Friday, May 31, 2013

Spring is in the Air

After the snow from last week had melted away, I really wanted it to be is time for more color now here in the Rockies!

Luckily nature agrees with me and starts to show it's colors.

Here some picks from a recent outing, click on the images to see an enlarged version:

 A species of Larkspur?
Unfortunately, I don't know my wildflowers here yet. Even with the help of the Audubon Field Guide I could not determine the exact name of most flowers....
Any help in identifying them would be really appreciated!

Bad hair day? Seed state of a kind of Dandelion?

 White Locoweed?

I know that one...;-)

A Daisy!

As I went on that hike, I took the dogs, just as usual, hoping to maybe get a nice image of them with the flowers. After I was about a half mile from home I heard a familiar miau behind me and was quite surprised to see that one of our cats had decided to follow us, too.
And go figure, Zippo posed nicely for me,

while the dogs were just too busy chasing after each other...


Dandelion seeds rappelling down a spider thread...

And my favorite:


Hopefully there will be more wildflowers coming as it rains right now and the days are getting significantly warmer.

Here some easy and effective tips for photographing flowers:

If the sun is out, morning or late afternoon will be the best time to go since the light will be warm and you will get some nice shadows that accentuate the texture of the flower, as seen for example in the Daisy image above. Overcast days work just fine, too.

Keep in mind, that some flowers, as for example the poppies, are not open in the early morning or on overcast days and close long before sunset. In this case try to back light the flowers or use a reflector.

Try to go on "eye level" with the flower, yes, that means you have to go down on your knees and you might get dirty, but it's worth it.

I usually use a shallow depth of field, the AV being something between 2.8 and 4, to isolate the flower from the background. Although it's not pure macro photography, a macro lens can help a lot. All these images are shot with the Canon Macro 100mm/2.8.

Using a tripod will help you setting up a nice composition and it makes it much easier to focus. If you don't want to carry one around, set your ISO higher and/or put your camera on continuous shooting. That will give you a little more speed and hence a better chance for a sharp image.

Focus on the flowers, but don't forget your surroundings...;-)

Twisted tree stump in a meadow
...does anyone know what kind of tree that was and why it is so twisted?

Happy Spring to all
and please let me know if you know the names of any of the wildflowers above

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May Conservation Tip


Of course, the first thing that drew my attention to Kicking Horse Coffee was the name...
Kicking Horse...anything with horse in it sounds intriguing to me.

Legend has it that in the summer of 1858, James Hector went through a rugged and beautiful valley nearby, now called Kicking Horse Valley. During a river crossing one of the pack horses kicked Hector so hard, that he was believed to be dead. As they started to bury him, they noticed his eyes twitching. And a stiff cup of Kick Ass Coffee brought him back to life....I had heard that story before, the coffee ending though, was new to me...;-)
But in any way the perfect name for a Coffee Company located right next to that rugged and beautiful valley!

After checking out the Kicking Horse Coffee, I found much more intriguing facts than "just" a good name:

Kicking Horse Coffee

1. is Organic - Kicking Horse Coffee currently meets or exceeds national Organic certification requirements in Canada, the United States and in Europe.(1)

2. is Fair Trade - Kicking Horse is the largest Fair Trade roaster in Canada. All their coffee is 100% Certified Fair Trade (1)

3. is Shade Grown - why is that important? Growing coffee in the shade means growing coffee under a light canopy of varied vegetation at high altitudes. This creates a superior coffee cherry (bean) and a more resilient ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem attracts birds, who assist in the cross-pollination of cherries and the distribution of beans and seeds, enhancing plant distribution and diversity.(1)

4. comes in lots of different roasts to choose from

5. is actively involved in the community and in environmental projects. One of my favorite coffees, the medium bodied Jumbo Wild for example, helps to raise awareness to the issue of keeping the Jumbo Valley wild and hence supports the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society (JCCS). But it doesn't stop there, Kicking Horse Coffee also support the Nature Conservancy, Habitat for Humanity, Idle-Free BC, Wildsight and many more!

6. features a great design, here just a few examples. Although not that important for coffee, for me as an artist it is just pleasing to see a real catching design...

7. has a 16 oz ceramic travel mug, something I was looking for since quite a while. OK, that doesn't matter that much either, but I was really happy to finally find one...

8. is local, at least for me. Not the coffee beans of course, the coffee plants wouldn't do too well in a climate where it still snows in May....;-), but the roasting facility.

BTW, for all of you that are not so fortunate to live here, Kicking Horse Coffee is available online, even on amazon.

9. has put together some health aspects...always good to have some points in your sleeve when you get verbally attacked by non-coffee drinkers...

10. although I would not put it quite that drastically, has a motto I thoroughly agree with...;-):

Oh, and I almost forgot, minor detail: Kicking Horse Coffee tastes really good...

I am not affiliated with Kicking Horse Coffee in any way, everybody who knows me, knows that I had a strong liking for a certain chain coffee company...but I found it really exciting to find a company so close by that incorporates everything I am looking for.
I just want to share and support that and spread the word.

Not so much a Conservation Tip as more highlighting a company that actually practices conservation!

(1) from the Kicking Horse Coffee website