It Moves! Life in Action

small brains en masse from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

As a biology teacher long ago, plant life was hard to get students interested in–until.

Until I could show them fern sperm cells swimming in  a drop of dew or a filament of Oscillatoria or diatoms gliding in drop of pond water. Wait! Plants aren’t supposed to MOVE!

Animals are easier to inspire interest, largely because we can watch them behave: they exhibit action, motion, intention.

And now there are new ways to “see” the patterns of motion in animals–especially those animals who tend to move as groups.

I don’t know everything I wish I did about the technology that makes motion-tracing possible, but I know I enjoyed and was mesmerized by this video–especially the last couple of minutes.

It merges the record of individuals and groups of animals in place with time in a way the eye cannot but only the imagination could–until now–make possible.

By all means, click the vimeo clip to watch if full screen with sound.

Let me know your thoughts.

Storytelling in the Digital Age

Jonathan Kingston on the crest of Buffalo Mountain, Floyd County Virginia, at sunset.

It is all about the light we are given. The stories we tell “come to light” first through specialized nerve endings in eye and ear, then through the synthesis of what we see (and touch and hear, taste and smell) with what we imagine, hope, believe or fear.

There have always been storytellers. It is what we do, how we comprehend the world around us–weaving sight into insight,  fact into meaning and context. Our stories make sense of our senses.

With the small size and almost universal reach of today’s cameras, it has simply become easier to bring the visual into that light of story-telling. And some, like my friend Jonathan Kingston, have made a career out of it. I share his story with you by way of this slide show, in which you’ll see some shots from Floyd County.

How I Became a Nat Geo Creative Photographer from Jonathan Kingston on Vimeo.

“In June of 2015, I was invited to present my work at National Geographic Creative in Washington D.C.. For the talk, I chose to tell the story of how I became a photographer. Here is a recording of the slideshow.”

Also see:

► Winners of the 2015 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest – The Atlantic

A 2007 blog post featuring J Kingston in Floyd

Webs Laid Low With Pasture Mow

For everything you get, you give up something.

We are very happy to have our pasture mowed. But that means that there will be no more spider webs festooned from the tall grasses, dew-covered and bejeweled, backlit by the sun when it finally crests the east ridge.

So here, two birds (er, spiders) with one rock: a brief tribute to our web weavers that will return after a few weeks of pasture uprising; and a subject to weave into a little story using a new media tool called Shorthand:social.

It really does offer a better photo-essay medium than the tiny width of this blog space for full-dimension images. Hope you agree.

Click image to VIEW STORY…


Maidenhair Ferns: Finding Their Good Side

“Her picture just doesn’t do her justice” you might have heard someone say about an unflattering or lackluster image of one with greater beauty than the photographer was able to capture.

I know the feeling. I find it hard to do justice to ferns shooting them where they live.  They are always more attractive than I make them look, and that’s a disappointment.

One problem is isolating them so that they are distinct from their typically cluttered forest background.

IMG_0132maidenhairFerns480In this case, I managed to frame these maidenhair fronds against the bark of a very large tree on a very steep hillside. Take a look at what I had to do, composition-wise, to get this shot. See it in context here.

IMG_0119maidenhair480Ferns have showy leaves or “fronds” that are divided one or more times into smaller segments or leaflets called “pinnae.” But it is not easy to attractively or interestingly show the shape of the frond, the details of the pinnae, and the depth of the entire plant. You can sense the three-dimensionality of the plant in this image, but it only hints at the attractive symmetry and form.

In the case of the northern maidenhair fern, its frond is typically forked into two segments, each resembling a kind of spreading necklace of delicate pinnae. The one above has just unfurled, and has not become the ultimate dark green of the mature plants, like the one below.

IMG_0224maidenhair480Lastly, this individual was growing on the side of a bank, so its frond dipped outward, affording a proper view of the elegant necklace of tiny green wings.

As with wildflowers, except maybe more so because most ferns are many times taller than wide, is the fact that the slightest breeze sets them swaying. As if focusing on a fern was not already hard enough!

So while the ferns “show what God can do with a leaf” as Thoreau once claimed, it is generally going to make you want to spit trying to show their good side.

Devil’s in the Details

IMG_0292tallYellowIris480In our last expedition, we were anchored pretty close to our daughter’s house in a coastal suburb near Wilmington NC due to our child-care responsibilities. Every time we go down I say I’m breaking free to find the nearest coastal nature or wildlife preserve, but I have so far failed to put sandals on that notion.

So at least I would put my new Canon Powershot G7X through its paces, home-bound as I was, and with the unwelcome addition of a bout with subtropical depression. Her name was Ana.

About the subject: Pale Yellow Iris, aka Iris Aquatica. Iris lutia. Yellow Flag. Yellow Iris. Fleur de Luce. Dragon Flower. Myrtle Flower. Fliggers. Flaggon. Segg. Sheggs. Daggers. Jacob’s Sword. Gladyne. Meklin. Levers. Livers. Shalder. Or Iris pseudacorus, if all the common names have your head spinning.

Fliggers it shall henceforth be! Can also be used as an expletive.  You’re welcome. [Larger image is here.]

The challenges were many. This plant grew beyond the wire fence that actually runs down into the wetland waterway behind the house, so I could not get any closer than about five feet from this one surviving bloom among its spent siblings. The G7X max optical zoom is 100mm and that’s where this image was taken, as I recall.

The sky was forbiddingly dark and the frontal winds before the approaching storm where whipping these five foot tall leaves and flower stems such that at least a 500th second shutter speed was required, I thought.

Howver, EXIF data at Flickr shows ISO of 125 and shutter speed of 1/100th of a second. Granted, this image was cropped from the larger full image from this 20MP camera. Manual setting is turning out to be my go-to for fixed focus and lighting, as well as for action shots (of the grand daughter serving in a volleyball game earlier in the day.)

So I’m happy with the camera whose ergonomics fit my hands better than the Panasonic Lumix LX7 that my buddy Ed in Roanoke is now using mostly for its excellent macro function. Happy shooting, all!