Iron Grace


A storage building fashioned into an overlook, just off South Pulteney Road, Routh 76, as the road climbs the hillside. This cast iron decoration graces the fence around the roof. The building is built into the hillside, one edge level with the ground.

As far back as I can remember, over thirty years, yet unmarked on maps, this building and view has been part of the experience of Keuka Lake.  During that time, the fence was erected to protect us.  The place symbolizes the gracious hospitality of the Finger Lakes Region.

I caught this feature during our last outing to Dr. Frank Winery, just a ways up the road, one day of an unusually cold early December.

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Keuka Lake Winter I

Keuka, the crooked Finger Lake….

Sunday, Pam and I travelled across the peneplanes, past three Finger Lakes, to reach the Dr. Konstantin Frank winery where we subscribe to the “Wine Club,” a quarterly release of three 750 ml wines along with a newsletter with information and recipes.  For 2018/2019 we elected to “pickup” our selections, looking forward to these drives through the country and villages between Ithaca and the winery perched on the west side of Keuka Lake, just below the “branch.”

Yesterday, I posted “Glacier!!” and today there is this photograph of glacial topography 10,000+ years after the melt.  Keuka Lake is shaped like a “Y” chromosome, here we are looking northeast across the “foot” of the “Y” from the west lakeside.  Above the evergreens, to the left, is the headland separating the “arms” of the “Y”. 

 Spread out below our viewpoint are row upon row of grapevines, enjoying the microclimate surrounding the deep lake.

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Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Winter Captures

two captures during a time of lengthening days

Here are two offerings from winters past.

Late In the Day
Small Break Against the North Wind

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Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Hoary Elm

This day, as our hill turns to snow globe, I remember this early morning, March 2007, on the edge of spring.  

Hoary as in covered in frost to appear bleached with age. 

As winter changed to spring I noticed the first greening of the limbs and, each November, the eerie form of the limbs revealed.  I call the tree an “elm” though I am not certain.  There are other lone survivor elms nearby, the leaves are right for an elm.  Some elm species/specimens have the same shape.

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Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Red Berries

Jack-In-The-Pulpit one June Day

The many names for this plant are reflective of how wide spread it is. Called Arisaema triphyllum (scientific name), jack-in-the-pulpit, bog onion, brown dragon, Indian turnip, American wake robin, or wild turnip this secretive plant flourishes in moist soils across eastern North America, everywhere north to south. I say “secretive” because the varieties I am familiar with hide the flower under the leaves, three of them growing from a stalk.

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Those of you who know Georgia O’Keefe may be familiar with the form and coloring of Jack-in-the-pulpit from the series of six oil canvasses from 1930, her time in the east living near a spring. There is a spathe, the pulpit, strongly colored in dramatic vertical, flowing stripes, wrapped around a spandix, the “jack”, being a stem covered with male and female flowers.

Around the time my photography habit started in 2002 I was surprised by the jacks growing from the walls of Fillmore Glen, spying the distinctive forms flowing a bit above eye level under the three large leaves. Seeing them was like recognizing a friend in Halloween disguise, the exotic O’Keefe shapes in a known place.

From this gift, an awareness of the possibility lead me to recognize “jacks” in many other places. I have yet to exhaust the possibilities.

2015 I acquired a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM lens for our cruise around South American. It proved very useful for an unending combination of situations. Here, it allowed me to frame this specimen, the former covering of three leaves now sere brown and collapsed, the berries revealed in startling clarity among evergreen ferns, Christmas red and green. The strangely named Dry Creek, the driving force of Fillmore Glen, flowing below this humus layered shelf moist with a constant flow from the gorge walls.

The park trails make for a pleasant choice at the start of each excursion. This day, Pam and I visited Cowshed Falls at the foot of the glen, climbed the north rim trail to walk among the hemlocks, listening the leisurely calls of Hermit Thrust like breaking crystal. The time of mushrooms was past in late September, instead we enjoyed the Indian Summer sun and breeze safe in knowing it will not last.

“Jacks” are part of the known lore of the Native American woodland tribes. These berries are poisonous, so beware of handing them. Wikipedia tells me a ploy was to mix the berry juice with meat to leave for enemies. Hidden by the meat flavor, the heartily enjoyed poison lead to death. The plant grows from a thick root, a corm. Correctly dried and prepared, the corm is food. I can imaging these plants an entities haunting the forest, choosing to reveal themselves, or not, to knowing souls. Maybe this is was drew O’Keefe to these woodland shapes growing around the springs of her summer homes. Leisure and an open, wandering glance are important, anyway, for noticing them. Most strangers wander by, engrossed in conversations, memories, evanescent distractions.

Here are other “shots” from the same day.

Here is another posting about the Finger Lakes of New York State.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Carpenter Falls flows into Skaneateles Lake

on the jug path

Under a crystal blue September sky, my wife and I climbed into the gorge of Bear Swamp Creek to the foot of this waterfall past the site of a distillery where, years ago, locals used to frequent using a “jug path.”

The creek is strictly protected as part of the water source for Syracuse, flowing from the Skaneateles Highlands past historical villages such as “New Hope.” Before merging with Skaneateles Lake, the creek traverses this 90 foot fall, call Carpenter Falls.

You need to climb the steep slopes of the gorge for this unobstructed view.

It is even possible to climb to the ledge behind the water. Standing on the ledge, the stream passes 50 feet overhead. It is a lovely view down the gorge in all seasons.

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This site is protected by the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Bells for Christmas

What do “threes” mean to you?

These icicles were formed along Fall Creek during the coldest months of February in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

The transient nature of these forms is suggested by the thinness of the pedicle joining each bell to the ice lobe of the ledge. Note the golden crystals in the ice lobe.

This photograph is a visualization of the symbolic power of the numeral three, reflected on itself.  Question: what do “threes” mean to you?

Captured with the Sony DSLR-A700, DT 16-105mm F3.5-5.6 lens, hoya circular polarizing filter, mounted on the Manfrotto tripod with ball head.

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Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills