I finally saw my first wildflower of the season at Willow River State Park. I wasn’t too excited when it turned out to be a dandelion. Within a yard of the dandelion were a few small, blue violets. I don’t know what type of violet. Wildflowers can be hard to identify. For example, I also saw some small white flowers that could be either a type of everlasting or a type of pussytoes. I’m not sure which.
I’m working on a project to photograph wildflowers in Willow River State Park, but the first wildflower I’ve seen this year was on the North Country National Scenic Trail, three hours north of Willow River. It’s a round-lobed hepatica. The flower is about 1/2 inch and is two inches above the forest floor. The resulting photo is below along with a few other shots from on the trail.
I’ve been stuck in my apartment for most of January fighting a chronic respiratory ailment. So I’ve turned to photographing in my kitchen-table studio. I have large north-facing windows to provide good natural light. I’ve not used artificial lighting except for a small light pad.
My subject has been flowers. I’m experimenting with different styles and techniques ranging from straight-forward shots of a single rose to more complex and layered images done with a bit of Photoshop work and added textures or backgrounds.
I used to post slideshows of my best photos each month until February of this year. I then stopped due to illness; bronchitis, insomnia, and, lately, pollution from Canadian wildfires. The air quality has now improved as have both my insomnia and bronchitis. I’ve been able to get out again with my camera and post a Best Of August slideshow.
This is my least-favorite time of year. Once the calendar tells me it’s spring, I expect blues skies and warm air. I usually get winter storms. I never learn that here in Minnesota we can’t expect winter to leave for good until well into April.
So, to counter any depression-type blues caused by the lingering winter, I’ve posted some photos featuring blue-skies-type blues.
I went out yesterday to photograph the Chippewa River in Wisconsin. I was distracted by the corn fields growing in the bottomlands of the river. Here are some corn field photos, taken either in the field or on the edge of the field.
I enjoy photographing botanical subjects that are past their prime. Flowers, leaves, other things that are starting to show their age; wrinkles, discolorations, blemishes; such things can add character to beauty. Perhaps I have this penchant because I am (this is hard to admit) beyond my prime and have wrinkles and age spots aplenty. At this time of the year in my neck of the woods, everything outside is past its prime. Everything is dead.* This morning I bought primroses at the grocery store. Some of the flowers are starting to wilt. I thought the wilt spots add interesting new color and texture to the already beautiful flowers.
* A paraphrase of Charles Dickens from David Copperfield:
I looked at her earnestly.
‘When you came away from home at the end of the vacation,’ said Mrs. Creakle, after a pause, ‘were they all well?’ After another pause, ‘Was your mama well?’
I trembled without distinctly knowing why, and still looked at her earnestly, making no attempt to answer.
‘Because,’ said she, ‘I grieve to tell you that I hear this morning your mama is very ill.’
A mist rose between Mrs. Creakle and me, and her figure seemed to move in it for an instant. Then I felt the burning tears run down my face, and it was steady again.
Winter’s detritus are the bits of last year’s plant matter left over after the winter cold and snow. Everything is dried and shriveled, but there is still a lot of character and color if one looks closely. I walked through a community garden and filled a basket with detritus. I took the stuff home and put together some compositions.
I’ve been cooped up most of the winter, so I’ve resorted to photographing indoors. I’ve set up a makeshift studio on my kitchen table. My two most important pieces of equipment are a Manfrotto tripod and an Artograph 930 light pad.
I bought mums at the grocery store a few days ago. When I was putting them in a vase, all the petals of one flower fell off in a bunch and plopped onto my kitchen counter. I just let them be, something I often do with messes in my kitchen. The next day I noticed that they looked striking sprawled on the counter, so I set up my tripod and snapped a few shots. Here is one.
For most of the last four months, I’ve been inactive with some sort of undiagnosed illness. My doctor can find no cause – all my tests come back normal. The conclusion: it’s all in my head, although it sure feels like it’s in my body. Anyway, I have posted very few blogs during this time period and have not taken many photographs. I have done some, so I’ve decided to post my best shots from the last few months.
I think I’m going mad, Ted [obscure line from the Britcom Father Ted]
I went to the Chisago Loop of the Riverview Trail yesterday, a trail that goes through the Osceola Bedrock Glades State Natural Area. The trail loops around a knob that is an outcrop of Canadian Shield basalt bedrock. The top of the knob is relatively flat. The bedrock crops out in many places and there are loose slabs and boulders some that look like stones from a small Stonehenge. Between the rocks is shallow soil with sparse grass and a lot of mosses and lichens. There are scattered, straggly trees mostly jack pines.
I went to the knob planning to take a photo to satisfy The Daily Post‘s challenge Dinnertime. I finished the photo but wasn’t as careful as I should have been because the gnats were ferocious and drove me out. Look closely at my self-portrait and you can see the gnats hovering around my head. (Hovering? They were attacking.) I even poured out a half-bottle of beer because I was so desperate to get away from them (OK, maybe just anxious.) Once I got the first acceptable photo, I left as fast as possible. That wasn’t very fast because I had to be careful making my way down off the knob and through the treacherous footing in the loose chunks of basalt.
On my walk to the knob, I photographed a rare, prairie-fame flower (Talinum rugospermum). The flower and the dinnertime photo are the only shots I got. By the time I reached my car I felt like I was in a mild version of anaphylactic shock. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the gnats had certainly spoiled my outing. This was the second time I’ve been driven out of the area by insects. The first time it was mosquitoes. Other than the bugs, this is one of my favorite spots. The one time there weren’t bugs, I spent my time reclining on a large rock soaking up the sun like a lizard.
I took a break after drafting the above and read a bit from Beryl Markham’s memoir West With the Wind. What I read gave me some perspective on being bothered by a few gnats. Beryl Markham writes about her life in east Africa when roads were mostly non-existent. She was one of the first pilots in the region. She writes about elephant hunting:
Scouting [for elephant] by plane eliminates a good deal of the preliminary work, but when as upon occasion I did spot a herd not more than thirty or forty miles from camp, it still meant that those forty miles had to be walked, crawled, or wriggled by the hunters – and that by the time this body and nerve-raking manoeuvre had been achieved, the elephant had pushed on another twenty miles or so into the bush. A man, it ought to be remembered, has to take several steps to each stride of an elephant, and, moreover, the man is somewhat less than resistant to thicket, thorn trees, and heat. Also he is vulnerable as a peeled egg to all things that sting – anopheles mosquitoes, scorpions, snakes, and tsetse files. The essence of elephant-hunting is discomfort in such lavish proportions that only the wealthy can afford it.
All I was doing was eating a sandwich and drinking a beer on a hill in civilized, western Wisconsin, and I complain. Markham quotes Baron Von Blixen saying “Life is life and fun is fun, but it’s all so quiet when the goldfish die.”
By the way, I highly recommend the book. A good friend and my favorite bartender recommended it.
Two days ago I spotted my first wildflowers of the season. Bloodroots were blooming in profusion. The day was eighty degrees and sunny, and the bloodroots were wide open (first photo.) The next day was gray, drizzly, and in the sixties. The bloodroots decided to stay in for the day (second photo). I don’t blame them.
The greenery has popped over the weekend because of the warm weather. Here are more shots of new spring growth.
I spent some time at Rose Floral in Stillwater today. Rose Floral has a huge greenhouse filled with plants and flowers. A greenhouse is an excellent place for photography. Good, even, natural light and lots of wonderful subjects. Here are some of my photos from today.
Yesterday my adventure was at Rose Floral in Stillwater. I discovered that a greenhouse is a great place for photography. It’s like being in a giant light tent. Wonderful light. The plants and flowers are well-lit, well-placed, and easy to photograph – no need to lie on one’s belly when in a greenhouse. It was easy to find nicely back lit flowers. No one seemed to mind that I was photographing. I even said hi to the owner. I did not feel at all self-conscious. I think there was a time when I would have. I am much less self-conscious when taking pictures than I once was. So I got some good photos. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down the names of the flowers.