Thursday, October 3, 2019

Revised Beach Compositions

In the previous iteration, I had vignetted most of these thinking it would add depth or interest, whatever...    I reversed most if not all of that to get rid of shadows and it made the backgrounds somewhat more unified.  The result is flatter images, but it may shift the focus more on the details and components of the images??  

I also amped up the color and, in some cases, slightly darkened the center of the arrangement to add depth and bring out details.  I  straightened and adjusted cropping where it seemed necessary.  But many are slightly lopsided so no perfection there.    

Reduced contrast on most.  

Not sure how to unify tone......  per se.  

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Compositions Made from Truro Beach Offerings

We are visiting outer Cape Cod for a couple of weeks.  This is a gallery of still life, nature morte, beach sculpture -- I am not sure what to call it -- I have been making from whatever I find nearby on a beach or along the Pamet marsh: shells, plant parts, seaweed, crustacean parts, and occasionally something human made.  I construct them on the sand -- as smooth and pristine an area as I can find -- and then photograph them.  The beaches of this part of the Cape around Truro are abundant with interesting detritus.  

It has become a daily practice to construct at leas two or three of these.  It is has been a week so far.  


Materials are almost all natural; surprisingly, I'm not finding as much plastic trash on the beach as I seem to remember.  Could  there be less now?  It is hard to believe.  The human-made debris I see most includes small thick rubber bands, like the ones used to truss a lobster claw, and nylon rope.

Crabs and lobsters are molting so crab carapace and lobster claws are plentiful on the beach.  I had forgotten that lobsters can lose a limb and grow a new one!!  Amazing creatures.

I'm not sure how this all started.  I have certainly tried my hand at photographing still life scenes.  But this is different because the process of creating the composition is more elaborate and a creative act in itself.

My husband has pointed out that some of these suggest female anatomy.  Not my intention, though I acknowledge it is up to the eye of the beholder.  I will say that symmetry plays a big part in these designs.  I am not sure I can articulate the desire to use it -- it is somehow satisfying and pleasing to see pairs matching up around a central axis.  Our bodies are designed that way, maybe that's why it seems so innate to look for balance.  Adding symmetry around an axis can feel like resolution.

Looks somewhat American Indian inspired to me after the fact 

It is a lot of fun to build these and find inspiration in the beautiful colors, textures, shapes, and design of the mix of living and dead debris at the shoreline.  Well it is not all debris, I have used living plant parts as the vast dunes and heath edges here offer an interesting array of blooms (asters, goldenrod, Little bluestem, bittersweet berries) leaf color and texture. It is a challenge to see if I can incorporate a new material each time, though I have not been keeping track.

A face can emerge in an object like the crab shell above, morphing into a bull's head (nostrils where the crab eyes would be) and a Minotaur-like creature is spawned.  

Not the most successful attempt at something Swordfish-like

Billy Goat Fish

A photograph can reveal something I did not see as I was creating the arrangement.  I now see a woman's face above, the clams forming a kind of late 1930]s upswept hairstyle (or she is wearing a turban), the yellow rubber band her mouth, seaweed forming eyelashes and dangly earrings.

The seaweed is priceless as an element, I think.  Such beautiful colors and textures, and such variety available on the outer Cape.  Pulling them apart from the heaps they can form on the beach is a discovery of  the richness of plant life in the ocean, perhaps more diverse than on land?  Do we know?

And it is fun when a seemingly extraneous object -- a broken crab shell turned upside down -- can become a jagged gaping mouth. (Above)

I think she now looks like Meryl Streep  with an eye patch !? 

Substitute the tip of a crab leg for her mouth (that extra-orange color caught my eye) and give her a stony nose and she it transformed.  I happen to think she looks like a caricature of Meryl Streep.  Am I nuts?  It is the eye of the beholder.

Only use of Jelly fish here

First Horse shoe crab find 

The only one so far with nylon line included 

Today is a new day.  Will there be a number 24?  I imagine so, though I don't think I will be able to keep up the pace this coming week.  I may need to slow down....  It also depends on where I am and what Cape treasure is available!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Saving Sarracenia: Pitcher Plants at Meadowview Biological Research Station

“Our goal is to preserve and restore a part of our natural bog heritage by returning the endangered Yellow Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia flava, and the Purple Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia purpurea, to their historic ranges in Virginia."  

So states the prospectus of Joseph Pines Preserve, one of two conservation areas established by the non-profit Meadowview Biological Research Station.  Founded in 1995 by Dr. Phil Sheridan, an ecologist steeped in the study of Pitcher Plant biology, the organization is headquartered at the 17-acre Central Virginia Preserve, in Caroline County, 25 minutes south of Fredericksburg, VA, on a rare gravel bog.  Joseph Pines Preserve, a much larger tract of  more than 200 acres, is the site of extensive long-leaf pine restoration and successful reintroduction of  native Yellow Pitcher Plants.  JPP is about 45 miles south of Richmond in Suffolk County, VA, where Long-leaf pine historically existed at its northernmost limit.  Together the two preserves comprise a little more than 250 acres of land set aside to protect and/or restore bog and Long-leaf pine habitat and associated flora and fauna.  

Pitcher plants in bloom
S. flava
Four of us from the Potomac Valley Chapter visited the Central Virginia Preserve in mid-June.  Meadowview welcomes visitors, but requires you make an appointment in advance.  Many weekends during the spring and fall, Phil and a couple of interns are busy making the rounds of plant sales, so we visited during the week.

Some of the array of orange and red plants in the propagation beds.  
To help finance their research and restoration projects, Meadowview propagates and sells dozens of varieties of Sarracenia, including many ornamental cultivars and hybrids with dazzling  colors and patterns.  Make a donation of $25 or more and you receive 50% off plant prices!!  A catalog of plants is available on their website, including sundews, venus flytrap, and associate bog plants. 
Venus Fly Trap

Phil Sheridan describes some of his recent work to Barbara R and Kevin M

Encroaching development is always a looming threat.  So Phil is not just a scientist but become part entrepreneur,  community organizer,  public relations man and business administrator to expand his organization's conservation areas.  And expand they have.

The Joseph Pines Preserve nearly doubled in size when Meadowview secured a loan from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in 2009 to buy 134 acres for land conservation.  And in 2014 they also purchased, with a combination of donations and grant monies,  a former private home adjacent to the JPP, which they converted into a education and biodiversity center.    It is amazing what this small, grass-roots organization, with no paid employees (interns do receive free housing and a modest stipend), has accomplished.

Elizabeth G  follows Phil into the woods to see the bog plants in situ 

Here are S purpurea  growing in naturally occurring  spagnum  
These S. purpurea  above were rescued from a site in Caroline County where Pitcher plants have since been extirpated.  According to Phil, " They will 'color-up' (becoming more red) in the fall after the surrounding hardwoods lose their leaves. We need to remove more trees to increase light levels, says Phil.  "However, S. purpurea can handle lower light levels, and as you can see, was flowering quite well."

This Purple Pitcher plant bog is the northernmost community of these plants in Virginia. 
Flowering S. purpurea

Sundews (Drosera)  in the natural bog

Check out that veining! 

Soil mix -- 50% peat; 50% fine sand (builder's sand is  NOT suitable)

So you want to grow pitcher plants in your garden?  One way is put them in a container filled with a mix of peat and sand in equal proportions. (They like a nutrient poor, acidic environment.)  Phil recommends a container with a hole maybe 6 inches up the side (no bottom hole in this case) so that the plants remain saturated below the soil surface but excess water will drain off the top.  
I used this pot designed for hose storage as it already had a hole in the right place! 
I placed the plastic pot inside this ceramic one, which has a hole in the bottom
 Put some hardware cloth over the hole in the plastic pot so soil won't leak out when water drains.

I know other PVC members have slightly different but also successful arrangements.  Judy Z., for instance,  grows her Sarracenia in a container with no drainage hole.  Kevin M. and Dick H. have created in-ground bogs by submerging a rubber liner or container. I notice Dick's are growing successfully at woods edge in some shade.  So you can experiment somewhat with these plants.
Planted S. purpurea & flava, plus Drosera filiformis (thread-leaved sundew), and Polygala lutea (Orange Milkwort)
One aspect of their culture, however, which should not be compromised is watering them with either rainwater or distilled water.  Sarracenia do not like the chlorine or chloramine that is in most tap water.  Thankfully,  I have two rain barrels to supply them with ample water.  During this hot summer, I watered them almost daily.  Now that I know they are somewhat shade tolerant, I may move them to a less sunny spot. 

We were surprised to learn from Phil that the habitats Meadowview is protecting and restoring do not rate highly with the state's Natural Heritage Program in terms of conservation priority, nor has the Nature Conservancy been interested in working with them.  However, S. purpurea is listed as an "Imperiled" plant on NHP website.  Without the efforts of a group such as Meadowview, the fate of Virginia's bogs and Long-leaf pine forest would surely be dismal.  Consider supporting them and get the benefits of discounted plants!!