I think this is my favourite image from last week! Firstly, it’s a butterfly, secondly it’s on a seed pod and last but not least, this was the moment the sun came out after a pretty wet and miserable day. I love this time of year, the sunlight has become golden again, the plants are all coming into their Autumn colours and structure. I’m really enjoying having a decent macro lens again, allowing me to get up really close to my favourite things. Have a great week everyone!
Dragonflies are usually quite short-lived, maybe only a week. Often an over-mature, older individual will be fading in tone and colour. This is an over-mature female black darter dragonfly found yesterday at Thursley Common NNR. It was resting on the sand, soaking up warmth for energy. Unlike many of the other dragonflies seen yesterday, this individual allowed fellow photographer Paul and I to get up really close with our macro lenses. I believe it stayed put for so long as it’s trying to conserve as much energy as possible in it’s old age. What a privilege though!
I was instantly struck by it’s fragility and faded colours. Black darters are our only truly black species and mature males are very striking, deep black with a few flashes of yellow. They’re also our smallest species of dragonfly! This individual had become parchment-like and translucent. The blacks had faded to blue-grey and brown tones while the eyes had become much lighter in tone and were strikingly beautiful. There really is a haunting beauty in the ageing of many winged insects that strikes a chord with me. It made me think of the Visage song Fade To Grey:
Feel the rain like an English summer Hear the notes from a distant song Stepping out from a back shop poster Wishing life wouldn’t be so long
Heather Farm, a wetlands centre and SANG (Suitable Alternative Green Space) on Horsell Common, was absolutely brimming with butterflies after my return from Kos last week! What an absolute joy to behold. This small skipper was one of the few resting in the shade on a warm and sunny day. The lighting really lent itself to a more muted and soft image of this delightful little butterfly. I felt that it was quite perfect to show off the features of the skipper that I am so drawn to! Those huge eyes and furry face are quite simply adorable. It was very hard to leave our beloved Kos, but I did feel welcomed back by these beautiful butterflies!
1) I haven’t fully grown yet!
2) I am growing from the duff
3) I thrive in the damp
4) I live under a golden canopy
5) I will pop if hit by a raindrop!
6) My skin is very tough
7) Believe it or not I’m edible!!
Most reef-building corals contain photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, that live in their tissues. The corals and algae have a mutualistic relationship. The coral provides the algae with a protected environment and compounds they need for photosynthesis. In return, the algae produce oxygen and help the coral to remove wastes. Most importantly, zooxanthellae supply the coral with glucose, glycerol, and amino acids, which are the products of photosynthesis. The coral uses these products to make proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and produce calcium carbonate. (Source: NOAA Ocean Service Education)
We got to see these coral polyps and their symbiotic algae photosynthesising, under UV light, in the educational Underwater World aquarium at Birdworld in Farnham. It’s mesmerisingly beautiful! The colour that we associate with coral reefs is derived from the algae living within the tissue. When a reef is put under physical stress, the coral polyps actually expel the algae leaving the structures a stark white. This is the tragic, mass death of large areas of reef that we call “bleaching”. Seeing the living coral made this disatrous phenomenon all the more real to me. I’m posting this image for Wex Mondays this week and I hope that it will lead others to think about the plight of our precious coral reefs.
One of the great joys of visiting a butterfly house is the ability to see large, tropical butterflies up close. Every single tiny and perfect detail of these beautiful creatures is revealed. The wings are a mosaic masterpiece of scales and hairs that will allow the butterfly to blend perfectly into its’ surroundings, or send a bold warning to potential predators. The malachite is a master of disguise but the macro lens allows me to bring you the finer details of it’s camouflage. This was taken at RHS Wisley Gardens last Monday while I was volunteering for the Surrey branch of Butterfly Conservation UK, helping man our stand in the Glasshouse, during the annual Butterflies In The Glasshouse event. I really enjoy engaging with the public at this event, sharing my passion for butterflies of the UK and Europe, as well as the tropical species. I’m sharing this macro for Wex Mondays this week and I hope it will inspire others to look more closely at butterflies too.
This last week has been a complete write-off thanks to sinus and chest infection. I know many of you have suffered similarly just recently! I’ve been back at the doctors today for stronger, more targetted antibiotics and phlocodine. Increasing my steroid inhalers has helped me breathe a little easier today but it always gives me the shakes. In short, I’m totally fed up! I just about managed to set up a piece of blown glass yesterday, so I could take a series of macro shots, from which I created a composite for today’s photo challenges from Wex and Fotospeed. Encapsulate is an abstract expression of how I have been feeling with this bug; trapped, dizzy, fuzzy, short of breath, drowning in mucus. If you’ve had one of these Winter bugs, I hope you are on the road to recovery as I very much hope for myself! I don’t do well being stuck indoors. The winter skies, misty landscapes and busy birds are calling to me!
I had another go at focus stacking this last weekend. This time my subject is botanical, the decaying petals of a hydrangea. They’re all from one flower-head but all at different stages of decay, from the age-spotted pinks through to skeletal lacy remains. The petals were arranged on glass on a black background and lit with a diffused, blue spotlight. After stacking my images in Photoshop and masking in the focused areas, I decided that the image felt more appealing, almost vintage, with some areas left soft and unfocused. I gave the whole piece a hazy, matte finish to accentuate that vintage look that is a mirror to the subject itself. I hope you like it! I’m putting this one forward for both Wex Mondays and the Fotospeed challenges this week. Good luck to all taking part!