and the light was just so amazing I had to try for a shot. I wish I could have gotten a bit more depth of field, but this shot is already at f16 which is the outer limit for the 90mm’s sweet spot, so it will have to do. I am still torn about those white pine needles in the foreground; do they distract too much?? I left them in to show scale and the light changed so quickly that just a few minutes after I took this, all was in shade so I moved on without taking a shot with them removed.
The light is what attracts me to shoot these and when I spied this next little group I had to move fast. At these small scales pockets of sunlight disappear in seconds. Really keeps me on my toes…or should I say knees? I’d have liked to frame this one a bit better, but literally ran out of time. In about a minute, the earth turned and those snakey little sporophytes were in the same shade as the background. Isn’t the color just fab though?
I hope that this kind of pressure situation improves my initial instincts for this type of photography. Part of being a good photographer is developing a kind of muscle memory about certain conditions – you know, that grab shot that is so hit or miss that most of us miss. Sometimes though, I catch a break, and the light remains long enough for me to finesse things. This next shot, while of a flower that is everywhere (ubiquitous…don’t you love that word??), I worked it pretty hard, changing lenses, angles and finally the background to isolate just two blooms. Quotidian, yes, but I like it anyway. Bluets just seem so cheery to me.
So back to one of my original thoughts in this post; showing the larger view. Here’s a shot, again taken with the OM 35mm f2, of one of my favorite sections of trail in my local conservation area. The white pines are packed in so tightly that only their upper branches have life. Almost nothing can live in the highly acidic soil that is almost constantly shaded. The inches deep mat of needles is soft and springy underfoot. I always stop here and bounce slightly on my toes enjoying the feeling of hiding in plain sight.
Again, I’m not sure it works, but because I walk there often, I feel its effect on me. Encapsulating and secretive. I just found a disused trail in this area, and since it’s high up on a granite ledge, I think that some leafy/canopy views might be possible as the trees leaf out. Stay tuned!
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.
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.
Even though I’m still mourning my boy, I have been out shooting. Partly it takes my mind off him (which I stupidly feel guilt over), but mostly I’m glad I can. The health crisis I came though only had one stage of cure/recovery, but could have had two, the second of which would have totally canceled my fall shooting ability. Luckily though, I am mobile.
The other day I met up with some friends and we went up north to the White Mountains. As I still shouldn’t be carrying anything heavy, I pared down my equipment and only shot with the E-30 and the ZD 12-60mm zoom. I brought my travel tripod instead of the Bogen Beast. It proved an excellent combination. I didn’t know we were going on a covered bridge quest, but that’s what we ended up doing. It was like being a tourist in my own state. Of course bridges weren’t the only things worth photographing, but our first stop was Blair Bridge –
Racing the sun, we headed to Ellsworth hill. The valley fog adds a touch of distinction to what would probably be just another foliage shot. The gate, too adds something. At first I thought it was too overwhelming, but now I’m used to it.
I couldn’t resist a detail shot of another gate further along in the wall surrounding the meadows. It’s an iris seed pod and I love the touch of sun on what is the horizon in the background.
Another stop within easy reach was Smart’s Brook. Ever-popular it never fails to provide opportunities for memorable photos –
From here we went to the fabled Kancamagus Highway, renowned for its foliage and tourist throngs. On this trip we had both and only stopped once. If it were me I would have pulled off at some barely populated trailheads and hiked a bit, but I wasn’t driving and I wasn’t in charge. We ended up at Albany bridge which spans the highly photogenic Swift River. It’s hard not to fall into cliche gap when photographing here –
In the end, it was a good day. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to be more active and do some hiking up that way, but this year I was very grateful to have the opportunity at all.
It’s true that mountains in New England aren’t particularly tall (the tallest being barely over 6000 feet). It’s true that they aren’t particularly awe-inspiring as say the Rockies, Alps, Himalayas or Andes. No one would call them the roof of the world. They don’t have hidden enclaves of ancient civilization or host Olympic games. They do however make you work your ass off.
Hiking in New England is destination hiking, meaning you will have to toil long and hard for a view. In Utah and Arizona there’s always a view and it makes whatever work is involved that much easier. Ditto for parts of Washington, California, Colorado and Oregon. Lots of terrain in those locations provide for views and places to hang out and catch your breath. Not so in the White Mountains. Here you hike in dense forest on a trails that can be mostly boulders and sometimes are outright stream beds. It’s not uncommon that the trails can run with water all spring and summer. I’ve heard it said that a hiker doesn’t need Gortex boots unless she hikes in New England.
So in keeping with the challenge of White Mountains hiking, we decided to tackle Mts. Jackson and Webster. There’s a 6.x mile loop trail that goes up one mountain and across a ridge to the other. Little did we know that it was all up or down, extremely rocky and steep as hell. Some niggling voice in my head made me take my hiking poles just in case and I’m seriously glad I did; they helped immensely with balance, like having a tail. Because I had to manage the poles, I couldn’t hang the camera in it’s usual spot on my pack shoulder strap and instead stowed it inside. I did break it out for little gems like this though –
On the way up Mt. Jackson we came to our first of many stream crossings (I suspect we crossed the same stream over and over) and I couldn’t resist getting in a few photos. I also shot some film here, too and have to send it off to be processed. Ah the old days. This shot of the brook falling away out of sight will give you some idea of the constant uphill pitch of the trail. It hardly ever switchbacks and just basically plows straight up.
From here until I was almost at the summit the camera stayed in the pack. We really had to get a move on if we wanted to get back home at a reasonable hour. I stopped just before the final rock scramble to take this next image. I just loved the nearest trees contrasted with the farthest and the colors of the mountains and sky.
So let me turn around for a second and let you see the final ascent –
Anyway I finally made it up and damn, it was pretty spectacular. The clouds hung in there and the light cooperated.
After a quick lunch of turkey sandwiches and homemade graham crackers, I found some mountain sandwort among the rocks on the summit –
Such fragile beauty in a relatively harsh environment. I wondered what in the world pollinated them and then found some bees, so I guess there are lots of hardy creatures in New Hampshire.
After much sliding and semi-falling, we got off the peak and started over the ridge to Mt. Webster. There’s only about 100 feet of difference in altitude between the two and so after a bit of down (ow! visions of what’s to come) we found a few rare flat spots on the trail. None lasted more than a minute, but they had their own secret beauty –
Soon we made it to Mt. Webster, had another snack, shot some more and headed out.
The camera only came out one more time on the way down, to shoot a waterfall in such bad light that I am not sharing them with anyone. On a nice overcast day, it would be spectacular though.
The climb down Mt. Webster was a personal misery. The relentless pitch and lack of any flat spots that stretch the legs and release the pressure on tendons and ligaments did me in. I hadn’t been in as much knee pain in years and it took an extraordinarily long time for me to descend. But I did and was soon ensconced in the Audi for the 90 minute ride home. A shower and a beer were never so welcome!
Went with some friends to explore a tiny part of another conservation area. This one also follows a stream (or several I think) through it’s course down at the bottom of a rather steep ravine. There are lots of beaver ponds as well and being sheltered by high banks on either side, it’s great for extending a sunrise shoot a few hours longer. There are lots of nest boxes and I’ll be the bird activity is very high…we scared some geese and made them crabby. Honking and flapping. They were funny. Eventually they moved off and the pond returned to its serene state. The roots of this old tree made for a terrific foreground element.
Used a polarizer to maximize those reflections and a graduated neutral density filter (8 and 4 stops) to balance the skies a bit, especially when the sun crested the hill.
For these next ones I used my 80s vintage, manual OM 65-200 zoom in order to really isolate the stumps and the reflections. Used the zoom feature in Live View to make sure the focus was spot on, so critical with these kinds of shots.
A little further away on the same side of the pond I saw this beautiful moss-covered log. After scrambling through the undergrowth I realized that beside it was a stone wall. It fell perfectly perpendicular to it and the lines were irresistible. When the beavers flooded the area the wall was submerged and this is all you can see from the shore. Went back to the Zuiko Digital 12-60mm for the wide angle view.
Sepia just seems to suit this last one despite some intense color. Mainly I wanted to emphasize the lines made by the downed tree, the boulders and the trees on the far bank. I also love the scrim of ice in the foreground. I’m definitely going back to this location for more exploration.
I’ve always been fascinated with macro photography. Even got myself a spiffy, world-class macro lens and an extension tube. But that’s as far as I ever got. For some reason I’ve never given it serious attention. I guess it’s all that trial and error with film that got me down. When I did play with close photography I had more misses than hits and got discouraged. Ah how digital frees a person.
These are two from the backyard using the above mentioned lens and extension tube. While I haven’t acquired a flash or a bracket or a new tripod (later maybe) I’m making do with what I have. Even without the extra equipment there is a lot to remember and incorporate with macro photography. My biggest weakness is watching the background and foreground elements. There’s a lot that can show up in a 2D image and be quite distracting. In person my eyes don’t even pick it up. Must work on developing new habits.
These flowers are 1 1/2 inches high and about 1/4 inch across. Really, really tiny. They are the first to bloom each spring and even though they’re diminutive, insects flock to them for their precious pollen. You can even see a few grains in the photo. I decided on a black and white conversion for two reasons; first because it just makes those little white blossoms pop, and second because it’s unusual. EVERYONE and their mother does flower photography, especially in spring. It gets boring. Same shots over and over again. But a black and white at this level of magnification is different. And I’m beginning to love the square crop. With the popularity of 35mm and the aspect ratio it brings, people forgot that there were cameras that shot in a 1:1 ratio. I love it and try to use it judiciously.
This next one is really going in the opposite direction in terms of processing and aspect ratio, but the subject matter is a bit different…I hope anyway. It’s an azalea bud. The light was perfect even if I had to create some shade with the lens cap. Once again the Olympus 90mm macro and the 25mm extension tube are a great combination. The shallow focal field works really well here. I could have used a reflector here I think. Must remember. New habits!
One of my favorite subjects is moss. I love moss. I’d rather have moss than lawn. It’s soft and springy and lush. What’s not to love? These are two different kinds (exactly what I don’t know, moss ID guides are thin on the ground) one in shade and one in sun (so hard to manage). They look like tiny forests or jungles.
Anyway…that’s what I’ve got so far. Macro is a challenge, but one I think I’m prepared to meet.