Cumulus Trails

SSA Photography (30 of 400)

The beautiful irony of this photograph is that I have little memory of where it was taken in Alaska.  The tall mountain, offset by thirds from the center, may or may not have a name, and then, it may only be known to the natives.  It is tall enough to be the highest peak in a number of the contiguous states, tall enough to catch the cumulus clouds that passed by, hooking them on its summit, and tall enough that it should be memorable–but that is the awful truth of Alaska’s wilderness, the majesty is overwhelming.  For nature lovers like I am, it was a total sensory overload.  I snapped thousands of pictures, not photographs, but pictures to simply document what I could not trust my visual cortex to process.  That I managed to take this photograph and others as beautiful was simple dumb luck.  Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while.

I long to go back to Alaska with better gear and a better understanding of what to expect.  Using kit lenses on my Nikon D40 in automatic mode was like cutting one’s first filet mignon with a teaspoon, ultimately effective, but crude and personally unsatisfying in hindsight.  Still, I cannot regret the photographic experience totally.  I stumbled on some amazing photographs through the law of averages.  When your subject is so magnificent, it is hard not to capture some inkling of the awe, as here with this unnamed mountain, likely passed by in a matter of minutes during our cruise up the inside passage as the clouds passed with equal celerity over the peak, trailing it like a wispy pennant casually waving in the boreal air.

Click here for a larger version, and see the rest of my Alaska portfolio here.

Setting above the Sycamores

SSA Photography (397 of 400)

This was the last photograph I took on our trip to England in late August of this year.  I was tired, having climbed over moors, through the dales and back again at least four times over the course of the three hours or so.  The flatness of this picture belies the vertical bent of everything in England.  The sunset was magnificent because the clouds in the sky possessed such an impressionist character.  The patch of sycamores on the horizon grew closer and closer as we approached the setting sun, with Top Withens (the inspiration for Wuthering Heights) behind us.  There were no paths towards the top of the hike, which should have been an early harbinger of the difficulty of the climb.  For all I knew (and willingly shared with the rest of the hiking group), we were likely the only masochists to have made the hike for generations.  As we wended our way through the dense heather and tall wild grasses and bracken ferns, and I gasped for breath at manageable intervals, I thought back on that field twelve years prior where I proposed in a similar field across the valley from Anna’s grandparent’s house, amongst a small herd black and white Friesians.

The beauty of Yorkshire has ceased to surprise me.  By this, I do not mean that it has become any less wondrous or awe inspiring, only that I have come to expect to look out on a field and see the beauty that inspired the Brontës and Wordsworth and John Constable and all of the other artists that have spent their lives’ work attempting to capture the magnificence of this landscape.  Indeed, the sky was something out of Constable’s painting of Salisbury Cathedral (sans the rainbow).  The beauty is almost laughably ubiquitous.  I have been to England three times now, and each time I am left with the distinct sensation that I was born on the wrong continent.  My archaic turns of phrases, my passion for history and ancient things, all find root in the mother country.  Anna’s grandmother, a strong Yorkshire woman, who still travels the world at 94, has adopted me as her “cloth” grandson, an appellation that I take very seriously, and I have been warmly embraced by the network of aunties and cousins — just the toe-holds I needed to claim a bit of Yorkshire as my own.

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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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Bee and Balm

SSA Photography (164 of 400)

This photograph is a companion to Anna’s Hummingbird, which I posted on Wednesday.  This photograph shows a bee and its balm, specifically a Halictus Poeyi (sweat “furrow” bee) about to collect pollen from a Monarda Clinopodia (white “bergamot” bee balm).  The sweat bee and bee balm are native to North Carolina, where this photograph was taken.  I was busy taking macro photographs of the native flowers in the beautiful gardens of a family friend, and I hardly noticed this little bee hovering near the dew-kissed bee balm.  I was looking at my camera screen to see whether I had captured a focused shot of the flower when he drew closer, and I was able to catch him mid-flight.  I would have loved to increase the shutter speed to catch his wings, as I did with Anna’s Hummingbird, but the lighting under the the dense rhododendrons was not conducive to such a shot.

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Daylight on the Davidson

Version 2

“The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
checkering the eastern clouds with streaks of light…”
-Shakespeare
This photograph was taken at dawn in the Pisgah National Forest on the banks of the Davidson River.  The sun through the dappled leaves left streaks in the dewy air, which I attempted to capture in this photograph.  The shadow-play made the exposure a bit tricky, but overall I have always enjoyed this photograph and its even its color version.  We are venturing back to the Pisgah in December, and I look forward to capturing even more scenes of the rivers and falls once there.
Click here for a larger version (and a color version).

Zinger

SSA Photography (140 of 400)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am less comfortable taking portraits of anyone except my son, who is a willing subject.  This portrait, however, is one of my all time favorites.  Zinger was born just as the Red Sox clinched the 2004 World Series.  I was home from college, and I watched him being born to our sweet girl Hannah.  She nipped his umbilical cord too close to him, and he was left bleeding profusely.  My sister took him in her arms and staunched the blood for hours until he healed.  He was hers from that moment forward.  He loved the water, and he loved North Carolina – which is where I found him in this photograph.  We had to say goodbye to Zinger a few months ago, but he will always occupy a warm place in our hearts.

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