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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Heliamphora heterodoxa

Time for another photograph of one of the carnivorous plants I am growing in my basement. And so here we have a plant whose leaves are truly beautiful. Heliamphora heterodoxa is a type of ‘pitcher plant’ whose entire leaf is a pitcher, as opposed to the pitcher growing from the tip of a more ‘normal appearing’ leaf (some photos of these to come). Nectar is produced from the reddish appendage at the top of each leaf in order to attract insects, and when one falls into the pitcher its ‘look out below’, as they drown in the water and digestive enzymes at the pitcher’s base.

These beautiful plants are native to the high mountains in Venezuela and Brazil. While they are slow growing plants, I can see some definite growth in the few weeks that I have had mine.

The plant’s, color, shape and symmetry are what made me want to photograph it almost as soon as I received it. I think you’ll agree that they are very ‘photogenic’!

 
Heliamphora heterodoxa © Howard Grill

Heliamphora heterodoxa © Howard Grill

 

And here we have ‘live action video’ of an ant falling to its death (not for the faint of heart :)

These plants are both beautiful and intriguing!

Carnivorous Plants - The Sundew

I have previously mentioned that I’ve taken up growing carnivorous plants- insectivorous would really be a better term - in my basement under fluorescent lights. One of the most interesting of these plants is the ‘sundew’. In addition to being fascinating, alien appearing, beautiful, easy to propagate, and inexpensive, they are also very easy to grow under lights. What more could you ask for in a plant that also helps rid your basement of small insects?

If you’re an insect you don’t want to find yourself anywhere near those gooey tentacles that are so enticing to visit. Once a small insect touches the ‘dew’ droplets they become stuck, and as they struggle come into contact with more of the flypaper-like droplets. Then the tentacles, as well as the entire leaf itself, wrap itself around the insect and secrete digestive juices to obtain a nitrogen laced meal.

The entire process can be seen in the video below the photographs of my very own Drosera capensis “albino”, the albino form of the Cape Sundew which is native to South Africa. The albino form has greenish, as opposed to red, leaves, though under strong light the tentacles take on a pink blush. There are other Sundew species native to different regions with different leaf shapes and growth habits. But they all have goo.

 
Drosera capensis “Albino” having a bite to eat © Howard Grill

Drosera capensis “Albino” having a bite to eat © Howard Grill

 
 

Did I mention they were easy to propogate? This is the graceful emerging flower stalk from the same plant. The small flowers self-pollinate and form seed in this particular species!

 
Drosera capensis “albino” flower stalk

Drosera capensis “albino” flower stalk

 

And for some real action, watch a short sundew time lapse from the BBC!

Isn’t nature amazing. I mean you can’t make this stuff up!

Venus Flytrap

Back in August, I had mentioned that I had taken an interest in and started growing some ‘carnivorous plants’. There are actually several different species of plants that look at insects as if they were small fertilizer pellets, but probably the most known to everyone is the Venus Flytrap or Dionaea muscipula. Indeed, Dionaea are quite exotic looking, but you don’t have to go to anywhere exotic to find them, as they are actually native to North America and particularly North Carolina, though they grow elsewhere as well.

© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

Why doesn’t the rain or the wind cause the traps to close with no prey? What can the flytrap eat? How many times can it open and close? What makes it open and close? How does it close so quickly that a fly is trapped when I can’ even hit a fly with a fly swatter?

It’s an interesting plant, isn’t it?

Here are some answers that you might find interesting.

Answers by the Botanical Society of America.

Even better, see it in action in this BBC video:

I suspect you will see more photos of the Venus Flytrap as well as of various other species of carnivorous plants scattered across the coming months!

Shooting Wide Open

When I first returned to serious photography about 7 or 8 years ago ( I had been 'into' photography when I was very young and, in fact, asked my parents for a good camera and basic darkroom equipment for my 8th grade graduation present......but that is another story and was a lifetime ago) I was a 'sharp from back to front' sort of shooter.  That clearly has its place, and I enjoy a good 'stem to stern' pin sharp landscape image as much as the next guy.  However, it is only over the last year or two that I have come to really appreciate shooting with the lens wide open to markedly limit depth of field.  In the right situation the wide open aperture lends an aura of mystery to an image and can also make the subject really 'pop'. I made the photo below on one of my deep winter photo forays to Phipps Conservatory, where the weather is warm and the color is green any time of year!

Yucca

Copyright Howard Grill