I got caught up in photographing the dried flowers and seed heads along the Canyon Trail at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico last week. For one thing I was testing the Macro Mode on my RX10iv, which I had just happened on while teaching a Point and Shoot Nature Photography class the day before. My theory is that if there is a specially designed mode for a particular situation, we owe it to ourselves as Point and Shoot photographers to see if it works. No point in doing it the hard way, if there is an easier way that gets the same results. This is the seed-head of Cliffrose, which grows on dry hillsides all through New Mexico. It is also called, locally, Navajo Diaper. I always assumed, when I lived in New Mexico, that the Navajo somehow used the feathery seed-heads to line their cradle boards, but a bit of research this morning informed me that it is the shredded bark of the plant that they use, and that they weave it into a mat. Still, I have always loved the feathery delicacy of the seed-heads, and the beauty is, I think, particularly visible in this image. Sony RX10iv in Macro mode at 600mm equivalent. Processed in Polarr.
The subtle colors with glints of reflected light in the emerging peat bog at Laudholm Farm (Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells Maine) form and interesting backdrop for this dried grass head growing up through what looks like it might have been Meadowsweet. One corner of a wet field at Laudholm is slowly turning into a bog, or remains a bog, while the rest of the field dries out. I am not sure which way it is going. In early winter, yesterday when Carol and I visited, it is just an empty stretch of boardwalk, but this little still-life caught my eye.
Sony RX10iii in-camera HDR. 234mm equivalent field of view. Nominal exposure: 1/250th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Snapseed on my Android tablet.
I took the new Ford C-Max Hybrid on its maiden photoprowl yesterday…a swing north to Saco Heath, then cross-lots on back roads to Route 1 and eventually to Cascade Falls and back home. I am not sure I have been to the Heath this season at all. I know I missed the early bloom of Rhodora and Sheep Laurel and High-bush Blueberry, and the Grass Pink Orchids. I was surprised to find the Pitcher Plants in full bloom. I had remembered them as early bloomers, but I was happy to be proved wrong. Not only were they in bloom, but there were more than I have ever seen on the Heath.
Saco Heath, if you are just tuning in, is a raised peat bog, where the peat and sphagnum moss have risen above the level of the ground water. It is one of a very few in Maine and the only one in Southern Maine. The environment in a peat bog is highly acidic and very poor in nutrients, so it is populated by a group of rare plants that are specialized to nutrient-poor soils, and by stunted Pitch Pines. There a slightly higher section of the bog that supports one of the only stands of Atlantic White Cedar in Maine. The area is protected by the Nature Conservancy, and by the State of Maine. A boardwalk, renewed over the past several summers by the Civilian Conservation Corps, runs right across the heath to a loop of trail in the Cedar stand.
Pitcher Plants survive in the nutrient poor sphagnum surface by capturing and digesting insects. They are carnivores. The “pitcher”, a tube of adapted leaves, contains a digestive fluid at the bottom. Bugs crawl or fall in and contribute most of the nutrients the plant needs. The flower is very large (3-4 inches across), on a tall stalk, and more “interesting” than “beautiful”. As I say, there were many of them along the more raised sections of the boardwalk in the Pitch Pine hummock, and along the edges of the White Cedar hummock.
Sony RX10iii. The first shot is a telephoto macro and the bottom side-view is a wide angle macro. Exposure varied. I was shooting in Program and shutter speeds were from 1/60th for the pitcher shot to 1/320th for the telephoto. ISO ranged from 100 to 250. All shots at f4. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.
It is an amazing show when the Northern Blazing Star are in full bloom on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area…as they will be in a few weeks…but this early, when there are only a few plants in bloom, I generally take better, closer, looks at this beautiful flower. And, of course, not so much a flower as a cluster of tiny flowers making up a thistle like head. In this shot you can appreciate the beauty of the individual flowers.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. 1/640th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed and cropped slightly for composition in Lightroom.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
I am rapidly approaching 69 years old (next month) so I am always surprised and delighted to discover something in the world right at my doorstep that I have never seen before. Seen is a tricky word. I suspect that I have seen Bee Flies before now…but I certainly never looked at them. I did not know they existed. If fact, when I bent down to take a photo of this very early Northern Blazing Star, in flower on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area yesterday, I though I was looking at a bee. It is furry like a bee. It has superficially bee-like wings. It was behaving like a bee…but I knew it was no bee I had ever seen before. I had certainly never seen a bee that color or with that long a proboscis. A little googling (small hairy bee with long proboscis) brought up the Bee Fly family. Ah…not a bee at all. A bee mimic. And a bee parasite. (The female lays her eggs at the mouth of the hive of ground nesting bees, and the fly larva attack the larva of the bees.) There are many species of Bee Flys in North America (over 4500 world-wide)…all I can say for certain is that this is NOT the most common of them: the Greater or Large Bee Fly, which is sometimes called the Dark Edged Bee Fly because the wings are dark edged and patterned like those of a hummingbird moth.
I was also surprised, by the way, at the number of Northern Blazing Star plants in bloom already on the Plains. While it is far from the show I expect in two weeks (the normal timing of the bloom), our unusually hot July must have forced many plants into bloom early. The Blazing Star on the Kennebunk Plains is, as far as I am concerned, one of the highlights of the natural seasons here in southern Maine. It is endangered in most of North America, and the Kennebunk Plains is one of the few places it still grows in abundance. The Plains can be purple with it in mid-August.
So that was two surprises for yesterday…and one “the surprise of a lifetime” in that it was my first real look at Bee Fly.
And of course that is the thing about the generous eye…always open and ready to be surprised. Another translation of what Jesus said about eyes, from The Message Bible, is “‘If you live wide–eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.” 69 years on the planet, and I can still be surprised by the living nature around me…by God’s loving invention…I am still discovering new wonders. And each new wonder only confirms and strengthens my belief. This is good. And it is my hope for you, whatever your age, this Sunday!
The American Copper is fairly abundant in Southern Maine, but it is small enough so it is often overlooked. This one was hard to miss. It was at eye-level in a tall stand of Meadowsweet and other brush right next to the parking area at Day Brook Pond on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area. It was working the flowers in the company of a few Coral Hairstreaks, which provided a nice contrast, and also drew the eye. In could not get the Copper to pose with its wings fully open, so this 3/4s view will have to do.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. 1/1000th @ ISO 100 @ f5.6. Processed and cropped slightly in Lightroom.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
This might be one of those Instagram or Facebook celebrity photo bomb shots 🙂 The Choral Hairstreak was busy with the Meadowsweet blossoms and I was busy taking it’s pic, when this Yellowjacket buzzed in from the left. The Yellowjacket was after smaller prey lower in the flower cluster, but it looked for an instant like it might go for the Hairstreak. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
And I had already had a great morning at the pond. This shot was right next to the car in the parking area. I had already put my camera bag in the car and was looking forward to cranking up the AC…but the Hairstreak right there beside me was irresistible, so I dug the camera out again. And you just never know what God is going to provide when you open your eyes and turn them on nature. I am, based frequent experiences of this kind, always ready to be blessed when I turn my attention outward, with or without my camera lens.
In a week of news from the Republican Convention and the presidential campaign, I need this kind of experience to remind me that the world is not nearly as dark as the politicians portray it. In fact, for the generous eye, the world is as bright as it has ever been…and that is bright indeed. Yes there are pockets of darkness…always have been and always will be while human beings exploit each other…where greed and self-interest rule the human heart…but that is not, no matter what you hear from the podium or the pulpit, the norm. The norm is generosity and light. The norm is grace. The norm is love. That is because light, grace, and love…generosity…is the nature of the God who creates all we know and all we are…who lives in all we know and is the true being of all we are. For people my age, i can say that the world is a brighter place today than it was when we were children. Safer, saner, with more people who walk in love…less want, more openness, more fairness, more inclusiveness. And yes the actions and effects of those who are motivated by greed…the stingy eyed…is often on display in today’s “bad news is good news” media world…but that does not mean we have to give the darkness, or those who peddle it in whatever from, power over our lives. God is good…in God there is no shadow or turning…and we get to live in the world we choose. Open your eyes wide in generosity…and be the light in this world we are intended to be. Happy Sunday!
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
There are still lots of Wood Lilies in bloom out on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area. I have only explored the Day Brook Pond side this summer so far, but, despite earlier impressions, the Wood Lily bloom is at least as good as last year, and maybe better. (It is about a week late, which contributed to my earlier disappointment.) Yesterday, I found a bunch growing right in among the ripe blueberries and wanted to frame both the blue and the bright red/orange in the same shot, but as I focused I noticed the Green Metallic Bees at work gathering the abundant pollen of the flower. I have shots where I adjusted the camera’s program to get the blueberries in better focus for better color contrast, but for this shot I was after the motion of the bees, so I let the camera choose a high shutter speed. (Photography, like most things in life, is all about choices and balance.) I remember finding my first Green Metallic Bee among the flowers of our yard a few years ago, and being totally amazed that such a creature could exist. In this shot we have two species, one much smaller than the already small Green Metallic, but clearly in the same family.
This shot, to my eye, has captured a vivid slice of life…full of a rich variety of color, form, and texture, and alive with energy. But then, so often, that is what the generous eye sees in the world around us…life both abundant and bright with promise…with the energy of the spirit at work in the world. And there is a unity. The bees are not separate from the flowers. As they gather the pollen of one plant and carry it to another, they are an essential part of the Wood Lilies’ life…there would be no more Wood Lilies without their action. Even the way the Wood Lilies and Blueberries are growing together must serve both…it is always about choices and balance…fulfilling the spirit’s vision of abundant life. If you push back behind the surface of this second, or any second, you become aware of the pure radiant light of creation at the center…expanding, expressing itself in form and color and texture, in all that lives and all that is…expressing itself with intelligence (choice and balance) and with all embracing love. You become aware of God. And God’s light fills you, not from the outside in, but from the inside out, as you realize yourself as another expression of the creative love and light that is all in all. Choice and balance…unity. Generosity.
Happy Sunday! And may your eye be generous.
I hope you don’t mind another Wood Lily shot. The season is short and I have to get my shots in while they bloom 🙂 This cluster of three, at Day Brook Pond on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area, with the petals still wet from overnight rains, shows off the lily at its best.
Sony RX10iii at 135mm equivalent field of view. Some program shift for depth of field. f6.3 @ 1/320th @ ISO 100. Processed in Lightroom.
We finally got some much-needed rain in Southern Maine over the weekend, and I hoped that it would pop the Wood Lilies out on the Kennebunk Plains. I had been disappointed with the show last week, when, if it followed past patterns, it should have been at its height. A visit to the Plains yesterday did not disappoint. Where there were single blossoms before the rain, there are now good stands similar to last year’s bloom. In one small area we found all three color varieties, from deep red to this bright “safety-vest” orange. The deep orange variety continues to dominate, but at least this year, all three are showing. This close up of a bloom still wet from overnight rains, also shows off the purple in the stamen, anthers, and in the dots on the base of leaves, but the light orange makes the contrast between the yellow base of the petals and the upper petals less obvious.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm. 1/80 @ ISO 100 @ f8 (program shift for greater depth of field). Processed in Lightroom.