Whirls

SSA Photography (101 of 400)

As I have mentioned before, the patterns of nature fascinate me.  The swirls and whirls on this driftwood tree, most likely a live oak (Quercus Virginiana), caught my eye immediately when I took to the beach with my macro lens.  I had passed the tree numerous times before, camera in hand, but I overlooked the fascinating, almost embryonic patterns along the large branch that reached towards the ocean.  I cannot believe that I missed it, but in hindsight, I was not looking for the little intricacies of nature when I first came to Boneyard Beach; instead, I was looking for patterns in the trees strewn about the sand, which I found in the hulking driftwood trees.

A certain bit of melancholy washed over me as I returned a few months ago, two years hence, and two hurricanes since.  The beach was not as I remembered it.  The huge live oaks were still there; not even a category three storm could have moved them.  Yet the smaller ones, like this one with the whirls, had been washed away.  Perhaps they will be rolled back to shore by the heavy waves of a nor’easter, or, perhaps, by another hurricane.  But for now, they were gone.  I brought my son to the beach when I returned, hoping that he would find the same beauty in his five year old eyes.  He, too, was enamored by the tulip snails, and he let go of his fears long enough to sidle up the trunk of one of the supine live oaks.  I let go of the melancholy, as well, and I ventured to find new patterns in the niches where limb meets branch or branch meets trunk.  Someday, Kemper will be old enough to mind the patterns, but for now, I will let him find the joy in the bigger picture.

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Southern Needleleaf

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This photograph of a southern needleleaf air plant (Tillandsia Setecea) on a water oak (Quercus Nigra) was taken on a hike in Nocatee Preserve near my home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  The needleleaf is an epiphyte, an organism that grows on the surface of a plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and debris accumulating around it. I am fascinated by epiphytes, like the resurrection fern in an earlier post.  In Florida, they are everywhere.  We had a few large crepe myrtles in our back yard, and the needleleafs practically covered the trunks and branches of the trees.  I have always been curious how they take hold on their host tree.  Many people have seen these members of the bromelaid family, but few have ever seen the beautiful and delicate purple flowers that bloom for an instant and are gone.  I have been lucky enough to see the blossoms, having grown up around them, and perhaps as the Romantic Poets believed, they are all the more beautiful because they are so evanescent and fleeting.

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Hollow

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I have long since wondered what befell this little pignut hickory tree (Carya Glabra) that I found on a walk in the Pisgah National Forest, just outside Asheville, North Carolina.  Its brothers and sisters in the grove around it were healthy, but perhaps this one was hollow from an early age.  In my journey through the morass of my own personal demons, I met many individuals who were all but hollowed-out inside.  For some, their facade mirrored their inner emptiness, like this little hickory stump.  For many, however, they looked strong and confident and healthy on the surface, all the while roiling with anguish inside.  Even those of us who manage to come out the other side still have hollow pockets, places where the memories of the shadows still live, which catch us by surprise every so often.  Eventually, for the fortunate few, these shadows subside, but they remain–never to fade completely into the light, like scars that sometimes catch the sunlight at just the right angle to remind you that you were once injured, too.  And every once in a while, you may come upon a hollow stump, a not so subtle memento of the emptier days.  Maybe you walk by it, trying not to remember those times, but maybe, just maybe, you snap a photograph, a token to hold close to you, reminding you how insidious the hollowness can be.

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Boneyard Beach

SSA Photography (84 of 400)

I do not know who settled on the name Boneyard Beach for this stretch of coastline on Big Talbot Island, just north of Jacksonville, Florida.  It is fitting, though, that the skeletons of the old live oaks (Quercus Virginiana) stretch towards the ocean like Tantalus stretched towards the water beneath his feet and fruit above his head.  This photograph was taken three years ago, before the northeast coast of Florida was battered by hurricanes Irma and Matthew.  Kemper and I went to Boneyard Beach earlier this year, in the height of summer, to take photographs.  I figured to get some photographs of him among the stripped, bleached bones.  To my great surprise, many of the trees that I had become accustomed to (which are featured in my gallery Driftwood), had vanished into the sea since I had been there last.  Kemper was disappointed for a moment, but then he caught sight of a ghost crab skittering around the base of a monolithic oak, unaffected by the reshaping of the coastline.  It would have taken a much stronger act of God, or His hand itself, to move that oak from its spot.  Innumerable hurricanes have battered the island over the centuries, and as the new oaks, themselves, fall to the beach, the skeletons will once again reappear–until, of course, another set of storms carries them off to the sea.

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Triple Falls

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Like many of my photographs of waterfalls, this one was taken in the Pisgah National Forest outside of Asheville, North Carolina.  Although I quickly shy away from the compliments and comparisons some have drawn between my black and white landscape shots and the photographs of the great Ansel Adams, this one does remind me of some of his shots of the falls in Yellowstone.  If I can be half of the photographer Adams was, I think that will be accomplishment enough.

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Among the Ferns

SSA Photography (390 of 400)

These bracken ferns on the moors in Yorkshire are substantially shorter than those in the lake district; nevertheless, they nearly engulfed my wife, Anna, as she tried to follow the path cut between the fiddleheads that popped out from the skeletons of heather, long since overcome by the dark green ferns.  This photograph was taken at dusk outside of Haworth, England, where the Brontë sisters lived and wrote.  Their stories were heavily   influenced by the moors and the hardy people who lived on them (especially Wuthering Heights).  Indeed, in this photograph, on the horizon to the left, there is a lone sycamore next to the barely perceptible ruins of a farmhouse (Top Withens), which is said to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.  My mother-in-law grew up among the ferns on the moors, and she is closer to nature than anyone I have ever met.  Yorkshire does something indelible to a person.  The first time you walk over the top of a moor and look down into the Worth Valley at the train steaming along the tracks towards Leeds, you realize that you are in a living snapshot of a much simpler time.

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