In my last post I mentioned I got turned around in the woods across the street from my house. Without a trail it’s very easy to do because it’s almost impossible to walk in a straight line in uncleared forest. Since the tract is hemmed in by roads on 3 sides I wasn’t worried. I could hear cars on one of them now and again so just headed in that general direction. On the way though, I had to stop and marvel at this section since it was so different and so beautiful from the rest of the acreage.
New England forests don’t look like this, but it seems to be a regular feature of Wisconsin woods up here in the north central part of the state. I don’t know how or why the grasses grow, but I do know a bit about the land here. It was logged probably 20 years ago. Pretty much all the large firs and other pines are gone, leaving only saplings.
So with all that open canopy, is that what lets the grasses take hold? Not sure, but it’s a hypothesis. It’s also very, very wet through the entire section because it’s basically a drain to the Wisconsin which is on the other side of the road behind my house.
Another thing I noticed is that maiden hair fern is absent across the street while there are small pockets over here. Also the round-lobed hepatica drop off almost immediately once you get a little ways into the woods. There are a few flowers, but not the blanket that is on this side of the river. We don’t have the grass here, either, not in big huge swaths like that.
I will try to find a book about riparian forests here in WI and see if someone can shed some light on how and why this grassy woods comes to be.
I REALLY hope those acres are never sold (they haven’t in over 15 years so the chances are slim) because it’s become a surrogate back yard for me and one that I’m sure I’ll be venturing into for years to come.
It’s been snowing a little bit here in Wisconsin and yesterday I went out into the yard to see what I could see, but when I got back to the computer I realized I hadn’t posted all of what I shot in the fall. Doh!
Some of the most beautiful (and easiest) images came from my own yard. I don’t always get myself out of bed in time for the sunrise, but sometimes I do when it’s putting on a show –
The water isn’t always glassy smooth, but it is more often when the sun is just over the horizon. The wind hasn’t yet had a chance to get going. For both shots I used the dock as a tripod platform which I can’t do at all when the water is really moving (it floats). So far the fog hasn’t been around too much, but I like it in the second shot – just barely there.
Sunsets are easier and even though we face east, the light is still gorgeous. I lucked out with these images big time. The sun just lit up the far trees which were in the height of their autumn glory, the water was perfectly still and the sky was just the most amazing October blue. I love my backyard!
Normally I don’t go for such symmetrical landscapes, but who could resist? I wonder if Billy’s house has ever been photographed so much!
Of course it isn’t just the beautiful view that rewards my photographic eye. It’s the small things and the serendipity of nature.
I did not put that leaf there, honest. We took the dock out of the water just after I shot this, so it was like a sweet goodbye from the season. But not for this blog, there will be more fall images to come. Some pretty traditional, but some surprising and not what you think of when you think of fall color!
February, being cold, blizzardy, snowy and miserable I didn’t get out much. March is different. I’ve been out a couple of times and look what I saw –
Sunlight in the snowy forest can take on so many aspects. Shadows on smooth snow is one of the best though. This one is from the Pulpit Rock conservation area in Bedford. It’s an easy place to fall in love with and I go there several times a year. This time I noticed a new trail that I’ll have to explore come spring.
The brook at Pulpit Rock was mostly covered in snow and ice. You’d never know there are a few nice waterfalls along its course so muffled was the water channel. At Tucker Brook nature preserve in Milford, there was a bit of open water now and again. Few and far between though.
This scene is just downstream from some mill ruins I’ve never seen before. They’re far above the famous falls, but I’ve hiked up there and don’t remember seeing them. Knowing my near obsession with colonial hydro-mills, I know I’d have shot them if I’d seen them. Oh come on spring!
Another reason to long for spring. Well, summer really is the mountain laurel. The Tucker Brook preserve is jam packed with them and I think I’ll try to get to them while they’re flowering. They’re such a New England staple. Here they are sleeping the winter away. I’m really trying to capture sunlight in snowy forests and I think I’m making progress. I love this look up the slope with the shadows and snakey shapes of the laurel trunks.
I did more than shoot landscapes, but I’ll save those for another post. There’s lots of detail out there in the woods if you just look for it.
I can’t believe I waited so long to buy a kayak. Seriously, I love it. On quiet water is such a wonderful place to be. I seek out less frequented ponds, lakes and rivers. Avoiding powerboats as much as possible. I like to slip into side channels or very shallow spots and await what might come. The other day while paddling the Nashua river, I found such a spot. So shallow that it was less than a paddle blade deep. I got hung up on a few branches, but other than that it was fine and what to my wondering eyes should appear? A green heron! My photos are pretty terrible because it was hiding among some tree roots and my lens isn’t long enough to isolate it even though I was only 20 feet away. Still, I’d never seen one before and it was amazing. I just couldn’t tear my eyes away.
Eventually though, it moved on and so did I. Other birds were less shy.
An hour before I took this picture, I paddled by the inlet and out it came. Charging like mad. Flying just barely above the water, making sure I wouldn’t come closer. I took the hint and paddled away from him and his mate whom he was presumably defending. I didn’t see her. Eventually I had to go by him again to get back to the main channel and there he sat, giving me the stink eye. Drifting with the slight current, I got as close as I dared for a portrait and then meekly paddled away, hoping he wouldn’t charge me again. He didn’t.
Not much else was stirring although there are tons of birds on this stretch of the Nashua. Swans, herons of blue and green, osprey, ducks and red-winged blackbirds. I even noticed a cormorant. I really need a longer lens. But I can always shoot landscapes.
Next up is another slow-moving river, the Powwow in Kingston, NH. I’ve paddled it before, but wanted to see if I could get further along than last year when I was stymied by lots of plant growth. There was a lot this year, too, but I still made it all the way to the other lake. Didn’t paddle there though because of wind and powerboats. Drifted back on the current, barely even steering.
Same side pocket, facing the other way –
And back in the main channel where the very end of a big tree still pokes above the waterline –
Oh and wait. I forgot my very first outing this year, when I tried to find one pond and ended up in another because I just couldn’t figure out where the first one is. I should have parked and walked down a forest road to be sure, but I was impatient and headed to Mountain Brook Reservoir in Jaffrey, NH. It was quite windy so made for some great texture on the water surface.
What is it with the wind? I paddled into it on the way out and into it again on the way back?!! Grrr. I was tired and sore since it was my first outing, but when I got back to the put in, I met up with some buds and hung out for a while.
Isn’t it cool? Well sure, my technique needs improvement, but newts are too irresistible not to try. They were in the very edges of the pond where it’s warmest and there’s a lot of light. It was fascinating to watch them hunt among the leaves and other detritus. Fierce little guys they are, too. I used my new(ish) 35-100mm f2.8 lens with the polarizer (a nice B&W model, so much better than my old one). Focusing is sometimes iffy, but mostly I need to practice more. It’s close focus distance isn’t what I’d like it to be, but it was the right tool for the job.
So that’s a wrap. My first 3 outings in the boat. There will be more to come, that’s for sure. Click the tag word kayaking below to find last year’s posts.
There’s a little spot of geography about 40 minutes west of my house that has created a whole bunch of waterfalls. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve seen them – Tucker Falls, Lower Purgatory Falls, Senter Falls and Garwin Falls most recently. I think I’ve said that Purgatory brook has three sets of falls – upper, middle and lower and that lower was the most accessible and the most popular with photographers, as is Tucker. I think I’ve also said I hadn’t shot the upper falls all that well. Luckily they’re not going anywhere and with the tons of rain and recent snowmelt we’ve had, they’re running full and fast right now. I think I can safely cross this one off my list –
If you’re looking for some info on how these images were created or how to create similar silky-water images, check out my coaching post here – Smoke on the Water.
I’ve been doing a little winter hiking and snowshoeing lately so thought I’d share some shots.
The forest is an amazing place to me in any season, but in winter it seems to be draped in finery.
This first one I shot today while out in the afternoon. Those shadows are hard to beat. The sun doesn’t rise very high this time of year, so you don’t need to be out late to enjoy them. And since what little color there was in the scene wasn’t adding to the image, I did a black and white conversion and played with some sliders. I was using my legacy OM 35mm f2 by this time and my fingers were freezing. Autofocus does indeed have its benefits.
This next one I love although I seem to be the only one. While out with a couple of photographer buddies, I let them continue on up the trail while I set up for this shot. The way the light hits the trees is amazing to me. The sun hadn’t yet crested the trees and so everything is soft and glowing. I just love it. Plus I named it after an amazing book by Robert Clark. Bonus.
While both shots are similar in aspect and subject, they have totally different feels to me and I hope to you, too. The forest is always beautiful, sometimes surprising and yes, even elegant.
Props to the writers of Fringe for the great company name. I’m surprised it is still available for TV to use and I couldn’t resist borrowing it for this series of photos. I think it encapsulates the industrial authority of the bridge and the persistent ecology that it spans. That being the Merrimack river.
A funny story led me to photograph this bridge. My mom has a neighbor who we think isn’t right in the head. If it’s the person I remember from my childhood, she used to be married and had a couple of kids. Now it’s pretty clear she’s alone and probably a hoarder although our only evidence for this is the couple of junked cars in the yard. This is not the strange part though. The strange part is the fact that she walks to work. Ok, by itself that’s not so weird, but it is a long way. Probably 8 miles one way on secondary roads with no sidewalks or other pedestrian aids. And she has to cross a river. The Merrimack.
Only problem is the one footbridge I know of is in the city and quite a bit out of the way. The other bridges are highways and the one nearest her isn’t open to pedestrians…like any highways are. So that leaves a disused train trestle. At first I pictured something rickety, dangerous and falling to pieces, inducing visions of stumbling and watching my shoe drop away from me into the raging water below. I should have known better. This is a train bridge after all. Infrastructure built to last.
Maybe 20 years ago it was still possible to get a car over this bridge. My husband’s friend surprised him by showing up at the house a good 15 minutes before expected because he used this bridge instead of the legal one. He was so casual about it – “oh I used that old train bridge down the road” – like it was nothing. Now though it’s blocked off by a berm. Supposedly some assholes dumped some stolen cars off it. Looks like that would be really hard to do. And what’s the point of stealing cars just to dump them in the river? Ah, urban legends.
Damn, look at that bridge. Isn’t it great? I can’t believe I’ve gone by it thousands of times and never stopped to look. It’s visible from a main road that connects my neighborhood to the highway. Incredible. And you can see it from the car when you’re on the main bridge over the river. I’ve seen it hundreds of times that way, but never close up.
When I explored it was a nice day. High 60s or low 70s. Breezy. The sun was out most of the time. Pretty much perfect if a tad cloudy. Not so bad for this lady to make her way across every day. The scenery is worth it even if she didn’t need to get to work. Looking up river gives the best view –
Pretty cool. But what about at night? What about winter? What about winter at night? Apparently this doesn’t give the walking lady a second thought. Or a first. She wears black and nothing reflective. I don’t even know if she uses a flashlight. She’s gonna get smacked by a car one of these days. Either that or she’s going to run into a bunch of kids out drinking on the beach under the bridge. It’s crazy. Why doesn’t she get one of the junked cars working? Or take a bus…I’m pretty sure it’s possible, but she would still have to walk a few miles to the nearest stop. Why doesn’t she get a job on her side of the river (there’s another Macy’s over there, so it shouldn’t be that hard)? Freakin’ weird. Maybe someday she’ll turn into an urban legend, too. Must be the bridge.