Archives for category: nature

Sometimes words aren’t necessary. This sky speaks for itself.

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Growing up, I lived out in the country. The only light on warm summer nights came from lightning bugs. I never even heard the words “light pollution”. It was a special kind of paradise, though I didn’t realized it until I grew up, moved away, and looked up into a field of darkness overhead. It was as if the familiar blanket of stars had been covered by a blackout curtain from WWII. Only this one was so all encompassing that it blotted out the entire sky.

Memories of a completely unobstructed night sky are with me still, vivid and personal. From the time when I had grown enough to be outside by myself, chasing butterflies by day and lightning bugs by night only to marvel at their wonders, I would often come to a halt in the driveway, where a big patch of night sky was unobstructed by trees, stand still, look up, and up and up.

I wouldn’t discover science fiction for several more years. Much more time would pass before I even thought of writing…anything. Even so, I was drawn to the stars. Instinctively, I felt a kinship. A sense of belonging to something beyond my house, the farm it was connected to, the greater wide world of continents and oceans. Even the big, blue daytime sky. There was up, and up, higher, higher still, and then there were stars. Oddly, I’ve always been aware of all of that up, up, higher, highest nature of the sky. Even in full daylight, I knew there was more I couldn’t see, but that patience would bring back to me when the sun disappeared and blue turned to black. 

Unfettered starlight seemed like magic to a little child. On a clear night, the entire field of vision available to an up turned face is sprinkled with light that appears along a range from dust to nearly opaque white swaths. Maturity brings with it the understanding that the most dense parts are what we can see of our own Milky Way. Imagine…the miraculous naked human eye can perceive the edge of our galaxy, though our minds can hardly take it in. Glorious is a word I learned to use early in life, just from the simple act of looking skyward.

Though I’m in a place less isolated now, I still find myself pausing after getting out of the car at night. Remembering those childhood hours spent standing still, tilting back my head…staring and staring, drinking in my fill of the knowledge that I was watching outer space, filled with wonder and awe, again I pause to stand beneath the black and silver and gold of the heavens. 

It’s different here, but a dedicated dreamer can use a hand to block out an interfering streetlight and see as much as there is available. Much of the Milky way is lost to me, but Orion is with me still. I’ve seen comets and the occasional meteor. There is enough of vast star filled space to thrill me and rekindle the particular sense of awe borne only of staring long and hard and deeply into the star sprinkled darkness that’s always above us, even when our own personal star shines so brightly that no other light can compete.

I started thinking about those childhood nights of stargazing accompanied only by the sound of my own breathing and the rustle of wind through cornstalks, when I came across this awesome article that gives the best, and certainly most eloquent, directions for stargazing I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share it, so it may help others looking skyward find their way through the outer reaches of our home.

One of the best things about modern mobile phones is that since the phone is always with us, so is its camera. No more groping in the glove compartment for the digital camera we vowed to always carry, but didn’t. Easy access to a decent camera, means easy access to the constant show put on for us by whatever piece of sky we happen to pass beneath. 

Here are a few moments I’ve captured while out​ in the car:

At first glance I thought this was a single beautiful rainbow’s end. By the time I stopped, grabbed my phone, and got out it became clear that it was double, and possibly becoming triple.The lowering sun made the colors and the winter wheat as well look almost neon. It doesn’t always take absolute sunset to bring vivid color to a late evening sky.

This firey sunset looks more like the skyview of another planet than a mere earthly skyshow. Arresting and irresistible​, it’s one of my favorite inland sunset images I’ve ever encountered.

Here we have one of those cloud formations that looks like an animal. A shark, no less. Beautiful. And a bit scary, once it registers that it looks like it’s on fire…and has wings! The stuff of nightmares, or dreamy dreams, depending on the disposition of the person who looks up to see it.

The almost sunset sky angled light on this contrail for a hint of color. A pale pink javelin, to the imaginationally gifted, instead of an everyday occurance above our heads. 

Sometimes a phone’s camera isn’t quite up to capturing what the discerning eye catches sight of. At first glance this wide view appears to be simply the moon against a cloud scattered blue sky. However, if you enlarge it a bit, you’re rewarded with a vision of Pac Man riding an almost dolphin shaped cloud.

Our sky is filled with wonders. If we’re lucky we can catch random moments to revisit at the tap of an app.

Last week I heard on the news that a lake not too far away had frozen over. I remembered going to see it during another frigid blast and decided to go again. Not only did I want to refresh my memory about how beautiful it was, I also thought it would be a great opportunity to gain some experience with my new DSLR.

I hadn’t been there often since I was a child. Back then we went every year for a family reunion picnic, and sometimes just to walk around and enjoy the water views. So, of course I took a wrong turn and wound my way around the entire lake, before eventually arriving at the familiar picnic site. I stopped to take pictures of many beautiful spots and intriguing details as they appeared.

Farther out the ice was smooth as glass, as seen in the image above.

Close in it was made up of a giant sheet of circles. The surface of individual circles was concave, which gave large areas a rough textured look.

Along the shore thick ice settled on various types of vegetation. As time passed, it grew brittle and shattered. Shards resettled to make new formations that could look like milk white broken glass.

Trees near the water wore ice dresses that seemed to flow and freeze, according to the direction of the wind, until the rippling mass was captured in place like vertical waves.

Reelfoot Lake was formed during a series of massive earthquakes, in 1811 and 1812, when this huge area of land collapsed. The Mississippi River flowed backwards to fill in the depression and the lake is the result. Cypress trees like the one above are the tops of the original trees jutting out of the water. The cypress knees capture the ice and make a platform for it to build into oddly shaped clumps.

The bases of the cypress trees near the shore look like the feet of some animal not of this world, dipped in ice and frozen in place to await the coming thaw.

I’m very pleased with how my camera performed. It’s a real pleasure to use, though I’m sure I’ll be discovering new aspects for a long time. It was nice of Mother Nature to provide me with such a gorgeous subject to start my DSLR journey.

My Moto Z Play takes decent video, so I’ve been experimenting. Honestly, though, I got a Nikon Long Zoom late last year that’s even better and I don’t remember which one I took this with. I got out of my car last spring and noticed the soothing ripples water dripping off the edge of the roof was making in a puddle. The dripping sound, the birds singing, along with the green grass and little wildflower made it a charming micro scene. Fortunately, this particular nine seconds didn’t manage to capture a dog’s frantic and intrusive barking. I’m working on holding the camera perfectly steady, but I think this is a pretty good job for a newbie. 

​These were taken on Friday a few miles from where I grew up. It was dusk, when the sky is still clear blue and the shadows lay interesting patterns across the fields. Mere minutes later true twilight falls, and the world is not quite dark, yet not still light. Then the sky often turns so deep a purple it’s almost black. Crickets chirp, frogs croak in dying ponds, and small animals rustle leaves in low lying brush. 

This is my favorite view from this area. Right below the sun, a few miles away sits the farm where I grew up. I can stand there and look away toward the place that is the home of my heart. It’s a fascinating kind of landscape. Just beyond the back fencerow, if you enlarge the image you can see a small bright green spot. On close examination, it becomes a crop covered steep hill. The general area is like that all over. Very flat land, rubbing shoulders with surprisingly steep hills. Far from being mountains, these hills still add texture and beauty to what might otherwise be bland flatlands.

Sweeping curves of shorn wheatfields hug the lay of the land like a low flying helicopter navigates the nap of the earth. Though more beautiful when fully ripe and waving in a breeze, sometimes scattered with purple blooming vetch just as green turns to gold, the stubble left behind by harvest boasts its own rustic charm.

The light of the lowering sun diffuses among the leaves of wooded areas to render the scene into a paintinglike image.

While that same light throws geometric patterns across the rolling field.

The entire vista looks as if it’s viewed from the porch of a rustic home in the country. It would be easy to imagine I’ve been visiting relatives to enjoy this beautiful, peaceful, and quiet place that invites thought and memory. That’s actually very true, though not in the way I’ve described. While there is no porch, this is a place to be near my family. These photographs are of the views from the edge of the cemetery where my parents are buried. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins are all gathered there, where when the wind blows just right particles of rich soil from the farm we all loved fly across the creek and fields and bird-sheltering trees to bring a little bit of home to the place that now shelters them all.

​Late last year I got a new phone and wanted to test out the camera. My old one was 8mp and not up to the use I was trying to put it through. It was fine for Travel Tuesday tweets, but for these posts and uploads to Fine Art America, I needed better resolution. So, suddenly armed with 16mp, I drove up to an area a couple of hours away that boasts a lake, a couple of rivers, and a historic Civil War battlefield. 

Here are some of the results:

This is Paris Landing State Park. The vista of the distant shoreline reminds me very much of the Chesapeake Bay. There are even some diehard sea gulls that seem content to call such a landlocked body of water home.

Its title indicates an interesting history. It was a steamboat landing for exchange of goods and exports a couple of centuries ago. In the middle of the 20th century, Kentucky Lake was formed by damming the Tennessee River. The result is that the actual site of the steamboat landing is now underwater, but it takes little imagination to conjure up the sound of the ship’s whistle and the bustling workday loading of cargo.

The park marina houses an interesting mix of vessels, with the extremely blue sky reflecting onto receptive water, along with colorful leaves that lingered into December.

Not far to the Northeast lies Fort Donelson National Battlefield. Driving around to the different battle sites not only immerses one into Civil War history, but also provides beautiful views of clifflike ridges, battlements, and the scenic river. And to enhance the scenery, some of that out of its time fall foliage.

The River Batteries saw fierce fighting in 1862. It’s easy to stand looking down on the canons overlooking the Cumberland and imagine the sights, sounds, and smells such a battle would generate.

A picnic area on a small bluff above the Cumberland takes dining all fresco to the extreme, with the tables practically hanging over the considerable drop. I’d like to think erosion has had a hand in the, er, edginess of the table situation, but maybe some people enjoy eating so close to the river below that if you drop your sandwich from on high you could probably hear the splash.

Though it’s a bit unsettling, I’m glad the fall colors lingered a couple of months beyond their usual season. They made the hills and valleys and riverbanks breathtaking at times, and put my phone camera to the test in a way that made me happy I had those extra megapixels.