Sunday, March 14, 2010

Succulent Flapjacks

Backlit Flapjack Plant
Kalanchoe luciae)
March 14, 2010
"I cannot pretend to feel impartial about colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns."
~Sir Winston Churchill

A few summers ago, I went up to Sarasota to Towles Court, a local artist enclave. A bunch of artists restored a few square block section of town to be devoted to the arts. Charming little homes are now galleries and small cafes, with courtyard parks. If you haven't ever been to their monthly art walks, do think about it. Wonderful art and really lovely place.

In my ramblings there, I found a photographer who had a wonderful collection of potted flapjack plants in her back courtyard. I was able to buy one, and after a short, somewhat unhappy tenure indoors here, it was moved out to the edge of my water garden. Since then, it's been thriving and reproducing remarkably fast. Babies now live in three more pots, and the original "momma" plant grows taller each season.

I like to meander out into the garden now and then and watch the plants and light play with each other. This photograph is the fruit of such a trip. Backlighting my plant subjects is a technique I often use, letting the sun illuminate the leaves and blooms. Magic often happens with backlighting, which is why I'm so fond of it. The sun made the soft flesh of this succulent explode in color. Magic, I tell you. Pure magic. Kind of like seeing mountain ridges ablaze in the sunset.

Flapjack plants have large paddle-shaped ears, which is why they are often called paddle plants, paddle wheel plants, dog tongue plants, and even desert cabbage.

And here's an interesting bit of info for you: these succulents are monocarpic, meaning that once they bloom, they die. Doesn't seem quite fair, but what a way to go.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 60mm Micro, a tripod and perfect alignment with the sun.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

ME and Flat Stanley

Flat Stanley Goes Kayaking
Wiggins Bay, FL

March 01, 2010

Tricolored Heron Fishing
Wiggins Pass, FL
March 01, 2010

“When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;

Don’t state the matter plainly,

But put it in a hint;

And learn to look at all things,

With a sort of mental squint.”

–Lewis Carroll

Flat Stanley Lambchop and I had an adventure yesterday; a very good, very excellent adventure.

If you haven't met or heard of Flat Stanley, he's a small boy from a 1960's children's book who was flattened by a large bulletin board. In his new, wafer-thin physique, he finds he can go all sorts of places he couldn't go before, thus having adventures galore.

Flat Stanley's getting a lot of new attention in this new millenium, and if you have a small child or grandchild, you likely are very aware of his newest adventures. See, Flat Stanley travels easily in envelopes (ah, to never have to go through security!), and gets mailed and carried to the most amazing places. For instance, a network cable news channel reported that Flat Stanley was aboard Sully Sullivan's flight that landed in the Hudson, and he was carried to safety in a briefcase.

Anyway, today, the Flat Stanley Project helps teach kids about places and things. Flat Stan gets mailed to friends and family, who photograph him having various adventures, then he goes back to the child/grandchild with a journal of his adventures, the photos and a map. Cool, right?

So that's how Flat Stanley came to be the navigator/good luck charm/fun company on my kayak trip to Wiggins Pass and back for last light/bird/sunset photo scouting last night. Like any good tour guide, I made sure Flat Stan was wearing a PFD , which is a personal floatation device - or life vest to us oldies (my elementary school scissor skills are still intact, thank goodness). And off we went.

It was a great trip. I'd forgotten my iPod at home charging on the desk, but no matter. Flat Stanley had a lot of stories to tell about his adventures. And I had a lot of sights to show him. The tide was really rushing out, thanks to a waning full moon. Birds dotted the exposed oyster and sand bars, feeding in their usual frenzies in the cold (ok, it's all relative, but 58 degrees in Florida is cold).

We paddled around here and there, hopped out at the beach for one shot of FS with some shells, then pushed off again, looking for more good light and birds. I identified egrets, spoonbills, terns, herons, and shorebirds, just to name a few. Flat Stan is really smart, and in time at all, he was finding cool birds faster than I could. In a tiny bay just east of the Pass, he found this lovely tricolored heron, lit by a shaft of sunlight just before the ball sank.

He's not so sure about the photography end of things, and he says my camera/lens weighs far too much for him. But he's very photogenic and not one bit shy in front of the camera, which is more than we can say for me.

A wonderful trip, we both remarked, paddling home in the fading twilight. And we agreed that it was good fortune, indeed, he didn't become Float Stan on an adventure with me.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 18-200 VR, Nikkor 80-400 VR, sublime light, a great partner for a grand adventure