An unreliable memoir

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Moving

This blog has moved from WordPress.com to Blogger:

http://alancann.blogspot.co.uk/

I finally got fed up with not being able to find a template that does just what I want – simplicity (with a grey background!).


Wood Anemone

Wood Anemone

The Wood Anemones are past their best here now. Spring marches on, but slowly this year – our annual butterflies (that don’t overwinter as adults) are a month late – no County records for Orange Tip or Holly Blue yet.

Anemone nemorosa.

Nikon D7200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/400 ISO 400


Fronds

Fronds

Nikon D7200 Tokina 100mm f5.6 1/50 ISO 200


By The Dawn’s Early Light

By The Dawns Early Light

In the Golden Hour.

Nikon D7200 Tamron 17-50mm f16 17mm 1/60 ISO 100


Legs

Opilio canestrinii

Harvestman, Opilio canestrinii.
Nikon D7200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/250 ISO 100

Looking bashful:
Being bashful


Winter Colours

Chrysoperla carnea

The green lacewings are quite difficult to tell apart. Fortunately, Chrysoperla carnea still in its subdued winter colours is reasonably easy to spot (much harder later in the year when it’s green like all the others), especially if you get close enough to see the hairy veins on the wings.

Chrysoperla carnea


Early Doors

Early Doors

Frosty pre-dawn start this morning for a dawn chorus walk with the local wildlife group.

Nikon D7200 Tamron 17-50mm f11 17mm 1/160 ISO 100.


How did you spend your day?

Western Yellow Centipede

Too wet to do much outside today and there were a few domestic tasks that needed attention, so in the end I spent much of the morning counting the pores on the hind leg of a centipede. Heaven!

The Western Yellow Centipede is an interesting beastie, the UK’s longest at up to 70mm.

Western Yellow Centipede, Stigmatogaster subterranea.
Nikon D7200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/250 ISO 100

Western Yellow Centipede


Common Stork’s-bill

Common Storks-bill

Not so common any more.

Common Stork’s-bill, Erodium cicutarium.
Sony DSC-HX20V f3.5 5.9mm 1/800 ISO 100


Supercoiled!

Supercoiled

Supercoiling occurs when a structure such as these three elastic bands relieves the helical stress of overtwisting by twisting around itself.

Do you remember when,
Things were really hummin’,
Yeah, let’s twist again,
Twistin’ time is here!

 

Nikon D7200, EL Nikkor 50mm f2.8N (reversed), f5.6, 1/80 ISO 800, 12 image focus stack.


Field Wood-rush

Field Wood-rush

There seems to be a growing trend on Instagram for hi-key minimalism, including some rather nice arty “botanical” shots, so I thought I’d have a go. In the end, this macro image won out though, and my hi-key effort turned out to be not that hi-key after all. That’s OK, I’ll filter the s**t out of it on Instagram. Also known as “Good Friday Grass”, Luzula campestris was a week late around these parts this year, needing the first warm weather on Good Friday to get it going. Or maybe, Easter was too early… Anyhow, here comes the botany bit. How do I know this 10cm plant nodding at me from my sodden lawn and giving me another excellent reason not to mow it is a rush? Because:

Sedges have edges and
Rushes are round and
Grasses have nodes
all the way to the ground.

Field Wood-rush – Luzula campestris.
Nikon D7200 EL Nikkor 50mm f2.8 N f5.6 1/80 ISO 800, 5 image focus stack.

Field Wood-rush


The Centipede In The Bath

Lithobius melanops

Lithobius melanops.
Nikon D7200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/250 ISO 100


The Last Post

The Last Post

Nikon D7200 Tamron 17-50mm f9 34mm 1/500 ISO 100


Danish Scurvygrass

Danish Scurvygrass

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have noticed the white froth along all the major roads at the moment. If you pull off and investigate, it looks like this. Danish Scurvygrass was unknown inland 50 years ago, but with the ever increasing tonnage of salt risk-averse councils pour onto the roads each year this seaside plant has taken advantage of the niche we have built for it.

Danish Scurvygrass – Cochlearia danica.

Danish Scurvygrass


I’m feeling lucky

Im feeling lucky

I’m still trying to love the Nik Collection. One thing I have learned so far – it’s a huge time sink. My control freakery is making it difficult for me to give up the control I have learned over the years with Photoshop. To me, the filters seem to have a harsh, Instagram feel – or is that just Photoshop snobbery? On the other hand, I’m struggling to reconcile a package which has a filter called “I’m feeling lucky” (which is exactly what you think it is) with Ansel Adam’s idea that you should know the image you want before you pick up the camera.

However, I’ve never been able to achieve anything like an acceptable HDR result with Photoshop, so the Nik HDR plugin was attractive. I took a 5 stop series of this uninspiring composition in order to try it out. What do you think? I’m still not convinced.


An appeal on behalf of the Varied Carpet Beetle

Varied Carpet Beetle

The Varied Carpet Beetle Anthrenus verbasci, is experiencing a tough time. While in former years its famous “Woolly Bear” larvae munched their way through your winter woolies and Axminsters, now they can only blunt their mandibles on your acrylic Christmas jumpers and your polypropylene shag pile. The Varied Carpet Beetle Trust is asking everyone to put out small piles of wool in quiet corners of your home to encourage the Varied Carpet Beetle to breed. Even better, all home owners could consider buying a sheep – when they’re not providing a much needed banquet for your beetles they are also handy footstools and waste disposal units – and as a bonus they’ll give you a useful source of manure for your houseplants.

So please, give generously this April 1st and do everything you can to support the Varied Carpet Beetle.


Leiobunum blackwalli

Leiobunum blackwalli

I really like this shot, it’s so alien.

Harvestman, Leiobunum blackwalli.


Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

Focus stacking – the ideal occupation for a rainy day. Over the last year I’ve spent more and more time taking photographs of smaller and smaller objects. The problem with this is physics – when a lens magnifies an image so that it becomes larger than life-size (i.e. macro photography), the depth of field decreases. Focus stacking gets round that issue, but requires a set of well-aligned images, and for me that’s an issue because the creatures I like to photograph tend to fly away when you poke a lens in their eye. But not this 4mm long insect, sadly deceased on my windowsill when I opened the curtains this morning – the ideal object for stacking (from my perspective, not his)! I haven’t identified this one yet, beyond the fact that it’s a Myrid bug, but that’s another guilty pleasure – spending hours with dichotomous keys figuring out a Latin name. Rainy days? Bring ’em on.

Update: it’s a Birch Catkin Bug – Kleidocerys resedae.


# TwelveTrees: March

March

The TwelveTrees project.


An Easter Egg

An Easter Egg

You may have missed the news that Google has just made the Nik Collection free. (If you bought it in the last year you can get a refund. If you bought it before that, well that’s Capitalism for you.) So I’ve been playing around with it, and as you can see from this horribly over processed fake cyanotype, I need lots more practice. Although I would say in my defence that this comes from a fairly unpromising starting shot.


Off the mark

Brimstone Butterfly

I’m relieved to finally get my butterfly season off the mark with a Brimstone and a Peacock today. I feel I’ve been letting the side down!

Brimstone Butterfly, Gonepteryx rhamni


Oval

Oval

Oval (from Latin ovum, “egg”) a closed curve in a plane which loosely resembles the outline of an egg.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently photographing and processing complex natural shapes (all those crinkly bits!) so it’s a nice change to slip into a bit of minimalism. I fretted for a while that the black eclipse line didn’t line up with the equator of the egg before I thought about the problems of representing three dimensional shapes as two dimensional images. If you think about it, solving this problem tells you a lot about the geometry of an oval.

How minimal? This simple composition seems perfect for black and white conversion, but in the end the colour version showing the blue of the LED light won out SOOC. Happy Easter.


Eyes in the back of their heads

Salticus scenicus

Jumping spiders are a firm favourite with photographers and it’s easy to know why. Unlike most spiders, they stand their ground and stare you in the eye, sometimes even displaying to the camera using the elaborate visual language they employ if they happen to catch sight of their reflection in the lens. It’s hard to think of a more visually-oriented animal than this – and before you say “hawk”, remember that jumping spiders live in a 360 degree world and literally have eyes in the back of their head:

Salticus scenicus

It’s easy to think of the visual experience of these spiders as being like driving a car, with attention constantly switching from the read ahead, to the wing mirrors, to the rear view mirror. But that’s not how an insect nervous system works. Separate, quite autonomous ganglia process and integrate signals into one 360 degree picture – although with those huge front facing eyes staring at you though a macro lens it’s clear where most attention is fixed.

Zebra Spider, Salticus scenicus.


Hairyback

Springtail

Aww, look at his little Mohican! (And please bear in mind he’s only 4mm long.) Remind you of anyone?

Springtail, Tomocerus minor. 5 image focus stack.