Monday, May 29, 2006

Tulip Tree near Greenbriar Cove

I found this beautiful Tulip Tree near Greenbriar Cove of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This tree had a somewhat low branch near a small hillside, which allowed me to get a straight-across view of the flowers rather than having to look up toward the sky. Thus I was able to peer inside several flowers and get photographs too. It was about 7:30 AM on May 23, 2006, and the wind was just picking up speed. WIthin a half hour of when I arrived, the branches were blowing too wildly for even the quickest shot. Also, it had rained the night before, so the leaves and flower petals were decorated with drops of dew.

Here is a nice close-up view of the Tulip Tree flower, showing the internal parts of the TulipTree flower. I like the way the leaf forms a bright green background with an interesting texture and pattern.

I like this somewhat close-up view of the Tulip Tree flower because it is tilted in the frame. I also like the way this perspective shows the colors on the side of the flower.

Here is a very closeup view of the Tulip Tree flower.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Blueberries on The Mountain

I found these blueberries on May 20, 2006 at "The Mountain" near Highlands, NC. They were growing in the clearing beside Meditation Rock. These blueberries, far from being ripe, were growing near some white oak trees that had caught my attention due to the small size of their leaves (see below). During the previous night, it had been rather wet and stormy, so I got out early to capture as many rain-covered images as I could. While standing in the clearing, the rain returned for a while, but I stayed and kept shooting. This image is one reward of that trip.

Tiny White Oak Leaves

I found these tiny white oak leaves at "The Mountain" (a Unitarian Universalist retreat) near Highlands, NC on May 21, 2006. I was very excited when I arrived at the retreat to find so many white oak trees with leaves that were barely an inch or two long. I love the soft fuzzy surface of the leaves, and the intricate shapes of the lobes--just like full grown white oak leaves, but smaller, softer, redder, and CUTER. Yes, cuter. These little leaves remind me of baby hands or baby mittens. I spent HOURS photographing a variety of tiny oak leaves during my four day retreat. I plan to post more shots during the next few days.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Mountain Laurel along Laurel Falls Trail

Here is a large Mountain Laurel bush that I found while walking along Laurel Falls Trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on May 22, 2006. It started off as a rainy day, but by the time I got ready to capture this shot, the cloud cover had thinned. The sunlight was diffused somewhat by the clouds, allowing the scene to be evenly lit. The air was mostly calm, allowing me to capture a rather crisp image of the flowers and limbs. I like the way the branches of this "tree" fill the frame in front of the backdrop of green leaves of nearby trees.

Galax Portrait and Closeups

I found this blooming Galax plant along a trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest on May 22, 2006. It is difficult to compose a pleasing photograph of this plant due to the general arrangement of leaves and the inflorescence. The leaves grow low to the ground, and the flowers grow on a long, thin spike. To include the whole plant in one photograph usually means including a very distracting background. Here I found Galax growing along a rocky cliff. The rock provides a pretty good background, but it close enough in color and texture to still be distracting. I will continue my quest to find an entire Galax plant in a location well suited for portrait such as this.

The first time I saw Galax, about a year ago, all I saw were the leaves. It was summer, and the flowers were gone. But this spring, I found both. The evergreen leaves are somewhat thin and leathery. Last year's leaves are a darker green (see lower leaves) while this year's new growth is lighter green and more tender to the touch.

Here is a closeup view of Galax flowers growing in the middle portion of the inflorescence (group of flowers). Each tiny white flower has five petals.

Here is a closeup view of Galax buds. Like many flowers that grow in a spike or raceme, the individual flowers develop in sequence, starting at the bottom of the stalk and working their way up toward the tip.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Laurel Falls

This is Laurel Falls, just over one mile from the trail head along Little River Road. My friend Mike keeps asking me to hurry up and post some waterfalls, so here is the first. Shooting waterfalls is rather new to me, having focused most of my photographic attention on wildflowers. However, I am beginning to get "hooked" on waterfalls and believe this could be the begining of something rather fun.

Just for fun, I decided to zoom in and get a closer view of just the water flowing over the rocks. I was curious to see whether I could capture any interesting patterns or textures. I think this shot is ok, but I like the wider shot better.

Here are the smaller falls to the left of the main falls. I stood around for quite a while just checking out the falls, watching people go by, and waiting for them to get their family photographs in front of the smaller falls. While heading back and stopping to photograph some wildflowers, I ended up discussing waterfall photography with a fellow named David. David and I ran into each other again later that day on a different trail in a different part of the park. Though somewhat rainy, it was a great day to be out in the woods. In the Smokies, it seems that every day is a good day for something.

Foggy Landscape near Laurel Falls

As I walked toward Laurel Falls on this rainy Monday (May 22, 2007), I came to a small clearing that was just barely large enough to allow me a clear shot of the hills and fog. I stood in this one spot for nearly a half hour just watching and photographing the scene as clouds rose like smoke in the distance. I like the way the hillsides, though obscured somewhat by the fog, form curved diagonal lines through the frame.

Clouds rose like smoke as I gazed into the valley. It was a challenge to compose an interesting shot of the hillsides due to the very small clearing between the branches of nearby trees. As for getting a closer shot to avoid the limbs, that would have been impossible for me due to the steep and slippery slope beside the trail.

Small Stream along Laurel Falls Trail

Here is an extremely close-up view of the small "waterfall" between the two larger, circular rocks, which are shown in the photograph below. This scene can be found about half way to Laurel Falls along the Laurel Falls Trail. For wider views of this same scene, see the two photographs shown below.

May 22, 2007 was a rainy Monday in the Smokies, so I decided to check out some waterfalls. I walked along the trail toward Laurel Falls and found this view after about a half mile. This tiny stream and waterfall were right along the edge of the trail. The two large "circular" rocks are probably about 3 feet in diameter.

I zoomed in for a closer look.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

View from Bald Knob at Mountain Lake

It was cloudy this morning (May 25, 2006), with predictions of rain, so I went to Mountain Lake this morning with plans to photograph May apple and some other interesting plants that I might find. After a few drops of rain landed around me, the cloud cover began to thin. So I hiked up to Bald Knob and found this beautiful view when I got there. The sun had just started to peek through the clouds and lit the rock formation rather nicely. Also the landscape in the background was somewhat lit by the sun.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cinnamon Fern Beside a Woodland Stream

The Cinnamon Fern gets its name because the reproductive frond looks like a stick of cinnamon. I found this plant, growing among many others, on May 15, 2006, in a soggy woodland, beside a stream. The green fronds are 2-3 feet tall, and will continue to grow somewhat throughout the spring.
It is rare for me to place something like this brown frond in the center of the frame, but for some reason this composition seemed pretty good to me at the time I shot the image. I like the way the Cinnamon Fern in the background provides nice contrast for the brown frond toward the front.

Here is a rather closeup view of the reproductive frond of Cinnamon Fern. The Cinnamon Stick appearance of this frond gives the fern its name. See below for more information on Cinnamon Fern.

Cinnamon Fern Fiddlehead

This is Cinnamon Fern, still tightly wound up in a "fiddle-head." The "scroll" is about the size of a quarter.
On this day, May 15, 2006, most of the plants had already finished unrwrapping and their fronds were standing tall and wide, reaching the height of my waist as I walked by them. They were growing in a damp wooded valley along a small stream that feeds into the pond nearby.
I knew right away it was Cinnamon Fern when I saw the characteristic "cinnamon stick" frond growing within some of the individual plants. This sets Cinnamon Fern fern apart from its close relative, the Interupted Ferm. The cinamon stick frond is the reproductive frond, containing tissue that will soon produce spores. Shown here is a vegetative (non-reproductive) frond, which appears more green than the brownish colored reproductive frond. In the Interupted Fern, the reproductive structures are found on the regular leaf, "interupting" the green frond-lets with brownish spore-producing structures.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Flame Azalea Flower

Here is a closeup view of a flower from Flame Azalea. I was able to stand along the trail, which ran along the crest of a hill. The large shrub grew on the downward slope beside the trail. As a result, I was able to get eye-level with the flowers, rather than having to look up.

Here is another view, but not quite so close up.

Flame Azalea

Flame Azalea has started to bloom in southern Virginia. I found this small tree today in Jefferson National Forest. Some of the trees still had buds, but this one was in full bloom. I also found cinnamon fern and had a lot fun getting closeups of fronds.

Rosebay Rhododendron

This is Rosebay Rohdodendron. I composed this photo on July 19, 2005, in the Jefferson National Forest in southern Virgina. I have heard that rhododendrons are currently in bloom in the Smokies, which is good news for me, since I plan to visit the Smokies next week!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Stormy Mother's Day Sky

The skies grew stormy during our Mother's Day walk at the pond. I like the texture of the clouds in the sky and the subtle glow of color in the trees. I think it's interesting that the white oaks up by the pond are still in the early stages of forming leaves, while the ones down here in the valley have leafs that are already full size for summer.

Mother's Day at the Pond

This is a hand-held shot that I got while taking a walk around the nearby pond with my family. I enjoyed seeing the Canadian Geese and their goslings. It reminds me of one Mother's Day in the mid 1970s, back in the Pine Barrens of NJ, when one of the mallards in the lake behind our house showed up with her brand new family of ducklings.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Phlox with DIffused Sunlight

Compare this photograph of Plox with the photograh two entries below. It is pretty much the same shot, but here the flowers were lit by diffused sunlight rather than being shaded by a cloud. I like the way this image has more of a three-dimensionality to it than the one similar to it below. This image appears less flat, and seems to do a good job showing the texture of the petals.

Closeup of Phlox

Here is a somewhwat closeup view of Plox beside Newfound Gap Road in the Smokies on April 11, 2006. Each flower has five petals, arranged as shown here. This plant can be confused a purple mustard flower (Dame's Rocket) that grows beside the road during late spring. A key difference is that the phlox flower consistently has five petals, while the mustard flowers have four. Check a few flowers in each cluster just to be sure.
As for the color of phlox flowers, the woodland phlox species tend to be more of a bluish purple, while some of the prarie species tend to appear more pink. But it does vary. Also, when photographing flowers like these, they appear very different on film when you photograph them in the shade versus the sun. In the shade, they appear more bluish, while in the sun they appear more pink. In the above photo, the flowers were lit by somewhat diffused sunlight, but in the photo below, the flowers were somewhat shaded due to a passing cloud. Though sunlight can lead to too much contrast in the image, it can also help emphasize the texture and three-dimensionality of the subject. Shade offers even lighting, but can make the image look flat.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Flock of Phlox!

These phlox were growing in a large flock beside the road in the vacinity of mile marker 5 on the Newfound Gap Road. I stopped to photograph them on my way up the hill on April 11, 2006, having observed them excitedly for the previous few days. It was a slightly windy day and with all the traffic heading up the hill, causing wind on the side of the road, it took me quite a while to get the phlox to hold still for this shot.

Rattlesnake Fern

This is rattlesnake fern, which I found growing near the Gatlinburg park entrance. We stopped to toss rocks into a stream, and while others tossed rocks, I shot ferns and flowers. The frond sticking up toward the camera is the "fertile" frond, the frond on which spores will develop.

Hepatica Flower Closeup

Here is a closeup of the same flower highlighted in the image below. This was a horizontal shot that enabled me to get very close to the flower. The top and bottom edges shown here are the orginal edges of the frame, however I cropped off the sides to make this frame a perfect square.

Hepatica Blossoms

If you ask me, Hepatica is one of the prettiest early spring wildflowers. Truth is, I love them all. Here is a shot of Hepatica acutiloba, which I found near Greenbriar Cove in the Smokies on April 11, 2006. These plants were growing along a steep cliff beside the road. I chose a weekday to work at this location since I wanted to avoid traffic as I set up the tripod oon the edge of the road.
Hepatica is in the buttercup family. Its flower has the same general structures and shape as the classic yellow buttercup that often grows on lawns. Later during April, I was able to photograph hepatica fruits developing on stems where the pretty pinkish/white flowers had been.
I also have several photos of hepatica leaves. The three-lobed leaves, with mottled appearance (like the human liver) helps explain how hepatica got its name. Hepatic refers to liver. Hepatica was once used to treat people with liver disease, according to the "Doctrine of Signatures," the ancient idea that the appearance of a plant serves as a clue from nature to tell humans what type of ailaments the plant can be used to heal.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Yellow Trillium

I found this yellow trillium near Greebriar Cove of the Smoky Mountains on April 11, 2006. Like all trilliums, this plant has structures in sets of three: three leaves, three sepals, and three petals. This is one of FIVE trillium species I found and photographed in the Smokies this spring.
I found this species listed in a wildflower book called, Wildflowers of the Smokies, which I purchased at the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Smokies, but is also available on their website. This book refers to this plant as yellow trillium or Trillium luteum. The flower has a lemony scent.
This trillium reminds me of Trillium sesile, which I used to find back in the forests of eastern Iowa. Back in those days, this was the one trillium I knew well, but its flower is maroon and not yellow. However, like this trillium, my familiar trillium back in Iowa had mottled leaves, and a flower sitting directly at the top of the leaves (without a stalk or stem).

Crested Dwarf Iris

This is Crested Dwarf Iris, Iris christata, which I found along Chimney Top Trail, and several other locations. In fact, large clusters could be seen along side of the road, including Roarking Fork Motorway, througout the Smokies. It is somewhat difficult to photograph a single flower using a rectangular frame that is standard with a 35 mm camera and its digital counterparts, but the green leaf helps make the rectangluar composition look somewhat appealing to me. Later in the spring, I found a pair of flowers and photographed them together--in opposite corners of the frame. I will post those on the website eventually.

Fir Skeletons near Clingman's Dome

Here is a view of the forest looking north from the parking lot at the end of Clingman's Dome Road. It was just after 6 PM and the sun was getting low in the sky toward my left. I wanted to capture both the beauty and sadness of this scene--the beauty of the Smoky Mountain forest at this high elevation and the sadness of dead Frazier firs.
At first I thought these were dead hemlocks, but I spoke with some folks who know a lot more about this topic than I do. From these folks, I learned that these are fir "skeletons" left behind from attacks by parasites that are of a different species but similar to the insects attacking the hemlocks today. These bugs invaded the Appalachians about 50 years ago and left these dead fir trees in their wake. A similar story could be currently unfolding for the hemlocks...
Speaking of hemlocks:
The eastern hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, is currently one of the most common trees in the Smoky Mountains. However, this may soon change. Sadly, the Hemlocks are being killed by a non-native insect called the hemlock woolly adelgid, which was first discovered in the US in the 1950s near Richmond, Va. According to a park publication, "The insect feeds at the base of hemlock needles, disrupting nutrient flow and eventually causing the tree to starve to death." At this point, hemlocks show no natural resistance to this 6-legged parasite, and it is feared the hemlocks may endure the same fate as the American chestnut, no longer dominant in the eastern forest, nor extinct, the chestnut scrapes by its existence, appearing as ocassional saplings and small trees, and is hardly noticed anymore. But it is still there, and there is still hope for the chestnut. Let's hope the same is true for the hemlock, which just so happens to be one of my favorite trees.

Appalachian Trail, Heading North from Newfound Gap

I haven't done all that many scenic shots this spring, having focused mostly on wildflower portraits and closeups. But here is a classic shot that I couldn't pass up. This is the entrance, heading north, to the Appalachian trail from the scenic overlook at Newfound Gap at the top of Newfound Gap Rock in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It had been a long day of hiking and exploring, followed by some sight-seeing near Clingman's Dome. On the way back into town, we stopped here to check out the view. The moon was in a good spot for this shot, so I decided to give it a try. It was just after 7 PM on April 10, 2006.

False Solomon's Seal

Here is somewhat closeup view of false Solomon's Seal, which I found on Chestnut Top Trail (April 10) not far from the Solomon's Seal shown below. The plume of flowers is about 3 inches long, and grows at the end of the stem. The yellowish flowers are still buds, while the white ones have opened up.

Solomon's Seal Buds

It is usually difficult to make a good photograph of Solomon's seal due to the general size of the plant and the tendency for there to be a lot of clutter in the background. This individual happened to be growing in front of a shaded rocky ledge, which helped make the background disappear in to darkness. I found this plant along Chestnut Top trail, not far from Townsend, TN on April 10, 2006. It was growing along a steep hill beside the trail. The flowers, still buds, are approximately one half inch in length.

Bloodroot Fruit

Here is a bloodroot plant, forming its fruit. The flower probably finished blooming a week before I captured this shot on April 9th, 2006, near Greenbriar Cove in the Smokies. Inside this fruit pod, the seeds are developing. They start out pale ivory color and get darker and darker with time. The ripe seeds are about the size of sesame seeds, but more round. When the fruit is ripe, it "pops" open along its seam, revealing the dark brown and shiny seeds. One goal for next year is for me to photograph the seeds so I can show them instead of describing them with words. These seeds have an ivory colored fatty substance on their surface, which attracts ants. Ants take the seeds back to their nests and eat the fatty substance, leaving the seeds to germinate and grow new plants.

Jack in the Pulpit Closeup

I got as close as I could to this Jack in the Pulpit. I had to get low to the ground and peek sideways under the top "flap" of the flower. Inside the flower, I found this "hot dog" shaped structure. I never realized before that it appears moist and shiny. I like the way the light shines through the striped background. Sometimes Jack in the Pulpit is mostly green and white, but it often has at least some maroon color like this one here. I photographed this plant on May 8, 2006 in Giles County, VA.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mountain Laurel along the Blue Ridge Parkway during June 2005

Mountain Laurel just north of Rocky Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway, June 7, 2005. After photographing some Mountain Laurel at the picnic area (see below), I went north along the parkway. I saw this scene and just had to pull over the car and get a few shots. There was a storm heading my way, and a few drops of drizzle falling as I worked, but the sky stayed relatively blue in the background. I was hoping for some storm clouds to add texture to the sky, but they never reached my frame.

Moutain Laurel at Rocky Knob Picnic Area

Here are flowers from a Moutain Laurel bush that I found in the Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway, on June 7, 2005. Confronted by such a beautiful plant with such an interesting flower, it was difficult to know how to proceed in capturing its beauty. Using my favorite lens (Nikor 200 mm micro) I tried this shot first, filling the frame with blossoms. Next I stepped back for a slightly wider view (see three frames below). I also tried some closeups that were challenging but also fun (see one and two frames below).
The appearance of these images will vary from one person's computer to the next, depending on how the screen is calibrated (or not). Also, whenever I post an image here on the webiste, it seems to appear a little bit brighter and slightly more washed out than it does when I view the image using the software I have at home. Despite all this, I find that each image on the website looks much better when I click on the image to get a larger view. Each image has been saved at a resolution of 72 ppi with a size of approximately 8 by 12 inches.

I wanted to show how the flowers form such full and beautiful clusters, so I worked on framing a variety of shots. I like the way this picture does a good job of showing the shape of the individual flowers and also shows how they form clusters above the leathery dark green evergreen leaves.

Here is a closeup to show the shape and complexity of the Mountain Laurel flower.

Here is a slightly wider view of the same bunch of flowers on the Moutain Laurel shown three frames above. Since I was working with a fixed focal length lens, I simply moved my tripod back about 10 steps and re-framed the shot.

Friday, May 05, 2006

May Apple in the Smokies

Here is a somewhat closeup view of the flower of May Apple. I like the way this shot shows how the flower can be found at the intersection of the Y in the stem. I also like the way this image shows a rather nice view of the reproductive structures inside the flower, including the stigma and stamen. I found this May Apple, along with the others (below), in the Smoky Mountains during late April, 2006. I got this shot during the afternoon of April 25th. I intentionally tried to throw the background out of focus to avoid having too many distractions. As with almost every flower shot posted here on this website, I got this photo using my Nikon D70 and 200 mm micro lens.

May Apple Flower Closeup

This is a very closeup view of a May Apple flower. I had to get right down on the ground and look up and under the "umbrella" shaped leaves to get this shot. I had to wait for the wind to stop. And when I get a shot like this, I feel very pleased. For me, closeup photography is what it's all about. I don't want to forget the scenic shots, but I just love to do closeup work. For perspective, the yellow portion of this flower has a diameter about the size of a dime. Compare this to the closeups of bloodroot, which I posted during late March. Check the ARCHIVES (March 2006) in the right margin of this web page to find the bloodroot photos fast--or just scroll down along this same web page since the bloodroot photos are still posted here too. Bloodroot has an orange tint to the yellow structures inside the flower, while the May Apple pistil and stamen have a softer, more lemony yellow color.