Autumn’s Quiet Radiance

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Continuing the autumn woods theme from last week, I returned to Moss Lake and O.O. Denny Park for more photographs. In some of these photos I steered towards a more impressionistic look, either when shooting or in processing. Maybe that forest magic is getting into my brain.

  1. Dead leaves on a Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata) glow like pewter in the late afternoon light. The two cedars of the Pacific northwest, Western Redcedar and Yellow Cedar, were tremendously important to early people in this area, supplying materials for transportation, shelter, tools and clothing. The Western Redcedar (not a true cedar) can attain a huge size and live for hundreds of years before falling and returning its nutrients back to the forest, where it will continue taking part in the long, winding thread of life.
  2. Layers of leaves: rust colored Big Leaf Maple leaves (Acer macrophyllum) and little Red Huckleberry leaves (Vaccinium parvifolium) mingle on the forest floor.
  3. Big Leaf Maple leaves can grow to 10 inches across. When they fall they often are trapped in tree branches before they can reach the ground. Clumps of moss can fall in storms and be caught in branches too, which is probably how this healthy clump came to rest in such a small tree. Mosses like this specimen, probably Douglas’ Neckera (Neckera Douglasii) can get all the nutrients they need from the air and rain.
  4. Another maple leaf is caught in a Red Huckleberry tree that still holds on a few leaves itself. I gave this image a flat, graphic look to accentuate the shapes and colors.
  5. Another leaf – you know what kind now – caught again.
  6. A maple leaf has fallen onto a clump of Sword fern (Polystichum munitum). Sword fern is a large, tough evergreen fern that grows prolifically in the Pacific northwest.
  7. A slowly decomposing stump, probably a Western Redcedar. It may have been burned long ago and bears evidence of woodpecker excavation. For how long will it continue to nourish the community of plants and animals around it? Research shows that this species has lower rates of nitrogen release than other trees in the same area, such as Douglas fir. But I have no doubt that every cell is valuable in some way – in fact, the tree stump may be nourishing you, if you enjoy the photo. It’s all part of the big dance.
  8. This log has a relatively thin covering of cedar leaves and mosses – maybe it fell only a few years ago. Many plants will take root on its surface as time passes.
  9. If you look very closely (slightly right of center), maybe you can see little lichens under the bits of moss on these branches. One lichen looks like Forking Bone (Hypogymnia inactiva). I read that the “inactiva” doesn’t mean this lichen is lazy, rather it means it doesn’t have the chemical reactivity of some of its relatives. And “Hypogymnia” refers to a naked underside. Make what you will of it!
  10. A tree that fell across a path was cut up and left to decompose. Sections of the wood bear pieces of Lungwort lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria). Three kingdoms of organisms symbiotically unite in this lichen: an algae, a fungus and a bacteria. Lungwort lichen is widespread, ranging across parts of Asia, North America and Africa. In Europe this lichen is declining. In our area it is associated with humid, old-growth forests. Sensitive to air pollution, the Lungwort lichen typically reproduces asexually, but after 10 – 25 years it may also reproduce sexually. Who knew lichens could live so long, and be so versatile?
  11. The flip side of our long-lived Lungwort lichen. People have used this plant for dye, in tanning, and for medicine. Moose and goats are known to dine on it and wild sheep probably eat it, too. The lungwort name arose, like many plant names, from an observation that the plant resembled something else – in this case, human lungs. It followed that lungwort lichen was used for lung ailments (as was the spotted-leaved perennial plant named Lungwort). Recent research has shown that L. pulmonaria has anti-inflammatory and gastroprotective properties.
  12. Bright yellow leaves fall into a roadside stream. I can’t identify this plant but it was striking. The green leaves are the invasive Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor), an Indian introduction by way of England that is abundant here.
  13. Specimens of Big Leaf Maple covered with mosses and Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza). Moss growth in the Pacific Northwest is luxuriant thanks to our wet, relatively mild climate. The spongy mats seen on these trees have taken decades to grow. An average mature Big Leaf Maple holds 87 lbs (35.5 kilos) of epiphyte biomass – moss, lichens, ferns, etc. That’s almost four times the biomass of the leaves! All those epiphytes are hard at work, gathering nutrients from the air and rain (and the occasional bird dropping), keeping everything in circulation.
  14. A Big Leaf Maple is the setting for two of our common evergreen forest ferns, Sword fern and Licorice fern. The seem to rejoice in the misty weather, holding their fronds aloft. Licorice fern’s rhizome – the root-like appendage connecting the plant to the tree trunk – really does taste like licorice; I’ve tried it. The plant was used medicinally for colds and sore throats by First Nations people in British Columbia.
  15. The rain has stopped but the humidity remains. Our rains tend to be the off-and-on, light, drizzly kind, not downpours. So far this year we’ve had about 42″ of rain, almost 10″ above normal. Rain down here means snow in the mountains, so Seattle skiers and snowboarders don’t mind all the precipitation. The plants like it, too. As for me, I’m ready for a string of dry days, but I’m doing my best to appreciate wet weather!
  16. Raindrops sprinkled across dead twigs, probably a Western hemlock.
  17. 18. & 19.Β  Red Huckleberry leaves are among the last to drop. They make a pretty, glowing haze in the woods.

60 comments

  1. forest magic is getting into my brain…they are magical spaces and you’ve captured the light it is soft and rain drops…i feel the green and moisture…well i wish we have forced heating so it’s beyond dry here…i hope one day i can live in humidity…i appreciate your botany knowledge…have a happy night ~~~~ many smiles hedy πŸ˜€

    • We do live in very different kinds of places, don’t we? Funny, because it doesn’t get below freezing very often at all here, many places, including ours, don’t even have central heat – we just have a blower in one area and baseboard in the smaller rooms, nothing in the bathroom. And it isn’t even a very old building. Next time I long for better heat I’ll remember what you said. πŸ˜‰ Have a good one, Hedy!

  2. Wonderful photos, and thank you for taking the time to write up the notes, I’ve never been in the northwest woods, it’s all very interesting. The amount of biomass on a big leaf maple is like that kid’s story, Dr. Seuss, Thidwick the Moose, who ends up ferrying all the creatures in the forest on his antlers.
    If I was searching for a cough remedy, licorice fern sounds very attractive, while that lung wort looks a bit menacing and alien, whether the sea lettuce top or the scaly underside. The mosses, on the other hand, look pretty happy and bristling with energy.

    • Ah, I’m so glad you appreciate the notes – it IS a lot of work, but I always learn something. Dr. Seuss trees is what we’ve been calling Big Leaf maples for years now, ever since we saw a particularly moss-laden ravine full of them. It’s on the side of a hill and stays wet. The woods here are very magical, appropriately reminding you of that story. I have to say, chewing Licorice fern ain’t that great, but maybe I should try again. That lichen is really, really cool to see – it’s quite large. They call the group foliose lichens, for obvious reasons. But I don’t think I’d want to eat it either. Thanks for your comments, Robert!

  3. #7, #13, and #14 have an almost painterly or illustration quality that I like. In #4, the flattening effect you used isn’t at all apparent and might explain why this is another of my favorites. Vignetting too?

    • There’s vignetting – either darker or lighter – in almost every photo, it just got a bit heavy handed in #4! πŸ˜‰ The others you mention, yes, I was going for that, using mostly Color Efex, playing with different ways to use Tonal contrast, Classical Soft Focus, Darken/lighten center, Detail Extractor, etc. etc. And I pretty much always make a few more adjustments in LR. I never got comfortable in PS, which I know you are, so I’m thank fol for the ease of using Color Efex..

  4. You make it difficult to pick favorites but, after spending considerable time looking at this group (time well spent) I’m picking 16 and 18 as my favorites. I’m also picking #11 as my emergency backup favorite (just in case). Nice work, Lynn.

    • Emergency back-up! πŸ™‚ I get excited every time I see one of those lichens in the woods – they have to fall off trees for you to really see them well. I was happy with the way the branches floated in space in #18 so I appreciate that you like that one. Those leaves are probably just about gone now. Less than 3 weeks to the winter solstice! πŸ™‚ Thanks!

    • Thank you Evelyn, and I’m glad you keep painting….I am still putting off picking up a brush, but it will happen, and you’re keeping me pointed in the right direction. πŸ˜‰

    • It’s taken a while for me to really “get” the beauty of this time of year. But it’s true, there’s quite a lot of magic in the forests here. But we’re planning another desert trip – to the Las Vegas area – so I can keep my desert eyes in practice, too. After January, we’re clear about how lucky we are to be able to do that, right?

      • Not in the city much, but spending nights there because you can get package deals with flight from here at a reasonable cost. Planning to see Death Valley for, hopefully, two days, but it’s a long drive. And Valley of Fire, which is on the other side of Vegas, and Red Rock Canyon, which is close by. There will be almost no time for the city! πŸ™‚

  5. Forest magic in your brain… I like that! Always hard to pick favorites, but #1 grabbed me right from the start as did #4. Liked the color purple in #9 whether real or enhanced and #18 just made me want to dance! Thanks for the lovely meander through your vision.
    We’re planning a trip to the SW (NM rather than NV though) about January (we get the new camper in about a week!) Come May we’re thinking perhaps heading up toward your neck of the woods! Much yet to be decided.

    • I’m really glad you liked #1 – that’s one of those photographs you can’t really plan on getting, it happens. That purple was not enhanced, in fact it looked so unreal, I toned it down! πŸ™‚ I like the idea of #18 prompting a dance. New Mexico sounds fabulous, in the new camper, whoo hoo! And it would be great to see you up here….thanks Gunta!

  6. Lovely images, my friend. And my favourites are in three areas. First there’s 1, the opening shot – and I’m blown away by the out of focus highlights, the silhouettes, the out of focus trees – in fact there’s not a lot of focus here at all, but its a super shot. And then the symmetrical greens and sawtooth leaves of 6. And finally the last three, 17, 18 and 19, where I simply LOVE the pale leaves and the purples. Great stuff! A πŸ™‚

    • So glad you liked #1, it was made with a good deal of luck! Sword ferns (#6) are a defining feature of northwest forests so one has plenty of opportunities to work with them, and eventually get some decent pictures of them. Those last photos were taken late in the day in dying light, with a lens that is very bright. The colors are pretty much what they were at the time. Thank you, Adrian!

  7. Marvellous, wonderful, charming, delightful πŸ™‚ So beautiful !! When I saw your photos I had to think of paintings. Painting with your camera ! I like your sense for the tender and fine details of nature !!!! You have the ability to put the smallest and elementary things with your pictures into our hearts. And I love your forest: so much moss and lichen. I love moss. It must be a very wet climate. The trees look wonderful fairylike. (I hope this makes sense, so I am very tired now and my English is already asleep, haha !! Good night πŸ™‚

    • πŸ™‚ I enjoy reading your comments! Your English is fine (it’s allowed to sleep, too)! I’m really glad you enjoyed the photos, and yes, it’s a very wet climate here. We are wet about 9 months, and bone dry about 2 months (in summer) – strange! It’s taken me a while to get used to it, after the east coast, which is very different. I love moss too, and lichens, so it’s nice being here, where the moss is thick and the lichens are abundant, and there are so many kinds of both.

      • Oh, that sounds very wet. So do you have a lot of rain or just a lot of humidity ? So you live in the moss-wonderland πŸ™‚ Thats nice. I love the pictures of your ‘wet forests’. They are really special !

      • We do have a lot of rain, and it tends to come down as a steady drizzle rather than a downpour. It can be cloudy for many days in a row here – that’s the hard part of winter. Humidity comes with the cloudy, rainy days of course, so it’s humid all winter, but not hot. When we have more heat, it’s very dry – that’s a blessing!

  8. I’m especially fond of photos ten and eleven. (I do like that you’re numbering them.) The two sides of the lungwort remind me of two sides of a butterfly’s wing. Never having paid much attention to butterflies in the past, apart from their fluttering, it’s been quite a revelation to discover that the ventral and dorsal sides of their wings can be so different. It seems I’d best begin similar examination of plants — all while singing “Both Sides Now,” of course.

    Unaccountably, the maple leaf in the fifth photo reminds me of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

    • #10 & #11 – did you see Steve’s comment? So funny. I think that’s the botanist in both of you, responding to the lungwort lichen, and I do appreciate it. The butterfly wing analogy is perfect; undersides of butterflies are so interesting. That maple is pretty sad, isn’t it, but somehow a bit poignant.

    • Exactly. Although as you know, winter never quite takes over here, not like it does in so many other places that are this far north. And we’ll be escaping next month to Las Vegas, to explore some canyons and parks in the area. So in the meantime we find what beauty we can.

  9. Ahh, moss… a pleasure to get a nice dose of it from your photos :-). I love the juxtaposition of the large maple leaves and small huckleberry leaves. I don’t think I’ve seen Lungwort lichen before. Very cool looking, both the upper and under side. Thanks for including the interesting info about this lichen too.

    • Wonderful! I’m glad you enjoyed the photos – that lichen is one of my favorites. I always get excited when I see a piece that’s dropped onto the ground. Thanks for stopping by & commenting!

  10. What I love about these is that they are things that we might just walk by but you’re saying β€˜stop, look, see’. And you’re right there is wonderful beauty in all the things we walk by. At least that’s the story I got from it and I’m sticking with it πŸ™‚

    If I had to choose a fave it’s number 2….like a dream.

    • Yes, and if I remember right, I think that was the last of it. The days are short, we have lots of hills, the forest is dense…so, sunlight on something near the forest floor is beautiful right now. πŸ˜‰ Thanks Dave, I appreciate your stopping by.


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