Downtown Stillwater, Minnesota on a sunny Spring Day.
I enjoy photographing botanical subjects that are past their prime. Flowers, leaves, other things that are starting to show their age; wrinkles, discolorations, blemishes; such things can add character to beauty. Perhaps I have this penchant because I am (this is hard to admit) beyond my prime and have wrinkles and age spots aplenty. At this time of the year in my neck of the woods, everything outside is past its prime. Everything is dead.* This morning I bought primroses at the grocery store. Some of the flowers are starting to wilt. I thought the wilt spots add interesting new color and texture to the already beautiful flowers.
* A paraphrase of Charles Dickens from David Copperfield:
I looked at her earnestly.
‘When you came away from home at the end of the vacation,’ said Mrs. Creakle, after a pause, ‘were they all well?’ After another pause, ‘Was your mama well?’
I trembled without distinctly knowing why, and still looked at her earnestly, making no attempt to answer.
‘Because,’ said she, ‘I grieve to tell you that I hear this morning your mama is very ill.’
A mist rose between Mrs. Creakle and me, and her figure seemed to move in it for an instant. Then I felt the burning tears run down my face, and it was steady again.
‘She is very dangerously ill,’ she added.
I knew all now.
‘She is dead.’
I bought mums at the grocery store a few days ago. When I was putting them in a vase, all the petals of one flower fell off in a bunch and plopped onto my kitchen counter. I just let them be, something I often do with messes in my kitchen. The next day I noticed that they looked striking sprawled on the counter, so I set up my tripod and snapped a few shots. Here is one.
For most of the last four months, I’ve been inactive with some sort of undiagnosed illness. My doctor can find no cause – all my tests come back normal. The conclusion: it’s all in my head, although it sure feels like it’s in my body. Anyway, I have posted very few blogs during this time period and have not taken many photographs. I have done some, so I’ve decided to post my best shots from the last few months.
I think I’m going mad, Ted [obscure line from the Britcom Father Ted]
I live in a condominium development on the site of a former prison built around 1860. The outermost prison walls still stand, part of which is what looks like a guard post. I’ve included a picture of the guard post as it looks during the day. Spiders, with their impressive spider webs, take over the guard post after dark. It’s probably a great spot for a spider since the lights attract lots of bugs. Here are a couple of photos from the last few days when I’ve walked past the guardhouse on my way home after having a beer or two downtown.
The current assignment on Outdoor Photographer is Shades of Green. I remembered that the focus was on the color green, but forgot that it was an outdoor photography assignment. I took my photo indoors using artificial lighting. He is my photo of slices of lime on a bed of spinach on a light pad.
I wanted to shoot some photos on Wednesday, but it had been raining all day and was not likely to stop. What the heck, I decided to go anyway.
I wore waterproof hiking shoes to keep my feet dry and an umbrella plus a lens cap or handkerchief to keep my lenses dry. All those things worked well. What I didn’t plan for was slipping in the mud, falling on my back, and ending up with wet and muddy clothes. Oh well, I did get some decent photos.
I went to the Chisago Loop of the Riverview Trail yesterday, a trail that goes through the Osceola Bedrock Glades State Natural Area. The trail loops around a knob that is an outcrop of Canadian Shield basalt bedrock. The top of the knob is relatively flat. The bedrock crops out in many places and there are loose slabs and boulders some that look like stones from a small Stonehenge. Between the rocks is shallow soil with sparse grass and a lot of mosses and lichens. There are scattered, straggly trees mostly jack pines.
I went to the knob planning to take a photo to satisfy The Daily Post‘s challenge Dinnertime. I finished the photo but wasn’t as careful as I should have been because the gnats were ferocious and drove me out. Look closely at my self-portrait and you can see the gnats hovering around my head. (Hovering? They were attacking.) I even poured out a half-bottle of beer because I was so desperate to get away from them (OK, maybe just anxious.) Once I got the first acceptable photo, I left as fast as possible. That wasn’t very fast because I had to be careful making my way down off the knob and through the treacherous footing in the loose chunks of basalt.
On my walk to the knob, I photographed a rare, prairie-fame flower (Talinum rugospermum). The flower and the dinnertime photo are the only shots I got. By the time I reached my car I felt like I was in a mild version of anaphylactic shock. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the gnats had certainly spoiled my outing. This was the second time I’ve been driven out of the area by insects. The first time it was mosquitoes. Other than the bugs, this is one of my favorite spots. The one time there weren’t bugs, I spent my time reclining on a large rock soaking up the sun like a lizard.
I took a break after drafting the above and read a bit from Beryl Markham’s memoir West With the Wind. What I read gave me some perspective on being bothered by a few gnats. Beryl Markham writes about her life in east Africa when roads were mostly non-existent. She was one of the first pilots in the region. She writes about elephant hunting:
Scouting [for elephant] by plane eliminates a good deal of the preliminary work, but when as upon occasion I did spot a herd not more than thirty or forty miles from camp, it still meant that those forty miles had to be walked, crawled, or wriggled by the hunters – and that by the time this body and nerve-raking manoeuvre had been achieved, the elephant had pushed on another twenty miles or so into the bush. A man, it ought to be remembered, has to take several steps to each stride of an elephant, and, moreover, the man is somewhat less than resistant to thicket, thorn trees, and heat. Also he is vulnerable as a peeled egg to all things that sting – anopheles mosquitoes, scorpions, snakes, and tsetse files. The essence of elephant-hunting is discomfort in such lavish proportions that only the wealthy can afford it.
All I was doing was eating a sandwich and drinking a beer on a hill in civilized, western Wisconsin, and I complain. Markham quotes Baron Von Blixen saying “Life is life and fun is fun, but it’s all so quiet when the goldfish die.”
By the way, I highly recommend the book. A good friend and my favorite bartender recommended it.
Bartenders should always be trusted.
Two days ago I spotted my first wildflowers of the season. Bloodroots were blooming in profusion. The day was eighty degrees and sunny, and the bloodroots were wide open (first photo.) The next day was gray, drizzly, and in the sixties. The bloodroots decided to stay in for the day (second photo). I don’t blame them.
The greenery has popped over the weekend because of the warm weather. Here are more shots of new spring growth.
The Fish Lake State Wildlife Area in northwestern Wisconsin near Grantsburg is part of a collection of areas managed as The Glacial Lake Grantsburg Properties. They are Fish Lake Wildlife Area, Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, and Amsterdam Sloughs Wildlife Area.
The Fish Lake area is mostly “huge sedge marshes” interspersed with areas of low hills with oak forests. The first time I visited Fish Lake, I was not very impressed – it seemed too flat. The more I visited and explored, the more I came to appreciate the area. There are lots of nooks and crannies, paths and dirt roads to explore. I was there yesterday, a beautiful warm Sunday. I didn’t encounter another soul. That’s heaven for an introvert that loves exploring solo.
I didn’t take too many photos. I was tired and just walking along a flat dike next to Dueholm Lake took all my available energy. Dueholm Lake is an impoundment. The only natural lake in the area is Fish Lake, thus the name of the area. The impoundments are a result of management that “began in the early 1950s when the first dikes were constructed to re-flood the drained marshes.”
I recently wrote about Jay Maisel’s book Light,Gesture, & Color in which he writes
All year long I walk around shooting as minimally as I can. One camera, a zoom lens, and that’s it.
I’m now reading On Being a Photographer. David Hurn advises photographers to
. . . take on a project that is containable, and can be completed in a reasonable period of time. . . . just wandering around looking for pictures, hoping that something will pop up and announce itself, does not work.
I think both approaches can work and have worked for me. It’s true that having some sort of focus, whether it’s a project or a weekly challenge published on the internet, will improve one’s photography. I have fun just rambling about with camera ready. Sometimes things do pop up. I went on a road trip yesterday to work on my project to photograph the St. Croix River from source to mouth. I also kept my eyes open for pop-up opportunities. Of the three best photos from yesterday, one was of the St. Croix, the other two were things I spotted while driving on back roads in Wisconsin. Here are the three:
This week’s The Daily Post challenge is Landscape. Here is my landscape shot.
I’m in North Kansas City tonight. Yesterday I stayed in Des Moines. I walked around downtown Des Moines and took this photo for Dogwood Photography’s Weekly Challenge:
Artistic: Shadows – The opposite of light is dark, the absence of light is shadow. Interpret this into a masterpiece.
The alley is completely in shadow in contrast to the building at the end of the alley that is sunlit.
I had jambalaya at the Court Brew Pub in Des Moines last night. I had a choice of mild, traditional, or hot. I’m glad that I chose mild. Traditional would have been painful. Hot would have been fatal. The jambalaya came in a huge bowl with a large and tasty cornbread muffin. It had chicken, andouille sausage, ham, shrimp, okra, rice and who knows what else. It was very good although I didn’t completely enjoy the texture of the okra. I also had two IPAs brewed on site: Honest Lawyer IPA. I chose the IPA because my cousin is a lawyer in Iowa and is completely honest. That makes sense doesn’t it?
Tonight I ate in a sports bar that advertises itself – rightly so – as a sports museum. I didn’t eat at this Subway. I saw it on my walk home. I think it makes a nice photo.
I’ve spent today getting ready for a quick getaway tomorrow. I’m headed for Santa Fe and a photography workshop called A Natural Eye: The Spring Landscape at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
This photo is also my response The Daily Post‘s current, weekly challenge of State Of Mind. My state of mind was anticipation.
Black and white landscapes from the past week.
I did this photo for The Daily Post‘s weekly challenge of Vibrant.
This is my photo for last weeks photo challenge on The Daily Post. The theme was Alphabet. The bookshop is on Main Street in Stillwater, Minnesota, USA.
I hiked yesterday on the Riverside Trail in William O’Brien State Park. I live only 20 miles from the park but haven’t been there in years, decades even.
It was well below zero with an even lower wind chill. (I guess wind chills are always “even lower”.) I saw no one on the trails. I saw two gray squirrels, one mouse or vole, and few crows. That is all. I felt very good about braving the bitter cold and remaining reasonably comfortable – I was dressed for the weather complete with long underwear and a balaclava. In one spot on the ice of a side channel of the river out of the wind and in full sun, I was actually quite snug. My camera worked well in spite of the cold. The only effect was that my lens’s zoom mechanism was stiff.
It’s been very cold the last week. One way to deal with the cold is to photograph it.
The challenge of the week on The Daily Post is Circle. This is my response, the circle on the bottom of a somewhat overripe pineapple.
I’m too angry to write about the Senate’s betrayal of democracy yesterday when they passed the fast track authority bill. Instead, I’ll write about visiting antique stores in Stillwater, which I did today and Monday in search of close-up photographs of metal. That is the current weekly challenge on Photo Challenge. I was able to take photos inside the stores in spite of the low light by using an ISO of 12,800. Using extremely high ISO settings causes noise in photographs, but I was able to remove much of the noise in Adobe Lightroom. In addition to the photos I took in the stores, I bought two things to use in still lives at home: a small, porcelain clown and an egg beater. Below are my antique photos plus a couple of others from this week.
It’s that time of year. There are plenty of bugs about that are willing to pose for my camera whenever I can convince them to stop pestering me. Here are some of this year’s portraits. I try to identify every bug I shoot. Even with two insect field guides and all the resources of the internet at my disposal, I’m usually able to identify only about half of the bugs I see. Who knows, maybe I’m discovering new species.
At the start of June, I went on a day trip exploring the area between Bayfield and Cornucopia, Wisconsin. I stopped at Bayfield, Little Sand Bay, Meyers Beach, and Cornucopia (see map). Here are some of the photos from the day.
Yesterday was Earth Day, so I took some earthscapes. Pictures of an earth we should focus on preserving, not consuming. Here is my Earth Day slide show.