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Elusive wildflowers – Part 16 – Clintonia

Another that is not elusive in the sense that it’s rare, but that I’ve always had lousy timing with it and this year was no exception. I think given more time I’d have found lots of it blooming at once, but as it was I found one single flower among hundreds of plants. It was pretty funny actually and I endured the mosquitoes at Bradford Bog in order to capture its solitary loveliness.

Smiling all the way

Clintonia is also called bluebead lily (for the longest time I thought it was bluebeard lily and couldn’t figure out for the life of me why it would be called that, then I put on my glasses). Bluebead makes a lot more sense. Lilies produce seed pods after the flowers are pollinated and the ones this flower makes are apparently true blue; a relative rarity in the natural world. Its other name is in honor of DeWitt Clinton who was governor of New York from 1817 to 1822 and again from 1825 to 1828. The Erie canal was built during his terms. I’m not sure what he did to have a flower named for him, but there are worse things.

Solo

I wouldn’t have even noticed it had I hadn’t gone off trail to photograph a painted trillium, which despite their ubiquity, I cannot resist. Lucky for me since this single flower was just yards away. Seriously it was the only one. I looked and looked. Nope. Just one early bloomer.

In the same moment

One of these days I hope to photograph a mass of them since that’s how they grow. The trouble is they bloom during the most intense part of mosquito season and the onslaught is really vicious. They have a quiet beauty though. The petals are pale yellow and rise gracefully from a pair, or sometimes a trio, of large, light green leaves which are similar to trout lily and sometimes people mistake them for lady slipper. Trout lily leaves are smaller and mottled with brown or tan, while lady slipper leaves are fuzzy and ribbed.

Not ready to declaim

Despite the horde of bloodsuckers who tormented me all the while I shot, I enjoyed being there and like the results. Mostly it was from the changeable light and the fact that I was in an Atlantic White Cedar swamp, one of my favorite ecosystems and one I will probably not encounter again for a long time.

Tucker Brook; a farewell

Since my time here in New Hampshire got short, I have revisited a few favorite places to say goodbye and experience them one last time. I certainly don’t have time for all of them and my photographs and memories will have to serve. One I did return to is Tucker Brook. I went to shoot the big mill far upstream of the falls, but that didn’t really pan out. Luckily there is plenty else to capture.

The trees were almost fully leafed,

The Vertical Meadow

the fringed polygala were blooming,

Well-wishers

the brook was running,

Tucker Brook reflection 2

which of course meant the falls were falling

Tucker falls in mono

and it had some friends.

Farewell falls

I know there will be plenty of beauty in Wisconsin and I’m sure my camera (and my kayak) will keep me busy, but I am sad to be leaving home and all my old familiars.

Elusive Wildflowers 15 – Nodding Trillium

While out photographing ferns in their fiddlehead stage, I noticed that some trillium were up along the trail as well. No flowers yet, but I figured they were the usual purple or painted varieties that I’ve photographed before. Returning a week later I was a bit surprised to find they still weren’t blooming. Being the smarty pants I am, I went in for a closer look and wow, another elusive wildflower is elusive no more.

Who needs the moon?

Nodding trillium gets its handle from its Latin name – Trillium Cernuum, the root cernuus means drooping or nodding. That’s the biggest challenge to photograph these beauties – getting low enough. The plants aren’t nearly as large as purple trillium so getting under them without digging a hole is hard. Lucky for me some of the flowers were growing on a slope leading down to a brook and I could get the camera well below them.

Bow before the beautiful

I first found them in the afternoon and while the light was ok, the breeze was a major pain. So I went back the following morning around 7. The sun had just crested the trees and the air was quite still as it usually is that early. I really should get into the woods early more often. It’s quieter than during the busy part of the day (apart from the heavy construction I could hear across the river in Merrimack) and the light is magical.

Stand Silent

I keep meaning to put some friction tape on my beanbag and boy I really needed it for this session. The slope I was on was pretty steep and I had a hell of a time getting the camera still. It kept sliding and slipping off the plastic bag. With the aid of sticks (a great tool and always to hand in the woods) I managed to get the camera where I needed it, which was basically on the ground with only the lens propped up at an acute angle on the beanbag. My flippy-swively screen is my best friend in situations like this. A fixed screen would have been flat to the pine needles.

Shy beauty

For most of the photos I used my trusty vintage Olympus 90mm macro, but when I found this tall plant with really great leaves I put the wide-zoom back on. I just love the perspective and the sheltering quality those leaves have. Plus there’s some sensitive fern in the lower left. Bonus!

Come cover me

Up from under isn’t the only angle though –

Sails for the sun

So that’s it, one of my last posts from NH. We close on our new house on June 1. Movers leave the current house on June 9. The funny thing is, my yard in Wisconsin is blanketed in white trillium so next year I’ll have another species for the trillium files!

While Rome burns

Ferns are some of my favorite things in the world. They are one of the major reasons I love the forest so much. Their presence is sometimes lush and is always vivid and varied. They are some of the oldest plant life on our planet and some varieties, like sword fern in the Pacific Northwest and Christmas fern here in the east, lend a primordial feel to the landscape. Their shapes, heights and colors are so diverse because they’ve been around so long, filling different ecological niches through the millennia.

As a photographer I love them because they’re intensely photogenic. Especially when in the fiddlehead stage. Right down the road from me is a small nature preserve that has a dense concentration of ferns. I counted I think 6 varieties along a few yards of trail. I have photographed the same section of trail with the ferns fully leafed-out and standing tall. They’re amazing and literally stopped me in my tracks, but before I show you that, here they are when they’re just starting out, braving the frost and the devouring insects.

Surprise package (Royal fern)

Evergreen fern

Cinnamon fern (and Canadian mayflower)

Just like in their adult state, the fiddleheads all have distinct features and characteristics. Look closely at this next one, can you spot the texture change at the heart of the spiral? Those are spores, the way ferns and other ancient plants reproduce and spread their genes. Only a few Christmas fern fronds carry the spores per plant (I love turning the fronds over to look for them, like Braille they are raised dots). I was just lucky that this gorgeous little fiddlehead was one of them.

Christmas fern

Some ferns come in more than just green, like sensitive fern. Its leaves are green, but the stems are red.

Sensitive fern

Most people have heard of fiddleheads as something to eat. A seasonal item that shows up in some grocery stores. From my reading those are ostrich ferns and the only ones absolutely safe to eat. A friend of mine told me that par-boiling them before sauteing will leach out the bitterness and make them much more delicious. I keep meaning to mark a big grove of ostrich fern and collect some fiddleheads in the spring, but I always forget. They’re some of the earliest that fully unfurl and they are some of the most beautiful.

Ostrich fern

Interrupted fern gets its name from the specialized leaves that interrupt the pattern of the entire frond. Instead of tucking spores underneath the tips of some fronds, this species hosts them on all the stems and locates them in the middle instead. I love evolution.

Revelry (Interrupted fern)

Here’s the trail shot I promised. Cinnamon fern dominates, but now I’ve explored it in the early stages, I know they share with interrupted, evergreen, royal, sensitive, ostrich and wood fern.

This side of paradise

For more ferny goodness, visit my gallery.

Elusive Flora

So this isn’t a wildflower, but I’m going to put it in my Elusive Wildflowers category because it’s got to go somewhere. There is also some irony in this little story, too, and that’s always fun.

As I said in my last post, this will most likely be my final spring in New Hampshire. When we move from Wisconsin in 10-15 years it will be to our retirement home which most likely won’t be anywhere east of the Mississippi. Funny that Wisconsin just squeaks by being east of it as its boundary with Minnesota is the river itself.

Springtime is wonderful for many things, but high on that list is the ferns. I love them in any season, but spring is especially great for photographing them. That fiddlehead stage is hard to beat. The unfurling is graceful and enigmatic. Especially when it’s a fern I’ve been hunting for years. In New England I’ve only ever found it under cultivation and in the wild only on the Pacific coast; northern California and Oregon. It’s maidenhair fern. One of the most ethereal and barely-there ferns I’ve ever encountered.

Stir of Life

I went to the Plainfield Wildflower Sanctuary, a property owned by the New England Wildflower Society and while it’s not a traditional nature preserve (no trails) it has an abundance of ferns. Flowers, too, of course, but it was early yet (the hundreds of trout lily had all gone by though). While I was crouched down photographing a purple trillium and waiting for the endless breeze to cheese it for a second, I did a double take. Is that? Could it be?? OMG!!! A solitary maidenhair plant. Jaw dropped. You would have had a good laugh at my expression and how fast I abandoned the pedestrian flower.

A slight trembling

Actually I was on my way out of the sanctuary. There wasn’t much blooming apart from some early saxifrage and the purple trillium, so I decided to head back home. That’s when I came upon my Moby Dick of the fern world. Then, like so many other plants in the under-story, once I saw one, others began materializing out of the landscape. Soon I found myself amid a very large swath of the plants. In more directly sunny patches, they were further along in their growth, but none were fully unfurled.

Sursurrus

Patience is not my strong suit, but I exercised it to the best of my ability for these images. Even breathing stirs the delicate leaves of maidenhair fern. The spiral structure of the plant itself seems designed primarily to catch the least stirring in the air. It sets them fluttering, muttering in their own mysterious dance. Even low down amidst dozens of plants the ethereal, feathery quality lingers and they seem to slip sideways and disappear from view.

Hopefully they don’t continue to elude me in my new home. Ironic though that I finally find them and have to say goodbye so soon.

 

Fate and the Irony of Bloodroot

This post is going to be dual purpose. To showcase these beautiful flowers and to announce that this will probably be a short wildflower season for me here in NH. And probably the last for the foreseeable future. I’m moving out of New Hampshire. Out of New England too.

Wisconsin.

That’s where I’m headed. Husband took a great job out there and it happened so fast that it’s been really crazy for me. And on an even more unbelievable note, we found the perfect house.

So with the hook set, let’s talk about bloodroot. It’s another in my Elusive Wildflower series and it has a strange history with me. Well maybe not strange, but difficult. I’ve combed the woods for it in spots where it is said to grow, but like pinesap, it would not show itself to me. Once a photographer I know slightly posted some photos and when asked, refused to tell me the location. A flower. Riiiiiight.

Then another photographer I know slightly did reveal the location where he shot and I got to see these beauties in all their strange glory. But they were closed up. Not fully bloomed. I went back to the place the next day and shot them again. Better luck, but it was only that one time. I’ve never found them again outside of the cultivated beds at The Garden in the Woods.

But it was there that I recognized some leaves I photographed once back in 2012.

There Will Come Soft Rains

And wouldn’t you know it, the plants were in a bit of conservation land about a minute’s drive from my house. Seriously. The trailhead is just a tad over a mile door to door, so to speak. Unbelievable. And I remembered there being masses of these leaves on both sides of the trail. So with that in mind I put a reminder in my calendar for the following year. I knew right where to look.

The first time I headed out, it was a bit early and I didn’t see any sign of bloodroot anywhere. That is until I almost trod on one.

First blush

In my limited experience, pink isn’t a usual color for these flowers, but another photographer on the web mentioned he sees them blushing like this fairly often when they first emerge. The color doesn’t stay though and that makes me doubly glad I spied this little beauty. Plus look at the colors in the leaves!

I meant to get down to this location often to record their lifecycle in more depth, but I got sick as a dog and couldn’t (I was when I shot this image, all those to come and I’m still sick as I type this…the cold that won’t die!).

Welcoming Warmth

Luckily when I did return, I caught them at their fullest blooming. The petals catch even the slightest breeze and after they’re pollinated, leaving a seed pod, they blow away in drifts of white.

Just how beautiful you are

This time I found so many it was hard to walk among them. Hard to find nicely arranged little groups and even harder to find isolated specimens. I had time though. Lots of time and I found some in sun and some in shade. Some with friends and some alone. Enjoy.

Singular Stance

in black and white

Lowdown highlights

The place is blanketed in them and they were wonderful. Ironic huh? That the mother lode turns out to be two minutes from my house. They were hiding in plain sight all along.

But it doesn’t end there. In exploring the wooded lot of the house we’re buying in Wisconsin, what should I discover right next to the driveway? Bloodroot. Welcome home.

 

 

Spring Cleaning

I don’t know about other photographers, but usually once I evaluate and process a batch of photographs I close the door and rarely look at them again. What I picked and processed was pretty much the worthy shots, but recently someone on Google+ (oh I wish I could remember who) mentioned that she has hundreds of images in her hard drive that have never seen the light of day and should be shared. It got me to thinking, but it’s my new project that has me digging into my archives. I’ve surprised myself by finding some decent images that got overlooked, rejected or ignored. They may not be the most amazing photos I’ve taken, but looking at them with fresh perspective has been interesting. This forest scene for example. I labored over it when I took the picture and loved the leading lines of the logs, but didn’t have the skill to process it well. Going over it again took just a few minutes and I knew exactly what tools and techniques would get this off the reject pile.

Dodge Your Sorrows (Fox State Forest 2012)

With digital it’s really easy to take a lot of shots of almost the exact same image. Ditto for taking a lot of shots at a particular location just for the sake of documentation, not really for any artistic reason. I find myself doing some of that, but mostly I take a lot of nearly identical images when I’m doing macro or microscapes. Adjusting the focus point, removing debris, recomposing the background, managing the depth of field – there are many reasons, but it ends up just being a lot of images to sort through and frankly sometimes I get weary of it. Evaluating and comparing each frame is time consuming and sometimes my patience just runs out before I give enough attention to the collection as a whole.

You go your way (Martha’s Brook/Sam’s Trail Preserve 2013)

Another reason some images fall through the cracks is because when I shoot a lot I get distracted and caught up in a new batch of work before devoting enough concentration to yesterday’s. It’s the oooh, shiny! syndrome I think. Slowing down and really appreciating and thinking about each batch of images is something I don’t do enough. Finding the story within the pictures and putting it together.

Sometimes I reject a photo because I can’t process it the way I want. It’s amazing how many new features and capabilities arrive with each version of Lightroom. Things like lens correction, better spot removal and the new radial filter (two of which I used to make that wall and trail shot work the way I want). It’s not salvaging a picture that I’m talking about, but creating a final image in line with my vision. A bad shot is a bad shot no matter what I do with it, but sometimes there’s a quality that needs enhancing or minimizing that I just can’t do. There are a couple of reasons for this.

One is not understanding how to effectively use the tools that I do have to get what I want. I’ve learned so much in the last few years that going back through my work has been kind of fun. Looking at an old image with new tricks in mind has really helped me identify what I originally liked about the scene I shot and how to emphasize that with processing. These days creation doesn’t stop in the field.

Another thing I find myself doing is confining myself to certain tools in post processing and not branching out and trying different things to see how it affects the final image. Take the clarity slider. I don’t abuse it much in either direction, but lately with my ice photos I noticed that if I really crank it, the picture is better. Ditto with going in the other direction, some photos just need that softness to bring out the best in them. Being stuck in a rut can lead to repetition that contributes to that sameness factor that can make looking at, developing and playing with pictures very boring.

Occasionally though it’s just being down on myself. Whether a location failed to capture my fancy or I failed to capture what I fancied, I can often be disappointed with photos once I take a look at them on the computer.  It’s even worse if I’ve taken a lot of time in the field on the shot. This negativity sometimes causes me to overlook what I did capture, no matter how technically good it is.

It’s the whole didn’t meet my expectations thing, too. You can psyche yourself out of a location while you’re there, but also after the fact if you didn’t get the shot or shots you envisioned. Take this little waterfall as an example. It’s not the most perfectly lovely, symmetrical and pristine waterfall ever, but it is what it is. Because there were prettier flows on this brook, I put this on the reject pile even though it’s a lovely and intimate view of a classic New Hampshire cascade. Plus ferns!!

Songs for the Deaf (Martha’s Brook/Sam’s Trail Preserve 2013)

And as if I need more reasons to reject photographs. What about ‘Oh I’ve taken better shots like this’? Is it a valid way to purge photos? Does it help me grow as a photographer? Improve? I don’t know. Sometimes I’m out to just document my surroundings, not create Great Art. So because I’ve taken more compelling or interesting trail photos, I toss this one onto the reject heap and forget about it. Does it deserve to be there any more than it deserves to be labeled Great Art? And if it doesn’t deserve the latter, does it need to be on the reject heap? Obviously it depends on the photographer and her goals, but for me, I need to freakin’ loosen up.

Merry go bye (Russel Abbott State Forest 2012)

Yes I need to be discerning and separate the good from the bad and hopefully even skim off a few great shots now and again, but I reject far more than I pick for publication or sharing. If it’s for a good reason, I can stand by that decision, but I think revisiting older work has validity. Especially if your processing tools have improved a lot, or your skill with them has. So I guess Spring Cleaning is a good habit to get into.

Love at first light (Mt. Uncanoonuc 2013)

The Shadow Knows

Besides finding interesting ice formations, winter is a great time to play with shadows. With enough snow, the low angle of the sun makes this something you can do almost all day. Just recently I posted a forest landscape with shadows that brought out the contours and the silky texture of the snowpack. You can also use a landscape view to emphasize the contours of the objects casting the shadows. Apple trees are perfect for this kind of thing because they’re so gnarled and twisted.

Winter orchard

If you start to limit the angle of view with shadow photos, you can bring an abstract art quality to the image that is especially fun to play with.

Elegance of the Forest

Symptom of the Universe

Playing with processing is part of creating an even more dramatic image. Here is a light selenium tone treatment. I chose this technique to preserve the feeling of lightness I get from the photo. The delicacy of the shadows and the birch. Traditional monochrome or sepia didn’t preserve the mood so I tried different things until I found something that worked. Never be afraid to experiment!

Immersive moments

Man made objects can work for this as well like this bench I found in a small park in Manchester, NH.

Benchmade

And of course you don’t have to convert everything to monochrome. Even in the dead of winter there are subtleties of color to capture. The sun had barely risen when I found these tracks winding through the trees; the warm yellow sky reflects beautifully in the snow.

Step softly

Even a tiny fern sprig can be interesting with the right background. I just love the differences in intensity between the shadowed snow and the lit snow.

Beguiling

I was struck by the geometry in this next scene and so perched on a large rock to frame a more abstract view of how the shadows and reflections intersect with the trees themselves.

Morning intersections

So if winter hasn’t drawn to a close where you are, maybe try some shadow play yourself.

 

 

Best of 2014

Wow is this post late, hey at least it’s still Q1. As usual, I had some trouble coming up with what I felt are the best photos I took last year. Strangely it was because a lot of it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself. So that meant I had to really examine each one and separate myself from the emotion of taking it or experiencing that particular time and place. Focusing on the final image as well as cutting down on the number of similar images also helped. Fall is fabulous, but including more than a couple shots just made the collection seem stagnant.

Let’s get to it, shall we? These are in chronological order, btw.

1. It’s hard to take a bad picture in Big Sur. This one made the cut because it’s got terrific color, tones and atmosphere. The touch of fog made the foreground more interesting than it would be without it and the striations in the sky make up for the lack of clouds (at least a little). It’s not stunningly original work, but so what?

Sleep Paralysis

2. I’m not a wildlife photographer so the annual elephant seal invasion at Big Sur was a challenge for me to shoot in a couple of ways. Mostly because even though it doesn’t look like it, the darn things move. Lol. I had to change up my focus style and be patient for little scenes to come about, like these two males having a practice fight. The light isn’t the best, but I love the fact that no other seals are concerned and there’s just the one looking at the camera as if to say, can you believe these guys? Also love the sprays of sand frozen in the air. Just another day at the beach.

Checked Aggression

3. I try to get to The Garden in the Woods every spring for the profusion of wildflowers on display. Especially since many are rare and I’ve never seen them in the wild. These bluebells for example. I absolutely love the arrangement, the light and the bokeh in this shot. It was pure serendipity that I happily took advantage of. There was a slight breeze and the light changed second to second so I had to work fast. Not to mention the hordes of kids going by with their teachers. If I hadn’t known what I wanted and how to get it quickly, I wouldn’t have gotten it.

A Girl This Beautiful

4. Sometimes one of your best shots happens while you’re waiting for another. This is Indian Cucumber which I’d shot once before, but this image stands out for me because I was able to get down well below the plant which gave me quite a bit of distance between the camera and the flower. It’s that distance that renders the background so smooth and uniform. The smooth uniformity creates negative space, something I don’t use as often as I probably should. It’s dramatic and focuses your attention more than a busy picture. When I shot it I thought I’d leave it in color since it is quite vivid, but when I started to process it, the graceful shape and wide color tones was a natural for monochrome.

Unbroken Solitude

5. This image has been in my head for a while and it was the shot I was waiting for when I took the one just above. When I headed out I thought the cloud cover would persist. It didn’t. I took a few test shots from different vantage points, just to get an idea of the best compositions. Then I decided to find other things of interest, no need to abandon the location just yet. I did not wander far. While photographing the flower above I noticed a couple of raindrops on my screen and pretty much ran back to the waterfall to set up for this shot. The light lasted about 8 minutes. One. Tiny. Cloud. I set up, shot and got what I wanted in that short period of time. I love the balance in this image and the greenery. It seems to glow with life and vitality. Persistence, patience and experience made the most of a sliver of good luck. Thank you tiny cloud.

Pulpit Falls

6. Another shot that took quick thinking and a bit of luck. I scared this little garter snake off the path and there it froze in the undergrowth. I watched it for a bit, thinking it would slither off. When it didn’t, I decided to try to get a shot of it standing up as tall as it could. That meant changing lenses and a few settings on the camera. Amazing that it stood there while I did that and let me get one shot. One. Like the cloud. I got the focus, the DOF and the exposure in one go. Then it was off, dissolving into invisibility.

Freeze!

7. Autumn is a no-brainer for photography, but I love this shot because I took it from my kayak. It was a perfect day and I’d had a couple seasons’ worth of practice for this kind of landscape work. Anchoring to compose is a bit tough when there’s enough current in the water so aligning this image took a bit of work, but I got it. I really like the balance and the colors are so vivid. It’s so inviting. And clouds! Bonus!

Campton Bog

8. Not many of my macro photos are this visually striking so even though it’s a common ladybug (with lunch victim) I think it stands out. The focus is darn good and that bokeh (thanks to the Olympus 90mm legacy macro) is just dreamy. I only noticed the little guy sheltering under a leaf after I’d been shooting something else, but when I did I knew I had to give it a go. It’s the singularity of the line that draws the eye, then recognition of the subject, which is cute so appealing. The negative space provided by the smooth background makes that work and the raindrops are a final touch that adds a sense intimacy and a bit of sympathy. The little hunter is just trying to get out of the rain and have a nice meal. Not many of my images are as emotional as this one and so I think it stands out.

Lunch Date

9. This one is in here for a couple of reasons, first because I’ve been searching for this flower for YEARS and second because I think the photo works on multiple levels. Artistically and stylistically it works well; the colors are complimentary and the angle of view unusual. The focus is encompassing enough, but the bokeh helps the texture stand out even more. From a purely documentary approach I think it showcases the flower specimen quite well. I could see this in a guide book. Plus check out that little guy upside down in the center blossom. Don’t know what it is, but it wasn’t shy. Ah pinesap, how you made my day!

I can almost hear you sigh

10. Recently there’s been a stir in some photography circles about over-photographing certain places (like Delicate Arch or Half Dome). To some extent I agree and sometimes I wonder if the world needs another shot of something done hundreds of times. There aren’t many places in New Hampshire that qualify, but Beard Brook in Hillsborough is one. It has a beautiful stone arch bridge that is lovely, but very popular with photographers. I went there anyway and took this image downstream from the bridge. I kept one eye on the light and the other on my footing and pretty much raced to get set up on a huge boulder. Managing the polarizer to minimize glare off the leaves, but maximize reflection in the water took a bit of finagling, but I got it. The sun lights the trees from top to bottom, but stays out of the water. I hadn’t planned to get this shot, but when presented with the perfect set up, I took it.

Beard Brook

11. This was an “OMG honey, pull over!” shot. We were heading back to the hotel from the Bridger-Teton National Forest when I noticed the light. Specifically I noticed the aspens against the dark backdrop of the hill. Grand Teton was just a bonus. As the light was changing fast, I shot out of the car window, handheld. A minute later, the trees were in shadow. A little cropping and monochrome treatment in post and I think it’s a dramatic image that isn’t like every other shot of Grand Teton.

Dominance

12. Ok, Grand Teton is irresistible. We didn’t have too many days of sun during our November trip and on our last day we decided to check out the Snake River using the only access we had since the main park road was closed. Who knew it would be a perfect day for reflections of those great peaks and that blue sky? I love this image for its balance and symmetry. Also for the semi-hidden grasses that are only partially lit by the low-angled sun. You can see a few ducks in there, too, if you look closely. We spent a few hours chasing them up river.

Teton Reflections

I hope you liked revisiting the highlights of my year. I’ve got a trip to Belgium later on, so maybe there will be some 2015 winners from across the pond!

Winter’s Bounty

Landscape photography is something you fall into if you’re a nature photographer, and I’m no exception. Huge vistas and eye-popping panoramas are very easy to get caught up in. But when I’ve got my eyes screwed in right and start to really see, lots of other things pop out at me. Microscapes, macros and small scenes can be just as fascinating and often give a fresh, intimate view of nature’s beauty. Winter makes me put in more of an effort, but it’s part of what I really love about this season’s photographic possibilities. It challenges me to do more than just observe. It’s easy to be enchanted by spring or autumn, but winter is perceived as more stark and less bountiful. Working those eye-candy summertime images is terrific fun, but so is finding winter’s bounty.

When I shot this first image there was so much snow on the ground that walking the trail put me anywhere from one to two feet above the normal grade. That got my line of sight into a different place. I KNOW I’ve passed this tree before, but then my eyes were on the brook that cascades to the left here, not up the ledge and certainly not on this tree with the lovely tinder fungus growing on it. This time, elevated by the snow pack, I noticed it. And luckily for me, the light in the trees made it even more beautiful and otherworldly. Like low-level clouds.

More than a whisper

Then there’s ice – something only in winter’s provision. Oh how I love icy brooks. For all of these shots I was up to my knees in snow (nope still no snowshoes, doh!). Both are on Tucker Brook in Milford, one of my favorite places to go with a camera and a tripod. Working these images is both physically tricky sometimes and it’s sometimes harder to get what you want because you can’t get the camera where you want it. The whole falling through the ice thing just isn’t something I’m into. This little section of stream had a great leading line in the water though and so I maneuvered as best I could to line it up. A little processing magic brought its more sinister quality to the fore.

The Gates of Urizen

As water levels change, ice takes on even more intricate patterns like this next one. The motion, light and reflections in the water below made me think of some of the fantastic images the Hubble Telescope brings to us from deep space.

Gelid nebula

This last one, when I got it into Lightroom, made me think of some landscape out of Jules Verne’s nightmares. Isn’t it cool? I would have liked to get closer and lower down for this one, but it wasn’t in the cards. Too much snow and the stream is fairly wide here. Luckily a longer lens helped.

Jules Verne awakes

It’s not a fern, which I’m so partial to, but that green just pops doesn’t it? Tucker Brook preserve is also loaded to the gills with mountain laurel. Even in winter it is evergreen and I had to wade through the drifts to get to this gorgeous spray of leaves. By this time of the year, my eyes are thirsty for color and this quenches it. The red just pops out at you, doesn’t it? Funny how I never much noticed that in summer when there is so much competition for my eye’s attention.

Matador

Sometimes it’s texture that grabs my attention. Winter and its long shadows are great for this kind of seeing. Long stripped of its bark, this log caught my eye the second time I walked by it (the light changed I think and that’s why I noticed it on the walk back). The ice and the shadows are so varied and interesting and so I turned my lens to it. I just love the random nature of the debris.

Found art

Winter is still hanging on here in the North East. Get out there and enjoy what is found only now, when it’s cold. Some say winter is the meanest of seasons, but I disagree. It’s a time for rest and rejuvenation and there is beauty to be found, high and low.

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