Bracken

Bracken

Brogenslade is a frost pocket, the cold rolls off the surrounding hillsides and chills the valley. June frosts are not unusual and the Bracken often gets ‘cut’. This young frond was tucked in under the canopy of some thorn and apple trees and chanced it’s luck before the plants in the open dared peek through.

Secret smoker?

Secret smoker?

Not smoke but water vapour evaporating from a mossy tree trunk on a cold frosty morning. The volume of water vapour was considerable, it was billowing from this sunlit Oak tree, I must have seen it just as the bright morning sun fell upon the soggy wet mosses and rapidly warmed them driving off the ‘steam’. This little phenomenon, was like so many natural treats only visible with backlight.

Oca – OK?

Oca – OK?

There’s a fashion at present for re-visiting South American vegetables that were rejected in favour of the Potato back in the day. Oca is an Oxalis, the leaves are a total give-away and when they flower it’s even more obvious. The tubers are on the small side, can be eaten raw or cooked up like tiny potatoes, the ones you would normally throw away. One of the top qualities of Oca is the variety of tuber colours, they range from yellow through gold to orange, pink and red. In my cold clay garden Oca does not perform well, a lot of work for a few tiddley tubers but in a sunny garden on good soil, who knows, they might be worth some space.  Folks who want to avoid eating Solanaceous plants will find Oca a good alternative to potatoes.

Oca roots, just harvested in November.

Oca roots, just harvested in November.

Teasel tease

Teasel tease

Green flowers on a teasel – not really, the seeds germinated in the seed head. All due to the moist warm Autumn the seedlings had enough moisture to develop to this stage without drying out. This was last year; I watched to see what happened and the seedlings all perished when the severe frosts arrived, probably dessication by freeze thaw rather than cold killed them. This was a six shot focus stack, just enough to get a decent depth of field and isolation from the background. This year we have the same phenomenon but in a different species, I’ll show you that one in a couple of days.

Teasel seeds germinated in the seed head.

Teasel seeds germinated in the seed head.

Short shoots

Short shoots

Not a brief photo session but a scientific term for the stubby little leaf bearing twigs that some conifers like Larch and Cedars have. It’s a clue to the antiquity and ancestry of Ginkgo, although deciduous and not needle bearing it’s a Gymnosperm along with that huge raft of evergreens like Yew, Juniper and all those boreal ‘Christmas tree’ types. Short shoots are the main leaf bearing twigs and they grow very, very slowly. Another very different twig type allows for extension growth, in the case of Ginkgo biloba these are rather random, unruly shoots that head off in all directions….a primitive character if there ever was one. Ginkgo is best know for two contrasting features; the most lovely maidenhair foliage that turns butter yellow in Autumn and outrageously stinky ‘fruits’ that sadly put some people off growing the tree, oh and there is a third less well known attribute, they produce motile sperms, that is ones that can actually swim their way to the female gamete. Sterile, quite tidy upright forms of Ginkgo have been selected that qualifies them as a good street ornamental, it’s good to see them, after all they’ve been  around for about 270 Million years.

Ginkgo short shoots

 

Ginkgo biloba against a backdrop of conifer foliage.

Ginkgo biloba against a backdrop of conifer foliage.

Phoenix tree to be?

Phoenix tree to be?

Almost a year ago I visited Knoll gardens just after the extreme gales. The massive Eucalyptus up by the pond had just blown over and Neil was debating what to do about it. I’m so glad Neil decided to allow the tree to stay and have the chance to become a Phoenix tree. Today I saw that although this magnificent specimen was well past 45% from vertical it is alive and well with no epicormic growth showing, I guess that means the tree is in such good health that it is carrying on regardless and has not been shocked into shooting from the trunk. The most striking features of this recumbent giant are the curtains of shredded bark and the swirly clusters of leaves on all the branches. This is an iphone photo with some treatment to simulate Australian bush: bright sky and a slightly unreal light.

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Candle snuff

Candle snuff

You can find them any time of year but mostly in late Autumn on dead branches and old coppice stumps. They tend to occur on wood that is already well rotted, other fungi having had the first munch. These are less demanding and can get nutrition from wood that is already part decayed. These fruiting bodies are supposed to be slightly bioluminescent but don’t them expect to see them glowing unless it is very dark or you have night vision equipment. Their latin name is Xylaria hypoxylon, they aren’t edible, no surprise there.

Stacked Lichen

Stacked Lichen

Getting in close is fun and revealing but depth of field can be a problem, especially with very three dimensional subjects. Poor light means wide apertures and lens physics makes the DOF shallower the closer you get, as result you can find yourself with just a few millimetres in focus….unless you use focus stacking.

The first of these images is compound shot of 12 exposures in rapid succession each with a different focal distance. The result is a very wide DOF, all the Lichen ‘fronds’ are in focus BUT in this case does it really make for a better picture?

With focus stacking on the left, without focus stacking on right

Content aware and the Lady’s Slipper

Content aware and the Lady’s Slipper

Deep in a shady mixed woodland in the Dolomites we found several glorious clumps of Cypripedium calceolus. Most of the flower heads were rather randomly orientated, there was not much we could do about that without excessive gardening, however, Photoshop has dealt well with the peripheral blooms that were ‘photobombing’ the shot. Content aware fill in CS6 is a very simple way to eliminate unwanted intrusions in this kind of image.

This is how the top left corner of the shot looked before Photoshop you can see parts of three different flowers intruding into the frame.

The process is as simple as roughly selecting each intrusion in turn with the lasso tool then edit/fill/content aware and let the defaults work their magic. Even the lower flower of the three that overlaps a leaf was removed very effectively with no trace.

 

Lady's Slipper Orchid

Lady’s Slipper Orchid

 

Fuchsia ‘Whiteknights Blush’

Fuchsia ‘Whiteknights Blush’

OK, so Fuchsias are out of fashion, but these aren’t those tarty. blowsy types so popular back in the 70’s. These are delicate little things just a whisker away from the ‘wild type’.

 

 

Galanthus nivalis

Galanthus nivalis

Galanthus nivalis

As the New Year begins to gain speed the Galanothophiles start to swarm – Snowdrop fever takes hold. Variants of the common Snowdrop change hands for  hundreds of pounds and photographers stalk these modest, yet delightful little flowers, after all what else is there to photograph in the depths of Winter.

This is the common, ‘wild’ Snowdrop and my favourite – hard to improve on.

Fertile

Fertile

This image came second in the IGPOTY Macro project 2013.

The fertile parts of Hemerocallis flowers have been photographed endlessly, they are bold and always fresh due to the short life of the flowers. I wanted to push the abstract approach as far as I could yet still have a recognisable image for those who know the plant.

Shading

Shading

New Forest Ponies find shade under Beech canopy. Swishing tails in nose to tail position keep flies away from eyes.

 

 

Web time

Web time

My photography is very seasonal, like everything at Furzehill Farm the seasons dictate what we feel like doing. So, I have a kind of innate calendar that I enjoy as the annual repetitions do the cycle. Just now its ‘Web time’. The first chilly nights reveal millions of cobwebs all bejazzled with tiny dew drops. For the rest of the year most spiders go about their business quietly and almost invisibly but the dew acts like developer on a latent image, suddenly they have been exposed. You need to be up early to enjoy this spectacle, by the time the sun is fully up in the sky they become invisible again.

Use a long, fast lens and ‘sniper’ techniques to pick out you target amongst the thousands of shining attention seekers

Still air is essential for photographing these wonderful structures, the slightest breeze and they dance around making sharp shots impossible. The low sun light of early mornings makes the webs sparkle but lens flare can steal the crispness from the scene so keep the lens hooded and slightly angled to the sun.

Enjoy finding the best shots, use the camera to home in on details and play around with exposure combinations that ‘shouldn’t work’ because with all that light and excitement going on the bokeh can be unpredictable so give serendipity a chance.

Teasels and cobwebs

Stachys palustris ‘Marsh Woundwort

Stachys palustris ‘Marsh Woundwort

Stachys sylvatica

Something of a troublesome weed in the wetter parts of my vegetable garden. The roots are tuberous, like small Chinese artichokes and new plants grow from any tiny piece left behind when weeding. I left some plants to flower in gaps where my cutting annuals failed this year.

Poppy buds again….

Poppy buds again….

Every year they have to be done. In the hope of doing a better job, I spend a few hundred frames on these fascinating hairy, wiggly packages of crumpled crepe.

Begonia Phoe’s Cleo

Begonia Phoe’s Cleo

A stunning foliage variety with a name that always looks miss-spelled to me. As you can see it does have flowers and they are rather nice in a subtle low key way. I pleasantly surprised when they opened up.

Geum ‘Mai Tai’

Geum ‘Mai Tai’

A delightful, new variety of  Geum that I have recently added to my collection. This plant came from Hayloft bare-root and is a testament to that time-honoured method of propagating and supplying perennials. The plant only arrived about a month ago as a nice fat root with a couple of shoots. Potted up, it rapidly grew away and is now flowering nicely in a pot.

Face up Hellebores – off with their heads

Face up Hellebores – off with their heads

It’s tempting to prop Hellebore flower heads up for photographic purposes – but that is misrepresenting the nature of the beast. Modern varieties hold their heads up better than my old types…. I find the best way to show them of is to blatantly chop and float them.

Hive bee visiting Celandine

Hive bee visiting Celandine

I find lesser Celandines (Ranunculus ficaria) challenging to photograph. They are remarkably bright, even with a diffuser the petals can easily burn out and it can be very hard to get sharpness in the shot. The bees were working the Celandines today, there’s not a lot else for them.

Frosty leaf-litter

Frosty leaf-litter

The fallen leaves make a monochrome collage of Red Oak, English Oak, Field Maple and Bracken. The frosty coating helps to contrast the several varieties from the browness.

New Forest Fall

New Forest Fall

I’ve been playing around with a mobile phone app. that does a pretty neat job of HDR – no need for a tripod. It’s fun when out walking to avoid the hassle of lugging round loads of camera gear and just enjoy the place and the simplicity of a fixed lens.

Salvia ‘Amistad’

Salvia ‘Amistad’

‘Amistad’ came to me from ‘Hayloft’ plants as a large plug-plant. It grew rapidly and when the flowers appeared I knew it was a winner….and so it came to pass! S. ‘Amistad’ won best plant introduction for Wyevale nurseries at the recent Four Oaks show.
I have no idea how hardy ‘Amistad’ will be, however it is striking enough to be worth propagating by cuttings each year for overwintering with protection.

Violas in pots

Violas in pots

This Spring I have gone heavily into Violas in Pots, about 20 varieties. These are all modern, ‘bedding’ strains from the big seed houses – I have found surprising variation in suitability for pots, some of them tending to stretch very quickly in the hot weather.

Violas in wire carrier

Violas in wire carrier

The Cow parsley in our Orchard is looking lovely, seemed like a good place for a shot of Sue carrying Violas in our old wire carrier

New Forest burning

New Forest burning

A controlled heath burn in Brogenslade. This is to encourage new growth of heather, gorse and Molinia, all for the benefit of the Ponies.

Woodland Dell primroses

Woodland Dell primroses

‘Woodland Dell’ is a garden cultivar that is intended to be an improved Primrose. It certainly as a lot going for it although it should not be planted in wild places for fear of hybridisation.

Primrose cutout

Primrose cutout

Cutout shots are invaluable for web pages and printed media, especially where images are small or where print quality is poor.

The joy of back-lighting

The joy of back-lighting

Our garden has the most amazing light about an hour before the golden hour. It’s all to do with the orientation of the valley and the effect the trees have on the sun as it gets low in the sky. Back-lighting transforms a subject, I love it.

Polyanthus (not Primroses)

Polyanthus (not Primroses)

People often ask what’s the difference. Polyanthus bear many flowers on a single stem. Primroses have many flower all with their own stem arising from the centre of the plant. It gets confusing because in warm weather Primroses can ‘pretend’ to be Polyanthus.

Late season Parsnips

Late season Parsnips

So weather proof, Parsnips withstand the worst that Winter can come up with….and at the first sniff of Spring the tops start to grow and they get whiskers on the roots….it’s time to lift them.

Echinops

Echinops

There is something about this flower that gets me coming back to it over and over – I love it and so do bees

Marvellous Mirabelles

Marvellous Mirabelles

Plums are wonderful fruits,  you can get at least three months of cropping if you have a selection of varieties. Here is the basket, along with some Red Currants are ‘Gypsy’ Mirabelles. Mirabelles or Myrobalan as they are also know are early plums, they can be ready as early as late June.