Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

March 17, 2005
I'll be heading out of town for the weekend, and I didn't want the snapshot of False Solomon's Seal (below) to be the first photo that greets new visitors to my website. After all, it is merely a snapshot, which I included for a reason, but it's not the type of "first impression" I want to give. So instead, and since it might snow in these parts this weekend anyway, I decided to include a photo from March 2005, just as spring was getting started. Soon, many trees will have snow-covered limbs like these, so I thought this would be a nice image to post on the website for viewers to find during this holiday weekend. With any luck, the snow will stay on the branches and off the roads.
I will return home next week, and will continue to post recent images, as well as images from this previous spring. Eventually I will even include some scanned slides from previous years. One step at a time.

False Solomon's Seal

Hand-held snapshot with pretty good compostion, May 20, 2005
On this day, I was walking through the forest with other people. As I usually do in this type of situation, I brought my camera and a wide-angle zoom, but not my tripod. This is a hand-held shot of False Solomon's Seal. Though I kind of like this photo, the purpose was merely documentation. I wanted to remember where I had seen the plant, and the date.
Below is a better photograph of False Solomon's Seal, which I originally posted here on November 16.

Carefully-composed image using tripod, May 3, 2005
I like the soft lighting of this vetical composition, as well as the overall arrangement of elements (leaves and buds). I also like the way the camera was able to capture such a close-up view, showing some of the texture of the greenish-white buds.
While looking through my photos from nature walk on May 20, I found this additional snapshot of False Solomon's Seal

Hand-held snapshot with poor composition, May 20, 2005
This third view of False Solomon's Seal is definitely my least favorite. I include it here mostly to show what a difference it makes to have a good composition. In the first photograph, the plant shows up nicely and the background also looks good. There are no obvious distractions or major problems. However, in this third view, the background has too many colors, haphazard shapes, and uneven lighting. On top of that, those flies climibing up the stem are distracting and ugly. Of course flies do occur in nature and can make a good photograph, but if I wanted to photograph flies, I would have wanted to get much closer so you could really see them well.
Aside from "instructional" entries like this one, my goal on this website is to post only the best images of wildflowers, and other scenes in nature. I want my images to help people learn about wildflowers, and also appreciate their beauty.

Spring is a Time of Change

Scenic Stream, May 20, 2005
Woodland spring is a season of rapid change. The above photograph shows the view from a bridge on May 20th, while the photograph below shows the same view just one month earlier, on April 19th. If you look carefully at the rocks in the stream, you can see the view is the same.
Same View, April 19, 2005
You can see how the leaves have filled in during the month between April 19 and May 20. By late may, the trees' leaves absorb much of the incoming sunlight, casting quite a bit of shade on the forest floor. By late May, many of the early-blooming wildflowers have already made their seeds, and finished up growing for the year. But most of these, perennials, will return again the following spring.
For more information on the April 19th photograph, please check my entry from October 15th. In the right margin, click on October 2005 under ARCHIVES.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Valley South of Boulder, Utah

Looking dwon into a valley, May 8, 2005
My friends and I pulled to the side of the road for a few minutes to check out the view of this valley. We liked the pattern of trees growing along the stream at the bottom, but it was too bright and sunny to get a good compostion--too much contrast. So instead of setting up our tripods and fancy cameras, a couple of us just pulled out our digital "point and shoots." We walked carefully toward the edge of the drop-off, snapped a few frames, and got back in the car. The deciduous trees along the stream appear very light green because it was early in the growing season and their leaves were still very young. At higher elevations, the trees were still bare and there was some snow on the ground.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wild Geranium

Wild Geranium leaf, May 3, 2005
I spent way too much time working on this image today. I just couldn't get the green to look right. First it was too dull, then too light, then too blue, then too bright. Urgh. So I started over a few different times and eventually ended up with an image (above) that looks ok. This will never be a top-notch photograph. And yet I wanted to work with it because part of my goal is to not just post "beautiful" photographs, but to also show various aspects of wildflowers that often get neglected in a wildflower field guide. I want to show a variety of perspectives of each wildflower, and this inlcludes leaves, flower buds, flowers in bloom, seed pods, etc. It includes close-ups as well as more scenic "portraits" and landscapes, too.
So here it is, the leaf of WILD GERANIUM, not all that different from the more common geranium that can be purchased during spring at your local grocery store. Ah, but the wild version of geranium with its pinkish-lilac colored flowers is so beautiful, especially when large goups of them bloom together along the forest floor. Wild geranium is one of the later-blooming woodland spring wildflowers. And it's worth the wait.
Here is one of the earlier versions of this same photo:

Bug on Christmas Fern

Bug on Fern, May 3, 2005
I think that I have heard this type of bug called a "crane fly." I don't know a lot about bugs, so I am not sure. It reminds me of a mosquito at first, until I realize it is WAY TOO BIG to be a mosquito. And it does not make that high-pitched buzzing sound when it flies by my ear. And it does not bite, at least I don't think it does.
If anyone can tell me more about this bug, please do. Thanks.

Virginia Waterleaf

Virginia Waterleaf, May 3, 2005
This plant is named for the pattern of "water drops" on its leaves. Look closely here at the darker color leaves with the lighter colored spots. These are the leaves of Virginia Waterleaf. I first discovered this species back in eastern Iowa, and have since found it elsewhere, including Virginia and Michigan. This plant blooms toward the end of the spring season, as the leaves of trees are filling in overhead, producing shade on the forest floor. This plant blooms along side wild geranium and phlox. The flowers are pale purple/white and have a very interesting shape that is hard to describe. I will need to get a good photograph of them this coming spring since I don't have a good one yet.

How About This?

There is something about that previous image (see below), being so oval, that gives me the impression that the whole image is distorted. So I decided to intentionally distort the image to make the oval taller and more circular, just to see what would happen. Here is the result. I know this image is distorted, but it seems ok to me since the image still seems to accurate represent the way the flower really looks. So I guess this one is my favorite of the three.

Another Perspective

Well, the moment I posted the previous image (see below), it was obvious that the bottom edge of the circle was too close to the edge of the frame. Check it out and you can see the straight edge across the bottom, which kind of wrecks the SPOTLIGHT appearance. So I decided to try again, and this time I tried an oval spotlight instead of a circle because I wanted to include a little wider perspective of the flowers. However, I think I like the circle better. I decided to post this oval image anyway, just so people could check it out and compare for themselves. I reduced the "blur" on the edge of this spotlight (as compared to the circle below), just to try something new. As you can see, I am having lots of fun!

Something Similar to Solomon's Seal

Could this be "Twisted Stalk"?, May 3, 2005
It was getting windy by the time I found this flower, so I had to open up the apperature to speed up the shutter. As a result, I had less depth of field than I would have liked, and therefore it was more difficult to get the image into focus. And the constant wind didn't help!
One reason I decided to include this photo here is that I wanted to show another type of "Solomon-Seal-like" plant. There are a whole bunch of spring-blooming wildflowers whose leaves and stems resemble Solomon's Seal, but the flower shape and/or arrangement differ. I think this plant is called "twisted stalk," but I will need to check it again this coming spring. Having moved to the southeast from Michigan just a year ago, I was bound to run across flowers that were unfamilar to me, and this plant was one.
Another reason I included this photo is because I wanted to experiment with presenting images that are just PART of an entire frame. As a biologist, I sometimes want to present one small aspect of a plant that makes up only a small portion of the frame. As a photographer, however, I don't want to present an entire frame that is ugly just for the sake of showing one small part.
Most of the time, when I capture an image, I think about the entire frame. I plan ahead using the tripod and make sure that the frame includes everything I want to include and nothing else. Of the images posted on the website, most of them are full frame shots. This close-up image of the flower, however, is merely excerpt from a frame that is otherwise rather plain. So now that I am using photoshop, I decided to try and figure out a creative way to display just the part of the image that I like while completely discarding all the rest. So I decided to try a "spotlight" approach this time around. If I were printing on paper, I would surround my image with WHITE, but here on the website, I decided to use black.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

False Solomon's Seal

False Solomon's Seal, May 3, 2005
Finally, I am getting back to my spring photographs. This is an image of False Solomon's Seal, showing its whitish-green flower buds prior to blooming. Flower arrangement (and shape) is a key difference between False Solomon's Seal and the "regular" Solomon's Seal, because their leaves appear quite similar. False Solomon's Seal has a plume of flowers that grow at the end of the stem, as shown here. The "regular" Solomon's Seal (not shown) has whitish-green bell-shaped flowers that dangle from various points along the length of the stem, and the bell-shaped flowers are typically arranged in pairs. A larger version of Solomon's Seal can have groups of three or four bell-shaped flowers in groups along the length of the stem.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sweetgum Fall Color (#2)

Sweetgum Branches, Nov. 8, 2005
I was not quite pleased with the colors of the previous version of this image, so I decided to try again. The difference may be subtle, but I like the fact that this second image appears a little bit warmer and a little brighter. I avoided adding too much color saturation here, and I also tried to reduce a little bit of the blue.
People with calibrated monitors are in a better position to compare these two images and judge them. Before I calibrated my monitor, all my pictures had a blue-green hue that I never really noticed. But after calibrating (using Spyder software), I realized that my monitor had been mis-representing colors. This also explained why my prints seemed to appear pinkish. As I adjusted my images on the monitor, prior to printing, I always added a bit too much pinkish color to compensate for the greenish hue of the monitor. Of course I did not realize this was happening, but I did often get frustrated by the fact that my images looked ok in the monitor, but pinkish when printed. Now that I have a calibrated monitor, I have many fewer problems in getting my print to match the image on my screen.

Sweetgum Fall Color

Sweetgum Branches, Nov. 8, 2005
I was visiting a playground and just happened to have my camera and tripod in the car. When I saw this beautiful sweetgum tree, I decided to try and capture some of its beauty. I did not, however, have my polarizer, which explains why some of the leaves are washed out with a blue-white glare. I plan to return to this location with my polarizer so I can try again. This time, using the polarizer, I hope to capture the warm and bright colors of the leaves.
I have always loved sweetgum trees, ever since the age of 8, when I saw my first. I was impressed by the beautiful and dramatic star-shaped leaves and the "gum balls" (spiky fruits containing seeds--that start out greenish and turn brown as they get dry). Sweeetgum trees are most common in the southern deciduous forests, which is why they are more often seen in places like Missouri and Virginia rather than Iowa or Michigan.

Claret Cup Cactus

Caret Cup, May 9, 2005
Here is a horizontal shot of a claret cup cactus that I found a couple days earlier than the vertical shots shown below. It has been difficult for me to get the red color as bright as the actual flower was, without also getting the image too dark. I am able to increase the saturation of red, but I need to do more than just that. Learning how to make the images look "real" and match the true colors of nature can be a challenge. I think snow scenes will be a lot easier for me because there is so much white!
I have decided to start attaching my name and/or website address to my images so that people can copy my images and enjoy them, and still keep track of the source.

Claret Cup Cactus

Claret Cup, May 12, 2005
Before I snap the shutter of my camera, I try to make sure that the frame includes only what I want to see in the final photograph. This image of claret cup is a wider view of the same plant shown below. I tried a few different perspectives--using my 200 mm lens. I moved the camera closer and then further away and got a variety of shots. In addition to changing the postion of the camera (using a tripod, of course), the light was also changing. It was partly cloudy, with a few high clouds in the sky. Also I had my diffuser (a large white, transparent circle that cuts the intensity of sunlight, allowing softer, diffused light through to the subject). This image has slightly harsher light than the image below. At first, I didn't like the increased contrast of this image, but on second (third and fourth) thought, I am starting to like it a little more beause it shows more depth, texture, and detail.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about these two images recently because I am trying to print a copy for a friend. The Epson 2200 does a great job making prints, but everything has to be adjusted first. For example, there is the color balance, the contrast, the overall brightness, etc. With these images, I started with the Nikon raw format (NEF) and brought them into Photoshop after making a few minor adjustments... My monitor is calibrated to match colors accurately, and the printer is set up to use those settings, but still, the print never looks quite the way I expect the first time. I am new at this, however, and I predict that one of these days I will get better at doing this and it will take a lot less time. Meanwhile, having spent all this time on these two images lately, I decided to post them here to show people what I have done.
Now, I think I will return my attention to some recent fall color shots, and eventually will return to some photos from spring 2005. After that, I might scan some older slides from previous springs, like spring 2004, when I spent a week during May in northern Michigan in one of the most lush and beautiful forests I have ever seen.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Claret Cup Cactus in Southern Utah

Claret Cup, May 12, 2005
I found this claret cup cactus in a dry desert-like area north of Boulder, Utah, not too far from Capital Reef National Park. I have posted this image before, but decided to post it again now that I have learned a little bit more about working with digital images. This time, the resolution is 72 dpi and the size is about 5x7, which means the image will become enlarged if you click on it. I will get back to some fall images soon.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Wildlife in Jefferson National Forest

Nov. 4, 2005, Goose swimming in pond
I don't usually do much photography of birds, partly because my longest good lens is 200 mm. Guess which lens I used! That's right, the 200 mm. I was here at the edge of the pond for the purpose of shooting fall color. But geese have learned that people often offer food, so they typically swim over toward people whenever someone new shows up--so I turned my camera's attention to them (and a few ducks).
Most of my photos were blurred (I used manual focus and was too slow) or streaked (the geese moved through the frame during exposure). But this one came out alright. I had wanted to catch a few geese together in an interesting arrangement, but none of those came out crisp. I also wanted to catch a duck or two (mallards), because I have always loved ducks--almost like part of the family. (When growing up in the Pine Barrens, a small flock of ducks regularly visited me in my back yard beside a small lake. Several were wild-colored mallards, and one was a big white duck that I named Seymore. Seymore was my buddy!)
One of my favorite "pond" sounds is the sound of mallard ducks quacking. I ought to find a tape recording of that gentle sound for inspiration while I sit here working on my website!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Welcome to Woodland Spring

If you are new to this website, please be sure to check the ARCHIVES (see right margin) as well as this main page. Only about ten of the most recent entries appear on this page, but there are many more entries in the September 2005 and October 2005 ARCHIVES. Some of my favorite entries include the Smoky Mountains and Mountain Lake.
Back in October, I learned a lot about working with and posting digital images on a website, and this did slow me down quite a bit. But I am back to posting rather regularly, mostly current images, but also frequently adding older images from spring.
Finally, I have just added a link to my other new website called, "What's Brewing?" We plan to brew our first batch of beer of the year tomorrow. Check it out if you get a chance. Thanks for stopping by.

The Stream at Cascade Falls

View from first bridge, Nov. 2, 2005
I got this view using my favorite lens... you guessed it, the 200 mm micro. It was a cool and clear November morning but the sun was still out of view. I was standing on the first bridge along the trail that leads to Cascade Falls and looking upstream. I found this little "waterfall" flowing through some rocks about 1 t0 3 feet (1/3 to 1 meter) in diameter. I got this shot just minutes before the sun "peaked" over the nearby mountain and began to cast direct light. I was glad to catch the water before the bright sun added too much contrast.

Fall Color in Jefferson National Forest

Fall Color, Nov. 4, 2005
Just like the photo below this, I shot this image using my 200 mm micro lens (with polarizer) from across the pond. The distance was about 300 yards (or 300 meters). I was on the east side of the pond, looking northwest. It was a rather sunny day, but a few thin clouds had floated in overhead, thus diffusing and softening the sunlight just a little bit. It was late morning, around 11 AM, so I had already missed the soft, warm morning light. But there I was at the pond, so I decided to get this shot anyway. I may return around 8 AM one day soon before the fall color drops to the ground so I can try this shot again. I like the mixture of colors (evergereens and deciduous trees together) in this shot.

More Fall Color

Fall Color, Nov. 4, 2005
I found this shot today while walking around a pond in Jefferson National Forest. I got this shot from a small hill on the south side of the pond, while I was looking west-northwest. I used my 200 mm micro lens, not that I needed its "micro" capability. The lens brought me just close enough to isolate the part of the tree that I thought was most interesting. I like the way the red branches offset the green of the pine tree behind them. I used a polarizer to get this shot, and found that the polarizer helped me increase the saturation of red and oranges, while decreasing the blue. I like the way the small yellow tree sits nicely in the bottom corner of the frame.

Abstract Fall Color

Abstract Fall Color, November 4, 2005
I'd like to take credit for this photo, but I cannot. I went out today with my son Adam and he captured this image with a Nikon Coolpix 4300 "point and shoot." I don't normally post other people's work here on my website, but decided to make an exception today. The abstract appearance in this image comes from the uneven lighting on the forest floor, along with movement of the camera as the shutter snapped. Unlike most of my images, for which I use a tripod, this was done as a hand-held shot. Though the camera was moving during the exposure, the image still is reconizable. I really like the side-light (sun coming in from the left) because it adds depth and three-dimensionality to the trees.