Phone Friday VI

It’s Friday, and this week my phone Friday is also a floral Friday with a selection of blooms seen over the past week. We have Japanese dogwood, salal, cottonwood leaf and seed pods, thimbleberry, false Solomon’s seal, western starflower, and a lovely lemon-yellow coralroot.

I picked only 8 photos this week though I could have posted many more!

  1. I’ve been fascinated by the Japanese dogwood ever since I saw the flowers sticking up a few weeks ago (and were featured in last week’s Phone Friday). Just today I noticed that one bloom had turned white and had the same red tips as last week’s bunchberry, and I felt compelled to capture it! I’m enjoying seeing the different dogwoods bloom – the Pacific dogwood is mostly done (though we saw one in bloom near Squamish last weekend) while the bunchberry (dwarf dogwood) is reaching its peak.
  2. A few steps further down the block from the Japanese dogwood, I found a nice patch of salal flowers lit up by the late afternoon sun. I like the way the flowers line a stalk and how there’s a progression in opening along that line. That, and they look so cute and fuzzy!
  3. It’s cottonwood season, and their scent is filling the air. I really love the shape of the leaves, as well as the colour when they first emerge, being tinged a yellowy-green with hints of copper. In the autumn these leaves turn a lovely yellow, especially in the mountains near Whistler, illuminating the paths of rivers, creeks, and logging roads.
  4. Not only their scent but their downy cotton seeds are also filling the air, collecting in great drifts along the edges of paths. I’ve seen the seed pods after they’ve already opened, looking like furry sticks, but this is the first time I’ve seen the pods closed up. Thinking they’d be ready to pop and release their seeds, I gently squeezed a couple. But they didn’t yield at all, and I left them to it.
  5. Thimbleberry is in full bloom at the roadside right now, all the way up the Sea to Sky highway to Squamish and beyond. This patch was at the start of our hike to Crooked Falls (shown in Wednesday’s post) and is but a tiny fraction of the extent of flowering bushes right now. In a few weeks, they’ll start turning into lovely red berries: one of the tastiest berries I’ve ever eaten was a thimbleberry, but, alas, that may have been a one-off as I’ve never been able to find any since that tasted so good. Still, they’re nice flowers.
  6. A collection of miniature starbursts, false Solomon’s seal is a common woodland flower at this time of year. It’s not my favourite, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take its picture! It has an even starrier-looking cousin called star-flowered Solomon’s seal, though that’s not so common.
  7. Speaking of stars, the trail between Shannon Falls and the Sea-to-Sky gondola has some impressive patches of starflower in bloom right now. I couldn’t decide between a close-up or a wider view to show just how many flowers there were, but in the end I felt that the close-up shot would work better for Instagram. I really like these little flowers; they’re just so delicate and it’s hard to believe they can survive attached to such tiny, slender stems.
  8. I’ve saved my favourite for last. On our way up to Sea to Summit trail last weekend I was stopped in my tracks by a small patch of pure yellow coralroot. I’ve seen some flowers that are yellow and pink, but never one that was 100 per cent yellow. It’s always difficult to get coralroot in focus (as I mentioned last year) and I always take a number of photos in the hope that at least one is sharp. This is the best of the bunch from the weekend, but it’s still not as good as it could be and isn’t that sharp when viewed at 100%. However, it fits the criteria of “good enough for Instagram!” which is why it’s included. I would love to go back and photograph it again this weekend but I suspect we’ll be off somewhere different.

That’s all for this week but I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share again next Friday 🙂

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Phone Friday III

The camas is blooming after still only being buds earlier in the week, joined by bunchberry and its showier and blousier cousin – the warm sunshine has worked its magic.

The first four pictures are sort-of looking back in time at the camas. It’s been really nice to keep an eye on it and watch the buds to start out green before taking on a blueish tinge and then finally emerging in their full lilac/purple glory. The fourth photo was taken only a matter of a few days before the others showing just how quickly the flowers bloomed in the warmer weather! I’m not sure if these actually are the usual common camas as they’re enormous, standing a couple of feet tall; the camas I photographed last year in Victoria forced me to crouch down quite low to get the shot I was after.

Equally speedy in blooming was the bunchberry in the fifth photo. It went from leaves to flowers in barely a week, and suddenly it’s everywhere in the native plant garden. Bunchberry is yet another of my favourite springtime flowers and I was pleasantly surprised at the sweetness of the berries when I tried them last year.

Last but not least is the dogwood tree outside our building. The bracts have turned these flowers into saucer-sized blooms, and yet only just now have the tiny central florets started opening up. I’m pleased to have got these dogwood photos as I seem to miss them every year; the bracts start to go brown and die off very quickly which makes them a less appealing target for my camera. Just today I noticed how they were already looking worse for weather around the edges so I caught them at the right time.

(And yes I know it’s Monday but I forgot over the weekend and don’t have a mountain shot for today so this will have to do!)

Phone Friday II

Another batch of photos from the past week for phone-Friday – watching the trillium change colour, the first violet, dogwood, camas buds, blossom, the last of the blue sky, and trees galore

  1. Western trillium does this neat thing where the petals change colour as they age. For years I thought there were two species with different colours until I read about that in our plant book.
  2. This photo shows a group of trillium with fresh and older blooms. It’s rare to find such a dense group of trillium in the wild so I’m happy to keep taking pictures of all the flowers in this little native plant garden.
  3. The first of the Alaska violets has bloomed in the patch of ground near my office. They’re hard to capture with the phone as I need to get down low to frame up the photo, and I have to try at the right time of day to avoid casting a shadow across them.
  4. The dogwood blooms are coming along nicely! I check on them every day as they’re right outside the entrance to the School of Population and Public Health.
  5. It’s nice to see that the camas buds are beginning to show hints of blue, and I’m hoping to see the first flowers emerge next week after the warm sunshine we’ve had recently.
  6. The wind picked up towards the end of the day, Friday, blowing thousands of cherry blossom petals from the trees. I was struck by the contrast between the fresh pink and the grey of the concrete, as well as the line of the kerb, and it was nice to capture them while they were fresh.
  7. Friday morning was a lovely warm sunny morning, the first day where it almost felt like summer. With classes ended, the UBC campus feels so much more peaceful and I took advantage to capture this view of the Musqueam double-headed serpent post reflected in the still water. You’ll have to take my word for it about the reflection as it had to be left out of the square crop for Instagram.
  8. We went for a walk in Pacific Spirit Park last weekend and enjoyed the sunshine streaming through the forest of tall trees. I really like this effect of the trees filling all the available space even though the forest was bright and open where we were standing. (It reminded me a bit of the Olbers’ Paradox in astronomy, although it’s not really a valid comparison.) The original photo had quite strong perspective effects on the tree trunks so I used DxO’s geometry corrections to straighten the trees and give the photo the appearance I was after.

That’s it for this week. We’ll see what photo-opportunities the next seven days brings… I’ll try to write up the blog post on time too, which means posting the photos on Instagram a little earlier than 11 pm!

Phone Friday I

A selection of spring scenes taken at various times over the past week, mostly up at UBC. It’s great watching all the new growth appear and develop. Expect to see a few more of these in the coming weeks as I track progress of the trillium, dogwood, magnolia, false lily-of-the-valley, common camas (especially looking forward to seeing this!), and horsetails.

With any new camera comes a honeymoon period of frenzied photo-taking. Since I bought my new phone I’ve been taking many photographs to see how good it really is and to seek out its limitations. So far (as I mentioned the other day) I’m impressed – as long as I don’t “zoom” in too far – and I’ve already amassed quite a collection of photos that I really like.

The question is, what to do with all these photos I’ve been taking that I think are so good? I don’t want to post multiple photos a day (especially with my self-imposed desire to mirror my Instagram photos on this blog), so I thought I’d save up my favourite “random” photos taken over the course of a week and upload them all at once in a single multi-photograph post. That reduces my blogging requirements considerably, and gives me a place to show off a few photos that fall under the category of “things I’ve seen” rather than a specific subject or topic.

Which brings me to my distinctly unoriginal tag for this collection of posts: phone Friday. They have to be photos taken with my phone within the past 7 days. Instagram has a limit of 10 per post; I’ll try and keep it to 7 or so, the equivalent of one per day. The inaugural collection is mostly photos taken around the UBC campus. Well, actually that’s not strictly true but it’s close enough: most of these were taken very close to my office, a couple in the Nitobe Garden, and one near Vancouver City Hall.

  1. Trillium – I recently discovered a native-plant garden at UBC and was delighted to find trillium growing there.
  2. Trillium – not just one flower either, several really nice bunches, with some flowers just turning post-pollination pink.
  3. Dogwood – right outside the building in which I work is a dogwood tree, and the sight of the new growth stopped me in my tracks one afternoon as we headed out for coffee.
  4. Nitobe Garden – a view across the pond towards cherry and maple trees; the Japanese garden is always a serene place to visit.
  5. False lily-of-the-valley & Douglas fir – I really liked the leaves poking up through the moss and the way they covered the ground at the base of this Douglas fir tree.
  6. Magnolia – deep pink magnolia against a blue sky near City Hall.
  7. Common camas – the flower I’m most looking forward to seeing in bloom, I was really surprised to find these at the end of their flowering last year so I’ve been keeping an eye on them for the first signs of buds, and here they are!
  8. Horsetails – in the same patch of grass (“meadow”) as the camas are dozens of horsetails, a mixture of male and female plants that I’m keep to watch develop over the coming weeks as I’ve not paid much attention to them in the past.

So that’s phone Friday the first. Of course I’m a couple of days late with the blog post – oops – but I’ll try to be on time next week! See you then!

A quartet of coltsfoot

A quartet of coltsfoot, another early bloomer that’s easy to overlook as it looks kinda weedy from a distance and grows in wet marshy ground. But get close up and it shows off its lovely florets, not to mention its pretty good golf ball impression. Enough to make anyone smile 🙂

It was only last year that I truly appreciated the flowers of palmate coltsfoot for the first time. I’d taken photos of it before and generally thought it was a straggly-looking plant without much in the way of interesting flowers. After being put firmly right I decided that this year I would endeavour to take some photos that showed just how nice a flower it really is. My favourite photo is probably the first one, showing the florets as they begin to flower.

From a distance, the florets don’t look like much – just some dots on the end of green stems. Then there’s the fact it grows in wet places which likely puts off most people from getting anywhere near it in the first place. The second photo is my attempt to show this with the muddy stream I had to jump across and NW Marine Drive in the background. See what I mean? Why would anyone stop to take a closer look at these flowers? I’m sure I got a few strange looks from passing cyclists and car occupants as I stooped and crouched to get the angles I wanted.

The most obvious feature of coltsfoot when it’s in bloom is its golf-ball-like head of florets on a cabbage-green stalk, surrounded by a handful of leaves. This year I was pleased to find a really lovely golf-ball impression with the third photo. OK so it doesn’t look quite as much like a golf ball when viewed close up, but from a distance it’s quite convincing. I really like how the florets look a bit like birds’ nests complete with eggs in this photo.

Finally, like a floral firework, the florets open out to produce a veritable feast for pollinators with dozens of tiny flowers to visit. The fourth photo caught my eye as it looks a bit like a smiley face. Doesn’t it? 🙂

So there you go – a quick tour of an under-appreciated wildflower. Maybe it’ll tempt you to check it out for yourself?

Chasing spring

We may be subject to another 6 weeks of winter (you know, because today is a cross-quarter day which means it’s 6 weeks to the equinox) but I’m dreaming of seeing these little flowers emerge again.

Yes, today is Groundhog day whereby we get to contemplate the weather-forecasting abilities of a rodent that lives underground. It’s also a cross-quarter day – half-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox – which means that tomorrow we’re more than half-way through the winter season and looking forward to the official start of spring.

Of course, plants and animals don’t know that we humans have divided the year in this way, and they show their recognition of the lengthening days and warmer (!) weather by beginning to grow new shoots or singing the first songs of courtship and staking territorial claims. One aspect of hiking that I particularly enjoy is how we follow spring up to higher elevations through the season. Beginning at sea level with the first flowers in the city – I always look forward to seeing witch hazel bloom in January – before moving on to the forest flowers that bloom in April (yes, even the skunk cabbage), and up to the alpine flowers from June onwards.

My favourite (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before) is the glacier lily and I really like trying to catch the very first wave of these in bloom. For me, they signify the beginning of the best part of the hiking season: the opening up of the alpine areas and witnessing the last gasp of winter at those high elevations.

Last year our timing was perfect; the road up to Blackwall Peak in Manning Park opened up the weekend we went there to hike another trail. Unable to resist, we walked the short Paintbrush Trail (you may recognize the above flowers in that post too) where the glacier lilies were only just beginning to bloom, the snow barely melted from around them. It was glorious. And with so many flowers so close to the trail, I could take my pick of photo opportunities. We left with many photos, dirty wet knees, and cold wet feet. A perfect day, in its own way.

Getting these photos is hard: the flowers are only a few inches tall at this early stage which means getting down on hands and knees. A tilting screen makes a big difference but it’s still easier to look through a viewfinder (and usually more stable, unless the camera is on a tripod – which is almost never the case for us). It helps that the main camera we were using (the Nikon D3200 with the kit lens) is able to focus at quite close distances even at full zoom. Coupled with 24 million pixels, it becomes possible to capture some tiny details on these flowers even without a macro lens. Then it’s a matter of finding the right flower with just the right shape, with just the right amount of water beading on it…

Triangle

Life will find a foothold wherever it can – a lovely triangular patch of cheery pink moss campion high on Finch Ridge.

Moss campion always catches my eye. It’s one of the few flowers in the high alpine, finding places to grow among rocks and dirt and not much else. Most often, it creates a little pillow of green from which the cerise flowers emerge, though it’s extremely rare for the flowers to cover more than half of the foliage at any one time. Earlier on the day this photo was taken, I found one completely pink patch right in the middle of a field of shattered rock; a real treat. But then I found this little near-equilateral triangle of pink and green, which was just perfect. All I had to do was make sure I stood to one side so my shadow wouldn’t fall across it.