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.

Chasing the Morning Sun

 

20160817-DSC_0013We are in late summer, here in Michigan, in the lower third of our mitten-shaped state. Julie picked me up last week at 6:30 – before the sun had risen above the line of trees that is always on the horizon at this dot on the map. We were hoping to find that perfect country scene; interesting subject matter, a perfect angle to the sun, and the morning mist hanging over the fields. We felt the excitement of finding this photographer’s piece of heaven because we had stumbled upon them before.

This was serious, maybe because we know the season is short and maybe our seasons are numbered. As we drove we talked about how it would be good if we could scout locations before our outings. But our landscape is pretty homogeneous, no distinct mountain peaks – just rolling farmlands. Those magic photographic moments happen when we are at the right place when the sun and clouds and land/air temperatures all come together to create that magic moment. We know the local terrain and have been disappointed many times when we went somewhere thinking it would all come together for a perfect sunrise.

20160817-DSC_0042We were feeling the pressure of getting to that unknown magic place before the sun got above the skyline. We headed south, then west so we could see the illuminations of the rising sun on the landscape, then south again, going down dirt roads, going much faster than our usual relaxing crawl. It just wasn’t happening even though there was rising mist in many places, the sky was mostly clear, and the fields have their late summer beauty on.

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And I realized that I wasn’t enjoying this mad rush to find the perfect experience. I don’t remember if I said as much, probably I did. In any case we decided to just stop because the sun was starting to shine through the trees and we maybe needed to let the joy of photography just happen within the situation we were given.

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I hear my inner voice saying, “Listen up, Pat. There’s a lesson here.” I am going through another phase of growing (old) pains. I have been thinking about all the dreams I had, the opportunities I didn’t take advantage of because I chose different paths. I’ve been thinking of all the opportunities that I thought may have been possible for me but probably weren’t – even under the best of conditions. I have been thinking about all those ‘could of, should of, would of’ experiences. I have been thinking too much in an attempt to find meaning in my current retired life. My mind has been rushing down dirt roads trying to find the perfect image to capture the meaning of my life. And in the process I forgot to enjoy the memory of what was and take a gentle, open look around at what is.

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It happened once again on last week’s photo shoot. When I stop driving towards the perfect ‘what if’, when I plant my feet firmly in the reality of today, when I take a deep breath and take in where I am at, using all my senses, I see the beauty of my now. But the fog hanging over last week’s fields reflects my foggy thinking about my life story. Do I believe in a God who had a plan for my life, who wanted to use me to make the world a better place, who still cares about me? Do I believe that I possessed an element of self-determination in the decisions I have made and can still make even though there are real limitations in what can be accomplished? These are existential questions, not questions that can be answered with scientific evidence. Although I have a mind that has been trained in scientific theory and I believe decisions should be based on a careful evaluation of scientific data, I am still a thinker. I still wrestle with the existential questions that can’t find resolutions from hard data – they need hard thinking.

I suspect I will be writing about these existential questions some more in the coming weeks. I just finished readingĀ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It awakened many of my existential questions and I plan on reading it again – at a slower pace while taking notes on my personal reactions to this story. If you are interested in reading/rereading it, maybe we can create a virtual book club by linking together our posts written in reaction to the ideas put forth in this novel.

Travel Theme: Misty

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Friend Julie is visiting and this morning we got up early so we could be on the road well before dawn. We wanted to get to the Everglades to see the sun rise over the grasslands, and maybe see some mist rising from the water. We stopped along the side of U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) to watched the sun rise as we listened to the birds sing and were lifted on the cool breeze. And there was mist rising.

Some of the grass is a reddish-gold color and the rising sun made it glow. This was a beautiful contrast to the white mist and the silhouetted palms and Florida pines. When we finished taking our photographs, we lingered because we knew our photos wouldn’t portray the whole experience. We wanted our souls to soak up the fleeting moments of early morning so it would always be a part of us.

To see more photos of “Misty” you can visit Ailsa at:

Travel theme: Misty

The Word this Week: Context

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I hurried to get to the Naples Botanical Garden this week because it was a foggy morning. The fog provided a very different context for observing and experiencing the garden. It was quiet, inviting me to also be quiet. The normally sunny garden with bright flowers and foliage was now shrouded in a blue-grey veil.

Familiar walks were softer, and more inviting in an unusual way.

Walk through the lily ponds.

Walk through the lily ponds.

And as the sun tried to break through this veil of mist, it created silvery water.

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The biggest surprise was the spider webs. They were everywhere, and probably always are. But this morning they were strung with crystals.

garden mist 085Two people stopped me to say there were lots of birds in the wetland area so I went in that direction. The lower water levels make these wetlands a popular place for the wading birds to fish. The fog produced an atmosphere of awe as I watched birds wade and skim the water as they moved from place to place.

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The fog created in me an increased understanding of, respect for, the grasslands being their home and I was a visitor. As a birder said to me as he pointed out interesting specimens, it is all about the water in southern Florida. Water is our context.

Sue, who posts her interesting photos and stories at A Word in Your Ear, posted the word Context this week. You can check out how others interpreted this work at:

http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/a-word-a-week-photograph-challenge-context/