You Know a Place is Beautiful when

IMG_0443d_sEven in the early morning, as the planes are being deiced in the airport, the beauty of Oregon and its mountains won’t let you go.  Bend, Oregon.  Incredible town.

Flying across the continent, we arrived in Bend – the launching point for a mid spring visit to the Cascades.  It was an ideal base to drive around the high desert and visit Crater Lake.  I did not know much about the town until we landed.  And for several days, it became clear to me.  This is one of the great places in the United States to visit, and perhaps even live in.  Mountains and lakes nearby.  A river to go tubing in.  And as we were leaving, the view from the window was still spectacular.  Beautiful deicing?  It was, in Bend.

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Autumnal Beauties

The birds are still here.  And they are at Huntley Meadows.  Just look for bushes laden with berries.  Or seed bearing pods.

And with autumn in the air, in the leaves, in the sky (the sun angle is far from its summer heights), the birds remind us that season after season, life is everywhere.  And beautiful to behold.  In all its forms.

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Impressionistic Reflections

Fall is definitely here in Northern Virginia.  The trees are finally resplendent in coloration.  The lack of rain may have dampened the deep red, orange and yellow hues so prevalent in autumns past, but the warm weather affords many opportunities for walks in the parks and nature reserves that dot the Washington area.  Huntley Meadows, with its wetlands replenished by recent rains, is particularly beautiful in the fall.  Reflections are a mirror image of reality and with a little bit of help from a slight breeze, the reality becomes a beautiful dream.  A reflection seen in a calm body of water can be beautiful.  With longer exposure taken with a tripod mounted camera, the slight undulations in the surface, made possible by a gentle wind, transform the beauty of a tranquil day into a treasure of moving colors, a feast for the eyes.DSC09361_sDSC09365_s

Oh what a beautiful morning!

Sometimes, when the light is right, you don’t even have to see the sun to see a beautiful sunrise.  With the dust scattering the morning light towards the mid autumn sky, how can one not stop and just wonder at the beauty that is around us.  We forget, sometimes, that every day can be special.  Each day is a gift.  Our mind knows this, but our heart must feel it.  In the midst of life’s trials, there is always something that can bring love into our lives.  And in truth, as long as love prevails, beauty will always be there.

 

Northern Mockingbird

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.DSC09243_sDSC09247_sDSC09250_sDSC09252_s

Seven Yards, Seventy Degrees

In photography, you pre visualize the images that you want to take.  If a location is nearby and familiar to you, you have probably taken dozens of pictures, each one slightly different, each one a variation of an idea that you want to execute.  I was drinking my morning coffee and walking around the coffee shop, something that I have done a hundred times before.  The modern building across the shop is fairly colorful.  Yellow and red highlights against the brown brickwork and panels.  I brought my camera to take the picture that I envisioned.

DSC05025_sIt turns out, however, that a minute earlier, I took the picture of shadows falling on the walkway and the walls of the building.  A lady with a suitcase fortuitously walked into the scene.  It wasn’t the picture I was planning to take.  It was the picture that presented itself to me.  And, even with all the colorful trimming on the upper part of the building, this picture full of shadows and light looks better in black and white.

Seven yards and seventy degrees.  From one spot, to the other, with the lens pointing in a different angle.  What the GPS will hardly notice, your eye certainly will.  Photography, like life, thrives in the unexpected.

Freezing in Maui

When you think of Maui, you think of warm days at the beach.   The warm waters of the Pacific lapping gently over your feet while walking, unhurriedly, in the early hours of the day, eagerly watching the sun rise over an ocean as boundless as your dreams.  You think of the Polynesian food, so delicious, that any ideas of dieting seems like a silly concern.  You think of the hikes through the pristine forests, butterflies fluttering, birds singing with joy, happy to spend another day in paradise.  You hear the occasional rooster crowing, heralding the coming of a new day, even as the first hints of sunlight begin to bathe the land with its life giving warmth.

Beyond the beaches, on a winding road that zigs and zags its way to the peak of Haleakala, is a national park that simply takes your breathe away.  Probably because at its altitude, there is less oxygen going inside your lungs with each deep breathe that you take.  You wake up shortly after midnight and in the darkness drive for hours, in the quest to see the sun blaze through the clouds,  to marvel at a natural light show that no amount of fireworks can hope to match.  You look out towards the ocean and see eternity, bathed in light so sublime that in that joyous moment, heaven and earth are one.

On top of the summit, in the hours before daybreak, in the midst of August, I was reminded that altitude has an attitude.  A cold one.  It was freezing.  It was wonderful.

It snows in Haleakala.  The wind howls at Haleakala.  It gets dark in Haleakala.  So dark that some of the world’s great telescopes are on the summit of the great mountain, mirrors trained unflinchingly at the star strewn night sky, partaking in the greatest quest humanity has ever taken.  The exploration of our universe.  We who live near the great cities forget that above our heads, perpetually moving in the celestial sphere, are the stars that the sun calls its brothers and sisters, the collection of gases, condensed and yet to condense, the filaments of light that we collectively call the Milky Way.  And at Haleakala, when the sun hides in the other side of the world, you explore.  You wonder.  You dream.

And I almost forgot.  Haleakala is a volcano.  Dormant, beautiful, imposing, surprising.  The beaches may beckon, but at Haleakala, in the ethereal grandeur of cinder cones juxtaposed with grass covered slits of rock, you can imagine, with a sense of wonder, the alien worlds that awaits us as we explore the universe.  And marvel at the delicacy of the planet that we call our own.

In the cold morning air, with twilight still approaching, I gazed upwards upon countless points of light and smiled.  For at that moment, I have touched the sky.DSC02401_sDSC02410_sDSC02476a_s

I came for the birds, but I kind of mist!

A beautiful, sunny, cool October morning was the catalyst for taking a short walk at Huntley Meadows Park in suburban Alexandria, Virginia.  Huntley is one of those hidden gems.  It has winding trails, woods, and wetlands, in a compact location in the middle of suburban Alexandria (the Fairfax County part), Virginia.  Fall migration is still in full swing, so this may be a good opportunity to get some decent pictures of our avian friends.

I made it to the open area, the marshy area that presaged the wetlands.  The birds were certainly singing.  I wanted to go further down the boardwalk, to the place where the belted kingfishers dwelt, but I stopped.  For forty five minutes or so I only walked an additional twenty five yards or so.  The culprit?

A heavy, morning mist, with the sun streaming down, on a small part of Huntley Meadows.  You can literally see the sunbeams, white mist, and a hint of color.   It looked interesting and bland at the same time.  If only there was a little bit more color on that scene.  Well, there was!  A little bit.  The dehaze feature of Adobe Camera Raw can do some interesting things.  And though the dehazed image was initially dull, one could see a hint of color in the image.  A delicate restoration of color information may result in an interesting picture.  After working with the contrast, sharpness, saturation and vibrance sliders, the following pictures came out.

 

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And as a bonus, a stalk blowing in the wind.

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The pictures came out with an “impressionistic” look.  Restating the title of this post, I came for the birds, but the light was right.