Monday, October 12, 2009

mountain ash and a foggy day

Or a couple of foggy days really. Foggy weather is rubbish for driving in but always nice for a walk in the countryside. Sound travels differently in foggy weather. The loudest sound I can hear up here is the birdsong and the grasshoppers. It is so quiet I can hear individual leaves falling. Then I discover that it is in fact so quiet I can also hear individual seeds falling from the trees. I always find foggy weather exciting for some reason, and I always try to get out somewhere for a walk in it.

I take a lot of photo's on the first day but when I get them back I find that a lot of them are blurred, so I go back the following day to have another go. I think that the reason that they are blurred is because it is quite dark in the fog and I have not changed the ISO speed on my camera so I am using very long shutterspeeds which make it easy to blur the photo's when using a handheld camera. Photo's viewed on the screen on the back of modern digital cameras never really appear blurred unless they are wildly blurred but a good way to check the sharpness is to use the zoom facility and have a look at them a lot closer, this is the technique I have figured out anyway.

The fungus on the beech tree is known as Artist's Fungus (Ganoderma applanatum) the brown spores collect on the surrounding tree and look a bit like cocoa powder. Patterns scratched into the white layers of the fungus are permanent, and this practice explains the common name of this species.

Like many types of fungus that grow on trees, this type of fungus is not edible. I was amused when googling for 'are artists' the top suggestions were 'are artists crazy' and 'are artists selfish' which tells us quite a lot about the behaviour and common perception of artists.

The red berries further on in the sequence are on the Rowan or Mountain Ash as they are also known because they can grow up to an elevation of 1000ft. The berries are edible and high in vitamin C but do not taste very nice. They can though be made into a jelly. It is common in Scotland to find a rowan tree planted near the front door, supposedly to keeps witches away. Cutting down a rowan tree is considered bad luck which is probably from superstitions about cutting or damaging a tree with ritual use. It is one of the trees associated with the Druids.

The rowan's wood is strong and resilient, making excellent walking sticks, and is suitable for carving. It was often used for tool handles, and spindles and spinning wheels were traditionally made of rowan wood. Druids used the bark and berries to dye the garments worn during lunar ceremonies black, and the bark was also used in the tanning process. Rowan twigs were used for divining, particularly for metals.

The berries can be made into or added to a variety of alcoholic drinks, and different Celtic peoples seem to have had their favourites. As well as the popular wine still made in the Highlands, the Scots made a strong spirit from the berries, the Welsh brewed an ale, the Irish used them to flavour Mead, and even a cider can be made from them. There seems to be a bumper crop of the bright red berries this year.


nobody said...

Bravo John, I was about to wonder which I liked best, the photos or the writing, but it's the two of them together that's really brilliant.

Anyway, all that was missing was the sound of the falling seeds and the forest scent in my nostrils. Marvellous.

Penny said...

I like that 3rd picture. The trees in the fog.
as if they are stretching above the fog, to soak up the sun.

john said...

Thanks nobody and Penny. I have just been on a long walk between Axmouth and Lyme Regis. Very beautiful but hard to photograph.

I should give a credit to another website for some of the information about the Rowan but I can't remember where I got it from but I will when I do.

I had two encounters with airborn things today. The first was a hawk who decided to give me a fright by swooping over me at a terrific speed a couple of feet above my head. I didn't know that they made so much noise when they did this.

The second was when I had to walk briefly on the footpath across the Axe golf course. An idiot with a golfclub aimed a ball right at me from about 150 yards away, it landed about 8 feet from me and I actually had to jump out of the way of it. As you can imagine, I gave them the benefit of some rather fresh and forceful language. There is no shortage of idiots and dickheads in this country.

nobody said...

John, you remind me of one time when some friends and I went to Sydney's South Head (a cliff looking over the Pacific Ocean) when a Peregrine Falcon swooped over our heads within arm's reach. Fast and big and scary and we all ducked and semi-wigged out with lots of God's name taken in vain, if you can dig it. My friend San pipes up asking if it was a pigeon. "A pigeon!? Are you fucking nuts?! Did you see how big that thing was?"

Anyway, he was a ballsy bugger and proceeded to sit there right in front of us on the cliff, and long enough for me to draw him. For the fastest creature on the planet (320km/h) I found him remarkably unaffected (certainly compared to Usain Bolt, ha ha).

john said...

I have been doing a bit of reading up on the place and I think that the bird I got swooped by yesterday could well have been a Peregrine Falcon nobody as they are up there though I didn't get much of a look at it.

I've just seen some nice photo's on flickr that someone took at Dunscombe of a PF so they are there. I've never heard a whoosh like it.

I haven't been there for a few years and had forgotten what a long and hard walk it is.

Autumn is not as advanced there and all the leaves are still very green. I took a good few photos but without aerial perspective of any sort most of them look like a big green wall.

It has the smallest and windiest of paths, up/down/left/right and in places you could step off and vanish down a fissure in the rocks, all sorts of drops and dangers. It all reminded me of LOTR though, I don't know a place like it.

nobody said...

Well if you get another look at him, provided you're familiar with a peregrine's head and throat colouration, you can't be mistaken. They're really singular with no other raptor quite like them.

Well that's the case in Oz anyway. And we've got a shitload of raptors here.

john said...

I did see others flying along the clifftops but too far away to recognise and I only caught sight of the back end of my own swooping fellow, binoculars for me next time hopefully.

Some text about the rowan was from the website which I am very grateful to for their information which I did use without adapting too much, a bit naughty really. My humble apologies, grovel grovel. Oh dear that doesn't sound very sincere does it? sorry.

queenofthenile said...

The Artist's fungus (your photo of it) is very beautiful. Good advice about the blurring, for photographers. My problem is, it's just too hard to get a good read on the tiny LCD on my camera, even when I zoom. (I take off my reading glasses to shoot the photo, but I have to put them on to look at it on the LCD.) I try to take a great many shots, so that I will hit one that shows what I want to show when I get back to the computer and evaluate them.

nina said...

Lucious John, thanks.

john said...

Cheers Queenofthenile and thanks. I have tried drawing into the white layer of the Artists Fungus and it does work and leaves a nice black permanent line.

Yes, it is difficult to see properly on the LCDs. They are also nearly useless as a gauge of anything in bright sunlight though work fine in the gloomy weather that we get plenty of.

Good advice on taking multiple photos too, as taking more doesn't cost anything with digital unlike the days of film. Quite often I am happiest with the first image, if it is in focus and the exposure is right but taking more also allows you to experiment with the composition as well.

john said...

Nice one Nina and cheers for that.

I keep meaning to comment on your lovely recent painting on the gallery. I have been looking for something that I was going to referance but have been having trouble finding it. I have also been enjoying the photos you put up on the banner at the top of your blog, the houses and the fire ones, very nice.

The photos of the deer were lovely too, amazing to see them so close I should think. Thanks and cheers for now.