No, not the great movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Just leaves, decaying, in the middle of autumn.
A nice Saturday morning – sunny and cool. A typical mid Atlantic November day. Huntley Meadows beckoned. It’s never a good sign when you get there a half hour after sunrise and people are leaving. And truth be told, it was three hours of looking for something other than a red winged blackbird. You can hear the kingfisher, but it was far away. You can see the mergansers but they were far away. A blue heron flew in but it was far away. Heck, I probably should have stayed far away from Huntley as well, and catch a few more ZZZs. Oh well, at least there was a collection of water on the ground over some leaves. You just go with the flow. Even if the water is at a standstill (or nearly so).
A mountain park an hour away from northern Virginia. Shenandoah National Park is a very busy place in mid to late October. A similar view of trees (without the vistas that you see in Shenandoah) can make for a relaxing few hours enjoying the beauty of fall.
The world of macro photography, that is.
Autumn in Northern Virginia. Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, Virginia. In the middle of suburbia, the woods and wetlands remind you of the true beauty that nature brings.
It is cold outside. Heck, it is cold inside. The first few days of 2018 has been some of the coldest days we have experienced in the D.C. area in quite some time. Yesterday, I went for a short hike in the park. After thirty minutes, I was back in my car. I wasn’t tired. My hands, however, were aching from being exposed to the cold air. One of the things that I need to buy are thermal protection gloves that will allow me to take pictures in cold weather. As it was, I had to take my gloves off every time I wanted to take a picture.
Not that there were a lot of pictures to be found. It is important, however, to persevere and keep looking for something that may prove interesting. Practice is important. In any discipline. And in photography, you need to constantly look at the world and see what pictures you see. I must admit, the cold temperatures dulled my desire to look at every angle, at every corner, at every tree or leaf and find a different picture. I just wanted to walk a little bit and still have fingers that I can move at the end of the day.
So here are two pictures. Perhaps not spectacular. Totally reflective of my mood and sentiments on the fifth day of the first month in 2018. I’ll look at these pictures again, perhaps in the far off future. And remember that it was cold.
And yet. I just finished talking with my cousin in Calgary. She said it was -22F in Calgary over the holidays. Cold is a relative thing. In her mind, we are probably enjoying near tropical weather. Sixteen degrees Fahrenheit? You think that’s cold? I imagine that’s what she was thinking when I was complaining about the temperature.
There are things in life that are relative. And there are things in life that are absolutes. It is absolutely cold. The degree of coldness, however, is all relative.
Sometimes, you are bereft of ideas. What to write. What to photograph. In times like these, you might as well try to do something different. Experiment. It may not result in a great photograph or award winning prose. Still, to try and fail is a lot better than to sit around and doing nothing. Here are two pictures. When I looked at leaves frozen in the wetlands at Huntley Meadows, I started to think of tar pits. The trees, even without their leafy canopies, were obstructing enough of the sunlight so that the water seemed darker than one would expect. At the moment I took the picture, I imagined the leaves being trapped in resin (or tar) for millions of years. And today was the start of their fossilization. Fossiliced. An apt title. It’s different alright.
A few weeks earlier, when the supermoon was rising, I decided to take a picture of the larger than normal moon. The problem is, that a picture of a full moon, even a supermoon, looks similar to other pictures of the full moon. I’ve taken pictures of the moon before. I didn’t have time to drive around to find a suitable (e.g. beautiful view) of the rising moon. What to do? Silhouettes. Leaves against the defocused lunar disk. A spectacular photograph? Hardly. Still, I’ll take a look at this image again one of these days. And if I’m lucky, another idea (maybe even a better one) will be born.
On my walk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I happened upon these shells neatly arranged on a split log. Somebody went through the trouble of finding the shells and then arranging them in the log. All the work so I can happen upon the shells and have something to take a picture of. Amazing. Thank you, unknown artist!
And before I forget. One more picture of an autumn leaf.
Green ones too.
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.
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