What’s That Stench? (Hint: it’s not carrion)

Exploring one of my favourite local patches of native vegetation, I noticed a pervasive smell on the air, which could be described as a proper pong along the lines of raw effluent. I looked around, but could see nothing obvious, so I carried on photographing small plants, including this one:

It’s a lovely little ground-hugging plant, with leaves like geranium and a subtle flower ball made up of dozens of tubular flowers, that grows in open woodland.

The penny only dropped much later, when I went to my favourite identification book of plants for this area, Birds and Plants of the Little Desert: a photographic guide by Ian Morgan, Graham Goods and Maree Goods (2014), and discovered that this plant’s common name says it all: Stinking Pennywort. I kid you not! 

As I continued to visit areas where this charming little plant (scientific name Hydrocotyle laxiflora) grew over the coming weeks, I realised that the smell was more like rotting vegetation in pond water, and grew accustomed to it, if not actually fond of it.

Olympus EPL7 with Panaleica 45mm macro.

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West Wimmera Wildflowers: spotted sun-orchid

Well, the time of wildflowers is upon us, and I am getting out among them as much as I can manage. This year I’ve been delighted to find so many orchids close to home, including the sun-orchids that I consider among my very favourites. 

Getting back into ‘ Olympus colour’ has also been a joy, and I am particularly enjoying the rendering of the images taken with my newly acquired E-PL7 + Panasonic Leila 45mm macro lens.

Roadside Spider Orchids: how on earth would you see them? 

Can you spot the spider orchids in the main photo? 

Wildflower season in southern Australia is often not as flash as it is in other places (I’m thinking particularly of you, Western Australia), as many of our local species are not very showy in the ways we might expect. 

Since I was a child, I highly prized the spider orchid, but never had so much opportunity to see them as I have in the West Wimmera, where there are many easily-accessible state parks full of beautiful plants. But how do you find them, when some species can be growing quite thickly yet be barely visible? You have to get out of your car (most of the ‘wildflowers’ you’re enjoying seeing from your car round here are either weed species or native shrubs, such as the very pretty, thickly-flowered Fringe-myrtle (Calytrix) in the main photo), and comb the ground, until you realise you nearly stood on one, and you step back and nearly stand on a cluster of them – suddenly, your eye is tuned in and you can see that they’re all around you! 

While showy, with their delicate markings and trailing arms, these spider orchids are also beautifully camouflaged – and they’re really not very big, as the photo with my post box key for reference shows. If I didn’t know where to find them at this spot, I would drive past them every day on my way to work none the wiser. (Thanks to my mum, who happened to find this place and share its location with me.)

Olympus EPL7 with Panasonic 14-140mm lens. 

Gear Acquisition Syndrome: Olympus Air A01 

Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) is a very real threat to one’s sanity, as it can rob you of focus on photography while appearing (at least to oneself) to do the opposite: the time one spends focussing on more or better photographic apparatuses is time not spent on improving one’s photographic technique through practical application. 

For the past few years I have indulged in more GAS and subsequent research than I care to admit – to be honest, it’s one of my escape mechanisms when I don’t want to get sucked into the whirlpool of over-thinking a problem (it’s an out of the frying pan into the fire type of result!).

A couple of months ago I found myself clicking Buy it Now on a used Olympus Air lens-style camera eBay, downloaded the app that you need to use with it, and waited excitedly for it to arrive. When it did, I leaped through a couple more technological hoops to get it to work, and spent a very brief time that night shooting with it, then repacked it and put it on the shelf with some other unloved gear, similarly acquired. 

Why didn’t I persevere? Because in the intervening years since I briefly had a Sony lens-style camera (the 1″ sensor type), I had forgotten that I didn’t enjoy the experience of a user, despite liking the end result. It also turns out that I really like having an electronic viewfinder and a conventional camera body to hold. Fortunately, I sold it quickly and for what I paid for it, so there was nothing lost by the purchase, and the buyer had a different plan for it as a drone camera.

This photo is the only one I took that I kept from that experiment – naturally, it was taken using the in-camera grainy monochrome mode I’ve always loved in Olympus cameras.

Bottle, Cicadas, Lake: getting something right 

As a passionate amateur photographer, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about photography, and less time doing it. After a few years with the micro four thirds system, I have tried a number of cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, and am still trying to get the right kit together. I have a couple of nice prime lenses now – all second hand, as my cameras also are – but I still slosh about in my practise like an unconfident landlubber in a dinghy. 

Yesterday I put my 20mm pancake lens on to take photos at a social event at dusk – wide aperture for low-light capability, small lens for discretion, and an effective focal length near to ‘normal’; I thought it would go well, but I forgot that I am not comfortable being that close to the action in a social setting. Consequently, I got no photos of said action, and went home feeling sad about my own shortcomings.

At least I got a couple of photos of non-human subjects, which is much more my style anyway.

Olympus Pen E-PL5 with Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens. Straight out of camera.