Monday, August 29, 2011

Tromping through the Wetlands

 This past Saturday I headed out without a particular destination in mind.  The perfect clear day in the forecast was ultimately foiled by the outer most edge clouds of Hurricane Irene, which was several hundred miles away!  So with the light cloud cover I headed to the Mill Creek Wetlands.

Seemingly not all that grand, it did end up offering a nice warm walk with a few interesting finds.  I can see the spot will be a haven for birds come fall, with tons of large brush with berries and cover, and plenty of thistle.  So I think a return trip in the fall may be in order.  Until then enjoy the hodge podge of shots taken this time around.  Just remember to look closely as you walk around even the most mundane looking never know what you might see!

By C.H. Spurgeon:

Wise men can readily find a thousand subjects
for contemplation abroad in the open country.
When a man walks in the fields, having the Lord in his heart, and his whole mental faculties directed towards heavenly things, all things aid him in his pleasing occupation.

If we look above to sun, moon, and stars, all these remind us of the grandeur of God, and make us ask ourselves, "What is man, that the Lord should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that Jehovah should visit him?"

If we look below, the green meadows, or golden
cornfields, all proclaim divine care and bounty.
There is not a bird that sings, nor a grasshopper
that chirps in the grass, which does not urge us
to praise and magnify the name of the Most High.

While the plants, from the hyssop on the wall to
the cedar which spreads its boughs so gloriously
on Lebanon, exhibit to observant eyes the wisdom
of the great Creator of all things.

The murmuring brook talks to the listening ear in
hallowed whispers of him whose cloudy throne
supplies its stream. And the air, as it sighs amid the trees, tells in mysterious accents of the great unseen, but overactive Spirit of the living God.

Just on a side note, I really liked the reference Spurgeon made to the chirping grasshopper in particular, because the one thing in abundance at the wetlands were I tromped along the path they would scatter from in front of me and rustle the dry grass as they landed.  But mostly I heard their chirping resonating through the whole wetland...and it was loud!  Interestingly only male hoppers stridulate...or chirp.  Their cricket cousin does the same thing, but only at night.  What are they doing?  Calling the ladies of course!  Serenading with song like a violinist, these creatures use stridulation, which is the act of scraping two body parts together  (with crickets it is their wings, and with grasshoppers it is the pegged inner leg rubbing against his thick forewing) to produce that pastoral song of summer.  Now if we only hear the males...think how many hoppers must be out there!  But for all the singing and hopping I heard...catching one with my eye and camera proved difficult!  They blend in very well as it turns out!  But if they are as multitudinous as they sound...perhaps it is better that way!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fungus and Ferns

Non-rolling stone that gathered moss
 Well, after a week of sluggish internet service, I finally have managed to upload some more photos from last weekend's Mill Creek Park excursion.  Deep in the forest in the moisture, shade, and shadows lurks....spiders, bugs, beetles, and other creepy comparatively the the moss, ferns, and fungus featured in this post are pretty interesting subject matter!  (And less likely to give you the heebie jeebies). 

Personally, I find the various ferns, fungus, and shadow growers very interesting...and might even wish to see the other varieties of say upper Michigan or the cascades of Oregon....but for now enjoy this current collection of local flora along with some choice reflective thoughts about the Father of all things bright and beautiful....and the not so bright but equally beautiful!  Stay behind the lens everyone!

Moss covered rock wall from 1935
By J.C. Philpot:

There is a wisdom of God which is not hidden—at least not from the eyes of men who acknowledge God at all, and see the world and all things in it created and sustained by an Almighty hand. All that the great and glorious Creator has designed and executed must necessarily bear the stamp of infinite wisdom and omnipotent power. From the sun in its meridian height to a drop of water in the ocean, from the elephant that stalks proudly in the jungle to the mite that crawls upon the cheese, from the towering oak and spreading cedar to the blade of grass and the moss on the wall—every created object proclaims the wisdom and power of God.

By John MacDuff (1864):

In one sense we are everywhere surrounded with God's thoughts. The world of nature is a majestic volume of God's thoughts:

His sublime thoughts — are the everlasting mountains;

His lofty thoughts — the distant stars;

His dreadful thoughts — the lightning and tempest, the earthquake and volcano;

His minute thoughts — of discriminating care the tiny moss and lichen, the tender grass, the lily of the field, and pearly dewdrop;

His loving thoughts — the blue sky, the quiet lake, the sunny glade, the budding blossoms and beauteous flowers;

His joyful thoughts — the singing streams and sparkling waves;

His unchanging thoughts — the rock in mid-ocean, on which the waves are in vain spending their fury.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Mossy rocks in Mill Creek

 Yesterday was pretty hot outside, so what better way to beat the heat then hiking deep into the shade of the woods!  A friend and I headed up to Mill Creek Metro Park to take a walk along the Artist's Trail.  This spot is said to be popular with photographers and painters for the nice view of the creek.  And as promised this trail delivered more than enough subject matter...I found enough to shoot on one short hike for at least 2 or 3 blog entries...and it left me wanting to return in the fall for dynamic shots with extra color!

I took some more time to practice moving water shots...this time using my wireless remote shutter release which helps reduce vibration blur...but I opted to use my monopod on the narrow trail to be courteous to other hikers so I lost some of the stability of the tripod which gave me a little trouble. But I still walked away with a little more success than last week...which is fine with me...I don't mind small steps as long as they are steps forward and not steps backward!

I thought with this series of shots I would include some interesting excerpts from a J.R. Miller writing called "The Glasses You Wear."  This week I went to the eye doctor...I found I was struggling when trying to get sharp, clear focus last week while shooting, and as suspected my eyes got just a touch worse.  But Miller is speaking of a different kind of glasses....and I found it nice food for thought given this blog's motto of "Stay Behind the Lens!"  You can stay behind the lens in a lot more ways than on to see some of Miller's insights!

By J.R. Miller 
“The Glasses You Wear”, 1904:

There is a little book called Eyes and No Eyes, which tells of two boys who one day went out for a walk together. When they came back, a friend asked one of them what he had seen. He said he had seen nothing. He had been traveling through dust and along rough paths—but he had not seen anything beautiful or interesting in all the two hours' walk. When the other boy was asked the same question, he replied with much enthusiasm, telling of a hundred beautiful things he had seen in his walk—in the fields and in the woods—flowers and plants and bits of beautiful landscape, birds and squirrels and rippling streams. The two boys had walked together over the same path, and while one had seen nothing to give him pleasure—the other came back with his mind full of lovely images and bright recollections. Both had looked on the same objects—but they had looked through different lenses!

There always are two classes of people among those who journey together—those with eyes which see and those who, having eyes, see nothing. There are many people who never see the stars, or the hills, or the blue sky, or the flowers, nor any beauty in plant or tree or living creature.

We should train ourselves to make use of our eyes…This training should be carried into all the life, so that we shall miss nothing of the profuse and wondrous loveliness, which is everywhere in our Father's world. The result of not using our eyes, is that by and by we have no eyes—the faculty which is not exercised, becomes atrophied… We should train ourselves to see only what is lovely.

The same is true of the men and women about us, as well as of the scenes and conditions. It would add immeasurably to our pleasure in life—if we would train ourselves to look for whatever things are true, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, in the people about us—instead of for the blemishes and faults. If we wore the glasses of love and charity, it would be in this way that we would see everyone and everyone's work. 

The aspect of all life's events and experiences would also be changed, if we wore the right kind of glasses. To many people, life has nothing bright. It is made up chiefly of things which produce discontent, complaining and fault finding. We all know people who never have a really bright word to say about their own life and its circumstances… If they could in some way change their glasses, so that they would see things in the light of Christian faith and trust—all things would be transformed for them.

What we all need, in order that we may see people and things as they are—is the mind which is in Christ Jesus—the mind of love, of patience, of trust, of joy, of peace.

Examining a shot for clarity
 Miller's reading makes me rethink the old saying, 

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" 

How true...and I look forward to training my eye to stay behind the lens, not just when I look around at God's Creation....but at all things! 
Chipper on the trail...and yes those are flip flops!

Proverbs 20:12
The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beauty of Butterflies

 The summer after I graduated high school was my first real period of spending time behind the lens, and delving into nature photography.  Six days after I received my diploma I moved to central Minnesota which offered many incredible experiences for a burgeoning photographer.  Our first home was a rental on the outskirts of a neighborhood, a couple blocks from several large lakes and several parks.  Not to be all Wizard of Oz, but many of the best things to photograph are never further away than your own backyard.  As was the case with monarch butterflies outside our backdoor.  At first I saw one, then two, and then realized there were a dozen or more all in one tree!  (Insects in Minnesota have the Sam's Club factor.  They only come in bulk quantities! Yikes!)  But I remember shooting frame after frame trying to get closer, more detail, better lighting....and over ten years later photographing butterflies as September is around the corner is still a favorite backyard joy. 

Trust me, you can spend hours chasing these guys around a field trying for the perfect shot.  This year I was given a last minute heads up that our field was being mowed and if I wanted some shots I better head outside.  So to the hum of the Kubota I fluttered up and down the field for an hour shooting over a hundred frames.  It was tough to narrow down, but here is a sample of what I ended up with.

Eastern Tiger SwallowTail

 As you can see the preferred flower in our field is clover.  I tried to correctly ID each butterfly but it was a little tricky as several are similar. 

Not only do butterflies offer incredible evidence of God's creation, which contradicts evolutionary science (please check out the awesome video below) but they also are an incredible illustration of other Biblical truths.  Enjoy the three excerpts from Puritan authors as they tell you what they see when they look at a butterfly!

By J.R. Miller:
“One day a friend sent me a splendid butterfly, artistically mounted, known as the Lima Moth. This little creature is said to be the most beautiful of North American insects. Its color is light green with variegated spots. In its caterpillar state, it was only a worm. It died and entered its other or higher state, as we would say—and then the worm became a splendid butterfly.”
This illustrates the two stages of a Christian's life. Here we are in our earthly state. After this will come the heavenly condition. "The things that are above" belong to this higher, spiritual life. But the Christian is exhorted to seek these higher things—while living in this lower world. We belong to heaven, although we are not yet living in heaven.

By J.C. Ryle:

And all is the result of the spiritual nature implanted in them by the Holy Spirit. Just as the caterpillar when it becomes a butterfly can no longer be content to crawl on earth—but will fly upwards and use its wings, so will the affections of the man who has the Spirit be ever reaching upwards toward God.

And what is it they need in order to make them fit to enjoy heaven? They need to be Regenerated or born again. It is not a little changing and outward amendment they require. 

Black Swallowtail
It is not merely the putting a restraint on raging passions, and the quieting of unruly affections. All this is not enough. Old age—the lack of opportunity for indulgence—the fear of man, may produce all this. The tiger is still a tiger, even when he is chained; and the serpent is still a serpent, even when he lies motionless and coiled up. The alteration needed is far greater and deeper. They must have a new nature put within them. They must be made new creatures. The fountain-head must be purified. The root must be set right. Each one needs a new heart and a new will. The change required is not that of the snake, when he casts his skin and yet remains a reptile still. It is the change of the caterpillar, when he dies and his crawling life ceases—but from his body rises the butterfly—a new animal, with a new nature. All this, and nothing less, is required.

By C.H. Spurgeon:

See that creeping worm, how contemptible its appearance! It is the beginning of a thing. Mark that butterfly with gorgeous wings, playing in the sunbeams, sipping at the flower bells, full of happiness and life; that is the end thereof. That caterpillar is yourself, until you are wrapped up in the chrysalis of death; but when Christ shall appear you shall be like Him, for you shall see Him as He is. Be content to be like Him—a despised worm—that like Him you may be satisfied when you wake up in His likeness.

Dark Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail