Winter Green

January in the Pacific northwest was wet, with over 8″ of rain; the average January precipitation is closer to 5 1/2″. That has made outdoor photography difficult, but I’ve been darting out between showers to a nearby park, hoping the rain doesn’t begin again before I reach my destination.

O.O. Denny Park isn’t far from home but it feels almost like another planet – a very green one, especially now. Local residents favor the park’s pleasant waterfront picnic and recreation area on Lake Washington, but across the street there is a deep, wet ravine dotted with tall, moss-covered trees and luxuriant undergrowth. The gurgling sound of  water from the park’s fast-moving creek stays within earshot as you walk a loop trail up the creek, across it, and back. There is a magical feeling here, a sense of stepping back into a place defined by trees, not cars.

1.

This month I’ve been inspired by the otherworldly quality of a landscape drenched in mist, mist that sometimes turned to rain as I walked, tempting me to run back to the car. If the rain is gentle the trees provide enough cover to wait it out; experiencing the changes adds to the pleasure. This week I was caught by a hailstorm. Ducking under an old cedar tree, I listened to the surprising clatter of tiny ice balls bouncing all about me. I emerged feeling frigid, with numb fingers and toes, but I’d been given a weather gift, and I was thankful.

Water is happy in the ravine; it stays and makes a home, decorating its domain with all manner of lichens, mosses and mushrooms, funneling its way up tree trunks and down them, too. Water speeds the rot and decomposition that smells so rich here, it makes tinkling stream music, it forces you to step carefully on slippery surfaces, it gives the Yellow Skunk cabbage all the oozy muck it wants, and sometimes – no, often –  it throws a hazy curtain of rain or hail over the lot, prompting you to squint, or maybe just close your eyes and breathe.

2.

 

3.

 

4.

 

When I first walked the paths at O.O. Denny Park, the landscape was so different from what I was used to seeing that I couldn’t take it in. I just gaped. As I walk the loop trail repeatedly, I see more.  I slowly prise the details apart and begin to see the patterns. The Big Leaf Maple thrusts moss-laden branches high into the sky for light, and each fall the maples drop a mother-lode of leaves. Because the leaves are huge and the forest is crowded with growth, many leaves are caught on the way down. There’s a pattern: caught leaves, decomposing in place.

5.

 

6.

 

7.

 

8.

 

9.

 

10.

 

11.

 

12.

 

13.

 

14.

 

15.

 

16.

 

17.

 

One day this week I tried to grab a window of time without rain, and made my way up the O.O. Denny ravine path, camera in hand. The clouds parted to reveal a rare glimpse of blue sky but it was a changeable day, and soon a cold drizzle began to fall. I paused and heard a ping, ping, ping. Soon tiny ice balls began bouncing all around me. I was transfixed. Bundled up in a down jacket and wool scarf but without gloves or a hat, I put my hood up and stepped backwards, taking shelter under a large cedar. The hail came clattering down. It coated the path in front of me white, it collected in furrows of leaves on the ground and in mossy crevices on trees, and it turned the ravine into a magical fantasy land.

Holding my camera under my scarf, I awkwardly reached for my phone in an inside pocket. With frozen fingers I composed a few pictures. Finally, the hail stopped and I set back out for my car, avoiding the muddy, icy puddles as well as I could. I was very cold and desperately wanted to feel that heater!

 

18.

 

19.

 

20.

 

21.

 

22.

 

More photos from O.O. Denny Park are here (Fall), here (Spring), and here (Spring).

The Photos:

  1. A section of the loop trail. Late one afternoon I noticed a tell-tale splotch of white on the path here. It was still wet so I looked up and sure enough, there was a Barred owl, staring me down from a perch just overhead. Not wanting to disturb the owl, I left the camera at my side, and enjoyed the opportunity for a brief, eye-to-eye connection across species lines.
  2. Bigleaf maples (Acer macrophyllum) form a tangle of green, enriched by abundant rain. The biggest maple in North America, Bigleaf has an affinity for mosses, ferns and lichens. Their lush growth on Bigleaf trunks and branches produces “canopy soil” full of nutrients. The trees can actually produce tiny canopy roots, taking advantage of the rich biomass, high above the forest floor.
  3. Flanking this Bigleaf maple are the gracefully swaying branches of Western Red cedar (Thuja plicata), a common northwestern evergreen. Given the right circumstances, these trees can live over 1,000 years and grow 230′ tall.
  4. The moss-covered tree is probably a young Bigleaf Maple; the orange leaves are Bigleaf Maple leaves.
  5. Somehow, a maple leaf was speared by this branch. It will probably hang here until it fully decomposes.
  6. Another maple leaf caught on a branch.
  7. And another – so precarious!
  8. A pause in the rain.
  9. A single Bigleaf maple can support several tons of “epiphytic material” – the mosses, lichens, ferns and associated bacterial and fungal species that live in the trees.
  10. Licorice ferns (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) take root in the moss on this branch. The trees in the background to the right are Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla).
  11. The Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) is a large, tough evergreen fern found throughout our area, up into Alaska, and down along the coast to southern California.
  12. Licorice fern has a similar distribution, and favors the trunks and branches of Bigleaf maples but will grow elsewhere.  A nibble of the rootlet yields a sweet, faintly licorice taste; the plant is used medicinally and for food. “Polypodium” refers to its habit of having many feet – growing from different points along a creeping rhizome.
  13. I believe this pretty lichen is Oakmoss, or Evernia prunastri. It grows across the Northern hemisphere and is used in the perfume industry in Europe.
  14. This fragment is typical of broken branches seen on the forest floor. It’s covered with a complex mix of lichens and moss, and I can’t identify a single one!
  15. Elegant Western Red cedars and sturdy Douglas firs create a cathedral-like atmosphere on one of my favorite sections of trail.
  16. These little bright gold mushrooms are probably Hygrocybe flavescens. They grow across North America; Europe has a very similar species.
  17. The Indian plum, or Osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis) is already budding! Soon their tiny, white dangling bells will punctuate the forest. They’re the first native shrubs to flower here, offering nectar to early foraging bees. Song sparrows and Pacific wrens are singing…it won’t be long.
  18. The hailstorm.
  19. Local forests shine bright green in January because of an abundance of evergreen trees, ferns, understory plants, and mosses.
  20. Hail pellets are gathered in a cup of maple leaves on the forest floor.
  21. The hail won’t damage these ground covers that are green all year.
  22. Along the path, the little ice pellets begin to melt and soak into the ground. In an hour there will be no trace of the hail, except for mud, puddles, and more water in the creek that makes its way down to Lake Washington, through the complex of bays, canals and waterways that divide Seattle in half, into Puget Sound, through the Straight of Juan de Fuca, and finally, into the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 


108 comments

    • We don’t get much snow, but this season we were lucky to have a pretty snowfall on Christmas Day, which everyone enjoyed. No shoveling, either! And if one wants to play in the snow, you only need to drive up into the mountains, which usually just take as hour or so. A little more space between showers wouldn’t hurt though.

  1. This is such a gorgeous album, congratulations.
    Everything so incredibly lush, even the lichens and fungi 13,14,16 look so exuberant and happy to be alive. Like a different era on this planet.
    I like the pattern of spores on the Licorice fern, like tribal markings. Licorice/anise/fennel have been growing on me (figuratively) I’ve come to enjoy that flavor, even in ouzo or akavit, in very small doses.
    These photos are great, but a special treat for those in the snowbelt

    • I’m enjoying your comments, Robert. You’d probably love walking through this park. Tribal markings is a great association to make from the spores, I love that. I never liked licorice as a child, but I love fennel and anise, mainly when they’re fresh. Go figure. Ouzo – I drank it once, at age 16 at a party for a Greek exchange student…I was far too young to appreciate it!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the green interlude – I hear you have more cold weather coming in, so it must be a timely treat!

    • I’m so glad you see the other-worldliness in these photos. We are very wet indeed, and it can be frustrating some days, but if I can squeeze a little walk in I can deal with it. I just checked your location – couldn’t remember – and I can understand the longing for green this time of year. But your wide open spaces can be so beautiful!

      • There is no perfect eco system, each has their flaws. Living on the prairies has been quite the adjustment for me, but there are things I have come to love. I look forward to seeing more of your amazing photos!

  2. pure magic…the colours….and yes i can feel the moisture…and those greens are really special…especially as i’m craving green right about now…so much to read as you compose such thoughtful and educational posts Lynn…i just wish i was there! smiles hedy 🙂

    • I hope it’s not too much to read, but then, you can skim! 😉 I bet you’re craving some green, but it won’t be too long now, will it? Or maybe you should hop a quick flight to Vancouver and I’ll meet you up there!

      • not for me i revisit your posts that part i love of WP…ahhhh yes there is an idea…just plotting a trip now…but i have relatives and friends in Van…so yes i will put that in my mind now 😀 smiles it’s lovely to read….

  3. I’m thinking we’ve had a bit more intervals of blue sky than you have. Perhaps it makes it easier to love those rainy, moisture laden days. But you capture the beauty of it so well. #13 great portrait of the lichen is likely my favorite in this series. #16 the mushroom is lovely, but too slimy looking to consider edible? A nice dash of color amidst all the shades of green. #19 A delight because you don’t often see the forest paths in white. #20 is definitively a very nice catch! 😀 Thanks for the luscious walk… (just try to stay warm and dry!)

    • I think you’re right, you’re far south enough that the weather’s a little different, though we get the same weather systems, I think. You know I have had trouble getting a decent photo of lichens, though I’ve taken many. I’m going to keep trying. I’m happy with #13 but I think I can do better. The mushroom was a little hard because it’s so small and it’s in a tight spot – I had to get into an awkward position and everything was wet. That species is identified partly by it’s viscidness, if that’s a word. Apparently edible but not good enough to bother with. The first photo wasn’t good at all and I actually went back and took another two days later (that’s when it hailed). The hail was amazing, and it was very cool to see it turn the path white. Thanks Gunta!

  4. I love those moss-covered trees! I’ve only seen them in photographs, mostly yours. I especially like how you dealt with them in photos 2, 9, and 10. I also really like the little nest for hail pellets in number 20. Good work, as usual, Lynn. Thank you for mentioning the gurgling of the water; I played it in my imagination looking at these photos.

    • #2 and #10 may be my favorites – thanks Linda! I had another that I know you’d like, but there were already too many….maybe I’ll send it to you. It’s a multi-sensory experience, being in those woods, and I wish I could convey the rest better, but I’m glad you picked up on it.

  5. Lovely set as usual, Lynn.
    We recently had contact with a barred owl. But ours was at night. It flew in front of our car and came to roost on a utility pole at the side of a busy road that runs along the city’s giant sewage ditch which is somewhat euphemistically called River Des Peres (it used to be a real river, once.) Perhaps the French appellation is retained in hopes of softening the smell…

    I would love to see those deep greens again.

    I too prefer places defined by trees, not cars.

  6. Love the orange touches in #4, which almost feels like a painting. #2 and #15 are other favorites. Have to laugh thinking of scenes like these I’ve seen on the walls of dental office treatment rooms. But yours are infinitely better and better found in galleries.

    • I though #4 had a more abstract quality, so I’m glad you picked up on that – maybe I should play with is and emphasize that more. And #2 is one I was excited about, so good! For #15 I processed more than the others, for the effect. I did a black and white of that one too, but it doesn’t fit in the post well. As for the dentist’s office, well, I know I teeter on the edge. There’s certainly good being done by any image that calms someone in a dentist’s chair. If I could put my work anywhere, I think it would be a place more public than either of those, someplace where anyone might see it. How about Grand Central? 🙂

  7. Pingback: Caughtumn | A Prayer Like Gravity

  8. Marvellous photos, dear Lynn! I love those with the high sharpness – they seem showing a texture rather than a wood. And that mysterious overall- moss! I never saw that kind before, like long beards still growing until everything is covered.

  9. Beautiful as always, but you transported me with this one, and I learned something new about a tree I thought I knew well. In your opening description, you invited me to look with fresh eyes at a landscape I see nearly every day. I was able to find awe in the ‘magic’ you described, especially in 2. I tried to imagine what this would look like to someone that lived in a desert and was astounded by the odd beauty that’s sometimes commonplace for me. Thanks! 🙂
    Also, I didn’t know bigleaf maples could send out tiny canopy roots and draw nutrients from the soil that moss, ferns and other plants trap when growing on them. Perhaps that’s how they manage so many huge leaves up there. We have one just over our fence, and the deluge of leaves is nearly unfathomable each fall. We kinda love it, but it’s a major undertaking to remove them all to keep our gravel driveway area from becoming a forest too. If you catch them before they’re wet, they provide that classic fall experience of giant, happy piles of leaves to frolic in, but if they get soggy it’s an incredible slimy mess – on it’s way to becoming soil immediately. Certainly amazing!

    • Sheri, I didn’t know that about Bigleaf maples either – I just read about the canopy roots when I went to get a little more information about the mosses they associate with. It’s such an amazing idea, isn’t it? They really are such special trees. Yes, the leaf mass is intense! #2 is the image I was the most excited about, the one that I thought began to convey the feeling of these wet forests, so I appreciate what you have to say. It means a lot, because I know you’re out there all the time and you love this place. That park is right in Kirkland, which is growing beyond belief, but there it is. There’s a 600-yr-old Doug fir there called “Sylvia” that has a powerful presence. The top half of it broke in a storm (says the marker) in the 90’s, but it’s still quite a huge tree. I can’t convey the feeling at all in a photo.

    • Subdued light is all we have! 😉 I fight with the darkness, but there it is, you just have to deal with it. The photos are noisy when you blow them up, but of course it’s not an issue here. The branch in #10 is fun, isn’t it? Crazy! We call them Seuss trees. That spot where I took #15 is very pretty; the trees tower and grow like statues along the path – it’s just a great place. Thank you.

  10. Looks like you have a mossy rainforest next door, even more than around here. Think I like #20 the best, it’s unique and the colors/patterns complement nicely. I also like 13 and 16, and the effects on 15 – it has that otherworldly feel that wandering in a forest sometimes gives.

    • It IS considered temperate rainforest. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, Dave. In #15 I did take the processing farther than I usually do, and your comment tells me I should do that more often. 😉

  11. The photos of the forest are surreal. They seem less like photographs than like fanciful illustrations for a children’s book: probably one that has equally surreal creatures lurking here and there.

    I dallied a bit in commenting because I wondered if anyone else would pick up on the ambiguity in your title. When I read it, I immediately tasted wintergreen: one of my favorite flavors. It’s not as common now as it used to be, but it’s still used. Apparently the plant thrives more in eastern than western forests; there’s a bit of information here.

  12. Beautiful pictures – we’ve also has a very wet (in fact record wet I think) Dec and Jan here – there seems to be no end to these Atlantic storms! I have four real favourites here – 9, 10, 16 and 20 – but all are good pictures and, importantly, they transport me to the place. A 🙂

    • I guess we’ve no end to Atlantic AND Pacific storm systems….but Spring is coming. Thanks for your comments, Adrian, much appreciated. And you’ve done a lot of work on those presets, which I saw briefly. I can’t wait to play with them, thank you so much.

    • Great, Louis, because that’s what got me going on this little project. I hadn’t had much luck photographing the greened parts of the ravine before, because it’s just so crowded with growth, but the mists seem to help unify the compositions. And they get the mood across. Have a good weekend!

  13. An other beautiful series! And I can find myself in: ‘the landscape was so different from what I was used to seeing that I couldn’t take it in. I just gaped.”. In an exciting, new surrounding I most of the time start shooting around like an idiot and then, after a while it’s better to put the camera in the bag for a while and start really looking around. Some time to get connected. And after that the shots will start to show more of the characteristics of the place…and then it’s fun to get to know each other better.. 🙂

  14. My goodness, these are so beautiful, Lynn!
    It is so nice to see some green. Here in NY, there is none to find right now.
    I especially love the fourth one here. It looks like a beautiful painting.

    • I keep forgetting you’re in NY – where are you? Upstate? The weather is milder year round here – there are already a few tiny flowers blooming, but it will be a long, slow process. The 4th photo gets some of that feeling from the fact that every little twig and branch was dripping with raindrops at the time. Thanks for your comments, Lisa. 🙂

    • No Cathy, I was desperate! Sitting at the computer does get old after a while, even if you’re enjoying looking at images. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the magic forest. I was there again today…little wrens were singing…

  15. Wonderful pictures of a “fantastic” world. It really is! All these trees with moss and lichens upon the branches. It reminds me of fairy tales and earlier times in the medieval, when woods were so natural. So beautiful!! The pictures with the fallen leaves are great (art of nature!) and I love the fern, very nice with the light in it (hey, light :-)! The yellow mushrooms look quite exotic. And as you said, some of the moss seems ‘acquainted’ to me. Did you use a filter for Number 15? It almost looks unreal. Great shot! Finally I love your detail-pictures of moss and lichen 🙂 You have a good camera for macros, right? How nice, you could go to your wet “rainforest” and take these photographs!!

    • It’s wet and mild every month except July and August here, so the moss and lichens and ferns just keep on growing. And that mushroom, I believe, has relatives that live near you! If I identified it correctly. For #15 I set the camera on the ground, and I made some big changes later, using Color Efex and Lightroom, to emphasize the magical feeling. You’re right, I was using a macro lens for some of those close-ups. It’s an Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro, it’s bright and sharp, and is for Olympus & Panasonic Lumix micro four thirds cameras. It’s been a really good lens and works well for non-macro, too. I went back to the park today with an old (vintage) lens I found online for a good price, one that requires an adapter and does not have automatic focus. It’s harder to use but it creates some interesting results. Thanks for being here!

      • That sounds good with the new lens. 2.8 is great! Mine is about 4.3. I don’t have a digital reflex camera. It would be nice to use other lenses and to have other pictures (I miss that from time to time that I can’t get “nearer”). Maybe one day…. Have fun with your equipment!! I am looking forward to the next new pictures 🙂

  16. Gorgeous studies, Lynn. I was imagining you hunkered sown with the hail coming down, and like a true artist, you kept shooting. 😉 Love your mossy trees, the hail and leaves, the drooping maple leaf. Really, the whole set is wonderful. Wish you could send some of that rain down the coast…I hate to tell you what the temps in SF are. Rather scary. And drying up.

    • Weather seems to be taking us by the scruff of the neck and giving us a good shake these days. You KNOW I’d be more than happy to do a quick exchange with you….but I guess we have to deal the cards we have. I’m glad you liked the photos. The other day I went back during a break in the rain (it’s raining again now) with a vintage lens I have to see what that would do. I think I got some nice images – it’s always good to experiment. Four are on Flickr if you want to take a quick look. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lynnwohlers/ Thanks for your input, Jane!

  17. Otherworldly indeed. I love the alien aspect of fog and moss-covered branches. You have an exquisite eye for detail which transports me into this fairy-tale landscape through the eerie gold mushrooms and uncanny lichen.

  18. Being cold intolerant, I found it amusing that you’d think that experiencing the hailstorm and finding shelter beneath that tree – was a gift! I suppose that I too might briefly enjoy the sounds, etc, but oh, it might have taken me days to restore my core warmth!

    The entire post was a joy; each image an amazing comfort to the eyes… thanks for sharing this unique park!

    • It was such an intense, interesting phenomenon to watch, and you know, not one you can schedule! So I do think it was a gift, even though my toes and fingers were completely numb by the time I get back to the car. Glad you enjoyed the post, Lisa!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s