Sunday, August 31, 2014

Beautiful exoskeleton

Part of a Saturday project was to photograph this exoskeleton of a Murex pecten, or Venus Comb Murex.  The remains are so striking, I wish I could have seen the animal in life.  It is a type of sea snail, found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.  This one is a bit over 15 cm long.

Another task was to shoot the coral sponge below.  I'll have to update with a more specific ID.  It may look like fabric, but it's not - it is rigid and very fragile! Well, not as fragile as I feared:

And here we go! It is an example of Eupectella aspergillum, or Venus Flower Basket. So, we have a linguistic commonality of these two unrelated creatures! Venus Comb (snail) and Venus Flower Basket (sponge).

A terrific nature photographer, Socrate Gentile, helped to identify this when I posted it on the Fred Miranda Forum. He also provided a link to a video which I highly recommend. The materials use and formation of the coral is fascinating, as is the way it functions as optical fibers to "pipe" bioluminescence emitted by micro-organisms on the seabed a kilometer and more below the surface of the ocean. The whole coral becomes a glowing organism, perhaps to lure food, and (my own speculation) perhaps also to draw the symbiotic shrimp which enter as a male-female pair when young, then are unable to leave, and create their own brood from within the sponge.

Do watch the video! By the way, on Fred Miranda, Socrate uses the screen name Shasoc, and mine is Photon.

I may have to try harder to make noticeable use of the fiber optic properties of this Venus Flower Basket!

From the essay attached to the YouTube video:

"Euplectella aspergillum, also known as the "Venus flower-basket" is one of the most unique and interesting lifeforms on earth. This is a truly alien-like organism as this species of sponge has a silica exoskeleton which forms an intricate cage, held together by protein filaments only a few nanometers across. In effect, this animal is almost entirely made of a nano-structured glass."


Friday, August 29, 2014

Box turtle on the run

Turtles are not exactly fast movers on land, but when they decide it's time to dive into the water, a seemingly static scene can suddenly become a brief moment of motion.  This one pitched a (disdainful?) glance back at me, as he or she left the sunny perch on an overflow conduit.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

iPhone does Stratocumulus

Sometimes, on a day and at a location where one would not expect any interesting photo opportunities, things just pop up. I try to keep an eye on the sky, without bumping into hazards or tripping over my own feet. In a parking lot, this view to the north was saved for my by the iPhone in my pocket.

The sun was almost at the horizon (which couldn't be seen). In the few minutes that it took me to get to my DSLR and zip to a location with a view of the western sky, the unusual cloud formations had dissipated, but rich sunset colors somewhat made up for that. Wires intruded on all the best areas of pink clouds, so I embraced them as part of the composition.

Call me a tree hugger.  I guess I hug them with my camera lenses.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day trip to Wilmington, NC

A signature feature of Airlie Gardens, between Wilmington NC and Wrightsville Beach, is the Airlie Oak, which dates to 1545. There are flowers and beauty all around, but this huge Live Oak is such a commanding presence that I had to photograph it, no matter how many others have done the same before me. This was my first chance to see Airlie.

Surrounded by all the healthy plant life, I was attracted to a stark, dead trunk.

The Spanish moss hanging from the Live Oaks makes all kinds of decorative patterns.

This is a section of the underside of tangled roots of a fallen, dead tree.

There are gorgeous sculpted insects throughout the Airlie grounds, often perched in very natural looking poses - though they are considerably larger than real-life varieties!

This view from a small marsh, across manicured grass to Bradley Creek in the background was one of my favorite tableaux of the day, as it seemed, aside from the grass, to have been left alone.

The metal sculptures are sometimes hidden within the plantscape. They are not painted, rather they are anodized and textured, taking on colors when sunlight direction is suitable. Find the (live) lizard:

The lizard may be easy to see in the photo, but it wasn't easy to spot on location. On the other hand, this butterfly was hard to miss.

I should have carried a long "bird lens" with me, but I didn't, so the best I could do with this heron was a sort of environmental portrait.

The Bottle Chapel is a tribute to artist Minnie Evans, designed and built after her death by artist Virginia Wright-Frierson.

The Airlie Butterfly House is a pleasant stop. I did not have a macro lens with me, but caught a few shots with a "plain" 50 mm. Here is one.

A dragonfly sculpture was much easier to approach, and also much larger, allowing detail shots without special equipment.

Leaving Airlie Gardens, we drove into and across Wilmington, and parked a few blocks from the Cape Fear waterfront. From there, we set out on foot again.

The Bellamy Mansion Museum, on Market Street, is an antebellum building that was completed on the eve of the Civil War. It has been largely restored, and exhibits art works of architectural and historical interest. Above its third floor is a rooftop room known as Belvedere. There is indeed a beautiful view in all directions. I'll show just one.

The slave quarters, later servant quarters, were relatively comfortable for their day, though of course compared to the mansion...well, there is no comparison. After emancipation, many of the slaves stayed on as artisans. I can only hope that there was some satisfaction for such skilled workers in the quality of what they were creating. The idea of accepting enslavement of human beings is pretty much beyond my ability to imagine.

Leaving the Bellamy, we headed toward the Cape Fear River. Sometimes, interesting sights show up where you least expect them. Apparently cacti can do very well in a temperate, humid climate. These were in a street corner garden of a residential neighborhood.

Here's a peek at the usually overlooked side of the Cape Fear River Walk, at what is currently its southern end. There are plans to expand it beyond the current mile length.

A few feet away from the scene above:

Sometimes unmaintained buildings have an odd kind of beauty, at least to me.

The USS North Carolina Battleship lies directly across the Cape Fear River from downtown Wilmington, so it is a commonplace sight. However, I had never been in the area at sunset, and decided to see what I could catch from a pier location chosen so that the sun would drop past gun emplacements.

With the light disappearing, we vanished from Wilmington and headed home.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mandevilla and liriope in bloom

Soaked by rain, the wild liriope went crazy with purple flowers. Thanks to a post by an anonymous commenter, I now know a bit of the relationship, in Greek mythology, between Liriope and Narcissus. Narkissos was her son, and was transformed into the eponymous flower after his short, self-adoring life.

A neighbor does a beautiful job of cultivating flowers, like this Mandevilla. A nice perk for all who live nearby!


The birds, the bees, and Japanese beetles

While hoofing it around Seal Harbor, Maine, I happened upon a compact scene that definitely called for a macro lens. Unfortunately, all I had with me was my 24-105 zoom, so I got as close as I could and cropped later.

At first it was just a pair of Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) mating, but then things got a little more interesting.


Tides, thistles, and whale clouds

On our final full day in Maine, I decided to return to the Thunder Hole section of the coastline and do some more "playing" with the rocks and surf.

 Sometimes it's fun to just pick a spot for awhile and watch the hydraulic developments.

As we moved down the coast just a bit, the topography offered nice little surprises. The diversity of plant life in this tide pool was remarkable. The first photo places it in context, but I also rather like the abstract isolation of the second one.

I love the curved coastline, the red rocks, green trees, blue water, and textured sky. Sadly, I can't live right at that location, but I think it will live in me for quite a while.

After the raw power of the ocean against the cliffs, I found a nice soft contrast in a thistle, a dead tree, and sparse clouds.

Later in the day, I revisited a pier in Bar Harbor, where low tide allowed me to clamber around the slippery rocks that collect seaweed, barnacles, and other colorful stuff. I used my old friend the tilt/shift lens (17mm) to get the perspective I wanted.

For a little while, the clouds mimicked a whale with impressive flukes.