Category Archives: photography

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

Japanese Honeysuckle

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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.

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.

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

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Above is another Black Crowned Night Heron preening himself.

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This one looks a little ticked-off!

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

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

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:

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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.

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Flamingos in Bonaire

The flamingo, Bonaire’s national symbol, is technically a shore bird, but its beauty, rarity, and unique presence on the island places the bird in a class by itself.
There are only four places in the world where large numbers of Caribbean Flamingos breed — Bonaire is one of them. You can see allusions in the walls of the pink-painted airport, in the endless flamingo T-shirts, and in the array of flamingo kitch for sale on the streets of Kralendjik, but the birds themselves appear to be entirely absent, carefully hidden on some Bonairean backstage.

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This wariness seems to be unnatural: if nature ever dressed a diva, the flamingo is it. The pink cotton candy feathers, the graceful, wavy neck, and the long sinewy legs all seems to cry “look at beautiful me,” but in reality flamingos prefer anything but a spotlight. In fact, the birds are so sensitive to noise and intrusion that the slightest disturbance will cause them to quickly flee. They will never come close to people.

There are two places to see Bonaire’s flamingos. One is at the Pekelmeer Sanctuary to the south, where the birds flock around the salt ponds; the other at Lake Gotomeer, in Washington Slagbaai National Park in the north. The photos shown here were taken at Gotomeer.

Fishing-Flamingos-web Feeding-Flamingos-webAt both places, it is important to keep your distance and not disturb the birds. Bonaireans are as protective of their flamingos as they are of their reefs. The best way to get a great photograph is to bring a telephoto lens. On a good day, you can see them gather by the hundreds in a chaotic, undulating pink cloud. The pinkness of their feathers actually comes from the carotene found in their diet of brine shrimp, brine fly pupae, small clams, and other micro-delectables.

Flamingos are social animals, and a minimum of 15 to 20 animals is required before they’ll begin to breed. They mate for life, and what actually causes them to nest and breed is still something of a mystery (though several studies suggest that a good rainfall is highly influential). Once a pair does mate, both the male and the female share equally in the tasks of building a nest, sitting on their single egg for about a month, and feeding the chick. After about three months, the chick will be able make the 90 kilometer flight to Venezuela, a trip the flamingos make when food on Bonaire becomes scarce.

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Photo Contest

I am asking for your help and support.  One of my photos is in the Grand Strand Magazines photo contest. Please go to http://grandstrandmag.com/photo-contest-readers-choice and cast your vote for “Crazy Sister Sunset”!  Please share this with all your friends!

Thank you!

 

Solarized Crotons

Crotons, Codiaeum variegatum, are evergreen, tropical shrubs that have been commonly grown in Florida landscapes for decades. They belong to the Euphorbiaceae Family. In southeastern Asia they have been cultivated for centuries and many hundreds of cultivars have been bred with a range of different leaf shapes, sizes and colors.
Crotons are originally native to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and northern Queensland, Australia. It is a tropical shrub and grows best in the southern and central parts of Florida. Frost or temperatures below freezing temperatures can damage crotons.
If they get damaged by cold, delay any pruning until the danger of frost is past. In central Florida this is usually late February or early March. If the plant is damaged, lightly scratch a stem. If it is green then the stem is alive and will resprout. If not, usually the lower stems survive and resprout from the roots. Plant it in a warm location in the landscape. In colder locations be prepared to protect the shrub in winter or grow in containers and bring them indoors during freezing weather.
Crotons are easy to grow. Most prefer full sun or bright shade. Plants in higher light have the brighter coloring. Some varieties prefer indirect sun and will look washed out with full sun. Crotons can tolerate shade but the shadier the location the less vivid the foliage color will be.

 

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Prints of this image are available for sale here: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/solarized-crotons-bill-barber.html

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Thomas Drayton and his wife Ann arrived from Barbados to the new English colony of Charles Towne and established Magnolia Plantation along the Ashley River in 1679. Thomas and Ann were the first in a direct line of Magnolia family ownership that has lasted more than 300 years and continues to this day.

Magnolia Plantation saw immense wealth and growth through the cultivation of rice during the Colonial era. Later, British and American troops would occupy its grounds during the American Revolution, while the Drayton sons would become both statesmen and soldiers fighting against British rule.

The establishment of the early gardens at Magnolia Plantation in the late 17th century would see an explosion of beauty and expansion throughout the 18th century, but it was not until the early 19th century did the gardens at Magnolia truly begin to expand on a grand scale.

In 1680 the Magnolia Plantation house was built by John Drayton. The original house lasted only until 1865 when it was destroyed by Union Troops. The existing house was built in 1873 and is open to the public for tours. One of the most notable features of the plantation grounds are the gardens. Known as the first American Garden, countless indigenous plants have grown here for more than two hundred years. The gardens are home to the nation’s largest compilation of azaleas and camellias. Also to be experienced on the estate is the 60 acre Audubon Swamp garden, Biblical Gardens, Barbados Tropical Garden, train tours, petting zoo, wildlife observation tower, art gallery, horticulture maze, nature trails, 18th century herb garden, and antebellum cabin.

Below are some of the images I came away with when I recently visited. You can get a larger view of any of these pictures simply by “clinking” on them. I hope you enjoy them.

Sideview-Long-White-Bridge-webIt is almost obligatory that you photograph the “Long White Bridge”. Here are several views if this iconic bridge, from both sides and a Black & White.

Long-White-Bridge-webLooking-Down-the-Long-White-Bridge-webLong-White-Bridge-at-angle-webLong-White-Bridge-at-angle-B&W-webSmall-White-Bridge-webThere is also a “Small White Bridge” that often takes a back seat to its bigger sister.

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Great Blue Heron

Yesterday I visited Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, SC. While there I had to visit their Audubon Swamp Garden.

The Audubon Swamp Garden is a unique world where trees grow from the water, islands float, and everywhere wild creatures go about their secret lives. It boasts a diversity of living things almost unequaled anywhere else in America. Thousands of plant and animal species coexist amongst the cypress and tupelo gum trees, surrounded by blackwater. Each year, hundreds of egrets, herons, and other waterfowl nest within feet of the walking path. You can explore this wild and otherwise inaccessible landscape on boardwalks, bridges, and dikes.

As I was walking through the Swamp Garden I happened to spot a Great Blue Heron perched on a nest very high up in a tree. The Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind.  I was fortunate to get a shot of this magnificent creature. I hope you enjoy it.

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