Wednesday was Day 40 home alone for me. I had three bananas that had turned very brown. I recently I ran across a recipe for banana bread with chocolate chips and had set it aside so I thought I’d try it. I thought of my friend Melinda who was forced to make several loaves of banana bread because her e-Cart order contained 5 bunches of bananas instead of the 5 bananas she’d ordered. I was glad that I had only enough bananas to make a single loaf. I had almost all of the ingredients on hand. I didn’t have chocolate chips but I did have a Ghirardelli 90% cacao bar to use instead. It turned out to be a delicious indulgence to enjoy home alone on Day 40.
The weather has warmed suddenly. It was quite chilly when we were first sequestered in mid March. But now, with spring in full bloom, the trees are completely leafed out. Spring blossoms are already beginning to fade and we’re heading too quickly to the searing days of summer. The past few days the weather has been unseasonably warm, passing the 90 degree mark for three days straight, about 15 degrees above normal for this time of year. There are some remnants of winter left, though. This dried oak leaf and empty acorn cap reminded me of cooler days just past. This is another focus shift image. It took a couple of tries before I got a stacked image that I liked. I had to be careful where I placed the starting focal point to make sure all parts of the leaf were in focus.
The little Anna’s hummer that I posted a couple of days ago is a juvenile Anna’s I’m told. The hummers have spent lots of time picking aphids off the roses and other plants in the garden. One still dangles from this hummer’s beak.
The past few weeks at home have been quiet. I’ve been taking lots of photographs but not of moving things. I have missed going out and shooting photographs of birds and other critters that I have become so accustomed to doing on my frequent travels away from home. But, with those travels mostly curtailed, I am paying more attention to the birds in my backyard. On Saturday, I attended an on-line backyard birding class with Moose Peterson offered through Precision Camera in Austin, Texas. It was inspiring and Moose had lots of great ideas for improving the bird-friendliness of my backyard. I already have several hummingbird feeders but plan to add some seed feeders and maybe a suet feeder. A few strategically placed perches will help me use my yard as a shooting gallery. Just before the class, I was outside with my Nikon D500 and 300mm PF lens with the 1.7 X teleconverter attached. The female Anna’s Hummingbird spent quite a bit of time hovering around the Crape Myrtles which are just leafing out but are already covered with sticky dew from aphids and other tiny critters. I think she might have a nearby nest because she’s been visiting the trees for bugs, the feeders, and even the blossoms of the Echeveria below.
The patio door was open, the whole house fan was drawing in the cool morning air, the Mourning Doves were cooing, the Lesser Goldfinches were taking a morning dip in the fountain. I watched the scene unfolding in my garden, enjoying the spring morning. A spot of bright caught my attention in the back of the garden, a female Anna’s Hummingbird was preening on the end of a twig in the Photineas. She was perfectly positioned to catch the light on her breast with just a tiny spot of pink from the feathers on her iridescent patch. She looks like she was enjoying the morning as much as I was.
My new obsession is photographing flowers, specifically taking a set of images using focus shifting and stacking the resulting images into a single image where everything is in focus. I use three speed lights for each photograph. I picked up this moth orchid (Phalaenopsis orchid) a couple of days ago when I made an emergency run to the grocery store. The emergency was an urgent need for Talanti’s Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. I ran into the store with my face mask and gloves prepared to grab my gelato and go. But a display of orchids caught my eye and with my new obsession, I brought one home.
My plan was to photograph the entire spray showing it emerging from darkness into the light. I wanted as much of each flower to be as well lit as possible while still giving the impression of the spray emerging from the darkness. Until I decided to use this orchid spray as my subject, placement and power of the speed lights was relatively simple and pretty straight forward. But my previous efforts were photographing a single blossom. Photographing a spray of flowers necessitated placing the lights differently and adjusting the output to give the proper look and avoid shadows. It took a little fine tuning but I achieved the look I wanted.
I won’t reveal whence the third dandelion puff but two didn’t look right so I had to procure a third from a source which will remain unidentified. Unlike the single puff from yesterday’s post, focus stacking worked perfectly on this trio of puffs. I used 29 images to create this single stacked image. Nikon Z7, FTZ, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro, three SB 5000 Speedlights.
I blame it on my neighbor. I didn’t plan to return to a life of crime. But after only two days on the straight and narrow, I was confronted with an overwhelming temptation that I couldn’t resist. That neighbor, with as much time on his hands as everyone else, has failed to mow his lawn. What once was a swath of green has become a vast field of dandelions! There were two that had turned to puffs and were ripe for picking, both temptingly on the edge of the sidewalk. This time, I didn’t even look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching me. I leaned down and plucked them both. I am not sure what section of the penal code I may have violated. The puffs were filched from private property this time, not public right of way as my previous crime spree was.
The scene of the crime is just a hundred or so feet from my home, just two houses away. It will probably be pretty easy to track me down if the dandelions left a trail of seed evidence leading to my front door. My neighbor’s Ring camera probably recorded me in the act. At least I wasn’t wearing my Bruno Maglis. I am suddenly lumped in with the miscreants who skulk the neighborhood at night peeking in car windows and jiggling door handles and stealing packages from doorsteps. I don’t think I can take it any more. I’ll come clean. I confess! I did it! I stole a noxious weed!
OK. Now that I have that off my chest, I can get to today’s image. As a follow up to my Tiny Dancers image a few days ago (again, with apologies to Elton John), I wanted to create a focus shift image of a whole dandelion puff. However, despite making several sets using different exposures and apertures, numbers of images and starting points for focus, I was unsuccessful. As stacked images, the center of the dandelion was blurry in each one with significant ghosting. I’m not sure what I did wrong. In the end, I decided to use a very small aperture and long exposure which created the look I was trying to achieve with focus shifting and I managed to get it with only a single image.
The past several days I have been taking photographs of flowers using the focus shift technique in the Nikon Z7 camera. After running out of interesting floral options in my own garden I realized I needed another source of blooms to photograph. Alstroemeria is one of my favorite flowers. It’s at once easy to grow and exotic looking and it comes in many colors. I must confess, however, that I did not grow this Alstroemeria. I bought it at the grocery store for a couple of dollars. And I recalled that I could convey the look of water drops using glycerin instead of water. It is very difficult to position a drop of water on a petal. Glycerin is much more forgiving. This is my first attempt at glycerin drops. Nikon Z7, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 micro, FTZ.
My roses continue their glorious bloom. This is their time to shine. They flower all year here in Northern California’s Central Valley, well into winter but spring is the peak of their display. Each flower is exquisite now, not diminished by the searing heat that comes later in the year. This is a stacked image of Just Joey, a rose I planted more than 20 years ago as a tribute to a friend.