Saturday, 22 June 2013

Orchids galore!

As we endure another poor spring and summer, one begins to wonder if the UK weather patterns will ever get back to normal. Even the boldest of scientists can't give a concise explanation and the jury is still out on 'global warming'. One thing that I can say for sure is that it has been a bumper year for orchids locally here in Kent. Of course, with extremes, there are always winners and losers: butterflies and migrant bird numbers are significantly down again this year.

It's all too easy to get down about such things but I'm going to resist this and enjoy the fact that this year has seen an abundance of orchids, following on from an excellent 2012.

Because of the cold, protracted spring, everything has been a little late this year - about 2-3 weeks I would say. Furthermore, from a photographic perspective, conditions have been far from ideal due to incessant strong northerly and easterly winds. Anyway, I'll stop bleating now and share some images with you.

Note: Unless otherwise stated all images were taken with a 100mm macro lens.

Old favourites

Lady orchid was the first species that I ever photographed and this south-eastern specialty has been prolific in 2013. On a recent trip to Denge Wood near Canterbury I can honestly say there were over 1,000 superb specimens in full bloom.

Lady orchid and common spotted orchids
Lady orchid, dominating in a sea of emerging common spotted

Lady orchid flower spike
Lady orchid flower spike

There is a large natural variation in colouration even at a single site, with some very deeply coloured ones, like those above, to ones that are a much paler pink.

The light colour also dramatically alters the resultant image. The one below was taken in very 'warm' evening light giving a much different mood to the ones above that were taken a couple of hours before sunset, on an overcast day. A single shot with a 500mm lens, 1/100th at f/9 ISO 400; the distant hedge helping to give a naturally diffuse and dark background.

Lady orchid flower spike in late-evening light
Lady orchid flower spike in late-evening light
I have taken to shooting with Daylight white balance now so that the subtle changes in light quality are captured, rather than 'normalised' by the camera when shooting in AWB. Of course, one can always tweak things in Lightroom afterwards.

It has been a record year for monkey orchid with over 500 recorded at a single site on the North Downs. They had not grown as tall as previous years though, and were barely above the level of the underlying grass which made them difficult to photograph.

Monkey orchid flower spike
Monkey orchid flower spike (focus stack from 6 images)

My favourite species has to be the greater butterfly orchid: These pale, tall and delicate flowers are very difficult to photograph as they are susceptible to the slightest puff of wind. There were hundreds of these in Denge Wood this year where other years' counts have been in the tens.

Greater butterfly orchid (and common spotted)
Greater butterfly orchid (and common spotted)

Greater butterfly orchid
Greater butterfly orchid
One of the UK's most abundant species is the common spotted and most downland sites where one can find orchids will have a vast array of these flowering in early June.

The photograph below was taken about 2 hours before sunset, directly into the sun. This gives a nice bright, fresh appearance. I used a reflector to push some light back onto the flower and lifted the shadows a little in LR afterwards.

Common spotted orchid
Common spotted orchid
Something new

One the most rewarding aspects of nature photography is finding something new and unexpected. Whilst I was walking around in Denge Wood I noticed a species of flower I had not seen before, dotted sparingly in the vegetation.

Lady, common spotted and common twayblade
Lady, common spotted and common twayblade...and something else!
It's not too obvious in the photograph above but there is a white flower on the left third. It turned out to be a white helleborine and I managed to track down an excellent specimen near the edge of the path.

White helleborine
So, those were a few highlights from the two recent evening trips I made. I'm hoping to find the time to track down a few more 'new-to-me' species over the next month or so, with man orchid at the top of the list. As much as I have enjoyed this year's 'orchid-fest' I'm hoping that next year brings us some more butterfly-friendly weather.

Earlier orchid posts on Wonky Horizons

Both Anthony and I have posted before on wild orchid photography:

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Lovely Jubbly

Lovely Jubbly

A few weeks ago, Wonky Horizons went for a day pottering in London. After viewing the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition, we headed to Brick Lane for lunch in a Bangladeshi restaurant (extremely good, as expected). As usual, we headed off separately after that to wander some more, making pictures.

I liked some of the graffiti, as you can see in the picture above. (If 1980s UK cultural references pass you by, "Lovely Jubbly" was one of the catchphrases of "Del boy" Trotter in the BBC sitcom Only fools and horses).