British Wild Flowers – Thistles

Following on from my earlier post on wildflowers in the United Kingdom, here are the thistles.

Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) – a common variety of thistle in the UK, being visited by a bumblebee
Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) – invaluable to bees and butterflies. South and East England
Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense) – common throughout Europe.

Creeping thistle seeds – silky feathers that carry the seeds long distances in the wind.

Click on any of the pictures above to see a full-size image. I hope you like the post and the pictures. I welcome your comments.

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British Wild Flowers

Have you ever wished you knew the name of that plant with those bright flowers that you encounter in the countryside, or even your backyard? Even if the plant were a weed you wanted desperately be rid of, wouldn’t it be nice to kill it after you knew what its name? Some people tell me there’s no fun in classification as it spoils the enjoyment that can be had by just admiring what nature gives to us. Isn’t that a bit like saying “I love this beautiful town, but I don’t really want to know where I am!“. Giving names to things we see is, to me at least, a means by which we make sense of the world around us, communicate with others, and have a common platform for exchange of information and knowledge.

My lunchtime walks in South Cambridgeshire often take me across hedgerows, fallow fields, meadows and suchlike. In the summer, these abound with myriad flowers and plants of various sizes, hues and colours. Barring the most coarse of classifications – “that looks a bit like a daisy” or “probably related to the pea family” – I didn’t have a clue on what these were called. As someone who regularly carries a camera, it was most dispiriting not to know what flower one was taking a picture of. I recently bought an excellent guide of British Wild Flowers by Paul Sterry and used it to identify the flowers that follow. There is also this brilliant website – that is very useful in identifying wild flowers.

Musk Mallow (Molva moschata) – Common in dry-grassy places. Flowers 3-6cm across.
Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) – Another member of the Malvaceae family. Flowers 25mm across, purple veined flowers with plants about 1-1.5m tall.

Another flower that I see everywhere these days is the Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum). The plants are between 1-2m tall and have lots of purple flowers with white insides and a 4-lobed stigma.

Great Willowherb flower (common and widespread in the UK)
Common centaury (Centaurium erythraea) – from the same family (Gentianaceae) that gives us name gentian blue.. Flowers 10-15mm across on plants that are no more than a foot tall.

Bindweed – Convolvulaceae

The scourge of the english garden, I didn’t realise that there are different sorts of this member of the morning-glory family of mostly creeping plants.  Easily identified by their funnel-shaped flowers. The convolvulaceae also include food bearing plants like sweet-potato (Ipomoea batatas).  Here are two of the bindweed family (one of these is slowly killing my hedge as well!).

Calystegia sepium (Hedge Bindweed) – A perennial weed but nice trumpet flowers
Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) – flowers are slightly tinged with pink.

Campion: I see this plant with its funny flowers almost everywhere (they have this rather bulbous base which makes it look like the flower squeezing  out), only I didn’t know what its name.

White campion (Silene latifolia) – an exceeding common plant in the UK.
Sideways view of a white campion flower (Silene latifolia).

That concludes my first foray into wild flowers in Britain. As I seem to have many more unidentified flowers in my collection, it looks like I have some more reading to do! If, like me, you’ve been ignorant of the sheer variety of wild plants in your neighbourhood, I hope I’ve provided some initiative for you to get out and find out what they are.

And I welcome your comments!

Back on Black – 1

I love taking pictures with a black or underexposed background. Most of my pictures are taken in daylight. There are two tricks I use to get to a suitably dark or sometimes totally black background. As I’ve been asked many time how I do this, here’s is the first way.

Using an external flash with the camera set to a very high shutter speed (> 1/2500) and a high aperture (~f/14). This ensures that the foreground is well exposed and there isn’t enough time for the sensor to record the background which then appears dark. Slight adjustments in Lightroom to increase black and the photograph really stands out.

Original image 1/3200 f/14 with external SB600 flash
Adjustments in Lightroom. Increased blacks, desaturated greens, increased highlights.

It is really that easy!! Of course, it always helps if the background isn’t too crowded or very bright. Also using a high aperture means that most of the image is in focus. In a future post, I will try to cover other ways by which I get a black background (especially in those cases where this method is not possible).

Goa by night


These pictures are from my last visit to India in early January. This is the Dona Paula beach in Panjim, Goa. These shots are at about 7:30PM IST, well past sunset.

Dona Paula beach, Goa. 1.6sec f/3.5 ISO200


Boats in a tranquil sea. Dona Paula beach. Goa 1.6sec f/4.0 ISO200