Winter hung on like the respiratory crud that was going around earlier this year, but it looks like it’s finally gone. It won’t officially be spring until the first tornado watch, but I did find a little color on my visit to the botanical garden this past weekend. There are more pictures here, plus orchids here.
There’s a springtime jigsaw puzzle below the fold.
I spent most of the week before Christmas in California visiting family and seeing Disneyland. It was an excessively memorable experience, thanks to the blunders of United Airlines,1 the astonishing traffic in Los Angeles,2 Tracfone’s buggy website, and the 10,000 oblivious people wandering around Disneyland. It was worth it to see my sister and her family, but I’m not eager to repeat the experience.
If I had been ten years old, Disneyland would have been terrific. However, I’m several times older than that now, and roller coasters are less exciting, particularly when you have to make an appointment to ride or wait an hour and a half in line. I was more interested in the plants there, some of which are greenhouse exotics in Kansas but ordinary bedding plants in the subtropical climate of the southern California coast. These are mostly what I took pictures of.
I found a little Christmas present in my indoor garden. The Prosthechea cochleata which I got last July opened its first flower on December 25. I would characterize it as “interesting” rather than “pretty,” but interesting it is. Despite its eccentric appearance, it’s in the same branch of the orchid family as Cattleya, the classic corsage orchid.
The Epidendrum that I picked up back at the beginning of November is still blooming and looks like it will continue indefinitely. It’s also a member of the Cattleya alliance.
I took too many pictures at the weekend’s orchid show, as usual. I’m about halfway done editing the photos. You can see the first few batches here. I should get the rest done within a day or two or three. (Update: they’re done.)
Right-click and open this panorama in a new window for an overview of the show.
I found a pleasant surprise this morning. A Stapelia flavopurpurea that I started from seed about 18 months ago is blooming. The photo above is much larger than life-size; the actual size of the flower is about an inch across. Click to see it even larger. Technical note: the picture was composed from a stack of 51 separate images assembled in Helicon Focus.
S. flavopurpurea is an atypical stapeliad in that the flowers don’t smell like something’s dead. It’s said to have a scent like beeswax, but I haven’t been able to detect any fragrance at all. Although Stapelias and their kin often look like cacti, they are not related. They are currently part of the Apocynaceae, which includes oleanders and vinca and the milkweeds.1 Stapeliad flowers are as complicated as they look; you have to go to the Orchidaceae to find more complex flowers.
I get tired of lugging a heavy tripod around when I want to take close-up pictures, but it’s a necessity with a heavy macro lens and long exposures. Yesterday I tried a different system on my trip to the botanical garden. Instead of the 100mm macro, I used a small, light and sharp 18-55mm zoom that is capable of near-macro work, and I added a diffuser to a hotshoe flash. It worked pretty well, as the above picture demonstrates. There are more pictures using the system here. I think it should be adequate for most pictures at the orchid show at Botanica November 3-4.
Flash plus diffuser works also with a true macro, as illustrated below. However, the lens I have is heavy, and it’s hard to hold the camera steady enough to keep the focus where I want it. A monopod would help, but that starts to get cumbersome.
For stacked focus (which is how I would ordinarily take pictures of small, intricate things) and extreme close-ups a tripod is indispensible, of course, but such stunt photography is generally not feasible outside of a studio.
I thought I’d grabbed just a few snapshots at this year’s Walnut Valley Festival two weeks ago, but when I got home I discovered I had over a thousand frames. I finally sorted through them all. Here are a couple; there are more here and here.
The fiddler in the contra dance band Friday evening was Roger Netherton, whom I’ve mentioned here many times. His first CD is finally available. If you like old-time fiddle or just enjoy good music, check it out.
We don’t have mountains in Kansas, but we do have sunsets. Last night’s was a full 360°. Here’s a portion of it. (Click to embiggen and see in better color; right-click and open in a new window to see at maximum size.)
(The linked panorama is composed from five photos taken with a fisheye lens. I also made a much larger panorama from 37 wide-angle shots (printed at 300 dpi, it would be nearly eight feet wide and four feet high), but it’s larger than I want to upload to this site, and it has some annoying glitches.)
A useful site for those interested in orchids: a list of abbreviations. Of particular note are the man-made intergenerics. Some orchids have eight or more different genera in their parentage, e.g., “Sya. = Sallyyeeara = [Brassavola x Broughtonia x Cattleya x Cattleyopsis x Diacrium x Epidendrum x Laelia x Schomburgkia x Sophronitis].”1
Not an orchid: Pleiospilos nelii at about five months.
Belamcanda chinensis. Or is it Iris domestica? Or Pardanthus chinensis? Or Morea chinensis? Or Ixia chinensis, Gemmingia chinensis, Vanilla domestica or Epidendrum domesticum? Taxonomists have too much time on their hands.
There are more pictures from Saturday’s trip to the botanical garden here.
The big 360° panorama I did yesterday didn’t turn out properly, and I’m not publishing it. I did salvage a piece of it, above. It’s the altar of St. Anthony Church in Wichita, east of the central business district.1
St. Boniface parish was erected in 1886 to serve German-speaking Catholics in the Wichita area, and a wooden church was built the next year. Franciscans took up residence around 1890. When a more permanent church was built during the first decade of the 20th century, it was named for the Franciscan St. Anthony of Padua. Nowadays the best place in the area to find German Catholics is western Sedgwick county, and St. Anthony has become a center of Vietnamese Catholic activity.
Update: Here’s the quick and dirty version of the panorama, using five images taken with a fisheye lens rather than 37 at the wide end of a cheap but sharp zoom. It’s much smaller and less detailed than the large one, but it gives you an idea of what the interior of the church looks like. I hope to return soon to the church, preferably on an overcast day, and make a full-size panorama that meets my standards.