You know how you can walk past something again and again and not notice it or what it is, but when you do you feel like a dope? I had that experience recently when I hit part of the Ice Age trail in search of a particular wildflower I knew was there, but ended up being bowled over by one that I didn’t.
Well kind of. Sure, I noticed its bright green, feathery leaves and thought them beautiful. The problem was when I noticed the flowers were long gone. Check out what it was –
I’ve long known about these guys and how they’re supposed to be so common, but I’d never seen them before. They were right under my nose the whole time, I just didn’t recognize them without their pants on. Once I did though, I spent a lot of time looking and photographing them. Here’s what they look like when they’re young –
As you probably can tell, they are in the same family as bleeding hearts. My guidebook tells me they are only pollinated by bumblebees since they are the only ones to have a proboscis long enough to get in there. I saw plenty of girls on them, but wasn’t lucky enough to capture one at work. Al Mullen was though –
Isn’t she great?? Early spring wildflowers are so important to bees emerging from hibernation like the bumblebee. They do not store food for the winter and so finding it quickly and in abundance is key to their survival. In return, they specialize in certain flowers and are key to that species proliferation as well. Wonderful how that works, huh?
Something else that works is black and white for these flowers. Check it out!
The tonal range here just nails a black and white. The texture, too, adds a richness that I think is needed in a monochrome photo.
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.
Isn’t that a great word? Almost as good as propinquity. But I digress.
I say serendipity because a couple days ago I was thinking about wildflowers and how much I’d like to discover some wood lily in my travels. My parents had one growing in the front yard when I was a kid, and when I first took up photography I actually photographed it (maybe I should try and find the shot…it’s on some kind of slide film). I hadn’t seen any since though and you know I spend a lot of time in the woods. Here’s where the serendipity part comes in. Yesterday I had something to do in the afternoon, but really wanted to get out into the forest. That usually means I hit the Musquash and so I did. At a major trail intersection I decided to go up to another intersection and then make up my mind which loop to take. When I turned from the map and took a step down my chosen route; there it was – a wood lily! I practically did a backflip and if anyone heard me they’d have thought I went crazy with all my oohing and ahhing. Can’t blame me though. They’re gorgeous and very dramatic. See?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have my tripod with me and hand to handhold all of these shots. The breeze cooperated now and again and I think I did ok. This next shot is almost exactly like the one I remember taking in the yard when I was like, 17 or something.
The camera had a bit of a hard time rendering the exact color of these lambent beauties. They’re not a yellow-y orange, but a reddish orange…quite a cool color spectrum-wise. So it was the HSL panel to the rescue again. They didn’t need much adjusting though.
According to my wildflower identification book, these are a native species and not particularly rare. I guess I just don’t go where they are since this is my first sighting since the 80s. It was so great to find them…and in the Musquash, too. Early wildflowers are not so present in my surrogate backyard, but it seems high-summer flowers are and I’m so glad I can go and see these gorgeous beauties every year now.
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.