You need a closeup lens to really appreciate spring in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin.

I always carry a 10X hand lens in my pocket to appreciate the swelling buds of spring. It’s a great combo with my iPhone, which is also always in my pocket.

Doug actually was the first of us to combine the two  when one day he snapped an experimental shot of the fabric of his pants’ leg.  The image on his iPhone looked like woven ropes!

Image 4-17-15 at 8.03 PM

A Pagoda Dogwood bud, Cornus alternifolia, taken with my iPhone and 10X hand lens.

You can buy lens attachments for smartphone cameras that offer, closeup, telephoto and wide angle possibilities.  I haven’t explored that yet.  I’m happy with my multi-purpose hand lens together with my iPhone when I want to get up close and personal at a moment’s notice.  It’s a touchy fit, but the results can be stunning.

We found our lenses online at Kooters Hand Lens Magnifiers for Geology and Earth Sciences.

A decent camera that is always in your pocket is a great way to never miss that spontaneous shot, and I love mine.

But when I really want to glory in the gorgeous detail of spring buds, I lug along my Nikon 80 camera, fitted with a Tamron SP 90 mm F/28 1:1 Macro lens and my sensibly sturdy and seriously heavy old tripod.

Emerging leaves are so amazing!

All winter they have just been pointy tips on bare branches, but inside those little, brown nubs are packed with all the leaves of the coming summer.

The days get longer, and as we start to forget our coats in the closet, the stem of the bud begins to elongate. The bud scales (baby leaves) are pushed apart and begin to fulfill their leafy destiny.

Tamarack, Larix laricina

Tamarack, Larix laricina

As the stem grows in length it spaces out the leaves, which unfold and spread out their surface. When the sun hits them, the chlorophyll in the leaves revs up and photosynthesis kicks in.

They will spend the rest of the spring, summer and fall soaking up light, sequestering carbon dioxide and generating the carbohydrates that we in the animal kingdom depend on.

Highbush Cranberry Viburnum trilobum

Highbush Cranberry Viburnum trilobum

And while they do all that, they also rustle in the breeze an create the myriad shady microclimates enjoyed by every animal from insects to elephants.


Elderberry Sambucus

Each plant has developed it’s own spin on leafness, which makes the world so visually stimulating.

And it all begins with the buds.

While many of them look pretty much the same to our naked eye, just get out your 10X and take a closer look.  Before the landscape is painted in all the variations of green, the buds are already putting on a show.

Prairie Smoke, Genum triflorum  This is a flower, not a leaf bud, but I photographed it with the leaves and had to include it.

Prairie Smoke, Genum triflorum
This is a flower, not a leaf bud, but I photographed it with the leaves and had to include it.

7 replies

  1. Gorgeous photos! Spring is such a transformational time, and helping people to attend to it is beautiful!

  2. These are great shots. Thanks for sharing. I went to Kooters to investigate about a hand lens. He has retired and gone fishing. Now that’s a pleasant thought. Michael Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2015 20:02:38 +0000 To: mikewilliams147@outlook.com

  3. Hi Denise,

    I just recently became the Shake Rag Alley Youth Program Coordinator.

    I was wondering if you and Doug might be interested in teaching a class for the Youth program. The program includes not only art classes but nature study and science. Give it a thought. I will be putting together a loose schedule this weekend. The nature and science classes would especially work with the week long Free Arts Camp or the Laura Ingalls Wilder Day. I would be glad to send more information your way.

    The youth program goes from June 8th to August 21st

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