I Don’t Like To Mow

Puffball
Yellow Salsify Puffball

Putting Off Pay Off

I don’t like to mow.  I hadn’t mowed this spring, yet.  The weeds were getting taller and taller.  All my neighbors had mowed their yards; a few more than once.  There was something growing out there and I wanted to see what it was.  I could tell it was a specimen, not one of those weeds, a dense community of like-kind trying to choke out anything dissimilar. This one was taller, stronger, reaching upward with several outstretched branches .  I couldn’t mow it down.  I had to wait and see what it’s flower looked like.  Besides, I don’t like to mow.  Never have!

I finally did break down and mow.  I had too.  The darn jungle was just getting too tall.  If I didn’t mow, now, it would become, rather than a mowing, a bush-whacking project of monumental dimensions.  Out came my Honda HR215HXA self propelled mower w/hydrostatic transmission.  Down weeds, down!  “Bruhaha!”  But, I spared this plant.  Carefully, and with skill, I maneuvered the menacing machine, capable of reducing all in its path to splinters of pulp and fiber around it’s, now looking, fragile stalk.  In short order what remained was a modernistic looking two foot high deluxe apartment building towering above a mass of closely cropped one-size-fits-all flats.  I could now have the best of both worlds.  A closely cropped yard of weeds matching my neighbors’ yards for the uniform height of our weeds.  Well, with the exception of my special specimen which sticks out like the proverbial “thumb”.

I didn’t have to wait long for my curiosity to be sated.  The next day, about mid-morning, I was greeted with a single yellow, daisy-like flower beginning to open from atop one of the upward bound stems, each of which was topped with its own swelling bud.  I’d like to think it was showing its gratitude for being spared the whirling blade of dismemberment and death.  That’s just me feeling connected to everything.  More than likely I scared it and all its energy was shifted into producing seed, the sole purpose of its life cycle and embedded deeply in the DNA of every single seed it produces.  I enjoyed its yellow flower the rest of the day.

The following morning, in place of the yellow flower there was seed pod.  By mid-morning I could tell it was opening.  By 1:30 PM it was open fully.  The sky was completely overcast, as it had been all day.  The sunlight, filtered through the clouds was very bright.  It was wonderful light.  There was, what we call in Oklahoma, a little breeze; In Houston it’d be called a wind.  I gathered my gear:  camera, 105mm macro, remote shutter release, tripod, and McClamp stick, a plant clamp designed to safely hold a delicate plant steady for pictures.  The sight of the puffball in this light was exciting.  It was so delicate in its structure.  Every seed perfectly designed to fly effortlessly, carried to who-knows-where on the invisible currents of the wind.  The play of light upon the almost invisible fibers was hypnotic.  Up and down, to and fro, lower and lower, shift here, shift there, I worked and maneuvered tripod camera in and out of one position and to another.  My sense of location and the sounds of the city around me disappeared in the moment.  It was just me and the offspring of this plant.  Finally, after a passage of time of unknown length, I lay on the grass totally at peace with myself and creation.

Within the hour that followed, parts of the puffball had escaped the sphere of its birth and taken wing on the currents of wind growing stronger as the afternoon deepens.

Best of the Day

Waylen Knapp - Photographer
Sunset at Sandy Sanders’ WMA

Recently a friend and I traveled to the Sandy Sanders’ Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in far western Oklahoma on a photo safari.  It was following an unusually wet spring, following several years of exceptional drought.  Besides being a fun outing to see how the water had risen in lakes and streams along the way, we were hoping for an explosion of wildflowers in bloom throughout the WMA.  We also had the goal of staying late at Sandy Sanders’ and photographing the sunset.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a successful trip for fine art photography but it was hugely successful for a lot of fun and fellowship.  Fine art photographers are by nature, and choice, loners, so when I can spend the day with a good friend and fellow photographer, it’s a day worth remembering.

We had a lot of fun in my FJ Cruiser driving through mud and water and over washed out roads throughout the deserted Sandy Sanders’ WMA and I learned some important things about using 4-wheel drive.  These lessons may come in handy in the future; at least I’m hoping they do.  We were the only sign of humanity all day long and the first to drive over some of the rough and rugged dirt roads since the last rain.  We had a great time exploring and searching for opportunities that didn’t seem to be forthcoming and by sundown we had to choose the best of the worst.  We never found what we were looking for, and that sometimes happens.  The photo I took of my friend, above, is perhaps the best the picture I took all day.  I know it will be the one I cherish and remember.

Sweet Morning Smells

Honeysuckle Flower
“Honeysuckle growing on a honeysuckle vine”, Bill Haley

Last night was not good for sleep; It was not due to pain.  I couldn’t sleep more than 45 minutes at a time.  Every 45 minutes I would awaken, look at the clock, lie awake for 30 minutes and then sleep for another 45.  Finally, at 4:30 AM, I arose, took a shower, shaved, drank a cup of “Taster’s Choice”, and drove to Walgreen’s to pick up some Q-Tips and coffee filters.

Back home I brewed a pot of coffee and ate a banana while thinking about what I was going to do this early in the morning.  When the coffee was finished brewing and I had poured myself a cup, I went out into the backyard to hear the birds and enjoy my fresh brew.  It was already light but it would be about 30 minutes before sunrise:  not enough time to get anywhere for a sunrise photo.  As I sat enjoying the cool morning air, I caught the scent of something sweet and fresh.  I turned and spied the source, my honeysuckle vine in full bloom.  The closer I got to it the stronger the wonderful aroma became.  Standing beside this vine profuse with whiter and yellow flowers, my nose leading the way, I lowered my head into the thickness of the flowers and inhaled deeply:  pure heaven.

I hadn’t tried the Manfrotto XPRO Geared 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head so I went back in the house to gather equipment to photograph this beautiful flower.  For a lens I chose the Sigma 105mm EX 2.8 Macro.  This is an old lens I’ve had for many years.  It is not the newer DG model.  With Sony Alpha a7r and tripod in hand, I sat up just inches away.  Maneuvering to get just the composition I wanted was easy using the XPRO Geared Head.  It was very responsive and smooth.  I expecially like the fact it has three leveling bubbles.  Added to the leveling bubble on the Manfrotto 55XPRO3 tripod, keeping everything in line was a breeze.  When I began, the air was perfectly still and keeping focus was simple.  However, this being Oklahoma, it wasn’t but a few minutes after sunrise before the air began to stir and the vines began to sway.  A few more shots and I was done.