Would somebody please dust !!
Would somebody please dust !!
Summer’s Coneflowers cast shadows on winter’s snow, copyright 2014 Pamela Breitberg
The snow-capped Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea) seed heads in these images reach new heights thanks to our large snowfall this past week. Nature puts physics to a test, or so it seems.
Sunrise in the forest is uneventful at best; there is no dramatic glowing ball rising from the horizon. Pre-dawn can be a tease for the nature photographer in the forest. The coyote, deer and other nocturnal animals are still up and about but the camera produces dull images. Colors become evident as light gradually penetrates between trees, signaling photographers that it is now prime time to capture wildlife images as in my previous post, “The Formative Years”.
The trail I took this morning led me out of the forest and into the prairie. Coming out of the forest preserve, at 6:30 a.m., shortly after sunrise in midsummer, presented an American version of a French impressionism scene. The warm earth and cool morning air produced fresh dew on every blossom and leaf. Fog layers interspersed grasses. The rising sun would soon warm the air to equal the earth’s temperature dissipating visible liquid drops back into unseen vapor. Timing is everything; photographing nature takes both patience and early rising, along with some good fortune.
Prairie winds torment photographers. Dusk’s side lighting with the sky’s gentle ambient glow soothes the soul. This evening the winds were gusty as a cold front drew near and the sun began its descent. A lens shade and polarizing filter are usual additions to my lens for such settings.
Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) danced chaotically. Each petal on each bloom seemed to have its own different idea of which way to go. Don’t be fooled by the delicacy of this flower. Nature’s resilience gives strength to prairie blooms so that they can withstand the frequent and ever changing winds. Yellow Coneflower survives urbanization better than most prairie natives.
Coneflower seed heads in the winter garden adds a nice visual statement in an otherwise flat landscape. Add snow and the subject takes on an aspect of whimsy. Winter birds rely on native seed heads for nourishment. In my garden these plants feed Goldenrod in the late fall and Sparrows, Juncos, and Chickadees through the winter. Snowfall appears to be attracted to the Coneflower, leaving a top hat on each seed head. The science teacher/learner in me is always amazed by this feat of physics. Nature seems to offer the wildlife a drink with their meal; frozen hydration with dried substance.
Flirty or shy,
dancing ladies or crew cut boys,
comforting friend or sheltering elder,
noisy and or tranquil,
Personification is not used by scientists to describe their observations of plants, but this naturalist can’t help herself. I may be speaking prematurely when I say that scientists don’t personify plants. Someone thought it resembled a sea urchin (Echinacea is Greek for sea urchin) when looking at its bristly seed head. Sea urchins aren’t “persons”, but this analogy is the only excuse I need to include personification in my descriptions of this species.
Its nickname, Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) makes me imagine that one of our forefathers (or mothers) traveled into the future and became a fan of SNL’s conehead family. Then, as they gazed on a field of Echinacea among the blue grasses, they couldn’t help but say, “Aha, purple coneheads, or rather purple coneflowers”. Probably not, but can’t help thinking these summer blooms have more personality than their name.