Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More Orchids to Share

Concluding my exhibit of notable orchids from the US Botanic Garden's open  house, here are six images of orchids that convey the magical variety of forms and coloration found in their greenhouses.

Some are tiny and subtle like these blooms.

Others are richly colored, yet still small.

The variety of colors includes a brilliant cardinal red like these.

Among the  most striking were the hanging orchids such as this Dendrobium.  They provided a challenge to compose without including the overhead structures of the building. These buds actually began to open while I was there.

Here's another hanging variety that returns to the softer colors and textures.

Saving one of the most striking orchid for the last, here is a spider-like bloom which I believe is of the genus Rhynchoiaelia.

Reviewing these reminds me to put a note on my calendar to look for the announcement of the open house next winter.  There will surely be some different orchids in bloom, and some new ways to look at the above.  This open house is exactly what I needed to break out of the winter mindset and prepare for spring.

Best regards,

Paul Schmitt

Sunday, March 17, 2013

KISS at Niagara Falls

I was at the annual convention of the Niagara Regional Camera Clubs this weekend. The meetings (and lodging) are right at the American side of the falls, literally a five minute walk.  Niagara Falls has this night-time illumination every evening.  It draws a lot of people, even on a frigid night. Ignoring strong winds and sub-freezing temperatures, I took my tripod and camera down to test a lens that I am considering to buy.  The scene looks like this:

Nikon D800,  48 mm lens;  8 sec. at f/8.

The lights, sitting on the Canadian side, cycle through a range of colors.  A typical resulting image of the American Falls is:

So, now, many are saying to themselves some assortment of "ooh" and "aah".   I was pretty happy with the result that night.  But, I recalled a previous time when I walked to the falls in the very early morning when the floodlights were off.  So, I got up and was there at 6:00 am.  The only light was the ambient city lighting reflecting off the low clouds.  Here is what I found:

Absent the strong floodlights, the foreground colors come out nicely and the textures are better.  A vertical image absolutely won me over to the early morning result. 

So, you might say that I was reminded of  Keep It Simple, Stupid.  I know the floodlights attract both moths and tourist alike, but predawn is uncrowded and beautiful in a simpler way.  Another bonus was that the wind had subsided and it was definitely easier to keep my hands warm.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Just a Few Orchids

Recently, I had the good fortune to attend the annual open house at the US Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC.  Honestly, I spent nearly the entire time in the orchid greenhouses.  I'll be posting a few of the photos today, and add a few more as time allows.  I honestly don't think any dialogue is necessary when presenting such awesome beauty.  Just enjoy.

Paul Schmitt

All images made with Nikon D300S, 105 mm Nikkor Micro, SB800 fill flash, handheld

Thursday, March 7, 2013

CM Ducks?

The old joke has one southern gent saying "C M Ducks", to which his friend argues "M R Knot".  The first counters "S M are,  C M Wangs".  Well, I just love the splendid variety of plumage that our ducks display in breeding season.  So, their most colorful appearances are seen now and it is time to get active with the camera.  I just got back from the Chesapeake Bay region where I worked on adding to my duck images. I think you'll enjoy these few examples.

I've wanted to get close to Canvasback Ducks without any success for some time, and that all changed at my first stop where the ducks were very close. The eyes capture my attention.

I've photographed the American Wigeon before, but I am always discovering new ways to love this dainty little duck.  Note the beautiful feather details along the back and the neck patterning.

Another duck that is in some ways similar to the Canvasback is the Redhead.  Beautiful plumage, brilliant eyes and a distinctive blue and black bill.

None of the above ducks were plentiful, but the Lesser Scaup was almost as commonplace as the Mallard is in all places.  The difficulty was in finding a single example that was alone, but this one  finally came looking at me.  Again I love the eyes.

All of the above were photographed while out in a strong wind at freezing temperatures, but I was lost in the moment and only realized my hands were very cold after an hour.  It was worth the discomfort.  The cold finally won the day, and we headed for out night's lodging.

A day later, I was shooting from a car and had some protection from the cold except for my left  hand that was outside the window.  The skittish ducks are more comfortable around a vehicle, and this allowed me to get my very first images of a long wished for subject- a male Hooded Merganser displaying to a female.

There is more to the story about Hooded Mergansers, but I will save that for a later post.

Last year, I finally got good images of the stylish Pintail Duck, but I still wanted more. On the last evening as the sun set, this pair came screeching in to a protective marsh area.

I'll  share more photos as I have time.