Saturday, June 30, 2012

Canada Lilies- A Woodland Treat

I have an admiration for flowers that achieve unique beauty without selective human breeding.  So, along with the the truly wild orchids, one other will lead me to awake at 5:30 am. (The time is driven by capturing extremely sharp images when the air is dead still.)

The Canada Lily, Lilium canadense, is in a struggle to survive the overpopulation of Whitetail Deer.  Since the Mundy Wildflower Garden was partly fenced, the few plants inside have begun to show their full potential. Earlier this week I was amazed to find a single lily standing about seven feet tall with eleven blooms.  Plans were made based on a prediction of favorable conditions for Saturday, and I was joined by spouse Pam and good friend David Dunneau. 

This is an amazing plant.  Previously I had only seen single or double blooms that I now characterize as juvenile plants. 

The smaller plants are still  quite beautiful and definitely easier to compose into a photo.

A closer look at the flower shows an inviting target for the pollinator.

While most blooms were very regular in form, I found one plant with twin blooms that had a very seductive form.

I thought when I saw this bloom several days ago that it was in the process of opening and would be fully open this morning, but it retains the earlier form.

An unexpected bonus of the early morning outing was spotted by my friend David.  Two very tiny flies in the mating couplet. They are only about 6 millimeters long (1/4 inch).

Pretty neat to see them in detail.  Again, the calm air helped greatly.

Finished by 9 am, we retired to the Ithaca Bakery for bagels and coffee.  We had earned the treat.

Paul Schmitt

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summertime- This and that...

My biggest challenge in summer is maintaining balance between chores and play, also choosing between the wide variety of photo subjects. Right now, it's windy and beautiful too.  So, the blog and house chores win. Too dangerous in the woods. Safe to wash the car.

Last week, I was enrolled in a landscape photo workshop at a nearby waterfall, but it poured from the sky.  Even though I was ready, the instructor (from Texas) had little inclination to work in the rain.  So, I returned to Havana Glen a few days ago under ideal conditions with nice results.

As you enter the glen, a small two-step waterfall is first seen.  It's nice.

I've found that there are two critical tools needed for waterfalls - a tripod and $5 sneakers. The first so you can use long exposures for creamy white water, and the other so I can get right down in the water for the best views. That was best displayed when I went further up the gorge to the large waterfall.

I had to lie sideways on the rocks to see through the viewfinder for this.  The view was worth the effort.  The sopping wet sneakers were no concern; it's only $5.

Contrasting with the grand view of waterfalls, June also brings out the Coreopsis in brilliant yellows next to our driveway.  They are a magnet for all sort of pollinators. Some are bees.

Others are flies that imitate bees.

The Coreopsis will continue blooming through the summer, if I include in my chores the task of snapping off the seed heads regularly to promote new flowers. It's one of those chores.

My photo group in Ithaca has an assignment for the next meeting - to view the world from an ant's perspective.  I take this to mean getting low and close to their world. It is a challenge since the camera is so large compared to them.  Then, I discovered that the ant's were very active on our Digitalis.

Sometimes it appeared that they were feeding on the long hairs in the tubes, but maybe it was like wading through talk grasses?  They would disappear into the deepest part of the flower for long periods.   And, there was competition from much larger insects.

I never figured out if the Bumblebees were interacting with the ants inside the bloom. That is just completely out of sight.

In addition to all of this, I am preparing to teach a workshop about smart phone photography on July 14 at Cornell Plantations. So, I've been doubling up on some subjects to show what can be done with the simple camera in my iPhone.  Before I took out my digital SLR yesterday, I took this with my iPhone.

These are the rather rare Canada Lilies, Lilius canadense.  I've also posted a blog on these at my Cayuga Nature Photographers site. See:  Cayuga Nature Photographers

I've also updated my gallery iPhoneography on my website. See:  Gallery of iPhoneography   It is pretty amazing what can be done with a smart phone camera.

When you compare the images by the iPhone with my larger DSLR camera, you'll see that the one if pretty good results some of the time and the other produces terrific results most of the time.  But, I always have the iPhone with me.

Now, time to get to the next item on my chores, wash the car.

Hope you are keeping a balance in your life too.

Best regards,

Paul Schmitt

Friday, June 15, 2012

Simply Irresistible!

A student in my workshop for the summer interns at Cornell Plantations asked just this Monday what my favorite flower is.  It caught me by surprise as I've never thought of wildflowers in terms of favorites.  After a little thought, I could only answer Showy Lady's Slippers.  Why?  They are wildly sensuous in appearance and are special in that they only survive in the wild and never  have succumbed to human propagation.  They are, indeed, a rare and special treat.

So, when I got the email that they were in bloom, all plans were changed. Off I went with spouse and a friend, on short notice, to an isolated fen in the Finger Lakes.  All I will add is that I was thankful for having a friend who trusted to share the location with me, and for my LaCrosse rubber boots. 

To me, Showy Lady's Slippers ( Cypripedium reginae )  have a personality that is regal and the name in latin reflects that as  reginae, a Queen .  So, I first explored that aspect in a composition.

There is also, as I said, a sensuous nature to the Queen.  So, I shaded the blooms for a softer image.


I can easily spend hours exploring the nature of this wild orchid. In soft diffuse light they are tender and in brilliant light they are noble.

But I am also aware that my companions only find mild amusement at my lying on the wet ground, as they drift away to explore a bit and await me.  Next spring I will again anticipate another visit with the Queen.

Paul Schmitt

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pileated Woodpecker Nest

Had the pleasure to observe a Pileated Woodpecker nest cavity today. I am always amazed when they appear.   The  color and patterns, the size and the raucous vocalization.  This nest was reported to have two chicks, but all observations indicate one chick had already left the nest.  The remaining chick was very active at the cavity, seeming to be  hungry and frustrated that the adults would not come to him.

I did not expect the chick to be capable of adult calls, but it was pretty loud at times. The adults came in a few times, seeming to tempt the chick to come to them.  I've seen this in House Wrens when it is time to fledge.  The chicks have been conditioned to the adults singing before entering the nest box.  At fledging time, the adults repeat the song but from a nearby tree until the young come to them. 

This calling from nearly continued, and finally an adult flew to the nest.

What a beautiful plumage. The chick got some food, not as much as had been normally observed and the adult retreated to a side of the tree.

The adult soon left the chick to consider the options and the vocalization continued from a distance.

I had planned to return to this nest in two days, but I think the nest will be empty tomorrow.

All images used Nikon D800, 400 mm f/2.8 lens with 1.4 multiplier. ISO 2000 to 6400.

Paul Schmitt