I used to study and work in the Banks building at the ANU. In the middle of the building, enclosed and hidden away from the rest of the world, there was a wonderful courtyard - an oasis.
I was lucky enough to find 10 species of orchid while I was in New Zealand, some on the South Island and some on the sub-Antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands.
The name gives it away. Megaherbs are particularly large herbs. 'Carrots', 'cabbages' and giant diasies up to 1.5 meters tall with big, colourful flowerheads and leaves the size of dinner plates. They are only found on a handful of islands south of New Zealand in the middle of the Southern Ocean, in a zone between the temperate and the Antarctic. The sub-Antarctic. Here, extreme temperatures are not the main problem: rather, the near-constant wind, rain and general cloudiness make it challenging for both the plants and their pollinators.
On our first morning, we awoke close to the Snares, with hopes of a zodiac cruise and Snares Crested Penguins. But 60 knot winds left that idea dead in the water. Instead, we headed onwards toward Auckland Island...
Fast foward 24 hours and we awoke to complete calm: the sun was rising, the wind was still, the waters of Ross Harbour were smooth, and everyone was smiling. It was going to be a good day.
This week, from the 12th to the 19th of November, is Australian Pollinator Week. It was created to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and of the recent declines in insect abundance. Say g'day to an insect, plant a flowering shrub, and don't use pesticides, and the indispensable insects may just survive.
Ahhh fieldwork. It never goes according to plan. But, finally, my field season has come to an end and its time to put aside the 4WD, camping equipment and car fridge, and actually unpack the bags which have been moving between the car and house since May.
Tozers Bush Camp is a wonderful little patch of bush, surrounded by farmland, on the road to Bremer Bay. We were drawn to visit the place because of their now-famous orchid tours including the highly sought-after Queen of Sheba, Thelymitra speciosa, which we saw. But the place is so much more than a couple of admittedly spectacular orchids. We were so taken by the place that I've dedicated a whole blog post to highlight some of the wonderful flowers that we saw when were there in late August this year.
I've never written a review of a camera or lens before, but I've been asked by many people what I thought of this lens since getting it, so I thought it was worth putting fingers to keyboard and getting some of my thoughts out there.
It is entirely possible that each time I go to WA I will come back with a new favourite Banksia. This August, Ali and I discovered the gaudy, eye-watering colours of Banksia coccinea, the aptly named scarlet Banksia.
Its been a while since my last blog post. Almost a month, in fact. I think I've been waiting for a theme or an idea to explore, but in the meantime I've been accumulating plenty of images that I want to share. So, a blog post with odds and ends from here (mostly Perth) and there (one from Canberra), all taken over the last month or so. Ming Thein calls these kinds of posts 'singles' on his thought-provoking blog.
Banksia flowers are actually hundreds of tiny flowers grouped together. As the Banksia 'candles' age, they form multiple hard, woody fruits known as follicles. These hard woody fruits act as a protection for the seeds inside. In many species, the follicles are so tough that they require fire to break them open, and release the seeds. Many Banksias flower during autumn and winter, often at a time when not much else is flowering.
In my last post I wrote about the first month of my PhD experience, about getting all the paperwork in order, about the enormity of planning for the next four years. So what am I actually studying?
In short, orchids and fungus gnats! Yep, fungus gnats. Let me explain.
A good way to make your subject stand out is to create an even background with no distracting colours or patterns. This can be done in a few different ways. Perhaps the simplest way is to use the physics of the lens you have to blur the background behind your subject. Telephoto lenses and macro lens when focused close can achieve this. Alternatively, you can create a white or black background to add some contrast and drama to your image. This can be done by over-exposing or under-exposing your background, or by using a prop in the background (such as a white sheet of paper or a black object).
Writing the previous blog post about Wahlenbergia from photographs taken almost a year ago actually inspired me to photograph more. While writing it, I realised I didn't have any good photos of Wahlenbergia gloriosa, the royal bluebell. And why the royal bluebell? Because it is the floral emblem of the ACT.
Native bluebells wonderful little herbaceus plants with beautiful blue-ish to purple-ish flowers. Throughout spring, summer and autumn the grasslands around Canberra are dotted with various species of Wahlenbergia - the native bluebells. The floral emblem of the ACT is actually a bluebell - Wahlenbergia gloriosa - although I don't think many people trek up to the Brindabellas to see it. Random fact: bluebell flowers are edible, although I can confirm they don't taste like much.
This summer has been a hot one.
My partner, Ali, and I have been living on her parent's bush block at Clear Range, not far from Tharwa. We share 100 hectares of grassy woodland with lots of kangaroos, some deer, a few very destructive pigs, brown and tiger snakes, a plague of locusts, the odd echidna and many beautiful birds. And, of course, the plants.
Drum roll please...
A major part of my Honours was to find out what (if anything) was pollinating the Critically Endangered orchid Caladenia actensis. It was a complete unknown. After several weeks of fruitless searching, I found some on the Majura Training Area. This is it!