“It all starts with a faint green ‘flush’. As the gnarled old vines awaken once more, the first hint of future bounty appears in the form of delicate clusters of bright green.” – Ed Lehming

Spring in Napa is a glorious time. As the spring air and sunshine warm the valley, the entire valley floor fills with delicate greens as the countless vineyards stir with life.

I especially like the old vines, and the wines they produce. I this image, the vines are at Grgich Estates. I believe these may be Chardonnay vines, but I’m no expert and did not pay attention as I was making the photo.

We spend late morning at this iconic and established vineyard, enjoying a series of tastings of their renowned Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons. It was Miljenko “Mike” Grgić who helped put California on the world wine map with his Chardonnay in the mid-seventies when his Chardonnay took top prize in the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 . “Mike’ is now 99 years old and is still active in the operation the the winery. The story of the Paris tasting is depicted in the movie Bottle Shock. Grgich was the winemaker at Chateau Montelena at the time but is not in the movie, because he did not want to be part of it. It was not till my first visit here some ten years ago that I discovered that part of the story.

It’s a great piece of Napa’s history and the winery continues to make great wines. It’s always fun to visit wineries where much of the production come right from the immediate property, though Grgish owns some 366 acres of vineyards throughout the valley, which allows for many different taste profiles. It’s a great spot for fine wines and offered me the opportunity to enjoy the vines up close.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 112 mm
1/1000 sec, f/4, ISO 
400

“Look around, isn’t the world simply amazing? Even from the window of a car, the passing world beckons us to partake.” – Ed Lehming

I experience this all the time, even when driving, or in this case, as a back seat passenger, there is so much beauty all around us, we just need the eyes, and mindset to see it. I, for one, can’t turn this off. Everywhere I look is an image waiting to be enjoyed.

Case in point, this roadside scene, enjoyed and photographed while exiting California’s Napa Valley on Highway 12, just outside of Creston, on our way back to Sacramento. It’s a scene etched into my memory; this scene of rolling hills, oak trees, vineyards, and sunshine. Oh, so California!

As I noted in earlier posts, we had experienced overcast and rainy days, but the clouds were thinning at this point, allowing some sunshine to spill through, lighting up the hillside. In my memory, this valley is the gateway to Napa and Sonoma and I wonder, how many millions of people have travelled this road and never give thought to just how lovely the journey is?

Perhaps it’s the Canadian in me, appreciating something uncommon in my southern Ontario countryside? We do have rolling hills, and vineyards, but it’s just not the same as this place.

What I have found interesting is how the landscape has changed over the years. It seems every flat space and many hillsides, which once sat bare, excepting local grasses and wildflowers, is filled with vineyards, a testament to the economic value of California wines. At least there is agriculture, rather than the blight of new housing developments I’m experiencing near my home. The ‘sprawl’ is green an lush, not brick, mortar, and concrete.

All the more reason to enjoy this pastoral scene, even in a photo, knowing it may change by the next time I visit.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 52 mm
1/657 sec, f/2.0, ISO 25

“Often, it’s not the grand vistas that catch my attention, rather, it’s the small curiosities, the things not common in my everyday, that make me pause and enjoy something joyfully different.” – Ed Lehming

Something that I have noticed about myself, as I’m out enjoying the outdoors is that my eye very quickly picks up on the out of the ordinary. I know many experience this as well. I think we are all drawn, at some level, to things that are different from our everyday. But I find myself spending more time than most spending time with those anomalies.

As I continue to review the many photos I made during my spring trip to California, I recall, very clearly, those moments really savouring all the little things that I saw and enjoyed. One of those was this fuzzy little flower that was blooming in the stoney flats of Sacramento’s Folsom Lake.

This little flower seemed somehow familiar, but quite different from the plants that I am familiar with. It resembled a fuzzy clover. I’ve started using an app on my phone called Halide, which enables me to take decent macro shot that I can review later or run through my PlantNet app if I want to quickly identify a plant in the field. This shot was made with my iPhone 12 Pro using Halide. It’s a ‘decent’ shot, though a bit noisy for my liking, but serves the purpose of a simple macro tool to capture moments like this.

Back to the plant; it turns out I was correct in thinking this was some kind of clover, specifically Stone Clover (Trifolium arvense), which grows in abundance in the rocky flood plane of Folsom Lake. It’s a lot different than the Red Clover that is native to my Ontario home. Due to its fuzzy flower, it is also known as Hare’s-Foot clover. As seems to be the case with many wildflowers that I encounter, it is not native, but came from Europe and had made a foothold across much of North America.

I did spend quite a bit of time, low to the ground, enjoying this delightful little plant before moving on to other interesting flora in the area.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 26 mm (Halide app)
1/4464 sec, f/1.6, ISO 25

“Light, glorious light. It shapes my world and fills the dark places with joyous brightness” – Ed Lehming

I’m returning to my California series with this image, made on a mountainside overlooking northern Napa Valley. Despite the dull and rainy conditions, occasional splashes of light occasionally brightened the day. The contrast between the shadow and brightness was glorious!

In this peaceful scene, the wildflowers fill the foreground as the sun bathes the tall grasses with light. It’s one of those scenes that, despite its simplicity, makes me smile just to be have participated in it. Once more, I edited this in an impressionist style because it brings out more of the ‘feeling’ of what I witnessed.

I’m happy to have been in this particular place and time to witness the light’s effect. Looking back on the photo brings back great memories of this moment in time. It was unexpected but wonderful. It’s something I have discovered through my photography; just when I think that I may have seen the most wonderful scene, others continue to present themselves, competing for my attention, a progression of beauty.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 24-70 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 40 mm
1/4 sec, f/22, ISO
100

“Hollyhock”

Hollyhock on PEC’s Cressy Point

“Gentle waves, like a sheet of rich blue silk, touched the shore. With barely a breeze, only the gentle pulse of the water filled the air, and the sun lit the horizon, like a distant fire. All around me is peace. I drink it in, savouring every moment; the perfect ending to a wonderful summer day.” – Ed Lehming

Today, a brief pause in my California series for an image made yesterday evening at Sandbanks Provincial Park and an image that touches me very deeply.

We had just finished dinner and looked at the clock, realizing that the sun would soon be gone, we had a 20 minute drive to get to the beach for some sunset photography. My son, also a photographer, and his girlfriend were visiting us and I wanted him to experience the incredible sunsets this area, so close to home, has to offer. He’d never been to this spot on prior visits, so it was important to present him the opportunity before he had to head back home to Toronto.

We all hastily exited the house and drove to the beach to witness this scene. The sun had just set and most of the daily beachgoers had already left, offering us a fairly private time to enjoy this beautiful scene in peace.

As the others walked the beach and enjoyed the sunset my son and I set out to photograph it, each in our own style. Because the water already had a silky appearance, I decided to emphasize it even more by shooting a series of long exposure horizontal pans. The resulting series yielded some wonderful images, including the one above. After not too long, the gloom of evening set in and the colours faded, leaving us with lovely memories and images to take with us.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 24-70 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 70 mm
1/4 sec, f/18, ISO
2500

“Vineyards tucked among California’s Sonoma Valley in the springtime, offer the promise of future pleasures.” – Ed Lehming

The continuation of day one in California, and another winery, there may be a theme emerging here! On parting from Reverie II Wines, we proceeded via a step and winding road over the Mayacama Mountains, which separate the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. It was a road filled will steep grades and switchbacks, the roadside dominated by tall pines, vineyards, and beautiful private residences.

At the western base of this road lay our destination, Arrowood Estates, where we had another private tasting booked. I simply love the bold Cabernet Sauvignon produced in this region and Arrowood offers some of my favourites.

Sitting on the deck, overlooking the valley and rolling vineyards is such a pleasure. The scene is similar to our view from Reverie II but the Sonoma Valley, at this point, is a bit wider, yet the winery sits nestled on the eastern mountainside overlooking Sonoma.

For me, being from Canada, the California valleys with their rolling hills and oak trees interspersed with vineyards are so beautiful. As you can see from the image, the day remained overcast and a bit dull, but there were moments when the most beautiful light broke through the clouds and bathed the landscape with lovely light. I also like the natural layers of colour and texture that the composition offers. What a place to sit and drink it all in before parting for our next destination.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 24-70 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 24 mm
1/125 sec, f/5, ISO
100

“There are times when the beauty and wonder of what lies before us brings an unspeakable joy and peace. Savour those moments so that they can sustain you in times of trial.” – Ed Lehming

The image I chose for today was made above Reverie II Winery in California’s Napa Vally. It was our first stop of a day of wine tasting and touring both Napa and Sonoma Valleys and our first full day of a two week vacation in California.

The day began with a private tasting of some absolutely beautiful Bordeaux-style mountain wines in the property’s tasting room on a bit of a drizzly overcast morning. Our host asked us if we would be interested in a quick ATV ride up the hillside of Howell Mountain that overlooks the vineyards. We, of course, said yes to this adventure and after a quick and bouncy ride up the dirt trail we ended up on the side of a ridge overlooking not just the vineyards but the entire north end of Napa Valley. The drizzle had stopped by then and the sun broke through the cloud deck, lighting the valley up with stunning light.

What had started out as a nice view of the valley turned into this stunning scene, which I further enhanced using some of my art plug-in ins to make it look more like an impressionist painting. The resulting image has become a favourite of mine and I find myself looking back to it frequently, whenever I get feeling down. It’s one of those special, unexpected scenes that resent themselves when least expected, which make it all the more special.

In the image, you can see the cottage that serves as the tasting room to the middle left and the production building near the bottom centre, the vineyards fill the centre of the image while the valley, brightly lit by mottled sunlight dominates the scene, framed behind by the Mayacama Mountains that separate Napa valley from Sonoma valley to the west. In the foreground are some rather dark looking shrubs, survivors of the recent Napa Valley fires which came over this ridge and threatened the valley below. Fortunately, the fire did not make it all the way to the valley floor and the buildings.

I love this scene and the unique perspective it offers of this oft too busy valley. Above the valley, there is peace, calm, and stunning beauty. Mind you, when we got back to the winery itself we were treated to some of the most wonderful wines I experienced during our stay, and a few bottles have found their way home to Canada, to be savoured on a special occasion.

I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to enjoy this vantage point and the memorable images it has offered me.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 24-70 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 24 mm
1/125 sec, f/5, ISO
100

“It’s a pure joy to wander the woods and fields in the spring. Life and colour abounds with the the promise of more to come.” – Ed Lehming

Above is another image made in the Sacramento area. I went for a walk along one of Sacramento’s many small creeks. These urban oases offer so many surprises. In the river valley it’s pure natural bliss, but when you look up, office towers and houses fill the hilltops, so I keep my eyes focused on what’s ahead and pretend I’m out in the wilderness.

One of the things I love about California in the springtime is all the wildflowers, especially the clumps of bright orange California poppies. Sometimes there are only one or two in the group, while other times they fill entire hillsides.

I made many photos of them while visiting, trying to catch the essence of the flower effectively. While I did not have the opportunity to see the vast fields and hillsides filled with poppies that I have seen posted by local photographers, this little patch served me well and I photographed it from several angles and distances looking for just the right shot. I landed on this one which shows nice detail and also shows a bit of the dry wild oats that surrounded them. A simple but effective image that I enjoy reflecting back on.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 165 mm
1/1250 sec, f/4, ISO 
400

“Often, we find beauty in the most commonplace. The simple touching of water on a shoreline and a few trees can yield something refreshing to the weary soul.” – Ed Lehming

Today I’m going to start something a bit different. At least for me. This past May, after two years of travel restrictions and COVID protocols, my wife and I travelled to visit family in California. It felt like forever since we had been there and simply being in a different place and seeing different things was so refreshing.

Of course, when I travel, I takes lots of photos. Some photos are strictly personal, a way for me to remember and look back on my experiences, others are a bit more creative, seeking to capture the essence of a place or a moment. I will be sharing some of those images over the coming days and weeks.

I’ll begin the series with a simple image taken on the shores of Sacramento’s Folsom Lake, a massive reservoir built to provide water for the city of Sacramento and region. Along the shore of this lake are several State Park which offer access to the lake’s shore and provide a place to simply enjoy the beauty of a lake in an otherwise quite hot and dry region.

We arrived in Sacramento a few days after a few days of rain had refreshed the water levels and some of the areas you see in the image had been dry land only a few days prior. For me, coming from southern Ontario, the landscape was unique and I had to make a few photos. For someone used to this place, it may seem quote plane but I enjoyed seeing the water at the shore with mountains in the background. The rains had also brought many of the native grasses back to life from a period of dormancy, so the scene is quite green considering this is semi-desert most of the year.

It’s a simple image, but I still enjoy looking at the details and seeing how everything just flows together.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 6.0 mm
1/4000 sec, f/2.0, ISO 25

“As the day fades to memory, the final moments are often the most glorious. Light and dark intermingle and colours deepen before fading to blue and muted orange, and finally, darkness. Leaving only the memory of a glorious summer day.” – Ed Lehming

This will be my final image in this series. Fittingly, it is an image of the final moments of sunlight playing in the tall pines. It has been a joy recalling these moments in photos and appreciating the subtle elements that made it so wonderful and unique.

As I was editing this image I realized that the sun was, in fact, behind me, lighting up the trees. Yet, as the sunlight faded more and more, there was still a bright glow behind the trees. Then I recalled that there has a tall thunderhead in the distance that I had observed just as I was heading on the road. I really wanted to get a good shot of it, but the correct angle and composition never presented itself, so I reigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to photograph it effectively.

So, here I am looking at this image only to realize that the very cloud that had eluded me earlier was an integral part of this image, reflecting the sunlight from behind the trees. It was that reflected light that kept the scene bright for just a bit longer, finally fading as well as the sun dropped behind the hills, plunging the forest into darkness. I did not realize till I was reviewing this image, that the same cloud also created the bright orange light in my “Between” image, though you can’t see the cloud’s structure within the brightness.

This has been en enjoyable series of image to create and review and, as I mentioned in a previous post, it was also a return to more creative in-camera photography, something that I have not been inspired to do for a while, but hopefully, will take up again. The same can be said for my blogging, which I have done very infrequently lately. I hope you enjoyed this revival with me.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 70 mm
1/4 sec, f/29, ISO 
320

“We see so much, along the way. So much of our experience is casual observation. When we take the time to really see things, spend time with them, that is where true beauty is found. But, that requires us to pause in our journey and appreciate those moments that would just fade to faint memory” – Ed Lehming

This image is a continuation of my recent series, all photographed within a few minutes along Bancroft’s “Y” road. The road is named because it forms the shape of the letter “Y” as it is a bypass from Hwy 28 to South Baptiste Lake Road. We often take this road to shave a few minute off our drive to High Falls or when driving the backroads around Baptiste Lake.

As mentioned in my prior posts, we were returning from a friend’s home along this road when the setting sun on the pines caught my eye and I stopped to enjoy the details.

All too often, I see wonderful scenes along the road and make a deliberate mental note, wishing I had the time to stop and enjoy it more. But, we often have timelines to meet or traffic on the roads does not make it safe to pull over. More often than not, once I do pull over and walk back to where I observed something, the moment is is gone, the light has shifted, or the scene is not quite how I originally observed it.

In this case, we had the time and it was easy to pull off the road to really view the scene that I casually observed. The scene above is my first impression of the sunset light on the pines. It was stunning, with the towering pines catching the orange light , while the underbrush was already in shadow. The brightness was breathtaking and I wanted to capture the scene immediately, before it faded. Fortunately, I think I caught it just as it was starting and I enjoyed the few minutes while it lasted, dissecting the the scene into a series of images using intentional camera movement to create a more painterly look.

I discovered this technique a few years ago and continue to use and improve on it, always pleasantly surprised at the results and the way it naturally enhances the mood of what I am photographing. There’s always enough detail to remind me that it is a photograph, but the movement and subtle blur that it causes seems to imbue the image with an energy that I really enjoy.

It seems like a long time since I have had the pleasure of spending time with a subject and really extracting the essence of the scene. I’ve found myself all to often using my iPhone simply because it’s convenient, lightweight, and makes great stills. Yet, the artist in me loves the creative flexibility my DSLR provides me. I simply can’t do this with a phone. As well, the pro body and this technique cannot be rushed and I find myself spending more time enjoying the process, on the way.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 92 mm
1/4 sec, f/20, ISO 
320

“We live ‘between’. There is always before and after, but we are between when we are in the present. ” – Ed Lehming

In the present, we experience everything that the world has to offer. All that has passed fades to memory and all that lies ahead is an unknown.

This image was part of a series of shots I made two days ago as I was driving home from a friend’s house. The previous image “Y Road Dusk” was a ‘middle’ shot when the light was at its peak. This image was made a minute or so later, as the light shifted significantly.

Sunsets always fascinate me. They seem to take a long time to really develop the brilliant colours and then it quickly accelerates and it’s gone, yet each aspect of the event is unique. This between time offered me beautiful, soft orange tones, hints of blue shadow, and darker shadows, providing a wonderful contrast.

As I processed the image, I had considered increasing the show, but I would have lost too much of the subtle background detail and really wanted to stay true to what I was seeing. So, I have a fairly accurate representation of that moment, in the present, now past. The time between fiery orange light of sunset and the blue shadow of dusk.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 92 mm
1/4 sec, f/18, ISO 
320

“Like pillars of fire, the pines on the roadside rose in blazing brilliance, beckoning, ‘Come watch, as we capture and play with the sun’s last kiss’ ” – Ed Lehming

As we drove home from an early evening visit to an artist friend’s home and some great music and conversation, a flash of brilliance caught my attention along the roadside. The sun was just setting, yet the tall pines where ablaze above the darkening underbrush. It seemed like a great moment to enjoy this light show and make a few photos along the way.

I had my D800 with me and quickly set about capturing this beautiful display before the sun dropped too much lower and the brilliance faded. I was able to capture a few different images before the light faded.

It’s moments like this that I realize that the many failed attempts I have made over the years have paid off. I knew right away how to set up my camera and how to frame the image for optimal effect. This one captures it at it’s peak, while subsequent images are a bit darker but still very appealing.

It was also the first time in a while that I shot with my pro body, rather than my iPhone. I simply can’t capture this scenery effectively without the flexibility my D800 offers.

As I turned back onto the road and headed home I was reminded that these moments we experience are often rare and fleeting and it’s such fun to be able to preserve the memory of those moments in my images.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 92 mm
1/4 sec, f/18, ISO
320

“As the winter winds down with dull skies, I fondly reflect back on the memories of bright autumn days, filled with colour, cheer, and times spent among the trees.” – Ed Lehming

I believe I like this time of year (late winter) the least. There are hints of warmer days ahead, but between overcast skies, flurry filled mornings, icy trails, and the grimey looking banks of snow I find my thoughts drifting back to memories of autumn and the joy of taking in nature’s bright canvass.

As a photographer, I’m blessed to be able to carry those memories with me through my photos. There are days when I scroll back through photos of the recent and distant past, enjoying the images of those moments. As an artist, I brings me the greatest of joy to be able to reshape those images into something more than a snapshot. In allowing myself the freedom of re-interpreting my photos into digital art, I’m able to extract more of the essence of those experinces.

The image above was made in October of 2021, when my wife and I took a quick tip to Ontario’s Algonquin Park. This vast provincial park is only an hour north of our camper and we wanted to spend some time enjoying the fall weather. A highway cuts through the park from east to west and the autumn colour bring hordes of tourists from all over and most don’t venture too far off the road, usually taking in the trails and interpretive stations close to the road.

I really don’t like crowds, especially in nature, so we stopped along the roadside and climbed to the top of a rock to have our lunch and enjoy the view of a beaver pond tucked away behind the rock. It offered us a flat surface to sit and a view of the peaceful landscape around us. Near the top of the rock stood a gnarly, lichen covered pine tree, by no accounts ancient, but much bigger than the surrounding trees. This red pine and the interesting textures of its bark became the subject of the photo. I’ve edited it to a more painterly look, which I think enhances the ‘feel’ of that moment, more so than the original photo. Through the process, I left a lot of the fine details of the pine needles, leaves, and grasses at the base of the tree. For me, it just works and left me looking back to the exact moment that I snapped the shutter.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 26 mm
1/493 sec, f/1.6, ISO 32

“Into the woods I venture, always pleased when I encounter new and unexpected sights.” – Ed Lehming

I was pleased to be back on the forest trails again today. Last weekend was a tough hike, with melting snow and slush making ever step an adventure in balance, even with my cleats on. Today, the forest floor was coated with a fresh coat of snow and temperatures and re-frozen the slush of last week, providing a fresh and solid base to walk on. Conditions were perfect for cross-country skiing and I encountered many others enjoying just that.

Fresh snow also reveals the activity of the many forest dwelling animals, though I rarely encounter much more than squirrels and chipmunks in the area due to the many dog walkers and activity. However, today was an exception and I was pleased to see a pine marten crossing the trail just ahead of me. I was travelling light and had just my phone with me, so the opportunity for a good image of the martin was not to be today. However, it was a thrill just to see one in this area. I’m used to seeing them further north, so this sighting was particularly enjoyable. It’s also a testament to the health of this managed forest.

He did not hang around very long, but did take a moment to give me a look before venturing deeper into the forest, leaving only tracks to mark his passing. I snapped a photo of that moment and turned it into a digital painting which I felt communicated the forest scene with a bit more impact than just the photo. The image also, as happens frequently, inspired the title for today’s post. I hope you enjoy it.

Phone 12 Pro @ 26 mm
1/1208 sec, f/1.6, ISO 32

“As winter begins to yield and days lengthen, the tires forest still offers splashes of colour. The intensity and profusion varies by year, but there are always pockets of brightness, reminders of vibrant life past, and promises of life to come.” – Ed Lehming

This winter has felt exceptionally long. There have been some beautiful, bright days, but snow came in large storms and made travel to my favourite spots a bit more treacherous than in the past and we have had many days of extreme cold, so the thought of spending several hours on the trails was less than appealing.

Now that the worst of winters seems to be behind us, I ventured back out to familiar places to see what new treats nature had to offer me.

I noticed that this year, the number of beech trees that retained their leaves was drastically reduced. I think in part due to the extreme cold temperatures and the many days of strong winds and heavy snowfall. The groves that are normally bright orange sat still and bereft of leaves, leaving bare branches and silence. But, there were still a few trees along the trails, that for some reason, managed to retain their leaves very well. I could see no difference between them but I was happy to see at least some colour in the forest, which seemed particularly bare this year.

This particular tree is sheltered for the raw north wind by a grove of plantations pines, which can be sem in the background and is exposed to sunshine from the south, which may be why it still looks good when so many trees closeby are either bare of are hanging on to tattered and bleached remains of once beautiful copper leaves.

Phone 12 Pro @ 26 mm
1/1222 sec, f/1.6, ISO 32

“Reaching”

“We all find ourselves reaching for something lately. For some, we have reached our limits, for others, it’s more of a stretch than a reach. On dull and cloudy days, the trees continue to reach, with no clear goal visible, other that reaching upwards, to eventual light and life” – Ed Lehming

I have found myself considering this image several times this week. I recall the day I made it, very clearly. It was an untypical image for me, the only real interest was the upward stretching of the trees. I compared it to other similar images I have made and this one stood apart. The day was dull, grey, and cloudy and I simply enjoyed the contrast of the dark tree trunks reaching into the flat grey sky.

My images are often informed by the world around me and it seemed the very act of ‘reaching’ or ‘stretching’ has been a very real element of my day to day life. The politics and events globally have forced me to expand my understanding, to challenge my established norms. If there has been growth for me, it has been slow, but bit by bit, the growth has occurred.

Going back to the image, it would be fairly easy to tie the growth back to a goal, like the bright sun in the sky. But, in this image, the sun is hidden; diffused. There is no clear goal, simply the obscurity of a grey sky, yet there is growth, based on a need for light and energy, no matter how faint the memory of sunshine might be.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 4.2 mm
1/170 sec, f/2.4, ISO 25

“Companions”

On my forest journeys, the trees are my constant companions. Their aspect changes, depending on how you see them. They are the same, but appear different. Perspective changes everything.” – Ed Lehming

I have avoided this type of shot because it seems a bit ‘put on’. I look at these images on web sites and Instagram with some interest but tend not to spend much time with them. A few days ago, I had a bit of a revelation. Looking up into the tall pines, I reconsidered what I was seeing. These trees are everywhere in this ‘plantation’ forest and I enjoy them immensely, but I suppose I take them for granted and almost always view them for the same viewpoint.

That day, I pointed my camera up and the image just felt right. It reminded my of summer days, laying on the forest floor and looking up at the swaying canopy. It’s those summer daydreams that I miss a lot on cold winter days, but this viewpoint brought back that dreamy feeling.

It’s funny, looking at this image. If you were not told that this was winter image, it would not take much to imagine a warm summer forest. I further enhanced the original image to give it a bit more of a dreamy look and causes me to enjoy it all the more. These trees are my companions in all seasons and will be a bit more deliberate in seeing them in new ways.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 4.2 mm
1/170 sec, f/2.4, ISO 25

“When we can find joy in the commonplace, we can endure almost anything.” – Ed Lehming

There was a quality to this scene that made me stop and pause. As with many of the images I make, it’s the simple act of appreciating the commonplace, the things most would pass by without a notice, that allows me to appreciate just how wonderful the natural world can be, and just how much that appreciation has sustained me.

I’m especially conscious of this when I am outdoors; the ‘noise’ of the human world muffles and obscures this sense in me, so I am grateful for every moment I am able to be outdoors and surrounded by nature.

When I made this image a few days ago, I was out for a hike before a major winter storm arrived. I had no real intention of what I was going to photograph, it was simple a chance to be outdoors again. I have trodden this same trail countless time, yet I still come across scenes like this that make me pause and enjoy the simplify and wonder of it. I may be this particular day, when the sun peeked between the cedars and lit the background a soft orange. I can’t say for certain, even when looking at the photograph now. It was just a moment that was meant to be, and one that added to the overall enjoyment of the hike itself. It’s those successive and cumulative ‘moments’ that build a narrative that sustains us, which is especially true for me right now.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 4.2 mm
1/355 sec, f/1.6, ISO 32

“Around the next bend, the forest glowed in rusty orange, inviting me forward from the snow-filled pines. It truly feels like a time of fire and ice.” – Ed Lehming

As I sit and write this post, the world outside my window is filled with ever deepening snowfall. A major winter storm came in last night and continues this afternoon. So far, over 40 cm have fallen, and though the end is promised, the storm seems to have different ideas. So, it gives me time to reflect on yesterday’s images.

It’s a far cry from yesterday’s crisp air and bright sunshine. I knew this storm was coming so made a point of getting out on the trails before the snow started falling. I’m glad I did, because it will take a while for roads to become safely navigable again.

As I stood at this bend in the trail, I was keenly aware that I had photographed it on several previous occasions. It’s a location that is just naturally photogenic with its many layers and tones. Yet, the forest is a living thing and always changing, so I should not have been surprised that it offered me a slightly different aspect of itself yesterday.

What caught my attention, as a I approached the bend, was the warm orange tones emanating from the beeches and a few maples which had, for some unknown reason, not shed their leaves yet. The resulting glow was further enhanced by the low winter sunshine. Overall, I find it a very calming scene and a lovely reminder of why I spend so much time on these local trails. Even on the coldest winter days, they have gifts to offer me. Sometimes fire and ice show themselves in the same scene.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 4.2 mm
1/405 sec, f/1.6, ISO 32

“It emerges from the ground, mindless of timing or conditions. Fresh, spring water wells up from deep underground to begin its long journey to rejoin the sea.” – Ed Lehming

I have stood here many time before. It is the source of West Duffins Creek, a small local creek that flows from the Oak Ridges Moraine and empties into Lake Ontario, many kilometers south. It begins as a series of springs within a thick cedar bog some hundred meters or so behind this scene. The waters well up from the forest floor at the same rate, year round. The waters don’t slow in the heat of summer or the cold of winter. The cycle is continuous and wonderful. It’s like watching the very life of the forest begin before my eyes.

Because the water rises from deep below, there is some latent warm and even with this week’s frigid temperatures (between -25C and -13C) the water flowed forth steadily, with a few ice clumps forming much further downstream as the waters slowly cooled..

It is beautiful to see this creek flowing when everything else is frozen solid. Even the trees along the shore creaked and crackled in the deep cold. Yet the water flows, regardless of the extreme cold.

In the summertime, as mosquitoes buzz and frogs croak, the creek provides cool waters to sustain wildlife along its course.

It really is a thing of wonder, the very life-blood of the forest, the ‘source’ that sustains life, season in and season out. It really is a privilege and a blessing to able to participate in this timeless cycle.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 4.2 mm
1/121 sec, f/1.6, ISO 64

“Among the shadows of the cold forest, the winter beeches shine with unexpected light, filling the darkness with brightness and joyful energy.” – Ed Lehming

Today I’m sharing another image from yesterday’s frigid hike to Walker Woods, a large forested tract close to home that I visit often. The forest itself is largely ‘plantation’ red pines.That is to say, pine trees that have been planted to reestablish lands that had been largely clearcut and farmed in the not so distant past. There are also a few tracts of native hardwoods: maples, oak, elm, beech, and ash, to name but a few. This region has several patches of what is referred to as Carolinian Forest and boasts many species that occur quite a distance south of here, protected by the unique geological features and a large body of water, Lake Ontario which moderate the climate enough for some of the souther species of flora to thrive.

One of the features and primary purpose of ‘plantation’ forests, besides lumber, is that they are planted to shelter tender hardwood species as they grow between the planted trees. The red pines grow fairly fast and straight, leaving room for hardwoods to establish between them. As the pines are harvested, some twenty years after planting, this offers even more room for hardwoods to establish and grow tall.

One of the Carolinian species that thrives in certain parts of the forest is the Beech tree, and in a few isolated locations in the vast tract, the Beeches flourish. I have found many of these locations and find myself constantly drawn to them, as was the case yesterday.

The low winter sun casts dark shadows among the pines, but just enough light finds its way through to set the beeches ablaze, in strong contrast to the shadows of the pines. It’s quite a phenomenon and I think this image illustrates it exceptionally well, as the copper leaves of the beeches glow with a brightness that seems to come from within the leaves themselves.

I also see this analogous to the time we face right now. The constant barrage of negative news saps my strength and I am always looking for something to focus on that brings me some level of joy to face each day. These beeches do that for me and I am happy to be able to capture the effect to take with me once I depart the forest. I’m hoping this image can also bring that sense of cheer to others viewing it here.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 4.2 mm
1/283 sec, f/1.6, ISO 32

“On even the coldest winter days, the warm glow of the beech leaves radiate with a warmth that makes my very soul glad. I cannot help but smile with joy when I am blessed to be among them.” – Ed Lehming

I’ve posted about the beauty of beeches in the winter on many occasions, yet I continue to find myself drawn to them. They provide me an inexplicable sense of joy in the dull and frigid winter time.

As I set out on the trails today, the temperatures hovered around -14C. There was no wind and the sun shone brightly yet low in the sky. Despite the extreme temperatures, the rays of the sun still found their way between the tall pines and set the beech leaves ablaze in copper splendour.

I stood among the trees, basking in the simple beauty of these trees. My spirit soared and a huge smile formed on my face. It was a tonic to my very being in these depressing times. So, I remained there for some time, refuelling my emotional reserves. I’ve been in this glade many times and it is a place that I find myself whenever I need a recharge. There is an inexplicable energy here, I can feel it in my bones.

The image above was made on the trail as I approached this sacred place. You can see a few of the beeches rising in the distant path as well as the golden glow they produce in the underbrush of the pine forest. I also decided that to really communicate the mood of this scene, that I would digitally enhance it to give the painterly style that I am so fond of. Looking at it now, I believe I have achieved that.

Today also reminded me that no matter what the conditions around me are like, there is almost always something precious to sustain us, if we simply slow down and look around with expectation.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 4.2 mm
1/241 sec, f/1.6, ISO 32

“As winter’s touch fills the days, November’s light holds the final memories of autumn’s warmth.” – Ed Lehming

Once more, I have chosen to digitally enhance an image to bring a bit more mood to the image. The image itself was created just around noon when the sun lines up with the forest trail, creating a wonderful column of sunlight that brightens the trail as well as the trees that line the trail.

As I beheld this scene, I was reminded that even though we are near the end of November and snow has covered the landscape, some reminders of a mild autumn remain in the warmth of the sunlight.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 4.2 mm
1/932 sec, f/1.6, ISO 32

“It’s late November and though it’s still autumn, winter’s first whispers hint at snowy days to come as frost clings to slender branches and the world prepares once more for its winter slumber.” – Ed Lehming

I recently realized that it has been many months since I have posted here. I really can’t recall the event that led to my absence but I have been making photos all along, I simply have not made the time to post them.

Last week I went for quick hike and made several photos which I modified as digital paintings. The original photos were pleasing but did not quite convey the scenes that I witnessed that day. So, I unapologetically tweaked them till the scene as I saw it emerged.

It was the first significant snowfall this season and the frost played beautifully in the late morning light, creating a soft glow that brightened the shadows. I found the scene very soothing, though I will miss the wonderful autumn colours we have been so blessed with lately. I will be sharing those images over the next few days and weeks.

iPhone 12 Pro @ 6.0 mm
1/505 sec, f/2.0, ISO 25

“After the cool spring rains, sunshine dazzles through the still open canopy, bathing the forest wildflowers with its warming light, transforming the recently dull forest into something magical and alive.” – Ed Lehming

Yesterday, after a few days inside, waiting for the cold and rain to let up, I went for a hike at one of my favourite local conservation areas, North Walker Woods. This locale has a special appeal to me, primarily because of two large patches of wildflowers, similar but different. One area is south-facing, opening up to farm fields, and usually a few weeks ahead of its companion patch, nestled within the forest on the opposite, north trail.

The two parts of the trail both offer me large tracts of wonderful white trilliums (trillium grandiflorum), but the south trail has a completely different variety of companion plants, like Early Meadow Rue, Large Flowered Bellwort, and Violets, which are not broadly present in the north tract, which features Trout Lily, Spring Beauties, Hepatica, Wild Ginger, and Wild Leeks.

I enjoy the ability to take in two slightly different environments and it also allows me a larger window of time in which to enjoy and photograph such variety of spring wildflowers, all within the same hike of about 8 kilometers.

As I ventured out, the day was still very cool and rain and sleet kept falling intermittently. But, I had had enough of being inside and wanted to see how far the recently opening white trilliums had advanced. Despite a few soakings, there were some moments, like the one pictured above, of wonderful sunshine that fell on the rain soaked flowers, giving them a beautify dewey appearance.

The forecast today is for much nicer weather but I expect that will also bring on a few more biting insects, like black flies, which take away some of the enjoyment I have experienced the past few weeks.

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

1/400 sec, f/14, ISO 800

“It’s spring, and beautiful tones of yellow, in all shapes and sizes, return once more to the forest floor.” – Ed Lehming

Once more, spring starts and stalls. The warm days of April have been replaced by a particularly cool and wet May. But, there is no going back, a spring warm up is inevitable and the forest wildflowers continue to progress.

The regular schedule this year is a bit messed up and I was quite surprised to see as many Large-Flowers Bellworts blooming. They usually come on just as the white trilliums are finishing of, but this year, because the cool temperatures have stalled things, the Bellworts are blooming just as the trilliums are starting, so I have a particularly wide selection of blossoms to choose from and the nasty, biting black flies are just starting up, but not biting yet, so I will, hopefully, have a few more days of enjoying the wildflowers without bug spray.

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

1/125 sec, f/20, ISO 800

“The cycle of spring continues and familiar wildflowers grace the forest floor, each in their own time, marking significant dates with their presence.” – Ed Lehming

Happy Mothers Day to all the Moms out there, and also to those who have filled that role.

It’s interesting, looking back at years worth of photos from this date. Last year, which was cool and wet, did not offer me any white trilliums, it was a snow and sleet filled day. I clearly remember going out just to find a trillium to help celebrate the day, but only found a handful of red ones.

This year has been so much different, red trilliums have been blooming brilliantly for the past three weeks and the cool temperature have kept them in good condition, with early bloomers just starting to fade. The white trilliums (trillium grandiflora) just started blooming mid-week and will continue to expand their bloom for a few more days. Temperatures are forecast to be much warmer by the end of the week which will accelerate the bloom but also make it more short lived. It also means the return of biting insects as the forest canopy thickens and provides them shelter from the sun.

The trillium photo above is of the first nicely formed blossom of the year, conveniently framed against a granite boulder. I thought it made for a nice composition without too much effort, since the rock was already there.

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

1/125 sec, f/20, ISO 800

“The recently closed buds now look like fireworks as warmer days trigger the trees to leaf out and spring comes on in full force.” – Ed Lehming

I’ve always been fascinated with just how quickly the forest transforms from its winter phase to full leaf. The tight buds expand quickly and within days fully formed green leaves abound. As I look closely at the new growth, I can almost see the new growth expanding and changing colour from pale yellows, oranges, and bright reds. I also notice that the colour of the fresh leaves is similar to the fall colours, since the green colour is due to chlorophyll, which is also lacking as the buds open.

In this image, a maple bursts forth in rusty orange tones.

From a distance, the new leaves are interesting, but close up they remind me of fireworks or bright colours and complex shapes, reaching upward to the sunlight. I’ve taken the time to capture many of these as I roan the forests in search of wildflowers. They also serve as a reminder that there is a lot of competition for available light and each tree reaches out as quickly as possible once conditions are favourable. It’s a balancing act though. If they open too soon, they are at risk of damage from late frosts and if they open too late, they may be blocked from getting all the light they need by other trees.

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

1/160 sec, f/18, ISO 800