EMISSARIES FROM ANTIQUITYCoastal redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens) grow in a narrow strip along the Pacific Ocean. The tallest trees on earth, they reach nearly 380 feet in height. Here, two of them create a frame through which more of their cousins are visible in the magical fog resulting from heavy rain.
Plant a tree! (If not that, how about photographing one?)
Trees are worthy of admiration any time of year; it's nice, though, that Arbor Day focuses attention on these fascinating, multi-dimensional living beings.
They're the stately sentinels of the natural world, majestically reaching skyward.
They're air conditioners. Who hasn't found welcome relief from the summer heat beneath a tree's canopy at one time or another?
They're magicians. Watch with wonder in the spring as temperatures moderate, buds begin to emerge and then - seemingly overnight - shade appears where there was none before.
They're entertainers. Each autumn, deciduous varieties stage a spectacularly colorful show, free of charge. This is especially true of sugar maples, the extroverted show-offs of the tree world.
They're musicians. Convince me there's not a soothing song in the sound of fluttering leaves.
They're time machines, connecting us to the past - and to the future. Many species of trees far outlive humans.
They can be mercurial. Some days trees are gentle companions: limbs swaying dreamily in the breeze, we sit beneath them and find peace. Other times, they might frighten a little - like when a tree situated near your house is being flung about violently by a rough storm.
They're ecologists. Trees prevent soil erosion, filter pollutants from the air, and help conserve water by providing shade to soil and thereby reducing evaporation.
They're social beings. Truly! Scientists have observed that trees can - and do - communicate with and assist one another. A tree that's being attacked by insects will warn others nearby of the danger. Trees share nutrients to maintain the health of the forest.
They're healers of humans, too. Spending time among trees can improve our health by reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.
Come to the woods, for here is rest.
There are more than 800 species of trees in the United States. The red maple (Acer rubrum) is the most common of the native species. Coming in at number six on that list is my favorite: Acer saccharum - the sugar maple. I don't think it's possible to live in New England and not be enamored with sugar maples.
As much as we love them, trees can be a challenge to photograph. Forests - beautifully chaotic and filled with visual clutter - are even more difficult. There's also the issue of enormity and scale.
How can you capture what you're seeing in a meaningful way?
This doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't go big, but if you're struggling to see something more than a snapshot, simplification is often the solution.
Create Visual Emphasis
When you're working in the midst of a forest, softer light typically produces much better conditions than bright sunshine, which can create hot spots on tree trunks, foliage, and the forest floor.
Likewise, the sky is often visually distracting. Even relatively small bright patches can compete for attention in an oversized way. One solution is to completely eliminate the sky from the frame, either with a longer lens or by shooting from a higher vantage point.
If you're unable to completely remove the sky, try modifying your position to downplay any brightly contrasting spots overhead.
Take your time. Move around. Even the smallest adjustments can make a big difference.
Trees and forests aren't the easiest subjects to photograph. Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. More often it's the reverse that's true: you can't see the trees for the forest. The big picture is so mesmerizing (or overwhelming) that simplification and finding visual order is tough.
Once you begin to get the hang of it, though, these types of images can be very rewarding to make.
Though it was snowing aggressively in Teton Valley, Idaho (and Jackson, too) just a few days ago, temperatures this coming weekend will climb nearer to where they ought to be this time of year. As a result, a flood watch has been issued for the valley along with much of the southeastern portion of Idaho through May 2nd due to snow melt.
Grizzly 863, better known as Felicia, was spotted with her two sub-adult cubs last week. Felicia is often seen near Togwotee Pass, just outside of Grand Teton National Park. If you're in the area, please be careful. Keep your speed down and pay attention as you head through Buffalo Valley and up toward the pass. Don't stop anywhere but a designated pullout to watch her, and do not get too close to her. Vehicle strikes are a very real danger, as is the possibility she and/or her cubs might become habituated to humans. Obviously neither of those situations will end well for the bears.
I haven't seen any mentions of 399 sightings. If she made it through the winter, she'll be 27 years old this year. Here's hoping she is alive and well.
Yellowstone's west entrance is now open for the season. The east entrance will open on May 5th with the south following on May 12th. Beartooth Highway and Dunraven Pass bring up the rear on the 26th.
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