Archive for May 2013

The Best Camera

May 18, 2013

There’s an oft-repeated saying among photographers that the best camera is the one you have with you. In March, I went on a fabulous photo workshop in Charleston with two first-class photographers and teachers, Alan Sislen and Colleen Henderson.  I took along my new Nikon D600 and soon I’ll share some of the photos I took with it. But today’s post is about my other “best camera,” which now accompanies me everywhere, the one in my iPhone 5. Colleen taught us some pointers on great apps to use, and now I find myself reaching for the iPhone more often than ever. Here’s a good example of what you can do with it.

iPhone photos, Clematis 'Dawn,' Camera+, Over app

This trio of Clematis ‘Dawn’ was taken and “framed” with Camera+ and captioned in the Over app.

And another recent favorite:

iPhone 5 photos, Camera+, HandyPhoto, Over, Echevaria

Echevaria ‘Morning Light’ photographed in Camera+, edited with Handy Photo, and captioned in Over.

The phone takes really sharp closeups (no wonder, with an f-stop of 2.4). My favorite app for capture is Camera+, which gives me at least a 7 MB image to work with. That’s what I used on the first photo, adding the “border” with the same app and then importing the image to “Over” to add the text overlay. In the second photo, I actually did some cloning to remove spots on the Echevaria with another app called HandyPhoto. (This is an amazingly versatile app, although it is very large and I recommend using it on the iPad rather than the iPhone unless you have incredibly nimble fingers!)

iPhone 5 photos, Camera+

Tree peonies at dusk around Dupont Circle

Even in low light, Camera+ does a great job capturing a wide range of tonal values. This was taken around 7 pm a week or so ago in downtown Washington DC. (Copyright added in Over; no copyright symbol on our keyboards yet!) And it works well with azaleas, provided you don’t ask it to capture loud pink hues up close.

iPhone 5 photos, Camera+

A ‘Madame Butterfly’ azalea at LPI’s shop in Poolesville.

iPhone 5, Camera+, Over, azaleas

Part of my back yard, taken just around dinner a couple of weeks ago, when both the flowering dogwood and azaleas were (finally) in bloom

Like to experiment with black and white? My other often-used app is Hipstamatic, when I want to capture patterns and shapes, or color isn’t the most important aspect of the image.

iPhone 5 photos, Hipstamtatic app, black and white garden photos

A group of variegated Solomon’s Seal in my back yard.

With Hipstamatic, although the app itself isn’t all that expensive, you can spend a bunch of money adding “packs” to shoot with (the one above uses the “James W + BlackKeys B+W” pack).

Another advantage of working with these iPhone images, especially for gardeners, is that they take up so much less space on your hard drive than images captured with a DSLR. Particularly now that I have a D600, which takes 24MB images, my computer is slowing down and filling up really fast. To work on iPhone images, I usually download them to Dropbox, open them on my iPad if I want to add a caption or work with HandyPhoto, and then I can delete them or save them to my computer if I like them. Otherwise, they may end up on my Facebook page (or my company’s FB  page) and there it stops.

I’ll close with another favorite closeup, of a tree peony. I took this one in a client’s garden last month. The iPhone was the only camera I had with me (although I usually have my Canon G11 around, for some reason it wasn’t with me that day). So glad I had it.

iPhone 5 photos, Camera+

Tree peony, courtesy of the “best camera” I had with me.

Glowing Embers – A Winning Japanese Maple for Sun

May 3, 2013

As many readers know, a couple of years ago I had to take down a gorgeous crabapple tree in my front yard that was failing. And because I also had lost a 90-foot beech tree shortly before, on the other side of the front yard, the site had turned from shade to fiercely sunny.

In considering what to plant to replace the crabapple, I did some research and settled on a Japanese maple called ‘Glowing Embers.’  Usually you don’t plant Japanese maples in full sun – they prefer dappled shade. But this one is different – it takes full sun and high heat, and is a vigorous grower to boot. Developed by Dr. Michael Dirr, the dean of woody plants, ‘Glowing Embers’ received the Georgia Gold Medal Winner award in 2005. Ultimately it will reach 20-25′ high, a bit smaller than my crabapple was, but it will help provide shade to the eastern side of the house.

I planted it in November 2011, when all I could see to appreciate was its bark, which in winter has kind of a reddish cast to the branches, something I haven’t read about in online descriptions.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

Taken with my iPhone, this image of the tree with its branches tied up on its way to the planting hole shows a reddish tint to the bark.

I’ve even had one designer colleague ask me if this was a ‘Sango Kaku’ maple, which are noted for their red branches. It’s not that intense, but it’s pretty impressive.

I loved the shape of my tree in winter, and took this image of it during a light snowfall.

‘Glowing Embers’ in snow.

In spring and summer, this tree has lovely light green leaves (a choice I favored because my house is red brick and I wanted it to stand out against that background).

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers"

A close up of the leaves as the little “whirlybirds” (oops, technically that’s “samaras” to us plant geeks ) start to appear. (iPhone 5 photo)

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

Acer palmatum ‘Glowing Embers’  last spring. I gave it extra water during the summer.

But it was in the fall that I fully appreciated ‘Glowing Embers’. The leaves can turn a variety of shades on the same tree, which explains how it got its name. And from tree to tree, it can take on a different aspect. Here are two photos, one from my specimen and another from a ‘Glowing Embers’ planted in a client’s garden.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

A close-up of the leaves on my tree as they started to turn.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

A ‘Glowing Embers’ planted in a landscape client’s garden, showing a slightly different range of colors on the leaves in autumn. Some of the reddish leaves had a purple tone to them.

What will the future bring? I’ll close with an image provided courtesy of the Georgia Botanical Gardens, of a mature ‘Glowing Embers’ in the fall at its Callaway Building.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers,' Georgia Gold Medal Winner 2005

© Contributors to
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 2007

I have no idea how long mine will take to get this large, but I hope it will be while I still call Thornapple Street my home.

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