Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"Mullein" it over #phenology

Several weeks ago we posted a photo of an unidentified plant and were told it looked like a common mullein. The problem we had was that the "club-shaped spike" of flowers hadn't yet developed and we were looking at a flower nub. Over the holiday weekend we wandered back and found the nub had grown into a short spike. The plants are confirmed as common mullein.

"free-hand" mullein photo with telephoto lens
"free-hand" mullein photo with telephoto lens
Photo by J. Harrington

I don't remember how far back in time it was when I first learned to identify milkweed. The plant itself, without flowers, is locked into my memory bank, along with the shape of maple leafs, staghorn sumac, rhubarb and a variety of plants that it seems as if I was born knowing. With mullein, I hadn't really "seen" it until the flower spike developed. Probably time to get back to reading the National Phenology Network's Botany Primer.

mullein photo with telephoto lens, camera on tripod
mullein photo with telephoto lens, camera on tripod
Photo by J. Harrington

On a slightly related note, the mullein photo at the top of this posting is out of focus. You probably noticed and were too polite to say anything. I finally managed to type the right combination of keywords into Google to find the Canon forum page talking about the lens I used that I've been getting increasingly dissatisfied with. Many owners claim to have "soft focus" issues similar to what I've experienced. I was lucky enough, though. to come across some helpful advice on how to check if it's the lens or a filter that's the culprit. I thought gun nuts and fly-fishers were equipment freaks until I ran into photographers. So -- I'm back from checking the lens and the autofocus in "Live Mode." Not perfect, but an improvement on the tripod, although each loses sharpness compressed for the web. The problem, as with so many technical issues, appears in part to be operator limitations. Maybe time to add some curls and reverse curls to the exercise routine so I can hold the camera steadier. If I live long enough, I may yet get the hang of this picture-taking stuff.


By John Unterecker

Proof Sheets: 36 Prints

These photographs are the index of an hour,
           memory clocked along negative margins:
                       one through twelve, one through twelve, one
                        through twelve.
Even in a sequence there is choice,
          as when I chose not to photograph silences between words—
choice of the parted lips—
          or choose now a sequence out of time.
                       Scissors: chopped time.
Rearrangement is good:
          You are characters in a drama called then.
You are figures for mythology.
          I shall make Phaedra blonde, Theseus dark, Hippolytus
blue eyes: blue eyes; that will do—
          Antigone singing in the graveyard wind,
a twelve-year old who is Jocasta alternate weeks.
          Neither imagination nor my willing flesh can move this
one fraction of an inch;
          a shift of stance could have juxtaposed mouths.
                        The fixed frame
is the drama:
           Hippolytus at banquet;
                   Phaedra in her chamber,
                                 behind her that painting blurred
into an omen,
          as if Theseus were Creon, Meleager, shepherd, faun;
                   Oedipus barefoot, hairskin beast;
                             Antigone maenad, Helen, Artemis.
                                       Only out-of-focus figures move.

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