The Beautiful White Trillium Wildflower

An  array of White Trillium... from white to pink as they age.

After taking a few photos of the wildflower Trillium last week, I did some reading about it. There are dozens of species.  I believe what I am showing here are called Eastern White Trillium.  It is the official flower of Ontario and Ohio.  As the name suggests, the flower has three petals that rise above what is called a whorl of three leaf-like bracts.  

Some online sources say that the flower turns purple as it ages.  Others say it turns pink.  But according to my Audobon Field Guide to New England, the White Trillium will turn pink, and there is separately a Purple Trillium species. 

One source mentioned that this is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants.  As I understand it, the plants produce small fruits that attract ants. The ants take the fruits to their nests, where they eat the fruit and discard the seeds. Apparently an ant colony's “discard pile” provides a very rich growing environment for the seeds.

Each of the images in this post were created by focus stacking 10 images
Panasonic GX80/85 with Olympus 60mm macro
1/125sec, F2.8, ISO200
Hand held, sitting with elbows on knees


One Photo: Happy Belated "National Chocolate Chip Day"

It's horrible!  I missed yesterday's National Chocolate Chip Day.  So, I figured I'd better celebrate today, belatedly, with a couple of these bad boys: Traditional Toll House cookies.

With Mother's Day having been this past Sunday, Toll House cookies make me think of my mom, who frequently had batches coming out of the oven as my brother and I walked in the door from the school bus. It doesn't get much better than warm cookies and milk.  (I'll ignore the fact that she used "Crisco" because butter was too expensive.)

Panasonic GX80/85 with Olympus 60mm macro
1/60sec, F5.6, ISO400 (-1.0 EV so I could add a flash)
Diffused and bounced flash at 1/2 power


The Joy of Big Prints

For most photographers these days our photos easily find their way to our websites, blogs, online portfolios, or are emailed to family and friends as .jpeg attachments. All of these are digital images.  It is for this reason that I do not own a good printer.

Rarely do we -I'm generalizing- make prints. Personally, I desire prints infrequently enough that I find it easier to just upload files to an online vendor. It may actually be cheaper this way, as I hear about photographers buying new (and better?) printers before the old ones have died. That buying strategy is not cheap, as the half-used printer is basically given away, at a "pennies on the dollar" price. I also hear about dried up ink cartridges. They are not cheap either.

I'm afraid too that if I even slightly open the door to doing my own printing, I'd really get into it and would soon find myself buying all kinds of fancy papers and spending way more money and time than I ever expected. 

I think printing is actually a hobby all by itself. Plus I have nowhere to set it all up!

All that being said, there is nothing so satisfying as a nice big print, and I do have some. For the past 10 years I have been using mpix in Kansas City, when I want printing done. If I upload a digital file on, say, Monday it will be printed, mailed and received by me on Thursday, or perhaps Friday. That's not a 24-hour turnaround, but having the process take a few days is fast enough for me.

You can check out their prices online at mpix.com. They are on the high side I believe (at least compared with my second choice, adoramapix.com), but the results from mpix are very high quality and their support is excellent. Two years ago I had several 20" x 30" prints get slightly bent in the mail (the only time in 10 years that happened and I can't remember whether it was their fault or that of the U.S. Mail), I contacted Mpix and they overnight mailed replacements to me at their cost. 

Also, it is worth noting that several times a year I receive emails with discount codes for 50% off on large prints, usually defined as a print equal to or bigger than 11' x 14". I have framed and matted a small number of prints measuring 20" x 30", and quite a few measuring 16" or 18" x 24". The largest size available is 24" x 36".  Prints of that size are mailed in a tube.  Prints smaller than that are mailed is a sturdy flat box.

I have always been happy with the quality of the prints from mpix. Recently I framed two large prints for an office conference room project. I asked that 18" by 24" images be printed on their 20" x 24" paper, as the images had a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is the native aspect ratio of the Olympus E-M1 camera that was used for both images. 

Because they were to be wall mounted side-by-side, I chose two strong subjects that I thought complemented each other: Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Wyoming and Mount Rainier in Washington.

[The mats, frames, acrylic non-glare glazing, and foam backing were purchased from americanframe.com and were cut to the exact measurements I furnished through their online tools.]

A little more about each image:

Mount Rainier from Reflection Lake
Olympus E-M1 and 12-100mm F4 zoom @ 47mm (94mm equiv)
1/500sec, F5.6, ISO200, -1.7EV

Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming
Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic 14-140mm @ 14mm (28mm equiv)
1/640sec, F6.3, ISO200, -1.3EV


Bloodroot blossoms from a few angles

Walking through the woods yesterday there were not a lot of wildflowers blooming... except for the bloodroots.  These are very simple blossoms.  I am not a particular fan of white flowers as they have very little (obviously) color and are hard to expose correctly.  They also easily show any "wear and tear", so it is important to find fresh clean samples when looking for a composition.  I am pleased with this first image, as the flower seems to be perfectly symmetrical. The bloodroot is a perennial that is native to eastern North America.


My Favorite Maple Tree is Gone

During the first night of our second of four "nor’easter" storms this winter my favorite maple tree fell to the ground from heavy wet snow and near hurricane winds.  It was one of 14 trees we lost that night. 

Now that it’s gone I remember the great photos it has given me.  The inch worm image was a once in a lifetime capture. And this particular tree was always heavily laden with colorful seed pods each May. 

Feeling nostalgic, I did some searching in my Lightroom catalog for images, and came up with a few.

Taken in May, 2008
Olympus C8080 bridge camera with 2/3" sensor

Taken in May, 2014
Sony NEX-6 with I think an old manual focus macro lens

Taken in May, 2014
Sony NEX-6 and unknown manual macro lens
Likey a Tamron 90mm with adapter

Taken in May, 2014
Olympus E-M1 and 60mm macro lens

Taken in May, 2017
Olympus E-M1 and 12-100 F4 zoom @ 54mm


Using the App "GardenAnswers" to Identify Flowers

I’ve been learning a bit about flowering plants with an app on my iPhone. I can’t recall if I’ve commented on “GardenAnswers” here on a prior blog post or not, but I’ve been using the app for a year or so.

My last blog post included a few crocuses I had photographed at a nearby garden, Tower Hill Botanic Garden. A crocus is one of just a few flowers I can identify. I know a pretty flower when I see it, but most of the time I have no idea of its identity.

“GardenAnswers” has come to the rescue. All I need to do on my iPhone is open the app and then take a photo of the flower or search my photo album for a photo already taken.  I guess it is like face recognition technology, as the app analyzes the photo and gives samples of flowers that look similar. You can then pick the one that best matches. The app will give you the matching flower’s common and scientific names, and a brief description of some of its characteristics.

This all works smoothly almost always. When it doesn’t, and no adequate samples are found, you have the option to send the image to one of their horticulturists for identification.  The cost is $1.

"Glory of the Snow".  An early season flowering bulb
Olympus E-M1 and 12-100mm zoom @ 86mm (172mm equiv)
1/800sec, F4, ISO200, +.7EV

This is how I used the above image and “GardenAnswers” this morning, an app on my iPhone. 

I picked "photo album" as the image was already in my phone library

I matched my photo (top) with the photo their software picked (bottom)

I confirmed the match and received an identification and description


Spring-Time Flowers

It's been a roller coaster couple of months in New England. After feeling very sure that the snow was all over, today we just had the coldest April 15th in recorded history, with an occasional snow flurry or "snizel" (i.e a combination of snow and drizzle).

The high temperature was surprisingly at midnight, which was 38 degrees at our house, and the temperatures fell all day.  As I write this at 8pm, it is 32 degrees.  Boston reported windchill near 20 degrees.  

Tomorrow is the Boston Marathon.  It will be windy (15-40 mph) and rainy, with temperatures in the mid-30s when the race starts and perhaps low 40s by mid-afternoon. I see an 80-100% chance of rain for every hour from 8am to 2pm.  

All that yuckiness aside, I spent a warm and wonderful two hours outside at the botanic garden two days ago.  Many of the outside areas were roped off because they were undergoing maintenance (and looked very muddy), which I guess should be expected after the heavy (and just recently melted) snow this winter.  Nevertheless, I did take some pleasing photos of a few of the spring-flowering bulbs.

Below is a selection.  

Gear: The first image, that of a "snowdrop", was taken with my Panasonic GX80/85 and 60mm Olympus macro lens.  The rest are all crocuses of various colors and the photos were taken with my Olympus E-M1 and Olympus 12-100mm zoom lens.



Looks like we're Finally Done with Snow

There are still a few patches of snow around our yard and I do plan on getting some more skiing in over the next week or two, with day-trips to New Hampshire being planned.  But I do think winter is over here in New England and, of course, according to the calendar it is officially spring.

Here in Massachusetts we had one of the snowiest Marches in history.  This after one of the warmest Februarys in history with the first ever back-to-back 70 degree (F) days.  

March saw four “Nor’Easters”.  This number in one month is unheard of.  Nor’ easters generate heavy rain or snowfall, hurricane winds especially along the coast, and blizzard or whiteout conditions. In our case we had snow during three of the storms and rain during the last one.  In our yard we had twelve trees snap in half from the weight of the snow, and we were without electicity for three days during the one storm that brought down our trees.

Here's one snowy picture I took after the second storm, which dropped over 20" of snow. I hope I do not have another opportunity like this until next winter!

"Snow Covered Maple Forest"
Olympus E-M1 plus Olympus 12-100mm F4 zoom @75mm (150mm equiv)
Aperture Priority, F8, 1/160, ISO200, +1 EV
Converted to black and white in Lightroom

Snow tip:

To keep white snow from looking mid-tone gray, overexpose the light meter readying by about 1 stop.  Whether you are using A, S, or P modes, just use the EV compensation feature found in even the lowliest camera to add one stop of compensation.


A Sunday Morning Walk at the Waterfront of Old Portland, Maine

Gear: Diminutive Panasonic GM5 plus 12-32 kit zoom.

I was visiting my daughter in the Portland area a couple of weekends ago, and we decided that it was a nice morning for a long walk in the city. I’d not yet seen the Waterfront area of Old Portland so we headed in that direction to have breakfast at Becky’s diner on Hobson Wharf. 

It was a Sunday morning and my daughter tells me there is not a lot going on in winter even in this high-interest area until 10:00 when stores open for business. The result of this is that during our walk after breakfast we saw surprisingly few people. This is quite obvious in the photos below. 

There were several large groups of joggers, however.  And we did see a group of people waiting to board one of the ferries that goes out to the islands.  I wonder how many people live on the islands and commute to Portland to work?  What a great way to commute.

Without people to look at, the highlight for me was the architecture.  The building at “121 Middle Street” was the showpiece in my opinion. I have a photo below.

What I have learned online after the visit is that it was constructed in 1867, after Portland’s 1866 fire. The building is now on the National Register of Historic Places (as of 1973).  It is called Thompson Block and occupies several addresses: 119, 121, 123 and 125 Middle Street. I’m looking forward to returning and spending more time photographing the area in more detail.

A few more:


One Photo: Some Simple Symmetry

This was supposed to be a simple record shot of the season’s biggest storm. [Maybe a record shot is all it is; but I really like it.]

Starting Wednesday evening, we received a dump of over 14” of heavy wet snow during the “dark hours” (6pm to 6am). It is hard to believe it didn’t rain because surface temperatures never got below 35F degrees, so you can imagine how moisture-full the snow was.  I spent most of the night awake listening to trees and limbs breaking and crashing to the ground.  With gusts of wind as high as 40mph, it sounded like a train was traveling through our property.  We lost eight trees.  All maples with trunks about 8-10” in diameter. They basically snapped in half.  The good news is there was no damage to house or cars.  We did need to have some immediate chainsaw work as one tree covered our driveway. With no driveway access, then there’s no way to get fuel for the generator!

Anyway, back to the image below and some comments about processing the raw file in Lightroom.

The image after cropping and processing

This was taken on our porch looking out to a small deck and into a forest of maples beyond the snow covered lawn.  I did not see the entire symmetry of the image until I inspected the image on my computer monitor, and noticed with some cropping that even the tree in the background added symmetry to the image.  I had not noticed that when I framed the image initially.  There are so many times that I see things on my monitor that I never saw through the viewfinder.  Sometimes that is good, sometimes it is not. This time it was good.

Here’s what I did:

Photo as originally composed and exposed.

Using the Transform panel I made a full adjustment for level, vertical, and horizontal

Cropped to make symmetrical

In the basic panel I clicked on "auto".
In the detail panel I sharpened to 50, detail and masking to 25.

That's it!  Now it's time to shovel off that deck...