In the studio: Mary Ellen Ryall

1 11 2013

Butterfly posterMary Ellen Ryall and I crossed paths more than eight years ago when I purchased milkweed seeds from her through eBay. This connection quickly morphed into a frequent e-mail exchange and a great friendship! I do volunteer design and photography for her environmental education organization, Happy Tonics. For several years, I designed and produced her quarterly 4-page newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens, as well as other marketing materials. I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her a few years ago. The poster included original photographs by me and my friends Brian K. Loflin (www.bkloflin.wordpress.com) and Jeff Evans (www.evanimagesandart.com).

I had the chance to visit Mary Ellen in her former home base in Minong, Wisconsin, in August 2011. (Sidebar: at the time I was making the three-hour drive from the Minneapolis airport to Minong, I called Michael and learned that I had just missed a big earthquake in the D.C. area; it was enough to scare both him and our cat, ZenaB, and for a vase to fall off a bookcase and break!). While in Shell Lake and Minong, I visited Mary Ellen’s Monarch Butterfly Habitat and met many of her friends, most notably Diane Dryden, a published author and feature writer for the Washburn County Register. Diane’s novels, The Accidental King of Clark Street and Double or Nothing on Foster Ave., are available on Amazon here.

About a year ago, Mary Ellen relocated to Fitchburg, MA, to be closer to her sister. She talked of slowing down, but I knew she wouldn’t—she’s brimming with far too many ideas! An author and truly dedicated environmental educator, Mary Ellen’s first book, My Name is Butterfly, was published by Salt of the Earth Press in 2011. This teaching book about a little girl and a Monarch butterfly was illustrated by Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza and is available here.

TwoBooksEarlier this year, I assisted Mary Ellen with producing The Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book. Written by Mary Ellen Ryall and illustrated by Moira Christine McCusker, It is available for purchase here. It is published by Mary Ellen’s new company, Butterfly Woman Publishing. Our next project is a plant guidebook, which we hope to debut in 2014. She visited the D.C. area a few weeks ago to attend a three-day conference for the North America Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC). She is presently on a task force to design a smart app called S.H.A.R.E. (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment). This app will allow gardeners around the country to list their habitats on a national map. Mary Ellen blogs about organic gardening and open pollination for diversity on her blog here.

After seeing the portraits I did of her while she was in town, Mary Ellen said, “now I see that I have to go out and buy a new wardrobe!” The outfits she is wearing came from my “modeling rack” as well as my closet. She feels I captured her energy in the shots—and if you’ve ever met her, you know how high-energy this woman is!

P.S. Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators after bees. Butterflies as pollinators are in trouble too. The Monarch butterfly population is down to only five percent in 2013. The Monarch and other butterflies need native host plants. We need to plant native wildflowers to bring butterflies home. Milkweed is the only host plant of the Monarch butterfly. If you would like to be part of the solution to stop the decline of Monarch butterflies, plant some milkweed seeds in your garden! Mary Ellen sells seed on her website here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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From the archives: Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

7 07 2013

A sampling of photos taken at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens over the past few years

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Egyptian Star Flowers (with bonus bug!)

17 10 2011

This one is for Galen, expert bug-spotter. Can you spot the spider (that I just now discovered!) hiding in this photo? Photographed at Green Spring Gardens

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Monarch Butterfly on Egyptian Star Flowers

17 10 2011

Egyptian Star Flower (Pentas lanceolata) is a fall-blooming herbaceous perennial that is treated as an annual in my Zone 7 area. The cluster of buds open into small (1/2 inch at most) star-shaped flowers that are irresistible to butterflies and bees. Photographed at Green Spring Gardens

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Oriental Poppy ‘Prince of Orange’

15 05 2011

Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale) is a hardy perennial that grows in zones 4-9; not frost tender; herbaceous foliage; flowers late spring to early summer (some gardeners have reported reblooming in the fall); 18-24″ height with 8-10″ spread; partial shade to full sun and average to rich, well-drained soil; all parts are poisonous. The flowers are hermaphrodite (having both male and female organs) and are self-pollinated as well as pollinated by bees.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Closeup of Globe Artichoke

31 07 2010

The Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a perennial thistle. If the buds or “globes” aren’t harvested, six-inch bluish-purple thistle-like flowers will form. This is an abstract closeup shot of two unopened buds and one flowering bud. Bees are especially drawn to the flowers.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





DIY overcast sky

10 07 2009

As promised, I have new photos for you!

Picture this: Today. Green Spring Gardens. High noon. Not the best time to photograph flowers, but ventured out anyway. And I brought my own overcast sky. I carried my trusty Interfit 5 in 1 collapsible reflector (translucent portion only) to block the mid-day sun and get more saturated color. Amazon sells the 32-inch version for just $38.99. And, of course, you can use it as a regular reflector once you zip on the double-sided covers that utilize four other colors—gold, silver, opaque white and black. I just noticed that there is an even larger one (43″) for just $29.95, made by Opteka. These handy little contraptions fold down to an easy-to-carry size, so I would recommend buying the larger one for almost ten bucks less. You can find that one here on Amazon. If you don’t already have one—run and get one! They are invaluable in and out of the studio and for virtually every subject, from portraits to plants to products. I especially like the 5-in-1 products. Just don’t lose the zip-on cover (I speak from experience)! And you’ll most likely need to use your tripod to use it. I set the camera up, focus on my subject, then hold the reflector over my head with my left hand to block the sun (doubles as protection from the sun on you, too!). This leaves my right hand free to focus and shoot. Yes, you’ll look silly, but you’ll also look like a pro and intimidate people passing by. You can purchase an arm-and-stand holder for these reflectors, but that means more equipment to carry—who needs that? If you can convince your significant other or a friend to hold the reflector in exchange for a free lunch, good on ya (again, I speak from experience)!

Today’s photo challenge: Can you spot the little bug playing peek-a-boo in “Kilroy was here” fashion in the Cleome flower—the first image? I didn’t notice him at the time I was shooting this image. He popped out at me when I opened the image in Photoshop. Here’s a clue: he has black and white striped antennae with an orange-ish colored head.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Check out my garden gallery here: http://cindydyer.zenfolio.com/p270076135

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