Archive for October, 2013

Plant and Flower Photography: Composition

AgCenter letterheadMasGarTM5x7_w85[1]

Plant and Flower Photography: Composition

by Jimmy Earl Cooley, Master Gardener

     Composition has been defined as “The pictorial quality of a photograph resulting from the pleasing arrangement of the elements of the picture”. *Kodak describes it as visual organizations or simply the effective selection and arrangement of your subject matter within the picture area.
     Spacing Objects: The spacing of objects or subject matter in a photograph in an informal or unsymmetrical pattern seems to give the most interesting results. Try to avoid placing the central subject in the middle of the photograph, and do not space objects equally in the picture area. Avoid placing important lines of the picture so the photograph is divided in half. A formal composition or arrangement of objects in a photograph gives a feeling of dignity, balance, strength, and stability; i.e. photographing monuments, architecture, cathedrals, documentation, Catalog photos, plant or flower identification is an example of formal spacing. Informal composition allows flexibility and is more creative giving the photographer the opportunity for personal _expression and artistic design.
A basic principal that is accepted in good composition is “Divide the Picture Area into Thirds”. The idea of thirds is used vertically and horizontally. When you look into your camera viewfinder imagine the scene being cut by two vertical lines (cutting the scene into thirds; left to right) and two horizontal lines (cutting the scene into thirds; top to bottom). The intersection of these lines (four places) is the best possible options for placing your center of interest. The major object in the picture (for example a rose) could be placed along any one of the lines, or where the lines intersect or cross. The points where the lines intersect are the most important points in the picture area and objects placed at or near these intersections will attract the most attention. The greatest attention is achieved by using only one of these intersections. Try to have only one main point of interest in each exposure. The principal subject may be one object or several but always choose a main subject. Two can also be used effectively especially when used diagonally opposite each other. Using all the intersections would produce symmetrical, formal designs, which is probably not what one wants when producing photographs of plants and flowers for enlargement and general viewing.

2013 swallowtail adultA swallowtail butterfly in the garden.

Camera Angle: Position your camera where you get the best camera angle for the center of interest. Also consider whether the photo would be better if you move in closer to your subject. Close up’s tend to bring your attention directly to the main subject and show details that may be missed from a more distant shot. For example, when shooting an open flower, maybe a tulip; move closer to show the reproductive parts, pistil and stamen, as the main interest and shoot straight down the flower. Look into the viewfinder and move toward the subject until everything that does not add to the picture is eliminated, but fill the frame. By doing this you get the largest image size of the subject on the film and when the film is developed and you decide to enlarge one of the shots; you get higher image quality because less enlarging is required. *Kodak says “Careful composing the pictures in the viewfinder is essential for taking color slides because cropping techniques are not generally used with slides and because the frame size of a 35 mm camera is not large, you will obtain the highest quality when you utilize all the picture area.
Background: The background of an exposure is very important and can ruin an otherwise good photograph. The surroundings and background can add to the composition or detract from the center of interest. If you are photographing a flower or group of the same flower and some other plant or variety of flowers are in the background you may lose the concentration on the main subject. Move the camera around for a better composition by changing the background or use a lens or camera setting that will decrease the depth of field; thus burring (out of focus) the background. If there is some object or action in the background that does not add to your subject then try to arrange your setup to eliminate it. If you are photographing tall plants or flowers, shooting from a low camera angle may give you some sky in the background. This may be good if it is a clear day and some interesting clouds around but be sure this is what you want in your exposure as it may turn out to be the highlight and distract from your subject. The sky may make it necessary for you to manually compensate for brightness detected by the camera’s automatic exposure reading. When there is a cloud cover or overcast move, the camera to a high angle and keep the bleak, unappealing sky out of the picture. Plant foliage is a good background and blue is excellent with color slides. Just before you trip your shutter for a particular exposure look through the viewfinder, carefully, at the background (especially the four corners) and beyond your subject to satisfy yourself that all is well and what you see is what you desire and it adds to the composition of your main subject. Your camera lens will surely see all!
So when you are in the garden and have decided on a subject flower or plant set camera and tripod near and look through the camera viewfinder; moving the camera toward the flower (while visualizing 3rds) until the desired picture presents itself. The informal composition concept is achieved by locating the flower at or near one of the intersections. If your subject is a group of flowers, locate a main one and try to place others (perhaps a half-open one) or leaves at other intersection junctions. Place stems on diagonal if possible and keep the foreground reasonably full. Look at the background behind the flower and surroundings to be sure that nothing can be seen that will take away from the interest of the main flower. If there is a distortion, move the camera left to right or up or down to eliminate or diminish the unwanted background. Set your camera for proper exposure, and look directly at your subject, watching to make sure the wind is not moving it and release the shutter with the cable release.

Leave a comment »

A New Additive for Poor Soils

AgCenter letterheadMasGarTM5x7_w85[1]

A New Additive for Poor Soils

By George Giltner, Adv. Master Gardener, M.S. Biology

Simply put, what does it take to have a good garden?  University of Cambridge researchers have developed an additive that is capable of growing crops on landfills, deserts, 3rd world agricultural wastelands, and even on gravel.  The ingredients are fairly common, therefore anyone should be able to use this additive or the garden principles of the components, to apply to practically any soil.  What are these mysterious substances – an organic composted manure and zeolite.   The zeolite is a ground, mineral-containing volcanic aluminosilicate rock.  Add the correct amount of good water, proper light, an appropriate temperature range, and air for a “successful garden”.  It is that simple.  Now let’s look at compost and zeolite to understand how they work for plants.

2014 zeolite images

Zeolite is formed from volcanoes when pressurized liquid aluminosilicates and other minerals are suddenly released into our atmosphere.  The liquid fizzes out gases, cools, then solidifies like a sponge with a high porosity (up to 45%) and a huge surface area (up to 450 meters/gram).  This open framework traps and exchanges valuable plant nutrients (positive ions like calcium, magnesium, ammonium, potassium and trace elements that are essential for plant growth and development).  This is what makes it ideal as a soil, compost, and fertilizer additive that captures, and slowly releases critical plant nutrients.  Zeolite also physically functions to improve soil structure which allows water and air to flow through with less nutrient leeching and long term soil improvements.  The cation exchange capacity (CEC) improvements jump from an approximate 10 (our poor Ultisol soil) to an excellent +120 meq./100g.

Organic plant and animal compost also improves soil structure, but the mechanisms are different from mineral Zeolite.  The “Super Glue” of the soil structure, glomalin (a glycoprotein), was discovered by Sara F. Wright, a USDA scientist in 1996 from fungi.  Glomalin along with humic acid, are a significant component of compost and soil organic matter.  These two complex organic substances bind, store, and slowly release mineral particles which results in improvements in soil quality.  Glomalin stores up to 27% of total soil carbon compared to humus’s 8%.  Also glomalin makes nitrogen available to soil, provides structure to hold water and for aeration, keeps spaces for root growth, and stabilizes the soil against erosion.  In crop soils where fungicides have been applied, there is a reduction in productivity, due to reduction of glomalin production.

The soil life factor of compost really gets the plants growing.  The action of microbes is phenomenal as atmospheric nitrogen is changed to useable forms of nitrogen by fungi, bacteria, protozoa and actinomycetes.  When these microbes excrete or die, useable minerals and organic compounds are released back into the soil as slow released nutrients.  Many new organic fertilizers list the beneficial microbes that inhabit the rhizosphere of roots to form symbiotic relationships (mycorrhizal, antibiotic, enzymatic, etc.)  with plants.  Larger forms of life, from insects to worms, open tunnels for root growth, gases, and water.

The balance and correct ratio of four chemical elements (calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium) influence the physical structure of the soil and the pH also.  A correct soil chemistry is necessary to build the house for the biology.  For example, if you have a soil or compost that is loaded with sodium from a tap water supply, your plants will not grow to their potential.  Excess sodium will cause soil structure to collapse, suck the life out of plants, and will destroy microbial life.  Calcium in cell membranes is the doorman that regulates the nutrients that enter the plant.  If you have too little calcium in plants, larger amounts of all other nutrients are required for the same yield.  And the complexity continues with other minerals.  Therefore your best plan is to get a soil test.  Get a box from the LSU AgCenter for quick results in several days.  Apply minerals as recommended in the reports.

Chances are that most compost additions will buffer the soil, will provide adequate nutrient levels, and will supply trace minerals.  Remember that there are accumulator plants that concentrate particular minerals and will affect the pH.  What you put into a compost pile is what you get out.  Therefore it is a good idea to test compost made from few plant sources before it is added to soil.  A wide variety of material usually produces the best mineral-balanced compost.

The most important aspects of gardening are knowledge and experience.   Like any art or science, it requires an input of effort, trial and error, and patience.  Additions of zeolite and animal compost to your soil will probably produce a decent garden.  However, learning the details of gardening will lead to spectacular gardens.  Master Gardener classes will begin in January.  Call the LSU AgCenter at (337)460-7006 for registration.

Leave a comment »

Bee Hive Inspection on 9-27-13 by Jimmy Earl Cooley

AgCenter letterhead

Inspection of Hebert  & Shirley Bee Hives by JEC on 9-27-13 at 10 am.

Hebert Hive – two brood boxes and one nook

Hebert Hive was opened first and found small number of beetles and hive was active but very calm.  Noted bees with yellow sacks entering hive.  Removed outer and inner cover and found little activity and found no honey, brood, or  anything.  (see photos labeled, Hebert Hive) Assume that all work is going on in lower two brood boxes to prepare for winter.  NO HONEY TO HARVEST.   No inspection of lower two brood boxes.

Hebert, Super Completely Empty

Hebert Super is completely empty of honey.

Shirley Hive —two brood boxes only,  no nook

Shirley Hive was opened and found no beetles. and lots of activity on top brood box but not much honey.  Only one full, capped honey frame, several frames with partial brood and activity.

Shirley, Only One Full Capped Honey Frame 3

Shirley hive has only one honey frame that is fully capped.

I assume they are busy preparing top brood box for wintertime.  DID NOT HAVE A SUPER ON THIS HIVE SO EXPECT NO HONEY TO HARVEST.  No inspection of lower brood box, except to look down and see activity and frames with honey and etc.  Noted lots of bridges.


Much Obliged

Leave a comment »

SWLAFA Board Meeting Minutes – September 18, 2013

SWLAFA Board Meeting Minutes – September 18, 2013 – Wednesday 0900 to 1030 hours

Recorded by George Giltner substituting for Bobbie Giltner, Secretary

Board members in attendance:  Richard Meaux, David Meaux, Harvey Kieffer, Dr. Joe Bruce, George “Shorty” Crain, Paul Stone, and George Giltner.  Keith Hawkins, Chair of LSU AgCenter (Beauregard) Extension Service was absent due to an out of state Service Conference/Award Presentation.

Dr. Joe Bruce moved to approve minutes after their review.  It was seconded by David Meaux.

The board offered “Get Well” wishes to our secretary, Bobbie Giltner, who has recently had a bad fall and health issues.  She was missed by all, and the consensus of a speedy recovery was passed.

The Treasurer’s report was presented by George “Shorty” Crain.  He reported a single withdraw $250 for Keith Hawkin’s Conference Trip) since the last report.  Harvey Kieffer requested a dated Financial Report on paper for board members.  President Richard Meaux wanted the Financial Report to be separated from Keith’s Budget portion in our bank account for clarity.

New Business:  1) The board set a date of March 8, 2014 for the SWLAFA Annual Meeting in the DeRidder Exhibition Hall.  An alternate date of March 15, 2014 was selected in case of conflicting scheduling with the Exhibition Hall.  Keith Hawkins was to make reservations for this event.

2) Topics of the Annual Meeting were discussed.  Consensus was to have professional speakers (Selected/contacted by Keith Hawkins) to provide current information on the following forestry topics:
a) Regeneration Planning (procedure, cost, assistance programs, contacts, fertility issues, etc.)
b) Forestry Management during the growth cycle (fertilization, thinning, burning, disease, storm replants, etc.)
c) Sales (current market, how to make a timber sale, who to contact, markets, etc.)  Current Timber prices can be found online:
d) Local Forest Product Industries (Location, names, and end products that are made from our timber).

3) Tax Exempt Status for the SWLAFA.  Bobbie Giltner is to look through the Secretarial Files to locate documented paperwork and a number for Tax exemption for our organization.  She is to contact David Meaux, or (337) 257-3385 of her search.  If this information is not found, then he will begin a new tax exempt process through the IRS.

4) SWLAFA Bylaws – David Meaux will rewrite and update our bylaws with a dual old/new format for the Board’s review.  He will email this document to board members before the next meeting (Nov. 6).

5) Upcoming SWLAFA Board Meeting Dates:
November 6, 2013 DeRidder AgCenter @ 0900 for Bylaws/Tax Exemption Status/Annual meeting
January 15, 2014 DeRidder AgCenter @ 0900 for Annual meeting details

Adjournment was moved by Richard Meaux, and seconded by Harvey Kieffer.

Leave a comment »