Friday, September 5

Observations and A Question

We have this great Nikon digital SLR camera at work, and even though I'm not the best photographer I'm often required to go snap pictures for inclusion on our website, brochures, etc. (Since I'm responsible for said website and brochures, I suppose this makes sense.) Every time I use the SLR, though, I hear this little voice in the back of my head. It says, "Wow, this is an amazing camera. Too bad YOU don't know how to use it to its full potential!"

So I decided to bring the camera (yeah, and the book) home with me this weekend for some practice. My plan to take it to Edgewater Park today and practice action shots with the boats, runners and kite-fliers was stopped by some much-needed rain... but I have been able to practice zooming and focusing in the garden.

Since I don't have any photo resizing/retouching software on my home computer right now, you can click on the above picture of lotus vine and silver plectranthus to get a good view of the amazing textural detail the SLR picks up. It seems to me that the pictures I've taken in the shade have a blue cast to them, though... I'll have to check out the book and figure out how to "fix" that. You can see what I mean by looking at the cool tones in the shaded area of this 'Newe Ya'ar' salvia and chives combination at the lower left of this photo:

Pictures taken of subjects in the sunshine seem more true color, though. In this photo, you see the Russian sage, eggplant, amaranth, and the contents of the tile planter (which I LOVE this year) pretty much as my eye does:

I'm really enjoying playing with the focus feature. I can focus right, left, or middle in any shot (or, if I turn the camera vertically, I can focus top/middle/bottom) and that makes for some nice effects. Here the camera is focused on the little bluestem blades just below the cluster of orange pyracantha berries:

And here it's focused on the huge, smooth 'Sum and Substance' (I think) hosta leaves. This nicely blurs the bleached seedheads of atriplex hortensis and the blue flowers of hardy plumbago in the background:

The above pictures were all taken yesterday, most during some stolen moments of sunshine. Today's pictures were taken while dodging raindrops, and they seem to have the same cool/blue cast that the shady pictures do. Here you see 'River Nile' begonia mingling with artemisia. In "real life" the begonia leaves have more warm tones, and pick up the yellow of the artemisia flowers:

More playing with the focus... here honing in on the rain-dusted leaves of the supertough 'Ivory Prince' hellebore, with golden oregano in the background:

With my personal, low-tech digital camera, taking a photo of this carex buchanii and the underplanted hens-and-chicks results in a blurred mess... but this camera can focus in on the sempervivums the way my eyes do, to give a better photographical representation of why I love these planted together:

While the color may be a little cooler, the camera does give an accurate visual representation of the front garden... in terms of showing that I need to add some structure in a few places! Here's the proof:

It wasn't until the beginning of August that I finally tracked down some 'Black & Blue' salvia guaranitica. (Well, I did see some earlier, but wasn't going to pay $18/gal for it!) It picks up the blue of the caryopteris and 'Walker's Low' catmint that are blooming in other quadrants of the front yard, too. I think that next year I may have to mail-order some of these plants, to make sure that I have multiples. Mine just started blooming, and I love the way it looks with the oakleaf hydrangea and 'Hameln' pennisetum:

And now, on to the question: About the time I picked up the B&B salvia, I also bought two pots of 'Sapphire Blue' eryngium on the clearance table of a local garden center. The parts of the plant aboveground felt very crispy, soon turned brown, and then dropped off completely.

However, something about the pots--or maybe my own stubbornness--made me think that if I kept taking care of the rootball, they might come back. I now have little sprouts in each pot, which appear to be coming off of roots that are barely covered by soil and don't look like any of the usual weeds I've seen in nursery pots or in my own garden. Check them out:

Anyone growing eryngium who can confirm that the above are baby sea holly leaves? If you suspect otherwise, I don't want to hear from you... just kidding! If you know these to be leaves of something else that I don't want to plant in my garden, I actually would appreciate knowing that, too.

Hope everyone has a good gardening weekend... and that those of us who really need the rain continue to get some over the next few days!


Anonymous said...

Nice pics with the SLR, and it's also nice to see that rain on the leaves. We'd like some more of that, please, when you're done with it.

Annie in Austin said...

Kate Smudges in Saskatchewan kept Salvia 'Black & Blue' growing in a window over winter, Kim. At $18 per plant, keeping one alive and taking cuttings in early spring might be worth the trouble.

Your photos look wonderful - the SLR did capture the feel of the plectranthus. There's enough detail to ID the leaves of the possible eryngium but it's too long since I grew it - bet someone else will tell you what you're growing.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

joey said...

Kim, loved this post with the camera. Fun, isn't it? Lots to learn but challenges in life are a good ... Right? :)

Gail said...


I can't answer the plant id question but I can get excited about the photos you shot! Nice camera, great clarity, detail and depth of focus! I miss the SLR...but love digital...these cameras are out of my budget right now!


Unknown said...

Pam/Digging, thanks! It's nice to see the rain on the leaves here, too--we're way behind already for the summer, I'm afraid, after just a month of drought. :(

Annie, I had planned to give that a try... I was able to keep 'Golden Delicious' pineapple sage overwinter via cuttings last year, and figured I might as well try the same this year. Thanks for the compliments on the photos... I'm starting to figure out how this camera works just by comparing these pics to the ones I usually take with my old digital. It's been kinda fun!

Thank you, Joey! It IS fun--and you're so right. Challenges are good. :)

Gail, lol... they're way out of my budget, too! So I'm enjoying playing with this one from work... even though it is technically work, this learning to use the camera. *grin*

So... anyone else able to chime in on the eryngium question? I'm going to plant these anyway if they are "unknowns" but I'd like to hear whether I'm on the right track. :)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Kim, I like hearing about you learning to use the camera from work. My camera does more than I know what to do with it for sure. I some times get the book out but that is about as far as I go with it. Ha.. As to your new greenery I don't know what it is. With it being in the center of the pot I would imagine that it is your plant of choice comeing back. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I just LOVE the first photo with the lotus vine and plectranthus. It could be a wall paper on the computer. So detailed and pretty. Good job! Now I have to get out MY manual and learn how to do all the other stuff. It looks fun. Thanks for the motivation!

WiseAcre said...

I almost bought a Nikon SLR but was intimated by the learning curve. I just got a high end point and shoot that will lead me gently in the right direction. For now I'm using the auto features but am very happy with the results. I even changed my theme so I could post larger images. (I just posted my first photos from the new camera)

I would happily recommend my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 to anyone wishing to step up to a better camera without going full SLR. The 18x zoom lens is a real treat too.

I'm so glad you linked larger images - I always look since reduced sized images lose the finer details.

flydragon said...

New toys are such fun. I'm a slow learner when it comes to cameras though. I still don't know how to use the different settings on mine and I've been using it for about 2 years. You're evidently a very fast learner!!! Great pictures.

Gail said...

So Kim, I went looking at Nikon SLRs and they really are out of my price range and skill level. But one can dream, right!

Kylee Baumle said...

Kim, I've got some Eryngium that has done that same thing but I don't see any new growth yet. I'm not giving up, however, since I did read somewhere that some kinds of Eryngium can go summer dormant. I swear I did read that, although I can't find anything about it now. This is my first year with that particular one, so I don't have any history with it.

dig this chick said...

Oh cameras make such a difference, eh? I love my slr so much. I kiss it often.

So cool about the sprouts. That's some good intuition. I wish I had that patience!

Unknown said...

Greenbow Lisa, that's a good point. Both mystery plants are kind of in the center of the pot, so that should be a good sign... I hope! :) Ah, I guess that I'll just plant them out and see what happens.

Theresa, thanks so much for stopping by! I do like the combination of the lotus vine/plectranthus, both in the container and in the picture. It might be too much contrast with different colored leaves, but since they're both silvery it works for me somehow.

WiseAcre, I admit... I'm a little intimidated STILL! Thanks for the recommendation on a good point-and-shoot digital cam. I'll probably go to something like that if/when my old Olympus D-550 dies.

I like the larger images, too, but have recently been going back and downsizing/replacing some of the older large pictures on my blog. Just to help keep me within Blogger's photo storage size restrictions, so I don't have to pay or add advertising or something to my blog.

flydragon, there are a couple of settings on here that I don't understand, either! lol. I'm down with the flower one, and the landscape portrait one... and I'm working on the "action photo" one for work now, too. We'll see how these go--I'm not really feeling like a fast learner right now, so I appreciate the compliment!

Gail, that's right! It's like looking at botanical gardens and English gardens and Piet Oudolf's work... gives us something to work towards, right?! lol.

Kylee, thanks for the information--I hadn't heard that about the eryngiums, but I would believe that in a drought. I remember reading somewhere that these plants look a lot more drought-tolerant than they actually are. (Although now I can't find that information again, either. Go figure!)

Unknown said...

dig this chick, you snuck in while I was replying--sorry about that! Too bad you're not closer, or I would ask you go give me a crash course in SLR operation. Then I might get to the point where I'd be so in love with the SLR that I would kiss it, too. Right now we're at that getting-to-know-each-other stage still, though. *grin*

Katarina said...

You've got some very interesting plants Kim, which you have composed very nicely regarding colour, shape and texture.

This camera seems to be a very good one - i would love to have that focus feature on my camera.


Cosmo said...

Hi--I can't help with the sea holly, it's never done well here (maybe the soil isn't well drained enough?). But I was stunned by $18 a gallon for Black&Blue--it's invasive here (and not tender). I've never tried mailing plants before, but I'll have a ton of it in the spring--maybe I can get a few plants to Ohio?

Unknown said...

Katarina, I agree re: the camera... it's going to be tough to give it back to work on Monday! ;)

Cosmo, I was surprised, too, by the price, but it IS a not-often-used annual here, so the garden centers get it in for us crazies who ask for it in any form they can. Apparently there was nothing smaller offered than a full gallon earlier in the summer. Crazy, huh?

I'll remember your offer and let you know whether I can overwinter the B&B successfully. If not, I'd gladly pay you for some shipped starts in the spring!

Connie said...

What fun to experiment with that level of camera.
That does look like sea holly...the shape is right. Are the leaves kind of coarse feeling?

Anonymous said...

Kim, I hope you're feeling pretty confident by now about your eryngium! And by the looks of it, you're pretty confident (or should be) with that camera. I gave up my old 35mm Nikon for a digital Canon (and then graduated from point & shoot to the slr) and I bet, like me, you'll get used to all of the bells & whistles in no time. Just find the stuff that makes a pic you like and forget the rest!

Digital Flower Pictures said...

I can’t recommend the DSLR enough, Kim. You can use it on fully auto if you have to you. It took a little getting used to but once you have to use the view finder you will find a whole new world in your garden. The ability to upgrade your lens to any thing you want (like macro) is a lot of fun, but can get expensive :lol: Don’t get me wrong I love my point and shoot (although I usually call it a compact camera since it can run fully Manual) but I use my D70s 85% of the time now.

Sorry to go on but I had to chuckle about your black and blue Salvia. Ki posted the price of Jack Frost in his area and it way below what we get them for super wholesale. Not Black and Blue, a local place sold 8” pots for $4.95 each. I made a couple of planting because it was so cheap. I guess plants are really a local market, more so than I thought.

BTW, the Salvia is fantastic. Some of them grew huge and have been producing huge amounts of color. I planted 12 on the edge of someone’s terrace and they sit almost every evening watching the multiple Hummingbirds visiting. Perfect!

Entangled said...

I can't say for certain, but the suspected Eryngium foliage looks a lot like the Eryngium planum that I started from seed this year. Or did look like, until the critters chewed off all the leaves.

The DSLR probably has settings for "white balance" that will warm up the shady/cloudy shots. The camera should automatically adjust this, but I often have to try the same shot with different white balance settings until the color looks right to me. Or try to edit later in Photoshop or similar, but it's easier to let the camera do it. Picasa is a pretty good (and free) photo editing program, FWIW.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I almost felt like dancing in the rain, but it had gotten a little too cool for that. I wish I hadn't read this post. It makes me want a digital SLR more than ever. My old film camera is an SLR & I had a macro & zoom lens. I miss that control & flexibility. At least you get to use one occasionally to get those garden shots that you can see, but can't capture on a crummy little digital.

Anonymous said...

The B&B salvia is gorgeous.
You're doing great with that camera - maybe get your own for b'day or Holidays?

lisa said...

I must say, I'm liking that fancy-pants camera! I'm sure it has plenty of settings to expiriment with so you can lose the cool hue if you want. I used to be good @ reading manuals, but anymore I just find some 10 year old to show me how to work it! (Just kidding, but barely! :) As for the sea holly-I think that's what your baby leaves are. I'll go out and get a pic of baby leaves on mine and re-confirm when I get home later, but I'm 85% sure.

Kerri said...

What a great lesson on the salvia..first your great pictures and combinations, and then reading the comments. I must try some next year! You're doing great with the SLR! The first couple of weeks I had mine were so frustrating because it's very different from the point and shoots. Lots to learn, but time, perseverence and experimenting will pay off.
I was going to suggest the same as Entangled..adjust the white balance for more exact color. It also depends on the light. Morning and late afternoon will give you the best colors. The "P" setting on my Canon lets me adjust things like white balance, meter mode, ISO and focus mode. Not sure what it's called on the Nikon, but it's the next one along from automatic. I've been having fun with the manual setting this summer. Much to much fun! You really are a quick learner.
Good luck with your eryngium. Looks like that's what you have, judging from people who know :) I've never grown it, so I'm not one of them.

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