February 17, 2018

Cloudy, 28 Degrees, South Winds 5-10 mph

It was a fairly unremarkable late winter day today. The overcast was fairly high and bright, so it was not the ugliest day of the year, but it was not a day to celebrate the beauty of nature. With the relatively mild temperatures I didn’t have to worry about the cold and Jamie could walk without his little coat on. The half-melted snow in the woods is frozen with icy patches where I’ve been walking and a crust on six or eight inches of snow where I have not.

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The road has a cool look with a mix of browns, grays and blues.

I’ve not been feeling all that well the last couple of days with a vague queasiness in my stomach and a bit lethargic. I’ve been in a pretty crummy mood as well. For the first time today I thought ‘Oh crap, I’ve got absolutely nothing to shoot today.’ But much to my surprise, when I got to the woods I quickly became interested in the brush and trees I walked past and was drawn into photographing them.

I started out shooting subtle little details of the masses of brush and then moved into shooting some of the bushes and vines I pass and eventually added some trees amidst the brush. It was actually a very enjoyable session. I’m hopeful that some of the images will be good. I know they’ll be good illustrations of another aspect of the woods, but we’ll see if they’ll be interesting enough to consider printing.

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Vines and brush wrap around a cherry tree.

Today was another excellent example of where attention, “noticing” as I’ve put it before, and a dose of creativity made for another really enjoyable hour of photography. Could this possibly continue for a year? Seems doubtful, but so far, so good. It really is a remarkable thing to me and a real affirmation when something like this happens. It’s exactly what I might have hoped for when I began, though I don’t think I imagined it happening so much.

I did something a little different with the walk today. I stayed entirely on the upper level of the property where all the brush is. I normally always go down to the lower level in the woods, but today I didn’t. I walked the opposite direction from what I normally do as well and walked a part of the trail that I had not been on since the heavy snow fell.

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There are a million ways to develop a photograph. I like this one.

I also turned on a side trail that I wasn’t sure went all the way across the brushy zone. The path on the upper level makes a loop like a running track around the brush. This one path crosses that loop but I wasn’t sure it did. The trail curves around and comes out in what looks like a dead end from the other side. It’s good to know this trail goes through as I can add it to my alternative routes. It was fun to see something new, even if it was just a lot more brush.

When my family first moved to this area, way back in 1969, we bought some acreage that had really been let go. There was brush everywhere much like the brush in the woods I walk now. When we began to acquire horses and needed pasture, one of my jobs was to clear acres of this dense brush. It was an enormous undertaking for a teenage kid, but that’s what our life was like on that farm. Huge jobs, all to be done by our family. It took me months of labor to clear the brush, haul it all into a big pile and burn it. The burning is another story that I’ll spare you for now.

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Another way to treat what was a color photograph.

With that experience in mind, I’m pretty sure that this brush upper area of this property was once cleared for pasture. There are relatively few trees on this upper level and the brush looks very familiar. It’s incredibly dense and stands six to eight feet tall. It would be all but impossible to pass through without clearing a path with a chain saw or a heavy brush hog.

When I cleared our pasture land all those years ago I used a chain saw and a tractor with a five foot rotary mower on the back. It was a nerve-racking job that involved nibbling a foot or two at a time away from the perimeter of the brush with the mower. The huge blades would slam into the brush and small trees and smash them up. It made an incredible racket.

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This is what the trails look like on the upper level of the property.

When I steered the tractor into the brush, it would often grab the front wheels, yank the steering wheel out of my hand and cause me to plow into the brush head on. The mower couldn’t handle that and the dense brush would jam the mower and stall the tractor. It was jammed so tight that you couldn’t get the tractor out of gear. I had to drive out the shear pins (which were supposed to shear off in situations like this) from the mower to free the whole thing up and back it out of the mess. It would take quite a while to accomplish all this and then you’d just start up again plowing through the brush with the tractor again.

All of that is to say that I have a deep personal relationship with this kind of brush. I’m glad I’ll never have to do anything like that again.

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I sometimes call Jamie “muscle butt”. Here’s why.

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