Mt. Pleasant – May 2019

I arrived at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant before one of the elementary school field trips – early enough to take a short hike and photograph some of the May sights along the trail. One of the first birds I saw was a small flock of gold finches near the Community Garden – eating ravenously.

Earlier in the week, when I was hiking with 2nd graders, we had spotted some caterpillars on a newly planted hickory tree. I never try to photograph things while I have a field trip group with me, so I was going back to try to photograph the caterpillars. The morning was cool…and I couldn’t find the caterpillars on the tree! The walk through the quiet area of new trees – invasive removed – was worth it anyway - a contrast to the noisy enthusiasm that would arrive on the school buses.

On the walk back, I was quite enough approaching a nest box to see the tree swallow at the hole. It looks almost like a plug – a perfect fit!

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There was a feather in the grass beside the mowed path. From a hawk? The feather was large…must have come from a large bird.

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The dew was still on the funnel spider webs. It’s hard to find them after the grass is dry.

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Dandelions had already had a first round of flowers…and gone to seed.

The tulip poplar (also called yellow poplar) had lots of buds…ramping up to blooms. The flowers do look a lot like tulips!

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Macro Photography at Belmont

I did a short session of macro photography at Belmont with my smartphone and the clip-on lens in early May before one of the elementary school field trip students arrived. I already had some ideas of what I wanted to photograph from some previous field trips with student BioBiltzers. My first stop was the shelf-fungus growing just below eye level on a large sycamore.

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I got as close as I could focus with just the smartphone:

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Then clipped on the macro lens to take a closer look at the cracks and edges of the fungus.

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Dandelion seed globes are always a favorite subject. I was careful to not touch it and cause the seeds to scatter before I could get the picture!

The tiny sycamore leaves have a lot of color – I took a picture with the phone alone…and then the macro lens.

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The sweet gum is beginning to form gum balls. The balls are small and green currently; they enlarge as the seeds form.

I took pictures with the macro lens of the female flowers (becoming gum balls) and the male flowers that had already fallen from the tree. Both are hard to photograph with the macro lens because they have depth…and the focal plain is shallow.

Overall – it was a very productive 10 minutes of macro photography!

Morning Walk at Mt. Pleasant (part 2)

Today I’m focusing on the plants I photographed during my morning walk earlier this week at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant. The seed pods on the sweet bay magnolia are in all stages of development: from green to

Seeds bursting from the pod (I always think they look like red M&Ms) and then pods that are mostly empty and dry.

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There are always chicory flowers after each rain. I liked the blurs of yellow and green behind this macro image.

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Goldenrod is beginning to bloom. Goldenrod is one of the nectar plants for butterflies into the fall. People thought it caused their terrible fall allergies but now ragweed is said to be the primary culprit.

There was Queen Ann’s Lace in the meadow as well. It’s always interesting to me how different a plant appears in the macro view.

As I hiked along the narrow path near the stream there was a young sycamore that had leaves that were beginning to lose their chlorophyll for fall. The leaves were backlit so I took some macro images to show the changes.

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There are still new leaves being unfurled on the tree too; this one was about the size of a dime.

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Thistles are not very friendly looking! Too many prickles.

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Bind weed is an occasional plant in the meadow. The flowers always look like they have little pleats.

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This mint flower – taken from above with the macro lens – was coated with morning dew.

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Dandelions are always attention getters. They look a bit like bursts of fireworks…or yellow streamers.

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Even the clovers that are usually not noticed have a unique beauty seen through the macro lens.

Do you recognize mile-a-minute? It’s an invasive plant that grows very quickly and has wicked thorns.

And now for the Pokeweed. The ones I photographed were still blooming and the fruits that were formed were still green. They’ll turn purple later…and the stem will be bright pink. I’ll remember to photograph the plants through the fall to track their development.

By the end of the walk – I was hot…ready to cool off in the air-conditioned car as I drove home and to drink a lot of water.

Macro photography before hiking

Last week I was at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm for several field trips (kindergarteners and second graders). Before the field trips, I walked around the grounds and experimented with some more macro photography with my smartphone – using the same set up as I did at Brookside Gardens earlier (results from Brookside here).

It is sometimes surprising how different something looks with the macro lens. The textures along with the small structures I wouldn’t see otherwise are what makes it so appealing to walk around taking pictures with the macro lens. My favorite in this group is the baby pear.

The highpoint of the hikes with the school groups happened during the kindergarten field trip. I had walked up to the front of the farm house with my first group of the day. We were talking about what might live in the big oak tree near the house. They answered squirrels and birds right away. I turned around to look at the tree – and noticed a black coil in a depression of the trunk about at the eye level of children! The sun was shining on it like a spotlight. I turned back to the children and told them that black rat snakes live in trees too – and there was one right on the trunk of tree (and I was glad we were not standing any closer than we were). The two parent chaperones took a step back. The children just watched as the snake started moving and crawled under the loose bark of the tree. What a fabulous drama to start a field trip!

Macro Photography with a Smartphone

Before my second shift at Brookside Garden’s Wings of Fancy exhibit, I spent a few minutes doing some macrophotography with my Smartphone. I ordered a clip-on macro lens from Amazon last fall to use to photograph macroinvertebrates but haven’t done a lot of other photography with it until now.

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Brookside Gardens is a great place to experiment. There is so much in bloom right now including the buckeye near the conservatory. The flower has a very odd shape through the macro lens (it looks like it has Mickey Mouse ears!). Even the tips of evergreen shrubs become something unexpected.

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The center of the dogwood bloom is a riot of shapes. I’m going to photograph them again next time I go to see how it changes as the seeds start to develop.

Dandelion seed puffs are recognizable.

Just about any flowers are good subjects for macrophotography.

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I ran out of time in the garden. My shift was beginning. I got one last picture just before the first visitors came into the exhibit – a spicebush butterfly egg on spicebush leaf. It looks like a very tiny pearl.