The coffee percolator was on the hob for the second time. We’d watched the morning news on two channels between 8 and 8.30 and I’d moved back to the kitchen to read the yesterday’s Irish Times newspaper. The sun was shining on the back deck, dappled through the trees that line our southern fence. Beams of light brought different items into perspective while pigeons continued their cooing. They added a base note to the unusually loud dawn chorus that started around 5 am today and were still at it. I was reading about nightingales singing in Berlin, the no malice-aforethought surge of Covid-19 in nursing homes and the obvious need to rebase existing national debt and double it. Pigeons and nightingales aside, I needed a diversion.
Photography exercise: could I take nine photographs within nine steps within the nine minutes remaining before nine o’clock?
This coming paragraph didn’t really happen like this. What’s described is mostly instinctive, subliminally directed actions. So when I say that I put a 100 mm macro lens on the Canon DSLR and selected the automated shutter priority Tv, I did but without thinking much about it. Like hitting a baseline drive in tennis, it happens because there’s a well trained automaton that cohabits.
It was a windless morning and I needed the fastest of shutter speeds to counteract my beating heart. I chose an aperture of f/11 to broaden the depth of field because the macro lens wouldn’t always be normal to the small subjects I could access. I took off the polariser to increase the exposure value by a stop or thereabouts.
I slid the lens autofocus button on and adopted the constant refocussing from the menu on the camera body. I flicked-on the lens auto-stabilisation, a lazy replacement for a tripod. This was to be about opportunity and composition rather than fine art or technical prowess. I set the lens to a minimum focus distance of 0.3m. This would speed up the auto-focussing which tends to go hunting when you get too close to your subject. I also checked that it was set to point focus.
I dialled in an ISO of 640 to avoid losing detail in the blacks. The camera sensor is well able to handle the noise on the very contrasty scenes you get in direct sunlight. And finally, and I left the lens hood on the table so that it couldn’t bump into my subjects. The coffee wasn’t yet percolated because all of this is mostly instinctive and helpfully, the camera bag was already in the kitchen.
So out I went. Gus came too and wiped out two opportunities with his enthusiastically wagging tail. I found a wonderfully illuminated Buckminster Fuller kind of dandelion that I’m pleased I hadn’t weeded from the rosemary pot. There were still a couple of flowers on the rosemary co-potted with a curry plant. A fern was unfurling in a pot of hosta shoots to which it must have jumped in the last year. The absinthe plaque had a fly basking in the sun and the transparency of its wing shadow caught my eye. The apple tree in its big container is active again, a gift with two varieties grafted onto one trunk, one already in blossom, the other only budding. A couple of insect gnawed violets flowers remain, one with internal structures like icicles that were hard to keep in focus. A vertical wisteria bud stood out proud among the many shoots on a wisteria trained on the fence that encloses the deck. And I found a residue of dew, strung like beads on an unseen necklace, filaments of spider silk adorning a harder cast of bronze. I heard a window open next door and scurried back into the kitchen still barefoot in my pyjamas.
And here is my cast for the day after 90 minutes of make-up in Lightroom and WordPress: