Fertile Fern Fronds

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Were I still teaching, or if I thought there were blog readers who cared to know the minutiae of pteridophyte reproductive biology, I’d launch into a soliloquy about Interrupted Fern, the structure and function of sporangia, and the place of ferns in the history of land plants.

But suffice it to say that today’s post is lifted to the page simply because I like the title. Try saying it real fast followed immediately by the name of this blog.

Fido Fiddlehead

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Dog-gone dog. Ann always insists that I take Tsuga along as a photographer’s companion.

And she’s right: the dog is wonderful help if I need a distracting patch of buff-colored fur in my otherwise muted-shadow background; if I need my legged or leafy subject crushed by a size 12 dog paw just seconds before snapping the shutter; or if I need my ears licked while lying prone, defenseless against dog tongues, holding the camera with both hands in the most awkward of positions.

Yeah. Every photographer needs one of these along.

But that was then. This is now, and I’m off for a full day seminar (the first continuing ed for this PT license period) in Roanoke: a program called Memory, Aging and Sleep. I only hope I can stay away through the most of it. And remember what I heard when I get home. Sigh. I hope they have wireless from the meeting room.

Carrion Without Me

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A favorite warm-weather passtime of which I am only mildly apologetic: lying on my back on sidewalk of warm pavers outside the back door, trying to comprehend where in the world I am; where in the universe, where in time. And why.

Almost always overhead, soaring birds on warm thermals trace spirographic arcs through my vision and my thoughts, lifting me up out of our valley to gain perspective, often to look back down through keen avian eyes at the sprawling man, arms outstretched–a tiny squinting crucifix, searching Heaven for Truth and Beauty.

Sometimes, from this supine perspective, the performances of bird with bird, birds with the very air, are so impressive I have to stifle applause. And only rarely do I have my camera beside me. Yesterday was one of those days. And no, this is not an altered image; it took almost 30 minutes for the right combination of heavenly and earthly body to get a shot.

Vultures get some coverage here rather often, starting early in the blog five years ago. Here’s one Fragments piece in praise of “buzzards”.

Elsewhere in the world of lenses: you’ll laugh. Especially if you’re a serious bird watcher and maybe even have your own pair of Swarovski (at $600 plus) you won’t believe what I ordered yesterday. A pair of $16 binocs. Binolux Rubber Armored.

My mom had a pair that someone had given her. She wouldn’t part with them, even though she only watches cardinals in her bird bath on the porch of her apartment, and my heavier, better quality pair would have been a great exchange.

Cheap. Shirt pocket. Free shipping. They should be here in time for our trip to South Dakota.

(And this image, shamelessly photoshopped, to imagine life above the clouds.)

Virginia Bluebells

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I hoping for at least five “keeper” images of spring wildflowers for a possible future note card set. So far, it’s been slow to happen, first with the early warmth the first of March followed by the rapid return to winter in April.

These Virginia Bluebells are tamed wildflowers; we transplanted them from their original hillside home over on Walnut Knob. And wish we’d brought a dozen more, if only for this one week in spring when the magenta and cyan buds become pale blue and pink bell-shaped blossoms before being eaten by the deer.

Fancy Frustrating Ferns

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“God made ferns to show what he could do with a leaf” said Thoreau.

And I’m convinced God also designed them so that no one could ever do them justice by means of a photograph. You have to be there, close to the earth, sitting on a fallen log at the edge of the wet meadow, to full appreciate them.

Early on as they first emerge and uncoil in their singular fiddlehead fashion, they hide among the jumble of leaf litter and fallen branches from spring’s last ice storm, camouflaged among the distracting flotsam of the forest floor. You’ll not likely find that one composition in all the forest where two or three tiny fiddleheads of Christmas Fern stand in the same plane, illumined against a black backdrop of shadow.

Later on, the Royal Fern and Cinnamon Ferns will shoot up in a matter of days to a ridiculous ratio of height to width so that you see them whole only from fifteen feet away or more, and lose all their divinely-inspired fanciness of detail. They are creatures you have to see complete and in place to imbibe their intricate beauties.

But I’m going to keep trying with my lens. So expect more less-than-heavenly fern pix in the next two weeks–if I’m not embarrassed to show you–and maybe if the gods smile, I’ll finally get a fern portrait I’m happy with.