First look at Hoosier National Forest’s Hayes Hollow; no Patton Cave yet

Approaching the Burgoon Church Road sign last week for the several-hundred-and-fifteenth time, I vowed to follow through on the same number of historic commitments to see what lies at the end, besides the church. It’s the first road east after the Ind. 446 causeway, so I knew it led to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness and Monroe Lake shoreline. But I’d never made the turn. Until last Sunday.

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Wildflower season returns to the Deam Wilderness, Hayes Trail

Bloodroot, Charles C. Deam Wilderness

I’d already fulfilled half my mission — think wildflower — by the time I contemplated another 250-foot Hayes Trail ascent in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness last Monday afternoon, with my 50mm macro in tow.

Evidence that spring wildflower season had arrived in the Hoosier National Forest – a smattering of emergent cutleaf toothworts not far from the trailhead – had already been digitally captured from ground level. Deep in the valley, some delicate, youthful spring beauties – in full bloom – had presented themselves, in full sun.

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Early spring sky and water – Otter Creek, Spring Mill

Spring Mill State Park

When the wind wasn’t blowing across the Otter Creek Riparian Restoration on March 10, it felt like spring. No wildflowers on this remote part of the Hoosier National Forest in Crawford County yet – I only noticed one dull splotch of dusty purple on the trail, not photogenic enough to justify stopping.

And when the northerly winds gusted, as they often did, I was reminded why there’s still no color. It was a zip-unzip, gloves-on-gloves-off kind of morning. But blue sky and water, whether at Otter Creek or our other stop at Spring Mill State Park two counties north in Lawrence, seldom disappoints, regardless of season.

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Icy, abstract images in Scarlet Oak Woods

I’ll admit to reduced expectations for this hike, as capturing color, form and light in the Southern Indiana woods in February is always a challenge, even when the sun and sky are ideal. But when nature is exposed as bare as she is in dead winter, abstract images – unavailable any other time of the year – are there for the discriminating eye.

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Trip Report: A futile search for fall color — Jackson-Schnyder, Raccoon SRA

Given the slow pace of fall color change here in Southern Indiana, I was more than ready to wander West-Central Indiana on Sunday in search of images for a new guidebook project and hopefully experience some of the familiar reds, oranges, yellows and golds Indiana autumn is world-famous for. It was, after all, a picture-perfect fall Sunday.

I got what I needed image-wise from the Jackson-Schnyder Nature Preserve near Terre Haute and from Raccoon State Recreation Area (SRA) to the east in Parke County near Rockville. But colorwise, the trip was largely a bust.

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Trip Report – Big Walnut Creek Valley, a National Natural Landmark

I chose the Big Walnut Nature Preserve for the unofficial start of a new book project for a variety of reasons, not the least being its status as a registered National Natural Landmark (NNL), which means it contains “outstanding biological and geological resources.” It’s also a Dedicated State Nature Preserve, which means it’s protected against development in…

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Trip Report: Fast and muddy water – McCormick’s Creek, Cataract Falls

Gary and I heard McCormick’s Creek long before we reached the Statehouse Quarry, which sits creekside a quarter mile or so upstream from the White River West Fork. And I can’t say I was thrilled when I found the creek a muddy, coffee-with-cream color. The water rushed, unlike I’d ever seen it,…

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Explore for light, above all else, for great nature photography

I’ve long taught my journalism students to think of photography as “painting with light.” The camera doesn’t record the subject matter you see in the viewfinder. It captures the light that is reflected off it.

Indeed, the elements we compose into our final images exist because of and within the light. Without it, color and form are pretty much irrelevant. Many of the greatest nature images ever captured lacked color altogether. Think Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. In fact, without light, color doesn’t exist. (More on that in a second.)

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