Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Don't Crush that Dwarf

On April 27, nestled among the Bluebells that were growing below the Earl L. Core Arboretum were some Dwarf Larkspurs (Delphinium tricorne).  These are native perennials that prefer dappled shade. This seems to be a good year for them, because I saw them pretty much everywhere along my bike ride.

In this first shot, you can see the leaves of the Bluebells growing among the Larkspurs.

Here's a closeup shot taken further down along the river trail.

According to a writeup I found at Midwest Native Plants, Gardens, and Wildlife, these plants are pretty toxic.  Another name for the plant is staggerweed, given for its effect on cattle.

The title of this blog post?  It comes from this relic of the past.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wild Blue "Bill"

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata), aka "Sweet William." A card-carrying native to forests in eastern North America.  These are a bit later than last year, when I shot some on April 2.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Some Moss

There are approximately 12,000 moss species in the naked Bryophyta. Here is one of them, but your guess is as good as (or better than) mine as to which this one is.

Those tall stalks growing out of the moss are called the sporophyte body, which comprises a long stalk, called a seta, and a capsule capped by a cap called the operculum.  This is where the spores are formed.

Those sporophyte bodies have a strange, bird-like appearance when you look at them close up.  They look like long-necked birds.  See the cool little macro bokeh in the middle of this picture?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bellisimo Bells

The Bluebells that I posted a couple of days ago came with a challenge.  They were nice, but I thought that I could do better.  I knew where to look:  down below the Earl L. Core Arboretum is where I remember seeing the heaviest growth of Bluebells in past years.

To get there, I parked my car at the Star City portion of the Rail Trail and biked back towards town, past the sewage treatment plant.  It smelled as bad as it sounds.  I didn't even bother to snap a picture of the Fumb Duck that was bobbing for delicacies in the settlement pond.   But there was a reward:  Bluebells  (Mertensia virginica) as far as the eye could see.

 I was able to get a better closeup, too:

Here's the route:

Name:Track 014
Date:Apr 27, 2013 9:46 am
(valid until Oct 24, 2013)
View on Map
Distance:11.0 miles
Elapsed Time:1:41:44
Avg Speed:6.5 mph
Max Speed:16.0 mph
Avg Pace:9' 14" per mile
Min Altitude:732 ft
Max Altitude:1,009 ft
Start Time:2013-04-27T13:46:31Z
Start Location:
Latitude:39º 39' 32" N
Longitude:79º 59' 28" W
End Location:
Latitude:39º 39' 32" N
Longitude:79º 59' 28" W

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Bluebell Challenge

The Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica) remains a challenge for me to shoot.  This one, taken on April 23 is my best effort to date, and my best is none too good.

This subject needs more depth of field, but perhaps I just need to really step back and get lots more of the plants.  To do that, I'll need to go along the river below the WVU Arboretum, where I've seen the Bluebells covering the ground for as far as the eye can see.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


If you look closely at the picture of the two trilliums that I shot yesterday evening, you'll notice some fiddleheads growing to the left of them.  These are the furled fronds of young ferns.  How's that for alliteration? They're edible, and quite tasty as I recall, but it's been years since I've eaten any.

Here are a couple of additional shots for your visual consumption.  I'm told that these are Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides).

 With fronds like these, who needs anemones?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Red & The White

I think Rick Santorum predicted something like this happening:  a Red Trillium, aka, Wakerobin (Trillium erectum) and a White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) are seen here cohabiting in the woods.

Taken today on an after-work bike ride south of the Hildebrand lock & dam.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Killing Time

I stumbled upon a C/Net news item titled Microsoft reportedly testing smartwatch prototypes.  Now I doubt that I'm the first, and I know that I won't be the last, but here's the first thought that came into my mind:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Paradigm tilt

Tilt-shift from Wikipedia
Tilt–shift photography is the use of camera movements on small- and medium-format cameras, and sometimes specifically refers to the use of tilt for selective focus, often for simulating a miniature scene. Sometimes the term is used when the shallow depth of field is simulated with digital post-processing; the name may derive from the tilt–shift lens normally required when the effect is produced optically.
Do date, I've only been able to produce faux tilt-shift, using PhotoShop or an iPhone app like Snapseed.  An outfit called Lensbabymakes them in prices ranging from $80 to several hundreds of dollars, but I've been entertaining notions to make my own someday.

But someday doesn't always come, or at least not soon enough.  Rather than trying to simulate a miniature scene, I went directly to a real miniature scene.  Witness a co-workers model N gauge railroad yard:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


There's something strangely compelling about this macro shot of an old (c. early 1960s) Minolta Rokkor-TC 135mm f/4 macro lens.

This was shot using a Canon EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens and a ring flash.   The center of the iris was edited to remove the reflections from the flash.  You'd almost expect to see James Bond appear there.

This old lens is non-focusing, meant to be used with an old macro bellows from that same era.  Check out the 12-blade diaphragm!

More Trail Mix

Posting a few more shots taken from last Saturday's bike ride.  Notice how the photographer got down nice and low to shoot these lovelies straight-on instead of looking down.  That photographer has poison ivy AGAIN.  Some people just never learn.

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum

 Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lard of the Ring

Another freezing bike ride this morning; this time along the river around Uffington.  At least there was a decent variety of wild flowers.  Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) were out in abundance, as were Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), and Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum).  I saw some Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) too, but they weren't in those big, colorful patches that I remember from past years.

This was the first time that I took my new Sigma EM-140 DG ring flash out in the field.  It really made a difference, because besides being cold and cloudy, it was also windy.  The flash allowed me to stop down my aperture for better depth of field and still achieve a shutter speed that minimized the effect of wind motion.   The only problem was that the batteries were fading, causing longer and longer recycle times for the flash.

Here are four of my favorites:

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Because it was kind of early in the day (11 a.m.) and cold, it was had to find a Bloodroot brave (or stupid) enough to open up its petals.

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)

The depth of field on this Trillium shot is pretty decent, too.  You can also see a difference that the ring flash makes in lighting the subject.  A shot taken last year relied entirely on sunlight for the exposure, so I lost some of the vivid color in the flower petals.

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria

Thursday, April 11, 2013

It's a Cookbook!

The origins of life (Michelangelo meets Warhol) 

I couldn't leave well enough alone.  The soup can needed a bit of work (it still does), so I re-worked the picture to the version you see above.   Below is the originally posted version:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Playing with Time

Below is another one of Saturday's Decker's Creek pictures.  It's too dark for general consumption, but I like it nonetheless.

I shot this in broad daylight (1:00 p.m.) with my Canon EF-S17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens.  Exposure was 1.3 sec; f/7.1; ISO 100.   A variable neutral density filter was stopped down to about 6 on the dial.

You can see the better-lit version of this shot here.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Decker's Creek

Today was my first bike excursion of the year.  Knowing what kind of shape I'm in -- basically, round -- I got dropped off at Masontown and took the rail trail downhill from there.  Before doing the downhill run, I rode just a little way up the trail, where the ground is relatively flat and the creek snakes under a series of bridges.  I heard choruses of peepers, but the only thing I actually saw was a snapping turtle the size of a dinner plat sunning itself on a log.

The turtle had the right idea, because it was cold up there on the mountain! When I started back on the downhill run, I saw patches of snow as well as icicles on the rocky overhangs.  The only blooming plant life at that altitude was coltsfoot.

I was backpacking my latest zoom lens and tripod in hopes of getting down to Decker's Creek at the same place I did last year.  Not sure how I managed to miss the spot, but I did.  After I got all the way down to where my car had been left off for me, I drove back up toward Masontown and pulled over to the side of the road where it looked like I could reach the creek.

It started as a wretched undertaking.  On the way down the ravine, I skirted all kinds of recently deposited garbage.  Luckily for the cold, I wasn't too worried about running into snakes, because the place looked like it would be crawling with them in warmer weather.  Soon, I found something that looked vaguely like a trail, and I made it down near the cascades.

Here are two different angles of the same falls:

These were both shot at a slow speed, using a variable neutral density filter and a tripod.

I think that there were even better cascades just downstream from this one, but I wasn't channeling my inner mountain goat today.   As it was, I was huffing and puffing like an old man by the time I got back up to the road again.

Don't say it!

Trip details, via MotionX-GPS on my iPhone:

Name:Track 012
Date:Apr 6, 2013 11:13 am
(valid until Oct 3, 2013)
View on Map
Distance:13.0 miles
Elapsed Time:1:16:59
Avg Speed:10.1 mph
Max Speed:17.6 mph
Avg Pace:5' 54" per mile
Min Altitude:845 ft
Max Altitude:1,842 ft
Start Time:2013-04-06T15:13:38Z
Start Location:
Latitude:39º 33' 14" N
Longitude:79º 48' 12" W
End Location:
Latitude:39º 37' 06" N
Longitude:79º 55' 27" W

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sadly, this isn't The Onion

One of my favorite sites of late is called The Ononeon. Its motto is "It's not funny, 'cause it's true." I suppose that this helps to differentiate it from the humor site, The Onion, which is fake news that's often interpreted by some people to be reports of true events.

Headlines on The Ononeon are typically links to original posted reports elsewhere.  A recent News Highlight for example offers this tag:
Robertson: God gives less miracles to too-educated Americans who learn science
The tag links to a piece on The Raw Story by David Edwards (Monday, April 1, 2013 14:19 EDT) Robertson: God gives fewer miracles to ‘too-educated Americans’ who learn science.  It sounds made up.
Televangelist Pat Robertson on Monday explained to his viewers that “sophisticated” Americans received less miracles because they had learned “things that says God isn’t real” like evolution.
On Monday’s episode of CBN’s The 700 Club, Robertson responded to a viewer who wanted to know why “amazing miracles (people raised from the dead, blind eyes open, lame people walking) happen with great frequency in places like Africa, and not here in the USA?”
“People overseas didn’t go to Ivy League schools,” the TV preacher laughed. “We’re so sophisticated, we think we’ve got everything figured out. We know about evolution, we know about Darwin, we know about all these things that says God isn’t real.”
Don't try to think too hard about what he's saying; it may hurt your head.  You'll have better results with this logic (transcript follows):

BEDEMIR: Did you dress her up like this? CROWD: No, no... no ... yes. Yes, yes, a bit, a bit. VILLAGER #1: She has got a wart. BEDEMIR: What makes you think she is a witch? VILLAGER #3: Well, she turned me into a newt. BEDEMIR: A newt? VILLAGER #3: I got better. VILLAGER #2: Burn her anyway! CROWD: Burn! Burn her! BEDEMIR: Quiet, quiet. Quiet! There are ways of telling whether she is a witch. CROWD: Are there? What are they? BEDEMIR: Tell me, what do you do with witches? VILLAGER #2: Burn! CROWD: Burn, burn them up! BEDEMIR: And what do you burn apart from witches? VILLAGER #1: More witches! VILLAGER #2: Wood! BEDEMIR: So, why do witches burn? [pause] VILLAGER #3: B--... 'cause they're made of wood...? BEDEMIR: Good! CROWD: Oh yeah, yeah... BEDEMIR: So, how do we tell whether she is made of wood? VILLAGER #1: Build a bridge out of her. BEDEMIR: Aah, but can you not also build bridges out of stone? VILLAGER #2: Oh, yeah. BEDEMIR: Does wood sink in water? VILLAGER #1: No, no. VILLAGER #2: It floats! It floats! VILLAGER #1: Throw her into the pond! CROWD: The pond! BEDEMIR: What also floats in water? VILLAGER #1: Bread! VILLAGER #2: Apples! VILLAGER #3: Very small rocks! VILLAGER #1: Cider! VILLAGER #2: Great gravy! VILLAGER #1: Cherries! VILLAGER #2: Mud! VILLAGER #3: Churches -- churches! VILLAGER #2: Lead -- lead! ARTHUR: A duck. CROWD: Oooh. BEDEMIR: Exactly! So, logically..., VILLAGER #1: If... she.. weighs the same as a duck, she's made of wood. BEDEMIR: And therefore--? VILLAGER #1: A witch! CROWD: A witch! BEDEMIR: We shall use my larger scales! [yelling] BEDEMIR: Right, remove the supports! [whop] [creak] CROWD: A witch! A witch! WITCH: It's a fair cop. CROWD: Burn her! Burn! [yelling] Transcript from Scene #5, lifted from here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/mphg/mphg.htm

Thursday, April 4, 2013

To Infinity and Up Close!

The Polaroid film that I was initially disappointed with may not be as bad as I thought.  Maybe it was just me.  I brought the SX-70 into work yesterday and offered a photographer friend a chance to try it out.  His result are much better than mine:

Not bad, eh?

This is Buzz Lightyear, if you don't recognize him, shot in my cubicle under florescent lighting.  This was shot hand-held, and the exposure wheel was dialed to darkest.    I'd like to make excuses that all of my shot, which were overexposed, were taken in daylight.  Yeah, I'll stick with that one. 

Apropos to the photo above:

Sorry, I couldn't resist.