Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Silly Goose and Other Views of Spring

From the paucity of posts, you might well think I'm out of business. I'm only lacking in inspiration to post, not in content! In fact, since my last post (was it really 3 months ago?!) I've gone from "Ketelsen East" to Tucson, and back again! Have been enjoying the emerging Spring for several weeks already and taken a road trip to visit family and friends in the Carolinas... So yes, I have content...

So on this trip east, I lucked out - arrived to the Midwest 2 DAYS after the last of the snow melted! For the last week of April I was shocked at the lack of signs of new growth other than daffodils... But it was soon to bust out! Fortunately there were other signs of a new season. Canada Geese now overwinter, and get an early start on a new crop. Interestingly, you rarely see the nests except for this one I saw on my daily trip to pick up a morning paper - in the middle of a Jewel/Osco parking lot! I was taken aback when I first spotted her, but sure enough she was stuck on her nest like glue. So much so that the store staff had spotted her and left bread crusts for her to eat. Note on the image at right there are at least 2 goslings hanging w/mom while the last eggs hatch. The next day as I drove up (without camera), mom, dad and 5 babes were waddling to edge of the lot to cross the street to a pond. So despite the iffy location, there appeared to be a successful conclusion!

Meanwhile on the grounds of "Ketelsen East", there are always groups of geese coming in off the Fox River. Shooting out the open window, I caught a group of goslings and their mom caught in a brief downpour. From first image to last, only about 6 minutes had passed. As it first started raining the babes all ran to mom, who spread her wings to protect them all from the brief downpour. As soon as it stopped, one peeked out and before you knew it, they all went about their business! The image at right is a blowup of the 3rd image showing them all piled under mom. I believe all 9 goslings are there under her!

As I said above, there wasn't much of a wait for the yard to brighten up. Among the first is the Blue Scilla - a favorite of mind, tinting the lawn blue in places! These strange downward-pointing flowers are tough to photograph - even when on the ground pointing horizontally not much of the flower can be seen! But the bright color is a welcome early harbinger of Spring! The image at left is a 7-frame focus-stack to extend the full flower into focus. At right is a wider view of the yard showing the day or two of the lawn dominated by the scilla before the red trillium starting coming in too. Interesting how they all come, bloom and go sort of one-at-a time!

Yes, trillium is always a favorite of mine - but so tough to image... I've done images of both the red and white trillium before, but decided to do an ultra-close-up of the white trillium this time. At left is the wider view showing the 3 petals of the flower, and at right is actually the same image, but shown at full-resolution showing flower parts and pollen-laden anthers. In both of these, 25 frames w/a slight focus shift between were combined to extend the depth of field of the image... It continues to amaze me how much resolution you can squeeze out of an image using focus-stacking techniques!

And surprisingly, there were NO dandelions for the first two weeks of my stay! I always thought that they were among the first of the flower/weeds to appear in the yard, but obviously the blue scilla and trillium won out this year... I enjoy stalking the dandelions, hunting the tiny little aphids that feed on nectar in the flower... Tiny, but suitably challenging to capture! This time I was loaded for bear - had 2 different systems to track them down - my regular macro plus extension tubes to get as large as possible, and also, this time borrowed an infinity-corrected microscope objective shooting in front of a 200mm lens for a comparable 2X view. Here are the two results - both of these are focus-stacks of a half-dozen frames. At left is the 100mm Canon macro lens with about 6 cm of extension tubes. At right is the 2X microscope objective in front of a 200mm lens. While the results are comparable, the edge goes to the macro/extension tubes as the depth of field is a little larger and the hardware (as mine is set up) is a bit easier to use. Further study is warranted!

And after the blue scilla and still during the dandelions, the violets came out too. They seem so innocuous, and yet, under a macro lens seem so mysterious and different compared to other flowers.  At left is a "wide" shot showing mostly just a flower petal and the subtle color veining. At right is the center of the flower where the numerous "fingers" obviously guide the pollinators for maximum effectiveness... Both of these are focus stacks - 5 frames for the petal at left, 10 for the close-up at right...

And there were some new ones for me too - neighbor Elaine was pointing out the population of flowers in her yard and identified these large-leaved forest dwellers near the fence line as "May Apples", indeed some forming small "apples" about 1.5 cm diameter on the stalks under them. And sure enough, some of them also sported striking flowers, but instead of atop the plants, they were on the stem well protected by the leaves! Kind of weird, but worth lying on the ground to get a close up of the flowers with the macro. These were taken after a rain, but they looked a little "waxy", which might have been a product of the rinsing they had...

The weather these weeks has just been fabulous! It has been cool - cold enough to support making a batch of chili one weekend! Have not yet used the AC, and in fact, many mornings have had to use the heat to get the house into the 60s! We've had long stretches of clear sky, so that watching the spinning of the spheres across the sky are an entertaining pastime! At left is the rising moon showing over the barely-budding trees 3 weeks ago! Note that even this photo is not a simple one to take! Shooting with the 300mm lens, to keep the trees in focus, as well as the moon required 3 exposures - one for the tree at left w/the buds, then a middle-range shot for the other trees, then third exposure focused on the moon - the most distant object - duh! Photoshop assembled the 3-frame focus stack easily, keeping the sharp parts of each of the 3 exposures to combine into this one!

And we've also had some rainy weather, which to this desert rat is just as welcome as a sunny day! Sleeping with the temps in the 50s or 60s with the windows open during a storm is just heavenly!  Although I have to ask - is there anything sadder than a dandelion seed pod after a heavy rain, as shown at right?

Back to "Ketelsen West" soon, where I hope to catch up on some of the content I've been collecting. Don't give up on me!

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