wildflowers, weeds, and whatnot

sarah brennan

sarah brennan
December 31
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MARCH 11, 2012 4:12PM

preparing for the orgy

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It’s official: I’m in love with the 80mm lens. That’s the macro lens, probably not as macro-ey as they get, but hey, it’s a start.



Today I played with getting to know how this lens sees: how it chooses to focus, when given the opportunity. There is a “manual” setting, and a “manual/automatic” setting. There’s also the “ooops, I forget setting”. That’s where I’ve forgotten it’s on manual, so the result is unpredictable blur.


Otherwise known as “art”. These are Black-eyed Susans.

Let’s put change it on “automatic”, and see what it thinks:


Aha! It’s such a trip to switch it over to automatic, and then watch through the view finder as the lens moves of its own volition to what the camera perceives as the correct focus. I’ve said this before: photography is truly a process of (among other things) getting to know how the camera’s brain works.

And then! I discovered how the “manual/automatic” setting works. I look through the viewfinder, and pick what I want to use as the area of focus, using just my brain. My thoughts. In other words, I am not necessarily placing the desired area of focus in the center of the frame. I’m just willing the camera to focus in a particular spot – in this case, the outer edge of the flower head:



And in this case, the very tip:


Later, I realized that while I do indeed have phenomenal brainwaves capable of altering reality (hint: we all do), what’s actually happening here is that I am unconsciously placing one of the camera’s pre-set focal points – which I see through the viewfinder as a grid of tiny brackets scattered across the frame – onto my desired area of focus. And the camera is selecting the correct one. That part – where it selects the one I’m concentrating on – is indeed magic.


Ah, happiness.

By the way, we’re out in the weeds beyond the pole barn. Ain’t nothing special going on here.


Nope, nothing to see here. This here is Charlie.



I flirted briefly with the seed pods of the common evening primrose.



But the Black-eyed Susans have a way of sucking me back in to the vortex.

Speaking of getting sucked into the vortex, did I lure you here with mentioning an orgy? I did, didn’t I.

Well, we’ve had a couple of solid afternoons of 50 or even 60+ degrees, with cold nights – great maple sugaring weather – and at some point – I don’t know when – the frogs are going to figure it out and lose their minds in yelling about life and love all night long. I’ve never actually tracked the process before. I was figuring that the ice is probably pretty well melted, meaning, time to check in with the cattail marsh across the road.


I tip-toed out the boardwalk and settled in.

The ice had indeed melted, although not every where. In one patch no larger than four square feet, I found a whole world of newts and tadpoles, mostly just hanging out, moving only occasionally. Maybe three times in 45 minutes, a pair of newts would disagree about who had the right to be in a particular spot at a particular time. 

Figuring how to photograph everyone was tricky: the macro lens isn’t really cut out to zoom in on stuff that far away (maybe five feet), and focusing on stuff an inch or two underwater turns out to be harder than I thought (especially now that I see the resulting pictures – wince.) So you’re getting a cropped and blurry version of it all.

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The newts were grayish greenish, with faint stripes down their backs and pale, yellowish bellies. I thought I saw a spotted salamander, but second guessed myself. Some of them looked positively fat. Maybe they’re females loaded up with eggs who haven’t mated yet?

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There are four tadpoles and one snail in here. The snail’s on the right lower side, on a grass stem.


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OK, now we’re cooking with gas. Fat, fat, fat, I tell you.


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Mmmmm… dreamy.

I saw a couple of tadpoles looking fit to burst. Any day now, legs will pop out. I think. Right? I have a vague memory of learning about tadpoles in pre-kindergarten. Clearly, if the whole world observed tadpoles on a regular basis, there would be world peace.

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This one’s fun. The newt at bottom right is slowly approaching a flotilla.


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In this shot his head is about to go under the lead tadpole. They didn’t seem too bothered by him.


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Meanwhile, in the spot where I saw a bigger kind of salamander mating a couple of weeks ago, the surface ice still held. I took about one million pictures over here, none of which worked out – the newts over here were squirrelly – moving fast and then hiding.

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