Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The term "macro" refers to photographing small things up close.  It seems to me it should really be "micro."  To add to my confusion, Canon calls their macro lenses "macro." while Nikon calls theirs "micro."  Apparently, I am not the only one confused by the term.  Perhaps the solution is to just call them "close-ups."  They were shot with the Canon 7D and the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens.  Those are Pacific Crabapples (Malus fusca) in the photo.

This time of year, clear skies bring out photographers and chilly temperatures.  All of these photos were taken along the Upland Trail at the Breazeale Interpretive Center.  This is the headquarters location of the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.  Fidalgo Island can be seen across Padilla Bay.  The visitors' center includes a museum and aquariums.

Macro photography can create interesting images from mundane things.  Even in late November, Blackberries are still delivering an autumn spectacle.  Blackberries are members of the rose family (Rosa).

Our native blackberry is Trailing Blackberry (Rubus ursinus).  Other kinds, including Cutleaf and Himalayan Blackberries, are invasive, introduced species.

If it isn't walking, crawling or flying in a damp forest, moss and lichens will grow on it.

The Upland Trail passes through open meadow, forest edge and deep forest habitats.  You can download a trail guide (.pdf) to take on the hike.  Numbered sign posts along the trail refer to descriptions in the guide.  They highlight features of the Padilla Bay watershed.

The trail side is decorated with the colors and textures of late autumn.  Among the Douglas Fir and Western Redcedar, the dominant deciduous trees are Bigleaf Maple and Red Alder.  A clump of Lichen has fallen out of one of the trees.

I believe this is either Forking Bone or Antlered Perfume Lichen.  I need the help of someone with lichen expertise to ID it accurately.

Mosses are also difficult to identify for the uninitiated, but no less beautiful.

This is a small tree I don't recognize, but I liked the variety of colors.  Could it be a type of willow?  Not knowing what everything is drives me nuts.

Here is another blackberry, this time lit from behind.  Thickets of blackberries and Snow Berries along the trail were alive with foraging Spotted Towhees.

At the halfway point, the trail emerges from the woods near the neighbor's farm.  Those are Scottish Highland Cattle grazing under the watch of Mount Baker.  There were maybe fifty more just to the left of the photo.  We have seen them here before.

Before re-entering the woods, the trail passes by a grove of interesting fir trees.  If these are Noble Firs (Abies procera) they don't belong here.  They should be growing higher up in the Cascade Mountains.  In the summer, they have huge reddish-brown, upright cones which can be seen in another post.

An old stump, in deep shade among Western Redcedars, is given new life by patches of lichen.

Emerging from the woods, I find Springbank Clover (Trifolium wormskjoldii) still blooming in late November.  An early morning frost is now melting into water droplets.  That wonderful name honors Danish botanist Morten Wormskjold.

A small and rather damp side trail loops back into the woods.  This is Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), also in the rose family and dressed for autumn.

In the shade along the trail, these big, round leaves caught my eye.  I have tentatively identified them as Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta).

This cluster of mushrooms was growing next to the trail.  Does anybody know what kind they are?  I guess I need a good mushroom reference.

It won't be long now before all this color will be gone.  When dead leaves fall to the ground, they actually live on by renewing the soil.  What seems to us to be the end of life, is really the onset of a new beginning for plants.

Here some previous posts about the Upland Trail:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Nootka Rose Hips

The Wild Rose fruits of Rosa nutkana is a sign of autumn in the Pacific Northwest.  These were growing along the dike at Wiley Slough in the Skagit River delta.  The hips linger on the canes long after the leaves have dropped, providing a food source for lucky wildlife.  They are a favorite of Douglas Squirrels, but too bad for them, I have never seen any of those critters out there.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day

Visiting Deception Pass State Park seems to have become a Thanksgiving tradition for me.  Last year it was quite windy, but things were calmer this year.  The sky was overcast, but the day brought a lull between a series of storms rolling in off the Pacific.  Another storm with high winds and heavy rain is expected to arrive after midnight.  November is usually our rainiest month.

The state park straddles both Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands with the iconic Deception Pass Bridge connecting the two.  More information about the bridge may be found in a previous post.

Shades of gray and green are the colors of the season.  I am told that artists appreciate the winter light here because it lacks harsh shadows.  Of course we also enjoy those moments we call "sun breaks" when the clouds part, regardless how brief they may be.

This visit also gave me a chance to try out a brand new Canon 7D camera.  It is a step up from the T3i Rebel I have been using.  The bridge provided a great subject to get some practice using the 7D.  For gear heads, all of these test shots were taken with the Canon EFS 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM UD wide angle zoom lens.

I managed to capture a bit of motion in this photo.  There is always a lot of traffic on the bridge which experiences an average of 20,000 crossings each day.

With these shots, I am also experimenting with the raw image format which I have never used before.  I am a bit shaky with the raw image converter in Photoshop.  I am looking for a good tutorial or book which explains how to apply the various settings.  I would enjoy and appreciate any suggestions posted in the comments.  I have the text Photoshop Elements 10:  The Missing Manual which describes the settings, but it doesn't reveal how to use them.

This is the view east from the long span.  Skagit Bay is beyond the two points in the distance.  Kiket Island is visible between the points 3.5 miles/5.6 km away.  Deception Pass is the narrow waterway on the right.

Thanksgiving Day provided a rain-free opportunity to get outside this year.  I eagerly took the opportunity to get some practice with the new camera.  The 7D is a wonderful camera and I can already tell that I am going to enjoy using it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


The Japanese Maple, Acer Palmatum, is a Pacific Northwest garden favorite.  Our climate, Asian heritage and design aesthetic make it a natural choice.  In summer, the leaves of 'Osakazuki' are a rich green.  In the fall, they put on a spectacular crimson show during late October and early November.  The Sunset Western Garden Book describes them as the variety "with the best fall color."  The brilliant red in the photos has been given a bit of shine by a rain shower.  I have not exaggerated the red color through editing.  In fact, it was necessary to tone down the red saturation a bit in these images.

Japanese Maples are small scale trees available in many forms and leaf colors.  Sizes range from 4 foot (1.2 m) dwarfs to around 20-25 feet (6-8 m).  Osakazuki is one of the larger varieties.  They seem to like the same growing conditions as Rhododendrons and Azaleas.  Mine are thriving in the native glacial till soil which tends to be dry and packed hard in the summer.  My Osakazuki grows on the north side of the house where it gets some full sun, dappled sunlight and afternoon shade.

The Japanese word Ōsakazuki translates to "I love Osaka," referring to Japan's second largest city.  Even after the leaves have dropped to the ground, the beauty continues.  The Autumn Fern is another Japanese native, Dryopteris erythrosora.  This is a fern which also displays different seasonal colors.  It is a relative of our native Wood Ferns.

You know you are in the Pacific Northwest when walkways are decorated with Japanese Maple leaves, fir needles and moss.

The winged fruits of maples are called samaras.  Osakazuki produces them abundantly in clusters.  The tree will hold them after the leaves have dropped making it look adorned with red-tinged lace.

My Osakazuki Japanese Maple is more than twenty years old now.  Nevertheless, the tree's brilliant display takes me by surprise every autumn.  When the skies are gray with a bit of chilly drizzle, what a pleasant surprise it is.

Here are some previous posts about the maples in my garden:

Maple Time
Autumn in the Garden
Walking the Garden
More Autumn Augury

Weather Statistics for October, 2012

TemperatureHigh 69.5° FLow 39.0° FMean 50.9° F
Rainfall2.76 inches
WindHigh 32 mphAverage 1.7 mphDom Dir SSE

Observed at South Fidalgo Island (See Climate page for complete climatological data)