Posts Tagged ‘wildlife photography’

A Drive Through The Heartland 2

September 4th, 2015

A Drive Through The Heartland, Part Two

Transition from West to Midwest

(Continued from the blog post, “A Drive Through The Heartland 1.”)

What I Have Found…

Horst Barn With Cumulus Clouds, Potter, Nebraska copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This is a Western style barn in Western Nebraska. More round barns occur in Eastern Nebraska.

Horst Barn With Cumulus Clouds, Potter, Nebraska copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This is a Western style barn in Western Nebraska. More round barns occur in Eastern Nebraska. (Click on image to see large.)

Along the way, on this journey through the Heartland of America, I have now photographed each subject I suggested in the first blog post in this series, except for waterfalls and a shipwreck. The falls I planned to photograph were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in Kentucky and in Tennessee. The southern section of my trip through Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas has been postponed due to heat. If I had traveled up into the Michigan Upper Peninsula, as originally outlined, I would have also visited a shipwreck or two.

Nonetheless, cutting out the southern portion and the Michigan U.P. will allow me to get to a bit of Minnesota, photograph the world’s largest round barn in Marshfield, Wisconsin and find the many historically significant barns in the southeastern corner of South Dakota.

In my now nearly 6,000 miles of wandering through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, I have managed to run across numerous old mills, historic round barns, rectangular barns, multi-sided barns, one tobacco barn, and even a Swedish Gothic Revival style milk barn listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I have photographed gardens, farm animals, birds, people, children, horses, pigs, hogs, cows, goats, chickens, beaches, trees, forests, two county fairs, one covered bridge, plastic animals, stone animals, diners of various ethnicities, ponds, lakes, grasses, cornfields, old farm equipment, fast cars, slow cars, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, abandoned homes, barns and whole farms, renovated homes and barns, relocated barns and the cityscapes of Detroit, living, dying, dead and resuscitating.

How Is The US Doing?

If this trip were like taking the temperature of the country, I would say I have found it very much alive and well in many ways, and deeply sick in others. I have been surprised by the extent of blight, ruin and decay, not just in Detroit or other urban areas, but also in the country, in small towns and large towns. One of the reasons I started photographing barns in the first place is that they are going away, but I have been struck most by how many are going and gone and how fast. Barns are dying, no doubt about it. The whole small-farm way of life is a thing of the past and fading fast in the memory of the aging and dying.

Meanwhile, Topher and Kori’s wedding was an inspiration and party to remember. More on it in blog posts to come in this series. I have learned that love takes on many shapes and forms, unless it does not, as I have had at least three romances on this trip that never became romances… more on them in subsequent posts too.

Round Barns, Multi-Sided Barns, Rectangular Barns, Barns of All Shapes

Elijah Filley Stone Barn and Masonic Temple, Filley, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Stone barns are far more rare than round barns, except in New England.

Elijah Filley Stone Barn and Masonic Temple, Filley, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Stone barns are far more rare than round barns, except in New England. (Click on image to see large.)

When I started actually reading the books on barns I bought from Amazon Marketplace, I discovered in A Round Indiana that round barns are extremely rare. Only about 1/5 of one percent of all barns built are round barns. If searching for barns were like playing poker, round barns would be the blue chips.

The author of A Round Indiana, John T. Hanou, wrote that Indiana has more round barns than any other state, but that if as exhaustive a study as he had made were done in Wisconsin, as many or more round barns might be discovered there. Also, there are true round barns and multi-sided barns. I have photographed eight-sided, ten-sided, 12-sided, 14-sided, 16-sided and 18-sided barns.

Western Deserts Give Way to Midwestern Grassland and Prairie

The drive across Nevada and Utah on Interstate 80 goes through some forested high mountain passes, but primarily it runs through a dry, dusty land of the Great Basin and Painted Deserts. Wyoming, along the freeway, is a cross between desert and grassland, a high plateau of boulder dotted baked cattle land. Nebraska feels much like Wyoming, but greener, more like the Midwest. Nebraska hayfields are more productive and plentiful and the woods are more lush and extensive.

The light changes from West to Midwest, generally. Evenings have more glow and afterglow. The light is softer and more diffuse. It is also less harsh and with less contrast, as you travel from West to East. Water becomes more plentiful moving toward the heartland of America. There is more dew, more sweat, more condensation, more mold, more rot, more rust and more and faster decay. Progressing from Nebraska into Iowa and from Iowa into Illinois and Indiana, you find yourself constantly surrounded by lawn mowers and people mowing along the road and around their homes and businesses. The volume of lawns and grass increases as you head east.

Water and Greenery

Fresh Round Hay Bales Near Ogallala, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. A high humidity muggy day in the Midwest. Trees and greenery along the roadside are more lush than Wyoming or other Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

Fresh Round Hay Bales Near Ogallala, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. A high humidity muggy day in the Midwest. Trees and greenery along the roadside are more lush than in Wyoming or other Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

For many generations, ever since we settled California, we have kept up the illusion that California is lush and green like the Midwest or the East. However, California is primarily desert, just like Nevada, Utah and in places if we are lucky, like Wyoming. Nonetheless, we have imported water, especially into Southern California from all over the West, particularly Northern California, where I live, with the idea that we could make Southern California look lush and inviting.

California already has the most interesting terrain, but we wanted it all. We had to have the green too. Now we are paying for this. Now we are rippling out lawns, xeriscaping, reengineering and trying to get back to a more natural version of ourselves because the water chickens have finally come home to roost during the current drought.

Much of the Midwest has been overly wet lately, particularly Michigan, for example. In Michigan and elsewhere in the Midwest, it is still politically ok to run the faucet as long as you like, have a giant lawn and giant lawn mower and the excess just drains away. While California has had the most severe drought in recorded history, bridges are out all over the heartland of America due to torrential rains and flooding over the last few years. The Great Lakes are all at least two to four feet above normal, which is a huge amount of water stored in excess.

Recently while talking to Mark Hursey, the owner of the Smith Round Barn in Ligonier, Indiana, I said, “I didn’t realize you irrigate in the Midwest, but now I see your irrigation ditch.” The watercourse I had noticed was brimming full of water.

“That’s not an irrigation ditch like you have in the West,” Mark Hursey replied. “That’s a drainage ditch. You see that round metal cap in the middle of the field?”

“Yes,” I said.

“That is the well for that field,” He said. “The water from the well covers that field and the excess drains off in the drainage ditch.”

“Because you have had a number of wet years lately, you aren’t drawing down your aquifer like they are in the Great Plains, in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, right?”

“Well, not as much, but we have had problems in the past with drawing the aquifers down in this part of the Midwest too.”

You will read more about Mark and Laura Hursey, their farm and the Smith Round Barn in future blog posts.

Western Barns Versus Midwestern Barns

Large Brick Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Round barns are more common in Iowa than in Nebraska, or any Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

Large Brick Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Round barns are more common in Iowa than in Nebraska, or any Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

Other differences distinguish West and Midwest. With some regional exceptions, people all over the West are generally friendly to strangers, but Midwesterners are generally more easy going and more apt to help and be generous to strangers. Still, just like rural areas in California, Utah, Nevada or elsewhere in the West, a stranger must be careful when approaching a home in a remote area in the Midwest. Farmers and other rural people can be heavily armed and on some occasions may be dangerous. In blog posts to come I will share stories, one in particular, that scared me out of my Chacos Sandals and gave me cause to rethink how I approach rural requests for photograph permissions.

All types of barns can be found in all regions now, but originally, barn types followed the settlement patterns in different areas of the country by ethnicity. The typical Western barn has a roof that is steeper in the center and then decreases in steepness as it goes out toward the edges, whereas the Midwestern barn is the opposite. The top of the roof is typically less steep and the outer edges are the steepest, as in, what is called the Gambrel roof. Also, Western barns usually have the hay hoist up at the roof peak. Western farmers hoist their hay up to the upper floors on the outside of the barn, then lift it through a large opening up under the eave, protected by an extension of the roof called a hood.

One of the reasons round barns became more popular in the Midwest is that Midwestern farmers generally hoist the hay upstairs after the hay wagon enters the barn. In a round barn the hay wagon and a team of horses has enough room to circle the barn moving forward, without having to get the horses to back up to turn around. In the transition states between West and Midwest, there is a greater mixture of types of barns. The transition from West to Midwest is noticeable in the types of barns. For example, Nebraska has more Western style barns than Iowa, but Iowa has more than Illinois and Indiana and so on from West toward the East. The Midwestern state that feels the most Eastern is Ohio. Ohio transitions from Midwest to East. More typical in the East are stone barns, but stone barns can be found all over the US. More on different types of barns and different ethnicities in different areas in future blog posts.

(Continued in the next blog post in this series, “Heartland 3: Starke Round Barn, Red Cloud, Nebraska.”)

What types of barns are typical where you live?

Monday Blog Blog: Mark Graf Up Close, On Ice Or Underwater

March 16th, 2015

Mark Graf: Notes From The Woods PhotoBlog

Lessons On How To Make Captivating Nature Photographs Almost Anywhere

Coral Reef, Little Cayman, Caribbean, Nikon D700, Nauticam underwater housing, dual Inon Z240 strobes. This photograph represents a lot of what I enjoy about the underwater world. Everything you see is animal life. Animals familiar, and some very foreign to land dwellers. All of which make the ocean a fascinating place to explore, and deserving of our attention to preserve the highly complex chain of life that exists within it.

Coral Reef, Little Cayman, Caribbean Sea, Nikon D700, Nauticam underwater housing, dual Inon Z240 strobes. “This photograph represents a lot of what I enjoy about the underwater world. Everything you see is animal life. Animals familiar, and some very foreign to land dwellers. All of which make the ocean a fascinating place to explore, and deserving of our attention to preserve the highly complex chain of life that exists within it.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

Learning about photography online is richest and most rewarding not in attending tutorials, photo schools, forums or other large blog or magazine sites, but in finding talented single photographers who have a distinct voice or a specific niche, something in common with you, or the type of advice or specialty you seek, or something different you admire, then developing a blog relationship with them.

One photoblog I discovered five years ago in my first month of blogging was Mark Graf’s Notes From The Woods. Not only do I admire the way Mark Graf approaches photography and blogging, he is one of the best at encouraging discussion and creating community, yet he appears to do it nearly effortlessly, with nonchalance and a lack of blowing his own horn that is pleasant and surprising in today’s often ego-driven photo social media world.

Graf makes his home in Detroit and has photographed and specialized in the natural places and wildlife of Michigan, Alaska, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, as well as other states and bodies of water since the year 2000. His photography has been widely published in magazines and books and used by a long list of commercial clients in the financial, travel and education spheres. He specializes in placing large fine art prints in hospitals and other medical facilities to provide a calming, tranquil atmosphere for patients. Part of his core philosophy as an artist is the idea that everything is connected in the web of nature. Mark’s short biography and artist’s statement are well worth reading.

One day a few years ago I visited the New York Times Opinion Pages Dot Earth online and suddenly there was a photograph by Graf called “Fracked,” as well as a commentary on the image and his other photographs he makes by photographing mineral laden rocks up close. Abstract photography is one of his specialties. To learn more about the photograph from the artist’s perspective see Mark’s blog, Notes From The Woods and the original blog post about “Fracked.” Also, take a Google at some of the many other blogs and websites that published articles about the innovative image “Fracked,” including StateImpact a reporting project of NPR, National Public Radio.

Fracked, Nikon D800, Nikon 105 f/2.8 Macro lens, cross-polarized lighting. "This abstract of Cherry Creek Jasper was photographed during a time when natural gas fracking was fresh on my mind from a number of news stories. The red cracks symbolized the wounds we are creating in the Earth. The appearance of them above and below a horizon symbolized what we do below the Earth can have an impact on the atmosphere above. This image was referenced in the New York Times Dot Earth Blog.

Fracked, Nikon D800, Nikon 105 f/2.8 Macro lens, cross-polarized lighting. “This abstract of Cherry Creek Jasper was photographed during a time when natural gas fracking was fresh on my mind from a number of news stories. The red cracks symbolized the wounds we are creating in the Earth. The appearance of them above and below a horizon symbolized what we do below the Earth can have an impact on the atmosphere above. This image was referenced in the New York Times Opinion Pages Dot Earth Blog.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

Graf has written about how Michigan, for the most part, has less dramatic landscapes than many Western or other states and countries. As a result he has developed his macro and underwater photography and diving. He also finds nature in small areas and preserves, often owned by the Michigan Nature Association, which he supports and works with. The Michigan Nature Association, Mark said, “Buys sensitive plots of land and prevents any development or recreational use other than hiking and education.” They are a non-profit working to protect Michigan’s threatened and endangered species through habitat preservation. Since 1952, they have established more than 170 nature sanctuaries, the largest network of such natural areas in Michigan.

When Graf writes for Notes From The Woods, he sometimes states his opinion, but he writes his posts in such a way as to leave plenty of room for other viewpoints. He shares the various sides of any given discussion or method and asks his readers for their thoughts. I will discuss certain aspects of blogging here because I feel Notes From The Woods is one of the most accessible and easy to relate to examples of how to run a photography weblog around.

There are subtle issues that come up in commenting on blogs and receiving comments. The two biggest complaints I hear from bloggers about comments are: 1. “Most of the people who comment only do so hoping I will return comment on their blog” or conversely, 2. “Some blogs I comment on never reciprocate by commenting on my blog.” As a photoblogger, if you comment right back each time anyone comments on your blog, you tend to get into a lot of “tit for tat” relationships. If one day you do not maintain the chain of exchanging comments, comments tend to dry up on your blog. If you never reciprocate by commenting on other blogs, you will not receive many comments on your blog either. There are a few blogs that are extraordinary exceptions to this pattern. Also, at least some comments come from those who truly appreciate the writing or photography.

Graf has found the happy middle between the two opposites of never reciprocating and constantly reciprocating. He comments back selectively and intermittently. Mark visits and comments on Landscape Photography Blogger when I write something that catches his interest, but there is no noticeable correlation to when I comment on his blog. Thus, with his lead, we have avoided the rut of an endless half-sincere comment trade. This alone sets Notes In The Woods apart in my mind and causes me to think of Graf Nature Photo in a favorable light. When I get very busy, his blog is one of those I visit first, while I may not get to many of the others I usually read. More fundamentally, I have been following and commenting on Notes In The Woods now for five years because I found Mark’s writing and photography intriguing and ideas provoking. His blog was also rated highly by blog ranking websites, which meant to me that he knew what he was doing and would be interesting to learn from. I was not disappointed.

Ice Sheets at Twilight, Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm lens. "Photographed on Lake St. Clair, Michigan - which is about a 25 minute drive from where I live.  I only photograph here in winter because of the dynamically changing conditions of the frozen lake.   I am always surprised at what the lake offers up to me in terms of compositional elements."

Ice Sheets at Twilight, Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm lens. “Photographed on Lake St. Clair, Michigan – which is about a 25 minute drive from where I live. I only photograph here in winter because of the dynamically changing conditions of the frozen lake. I am always surprised at what the lake offers up to me in terms of compositional elements.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

Graf has a way of sharing often small, yet vital photography pointers sometimes through his own mistakes and with a humility, friendliness and real-world insight that can be lacking in other photographers who have as much experience. I always look forward to reading what he has to say, or what I can learn, or be reminded of, in his blog posts. Many aspects of digital photography that were different from film, I discovered there.

Not only does Graf’s blog provide an excellent learning experience, but his photographs have much to teach those who care about nature and wish to capture it with integrity. At the same time, with many innovations that go beyond the literal image, we see in his work the cutting edge of artistic expression in digital photography today. Mark began this journey by using double exposures and other effects with film photography. See his article about it on NatureScapes called, “Departing from the Literal Image.” Today we see in Graf’s photographic art various blurs, pans, movement of objects and other effects, all executed with taste, often in camera rather than in Photoshop, giving natural places dignity. He still makes multiple exposures in camera, which is one reason he uses Nikon digital cameras: they make it possible. His use of special effects adds to and helps bring out the beauty around us, rather than supplanting it in a gimmicky way like much of the awkward pictorialesque imagery seen online today. To a number of his images he adds a circular blur either in post-processing or in camera. The images in which he chooses to use this whirl effect, or any other technique for that matter, help us see the details and patterns in nature, rather than covering them up. For an education in digital photography, be sure to study his online photography gallery of portfolios. You will be glad you did.