Ain’t That Just Dandy

What do you do when you have a blog oriented around travel photography, and the dictates of a global pandemic says, “thou shalt not travel!”

There are two apparent options:

  • One, dig into dusty files and see if there are any photos of interest. The challenge here; can I also dredge the dust off my mental files to describe said photos?
  • Two, find something within walking distance and try to make it interesting. That’s the tack I’ll be taking today. My challenge – make an ordinary weed look extraordinary.

The subject for this photo essay? The all too common dandelion. I bet I can make it a lot more interesting than this ho-hum start.

Here it is, the bane of spring and summer, the master of the hostile takeover. What can I possibly do to put lipstick on this pig?

I could try a different angle…

(Note: all of these pictures will look more interesting if you click on them for a closer view.)

Or maybe behead it, and float its yellow tresses in a nearby reflecting pool. (Ok, so it’s just a birdbath.)

Getting a close up is always interesting. Why not, it has already powdered its face.

It even has a beauty mole. So what if the mole looks like a gnat.

The ants, on the other hand, recognise the weed for what it is, and go dumpster diving.

The view becomes swirly and abstract. Must be something in that pollen.

Especially from an ant’s eye view…

Generated from the “reflecting pool” shot, believe it or not.

Let’s see what happens if I stack up all my macro gadgets and get really close.

Doesn’t that make your nose itch?

Dandelions go through two phases: their flowering, pollen spreading, it’s kind of pretty but no thank you just the same phase, and the seed phase.

Little balls of fluff, each ball a cluster bomb of future weeding headaches. Up close, they’re an engineering marvel. Each seed, barely attached to its base, topped with a stiff shroud wearing an air-catching wig. A built in parachute, pre-deployed.

Let’s have a closer look, shall we?

Delicate, aren’t they? Each seed head has a radial batch of filaments, each tiny, each waiting for its lighter than air moment.

And what happens if you spray a little mist?

It looks sticky, somehow. Maybe it’s just having a bad hair day. But get even closer, and it becomes a work of art.

I bet you never suspected this hidden world of dandelions. But you need to be careful when you get this close, it can do weird things to the tendrils of your brain cells…

So there you have it. Even something as boring as a dandelion is interesting, if you look closely enough.

Ain’t that just dandy?

66 thoughts on “Ain’t That Just Dandy

  1. pinklightsabre

    That’s a wickedly rad premise Dave (bonus points for creativity!) and some wicked rad shots. Nice work! Keep it up! You got many strange cracks and crevices to explore there in Portland!

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    1. Despite all the time and effort I spent putting this essay together, I still think of them as weeds. Using mist is a standard macro photographer’s trick, although it’s the first time I’ve done it.

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      1. I remember a kid from school named LaVerne, who was a couple years younger, and a farmer named Vern, although it’s actually Vernon. Is that the way your dad spelled it, LaVern with a capital “V”?

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      2. I’ve heard of Laverne and Shirley, an old TV show. Does it matter if there’s an ‘e’ at the end? I vaguely remember a town by that name back in Minnesota, but I don’t remember how it was spelled.

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      1. I dunno – I just searched and got a “lattice of intersecting icosahedrons” and it started giving me horrendous flashbacks to Geometry Class, or maybe Lit Class, when they did Ancient Greek poetry, so I bailed. I don’t know much about Bucky but he seems like an amazing inventor.
        They seem to hold up really well, there’s a big one in NYC at the zoo in Queens, from the ’64 World’s Fair, and the one from the ’67 Expo in Montreal, although that one they’ve removed the plexiglass and it’s just the framework.

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      2. These expos and fairs look like they were a lot of fun. My granddad’s mother had already immigrated here, but she got a job in the Hungary pavilion, because she spoke a lot of languages, and he got a pass. So he’d get out of school in the Bronx, and take the subway all the way to Flushing Meadows, many many times. He talked about it pretty frequently.

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  2. I’m a great fan of dandelions myself, but you certainly have worked a marvel with them here. At least you mentioned that stacking of ‘macro gadgets.’ I’m glad to know you weren’t working with only a standard macro lens, else I might have worried about the capabilities of mine!

    I especially like the ‘reflecting pool’ shot, but they’re all quite pleasing.

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    1. The most extreme close ups were a combination of 105mm macro lens (1:1) on top of a 1.4 teleconverter on top of a set of extension tubes, and all that rendered on an APS-C sensor (1.5 crop factor.) I don’t know what the actual magnification factor is, but it’s substantial. Of course, the depth of field is beyond miniscule as well…

      The reflecting pool shot was extra challenging because it was windy that day and it kept blowing the dandelion around.

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  3. Dave, you have achieved the impossible and made dandelions look beautiful to my jaded eye. Granted, I’ll still yank ’em all up by their taproot at every opportunity, but at least the close-ups of the seed heads look artistic and intriguing. Well done, sir.

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    1. Reflecting a flower of some sort is a classic macro technique (but usually done in an indoor studio in controlled conditions, rather than the ad hoc, chase it around a birdbath on a windy day techique. 😉 )

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      1. Ha, ha, visions of you flitting around on a windy day with your camera come to min… 😉 What we photographers do to get a good shot.
        I’m lucky my partner is patient as sometimes we wait in a spot whilst travelling, for over an hour. I see someone’s face and just know that I can get a good candid shot, so we wait!
        Is considered stalking these days?

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  4. Your feature photo was so cool, never imagined it was a dandelion! Love the photos, especially the extreme close ups.
    I’ve always thought that if we changed our mind about dandelions – or any weed for that matter – and decided we really loved them and tried to cultivate them, they’d suddenly become difficult to grow. Reverse psychology, see? Think it’d work? 😉

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  5. Dave! I love this post! I was laughing out loud, and then the macro shot had me oohing and ahhing, and then the last shots are just so artistic and beautiful. Bravo for making something special out of something seemingly ordinary.

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  6. Dandelions are an underappreciated and ofttimes reviled flower which is a shame. They are invasive for sure, but as you’ve shown offer so many lovely ways to be appreciated. We allow ours to flower a time or two so the emerging bees have something for nourishment as they wake from their winter slumbers. I like the shots with the dewy silk best.

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    1. It’s not so much we “allow” them to flower in spring as much as there’s so many of them, and the weather so frequently wet that weeding them doesn’t always happen right away. As you suggest, all the better for the bees.

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  7. I love your creativity and artistic eye Dave. I settled for looking back into my “dusty files” in order to write but am pleased to say we also have, as someone said above, been looking for beauty in ordinary things.

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  8. You succeeded almost beyond my imagination, Dave (with your close-up close-ups). A fun posts, and I for one, not having a lawn to worry about, always enjoy the dandelion. It can be found almost anywhere and you have to appreciate that in a plant. 🙂 –Curt

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    1. I find if I get a jump on them in the Spring before they go to seed in a major way, I can keep them under control for the rest of the year. Two or three weeding sessions while do it. It’d be easier if my neighbor to the north would do any weeding at all….

      But then maybe I would not have had inspiration for this post.

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  9. Ah, yes, the conundrum of what to write about when the very source of your inspiration keeps its social distance. One has to go local—very local. My grandson pulls dandelion puffs from the ground and blows the seeds into the wind, but your ode reminds us that everything is unique and deserves a closer look. Your featured image is stunning. I couldn’t tell what it was until I started reading your post. Nice job.

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  10. That was pretty cool! Liked seeing the ants in the dandelion. We don’t garden so weeds don’t bother me. Love it when they grow in cracks on the sidewalk. Sometimes we have weeds that are 2-3ft tall in a crack. They make me smile because it’s when nature reminds me how resilient she is.

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    1. The first spring after I moved into my house, watching the garden the previous owner put in come up was a bit of a mystery. What was a weed and what wasn’t? It’s really a matter of perspective; what do you want to grow? At this point I’d tend to call weeds either something I don’t really want in a spot, or something I kind of like but has a tendency to want to take over entire areas.

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  11. I’ve always loved the look of dandelions, especially as they propagate in wild meadows and when they transform into the little puffs of seed heads. They’re also incredibly useful in cooking and medicinal purposes…so it makes me extremely happy to see your beautiful photographs of them. I love the close-ups, taking the familiar into realms of fantasy.

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    1. I’ve heard they can be used in salads, and sometimes looked at what’s supposed to be arugula and wondered if the chef hadn’t just been out back picking weeds. Whatever the case, it made for interesting macro photography.

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  12. Dave, you make several good points here. The conundrum for chronic travelers in a no travel era is indeed real. Perhaps we too will soon face the choice between diving into our archives versus coming up with micro travel opportunities.

    Your photographs are magnificent. Especially enjoyed the series of dandelion shots. Did you know that they are edible…? The close ups are really beautiful in their intricate web creating design. So much of nature seems to be more fascinating close up.

    But this brings me to a larger point.. I had an art teacher once who said “It doesn’t matter what you paint, it’s HOW you paint it!” Same for photography,. same for blog writing, clearly.

    Peta

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    1. It’s amazing how much difference perspective makes. How do you look at a problem or a thing? Can you shift in your mind’s eye without shifting from your current position? I’d guess those perspectives greatly affect both attitude and creativity.

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  13. That was a great idea, Dave, and done with the usual Dave Ply brand humor. I especially like the photos with the insects, the one where most of the dandelion seeds have blown away, and the last one.

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