Curves & Arches

Slow down!

I’ve been spending lots of time enjoying our 2014 trip down 300 miles of the Blueridge Mountain Parkway so when Cee announced her photography theme of curves and arches I was ready – I knew just the ones I wanted to use. The speed limit was 35 miles/hour on the Parkway but the road is so curvy that I dare anyone to go faster. It is a slow drive but not a problem because there is so much beauty to see along the way and interesting stops to make.

A double bonus: an arch & a curve

The Parkway was built as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal to get the U.S. out of the Great Depression and it helped many families get employment in Virginia and Nouth Carolina. It is an unusual National Park because it is basically a long road along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, sometimes only incorporating the road and shoulders with private property blending in with property that was bought by the National Park Service at other places. It really feels like an outdoor museum of the culture and heritage of this region. In one section where property was purchased, The Park Service preserved and rebuilt sections of the narrow-gage rail system that once took lumber down the mountain to the saw mills.

Narrow-gage rails going over a little stream. A small water fall is to the left of the frame.
Mid-October is peak color season at upper elevations. I have always described the maple leaf as having points, but obviously the outer shape consists of curves.
I said, slow down please. It is a long way down on my side of the road.

Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway – Squared

Earlier this year I was thinking that I would enjoy doing a little side trip on a portion of the 469 mile long Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway on our way south. It is such a beautiful drive but it would mean staying out an extra night and I have become pandemic anxious again after being exposed to the virus by a vaccinated friend who got covid-19 from an unvaccinated friend and having a 41 year old unvaccinated nephew die of covid-19.

The next best thing is to go back to photos from our 2014 side trip where we drove 300 miles of the Parkway. I get so much enjoyment from visiting these past trips that I decided to share a couple of my favorites for Becky’s October Squares.

Autumn is in the Air

Yes, autumn is in the air, not yet the riot of color we will have in a couple of weeks, but as I drive through the countryside I see the subtle changes that have taken place that say summer is over. My favorite places are the wetlands that have been left uncultivated. It is there that I get the first hints of each new season. Many of the small ponds are covered with thick algae and this color always brings a smile to my face. A daughter calls the green I love on my public room walls “pond scum green.” I have so many of these little memories of family life that bring me joy now that I am in the (late?) autumn of my life.

The colors of early autumn in these wetlands are subtle but taken together create a wonderful palette. Where I took these photos earlier this week, the goldenrod and white asters were scattered in abundance.

Most of the cattails were still their beautiful brown but a few were bursting with abundant hope for the future. Maybe I need to remember them when I hit those moments of “covid fatigue” and burst out my hope for a healthy and social future.

I moved from my favorite marsh and started roaming down the less traveled east/west roads, looking for scenes of autumn color. The color is mostly in the small bushes and wildflowers on country roads, although as we ran our errands in town yesterday, I saw many trees that were starting to color up.

Frequently sumac is early to change into its most brilliant coat of color. I found this one that is in the process of changing. Look at all the various colors – truly a coat of many colors.

I found some small patches of color that are “picture perfect.” I love when color and composition come together in a way that pleases my eye.

With all the small family farms in my countryside, the crops will always reflect our progressions through the seasons. Last spring was really crazy with unseasonal periods of heat and cold interspersed so farmers had a long period between plantings of corn fields. This early gap is being repeated this fall as some fields were harvested a couple of weeks ago and others are still standing, some even showing lingering green.

I had a whole week of fun putting together this post for Amy’s Lens-Artist Challenge: Colors of Autumn.

A Perfect Foggy Bottom Marsh

On Monday I decided that Wednesday morning I would go out photographing the fall color in the marshy areas along country roads close to where we live. I slept a little later (7:30) than I had wanted and almost decided not to go but decided I needed to go out even though the sun may be a little higher in the sky than desirable. I needed to go out because I hadn’t gone down early morning dirt roads since Julie, my photography partner, moved away two years ago. I’ve been afraid, I’ve procrastinated, I’ve slept in too late, I’ve decided to have a second cup of coffee, it was too hot, it was too cold. The bottom line, though, is I’ve been afraid to go out alone – and I’ve missed the times of solitude Julie and I shared. I’ve missed the joy of the hunt for the perfect subject with the perfect light, and hopefully the perfect settings on my camera.

It was a beautiful, cool (temp in low 50’s F), end-of-September morning with light fog and no breeze. There isn’t much color in the trees yet, just a few branches here and there, but the earth is definitely telling me that here, close to 45 degree latitude in the northern U.S., the vegetation is preparing for winter’s dormancy.

I was thinking this morning that I live in two residential locations during the year, southern Michigan and southern Florida, that were carved out of swampland. The first Europeans to walk this area of Michigan, mostly surveyors, described it as a mosquito-infested place that was uninhabitable. And the land I live on in Florida was raised up from the Everglades – a very wide (a hundred miles wide), shallow, slow-moving fresh-water river moving over grasslands, around pine, cypress, and Live Oak strands, and through mangroves along the ocean coasts. Southern Florida has so many mosquitos that they have a State Mosquito Commissioner and they have alligators. But these swamps are absolutely beautiful at all times of the year. I search them out and am working on capturing this beauty that I see.

As the sun got higher the fog dissipated, but I had plenty of time to fill my camera disc with the beauty that was feeding my soul. During the summer months photography becomes more difficult when the sun gets high in the sky but between now and early June the sun is riding lower in the southern sky and is soft and mellow.

I had a wonderful time on my first solo outing and plan on doing a couple more before we head south. My time photographing nature filled all my needs that I treasured with Julie, except I really missed her quiet, gentle presence and fun conversation. I also confirmed that I really love my mirrorless Nikon Z fc even though I don’t have a good zoom lens. I took my older Nikon along and used it to take photos at the spot that I took the photos for this post but realized I wasn’t as happy with using the camera and deleted most of the photos I took.

I continued down back country road for over an hour more, capturing color that I’ll be posting for the Lens-Artist Challenge. Stay tuned.

Falling of the Trees

This is my second post focused on trees during the four distinct seasons in the northern United States. The trees in summer and winter are pretty static – the deciduous trees are green leaved in summer and bare branched in winter. It is in spring and fall that the trees are in transition and change week by week, morphing into what they need to be in winter and summer.

Over the years we have vacationed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in late August and early September. By this time we are very tired of the steamy heat of summer, looking forward to the crisp cool air of fall and the vibrant colors of fall foliage. It is in northern Michigan that we see the first hints of fall color on a single branch of a tree. I look for these as we are traveling down wilderness roads.

The next step in this transition is the yellowing of leaves in the woodlands. This wooded site in Vermont was very familiar to my eyes looking towards fall.

Early September in Vermont

As the yellow leaves mature and start to drop, we begin to see hints of pale red and orange in the landscape.

Hidden Lake Gardens in southern Michigan.

Soon the oranges become dominate adding big splashes of color bordering the fields of corn that is turning golden and brown as it dries for harvesting.

Reflections in the mill pond close to our home.

Then the oranges and reds of the Maples intensify and the oaks start turning a dark red. My favorite scenes are combinations of evergreens and deciduous trees because the evergreens provide a resting spot for my eyes that are overwhelmed by the riot of color.

Of course there are trees that are doing things besides producing a wonderful color show. We have many apple orchards in our area of Michigan and a special fall treat is visiting an apple orchard for freshly picked apples that snap when bitten into.

And soon the leaves begin to fall…

Until they are all on the ground waiting ready to be collected so they don’t smother grass and perennial flowers beneath them.

The trees are left bare, with their wonderful skeletal structure exposed, indicating winter coming very soon after. But that will have to wait until the next post as part of Becky’s tree-square challenge for the month of July.