Archive for Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Shouts and Murmurs

Winter photos take different angle

January 19, 2005

As a photographer, I'm always on the lookout for photos to take. Whether riding in a car, looking out the kitchen window, taking a walk or even cleaning the house, it's likely that ideal photo material will crop up when or where it's least expected.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago, before we took the Christmas decorations down, I was cleaning my house. As I walked through the living room, the silver bells on the Christmas tree began to ring. Then, the 8-foot-tall tree began to quake. Suddenly, amid the branches, about four feet above the floor, out popped our half-grown calico cat.

She steadied herself on the limbs, clearly not accustomed to climbing flimsy fake trees in the house. We paused momentarily, looking each other eye to eye, before I realized a photographic moment was staring me in the face.

Fortunately the camera was handy, and I quickly snapped a couple of pictures. Then, as suddenly as she had appeared in the boughs of the artificial tree, she vanished back into the limbs, climbed down to the floor and scampered off.

The first picture was blurred, but the second one was sharp. I've since ordered a poster which we'll hang by the Christmas tree next year.

Taking a photo like that requires little skill. It's more a matter of keeping your eyes open and having a camera within reach.

Winter storms that blanket the area with ice and snow are magnificent to shoot. But photographers are also interested in finding beauty when the weather is less extreme.

Sometimes that means you must be out with your camera very early in the morning, or late in the afternoon.

That's when you're likely to catch photos of skeletal trees silhouetted by the blazing corals and reds of sunrise or sunset.

Or, in the lack of memorable skies, you might take a glance at the details of winter trees.

There's the intrinsically interesting Bartlett pear, whose limbs arc upward, rather than horizontally or downward.

There are the ragged hedge trees, also known as Osage orange. Their gnarled trunks could be the subject of many a photo.

Even the scraggly Chinese elms, frequently hovering over the older rural farmsteads, show their simplistic structured beauty, as broomlike, they reach to sweep the sky.

Winter trees can have more than one story to tell. Southeast of Tonganoxie along County Road 25, there's a row of broken trees, their trunks crippled in a 2003 tornado. Not so obvious until the leaves disappear, it's likely this windbreak of fractured trees long will remain to tell their stormy story.

Contoured farm fields, their raised areas seeming to wrap around the earth's curve, etch details of not just winter's storms, but of crops past and future.

And then there's livestock. Someday on a cold winter morning, I will stop along a roadside and photograph the cloud of steam that rises from cattle's breath as they stand together feeding.

Like the other photos, that would take no great amount of expertise -- just the right view at the right time -- with of course, a camera in hand.

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