If you’ve ever worked with a macro lens on your camera, you know how addictive it can be. It can even change the way you see the world. Just look at this little yellow flower, for instance. I found this Black Medic while pulling lawn weeds a couple years ago, and it was something I had often just yanked without a second glance. The whole thing was only about an eighth of an inch across, so you’d normally never even see all these beautiful details. Isn’t it stunning?
So yesterday, after a difficult week that left me wanting to hide from the world, I took my macro lens to the backyard and found the perfect way to distract myself from dwelling on my problems — by focusing on the tiniest details of the natural world.
First up are these cicada exoskeletons I found in my crabapple tree. Here in northwest Ohio we didn’t have any of the 17-year periodical cicadas that emerged in the eastern half of the state earlier this summer, but the annual cicadas are coming out now. These insects have a fascinating life cycle, part of which is spent as nymphs living underground feeding on tree roots. At some point, whether it’s after only a couple of years or 17 years, the nymphs emerge from the ground and climb the nearest vertical structure to begin molting.
They shed their exoskeletons, or exuviae, and begin the adult phase of their lives. In this photo you can see the split in the back where the adult exited the exuvia.
As winged adults, they live a few weeks, during which time they mate, lay eggs, and die. When their eggs hatch from the tree branches where they were laid, the tiny nymphs drop to the earth and burrow underground, where the whole process is repeated. Isn’t that cool?
Next up, lotus flowers. My friends and I came upon this huge “field” of lotus flowers while kayaking along the Toussaint River the other evening after work. It reminded me of the giant fields of tulips in Holland, stretching as far as you can see.
Most of the flowers hadn’t opened up yet, but I found some that had already dropped their petals, exposing the pretty seed pods inside. So I took some macro shots of the pod, which I found out is actually called the “carpellary receptacle.” After the flower is pollinated, the petals fall off, exposing the carpellary receptacle full of seeds. It eventually turns brown and the seeds spill out into the water.
Closer view of the not-yet-ripe lotus seeds.
And while I was playing with these things, I couldn’t resist the totally unnatural “exoskeleton on the carpellary receptacle” shot. Pretty cool stuff, isn’t it? Yeah, I thought you’d like that.
Speaking of which, I’ve yet to find one of the newly-emerged adult cicadas to photograph, but I’m still looking….
This afternoon I was checking my milkweed plants for Monarch butterfly eggs (none found yet), and decided to take a macro of the dainty pink flowers. First the wider view —
And then a closer look —
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
I absolutely adore the structure of these dainty little flowers. I took these shots hand-holding the camera, so they’re not as sharp as I’d like. Next time I’m going to use the tripod and hope to get some much better photos of these beauties. And who knows, maybe I’ll still find some caterpillars feeding on the leaves. I had such fun raising Monarch butterflies last year — it would be great to do that again.
Well, that’s all for today. I hope you learned something from this macro nature therapy session. I sure did.