‘Tis the season! The time when a gazillion grains of pollen float, sift and drift through the air. (And allergy sufferers go into high gear buying Kleenex and antihistamines.)

The small red male cones in the featured photo are the source of this wonder (or misery, depending on your body’s reaction).

The spruce trees in our woods have unleashed a bumper crop of pollen this year. On one tree near the house there were so many red cones it looked like a Christmas tree on steroids.

Everything is covered with a fine yellow film. And I do mean everything. Check out the tiny whitish dots on this bearberry. Pollen.

Bearberry with pollen

Ditto on this wolf spider.

Wolf spider with pollen

Note the pollen trapped on the deer hair snagged in barbwire.

Pollen on animal hair

And on this tiny wild plant.

Leaves and buds with pollen (blueberry?)

And of course, when you turn on the windshield washer you can really see those pollen grains. 🙂

Truck hood with pollen

White spruce   Picea glauca

Pussy Willows

At last they have arrived. Photographers elsewhere have been posting pics of these harbingers of spring for weeks. But they live in warmer climes. Here, snow still lingers in the woods and water-filled ditches have been freezing at night until just recently.

Male flowers appear first.


As they unfold, stalk-like stamens appear which produce pollen. Unlike other catkin-producing plants, such as aspens, the pollen isn’t spread by wind. Instead both male and female flowers produce a strongly-scented nectar that attracts insects.

Willow catkin

Willows provide bees, butterflies and flies with a welcome source of food — pollen and nectar — in early spring before other flowering plants have appeared.

Backlit willow catkin

Willow   Salix spp.

In the RAW

Nope. It’s not about me in the nude. It’s all about the camera.

Press the shutter and the image is digitally captured in one of two formats: jpeg (jpg) or RAW.

Jpeg is usually the default mode for most of us and most photos. And it does a good job. RAW is the choice of serious amateurs and professionals. It does a great job.

The downside? RAW is ravenous. It’s a memory pig. Shoot the same scene in both formats and compare. Depending on your settings, your jpeg file may weigh in at 1 or 2 MBs. RAW may gobble up 12 or 15.

So why would I do this? Two reasons.

First — macro envy. I’m fascinated by the detail DSLR cameras capture. But I don’t want to lug all that heavy equipment again.

Second — I currently edit in iPhoto. A better program will let me do much more, if I have the RAW detail to work with.

Here’s a recent example. I shot the first image in RAW and downloaded it to my computer. I cropped it to focus on the fly. Finally I exported it as a jpeg to the blog.

Sound fussy? Only the first time or so. The process is quick and easy.

Who knew I’d ever capture a fly eating pollen? (This is me, fully clothed, with a big grin on my face.)

Wild White Geranium   Geranium richardsonii