Shadows Deepen, Colors Proliferate…

and the process of peeling off the layers of extravagant growth –

bit by bit,

leaf by leaf,

begins anew.

1. Wildflower seeds are released into the wind.

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2. A Bracken fern frond huddles in the embrace of a tree skeleton.

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3. Just one boat remains in the bay.

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4. Rain studs fallen leaves with galaxies of little lenses that magnify surface detail and reflect the sky above.

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5. Up in the mountains rocks and plants weave subtle autumnal tapestries.

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6. Face a different direction and the colors change. Soon it will all be under snow.

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7. Harsh mountain weather carves wood and rock into singular forms.

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8. A poisonous but beautiful Amanita mushroom emerges from mountain heather at 5600 feet (1707m).

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9. Orange safety fencing nabs errant leaves by the roadside.

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10. This human blends in with the mellow colors on the street.

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11. The final sunset of September glows gently over the bay .

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12. Empty flower pots gather Katsura leaves at a public garden, creating an unintentionally picturesque scene.

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13. Lace lichen sparkles like tinsel in the angled autumn light.

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14. Rose hips are ripening.

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15. Runners ignore the rain on a chilly October afternoon.

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Six of these photographs were made using a vintage Takumar lens with an adapter (#1,3,4,11,13,14,15). This lens is about 50 years old. It’s not as sharp as lenses made today and it has its own look – a little warmer and perhaps less clinical than current lenses. It’s harder to use because aperture and focus distance have to be set manually. The lens can flare and in high contrast situations it may produce purple or green fringing. In spite of these eccentricities there’s always the possibility for interesting surprises with this old lens, like the moody look of the first photograph. My version of the lens has a slight gold tint, which in my mind makes it particularly well suited for fall. The Takumar tends to sit in a cabinet for months at a time, then I take it out and get excited about it, shooting for a while until I tire of the limitations and go back to newer lenses that are more predictable.

A few of these photos were made with an older Android phone (#9,10,12) and for the others I used Olympus lenses. Whatever you use to make photographs and express your connection to the world around you, I hope you are enjoying your tools.

A Drought Paradox

 

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As we transition from summer to fall, the wild grasses are bone dry. Dead cedar boughs litter the ground; maple leaves are splotched with yellow and brown. Berries are ripe, and seeds are ready to spring from their tight confines. It’s been a hot, dry summer, quickening the transition to fall. The paradox is this: as dry leaves crackle underfoot and trees are losing leaves earlier than usual, I am saddened and worried, but the color changes all around me are so very beautiful.

 

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According to the U.S. Drought Monitor every corner of our state (and neighboring Oregon and Idaho) has been touched by the drought. Conditions range from abnormally dry to extreme, so maybe I should be thankful that our corner is experiencing  “moderate drought.”

The drought seems to be putting an early halt to summer, resulting in color changes that are paradoxically sad and pretty at the same time. Burnished golds, rose-tinged rusts, and ghostly pale greens mingle harmoniously, like polite guests at a dinner party.

 

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Many plants along the forest trails are covered with dust, spider webs decorate nearly every tree and bush, and crisply curled leaves litter the woods. Some forest patches remain verdant, especially alongside lakes where moisture lingers in the air, but I can’t get away from the evidence: drought has taken hold.

Fall color tiptoes in early.

I walk, I look, and I wait for rain.

 

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The Photos:

  1. So-called Himalayan blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) were introduced from Europe for fruit production, but got way out of control. They form massive, impenetrable thickets with thousands of berries that just sit there uneaten, because there are so many of them. In this case, just a few canes are working their way into a tree nursery outside La Conner, Washington. I thought the bright leaves and berries were striking against the soft browns and grays of the trees and grasses.
  2. A feather as plain and gray as this one is hard to tie to a specific bird. But did you know there’s a Feather Atlas to help identify North American bird feathers? This one (which I still can’t identify!) fell next to a trail on a bald on the western edge of Fidalgo Island. A fire ripped through here, damaging some trees and felling others. Look closely and you can see charred rock and burned fir needles.
  3. Beside the same trail a lichen-covered rock and a host of dried grasses compose themselves beautifully, without help or interference from humans.
  4. Near the edge of Fidalgo Island where cool, northern waters often create misty conditions on the land above, reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina) grows in cloud-like clumps. I’m careful not to touch it because it is brittle from the drought, and it grows very slowly.  I’m frustrated every time I see a broken clump but trails here usually avoid reindeer lichen growth to prevent damage from careless hikers. (I’ll admit I stepped off the trail to take the photograph, but I tiptoed across rocks and bare ground). This photo was taken with a vintage lens I just found at a local thrift store for half the price it sells for online. It’s a Super Takumar 28mm f3.5 from the early 70’s. I have another Takumar lens so I knew this one could be good, and the adapter to fit it onto my camera is easy to find. I’ve been out with it several times, and I’m enjoying it a lot.
  5. Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium or Epilobium augsutifolium) is a familiar sight in the Pacific Northwest. Called Rosebay willowherb in Britain, the tall wildflower’s magenta flowers produce distinctive, silky-haired seeds that float away on late summer breezes.
  6. The graceful shrub called Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor) often grows near water and bears sprays of creamy white flowers in late Spring. This specimen, on a hill at Cranberry Lake Park on Fidalgo Island, has a surfeit of pale green lichens growing on its branches. With leaves shifting from green to yellow to orange, dried, peachy-tan flowers and frosty green lichens, it was a striking sight.
  7. The cool blue-gray color of Stink currant berries (Ribes bracteosum) complements deep forest greens. I read that the whole plant is covered with glands that emit a skunky odor, but I didn’t notice it. I’ll have to check next time!
  8. At Mt. Erie, the highest point on Fidalgo Island, a species of Usnea lichen hangs from a tree whose leaves are losing their chlorophyll prematurely. Late day sunlight sets the leaves on fire, and fine web threads map a spider’s domain.
  9. A Bracken fern frond has turned dry and golden for lack of moisture at Sharpe Park, Montgomery-Duban Headlands.
  10. An attractive flower that hangs on well in a drought is Gumweed (Grindelia integrifolia). This patch, framed by two huge logs, is between a small bay and a beach, a fairly wet location. The photograph was taken with the “new” 28mm Takumar lens, late in the day.
  11. The forest floor is littered with fallen branches, leaves, wildflower seeds, fir cones, mosses, and lichens. Quiet colors create a neutral palette that emphasizes texture – one advantage of the drought.
  12. At Cranberry Lake a smattering of trees still cling to their defiantly bright green attire but in the distance, the rusty colors are from cedar trees that have died, probably from too many dry summers.
  13. An insect is resting on the back of this pretty leaf at Mt. Erie. I didn’t see it until I got home and looked closely at the photo. It’s not the first time that has happened!
  14. Another photo taken with the “new” vintage lens, in low light on the edge of the woods. These branches are mostly on Madrone trees. The leaves may be from a Madrone too, but I’m not sure. In any case, the funky curves of tree trunks, dead branches and leaves draw an intriguing picture together.
  15. Spider webs are abundant in the forests these days. These are on a cedar tree. There may be more on my clothes…
  16. The intensely colored, winged seeds of this ornamental maple beam with joy in the afternoon sunlight at a town park in Anacortes, Washington.

 

 

Brilliant or Subdued

I’ve been getting outdoors among the trees and taking photographs – what a change from New York!  November’s somber mood is settling in here, but October’s brilliant hues are still in the grasp of recent memory. Bright color continues to accent the landscape, fading to neutral day by day.

Photographing outdoors means responding quickly to the weather and light, and the varying moods they create together. Sun breaks, rain showers, a surprise snowfall – the changes are hard to keep up with. Just as I was getting comfortable with the brilliant foliage last month, I had to jettison my expectations of working with abundant, intense color. Shifting gears, I began to think about exploring the gathering dark and ways to express the quiet beauty of a threadbare landscape.

Here is a selection of images reflecting the season’s changes, from intense color to a restrained palette of lights and darks.

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These photographs were taken in and around Seattle, Washington, in the last month, using a variety of lenses and techniques.  For example, the blurred leaves (#2, #10, #24) were moving because it was windy, so I went with the flow and added camera movement too, using rhythmic, horizontal pans and a slower shutter speed. Then I processed the photos to enhance the abstract feeling.

I used a phone for two photographs – #17 and #18.  All processing was done in Lightroom or a combination of Color Effex or Silver Efex and Lightroom.

Seven photographs (#4, 5, 17, 23, 24, 25, 27) were taken with a vintage lens, an Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 prime lens (what a mouthful!).  I bought it online several years ago, and got an adapter to fit it onto my mirrorless camera.  Made in the 1960’s, the lens has a slight golden tint (which you can remove but I chose not to) due to a Thorium coating, which makes it a wee bit radioactive, nothing to freak out about though. It has bright optics and an almost mystically smooth rendering of colors and tones. It will flare (as in #25) more than a modern lens but that can add to the artistry, so sometimes I shoot into the sun with it for that reason.  It’s difficult to focus accurately (remember, the camera’s electronics aren’t connected to the lens, it’s manual focus) so there’s considerable guesswork involved, but the results can be worth having less control. Not knowing what the outcome’s going to be is part of the magic.  This video demonstrates the lens.

Locations:

Bellevue Botanical Garden, Bellevue, WA: #1, 6 (leaves with raindrops), 8, 15 (leaves with raindrops), 18.

Juanita Beach Park, Kirkland WA:  #2, 9, 10, 22, 26.

Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Isalnd, WA: #3.

Juanita Bay Park, Kirkland WA:  #4, 5, 23, 24, 25, 27.

Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA: #6 (Camelia flower, Crab spider), 15 (Bluestem willow branches), 16, 17.

Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA: #6 (Mushroom, probably Amanita muscaria), 21.

At home on my deck, Kirkland, WA: #7, 14, 15 (snowy woods).

Moss Lake Natural Area, King County, WA: #11, 12, 13, 15 (Maple leaf), 20.

Kirkland, WA: #18.

Wright Park, Tacoma, WA: #19.

 

 

 

 

 

RETURNING

Leaves drop and return to earth,

water cycles

back and forth, visible

as raindrops, then

not. Energy curls

inward.

The slow fade of Fall.

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Photos taken in and around Seattle, Washington. We’ve had the rainiest October on record this year. It’s great for the mountain snowpack, but….

THAT AUTUMNAL FEELING

Late October, early November:

rain-gray skies play tag with gleaming sun-breaks.

Dark branches drop paper leaves:

life pares itself

to a skeletal essence.

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These photos were taken at home, in parks, in a parking lot, and on the road, with my phone and my Lumix. I experimented with processing more than I usually do, using On1. The last photo was shot with my phone as I drove home from work one day last week. Moody skies are back…

TO THE FLAME

After rain.

The sun angles

for a November kind of heat –

and finds it

in

fiery

Japanese maples.

 

 

Fallen leaf

dries out

and rests.

 

The blushing pink skin

of a hybrid lily

sings of

anachronisms

in the fall garden.

 

Dainty Fuchsia,

sturdy Camellia,

winsome anemone –

all pretty,

but no match

for

blazing maple leaves

feathering the air

with garnet hues.

 

 

Swirling waters

at their feet

hold

fire.

 

High up,

a hummingbird

owns the territory. I have

just

the rear view – a ball

of shiny feathers,

stick-sharp legs

and beak.

 

 

Bellevue Botanical Garden, Bellevue, Washington.

Some plants:

Acer palmatum           1st photo

Acer palmatum ‘Elegans’  leaf caught in Miscanthus sinensus ‘Yaku Jima’ grass             2nd photo

Acer macrophyllum (Big Leaf Maple)           3rd photo

lily x Amarcrinum             4th photo

Fuschia ‘Margaret Pilkington’           5th photo

Camellia sasanqua ‘Hana Jiman’           6th photo

Anemone x hybrid ‘Honorine Jobert’           7th photo

Acer palmatum ‘Garnet’           8th photo

Rufous Hummingbird           last photo

 

RETREAT

Gusts of wind gave the trees a quick cut, blow-out and style yesterday. The mountain passes got their first snowfall of the season and trees really swayed up there, plunking boughs onto the roof and deck.  I enjoyed the drama except when the lights flickered. Out the window, a gray rectangle shines in the expanse of dull gold pine needles whenever someone backs out of a parking spot. A lot came down off the trees – soon it will look like November out there. I guess that’s appropriate!

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These are Big-leaf maple leaves. The photo was processed in Photoshop with the “cutout” filter.

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When I get in the car there are often pretty leaves and things stuck to the windshield.  Snapping a photo with the phone isn’t going to make me any later for work, or so I say to myself.

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As the light quickly retreats this month, I’m compelled to look for the last wildflowers still blooming in a hidden spot along a deserted rail bed. I have to pick some and bring them home. I just have to. The last bouquet, posing on the dashboard:

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 For my botanizing friends, Big-leaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum, is a West coast native with leaves 6 – 12 inches across – like a dinner plate. In this area it’s a common host tree for innumerable epiphytes – moss, ferns, lichens and who knows what else!  Here’s a photo from last February of a Big-leaf maple with a typically rich coat of mosses and ferns.

The late wildflowers above are humble ones: California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, which Wikipedia says flowers from February to September, (but we know better) and White Campion, or Silene latifolia. It’s native to Europe and Western Asia and North Africa but, like many plants, it escaped to the New World and it’s doing quite well over here, happily mixing with the natives.  Hmm…it’s been 19 months since I moved out here, and I guess I too am beginning to do fairly well, happily mixing with the natives…

Garden Chiaroscuro

I spent a few rewarding hours in my local botanical garden the other day.  Famous for rain, Seattle was clear and sunny;  the angled October light cast deep shadows on the brilliant stained glass colors of fall.

The back of this Dahlia was as joyfully pretty as the front.

A mushroom – looks like an Amanita – hid behind a fern frond.

We’ve had a lot of sun, but as always we are VERY mushroom-y here in the Pacific northwest!

The season’s last roses are so sweet – this one is a climber with a fruity scent and perfectly round blooms, some of which dropped prematurely onto the ground below, scattering lovely pastel petals.

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Oh, the complexity of fall color!

Grasses go to seed in shimmering drifts.

Hydrangeas were beginning to brown. With the color removed from the petals, the structure is revealed beautifully.

In contrast to the orderly structure of a Hydrangea petal, these leaves displayed a marvelous anarchy of form.

And this one had been caught mid way between limb and earth.

Another leaf burnished by autumn’s chiaroscuro light.

But it’s not all fall leaves and mushrooms.  There are straightforward floral beauties still to be found, the late bloomers, the brave ones who raise heads to waning light in defiance of cold and dark and the sure slipping away of leaf and flower….

The photos, many of which illustrate the idea of chiaroscuro, were taken at Bellevue Botanical Garden, Bellevue, WA.

From Wikipedia: Chiaroscuro (English pronunciation: /kiˌɑːrəˈskjʊər/; Italian: [kjarosˈkuːro]; Italian for light-dark) in art is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition.

VARIABLE HUES

What hue are you? This week’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge wonders how readers might reveal themselves via color.

These days I’m variable hues, reflected in the photo I took today.  Another day I may be the pure blue of an Yves Klein painting, or pale as dry sand in the dunes.  I remember a time when every night as I closed my eyes to sleep, a textured field of color flashed in my head – a shiny round of chartreuse, a densely shaded, rough earth brown, a rippled, floating, translucent pink. I don’t know what prompted the color fields, but each night I enjoyed that fleeting moment.      I was smart enough not to seek it, so the vision came and went lightly.

These days I rarely see those images, but no matter – color is a daily companion, intensifying sensory pleasure, carrying me along time’s winding ribbon.

Weekly Photo Challenge: “The Hue of You.”

Left to Their Own Devices

No gardener worked to create the strange song of the blues this leaf sings, alone on the wind.

No one designed this quiet intermingling of clinging lichens and springing moss, sharing secrets on a damp branch.

Ravaged to their core, grasses still bow and send soft arabesques into the cold.

And stalks of fireweed wind their wacky way to the sky, innocent of human intention.

I have no argument with gardeners or human intent though. I know –

with or without our intervening helping hands,

there’s beauty out there,

balancing

along with us

on the precipice

of the darkest day

of the year.

Photos taken recently at Juanita Bay Park, Kirkland, Washington.