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Hoar Frost. December 14, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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Along a frozen dirt road in upper Florida MA, a weeping shoulder pushed its wetness skyward as the dry sky demanded tribute:

_MG_5704 B&W

Hoar frost is by its nature dirty, and this black and white rendition dodges the visual complication of the coarse mingling of water and earth.

That one’s thanks to Ziggy, my Sigma 50mm lens, which has the shortest minimum focusing distance of the lenses in my kit, as well as a very small aperture. This was shot at f/40 for maximum depth of field without employing focus stacking HDR.

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A Frosty Morning. November 7, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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Election day dawned cold, well below freezing. I knew it wouldn’t stay cold all day, so I went for a shoot before I voted.

I was looking for frost, thinking of some wild strawberries I’d photographed a couple of years ago.

I didn’t find exactly that, but I did find some little things worth sharing.

A little frosted primrose:

…and a field mouse’s hole, frosted with mousey-breath:

I got there a bit late, and the ice crystals weren’t crisp.

I’ll try to be earlier next time.

A Delicious Gift! September 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR, macro photos.
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Driving through Buckland the other day, I spied three off-white clumps affixed to a slain golden birch.

Of course, I stopped to investigate, and unlike The Cat, my curiosity was rewarded with culinary gold – Hericium erinaceus,  commonly called Lion’s Mane. It’s a tooth fungus, highly prized for its intense mushroom flavor and its prolific fruitings.

Plus, it’s beautiful, so much so that it’s said to be delicious if you can bring yourself to pick it.

Well, I did. I had a long slender knife in the car, with which I sliced the baby-head-sized growths off the birch log. They weren’t brand new and pristine, but rather a couple of days old, but still firm and white.

I shook the bugs out of them (yeah, bugs know good  when they see it) and pocketed my booty, speeding home to make a great dinner at the right price.

Here’s a close-up shot of the “teeth” of this delectable tooth fungus:

They’re equivalent to the gills under the cap of common agarics  in that they’re the spore-bearing structures of this mushroom’s fruiting body.

And Holy Cow, did they make one one helluva cream of mushroom soup, sauteed lightly in butter, then added to a reduction of heavy cream seasoned with garlic and curry powder.

I’m two pounds happier for that find.  😉

Guests In The Garden. September 11, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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Our zinnias have been hosting some winged guests recently. I caught these images of them today:

…and:

Both of these were taken with Gizmo and a 2X Tele-Extender from twelve to fifteen feet away, allowing me to get compressed close-ups without disturbing our guests.  🙂

Shroomin’! August 27, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR, macro photos.
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After a dreadfully hot and dry start to the summer, which meant that the local mushrooms weren’t blooming, we’ve had a good mix of rain and sun lately. Consequently, we’re seeing a lot of mushrooms in the woods and at roadside.

I’m totally all over that. Free food of a mysterious and slightly dangerous nature… not really, because I’m faint of heart… but the “free” part is all true, and there’s nothing like freshly foraged food.

The Boletes are out, some pretty good to eat and some really choice.  I’m fond of Red Capped Butter Boletes, which are really hard to confuse with anything else. Firstly, they’re a bolete,  so they have a spongy underside instead of having the fine gills of most other mushrooms. Plus, they’re bright red on top, butter-yellow on the underside of the cap, and shading from bright yellow to a vibrant red moving down the stem. There are other red mushrooms, but none which look like  the Red capped Butter Bolete, so it’s a safe choice for mycophagists.

Here’s a freshly picked RCBB lying next to a Russula, which has both gills and a pure white stem which snaps like a piece of chalk when picked:

Some people eat Russulas, some people are sickened by them, so I just keep to the boletes and whatever else I know to be safe and delicious.

I also found some chanterelles, including red (rare,) yellow (common) and black (exquisite!) The black aren’t uncommon so much as they’re invisible on the forest floor. I’ve hunted then fruitlessly for hours, then suddenly realized I’d been walking through them most of the while.

The ones I got this week were thin tubes, a bit browner than their more trumpet-shaped black brethren:

I put a load of these into a cream sauce, and they’re exquisite, with a strong nutty flavor and a texture suggestive of al denté  penne. They’ll meet their end on a bed of polenta tomorrow.

I have a variety of really choice boletes to prepare tomorrow, including king, queen and yellow-footed in addition to the red capped butter boletes. I’m not sure if I’ll get to eat them or just dry them for later; I’ll be away for most of midweek, and don’t want them to go to waste!

A Freak Of Nature. May 3, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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Here’s a wildflower which I at first thought was a Yellow Trillium, but now believe to be an uncommon variation on our standard local red trillium:

…as witness its intergrowing with the more common red variety.

True “Yellow trilliums” are pure yellow, while this variant has reddish veins throughout:

Regardless, it’s beautiful, and apparently popular with the local invertibrates as well:

These I found up at McLeod Pond up in Colrain, MA and captured with Ziggy, my 50mm Sigma macro lens.

Woodland Beauties. April 10, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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In the chill, dappled light of our New England woodlands, the pageant of Spring begins with tiny bits of color amongst last Autumn’s composting leaves.

Walk slowly through the striped landscape of slanting sun and tree trunk shadows.  Stop frequently, and if you have the time, wait for those shadows to sun-dial across the scene; you might be surprised at how quickly this happens, with the cool darkness thrown by treetops moving perceptibly while you hold your breath.

It’s in those shifting slivers of perpetual sunrise that little fires of white and yellow and incongruous maroon twinkle to life, ignited by the warmth and light like waking embers in a rising breeze.

The shy blossoms of Trailing Arbutus peek from beneath inauspicious leaves:

Newly tailored Dutchman’s Breeches flutter on the lines of their still-short racemes:

Spring Beauty ( a Claytonia, in the Purslane family) is abundant just now, but its tiny blossoms close tightly and nod demurely in the early morning cold.  Trout Lily will blanket this area in a couple of weeks, but for now they’re just pairs of fingerling leaves.

And Trillium is about to make its blood-red entrance to the Woodland Ball, though I haven’t yet seen any fully opened flowers:

I actually went to this spot to look for an uncommon Yellow Trillium, expecting to be early, but remembering that I was a bit late last year and not wanting to miss it twice in a row.  These sorts of woodland flowers last only until the leaves above them unfurl – then the show will move to the fields and meadows and roadside spaces.

Look for more woodland wonders in the next few weeks, and I will, too.  🙂

The Rest Of The Orchids… March 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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…at the Amherst Orchid Show.

The images:

Well, that’s most of ’em.  The rest are either redundant or of lesser quality (!) so I won’t burden you with them.

My next flowers are likely to be the Smith and Mount Holyoke Bulb Shows, hopefully with something else in between for a breather.

Amherst Orchid Show 2012, Part 1. February 26, 2012

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The end of February is usually a time for us New Englanders to long for an escape from the grip of winter – her harsh winds and interminable whiteness have by this point lost the pristine magic they possessed in December.

This year it would be disingenuous to martyr ourselves on the cross of a harsh season stoically endured, but still, a little color is welcomed amidst the dismal browns of this Un-Winter, and with that in mind Susan and I headed down to Northampton for our yearly visit to the Amherst Orchid Show:

What good fortune it is that many varieties of orchids bloom in what is our winter season!  Their vibrant variety is a marvel of form and color, functionality disguised as flamboyance.

Here are a double handful of shots from our day:

(That one’s way  too scrotal for polite company, but if you’re here I’ll assume you’re looser than that.)

And no, I didn’t get their names; I was too busy feasting my eyes to work that hard.  My apologies to the growers who deserve more respect than that, but hey, I’m just looking and loving the fruits of their considerable labors.

All of these are courtesy of Ziggy, my 50mm Sigma macro lens.  He’s fast at f2.8 (though I didn’t open him up that far, opting instead for a little more depth of field,) but I worried about his lack of Image Stabilization technology.  Most of these shots were very slow for the shaky hands of this old dust-farter.  As a consequence of my concern for slow shutter speeds, I shot most everything here at two stops under what my on-board exposure meter told me to do (Hey, I’m  the boss here!) and brought the levels up in Photoshop post-processing.  The resulting images have a lot less background noise than they otherwise might, which I think is an improvement over last year’s effort.

All-in-all, I’m pleased with the results.

If I get to them, there will be another rack of shots coming.  We’ll see what happens between now and their appearance and adjust things accordingly.

Stream Details. February 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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This winter has been ugly here in Western Massachusetts, brown and dirty and lacking the cleansing effect proffered by copious new snow.  I’d looked forward to this all year, but have thus far been denied, fed instead a daily diet of the reality of Winter 2012.

But if one looks closely at the details, the coarser whole can be divided into its many beautiful parts.  Look towards the light, look around the uninvited complications, and there’s surely something worth seeing.

Along a stream tumbling down from the heights of Beartown State Forest in Lee, Massachusetts, truncated icicles depend from a birch log:

The spray from the roiling waters alternately douses anything close to its surface and washes away its frozen creations, leaving art in its place:

The cold, cold waters reminded me of a pretty little slurry with a fringe on the top:

It was a balm to me to get close to these ethereal forms, and I thanked the combination of the right lens (Ollie) and the right boots (waders) which allowed me to take these photos and share them with you