Sunday, November 27, 2011

learning is messy, distinguishing hemlocks from spruces, and tree turds

I took 161 pictures this afternoon, most of which are lousy, but that’s OK. I’ve been playing with the Lumix lately, daring to move beyond the confines of either the Intelligent Auto or the default automatic settings in the mode that allows me to use the macro zoom. Today’s experiments were with the white balance, the ISO setting, and whether or not the flash engages. I didn’t think to mess with the shutter speed. There’s always next time for that.

On a day like today – flat light, overcast, only occasional sun filtered through high clouds – it’s hard to get a decent shot of anything, particularly if the background is snow. I have a zillion underexposed and overexposed shots. But I had fun messing around with the settings, and also observing what the camera would do when I let it decide all of these variables.
Along the way, I refreshed my memory on the difference between hemlocks, balsam firs, and white spruces. I shouldn’t be a tease: I haven’t found a balsam fir. But hemlock and white spruce?  Yes, ma’am, we have those.

First up, hemlock. We’re up in the woods.

An adorable baby hemlock. Scraggly, but optimistic.

Flat needles, green on top…

…with racing stripes on the bottom. Also?

Those little stalks at the base of each needle mean that when you find a twig that has no needles…

…it’s bumpy. And this is an example of a crap photo.

Another excellent thing about hemlocks is their fantastically cute cones, but I didn’t see any today, so just put that on your wish list and the Universe will provide.

Incidentally, if this were balsam fir, you’d have the same flat needles with racing stripes on the bottom. But the leaves would come straight out from the twig with no leaf stalk (which is called “sessile”), and that means a twig with no needles would be smooth. Plus, balsam firs smell awesome.

White spruce, on the other hand. Spruce needles are not flat – they’ve got maybe four or so sides.  If you’re not sure you can see it for yourself, try rolling a needle between your fingers. If you can roll it, it’s a spruce. 

White spruce needles look blue-ish green, which I realize doesn’t seem to be the case in this picture, but trust me.

It’s a good year for the white spruce. Lots of cones. Naturally, from a distance, these look like tree turds.

A good day is one where you come home looking like this.

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