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Old Mar 19, 2004, 9:52 AM   #1
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Default Contrasts: from winter words, spring

Most people think that spring in Japan is signaled by the ume or plum, and the sakura—Japan’s famed cherry blossoms. Certainly, the cherry is the most spectacular herald of spring, since the falling blossoms are followed immediately by the greening that bursts out everywhere in April. But there are earlier signs as well. A careful observer will notice a number of primal events--not so stunning as the sakura, perhaps, but equally as significant. Sequing between the end of winter and the first of spring, they prove unmistakably that warmth is displacing the lingering cold.

With the plum blossoms, for example, the spidery branches of low-lying bushes, bare since the previous November, are already putting out tiny green leaves—most no longer than the first joint of a finger it is true, but notable nonetheless. And farther down, several ground-hugging herbs and grasses are already displaying true flowers by mid-March. Ignored by most everyone, they are the true floral harbingers of spring.

One of these is the tachitsubo sumire or Viola grypoceras. The most common of violets, it is also the earliest blooming, responding to the early spring rains by immodestly pressing its way up through dead leaves, still dry from the previous winter. Each purple bloom is no more than a thumbnail--often overlooked--since the eyes of most hikers are trained on the showier plum blossoms above. A single photograph requires lying still on the dank earth under dreary skies, focusing from mere centimeters away. Even so, out of that low region of cold death, they raise one of the simplest, yet warmest voices of new life.

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Old Mar 19, 2004, 10:12 AM   #2
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The remnants of last year's foilage and the beginning of this year's. Nicely captured, Norm.
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Old Mar 19, 2004, 11:00 AM   #3
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Norm, this is a beautiful and poignant image. I just spent time staring at how you managed to keep the blossom and the dead leaf both in focus while allowing all else to fade with the shallow depth of field. It was an important thing to do. Without this, the image would have had far less meaning.

I have to ask: what aperture did you use? Did you have an accessory lens on the camera?

These violets look like the same ones that grow in my yard each spring. Could it be?
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Old Mar 19, 2004, 11:14 AM   #4
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Norm,
Beautiful image. This picture makes me long for the flowers around here to start blooming. The story adds that much more to it.
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Old Mar 19, 2004, 12:55 PM   #5
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I'm glad you took the time and effort to get down to capture this image, it is striking.
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Old Mar 19, 2004, 1:06 PM   #6
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Thanks for sharing a beautiful moment in Japan. Well done.
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Old Mar 19, 2004, 1:27 PM   #7
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gorgeous shot!!!! great job?!
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Old Mar 19, 2004, 5:10 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone.
Barb, EXIF is:
Oly-755, ISO 50, f3.2 at 1/50th (programmed), with zoom locked at 10.9mm (super macro).

I took photos of two different clumps of blooms, but this one had the dry leaf and in the best relationship; leaf and flower were in the same plane, so I locked focus on the flower and adjusted the composition slightly before shooting.

The Viola grypoceras is also called the "Korean violet," so I assume it's native over here, though there are subtle varietial differences. On English-language websites, the Korean violet is sometimes called "cyclamen leaved violet" in reference to the silvery pattern on the leaves--yet those are missing on the ones here in Japan. I'm not a botanist, but fairly sure of the identification based on several flower-identification books I've got.
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Old Mar 19, 2004, 6:03 PM   #9
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nothing new to add...just an echo of the sentiments above.


good job
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Old Mar 19, 2004, 6:20 PM   #10
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Thanks, Norm, for the EXIF information. One thing it pointed out to me is that I've been using too wide an aperature consistently when doing close-ups. Generally, I've had it set at 2.2 or 2.4. I really like a shallow depth of field, but am probably going overboard with it.

I just grabbed my wildflower book to look up violets and discovered that what grows in my lawn and at the edge of the woods is referred to simply as the "common blue violet," which is a bit misleading since they're purple and since half of them are actually white, not purple. Botanical name: Viola papilionacea. Your pretty little Korean violet grows nowhere in North America, but with all the importing and exporting of plants around the world, I wouldn't be surprised if it started showing up here.
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