Spring is here and the woods are coming back to life! Today I worked at Swift Creek Bluffs. I arrived early in the morning when the light was gentle. High thin clouds helped diffuse the light well into the morning. Spring peepers were singing, a downy woodpecker was drumming high up in the beech trees trying to attract a mate, several chickadees were busy excavating a cavity in a dead beech branch, and the ground was covered in spring beauties, trout lilies, and the first signs of many other early wildflowers.
There was so much going on I was having trouble focusing on my subject. Focusing my mind I mean, the camera had no trouble focusing. Good compositions don’t usually just jump out at me, I have to work at it. At some point I have to stop taking it all in and focus my thoughts on what I am trying to photograph. In this case, I was here to photograph spring ephemerals. Swift Creek Bluffs has one of the best displays of spring ephemerals I have seen in this area. I started to think,
“these plants emerge, flower, produce seeds, and disappear, all within a few months. They start growing earlier than most plants in the forest so they can take advantage of the abundant sunlight, moisture, and nutrients available at this time of year. Conditions will become much more difficult for them once the trees start producing leaves, creating deep shade, and absorbing much of the available water and nutrients. It’s an interesting strategy, although they still have to contend with cold, and there are not that many pollinators this time of year. These plants tend to remain very close to the ground where it’s a little warmer, and they tend to have showy flowers to attract the few pollinators that are out. Ugh! You see, there I go! Stop thinking about ecology and focus on what you are doing!”
Okay, after beating myself up for a minute, I finally found a nice trout lily, got the camera out, set up the tripod, and started to get down on the ground for a trout lily’s perspective. That’s when I noticed the poison ivy. Now, you have to keep in mind that at this time of year the poison ivy has no leaves, just little stems sticking up a few inches from the ground, and they were everywhere! They look harmless enough but I have learned from experience not to lay down on these, because if you break them bad things happen a few days later.
So, after awhile I found another nice trout lily, this time without any toxic neighbors. I got down on the ground, found a nice composition and started fine tuning it and working on the lighting. Finally, I was in the zone, time was flying, and I almost had a composition I liked. I did not even notice how uncomfortably contorted my body was as I struggled to look through my camera suspended just a quarter inch off the ground. And that’s when I saw it, coming right at me. It took a second for my eyes to refocus from looking through the camera to what ever this was. It was about 8 inches long, skinny, brown, and about 10 inches from my head and closing fast!
“Snake! Oh never mind, it’s just an earthworm. I didn’t know they made them that big! I can’t believe it can move that fast. Where is it going in such a hurry? Okay, what was I doing? Oh yea, I’m photographing this trout lily.”