Categories: Landscape Photography, Midwestern Landscapes, Pictures Of Trees
I don’t expect that I’ll have much opportunity to photograph wildflowers this spring, so I thought I’d post a some older shots form a few years ago. I recently upgraded my medium format scanner from an Epson v500 flatbed to a dedicated Nikon 8000 ED, and have been rescanning some medium format images. Here are three shots of a spring woods with trillium in bloom. I don’t remember when I took these shots (I guess 2006 or 2007) but they were scanned this year and re-worked.
Just a quick snap shot from the Allegan Forest - a peek at the wildlife refuge, taken from the gate leading near Swan Creek. A while back I added a lensbaby muse to my small slection of Pentax 6x7 lenses - some fun, that lens. Agfa APX 100 in Agfa Rodinal 1:50
My visit to Grand Marais, Michigan almost three months ago feels like ancient history to me now. But I have one more set of snapshots to post before the trip fades from my mind forever.
Here are a few shots of the pictured rock national lakeshore. This first one was taken from the top of the cliff, looking down on Miners Point:
Here are a couple more shots, taken from the pictured rocks boat tour. The boat tour offers a great opportunity to get photos of the rocks, and we took the tour on our last night up north. It was a beautiful, sunny late afternoon with warm temps.
I packed a the Pentax K-7 and 17 – 48 mm lens. I also brought a polarizer and plenty of memory cards. Well, I got most of that right – the polarizer cut the glare of water on the rocks and I wound up shooting tons of images – 20 gigabytes worth – so the memory cards came in handy.
However, I wish I had brought a longer lens – something in the 100 – 200 mm range would have been ideal at times. I thought that the rocks were big and we’d be close to them in the boat, and they were and we were. But there were plenty of times when the light just looked better on a distant feature of the rocks, or the boat was just a bit too far off for the long end of my general purpose zoom. So my advice would be to bring a longer lens.
I was also shooting with the Pentax K-7 with in body shake reduction. That probably helped a lot – I didn’t do any tests – but when you consider that you are in a boat that is bobbing or bouncing on the waves and the whole boat is vibrating with the pulse of the engines, you realize that you need either a fast shutter speed or some form of shake reduction to minimize motion blur. In my case I had both and sharp images were the norm.
Here is a final snap shot of pictured rocks – a several image composite taken as the boat was head back to port. The images were run through Photoshop’s photo merge utility. Click on it for a larger view.
I haven’t had much time to experiment with the infrared converted Pentax K10D, but did manage to take a few snapshots while in central Indiana earlier this week. Here’s a semi driving by a row of trees, as seen from the far end of a soybean field:
A great new tool arrived in the mail yesterday – an infrared converted Pentax K10D! This is a digital SLR which has had the infrared blocking filter removed from the sensor and a 720 nm IR filter (blocking most visible light) installed in its place.
I did a lot of work with my standard K10D (and still have it as a backup for the K7). It’s a competent camera with excellent anti-shake and great ergonomics. It is not as full featured as the K7, but it is fast and the missing features are not essential.
So… home in the early evening I fired up the new camera with a standard zoom and stepped outside to take a snap shot of the tulip poplar in my side yard. I set the white balance manually off the green grass. I didn’t expect much in terms of the photo since it was cloudy, rainy, and overcast. But it was late in the day and IR light is a bit more pronounced at twilight. So here’s the first snapshot – I swapped the red and blue channels in Photoshop to enhance the colors:
Today remained cloudy, though a little bit of sun poked through the clouds now and then. With temps only reaching in to the low 60’s, fall certainly is in the air. I ran off to the McLinden trails to see if I could snag a dragonfly or two with the IR camera. With the clouds, gusty winds, and cool temps the dragons tended to keep low to the ground, but there were plenty of autumn meadowhawks out and about. Here’s one IR shot I managed – the bright red dragon takes on a slightly different hue here:
I’m really impressed by how sensitive this camera is to light, which means how great the shutter speeds can be. Just an initial observation – but my impression is that the altered camera is two to three stops more sensitive than a standard camera. I will do some comparisons when we have a sunny day and stable lighting.
Shooting the dragonfly reminds me of a shot that has been languishing on my hard drive for some years now. Here is a Twelve Spotted Skimmer, shot with my old *ist-D and a Hoya RM90 filter for IR work. At ISO 1600 it was a three second shot. Getting the shot was a challenge – I had to set up a tripod close to it, manually focus without the IR filter, put the filter on and shoot. Well, it came out, more of a curiosity than anything else. But it will no longer languish as the sole infrared dragonfly image in the vault.
It is taken five months, but I finally returned to the fields off 48th street today. When I last visited them in March, logging activity had torn them up. (You can see that post here.) Trees were felled in the nearby forest, dragged across the field, and then cut up in a processing station. The entire field was just one huge scar of torn up earth, plants ripped out by the roots, topsoil blown away in the wind.
I’ve driven by regularly since then. One thing about this particular field – you can’t seem much of it from the road. There is a small parking area and one or two breaks in the trees where you can catch a glimpse, but otherwise it is obscured. But I’ve watched the neighboring forest get thinned, the semi’s coming and going with their loads of lumber – sometime waiting on the dirt road for the next chance to load up.
The little parking area where I used to regularly stop is long gone. It became the entranceway for the trucks, and they tore open the road, creating a huge mud puddle at the entranceway. Since no one has been using it, the parking area is now overgrown, and even if you could get through the mud puddle you’d have to plow into dense, four-foot high weeds to park there. So instead, I pulled over on the side of the road and took a little trail into the north west corner of the field. The trail has been there as long as I have visited, but it is now widened and the prairie grasses leading up to have been mown. I guess it is seeing more use as an entranceway to the field these days.
After last spring’s visit, I was expecting the worst – and was happily surprised to see that things were not nearly as bad as I had expected. Here’s a photo of what greeted me as I reached the top of the small hill at the north end of the field:
Huge surprise – things are green! The bare earth has been healed – at least to a degree. What really surprised me is that most of the prairie grasses and plants have returned. If you look at the photos from last march of the turned up soil – now those same places are – mostly – rich with tall grass, scrubby oak, and wild strawberry. Even ironweed and bee baum are in bloom. A wild grape vine that never failed to produce a few nice bunches of grapes was in one hte hardest hit areas - and i was heartening to see it sprawled over the top of the ragweed. Its roots must be deep…
There are still signs of the disruption. There is a pathway along the west side of the field where the soil was most heavily dislocated. The sandy soil was opened up and laid bare time and time again. That area is now brilliant green and full of lush vegetation – ragweed. In years gone by, I’ve noticed very little of this plant in these fields, but those areas that were most heavily churned are choking with it. Remarkably, there is a very clear demarcation between the areas that were repeatedly disrupted, and which are full of ragweed, and the areas that were not, and where the grasses have returned. You can stand with one foot in a mass of ragweed and another on the grass that used to be there. Here’s a shot that show this – taken at the very end of the run, where the trees were dumped to be processed:
Some areas – particularly the crests of small rises in the land – took a bigger hit than others. There are some bare patches of sandy soil , where nothing is taking hold. Lots of small branches twigs form trees also litter the landscape, as do hundreds of pinecones that fell off the trees that were dragged across the earth. These already are crunching away into dust underfoot – most of the brush seems to have been rounded up and dumped into a huge pile at the northeast end of the field.
One victim of the logging activity is the eastern prickly pear cactus. The large patches of cactus are gone – they were right in the path of the greatest activity, and the ragweed is now growing where they were. An isolated sprig or patch of cactus can still be spotted here and there, but it is hard to imagine it ever regaining its hold.
But, overall, the field has endured. There is still a large processing area in the northeast corner, and all the vegetation there is torn up and gone, replaced with muddy roads and piles of logs and brush. But I’d estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the field is more or less intact. I even spotted a few toads hopping around underfoot – I chalked them up as goners where this whole thing started – but they seem to be around still.
So – what is happening at the pond? I can’t call it the seasonal pond any more; it has been a few years since it last dried up in the summer. I trudge down to it and find that it is doing very well. The logging activity has kept people like me away, and that combined with the very wet summer has resulted in the vegetation around the pond really taking off.
The pond itself is doing quite well. The water level is higher than I have ever seen – as I stand at the water’s edge, I see trees 30 or 40 feet away that used to be on dry land. Many of the trees are dead or dying, as the rising water inundates their roots, and they sit in several feet of water year after year.
The frog population also seems to be doing quite well. Dozens of frogs hurled themselves into the water as I walked along the edge of the pond – often crying out “eeeee!” as they jumped ahead. I even saw a splash in the water – way out, beyond any jumping frog – that makes me wonder if fish have arrived in the pond.
And of course, there were dragonflies. Here is a white-faced Meadowhawk, one of the only red meadowhawks easy to identify:
And here is a twelve-spotted skimmer, sitting on a branch near a partially logged area of woods:
I saw other Odonates as well - a few mature male blue dashers - old ones who’s abdomen had turned form blue to pale bluish white. THere were lots of green darners, many unidentified blue darners, and a saddlebags - possibly a Carolina Saddlebags - that buzzed around forever as I waited for him to perch.
Overall, it was a good day in the Allegan forest. After leaving the field off 48th street I visited a few other locations. Off 44th street I managed to get this snap shot of a Monarch Butterfly – the best photo of the day, IMO:
Pam and I spent last week up in Grand Marias, Michigan. It is a little town on the shore of Lake Superior. We rented a nice cabin on Coast Guard Point, and had the big lake on one side, and a quiet bay on the other. People warned us that the black flies might be a problem up there, this time of year. But evening temperatures in the low 40’s (Fahrenheit) and daytime winds in the low 40’s (miles per hours) seem to keep the flies at bay.
It was a great week and we visited a lot of the local waterfalls. Always at mid day, never with an intent to photograph them. Here’s a tourist snap shot of Munising Falls. They are located right in the city of Munising and to get to them you just park your car and walk on a boardwalk to the observation deck. It’s that simple.
Jah is I light and salvation,
whom shall I fear?
Jah de protector of I life,
of whom shall I be afraid?
Dreadlocks At Moonlight, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
The equinox has come and gone. Michigan’s mild winter slips easily into spring. The snow melts, the plants green, the flowers bloom.
I head out to the high banks area in the Allegan forest. There, some of the banks that face due south are the first to thaw and produce hepatica and other spring wildflowers. And sure enough, the first hepatica has broken out of the ground cover and few have started to bloom. It’s early, even for them. Snow still clings to the northern slopes and clear evening still drop well below freezing, but they will be out soon.
I also visit the fields along 48th Ave, which used to be my main destination. The logging activities have taken their toll, and places I used to visit are completely gone. Obliterated.
The seasonal pond is still there – still flush with water and hosting various water fowl – but all around it the logging activities continue. The trees that have been felled have been dragged through the fields to a staging and processing area on the north end. There, huge rows of logs are hauled away, a dozen at a time, by a steady flow of semi trucks. Dragging the trees across the field has completely stripped away the top soil. The tall grass, scrubby oak, prickly pear cactus, wild strawberries and grapes are gone forever. So too are the small creatures that lived in the grass land – the blue racers, fowlers toads, chipmunks and tree frogs. It will take years for the area to recover, once the logging stops, and I doubt I will ever again see it the way it was.
A few shots of how it is now:
A a shot I took some time ago, and on impulse named “Tribute.” Maybe its my tribute to the place this is now gone:
But the pond has not silted up, and the dragonflies will emerge from it this spring. If not from there, then elsewhere. And they will fly over the barren field, uncaring, indifferent, and ancient.
Belatedly - the Signature Artist Cooperative has a group exhibit at the Portage Public Library, in neighboring Portage, Michigan. The theme of the show is “Renewal.”
I’m not doing much of anything with exhibits at this point in time - I let the deadlines on all of the early year entries slide away. But, I managed to conjure up this piece for the Portage show. You might have seen in before - from last summer.
When I hold a camera in my hands I feel like I am in possession of key that can open up the wonders of the world. I feel all the more like that when there is something special, different, unusual and ephemeral about that key.
This summer I broke out a few of my last rolls of Kodak High Speed Infrared film. 35mm black and white film loaded into a glorious old Pentax LX – if ever there was a key capable of tumbling the barrels of the most obscure lock, this is it…
Oh well – not much to show for it. A stunted, shot up tree out standing in a scrubby field that I visit all too often.
To me the key might be an old camera loaded with expiring and extinct film. For others it might be the latest wonder digital camera and the uber-fabulous long lens. But in photography, keys are ever more available. And once you have that dream-bag full of keys, the real work begins: finding the locks…