Archives for posts with tag: nature

This is one time I’m glad I don’t have a photograph from close proximity to go with a post. Last night a neighbor called to tell us they’d seen a huge black bear inside the gate here. Piers was, like, “What?!”, “There aren’t supposed to be bears here.”, then. “Oh!”. Apparently, this bear doesn’t know it’s misplaced itself.

I have a theory. When I drove down here to Florida from Tennessee, I was awed by the beauty of nature in my home state, then it got more gorgeous in Mississippi, with so many shiny leafed magnolias I could scarcely believe it. As I moved along in Alabama I encountered what must have been a very large slash and burn project. The countryside shifted from almost overwhelmingly verdant beauty to a smoldering, gray landscape. For someone who loves nature, it was like driving from a visual utopia into a dystopian nightmare. I was apalled. I’m sure the wildlife is as well. So, I’m wondering if this bear found itself displaced by man’s intrusion and is now wandering in search of a new place to call home.

This kind of situation leaves us teetering on an edge between our love of and admiration for nature, and the very real need to exercise caution. I’ve been thrilled to see up close a number of feral pigs and deer (three deer just this morning) on the driveway where we got married in April. Now, in June I’m cautiously peering out of the windshield, hoping I don’t spot the bear. The closer in it creeps…um, lumbers, the more care we need to take.

I’m not sure what it would take to attract a big bear’s ire. I certainly don’t want to find out. So, for a while at least, we’re taking precautions to accommodate a bear’s presence. The thing is that we don’t know how long it will be with us. It could decide it likes our trees as much as we do, or perhaps it will amble on until it reaches a mountainous area of Georgia. We wish it well. We’ll also be glad for a time to come when the potential for a possibly deadly rumble with a misplaced denizen of the wild world doesn’t loom quite so far into our everyday life.

So, bear with me, if I spot the bear, go all nature fan girly, and post pics. Otherwise, feel free to carry on with your blissfully bearless day.

The first sign that we were getting married on April 22 in the time of Covid-19 was the cute little alligator awaiting us on the saw palmettos fronds that served as the carpet where we would stand to take our vows. Piers’ daughter arranged the beautiful scene around the sable palm tree we chose to be our wedding venue. The alligator was the continuation of the current joking whimsy, admonishing us all here in Florida to stay at least one alligator apart. At one point not long ago our friend who took our pictures with my DSLR deadpanned, “Florida’s gonna need more alligators.” Indeed. Fortunately, our little impromptu mascot sufficed and no actual alligator came low-crawling through to bless our nuptials with its hulking presence.

The near silence of nature provided our only music, until the brief, sweet moment when sandhill cranes gifted us with their song. Piers and I love nature and all its myriad denizens. So that brief serenade by those beautiful birds was truly special.

Since we couldn’t shop for special clothes under quarantine, I chose a jeans and purple shirts theme. The top I wore is my favorite I’ve ever had, which made it special enough. I don’t know what made me bring the black ballerina flats I bought for my mom’s funeral to Florida with me, but I’m so glad I did. When I realized we were actually going to manage to get married even as the pandemic raged around us, I knew I had to wear those shoes. For all I knew they carried minute particles of dirt from her grave, where she rests now beside my father, on their barely worn soles. That comforts me in a bittersweet sort of way. She would have loved my new husband and been overjoyed that I’ve found real happiness.

The wonderful notary public who performed our ceremony somehow managed to wear a purple top by accident. Perfection. The brief, simple vows she customized for us were unforgettable. Her words were so beautiful, and written as if she’d known us for years, instead of days. We’re grateful that she was willing to come to us, gloves and all, keep social distance, and join our lives together so perfectly.

We would not be the couple we are, if there had not been a brief moment of humor. When Piers reached into his jeans pocket for my ring…it wasn’t there. He kept his cool. I kept mine. But we were confounded. Where could it have gone? He came out a couple of times with a handful of coins, but still no ring. We laughed. We wondered what to do. Then he came out with an exclamation of relief and joy. A particular dime had revealed its mischievous secret. It was perfectly wearing my wedding ring, so that the ring was almost invisible.

A tiny glitch that has become a precious reminder of the strange things life throws at us, and our ability to laugh and love our way through them.

I was nervous at the start of the ceremony, worried that I might stumble over the vows or drop his ring. But then as it began, a calm came over me. I felt at peace. I marveled at the look on his face, as he said his vows. A memory to cherish for the rest of my life. We spoke of this later and he told me his expression was a reflection of mine.

What a gift he is to me.

What a romantic story we have.

Our story of love in the time of Covid-19.

(All photographs in this post by Charles Schuman.)

Florida is a place of beauty, abundant nature to observe and photograph, and unexpected experiences. When given the opportunity to go to Busch Gardens, I knew there were animals there. What I had not realized was how many and how close I could get to some of them. Add a zoom lens, and I was able to take photographs I had only dreamed of before I got my DSLR and traveled to The Sunshine State.

I love palm trees too, so they were high on my priority list. These tall, spindly ones are among my favorites.

Many of my animal photos were taken from the steam train ride. I didn’t always catch the guide’s descriptions in their entirety, which unfortunately means I don’t have a proper kind for this beauty. Just an antelope. I really like the way it stands out against the pop of green it grazes.

Though the head of this white rhino is nearly in silhouette, its distinctive horn is unmistakable. Rhinos are so tragically endangered that it makes me both incredibly happy and incredibly sad to see one. These creatures deserve to live on Earth as much as we do. Hopefully, some way, some how they will be given a renewed opportunity to thrive.

I read somewhere that modern DSLRs have something like 5,000 setting possibilities. Um, no. I’m learning how to use it and may continue to do so for as long as it’s mine. I concentrate on lighting and composition to get what I want. Or try to. I end up with a higher and higher percentage of shots I love, so I’m satisfied with how I’m doing so far. I still have some trouble with depth of field. Sometimes those mistakes turn out to be happy accidents. I was able to crop this giraffe one so that it looks like an intentional piece of pop art. I’ll take it!

Elephants have such timelessly beautiful faces. They look old and ageless at once, with wisdom gained and emotion endured etched into the lines around their eyes. Just like us. It’s my understanding that they are very similar to us in many ways. They bond with family and friends, love them, grieve them when they are gone. It would be a pretty wonderful thing to have an elephant for a friend.

Emus are so cool and fluffy. They seem sweet, but I’ve heard they can be cantankerous, kicking very hard among other things. Years ago I was at a wildlife park in New South Wales, Australia. I was enraptured, photographing koalas high in a eucalyptus tree (The koalas were high in the tree, not me!), when I felt a presence behind me. It didn’t touch me. I could just sense that something was close. I reluctantly removed my face from my viewfinder, and slowly pivoted. It did not take a full body turn to come face to face with an apparently curious emu. When I say face to face, I mean that it was really close. We gazed into each other’s eyes for a heart stopping moment. Then, I slowly backed away, until I realized it was still standing where I’d left it. At that point I beat a hasty retreat, glad to have had such a close encounter, and also glad to walk away emu kick free.

I’m glad this zebra was in the shade, so that its amazing markings were able to really be showcased. Bright sunlight could have caused too much contrast or glare, but this is perfect. Really studying the complex patterns of striping on its forehead and knees in particular, show what a wonder zebras are. Beautiful, almost but not quite comical looking, they’re a gift nature has bestowed upon us. Let’s enjoy every stripe.

This lion and lioness seem content in each other’s company. They’re both gorgeous. His mane surprised me by how rough it looked and how much actual red was in it. Nearby, a lioness had taken up residence in the fake bed of a fake truck that decorated the exhibit. By looking at her through the glass right over where she lay, I could see, count even, the individual hairs on her back. That is the closest I’ll ever be to a lion, I’m sure. I could have stood there, gazing upon such majesty for hours. It was an experience I’ll always treasure and never forget.

I’ll close this out with a pic I took with my phone. It’s not sharp like the ones from my camera, but it gives an idea of how beautiful the Christmas decorations were. I rode the Skyride and loved dangling, swinging, and swaying high above the gorgeous lights, but nothing quite compares to being close to them. it was a day filled with many of my favorite things, the top favorite being, as always, the magic that comes out of my camera.

Almost in bloom tulips.

Purpley pink hyacinths in abstract.

Pretty pink buds.

Front and center, bloom and buds.

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

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. 

This may be a common sight to those who have frequent ice storms, but I’d never seen anything like it before and was enchanted. As I walked from the car toward the post office, I was preoccupied with the hope I could get packages mailed in time for Christmas. Then I glanced down and saw what looked like wet footprints on the sidewalk. It took a couple of seconds for my brain to register the fact that the footprints were actually leaf prints.

I have no clue how these images were formed. Just that it has something to do with fallen leaves and the ice storm/wintry mix that hit overnight this past weekend. 

They remind me of fossils left behind in rocks by time. Some, like the one above, look posed. A sort of flat, delicately detailed still life set in place by nature. It almost looks like a semi-abstract watercolor.

Others are more bold. 

Statement pieces. Single subject studies.

This one’s images are placed like a delicate pattern for fabric. Like a batik, laid out and fashioned by artistic icy fingers.

Does anyone know how a combination of freezing rain and fallen leaves can etch such amazing and beautiful images on a sidewalk? I’d love to know. It was quite a treat to discover such an example of nature’s art in the aftermath of a winter storm.

I came across some old pictures that to anyone else are just that. Old fading pictures. For me they’re memories that are as bright as the blue sky, green pine needles, and colors of sunrise on the days they were taken. They’re all from the yard of our farm where I grew up.

image

This is autumn looking across the road toward a large wooded area, with a creek hidden from view running through it. I remark on that because such densely forested tracts are becoming rare, as more and more trees go down so houses with large yards can go up or agriculture continues to grow. The field struck by such bright sunlight belonged to a relative for a long time. Often neighboring farms were held by extended family members for several generations, but as the last farming inclined members died their farms were sold to big operators, until all family connections to neighboring lands are lost. This road has long since been paved, but I can so vividly remember creeping along in the hot sun as a little kid, squatting occasionally to study individual rocks among the jagged layer of gravel. Even growing up on a gravel road can be cool, if you know how to make it that way. My mom did. She made it both educational and fun, by teaching me to be a fossil hunter practically in my own yard. That gravel was quarried from who knows where, with ancient layers of literally buried treasure. Of course gold would have been nice, if we want to get really literal about buried treasure, but I was thrilled to spot something unusual and pounce on a special rock. There were sometimes partial foliage images to be found. I remember at least one perfect indentation of a tiny sea shell. It looked like a minuscule Japanese scallop had been pushed into cement, then pulled out to leave it’s shape behind for a child who would later come to find real Japanese scallop shells lying along Shell Beach on Sanibel Island. Maybe that’s where my love of the shore, all shores really, originated.

image

And here’s a sunset through the branches of the tree from the previous picture. That tree always weirded me out, because it almost cost us our house. My mom was starting to cook dinner when my daddy brought the tree home and we went outside to supervise the planting. By the time we came back in, a fortunately small grease fire had started. It was probably scarier than it was house threatening, but I never forgot it and it made me forever wary of pine trees. It was pretty, though, and perfect for that spot.

image

A furrowed field blanketed in snow is a familiar sight on a farm.  I always loved the unique way it looked…corduroy ground, burrowed under a frosty veil, waiting for spring.

image

This snow scene features my favorite pecan tree. There was a low branch on the other side, where I liked to sit and dream away a summer twilight. The old house in the distance was a lingering dinosaur, in that it had no running water. The well in the back yard was my only experience of seeing water being physically drawn from the ground. It was a lengthy process involving a metal container lowered and then slowly (the last resident was an elderly woman) emerging from its shaft, with water streaming from holes in the metal that had some purpose I didn’t understand. Even as a little kid, just knowing about that well made me extremely grateful for the shiny metal faucets in our house. That old house up the road was weathered and gray. I’m afraid the only time it ever looked beautiful was as a silhouette in this picture.

image

In contrast to frigid winter is this warm, molten gold sunrise sky. This time the silhouette is part of the barn roof. Like the old house and many trees, the barn is long gone. Most of the old ones are. They had such character and a rustic beauty all their own, but, as old fashioned agricultural practices faded away, most owners tore them down to get them out of the way. Occasionally, a lone antique barn can be spotted still, sitting in glaring isolation, awaiting the day when perhaps with regret they will join so many others as mere memories of days past. This image lives in my memory as what I saw, rain or shine, fall or winter or spring, sunrise or blue sky as the view as I got on the school bus. A constant in a child’s life. A rite of passage on the way to growing up.