I was taking a short walk at the local park early yesterday morning when this Northern Mockingbird (which may be ready to lay eggs) decided to take a rest a nearby berry bush. It sat around for minutes, striking various poses. I am not complaining.
I must admit that the russet, orange, yellow and green umbrella of leaves didn’t leave much room for finding birds and taking pictures of them on my walk at Huntley Meadows. I must also admit that it doesn’t take that long to walk a three mile trail, unless you’re walking back and forth looking for birds (and not finding them). As I entered the trail at Huntley Meadows, there were some forlorn photographers, with their long lenses and tripods leaving the park. I didn’t want to ask how the birding was, but after ten minutes of walking, I could not resist to ask someone how their morning had gone. Not a lot of interesting things, or something like that, was the verbal answer. It was a confirmation of a supposition answered in the faces of many a photographer walking the trails at the park. Not very promising, but at least there were leaves.
And a good thing that red, orange, yellow and green were in copious quantity. Did it make up for a lack of birds? No. The lesser number of birds in the park, combined with the masking quality of the colors in the trees, combined with my inadequate skills at bird spotting really limited the number of opportunities for spotting a bird. On a beautiful autumn day, the birds may have been there, but so where the leaves. Still, it would have been nice to find more of our avian friends. A lot more practice at bird spotting lies ahead. A great way to enjoy the wonderful beauty that nature provides.
In my earlier write up, I talked about walking around Huntley Meadows on a windy day. How can one convey motion in a static image? Blur. Wind causes motion over time. Decreasing the shutter speed will introduce blur to an image. This can be used to an advantage. Mount your camera on a tripod and pick a shutter speed around 1/20 of a second or even slower. The result can be interesting.
Why look at the same static pictures of red, orange, yellow, green and brown leaves hanging on the branches of a tree? Make your picture move. Introduce blur.
You can also select a high contrast scene and introduce a little blur.
Light + Motion = Emotion.
It’s almost November and the leaves are finally getting some color in Northern Virginia. It’s been a relatively dry summer and early fall. As a consequence, the leaves aren’t really colorful – dull red, dull yellow, dull orange, dull brown. Still, you will find the occasional brightly colored leaf or two.
Fall is a beautiful time of year here in Northern Virginia. The weather is relatively mild. A warm spell can appear like a punctuation mark, like a comma in the middle of a sentence. On such a day in late October, the sun was shining and Huntley Meadows beckoned.
The birds are no longer plentiful, though they are certainly still flying around at Huntley. The mallards have returned, but the swallows, egrets, most of the warblers and most of the herons have migrated southward. Just when the thinning leaf cover makes looking for birds easier they migrate away. The leaf covered trails, a clean boardwalk (the geese are in much decreased numbers), the cool but comfortable weather, the canopy of colors make for an irresistible invitation to spend a few hours outdoors
At Meadowlark Gardens, autumn’s beauty goes beyond the colorful leaves.
Roadtrip! A mild October day was the catalyst for a short, mostly unplanned trip to the Fort Valley area of Virginia. After an hour driving westward on I66, and lunch at Front Royal, Virginia, it was time to decide. Visit Shenandoah National Park or drive towards the Massanutten high country?
Virginia is a beautiful state. This is especially true in the fall, when canopies of color cover the hills and valleys that roll westward, rising slowly towards the grand chain of peaks that form the heart of Appalachia. Fort Valley is a valley within a valley, so to speak, nestled between the Shenandoah Valley and the Massanutten mountains.
A mere seventy minutes from Washington D.C., Front Royal Virginia is the gateway to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. A launching point to smaller towns and villages that dot the Shenandoah Valley. In mid autumn, the state roads heading west and south are transformed into colorful avenues that beckon further exploration. A left turn at a stoplight. A few miles later, another left turn to Virginia 678. As the road meandered towards the George Washington National Forest, the cloud filled October sky gave way to a kaleidoscope of colors that seemed unending. The red, orange, yellow and green hues of the still leaf filled trees transform into a sonata of color as the road weaved up and down through mountain passes and the valley floor. A quiet Monday afternoon. A stunningly beautiful Monday afternoon.
As I was leaving Green Spring Gardens, I noticed a nicely backlit hedge of yellow flowers. After a few pictures of the flowers (from behind), I walked up the short incline to take a closer look at the flowers. Thin clouds close to the horizon diffused the light emanating from the afternoon sun. Still hints of directionality, but much less harsh. A good opportunity to take some flower close ups. In the midst of all the yellow, there were insects hovering about. Before I started taking pictures with my macro lens, I never really paid attention to the bees flying about. I was more concerend about that random bee sting not being so random. It turns out that bees, for the most part, are more intent on sipping nectar than aiming that stinger on an unsuspecting photographer. And, they are pretty good models to boot. Just don’t touch them.
I have to say it. Mellow yellow, with a twist.
A warm autumn day. A walk at Green Spring Gardens. Leaves, different in shape, color, state of decay. Still clinging, soon to fall. Why not take a look. Sometimes, very closely.
The most colorful time of the year is also the time of great changes. Birds migrate to warmer climes. Bears are busy foraging in preparation for their winter sleep. The squirrels store their treasures and in the process dig up the yards and gardens of the suburban (and urban) dweller. The leaves, once green and infused with chlorophyll, gain their yellow, red, orange, and brownish coloration. The trees too, will slumber. Soon, gravity will pull the dying leaves from their branches, leaving trees threadbare, wintering in place, waiting for the warm spring sun to begin the cycle anew. As the leaves fall to the ground, they will perform one last function in the cycle of life. Decay leaves to breakdown; what was of the earth becomes earthen once more. And from the earth, life will begin anew, rising in triumph, death vanquished.
For millennia, as far back as the ancient Egyptians and perhaps beyond that, flowers have been part of the human experience. What is the first gift that a child gives to his or her mother? A flower, perhaps a rose, perhaps a dandelion. Something from the garden or maybe the sidewalk. A gift of beauty, an act of love.
Flowers of every shape and color stir our imagination. From the simple drawings of a child, to the masterpieces of Monet, to the songs of Rogers and Hammerstein, to the photographs of Weston, to Mendel’s experiments in genetics – flowers have sparked the creativity of untold millions throughout human history.
Color, shape, dimension, form. Family, Genus, Species. We observe. We study. We categorize.. Everything is given an attribute. Flowers are a complex thing, we say. That may be, but we also know the immutable truth. A flower, you see, is simply beautiful.