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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Frosty Bubbles During the 2018 Deep Freeze

You may want some hot chocolate after reading this blog :)

Frozen bubble at sunrise 1/640 sec F/4.5 @31mm ISO 400

The first week of 2018 will be noteworthy by the week long deep freeze that gripped much of the eastern US. We got a bit of snow here in ENC measuring about 3" or 7.5cm for my metric readers. After the snow landed, it stayed... and stayed. Temps struggled to reach the freezing mark during the day and crashed overnight into the single digits and low teens.

What does one do when temps are so cold? Go out and make frozen bubbles of course! These images were taken over two mornings when the temps dipped to single digits F. On the morning of January 6th, 4F or -16C and the morning of January 7th, 1F or -17C. 

1/2500 sec F4 @ 32mm ISO 400

1/1000 sec F/5 @ 35mm ISO 400

I wrote a post about my first attempt at capturing frozen bubbles in 2014. Then a year later wrote a second one where I talked about the bubble solution I used and outlined some photography tips. To read more about how to photograph your own frosty bubbles check out these two posts:

Sighting of a UFO - Unidentified Frozen Object

Shooting Frosty Bubbles

In the image below you can see the feather crystallization.

1/2500 sec F/5.6 @ 35mm ISO 400

Shot with the sun in directly behind. 1/1000 sec F/4 @35mm ISO 400
All the images here were taken during the day expect the one below. I saw a picture of a frozen bubble on Instagram taken at night so I had to try it. The setup for this one was to bury a LED flashlight in a bowl of snow. I covered the flashlight with enough snow to get just the right amount of light to illuminate the bubble on top.

The Blue Crystal. 2 sec F/9 @28mm ISO 200 with tungsten WB ~3200K

So the next time it gets really cold outside, go out and try to capture some frosty bubbles. Have fun them come back inside for some coffee or hot chocolate.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Field Trip to Green Swamp for Summer Wildflowers

June 2, 2016

Early morning pond reflections

It's early June. Prime time for the late spring/early summer wildflowers to be blooming. My destination was to a favorite stomping ground the Green Swamp Natural Preserve. I left home before sunrise with foggy, overcast conditions. I was hoping this weather would hold once I reached my destination. As I turned onto Hwy 211, the foggy conditions were starting to fade. I knew as the morning progressed, the fog would lift completely changing the entire feel of the landscape, so I needed to act fast to capture this mood in the land of the longleaf pines.

First stop was Big Island, a large savanna across the road from the parking area for Green Swamp. I stopped along the side of the road, jumped the ditched with gear in hand, and waded through the tall, wet grass to get a good view of the landscape. What first caught my eye was a ocean of white flowers.... blooms of the Venus Flytrap or Dionea muscipula. There were literally thousands of flowers hiding amongst the tall grass. It is hard to capture the real in person view, but here's my attempt to capture the scene.
Big Island with Venus flytraps in bloom

Foggy conditions often provide a mystical mood to a landscape. I turned from where I was standing shooting the Venus flytraps and captured this scene through the trees.

Big Island on a foggy morning

After spending some time here taking in the beauty, I headed to the parking lot at the pond and hit the main trail. My goal was to hike to Shoestring Savanna, which is the first savanna past the boardwalk, and where you can find many floral delights. It didn't take long to spot more Venus flytraps in bloom. I found a nice one growing in a patch of red sphagnum moss.

Dionaea muscipula

I continued down the trail and found more goodies including orchids! There is a side trail to the left of the main trail that boarders a pocosin. Here you find a ecotone or a transition zone between the open longleaf savanna and the shruby pocosin, which is essentially a evergreen thicket. With less woody competition in the ecotone, herbaceous plants flourish. 

Just in a short walk I found quite a number of rosebud orchids or Cleistesiopsis divaricata in prefect shape. The colour range for this species is usually light to deep pink, but a very pale white form occasionally occurs.

Cleistesiopsis divaricata
 A pair of Cleistesiopsis divaricata
Cleistesiopsis divaricata

A pale white flowered form

 I couldn't resist taking a shot from the back side.

backside view

Calopogon tuberosus
While admiring these fine orchids, I glimpsed something pink in the distance. I took a closer look and it was a single grass pink orchid, Calopogon tuberosus. One flower was open with few more closed buds above. This species usually opens a single flower at a time starting from the bottom then progresses up. It is our largest Calopogon species in terms of flower size.  

The uppermost petal on the flower is covered with hairs resembling pollen-bearing anthers found in other species. This mimicry attracts visiting bumble bees, which are the primary pollinator. For a complete discussion about the interesting pollination technique in Calopogons, check out Jim Fowler's blog. 

This orchid is one of our most photogenic species. It occurs in the coastal plain growing in pine savannas, meadows and along wet roadsides, and in mountain seeps and bogs. The colour ranges from pink to deep magenta to solid white. 

While I was excited to see this one, I knew a place along a roadside about 20 minutes away where there would be dozens in bloom. That spot I will talk about in another posting.

Not far from the orchids I found quite a few rough-leaved loosestrife or Lysimachia asperulifolia, a showy wildflower, and rare endemic to the Carolinas. This plant is unmistakable. The pointed leaves are arranged in a whorl usually in 3's sometimes 4 up the stem. Atop the stem is the inflorescence, which is a raceme of bright yellow, star-shaped flowers interspersed with green bracts. Nearly always found in ecotones between longleaf pine savannas and pone pine pocosins.

Lysimachia asperulifolia in bud

Lysimachia asperulifolia in flower

I could have spent more time here, but I had another destination to reach before this day was done. One last view before heading back to the vehicle and onto the next stop....

A window view of the savanna

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Field Trip to Shaken Creek - August 2015

Shaken Creek Field Trip
Pender County, NC
August 8th, 2015
Property Owned by The Nature Conservancy

Camassia Slopes Field Trip
Northampton County, NC
April 7th, 2015
Preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy
- See more at:
Camassia Slopes Field Trip
Northampton County, NC
April 7th, 2015
Preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy
- See more at:

 Sarracenia Savanna

"This word is so beautiful, that I can hardy believe it exists." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The second weekend in August took me to a wonderful North Carolina natural preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy(TNC) called Shaken Creek. We had great weather with overcast skies, which made for ideal lighting for photography.  Although it was warm, it was cooler than a typical August day.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Camassia Slopes Wildflower Field Trip

Camassia Slopes Field Trip
Northampton County, NC
April 7th, 2015
Preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy 

My friend Jim Fowler(you can ck out his blog here) sent me an email about this field trip. It is a place I'd been wanting to visit for years and for good reason. The preserve contains wildflower species considered rare in North Carolina including sessile Trillium(Trillium sessile), purple larkspur(Delphinium tricorne) and three birds orchid(Triphora trianthophora). Camassia lily(Camassia scilloides), for which the preserve is named, grows abundantly in hardwood forests and is rare east of the Appalachians. In all, more than two dozen species of endangered, threaten, or rare species are found at Camassia Slopes. 

Sessile Trillium (Trillium sessile)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review of Jim Fowler's new book about the Green Swamp

March 29, 2015

Jim's book "Orchids, Carnivorous Plants, and Other Wildflowers of the Green Swamp, North Carolina" is not just a field guide to the flora of the Green Swamp Preserve and the Greater Green Swamp area, but an introduction to the history of this wonderful biologically diverse region. He answers the question what is the Green Swamp, describes in detail the characteristics that make it unique, talks about how fire is critical to the diversity of longleaf pine savannas, and current pressures that effect the future of the preserve.

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