Wanderings & observations

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SPRING STORM

A Spring storm gathers over the Snoqualmie River, about a half hour from Seattle.  Clouds obscure looming Mount Si, even as the sunshine brightens the trees. The first bloom of dandelions has already gone to seed.

At my feet, the graceful curves of a freshly unfurled Lady fern echo the relaxed bow of rain-soaked grasses.

Up the river, lily pads interrupt the shimmering reflections of tall cottonwoods.

 

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Finally the clouds break and Mount Si appears, but whispers of cloud still cling delicately to its flanks.

With all the intense acid greens of new foliage clamoring for attention, I thought it would be interesting to try processing these images in black and white.

Photos taken around Three Forks Natural Area in Washington State.

SLOW FADE

Anemones! These beauties were an unexpected gift when a delivery was wrongly made to our door. I have enjoyed watching them bloom and fade over the course of several weeks. They have always been a favorite flower (but then, I have so many favorite flowers!) for their color and balletic form, and especially for their graceful slow fade.

 

From Wikipedia:

Anemone coronaria is widely grown for its decorative flowers. Numerous cultivars have been selected and named, the most popular including the De Caen and St Brigid groups of cultivars.[2] The De Caen group are hybrids cultivated in the districts of Caen and Bayeux in France in the 18th century.  Anemone coronaria means crown anemone, evoking regal associations.

In Hebrew, the anemone is calanit metzouya. “Calanit” comes from the Hebrew word “cala כלה” which means “bride“, “metzouya” means “common.” The calanit earned its name because of its beauty and majesty, evoking a bride on her wedding day.[6] In 2013 Anemone coronaria was elected as the national flower of the State of Israel, in a poll arranged by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (החברה להגנת הטבע) and Ynet.[7]    Anemone coronaria grows wild all over Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

 

Lumix G3 with 20 mm Lumix prime lens at f 2.2 and 2.8; natural light; processed in Lightroom

A Spring Miscellany and a few regrets

A haze of fresh greens in the woods behind the house…

Fallen blossoms, stream-side at a Japanese garden…

The tight curl of last season’s fern frond in the sunlight…

The elegant spears of a tiny blue flower at a native plant nursery…

Morning dew on the grasses at water’s edge…

A Lady fern unfurling across a weathered fence…

Willow and Cottonwood springing to life in a wetland park…

The softness of a willow catkin…

And the final petal of a Magnolia blossom, ready to fall…

Spring evolves so quickly – birds silent all winter already are singing incessantly, the cherry blossoms are almost gone now, the lilacs are in bud, and soon peonies and irises will startle us with their beauty. One aspect of the Pacific northwest climate I’ve come to appreciate is the long, cool Spring. On the east coast the weather warms up fast and steals Spring right out from under you. 

But even with cool temperatures extending the bloom time here, it still rushes by too quickly. I get neurotic about not taking it all in, not “having time” (as if time was something I could have!) to experience it with all my senses.  I roam ceaselessly – a Japanese garden, a native plant nursery, a nearby island, local parks – and take photos along the way. I rush too much. The photos disappoint.

But… what matters is that Spring carries itself forward with no help from me, it takes me along, and I do so love it.  

IT’S THAT TIME…

of blossoms and buds,

 

Opening, fading, falling…

Leaves unfurling…

Grasses…

Lichens on a twig…

Every detail warrants close inspection.

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SPRINGBLURRRR

A blur of Spring color, for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

 

LOCAL DIGRESSIONS

Join me for a Spring woodland stroll, followed by a stop at an unusual market on the way home…

Trilliums are lighting up the woods. This elegant wildflower was rare where I grew up, in upstate New York. When I found one it would be a thrill, and I’d run home to tell my mother. Later, when I lived in and around New York City, I had to travel far afield to find any at all. Here in the Pacific Northwest, they are quite common in the woodlands. On a Sunday walk at a nearby preserve, we were struck by the way the trilliums were scattered through the forest – sometimes along the path, other times back behind the evergreens, always adding grace to the surroundings.

The Western white trillium, Trillium ovatum, is related to similar flowers in Japan, China and the Himalayas. The trillium I sought as a child is Trillium grandiflorum, an eastern North American species that’s a little bigger. It’s a desirable garden plant, providing a striking accent to woodland gardens in Spring. It is difficult to propagate though, with a low seed germination rate and years until its first flowering. Apparently, many trillium plants sold in nurseries are collected from the wild instead of grown from seed.  Herbalists collect the plants too (it’s also called bethroot, or birthroot). There’s no clinical evidence as yet that it works, but indigenous peoples in this area also had uses for trilliums.

 

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We were struck by the size of this tree in a stand of Western Hemlock.  When I looked closer I realized it wasn’t one of the typical evergreens we see around here – the Douglas firs, the hemlocks, the cedars. With binoculars, we peered way, way up to the top to find a growing branch.  I saw long needles and realized it was a pine. Pines are unusual in our area but plentiful just over the Cascade Mountains, on the drier side of Washington.

The ground was littered with pine cones and needles – I could have put two and two together, but the mind is stubborn, isn’t it? I just didn’t expect a pine in this forest.

It’s a Western White Pine. I found out later that there would be more of them if a fungus that arrived in Vancouver, Canada, a century ago hadn’t gotten loose and killed most of them. But this one survived, and it was impressive.

Across the path, two Vine maple leaves from last year adhered to a felled log. The land once belonged to a local family that homesteaded here in 1898. The family periodically logged the woods, and you see the evidence of their labors here and there. Luckily that giant pine went uncut.

The property was appraised at well over 4 million dollars a decade ago, when government and conservation groups joined to purchase and protect it. It includes important salmon streams. So much land is parceled out and sold in pieces over the years, but this area stayed in the family, and the family did the right thing by selling it for preservation. Their old log cabin may still be there, but we’ll have to go back another day to see.

Light streamed through a curtain of Western Hemlock branches  –

The Red Huckleberry was budding. It has green stems and branches, and a delicate, slightly zigzag growth habit.

Punctuating the wild experience with a more domestic one, we stopped at a market which is attached to a nursery. The market sells locally grown veggies, and eggs from their own chickens. They also keep a few sheep, goats, ducks and peacocks, so families often stop by for a free mini zoo experience. It’s a lot of fun. The peacocks were in splendid form, doing their thing for the females, who of course ignored them.  Their feathers vibrate as they display, making an interesting sound, and even from behind they are amazing. I was thinking how wonderful it is that this crazy, spectacular bird can live well in captivity, allowing so many people the pleasure of being moved by its beauty.

While we were admiring the peacocks an employee drove by in a beat up pick-up truck to gather the eggs. The truck bed was filled with wide bowls holding dozens of pastel colored eggs. I think this coop was his last stop – where could he fit any more? The truck bed was full and the passenger seat was, too.

And yes, the chickens were mad.

Flowers were set out in front of the market. I was struck by the similarities and differences between the white tulips and the trilliums I’d admired earlier.

Two Spring flowers – both elegant, white, in threes and sixes (leaves, petals, stamens) – one long domesticated, the other will probably never be tamed.

There is something comforting about a walk in a wild woodland, followed by another walk in a managed outdoor space. Both were vibrant with the colors, sounds and smells of nature in Spring.

DESERT TRAJECTORIES

Scrolling through photographs from last month’s trip to the southeastern corner of Arizona, I noticed that many of them feature strong diagonals. Normally I’m not looking for diagonal lines when taking pictures, but I’m often drawn to them. They lend a dynamic feeling to compositions and they keep the eyes moving.

Speaking of composition, there’s a tool in Lightroom I like to use called a crop overlay. It places lines in the shape of triangles – diagonals – over your image. When you crop or move your image around relative to the fine lines and place a focal point where the lines intersect, the composition often falls magically into place. Your eyes are led naturally around the image. I don’t always get it right but the tool is a big help.  You can see it in action here, on Rikk Flohr’s WordPress site devoted to cropping images.

 ***

I love a window seat!  Here, snowy mountains and farm fields trace diagonals high above the line my flight followed (another diagonal) between Seattle and Phoenix:

Southeast of Tucson, along the sandy shores of the San Pedro River, there was evidence of the water’s power in the mangled grasses and leaves left high and dry after the last flood:

In the Chiricahua Mountains weathered wood melded with the rocky soil, creating a pale bas relief effect. These brances trace beautifully flowing diagonals.

On the Echo Canyon Trail at the Chiricahua National Monument, enormous boulders balance on one another in a daring elemental dance.  A twisted dead tree contributes more diagonals:

A crooked hole in two “Standing up Rocks” in the Chiricahua Mountains affords a dramatic view. The angled, weathered rocks speak of great geological disturbances, but the clouds describe restful horizontals:

Cracked mud, animal footprints, and caught leaves create an interesting pattern on the banks of the San Pedro River:

Fallen leaves, weathered wood, and a pink rock lay tangled on the ground at Ramsey Canyon:

The Dragoon Mountains tumble diagonally across the land, catching afternoon light and beckoning exploration:

Sunlight creeps along angled boulders at Texas Canyon in the Dragoon Mountains:

Desert flowers hold fast to a bit of soil lodged in a diagonal cut in the rock, and a weathered branch lends stability:

Seen from the right angle, even round cactus leaves can trace diagonals:

Slender weathered branches trace a relaxed trajectory among cactus spines, creating a contrasting mass of diagonals – a still, dry dance of graceful and spiky forms:

And the beautiful, open road that is Highway 186 carves enticing diagonals across a golden desert grassland:

Look:

You think you lack love,

or money,

your coffee is cold. Something is

wrong, there is suffering,

discontent.

And the river

rushes downhill, leaf

buds burst green explosions, the

light came this morning, sure as ever,

and the dark is

on its way.

Children run, clouds gather and

disperse, and the wobbling, lovely world

pours rain and shines sunlight

on you.

Holds you fast

to its surface, cradles you

without plan or thought –

Look.

It is enough.

Look.

 

 –

***

Photos taken at the Kruckeberg Botanical Garden in Seattle.

FALLEN PETALS

At the Bellevue Botanical Garden, cherry trees in the woods are already shedding flower petals.

 

If you peer closely at the cherry blossoms you can see shadows stamens cast on the petals.

Gravel crunches underfoot; the trees glow in late afternoon light.

The stream shines with reflections of trees and sky.

The Japanese Pavilion gathers long shadows.

And…it’s time for coffee!

 

 

 

 

 

Five Day Black and While Challenge: Day 5

And so it ends:

 

 

Lunatia heros, The Moon Shell

I found this moon snail shell somewhere on the east coast, long ago.

It is big and weighty, and its rough spots

and worn edges give it a solid presence.

The other day someone said a face without freckles is like a night sky without stars.

Smoothly perfect surfaces have their place;

but rough spots tell deep stories.

***

It’s been a good exercise to create five black and white images good enough to post. Thank you, Sherri, for inviting me to the party. Now it’s time to get back to color – spring pinks and fresh greens are brightening the Pacific Northwest, thanks to unusually warm weather. I’ll post photos of white-flowered cherry trees from a stroll through a botanical garden soon. And then there are the softly subtle desert colors of southeastern Arizona. I have to work on those photos too.  The natural world provides an embarrassment of riches.

Photo: Indoor natural light, on watercolor paper backdrop. Panasonic Lumix G3 camera and 20mm Lumix prime lens, f 2.5, 1/60. Processed using Lightroom and On1 Perfect Effects.

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