Top Twelve of 2014

For the last oh-don’t-even-ask-how-many years I’ve created a calendar to give George for Christmas. I design 12 pages of my photos from the year, each with a different category from our lives together, and a “Greatest Hits” cover. My walk down Memory Lane means hours poring through all of the year’s images (more than 3,000 in 2014) to pick out the treasures, which I collage into pages for each month. This is the May page: Bees!

George's 2015 calendar: Bees

During my journey through 2014, I pulled out 12 of my favorites to show off. First, this closeup photo of a honeybee landing on a fennel flower went onto the calendar’s cover.

Honeybee on fennel flower

I shot this beautiful Great Blue Heron strolling through a field next to the driveway at Ardenwood Farm, our favorite East Bay Park.

Great Blue Heron

I love the colors, and the delicate and intricate swoops of this bromeliad flower (Billbergia nutans) that bloomed in our garden in January.

Billbergia nutans

In February, George worked hard behind the scenes at the Pacific Orchid Exposition. I’m so proud of his accomplishments as current president of the San Francisco Orchid Society!

George at Pacific Orchid Expo

We found some glorious Calypso Orchids during our hike on Mount Tam in March.

Calypso orchid at Mount Tam

Of the zillion hummingbird photos I took this year, I love the attitude of this Anna’s, and his glorious magenta crown.

Anna's hummingbird

George’s Tiger Lilies bloomed in July, just in time for our birthdays!

Tiger lily

Speaking of birthdays – we celebrated George’s at the fabulous Oakland Zoo. He wants this lion tattooed over his heart, what do you think?

Lion at Oakland Zoo

Of my many 2014 photos of our children, this is my favorite of the furry ones. Daisy is our one-year old sweet and rambunctious young lady, and Lars our wonderful round-faced Russian Blue. It took a while, but they finally get along (well, mostly).

Lars and Daisy

And I can’t leave out my top photo of our feathered children – George cuddling Maureen and Louise while Gloria waits for a space on his lap.

George and hens

Sadly, we didn’t find many monarch butterflies on Albany Hill for the annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. Several flew around, but we saw no clusters. This one rested on a tree branch. To compare, click here to see my 2011 blog post — a photo near the end of the post shows a large cluster of monarchs in the eucalyptus grove on the Hill.

Monarch Butterfly at Albany Hill

2014 was a bumper year for Anise Swallowtail butterflies, though. This caterpillar happily munched on the fennel in our garden.

Anise swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on fennel

Do you keep a journal, or go through your photos at the end of the year? I’d love to hear about your favorites! Wishing you all sweet memories of 2014, and many more for 2015.

 

Photo of the week

With the weather turning and much of the garden going to sleep, I enjoy taking photos of the varied dried seed pods. Until now I had never noticed the seed pods of the Naked Lady lily, Amaryllis belladonna. The pods are dried brown crinkly peanut-looking things, but open to reveal the most beautiful pearly white, pink or red seeds.

Amaryllis belladonna seed pod

Photo of the week

Has it really been a week since I posted my first Photo of the Week? Yikes, well okay then, here’s the second – my favorite photo(s) from this week, with some background …

Admiral butterfly feather collage

Admiral butterfly feather collage

Okay, obviously not a straight photo. It’s a collage from three photos I took this week. I started with my photo of a red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta):

Red admiral butterfly

Red admiral butterfly

George and I trekked up Albany Hill to check on the monarch butterflies – starting around this time of the year they overwinter in the eucalyptus trees there. Last year we only saw a few, so this year we were very encouraged to see far more. Hopefully they’ll keep coming.  I didn’t get any photos of the monarchs because they were fluttering around high up in the sky, but there were a lot of red admiral butterflies flitting lower down and then landing to sun their wings on the duff. This one let me creep close enough to get a shot.

I blended that photo with a closeup I shot of a small bouquet in a vase on my windowsill. It’s a black and white striped hen’s feather next to a dried stalk of some soft pouffy grass.

Feather and grass

Feather and grass

I was struck by the conjunction of the lines and disparity of the textures and tones.

The third photo in the collage is another closeup of part of the same bouquet.

Silver dollar plant

Silver dollar plant

It’s the remains of a seed pod of a money plant (Lunaria Annua), also known as silver dollar plant. The plant has been slowly eroding, and I liked the juxtaposition of the frame of the disk with the empty spaces and few remaining tattered pieces.

I used the layer blending tool in Photoshop Elements to blend the photos. I liked a few of the different settings to blend the first two, but finally settled on the ‘overlay’ setting.  I then added the money plant and blended them all into the final collage.  When I make my blended abstract collages I usually take photos from different years – it was fun to use three that I shot on the same day.  Here are some of my other blended collages.  You can see that butterflies appear in many of them. What are your favorite subjects in your art or photos?

Photo of the week

My first in a series of weekly posts, where I show you a photo I took, throw in a little background … short and sweet!

Buckeye wing in spider web

A bright color caught my eye as I glanced out my bedroom window.  This is one wing of a buckeye butterfly, caught in a spider’s web. Buckeye butterflies are common in our area.  Below is a photo I took last year.

Buckeye butterfly on milkweed flowerYou can see what the entire butterfly looks like — this one was feeding on the milkweed in our garden. 

Buckeye collage

And one of my favorite kaleidoscopes, which I made by blending copies of my photograph of a buckeye. Have you seen buckeyes in your yard?  This is the wikipedia entry, if you want to learn more.

New Year Muir Woods Brownie Walk

Muir Woods was bustling on New Year’s Eve day. Many family groups from all over the world were there to appreciate the beautiful National Park, the redwoods, the clear cold weather — in many different languages we heard variations of what we’re sure must have been, “wow, look at that tall tree!”  (French, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew, Indian dialects…).   Aside from the human visitors, this is the first critter we encountered, a soaring crow that was criss-crossing the parking lot:

As the crow flies

As the crow flies

As we waited to get into the Woods, I asked the guide whether there had been any brownie spottings.  A look of panic crossed his face, and I’m sure he thought I was some crazy lady who believed in fairies and wee folk, but his fellow guide assured us that yes, the brownie flowers, aka slink pods, scoliopus and fetid adders-tongue (more about that last name soon) were definitely blooming.  Last year, on our search for brownies at Muir Woods, we followed the normal trail to the left, and, unlike the normal sightseers who walked along looking up in awe at the towering redwood trees, we had our eyes trained on the ground, looking for the very small flowers.  It was a nice walk, but we were not rewarded with any sightings of the flower until we were three quarters of the way around the trail.  This time we bucked the flow and walked up the right side of the trail.  The first interesting thing we saw was not a flower, but was a banana slug —

Banana slug

Banana slug

We also saw some fun fungi–

Mushrooms on moss-covered tree trunk

Mushrooms on moss-covered tree trunk

And, happily, in the same location we sighted them last year, we were excited to see that the brownies were, indeed, there!  The first viewing (I was in front so I saw it first, and as is our tradition, got a kiss for my efforts) was this:

Slink pod foliage

Slink pod foliage

The brown-spotted leaves were the giveaway.  Sadly, the flowers had already bloomed and wilted, see the spikes hanging down the front?  For perspective, these leaves were about 3 to 4 inches.  We forged on, determined to see whether there were any flowers still blooming.  We were in luck!  We found a nice scattered grove of blooming flowers.  This one had three flowers blooming at once:

Slink pod flowers

Slink pod flowers

Here’s a closeup side view of a single flower:

Slink pod flower

Slink pod flower

I like the nickname brownies, but if you want to show off, you can also use the Latin: scoliopus bigelovii.  The name means “crooked foot”, because the flower stalk curves over after the flower is pollinated and grows too heavy for the slender stalk.   They’re also called Fetid Adder’s Tongue, and yes – that does refer to the scent, which is slight but unpleasant.  Scoliopus is part of the lily family (Liliaceae) and it is a perennial.  The flowers are quite small, at most about an inch, and the entire plant ranges from 3 to 6 inches tall.  This is a closeup shot down inside the foliage, with two small flower buds before they bloom:

Another closer shot where the foliage has uncurled and the bud is larger:

More closeups of the flowers.  I love the distinctive stripes:

That’s the end of our Muir Woods New Year’s Eve walk.  Oh wait – two more – George and me with our new friends.  Happy New Year everyone!!

Heidi and friends

Heidi and friends

George and friends

George and friends