Monday, June 25, 2012

Everything Looks Like a Nail

Do you know the expression, "when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail?"  I'm afraid I've become that hammer.

I recently got the first lens that one could reasonably call "pro" quality.  It's the Canon EF-S 70-200mm f/4L telephoto lens.  So, what's one of the first things that I did with a telephoto lens?  I shot a flower macro, of course.

There must be a clinic to help people with my kind of problem.  When I come back from it, I hope to post some actual telephoto pictures.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bouncing Bet

Common Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is an alien species growing along the Mon River rail trail south of the Hildebrandt lock & dam.  One of its other common names is Bouncing Bet, which apparently is named for a washer-woman.  Soapwort has a long history as a natural soap.  I had originally mistaken it for a phlox.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tall Anemone

I almost missed the Tall Anemone (Anemone virginiana) hiding in some even taller growth along the Mon River rail trail south of the Hildebrandt lock & dam.

I took a reference shot with the leaves to help identify the plant.  Although it is blurry, I'm including it here:

The leaves are the smaller ones, which look like parsley, in the bottom-right.  All of the larger leaves belong to some larger plants that were growing all around it.

The blooms are  fairly small.  They seemed more yellowish, but I finally identified this plant in the white blooms section of my old field guide.

Interestingly, one of the other names for this plant is tumbleweed. This is because the fruit resembles a tumbleweed in that it is wind-dispersed and tumbles.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


A few Apocynum cannabinum were beginning to bloom along the rail trail down from Masontown on June 17.  I didn't get off many shots, and this blurry specimen is the best of those.

The common name of this native plant is Dogbane, but it is also known as Hemp Dogbane, Indian Hemp, or Rheumatism Root.  Aside from the poisonous nature of this plant, its other names reflect its use as a source of fiber (Indians used it to make string and fabric) and as an herbal remedy for rheumatism (also, apparently, for syphilis, intestinal worms, fever, asthma and dysentery).

According to a rather extensive USDA Forest Service web page entry, this is yet another plant that thrives in disturbed areas (can you say "ruderal?"), preferring damp locations along streams and ditches. This seems to be a common theme for most of the plants that I've found along the Masontown-to-Morgantown stretch of the rail trail.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Meet Verbascum thapsus, the Great or Common Mullein.  It's another non-native plant that's become quite at home here.  And like the Creeping Thistle that we met yesterday, the Mullein is a ruderal species that thrives on disturbed land.  This picture was taken right alongside the bike trail down from Masontown, which is pretty disturbed land in more ways than one.

The Wikipedia article on the Mullein is quite extensive.  From it, I learned that the flowers are a source of yellow dye.  The plant also has numerous medicinal properties, and it was quickly adopted by native Americans for use against lung ailments.

Its Ukrainian name is korov'iak.  Other common names for the Mullein are
  • Cowboy toilet paper
  • Shepherd's staff
  • Bullicks lungwort
  • Flannel Mullein
  • Feltwort

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ruderal awakening

Meet Cirsium arvense, a thistle species that's native throughout Europe and northern Asia, but it has become so at home here that one of its common names is Canadian Thistle.  Creeping Thistle seems to be the standard name.

It is considered a noxious weed in these here United States.  It is also a "ruderal species," which is a plant species that is first to colonize disturbed lands.  This plant was growing along a combination of railroad cut (currently a bicycle rail trail below Masontown) and what I believe to be a gas line.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Butterfly-weed (Asclepias tuberosa) taken yesterday morning off of the bike trail near Masontown.  Asclepias tuberosa is a species of milkweed native to eastern North America.  It is the larval food plant of the Monarch butterfly.  I've always looked for those caterpillars on "regular" old milkweed plants.   I'll have to give these a closer inspection for caterpillars in the future.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Floral Friday

This is an older shot of a Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides) that I tried to rescue.  The composition was good, but I didn't have the top flowers in focus, and I had a touch of motion blur.
I learned a little bit about how to correct motion blur and was able to remove a bit of it.  I isolated the top-back flowers, which were out of focus, and I sharpened them in another layer.  The results are far from perfect, but it's a whole lot better than what I had when I started.

Taken more than a month ago, on May 12, along the Monongahela river near Little Falls.
  • Shutter speed: 1/60 sec.
  • F-stop:  f/11
  • ISO:  200
  • Lens:  Canon EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

One of my favorite pictures from last Friday's shoot of Woodburn circle was the side view of Woodburn Hall.  After looking at it for nearly a week, however, I began to notice what I thought were flaws, the biggest of which is the lens distortion caused by shooting at the lowest 20mm focal length.

After some interminable futzing, I settled on using the Transform Perspective tool in an attempt at squaring up some of the lines.  The Woodburn Hall shot below has put on a bit of weight.  While I was at it, I also took out the handrails from the bottom of the picture.  Is it better, though?  I'm not so sure. 

Nah, it's just wrong.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reflecting on Stewart Hall

This was another exercise in PhotoShop. Realizing that I had four more or less identical pictures of the reflecting side of the MountainLair, I put them into a stacked image and gave them a statistical mean process. The mean took into account the movement of people and the red truck, which you can see in a previous picture.

While this trick pretty much eliminated the walking person, the red truck still came through as a blur. Content Aware Fill and a few touch up processes were needed to get rid of the truck.

Pictures are so much nicer without people and trucks:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Greetings from WVU

More pictures from the WVU Downtown campus that I took on Friday morning.  The shot needed a little help from PhotoShop, and perhaps I went a bit overboard.  But then again...

I needed to split off the sky from the building.  With both together, the sky was cold and pale, even though it was bright blue.  The same balance left the stonework dark and overexposed.

This looks like it ought to be a postcard:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

More Pictures of Buildings

A different view (from the right) of Woodburn Hall that I took on Friday morning.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Morning, Morgantown (again)

Some WVU Downtown Campus buildings looked pretty nice in today's morning light.  I shot these first two just before a 9:00 a.m. appointment that I had in a nearby building.  The first is Woodburn Hall.  Would have been nicer if I didn't get the lawn sprinkler or the guy texting on the front steps.

Martin Hall (my old alma mater) from the side.

After my appointment, I caught this on the way back to the parking garage. This is the Mountain Lair with Stewart Hall reflected in the glass fa├žade.

Oriental Tourist.

Best attempt at identification says that this is a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

She/it was on one of the miniature rose leaves as I was shooting the rose bloom shown in a previous posting.  According to the Bug Guide, it's highly variable in color and pattern.  It was introduced into this country for biological control of aphids.  Its larvae will find good eats on my roses.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Backyard Blooms

An article in Digital Photography School, titled How To Always Keep A Gray Card At Hand inspired me to experiment with a set of cards that I had bought but not made good use of.  The sun was still bright around 4:30 yesterday evening, so I tried some backyard blooms after adjusting my white balance from a shot of my gray card.

The first thing that I learned is that the light makes it damn near impossible to see the LCD display on the back of my camera well enough to see the menus.  I screwed up the white balance setting.  All was not lost, thankfully, since I was later able to take the light reading from the actual picture of the gray card to adjust all the pictures.

Because I was using a tripod, I was able to incorporate a greater depth-of-field into my shots, stopping down to f/32 and shooting at 1/15th of a second. 

Here are a couple of the better shots:  miniature roses on their second bloom of the summer, and orange daylilies on the edge of my driveway.

Monday, June 4, 2012


On Saturday, June 2, I biked from Star City to Point Marion in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful morning, unseasonably cool in the mid-sixties, with blue skies and a moderate breeze. The breeze made it difficult to do macro photography.

Meet Achillea millefolium, one of the few keepers.  It's known by many common names, such as Milfoil (from its Latin name, meaning thousand leaf) and Yarrow.

According to the Wikipedia description, there are both native and introduced genotypes of this plant in North America.  This plant did not have any papers with it, so your guess is as good as mine as to its heritage.

Things I Didn't Know

In the Middle Ages, yarrow was part of a herbal mixture known as gruit used in the flavoring of beer prior to the use of hops. The flowers and leaves are used in making some liquors and bitters

This herb is also identified as one of the plants in a Neanderthal burial site in northern Iraq.