Another stab at close up photos

Another stab at close up photos

I enjoy trying my hand at taking close up photos. It takes an incredible amount of patience to get the subject in focus and I’m getting better at it. The trip to Stratford last month offered a prime opportunity for photography. I was happy drifting with the weekend, and I didn’t pull the camera out a lot. I mostly pottered about with it, taking lazy photos, most of which aren’t terribly good. A few, however, are worth looking at.

I didn’t do a lot of editing on these photos. A little contrast and brightness adjustments and a bit of cropping seemed to do. I did seem to have a few problems with focus in many photos, which will remain unseen. Not sure what the issue was, but I just couldn’t seem to get it right. Maybe I was too relaxed.

A rose is a rose

Photo of roses in bloom

You can never go wrong with a photo of a rose

 

The contrast and bokeh affects in this photo thrilled me. It has a deep vibrancy that surprised me when I looked at it on the computer screen. It wasn’t until I blew the roses up on the monitor that I realized out wonderful the outside of a rosebud is.

Close up photo of rose bud getting ready to bloom

Just about ready to pop out of its shell

The little fuzzy white lip around the edges gives the photo a sense of texture. I want to reach out and pat the rose bud.

The bee’s knees

Oh, come on. You grimaced, admit it? I’ve been waiting years to use that line!

Close up photo of a bee pollinating a Black Eyed Susan flower

Lots of bees in the garden that day

Black Eyed Susans are a real pain to photograph. The orange is so intense, it swamps every other colour. I had to do a bit of colour correction on this one, so the bee and petal definition didn’t disappear into a sea of orange. I took quite a few photos of these flowers trying to figure out how to compensate for the overwhelming orangeness. It’s odd, even the shadows were overpowered.

I love taking close up photos of bees. Their wings are like stained glass. When you look at them with a bright flower behind, they are ephemeral. You catch a fleeting glimpse of beauty and they are gone.

Close up photo of a bumble bee backside

I always seem to catch the back end of bees

The edges on the petals have a feathery delicacy to them. I’m pleased as hell they came out so clear. The bees don’t really care if you hover around them. They are busy doing bee stuff and don’t notice people. I get up so close to some of them, I’m surprised they don’t turn and say “working here! Back off”.  Just leave them be and admire them. And no when I first wrote that line, I didn’t notice the pun.

I am beginning to get a clearer idea of back lighting and the position of the sun. I experimented with angles a lot, seeing how the colours and lighting changed as I shifted around. I tried adjusting light and shadow on the bee a bit, so it stood out, but that destroyed the balance between light and shadow on the petals. Turns out it wasn’t the bee that was the focus I wanted; it was the flower itself.

In all her morning glory

Photo of a morning glory against a white brick wall

Loved the contrasts

Honestly, I’m not sure what gives with all the corny headers. Must be the espresso rushing through in my veins.

I loved the contrast in this one. The intense purple against the old, stained white brick, and the bright vibrant greens begged to be photographed. The purple is a bit too much, but I left it because it seemed to capture the mood of the day.

I’m ready for my close-up photo

Photo of purple flowers with a large spider's web in the middle

Webbing and more webbingI was attracted to the mass of webbing in this photo. It looked like a weaver on speed swept through. To my mind, it was a chaotic jumble of threads. Maybe a couple of abandoned spider webs caught up together. Until I looked closer.

Close up photo of spider sitting in the web

Okay, not so little spider

Oh yea. Those are beady little spider eyes staring out from behind the web. I didn’t spot it until I was processing the photos today. Nearly jumped out of my skin when I realised someone was home. I have a bit of a spider phobia. Ok, a big spider phobia. He’s a bit largish too. Not sure how I missed him. Had I known he was there; I would never have gotten that close.  In hindsight, I’m glad he was hidden. The webbing is amazing.

The gardens at Stratford are breathtaking.  Theatres be damned, I’d go back just for the sheer joy of wandering about without any plans.

Canada Post’s gardenia stamps

Canada Post’s gardenia stamps

Spring is in the air for stamp collectors, courtesy of Canada Post’s gardenia stamp.

Photo of winter storm in Toronto

Blah

Feb 14 gardenia stamps from Canada Post

Permanent stamps just in time for spring

Maybe, but not today. To help break up the winter doldrums and usher in Valentine’s Day, Canada Post is offering a pair of gardenia stamps.

Their annual flower offering doesn’t disappoint. Designed by Andrew Conlon & Lionel Gadoury, with artwork by Chantal Larocque, the stamps offer two views of Cape jasmine gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides).

You can pick them up in many formats, as expected – rolls, FDC, souvenir sheet, singles, strips of four and ten and booklets.

Feb 14 gardenia stamps from Canada Post Souvenir Sheet Feb 14 gardenia stamps from Canada Post Souvenir Sheet
Feb 14 gardenia stamps from Canada Post booklet

Gardenia stamp booklet

They go on sale Valentine’s Day across Canada. If your local post outlet doesn’t have them, you can purchase direct from Canada Post’s online store.

Hooray for International Bee Day

Hooray for International Bee Day

Bees are fun to watch and don’t get me get started on the whole “beneficial bug” thing. You might be here for hours.  I grew up surrounded by people who would kill any bee that dared buzz near them or drench their gardens in shocking amounts of pesticides.  Hopefully this “kill it, kill it” thinking isn’t so common. Our future survival is intertwined with buzzy little bees.  In 2017, the UN declared May 20th World Bee Day to help foster recognition of the vital role bees play in the chain of life.

World Bee Day isn’t to be confused with World Honey Bee Day held Aug 17th. Not all bees are honey bees by the way. If you aren’t up on the diversity within the bee family, check Wikipedia’s pretty decent page. This May, set aside the 20th to learn a bit more about bees, their diversity in design and the beauty of watching them hover around the plants in your garden.

“Bees play a crucial role in increasing crop yields and promoting food security and nutrition. Without them, we could lose a variety of food such as potatoes, pepper, coffee, pumpkins, carrots, apples, almonds, tomatoes, just to name a few. In short, without bees, FAO cannot achieve a world without hunger. World Bee Day recognizes the importance of these tiny helpers and will increase awareness of the need to protect them.”
Carla Mucavi, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations worldbeeday.org 

And now a few random bee photos

Photo of a bee on a purple flower for international bee day

I spend a lot of time trying to photograph bees, with a very low success rate.  I figured that if I focused on a single blossom and waited (and waited) eventually I’d be able to grab a decent photo or two. I have a scattering of presentable photos as a result. Despite hours of getting up close photos of bee bums, I’ve never been stung. Bees simply ignore me and get on with their job. It’s surprising how close you can get to them.

Photo of a bee on a purple flower

I think the last two are honey bees but I could be wrong. My bee identification skills rank right up there with my mushroom identification skills. There is a staggering variety within the bee-verse in North America alone – honey bees, bumble bees, orchard bees, mining bees, mason bees, blueberry bees, squash bees, sweat bees, hoverflies. Some bees sting, some don’t. Some collect nectar, some are predatory. Some are parasitic, some are beneficial. Some look vaguely like honeybees, some look exotic … oh my, the specialization. According to the Brampton Bee Keepers Association, there are over 800 varieties of bees in Canada, and between 20,000 to 25,000 worldwide. And they are under threat around the globe.

Collect stamps? Check out my post on Canada’s Bee Stamps
Scan of 2 Canadian postage stamps with stylized bees

 

My favourite is the humble bumble bee, but they aren’t as plentiful as they used to be. I didn’t spot more than a dozen all summer. The reason is pretty depressing – bumble bees are listed as a species at risk in Canada.

Photo of a bee on purple flowers taken Sept 2014 David Balfour Park

Photo of a bee on purple flowers taken Sept 2014 David Balfour Park – previously posted June 14, 2016

Photo of a bee on a thistle

Bees and thistles in the ravine – Toronto – previously posted Aug 6, 2017

Those are my best photos, and I’m aiming to do a lot this summer. I have a ravine filled with wild flowers close by offering plenty of opportunity.

Want more info on bees?

  1. If you want to learn more about bees in Canada, check out this list from the Brampton Bee Keepers.
  2. To hone your identification skills, try How to Identify Bees
  3. Bees on the Species at Risk list, refer to Wildlife Species Canada.
  4. David Suzuki – Love bees, especially the wild ones can be found here https://davidsuzuki.org/story/love-bees-especially-the-wild-ones/
  5. Some cool info on European honey beeshttp://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/BEES/euro_honey_bee.htm
  6. Bees in Australia http://beekeepers.amazingbees.com.au/european-honeybees.html
  7. Bees in the UK https://friendsoftheearth.uk/bee-count/great-british-bee-count-bee-identification-guide
  8. Bee keeping in India https://www.farmingindia.in/beekeeping-in-india-honey-bee-farm/
  9. European Red List of Bees is a lengthy article on European bees, their importance  and severe problems facing their survival –  http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/redlist/downloads/European_bees.pdf

 If you have a good bee resource, post it in the comments below.

Colour balance issue resolved on Acer Liquid M330

Colour balance issue resolved on Acer Liquid M330

I was a bit worried last week when I noticed the colour bleached effect on greens with photos taken on my new Acer Liquid. I was, quite honestly, puzzled by the lack of colour depth. All other colours were STUNNING and crisp. But the greens were drained. I fussed with settings, tried to over ride the white balance etc but no luck. Then I fell back on the tried and true – I rebooted the phone and checked for any updates. Sure enough there was one for the phone that I had missed. I slapped that in and the green balance is perfect:

Nasturtiums on balcony = taken with Acer LiquidThat’s what was missing – the rich, deep shades of green. Now that I have that straightened out, I feel much more confident in heading out to take photos. I must admit, the lack of greens irritated me over the weekend.  You can see a few other shots I took today over on my Memoirs post – the great aphid battle of 2016 I grabbed them on the fly this afternoon. Compare the difference with previous photos here Lillies in bloom – testing the Acer Liquid phone camera.

Better ones to come … promise. But work first; play later.

Dispatches from the urban garden front – the great aphid battle of 2016

Dispatches from the urban garden front – the great aphid battle of 2016

During my daily garden check Saturday afternoon, I spotted a few aphids lurking on the morning glory.  For some reason, I found their mere presence an affront.  After last year’s pepper plant infestation debacle, I plotted and planned my little balcony garden layout with a ruthlessness that was sure to frighten off any invaders.  I posted herb guards around each pepper and went so far as to form a chive moat around one of the larger pepper plants. “HA … get through those defenses”. Who knew aphids liked morning glories? I was so obsessed with keeping them off my peppers, it didn’t dawn on me, the squishy pests would latch onto something else.

With embarassing glee, I flicked the few aphids I found, off the balcony and thought “Got ‘em”. Well … sometime during the night an entire battalion of aphids parachuted onto our 20th floor balcony and infested the entire plant. How could I go from a couple of aphids to a full blown invasion in 12 hrs? The plant was swarmed. I stomped up and down the balcony for a full 5 minutes berating the enemy…

… it soon became painfully obvious aphids don’t have ears.

TO ARMS … or more precisely a soapy insecticide bath.  Mom and I took to the battle field armed with our soapy water and covered the plant.  Whenever we ran fingers over a leaf, dozens of dying insects rolled off. For someone who hates getting her fingers dirty, this was particularly disturbing – little bugs by the handful …   clean, soapy bugs … but bugs nonetheless.

I just did another check this afternoon and must admit to a malicious happiness in seeing nothing but dead bugs. And the peppers are completely untouched.  We’ll have to keep a close on the garden, and tomorrow, we’ll give it another bath just in case. There’s bound to be a few of the little white vampires hiding somewhere.

The tomatoes are coming along nicely.  I’m soon going to have to get larger stakes, they’ve already outgrown the ones I used.  They’ve begun to grow rapidly, after a very slow start.

One of my tomato plants after a slow start

I had despaired over the cucumbers, convinced they had all given up, but last week they had a sudden burst of energy and are growing at an astonishing rate. Finger crossed, we may actually have a few. But the nasturtiums are going to out-do everything this year:

Nasturtiums on my balcony

I’ll grab a better shot later in the week. This one doesn’t do justice to their size, but I liked the colours. I’ll keep you posted on any further movement on the bug front.