Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Opposite of Tucson...

The weather guy said it all last night on the Chicago news: "Tomorrow is going to be a beautiful March day!"  Yes, the calendar sez May, but the highs have been in the 40s and rainy, without sun in ages (well, since last weekend anyway).  Meanwhile in Tucson, it has been clear and temps have been spending most of their time north of 90F the last few weeks, though hasn't broken 100 yet...

So while it still early Spring in Illinois, we're still stuck with the early blossoms, mostly daffodils and tulips around here.  Even the dandelions haven't bloomed yet!  But we do have a good patch of grape hyacinth in the yard south of the house.  The patch is definitely larger and denser than last year, so they must have enjoyed the hard winter!  The image at right is taken with the macro and tripod, and shows about 1" (about 3cm) of the blossom.  Each of the largest "grapes" are about 1/8" (3mm) across.

Those of you who have been monitoring the blog
lately will likely know that the right image was put together from a set of "focus stacked" images.  Eight pictures were taken as the focus was moved between the front and rear part of the flower and combined into a single image in Photoshop.  Enter "focus stack" in the search box at upper left to find my earlier posts on the subject and to find the video tutorial I used to learn the process.  Shown here at left is the same image as above at full-camera resolution.  Taken at a wider aperture of F/6.3, the exposures can be shorter (160th second at ISO 400) and you retain the higher resolution, though narrower depth of field of the larger opening.  Most would ask, why not just stop it down for greater depth of field?  Well, shown at right is just that - exposed at F/22 for a 16th of a second, and you can see the resolution (again, shown at full-camera resolution) is lower.  Whether it is due to the 10X longer exposure or pure diffraction from the smaller aperture, I can't say.  There were some breezes, but I was waiting for quiet moments for all these shots...  It looks to me that focus stacking wins hands down!

There are few other spots of color in our yard. 
Our neighbor Elaine has a patch of daffodils I was attracted too, and the macro moved in to the central part of the flower for the view at left.  She has quite the assortment of flowers, most blooming later in the Spring and Summer.  The peonies were out of the ground, their buds formed, though we'll miss the gorgeous blooms in a month or so...  You can see the bud being attended by ants - they always seems working hard on peonies, and  I learned today that they actually have no role in the bloom mechanics - they are only attracted to the nectar emitted by the bud.  The mistaken assumption they are needed for blooming is a myth!

The trillium is sprouting with their buds, but very few have bloomed yet, the one at right the exception.  I don't know why I like them so much - they seem to make the blog every year...  I like the variegated patterns on the leaves, and the blooms are so unflowery - perhaps that is why I'm attracted to them.  They are also difficult to photograph properly other than lying on the ground and getting eye-to-eye with them...  I liked the stumpy one at left as it competes for sunlight with what passes for grass in our shady yard south of the house...

Other plants that attracted my attention were the "weeping willow" trees popular in the area.  Even as sister Maj picked us up at the airport 10 days ago, the willows seemed "extra juiced" as the trees were just all starting to leaf out then.  I stated that it looked like the willows had little flowers on them, but the idea was discounted by others in the car...  It wasn't until we came back to northern Illinois and I examined the weeping willows on the grounds here that I saw that indeed they were sporting flowers!  Shown at left is a wide view of the "pendulous" branches and flowers, with a macro view of the flowers shown at right.

While we've got a few more days here, dramatically warmer weather isn't predicted, so I don't expect too much more excitement to photograph in the springtime venue here, but will keep an eye out!

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