Tag Archives: macrophotography

Gratitude: Solitude

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Today was a weird day. This is a weird picture. 

The picture and the title don’t really go together, except inasmuch as you can see the corner of my office—bookcase and window—reflected in the eye, and my office is where I most often enjoy my solitude.

Some people have difficulty being alone, and some people have difficulty not being alone. I can cheerfully spend entire days without human company; it takes at least 3 or 4 hours of solitude a day to recharge my batteries. It takes a while to really settle into that quiet place, so I’m grateful for solitude.

This lovely blue eye belongs to my friend Scotty, who always shares my blog posts. I still don’t know how you light a person’s eyeball so you can really see all the detail of the iris in a macro image.

 

Monday Gratitude: Class Consciousness

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This macro image obviously has nothing to do with this blog post. I’m sure I could concoct some convoluted metaphor that would tie together tiny bugs and class stratification in America, but I won’t lay all that weight on this poor little bug’s exoskeleton.

[Artists] are acquainted with all classes of society, and for that very reason dangerous.

Had to do a little digging on this quote, which has been attributed, in a slightly altered form, to Joe McCarthy and Queen Victoria, but apparently it was actually written to Victoria by her uncle, Leopold, the King of Belgium. He concludes that artists are “hardly ever satisfied” and spending too much time around them gives one ennui.

Ennui is probably not a side effect of art, but of having too much money and not enough to do with oneself. This reminds me of a passage from an Louisa May Alcott book, An Old Fashioned Girl, in which wealthy Fanny, who has lived the life of a debutant for several years, feels prematurely aged as a result of her glamorous but pointless existence. Because she is rich and sheltered, she is also clueless, and she confides her problems to Polly, her one working-class friend, who never judges her (out loud).

“A little poverty would do you good, Fan; just enough necessity to keep you busy till you find how good work is; and when you once learn that, you won’t complain of ennui any more,” returned Polly, who had taken kindly the hard lesson which twenty years of cheerful poverty had taught her.

“Mercy, no, I should hate that; but I wish some one would invent a new amusement for rich people. I’m dead sick of parties, and flirtations, trying to out-dress my neighbors, and going the same round year after year, like a squirrel in a cage.”

In case you’re wondering, Fan loses her fortune a few chapters later and spends a while learning how to live in genteel poverty, before marrying the richest guy in the book.

Artists aren’t satisfied because they have the vision to see how much better things could be. I don’t know if all artists associate with all classes of society. If you have not, it’s hard to understand how vast the chasm between the wealthy and the underprivileged actually is.

I accidentally went to what I heard referred to as a “socialite” party last night. I didn’t realize that’s what it was until after I found myself watching a bouncer check my name off a list and usher me into a 10,000 square foot house full of exquisitely dressed models where nobody, and I mean nobody was talking about politics. They were talking about the 3 swimming pools and how many selfies they needed to take, but they weren’t talking about the plight of the immigrant in America, or the destruction of the environment, or Russian interference in the election, which in itself set it apart from every gathering I’ve attended this year. And I was thinking about how many refugees could have been comfortably housed in that building, and how I escaped the culture of material worship and ostentatious wealth. Which I guess makes me dangerous.

I’ve talked to plenty of people who lived in giant houses, and I’ve talked to plenty of people who lived on the street. And, although the knowledge of inequality’s depth is heavy, it’s never a source of ennui. And I’m grateful that I can see the big picture, no matter how frightening the big picture is when you get the whole thing into frame and focused. I’m grateful for the privilege that gives me this perspective.

If you’re satisfied with the way the world is, you probably haven’t seen that much of it. You’ve just been dazzled by the sparkly parts that were bright enough to blind you to the details.

The Scent of Lemon Blossoms

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Maybe this year is the year that life will hand me sufficient lemons for a sizable recipe of lemonade.

If there was a technology that allowed photographs to capture smells, lemon blossoms would probably be up there with cat pictures in terms of popularity. In fact, if cat pictures smelled like cats, image of lemon blossoms might be more popular than cat macros. There are few scents in the world that compare to lemon flowers in the spring (it’s spring where I live). I had a Spanish teacher who once told us that there is a word in Spanish that means specifically the aroma of lemon flowers, but of course I don’t remember what it is.

I was happy to spend some time taking this pictures right up in the cloud of this delicious smell. Only later did I realize that the settings were all wrong for the light and the lens and everything else. But you can see it’s a lemon flower. There are probably 100s of them, although in my experience, 3/4 will fall off in a strong wind and 95 of the tiny lemons that result from the remaining flowers will die without explanation long before they reach maturity.

Most of this tree isn’t fruit-bearing: it’s whatever thorny, hardly rootstock they graft the lemony part to so it survives in this climate. I’m gradually pruning that back to give the good parts a chance to thrive but the thorny bit is the life support system and the only part high enough to get sun over the garden wall. The parts of my lemon tree that are fruit bearing are low-to-the-ground and a small percentage of the tree, but one day I know this tree will fulfill its destiny of being amazing.

Gratitude for air redolent with the esters of lemon flowers.

Nope Nope Nope Nope

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I mean, right in the face. You know what I mean?

We’re having this little altercation with the city concerning the state of our yard even though we’re working on those stupid weeds. All. The. Time. So anyway I decided to tackle some amaranth and some kind of little tree growing in a very narrow space between the house and the neighbor’s wall, maybe 3 feet wide. And this lady is just hanging out with her massive abdomen right in my face, 4 feet off the ground in the middle of her 3 foot wide web.

After recovering my composure and documenting the event with my macro lens (and then gently relocating the dear thing in her massive home with the farthest end of my loppers and then hacking away at the weeds for 15 minutes) I determined that I had likely encountered a female banded garden spider. With a surprisingly large abdomen and distinctive stripes, it’s seems like an easy identification. They’re also prominent in the autumn. According to the internet, they probably won’t bite you unless you really tick them off, and that their bite is only mildly annoying if they do.

Higher res image hosted at imgur. 

What is this, a doorway for ants?

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Yes, that is exactly what it is: a doorway for ants.

There were a couple interesting shots on my last roll, including a couple decent but not mind blowing bee pictures, some vast sweeping vistas, majestic trees, weirdly blue skies beside ominous silver clouds, lines of distant storms on the horizon, things of that nature. But this seems to be the most striking image. It’s a yucca flower, into which the ants have cut their own ant-size door for nefarious ant purposes. Took a couple good shots of ants on other blossoms slipping in and out between the edges of the petals, but this bud must have been especially tasty, because the ants just couldn’t bother with all that mucking about between layers. They just went straight for the core, like a mad scientist with a mole machine. Ants are pretty interesting.

I messed around with the contrast and such in Photoshop just to really bring out as many details as possible. I’ve taken a lot of pictures of yucca flowers, which grow in great, beautiful clusters, but they don’t seem to really stand out in pictures. I guess that’s true of most white flowers. Maybe if you put them against a black background.

Also found a couple recently deceased figeater beetles. These are large bugs with splendid iridescent green shells. I wanted to say “carapaces,” but Google told me that carapaces aren’t associated with beetles, and only refer to the top part of the shell, whereas the figeaters are more resplendent on their undersides, for some reason. Will try to figure out how best to capture their visual essence.

Had two positive, encouraging, useful interactions with great writers today. That’s always nice. They both have suggestions for things I must do to be more successful, on top of the list of things the Rabbit has already told me I have to do to be more successful. The Fox cancelled our Tuesday writing meetup due to an in-law situation which required his emotional support, but Misses Kitty came over instead and persuaded me to make her brownies. I tried to invent a new sugar-free, gluten-free brownie recipe and instead invented a new sugar-free, gluten free chocolate cake recipe. It’s pretty good. You’d never guess it was sugar-free or gluten free.

It’s not even midnight. I promised to create a logo for someone, which will benefit me in the long run, so even if it’s not necessary an integral part of the list of thing I must do to be more successful, it’s still a thing I should day. And I guess every time you succeed at something, you are more successful.

ETA: Redditor blacksheep998 seems to think that this door is too big for ants and that it is actually a bumblebee door.

Stigma and Anthers

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Macrophotography of flowers on days equal parts scorching and windy in the high desert. Click here to embiggen.

One of the top shots from Sunday’s drive over Mount Graham. Been wanting to photograph this plant for a while: it’s the desert poppy, a showy white blossom that stands on a tall stalk and develops a thistle-like pod when the petals fall off. As I mentioned yesterday, they’re ubiquitous in the high desert, but I live in the low desert and only see them on road trips.

All day long I was thinking of various comics a person could draw about life, stuff about kids and summertime and introversion. Normal comic fodder. But my brain was on a short fuse all day, and just before dinner, when I went to get the mail and found we had received a single letter, from a medical facility threatening to send us to collections despite the fact that we made 3 separate attempts to pay the bill in the last 3 weeks and their billing department was apparently not competent enough to do something as complex as run a credit card or return a phone call, and my head basically exploded. I didn’t even make an effort after that; feeding the children took all my remaining willpower and I knew there was no chance of accomplishing anything else.

On the plus side, The Man fixed the problems I was having with the Wacom tablet/Photoshop for the last 3 months. I spend weeks with tech support working on the issue and never got anywhere close to figuring out the problem. The Man fixed it in 5 minutes. “Oh, CAD has that feature,” he said, once he understood the problem and considered possible solutions. He also fixed the scanner, which stopped working thanks to my implementing the aforementioned tech support’s unhelpful suggestions. So we’re back in business. If only the artist were competent to write and draw today.

The Fox invited me to a writing party tomorrow (yes, I know that’s a drawing party, but it’s a metaphor and the same basic concept). Maybe I can write and draw in the same day.

The Blink of an Eyelash

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If I were a character in a movie I would be very wary about opening this chamber.

I keep coming back to this image even though I’m not 100% happy with its clarity. I did sharpen it up a bit in Photoshop but there aren’t really any simple fixes. This is a flower I shot in San Francisco, but beyond that I know nothing about it, except that it looks like it’s full of eyelashes and I wish I knew how to get the entire thing more focused. There’s so much going on in this flower, but not all of it comes through in the photo.

(Click here for full sized, enlargeable version.)

It’s not perfect, but it’s still cool.

WordPress seems to be doing everything it can to prevent people from viewing my images at full size. It used to be that you could just click on them and get a version that could be viewed at high resolution in great detail. Then it changed so you had to right click and specifically tell it to open the image in a new tab. Then even the new tab seemed stuck at 680 pixels wide, but I could set the width to anything I wanted in the URL and then give that URL to people. But today, that trick failed and I just got “file not found.” For the full size version of an image I had uploaded 15 minutes earlier. And I know its exact size: 5184 pixels wide. But WordPress is just blithely pretending that I’m not being penalized for using too much bandwidth because people want to see full size versions. So I uploaded that one to imgur but it still doesn’t look like 5184 to me. Whatevs. What the hell do I know about art, right?

Delivered the wedding photos today; hope the brides think they’re worth the money they spend. The Man and I are exploring alternate income streams. Would be nice to get regular photo gigs, I think, even if having someone’s memories in your hands is a bit nerve-wracking. Two shoots a month would make a huge difference.