Thursday, May 28, 2015

Down The Street...

Here in Arizona we're deep into Spring, but have been enjoying cooler-than-normal temperatures. Normal is returning with a vengeance, though, finally reaching normal temps this week (mid-90s), and it is looking like the proverbial "ice on the Santa Cruz" will break with 103 forecast for the weekend. The local TV station runs a contest to guess the day and minute the official temperature first breaks 100F. First prize is a cruise to Alaska, so a nice getaway from our warm summer temps. But as you have all heard, it is a "dry heat", so really not all that hell-like!

Anyway, we've been enjoying the cycle of springtime blooms, first the wildflowers in February, then the cacti have been taking their turns blooming, finishing now with the ongoing flowering of the big saguaros, normally about the last of the Spring cacti to bloom. But down the street, I've noticed this small patch of agave of unknown species. These plants, which live 10-15 years, spend their last season of life sending out a glorious shoot and flower. Finding the appropriate light the other night after work, I walked back to take a close-up of the bloom. Unfortunately it was about 14 feet in the air! But I persevered, using my 6+ foot monopod, reaching up as high as I could, with the prefocused camera to snap away using the timer. It took a dozen tries of reach, pointing, exposure and finally Murphy was overcome.

It is an impressive flowering stalk - they start blooming from the bottom and as the flowers march a little higher each day, the seed pods start forming behind them. They've been at it a good week by the time these photos were taken. The image at left shows the seed pods of the above stalk (much easier to reach at only 8 feet high). And the image at right shows another nearby stalk of the same species, a little further along as the blooms have nearly reached the tip. I couldn't tell which of the flower pictures I liked the best, so included them both for you... Bees seemed the most common pollinators, though didn't happen to catch any in these images... Camera shy, perhaps!

About halfway home between these plants and our house, our landscaper neighbor has an interesting collection of cacti in his yard. Among those right along the curb are some interesting prickly pear - the young pads show these interesting "finger" structures. Interesting side note - in Safeway here in Tucson, in the "Mexican Food" section, you can buy cans of "nopalitos", which are sliced young prickly pads. I've never been brave enough to try them, nor eat their offerings in local restaurants, but interesting nonetheless! Anyway, not only do these fingers populate the "pads" (shown at left), but the flower buds sport some too (right). The bud shot at right is a 5-frame focus stack. Each of the 5 frames had a slightly different focus setting, recombined in Photoshop so all the buds were sharp. Shooting from a monopod, Photoshop also aligned the shots from one shot to next since there was a little motion between them.

And if you are thinking, "Dean, these would make great stereo shots", great minds think alike! Get out the red/blue 3D stereo glasses (I know there are at least 2 of you out there that enjoy these!), and enjoy the following taken from the same cacti. I've been having a gas taking lots of 3D images, but don't want to bore the majority of you that likely don't have the glasses. I may resurrect my plans to have a 3D-only blog...

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