25 March 2016

Book Review: The Natural Explorer by Tristan Gooley

Tristan Gooley's previous book, The Natural Navigator, changed the way I viewed the world when out and about. So, I understandably had high hopes for this follow up.

07 March 2016

Tree Flowers: March 2016: Cornelian Cherry

Cornus mas, or the cornelian cherry is a small tree that grows to 6 metres in height. While the berries are red in colour with a flavour said to be similar to sour cherry; this tree is actually a dogwood. Another common name is edible dogwood, because the berries are often used in jams - due to their acidic flavour.

Like another yellow winter flowering plant, the forsythia, the cornelian cherry flowers before the leaves shoot. The flowers grow in bunches along the branch providing a mass of colour - quite impressive considering that each individual flower is very small.

The photograph below shows the bracts that protect the flowers. The bracts fully open and remain behind the flowers.

The flowers themselves have four yellow petals and four anthers surrounding a single carpel. A single carpel makes sense as each flower, once fertilised, will develop into a single berry. As you can see in the photograph below, even when the bract has opened (which can be seen at the back of the photograph), the flowers open at their own speed. I wonder if this may be an attempt to reduce the chance of self fertilisation, or to increase the overall flowering period giving the tree as a whole the best chance for fertilising as many flowers as possible if some open during poor environmental conditions - or both - or something else entirely!

Cornus mas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2016. Cornus mas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornus_mas. [Accessed 05 March 2016].

01 March 2016

Photography: Focus Stacking

Recently I've been delving a bit deeper into photography. Spurred on by the wonderful books by photographer Robert Llewellyn, I decided to give focus stacking close up photographs a go.

The closer you photograph an object, the smaller the field of view. This means that there is only a narrow line of the photograph that is actually in focus, with the rest being an out of focus blur. This can be used to great effect with the photographer being able to highlight an area. In the photo below there is a reasonable field in focus, mainly showing some of the disc florets, the majority of the ray florets (petals) are out of focus.

However, for me at the moment, I want to see everything in focus to give a detailed view of the whole object - object here means plant or part of. I've tried 2 very different plant parts so far: the seed pod of the plane tree, and a lily flower. Here are the outcomes of my initial endeavours using the Helicon Focus software.

Plane tree seed ball

What I liked about this seed ball is that there are so many edges. Because it's a couple of inches across, close up photography will always have a small area in focus. Using focus stacking, the software was able to take the photos I taken and make everything in focus! Here are the 6 original photographs, all taken with a different part of the ball in focus.
 After stacking, the whole seed ball is in glorious focus:
 Lily Flower

I hadn't actually taken these photographs with the intention of stacking them. I was just messing around with the focus to see what looked best. It's really easy to see that some of the flower is in focus, with other parts blurry.
 I was very happy that even only 4 photographs could make a fully focused flower.

It's safe to say I feel that these 'trials' have been a great success for me. I'll definitely be taking more photographs and stitching them together.