Friday, February 24, 2006

Large-Flowered Trillium

Large-Flowered Trillium, April 19, 2005.
I posted this photo a while back, but since it's one of my favorites, I decided to post it again. If you dig deep into the ARCHIVES (in the margin on the right, below PREVIOUS POSTS and LINKS), you will find it somewhere. But someone who is just "browsing" through the main page would never see it. So I decided to re-post it.
As spring gets closer, I will be posting LOTS AND LOTS of my favorite photos from previous years, and LOTS AND LOTS of new ones too. I hope you enjoy them. And let me know if you do.

Winter's Last Snow

March 18, 2005. White Oak Leaves in Snow
It was late winter, nearly a year ago, and the snow had already melted away in the valley that I call home. It was a foggy day, and I was hoping to catch some shots of fog hovering over a nearby pond. But the pond was up on the hillside, and the fog had already disappeared from up there--blown away or something. So instead, I turned my attention to the ground and found some beautiful frost-covered leaves. And, in cooler areas shaded by rhododendrons (an evergreen that keeps its leaves during the winter), I found scattered patches of winter's snow.
I was especially attracted to snowy patches with white oak leaves because I love the leaves' curved and well-defined edges. Oak leaves are almost "leathery." They stay thick and strong under winter's blanket of snow, not decomposing like maple leaves, basswood leaves, and beach leaves, for example, which become flimsy and paper thin. Oak leaves stay intact due to their high level of tannins that act like a preservative, dramatically slowing their rate of decay.
In any case, here is one of the first shots that I framed on that late winter walk. In retrospect, I would have liked to get even closer to provide a better view of the texture of the frost on the surface and edge of one of the leaves. So, with that idea in mind, and to help me think about how I might frame future shots, I did a "digital" zoom, of sorts (below) and cropped out most of the photo, just keeping one small part near the center.

Closeup of White Oak Leaf
I am not sure whether this closeup perspective is better than the original shot (above), but I do like the way it emphasizes one small and dramatic element. I like the way the edge of the oak leaf "wanders" through the frame, allowing the edge of the leaf itself to become a primary element in the photo.
I hope to head out to the pond on some cool morning when there is still snow left on the ground. I would like to try getting more photographs of frosty oak leaves in the snow, and maybe some other leaves too.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Frosty Late Winter Morning

It was a chilly morning, but not TOO cold for a somewhat dedicated photographer like myself. From my window, I could see that the fog had filled the valley so I jumped in the car and went out to the pond. The only problem is that, as I drove up the side of the mountain toward the pond, the fog disappeared. There went my hopes of getting a nice shot of a foggy pond. But I was already in the car, so I kept going.
Along the non-foggy trail, I found my reward. Due to the chill in the air overnight, the dew settled as frost. The dry leaves along the forest floor were lined with little white crystals along their egdes and veins. I was especially attracted to the white oak leaves, which have been long-time favorites of mine since years ago growing up in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. In recent years, back in Iowa, I had spent some effort trying to photograph "baby" oak leaves, that is leaves that are just starting to come sprout in the spring. They reminded me of little tiny mittens!
On this day, I got my chance to photograph dried up and dead oak leaves in a brand new way that would bring out their texture and shape. I was excited as I set up the tripod and got out my 200 mm micro lens, and attached it to my Nikon D70 camera body.
I got a few shots and then recomposed the shot to tilt the primary leaf just a little bit within the frame. You can compare the shots yourself and see which arrangement you prefer. I have a defnite preference, but I will keep quiet about it for now.
As spring approaches, I will dig back to my photos from last year and get some of those ready to post, and I will certainly add many more brand new shots from the current year. The only problem that I forsee will be finding the time to keep up.

March 17, 2005. Frosty White Oak Leaf

March 18, 2005. Frosty White Oak Leaf

The Changing Season of Spring

The following three photos provide a quick glimpse into how the forest changes during the spring. I have shown the late winter shot from the current year, and also mid spring and late spring shots from 2005. The view is more or less the same, so this does a good job of illustrating how the landscape of the forest will change during the next few months. It starts out looking bare and lifeless, but it is not. Under the leaf litter, the spring-blooming wildflowers are starting to wake from their winter "nap." Soon there will be patches of green as small sprouts begin to emerge. And with the green will come many other colors, like white, yellow, pale purple, and pink. Eventually green will dominate the forest as the plants grow larger and their leaves expand.
But, enough talk. Just check out the three photos below for an overview of how the forest will change. And then after reading my little introduction to the story of woodland spring, you can check out the five pairs of photos showing dramatic differences in the forest even from one day to the next.
I can almost feel it. Spring is nearly here.

February 17, 2006. Looking Upstream from Bridge

April 19, 2005. Looking Upstream from Bridge

May 20, 2005. Looking Upstream from Bridge

The Story of Woodland Spring

Spring is nearly here, so it's time for me to turn my attention away from distant adventures and back toward the primary theme of this website: WOODLAND SPRING.
I love to learn about and photograph the springtime woodland wildflowers. But to me, it's not just the flowers themselves that attract my devotion. The flowers are part of a beautiful and ever-changing landscape--the forest.
As I put together my story of spring, I plan to show not only the wildflowers themselves, and how various species change through out their growing seasons, but I also plan to tell the story of the landscape in which these beautiful wildflowers live.
For example, some flowers bloom earlier than others, some last longer than others. And all the while, the landscape around them changes. During early spring, the forest sometimes receives a blanket of snow--as winter tries to retain its grip on the forest. As the season progresses, the days get warmer and the light on the forest floor gets more and more intense--until eventually and gradually the leaves on the trees overhead fill in, casting shadows across the forest floor.
In the process of trying to tell the story of Woodland Spring, I will include scenic shots that show the landscape and how it changes. I will return to some of the exact same locations throughout the season and get basically the same shot. Sets of shots from the same location can then be compared to show, literally, how each selected part of the forest has changed. And though my "scenic" shots (see below for the first sampling) may not be the most beautiful photos I have ever created, they will become part of the story that I tell, because they are part of the story of Woodland Spring.
At this time of year, the ground looks deceptively lifeless and bare, except for a litter of leaves--unless, of course, there is also a blanket of snow. The only green in view is from the evergreens like rhododendrons, mountain laurels, hemlocks, and pines. The decidious trees are still completely bare, or if they are starting to form flowers way up high in their branches, you can hardly tell from the perspective of a would-be wildflower on the ground.
As the next several weeks go by, however, the forest floor will gradually become more and more green. Soon delicate wildflowers like spring beauty and hepatica will emerge and begin to bloom. As time goes by, more and more wildflower species will join in this on-going drama that repeats itself year after year. The story will include trillium, wood anemone, bellwort, wild ginger, and more.
Once spring is well underway, the leaves in overhead trees will sprout from their buds and grow larger, expanding in spurts sometimes, like just after a big rain. The ground will become more damp and more shaded.
As the shade "thickens," many of the early-blooming wildflowers will go dormant--hopefully after having first made and dispersed many seeds. During the warmer but darker weeks of late spring, some wildflowers will thrive to finish their growing season in the relative shade. These include Solomon's Seal, wild geranium, and May Apple, to name a few.
And though it gets shady up here in the decidious forests of North America, it is nothing like that of the tropics. So when I say shade, I am not talking about shade that completely covers 100% of the forest floor--as might be the case in a mature, dense tropical forest. Even when there is shade up here in the forest, there are always speckles of light that move across the forest floor as the sun crosses the sky each day.
These are just a few things to think about when considering the story of Woodland Spring. I have been waiting a long time to share this story--since well before September 2005 when I started this website--and now it's nearly time to begin.
To get an idea of how the forest changes, please check out the 5 pairs of photos below. These landscapes show the dramtic change in the forest from one day to the very next.
I went to the forest first on February 17 to get an idea of shots that I could start "collecting" throughout the upcoming season. I took a variety of shots, figuring I'd work with the ones I like best. And then, surprise-surprise, it snowed that night, so I decided to return to the forest the next day. It was fun to repeat some of the same exact shots, so later I would be able to compare them.
For several pairs of shots, I plan to expand them into a series of shots--maybe a set of 10 to 12 photos of each exact same perspective, showing the same piece of landscape every couple weeks from now until the beginning of June.
So stay tuned. The story is just getting started, and I do believe it will be fun.

February 18, 2006. Looking Downstream from the Bridge

February 18, 2006. Looking Upstream from the Bridge

February 17, 2006. Looking Downstream from the Bridge

February 17, 2006. Looking Upstream from the Bridge

February 18. 2006. Rhododendron and Rock from Bridge

February 17, 2006. Rhododendron and Rock from Bridge

February 18, 2006. Wooded Hillside from Bridge

February 17, 2006. Wooded Hillside from Bridge

February 18, 2006. Rhododendron Beside Rock

February 17, 2006: Rododendron Beside Rock
I shot this photo one day before the one above it. It snowed on the night of February 17, so I decided to return to the forest the next day to repeat some of the same shots.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Phoenix Zoo

January 12, 2006. This is my favorite photo from my trip to the Phoenix Zoo. These mountain goats have a really nice "enclosure" that is surprisingly large--at least it seemed that way to me. If I were a goat, I might feel differently about it. The light was rather bright that day, so I had to adjust the contrast. I was glad to see some texture in the sky, which is more appealing to me than just having it appear solid blue.

The Phoenix Zoo has a petting area, like a farmyard, where visitors can hang out with goats, cows, and sheep. I like this shot of two cows together, including the warm golden light.

I zoomed in the best I could to get a photo of this orangutan. It was a cool day, so they stayed inside during the early morning, but we arrived at their area just in time to see them come out to play. One of them was very close to her due date, so she has probably had her baby by now.

The herbivores at the Phoenix Zoo have a nice area in which to roam around. I simply adjusted this photo by reducing the contrast because it was very bright and sunny that day.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaelogical Park

January 11, 2006. We visited Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaelogical Park in Globe, Arizona, about an hour and half east of Phoenix. We actually got to walk among and inside the ruins. One highlight was climbing a ladder to enter an upstairs room room that was set up with artifacts to show what daily life might have been like more than 600 years ago. The mother and boys looking out the upstairs window were not really there. I cut and pasted them from their portrait beside the cactus (three entries below). You can tell that the lighting on the people comes from a different direction than the lighting on the rest of the scene. Nevertheless, I could not resist having a little fun with photoshop since I hardly ever have the opportunity to combine two images like this.

Is it REAL or is it MEMOREX? After having so much fun pasting the people into one window, I decided I had to do it again...

January 11, 2006. This patch of Prickly Pear Cactus was big enough to use as a backdrop for a portrait (see below).

January 11, 2006. This prickly pear cactus makes a nice background for a photo. Or, if you are feeling creative, you can cut out the cactus and paste the people into a dark window of an ancient building (see above).

Friday, February 17, 2006

Desert Botanical Garden

January 10, 2006. I spent most of the day visiting the Desert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix, just east of Papago Park. This Saguaro Cactus has a companion growing between its branches. The Saguaro provides a favorable environment for its small friend.

January 10, 2006. This Saguaro Cactus stood about three times taller than me. I wanted to capture its beauty without distractions. Since there was a building and other plants behind it, I decided to simply look UP. My polarizer helped me capture this dark blue sky.
A Saguaro Cactus begins to grow side-branches when it reaches the age of 40-70 years.

January 10, 2006. I found this Prickly Pear cactus leaf growing among many other leaves of Prickly Pear.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Out of Africa Wildlife Park

Sunday, January 9, 2006. We stopped at "Out of Africa" wildlife park on the way from Sedona to Phoenix, and got a jeep tour through the area containing herbivores. This little guy was one of the cutest animals we saw that day. See below for a giraffe and zebra. Later we got to see the carnivores, but the fences between us and them made for lousy photos.

This boy decided to feed the giraffe a biscuit. The giraffe wrapped his tounge around the treat and pulled it into his mouth.

I enjoyed having the opportunity to photograph a zebra. I wanted to spend more time getting a closeup of his/her stripes, but the jeep was ready to move on.

Montezuma Castle

January 8, 2006. This is Montezuma Castle, located about 26 miles south of Sedona. This dwelling was home for dozens of people during the 1300s AD. I included foreground to show its location, placed high above in the cliff wall. Inhabitants used ladders to reach their home.

Red Rock State Park

January 7, 2006. Here is a late afternoon view of Thunder Mountain (light gray peak in the background). Shortly after getting this shot, I went up to the Sedona Airport and got a more complete portrait of the mountain (see below).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cottonwood Trees at Red Rock State Park

January 7, 2006. Here is a "portrait" of a cottonwood tree that I found growing along a stream in Red Rock State Park. Check out the photo below for a wider perspective, showing the landscape in which this tree grows. For this shot, I stood close to the tree and looked upward into the branches. I was attracted to the golden glow of its limbs against the dark blue sky.

Here are some cottonwood trees that I found growing along a stream in Red Rock State Park, about 8 miles south of downtown Sedona. I like the way the clouds add texture to the sky, and the way the bare branches glow warmly in the late afternoon sun. Sunset was just about an hour away, so I didn't stay long. I wanted to get up to the airport to get some photographs of the sunset from there. The sunset photo, which I got later this day, is shown below.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sedona Sunset

Here is Thunder Mountain, viewed from the Sedona airport, which rises on a mesa south of the city. The sunrise photos (shown below) were taken from a location that was west of this location, and very slightly south.

Just Another Thunder Mountain Sunrise

In this shot, which is similar to the two sunrise shots below, I tried to darken up the sky a bit, to retain some of its natural color while also keeping the rock formations bright. My previous brighter shot did a good job on the formations, but really washed out the sky.

Thunder Mountain, in Sedona Arizona

As I recall from a conversation, this lighter colored mountain among the red rock formations is called Thunder Mountain. This is another view from the window in the place where I stayed in Sedona, AZ. I shot this frame about an hour after sunrise--and about an hour after the shot shown below.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sedona Sunrise

With a small amount of editing to increase contrast a bit, I brightened up the rock formation in this sunrise photo. This photo actually does a better job than the one below it in representing what the morning looked like. I took out too much contrast the first time around, and think I got it closer to right this time.

Same Sunrise as Above, but not enough contrast

During the first half of my trip to Arizona, I stayed in Sedona. Here is a sunrise view from the room where I stayed. I woke up around 7 AM, got the tripod ready, took a shot, and went back to sleep for another hour. This was Saturday, January 7, and I was exhausted from the previous day of exploring the Grand Canyon. (This shot is a little bit dark and doesn't show the light on the formations very well. It lacks the appearance of depth that additional contrast would provide.)

View of Grand Canyon from the South Rim

After the helicopter ride, we joined our "tour" for a view of the canyon from the south rim itself. I used a vertical frame to try and show the size of the canyon, as viewed from an overlook near the vistor's center. If you look closely along the stream down below, you will see some cabins--oops, they are just below the bottom edge of the frame. As I understand it, the place is like a hotel where people can stay overnight, assuming they can get down there!

This was the view from an overlook at the vistor's center on the south rim. I was looking straight ahead, probably toward the north rim? I included some branches from nearby trees to help show the depth in this photo.

Even as short as he is, I was nervous watching this boy as he leaned toward the canyon. Where were his parents, anyway?

Looking toward my left, from the edge of the canyon, I see other tourists standing beside another edge. I inlcuded people in this shot to help put the depth of the canyon into perspective. Even then, this photo does not show the size of the entire wall below.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Approaching Grand Canyon from the South

Approaching the Grand Canyon from the south, we pass acres and acres of forest. Bare evergreen trees show evidence of forest fires during previous years.

Helicopter's View of the Grand Canyon

I include this photo, NOT for its beauty, but to share a sense of the anticipation I felt as the helicopter approached the Grand Canyon. We had been flying over flat forest, and up ahead, I could see the edge of the canyon. We were so close to the canyon, and still had no idea what to expect.

This "closeup" highlights just one formation within the Grand Canyon.

The surface of the land immediately surrounding the Grand Canyon is surprisingly flat. Some canyon walls are nearly vertical, while others form a gradual slope.

To include both foreground and more distant formations, I had to use a vertical frame. The canyon is extremely wide and deep.