You never know what is around the bend… have a lovely day on or off the trails.
It is my 5th Wedding Anniversary today so I am using images from the past to illuminate my uses of light. Sunrises, back light, moonlight, clouds, soft morning, harsh afternoon etc., all can forms be your best friend or worst enemy. Fleeting and often frustrating light will make or break each photograph. Natural light is my favorite dance partner even though it has often stepped on my toes. I never use a flash outdoors, for me it would be cheating on a dear friend.
The image above shows my first light transformation event in the Forest. In the first shot I realized there was a moment of beauty about to happen. I ran up the trail and zoomed in to catch the light as it fell through the canopy. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship with natural light. Once on an early hike the sun was slowly rising over North Mountain as it crested it illuminated the rain soaked old autumn leaves on the the Forest floor. This created the appearance of burning embers. I sprinted along the trail to put out a fire that did not exist. The open springs in Hot Springs National Park add glittering mineral water to the sky. The effect of the rise mist is beautiful often sparkling rainbow light and humidity.
I have picked some favorites for a gallery slideshow I hope they will help you begin your own dance with natural light. If you have any questions about Nature’s illumination please post on the specific photo or in the blog comment section. In the beginning I had only my trusty Sony Cybershot the gallery contain both point and shoot with DSLR shots. Light made many of my point and shoot images appear to be taken with a more expensive camera. For this kindness I am grateful…
I know it is wordless Wednesday… so I will attempt to be brief. My hike began with a melodic Male Cardinal and a chatty Squirrel. It ended with another but less vocal Squirrel eating beneath the beautiful blooms of the old Southern Magnolia Trees at the entrance to the park. In-between I was surprised to see a pair of Racing Pigeons strolling along the Carriage Road and discovered beautiful purple Venus Looking Glass Wildflowers on the Floral Trail. Last year the the lack of rain meant there were hardly any Flowers on the Floral Trail. Now the entire park is bursting with glorious color.
On a sad note I found the body of a young Blue Jay as I was heading out of the park on the Hot Springs Mountain Road. With no apparent injury at first glance it appeared only to be in a sweet sleep. I took a moment to remember how its short life brought beauty to the Forest and prayed for its young spirit to have peaceful journey.
Love to ALL! Make a play date with yourself to get out in Nature 🙂
The past few weeks have been my first living with the threat of tornadoes. Engulfed in thunder storms, hail and heavy rain we have not been able to get out into the Forests and Mountains that surround our home. So when I discovered there was a 4 hour window in the morning of moderate weather I grabbed my boots and headed out for a hike.
Although my cell phone is suppose to ring me when there is an elevation in the weather alert system I tend to trust my eyes. I have a plan for distance and time that will bring home safely before the storms reach us. A Male Cardinal sits on a branch looking out toward West Mountain as I reach the Peak Trail via the Tufa Terrace. On the Carriage Road the Squirrels are high in the Trees screeching out a warning. They appear to be railing at the sky for the wind, rain and lightning that has bombarded the park for several weeks.
I reach the Dead Chief Trail as another Male Cardinal is singing a sweet song trying to beckon the sun to come out. He is unsuccessful. The hike up the trail is much better than I expected as often heavy rain will carve a channel into the rock and dirt surface. When I reach the Short Cut Trail I hear an unfamiliar bird call and turn to see a Juvenile Blue Grosbeak. Another call rings out and a Male Cardinal appears, the third I have seen this morning. The many vibrant red Cardinals are spectacular perched within the gorgeous spring greenery.
On the second rise of the Short Cut Trail clusters of leaves are strewn across the path. The wind definitely came up this part of the Mountain, as I reach the top I see a tree that has been twisted and bent over (see Hot Springs National Park – Twisted Bent Tree – Microburst, Tornado or…?).
The skies are darkening as I step into the Hot Springs Mountain pagoda and look out over the valley. I decide it is best to continue at a quicker pace as I am unsure how quickly any storm cells will form over the park. A sweet Chipmunk stops briefly on a log as I move along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. I am pleased to see many new steams have filled and cross the path, water is life! A loud bird call reveals a lovely Gray Catbird in the mist ahead of me. As I finish taking a photograph a not so friendly reminder of spring smacks me in the forehead. As I feel the burning it is already too late, I pull from my face a huge winged stinging insect. Not the greeting I have expected or wanted to announce bug season has begun.
Near the trail head I can see a Tree laying across my path, it is sad to another lost life in the Forest. The saturated soil could not hold its roots against the storms of the past week and it was uprooted. On the North Mountain leg of the trail there is little or no sign of the high winds of the previous evening. Only the sound of running water in the distance reminds me of the volume of rain which has fallen in the park. A lovely Tufted Titmouse, a Male and Female Cardinals are all foraging for food before the storms return.
I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail then the Floral to make my way back home. Just over three hours have passed and I want to be home safe before the next storm warning. A sweet Male House Sparrow and a baby Squirrel guide me out of park, it is a perfect end to my much need hike in the Forest. I can see my beloved husband Rick is relieved and happy as I walk in the door… I am a very lucky woman.
Love to ALL!
Spring blossoms paint the Arlington Lawn at the base of Hot Springs Mountain. Glorious Purple blossoms cascade from a large Foxglove Tree next to the white petals of Dogwood Blossoms. Bright and pale pink Azaleas are covered in the life giving rain drops from a brief shower. Spiderwort caught in the the rain glisten in purple and fuchsia as the first morning light pierces the surrounding Trees.
As I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace Trail ramp a sweet Squirrel has stopped on a branch to watch a group of people up ahead. When they move the Squirrel and I proceed,we each peek over the Tufa Rock to see if the path is clear. We sneak a quick glance at one and other before heading our separate ways.
At the Peak Trail a lesson in territory is taking place. A pair of Squirrels are enjoying breakfast on opposite sides of the trail. The small one crosses to dig for food, then is promptly chased to the other side and up a Tree. The winner puts on an elaborate victory display at the base of the Tree before crossing back to her territory.
On the Dead Chief Trail the Dogwood Blossoms are beginning fade, they fall in the breeze blanketing the path in white petals. Yellow Oxalis glow within the new spring greenery. Bird song fills the air and I see several White Throated Sparrows pecking the and turning leaves on the trail edges. Suddenly tails fan and wings arch as two sparrows scuffle over pecking rights. To my side a brown Moth sits calmly with wings spread over dried autumn Leaves warming itself in the sunlight.
Glowing at the Hot Springs Mountain Trail head atop the Mountain is a Blackberry Blossom. Soon it will turn to sweet food for both wildlife and hikers. Heading toward the Honeysuckle Trail Bird Foot Violets and pink Oxalis cradle the edges of the path. When I reach my Wedding Chapel (the NPS rest hut in which my Husband Rick and I spoke our vows last June) I see lovely white Oxalis. Today I have been blessed to white and yellow Oxalis in the park, a first for me. I realize it has been many months since I have traveled on this section of the trail, the sight of a lovely squirrel make me smile. It is good to visit forgotten places.
On the Peak Trail a splash of yellow and pink decorates the greenery as I near the Carriage Road. Oxalis and Everlasting Peas are intertwined in flowing artistry of curves and color. Reconnecting with the Tufa Terrace Trail I am immersed in a field of wildflowers, for a moment times stops as my eyes scan the beauty. When I reach the promenade I follow a flash of Orange gliding on the spring breeze traveling through the park. Dancing along the tops of Purple Deadnettle is a delicate Monarch Butterfly. It perches gracefully on the tiny fluted blossoms.
When I reach a bush favored by the Hot Springs Mountain Mockingbirds I am treated to an unusual sight. A pair of Mockingbirds are sitting on top singing to one and other. Not unlike Painter they allow me to walk up and take their photograph. As a couple with a dog approaches the bird with the hook beak flies up into a tall Tree followed by the smaller Northern Mockingbird. I am drawn to these lovely social songbirds, I am both surprised and exhilarated by their trust in letting me come so close on multiple occasions.
As I head toward home along the Promenade I hear a familiar song. While seeking the source I find a colorful display of Spiderwort covering the bank below. Multiple patches in various shades on pink and purple in a glorious display. As if to remind me how I found this beautiful place the vibrant birdsong resumes. I look up and on the branch before me is a juvenile Male Cardinal watching me photograph the wildflowers. He does not fly away as I raise my lens, instead he allows me to takes his photograph. As I speak my message of thanks for drawing me to this beautiful place he cocks his head and stares into my lens. After I lower my camera several seconds pass as he takes one more look at me before flying off to a distant Tree. It has been joyous day traveling through the springs Forest, I feel blessed by the sights and sounds Nature has revealed.
In the afternoon I was blessed to have a second hike with my beloved husband Rick. As we head up the Floral Trail Rick spots a Nest in a Tree above us, a sweet Tufted Titmouse is flying back and forth adding twigs to the edges. We stop for a few minutes to savor this special sight. Along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail Rick notices different type of Nest, this one is made with silky threads. On closer inspection we see lovely orange hairy Caterpillars are moving inside and out to create this amazing structure. We wonder what type of Moths or Butterflies will be hatched and fly through our Forest.
Further along the trail a lovely Dragonfly lands gracefully on the tip of a branch as we head toward the Hot Springs Mountain Road. On the way down the Mountain a pretty Black and White Warbler dances on the branch of a Tree while singing to the fading light. It’s sweet song follows us on a cooling spring breeze. A final farewell is given by a Robin feeding on the Fountain Trail lawn. It has been a glorious afternoon hiking along the trails of North Mountain with my Husband.
Much Love to ALL!