Saturday, July 14, 2018

Back to a Kayak After 2 years

How fast time flies, a year of selling insurance, a new car, a year of building an art and writing business and here we are out on the water again. It's been two years since I've been out on the water and I wish I could say it was smooth sailing.

First of all it was really hot. Probably one of the best mounts into the kayak but immediately that feeling of awkward anxiety. DId I mention it was hot, the heat that stays on you and drains you of any energy you had left after a morning in the Florida sun.

My son didn't seem to miss a beat but I was clumsy, broke the only lure off I had and had to get another from him, he was already in his Zen place. I know I wasn't prepared, I went through the motions of kayaking but didn't quite get into the zone.

The water still had that calming effect, the sounds and the smells soothed and kept me somewhat content. I did more enjoying being out there than fishing, again, I wasn't that well prepared.

I didn't even bring a fish clip which is very important just in case you catch a fish. I remembered the feeling of what I've missed so much. I got back to seeing water from the simplest and truest form and suddenly it was like no time had passed.

I will never be a completely agile, comfortable kayak enthusiast but I do realize why we started this in the first place; to be surrounded by nature, to feel the water move under you and watch the distance stream beneath you. There a beauty and freedom to getting out there and just enjoying the water.

I will be back with more posts shortly. Maybe I'll find a cool shady pond like one in Daingerfield. Stay tuned for more destinations on a kayak and sorry for my unintentional delay in getting back to the water.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Back to Where A Passion Began: Seeking Waterfalls

So many times I've been to Turner Falls in Davis, Oklahoma and never visited the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur,  just a few miles north and east on highway 7. I went, I saw, I was very impressed.

The first thing I noticed is the sound as you approach Little Niagara Falls. I remembered what I loved so much about waterfalls. There is a rhythm to water falling and rushing and that rhythm connects us to nature in a very necessary but intangible way.

I had to stop shooting and just sit on an exposed root to listen to the sound and take in all the richness of color and light. Unfortunately, the light wasn't quite right for most of my trip. 

After I had taken the tour of several waterfalls and was already overheated, the light changed. It is amazing to me how much light changes everything. The problem is we are forced to shoot on natures' timeline not ours. 

I remember driving with family on highway to the sun in Glacier National Park. Everyone assured me we'd get the shot on the way back but you know that never happened. Light changes, conditions change not within hours but within seconds, the image that shows itself so beautifully is gone.

This is why so many wonderful vacation snapshots turn out just okay-light is everything  and it creates a pathway for the viewer to experience just a glimpse of what you saw. Light leads the eye of the viewer, explains dimension and form on a 2 dimensional frame and contrasts light to explain temperature, place and distance.

I visited the waterfalls to reinvigorate my love and water. I wanted to get back to the passion of painting the many facets of water. Chickasaw is a beautiful maize of waterfalls, ice cold, spring fed water and great places to hike. I will definitely return. I will also do another post with more detail, this was more for my  passion and enjoyment and the reason I went in the first place. 

I forgot how much I missed the sound
No it’s the color
And the sound
Rushing fingers of blue and silver, like mercury
Beautiful and pure
I smell sulphur and earth
From somewhere deep 
I compare the dimensions of water
Like the many facets of people
So many faces, moods and colors to describe
I’ve come back seeking
The beauty of what captured me before
Those steps to the tops
Of the cascades
But I was young and full of wonder
I was intoxicated by the sound
And the green rushing waters
Seeping from the ground
She was there
And that meant everything…
Now I barely listen
Had to pause the shutter to keep my place
a rich green story
where I always lose my page
the heat
the sweat
and the beauty and peace
I barely remember
And I forgot what I missed
It was the sound
No the color
And the sound…

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.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

East Texas Zoo & Gator Park: An Wonderful Menagerie

My idea of a great road trip is discovering what you might not have expected. So many billboards of zoos and gator farms that I've passed by, there is never enough time. I love being alone and having that freedom to go and explore just about anything; I've never been disappointed yet.

I finally decided to visit East Texas Botanical Gardens but got sidetracked. I noticed a sign on the highway for East Texas Zoo and Gator Park and I was on my way.

Out in the middle of nowhere is a small oasis with a huge collection of diverse animals. It's one of those places you just don't know what you're going to see.

The people were friendly, the cost was low and I was excited to explore a hidden gem. They have many gators and some of them quite large. I was able to listen to bullfrogs singing in the ponds near the gators, a sound I have really missed.

Do you know what a Cape Barren Goose is? I found out the hard way that they are quite aggressive. All the animals are in their own yard and you walk along tall fences-it really is a great little maize with something different around each bend. The Cape Barren Goose wasn't taking visitors-he threatened and attacked the fence at every change he got. I wasn't paying attention for a moment while photographing and it put it's head through the fence trying to nip at me. I survived.

I saw a sloth bear and baboons who were very curious of its presence. There were zebras and deer-all familiar animals but some I couldn't name. There were also lemurs and monkeys and a couple of very large tortoise that I believe acted as tour guides.

If you ever get to Grand Saline, ignore the groans of the family, "there's not enough time." Go check out the East Texas Zoo and Gator Park, it was quite an enjoyable experience-just beware of the goose.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Seeking Spring 2: In the Pink

Still a little early to catch the spring color. I plan on going down to Palestine for the Dogwood Festival this weekend but I never made it on this trip. I did get a few shots of the redbuds in bloom.

For the last week, I have been burned out on writing and photography. As spring gets closer I have more hope of inspiration but at the moment, I'm feeling a bit aimless.

I planned on getting out to Daingerfield and than it was Palestine but I ended up stopping in Grand Salene. As you can see, I'm still a bit distracted and unable to really write, wish me luck on the next post, enjoy the pix for now.

I'm excited about spring coming.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Seeking Spring 1: First Color

Out of the gray winter landscape, spring brings us fragrant fields of yellows, golds and blues. It's been a comparatively mild winter and yet I find myself eager for the fleeting sounds and colors of spring.

I drove out to East Texas today. I've learned that it's best to have at very least a target to go see. I have found myself too often wandering aimlessly with too many nondescript destinations in mind. Today I decided on Palestine but I never made it there.

This wasn't one of those planned days. I found several fields of yellow flowers and a few white but nothing too dramatic. It's probably a week or so early and I plan on getting out on a longer trip in mid April.

I drove out 205, not much to see, a few redbuds here and there but nothing too dramatic. I looked to Daingerfield, a favorite lake of mine but it was farther than I planned on going. I decided on Canton and all places nearby.

I found a great field that seemed like I was in the middle of a pristine prairie. The more I started shooting the more subjects I found. As I headed toward my final destination: East Texas Botanical Gardens, I discovered another out of the way place.

So many trips I've taken with the family and the idea is always get ther fast. I've driven past so many gator farms and small zoos, finally I discovered the East Texas zoo and Gator, I changed my destination.

Just before I got to my new destination I discovered some wonderful fields of yellows and a great stream to shoot. I plan on getting out in mid-April so stay tuned.

Next post the East Texas Zoo and Gator Farm. It was really worth the trip and made a day of aimless driving worthwhile. For now enjoy the first of spring.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sunset on Mount Scott: A Scramble in Fading Light

My intentions were to capture the super moon on Wednesday morning. I arrived at Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge a bit later than I had hoped the night before. I wasn't able to use a tripod and had to scramble to capture the  atmosphere before I lost all light.

I was just one of three other cars up on the mountain which was a wonderful feeling of desolation and solitude. Th steep grade  to the top of Mount Scott is lined with giant granite boulders adorned with rich yellow lichen. On my last visit I don't remember the color of the lichen being so vivid.

I saw a small animal crossing the road and what I thought was a raccoon turned out to be a porcupine. I've only seen one in the wild before and it was a treat to watch him disappear into the dense scrub.

As I came around the bend there it was in all its glory, the full moon rising above the edge of Mount Scott. Pinks and mauves in velvety waves of clouds surrounded it as it rose into the darkening sky. Below I could see Lake Lawtonka as it snaked through the valley. As the sun set, it warmed all the colors to a reddish brown complementing the blue of the water.

All the lights of the cities nearby had begun to twinkle as the wind blew hard across the mountain. The road winds around the mountain with many views of the valleys and buttes below.  As darkness set in, the rich warm reds gave way to purples and blues that faded into the sunset, a violent flame of color across the horizon.

I reached the top as the light was quickly fading. Photographing was difficult because it was really cold and the wind gusts were constant. The valley below was fading into deep blues and purples and the lights of distant cities set the dark horizons ablaze.

Tomorrow would be the super moon, a grand image of the blood moon, little did I know was that the camera would malfunction and I would be forced to shoot with my Iphone. What followed was a day of peace and calm in a beautiful ancient landscape that I will definitely visit again.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Day at the Zoo: Taking time to enjoy individual exhibits allows for a more intimate portrait

I enjoyed taking some closeups in the herpetarium in at the Dallas Zoo. Usually there are too many people crowded into the space, it was a weekday and I enjoyed observing all of the reptiles and amphibians.

This I thought was very odd. A Poison Dart Frog that found its perch on a bushmaster. I liked the way the golden green stood out against the bushmasters' dull browns and beiges. I took many photos just to get one that had them both in focus.

A Komodo Dragon took a bit of notice of me as he dug a hole. He stared through the glass and I was able to get a close up of his prehistoric face. It's closer than I ever want to be to such a formidable predator.

I loved how intense the green of the mamba was, it must have been feeding time because it seemed like it was searching for something.

Prehistoric is the best I can describe this iguana. I was able to get several sharp close-ups of this monster. He was very calm and relaxed.

This was a family of chimps that groomed each other and enjoyed some time in the warm sun. A baby played in the bushes and I wasn't able to get any shots of him. Suddenly they all picked up what they were doing and they were off. I liked how the light side lit her muscular form.

This is the closest I've ever gotten to a cheetah. It was on the other side of a window watching as the kids were tapping on the window. I loved the look in its eyes.

I liked the abstract ribbing in the trunk and how the light eventuated the folds of its skin. I enjoyed listening to the zookeeper about the elephants in the wilds of Africa. 

I enjoyed watching the gorillas, I was able to sit and watch them for a while. Again, the zookeeper told me about their personalities. I liked the blue lighting and the personality in their eyes.

I photographed several giraffe as they were fed. They have beautiful textures and their eyes have much feeling in them. 

This lion sat and watched the people, I think it was hungry. The eyes still had that wild look and I was attracted to the shadows.
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