one spadeful

our bees are thriving. our beekeeper, becky, from the university of minnesota stopped by this morning to check on the colony. we are very proud parents of 25,000 bees give or take. i suspect one of the reasons our bees are doing so well is the abundance of wildflowers (aka weeds) that they have to sip from. in point of fact, this photo is one shovel of “grass” from our backyard: dandelions, creeping charlie, clover. it’s all bee food. now i can stop pretending to care about my lawn and can openly embrace not caring: it’s for the bees.

one spade of backyard

saint paul, minnesota

  • Jacqueline says:

    The bees need all the help they can get so I believe you are completely justified in embracing the not caring about the lawn!!
    If you are willing to share some technical advice: How do you get your crisp white backgrounds without shadows or weird tints to the whiteness?

    reply
    • Hi Jacqueline,
      It has been a learning process. Here is what I usually do: I shoot the image with a +1 exposure. Then I pull it up in Photoshop and us the “curves” tool to brighten the whites even further. Sometimes this washes out my specimen too much, so when that happens I am forced to go in and use the “dodge” tool to whiten/brighten just the paper background and not the specimen. I get asked this a lot. so I plan to add a “technique” section under my about button. I will have it up in a week or two. Feel free to email with any other questions in the meantime.
      Mary Jo

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  • Susan says:

    All right. I like your reasoning. If only I had bees, I too could claim the condition of my yard was planned.

    Love all your photographs.

    reply
  • Jacqueline says:

    Thanks for the tips! I don’t have photoshop, but I think I can play around in Picmonkey, and try the things you suggested.

    reply

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aeronautical engineers

well, as i am staring at this collection of wings and marveling at their aerodymanic precision, it occurs to me that i haven’t mentioned my previous career as an aerospace research engineer. yep, rocket scientist. nope, i am not joking. i did that for 15 years, and then quit to raise kids. i consider my recent creative activities a sort of third act. it is all very tentative. but so far I am enjoying my new wings.

assorted collection of insect wings (butterfly, dragonfly, beetle, moth, cicada, katydid)

 

  • margie says:

    wings are the most amazing things

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  • Tracy says:

    Wow.

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  • Lora says:

    Enjoying my new wings would be a great book title (for a third act). Just saying

    reply
    • What a wonderful idea. Want to be my ghost writer? :-)
      Mary Jo

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  • Sue Bendlin says:

    this looks like my shelf….bits and pieces of all winged creatures…cecropia moth, cicada, water bug, dragon flies, butterflies….and on and on

    reply
    • Oh goodness, what I would give to photograph that cecropia moth! I’m so glad you saw the Martha Stewart feature, and so glad to hear from a kindred spirit so close by (despite any Iowa jokes I may have heard as a lifetime Minnesotan…). I’m guessing we see a lot of the same creatures and events every year, just accelerated on your end in the spring, and delayed a bit in the fall. If you ever begin to photograph your collections, I’d love to see them.

      reply

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nine year old boys

i asked my nine year old son to assist to me with STILL blog photos today. we had a lightly overcast day–perfect for photographing–so i was hoping to get more than one photo made. while i lined up leaves, and made circles out of insect wings, he quietly and diligently worked beside me. then, after spending a few lingering seconds assessing his work, he announced he was done. and it was perfect.

“wasp fly” by joseph hoffman

feathers, seed pods, pussy willow, fish scales, seeds

  • Olivia says:

    And it is perfect.

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ampersand

i just watched the documentary helvetica, which got me thinking, of all things, about typography. so now i am thinking it might be fun to make a STILL blog font. here is my very first experiment. it is meant to be ampersand but i think it also looks like somebody meditating on a beach, or possibly eating at a picnic.

bone collection of assorted minnesota wild animals and fish

  • I love seeing your work everyday but today’s is so creative and unusual!! Amazing!

    reply
  • margie says:

    i love this and was happy for the instagram preview

    reply

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down in the dirt

my friend michele presented me with this gift to STILL blog, from her grandfather’s farm in southern minnesota. it’s the clever nest of a female mud dauber wasp. there is some painful serendipity involved in the timing of this gift, because just this week i was moving some firewood and as i began to lift the bottom row of logs, i was swiftly and simultaneously stung by four wasps defending an unseen buried nest.  i ended up displaying what the medical websites universally called a “large local allergic reaction,” with a lot of heat, swelling, redness, and itching. I’m feeling fine now, but it has made me wary of all wasps, even the supposedly benign, though quite wicked looking, mud dauber.

pemberton, minnesota

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