Friday, October 26, 2012

Picture Perfect Iowa

Come see Linda and Robert Scarth, photographers of Deep Nature: Photographs from Iowa, on Sunday at the WOW! Wonder of Words Author Fair. They will be giving a background of their books and reading selections, and speaking about why they write and their writing processes.

What: "Picture Perfect Iowa"
When: Sunday, October 28
Where: Capital Square Downtown Des Moines (400 Locust Street), in the ISU classroom on the ground level of Capital Square
Time: 1:30pm - 2:50pm

Interactive Des Moines Parking Map

Other WOW! Events

Deep Nature, photographers: Linda and Robert Scarth

UI Press Gardens update

The rain and wind of the last few days and the frost earlier in the month have pretty much finished the blooming season; fall is definitely here. We are determined to rein in the exuberance of the cup plants and the brown-eyed Susans next year and try to keep them from taking over the sidewalk; UPS and Fed Ex deliveries are now in constant danger of being snagged by overgrown prairie plants. If possible we will add another layer of mulch to the rain and the prairie gardens, and we need to clip the dead flower stalks, but otherwise there is little to do to prepare the plants for the winter ahead. After three and four summers respectively, the rain and prairie gardens are well established, healthy, and lovely. We need to increase their diversity next season, and we need to continue to fill in areas where plants are not thriving, but overall we are very pleased with the rain garden's design and with the ability of the long roots of its plants to keep water out of our basement.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thomas Rosburg Interview Part 2

You include information about champion trees—the tallest trees and trees with the largest diameter—in your new guide. Tell us about the Big Tree program.
The Big Tree program was conceived and is sponsored by American Forests, the oldest nonprofit conservation organization in the United States. It was established about 70 years ago to find, protect, and appreciate the largest individuals of tree species in all 50 states. American Forests maintains the National Register of Big Trees, which lists the biggest trees in America. Big trees are determined by combining together three measurements – the circumference (or diameter), the height, and the diameter of the crown. More than 870 species of trees are eligible for the register. Each state has its own register to recognize the largest individuals in the state. Big trees epitomize an important natural resource value – one that is embedded in the quality of old-growth forest. For most species, big trees exist because they have lived a long time, at least relative to the typical life span for the species. That suggests to me that they deserve our respect and admiration. They are not replaceable.

Do you have favorite tree families? Favorite species?
It would probably have to be the oaks because of their predominance and ecological importance in much of the country. Also most oaks are capable of very long lives, so they provide a bridge to the past. A big 300-year-old oak was beginning its life before America fought for its independence. If they could talk, they could tell us many interesting (and ecologically valuable) stories.

Of the oaks, the bur oak is my favorite. The big old trees often display a lot of character in their gnarled, twisted, and worn-out appearance.

You’re wrapping up another project for UI Press: all-new photographs for a second edition of Wildflowers and Other Plants of Iowa Wetlands. How has this summer’s extreme drought affected Iowa’s wildflowers and plants in general?
In ways that most of us have never seen before, but mainly because of the very early phenology initiated by the extremely early spring. Many plant species bloomed up to 4 weeks early. This combined with wetlands that are or have dried up has made the task of finding wetland plants in photographic form (in flower) very difficult. The extreme drought has certainly decreased plant growth and productivity and in some cases flowering. This has generally resulted in lower vigor and photogenic quality.

Some species, however, have bloomed at their normal time, which indicates that those species are responding to photoperiod for phenology. It would have been a good growing season to study phenology and determine which species are keyed into temperature (growing degree days) or photoperiod. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thomas Rosburg Interview Part 1

You’ve been photographing plants since 1977, when you received a 35 mm SLR camera as a graduation gift. What kind of cameras and equipment are you using now?
I am using Nikon cameras and lenses. I have an F4 and F3 for film photography and a D200 for digital work. I prefer the film for several reasons – the main overarching reason is that I believe it more fully embraces the art and challenges of photography. Lenses include wide angle (17–35, 28 mm), macros (105 and 200 mm), and short to long telephotos (70–200, 300, 400, and 600 mm). I often use extension tubes and diopters to increase image size and diffusers and umbrellas to control light. And I always use gray cards to determine exposure.

Tell us about the challenges of photographing trees, especially in the small format of the laminated guides.
Obviously trees do qualify as content for plant photography, but they are vastly different subjects compared to herbaceous plants. This is because of their vast size. Making a portrait of a tree is not really even possible, at least not in the same way a portrait is made of an herb. A different approach is necessary for trees, one that implements close-ups of small portions of the tree. A photographic challenge for the guide was in combining images of leaves and fruits in the same photo in order to present diagnostic information helpful for identification. For a few species, like elms, the fruits are produced before leaf-out. Another challenge was in representing the natural variation in shape and size of the leaves. The small format of the pocket guides made it unlikely that images of entire trees (the complete individual tree) would be useful, as very little of the tree’s features would be discernible.

Since the leaf is the single most important diagnostic characteristic of trees, I decided that showing a few to several leaves detached from the tree was the best way to visualize their morphology. Some leaves in each image were turned over to provide views of both the top and bottom surfaces.