Category Archives: New pictures
I just can’t believe it has been so long ago (2009) that I took my last Sundew pictures. I love this photogenic plant, but somehow along the way it lost my attention. Until last summer when I just accidentally and therefore unexpectedly bumped into it again. I instantly re-fell in love and decided to follow it for a few weeks.
The Sundew is a master seducer. Starting with its leaves. Its leaves look like flowers because of their color and beauty but they are ‘just’ leaves. In fact its real flowers are the less distinctive part of the plant, blooming only for a week or so with little white unobtrusive flowers.
Then there are the little droplets at the end of the tentacles that grow on each leave. These droplets look like dew, therefore obviously its name. It is not dew however but nectar. This nectar produces a sticky digestive enzyme with which it attracts insects. So yes, the Sundew is a carnivorous plant! It can trap and digest insects in order to obtain nutrients such as nitrogen. This allows the plant to survive where others can’t, namely in nutrient and low nitrogen moist areas. When an insect lands on a leaf, it gets stuck on the ‘dew’. As it struggles to get out of it, the tentacles of the leaf start to wrap around the insect. Eventually the insect suffocates and dies. The enzymes of the plant absorb the well needed nutrients of the insect in order to survive. This digestive process will take up to a week or so. After this period the leaf unfurls and it is ready for its next prey.
Over here in the Netherlands there are three sorts of Sundew: Drosera intermedia, Drosera rotundifolia, and Drosera anglica. I photographed the first one, Drosera intermedia. Once it was on the red list, but because of good nature management to preserve moist heathland and peaty soil it now luckily is a bit more common.
Although easily overlooked because of its tiny size, once seen through a macro lens, there is no way back. The bling bling effect of the dew looking drops and the color red are addictive to play with. Still I tried to challenge myself to go beyond these effects and place the plant in a broader perspective while only using my macro lens. I think I made a plausible start but the subject tastes like more so hopefully next year I’ll be able to continue to follow this master seducer called Sundew…
Frankly I did not realize it was already so long ago that I took decent photos of the Orange Tips. My latest serious attempt dates back from 2011. While in the last 4 years I already was satisfied with one or two mediocre pictures of these spring butterflies, this year I felt the strong urge to handle them as a kind of ‘project’. It seems that the years of distance now gave me new energy and ideas to go for this subject again.
I am blessed with a nature area nearby where the Orange Tips live. The best way to find these tiny butterflies is to look for them in the early morning while they are still sleeping on one of their most important host plants, the Cuckoo Flower. The Cuckoo Flower and the Orange Tips obviously go hand in hand form April til June. Still to find them both well and alive is not that easy. It depends among others on the weather conditions. Now it seems that this year unfortunately is a bad butterfly year over here in the Netherlands. Due to the past warm winter and highly fluctuating temperatures in spring the numbers of many species have declined strongly in comparison with 2015 and 2014. This makes me a little sad.
Besides the weather conditions there are other difficulties to conquer in the search for Orange Tips. Did I ever tell you photography is like practicing top sport, is like really suffering? Well, it is… I went into the field for 4 mornings. During my first visit there was this magic sunrise with purple colors everywhere. But… I am a slow starter and as this was my first macro shoot since months, I just could not utilize this moment and nothing good came out. The best thing of the second shoot was the hot shower afterwards. Man… it was so cold! It had frozen the night before and there was no interesting light at all during sunrise. This, in combination with my frozen feet made me want to cry and go home. Instead I stayed and managed to make a high key picture of two tips I could only find after a very long search. The third attempt was marked by failing technique. My tripod did not meet my expectations because of a non adjustable horizontal center column. Furthermore I discovered that my AF of my beloved macro lens was defect. Most of the pictures taken during sunrise were not sharp. And then there was the last visit which can be summarized with only one word: KNUTJES! Now in case you don’t understand Dutch, this is the scientific name: ‘Ceratopogonidae’. Believe me, you don’t want to encounter these mini insects during a photo shoot. Man… there were millions of them and they did not stop stinging. Research afterwards showed they are familiar to the more well known mosquitoes. They are very small, about 1 till 4 millimeter, and they love moisture areas. Their stings can cause severe itching. And so I have experienced…. It is now 4 days later and I am still suffering. They have particularly stung me in the face. I am not exaggerating when I tell you my face is now covered with hundreds of itching red spots. Unless you are a sensationalism person you do not want to see me right now.
Then there are the positive sides. To experience and enjoy nature during these early mornings in spring is just fantastic. The (most probably) Tawney Owl that flies past our car when we arrive in our beloved area makes us awake and alert. The overwhelming wake up call of the singing birds when we get out of the car is just unforgettable and accompanies us during the rest of the photo shoot. The singing courtship flight of the Tree Pipit is just one of them but breathtakingly beautiful. The Common Cuckoo who is welcoming us in the morning twilight by calling ‘koekoek… koekoek’ while flying just a few meters above us. A little bit later the White Stork flying straight above us with majestic calmness.
And last but not least there are the pictures. The tangible remain of four exciting mornings…
I just can’t believe summer is already coming to its end now. Like I said before, this summer was a crazy one. We endured storms with fallen trees, showers with flooded cellars and even a real heat wave with people getting unwell. These extreme weather conditions have also affected me and my photography. Needless to say, when it’s windy it’s no time for macro photos. The same when it’s rainy of course. And when temperature rises above say 26 degrees, my mind and body involuntary go into some sort of a strike in which it’s impossible to even think of photography. And this while summer is one of my favorite photo seasons with its flowers and insects. I can assure you it was rather frustrating from time to time.
But… no worries, pictures have been taken. Although most of them are not of my expected subjects, I am still satisfied with the results. One of my themes from this summer that I would like to share with you is the Six-spotted Burnet, a diurnal moth. I have no idea how it is possible, but somehow I managed to create a huge delay in my photo editing. This Six-spot Burnet which I shot in June is in fact the only subject that I have now fully edited. And yep I know it’s already September. But hey… better something than nothing.
So it was June and Edwin and I where shooting poppies in a new area. Well… shooting poppies sounds better than it was. It seemed this year what not the best poppy year and this day was way after the top of the blooming period. Moreover there was more wind than there were poppies if you know what I mean. Still we wanted to give it a try. While I was standing there with my tripod and my tele lens in the field, mostly waiting for the wind to lay down, this unknown man approached me. Seen the fact that the poppies were rather disappointing I was even in for a chat this time. This man turned out to be a very friendly nature lover and photographer. He knew the area very well and often returned to enjoy nature and to take photos. Proudly he showed me his recent results on his camera. And this is where it got really interesting. He showed me among others the Six-spot Burnet which turned out to be shot just some 100 meters further away from the poppy field we where just now standing in. This you only have to say to me once! After a short chat the man continued his path, probably not aware how happy I was after receiving his information. Edwin and I tried for a short time to make something out of the poppies, but my mind already was fully with the Six-spot Burnet. Never before I have had good opportunities to shoot this butterfly. How great would it be to discover this insect here! So off we went to the unknown field with the Six-spot Burnet. And yep, the man was totally right, we found the Six-spot Burnet in large numbers. What a joy! We spent the rest of the afternoon with these beautiful butterflies and later on we have returned some more times. This little field was ideal not only because of the presence of the butterflies but also because there were hardly any people or photographers coming by. Seen the fact that the number of nature photographers is rapidly increasing, I am appreciating these quiet environments more and more. They make it possible for me to fully concentrate on my subject and to entirely enjoy nature. I hope to discover more of these areas!
In my early years of nature photography (I am talking about 10-13 years ago now) I just went out into the field to shoot and I didn’t care whatever it was I was focusing my macro lens on. In fact, often I didn’t even know the names of the animals and flowers that were my photo models. Luckily there was always my boyfriend Edwin who has lots of nature knowledge and came in handy for the determination. During the last years this free way of going into the field has slowly developed into more planned trips with known subjects in advance. I never thought consciously about this change, it just happened. By the way, I think this is a good thing. It means I am changing, and so is my photography. Change is good, it means I am not standing still. I would hate to look back on my photography and discover that I am now making the same pictures as say 10 years ago. But let’s stick to my topic. Both photo approaches have there own advantages and disadvantages. I think many photographers will recognize this. Going into nature without any goal ore subject means I have no expectations so everything I shoot is like a nice bonus. On the other hand I am not really challenging myself which may result in so called mediocre photos. During the planned trips however my mind is fully occupied with the expected subject which makes me concentrated to work on a good picture. The negative side of this approach is that it makes it difficult to notice let alone photograph any other interesting objects. Moreover my plans don’t always work out and the ensuing disappointment provides me with a restless spirit which is no good for creative pictures.
Back to the here and now. This summer is a crazy one. Nothing goes as planned. Neither the weather nor my photo subjects. I guess this is how it goes with nature photography and I am still doing my best to get used to it. After all, I am a person of habits… In the meantime, while going through my material of the past months, I discovered many so called ‘accidental encounters’ with insects. These pictures were all made while looking for other plants or insects or during trips with no planned subjects in my mind. Until a while ago each of these photos on its own was oké for me but nothing more than that. I was so fixed on my planned subjects that I undervalued them. Now, while seeing them all together in the category ‘accidental encounters’ they are coming alive and they are worth sharing with you. So hereby I would like to reinstate and bring an ode to the ‘accidental encounters’!
And then… finally I could go back into the fields again. Nothing better than that! I have to admit, it was only for a few hours, but sometimes that’s just enough. Despite the fact that I long for the spring, photo opportunities have been rare. So far spring has been cold, rainy and windy. Most sunny hours were there when I was not free. But to be fair with you, it didn’t bother me that much. When I think about myself lying in the cold wet field my enthusiasm rapidly decreases. And thus I have no problem with the alternative, namely cocooning at home with a hot cup of tea and my cat lying comfortably on my lap.
But back to the few hours in the field. I would like to share with you my first spring impressions of the Snowdrops. These flowers just never get bored, every year again they are fun to play with.