Smoke Tree, late June

Three species of the genus Cotinus, commonly called “Smoke Tree,”in the family Anacardiaceae exist in North America, Europe and Asia. Ours is more like a shrub with numerous, long branches. Flowers with profuse filaments in clusters resembling whiffs of smoke. Here we see the flower filaments, interspersed with small drupes, each containing a single seed.

The post header, and these photographs were made from the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon Lens EF 50mm f/1.2L USM stabilized with a Manfrotto 468ZMZ tripod with hydrostatic head. Late afternoons, evenings the tree is shaded by a hemlock hedge (line of trees running north/south) this is the shade here. This Canonn dslr excels in color rendition. The flower masses are a burgundy wine color, the leaves have a purple tinge. I do not directly fertilize, as the plant is said to do best with unfertile soil though the surrounding cedars do get fertilizer stakes.

Eight AM a following morning I followed up with a handheld session using a Sony DSLR-Alpha700, Sony Lens DT 18-200 mm F3.5-6.5. Took these two shots with a lower ISO and tweaked the images in Lightroom, reducing the exposure. The flower smoky effect is well captured, the color in bright sunlight is not as wine-like as in shade.

By the time I proceeded to macros, a morning breeze kicked up, handled by upping the ISO to 3200 for a faster shutter speed to stop the movement. The bright sun helped with this.

Fertilized flowers develop into fruit stalks with radiating filaments, the yellow dots are the drupes (fleshy bodies surrounding a single seed). Fresh leaves are purple, turning to dark green with age. The leaves are as unusual as the flowers: aromatic, simple and round on long stalks. Autumn, the leaves turn a stunning bright red-orange, a scarlet shade. In winter some stalks die off, new growth appears from the roots in spring.

References

“The Botanical Garden Vol 1 Trees and Shrubs”, Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, Firefly Books, Buffalo NY, 2000, p 361

Wikipedia, “Smoke Tree”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Betty Boop

A cartoon come to life

These Floribunda, semi-double petaled blooms were captured along with the yellow double cluster roses of the previous post, in the evening shade of a late spring day, June 23rd.

Above is a mix of just opened (the dark red, center bottom), fully opened new (just to right of center) and aging (all the rest).

Throughout this set I used the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr with the EF 50 mm f/1.2L USM stabilized with a Manfrotto 468MG tripod with Hydrostatic Ball Head.

Floribundas, sometimes called cluster flowered roses, originated with Poulsen’s nursery in Denmark from crossed with Hybrid Teas with Polyantha Roses, themselves crosses between dwarf Chinas and a dwarf, repeat-flowering form of R. multiflora. Texas-based rose hybridizer Tom Carruth released Betty Boop in 1999, naming it after a cartoon character from the 1930’s. Pam found this plant around 2008 offered by the K-mart store in Cortland. She is amazed by the beauty of the Betty Boops.

Another beloved characteristic is the longevity of the blooms. Pam collected and arranged this vase last week, for Father’s Day. I provided the setting. In this controlled environment the low ISO provides better colors and contrast with minimal digital noise.

References

“The Botanical Garden” Vol 1, Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, Firefly Books, Buffalo, N.Y. 2002 pp 228 – 233.

Wikipedia search for “Betty Boop rose” and ” Tom Carruth rose.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Adirondack Respite

Seven new photographs from the Adirondack Wilderness

One weekend my nephew Chris and I backpacked to Peaked Mountain Pond, the Adirondacks wilderness, in the rain. My son, Sean, was to meet us later. The constant rain made the easy trek into a slog. Our attitude improved after the tents setup and the fire. The skies clear to a brilliant display of the Milky Way away from light pollution.

Peaked Mountain in the light of an August dawn taken from the west pond shore. Siamese Ponds Wilderness, Adirondack Park, New York State. At 2,919 feet, Peaked Mountain is a modest height though it rises an impressive 675 feet in 0.4 mile.

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Looking north across Peaked Mountain Pond from the west shore shortly after dawn.

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We used the canoe as a punt, using a solid branch to push around the shallow pond for short distances, after bailing.

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Mid-morning, we headed up the trail to the peak. I caught this orb-weaver spider web on the way.

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…and a detail. Technically, this is a macro. Did not wait around for the owner.

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Later, in the afternoon, Chris caught some Zzzzz’s in a time out from water gathering. We pumped water through a filter, this is necessary throughout New York State to avoid giardia infection.

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The ultimate in peace and tranquility, though disturbing a hornet pollinator can lead to excitement. This water lily bloom was caught with a tripod mounted long lens. Look closely for the hornet at work inside the flower. HHealthy water lily leaves are the epitome of tranquility because they are always clean, giving the illusion of tranquility. Scientists study water lily leaves to learn how the leaf surface sheds dirt. Imagine self-cleaning cloths.

Correction: it is the Lotus leaf, not lily pad, that is self cleaning.

Water Lily Flower with hornet – CLICK ME for more Adirondack photography.

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Browse my reasonably priced stock photography. This blog features seven (7) photographs I published today to Getty Istock and my Fine Art gallery.

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Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Desert Luxuries

Enjoying the best of an Arizona desert at high elevation

….continued from the chapter “Sycamores and Riparian Space.”

Click any photograph for a larger view

Evening Camp at Pine Creek

My third wilderness evening was unlike the others. I rested with an unhurried exploration of the camp area. Underfoot was a scatter of dry oak leaves, acorns on hardened desert soil not much softer than the numerous lichen encrusted boulders, all of which formed a bench above Pine Creek.

Pine Creek Camp Overview from a large lichen encrusted boulder

Pumping a gallon of drinking water though the ceramic filter takes more time than meal preparation. The four gallons I packed up were almost used and I enjoyed the luxury of pumping two days supply, 3 gallons in all and planned to down a quart or two of “gator aid” before dinner with the luxurious enjoyment of a flowing Pine Creek for company.

Pine Creek is the most common type for Arizona, recurring. To recur means to happen periodically or repeatedly and, for streams, this means for part of the year no water flows. For these days the flow was low, the water clear, what was left from the plentiful winter rains of 2004/2005.

Looking east toward Manzanita thickets with the unpacked backpack foreground

The wind gently rustled the manzanita and the sun just above the western cliffs as I settled on a boulder to enjoy a quart of fluid. I mulled over my next steps.

The kitchen: a very light gas burner, spork, dehydrated food with cup for beverages

Initially, the plan was to walk across the Superstition Wilderness, starting on the remote eastern end and emerging on the populated west side, in the Lost Dutchman State Park. My sister expected me there on day 10, but today was the end of day three. I didn’t know at that time the climb on my second day was the steepest of the wilderness and the way forward was much, much easier.

Looking west toward pine creek, manzanita branch foreground and thickets all round, young Ponderosa Pine, Arizona Oak behind tent.

Before a decision could be reach, my thoughts were broken by a different sound from the manzanita: several horses approaching on the trail.

Here is a photographic recap of the previous Superstition Wilderness postings as a gallery. You can page through the photographs.
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Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek

Explore a remote location of the eastern Superstition Wilderness

….continued from the chapter “Two Meetings.”

The spring gales persisted through my late afternoon arrival in Pine Creek, into the night and next morning. Protected from the west wind by the rising land, the tent was not buffeted like I described in the chapter “A Dry Piece of Paradise.” The song of soughing pines was my last impression of the evening and the first of the next morning.

Where the Arizona trail crosses, Pine Creek flows at 4,600 foot elevation through a canyon of broadly sloping sides. The flow originates at the foot of Mound Mountain to the southwest, at 6,253 feet the highest elevation in the Superstitions. There are 5,500 foot peaks to the east and west. The land falls away to the north giving great views of the Four Peaks Wilderness.

I chose a flat site to camp above the creek among Arizona White Oak, Arizona Sycamore, Ponderosa Pine and Manzanita. Of these, it’s Manzanita fruit for which the bears come in the summer. Manzanita thickets made approach to the camp site difficult from all directions but the path. Bear sign was thick among this growth. Go to my chapter, “Racing the Sun,” to see the red barked Manzanita and pink blossoms from which grow tiny green fruits that ripen summertime into a bright red, like tiny apples. Indians used this bland tasting fruit containing five hard seeds for food and a cider beverage.

Well before dawn I grabbed warm clothes, hat, camera to head out for a full day of leisure.

On a shallow rise above Pine Creek I took the two shots of agave (Century Plant) stalks in dawn light. These start the chapter, “A Dry Piece of Paradise.” One dry agave flower is to the left in this North view, looking down the creek not far from the creek crossing.

Click any photograph for a larger view
North View from Pine Creek, early morning

In the photograph notice how the canyon narrows as the creek flows north, the walls rising above it for hundreds of feet.

When I climbed about 200 feet above the creek to a ledge that provided great views, the protective canyon walls fell away and wind gusts threatened to up end the light tripod. It was necessary to anchor it with the daypack and I tied down my hat as well.

Shadows of night lie below, dominated by Four Peaks Wilderness. A unique long flat ridge is behind the near dramatic ridge above Pine Creek. This view leads me to daydreams. The long ridge is clearly visible in two photographs titled “Nameless Canyon in the Dawn” and “Nameless Canyon Morning” of my post “A Dry Piece of Paradise.”  A view from the west is available in my post “Racing the Sun.” Look at the photograph captioned, “Overview of my path to the Nameless Canyon behind Two Bar Mountain,” the flat ridge is just above the shadow of Castle Dome. The view from that spot must be incredible across the lower Reavis Creek valley. From here it is a day trip 4+ mile roundtrip bushwhack over the cliffs above Pine Creek.

North View from Pine Creek

Those evergreens in the following photograph are Oneseed Juniper (“Shagbark Juniper”) of the three species common to the Superstitions, this has this spherical, bushy appearance. Here the elevation is just high enough for junipers because there are none down below. The trail crosses Pine Creek to ascend the lower slopes of these red cliffs, following it around to the west and over to the next valley, Reavis Ranch, a distance of 3.5 miles. In my “Two Meetings” blog is a sweeping view of Pine Creek Canyon, from the southern approach.

For most people a 400+ foot climb over these steep cliffs is impossible. Fortunately, a saddle to the right of this photograph is a possible route.

Southwest View from the Arizona Trail above Pine Creek

The saddle is 100 feet lower without cliffs. Still, this entrance to remote, fascinating locations is a steep 300+ climb.

A Saddle breaks a line of cliffs

“The Searcher” arrived around this time riding the buckskin gelding and leading a pinto. He saw me and my camera equipment and stopped for a chat. His plan was to follow the trail I came up yesterday to find a rumored camp with good water. The howling wind made conversation difficult. I wondered where his camp of last night was located, since there was no sign of him. Before I could ask, his cowboy hat flew away with a wind gust. He hopped off the gelding, “That’s my best beaver hat.” After a quick brush and tie-down they were off.

Heading back down to the creek, here is a macro of lichen that covered the crumbling surfaces of boulders that littered the slope.

Nature’s Abstract

During the previous night fresh primrose blossoms opened, this one flourishing in the earth of a south facing slope. There is a reddish spent blossom at lower left. The soil here formed over eons by the action of the creek water, atmosphere and plant life. I have more about the Primrose and these yellow flowers in the background in my “Two Meetings” blog.

Pine Creek of the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness hosts this wild Tufted Evening Primrose.

Turn left (up stream) where the Arizona Trail crosses Pine Creek and jump boulder to boulder for a hundred feet or so and you come to this view. The creek bank, covered by vegetation, rises on both sides and makes it difficult to leave the creek. Those are Arizona White Oak leaves floating along the large foreground boulder.

Pine Creek Pool with Young Arizona Sycamores

This is a very young Arizona White Oak, common species growing along the creek. The leaves are not what you’d expect from an oak, being 2 – 3 inches long in the shape of a lance blade and without obvious lobes Mature Arizona White Oak has a rough bark and, at most, 24 inch trunks.

Arizona White Oak

There are better examples of grand Arizona Sycamores along the perennial Reavis Creek. Pine Creek does not flow in the driest seasons, this tree sloughed its branches in order to survive. You can see from the many young Sycamores in the Pine Creek Pool photograph the previous photo the sycamores are successful in this environment.

I spent some time with this Sycamore, capturing abstract patters of the bark.

The abundance of Ponderosa Pines here demonstrate the species thrives at this altitude and dry environment. This specimen grows on the creek bank. Those are shrubby Arizona Oaks around the trunk.

Abstract patterns in the bark of this Ponderosa. The popular and scientific name (Pinus ponderosa) for this species is from the dense weight of the wood.

The tree is over 100 feet tall. I patched together four shots for this view.

In the afternoon I explored the Arizona Trail to Reavis Ranch. It crosses the creek to ascend the cliff in broad switchbacks. Eventually it follows a contour below a cliff with fine views of Pine Creek Canyon. I turned back to leave the hike to Reavis Ranch for another day.

Click me for the next episode, “Sycamores and Riparian Space.”
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Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

A Dry Piece of Paradise

A hellish shriek assaulted the cold 3 am darkness.

A hellish shriek assaulted the cold 3 am darkness.

The scream was instantly recognizable. Anything but terrified, after a confused scramble I reinserted the pin into a personal security device hung from my backpack. Wrapped in a silly waffle weave blanket, tossing restless in the cold, the pin lanyard hung up then pulled free. Several minutes had passed with that sound flowing out over the canyon, calling all carnivores to breakfast.

I had drifted off with the wind shaking my tent like a drunken prankster and now all was totally and absolutely quiet. In spite of the cold, the inadequate blanket and the imaginary creatures looking for the source of that scream, the next two hours sped by in a fitful doze.

Agave Heart

At 5 am I crawled out to find the thinnest crescent moon imaginable gracing the eastern sky, kept company by a century plant silhouetted against the early dawn light.

Click any photograph for a higher resolution image.
Century Plant Dawn
Century Plant Dawn

Click this link to see my photograph “Superstition Spring”

These stalks raise the golden flowers of this agave 10 to 15 feet above the green prickly rosette. Century plant stalks can be seen throughout the Superstitions, even at the high elevations among towering Ponderosa Pine.

Here is an agave in predawn light I caught on the next day, in Pine Creek canyon.

Agave
Agave in PreDawn Light

The leaves are used as needle and thread with the very sharp tip as the needle and the long leaf fibers, when properly dried and shredded, as thread. These leaves guard the agave heart from the harvest. A poke from an agave spike can be deep and painful.

The young shoots of the stalks are a succulent delicious treat raw. Roasted, the agave heart is a fresh, somewhat sweet delight. The earliest residents of this desert left numerous roasting pits on the mountain slopes, located where the agave still grows.

Dawn and the Pretty Hedgehogs

Although cold, the still dry air felt marvelous and even distant objects appeared absolutely clear. In this environment the spread of sun with its rising is a ritual. Here’s a photograph of the canyon walls a few minutes before the sun reached them.

SlopesOf2BarMountainPreDawn
Slopes of Two Bar Mountain in PreDawn Light

And, a few minutes later, as the sun passed the ridges of Two Bar Mountain.…

SlopesOfTwoBarMtnAtDawn
Dawn on the Slopes of Two Bar Mountain

By the way, that’s a desiccated agave stalk to the lower right, on the rocks.

At my feet, spread at intervals on the brown red broken rock, small Hedgehog cacti bloomed lavender.

Lavender Hedgehog, overview
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms
Lavender Hedgehog Blossoms with Buds

Cacti, such as the blossoming lavender Hedgehog seen above, require a space which enjoys full sunlight for most of the day. The thick grown of juniper trees limited sunlight and compete with the cacti for water. This image will give you an idea of the extent of the juniper growth.

Nameless Canyon in the Dawn
Nameless Canyon in the Dawn

Looking into Nameless Canyon

In the above photograph you are looking west over a canyon that is unnamed on maps. The dramatic flat ridge bathed in light is a landmark marking the canyon of Reavis Falls, on the far side in this view. Make your way down the canyon where is joins Reavis Creek, turn left and the falls are a few miles upstream. This is NOT the easiest path to the falls.

As the sun rose I needed to prepare for the day’s trekking, but took one more portrait of this lovely nameless canyon traversed by an almost non-existent path.

Nameless Canyon Morning
Nameless Canyon Morning

This season, a cold stream ran at canyon bottom. Flowing among the rocks the water produced peals of a crystal bell, but this was not my last memory of this place.

In the “Nameless Canyon Morning” image, on the left there is the almost vertical (no exaggeration) canyon wall I climbed in 4.5 hours that morning. It traversed 800 feet altitude in less than a mile. The path was substantially longer because it followed the contour lines of the land in long loops called switchbacks. As I proceeded up the canyon wall, to the southeast, above the opposite canyon wall, the memorable Four Peaks gradually appeared. Here’s the view from my lunchtime perch…..

Four Peaks from Nameless Canyon
Four Peaks from Nameless Canyon

This view looks over the basin of Reavis Creek and includes the, out of sight, 140 foot high Reavis Fall, the highest free fall in Arizona.

Click me for the next episode, “Two Meetings.”

Click me for the previous episode, “Racing the Sun.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Red Berries

Jack-In-The-Pulpit one June Day

The many names for this plant are reflective of how wide spread it is. Called Arisaema triphyllum (scientific name), jack-in-the-pulpit, bog onion, brown dragon, Indian turnip, American wake robin, or wild turnip this secretive plant flourishes in moist soils across eastern North America, everywhere north to south. I say “secretive” because the varieties I am familiar with hide the flower under the leaves, three of them growing from a stalk.

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Those of you who know Georgia O’Keefe may be familiar with the form and coloring of Jack-in-the-pulpit from the series of six oil canvasses from 1930, her time in the east living near a spring. There is a spathe, the pulpit, strongly colored in dramatic vertical, flowing stripes, wrapped around a spandix, the “jack”, being a stem covered with male and female flowers.

Around the time my photography habit started in 2002 I was surprised by the jacks growing from the walls of Fillmore Glen, spying the distinctive forms flowing a bit above eye level under the three large leaves. Seeing them was like recognizing a friend in Halloween disguise, the exotic O’Keefe shapes in a known place.

From this gift, an awareness of the possibility lead me to recognize “jacks” in many other places. I have yet to exhaust the possibilities.

2015 I acquired a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM lens for our cruise around South American. It proved very useful for an unending combination of situations. Here, it allowed me to frame this specimen, the former covering of three leaves now sere brown and collapsed, the berries revealed in startling clarity among evergreen ferns, Christmas red and green. The strangely named Dry Creek, the driving force of Fillmore Glen, flowing below this humus layered shelf moist with a constant flow from the gorge walls.

The park trails make for a pleasant choice at the start of each excursion. This day, Pam and I visited Cowshed Falls at the foot of the glen, climbed the north rim trail to walk among the hemlocks, listening the leisurely calls of Hermit Thrust like breaking crystal. The time of mushrooms was past in late September, instead we enjoyed the Indian Summer sun and breeze safe in knowing it will not last.

“Jacks” are part of the known lore of the Native American woodland tribes. These berries are poisonous, so beware of handing them. Wikipedia tells me a ploy was to mix the berry juice with meat to leave for enemies. Hidden by the meat flavor, the heartily enjoyed poison lead to death. The plant grows from a thick root, a corm. Correctly dried and prepared, the corm is food. I can imaging these plants an entities haunting the forest, choosing to reveal themselves, or not, to knowing souls. Maybe this is was drew O’Keefe to these woodland shapes growing around the springs of her summer homes. Leisure and an open, wandering glance are important, anyway, for noticing them. Most strangers wander by, engrossed in conversations, memories, evanescent distractions.

Here are other “shots” from the same day.

Here is another posting about the Finger Lakes of New York State.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Overlapping Hepatica and Trillium Blooms

four of a kind

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Four views of purple trillium, three of a grouping and one portrait. Taken in the same session of a rare set of perfect blooms growing wild.

Taken with a Canon 100 mm “macro” lens, a Kodak dslr body, a Manfrotto tripod and ample time and patience.

Enjoy!

Fillmore Glen Purple Trillium

The trillium plant grows from a body of rhizomes, a type of underground stem you can think of as a type of root. There are rhizomes when use to flavor food such as turmeric, though trillium is not one of these.

Fillmore Glen Purple Trillium

The single scape grows straight from the ground to form a whorl of three bracts mirrored by the three green (usually) sepals and, again, by the three flower petals for which it is named.

You can clearly see all of this in my photographs.

Fillmore Glen Purple Trillium
Fillmore Glen Purple Trillium
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Personable Wildflowers

With wishes for a Blessed Easter 2021

Late one April afternoon these backlit Hepatica on the gorge wall above the South Rim Trail of Treman Gorge posed for their portraits.

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Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Hepatica

Early Spring Beauties

Most every year since 2002 I’ve photographed these personable beauties, the first wildflowers to bloom as early as late February through the snows.

Click photograph for a larger version
Click photograph for a larger version
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Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills