Monthly Archives: June 2016

“Showy Lady’s Slipper” – Secord Forest

"Showy Lady's Slipper" - Secord Forest

“Many collectors died in the process of searching for new species, and despite persistent reports that the men died from drowning, gunshot and knife wounds, snakebite, trampling by cattle, or blows in the head with blunt instruments, it is generally accepted that in each case the primary cause of death was orchid fever.”
― Eric Hansen

Perhaps I got a touch of the aforementioned ‘orchid fever’. I have to admit, I’ve been waiting for this shot for a few weeks now and was thrilled when I came across this beautiful flower, next to a rotting log, in a swampy forest, at Secord Forest this week. Not a new species, but new to me.

Through most seasons, I’ve hiked these trails, enjoyed the wonderfully diverse flora and fauna, and even came across a bear last fall. Along this 4.7km forest trail, there is a section with a wooden sign, designating it as the “Orchid Trail”. This has intrigued me for some time, since I tend to favour these trails in the ‘no-mosquito’ seasons and really had no idea what to look for and when to look for them.

This year has been an exception, I began on the trails just as the snow was melting, hoping to document the natural cycle of this forest through my photos. I was determined that orchids would be on my photographic bucket list and set out learning about them and identifying them. The unfortunate thing with my research was that most books listed blooming season from April to August. That was not much help. So, as I set out each week, I started to look deliberately for plant leaves that fit the description of orchids. I did not even know what species are native to this particular forest and there are several possibilities.

Eventually, a few weeks ago, a few banded leaves emerged from the moist forest floor. Perhaps these were the elusive orchids I sought? Steadily, they grew taller and taller to rise some sixty centimeters (two feet) above the mossy ground. They sure looked like orchids, but they seemed taller than I expected. Back to the books, to find that yes, several species fit the description. More days of just foliage followed, till last week, small green buds formed, offering the promise of flowers. What colour would they be? How long would they last? So many questions, few firm facts.

My weekend plans prevented me from checking back on the buds. What if somebody saw the open flowers on the weekend? The trails are filled with people who may not realize how delicate these plants could be, damage them, and deprive me of my prize.

So, I ventured into the forest at lunch, wondering what state this group of five or six plants would be in. I slowed as I approached, looking for a sign of flower. Then, WOW!, the delicate green plants were topped by the most beautiful pink and white slippers. The mystery plant turned out to be a Showy Lady’s Slipper (cypripedium reginae). I had no idea how large they would be, the blossoms were about 5-8 centimeters (2 inches) long, and perfect. Nobody had disturbed them. I sat on a nearby log for some fifteen minutes just revelling in this wonderful creation, then set out to capture this in photographs, hoping to do them justice, checking and double checking my camera settings, not knowing how long these gems will last or when my next visit might be.

The photo above is the culmination of this quest for orchids. Now I know what to look for, where, and when. During this quest, I also found another interesting orchid, which I am currently researching.

Nikon D800
Nikkor AF 28-70mm f/3.5~F/4.5D
@ 45mm
1/60 sec, f/4.0, ISO 450

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“Baptismal Elements” – St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York

“Baptismal Elements” - St. Patricks, Cathedral New York

“The Church does not dispense the sacrament of baptism in order to acquire for herself an increase in membership but in order to consecrate a human being to God and to communicate to that person the divine gift of birth from God.”
― Hans Urs von Balthasar

I can’t fully explain what it was that attracted me to this composition. Yet, I find myself processing that very though in this post.

The golden urn and bowl seemed to stand out from other elements around them. The soft, natural light playing on the mottled gray walls further enhanced the image by isolating the table in the foreground.

It’s a simple scene really, and reminds me a bit of the still life paintings in the Dutch Golden Age style, with their bright golden tones and simple depictions of everyday items.

I also thought this composition might make a nice church bulletin cover, celebrating baptism, which is something I used to produce regularly a few years back. The table seems to be ready and waiting, prepared for something to happen.

Nikon D300
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
 @ 70 mm
1/60 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000

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“Rock Garden Waterfall” – Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington

“Rock Garden Waterfall” - Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlingto

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
― Michael Pollan

A change of pace from all my recent flower and butterfly photos, though if you look closely, there are still flowers present. Can you find them?

I did set out to photograph flowers this day and have plenty to share at a later date, but I do like a good waterfall and the serenity small cascades like this create for me, even knowing it is man made. I used a slow shutter at 1/10 of a second to slightly blur the movement and had to go hand-held because I did not want to carry a tripod all day. That did pose a challenge because it was very bright and I had to shoot at f/32 to keep the water from being blown out.

This stepped cascade can be found at the rock gardens, which are part of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario. The rock garden is one of several gardens within this large complex of garden exhibits and is nestled in the base of a valley, forming a bit of a bowl. Much of the stone is native limestone and some material has been moved into place to create a garden with large limestone boulders and many stepped paths which run up and down the hillside. I enjoyed the inclusion of many native plant species, which those who are not hiking the backwoods trails would never experience otherwise. Including Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), which are the small pink flowers visible near the base of the higher cascade. They are a native plant and are members of the geranium family. The crushed leaves can be used as a mosquito repellant, handy at this time of year).

The waterfall pictured here, feeds into some smaller stepped cascades and eventually winds through the lower gardens as a meandering creek which flows beneath bridges and around some wonderful large trees.

At this time of year, the garden also features some exquisite blooming dogwoods, which I have a real attraction to (more photos of those to come).

If you happen to be in the Burlington area and like plants, I would highly recommend this as a destination, but plan on a day, since it is a large complex that spreads over several properties.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
 @ 70 mm
1/10 sec, f/32.0, ISO 500

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“Pink Peony” – Stouffville

“Pink Peony” - Stouffville

“Someone was playing piano nearby and the music drifted slowly in and out of my mind like the ebb and flow of ocean surf. I almost recognized the melody, but I could not be sure, it slipped like a cool and silken wind from my grasp.”
― Chaim Potok

Today’s image is another foray into the world of macro photography and I’m loving the effects and subtle details the naked eye misses. In this case, I think the narrow aperture and gradual fade to the distance give the image a dreamy feel.

There is a wonderful softness in the frills of the peony, the petals fading from deep pink to a faded, papery white. The photo, of course, cannot capture the exquisite scent, yet looking at the photo now brings forth those sweet memories and I hope to carry them into the summer, long after the blossoms have faded.

Nikon D800
Nikkor AF 28-70mm f/3.5~F/4.5D
@ 70mm
1/125 sec, f/5.0, ISO 200

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“My Home Among the Cosmos”

“My Home Among the Cosmos”

“I live in my own little world. But its ok, they know me here.”
― Lauren Myracle

Another garden venture into the world of macro photography, which I am enjoying since it often brings about unexpected results. Like this little bug, which has made it’s home, deep inside the flower. I didn’t see him, even when composing the shot.

I still have lots to learn, as I have just started out with an inexpensive set of manual extension tubes and would value the advice of others with experience in macro. If I’m going to pursue this is it worthwhile investment in autofocus tubes or is the preference to remain manual and control the image?

Nikon D800
Nikkor AF 28-70mm f/3.5~F/4.5D
@ 50mm
1/400 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my Facebook page:
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“Hobblebush Blossoms” – Secord Forest

“Hobblebush Blossoms” - Secord Forest

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
― Claude Monet

This strange, flowering bush has fascinated me for some time. The blossoms form from the outside of the flower disc. I had a hard time finding good specimen this year but the photo above should suffice. The central bud clusters are rimmed with beautiful white blossoms. At first glance it would appear to be a form of dogwood, that is till you get closer and inspect the bright white flowers. It’s quite unique and the flowers are pure white. I’ve spotted then in open fields and deeper in the forest but he always catch my attention with their bright flowers.

This bush is one of several growing along the trail that leads into secord Forest, south of Uxbridge, Ontario and I just another testimony to the diverse flora and fauna that call this sanctuary home.

I was on my way into the forest to check on a group of orchids I would like to photograph in bloom. Sadly, after a long mosquito plagued hike, the orchids are still a day or two away from blooming. The flower buds have formed, so its just a matter of time. I’m really hoping to catch them before they fade or someone picks them.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
 @ 195 mm
1/320 sec, f/9.0, ISO 200

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“Red-Osier Dogwood Blossoms” – Stouffville

“Red-Osier Dogwood Blossoms” - Stouffville

“In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them.” – Aldo Leopold

Late spring, and green palettes are dotted with bright pinks, yellows, and whites, like patches of icing. They fairly glow in the bright sunshine. On closer inspection, these splashes of brightness are surprisingly complex.

I would not have expected the structures in the dogwood blossoms and have never really taken the time to look at them carefully. The cluster above was deliberately isolated from the rest by balancing my aperture to keep the cluster in the foreground in focus, while blurring the background and having the light trail off from white to black.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom- @300mm

1/250 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200

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“May Fretz Peony” – Stouffville

“May Fretz Peony”  -Stouffville

“The little boy nodded at the peony and the peony seemed to nod back. The little boy was neat, clean and pretty. The peony was unchaste, dishevelled, as peonies must be, and at the height of its beauty. Every hour is filled with such moments, big with significance for someone.”
– Robertson Davies

I’m not sure what the formal designation for this variety of peony is, but in my home it’s know as Grandma Fretz’s Peony. This is one of several heritage peonies we have in our gardens and was passed on to us by my mother-in-law.

This beauty always produces brilliant white blossoms with a splash of bright red at the centre and lining some petals. It’s also incredibly fragrant. At this time of year the air around our house is redolent with the fragrance of peony.

Our only problem is the flowers are so large that even a light rain adds so much weight to them that they just about break their stems or sag to the ground. So, we enjoy them while we can and try to support the large bushes as well as we can.

It’s a true pleasure knowing this same plant graced my wife’s ancestors garden and that we can continue to enjoy them and, hopefully, pass them on to the next generation to enjoy as well. Our saving grace, though I consider myself a good gardener, I seem to have gift for peonies. This is paying off well.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 185mm

1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200

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200 WordPress Followers – Wow! and Thank you!

followed-blog-200-2xI have to admit, my venture into blogging took me some time and encouragement from a few fellow bloggers, at times when I was ready to give up. So, a big thank you to everyone you has enjoyed my photos and thoughts and especially those who have encouraged me to persevere through “No Views” days.

I’m hoping that my photography and writing continue to improve through this experience and interaction with my fellow creatives.

My other hope is that I can be equally encouraging to those just starting out. There is so much incredible talent here, in writers, poets, artists, photographers, etc.

Creativity and beauty needs to be encouraged in this ever negative world.


Thursday Doors – June 16th, 2016

“Pure Spirts Door”  - Toronto Distillery District

This week’s submission to Norm 2.0‘s Thursday Doors.

These doors can be found in Toronto’s Distillery District. All the doors in this area are painted the same green colour to match the period when the buildings were part of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. I posted another door from this wonderful historic district last week.

This door belongs to a great local restaurant and once led to the distillery’s shipping room.

If you are ever travelling to Toronto, this is a must see destination, filled with great dining spots, galleries and shops. Oh, and do bring a camera.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
 @ 70 mm
1/60 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my Facebook page:
or my website (some images available for purchase)