Sunday, May 20, 2018

My Secret Garden: A Place to Escape

North of Farmersville Texas the old quaint neighborhoods fade into long farm roads. Miles of empty space, small farms and cattle; it's a wonderful place to disappear.

I heard about Parkhill Prairie when I took a prairie tour at the Lavon Raptor Center on their first Saturday open house. The first few times I visited, it was cool and windy and beautifully quiet.

Hawks soared in a deep blue sky and crows called from distant perches against a backdrop of golden grasses that swayed adding to a symphony of natural sounds. I would sit on the stone wall and watch silently the distant hills and golden prairies, I had found my peaceful oasis.

Today was the first time I had walked through the green grasses and gardens of wildflowers, a perfect hot day, late spring. No cars, no people, just an explorer in my secret garden.

The crows have been replaced with the buzz of red-winged blackbirds and rich melodic notes of Dickcissel. The wind rushed through the willows and dragonflies buzzed about taunting me to catch a glimpse of their various colors, shapes and sizes.

It stirred so many memories as I walked along the edge of the several small ponds where cricket frogs and bullfrogs dashed into the shallows. My brother and I would always walk along streams looking for snakes, frogs and turtles, we were young explorers, naturalists.

Now I don't only notice the animals, it's the plants that demand my attention. Milkweed of several different species sway along with small mimosa like plants with pink fuzzy flowers, most I recognize, some are new and intriguing.

Since I've been collecting plants and wildlife gardening, my knowledge of different species has grown. I remember a trip to Tuscon where suddenly a whole new world of interest I became aware of.

I walked around several ponds, taking notes of the water for future painting, collecting notes on wildflowers and wild birds, it is my secret place and with every turn the willows blend into a green rich pasture.

The shade of the willows remind me of New Jersey, we had several giant willows where the orioles would nest in summer. The cool breeze across the prairie made the heat more comfortable and I enjoyed an afternoon of peace lost in Nature.

I will go back soon, by than perhaps summer guests will have picnics or barbecues but for now, it was all mine, an oasis to escape everything. Mission accomplished.

Friday, April 27, 2018

I Went Back to the Ancients and Found Myself: The North Sulphur River

I drove to Ladonia today. It's a small town in Fannin County that was once a bustling hub of East Texas agriculture. The Golf Colorado Santa Fe Railroad once turned the town into a shipping point and its population peaked at 2000. After the Depression it never recovered and its population has continued to decrease ever since.

Lillies in Ladonia Town Square

I walked around the town taking pictures and I was haunted by ghosts of a much simpler time. The old building architecture and the quaint charm of the remnants made me feel like I had walked back in time. I enjoyed the quiet.

Aging Structures in Ladonia

North of town is the Fossil park which is why I made the trip. I have been there before with family but never alone. It's very remote and except for two other distant figures, I felt completely alone and it was wonderful.

There were bank swallows swarming the bridge as I walked down the dinosaur sized steps to the river bottom. There are small schools of fish running through the shallow river and the sound of rippling water.

I enjoyed the sound of buzzing swallows and the quiet of nature. I remember my older son and I found shark teeth there years ago. There are several bridges and areas to access the river and each have their own diversity of fossils.

In this part of the river there were many belemites, ancient straight shelled squid and all sorts of shell impressions in the shale sediment. I felt like a child again, there is something beautiful and exciting about getting back to the hobbies you loved as a child. I have always been a rock hound, I even thought of being a geologist at one time.

I was wishing I had a 500mm lens because I could see the swallows gathering mud and they were just out of range of my 300 mm lens. Just as I got to a reasonable distance they would quickly disperse and I wasn't able to get any good photos.

The sky above the river was a deep intense blue complementing the rich green spring foliage. As I dug through the piles of rock and mud, I had an awareness of the heat. When you are on the river bed there is no protection from the sun and I knew I had to walk up the dinosaur stairs.

What was completely wonderful about the day was the peace and calm. I enjoyed the feeling of being amidst ancient stones surrounded by birdsong and river sounds. It was a great place to find myself and collecting a few fossils was a bonus for the exploration.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Divine Light: The Azaleas of Turtle Creek

Shooting during the right light is a matter of timing, there are certain times of the day where the light is so flat you can't help but capture a flat washed out image. There are other times when we just need to work that much harder with diffusing, isolating or seeking the right angle.

Today I drove down to the Turtle Creek area in Dallas. It's a very special place for me because my oldest son and I used to visit and take what he called travels; he was 5 or 6 years old.

It's nice to see some things stay the same as the old dirt roads are being developed and urban sprawl replaces wild prairies, it's nice to see the green places that have lasted and continue. It is something I think we need, nature is an essential element for our soul's wellbeing.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Going Back in Time: The Spectacle of Bluebonnets

When I first came to Texas the landscape was an adventure as everything was new. I remember long roads, barbed wire fences, longhorns and scissortailed flycatchers as I used to drive back and forth from Waco to Dallas for school.

I worked at a lumber yard where I learned about scorpions and the texas heat. I was always trying barbecue places and drinking soda pop, usually with rum in a go cup, they were different times.

Today I went back to Ennis, as I did last year, for the bluebonnet trails. I went a bit later this year than last year and they were more amazing than last year.

The whole ride I thought back to the days of jumping up into a truck for a delivery to Ferris or Ovilla and I remember how much excitement everything seemed to have back than.

The Bluebonnets are still the same and the roads are unchanged, sometimes we just need to stop and appreciate the landscape that surrounds us instead of seeking new places.

Walking through the rich blue fields where others took portraits of children, families and animals, I sought something else. I wanted to find a view that no one else was shooting.

At first I was looking for the change in pattern: I wanted a rich blue field with a few Indian Paintbrushes. The light wasn't wonderful but the clouds created a bit of a diffused look to the spectacle of blue that surrounded me.

I must admit as much I liked the way some of the images came out, I still haven't found that play of light that separates a nice photograph from something more dramatic. It remains a work in progress and will probably be back one more time.

For now, enjoy the spectacle that is the bluebonnet trails in Ennis, Texas.

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