A Well Designed Weed

I am a fan of great design. When something has a beautiful aesthetic design that is also completely functional – for me that’s the pinnacle of design. I know that to most homeowners, this weed is the bane of their existence, requiring bags of chemicals and funny-looking tools to tame. I have come to appreciate their amazing design – to see that from not only follows function, but that functionality can be truly beautiful.

It begins like this…

I have always marveled at the intricate detail of it's flower's structure.

I have always marveled at the intricate detail of it’s flower’s structure. So much geometry.

…and transforms into this…

The symmetrical seed ball is also filled with structure and geometry,

The symmetrical seed ball is also filled with structure and geometry, a nearly perfect circle made mostly of air.

To really appreciate the beauty and the geometry of the dandelion, you must get closer…

As you get closer you can see the almost engineered structure that holds the whole seed system together.

As you get closer you can see the almost engineered structure that holds the whole seed system together. Dimples as perfectly spaced as any man-made golf ball.

As you get even closer the structure of the seeds themselves becomes much more intricate than you might imagine…

Here you can begin to make out the structure of the seeds - quite intricate with symmetrical barbs holding seeds to center.

Here you can begin to make out the structure of the seeds – quite intricate with symmetrical barbs holding seeds to center.

Getting still closer, the center is revealed to be less like a golf ball with dimples and more like the ports of a futuristic space station…

Now we see that the holes in the center actually have structure too - they have small "latches" that hold onto those seeds until just the right gust of wind comes along.

Now we see that the holes in the center actually have structure too – they have small “latches” that hold onto those seeds until just the right gust of wind comes along.

Of course the flower is just the opening act. The seed itself has an ingenious design…

The seed of the dandelion suspended from the center of a pinwheel of very fine parachute. It not only keeps the seed airborne to scatter in the wind - it makes for a perfect landing with the seed down.

The seed of the dandelion suspended from the center of a pin wheel of very fine parachute. It not only keeps the seed airborne to scatter in the wind – it makes for a perfect landing with the seed down.

When I lived in the city I fought the good fight with the weed. I would even treat my lazy next-door-neighbor’s lawn to prevent more from invading my little green space. After all, if I failed to take care of my lawn I would be bringing a pestilence upon my neighborhood. When I moved to the woods I recall that my neighbors chuckled when they saw me unloading a bag of “weed-n-feed”. They gently told me that what I was calling a lawn was really about 10% bluegrass filled in with wild clover, dandelions and any other ground cover that would grow out in the open. Over the course of the next few days I thought about the deer and birds and finally about my own well water and decided to embrace the idea of a wild lawn with no chemicals added. That first summer I learned to appreciate the dandelion and over the years I have explored it with better and better glass.

The dandelion in all it's glory.

The dandelion in all it’s glory.

I have come to see the majesty in that well designed weed.

It’s a Small, Small World

Early spring in the Ozarks is a mixed bag. Soon the hills will erupt in color, but not just yet. The trees are still bare but budding. Sometimes if you want to see what’s going on you have to get closer – much closer.

I have been getting up close and personal with nature – collecting shots with my Leica Macro lens. Sometimes when you get close you see beauty or complexity in the most mundane things. Color emerges, structure is revealed, discoveries are made.

The dandelion is far more complex that it appears from the seat of my mower deck. The center is almost crystalline

The dandelion is far more complex that it appears from the seat of my mower deck. The center is almost crystalline.

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These cover the fields all over this area – they look like a floating purple cloud from a distance. Up close they are more leaves than flowers, but those flowers are so delicate – less than an eighth of an inch across.

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I love johnny-jump-ups, and these remind me of those but much, much smaller. This tiny violet is less than a half-inch across.

From eye level this looks like moss on a rock. When you get down to ground level it is much more complex than expected.

From eye level this looks like moss on a rock. When you get down to ground level it is much more complex than expected.

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These hyacinths are at the end of their cycle. They mysteriously appeared a couple of years ago after my neighbor encouraged me to plant bulbs in the remains of an old cistern.

I don't know what these are, but they look a lot like some I have seen in my neighbor's flower beds. They are new this year. Thank you garden fairy!

I don’t know what these are, but they look a lot like some I have seen in my neighbor’s flower beds. They are new this year. Thank you garden fairy!

 

Here's a closer shot of that blue flower - there is so much structure to these flowers when you get close.

Here’s a closer shot of that blue flower – there is so much structure to these flowers when you get close.

I think this is some form of bluet - it measures about a quarter inch across.

I think this is some form of bluets – it measures about a quarter-inch across.

I'm pretty sure this is southern bluet. Tiny and white.

I’m pretty sure this is southern bluets. Tiny and white.

Is this the face of an owl? Nah, it's just the shell of a black walnut - it was probably a winter  meal for a squirrel

Is this the skull of an owl? Nah, it’s just the shell of a black walnut – it was probably a winter meal for a squirrel.

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The field around the Stone House is a mix of blue grass, clover, and low ground cover like this. An inch-long feather rests atop the ground cover.

I don't know what this is, but it is very tiny - smaller than a head of a pencil. It is so small that it's color is not even visible until you get very close to the ground.

I don’t know what this is, but it is very tiny – smaller than a head of a pencil. It is so small that its color is not even visible until you get very close to the ground.

I see these every year, they are low - under the grass. This one seems to have extra petals.

I see these every year, they are low – under the grass. This one seems to have extra petals. I love its star-shaped foliage.

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This is ice – water frozen in the bird bath.

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Daffodil buds emerging.

Water condensing inside the stalk of a daffodil.

Water condensing inside the stalk of a daffodil.

Getting these shots required me to get down in the dirt and undergrowth. Getting closer is not always easy, but is usually worth it.

February on Film – Roll #2 – 1983 Olympus OM-G

So it’s almost April and I am just getting around to posting my February roll of film. If you want to know more about my roll-a-month project you can check out the first post in this series January on Film. My delay isn’t laziness, it’s the difficulty I am having getting film processed. I have been shooting B&W and to get it developed I need to go to a camera store in a Fayetteville, Arkansas – about 45 miles away. They mail it out to Little Rock where they have a store that still processes B&W. Then they mail the roll back to the store and I have to make the drive to pick it up. It’s not expensive if you don’t count the 180 miles of driving it takes to get a roll in and back.

In February I shot my Olympus OM-G – or OM-20 as it is known outside of the US. It was one of the earlier consumer grade OM cameras. The sound of the mirror flopping was a bit disconcerting at first, I turn the sounds off on my modern camera. I came to like it – the mechanical feel of it. I have a motor drive for this camera – I haven’t used it yet but I can only imagine the sound and fury of that mirror flopping in hyper-drive. For this first roll on the OM-G I shot almost all of these shots with the kit lens – a 50mm 1.8 – a pretty fast piece of glass. On my digital camera I like to shoot with the aperture wide open so that the subject is isolated and the background is either blurred or filled with colored disks – bokeh to us shutterbugs. I love bokeh, creamy bokeh, sparkly bokeh – I never shoot a closed down aperture unless I am shooting the moon. On aperture priority on a modern camera this is pretty easy to pull off. On a 30 manual camera with just a simple light meter, it’s not as cut and dry. You have to set the shutter speed too. I did not know it when I shot this roll, but there is a remedial “preview” button that lets you see what the image through the lens looks like with the aperture held open to the setting you select – it does nothing to give you an idea of what will happen if you change the shutter speed.

I shot this roll on a sunny cold Saturday morning – there was frost everywhere. I specifically shot things that had a strong color to see what was left when you take the color away. I also shot some things that had surfaces that light rested on. I did take a couple of shot with my long zoom – 90-230mm. The film was Kodak T-Max 100 speed.

The fun of shooting film is that you don’t really know what you have until after you drive that 180 miles and fork over 6 bucks to see the finished product. I wouldn’t say these were the best shots I’ve taken. Overall everything is a bit softer than I usually like, but there were a couple of shots I really liked.

50mm f1.8

There was actually frost on this pumpkin. I do love the way the greys in black and white film print. So many shades of grey. It's tough to pull this off in photoshop.

There was actually frost on this pumpkin. I do love the way the greys in black and white film print. So many shades of grey. It’s tough to pull this off in Photoshop.

A close up of the frosty pumpkin - I love how it disappears into the darkness of the shadows.

A close up of the frosty pumpkin – I love how it disappears into the darkness of the shadows.

These dried leaves were still hanging on in mid February. Again shot at f1.8.

These dried leaves were still hanging on in mid February. Again shot at f1.8.

Shot with the 50mm wide open. I love the way that lens creates those circles outside of the area in focus, I hadn't imagined that the effect would be so interesting in B&W.

Shot with the 50mm wide open. I love the way that lens creates those circles outside of the area in focus, I hadn’t imagined that the effect would be so interesting in B&W.

Another shot of icicles on frozen branches. The sunlight almost illuminates the icicles. The smoother bokeh isolates them, making it easier to see what the image actually is.

Another shot of icicles on frozen branches. The sunlight almost illuminates the icicles. The smoother bokeh isolates them, making it easier to see what the image actually is.

Pine needles in the cold sunshine. Very shallow DOF

Pine needles in the cold sunshine. Very shallow DOF

Judy let me take this snap - her smile is so bright in B&W. The dappled light on her face is the result of the sunlight through the leaves above us.

Judy let me take this snap – her smile is so bright in B&W. The dappled light on her face is the result of the sunlight through the leaves above us.

Vivitar 90-230mm f4.5

I mostly shot this to see how much the contrast of the white platter and the dark old wood would play off each other. One thing I love about B&W is that in the absence of color, the sunlight seems so strong on surfaces.

I mostly shot this to see how much the contrast of the white platter and the dark old wood would play off each other. One thing I love about B&W is that in the absence of color, the sunlight seems so strong on surfaces.

Ceramic bird feeders in the sunshine - I had the aperture wide open and enjoyed playing with the DOF

Ceramic bird feeders in the sunshine – I had the aperture wide open and enjoyed playing with the DOF.

Of course – I had to try to get a bird shot in.

I had to try to get one bird shot - I used an old zoom. It was tough to focus a something that moved so fast in the old-school focussing screen. I like the soft look of it.

It was tough to focus a something that moved so fast in the old-school focussing screen. I think I like the soft look of it.

I’ve actually shot 2 rolls in March – I need to get them over to Fayetteville to see what I’ve got. I shot the first roll before I picked these up and shot mostly with the zoom. The second roll was shot with an OM-1 with some new glass I recently acquired so I’m anxious to see what I can do with it. Honestly, I think I am starting to regain the feel for using these old cameras, it’s like muscle memory. It’s been almost 30 years since I shot one so I was more than rusty. More importantly, focusing on the fundamentals makes me more aware of what I am doing on my modern camera – I am refining some of the settings I use, I am taking more care in focusing, I am shooting more like film.

Point of Interest

I don’t get my gear ready and think, “Wow, I hope I can find some leaves in the ice today!” I tend to come upon things that capture my interest. I have always been drawn to transparency and light. Anything with complimentary colors makes me take a second look. Texture intrigues me.

Sunday I thought I should head over to the mass of daffodils on my hillside when I encountered this – the ice from the top of the birdbath, cast aside and melting into the grass. It stopped me for almost an hour.

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I forgot the daffodils, I know they will still be there on the next sunny day. You have to appreciate ice while it’s here. It melts is fast and then it is gone forever.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

You know the song.

Since Thanksgiving you’ve heard it a hundred times. Listening to the lyrics it’s not explicitly about Christmas, but it is from a movie we watch during the holidays. The list in the song is not my list. I’m not big on whiskers – I prefer the rest of the kitten. I don’t think I need mittens when using a kettle – it’s all a bit disjointed. Lyrically it’s genius – in practical use it’s not my cup of tea.

So what would my list be? I decided for my 100th post to share the list of things that inspire me behind the lens.

Raindrops on…

Anything.

Naked Lady in the rain

Naked Lady in the rain.

You can see my house inverted in this raindrop

You can see my house inverted in this raindrop.

A newly opened dogwood drenched in the rain

A newly opened dogwood drenched in the rain.

Lilac buds shining after a shower

Lilac buds shining after a shower.

I love redbuds - the first color of spring

I love redbuds – the first color of spring.

I’m not so much into bright copper kettles, but I am fascinated with…

Rust.

This is the rust and patina on my copper fire pit.

This is the rust and patina on my copper fire pit.

This hay rake was in my woods when I bought the house - every surface is beautifully rusted.

This hay rake was in my woods when I bought the house – every surface is beautifully rusted.

This padlock was on the jail in Midas Nevada. The lock spoke to me more than the shack it was attached to.

This padlock was on the jail in Midas Nevada. The lock spoke to me more than the shack it was attached to.

I don’t even know what schnitzel is – it sounds odd to me. I know it’s odd to love…

Dandelions.

I like the delicate structure and I like to find a way to look at them in new ways

I like the delicate structure and I like to find a way to look at them in new ways.

The structure of the actual flower is pretty amazing even before it goes to seed.

The structure of the actual flower is pretty amazing even before it goes to seed.

The substructure is so intricate. I shot this with a manual macro lens from the 70s.

The substructure is so intricate. I shot this with a manual macro lens from the 70s.

I grew up in the desert so the idea of sleigh bells is foreign to me, but door bells make me think of home. I have a strong bent towards…

Sentiment and Kitsch.

I love kitsch and I love it unusual places. I have had lawn flamingoes in the front lawn of every home I have ever owned.

I love kitsch and I love it unusual places. I have had lawn flamingoes in the front lawn of every home I have ever owned.

Keys

These are my Grandpa’s keys. I love shooting things that belonged to someone special.

Purple Glass

My Grandma taught me about purple glass, I love to shoot things that are transparent and have color.

Apricot Pit

My great-grandfather carved this out of a peach pit. I love the surfaces of handmade things like this.

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. I like snow, but not so much for its photographic opportunities. I prefer…

Spring Flowers

First color on the ground often before the grass starts to green up.

Crocus – the first color on the ground, often before the grass starts to green up.

Cherry Blossoms open skyward

Cherry Blossoms opening skyward captivate me.

Daffodils have amazing color before we even notice them

Daffodils have amazing color before we even notice them.

Lilacs open as the sun hits them - here for too brief a time.

Lilacs open as the sun hits them – here for too brief a time.

My garden fairy planted a few of these a couple of years ago in a spot were there was once a cistern. I love them.

Hyacinths – My garden fairy planted a few of these a couple of years ago in a spot were there was once a cistern. I love them.

Cream colored ponies and dogs biting. I’m not too far off here.  I love the company of…

Dogs.

Sunshine is my Goldendoodle. He’s a lovely goofball and is a bit camera-shy, I like to catch him when he is unaware of me.

These are my brother’s pointers – I shot this one Christmas when Vegas had a rare snow. I loved the sheer joy the pups exuded as they ran in the frosted desert.

These are my two female terriers. They hate each other’s guts unless they are sleeping – they are precious when they sleep.

This is a pup I met on a trip – I love that he was interested in my camera. Curiosity is a favorite thing to capture in an animal.

Zipper was my first Kayak dog – he was so relaxed on the water.

Brown paper packages, blue satin sashes, silver white winters – there’s a lot of color in this song. I love color and am drawn to vivid colors. One color draws me more than all the others.

I shoot anything that is…

Orange.

The color of this car drew me to it - hundreds of cars and this was my favorite.

The color of this car drew me to it – hundreds of cars and this was my favorite.

I'm pretty sure I chose this hard drive for that orange bumper.

I’m pretty sure I chose this hard drive for that orange bumper.

In the shop where I work I see lots of color, but this set of mixers caused me to go get my camera.

In the shop where I work I see lots of color, but this set of mixers caused me to go get my camera.

These Tiger Lilies grow wild around the Ozarks. I have them pretty thick in the springs right at the edge of the woods

These Tiger Lilies grow wild around the Ozarks. I have them pretty thick in the spring – right at the edge of the woods.

This sunset was so vivid that I missed an appointment when I stopped to shoot it.

This sunset was so vivid that I missed an appointment when I stopped to shoot it.

Now that winter is here and it’s a grey day, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so … bad.

Requiem for Fall

The color here in the Ozarks is almost completely gone. Sometimes you’ll find a dogwood deep in a hollow – but the show is essentially over. Here are the last of the stragglers and my attempt to find something interesting or beautiful without a lot of color.

This hickory was one of the last holdouts. More leaves up than down.

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Today even these are on the ground.

Some maples hung on in spite of the recent wind and rains, sometimes the sky was visible right through them.

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Today the maples have all joined the oaks on the forest floor.

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A crunchy carpet of tans and golds a foot thick in spots is all that remains.

Driving west I saw this field full of something fluffy. The sunlight and wind made it dance.

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The puffs were actually quite delicate – like dandelion seeds. Even so they hung on in the wind.

On my way back to town I stopped by to see this old friend – fully exposed amidst its now barren trees. It makes me think of that transition from Fall to Winter.

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It’s just holding on to what little color it has left.

Fall is fleeting and I miss it already.

Ginkgo Stinko

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I was born with no sense of smell. None, nada, zilch. If someone is using a solvent like acetone or something, I can taste something in the back of my throat – but that taste is the same as someone spraying Fabreeze or perfume. If I walk into a restaurant or even into a house where someone is cooking, I cannot identify what kind of food they are making, I just get a sense of moisture in the air. Italian, pot roast, Mexican, Thanksgiving dinner – all the same.

Bath and Body Works is a mystery to me, so is Yankee Candle. I make my choices by the colors of the products – will it look good in my home? Friends are always putting things under my nose and saying how good they smell. I don’t want to make them feel bad so I just sniff away getting nothing from the experience except that there was some sort of sharing going on. That’s thoughtful and I appreciate it.

If I were picking a sense to lose, it would be smell. I hear people talk about bad smells more than good ones. It seems smell can really set people off. I hear complaints about body odor, chemicals, the chicken plant down the road. I am happily oblivious.

Sometimes I get to find the beauty in something that stinks, like the ginkgo tree.

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Last month I read a post by Mrs. Fringe about autumn in New York City. She talked about the fruit dropped from this stunning tree in terms of it’s vomit-like aroma.

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Here in Eureka Springs the ginkgo is one of the last trees to show off it’s color. We have several located downtown right near the post office. For years I have headed there late in October to take in the glorious color of the last of the fall.

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Every year I see scads of photogs milling around the fading maples on the other side of the street. I seem to be the only one who loves this tree.

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I heard a friend mention the annoying fruit – there is sooooo much of it on the ground in the late fall and they are not pretty. Apparently this friend didn’t see the need to mention that the fruit stinks. My friends always forget that I cannot smell anything.

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So every year I wander through that fruit without worry, with no clue that I am crushing fruit that smells to high heaven underneath my shoes.

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This year I took a friend with me to shoot this wonder. As I stood in the grass shooting upwards I heard her exclaim, “That smell, there is dog crap somewhere nearby, and lots of it!” You see I had forgotten all about that informative blog by Mrs. Fringe and was once again blissfully unaware of the stink I was in.

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I kind of like my fragrance free world.