SEEING THE FOREST – AND THE TREES

It’s been rainy and dreary here, and from what I’ve heard the gray, wet weather is bothering a lot of people.   The weekend forecast showed a brightening trend last Saturday so I took advantage of it. Chores and errands be damned – I was desperate to get out.

We drove east across the valley and up through the Cascade foothills to Moss Lake Natural Area, a beautiful spruce and hemlock forest set around a small lake.

As the county’s description reads, it is “372 acres of high-quality wetland and forested upland habitats” with “an extensive 150-acre wetland complex” including a sphagnum bog, where peat was extracted in the past. Recently preserved, the land is surrounded by vast tracts of corporately owned forest, most of it regularly logged.

That may not sound good, but it’s better than the land being sectioned off bit by bit and offered up for sale to the highest bidder, as the suburbs push their way into the mountains. Just down the road another small lake is surrounded by houses. Here, the only dwellings are non-human. Most are hidden from view.

Raindrops clung to every branch and leaf on the shore of the shallow lake.  A squadron of Bufflehead ducks dove and swam in the distance.

The lake shore, with it’s grasses and line of tall evergreens, was reflected upside down in each drop:

It was broody weather, but it held! We spent almost three hours wandering around up there, with only occasional sprinkles to worry us. Lucky.

A well-maintained path winds through Western hemlock, Sitka spruce, Red alder and Big Leaf Maple woods – except when a giant falls and blocks the way.

Many trees in the wet Pacific northwest are covered with mosses and lichens. When winds are strong, the trees fling samples down to your feet for a close view.

Here’s a small branch covered with Usnea and Hypnogymnia lichens, mosses, and who knows what else. I love the lichens’ soft, cool green color and varied textures.

 

P1160297

A torn Vine maple leaf slowly disintegrates on a bed of Hylocomnium splendens, or Stairstep moss. One of my favorite Pacific Northwest mosses, it grows abundantly, forming soft, leafy mats on stumps or logs or any shady spot with decaying wood.

In certain places the woods present an incredibly complex scene in which patterns are hard to discern. I photograph it anyway. I know this isn’t a proper landscape with a clear focal point, but it does convey the chaos of patches of this forest.

In other places with little undergrowth and fewer species, patterns are clear: tree trunk, branch, moss, repeat. Just sprinkle generously with sword fern and voila! A less chaotic scene.

From time to time the sun shone through cloud windows, creating a neon effect on the moss clinging to the tree trunks.

A stand of hemlocks rose higher than we could see, their broken lower limbs pure sculpture.

This Big Leaf maple’s trunk arcs and bends to carve a light-filled space in the woods. Springing from the moss are graceful flourishes of Licorice fern.

 

Time to play. I set the camera to shutter priority and swung it around with the shutter open for one full second. It was refreshing not to hold on tightly to keep from blurring my shots. Blurring can be good…

I switch back and forth between the overall “forest” view and the closer “trees” view. The old expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees” may apply to me a bit, but I try to step back and get both views.

I like the way these turned out. It would be fun to print them up huge, but I suspect it would take plenty of tries before it looked right. Seeing images on a computer screen is so different than seeing them printed on paper.

On the way home we passed through Snoqualmie Valley again, taking the smaller roads. We stopped at an oxbow lake that must have once been part of the loopy Snoqualmie River. The snowy Cascade foothills shown blue in the distance, partly – and poetically – hidden by clouds. Mallards laughed heartily on the lake as the sun disappeared.


36 comments

  1. Absolutely magical, Lynn! I felt like I was in an enchanted forest that you had captured for a moment and shared the secret word to enter. Something about mossy woods gets me, And the light that filters through it, sigh. Thanks for making a gloomy day here brighter 😊

    • How nice. I’m glad you enjoyed it. These mossy and “lichen-y” forests around here are really amazing. Sometimes the moss glows like neon and the trees look like Dr. Seuss drawings. Have a wonderful holiday!

  2. What a wonderful day out, and gorgeous photos to document it. I love all the lichens and mosses in Pacific Northwest forests! As for your chaotic picture with “no focal point,” I say “rules be damned!” I love that photo because it gives us a real sense of the wildness of the forest. I also love the hemlocks with their bare lower branches and all the closeups of the lichens. Happy holidays, Lynn!! 🙂

    • So I’m glad I said something about the photo without a clear focal point, and the why of it, etc. It looks almost tropical to me, that one. Glad you like the lichens, too – I think we have very similar visual taste. Enjoy the holidays – not white, but warmth can be good, right?

    • But that’s how I feel, and we’re pretty far north, too, so we have very short days and dull light. But then a day without rain comes and you MUST get out, and you do, and the rest is forgotten, mostly, because you find ways to adapt. When I think how you’ve adapted to street photography, with all the limitations it imposes, I know you can find the thrill there, somewhere.

    • The greens are very, very rich. Sometimes I notch down a bit on the saturation or the vibrancy in post processing! But the lichen greens are more like desert colors aren’t they? And I love those.

      • Yes, the lichen colors have a sense of the “sun-faded” to them…a little softer on the eyes amid the wonderful and extreme greens up there.

  3. Really love that “chaos of patches” – incredible how much diversity there is in one small space, so drawn to that!

    • The general rule is, the more north you go, the less diversity there is, species – wise. Maybe that’s why that shot reminds me of the tropics. It’s good to hear from you –

  4. I love the jumbly forest viewLynn I have a sense of the dapmness and picking my way through it all raindrops hitting the back of my neck as i hunch under another branch or fern . .. it’s so hard to stick to the path in a scene like this 🙂 Always on the hunt for something … quite what I’m never sure .. a mystery .. a gem ..
    Now I know the names of those grey green lichens I’ve come across too I should try and remember them . Obviously I wont’ Lol . A lovely day out forgetting those chores and always there- to- be -done- things . Good for you making an escape !
    Wishing you very Happy holidays dear Lynn x

    • I won’t remember the names either but I enjoy looking them up. My fav is one that only grows in really wild, clean, unpolluted places. On this walk there’s a yes draped in long thin skeins of our, all wispy and mysterious. But so far impossible to photograph because it needs a plain background, so you can see the lichen. In the American deep south, Spanish moss has a similar effect but is more tolerant of dirty air so everyone gets to see it often. This one is a prize when you find it, I think.
      And yes, we wandered off path a few times, when we could. Maybe someday we will wander off a path together!

  5. Apologies for my lateness, Lynn – but then, if I’m honest I’m always late! Especially really love the second image down here – wonderful, dreamy stuff! Hope 2016 will be good for you. Adrian


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