Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Pattern in Nature

I can't help but see the natural world around me as texture and pattern. I have been seeing this way for so long that my eye yanks my camera and demands that I take a picture. Looking through the camera, I scan for the cleanest, most perfect arrangement. Many of us call this 'art' -- and many don't, I think for similar reasons. It's art because it's clean and perfect, it's inferior art because it's clean and perfect. That's your choice.

Hawley Bog late summer eve

I often find a mostly green picture to be somewhat boring as I later look at it on the screen. Is this just subjective on my part? When I desaturate the image and push it towards black and white, the pattern often becomes much clearer, and this makes the picture visually more interesting to me. Maybe our brain does this on some unconscious level, reducing all that green information to a pattern that gives us more useful survival information.

Mohawk Trail State Park, WPA planted pines past maturity

Our digital cameras have been built to be biased towards gathering light in the green part of the visible spectrum as have our eyes evolved to differentiate more finely in this same green part of the  spectrum. Was this evolution, helping us to find the threat among the leaves? Anyway, I think this evolutionary advantage naturally draws me into the scene around me. 

The piece below was from my first digital series and was never used. When the creations became formulaic and started to look like wall paper, I had to back away from 
the comfortable rhythms I was drawn to. When I moved into digital photography around 2000, the ease of creating pattern from nature was seductive. Over the years I have refined that pattern making from nature, isolating and clarifying.

experimental tiling pattern from the Buckland series pieces

During 1999 to 2001 the Japan Meditation series was an early venture into this digital realm. 
The pieces of this series were less obviously pattern dominated. 
The picture below 'Spokes and Stones' is from the series and resorts to using mirroring of an old waterwheel's spokes. Photoshop was a new cool tool to me, and I couldn't resist.

Spokes and Stones from the Japan Meditation series

Sixteen years later, it was so much fun building my mandala series using a handmade kaleidoscope template that I had built in photoshop (now a built in part of the program). 
I even tried animating these images.

Plant Mandala series using fern and QueenAnne's lace

Plant Mandala series using grapevine and QueenAnne's lace

I want to get back to the original subject of seeing pattern while wandering out in my woods and fields. As I became a better photographer, I learned to take my time and work to refine that first recognition of the pattern right in front of me. For me now, simple is often better. These files are also now huge so one gets lost in the detail -- getting lost, not such a good survival mechanism. So a straight forward framing of what is there works just fine.

evening view from Deer Park in the Olympics

Cropping out the horizon really helps to focus on the patterns out there too. 
Distance and hazy light makes theatrical silhouettes reducing detail to a simpler pattern. 

Palmetto after a burn, St. Marks FL.

Growth is pattern. There's no work on my part to see the pattern of growing things. 
Growth is replication, which is pattern. It's just choosing what scale to frame it on. 

Natural Bridges National Monument, UT

Point Lobos, washed up seaweed

St Joe dunes, FL

Hopkins Prarie, burnt ground

Texas rice fields fallow

Florida wave wash line

From grains of sand to mountains complete, frame the pattern and put it to work. 
Pattern is so prevalent it would be difficult to take a picture without it. Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Live And Let Live

The brand new New England, of course, had nothing to do with Old England; back when my ancestors arrived here, that is. As some of the early English colonist limited to their tiny ocean side settlements, they hadn't a clue as to how the people already here had been living so deeply integrated with their surroundings. This "new" land had been comfortably populated for at least 12,000 years at that point. It is believed that the people who had been living here probably had not lived in closed structures with animals as my English ancestors had.

The diseases that came with my ancestors to these new shores wiped out most of the people here who had long since settled into there own balanced way of co-existing with the world arround them. This was long after many large species had been wiped out by coming into contact with these same people as they spread out across the continent and began inhabiting the North East part of our country. Millenia of people shaping these lightly tended forest and fields through burning and light agriculture created a landscape I would love to have been able to have seen.

When I arrived here in the 80's (that is the 1980's) and talked to the local farmers who remembered when these hills were bare and stripped of their "natural" tree cover. I was shown photographs of huge stone lime kilns fueled by charcoal, massive log jams on the Connecticut River, and farm houses surrounded by bare fields. So the stone walls that I had found running through my woods made sense.

Come summer time, our woods, comprised mostly of trees a hundred years young or younger, are producing a lot of oxygen because of that young age. They are largely healthy. Fortunately, acid rain is not as much of a problem for the trees as it used to be 20 years ago. But now I am seeing mature ash and hemlock dying as I survey my land. It is felt that this has to do with climate change and moving insect populations. 

In the woods, I work to open my understory, to clear out vines and thorny underbrush, to clear out the scrappy stuff, by taking maybe half of what is there down as fire wood and wood that gets milled. Working in the woods, I am motivated by open site lines and better movement through the woods as much as by good forestry.

So It seems, I own and manage some acres of carbon sink, if one looks at it that way. Does this make up for my modern life style of consume, consume, consume? I think not. Who do those woods really belong to? I know I am only a visitor. What I "clean up" in the woods is soon after heading back to natures default. No way could I ever keep up with my vision, especially as I am closing in on 70.

This old farm land is now some of the best "natural" land in New England. It has been left alone or lightly tended for many generations and reached it's own kind of teen maturity. I believe in "take a little, leave a lot" - the old way of living in consideration of others and sharing, harvesting and maintaining year by year. Even if I don't always live by that rule.

This blog entry pays respect to local land allowed to just exist and be left mostly alone, but still somewhat tended. I am lucky to  be able to live in a part of the world where this is still possible.

Up in Maine on an island a tree grows over the handle of abandoned farm equipment.

View from above of forest I have been thinning.

A nearby bog will never be able to be farmed. That is fine with the beavers.

A closeup of a lime kiln wall

This maple tree alley was created by hundreds of years of farming on either side.

Looking south from a newly opened field.

Farm as museum, oh well.

Leaving the ferns be and mowing around them.

The same field from the top.

Removing many years of farming sin, mine and others.

Neighbor Michael and his new logging rig. A horse makes for lowwer impact logging.

Beavers shaping the land.

Previously bare hills, now mostly covered by new growth one to two centuries old.

It is sad to see these large Ashes dying, but flooring is on it's way.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Smoke Filled Summer

August 2018 Northwest Coast

I am starting a series of blogs here on how nature is changing due to our interference in the natural systems of this planet. I have followed climate change and population pressures on the delicately balanced ecosytems that make up the living skin of our planet for a long time. We are now heading into a very different world, one that will change more and more rapidly. A major extinction has already begun, but I will not focus on that. The landscape is my focus and what we are doing to it. There is always beauty out there, even if it is a scary kind of beautiful.      

Suave Island, just down river from Portland, OR.

Fires were burning in British Columbia, Northern California, and various places East of us as well. It was smaokey like this most days. You could smell the smoke from hundreds of miles away. 

High in the Olympics the air was even thicker with smoke. This made for amazing evening shots from Deer Park.

Looking East towards the mainland and eventually Seatle.

On the far west coast of the peninsula down in the valley of the Qweets River the smoke mixed with the coastal fog for days on end.

It was absolutely other worldly for most of the time I was there. These were very destructive fires. I feel this is part of our new norm in this rapidly changing climate that we have brought about.

The sunrises and sunsets were soft deep murky colors.

more on this subject to come.......