Pam’s Begonia Basket

small, unloved, on clearance

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this image I used a handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR with the Canon lens EF 50mm f 1.2L USM. This is the fifth post of this series. Click me for the first series post, “Begonia Grandis” from my photography gallery.

Click photograph for a larger view.

Pam’s gorgeous Begonia Grandis hanging baskets had a humble beginning. Not quite born in a log cabin, our local Aldi was the beginning where Pam saw sad little $3.00 potted begonia’s, on clearance, that needed a home. Cherished through the late frosts of May, carefully watered, placed in the perfect light, it was no accident these are so……perfect.

One strange fact, I have not witnessed a single honey bee harvesting these blooms.

I used three Canon lenses in the course of these five posts. This lens is a portrait lens. I used a large format image for this post, enjoy!!

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Iridescence and Impostors

“Here I Am”

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this fourth image of the begonia series I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 100 mm f 2.8L IS USM variable lens. Click me for the first post, “Begonia Grandis.”

Click photograph for a larger view.

Tiny Mirrors

Begonia flowers have no petals. The colorful structures surrounding the male and female parts are the structure in many flowers, such as roses, that lay beneath the flower petals and are green are called the sepal. These are the cover protecting the flower as a bud and, when open, can provide support. In begonias it is the entire flower and it glows.

The angle of morning light in today’s macro captures the reflections of thousands of tiny mirrors in the flowers, more noticeable in the darker undersides. Also present is a subtle iridescence, a shiny surface imparting, in this begonia, slight color changes. These are signals to the pollinators, “Here I am — this is delicious.” Also, in low light tropical environments iridescence can enhance light gathering of leaves.

Hoverfly

Woodland sunbeams are special places where I first noticed hoverflies, they have a behavior of staying motionless, beating wings a blur, in sunlight making its way to the forest floor. It was only after the fact, in the virtual darkroom of Lightroom, I noticed the tiny creature in today’s photograph.

On a quick look, it appears to be a yellow jacket, a type of wasp. Look closely and you will see the eyes are on the top of the head and touch in places. The wings stand perpendicular to the thorax, wasp wings fold along the thorax and abdomen and there are differences in the veining of the wings. The identify of this creature is a beneficial fly, a hoverfly, genus Episyrphus. The shiny black shield on the upper thorax suggests to me this is a Episyrphus viridaureus.

This fly is beneficial to humans in two ways. One we observe in the photograph, as flower pollination. It is one of the few flies with mandibles capable of crushing pollen grains and, in the course of feeding, some pollen clings to the fly to be transported flower to flower. The second benefit is less obvious. The larval form is a predator of aphids. After feeding, it transforms into a resting state, called diapause and survives the winter this way.

Human beings suppose the benefit of looking like a wasp is protection against predators who fear being stung, increasing survival of the individual.

The lens is designed for macro work and is a fixed focus, it can capture small details without needed to be close to the subject. I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the hoverfly. It was in writing this post I noticed the sepal iridescence.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Begonia Flowers and a Sweat Bee

shiny, bright green tiny bee

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this third image of the begonia series I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 100 mm f 2.8L IS USM variable lens. Click me for the first post, “Begonia Grandis.”

Click photograph for a larger view.

Sweat Bee!!

The bee on the right, in sharp focus, was a puzzle to me. I am familiar with it, they are very common around here, and striking with a bright green shiny thorax. For this post I decided to identify it.

After thirty minutes of poking around I found a list of New York Wild bees on the Cornell CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) site. It is in the form of an excel spreadsheet and very helpful. There are over 400 species listed. Using the “filter” feature I found the six families and, for each, did a web search. I am 98% sure this bee is in the family Halictidae, known as “sweat bees,” being attracted to the salt of perspiration they use for nutrition.

Next I looked as the first name in the species designation within the family Halictidae. Tjhis is the genus. There were not many, in a few minutes singling out Agapostemon, known as the “metallic green sweat bee.” I did not find it necessary to hone in on the exact species as members of the genus Agapostemon have defining characteristics.

There are four species listed on the Cornell CALS spreadsheet, all are ground nesting and solitary. Sweat bees are useful as crop pollinators. In Texas they can replace honeybees for pollination of cotton.

Agapostemon sericeus
Agapostemon splendens
Agapostemon texanus
Agapostemon virescens

The lens is designed for macro work and is a fixed focus, it can capture small details without needed to be close to the subject. I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the bees. The sharper focus is on the sweat bee

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bumblebees and Begonia Flowers

Fertile land

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this second image of the begonia I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 70-300 f 4-5.6L ISM variable lens. This is the second post of this series. Click me for the first post, “Begonia Grandis.”

Click photograph for a larger view.

Bumblebees numbers will tell you if local mouse populations are under control. Mice will invade bumblebee burrows to eat the eggs and young. If the bees are plentiful, it means more are escaping mouse predation and only because mouse numbers are low.

This morning, bees of all kinds filled the begonia flowers. Bumblebees were amusing to watch enthusiastically roll around the many stamen of the male flowers, gathering as much pollen as possible.

The lens focal length is set to 84 mm to capture the entire plant, on reviewing the proofs I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the bee.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Begonia Grandis

Fertile land

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this image I used a handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR with the Canon lens EF 100 f 2.8L Macro. This is the first post of this series. Click me for “Water Lily Flower with hornet,” from my photography gallery.

Click photograph for a larger view.

Begonia is a large genus of flowering plants, sub-tropical and tropical natives, adapted her to a hanging basket put out after the last frost, the end of May, Memorial Day, in these parts. The flowers are monoecious, both male and female unisex flowers bloom on a single plant.

Pictured are double male flowers composed entirely of stamens. This plant has a sour flavor enjoyed in parts of its range. Over consumption will produce ill effects as the tissues are high in oxalic acid, a poison to humans.

The leaves and flowers glow in the gentle light of early morning.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Another Woody Peony

A handy length of black velvet

By way of personal inventory, our home has two types of woody peonies in different hues. Last posting I gave you red, au natural. Today, you get yellow in a studio setting, back-dropped by black velvet. There is a story behind that long sheet of fabric. Back in the day, a nephew of mine named Chris and I used to hang out together in the Catskills and Adirondacks. Later, I offered to photograph James, his first born. In preparation, I purchased this six foot length of fabric. It served well for that job and, since then, has done double duty as a wintertime cage cover for the parakeet.

This week, I told Pam our yellow wooden peony was in bloom. A largish bush of full leaves that tend to cover the drooping blooms, Pam harvested six blooms to created an arrangement. These “babies” look great against the black velvet.

Yesterday I used the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USB lens and a tripod to capture the following two portraits of Pam’s Yellow Wooden Peony arrangement. In deference to the unanimous reader choice for crisp flower petals the following two versions differ in the crispness of the velvet backdrop.

My timing was fortuitous, last evening the petals started to drop. Pam reports 12 more blossoms are hidden in the bush, so we’ll have at least one more bouquet to enjoy.

Click either photograph for a larger version.
f 5.0 Black Velvet Backdrop
f 7.1 Black Velvet Backdrop
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Woody Peony Series

Effect of f-stop

May 2019 Pam and I visited the New York State historical site of Olana, the former home of Fredrick Church of the Hudson River School of painting. Off the walk was a small planting of flowers, among them a type of “woody” peony in full bloom on Memorial Day weekend, well before the “herbaceous” type that is setting flower buds at that time. These were a striking reddish hue.

On returning home we were pleased to find our own “woody” peonies of the same hue in full bloom as well. On Memorial Day I used the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USB lens and a tripod to capture the following two macros of the flower center with the lens aperture fully open (f 2.8) and at its smallest (f 32).

Question for readers: Which do you prefer, and why?

Click either photograph for a larger version.
f 32
f 2.8
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills