I finally saw my first wildflower of the season at Willow River State Park. I wasn’t too excited when it turned out to be a dandelion. Within a yard of the dandelion were a few small, blue violets. I don’t know what type of violet. Wildflowers can be hard to identify. For example, I also saw some small white flowers that could be either a type of everlasting or a type of pussytoes. I’m not sure which.
I’ve started working on a project to photograph wildflowers in Willow River State Park from the start of the season until the frosts of autumn: wildflowers in the same location throughout a single season.
I’ve seen no wildflowers yet, so I’ve been shooting leftovers from last year that have spent the season under the snow and whatever new growth I can find. The first things I noticed were the sporophytes of moss. The moss is a brilliant green among the drab browns and tans of early spring.
Then there is a small plant with geranium-like leaves that always seems to be green.
Within the last week, the buds on trees and shrubs have plumped up. They’ve added a tinge of color to the forested hillsides. Over the last few days, new grasses have emerged and are adding their bit of green.
Yesterday I was looking for wildflowers. There were none to be found. I guess it’s still too early even though the last few weeks have been warm. The only things I could find that had new growth were big (red maples or willows) or very small. The small things were mosses and lichens which I find very hard to identify. I’m satisfied if I can correctly state that something is, in fact, a moss. The mosses are sending out what I think are called sporophytes. It had snowed the night before, so much of the foliage – dead or alive – was covered in tiny droplets of melt water. One had to get down on one’s knees or belly in order to examine or photograph such tiny things. I was wet by the time I finished. Luckily, the sun came out later in the day, it warmed up, and I escaped death by hypothermia.
I think this may be a small puffball that survived the winter relatively intact although it looks like it “puffed.” It was in pure sand. There were more puffballs in the sand. They grew only as individuals plants spaced a yard or so away from their neighbors. All dead of course.
More stuff found within an inch or two from the ground.
Dead Leaves Of Common Mullein
Dead Leaves Of Common Mullein Surround New Green Moss
I went out in my car around 4:00 PM. I wanted to try to walk to the Arcola Railroad bridge from the Wisconsin side to photograph it. No luck; there were no-parking signs along the road and the railroad right-of-way was posted with no-trespassing signs. I could see the bridge through the bare trees. It looked very high and impressive. The branches were too thick for photography so I never got a photo of the bridge.
I turned to Plan B. I didn’t actually have a Plan B, so I extemporized. The Parnell Prairie Preserve is just a few miles from where I was. I’ve driven past the preserve many times and drove into the parking lot once but never stopped. It didn’t look very impressive from the road. So I went to the Preserve and discovered a sweet spot. Nice trails. Very pleasant.
There was an old, decaying very large tree trunk sawed into pieces near the road. It looked like it had been there, decaying and moldering into the earth, for a long time. All the things that grow on or around a decomposing tree stump provide lots of subjects for photography: vines, lichen, moss, fungi, leaves, stems, thorns. Much texture and color. The color isn’t as showy as in wildflower season but it’s there if you look closely. Tiny, bright red things on stalks held over green moss. I don’t know what they were, but the red objects shone out in spite of their tininess. Purple and red vines. Old, decaying wood of a deep orange.
Most of the preserve is a rolling meadow. Last year’s meadow grasses are still standing and are a fine golden, yellow-orange color.
The red stems of sumac with buds just waiting for some sun and warm weather. A cluster of berries ranging in color from bright red to golden brown. The silhouettes of bare trees and pine trees on a hilltop.
Winter’s detritus are the bits of last year’s plant matter left over after the winter cold and snow. Everything is dried and shriveled, but there is still a lot of character and color if one looks closely. I walked through a community garden and filled a basket with detritus. I took the stuff home and put together some compositions.
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 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: