A few more spring ephemeral wilflowers taken in Cass County, Michigan, earlier this week... First up - Dutchman's Britches - Dicentra cucullaria (click on the images for larger files):
Another Bloodroot flower- Sanguinaria canadensis:
Lastly - Hepatica remains abundant in the forest, though I expect they will fade away soon:
On this trip I noticed that the Harbinger of SPring is all but gone - just a few withering flowers remain. The spring beauty is starting to emerge and also the wood sorrell and false rue anenome. The season moves along very quickly - I hope he be back in the woods to catch the next wave of ephemeral whileflowers!
Bloodroot seems to be the most fleeting of the spring ephemerals.... Unlike hepatica or spring beauty, which may bloom for a few weeks in any given location - most bootroots in any given location seem to bloom within a matter of a few days. The flowers last a few days at most and then are gone. If you mis them - well, there's always next year. How many times have I shown up hoping to find these flowers, only to be greeted by their leathery leaves, bereft of blooms.
So today I was lucky and stumbled into the woods at a time when the bloodroots were blooming like mad!
I spent a few hours in the woods, now lush with spring wildflowers (and lots of wild leek) - and I have a bit of material to comb through. But upon getting home wanted to be sure that I managed at least one passable bloodroot image - and this one seems to fit the bill.
More bloodroots and other spring ephemerals to follow n the next few days.
Last couple of hepatica from last week - time to go out and find some more!
My seventh attempt at a focus stacked studio macro photo and the first attempt simulating a natural setting.
I am not thrilled with this photo - after taking it I realized that the two hind legs are in an unnatural position and I also managed to damage the spider's right palps (the "boxing glove" like appendage.) I also did not get him cleaned up enough. But, it is still a step forward from my last attempt. This is a focus stack made from 153 separate images combined in Zerene Stacker.
Here are a few more photographs of spring wildflowers, taken earlier this week in Cass County, Michigan. The first four images are hepatica. These beautiful (although small) flowers can be found in a range of colors - as you can see in the photos which vary from purple to pink to creamy white.
The last photo is Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa) also known as Salt and Pepper. This flower vies with skunk cabbage as one of the earliest flowers to appear on the forest floor. Click on the images for larger files.
Hepatica and Harbinger of Spring are spring ephemerals - wildflowers that exploit the few weeks in spring when full sunlight reaches the forest floor. These plants emerge to soak up energy from the sun before the trees leaf out and the forest canopy shades the ground. Individual plants have just a few short weeks (or even days) to build up energy, store it in their root system, flower and seed, and then go dormant again until the next spring. Spring ephemerals emerge in certain sequences - some species appearing earlier than others.
The Heaptica is just getting started and still to come are Spring Beauty, Trout Lily, Trillium and many more. Check out the wildflower gallery for selected wildflower images from prior years. For blog posts about hunting wildflowers in southwest Michigan starting in 2006 - see the wildflower catergory.
I liked "Muddy March Leaves" (see the post before this one) enough to print it... and that kicks off the cycles of editing and re-editing the image. Here's the final image (click on it for a larger file):
And here is the original image, annotated to highlight what needed to be improved:
In making the first image, I made basic adjustments to the raw file and tiff, and then tonemapped the resulting image in Photomatix. I "dialed down" the settings in Photomatix to avoid an overly processed looked, and further muted the effect by blending the original and the tone mapped images as Photoshop layers. In this case I set the opacity of the tone mapped layer to 30%, so original layer remained the core of the image. The idea is simply coax out more detail and better manage the overall contrast levels, while preserving the natural look in the image.
In this case I decided that I had dialed down the tone mapping too much, so in the revised image I increased the opacity of the tone mapped layer considerably, which brought out a lot more contrast in the overall image.
Next, I wanted to make the reddish leaf stand out more. I masked out the leaf using the quick mask tool in Photoshop CS6 and then adjusted the saturation settings of each of the individual sliders, putting emphasis on the reds. I then inverted the mask and adjusted the sliders for the background, but muted colors and drew out the yellowish tones some more. As with the tone mapping process, I tried to tread lightly with the settings and only adjust the color tones by a few percent either way.
Lastly, the annoying dark area need to be addressed. I made another layer within Photoshop and set the blend mode to lighten. I then used the eyedropper to select a muddy yellow tone from the leaves that were washed with mud, and used the brush tool set to 10% opacity to wash the muddy tones over the darker leaves. With the layer blending set to lighten, the wash pretty much filled in only the darker leaves. I picked multiple shades of the muddy colors and painted randomly over the darker leaves to avoid creating a uniform "filled in" look over them. Finally, I ran the sponge tool set to desaturate, flow set to 10, over some of the bright areas of the pine needles to mute the colors that were still coming through.
I think that these few subtle changes really improves the image, and as a large print it has a lot more presence with these enhancements.
March...winter departs and spring approaches. The snow recedes and uncovers detritus and trash as it shrinks into dirty little piles. Trees stand bare. Fallen leaves lay sodden and lifeless on the ground, weighted down and muddy.
November is somewhat like March, but November has its great scorpionic charm - the triumph of darkness that heralds the difficult months ahead - the advance of winter that one can love as one can love an enemy that forces you to draw upon your strength to meet them.
But March brings no challenges - spring is coming .. but it's not yet here. Winter lingers on as mere dingy inconvenience...
What to photograph in March's flat light? Dead leaves? Dead leaves swirling in icy cold water? Dead leaves covered with drying mud? Yes, yes and yes...
Its a foolish undertaking but I try to understand March - the nascent spring, the life potential not quite realized but inevitable, the feeble remnant of winter. A mystery.