Underground Railroad

Autumn Wonder

We have often travelled Lower Creek Road as an alternate route to visit my son and his family who live in Freeville, a village named for the activity of the Underground Railroad. After noticing this sign in passing for years, this week we stopped on a glorious autumn morning to capture it. I had packed the Sony Alpha 700 dslr for just such an opportunity.

Just off the road, under a maple tree in full autumn color (yellow), ground covered with fallen leaves (brown) on a fine early October morning, the sign reads, “New York, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, HOME OF WILLIAM HANFORD AND WIFE ALTHA C. TODD, WHO SHELTERED FUGITIVE SLAVES ON THE WAY TO CANADA AND FREEDOM, STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT 1932”. These dark blue background, bright yellow letter signed are found throughout this region and much appreciated.

An added plus for me is the acceptance of both photographs by Getty Istock. Click this link to view a selection of my Getty photography in and around Ithaca, New York.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Red Near and Far

Yesterday, Pam and I headed to the peneplane behind our home to enjoy the Finger Lakes terrain graced by fall colors.  The day before I noticed the Japanese Maple leaves had turned from maroon to vermillion.  While waiting for Pam to get ready, I capture the following two shots.

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RedNearAndFar-7

This tree was planted by my father and mother in-laws.  Developed over the centuries by the Japanese, specimens reached England in the 1820 and spread from there.  It is not strictly accurate to call the color vermillion, since cinnabar finely ground produces the pigment for which the color is named, when the sun strikes the leaves vermillion is a metaphor for the impression made.

The scientific name for these trees is Acer palmatum with common names Palmate Maple (for the shape of the leaves “like a palm tree”, as for the scientific name), Japanese Maple or Smooth Japanese-Maple (for the bark).

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RedNearAndFar-6

We drove under the clouds, enjoying the rare dramatic shafts of sunlight and I gave up, finally, tying to time my shots.  Here is the view from Connecticut Hill.

RedNearAndFar-1

The previous photos were taken with a hand held Sony Alpha 700 with variable lens.  The next two are with an Apple iPhone I had a hand when Pam and I returned home for a walk around the neighborhood to witness the transformations.

We were surprised by this orange maple, never recalling this shade before.  Like our Japanese Maple were assume it is a non-native ornamental.

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RedNearAndFar-2

Our Japanese Maple is a challenge to capture photographically as it grows beneath a larger “nut” (don’t recall the kind at the moment) tree.  We are working together to improve that, so I don’t have an overall photograph.

Here is our neighbor’s Japanese Maple.  They have a story of carrying this tree, as a sapling, on the bus from Long Island.   I love the impression of dark limbs among the clouds of red foliage. 

RedNearAndFar-3

This photograph (the “far” of the “near and far”) is from a remote corner of Chiricahua National Monument, during the trip mentioned in my post, “History and Ghosts of the Triangle T Ranch”.  To get there, I drove over a mountain pass to a location was featured in an “Arizona Highways” I read long ago.

I call this photograph “Red Dragon,” the formation is known as a “maple “

dragon”, from the long sinuous form of the tree limb.  Known for this reddish orange autumn color, this is a Big Tooth Maple, AKA Canyon Maple.  Scientific Name Acer grandidentatum (as in “big tooth”).  It is a wild specimen, living along the north fork of Cave Creek.  It is a area well know to avid bird watchers and ornithologists.

Click the link for my offering of this photograph in my Fine Art Galleries
RedNearAndFar-8

The camera was my Kodak, DSC slr-c with a Canon 50 mm lens mounted on a tripod.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Autumn Mushroom

Moments from a September backpack

A budding mushroom

Autumn Mushroom

among autumn leaf litter

along mountain shores

Peaked Mountain

Peaked Mountain and Pond, Siamese Ponds Wilderness, The Adirondacks

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Copyright 2021All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Autumn Stroll in Sapsucker Woods

a meditaton

On Halloween morning 2004 I set out with a camera upgrade purchased spring of that year, a Sony “Cyber Shot, DSC-F828” with an inexpensive tripod. My photograph “Autumn Stroll in Sapsucker Woods”, the feature photograph and below, achieved prizes with the Photographic Society of American and a few sales of self-produced prints. It was an early success.

Click any photograph to visit my Online Gallery “Finger Lakes Memories.”

It is available on my Finger Lakes Memories online gallery where I provide recommendations for sizing, the best print medium with ideas for frame and matt.

The fall of 2005 I invested in a Kodak DCS Pro dslr-c and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.  October 30, 2005, one day short of the 2004 Halloween shoot, found me driving down Fall Creek Road on a mission of revisiting Sapsucker Woods to possibly improve upon my offerings.

Over the years, travelling Fall Creek Road on my daily commute, I admired this well formed maple next to a farm field.  At 6:45 am the sun was about this rise, the frost limned grass not yet burned off.  This tree turned a bright yellow, here a green-yellow and dull.  The form of the tree is perfect.  I was never able to catch this at the right moment, it is still there and maybe I can time it this year during a pick-up of my grandson.  If I do, my intention is to climb the fence and use the 24 mm lens to capture the tree and shed with less sky (unless there are some dramatic clouds).  That day, I needed to make time for Sapsucker woods.

On site, thirty minutes later, as the leaves of the Fall Creek Road maple predicted, Sapsucker Woods foliage is behind last year’s by a week or so.  In “Autumn Stroll in Sapsucker Woods” the over story leaves have fallen and the understory is at peak.  Here, I believe the overstory is gone, the understory leaves are yellow-green.

I carefully choose the sites and this one is a risen walk of boards.  In the nine years since, the walk as deteriorated and this scene will be different, possibly.

This is a match for the 2004 photograph as far as the camera position.  What I enjoy from the 2004 version, aside from the foliage, are the details of the fallen leaves taking up the foreground, a carpet filling the field to lead the eye up through the trees, path fading from view to the right.

This effect is not possible on the boardwalk, above.  With the fixed focus 50 mm lens it might be possible with effort.  Today, the 24 mm is my first choice to capture this effect.

Here we can see the leaf carpet is possible, if the f-stop is higher to allow a crisp focus.  In this scene it is f2 because I happened upon a buck in a daze.  He was just standing there as I headed back to the car.  I did not risk changing out lenses to the telephoto, so I moved forward slowly.

The best I did was this rear view as he looked backward.  Lack of flexibility is a draw back of a fixed-focus lens.

In 2004 my day concluded with Robert Treman State Park.  In 2005 the 50 mm fixed focus with a ND filter and tripod was in its element.  The sun is higher and overcast, one background tree is a peak foliage.  The moderate water flow and stair complete the effect.  This was my best work of that day.  I need to get this up on the “Finger Lakes Memories” gallery.

Other postings of interest. Click the link to go there.
“Last Sunlight” — the Gorge Waterfall
“Autumn Evening Hike Part 1 of 3”
Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Through A Glass Darkly

Visual Spirit

The title is a fragment from the thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians.

During brief moments of the upstate New York autumn season perfect images are mirrored in quiet pond waters.

It this case the effects lasted a few seconds.

The site of this photograph, McLean Bogs, is part of Cornell Plantations. McLean Bogs is known for its biodiversity and is reserved for research.

This work is a composite of four images, the mirror image of each of two photographs. I print it on a stretched canvas 5 feet wide by 4 feet high.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Libe Slope Autumn

A Magnificent Display

Libe Slope

Libe Slope is between the West Campus and Quadrangle / Libraries.

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Cornell University is on a west-facing hill above Cayuga lake.

Besides the exercise of walking the 18 degree incline several times each day, Cornell students and alumni remember The Slope for autumn color.

 

Wonderful Flow of Limbs among Gold

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Hickory

Seen from the north on a cloudy October day, this Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra) is the largest tree on the Cornell Campus, at 79 inches in diameter.

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Cornell University is on a west-facing hill above Cayuga lake.

Take another look at the previous image. Can you find the grey squirrel? This hickory grows south of the Johnson Museum and among the autumn glories, it is the largest and brightest yellow canopy on Libe Slope.

Contrast

An overcast day is the best to capture this spectacle. October 20, 2012 provided both bright sun and dark, rolling autumn clouds. I waited on the north side, sheltered from the glare of the sky, for these perfect moments.

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I remember this hickory for the contrast between the canopy and trunk, the way the clumps of yellow hang from dark boughs.

The pignut hickory is native to these Eastern United States. It is known to favor moist slopes and this specimen has thrived on The Slope. The ground beneath it is thick with nuts.

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One week later

Just one week later, late afternoon on a sunny Friday as hurricane Sandy approached the east coast the hickory has fewer, tawny golden leaves.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Perfect Afternoon On Beebee Lake

Anticipating Our Tenth Wedding Anniversary

After work on a 2008 Friday afternoon in October we sped over to Beebee Lake on the Cornell University Campus to catch the late afternoon glow.

Beebe Lake is formed by a dam on Fall Creek.  It seems to be the flooded meadow it is, surrounded by hills formed by glaciers 10,000 years ago.  Cornell maintains footpaths around the lake.

People say that if a couple walk the a mile around the lake and over a bridge at either end, they are destined to be married.  This day we passed only joggers and families.  Pam and I will celebrated our tenth anniversary March 2019, so the legend worked for us.

Here are four snapshots from that time, presented in chronological order. Each is a handheld shot taken on the fly using my Sony Alpha 700 I use for exploratory photography.

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A terraced stair descends to the east side meadow to south lake shore path

I walked down a path trod by Canadian geese to reach a clear view of the water.

View of Helen Newman Hall

Lily pads and iris fronds grow along the bank. 

Evening sunlight reflected from smooth water crests driven by a steady light wind

Being on the west side of the lake, the dam is bathed in golden autumn light.  

The Dam That Forms Beebee Lake

On top the hill, not visible behind the trees, above the opposite bank is Fuertes Observatory.  We visited it this night, opened to the public as it is on all clear Friday nights while classes are running.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Sun and Shade, Canyon Del Muerto

watch out for quicksand

In my post Canyon of Music, Wind, Light I shared a different photograph of this beetle crawling on sandstone, naming it as a “dung beetle”. I had assumed it was one from once having seen a beetle in an Arizona desert pushing a ball of dung around. This morning, to confirm my assumption, I searched for images of “Arizona Dung Beetle” and was dismayed to find this beetle shares no characteristics with the photographs. Absent smoking gun evidence, sadly lacking in this photograph, I have to admit my “dung beetle” attribution is in error.

Supporting the beetle, the luminous surface of the red sandstone named “de Chelly,” sunlight reflects from durable remnants of the ancestral Rocky Mountains wore to these bits of rock, piled to mountainous dunes by the winds of tens of thousands years, polished to smoothness each against the others.

Natural Markings
Mysterious abrasion and grooves in a de Chelly sandstone cliff, Canyon de Chelly.

The above photograph is a detail from the brightly lit cliff of the following photograph. The desert varnish and underlying rock was weathered over thousands of years, the sand grains falling to the canyon floor.

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Breadth, Light, Shadow
Canyon Del Muerto vista from a ledge.

The soil of the canyon is composed of these bits of the ancestral Rocky Mountains. What appears to be a white road in the above photograph is not man-made, it is the dried bed of a stream. When a waterway is dry like this, only flowing with rains, it is called a wash. When water fills the wash of the Canyon Del Muerto, the polished sand granules become a dangerous morass, sucking down horses, people, anything unlucky enough to step into it. Every movement, struggling for freedom, pulls the victim deeper down until the wet sand closes over the head and suffocation and death ensues.

Sandstone Stairs
Stairs cut into the sandstone cliff of Canyon de Chelly

The waters Canyon De Chelly National Monument naturally form a vast Y into the Defiance Plateau, naturally because two major streams merge into one canyon a few miles above Chinle. On both our guided trips, heading east from Chinle there is a branch. On the right De Chelly canyon continues. On the left is Canyon Del Muerto. The photos in this post are all from “The Canyon of the Dead”, what the name means translated into English.

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No, it is not named this because of the quicksand. Conditions for quicksand are present throughout canyons of the southwest. It is history of human occupation for which this canyon was named. I will cover it in a future posting. For now, I will say the above views are from the spot featured in “Family Trek.”

My first visit, in 2003, while my son Sean climbed the rocks with our guide, I was left to document the wondrous surroundings. The above shallow cave is reached by that stairway carved into the precipitous ledge. The access to the cave is via those naturally occurring ridges of the cross bedded sandstone. It is another example of De Chelly sandstone formed from the windblown edge of a monstrous ancient sand dune.

Monumental Cliff
A solid block of De Chelly sandstone formed from the central bulk of a sand dune.

Here is another example of rock formed from the solid body of the sand dune, that unbroken and un-striated cliff. Below is the cross-bedded, windblown sand.

Cliff with Foliage
Autumn lights up the floor of Canyon De Chelly, the foliage rivals the cliffs for wonder at this time.

As we proceeded generally east from the climbing spot of “Family Trek”, driving by the golden cottonwood foliage I asked the guide to stop for these photographs.

Canyon de Chelly
Canyon walls

Soon the cliffs hid the sun.

Canyon de Chelly

Notice the modern water distribution system (pipe) at the foot of cliff on right. These vast tracks of shadow adjacent to bright sunlight are a fact of life for canyon dwellers, a source of joy and wonder.

Canyon de Chelly

The canyon here is rather like the Narrows of Zion, without the water.

Canyon de Chelly

Enjoy!!

Click for the another Arizona post, “Juniper Sunrise.”

Click for the first posting of this series, “Portrait of a Navajo Guide.”
 
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills Photography

Sycamores and Riparian Space

a Preview of Reavis Ranch

….continued from the chapter “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek.”

Compare these Arizona Sycamores with the struggling specimen from the last chapter, “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek.” Many Sycamores such as this one flourish along Reavis Creek, a perennial stream of the eastern Superstition Wilderness. The drainage that feeds Pine Creek is far less acreage than that of Reavis Creek and, when the Pine Creek flow fades in the driest seasons, plants go into survival mode and halt growth and may even slough off limbs to conserve water.

These Sycamores grace a stream that seldom stops flowing, even in the driest of seasons. I had the good fortune to visit the Reavis valley of the Superstition Wilderness in November 2007, when these trees were at peak autumn foliage.

The tree requires a supply of water to thrive. This specimen demonstrates the species growth habit growing multiple trunks with a shape driven by water availability and the environmental context. The multiple trunks may be a desert survival mechanism. In dry periods a trunk or trunks are sloughed off to reduce moisture loss. This is why the Sycamore of “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek” has a single trunk.”

To encounter a riparian space of the Arizona desert is a revelation, to progress from Sonoran desert spaces assailed by the breath of dry wind, to see the first signs of water in the distance as a welcome fluttering of leaves, to feel a welcome odor of water.

Yes, the first effect of a riparian space on the senses is the smell of water. Let’s finish this post with limbs of the Reavis Creek Arizona Sycamore reaching for the sky.

Click me for the next episode, “Desert Luxuries.”

Click me to visit Michael Stephen Wills Online Arizona Gallery.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Autumn Hillside

Fillmore Glen Autumn

The first week of November 2020 I posted a series of photographs from Fillmore Glen from the Canon 5D Mark IV. Today, I present a series of photographs from the same day using the Sony Alpha 700 dslr using a variable 18-200 mm lens.

Hint: click image for larger view. Ctrl/+ to enlarge / Ctrl/- to reduce

Click me for the early November postings using the Canon 5D Mark IV

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