Readers’ wildlife photos

Today’s photos of flowers come from reader James Blilie. I’ve indented his notes and IDs.

Inspired by Joe Routon’s nice plant photos, here are some that I took in July.

These are all taken at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, which has an amazing array of trees, shrubs, and flowers, spread through a beautiful landscape, including a nice 3-mile (4.8 km) walking path.  The Arboretum is owned and run by the University of Minnesota.

Our visit to the Arboretum was in early July, as part of our brief staycation this summer,under COVID social and travel restrictions.  Many were masked outdoors at the Arboretum. (The indoors were not available.)  It was a very hot and humid day (>30°C) so we optedfor the flower gardens surrounding the main facilities.  Only a few of these are truly “wild”.

My favorite of the lot:  A rose blossom (P7011536, Rosa, sp)

Minnesota is big on Hostas (Hosta, spp.). A Hosta landscape, with a detail below it:

Native to this area is the Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea)  They have several other beautiful varieties of Echinacea.

Prickly Pear blossoms (Opuntia, sp.)

An Iris (Iris, sp.)

Astilbes (P7011523, Astible, sp.) and Hyssop (P7011572, Hyssopus, sp.)

Finally, a grove of maples (Acer, spp.) shading extensive Hosta gardens. In this view are also two specimens of Homo sapiens (by son, Jamie and my wife).

My equipment:  I am a micro 4/3 guy (micro four-thirds; M4/3).  There are many things I love about this system; but the main ones are:  Tiny size and weight, lower cost for lenses(especially the telephoto end of the range), and features/performance similar to DSLRs.

Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III (which includes phase-detect auto-focus) (plus several OM-D E-M10 bodies)

Lenses used in these photos: Panasonic LUMIX G X VARIO Lens, 12-35mm, F2.8 Asph. (this is my walk-around lens), Panasonic LUMIX G VARIO Lens, 7-14MM, F4.0 Asph., (I love wide-angle.  This is 14mm-28mm equivalent)

Software:  I mainly use Lightroom 5, but sometimes Photoshop CS5, and often Photoshop Elements 11.

Olympus recently sold its consumer camera business and I fear this means the doom of the Olympus side of this system.  Fortunately, the lens mount is an informal standard (I can mix and match lenses and camera bodies from at least two manufacturers).

The M4/3 image has a 4:3 aspect ratio (17.3 mm × 13.0 mm) versus the more familiar 3:2 of 35mm film (36mm × 24mm).


39 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Beautiful photos, James! I especially like your use of the rule of thirds on the purple cone flower. Very effective.

    1. Thanks Joe. I often go significantly more extreme than rule of thirds: 1/4 or even as far as 1/10, depending on the composition (I love wide-angle lenses).

  2. Marvelous photographs, James.

    It is too bad Olympus is vacating the camera business. They were a pioneer of digital photography. I still have my early Olympus, very obsolete now, but perfectly functional.

            1. Good for pollinators…aye, there’s the rub. As lovely as all arboreta are, so often what is on display is suitable for viewing only. Like the rose, the iris, double-bloom peonies or hollyhock, and so many others, they’re abysmal for insect life. The poor little blighters can’t find the way in for the pollen or nectar! I guess that’s ok sometimes, but it seems a waste to me, like making a fine meal but only eating the dessert.

  3. Oooo, Mr Blilie, I inhaled just as my screen
    happened across your i r i s; and I declare:
    its aroma, then, a l s o happened across
    my central nervous system’s olfactory nerve.

    This sensing has happened before. One time,
    and only that one time, my dead Daddy’s
    aftershave cologne wafted in to m’nostrils’
    sensing … … years’ time after he was
    merely one wisp of smoke and ash. Point is:
    this weird olfactory occurence from however
    something strike’s one’s brain is a c t u a l.

    Or … … imagined ?


  4. Up close and personal with flowers and foliage! Is that your little son Jamie who sometimes sent in his own wildlife photos? Thanks.

  5. Very good! I really like the vein patterns in the mostly white hostas.

    There has been much discussion online about the Olympus camera situation. This first sale is to a business that specializes in restructuring a business to make them profitable, and then they are sold again. Again, the aim is to keep making fine cameras. But one should know that intentions now don’t always align with future events.

    People need to buy cameras! Real cameras. I still intend to buy the Olympus model mentioned above, pending resolution of the Covid situation.

    1. I love this camera. Just a mm or two bigger than the M-10 and has some things I like better (covered touch screen!). What got me to pull the nearly $1K trigger was the phase-detect AF, which I had said all along would be the only thing to get me to buy a new camera body.

  6. Nice shots. I’m a 4/3 shooter too. Panasonic GH5s.

    “I can mix and match lenses and camera bodies from at least two manufacturers”

    Don’t forget you can get a simple adapter for many other manufacturer’s lenses, and they will all work. I have an adapter for Nikon, Pentax and Mamiya lenses.

    1. Yes, I haven’t delved into the cross-dressing of lenses, though a close friend is really into this.

      I have found, for me, that I actually use only a handful of lenses (2X crop factor):
      12-35mm f/2.8 Lumix (my walk-around)
      7-14mm f/4 Lumix
      35-100 f/2.8 IF IZ Lumix
      45mm f/1.8 Olympus (wonderful portrait lens at 2X crop factor M4/3)
      9mm f/8 (fixed aperture) fisheye Olympus (tiny, tiny lens)

      These all fit, with one body*, into a remarkably small camera bag. So small, I feel no compunction carrying the full kit anywhere or on any hike, snow-shoe, etc.

      These lenses are so sharp, corner to corner, have such snappy contrast and beautiful bokeh, essentially no vignetting, etc., etc., that I feel no need to use others.

      I compared my old film lenses and there was no contest. The modern lenses blew away my old film favorites.

      (*I usually put another capped body in my pack in a neoprene sleeve as a backup)

      1. I have some of the same lenses.
        Lately, I have only used an adapter for a Nikon macro. Like you say, modern lenses are better for most things.

  7. Hostas are big here in Western Washington as well. I love them; easy to grow and a perfect “shade” perennial. Enjoyed all the flowers as well, thanks for the submission.

  8. Beautiful! I had never heard of this kind of camera system, which is not surprising since I’m not a photographer. Interesting!

    So what do you use Photoshop for? I’m not accusing you of doctoring your pictures, just curious as to what happens between your picture-taking and when the light hits my eyes.

        1. Thanks, yes, lush tones and difficult lighting conditions. Sometimes, my Dad really nailed it. This is from 1960. Most likely Plus-X Pan film.

          My favorite was Tri-X Pan. I basically only shot Tri-X Pan and Kodachrome 64 as a mature (film) photographer.

          Many found Tri-X too grainy. This was mainly an issue in development technique. With guidance from many better photographers than me, I found the right technique, which included using a heated water bath to hold all the chemicals at the same temperature until development is complete. I used Microdol-X 3:1 at 75°F.

          With this development, Tri-X exhibits very small “toe” and “shoulder” areas of the density-exposure curve, which allows one to capture many zones of exposure with nice tone in the final print.

    1. Hi Paul,

      I tried to make an earlier response to your question but it did not make it from WordPress, for some reason.

      Good question.

      I mainly use Lightroom; and mainly just “global” adjustments: Exposure, contrast, saturation, and similar refined parameters contained in the SW. This is the case for all of these images.

      One of the things I love about the Olympus M4/3 cameras is the electronic view finder (though this took some getting used to, coming from optical viewfinders). Mainly, I like its heads-up display and the exposure preview: It shows what your basic image will look like. I pretty much never miss exposures now, in consequence.

      All the film-era photos we are familiar with were usually highly manipulated as well. Photographers used burning, dodging, edge burn, contrast control, special development techniques for the film (negative), etc. to get the effect they wanted. A “straight” print would look very different from the prints we are used to seeing.

      Slide film is about the only “straight from the camera” film medium. When I scanned my Kodachrome slides, I used Lightroom to adjust the values and was able to “save” quite a few slides that I would never have shown using a slide projector.

      Ansel Adams was famous for the level of manipulation he used to get the visual effect he wanted, some of which he more or less invented. (I recommend his book Examples, where he explains how he made 40 images.)

      I use Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Mainly Elements. It’s quicker and easier to use than full-on PS, which I haven’t taken the time yet to learn well (it’s a huge program). Lightroom and PS Elements are both subsets of the PS functionality with different user interfaces.

      I like LR because it is more like darkroom work, where I started out: Developing and printing my own B&W film (I even loaded my own film cassettes from 100-foot rolls of film).

      I use PS Elements when I want to do batch processing (for instance resizing a large group of photos for web publishing) and also for cutting and pasting bits from one photo into another. This is useful for group portraits, where open eyes or nicer expressions can be transferred to some faces. Of course, you can fake things too; but these are usually easy to detect.

      I use full Photoshop mainly for printing large, fine-art type prints, due its detailed printing controls.

      As noted, I started out in home-developed and printed B&W photography, which I learned at my Dad’s knee. Here’s a favorite image from 1987:

      Back-lighting is hard to do well.

      which was inspired by this Ansel Adams image:

      1. The other thing I love about Lightroom is the library features, which is very easy for me to understand and use.

        The Library feature is used to manage and locate your images. It includes the ability to tag images with key words.

        I have about 150,000 images in my LR library now. (And that includes severe (ruthless) deletion of images as I import them and also applied to the choices of my old film images that I scanned into the system.) So keeping track is a challenge. (I strongly recommend using a good system of key words.)

        Another fine feature of LR is that it is “nondestructive”: The base image is never changed by the SW. It only records adjustments which are only applied to the image as it is “exported” to a jpeg file (other other file format).

        This prevents you from “ruining” the base image accidentally. It also allows you to create multiple “virtual copies” of the base image to which you can apply different adjustments (e.g. different crops, different exposure, etc.). This is very useful.

      2. Thanks for the details! I too played around with developing and printing B&W when I took a college photography class. It was kind of fun thought time-consuming. I didn’t keep up with it though.

        I appreciate that feature of Lightroom that doesn’t write over your original image. That’s so easy to do in most programs. I designed software for a living but now retired. It is still interesting to me now people fall in love with certain features of programs and their design in general. It is hard to make everyone happy, though, as people tend to use software in different ways. It’s an interesting optimization problem, like life itself.

        Thanks again for the nice pictures.

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