The last couple of months this year have been pretty poor for macro photography, from what appeared to be a bad birthing season to begin with, through a long drought that ended as the weather turned much colder, so subjects have been few and far between, and it’s only going to get worse from here (until it gets better again, but that’ll probably be in the spring.) So we’ll have just a couple of photos for now, and wait to see what the winter brings.
Above, the berries of… we have no idea. It’s a small, very spare decorative tree by the front door that was here when we moved in, never does very well, and produces enough leaves to put Charlie Brown’s christmas tree to shame, but only just. You’re looking at literally half of the total berries it produced this fall. If you know what it is, tell us, not that it matters much – someday we will replace it with something viable. This was shot in bright daylight against the clear sky, but at my typical macro settings which would normally render things a bit dark in those conditions if it weren’t for the flash unit, thus the deep color of the sky.
In years past, the yard has been pretty well populated with barn spiders (Araneus cavaticus,) but this year was a lot leaner in that regard – not exactly a bad thing, because walking around in the yard at night is otherwise fraught with the danger of walking directly through their large webs, which are generally created at night and may be placed anywhere from chest height on up. I personally would have thought we were past this season, but was shown otherwise.
This is a mid-sized specimen, so about 12mm or so in body length, and thoughtfully occupying the branches of a small tree against the fenceline, so out of anyone’s path. What she was intending to capture at this point, I have no idea; spiders themselves can be pretty cold-hardy, but their common prey is usually much less so. This was shot within minutes of the previous, same settings on the camera, but aimed into a shadowed area so it appears more like night.
The recent rains had provoked a small outbreak of mushrooms in the yard, and I selected one that was reasonably photogenic, which just goes to show you how little else there is to photograph, because I generally ignore them. I’m not even going to go through the effort of trying to determine the species; if you really need to know then go look it up. I’ve done my part bellying down on the damp ground to get this perspective, because you can well imagine that a normal view would show you a bland little dome.
Now, out of curiosity last night I took out the ultra-violet flashlight to see what might fluoresce. I tried it on the barn spider above (nothing of interest,) and a large centipede that I spotted on the wall (ditto,) and some small snail shells that I’d collected from the lake of my youth in NY (so unreactive in UV light as to be completely boring.) With all of these failures, I was just shining it idly around the yard on my return trip when I got a bright flash of yellow: some of the mushrooms that I’d found earlier. Most of the ones I saw at this time were in varying later stages of collapse, so not the most photogenic subjects for in situ shots, but I collected a couple of caps to do shots indoors instead. Here’s the view in normal light, for comparison.
Nothing surprising or remarkable, of course. But now here they are in UV light.
That’s a pretty distinctive response, especially since the visible beam of the light is deep violet, and it could be spotted from a moderate distance as well; photographs don’t quite do it justice. But it only came from the underside of the cap, those ribs or flutes or whatever mycologists call them. Does this do something for the mushroom, or is it only a by-product of their composition? I have no idea – UV fluorescence is still being studied and pondered over, since some elements possess it naturally, but then various species seem to have it for a reason. The underside of the cap is the portion of the fungus that would get the least UV light, so…?
And I did try to find the same pinkish mushroom from further up to shoot it from the same perspective, but could not locate it. Maybe it had been eaten in the interim, or I’d already trodden on it. But I tried.