All in the detail

IMG_6307Yesterday I acquired a microscope to do some of my own research at home. It is fairly old, but it is still very useful as it will enable me to magnify some of the different species I have collected, so that I can then filter out the most interesting ones to look at in more detail through a more powerful lens.

I began by looking at some of the leaf circles that I had cut out last week, which looked great under the microscope. When attempting to photograph them with my iPhone however, they were a bit small and I would have been more successful had I put a larger piece of leaf on the slide.


I found that the magnification worked best at 100x as anything greater was too dark and obscure. As well as looking at leaves, I also looked at some dried flowers such as birds foot trefoil, clover and a himalayan balsam petal. The results weren’t too bad for a first attempt, although the photography is really tricky, and the photos aren’t as clear as I would like them to be. There is a more powerful microscope at work, which will hopefully allow me to take more detailed  photos with better lighting too.

Below is a slide show and gallery of my results:


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Parallel Worlds


I went for a walk in the rain through Birnam Wood this morning. The river had flooded the wood, and still surrounded some of the trees. Where it had subsided, most of the leaves which had carpeted the paths had been washed away. In some ways, it felt like nature had hoovered up the mess, as the leaves had been turning to mush and mud, and were no longer the crisp attractive autumnal delights which they had been a few months ago.



Signs of greenery brightened up the wood on this miserable day

Walking near the river bank, I saw signs of greenery, which was actually quite refreshing on such a dreich day. The Birnam Oak sat in a pool of water – a sight which is really rare… so I decided to capture some images of this on my iPhone.The reflections were quite impressive, and made me think, as always, that I am looking through magic mirror into a parallel world. It also brought to mind some research I have been doing lately into divination and scrying – a technique where the future could be read from glass, crystal, water or flames.


A rare sight – the Birnam Oak standing in water and casting its reflection


Inverting the photo – a glimpse into a parallel world?


I began to think about the seasons, and how the location looks completely different in winter, bare, cold, desolate, unwelcoming – compared with the lush and warm wood that I know in the summer, and the amber adorned trees of autumn.  It’s no surprise that the ancient dwellers of this land, the Celts, worshipped the Sun, building stone circles and doing circular dances in its honour (which is where the Scottish dance the reel is derived from).

When I got home, I played around with some of the images I had taken in Birnam Wood,  overlapping photos taken throughout the seasons to create new and mysterious fantasy locations, parallel worlds, dreamlike, as if they had appeared in a vision or prophecy.


“How deep is your love?”  (digitally manipulated photography)

The steps leading to the wood, combined with Common Knapweed and foliage. Knapweed was used by young women in love divination spells.


“Sanctuary” (digitally manipulated photography)

The “door” in the Birnam Oak and Greater Burdock/ foliage. Burdock is used in magic to ward off negativity and for general protection.


“Knowledge is power” (digitally manipulated photography)

Beech trees and dew drops on their mossy bark. The Beech is linked with time, wisdom and knowledge and can grant wishes if you write onto its bark and bury it. Club moss is linked with power (I couldn’t find a magical use for Bonfire Moss, which is actually the variety in the photo). The dew drops look very like crystal balls.

These images are liminal spaces between fantasy and reality, like one dream which merges into another. They are reminiscent of Triptography, a surrealist technique discovered when artist Christopher Thurlow ran out of film and ended up using the same roll over and over again.


Christopher Thurlow’s accidental image, which he called Triptography

I really enjoyed making these fantasy landscapes and can see potential with making some faux-magic imagery and illusions, or perhaps even melding together images from Birnam Wood and Dusinane hill, as in the prophecy of Macbeth.

Phenomenal feather frost and other frozen finds

I had a lovely walk in Birnam Wood yesterday morning, it was sunny for the first time in ages, but really, really cold! I went to gather a few samples that I could experiment with in the lab at work…this time I took some soil from under the Birnam Oak, and I also scraped a bit of green lichen from the trunk too.



Above: The Birnam Oak on a sunny morning

Below: A soil sample taken from the hollow in the oak 


Below: Green lichen and moss on the trunk of the Oak 



A sample scraped from the trunk of the Birnam Oak

I walked down the path towards the river, and found a few pools where the river had flooded into the woods, so I also took a few samples of water from the pools, and sandy earth from the bank nearby.



As I was gathering samples near the river, I noticed what I thought were white birds feathers stuck to a small log. I assumed that maybe a bird had died, and the feathers had somehow got caught in the log – or maybe the log had been part of a nest and the feathers had somehow stuck to it. I stroked them, and a few fell off. I walked back into the wood, and found another smaller branch lying in the undergrowth with the same sort of feathers stuck onto it. Very strange, I thought, but I resisted the temptation to pick it up and bring it home.


An amazing sight…what appeared to be (and felt like) feathers stuck to a log



Having googled a few key words, I have discovered it is a phenomenon called feather frost, which is quite rare, and only occurs under very specific circumstances. Apparently ice filaments are  pushed out from pores in the wood as they freeze, forming what appears to be, and feels like feathers.

I also found some frozen fungi, another sight which I had never witnessed. These are the Wood Blewits (Lepista Nuda) below that I took a sample of:


Wood Blewits above and close ups of them with “icing”  below


Mother nature’s bosom?

My other finds were the last of the leaves; oak, sycamore and larch in various shades of green, yellow and brown.


These were all pressed when I reached home – a job that really has become such a chore, but a necessary one unfortunately!


My next plan is to take swabs of my sample collected in the woods, to see if I can grow anymore fantasy landscapes, or symbolic images. I won’t be able to get into the lab again until Friday morning, which will give me the weekend to grow the samples, the results of which I hope to upload in the nick of time before the crit with Les Bicknell on Monday evening.