Featured Photographer – Connie Mitchell

One fall day in 2009, I was reading through some of the forums at www.photoshopelementsuser.com when I came across some information posted by a lady from the UK named Wendy Williams. Wendy was telling forum members how she had taken photographs and created some “orbs”. These “orbs” were supposed to look like what you would see reflected in a gazing ball placed in a garden. She also posted a number of examples. Additionally, Wendy posted step-by-step instructions so anyone interested could create the same “orbs”. Well, I was indeed interested. I took Wendy’s instructions and created a few of these “orbs”. I was addicted after the first attempt!

Recently I was asked to speak at the Cape Fear Camera Club in Wilmington, NC. I told them the above story and told them how to make these “orbs” (You can do it too, click on “tutorials” above). Connie Mitchell, one of the CFCC members, recently sent me an example of her Orb work! I think you will agree with me that she has done a fantastic job!

(Click on image for larger view)

Connie-Orb

Posted in Digital Art, Featured Photographer, flowers, Fun Stuff, orbs, photography

Japanese Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle-web

Japanese Honeysuckle is a plant almost everyone knows. Children love it, because they can suck the sweet nectar from its flowers. Many adults hate it, since it grows quickly and can strangle other plants.

Japanese Honeysuckle can be a shrub or a vine. Usually it’s seen as a vine, growing up tree trunks or covering another shrub.

This plant was brought here from Asia and has spread steadily. It is is usually seen on the edges of woods, streams, or roads. It also lives in fields and gardens.

Japanese Honeysuckle has three-inch leaves which are green and oval-shaped. They are opposite, which means two leaves grow as a pair from the same spot on the stem, but on opposite sides.

The twigs of this plant are sometimes hairy.

Japanese Honeysuckle is best known for its sweet-smelling flowers. They are white at first, turning yellow as they get older. Flowers are also in pairs, and each flower can reach one and a half inches long. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, bees, and other insects visit the flowers for nectar. They also help pollinate the plant, taking pollen from one flower to another.

Pollination is how a plant can grow fruit, which holds seeds, which can grow into new plants. If honeysuckle doesn’t get pollinated, it can’t spread and grow new plants.

Honeysuckle fruits are small black beries, about 1/4 inch wide. Many birds eat them, including Tufted Titmouse, Northern Bobwhite, American Goldfinch, Northern Mockingbird, and Eastern Bluebird. Birds help the plants spread by pooping seeds out in new places.
Japanese Honeysuckle is a fast-growing climber. As it gets older, it develops a thick, woody stem. It is very strong and does not break easily.

This vine can climb trees, wrapping itself around the tree and covering branches with its own stems and leaves. If the tree can not get light to its leaves, or if the honeysuckle plant is soaking up all the water through its roots, the tree could die. This makes Japanese Honeysuckle a parasite.

Honeysuckle can quickly smother a shrub and it can cover low-growing plants as well. Many plants cannot compete with honeysuckle.

Some plants that Japanese Honeysuckle is often found near, or growing upon, include: Eastern Redcedar, oaks, American Beech, Yellow Poplar, Sassafras, pines, Sweetgum, American Elm, hickories, maples, Flowering Dogwood, Highbush Blueberry, Greenbrier, and Poison Ivy.

Posted in art and entertainment, brookgreen, flowers, murrells inlet, outdoor, photography

Brookgreen Aviary

This morning I went to Brookgreen Gardens and took a quick walkabout through the avairy. Below are a few images from this little trip.

Black-Browned-Night-Heron-in-Tree-web

Above is a Black Browned Night Heron roosting in a tree.

Black-Browned-Night-Heron-Preening-web

Above is another Black Crowned Night Heron preening himself.

Black-Browned-Night-Heron-web

This one looks a little ticked-off!

Cattle-Egret-Breeding-Plumage-web

Above is a Cattle Egret in breeding plumage! Looking for a date?

Ibis-in-woods-webFound an Ibis in the woods!

Posted in art and entertainment, bird, brookgreen, murrells inlet, photography

Brookgreen Butterfly House

Today I was able to visit the butterfly house at Brookgreen Gardens.

Imagine yourself in a place where the brilliance and delicate fragrance of tropical flowers blend with the sound of water as it gently tumbles over rocks in a stream. Hundreds of butterflies flutter back and forth as if trying to decide which they like best – the flowers’ sweet nectar or a refreshing dip in the pool. Then, one of these beautiful creatures lightly lands on your finger. You want to focus your camera and capture the image but know at the first sign of movement the butterfly will fly away. So you sit quietly, captivated by the beauty of your visit to Brookgreen’s Butterfly House.

Colorful, dainty creatures, butterflies belong to the Lepidoptera order of insects. They are cold-blooded and depend on the sun to regulate their temperature. They are essential pollinators in the garden and need nectar plants for the adults, plants that provide food and camouflage for caterpillars, and plants to provide shelter from wind and rain. All over the world, butterflies are valued for their beauty and currently inhabit every continent except Antarctica.

The butterfly house contains a pupae emergence room where you can observe the transformation from chrysalis to adult butterflies. Interpretive signs throughout the exhibit describe the life cycle of butterflies and the important role they play in our environment. The exhibit is open daily April – October, and tickets are $3 for adults and $2 for children in addition to garden admission.

The most recent addition to the Lowcountry Zoo, the butterfly house accommodates dozens of species of butterflies that are native to the Southeast. They support Brookgreen’s mission to exhibit and educate visitors about the animals, ecology, and plants in our area. Come and see its beauty for yourself but don’t forget to bring your camera.

Here are a few shots I was able to get today!

Black-Butterfly-web Buckeyes-web Eastern-Tiger-Swallowtail-web Malachi-Butterfly-web Monarch-web Orange-Sulpher-Butterfly-web zebra-heliconian-web

Posted in brookgreen, garden, outdoor

Kaleidoscope Images

Do you remember playing with a kaleidoscope as a kid? You know, that cylinder with mirrors and loose colored objects like beads or pebbles or bits of glass. You would turn the cylinder and watch with amazement as wonderous shapes took form and then changed before your eyes.

Most kaleidoscopes are mass-produced from inexpensive materials, and intended as children’s toys. At the other extreme are handmade pieces that display fine craftsmanship. Craft galleries often carry a few kaleidoscopes, while other enterprises specialize in them, carrying dozens of different types from different artists and craftspeople. Most handmade kaleidoscopes are now made in Russia and Italy, following a long tradition of glass craftsmanship in those countries.

I like to create my own kaleidoscope images – images that look like what you might see when looking into a kaleidoscope. Below are some I created today. Let me know if you enjoy them!

Click each image for larger view.

BOP-Kaleidoscope-webTulipField-Kaleidoscope-web  English-Daisy-Kaleidoscope-webBOP-Orb-Kaleidoscope-web Azalea-Kaleidoscope-web

Posted in abstract, art and entertainment, Digital Art, Fun Stuff, kaleidoscope

Visit to Brookgreen Gardens

This afternoon I made a quick trip to visit Brookgreen Gardens and photograph some of the flowers that spring has brought out. What is Brookgreen Gardens, you might be asking. Well here is a brief description and following that you can see some of the images I made while there today.

As a haven for indigenous plant life and a natural refuge for animals, Brookgreen Gardens is a sanctuary. Since 1931, its environmental-friendly preservation has been a policy handed down by founders Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington.

In the Gardens Brookgreen protects over 2,000 species of plants in its nature preserve, and has nine ecosystems that exemplify coastal South Carolina unlike anywhere else. These range from salt marshes to longleaf pine, mixed hardwood, and river bluff forests.
Irrigation is performed only when necessary and only on land areas, not on hard surfaces, to prevent run-off. Brookgreen uses only organic or slow release fertilizers. The latter releases chemicals slowly so they go directly to the plant’s root system rather than to the ground water, which feeds springs and wells. Another way in which Brookgreen also accents its eco-friendly policy is by its composting of materials to use in the planting beds of the gardens.

Click on any image for larger view:

TulipField-webUnknown-web YellowWhite-web Daffodill-with-Bug-web Daffodills-web Bells-web Azaleas-everywhere-web Snow-Bells-web PurpleWhite-web Dont-Know-web

Posted in art and entertainment, brookgreen, flowers, outdoor, photography

Salt Flats of Bonaire

The wind carries swirls of foam across shallow flamingo-pink pools that dapple the Caribbean island of Bonaire. Across a one-lane road, the surf crashes against piles of bleached coral, filling the air with a briny haze. In the distance, other pools shine brown and violent green, while imposing pyramids of salt crystals glint in the sunlight.

These are Bonaire’s salt flats, where seawater evaporates in the sun and wind, leaving behind rippling expanses of colorful algae and bacteria adapted to extreme saline conditions. Salt has been harvested here for hundreds of years, first by African slaves of the Dutch government, then by private industry. Now the historic salt flats are serving as inspiration for a renewable energy future in Bonaire, based on the island’s abundant wind, sun, and algae.

Dubbed one of the “ABC Islands” of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire isn’t as well known as nearby Aruba and Curacao. Tourists tend to overlook it because it has few sandy beaches, no high-rise resorts, and no appreciable nightlife. Still, the economy is based almost entirely on tourism—mostly associated with scuba divers who come to explore the coral reefs of a marine reserve along the island’s coast.

Salt is Bonaire’s only export, and many necessities, including food and fuel, must be imported.

Click on image for larger view:

Bonaire-Salt-Flats-web

Bonaire’s salt flats, where algae and bacteria color pools of evaporating seawater.

Posted in art and entertainment, travel

Updated Orbs

Last week I was honored to speak to the Cape Fear Camera Club. We talked about the many different things you can do with your photography other than the normal – “Think outside the Box” stuff.

One of the topics was Orbs. This seemed to have been met with some enthusiasm and I was thinking about his while driving home. It occurred to me that I had not done an new orbs recently. The next morning I corrected this situation. Below are some new orbs for your viewing pleasure.  These are also posted in the Orb Gallery here on this website.

If you are new to the world of orbs and would like to learn how to make your own, I have a video and written tutorial available for you. Just follow this link or “click” on Tutorials in the menu bar above.

Bird-of-Paradise-in-Pool-Orb-web Crotons-Orb-web Peacock-orb-web BelinUMC-Orb-web Ornamental_Cabbage_Orb-web Pile-of-Leaves-orb-web Swamp Sunflower Orb-web

Posted in abstract, art and entertainment, Belin, Bird of Paradise, Digital Art, Fun Stuff, orbs Tagged , , |

Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens

Soufriere Estate is one of the oldest and best-preserved estates on St. Lucia and was originally part of the 2000 acres of land granted to the Devaux family by King Louis XIV of France in 1713, in recognition of their service to ‘Crown and Country’. In 1740 the three Devaux brothers came to St. Lucia to claim the land which at that time included the present site of Soufriere Town, as well as the Sulphur Springs.

This historical estate has been transformed from a working plantation that once produced limes, copra and cocoa, into one of the major heritage sites in the region, as well as a viable and spectacular tourist attraction that includes the Botanical Gardens, Waterfall, Mineral Baths, Nature Trail, Old Mill Restaurant and the historic Soufriere Estate House.

The Diamond Botanical Gardens sit in a natural gorge that begins at the world’s only drive through volcano and bubbling sulphur springs. The sulphur springs are weak spots in the crust of an enormous collapsed crater, the result of a volcanic upheaval that took place some 40,000 years ago. Natural minerals found in the area include, Kaolinite and Quartz and smaller quantities of Gypsum, Alunite, Pyrite and Geotite.

In 1713, three Devaux brothers were granted 2000 acres of land by King Louis XIV for services to Crown & Country.
The Diamond Botanical Gardens sit on the original site of the spring baths which were built in 1784. These baths were built so that the troops of King Louis XVI of France could take advantage of the waters therapeutic powers.

Diamond Botanical Gardens is now a thriving tourism site, six acres of planted gardens, including Diamond Falls. The Diamond River comes straight from the Sulphur Springs, black from volcanic mud and spilling over the rock face, staining the stone wall with the many colors left behind by the minerals finally dropping into the calm pond below. In 1983, Mrs. Joan Devaux, daughter of Mr. André du Boulay took over the management of the Estate.  Throughout the years Mrs. Devaux has continued the development and restoration of this beautiful estate.

Below are some images I took while visiting these Gardens in February 2015. Click on any image for a larger view.

Bird-of-Paradise-in-Pool-web Bird-of-Paradise-on-Black-web BOP-web Coconuts-web Diamond-Falls-Red-Bridge2-web Diamond-Falls-Red-Bridge-web Diamond-Falls-web pink-web

Posted in art and entertainment, Bird of Paradise, flowers, garden, outdoor, photography, travel Tagged , , , , |

Crab vs Iguana

Last month, while we were on our three-week Caribbean Cruise, we spent a day on the island of Aruba. Having been there before we opted to just take a bit of a walkabout and do some souvenir shopping, shoot a few pictures, grab some lunch and just enjoy the warmth of Aruba.

Our walk took us down the Lloyd G. Smith Blvd, past a marina, along Wilhelmina Park and down by Renaissance Beach. While walking toward Renaissance Beach we spotted a couple of Iguana. One was a bigger older one colored a dull grey. The second (pictured below) was smaller, younger and a bright green. Nearby was a crab (also pictured below). I think this is a Sally Lightfoot crab but I am not sure of that ID.

Anyway, the crab spotted the younger Iguana and wanted to be friends. The Iguana also noticed the crab and was not too sure of what was going on. Very slowly the crab got closer and closer to the Iguana while young Mr. Iguana stood his ground but watched intently. The crab finally came within arms errr leg length away and touched the Iguana on the neck checking him out. I was fortunate to capture this fleeting moment (also shown below). A nano-second after I took this picture both the crab and iguana jumped straight up in the air and then took off in separate directions!

The-Iguana-webThe-Crab-webCrab-vs-Iguana-web

Posted in art and entertainment, outdoor, travel Tagged , , |