Spring(ing) Through an Old Lens

The first blooms have opened, the birds are singing, the air is fresh. It’s time for immersion.

 

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I can get lost in a lens. Especially the old Super Takumar 50mm f1.4. From time to time I get it out, twist it onto the camera body, dial the aperture way down, and see what happens. (Here’s a video about the lens).

 

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The white blossoms of a native Bitter cherry tree (Prunus emarginata) grace a patch of scrappy woods that’s between our house and the one next door. What a lift for the spirit, seeing that sprinkling of white among the bare branches and evergreens. And there are little Indian plums (Oemleria cerasiformis) in the woods, with joyous, lime green leaves and sweet little sprays of dangling flowers.

 

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The emerging energy around the yard is echoed at the state park a few miles away, where red alder (Alnus rubra) catkins glow with color and the rocks follow suit with blooms of lichen, perhaps Orange boulder lichen (Porpidia flavocaerulescens).  Sometimes I wish I could pack a tiny lichenologist, or a botanist in my pocket, and take him out whenever I had a question. I’d pull him out, point to a mysterious lichen and say, “There! Tell me a story about that one!”  If you doubt the existence of lichenologists, here’s an excellent article about one. It’s a great read. Seriously! I included another lichen photo, of a twig with at least four different species on it, just because lichens are cool.

There’s so much to learn.

Back on the trail in the park, diminutive Rattlesnake plantains (Goodyera oblongifolia) nestle in the moss. They will produce slender stalks covered with tiny white orchids; hopefully they will wait until I return. And the humble Red dead-nettle, or henbit, (Lamium purpureum), which hitchhiked here from Europe, is already blooming. Henbit hides its pale blooms under colorful leaves arranged in neat pairs. Seen from above, it’s almost architectural in its orderliness, like a tiny stupa.

 

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Then there’s the beauty below, the star of our early Spring forests, Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum). This native shrub delights woodland walkers, hummingbirds and bees with a profusion of charming raspberry-colored flowers.

 

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Along the water the steep, rocky cliffs retain enough moisture for clumps of grass to take hold in crevices. I’m drawn by the artful way last year’s tattered leaf blades jostle with this year’s growth. In the forest, Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) leaves unfurl along green, zigzagging stems. The edible red berries will appear later, but I doubt I’ll get to eat one – the birds and mammals are likely to beat me to it. Next to a tree stump on the edge of the forest, hardy Siberian miner’s lettuce (Claytonia sibirica) blooms. The edible plant can be used in salads but I don’t know whose dog, or which wild creature may have left their mark here, so I’ll pass.

 

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Our common evergreen fern, the Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) took a beating this winter from heavy, long-lasting snow. Clumps of this normally attractive understory plant lie flat on the ground now, their fronds broken and spotted with dead patches. Frankly, I haven’t wanted to look at Sword ferns lately, but a few dried fronds curled against a rock made beautifully intricate shadows, a pleasing sight. No doubt, even the dead fronds can be beautiful but soon their distinctive fiddleheads will begin to unwind, and I’m looking forward to seeing a Sword fern rejuvenation.

Near one end of a favorite trail, the small leaves of Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) dot the dark landscape like a pointillist’s dream.

 

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It’s getting late….time to go.

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All of these photos were made with the Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens, during the past week. Yesterday I went for a quick walk before dinner. I rushed out of the house with the old Takumar lens on the camera and a macro lens in the bag. Neither one was the right choice for photographing this Common loon swimming in the bay at sunset. It would have been nice to be able to zoom in closer. It is what it is though, and as a record of a moving scene, it ain’t half bad. So: have the lenses or the camera you’ll need with you – but if you don’t have the right equipment, do what you can and be satisfied.

 

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83 comments

  1. Amazing SMC Takumar lens and really fantastic photos! It reminds me of an old macro lens that I have had for about 25 years, a Canon 100mm f/2.8. It still works well and in the past gave very good results. I will have to do what you did, and take it out and use it in the coming few weeks when spring finally decides to come to our region.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, get that old lens out and play with it! It’s hard to believe spring hasn’t really arrived where you are – it was late here, too though, and it’s really just beginning now. I wish you a cool, slow spring when it comes, so you can really enjoy it.

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  2. Lovely series of images.
    Old lenses are something special, if only because prior to the mirrorless camera, were quite cheap for very high quality glass.
    I love my Nikon lenses, from the non-ai through to the Ais range. Not so clinical in their image rendition somehow. Modern lenses are not always better, infact some are terrible compared to the their older equivalent, I am sure you have found the same.

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    • I did get this one for a good price, and subsequently found a Super Takumar 35mm f3.5 at a thrift store, for about $30.00. That one obviously isn’t as bright, but it also has a very nice quality to it. I love the solid build and the action on both of them, but I’ve gotten used to carrying much lighter lenses. After a while I do get tired of the extra weight. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Again you are a magnificent tour guide. Thank you. It’s difficult to pick out a favorite: there are so many. Just as enjoyable are your words.

    I’m reminded of an ancient Canon 50mm f/1.8. It was essentially a kit lens back in the 70s. I would call it unpretentious. That was its virtue.

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  4. The most important is what you wrote at the end of the post: the pleasure of walking through nature, observing and taking the possible photos, whatever photographic material we have.
    Your pictures…they are really beautiful!

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  5. Beautiful photos of the near spring. I love these tender and dissolving pictures very much! I can see you have Lamium purpureum too and the beautiful Ribes sanguineum – why don’t I have it?!! It is funny, I made pictures of a plant like Nr. 1 the last days. I think it is a different tree but the leafs look similar. Like the ones from the Prunus and the following. Maybe they are all related or spring makes them look alike 🙂 The fern and the catkins are wonderful too. Lovely springish 😉 green!

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    • At the beginning, when they are just leafing out, it can be so difficult to figure out which tree or plant is which. I was walking with a friend yesterday and we were puzzled by a lot of them. Those first leaves are often very simple, right? Only with great age to we develop lots of character, the better to identify ourselves and one another. 😉 As for the fruit trees – they are way too difficult, with all the cultivars that are out there. If it grows in the woods and I’m sure it’s native, that helps tremendously to narrow it down. But if it’s cultivated, or in a garden, I will have no idea what it is! 😉 I’m glad you liked the post, Almuth. I was surprised at how complex the catkins are when you see them close up.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your old lense made a great work together with your talented eyes 🙂 We can’t know everything. Still learning everyday! Yes, the catkins are fascinating. So many things are in detail, aren’t they 🙂

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  6. Great images (as always). I love the 50mm at f1.4 – so sharp and so beautiful with that shallow DOF.

    (I’ve got a Canon 50mm f1.4, but its gathering dust in favour of my newer Sigma 17-50mm f2.8. It’s just as sharp but gives me that little bit of zoom so I can get closer to the flowers etc).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can understand why you like the zoom! And just to be totally accurate, I probably shot most of the shallow DOF images here at f2 or so, because on this particular lens I’ve had better luck not using the very “end” of the dial. But, it adds up to the same thing…a certain look that I find no other lens quite has. Thanks for being here, Vicki. 🙂

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    • I’m having fun observing the subtle differences between the Seattle area and here. Because we’re an island, and because we’re located at the edge of that rain shadow you always hear about, the climate is different here, so the plants are, too. But in a week I’ll be in Leiden, trying to figure out the best way to photograph a very different kind of landscape – small cities, old buildings, the street, etc. It will be a good challenge, right? 🙂

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    • I like it! Spring-party! I’m glad you mentioned #1, because I like those effects when you shoot into the light wide open, with that lens. And those little things like shadows in the background in #6 are also due to the lens. They are just more branches, but that lens makes magic with them. So glad you like #20, too. Shadows are always interesting. See you soon!

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    • Thank you Adrian, I’m always interested to find out what photos speak to you. I must keep working on those rocks – they aren’t always easy to photograph, but when it works, it’s gratifying.

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  7. What a great spring album and vicarious forest bathing. I read this on my phone, and enjoyed it, but looking at the photos on a monitor is way better. We’re having a late spring around here, and I’ve been starving for green, and love these crisply pleated leaves in 14-16, they’re starting off the year lookin’ sharp. But it’s the reds in the currant blossoms that are really knocking me out. And I love your pointillist’s dream – glancing at it on a phone, the shot seemed almost bland, but now that I can get a proper look at it, I really love it. And my final comment (finally! she says) is 20 – – it seems perverse, but my favorite is the dead fronds – – just wonderful, all furled up, like they were hugging themselves in the cold, and the exotic shadows, like a storybook illustration, N.C. Wyeth maybe. Very cool. I really like that shot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking another look on the monitor. It does make a difference! 😉 Spring is late here, too, but obviously we are milder than you. Those currant plants are amazing to see in the woods – the only thing with bright color, other than all the green. They just seem so unlikely, so cultivated looking. And yes, the dead fern fronds….I’ve been noticing the curled ones a lot, and photographing them, but that day it was even better, with the sun setting and casting those cool shadows. I’m glad you like it! Thanks Robert – have a good weekend!

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  8. j’adore tes photos de jeunes feuilles, lynn! c’est une merveilleuse façon de les photographier
    j’aime, moi aussi, beaucoup les lichens et je te remercie pour l’article que tu as mis en lien (sur Kerry Knudsen )
    je traduis les textes avec google translate 🙂
    merci pour cette magnifique série et pour les informations

    Liked by 1 person

  9. To my mind, you got a lot more out of the lens than the guy in the video.
    I used the Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens through the 1970s until someone broke into my apartment and stole most of my equipment.

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    • Thanks for the compliment, Steve. The person who did the video is probably more technician than artist. It’s sad to hear you lost things you cared about that way….the 70’s were exciting, but with lots of rough edges!

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      • I wasn’t alone. Someone—never apprehended—broke into the homes of a bunch of Austin photographers over a short period.

        I think you’re right that the guy in the video is more technician than artist. There are plenty of people who get off on gear for gear’s sake.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Love the ethereal introduction to this post as though springtime is making its shy way into our lives. If you find that tiny lichenologist, or botanist, see if you can find one for me, too. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to point a camera or smart phone at a thing and it’ll just tell us. Even the hummingbirds, which I expected to be relatively easy have turned into quite the challenge. Can’t believe I’m falling so far behind with blogging. Birds seem to have taken over the agenda this year.

    Time seems to have accelerated for me. Too many good things slipping away too fast. I suspect that the same may also be happening for you. Here it is almost April and it’s getting close to the Godwit Festival again. Seems like a replay of last year when every time we think of heading south, we get hit with a rainy spell. Then other things get in the way when we have the sunny stretches. Seems as though our timing is just off.

    The good news is that we’re here to watch the Red Alder catkins and our planted Red Currant come alive. If only we can keep the deer from eating all the buds like last year. They already managed to get half the Azalea buds, and nearly decimated the leaves on the native Rhododendron we planted this past year. The deer are getting to be very much of a nuisance. Sorry… your gorgeous images of the Currant flowers sent me into that rant!!!

    Thanks for providing that last image to calm me down and send soothed into the lovely sunset! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 Nice to catch up with you! What’s not to love about being captivated by birds? It’s too bad the deer are doing so much damage. So far, we seem to have very light deer browse – they meander through and nibble here and there without much impact. I wonder why they settle in so heavily in certain places. I would have said because it’s not native (the azalea) but then they’re wrecking the native Rhodie. Rats! Anyway, I know you’ll spend more time enjoying nature than bemoaning it, by far. Say Hi to those AnnaRufousAllens hummers for me, OK?

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  11. I can’t get excited about lenses I’m afraid Lynn. My interest is in the end product and this is a beautiful selection with the feel as well as the sights of on ‘simple’ images. early Spring captured

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  12. I’m captivated by #10 & #17. I went on a hike in our nearby woods the other day looking for any signs of spring but there was still snow on the ground and the temperature was anything but spring-like. Although it’s always a pleasure to get out and walk in the woods, I admit I had higher expectations. That’s one reason this post is so refreshing. I’ll be right behind you (someday). Again, nice work, Lynn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rocks! There’s something so wonderful about them. Including the fact that they will be there next time, looking about the same, save for the light and what’s growing on them. 🙂 I’m really sorry you weren’t able to find more signs of Spring. I felt that way just – 3 weeks ago I think? – when I was out. Then, “Bam!” and we’re there. And now I want it to go a slowly as possible. 🙂 Thank you Ken, and have a great weekend.

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  13. Wonderful to see some signs of spring. I like the shallow depth of field images best. It’s snowing here right now but I have to be content to know that all this moisture will bring some beautiful blooms … eventually … I hope! 🙂

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    • Yes, that snow is important! We didn’t get quite as much as we should have, and March was extremely dry, so I hope April brings more showers around here. Eventually Spring will show its lovely face for you…

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  14. You make working with a wide open aperture look easy! 😉 I can see why you like this lens – the photos with the extremely limited depth of field have a wonderful painterly look. Nice to see that spring is arriving for you too! 🙂

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    • It’s a look I’ve always liked, and the first time I had a camera that wasn’t automatic, where I could focus where I wanted and had some control over depth of field, I was so excited. 🙂 Your own use of shallow depth of field is incredibly skilled, so thank you for having anything nice to say at all!

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      • Do you mean to search for a composition? Or just to look? 🙂 I think you’re mostly saying that it’s just a really cool way to look at the world, and I agree! This morning it was foggy – a surprise – and I was able to do close-ups right here in the yard of twigs with new leaves and dew-covered spider webs. Talk about looking – what a world!

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  15. I did something different this time. As I read your post, I had my camera at hand, and my 100mm f/2.8 lens. I’ve never opened it up fully, or really slowed the shutter speed, and it was intriguing to see what happened. I’m anxious to try it out in the wild — but not today! We’ve had a cold front, and after days of 70s and 80s, it’s time for a little retreat indoors.

    It’s been interesting to watch my photography go downhill for the past couple of months. I honestly think it’s become as “tensed up” as we humans have been with the interminable fog and wind. It’s been a season of always compensating, rather than creating, if that makes any sense. Obviously, photographers with more experience can deal with imperfect conditions more easily — or at least more effectively. But it’s a new season — time to try some new things.

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    • I’m not sure what’s going downhill about your photography, but if it feels that way, then that’s something to grapple with, right? Weather sure can get in the way…but if it’s still windy and foggy, maybe it’s time to photograph wide open and let a branch or a flower blur as it blows. If you hit that shutter enough times, I bet you’ll get something very intriguing. You know, don’t fight ’em, join ’em. Having said that, I bet by the time you read this, the weather will have changed. 😉

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      • The weather has changed, and I think I’ve some clues about what has been going wrong. Part of it has been trying to do too much, I think. I’ve learned that being tired can affect my photography as much as anything. I’d been putting long hours in, driving from one spot to another, and finally had a nice, ten-hour sleep Friday night. Needless to say, I was feeling much perkier the next day!

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  16. Hi Lynn, What a gorgeous “scroll” I just had. That lens… such creamy backgrounds and crisp foregrounds. Your images are a celebration of new life and the small wonders of nature. The cherry blossoms, catkins, the red currants …all sweet moments of spring emerging. All capped by your stunning departing sunset and shore bird. 🙂

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  17. That’d be an interesting challenge – shoot an entire series at 1.4. #12 is an interesting combination of fauna, #13 is just a cool picture. I think I have a #14, #15, #16 bush in my yard. And the last shot really captures the evening mood I remember from up there.

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    • Honestly, I think most of these were shot closer to f2 or f3, but yes, that would be interesting. I bet you do have a “#14,#15,#16 bush” in your yard – that species is popular at nurseries. I saw it on a blog post from Brussels recently, too. Thank you very much for your comments – funny to hear you say “up there” because compared to most other visitors here, I think of you as being right around the corner. 😉 But I know it’s different up here – it’s even different than Kirkland/Bellevue. Have a good week!

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  18. You know what? I think that last shot is wonderful … Ah lichen, we have so much at our place. The stuff loves my orchard. I must get a couple of pics and pop them on the blog for you. 🙂 I’m going to read that article too. Thanks for the link and all you super shots as per usual!

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    • Julie, thank you. I wouldn’t have guessed that you have an abundance of lichen too….does it bother the orchard trees? There’s an older apple tree here which is covered with an assortment of lichens, but last year it bore a good crop so they don’t seem to get in the way. I’ll be away for 3 weeks and may not see your blog for a while, so please jog my memory next month if I still haven’t managed a visit! It is always such a pleasure to see what you’re up to, and it would be fun to compare lichens. 🙂

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  19. #10 with its veined rocks and gold-splashed lichen is fantastic. I too have often wished for a pocket botanist to consult while on walks, but your desire for a lichenologist and your photos remind me of a beautiful book by Robin Wall Kimmerer called “Gathering Moss.”

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  20. I love what you’ve achieved with that lens Lynn. The short depth of field has certainly allowed you to create some beauty. One through six are exquisite, and also the red currant. Just lovely!
    Alison

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  21. The right lens is the one you have with you. That last image proved the point. Nothing wrong with an environmental portrait and this one is lovely.
    As far as old lenses, most of mine went away in 2003 when I switched from Canon FD to EX lenses with the advent of digital.While I don’t have anything from the 70’s or 80’s in the kit any more, most are 16 years old with a few exceptions that were updated.
    I really like the whole tour, but especially number 10 with the excellent contrasting gray/orange.

    Like


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