The oasis a mile and a half up Borrego Palm Canyon attracts many thousands of visitors every year, and, of course, people have been drawn to the spring and the palms for as long as there have been people. In the desert, water, and reliable shade, will do that. These are the native California Fan Palm, with their trunks buried in massive sheaves of old fibrous fronds, now found only in scattered oases across the dryer regions of Southern California (and as ornamental plantings in dry regions nation- and world-wide). Palm Springs and Twenty-nine Palms probably have the largest remaining groves, but, according to the information that Anza Borrego Desert State Park provides, the Borrego Palm Canon oasis is the third largest remaining.
Impressive as they are from a distance, when you get right up under them, they are truly amazing. These are big trees!
These shots are all at 24mm equivalent field of view, on the Canon SX50HS. Either Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Fill, –1/3EV exposure compensation or In-Camera HDR Mode. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Sunday afternoon my wife and I took a walk at Laudholm Farm (aka the Wells National Estuarine Research Center). It was one of those amazing fall days in Southern Maine when the sky conspired with the landscape to create drama wherever you looked. I have a bunch of interesting shots that you will likely see over the next few days, but this is the absolutely last shot I took there. We were back at the car and the sky and the touch of remaining fall color drew me up on the little berm that divides the parking lot in two. I leaned against a light post and took the 3 exposure HDR.
If it had been any other car in that corner of the parking lot it would have spoiled the shot…but the 67 Supersport (as identified by a car buff on the dpreview Canon forum) is just classy enough to actually add to the composition.
Canon SX50HS. Program with auto iContrast and Shadow Fill. HDR mode (takes 3 images and combines them in-camera). 24mm equivalent field of view. f5 @ 1/500th @ ISO 80.
Yesterday was one of those rainy, misty, foggy late fall days, when everything is wet, and the last colors of the season excel in depth, rather than brilliance. It brings out the colors of oak and elm and understory shrubs much better than a sunny day could, while the fog softens distance and keeps your eye in close.
Once the rain had stopped, I got out for a loop on the trail at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge headquarters down the road, just into Wells. I got there between banks of heavy fog, when the conditions were just right to capture the mood of the day.
Everything was still dripping wet, and any color burned against the foggy background.
With the fog-bound focus of my vision, details dominated, and foregrounds became the focus.
The maples with their sunlit brilliance had had their day…now the understory and oaks held sway.
I was experimenting with the Vivid setting on the Canon SX50HS, and, for this kind of day, it was perfect. It gave just enough extra emphasis to the colors so that I could produce an accurate visual effect in Lightroom…or maybe just do so with less processing.
All shots Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast. Vivid Color Space. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness, with my hyper-real preset.
And for the Sunday Thought. Of course when fall comes we miss the high bright days of summer. Even in fall, the days we generally treasure, in New England, are the days of wide vistas, bright sun, blue skies with puffy white clouds, and the brilliant reds and oranges and yellows of the Maples. But a day like yesterday teaches that there is a different beauty in the fogs of later fall. There are fewer and less brilliant colors, but every color deepens and draws the eye, and smaller and more subtle details take on life.
It is good to remember that the same thing can happen in the spirit. We treasure the peek experiences…the days of wonderful light and high spiritual skies when we see the brilliance of truth spread round us as bright as autumn Maples. But there is something to be said for those days when a spiritual fog softens and deepens the light…forces us to look close and look deep, to see the patterns of truth and beauty in the foreground of our lives.
Those are good days too. I expect we just have to find our own “vivid” setting…which I suspect must be there, somewhere in our spiritual menus, for just such days. I found mine yesterday. I only hope I remember where it is the next time the fog rolls in.
Much as I like the boisterous autumn symphony of the maples as they turn, I find myself giving ear to the more subtle melodies of the oaks that follow. Oak leaves mostly never make it to the deep reds and bright yellows of the maples. You see the reddest color in leaves just as they begin to turn, while still mottled green. From there to a solid more-brown-than-orange is a short step…and they are very soon a deep old-brass brown. Even then, in the right light, they show a touch of warmth under the darker skin.
And of course, when the light is behind, as here, you do see (or hear, to extend the metaphor of the title) what the leaf is really capable of. The orange rings like a bell, a single clear note in the autumn air.
I stood well away from the leaf and famed tight with a longish zoom…gotta love that bokeh.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. About 700mm equivalent field of view. f5.8 @ 1/160th @ ISO 80. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Sunday was a drizzly, darkish fall day, but that seemed to be perfect acorn harvesting weather, as far as our backyard squirrels were concerned. Three or four of them spent the afternoon finding acorns and burying them. The finding was not hard. We have the heaviest crop of acorns I can ever remember. Backing out of the drive way all you hear is the crunch and pop of acorns under the tires. We have drifts of them in front yard. But to the squirrels it seemed to be business as usual. Locate an acorn, run out into the middle of they yard well away from the trees, sniff the acorn well, and bury with a few swipes of the front paws. Over and over.
This is, in may ways, a quintessential fall shot. It was taken from the back door, inside, sheltered from the drizzle, at 1800mm equivalent field of view (1200mm optical plus 1.5x digital tel-converter). Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. f6.5 @ 1/160th @ ISO 320. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
And, just for fun, here is what aught to be the quintessential shot of a fall squirrel.
It has rained every day for the past 4 days. We got a glimpse of the sun yesterday before it socked back in, but it has been pretty dreary. We are approaching what should be the height of fall color, but the weather is just not cooperating. On Sunday afternoon, I grabbed my camera and an umbrella and drove out to Old Falls on Mousam River, pretty much in desperation. It looks like the milder rainy weather is actually delaying the full turn of the leaves. I would say Old Falls has another two weeks of color to show, at least. Unfortunately I leave on Friday for a 9 day trip to the west coast and Virginia. (Of course I will make the most of the trip…but I do hate to miss peak colors in New England.)
On Sunday, in very subdued late afternoon light, I found this fisherman all in yellow raingear along the Mousam above the falls. It started to rain as soon as I pressed the shutter…and I was wet before I got back to the car. Still it is, I think, an interesting shot. This is one that will benefit from a lager view. Click the image to open it on SmugMug in the light box.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. About 130mm equivalent field of view. f4.5 @ 1/80th @ ISO 320. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
This shot was taken the same day as the Tall Fall Pond shot, just a few hundred yards down the road at the second of the ponds that feed Back Creek. For this one I got down as low as possible to use the rushes in the foreground as a frame. I actually sat down on the edge of the pond since I wanted to use Program Shift to select a smaller aperture for depth of field, and every time I use PS, since I use it so rarely and it involves a combination of buttons, I have to figure it out all over again. Which two buttons?
I found it eventually (you half press the shutter and then press the control wheel as though turning on exposure compensation…logical in its own way), and shifted the Program to get an aperture of f7.1, which looked, on the LCD, to be enough to bring the foreground rushes into focus. Then I framed and shot.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. 24mm equivalent field of view. f7.1 @ 1/640th @ ISO 200. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness, using my HyperReal preset.
We are still at least a week, maybe two, from full colors here in Southern Maine, but the curtain is up and the show has certainly begun! A couple of days ago I set out on my scooter at lunch time, thinking I would go hunt the last of the dragonflies, but this sky immediately caught my attention, and I turned around to head for the coast and the Back Creek ponds and the Mousam river crossing, where I could catch the sky over a landscape. I took several conventional wide angle views of Pond #1, but as I am always just a little disturbed by having to cut to top off the tall pine on the right, I tried a two shot vertical panorama. This is two 24mm views stitched one above the other to catch more of the tree and more of the sky. When you do vertical panos the perspective issues with a wide angle lens are dramatic. Even if you hold the camera out and try to keep the image plane parallel to the scene you end up with a lot of vertical perspective distortion. Looking at the two images your immediate thought it that there is no way you are going to be able to stitch them into one. I am always amazed at how well PhotoMerge in PhotoShop Elements does the job. I know it is all math, but most of time it makes very intelligent decisions about which parts of each image to retain and which to let go, and how to blend the two. The layer maps before blending look like jigsaw puzzle pieces…but when it works (and it does not always work) it produces a seamless image. Like this one.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. Two 24mm shots. f5 @ 1/1250th @ ISO 160. Stitched in PhotoMerge in PhotoShop Elements. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness. I used my HyperReal preset…which is designed for scenes like this with maximum tonal range and bright colors.
Despite the weather app, which called for a partially sunny day all yesterday, it rained in the morning and we did not see any sun at all until after 2 in the afternoon. Even then, the coast was still under the cloud layer, so I headed inland to Old Falls on the Mousam River…hoping for dragonflies and maybe a touch of fall color.
Old Falls is my classic Autumn shot…with the rushing white water in the foreground and generally a smooth expanse of reflective water behind, receding into the flaming maples and the dark green pines. With the right sky, it is spectacular, and I will certainly get back the over the next few weeks to try to catch the colors at their peek (and the right sky .
Yesterday though was special in its own way. Though the trees are just beginning to turn, there was enough color to make it interesting. I parked and walked across the road to stand at the rail of the bridge over the Mousam for a picture, and there was this dog there, swimming in the water. As I watched, it climbed out and walked to the end of a point of rock and stood, or eventually sat, and watched the river flowing by. It must live in the house above the river on that side. It looked perfectly at home, and it was certainly unattended. No one was throwing sticks in the water for it to fetch. It was just there, right were it needed to be for my images.
I have several different shots, with alternative framing. You will probably see at least one more as the week goes on.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. About 280mm equivalent field of view. f5 @ 1/200th @ ISO 200. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness. More than usual work on balancing the light for best effect. Cropped slightly at the bottom for composition.
And for the Sunday Thought.
A couple of things actually. Shots like this continuously remind me of how dependent I am, as a photographer, on circumstance for my best images. I don’t say chance. I don’t believe in chance. If such encounters, such circumstances, are intended, then certainly our response must be thankfulness…even as we enjoy them. I nearly laughed out loud when I saw the dog there, framed in the first reflections of autumn foliage, perfect on his rock. I mean, what a gift!
I feel it every time I go out to take pictures, but, of course, the intention behind my photographic encounters must operate in every circumstance of my life. Sometimes that is harder to remember (and harder to appreciate).
Then too, I think that each photographic encounter, intentional as it is, is only as good as I make it. The dog, the foliage, the flowing water, the rock were all a gift. The images I made of them, and my sharing them with you, are my gift back…the tangible expression of my appreciation. The images depend on how well I respond to the circumstance. When I do well, and that is affirmed by the response of others to the images, then that just increases my thankfulness. It is a privilege to part of the intention…for in the end…the intention was not to show me the dog on the rock in the river framed in fall reflections…but to show how I saw it to you. It is all the gift. It is all a single flowing act of creation.
And now I am thinking how it might change my life if I could see every circumstance that way…if my first thought was, “What can I do with this to show my appreciation and make it a gift to others?” What if every interaction with the world around me were as intentionally creative as my photography? Words spoken at the checkout at the grocers. Every conversation on every car ride. Every trip to the post office or the mail box. Every phone call received and every ppt written for work. What if I could see every circumstance of my life as part of the flow of creation: see the gift in every encounter, turn it to gift of my own, and pass it on.
I think that might be what it means to be a saint. I have a ways to go yet, myself, but I see the possibility, in a dog on a rock in the river surrounded by autumn color and light.
Every spring I find a few of these flowers growing near one of the old bridges on the Kennebunk Bridle Path where it crosses land owned by Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge along the Mousam River. I can’t identify it. It looks so familiar, so like I ought to know its name. Again today, I have spent way too long looking…in my wildflower guides and on-line, but it eludes me yet…once more. I suspect it is closely related to Canada Mayflower and False Lily of the Valley, though it is not either of those. Canada May Flower grows further down the path in the more shaded areas, and the leaves are the wrong shape for False Lily of the Valley. There are a lot of flowery bushes right along there, including Barbarry, which I know is not native, so I have come to suspect it might be a garden flower left over from when the Path, which was, in fact, a trolley line connecting Kennebunk proper with Kennebunk Port at the turn of the century, was landscaped. But which one?
No matter what it is called, I love the delicate white flowers and the strong bold curves of the veined leaves, especially as they are shown off here in the spring sun. The sunlit brush in the background is, I think, just far enough out of focus to provide framing and balance for the strong leaves in the foreground, and the slightly radial lines of the dry plant stems actually draw the eye downward to the flower at the center. This is a ground level shot. I have a slightly tighter framing that focuses more on the flowers, but I really like what the light is doing in the lines of the leaves.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. 24mm macro, plus 1.5x digital tel-extender for the field of view of a 36mm lens, f4 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 125.
Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
And for the Sunday thought. I am not sure why it bothers me so much to have to post this beauty without a name. The flower is beautiful. The image is strong. It needs, I think, no apology. It is a thing of beauty in itself, whole. A name would not make it any better, or even any more complete. And yet, there is a vague sense that I am failing in my duty when I publish it without a name attached. And that is it exactly. I am not feeling ashamed at my ignorance, or my lack of diligence. We can’t know everything, and I have spent a reasonable (some would say unreasonable) amount of time trying to find out. And yet I do feel that it is part of my job as one who celebrates the creator’s creation to supply the name we humans have given this plant. As though that mattered. Strange.
I was thinking about language this week (probably in the shower where all my deep thinking takes place…I think the quality of thought in the world may have diminished in direct proportion to the conversion from bath-taking to shower-taking Words are really just our way of indexing experience and memory. When I say “Canada Mayflower” I instantly tap into a whole complex of connected memory and experience stored somewhere in the biologic cloud that is my brain, and going back in time to my earliest experiences. And now, today, it is so easy to type that name into the browser of my computer, and be instantly connected to the vast web of human memory and experience that resides in the digital cloud that spans the world, and reaches infinitely further back into time than I can go myself. But the words themselves, “Canada Mayflower” are just the index key that pulls all that information together. It is the way our minds work. It is the way we humans work.
Which is way I always smile when I remember that, according to the story that comes along with my faith, our first job was to name the animals (and presumably the plants, and even the rocks, too). It is our most inherent duty. And this is good, because the other aspect of the job is caring. We were to care for creation as well as name it. They are deeply linked in the way we are made. Both logic and faith tell me this is so.
This is a beautiful flower, I think, beautifully framed to share with you. But I still have the vague feeling that if I don’t care enough to know beauty’s name, then I do not care enough.