May 8, 2018

Sunny, 48 Degrees, No Wind.

I awake at the first sign of morning. I can see a little light near the horizon from my bedroom window. I want to go back down to the woods and try to catch the sunrise this morning, so I roll out of bed and hobble to the bathroom. My left leg is very sore, aching all down the left side of my hip and thigh. The pain relievers wear off in the night and now I know what the true state of my injury is. It’s not great, but it’s still far from where it was two days ago.

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Oh the beauty of soft early light! No direct sunlight in this shot, just the glow of the sky. Notice how much richness and variety is in this shot. Green bushes, a white blooming tree, soft yellow green leaves appearing high in the trees at the back. 

I decide to have some coffee and toast and hope the pain killers start working so I can go. I make my toast and coffee and sit for a while, but it’s getting lighter by the minute, so I gather my camera gear and head out. Jamie is thrilled that he is going with me.

We get in the car and drive over to the woods. No way can I walk over there right now. I park on the side of the road and get out the camera gear. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Looking down the road, I can see the light from the sun just touching the tree tops. The road view is now softened by delicate yellow green from the tiny leaves that are emerging everywhere. The light is really soft. It will make a beautiful photograph.

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Leaves are popping out everywhere, still contrasted against the harsh bare branches. 

I take several pictures, using my tripod to get perfect images at low ISO. This will yield a sharp image with no noise. Then I head into the woods. Jamie is thrilled to run ahead of me. It’s been so long. I’m not sure if it’s ten days or two weeks or more since I’ve been here. My leg hurts quite a bit, but I move on in short bursts, with rests in between. I try to stop at small photo opportunities, so I can shoot while resting my leg.

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Look how rich and close the trails look now. There was no grass the last time I was here. 

It’s an entirely new world now since the last time I was here. There is delicate green everywhere. Some of the tiny leaves emerging are yellow, others green, and many have an orange or reddish tinge. The world of gray and brown sticks has changed to soft billowing rolls of bushes that are closing in the paths and becoming more solid forms.

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Beautiful new leaves are popping out everywhere and the brush is thickening. 

The light is absolutely gorgeous at this hour. The sun is very low on the horizon. I can’t see it from where I am, but it is just touching the tree tops. Up top, where I am, the light is soft and beautiful. There is a hush in the woods, with a few birds calling quietly from near and far. The new leaves are absorbing sound differently than the bare woods do, not unlike the way a fresh snowfall hushes the landscape.

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A lovely scene where there was only dull gray and brown. 

I make my way toward the lower woods and the marsh, stopping a few times to capture some of the little leaves on the shrubs and a view of a tree in bloom. Everything looks different now. I hobble down the trail toward the southern lookout over the marsh. I’m hoping the sun will light the woods and marsh in an interesting way.

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Another scene where touches of green and the warm sky from the sunrise make it beautiful. 

When I get there, the sun is just above the horizon and just to the left of the copse of trees across the marsh. It’s going to make exposure difficult and it’s not really lighting things in a way that’s ideal, but I take several shots anyway. The place I am shooting from is a little point of land that is raised above the marsh. It doesn’t allow me to move around much as it drops off sharply on either side, but I do my best to compose different shots from the limited options I have.

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The sunlight back-lights new growth. 

The sun is back-lighting the little leaves that are coming out on the trees on either side of my view across the marsh. It’s a perfect way to see the new growth happening, so I take several shots that frame these glowing leaves fairly tightly. Some glow green, others and orange color. It’s beautiful to see and looks great through the viewfinder.

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The sun was lighting these Poplars so they glowed bright green. 

As I turn away and head North toward my other good viewpoint by the Pine trees, I see that the whole world is changing down here as well. Most of the trees have only the tiniest of leaves, but a few are a little further along. Each leaf is so delicate and fresh it’s beautiful to see. They are perfectly formed miniatures of their full sized selves, and they are as soft as silk.

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Maybe not the best place for the sun, but you can see the richness of the marsh as it turns green. Trees in the background are already filling in. The tall Oaks at right will start later. 

I take several more shots from the Northern viewpoint, mostly emphasizing the back-lit leaves. In my haste to get out of the house this morning, I forgot my camera bag with the other lenses in them, so I’m limited to the 70 to 200 mm focal lengths of the lens I have. That means fairly tightly framed shots, even at the wide end of the lens. It’s not ideal for some shots, but it forces me to see and shoot things that I might not had I taken the 24 – 105mm lens.

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A closer detail of the brush in the marsh and the leaves on the trees in the back. 

I’m in quite a bit of pain by now. I take all of the shots I can see and then it’s time to head back. The walk seems long. It’s probably a quarter mile or so, one trip around a running track, but it’s up and down and uphill much of the way. I stop a few times to let the pain subside, and press on pretty quickly.

It’s a real relief to make the last steps and get into the car. Jamie jumps in and sits on the passenger seat, thrilled to have had his run in the woods and his routine restored. I stop to take a couple more shots of the road with the different light. It still looks gorgeous, so it’s well worthwhile. Then we drive down, turn around and drive back to the house.

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A pretty little shot of new growth on a little shrub. 

Jamie hops out and I get the camera and tripod out of the back and head inside. I’m dying to sit down and ice my leg. My wife asks how it was, and I minimize the pain. She’s afraid I will overdo things and I’m sure I have, but I absolutely have to capture this time of year. It’s the most precious time of year to me and the first real change in the woods in the three months I’ve been shooting.

I take the ice pack to the couch and relish the cold of the ice pack calming my aching leg. Jamie, the sweetheart that he is, hops up on the couch and curls up against the ice pack and my leg. He is telling me that he is thankful for the walk this morning and I love him for it. I stroke his soft fur and massage him gently. He is such a good soul. It almost brings tears to my eyes.

I am realizing this morning how much this project has come to mean to me, and how much the road and those woods mean to me. By attending to them so closely every day, I have gotten very attached to the place. As it changes from the relative bleakness of late winter in to the lush beauty of spring it feels like magic. It’s a beautiful place, full of little details that really touch me now.

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An hour or so later than the first shots, and now there is direct sun on the road. It makes a nice contrast, picking out branches and tree trunks, and striping the road. 

I remember once thinking that it was not a pretty place to walk. I told myself that I was there for the exercise and to give Jamie his exercise, but it was not a pretty place. Maybe I was saying that at the bleak time of year, but I know I never really thought the place was beautiful until perhaps last fall as I watched the colors change in the trees. That’s when this project was conceived and I can’t say how thankful I am that I started it.

Sitting on the couch with the ice pack chilling my leg, I’m getting very sleepy. Maybe from being up early, or maybe it’s the medicines I’m taking, I’m not sure. When I’ve iced the leg long enough I crawl up on the bed and try to sleep. Jamie jumps up and curls up next to me. The funny thing about this is that he does not touch me when I lie in bed. He curls up just a few inches away. With Lisa, he will press against her with all his strength, stretching out against her and pinning her to the bed. I interpret this as Jamie respecting the alpha male in our pack by not crowding him.

Our shiest little cat has curled up against my feet. He’s a sweet little thing but scared of his shadow, and usually pretty scared of me. He loves to curl up against me at night, but he’ll cower and run off if I walk into a room. We actually have to give him Prozac to keep him from licking all of his fur off out of anxiety. He’s missing patches of fur on his belly and legs. He looks a mess, but he’s a sweet little thing and I’m working on getting closer to him. He actually let me pet him and rub his belly when I came in to lie down. That’s a rare event that makes me feel good.

Despite being so tired, I can’t quite sleep. My leg is aching still, so I get up to check the time and see if I can take another pain pill. Fortunately it’s time, so I take one and hope things get better. I get out the heating pad and sit on the couch warming the leg while I write this. Now I’ve switched to ice, which feels better to me.

I would love to go back to the woods tonight to shoot some of the little leaves that are coming out. I would like to catch their patterns against the sky while they are still small. They can open in a matter of days, so I don’t want to miss this time. But the amount of pain I’m feeling is telling me to wait until tomorrow and nurse my injury until then. When the pain is this bad, it really interferes with my ability to think about photography and I’m sure it’s not good for me in the long run.

We’ll have to see how I feel later today. Tomorrow morning is an option. The light is beautiful, but the fact that I haven’t had any pain medicine at night poses a problem. I might have to wait until tomorrow night.

I am incredibly thankful for being able to shoot last night and this morning. It means I haven’t completely missed the spring transition I’ve been waiting for for months. I didn’t get to see every little detail as I would if I could photograph every day, but I’m seeing enough now that I am very pleased. The next couple of weeks will be very important for me. I want to see the leaves emerge and shoot them all along the way.

New leaves have a delicacy and color that they don’t have when they’re mature. In summer, the woods will be a pretty uniform green, but in early spring the leaves vary in size and color and should make beautiful subjects both close up and shot upwards against the sky. I will suffer considerable pain, if necessary, to get those pictures.

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