Monthly Archives: December 2015

“Poplars on the Trail” – Secord Forest Trail

“Poplars on the Trail” - Secord Forest Trail

Back in October, I spent quite a bit of my free time on the local trails, enjoying the mild fall, spectacular colours, and some quiet time to just appreciate the stillness of the forest.

At one point on the Secord Forest trail, the path runs through a large group (or stand) of poplars. I’ve tried on a few occasions to photograph them in a way that shows the interesting texture of the tree trunks and a sense of uncertainty, as the narrow path weaves into the distance between the many trees. You can’t see very far ahead at this point in the trail because of how the poplars block your view.

When viewed in colour, there are a lot of distractions caused by the bright leaves and grasses. So, I thought I’d try this as a black and white. I’m very pleased at how the textures really stand out, the ‘layering’ of the seemingly endless rows of trees fading into the background, as well as how the path between them is not obvious, which was my intent. The image is surprisingly stark, but I like the effect.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm

1/100 sec, f/5.0 -0.33, ISO 250

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“Beaverpond Treeline”

“Beaverpond Treeline” - near Kaladar, Ontario

As noted in a recent post, there is an area along Highway 7, in Eastern Ontario, with a very unique topography, made up of long bands of granite and close packed, narrow, and parallel valleys and ponds. Unlike regions like the Adirondacks, with its beautiful rolling mountains, this is like a miniature, compressed version. From the highway, the ridges don’t seem to be for than a few meters high and are populated with thin trees.

I imagine the reason for the thin trees is that they seem to be growing on a very shallow layer of soil. I don’t see very many large, mature trees, and I wonder if they were harvested aggressively at some recent point in history, or if this is a natural phenomenon.

The long, narrow valleys are also perfect for beavers to build their dams and make long chains of connected ponds, that follow the highway along, sometimes fading to a grassy meadow, before transforming into a pond again. The challenge to photographing this area from the road is that the highway winds along these ponds quite closely and there are very few places where you can pull over safely to make a photo.

The photo above was made at one of these few pull-outs but represents the scenery fairly well. I’d like to come back here some time and spend a few days hiking the ridges or canoeing the ponds to get a better sense of this strange place that is so unlike anything I have experienced before.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm
1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 250

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“Uphill Journey” – Durham Forest

“Durham Forest Uphill Climb”

This photo is a slight flashback to mid-November, when I went on a long hike through the Durham Forest, south of Uxbridge, Ontario.

At the time, we were in the midst of a wonderful, extended fall and many of the maple and beech leaves were still on the trees, but enough had fallen to let ample light into the forest. I had been hiking for a few hours and decided to take a lesser path, as a shortcut, back to my car. The shortcoming of this decision was that the trail went up a steep incline, but saved be about half an hour of additional walking. By this point, I’d already walked about 20km. But, I’m not complaining, because the trail also went through a wonderfully diverse hardwood forest, filled with poplar, birch, maple, beech, and oak.

The photo above shows the incline with the trail gradually fading away behind the canopy. It also reveals many of the bright colours of the remaining leaves, as the branches reach across the trail to form a bit of a tunnel above me. What a wonderful day that was to be out on the trails.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm
1/60 sec, f/4.0 -0.33, ISO 250

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“The Fire Within” – Durham Forest

“The Fire Within”

This photo was made in early November and autumn had settled in comfortably, for an extended stay. The days had already shortened enough to bring out amazing, bright colours, but the air was warm and comfortable. Best of all, the bugs were gone; even the dopey fall wasps.

Along a minor path of the south-east corner of the East Duffins Creek Headwaters trail is this beautiful grove of maples, interspersed with beech trees. The maples had already dropped many of their leaves, but the beaches, with their smooth,metallic looking, trunks,  were magnificent, as the soft, warm sun shone through the canopy and set them ablaze with golden light. I stood here for a long time, reveling in the beauty. The leaves seemed to be almost on fire with their own light, thus the title, “The Fire Within”. There really was no other way to describe this scene. I also employed my vertical-pan abstract technique to further enhance the surreal feeling of this place. I think it nicely locks in some fine details but the movement adds life to it.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 135 mm
1/4 sec, f/32.0, ISO 250

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“Pondside Maple” – Hwy 7, near Kaladar, Ontario

“Beaver Pond Maple” - Hwy 7 near Kaladar, Ontario

There is an interesting stretch of highway in eastern Ontario, where the road follows the unusual topography, consisting of many long ponds between low strips of granite. When viewed from above, it’s like a large series of wrinkles in the earth’s crust. The bare rock and water filled valleys are so different from anything else along that road that it made me pay attention to it. Among those rocks and ponds are numerous ‘solitaires’, as I have begun to call them. That is, trees that stand apart from others for any number of reasons.

This maple looks to have had a companion at one time, but that one, lying along the shore, has not faired as well. It’s amazing this tree has reached the size and age it has, given the scant soil it has grown in. There were a few of these solitaires visible from the road but this one was in a location where I could safely pull over and compose a photo as the highway snakes along the edge of the pond.

The photo nicely captures the cool mid-December feeling. It will be winter in a few days, yet there is no snow and the water remains unfrozen. It was a bit dull and the sky was filled with variable clouds, yet the diffused light still lit up the pale yellow grasses along the shore. I’m hoping that the mood is conveyed adequately without making it depressing, which it was not.

Nikon D300
Tamron  70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm
1/200 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250

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“Roadside Poplars” – Pontypool, Ontario

“Roadside Poplars” - Pontypool, Ontario

There was something about this stand of poplars that made me pull over on a drive back from Ottawa last week and make this image. At the time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what, exactly, it was that made this scene so interesting. As I worked with the image I looked at several aspects and edited it various ways, looking for what it was that first drew my eye to the composition. It was not till I looked at it in black and white that all the fine detail emerged.

That was it, the contrasts between the bright bark of the poplar trunks offset by the dark background and the texture and glow of the grasses in the foreground. You see, this day was pretty much overcast with a few bursts of sunlight from the south. It was one of these moments of  direct sunlight which lit up the poplars as I approached them, yet the background remained in shade, producing this image with three different bands of light: Bright in the foreground, from the grass in sun, the dark background, with the poplar trunks in the middle, and the grayish clouds above. And, as I look the the photo again, there is this wonderful arching of a few branches near the centre of the image, like a gate to somewhere within the stand.

To me, it make the whole image looks like a very complex sketch. I may have to pull the markers and paper out and see if I’m up to the challenge some day soon. That would be an interesting exercise.

iPhone 5S, @ 4.2mm
1/1500 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32

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“Elecampane” – Seaton Hiking Trail

“Elecampane Stem and Seedhead” - Seaton Hiking Trail

This was a typical shot from this past fall / Early December; bright golds and yellows, almost ‘aglow’, as the soft sunlight reflected from the dried plants. This Elecampane plant stood out to me because the leaves were darker and more gray than the surrounding yellows, and the seed heads varied from gray to a pale orange. The plant also stands out in sharp contrast to its neighbours since it is quite tall and generally survives the winter still standing due to its almost woody stalk. In the summer this is a beautiful plant, with flowers resembling small sunflowers, so it should not surprise me that it is also known in some areas as Wild Sunflower.

This plant has a long medicinal history dating back to ancient Greece. The latin name Inula Helenium is taken from a legend that Helen of Troy was carrying a bouquet of these flowers when Paris stole her away to Phrygia. The root, in particular, has been used in herbal medicines since ancient times and there are many mentions of its use in historical texts. It seems to be a cure for many different ailments, depending on how it is prepared.

It was also a common herb grown in the gardens of early north american settlers, as it could be used as an herb or as food. Thus, like many other plants, it has moved from gardens to wilderness paths quite well.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 122 mm
1/60 sec, @ f/4.0 -0.33, ISO 250

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