As the last snow melts and as the temperatures warm into the 50s, is hard not to start thinking of summer. And for me summer equals sailing. And so today I went looking for something that evokes warmer weather. In two more months, maybe I’ll be on my boat on amazing Lake Oahe. . .
I suspect that there is nothing all that special about prairie grass, unless, of course, you live where there is no prairie. Or, like me, live where there is no living grass right now. And, as I know I’ve said, when I am feeling SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) kick in, I go looking for photos I took in better weather.
This clump of grass lived on the bluffs overlooking the Little Bend of the Missouri River on Lake Oahe. In late July, 2012, I took close to 50 photos of this grass one morning, mainly because the wind was gusty and the grass wouldn’t sit still. I imagine that taking photos of children might be like that. Though children offer considerably greater diversity, don’t they?
Nature provides the canvas, the subject and the paint. The photographer furnishes the frame. And the technological medium applied by the photographer sometimes enhances what nature provides and often diminishes it.
You’ll make your own judgements about this particular photo. All I can say is that this place is one of my favorite places on earth and my feelings affect what I see and do here. Every time.
There are a few things that are unusual about this post. First, it comes from the same file as a previous post. I rarely do that. Second, it is cropped unconventionally. What possessed me to eschew the 2:3 or 4:5 ratio? No one knows. Finally, it is heavily filtered. And I teach my students that we filter photo when the photo is substandard to begin with: we plaster over the flaws, so to speak. Thus, I discourage filtering. But I guess I don’t always practice what a preach.
There isn’t much that’s real green along Lake Oahe in central South Dakota in late August. But the yucca plant seems to be well adapted to drought conditions and so in some places, that’s all that is green.
Sometimes, due to erosion along the shores of Oahe, you will see yucca clinging to soil cliffs and if you study them, you will see that they have roots that go down more than 10 feet. That’s how they survive.
Many South Dakotans have deep roots and that’s how we hang on, as well.
I have been sailing Lake Oahe on the Missouri River in South Dakota for over 20 years. I have seen all kinds of weather and wind. And so you might think I would be jaded, wouldn’t you? But I will tell you that I doubt that I will ever got bored by the amazing scenery and experience this place affords.
Recently, Deb and I were enjoying our last full day of the season on Lake Oahe. We set sail shortly after sunrise and made it upriver to my favorite place, Mission Creek. By afternoon the wind had slackened and though we enjoy the serentity that this place offers when there is little wind, we decided to go motoring.
At one point the wind died completely and I stopped the boat in the middle of the reservoir to enjoy the beautiful clouds, sky and water. The silence was absolute and I was reminded of the simple magic of that keeps drawing me back to Oahe: on this day we weren’t looking at a mirror; we were in the mirror.
Wandering Star is back in our driveway and will be put into storage soon. I put over 800 miles under her keel this summer, which is equivalent to going east to west across South Dakota and then back again. At about 5 miles an hour. A waste of time? An expensive hobby?
“Yes” is a simple answer to those questions. But for me sailing Oahe is an important part of who I am and how I live. For me (and many others I know) it is a truly uncommon place.
Here’s another HDR photo taken from the bluffs overlooking the northern leg of the Little Bend on Lake Oahe. In the shot I posted a while back I was looking east into the rising sun. In this shot, I’ve moved my tripod, the sun is behind me and I am looking off to the northwest towards the Cheyenne River.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at this photo I see the pure white of the popcorn clouds. Then I see the sea green sage and, finally, the distant, dark water and long line of the cloud covered horizon. (And if you are paying attention to words here, I hope you appreciate my alliterative attempts. Opps, I did it again. Or did I? Actually, “alliterative attempts” is an example of assonance. Sorry, but I was an English teacher long before I started to call myself a photographer.)
Sometimes, when I’m out at Lake Oahe in central South Dakota, I don’t go sailing. On this particular morning, I woke up well before sunrise and at first light saw that there were some clouds off in the east that looked promising. So I packed up my camera gear and went driving. I ended up on the bluffs above the Little Bend area – an area I have been to many times before.
It may seem obvious but a sunrise photo isn’t about the sun – that looks pretty much the same every time. It’s about the clouds, the terrain and the atmosphere. And in all of these cases, I got what I was looking for.
This photo, incidentally, is an HDR photo, which means that it’s really two or three photos sandwiched together into one. I experimented with a process that gives this photo a bit of a surreal look. Compositionally, this photo does what a landscape photo should do: there is something in the foreground, the middle ground and in the back ground.
I wish you could have been with me when I took this photo. It was an amazing moment in an very special place.
Canon 5DIII f/8.0 1/250 ISO400 19mm