Tag Archives: death

“Spent”

“Nature is impermanent and cyclical. Where once beauty and freshness abounded, desiccated petals remain and leaves begin to lose their freshness. This too will change, following a set pattern, and a new cycle will begin, in its time.” – Ed Lehming

I can’t say that I have ever witnessed this before. Two weeks ago the forest was alight with the pristine blossoms of white trillium (three weeks ago it snowed). Generally, my observation has been that within about a week, the white fades to a pale and mottled pink, causing some observers to think the trilliums are a pink variety. Once the pink fades, the petals fall off, leaving a bright green plant and a seed pod.

This year, the summer heat came quickly and since it been hot and dry at the same time, the petals simply dried in place. The whole forest is filled with these dry petal trilliums. They are actually quite pretty, but unexpected. It’s been a strange year all around so far. I’m wondering what new surprise is around the next corner?

For my photography community, you will see some ‘unorthodox’ settings. I had just entered the forest when I found these and had my ISO set to 400. Because I wanted to get the majority of the image in focus, I set the aperture to f/10.0 and the camera did the rest. Fortunately, I was using a tripod and the slight breeze I experienced the rest of the hike was not present at the time.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 (272ENII)@90mm

1/6 sec, f/10.0, ISO 400

“Nod to the Endless Night”

“Nod to the Endless Night”

“At the temple there is a poem called “Loss” carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.”
― Arthur Golden

The title for this image came to me right away, though I’m not sure I fully understand it yet. The ‘nodding’ of the fading blossoms invokes images of weariness, not death. This is the stark contrast I find when photographing these blossoms. They are tired looking, yet often brighter than they were in their prime.

It is inevitable, what comes next, the endless night, a passing from this world. Yet, there is the final brightness, which for some reason, I have become keenly aware of lately. As in the quote above, it has become more of a feeling than something that can be expressed effectively in words. It leaves me pondering the image and the multiple feelings it’s invoking for me.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 (272ENII)@90mm
2.0 sec, f/36.0 ISO 100

High Resolution image on 500px

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“Finale”

“Finale”

“To only see ‘death’ in death is to somehow assume that death itself is a barrier so abrupt that God Himself is halted by it. To see ‘life’ in death is to understand that death is a sprawling horizon to a new beginning that God created long before death ever thought to show up.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Finale, is the only word that came to mind as I viewed this final image of the garden tulip I have been photographing for the past few days. Every time I think it is done, it hangs on another day, its form altered, yet still beautiful, even in its passing.

For me, this is the final flourish, bright colours and textures intensified through the distortion of the wilting petals. And so, this blossom takes its final bow and I’m reminded of the joy it’s brief beauty brought to our home, now also remembered through a simple image.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 (272ENII)@90mm
2.0 sec, f/36.0 ISO 100

High Resolution image on 500px

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“Luminous”

“Luminous”

“In the end there is only light and dark. And the two are not so far apart.”
― Thomas Lloyd Qualls

Yesterday it was the roses putting on their show, today, a single lily decided to open fully. Until that point, I had no idea what colour it might be, other than something pale. This one, as you can see from the photo is white with a pinky-cream tone and even some notes of pale yellow, depending on how the light hits it.

Despite the scar on its stem, this lily is, in my opinion, nearly perfect. Fresh to the world, the blossom is pure and unblemished. I suppose I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for lilies, with their large but delicate petals.

Strangely, growing up with a German family, lilies represented death, which always confounded me. How can such a beautiful flower represent an ending, when to me, it symbolises birth or a beginning?

Well, our lives do travel in circles, and as I write these words, I’m reminded that though this flower bloomed today, it’s also eight years ago that my adopted mother passed away. I’m not one to remember the exact dates for such events but hers stuck with me, since she passed on Friday the thirteenth, eight years ago, and it was not till I looked at a calendar, that the significance of this day registered with me. So, in a way, the German tradition lives on, and today, the lily reminds me of one particular death.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 (272ENII)@90mm
0.6sec, f/25.0, ISO 100

High Resolution image on 500px

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“Dogwood Drama”

“Dogwood Drama”

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”
― Isaac Asimov

Something about fall that has always fascinated me is how slow decay, cooler temperatures, and a shorter period of daylight, can change a plant so dramatically.

Recently I came across this dogwood in a local forest. Almost all the leaves show signs of decay, being thoroughly spotted and in some case, even perforated by decay. Then there are the dramatic fuchsia leaves. I look at the companion leaves carefully and don’t see even a hint of that colour in them. It is quite dramatic, especially when the sun filters through the canopy, making the leaves glow.

Then, I think back on the same plant in early summer, leaves freshly formed and glowing green, not  a blemish to mar their beauty. They endure a lot through the summer and award us with this wonderful show of colour, with a few blemishes and scars to remind us that the summer can be harsh too.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
 @ 62mm
1/2 sec, f/20.0, ISO 400

High Resolution image on 500px:

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“Forest Floor Companions”

“Forest Floor Companions”

“I am learning my way toward something that will make sense of my life, and I learn by going where I have to go, with whatever companions I am graced.” 
― Dean Koontz

At the base of a dead beech tree, these companions add brightness and life, among the dead and decomposing elements surrounding them.

For some unknown reason, the large beech trees in this local forest all died a few years ago. Many of them are very large and old, so it may just be a cycle, as there are many younger trees thriving in the same area. The die-off started a few years back and most of the elders are gone now, the bark peeling off their massive trunks,  branches falling to the ground with every passing winter. I also suspect a new housing development nearby may have altered the water table, ever so slightly, as to affect the older trees. The forest seems a bit ‘wetter’ than usual.

Yet, among all this death, spring offers her bounty of fresh life, in the form of wildflowers, growing in abundance at the base of these dead trees. There are Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica), also known by some as May Flowers or Fairy Spuds (the roots and flowers are edible), with their bright pink faces and delicate stems. Then there are also Trout Lilies with their mottled leaves and bright yellow flowers. Mixed in among them, though not pictured here are red and white trilliums, to name the most predominant in my area. It seems every year there are more, which is wonderful to see.

To think a few short years ago I would walk these same trails and never notice anything but the white trilliums. There is something to be said for slowing down and just looking. It’s amazing what we can see, if we take the time.

Nikon D800
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm
1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200

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“Pain in the Butt” – Seaton Trail

“Pain in the Butt” - Seaton Trail

“Such is the condition of organic nature! Whose first law might be expressed in the words ‘Eat or be eaten!’ and which would seem to be one great slaughter-house, one universal scene of rapacity and injustice!”
― Erasmus Darwin

Ever have one of those days where, out of nowhere, something just sneaks up and gets you from behind? You can take small comfort that you are not this Wood Frog. I’d say our troubles are tame compared to his.

I came across this scene a few days ago while on a short hike along Ontario’s Seaton Trail. I heard a rustle of leaves and spotted motion just off the trail. At first all I saw was the large Garter Snake, then I noticed it had caught the frog. The light was awesome, so I sat to watch this process play out and document it with my camera. I’ve seen photos in elementary school textbooks of how snakes eat their prey, but have never witnessed it firsthand. It’s quite the process

How the snake would get this large frog into it’s mouth was beyond me, especially considering the frog’s legs were still free and active, and he had filled himself up with air. Well, after a few mis-timed kicks, the frog’s legs were in the snake’s gullet and the rest was just a matter of time. Twenty minutes, to be precise, from when this image was made to the time the last trace of the frog disappeared. You just never know what you might see when out on the trails.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm
1/100 sec, f/5.6 ISO 200

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“Kill Plate” – Atro Gallery of Gems, New York

“Kill Plate” - Atro Gallery of Gems, New York

“As I see it, life is an effort to grip before they slip through one’s fingers and slide into oblivion, the startling, the ghastly or the blindingly exquisite fish of the imagination before they whip away on the endless current and are lost for ever in oblivion’s black ocean.”
― Mervyn Peake

A “Kill Plate” is the geological term of a particular strata in which numerous fossilized animals can be found. In this case, a large number of fish, each about two inches long, all died and were preserved as fossils in a narrow layer of sandstone. We will never know what event caused this mass death to happen, perhaps a big wave deposited the fish to die high up a beach somewhere and subsequent waves buried them? Or, a river dried up, with the same effect. It leaves us with an unanswered story to ponder, but the end is written in stone.

I should have written down more of the details about this particular artifact. The primary reason I made the photo was that I saw this as a piece of art and have neither the space, nor the funds for the original, though I am fascinated by the details and wanted to spend more time looking at it. It’s a bit like a large stenciled drawing, with the same shape repeating randomly over and over on a carefully textured background.

I can picture the person who first saw this slab, peeling back the top layer and revealing the scene above. I also imagine this is a small portion of a much bigger slab that was divided and sold off to galleries and collectors.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 80 mm
1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 250

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“Last Chance” – Moore Lake

Last Chance

I titled this photo as I did for a few reasons. This is the last photo I ever took of my father before he passed away in 1979. He was determined to take a few last casts before he got in the car after a great family vacation on Moore Lake. He asked if I would come with him and take a picture. I complained about the mosquitoes and not wanting to be bitten, but relented and took this shot. Not knowing, at the time, it was not only his last chance at what he loved to do, but my last chance to capture a precious memory. He passed away later that summer.

I found the photo, which I knew I had, with a bunch of other photos from that time period. It was faded and dull. But technology is wonderful and I was able to touch it up and make it presentable. So glad I did not lose it.

Today also happens to be what would have been his 90th birthday. He’s the reason I have such a fond love of nature and all things outdoors. Dad taught me to appreciate the details and the cycles which are ever present. I often imagine him walking along with me, observing the marvels of the outdoors, discovering and celebrating new sights, and those sacred places I go back to time and time again.

So, on this day, December 16th, where he is especially present in my thoughts, I say, “Thanks Dad, for the deep reverence of nature, all you taught me, all the values you instilled in me, and the love you gave me, in your all too brief a time with us. You are ever missed and ever present in the thoughts of those who knew and loved you.”

In Memory of Harry Eugen Lehming 1925-1979

Pentax Spotmatic 35mm
Schneider-Kreutznach Edixa-Xenon 50mm, f/1.9

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