Painted Leaves

This Tricolor Stromanthe caught my eye at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh this week. The plant is not part of a special exhibit, and I’m sure I have walked past it many times before. I was attracted to the way the plant looked enough to stop and take several photos, hoping to share how much the leaves look painted.

stromanthe, plant, variegated leaves, nature
I loved the three shades of green along with sections of white, yellow and magenta: the intriguing Stromanthe at Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory.

The Stromanthe is a tropical plant in the family Marantaceae, native to portions of the Americas from Mexico to Trinidad and northern Argentina. It can grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet. It is also called a Tricolor Prayer Plant, and it thrives in indirect light, while bright light brings out its brightest coloring.

Are you a fan of variegated leaves?

The Rainbow Bird

It’s fun to spot the Purple Gallinule tiptoeing through the freshwater stream, pecking around for food. When it steps into the sunlight, its brilliant colors delight the birdwatcher.

purple gallinule bird
From purple to blue to shades of green and yellow, the Purple Gallinule’s feathers look electric in the Florida sunshine. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.

The Cornell School of Ornithology describes the Purple Gallinule’s behavior:

Purple Gallinules forage near the water’s edge, where they walk nimbly on muddy margins, or on aquatic vegetation. They hunt a bit like domestic chickens, walking slowly and investigating the vegetation with outstretched neck, or pecking at fruits or tubers. Like most rails, Purple Gallinules swim well, and they sometimes perch high in bushes and trees, where their long toes make them agile climbers.

Everglades in Infrared

Processing a digital infrared image requires experimentation. Once the image has been captured, it can be rendered in many different ways. I adjust the hue, saturation and lightness of each color one at a time and make several other technical changes — like channel swapping, levels and curve adjustments. Let’s just say that processing is a lot like cooking. The chef adjusts according to taste.

Everglades
A colorful and unrealistic infrared photograph from Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.
Everglades
Infrared photograph rendered in black and white, depicting wind in the Everglades.

Stop Action Series: Great Blue Heron in Flight

As an eyewitness to a bird in flight, I know the beauty we see is fleeting. In the blink of an eye, the sighting is a memory — as long as I didn’t blink! On the other hand, two photographs taken in quick succession can be studied, savored and enjoyed forever.

As a wildlife photographer, capturing a continuous series of a bird in flight is one of my goals, since I love seeing those beautiful wings outstretched. That’s not to mention the rewarding feeling of meeting the challenge of focus and freezing action of a fast moving subject!

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron’s lift off in the Everglades at Shark Valley. (First in series)
Great Blue Heron in flight
Great Blue Heron flies with wings outstretched. Everglades National Park. (Second in series)

Contrast these views with the serene beauty of the Great Blue Heron at rest, as it watches the water for a fish to catch.

Great Blue Heron, Everglades
Great Blue Heron perched waterside for feeding in Everglades National Park, Shark Valley.

Great Blue Heron: Strength and Grace

Oh the beauty of the Great Blue Heron in flight: I see strength and grace, silent purpose, and independence.

Great Blue Heron, GBH, Shark Valley
Great Blue Heron takes flight in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.

If you are up to a full day bike hike through the hot, sunny Everglades, you will observe birds and alligators in abundance and a tremendous variety of photo opportunities.

Fierce Predator, Tender Parent

A fish swimming near the surface doesn’t have a chance when an adult osprey spots it and descends to sink its sharp talons into it. Once the osprey grips the fish, up it flies to the nest where young osprey chicks are waiting. Atop the nest, the osprey parent shreds the fish and feeds the youngsters. It’s a tender moment for any species…

osprey
Adult osprey feeding the young in the nest on Sanibel Island, Florida.

The Only Kind of Rain We Get

In Southwest Florida, the only kind of rain we get in March is not the wet kind that falls from clouds and waters the plants. No, this time of year it rains yellow blossoms in the breeze.

tabebuia tree
Yellow blossoms of the Tabebuia tree rain in the breeze at Naples Botanical Garden, March 2022.

I associate the perennial blooming of this lovely tree with Spring Break, since we often visited Naples, Florida when my children were on Spring Break in late March. If you take a walk in Naples today, you will see countless numbers of Tabebuia trees in bloom, raining yellow flowers. Are they as numerous as alligators in the Everglades? Well, maybe not, but much prettier.

Supporting Ukraine

Skylum Software, created by Ukrainians, is a great tool to use when processing landscape photography. Having used Luminar by Skylum for years, I was happy to support their recent fund raising effort for fellow Ukrainians now suffering terrible hardships during the Russian assault on their homeland.

This landscape photo from the Heber Valley in Utah was processed by Luminar AI, made by Skylum.

Ukraine, Heber Valley, horse, snow, mountains, landscape, skylum,luminar
A golden brown horse accents this landscape of the Heber Valley and the snowy Utah mountains on a sunny morning.

The Obvious Choice: X

Standing on the bluff overlooking ice fishermen on the frozen lake and a wide vista of snowy Utah mountains, I did not at first recognize the most dramatic composition — the one that included the X on the ground. “X” marked the landing pad for a rescue helicopter. Yes, the X attracts the eye and tells a story about a dramatic rescue that took place here.

Aren’t the best photographs, the ones that tell a story? Maybe not the most obvious story, but stories that happened in the past that we can only imagine?

Utah, winter, mountains, ice, lake
One tragic day a school bus careened over this cliff, and a rescue helicopter landed here. “X” marks the spot on this frigid day in the Utah winter.

Frozen lake’s sights and sounds

My eye followed the leading lines in this frozen lake across to the Wasatch Mountain Range. While the mountains were lacking in fresh snow, the temperatures were very cold, in the single digits and teens on this February day. Nearby, a well-bundled man was ice-fishing.

Wasatch mountains, lake, Utah
Frozen lake at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, Utah.

While I was taking in this vista, I noticed the interesting sounds the ice was making. Have you ever listened to the sounds of a frozen lake?