Saturday, July 12, 2008

Of strawberries and stable flies

This one's a Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca). This time I'm sure of it. The Lady Friend, who spent her childhood summers here in Ontonagon County, upper Michigan, says so. She's backed up by What's Doin' the Bloomin'?: A Pictorial Guide to Wildflowers of the Upper Great Lakes Regions, Eastern Canada and Northeastern U.S.A., by Clayton and Michele Oslund.

I found that superb field guide last night at the visitor center in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, where a friend of mine, Joseph Heywood, who writes the excellent Woods Cop mystery series about an Upper Michigan conservation officer, was speaking as the park's artist-in-residence. The book was a serendipitous discovery, for as a retired journo and not-yet-retired mystery writer I have needed something new to occupy my time when the prose just isn't coming and the wildlife's hiding from my camera. And that's the photographic study of Upper Michigan wildflowers.

Photographing wildflowers in the field isn't as easy as it might seem. You've got to get really really really close to your subject, and when the wind's blowing it in and out of the camera's shallow close-up field of view, it's a tough moving target. Worse, at this time of year you've got to endure clouds of vicious stable flies; when I made it back to the Writer's Lair I was covered in them, despite liberal applications of bug spray, and their bites burned. Ten minutes outside was all I could tolerate.

The study of wildflowers ain't for sissies.

For those interested in photographic data, I used a Pentax *ist DS and a 50-200 Pentax zoom racked back to 50mm and topped with a Raynox 250 clip-on macro lens. Exposure was 1/60 second at f13, ISO 800, with on-board flash.

The bug spray was Cutter's and it didn't work at all. Nothing does against stable flies, except thick hazmat suits.

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