Flowers #146BR, 147BR, 159C, 150B, 160BR, 148B, 156B & 155DR

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December 13, 2014

Gladiolus, referred to as simply “Glads” by devotees of this particular flower, is a perennial flowering plant known for its beautiful, showy flowers. Widely accepted as an easy-to-grow flower, its large blossoms grow on tall spikes, with some species growing up to six feet tall. Glads come in a wide range of forms, colors and heights. This flower typically blooms in midsummer, around July and August, although the plant has been cultivated to bloom both earlier and later in their usual growing season. The blooms of this plant range from white, pink, apricot, yellow, gold and orange to blue, burgundy and red.  Gladiolus, which is derived from the Latin word gladius, interpreted as a sword, is the largest genus in the Iridaceae family with two hundred and fifty-five species. It is so named for the shape of the plant’s leaves. The majority of the species are native to sub-Saharan Africa, most originating from South Africa. If not originating from Africa, the other species are native to Eurasia.

This flower is considered a somewhat hardy plant in temperate climates. Depending on your location, the Gladiolus bulbs may need to be dug up in the fall for storage indoors until the following spring, or replaced annually for convenience purposes. Gladioli like the full sun, however, they should bloom if grown in the shade. Those grown in full sun will produce a larger and brighter bloom and the plants’ stalks will be sturdier. The plant does like a sandy, well-drained soil. One thing to watch out for is to keep to plant away from strong winds, as this flower does seem to be susceptible to falling over due to the weight of their top-heavy blooms. One way to help prevent the flower from tipping over is to plant the bulbs thick enough so that the foliage will support each other.

Although these photographs look as if shot in my “studio,” they were actually taken outdoors at a neighbor’s apartment, shot in the afternoon sun, using a black t-shirt as the background.  A tip of my hat to my neighbor for coming up with this idea.  He thought of this concept after watching me cut off the blooms of so many flowers this past summer as to take them inside to photograph.  I still like shooting flowers indoors much better, even though I have to cut the flowers off to do so.  That is, unless I go shopping for a new potted plant.  With a potted plant, I can photograph it both indoors and outdoors, shooting twice as many pictures.  Indoors, not only do I have complete control (and I have probably been called a control freak more than once during my lifetime) over both lighting and height, but I eliminate all wind.  Except for that coming out my JBL stereo speakers, which serve as my backdrop.  As they say, made loud to be played loud!

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too great or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Chrysanthemums #144CR, 128CR, 147BR, 135FR, 131CR, 145F, 140BR & 138BR

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December 6, 2014

Chrysanthemums, more commonly knows as Mums, are a member of the Asteraceae family of flowers. This flower is considered a hardy perennial, although many consider them only as a short-season, fall-planted annual, as they bloom in late summer and fall. There are forty known species and thousands of different varieties of Mums. Most species originally came from China, Japan, northern Africa and southern Europe, although China is thought to be the original starting point of the plant, dating there as far back as the fifteenth century, B.C., where the flowers have customarily been boiled to make a tea and also used medicinally to treat influenza. The plant has been grown in Japan since the eighth century. Over five hundred different varieties were known to exist by 1630. Chrysanthemums are considered to have been introduced in America in 1798, when Colonel John Stevens imported a variety known as Dark Purple from England. The plant is considered the death flower in Europe because of its widespread use on graves.

The word Chrysanthemum is a derivative of two Greek words, chrysos (meaning gold) and anthemon (meaning flower). This particular genus of flower at one time included many more species, but was divided into several different genera a few decades ago. The National Chrysanthemum Society recognizes thirteen different classes of flowering blooms of the plant, based on form and the shape of its petals, although there are only eight major types; anemone, cushion, decorative, pompon, single, spider, spoon and quill.

Chrysanthemums are divided into two basic groups, garden hardy and exhibition. Garden hardy are perennials capable of surviving winters in northern latitudes and produce a large quantity of small blooms. Exhibition varieties are not nearly as hardy and sturdy; usually require staking and being kept in a relatively cool, dry location over the winter, sometimes requiring the use of night-lights. In addition to its many different types of blooms, Mums come in a wide variety of colors, ranging not only of gold, but also white, yellow, bronze, red, burgundy, pink, lavender and purple. The plant also comes in an assortment of heights as well, ranging from a height of eighteen inches up to three feet tall, depending on the particular variety, growing conditions and whether they are pinched regularly during the growing season. Pinched plants will generate a smaller, bushier plant, producing many more blooms.

These plants can be planted either in the fall or in early spring. Those planted in the spring will produce a more vigorous flower. Mums prefer fertile, highly organic, well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. The plants should be spaced roughly eighteen to twenty-four inches apart, although some varieties might require spacing up to three feet. They can be fertilized once a month up through July. Mums particularly need plenty of water once they start blooming. Every two or three years, Chrysanthemums should be divided to invigorate their growth. If bought as a potted plant in the fall, as many people do, they should be planted at least six weeks if not more before the season’s first killing frost, although it seems that many who buy fall pots will throw the plant away after the frost kills the blooms, having never transplanted the flower into a garden.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Sedums #87C, 83C, 84E, 148C, 83D & 84D

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November 29, 2014

These six photographs were shot on June 8, 2013, just two days after receiving my first new camera in thirty-three years. Up until that time, I had no plans to buy a digital camera, as it would have cost a small fortune to replace all my lenses. Being on disability for nearly twenty years, money is always the issue, no matter if the item I needed (or more accurately, wanted) is a new camera, computer, guitar or amplifier. In order to support my somewhat limited creative obsessions, something had to give, and that was owning transportation. Twenty years ago, in the midst of a rather severe midlife crisis that cost me everything that matters most in life, one thing that did not survive was my truck. It was either my truck, or myself and thankfully, the truck lost.

That all changed early last year when I discovered that there was an adapter that would allow me to use all my old lenses on a new camera. I did make up for lost time by shooting slightly more than 32,000 photos during the past sixteen months, nearly every one that of a flower. About five years ago, I started buying a few used lenses from B&H Photo, out of New York City. These lenses were the first new (to me) pieces of equipment I bought since I purchased my second 35mm SLR camera in 1980, not long after getting home from the Navy. Except for my first 35mm camera that I bought in San Diego, all my other equipment was bought at the Subic Bay Naval Base exchange, in the Philippines, on my second voyage overseas aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Ranger (CV-61).

That second camera was the last piece of photographic equipment I bought until I discovered B&H Photo’s used department. Thanks to the internet, I was able to buy brand new looking lenses for a fraction of their original selling price. Among the lenses I bought were two macro lenses, a 50mm and a 100mm, along with 25mm and 50mm extension tubes, to be used in conjunction with the macro lenses. Before getting my new Canon 60D camera, I thought I had better catch up with modern photography, so I picked up a couple of digital photography for dummies books at my local library. While reading one of the books, I discovered that I was not using the right macro lens with the right extension tube in order to give me a 1:1 magnification ratio. After learning of my mistake, I quickly went outside and sat down beside a row of Sedums I have as a border in one of my garden beds, and started shooting away.

This particular Sedum, Ellacombianum, grows only to a height of about six inches and each cluster of star-shaped flowers are maybe about the size of a silver dollar. Each individual flower is probably not much larger than a penny, if that large, making this plant the perfect place to start shooting extremely close-up of flowers with my new-found knowledge of macro photography. While doing so, this honeybee just happened to land right in front of my lens. As they say, timing is everything!

Steven H. Spring

Lightning #36M

Lightning #36M

November 22, 2014

This photograph was taken somewhere around fifteen years ago, down on the farm. Needless to say, it was shot on film, then the 4×6 inch print was scanned onto my computer where some digital adjusting was made to greatly darken the original print. In this particular image, I was able to add some additional lightning along the right side of the photograph, copied from another print, shot during the same storm. I also removed two very small, funky looking bolts long the top border. For years, these two bolts have stuck out like a sore thumb in the 20×30 enlargement hanging in my office (i.e., what should be my dining room). During the past year, I have worked with this print many times, as I now have nine different photos of the original image. I have yet to decide which photograph I like best.

This image, most likely an once-in-a-lifetime photo was shot as my band (i.e., my brothers Brian and Willie, though Willie was technically an ex-brother-in-law. Sadly, Willie passed away a few years back from a work accident) was loading their equipment into the SUV. They used to come out every other Saturday (visitation rights every other weekend, as we were all divorced) for a day of rocking, rolling, and drinking, in addition to cooking a big feast. Some sessions, a guest musician would sit in with the band. It was during those five years of playing rhythm guitar as they both played lead and sang, that I learned what little rhythm I now have. My talent level may be questionable, but I can keep time.

As they were loading their guitars and amps, and I was getting my farmhouse back in order (I am a neat-freak and perfectionist, and making matters worse, I now have OCD), I remember Brian coming back inside, telling me that I needed to go out and see the lightning. It did not take me long to go back inside to get my camera, tri-pod and cable release cord, set up and start shooting. It was the perfect storm, to borrow a pun, and since it was a good distance away, it wasn’t raining at my house. Shooting a whole roll of film that night, this image was the last one on a thirty-six exposure roll of film, which was a good thing as the very large bolt of lightning spooked me. The farmhouse sat up on a small hill, and I was out in the middle of the backyard attached to a metal camera and tri-pod, standing in the middle of two yard lights high up on telephone poles. That bolt was so huge it seemed like it came from way back over my head.

Perfect timing!

Steven H. Spring

Flowers #125F, 125D, 126D, 125H, 126C & 125G

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November 15, 2014

These photographs were some of the last that I shot on film, just before replacing my thirty-three year old camera and finally going digital in June of last year. I have no idea what type of flower these are, however, they are one of the weirdest flowers I have ever seen. I came across this plant one day while walking around town, on the prowl for something to shoot.

Back in the old days, I would only shoot a few photos of each flower. When I first started taking pictures with the new camera, I continued this practice. However, that all changed this past spring and summer. Now days, I shoot six or eight photos of every shot, sometimes even more, changing both the aperture and/or shutter speed on each shot. I will then move either closer to, further away, or get a different angle on the plant and shoot another half dozen photos. As any one who has ever taken a photograph of a flower knows, even the gentlest of a breeze will cause a flower to sway greatly, resulting in a retake. This is especially true the more you zoom in on the flower. Due to the marvel of digital cameras, I will then edit that day’s photos, deleting any under or overdeveloped, and any out of focus shots.

If this plant had been growing in my yard this summer, I would have most likely shot several hundred photos over the course of its blooming cycle. I only wish I had taken a few dozen more photos of this very exotic looking plant.

If anyone knows the name of this flower, please let me know.

Steven H. Spring

Sedums 165BR, 172BR, 169CR, 166BR, 162B, 167BR & 171BR

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November 8, 2014

Sedums are a large genus of flowering plants in the Crassulaceae family, with as many as six hundred different species. These succulents vary from herbs and annuals to shrubs. Sedums, sometimes known as Stonecrops, store water in its thick leaves and stems, making them drought resistant. The plant is also deer resistant. These plants need very little, if any care and are a favorite of bees and butterflies. Sedums have green leaves, with many of the different plants’ leaves turning red in late fall.

These flowers range from low-growing groundcover to those growing to a height of two feet. Their blooms usually have five petals, and range in color from pink, red or purple to yellow or white. The darker color flowers bloom in the fall while the lighter colors bloom from May until August. Sedums are easy to grow and do best in a sandy (or average), well-drained soil and in full sun but can grow in light shade. These plants will tolerate poor soil and hot, dry weather. If the plant is grown in too rich a soil or receives too much water, they will flop over when its flower heads get too heavy. The plant sprouts in early spring in a dense crown of shoots. The origins of this flower are Asia.

This particular Sedum in these photographs are Autumn Joys. This plant grows upright to a height of eighteen inches, with grayish-green three-inch leaves. Autumn Joys blooms from August until November. Its flower, which many describe as looking like broccoli, are four to six-inch clusters of half-inch blooms in the shape of a star that range in color from yellow and orange to pink and red.

German nurseryman and Sedum breeder Georg Arends (1863-1952) crossbred two types of Sedums, Spectabile and Telephium to create Almond Joys, which were first sold in 1955. Their flowers start off bright pink and turns to a cherry red when in full bloom. These plants should be left alone over the winter to provide birds its seeds. Autumn Joys should be divided every three to four years. Older plants tend to split in its center if not divided.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

2014 U.S. Midterm Election

November 5, 2014

Before Americans become overwhelmed with giddiness over the Republican Party taking control of Congress, and looking forward to taking back the presidency in 2016, they should remember that the last time Republicans controlled both Congress and the presidency, they:

Turned a record budget surplus into a record deficit,
Turned a roaring economy into the second coming of the Great Depression, of which the nation is still trying to recover,
Allowed Wall Street to nearly collapse and was punished with government bailout money, which the bankers used to award themselves record bonuses,
Engaged the country into not one but two wars, both still ongoing and the longest in U.S. history, both unfunded and unwarranted,
Approved the use of torture, in violation of the Geneva Conventions,
Abridged American civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism,
Passed a massive, unfunded Medicare prescription drug plan,
And they let the city of New Orleans drown in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Let the good times roll!

Steven H. Spring