Saturday, 26 October 2019 07:57

When Amazing Happens to Show Up

Over the years Bonnie and I have photographed the sunset at Cowee Mountain Overlook (Blue Ridge Parkway) on more occasions than I can readily recall, and even when the creative conditions are somewhat less than what might be considered optimum, I am always glad and grateful to have made the effort to go. This week I shared Cowee with one of my students who had journeyed from Reno, Nevada. The conditions along the Parkway all afternoon had been intriguing in an odd sort of way, yet when we arrived at Cowee for sunset, it seemed that conditions might not materialize to our benefit. Then, as we watched, a long swirling mass of cirrus, of a type somewhere between fibratus and uncinus, appeared and stretched from far to the southwest all the way into the northeast, nowhere near the direction of the sunset. As the sun sank below the western horizon, the lights in the cloud mass came on, and we watched as something amazing evloved from something rather ordinary. Thus it is with sunsets.

A focal length of 160mm, on the cusp of medium telephotoland, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted, isolating a section of the cloudmass and some interesting, rim-lit portions of the hills below the overlook. An aperture of f/14, considering the camera-to-subject distance, provided depth-of-field., and of equal importance, allowed, at ISO 100 (less digital noise), for a shutter speed of 8.0 seconds and a somewhat darker-than-medium overall exposure.

I have watched the clouds over Cowee do some extraordinary things over the years; but this week they did something that was truly unique.


Friday, 18 October 2019 11:43

The Arrangement of Numbers

Nearly 200-years-ago a German family by the name of Glanze converted an old "dog trot" cabin in the Sandy Mush Township of Madison County, North Carolina into a stock barn for their animals. Oral tradition in the community has it that the deed was noted with the carving of the year into one of the great old chestnut logs of the structure. Over the years the family's name was altered to Glance, and today the slowly decaying remnants of Glance Barn grace the floodplain valley of Little Sandymush Creek.

The wall  of the structure on which the carving appears is underneath an overhanging shed roof, meaning it is in deep shade even in bright sun. A focal length of 70mm, short telephotoland, allowed me to isdolate a small portion of the log and the chinking between it and the log below. The shadow cast by an ancient iron spike tells that it is early mid-afternoon in Sandy Mush. An aperture of f/18, with my camera placed squarely in front of the carving, provided detail from edge-to-edge. and ISO 200 allowed for a 4.0 second shutter speed and a medium overall exposure.

When the Glanzes made their conversion, the Tsalagi still owned the lands immediately to the west, but Andrew Jackson of just been inaugurated as president following one of the most contentious campaigns in our history. The Trail of Tears appeared on our horizon that day.


Saturday, 12 October 2019 15:27

Kitchi-Gami on the Cusp of Change

How Red Jack Lake received its name is a mystery I have not solved in the 14 years I have been visiting Hiawatha National Forest, but I have enjoyed my time here very much nonetheless. Sadly, over the years, I have watched as the water level in all of Hiawatha's waters, including Red Jack's, has risen, cutting off access to many of the wonderful locations that have historically offered so much creative opportunity. However, I do not despair, the beauty of Hiawatha will always be available to anyone who is willing to look. Red Jack lies upstream from Council, which lies upstream from Snipe, and thus so to Fish Lake and the waters of Little Indian River, Indian River, and in the end to the wide waters of Lake Michigan itself, all the way down where the Manistique River joins the lake by the town of Manistique. It is a convoluted drainage, whose geologic history is equally tortured.

A focal length of 70mm, on the short side of telephotoland, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted, isolating a small corner of the shoreline crowded with firs and the ever-present maples, but excluding the sky in favor of an old white birch log waiting patiently to come closer to the shore.. An aperture of f/14 provided depth-of-field from the camera-to-subject distance, and a shutter speed of 0.5 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall somewhat lighter-than-medium exposure.

The children of Kitchi-Gami are many, and their varieties make for an astounding diversity in the Great North Woods, but the winds of change are blowing and what they may herald remains unknown.

Saturday, 05 October 2019 20:55

Two Swans Named Spot

Far across the lower, marshy end of Pike Lake on Friday morning two swan parents shepherded their small family of four cygnets, too distant to be seen with the unaided eye. It was only when I looked through a moderately long telephoto that I spied them paddling along the grassy edge of the prairie. Even then they were hardly part of the story of the golden light illuminating the tones of autumn in the Great North Woods of the Upper Peninsula.

A focal length of 105mm, somewhere in the middle of short telephotoland, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted showing a fairly large arc of the entire marsh and wetland pond. An aperture of f/18 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 1/15th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

The swans named "Spot" are wholly coincidental to the light of a new day in the UP. They don't even provide scale, But they are certainly part of the larger tale that is the epic of these great forests and the creatures that dwell in and fly over them on their ways around the beauty we call Earth. They are reminders of what we are given to protect and what we stand to lose in the carelessness of our failed stewardship.

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